I May Have a Problem

I went to India, took part in a beautiful wedding, came down with a horrible case of “probably shouldn’t have eaten that” and witnessed the US make terrible choices.

It took 3 flights to finally reach the small (for India but still has over a million inhabitants) village that is Jammu, in northern India. The first flight was into Dubai. During this flight, I happened to accidentally drop my phone in-between my seat and the wall of the plane. This was half-way through me watching my second Disney film. So I paused The Frog Princess and attempted to feel for my phone. Nothing. I then ducked my upper half under the seat to see if I could spot it under on the floor, but of course I was not flexible enough to make it that far. So I then unbuckled my seat belt and wedged my self in between the seats, thinking that maybe some how I would be able to get onto all fours and actually be able to see under the seat. Naturally, all I end up doing is momentarily getting my hips stuck between my seat and the back of the seat in front of me. The leg room available in economy isn’t enough to maneuver your body around. I was about to give up and just wait until we landed to look again, but my struggles captured the attention of my neighbor, an elderly Indian gentleman, who at this point was probably wondering where my parents where and why they’d let me sit alone.

He offered me the light from my phone, but because I still was unable to find an angle where I could actually look underneath the seat, it was pretty useless. At this point, I was completely fine with waiting until landing to look for my phone, but because this stranger had offered his help I felt pressured to keep trying.

That’s when I had the brilliant idea to squat on top of my chair and swing my top half under the seat. With my legs out of the way I was able to see everything under my seat. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought about the fact that my butt was completely up in the air… I just prayed that I would be able to get out of the position without falling, ass first, onto my neighbor.

I spotted my phone after about 2 seconds, snatched it quickly and then carefully pulled myself back up, holding my phone over my head victoriously. My neighbor was laughing incredulously at the lengths I would go to to retrieve my phone. Millennials.

Sadly, in the scuffle to find my phone, my 5 euro Danish chapstick had some how dropped into the ether, and I was not about to go through that whole process again, so I silently said my goodbye’s.

I wish I could say my struggles were over. On the second flight from Dubai to Dehli, I had been traveling for 13 hours and it was probably 4 am in Germany, so I attempted to get some sleep for most of that flight, waking up only to eat the dinner offered. As we were landing the flight attendants came through the cabin to collect left over trash and blankets, waking me up momentarily, In my delirium I saw my glasses fly off my lap when I handed the attendant my blanket, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. They shouldn’t have landed that far away. I searched for the next 45 minutes, before having this panicked feeling that maybe I hadn’t seen them at all and perhaps I had put them on my food tray. I flagged down an attendant and shared my concern with her. It took about 20 minutes to explain to her what I meant by glasses. I tried motioning to my eyes, squinting like I couldn’t see and repeating the word over and over again like a crazy person. Finally, “reading glasses” were said, and she understood what I meant, but explained that there were over 400 trays, so there was no way I would get them back. I almost started crying right there. She took one look at my face and immediately said, “But let me see what I can do!” and ran off.

After landing I was told that it’s protocol to check the food trays and they might end up in the lost and found at Delhi Airport. I was given a number to call and sent on my way. Considering the estimated population of New Delhi is 18 million, and who knows how many flights there are per day, I was not hopeful that I would ever see those glasses again, but because I have an unhealthy attachment to objects I was sure as hell going to try.

I called that number every day for 5 days. On the sixth day, I received an email saying that they had in fact found some reading glasses matching my description on a food tray from my flight. I was incredulous. It was a miracle. On the 9th day we were reunited, and there wasn’t a single scratch on the lenses.

Thank you Indira Gandhi International Airport staff!

 

Trains, Buses, Boats and a Sleepy Youth

Traveling for an extended period of time isn’t without it’s pitfalls and close calls. On one such occasion, I was traveling through Denmark on my way to Germany. It seemed as if Murphy’s Law (everything that can go wrong will) was in effect that day. I woke up to an email from the train company stating simply the train I was meant to take that day had been cancelled. Panicked, I threw all my belongings in my bag, and rushed to the train station, only to wait in line for three hours with the other poor souls at the help desk. Thankfully, I was able to book another trip for that day, two hours later than the original, but at least I wouldn’t have to sleep at the train station. This being Copenhagen, there was no way I would be able to afford a place to sleep.

The re-routed trip consisted of two trains, a bus, a ferry and another train. The first leg of the journey went off without a hitch. After about 2 hours, I made it to a station on the border, where I was meant to catch a bus to the ferry.  I exited the station and walked to the bus station nearby. Thirty minutes past, but there was no sign of the bus. Dozens had come and gone at this point, but none of the drivers I asked seemed to know which bus I was talking about.

There were 8 or 9 other people in the same predicament as I was, and we eventually huddled together to think of a game plan. Nothing bonds you more to people than mutual irritation. By the time we figured they’d forgotten about us it seemed like was too late to act. The sound had set, and all the train station employees had gone home, so there was no one physically there to help us. We checked time tables, looked for an emergency phone number to call, searched the station website, but before long it looked as if I was going have to sleep at a train station after all. I claimed a bench and tested to see if my back pack would make an adequate pillow (it really didn’t, but it beats waking up with all your stuff gone, I guess). The rest of the group started to settle in around me. Suddenly a shadow fell over me. I glanced up and a lanky youth was looking down at me.

“Hey, do you mind watching my bag, while I run to the restroom?” He asked.

I nodded and sat up. I am used to strangers trusting me to watch their things. I think it must be because my face is so round, and I have dimples. Oh, and I do actually watch their stuff, haha.

A few seconds after he left, the double doors flew open, and an employee of the train station entered the waiting area announcing that a personal bus would arrive shortly to take us directly to our destination.

“I am sorry you’ll have to talk to the company directly to file a complaint or request a refund,” she then announced, like this wasn’t her first rodeo, before leaving from whence she came.

At this point, it was 11:45pm.

We all looked at one another delighted. It seemed as if we were out of the woods. The bus then pulled up outside. I glanced around for the youth, but he still hadn’t come out the bathroom. A few more minutes past, the waiting room was empty, besides myself and his backpack, and I was feeling a bit antsy and irritated. Obviously, the bus driver could see me waiting, but all the same I wanted to get going. Finally, he sauntered out of the bathroom, then started to jog when he saw the waiting room had emptied. Once we were all finally on the tiny bus and on the way, there were a string of high fives and smiles, before most people closed their eyes to nap.

The bus boarded the ferry, I battled with extreme sea sickness for the next 45 minutes, then we all got back on the bus to finish the journey.

I settled back into my seat as the driver proceeded to leave the ferry when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around.

“Look.” The passenger who poked me was pointing to an empty seat, with the youth’s backpack laying across it. In my sleep deprived and sea sick state I couldn’t quite comprehend what he was trying to say.

“I think someone is missing.”

I realized in horror that he was right. That kid from earlier wasn’t on the bus, and I guess because I had waited for him to use the facilities he was now my responsibility? This was bullshit.

“Stop!” I yelled at the driver, who then screeched to a halt. I ran up to explain to him that we were leaving someone behind.

There was an audible groan throughout the bus. We then waited. And waited. And waited. But the missing guy never showed. After about 15 minutes passengers started throwing their hands up in the air, and I could see the bus driver getting antsy. Everyone just wanted to leave and I had a sinking feeling that they were in fact about to leave without him. Before that decision could be made I volunteered to go look for him. There was apprehension, but also relief in the driver’s eyes as I exited the bus. It was funny (and by funny I mean rude) that the bus driver didn’t offer to drive back to the boat, so instead I was forced to sprint back to the entrance. I had this horrible feeling that they might leave without me as well.

As I approached the entrance a crew member blocked my way.

“Mein Freund ist im Schiff… (My friend is in boat…)” I panted in grammatically incorrect German.

The guy looked at me quizzically.

“Ich muss ihn holen. Bitte? (I need to pick him up. Please?)” I pleaded, and the guy, judging that the 124 lbs girl in front of him probably wasn’t a threat, waved for me to pass.

I sprinted up 3 flights of stairs to the the main deck, thinking that I would never be able to find him. Lo and behold, I happened to immediately see his mess of brown curls sticking up from the sofa right in front of me. I approached his sleeping form and poked him on the shoulder. He was so dead to the world I had to physically shake him as hard as I could before he slowly lifted his head.

He smiled at me, but when he saw my expression and the empty deck he immediately replaced his easy expression with one of panic.

“We have to go!” Motioning frantically to the door.

While running back to the bus, he kept thanking me profusely explaining how he had just traveled back from Asia and therefore hadn’t slept in 36 hours. I was ecstatic to find the bus still waiting there for us. We were greeted with sleepy claps as we boarded, before zooming away.

Awkward Social Butterfly

It’s important to know your weaknesses.

Now that I have settled in one place for a while I have been trying to make friends. It’s been pretty successful so far. I’ve been invited to a lot parties and get togethers, but some how it doesn’t matter how many I’ve gone to, my heart starts to beat out of my chest every time before I show up, and I still get super sweaty while hanging out with a group of people. I may have undiagnosed social anxiety, but it’s fine I’ll just power through it until it stops.

I also feel like, partly because of my anxiety, I keep making social faux pas.

Things I’ve noticed during social gatherings in Germany:

If you are a newcomer it’s your job to introduce yourself to everyone in the room. You do this by going up to every person individually, shaking their hand and saying your name. A living hell if you are socially awkward and prone to sweaty palms.

When arriving and upon leaving you also have to go up to everyone individually, hug them or shake their hand, depending on how well you know this person

These formalities are a lot of work, and I always find that I either forget to do them or am way too scared to follow through. Instead, I enter the room, say hello to the person who invited me, make fleeting eye contact with a few people, wave weakly and then plop myself down somewhere and just watch everyone socialize. Who knows what’s going through their minds when I do this, but personally it feels very wrong, and I become that weird girl in the corner smiling or nodding along, but never really participating. Part of the problem for me is my German needs work. I understand most of what people are saying, but I get way too scared to speak it, because I know I am going to make mistakes.  In the end, I still get invited places and someone always makes the first move to talk to me, so hopefully everyone realizes I am foreign and forgives me for being so weird.

In my experience, initial social interaction is just so different in the States. Whenever a stranger arrives at a get-together the host would introduce them to the room, everyone would wave, say hi, and the newcomer would then learn people’s names by talking to them one on one. When people arrive or leave parties where they know everyone, no one really touches everyone there. They might hug a good friend or the host, and maybe, depending on the age, situation and number of people, shake everyone’s hand (but that feels very formal). At most you would wave at everyone and then say hi or bye.

Thoughts? Does anyone have any awkward stories involving cultural differences?

Five Minutes in Portugal

Early in the morning, I headed to this really picturesque town 40 minutes outside Lisbon. I spent about 20 minutes in the town before getting bored, and deciding it would be a great idea to walk to this castle I’d spotted on the hill. The walk didn’t seem too bad, and I love castles!

Little did I know, that hill was an evil optical illusion. After 30 minutes of walking I realized why all the bus rides up to the castle were so expensive. Instead of the leisurely stroll I had expected, I was in for some serious hiking and a few near death experiences. On top of being extremely steep and winding, the road itself was only wide enough for a single car and maybe a motorcycle to drive side by side comfortably, but for some unknown reason was open to both directions of traffic. It also lacked a sidewalk. And guard rails.

Either Portuguese people don’t fear death, or know better than to visit this castle on foot.
Cars, and the occasional bus, whizzed towards and passed me around steep turns. There were several moments when I was face to face with the front of a gigantic bus, and since there wasn’t room for both of us I was the one forced to dive out of the way, all the while making eye contact with the horrified passengers sitting (safely might I add) inside the bus. Signs pointing me in the right direction only seemed present themselves the very moment I was about to give up and turn around.

Two hours later, I finally got to the entrance, completely covered in sweat, shallow of breath and sore, only to see that not only did I have another hour or so to hike, but if I did choose to subject myself to more hiking I had to pay a whopping 18 euros to continue. I decided had been punished enough without having to pay money for it. Since my camera has pretty nice zoom capabilities, I opted for a free photo of the castle, then promptly, but carefully, descended the mountain.

DSC_0545
Boom!

I didn’t want my day to feel like a complete waste of time, so, upon suggestion, I decided to check out the most western point of Europe, instead of heading back to Lisbon directly. I boarded a bus and greeted the driver with the town name.

The driver looked at me a bit confused, shook his head and answered me in Portuguese, naming another town, as well as some other things that were lost on me.

I paused for a moment.  I was too exhausted to actually think about what the driver was trying to communicate. Instead, I just my handed him my money and took a seat. Fifteen minutes passed before my brain actually registered the fact that we were going in the completely wrong direction. I sat in my seat for another five minutes debating what I should do. For me this was one of the worst predicaments to be in. Not only did I have to talk to a stranger, but I had to admit I had made a mistake.

I finally swallowed my pride and approached the driver timidly. After explaining to him that I was actually on the wrong bus I asked if he could let me off at the next bus stop. He just rolled his eyes at me and abruptly stopped.

“Here?” I was obviously hesitant to leave.

“Yes, here. Go.”

I hopped off and asked him when the right bus would arrive.

“Five minutes” he said before closing the door and driving off. If I had known that the Portuguese have a seriously twisted sense of time I would have stayed on the bus.
I took in my surroundings. I was in the middle of nowhere-Portugal, and I didn’t actually see a bus stop. I walked a little ways before noticing a sign with one bus number on it sticking up from the ground. The bus stop itself was a thin patch of grass between the road and a rock wall. I stood, pushing myself as closely as I could to the wall as to not get hit by passing vehicles, and waited.

An hour and a half later another bus approached. At this point I was crouched as low as I could get to the floor without being in the road, in an attempt to block some of the frigid wind from blowing through my thin jacket. The bus opened its door, and I was immediately greeted with a rush of warm air.

“Coba da Roca?” I whimpered in the doorway.

The driver looked at me slightly startled (she speaks!), “No.” This time I did not board the bus.

“When will the bus be coming for Coba Da Roca?” I asked.

“Five minutes.”

I wanted to laugh, but it came out sounding more like a sob. Awkward.

This was the moment when I should have gotten on the damn bus. But, no, I had already waited this long, what was five more minutes?

“Five more minutes? Are you sure?”

“Yes.” He motioned for me to make a decision.

I thanked the driver and stepped back down on the patch of grass. I immediately began shivering. The driver then audibly laughed at me before closing the door and driving off. Always a good sign.

Another hour passed. The sun was getting ready to set and as a result the temperature was dropping rapidly. I was leaning against the wall when I saw a very hefty man, carrying an equally large bucket, exit a building opposite me. I was about to ask him about the stupid bus, when he violently chucked the contents of his bucket into a clearing, whereafter, (I kid you not) 40 ferrel cats rushed out of the woods. I stood there stunned, watching this ridiculous scene play out in front of me. I then saw a future where I was forced to sleep by the bus stop only to wake up surrounded by 40 dirty, hungry cats. I began sobbing.

Two terrifying hours and 50 agonizing minutes after the first driver had told me five minutes, a third bus rounded the corner. This time I couldn’t have entered the bus fast enough. I practically threw money at the driver.

“Coba Da Roca?” I squeaked.

The driver grunted in agreement and ended up handing me back my money and motioning for me to take a seat. This kind gesture brought even more tears to my eyes, and I began to walk to find a seat. The bus was packed and it seemed like every time I walked passed a person they would recoil a little bit. Who could blame them though, I looked like a someone who’d just escaped an insane asylum, my wind swept hair sticking up in all directions and my eyes bloodshot from crying. I couldn’t have cared less (at least that’s what I am telling myself now). I was finally warm and on my way to see one of the most amazing sunsets. But I told myself, no more solo days trips while in Portugal.

me 3
Worth it?

Oh, Bali

I thought this might be funny in retrospect, but I am still bitter.

I arrived at my hostel in Bali and, of course, needed cash in order to pay for it. So my friend and I are directed down the street. Once we got to the fork in the road (literally) there’s the option between a gas station and a singular stall. A very friendly man by the stall came to the sidewalk to greet us and asked if we needed to exchange money. I was a little hesitant, but more tired and hungry, so agreed to follow him to his stand. That’s when his friend popped up out of no where to initiate the exchange. I told him how much I needed, he calculated the exchange rate on his calculator, to which I agreed and he began to count out the money for me.

He did everything very slowly and was giving me very small bills.

The thing with IDR is everything is in the hundreds of thousands. 100,000 IDR is maybe 7 USD.

I am owed 800,000 IDR, which he’s giving me in 20,000 bills… shady? Absolutely. But I watched him like a hawk as he counted it out in front of me, and when he handed me the stack I counted it separately off to the side while it was my friend’s turn. After the first attempt I was coming up 300,000 IDR short. It wasn’t exactly possible to know for sure when you have tiny hands and a million bills in your hand. I got the chance I tell the teller that I thought I was short and began to count the money in front of him. He quickly grabbed all the bills from me and counted them himself, again slowly, with my friend watching as well. Everything was there, so he handed the stack back to me.

We left, not exactly feeling one hundred percent comfortable with the situation. Yeah, maybe he had tried to rip me off, but I caught him.

Once back at the hostel I counted my bills and, no joke, 200,0000 IDR was missing. Un-believe-able! This guy had somehow magicianed two very large stacks of cash away in front of my eyes AND my friend’s. Without us noticing. Twice! And not only that, but his calculator was rigged to show the wrong amount. The worst part was there was literally nothing I could do to get that money back.

I felt like committing some slight arson, but I decided to go dancing instead. At least, that’s the story I am sticking to ;)

Where’s Waldo – Suitcase Addition

The day I arrive in London is a flurry of trying to get to my friend’s house and intense jet lag.  I wake up at six the next morning completely rested and ready to begin my grand adventure after 10 hours of glorious uninterrupted, completely vertical sleep. (I think one of my favorite feelings in the world is finally being able to lie down after trying unsuccessfully to sleep on an airplane.)

I sit up, rub the sleep from my eyes, and greet the chirping birds at my window with a song, who then immediately scatter as if someone has shot at them, unphased I begin to search through my suitcase for shampoo. Only to find piles of fur and intensely high heels instead. I feel a wave of panic, manifesting itself as nausea, hit me. I struggle to breathe as I frantically search for the bag’s name tag.

Of course, it’s been violently ripped off.

I inspect the bag more closely. This is so OBVIOUSLY not my bag. The color is more muted, and the maker isn’t even the same. At least I am 85% sure the maker isn’t the same. In my defense, this is the first time I’ve used this bag, and I bought it specifically because it was red, thinking that would make it easier to find. Effects of sleep, or lack there of, are real people, also, this is just so typical for me.

I call the airport, but I am sent through a maze of operators before eventually I am given the chance to leave a voicemail, where my “call is very important to us and will be returned as soon as possible.” Ugh.

Obviously, I need to be more proactive. I wake up my poor, extremely groggy friend in order to explain the situation to him. He just shakes his head, like he was waiting for something like this to happen, gives a halfhearted offer to join me and without waiting for a response immediately goes back to sleep.  I embark on the 2 hour metro journey lugging this woman’s enormous and heavy suitcase up and down numerous flights of stairs and onto 3 trains. This is my penance for stealing.

Once at my destination, extremely disheveled and sweaty, I am met with a look of pity as I begin my story, which quickly turns to disdain and an eye roll once I am forced to admit that all of this is completely my fault. One of the airport attendants even goes so far as to indirectly/directly call me an idiot. British humour? Mildly deserved.

After all the paper work, judgment and metal detectors, I am finally allowed into the lost luggage section. In reality, it’s a unkempt maze located at the far left corner of baggage claim, where hundreds of bags have been piled on top of trolleys with no discernible rhyme or reason. I am face to face with the adult version of Where’s Waldo. Usually adult versions of kids games come with alcohol (just saying). Not only did I hate Where’s Waldo as a kid, because I never ever found anyone, but I am also not 100% sure what my suitcase actually looks like.

Disaster.

30 minutes, two toppled trolleys and a few tears later I still haven’t found my bag. It’s not even 10am, and I want to run to the nearest bar.

After another 30 minutes I FaceTime my dad in sheer desperation. He helps me meticulously sort through the chaos to locate every single red suitcase, which I then have to either open or find the name tag for. Nothing.

Towards the end of this ridiculous search, I just sit down on the cold linoleum floor and start sobbing, my dad awkwardly silent on the other end. Just as he’s attempting to coax me up for another round, with a “This isn’t appropriate behavior for a 24 year old,” I noticed a trolley being pushed towards me. This one is new. This one has a shiny red suitcase on top, which looks kind of familiar. I launch myself at that trolley and frantically look for the name tag.

YESSSSSSSSS! I squeal with joy and hug the poor man pushing the trolley, who seizes up like I’d just tazed him.

Note to self: Buy lime green suitcases from now on and don’t throw yourself onto British people.