Today is my last day in South America and I'm looking forward to getting back to the land of the free, home of the brave for a few weeks before I head to Cambodia.
I'm blogging more regularly at mybigfatface.com if you need a fix.
shutitdown: taking one for the anecdote
Today is my last day in South America and I'm looking forward to getting back to the land of the free, home of the brave for a few weeks before I head to Cambodia.
I'm blogging more regularly at mybigfatface.com if you need a fix.
I really enjoyed my time in the Philippines. It's a country where they take their Catholicism so seriously that they're willing to crucify themselves and where they take their karaoke so seriously that singing 'My Way' off-key can get you killed.
I've applied to be a Kiva Fellow and have selected the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and Samoa as the countries I would most like to work in. I'm not going to write about it more in case I don't get it, but I should find out soon. Fingers crossed.
In Japan, people hate:
Stealing. You can leave you purse on a table in a nightclub and wander away for 45 minutes and it will still be there when you get back.
Wearing short sleeves
Their teeth, they always cover them when they laugh. People say this is because of some ancient tradition but really it's because it's snaggletooth city.
Eating in public
Talking on cell phones in the subway
Tokyo is like being in a roomful of people whose cellphones are all going off at once.
Tokyo is like a stuffed animal is humping your skull.
Tokyo is like being in a pinball machine waiting to be flippered.
Tokyo is like every car on your block being an ice cream truck all playing different songs.
So as you can probably infer, Tokyo is complete sensory overload. The vending machines have TV screens and shout at you. The giant screens on the buildings that are just a few feet apart are playing different advertisements, loudly. Arcade games beckon you from six-story game parlours in high-pitched, improbable voices. Women stand outside stores with loudspeakers, trying to cajole passerbys inside. The street cleaners play "itsy bitsy spider" to warn you of their presence.
Tokyo is the most amazing city I've ever been to, it's a complete mind-fuck. I spent my first two weeks in Japan there and had to pry myself away to try and see some more of Japan. I've been hiking, I've seen temples, I've seen shrines, I've eaten ramen. And then, I rested.
Now I'm in Yufuin, in the middle of nowhere. During my explorations today I did not find anyone that would cop to knowing English, including any of the guests at my hostel. I spent the day watching the leaves change color, which is a major draw around these parts. Oh, Japan.
I love trains. Trains in Tokyo are particularly exciting. First of all, I will spend the majority of my time on them completely lost. Also, there's a 99% chance that I will be the only Westerner (read: round eye) on any given train. The majority of my fellow passengers are wearing suits or uniforms of some kind all seem to be very busy, despite it being 11am. People here love wearing suits. When I was here last summer they were having a campaign to try and get men to stop wearing ties or at the least, loosen them. Apparently it had something to do with a heat wave and trying to cut down on excessive air conditioning. I don't think it worked though, because they sure love their ties.
Last summer Bla and I wanted to go to the Tsukiji fish market. The deal is you have to go at five in the morning if you want to see men shrieking at each other over tuna the size of 5th graders. The night before our planned visit we were perched in a bar called 'Ghetto' in the Golden Gai--a bar that could seat only four people and that was owned by the star of a Japanese action film who also owned a restaurant called 'Horse' that only served the flesh of that mighty beast--we realized that we'd be fools to leave and try to wake up so early. We'd have a much better chance of staying awake with our new friends at Ghetto and going straight to the fish market from there.
Of course we hadn't considered the effect of the fish market on our compromised systems--compromised by Japanese action film stars teaching us exclamations in Japanese accompanied by shots of soju. Needless to say, the visit was terrifying and exhausting, and we hopped back on the train around 7 or 8 to finally get back to our hostel and go to sleep. Of course we hadn't realized that this was rush hour and the train would be absolutely, horribly jammers. Despite the stories of women getting groped on such trains, the other passengers gave me and Bla a wide birth. Reeking of ghetto, soju and salmon, I can't say that I blame them.
You can't take that away from me, I thought, while knowing, of course, how easily they could. Because really, for today at least, that exit row seat was all I had. A ten hour flight begs for a bulkhead. But as I sadly relinquished my boarding pass, I saw the new seat number. 4D. Oh yes, I had gotten the coveted upgrade and have begun my backpacking trip in the front cabin drinking champagne and swaddling myself in cushiony duvets to try to sleep. Try, of course, because I was attempting to go to sleep at 6pm my time.
Two weeks ago I had a brilliant idea that I was going to avert jet lag by waking up 20 minutes earlier every day before I left, with the end goal of being up by 3am for the few days before I left. This would be another example of my attempts at self-improvement through unrelenting self-abuse. Obviously, the plan did not go as hoped, despite me programming my ipod to play Bobby Brown "My Perogative" at full volume in the early hours of the morn. The best I did was waking up at 4am. That night I fell asleep at 7:30pm, and is if to mock my attempt to violently wrest control of my own circadian rhythms, slept for 12 hours.
So despite the plush reclined seat, a couple of valium and some bubbly (only after the sushi, miso soup and soba noodles, of course), your valiant hero tossed and turned for hours before drifting off and dreaming of frequent flyer miles.
And of course, desperate to prove this fact, I decided that I could manage my round-the-world trip with a carry-on size bag. When I go visit New York for a weekend, I can't keep it to a carry-on size bag. So why I thought I could do it now is anyone's guess. The two people I showed my bag to before I left both started laughing hysterically when they saw it. "You're fucking joking," one of them said, flabbergasted.
The other said, "Well, it will be a great conversation starter...like, so, you here for the weekend, mate?"
I had made a well thought out and very conservative list of items to bring. At T-24 hours I started panicking and adding things willy nilly. I need to bring a thermometer, right? I'm not playing Russian roulette with my health, here. I've brought at least 8 or 9 over the counter remedies for various ailments that I like to diagnose myself with frequently, and another 3 or 4 under the counter medications to help me "chill out." In the last few hours I added a self-help book, a polka dotted tank top, a collection of gummy candy that looked like pizza, a grimy white t-shirt, compression bags, hair serum, nighttime moisturizer (to compliment the daytime moisturizer, body lotion and hand lotion I already have) and a guide to reading menus in Japanese. I had to sit on my bag to get it to close.
The plan had been to "travel light" but by the time I made it to Paddington Station I knew that I had royally fucked up. Once I boarded the Heathrow Express I sat down on the floor and unpacked my entire bag. "Be ruthless," I kept muttering to myself under my breath, trying to avoid the stares of the businessmen wondering why I was counting and recounting my underwear and talking to myself. "Be ruthless." By the time the train pulled up to Heathrow I had filled one of the compression bags up with items that I had ruthlessly abandoned and made a solid commitment to myself to divest myself of even more of my possessions on arriving in Tokyo.
One of my friends was trying to understand why me, of all people--me, who considers a trip to the mall a sacred journey, me, who thinks of bric-a-brac as a fundamental human right, was even bothering to try to travel light. The only reason I can give is that I like challenging myself. I like putting myself in situations that I find very difficult, like Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I have a believe that the more excruciating I deliberately make my life, the better a person I will become. And this is why I have packed this child-size bag.
But when filling out my customs forms, I came to the question "What city to do live in?" I have no answer to that. I also have no answer for "Occupation?" When I checked into my hotel today I struggled over "Address?" for ten minutes. Where do I live today?
From there I go to Korea and then China. After that I will try to go to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in no particular order. I'm thinking of making it a full-on RTW and going to Africa and checking out some of the parts of Europe that I haven't been to yet. I'm not sure how long I will travel for. I mean, I've emotionally budgeted around 12-18 months. I think if I start working before then I will probably kill myself, and quite possibly take out the entire typing pool in the process. But I don't actually want to say "Oh, I'm going traveling for a year." Because honestly, I might decide to go crawling back to my parents after four months.
The thing is, I am fairly certain that I hate traveling. I really like having my own space and my own things and my own sheets and my own pillow. I also know that this trip is going to be very difficult for me. I plan to spend 3-6 weeks in China. I don't like spending more than 45 minutes in Chinatown. It seems that me and the Chinese have very different ideas about personal space, for one. So I'm not sure exactly how I will handle this extended trip. Probably the same way I deal with my trips to Chinatown--with a snotty look on my face and trying to fit as much food in my maw as I possibly can.
But don't get me wrong, I am really, really looking forward to this. Just the fact that I have the opportunity to do this makes me so happy, and dare I admit, proud of myself. When I was 19 I never would have dreamt that I would have been able to do something like this on my own. I thought this was the sort of thing that only people with rich parents and chaperones were able to do. Six or seven years ago one of my biggest resentments was how little I had traveled, how I hadn't been able to do an exchange program in college or live abroad. And now I've been living abroad for three years, had to get extra pages added my passport and have enough frequent flyer miles to go around the world. And that's pretty amazing.
So last week I finally cut the cord on yet another shitty relationship and told my boss I'm quitting. This was very exciting, because I've essentially been playing a game of last man standing at work. Of the ten people that I started with, as of two months ago, I'm the only one left despite the betting pool putting the odds on me going first. This is because I love to hang around in a bad relationship feeling sorry for myself. Anyone who has ever seen me with a boyfriend can attest to this.
I've long compared my job to an abusive boyfriend. Or like, a really, really cute abusive boyfriend. A boyfriend that's so cute that all of your friends and family are really impressed and secretly surprised that you landed him. And they all tell you that you'd be a fool to dump him because you all suspect that you'll never do this well next time around, and you should really try and make it work and appreciate him more. But in your heart you know that he's actually a really shitty boyfriend and that being really cute isn't quite enough. And that's sort of what it's like to work for one of the top companies in the world. It's not really quite enough. And the fact is, you shouldn't live your life terrified of change--there are way cuter jobs out there.
So I told my boss (and his boss) that I'm leaving to go travel. It's weird how emotional it all feels. My job has been the one constant in my life for five years. I've lived in three countries, the boyfriends have come and gone and I've gotten one meaningless promotion after another. And even though my job is about as empty as a job can be, it was something to hold on to. Because when you are at a loss for what you are doing with your life, having a really cute job is still something.
The way I usually test this out is to head straight to the ladies room and try and flush a few things down the toilet. If it works, I know I'm home.
In America, murderers have gotten rid of dead bodies by flushing them down the toilet, bit by bit. In Europe, they haven't figured out how to design plumbing systems that can handle a tampon. I kid you not--the boxes in the States that proudly proclaim "flushable!" in Europe advise you to keep the reminder of your lost motherhood opportunity in the trash--the toilets won't take em.
But tonight, as I disembarked and ran headlong into Newark's sweaty embrace, I couldn't help but think about how amazing America is. The plumbing! What plumbing!
I know I’ve written about Bangkok street food before. But like all obsessive, boring people, I like to come back to my favorite topics time and time again, worried that if I don’t mention it, it might just disappear.
The street food in Thailand was phenomenal. There were the dumplings, delicately balanced on a Styrofoam tray, doused in soy sauce and with nary a utensil save for a toothpick. They weren’t dumplings so much as thick rice noodles wrapped around a variety of vegetable fillings, and they weren’t delicious so much as they were mysterious. How is it that in a country where a vegetarian could starve to death (at a minimum, there’s fish sauce on everything) I managed to get dumplings filled with greens?
My first night in Bangkok I was alone and terrified. And by terrified I mean hungry and by hungry I mean ravenous. I was too timid, of course, to try and get food at any reasonable time, and my traveling companion wasn’t due to arrive until nearly midnight. So sometime after ten at night I ventured out of my hotel and wandered onto the streets of Bangkok. I needed to be at the hotel when my friend arrived and didn’t want to stray too far from there. I didn’t have a map, and between the jetlag and having no sense of direction to speak of anyway, making more than one or two turns could be disastrous. So I walked up and down the same street a few times, checking out all of the street food vendors and wondering how I was possibly going to order anything. These are the sort of things that paralyze me—not knowing how to communicate and being nervous about acting like an American dickhead, saying the same things over and over in English more and more loudly in the hopes that someone will finally understand me. So instead I just walked around until finally starvation drove me to stop at one of the cart vendors and attempt an order. This is probably a good thing because if I had walked up that street one more time, they would have taken me for a farang prostitute.
I pointed at a ground pork dish with chilis and holy basil, pad kaprao moo, which was served with a pile of rice for less than a dollar. It was so spicy that my nose was running and tears streamed down my face, but I was nonetheless grateful for the fact that I was gorging myself alone on a plastic deck chair perched on the curb of a nearly empty street, save for the woman cooking over a sterno flame under a tattered yellow and white umbrella.
At the Khao San Road (which we went to just to see what all the fuss was about, and hated) there were woman standing every ten feed or so holding giant woks and expertly frying eggs into steaming piles of pad thai. After watching a few of them, I finally realized why the pad thai I made never tastes quite right—apparently a least a cup of oil is required for each portion. I thought it was delicious and disgusting, but I’m known for having a stomach of steel. My traveling partner was less resilient, unfortunately.
There were little sweets that looked like miniature tacos, ready-made curries on carts parked on roads teeming with cars and minicabs. Sticky rice with all types of fillings and toppings, savory and sweet. There were the grilled bullfrogs on skewers that we avoided and the grilled everything else that we couldn’t stop ourselves from stopping for every ten paces or so. There was mangosteen and unripe mango and green papaya salad and bags of cucumbers with nam prik sauce. There were plastic bags filled with ice and condensed milk and flavors ranging from tea to blue raspberry, hollowed out coconuts with straws sticking out of them and plastic cups filled with all kinds of fruits, from limes to pineapple to watermelon and others that I didn’t recognize.
But more than the food, it was the whole street food scene that I was impressed by. A vendor would have a cart, some source of heat and possibly a few chairs. Sometimes they would have their husband or wife as their sous chef, some of them would have a friend standing their chatting their way through the curries or sometimes they would be alone. Some of them had terrible food and some of them had dishes to rival anything I've ever tasted. My favorites were the women with the blank faces wearing shirts with nonsensical phrases on them sitting on stools, gripping giant cookers with their florescent shorts-clad thighs and frying skewers of just about anything. I think about my current job, which involves skewering nothing but my soul and I pine for my own food cart.
You are given feedback forms everywhere you go, but it's actually in restaurants that they really do the hard sell. At my lunch yesterday, I didn't have a lot of time, so when they handed me the feedback survey, I just smiled vaguely. "Please, ma'am," the waiter said, shaking his head in a "we both know that it is necessary for you to fill out this form before you leave" sort of way. Once I paid, he refused to bring me my change until he saw me writing, which was a persuasive tactic.
So I filled out the form. Food, excellent. Service, excellent. Ambiance, good. I've heard that if you are too enthusiastic and mark everything excellent, you can have your feedback form returned to you and can be told that your feedback wasn't honest enough. It's a fine line, though. If you are too honest, the manager may come out and argue with you about the validity of your opinion. That dish, he might say, does not in the slightest resemble regurgitated mutton in either appearance or taste, in response to my comment "I prefer to be the first person to chew my lamb."
After I finally filled out the form in the hopes of getting my change, the waiter who had disappeared with it quickly returned and requested my "details." This is the information that most of the feedback forms request, in addition to your opinions: your full name, address, company that you work for, email address, mobile phone number, home phone number, work phone number, spouse's name, your birthday, your spouse's birthday and the date of your anniversary.
I had already learned the hard way, after a few too many Kingfishers, that giving the restaurant my email address results in a stilted and formally worded email thanking me for my patronage and hoping that I might consider having them cater any potential nuptials that I might be engaging in at any time in the future. My feedback, they tell me, "of great importance to us for improving our standards to serve you better." They wish me "warm culinary regards" before signing off.
"I don't want to leave my details," I explain.
"Please, ma'am." It's that same tone, the "we both know you must do this" tone. "You must at least give your name," he says, "my manager will be requiring this at the minimum."
I give my name, and thank the stars that I hadn't been on one of my feedback binges. At first, I found the forms supremely annoying, until I realized that this may be the first time in the history of the universe that anyone has actually showed any interest in my opinion on anything. Since then, I've been going to town on the feedback forms. At the outdoor market: did I feel that the ticket taker was courteous or not courteous? I put a check mark in the middle, and write "I would have appreciated a larger smile." I draw a smiley face as an example. How did I like the food? "I did not eat food here today, but your reputation for delicious snacks is well known." The landscaping? "Exquisite."
At the spa, they ask for your feedback. At the hotel checkout they ask for your feedback. At department stores they ask for your feedback. And although there are opportunities to make your feelings known in other countries, never are they quite so intense and enthusiastic about it. At the airport, there are kiosks that ask for your opinions. Even more surprisingly, I see people actually using them, typing in one character at a time on the touch screens as they wait for their 3am flights (which India has a lot of) eager to make their opinions heard.
At the conference I was at, there was a woman whose job it was to stand outside of a door next to a sign that said "Silence Please." This is all she did, all week. For forty hours a week, the woman stands next to a sign that says "Silence Please." But when passerbys ignored the signs and were talking so loudly that it was interfering with the conference, attendees had to go out of the presentation to the "Silence Please" sign outside the door and shush them. The woman standing next to the sign hadn't shushed them herself because that wasn't her job. Her job is just to stand there.
There are generally four people lounging in the six by eight foot break rooms "keeping then well stocked" at any given time, and when I walk past some of the unused meeting rooms I'll see a glitter in the darkness, the eyes of the cleaning people standing in the darkened rooms doing nothing. There are also people whose job it is to stand in the bathrooms. This is different than the people you may have seen in nightclubs elsewhere--the "blacks in the jacks" phenomenon--as they aren't standing there hoping for a tip, they are just standing there for the sheer love of being employed. In one bathroom I frequented, there was a woman who stands there all day and whose only job I could determine was to jump into each stall as soon as people had exited and to fold the top sheet of toilet paper into a triangle like in a hotel room. At the airport, there was a woman standing in the bathroom to hand me a paper towel. At the airport. And seriously, they don't even get tips--they are just trying to justify their employment, which is difficult, when six or seven people might be hired on any given shift to keep a single restroom clean.
You are not allowed to serve yourself anything at mealtime. Waiters must leave the dishes on the table, and then each time you have taken two bites, they come back to your table and heap two more bites worth back onto your plate. At any one time, there can be three or four people attempting to serve your table. This is especially exciting because most restaurants in this city seem to have themes of varying degrees and force their waitstaff to wear ridiculous costumes, many of which harken back to the days of British colonialism. It's actually rather stressful if they leave for too long, though. If you dare to pour yourself a glass of water--which you will need because the spice levels will abuse even a rather strong palate--this can cause a major uproar. If they see any movement of an arm stretching or something other than fork to mouth, three or four of them run back to the table as if you've just personally insulted them by pouring your own water. They make up for it by being even more insistently gracious and overbearing for the rest of the meal.
Today at the place I was having lunch, I was getting sort of irritated because I had asked for my check a few minutes earlier and it hadn't arrived yet. I had my driver--and yes, every Westerner in India has a driver, it seems--waiting for me downstairs and I didn't want to be rude. I counted 12 employees in my direct line of sight doing nothing while I waited. Seriously, it was actually 12, I'm not exaggerating. What could be the opportunity for insane levels of efficiency quite simply isn't. India is one of, if not the, most inefficient place I have ever been.
Whenever one asks a question, the response is generally a head bobble. It's sort of like a head shake, but going side to side. It most closely resembles one of the bobblehead dolls. The head bobble is an interesting and contagious way of saying "yes, no, or maybe." On occasion, I think it means "go fuck yourself." However, it's unclear as to the actual meaning because although it is the response to most questions, it is not usually backed up with any sort of concrete language.
Shopping in India, is sort of one of the worst things you can imagine. A great number of stores and shops are bargain-only sort of places. Because the general population sees all Westerners as walking wallets, they often quote prices three times what they are hoping to get, and then force you to argue your way down to a reasonable price, which usually takes at least 30 minutes. Since I spend most of my day arguing anyway, I do not relish doing it in my off-time. "Please, ma'am," they say beseechingly when I offer them a more reasonable price, although still within the range of allowing myself to get completely fleeced. I like to think that my job is to get them to lower the price by a few pennies so that I can feel that I've at least attempted and their job is to screw me over as much as possible. I got a spoon down from 110 rupees to 100, and I felt we had both succeeded.
When you walk into other stores that are fixed price, you generally have at least two men following you within 12 inches of your person. As someone who has serious boundaries issues, I found this excruciating. My only source of amusement was to stop short, or turn around quickly, so they'd run into each other or me, or have to take a quick 180 while still trying to seem casual. "Ma'am? Are you looking to do some shopping today?" I'm walking into a store, so yeah, duh. "Ma'am?" I also especially liked when these mustachioed young men insisted on pulling clothes from the racks to help suggest items I might like. "Ma'am? Very beautiful, 100% silk sari, very classic, very trending, large sizes, ma'am." Even in the airport, when I had a few thousand rupees in cash that I was desperate to get rid of, I wasn't able to spend it due to all of the overwhelming assistance.
In India, you must sign forms to show that you have signed other forms. You must have a special tag stamped and scanned for your purse to walk into the airport. I have had my boarding pass checked by at least eight attendants so far, and it's been stamped by three of them. What this is meant to prevent or ensure, I haven't a clue. Some attendants just like to look at the your boarding pass to see the stamps, but they don't do anything if the stamps are or aren't there. Their job is just to look.
You must have the wheel wells of your car checked with mirrors before you can drive into any number of areas, despite the fact that they don't check the insides of the cars.They are very enthusiastic about metal detectors in India. After one disembarks at the airports in India, you must go through a metal detector before being allowed to collect your baggage. This is India's way of saying that the screening done at whichever airport you started out at wasn't sufficient to meet India's high security standards. Once you have your luggage screened by a man that is actually facing away from the screen that shows the innards of your baggage, you go through the metal detector, which almost always beeps, and they let you though without saying a word. So the lines to deboard a plane are backed up by hundreds of sweaty people waiting to fail a metal detector test.
The malls and many stores also have metal detectors and to enter the airport, even if you've passed through the metal detector without incident, you still have to be given a pat-down in a special enclosed room by a woman in an official looking sari while another woman watches and while a man examines the tag that a man ten feet away put on my hand baggage. These tasks do not prevent crime, I suspect, but they do keep a large number of people employed. Which is good, I guess, because there are a lot of people around here.
"It's just," she said, wiping the tears from her eyes, "I can't imagine a person who would hate India more than you."
I'm interested to see how this trip pans out because I've not been particularly looking forward to my trip to India. I'm glad to get it out of the way because I think to be the sort of asshole I want to be in life, I have to have a large stack of Lonely Planets casually piled somewhere highly visible and to be able to drop references to 'my time in India' in irksome Berkeley cocktail parties. This necessitates some time in India, and I've decided to start with a week-long business trip.
If I had to stereotype--and god knows I don't have to, I just love to--I sort of like Indian women. Although it drives me berserk, I like the way they stare at me--it's so bold. I don't like the way their husbands stare at me, though. Their husbands, in fact, disgust me. I hate everything about their look. Their beer guts (or are they dal guts?), their mustaches, their hair that is too long and parted so intensely that the back is always out of place in a way that brings out my maternal urge to fix it while at the same time making me hate them for not taking care of themselves, their sandals, their young wives. But most of all, it's the stare. The stare is at once lascivious and condescending and freaks me out most considerably. I sort of feel this way about all men between the ages of 40 to 60, but the thing about Indian men is that they act and appear to be between the ages of 40 to 60 from about the age of 9 until 90. I'm fine with the very old and the very young of India.
However, I've been told that things like the stare are just a cultural difference. Cultural differences are things one needs to accept. In the leadup to this trip, I've tried very hard to not focus on things, or stereotypes, if you will, that irritate me. I want to be the sort of person that could bring up the possibility of going to India for six months without having anyone laugh.
But then I attempted to get an Indian visa. This took a few weeks, two hundred and three euro and three trips to the Indian Embassy. The Indian Embassy in Dublin is much like the disused teacher's lounge of an Indian elementary school. There's mismatched furniture, piles of Indian picture books, pamphlets on Indian teas and bulletin boards with aged notices about things long past. The Indian Embassy in Dublin is mostly empty when I visit.
They have a filing system that is interesting--it doesn't involve computers as you might expect, but consists of giant manila envelopes at least three feet long, each with a year written on them, piled on top of a bookshelf. I don't really understand why it is is so difficult and expensive to get a visa for India.
Most countries I don't have to get a visa for, or can get one issued upon arrival. Most countries are grateful to have me come spend money on worthless knickknacks, overpriced drinks and on duty free goods. Some countries, such as Turkey, wish they didn't need my money, so they let me get a visa at the airport but make me pay for it as a small sort of fuck you on arrival. The visa stamp even has the price printed on it, an entrance fee into the country. But Turkey only charged me fifteen euro on my last two visits which is a far cry from the two hundred and three euro that India demanded of me. I wasn't even allowed to pay in any normal fashion but had to get a postal money order as if India were some decrepit eBay seller that was unable to accept credit cards or other standard forms of currency.
India, I think, should be grateful to have me. We have a lot in common, me and India. We were both colonized the the same dickheads, right? We both still struggle with trying to stop ourselves from loving those dickheads and realizing that it's not really possible. We both speak English with slightly ridiculous accents. We both constantly struggle with disaster. We both love fancy words. But India is not grateful to have me, and instead wants to test my dedication to setting foot on its soil. My friend Pam planned a trip to India not long ago and was refused at the airport because, not knowing, she hadn't gotten a visa in advance. She was clearly not dedicated enough.
The first time I went to the embassy they told me to come back in 10 days. In the meantime, I got a typhoid shot and a lecture on cultural sensitivity. Two weeks later, I went back. "Leave your passport," they told me, "and come back tomorrow." I do not want to leave my passport in a place that considers manila envelopes an adequate means of organization. As an expat, one learns to hold onto their passport rather tightly, as losing it means being stranded in a foreign country and a lot of unpleasantness at the American Embassy.
But what can you say in the Indian Embassy after all? "No, sorry, you've given the impression of a complete lack of competence and no I will not leave my passport here."? Of course not. I hand over my passport, stomach in knots and after a surprisingly restful night, return to the embassy the next day.
"Who?" Shuffling of paper but giving no appearance of finding any particularly relevant paper or related paper. "Come back tomorrow." I cannot, I declare, come back tomorrow. I have a cab waiting for me outside. I'm heading for Cork that evening, which is a foreign country by all accounts, and I didn't want to leave my passport into this documents graveyeard for a weekend. This is my third trip to the Indian Embassy. I was told yesterday that it would be ready today. The man behind the desk gives me a condescending look as if all of this was somehow my fault.
"By whom?" a woman next to the desk asks. I begin to describe the woman that I had spoken to the day before, and then notice the woman in question trying to hide behind a manila envelope.
"Her," I declare. The woman, who was next to the desk and who is now at the desk since the condescending man wandered off after realizing that my case was not important enough to deal with, shoots the woman behind the envelope a death stare, and tells me to sit down and wait. I do, mindful of the taxi driver waiting for me outside, which I now realize was a bad idea.
Finally, I am handed my passport which now has a sticker with my details hand written in it. This is what I paid two hundred and three euro and waited nearly three weeks for. This hand-written sticker is not a tracking mechanism for some sort of larger immigration policy as I would expect, but is really just a little bit of a "You think you're so superior? Pony up and hold your horses. We're in charge now."
Have I ever posted some of the ways the Irish describe smells? My two favorites: whack and bang. I think I've mastered these terms enough to attempt to use them here. "Some bang of bootrot off that durian fruit cart, eh?" or "The whack of foot we got when walking past the durian cart nearly bowled me over, and I had to take a long drink out of my tea in a plastic bag to right myself."
It's my understanding that one can also use bang to as a "reminds me of" sort of expression. So you could say, when talking about Marilyn Manson, "sort of get a bang of Kev's best friend on the Wonder Years from yer man, there, eh?" Whack seems to be more literal--this is what that smells like, or that specific thing is emitting an odor, but bang can be used more creatively under the guise of describing a smell. "I'm getting a bang of sugarplum fairy off yer wan," for example.
Anyway, this city is one giant bang of durian. I've been wandering the streets like any one of the dozens of feral dogs I've seen searching for sustenance. "Same," I say, pointing to the styrofoam tray of dumplings the man in line in front of me has just ordered. "Same," the cart stand dumpling woman repeats back to me, pointing after the man who has paid 16 baht and is now wandering away, spearing dumplings with a skewer as he goes. I get the same dumplings, but when I hand over my 20 baht note, I'm greeted with a head shake. 32 baht. Not same. I got the round eye discount. On principle, I find this offensive but for 16 baht, or €0.32, I just don't have the heart to complain.
I've only eaten one meal indoors--the complimentary breakfast at my five star hotel--and it was the one time that my iron stomach threatened to somersault. I'm not usually the sort of girl that can be phased by 100 year egg congee, watermelon, sushi and pork floating in grease soup at 8 am. I sternly reminded myself of who I am, and hit the streets for some more satay, fish balls, noodles, dumplings, sausages and nary a vegetable to be seen.
I'm still flashpacking through Bangkok now. And they really do ping pong shows here, god love 'em. What I like about Thailand is that the Thai people seem very indifferent to me. I find this reassuring. I still have not recovered my trip from Rome where I was either given a freebie or sexually assaulted, depending on your outlook on these sorts of things. Thai men are mostly ignoring me, which I much prefer. The ladyboys, though, thank god, gave me all of the attention (and photo opportunities) that I desired, so I can't complain.
I can't decide if the word "flashpacking" really irks me or not--I just learned it today so it hasn't had time to settle in. I just read a thing about flashpacking, though, and it's sort of what I've been dreaming about and half-heartedly plotting for a while. (Check out this blog) Traveling like a backpacker, but with a computer, paying extra for single rooms or non-hostels, eating quality meals, that sort of buzz. Which is what I'm doing right now. I'm staying in a hostel but have paid for 2 to get my own room. Last night I was in a 5 star hotel. Since my meals are average about €2 per day, I think I can handle it.
I really want to stop working and go travel for a year. Finish the effing novel already. Write a new one, maybe. Eat street food all over the world. Finally go to Korea. But I'm not sure if I could cope with traveling for that long. In my heart, I think I might hate traveling. I don't like being uncomfortable or lonely or hungry or anxious or lost. These are all things that will probably happen if I try and travel for a year. So London is still in the running. Instead of backpacking, I transfer.
In Tokyo, everything was so expensive that it sort of forced me to keep myself in check. Street food isn't as popular there--more often than not the fast food is served out of actual establishments that are so small that only a few people can be in them at any one time.
There's a street that caters to businessmen on their way home from work who eat giant bowls of ramen standing up. It's next to the train station, and is called "piss alley" (check out these awesome pics), because the businessmen tend to get drunk and redfaced and urinate on a nearby wall before stumbling onto their trains.
We went there one night and had tiny (by Irish standards) beers and skewers of chicken, cooked on a grill right in front of us. Our host, Shinya, excitedly whispered to us that the proprietor of the place was Japanese mafia. The skewers of chicken were pretty intense--one was just chicken hearts. Another was just liver. When the skewer was presented to us that was just chicken cartilage, I declared that my mother would love the place. The next one was just chicken skin, and I declared that my father would love the place. If the beers were just a tad bit larger or came in a hat with funnels and straws, my entire family could have spent the rest of their lives there.
I was reminded of the Tokyo street scene tonight when I ventured out of my scandalously nice hotel and onto the streets of Bangkok. This is a city that takes their street food seriously. This is a city that I could reach a triple digit BMI in. They just park their carts anywhere and everywhere and start cooking. After wandering the streets, alone, jetlagged and sweaty, I finally worked up the nerve to stop at one of the bustling stalls filled with unidentifiable meats. I pointed vaguely at something and was served a plate of pork and chili and basil over rice. For 25 baht. Yes, friends, I just had dinner for €0.50.
I sat there and watched them cook for a while. My mother used to dream about setting up a roach coach. I think she worked it out of her system by cooking on a regular basis for the local homeless shelter, but after seeing the setup they have here (check these pics), I could almost imagine myself dumping my so-called career, investing in a few plastic tables and chairs and a large number of wooden skewers and getting down to business.
plastic food everywhere
hordes of people sleeping in nightclubs so they could wake up and rave more
sushi in 7-11
insane photoboothes everywhere
the ramen museum
green tea flavored everything
drunken men screaming in the subway "speak english with me!"
6am trips to the fish market
holding a note and remembering that astounded feeling when I was a kid and heard that something was worth 10,000 yen
girls in nightclubs asking, while discofingering, "this is how you dance in Ireland?"
getting lost in a since metro station for over an hour
I was supposed to be in town just for the day on Friday for a meeting but after missing a flight and making a measured decision to be more spontaneous, decided to stay the weekend and come back Monday night.
I don't know what happened. I've always liked London, I've even loved London before. Over a year ago I secured a visa for myself, which was one of the hardest things I've ever done--it involved compiling over 100 pages of original documents and affidavits--and then never moving. It wasn't an easy breakup for me, but I thought Dublin was a more stable relationship; Dublin would appreciate me more.
But then after seeing London again, so dashing, so handsome, I've started to reconsider. Things haven't been going well with Dublin for the last little while. We don't have any serious problems, but it's those day-to-day issues that are the ones that I can't handle. It's the things that I initially loved that are starting to irk me. It's too small. It's too laid back. There's no Ikea. We're just not as compatible as I once let myself believe.
But then I start to wonder--is this about me or Dublin? Why haven't I lasted anywhere, settled down? Since leaving my parents' house at 17, I've moved to New York, to California, to New York, to California, to Dublin, to California, to Dublin. I've never lasted more than a few years each time. Is my inability to geographically commit an endearing foible or can I just not keep my wanderlust in my pants?
One was in that bastion of consumerism and the free market economy, Target. I've learned that places like Target don't seem to exist outside of America. That part's not a surprise, I guess. The surprise was when browsing the dollar aisle at Target, I nearly burst into tears. Whether it was due to the sharp decline of the dollar or my own mortality, I don't venture to guess. But needless to say, Target evoked a deep yearning, a hole in my soul that Marks & Sparks cannot and will not fill.
On this trip, it was a day in the People's Park in Berkeley. In general, I sneer at hippies, but on this day, they made me nostalgic. In Dublin, naked men in their sixties with tattoos do not smoke marijuana in public parks. In Berkeley, they do not only this, but at the same time they bend over and do stretches so their old man balls jiggle and they have looks of proud contentment on their faces. When my eyes weren't arrested by the senior testes, they were focused on the stage where a quadriplegic with a stick in his mouth was pointing to letters on a chart and a woman next to him was reading his words aloud.
I A-M am, I am, H-A-P happy, I am happy T-O to B-E, I am happy to be, H-E here, I am happy to be here, I- in T-H the P-E-O-P, I am happy to be here in the People, P-A-R-K, T-O-D-A, I am happy to be here in the People's Park today! Weak applause all around.
The quadriplegic, as it turns out, is running for president of the USA. (Watch his YouTube video here) Between the dogs named after characters in Greek mythology led around by gutterpunks with tattooed faces, the overwhelming smell of patchouli and pot, the mentally ill man screaming randomly and thrusting his middle finger high into the air, the sagging, naked men, the overweight lesbians waving pink flags of solidarity, the dreadlocks, oh so many dreadlocks, the pot brownies and politics that didn't include Hillary, Obama or McCain, I thought to myself, welcome to California.
But really, it was the weather that got me on this trip. I've been in Ireland for over a year, and I can remember one really nice, sunny day. Sunny enough for a sunburn almost. This isn't saying much as I get pink if I stand too close to a toaster. But there was a sunny day last summer. June 9th, I think. After that, it rained 70 days in a row, and that was my summer. These last two weeks in California have been painfully gorgeous. The weather is the one thing that I think will stop me from staying in Dublin forever. I miss the sun.
Other California moments. I stayed in the Tenderloin which is rather strangely, the home of all of the mentally ill people in the country as well as a large portion of its crack, and most of the nicest hotels in San Francisco. I saw a man walking around in a fur coat, a woman sitting on the sidewalk trying to slyly smoke crack with a coat covering her head, another woman sitting on the curb, stripping wire that trailed seven or eight feet behind her, a man sleeping contentedly in a puddle of his own urine, crack dealers standing on corners five deep, a woman standing in an intersection, eyes rolling crazily all over the place as if they hoped to escape this cracked out, insane body that held them captive as she gyrated her hips wildly, hoping to pick up a date, a few dollars for more rock, completely unaware that her tube top had long since slipped to far below her navel and that her nipples were also wall-eyed.
There's a game they play in the Tenderloin called "That's Not a Crack Rock." When you see someone crawling on the ground, picking up any little scrap of dust, jibs of dirt, rocks stuck under people's shoes and then smoking it, they are a contestant. I once saw an interview with the woman whose life the movie Rush was based on, and she talked about how as a undercover police officer, it was the moment when she found herself crawling on the floor of a hotel room searching for jibs of crack that she realized that she had hit her bottom. In the Tenderloin, they hit their bottoms before lunchtime.
When I was on the BART train a man walked on wearing a sandwich board that said in two-inch high letters "THERE'S POOP IN THE MEAT." He was passing out flyers for a vegan action organization. Next to me, a man popped out his jewel-encrusted gold grill, and meticulously cleaned it with his BART card, nonplussed.
Later that night, as I drove through the 24 hour Taco Bell at 2 am while listening to 2Pac, I thought to myself, now this is California.
They just released the line-up for the big Ireland festival, and of course there's always a lot of excitement and even more whining and grumbling over the choice of acts. One of my pals spit out a pearl of wisdom paraphrased:
The gigs are incidental. Mainly they just get in the way of the craic.
I am far too highly strung. I know this. I seem unable, though, to stop this. I'm writing this on a 777 airplane that is on its way from London to New York. Next to me, is a hirsute and turbaned Indian man whose hirsuteness and turnbandness have not yet impacted me in any meaningful way. The brown corduroy jacket that he is wearing, however, is keeping me in such a state of tension that I'm nearly unable to breathe. It started out just covering the arm rest that we share, and is now actually partially draped on my leg. It's bumping against my pillow which brings up questions of sanitation, and the fact that this fellow keeps asking me advice on how to fill out his Department of Homeland Security forms isn't calming me down.
I tried to be wily--I opened the tray table that is stored in the arm rest and feigned an inspection of it. This forced him to move the fabric he's so intent on draping over me for a moment. Once it was safely tucked on his side, I ended the inspection and closed the arm rest up again. He looked at me quizzically and asked if I needed the tray table out. "No, just you know, checking it out," I said weakly. Within minutes he had managed to again assault my boundaries and cover me with brown corduroy. All joking aside, I'm actually about to freak out. I have a very low tolerance for these sorts of thing. I've been violently scrunching my toes and making tearful faces as a way to try to calm myself down, and it's not working. I took out my laptop entirely for an excuse to open the arm rest up again as a way to push him back into his designated area.
He started talking to me before the plane even took off, which is a really bad sign. Worse still, he appears to have brought no forms of entertainment. Nary a magazine, ipod or sudoku was to be seen, and thus far he's spent the entire journey infringing on my personal space, shodding and unshodding himself and releasing well timed blasts of foot odor, twiddling his thumbs at amazing speeds and strained his eyes trying to read this as I write. I can't begin to understand how someone could get on a trans-Atlantic flight without a book. Or something. This may be why he's spent the first hour of this journey quizzing me on whether Ireland was part of the UK and if they spoke English there. He should be watching Bridget Jones inflight. I don't like the possibility that I may be the only form of entertainment he has. After his first attempt at conversation, I imagined what would happen if the flight started to go down.
He would try and embrace me, so we could clutch each other in terror and confess out secrets and comfort each other in our dying minutes. Perhaps even talk each other into believing that we would be okay, that we weren't going to plunge into the Atlantic. But, no, I decided, I wouldn't allow it, I decided. "I'm sorry," I'd say. "I have boundary issues. Please don't touch me." This is actually a line I have used more than once at parties. I'd then plug in my ipod, in order to block out his terrified chatter and blankly look at the window until he turned to someone else for solace. Which is what he's appeared to do now. A moment ago, he jumped up and went to the woman in the aisle who has a middle seat next to her open. Words were exchanged, and now mysteriously, he's seated and chatting away with her.
The travel today has not been nice. I arrived at the airport at 8:30 am for a 10:30 am flight. I had stayed up all night as a means to combat jetlag; it would allow me to sleep for the entire flight When I finally checked in after ducking a 90 minute line due to my elite "gold" status, I was told that the flight would be delayed by 4 hours, I would miss my connecting flight and although I could make it into New York only 7 or 8 hours late, if I wanted to get to the airport I needed to go to, it would take at least until tomorrow. I stood there, dumbfounded. "I'm meeting my parents at JFK seven, though. They are flying in from California." She looked at me stonily.
We stared at each other for a while, and finally she said, "So do you want to arrive at Newark at 11pm or LaGuardia at midnight?"
And so, I wept.
I was hustled to customer service where I continued to weep. "I've been getting complaints from everyone who was on this fight. This flight is not my fault. I didn't do it," the agent explained.
I was supposed to go to New York last week, but my friend Mark was stabbed to death a few days before my departure. I changed my flight to attend his funeral.
I continued to weep, and when it became clear that there was no abatement in sight, nor would my body mass be condusive to physically removing me, they decided to change my flight something a bit more reasonable. To an amateur, this seems like negative reinforcement. I've just, once again, proven that wailing is more likely to help me get my way than not. After taking psych 101, though, I know that this is actually positive reinforcement, and I'm feeling rather chipper about it, brown corduroy and all.
As I stepped onto the elevator the other day, I was pleased to see a grossly obese young woman already squeezed into the metal compartment. The girl couldn't have been more than 25, and was tucking her fleshy folds into her elastic-waisted jeans--this was, I had been told, a feature exclusive to Yanks, and I was quietly jubilant to see that the Irish, on their diets of potatoes and creamed everything, were finally catching up. I grinned openly as we rose from one floor to the next.
As we got to the sixth floor and the girl got off, she squealed to the woman next to her in a distinctive American patois, "Dude, did you see Project Runway last night? It was, like, awesome!" Sigh.
In Dublin, one gets used to hearing all sorts of accents. The city feels truly international sometimes, sometimes more so than New York ever did. So many countries are basing their European operations in Dublin now, that there are people from all over Europe and beyond crawling the cobbled streets.
This, of course, means that there are a lot of funny accents around.
When I was a youth (but not young enough that writing this doesn't humiliate me), I asked my mother why everyone else in the world had accents but Americans didn't.
I had learned about the pilgrims, and was trying to understand why the Americans wouldn't have the same accent as the English. Clearly they did to begin with, but then, somehow, we managed to throw off any sort of defining accent and emerged like blank slates, unable to be tied to any geographic area by our well-modulated voices.
My mother looked at me and and in horrified disgust said "you moron." This was when I learned, however harshly, that Americans have accents too.
I was reminded of this lesson when I was on the patio of the local pub, enjoying the last dying rays of the Irish sunshine. One might say that a good craic was being had. I was surrounded by locals and few friends from Northern Ireland, who sound more Scottish than the average Irishman. We had been there for a length of time that is too embarrassing to admit here, when a girl from California sat down at our table.
Her voice was jarring. I'm not even going to pretend that her voice was expecially annoying or that she said anything particularly idiotic, but after not hearing an American accent for so long, I finally had a sense of what we sound like to others. The answer is, simply, fucking stupid.
Right now I'm on a plane headed to London, thus continuing my habit of only updating this site when I'm in transit. I resisted my urge to eat a full dinner at the airport, but it seems that I was the only one. Most of my fellow travelers were eating a full Irish breakfast--sausage, ham, eggs, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, beans, white pudding and of course, blood pudding. I always assumed that Irish people don't actually eat these heart attacks on plates, it must be a tourist thing. But no, they really do eat this stuff and drink Guinness constantly.
I like the way the Irish say my name. Every time someone with a strong accent says "Lina," I get a little thrill. When I was here before, I resisted picking up any of the Irish lingo. But already, after two weeks, I've found myself saying "fair play," which is one of their favorites. The Irish are concerned with fairness, it seems. "Fair play to you," is a way to show acceptance for someone's actions. Often people end their stories with "in fairness." "In fairness," they say, "he did give it his best."
"Your man" is another one that they use frequently. This is the Irish equivalent of "that dude." Say you see a guy walking by in leather chaps. The Irish would say something like, "your man over there is looking good today." The first time I heard a statement like this I squealed indignantly "he's not my man!" I got only bewildered looks.
They don't say thank you, it's "thanks a million," or even better, "thanks a mill." They don't cut out of a party early, they "leg it." One of my new friends is from Cork, and his accent is so unintelligible to me that my side of the conversation consists mainly of "excuse me" and "what?" His use of language, though, is thrilling. Even when I understand the words he is saying, I have no idea what they mean, or even if I do, the context is so strange that the original meaning has vanished. Langer, gaff, odd, locked and most often, fucked. For fook's sake.
I think it's noteworthy that 50% of my recent posts have been written in airports. LAX has now joined my most-hated airports--until now, experiencing only their domestic-terminal ambiance I had only considered them neutral. And now, here I am, stuck in yet another airport for yet another delay. This has given me the opportunity to spend a lot of time chatting and to consider my position as an almost ex-pat. Fucking weird, is all I can say.
Due to being given a really sweet relocation package, a team of movers were sent to my humble 500-square foot apartment, and instructed (not by me) to pack the whole thing up. This was an elite company, used to moving billionaires into their Silicon Valley uber-mansions, not grubby Oaklanders like myself. Out of embarrassment, I had already packed (or thrown out) most of my things. However, due to some sort of exciting insurance issue, the movers were forced to unpack all of my boxes, and then re-pack them. They clearly did not want me present for this procedure, but due to my overbearing way, I couldn't force myself out of the room. I watched for a while, and then seeing the movers bubble-wrapped a box of my tampons, I finally allowed myself--cloaked in shame--outside for a cigarette. Finally, they were done and as they piled my boxes next to the truck, I became filled with terror.
In total, there were 23 boxes, one of which was larger than those some homeless people live in. In addition to this, I've brought nearly 180 pounds of luggage (what's that in kilos?) and am having my tennis racket and 15 pairs of shoes air-shipped to me. Honestly, if I think about how much stuff I have brought with me, I become physically ill. But my plane is boarding in twenty minutes, and when I disembark, I will be a Dubliner, at least for a while. With the amount of garbage I've insisted on bringing with me, it's probably going to have to be a long while. Wish me luck.
The good news: I now have a work permit and visa for the UK.
The bad news: The picture on my visa makes me look fat.
The good news: I now have a work permit and visa for Ireland.
More good news: Strangely, although the same picture as for the UK visa was used, I look decent on my Ireland work permit. The visa remains to be seen.
I bought a plane ticket on Friday and I'm moving to Dublin next Wednesday. And then maybe, in a while, to the UK. So many countries to conquer!
Back to frantically packing.
Thanks to South Park, we've all heard about "German shise videos," but despite my obsessive use of the Internet, I didn't realize the severity of the situation. Here are some of the more exciting titles that I saw displayed on the Reeperbahn:
Some things are just too good to make up!
Next, I went on to France--first Reims and then Paris. I stayed with my cousin Laura, who in addition to being one of the only readers here at shutitdown, can speak French fluently and has a charming affection for exotic cocktails. Together, we took a number of blasphemous pictures in the Reims cathedral, and composed a list entitled "Things Nerdier Than an Interest in Dragons," which will be posted on shutitdown shortly.
I then met up with the DFP in Prague, (I've decided to officially rename "Dumb Fucking Polack," or DFP for short, in case he ever comes across this site). Prague was a beautiful city--a gothic Disneyland of sorts. Parts of it were so gorgeous it was hard to believe I wasn't on the set of a movie somewhere in LA.
The highlight of the trip to Prague was forcing the DFP to go to the Jewish Holocaust Museum and synagogue. We walked through the exhibits which showed the names of the tens of thousands of Czech Jews that had been exterminated in the holocaust. "Why did you murder all of these people," I hissed at the Pole.
"Because of the exorbitantly high interest rates," he replied, adjusting the yarmulke I had insisted that he wear. He looked around to make sure that no one else could hear, and then murmured "usurers!"
To make up for his anti-semitism, he bought me some goulash and a shirt that says "Czech me out," a slogan which has not ceased to tickle my fancy since my return. I mean, that's just comedy gold.
But I'm worried it's all going to come to an end. My visa expires in a month, and I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I am trying to wangle my way into a transfer, but due to workplace politics and Irish visas, I don't know what's going to happen. I don't want to go home. At all.
I'm going to Istanbul for the weekend, on the heels of the departing pope. I'm hoping this will take my mind off my immigration issues, and since Turkey doesn't have a chance until 2013, I won't even have to worry about the flags of Europe.
I'm starting to realize that I'm never going to have any idea what I want to do with my life. I feel like not much has changed in the last ten years--I'm still an awkward teenager wondering whether or not the cheerleaders think I'm cool. I was talking to one of my friends back home and her response to my latest romantic and medical travails was "Jesus, that's so Lina."
Some people might say I'm predictable. But at least I'm consistent, right?
"Yeah," he replied, "but you don't speak Polish. That would be better." He scratched his chin, thinking intently. Thinking for the Polish, you know, doesn't come easily. "Maybe you should visit a Polish concentration camp so you could learn," he said giving me a sidelong glance.
My jaw dropped in shock.
"We call them language camps now," he said, shrugging.
On Friday, I spent the first 5 hours of work with a large wad of gum in my hair. I discovered said wad at approximately 4 am, but with no internet access, I was unable to determine an appropriate course of action. I knew that something could get it out, but as my most reliable guess was lighter fluid, I decided to stay the course and leave the gum in until I received confirmation of the best method of removal.
I had an important meeting to attend, so I managed to artfully conceal the gum and adjoining tangled hairball in a well-constructed braid and went on with my day. Not without a fair amount of bitching, mind you. Finally, Poland said to me, "Let me just cut it out for you." I looked at him aghast. A Pole offering to cut my hair?
"Yeah, and off to the "showers" next I bet," I managed to spit out. My recent weekend trip to see the list of relatives that were exterminated in Auschwitz apparently had an effect. It was his turn to look horrified.
"What is wrong with you Americans?"
This is a question I receive a lot around here. Luckily Poland's [redacted] allows me to ignore such slurs, but the abuse I take on a daily basis about my nationality never ceases to amuse. I'm still trying to push the me-as-exotic thing, but so far the response has been only lukewarm. Tonight I was told "Exotic--only if talking about your dancing career."
As it turns out, any type of oil or peanut butter will get gum out of hair. 30 minutes at home for lunch and a bottle of canola oil on my head and the gum was gone and I was ready for another raucous Friday night in Dublin.
In response to a complaint from a Dubliner that I only write about things that I am dissatisfied with, here's a list of things I like in Dublin:
Chat log of the day:
Lina: I have kimchi now
Lina: I'm so fucking happy
Pamela: that's all you need
Pamela: and I do not need cigarettes or boyfriends
Pamela: I'm happy with my creativity
Lina: I do not need cigarettes or boyfriends
Lina: I'm happy with my kimchi
I think maybe I could stay here for a while.
Before going to Scotland, all I knew about the country was what I had seen in Trainspotting (the movie). Therefore, I wasn't surprised when everyone appeared to be a criminal and junkie. I was slightly surprised to realize that much like Trainspotting (the book), I couldn't understand a fucking word anyone said. Ostensibly we are speaking the same language, but I'll be fooked if could understand what they meant when they said "A'll hae a troch 'o roch, un a puck 'o richy peg!"
Here's a typical exchange:
Me: What's your name?
Me: Excuse me?
Scotsman: Can omgrtysl kiss gdsg you?
Me: I guess so.
Me: But in America we don't use tongue.
Me: Don't even try it.
Lina: do you think that counts for Holland?
Ryan: I'd say so
Ryan: unless you absolutely have to sleep with them
Lina: hell no
Lina: I'm not a whore
Ryan: I don't know how your book works
Lina: 25 countries in the EU and new additions in January
Lina: what kind of girl do you think i am?
I was running out of material and began regaling my Irish pals with the abuse I've suffered already as an American in a foreign country. The accusatory talk of wars, the Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions I've had to endure, people calling me fat, it never ends here. I'm of the belief that as an American in Europe, I'm considered exotic. A hot-house flower in a cold (and drizzly) environment. The Irish, it seems, are not of the same opinion. This is likely due to the large amounts of 'Friends' that is broadcast here--it renders my accent less curious. I've begun threatening to bomb people that disagree or contradict me in any way, which usually brings a pleasant silence to the table. This allows me to continue my anecdotes without interruption. Midway through the evening, I entertained the Dublin posse with my story about getting called a snobby cunt by a man on the street the other day.
"I don't think the guy knew you were an American," my new Gaelic friend said. "At least, I don't think that's why he said that to you."
"He probably said it because you are, in fact, a snobby coont."
Man at a bus stop, "Hey girls, hey girls, hi girls."
Man: "Ya snobby coonts!" Five minutes of unintelligble gibberish followed us down the street to the next block.
I've been called a lot of things in my life, but never a "snobby cunt."
German girl: "..."
Me: laughing hysterically.
n. (-t, -t)
1. One who has taken up residence in a foreign country.
2. One who has renounced one's native land.
So I've moved to Dublin. It's a very strange transition, which I expected, but in ways I didn't expect. It's not very foreign--it's only Ireland, after all. But because it's not so different, when there are things that deviate from the American style, it's a huge shock. This means that I ended up being shocked most of the day, because there are quite a few differences.
I'm completely incapable of crossing the street. I've come so close to getting hit by cars so many times in the last few days, that I stand on curbs quaking in terror. Part of the problem is that they drive like maniacs, but more importantly, I can't figure out which way to turn my head because of the opposite side of the street driving. I always look the wrong way, and have not yet been able to train myself to look the right way. So I've now implemented a policy of looking both ways, but somehow the time it takes me to do this means that by the time I actually cross, a car that I hadn't noticed is bearing down on me, and I scurry away, panic-striken. At some crosswalks, though, there are foot tall letters painted on the street that say "look left" and "look right," as if in concessions to the morons like myself.
People may have to rely on the pavement to tell them which way to look because Dublin is a town filled with foreigners. This is part of the reason that it's such an amiable city. I've never been to a place where people are so friendly--already I have Polish, Turkish, Ukrainian and Irish pals.
Today I want to an Argos store. It's amazing. When you walk in, there is nothing there. Two counters and a catalog. The catalog has 1,642 pages, and every possible item you could possibly want. Be it a light bulb or an ipod, a full-size sofa or a laundry hamper, Argos has it. You write down the catalog number on a slip of paper, and sight unseen, pay for it. Within 60 seconds, they call your number at the counter, give you your items, and you're done. If you want a plastic bag for your purchases, you have to pay an additional 15 cents.
Before Argos, though, I managed to get myself lost for two hours looking for a grocery store that's less than ten minutes away. This is the only way I ever get to know my way around--by getting hopelessly lost a fair number of times. So I just gave in to it, and wandered around my neighborhood and the surrounding areas, constantly giggling whenever I heard an Irish child speak. I find it hard to believe that their accents here are genuine, and not just part of some elaborate joke, or maybe a historical recreation like Williamsburg, Virginia. But no, they're not kidding, and every time a real Irish person speaks to me, I have no idea what they are saying. Much like my trip to Spain (where I spoke no Spanish at all), I've taken to remaining mute and doing a lot of nodding.
I've tried to learn how to drink beer, but it's really difficult. It's pretty disgusting, and I just can't bring myself to drink that much liquid at one time. However, the locals seem to like it. Quite a bit, in fact. On Friday I was in a chipper at 3 am, and realized as I watched Irishmen literally slide down walls, that the stereotypes may actually be true.
Because the food here has yet to impress, I made this soup today. It's yummy; you should try it.
Oct 18, 2004
To Whom it May Concern: This letter is regarding my psychotherapy patient, Ms. Lina [Redacted]. Due to Ms. [Redacted]'s psychological issues of depression and anxiety, I believe it would be important and helpful for her if she can fly with her pet "Cookie" on her flight back east. This would make her more comfortable and psychologically secure. Thank you for being sensitive to my client's needs and I'm certain this will make her trip much more enjoyable.
[Name Redacted], LCSW
The second day of my trip, I went on a walking food and wine tour of Madrid. (WalksOfSpain.com) We went to an a historical Madrid tavern, a traditional Madrid restaurant where we had Paella and meat that we cooked ourselves on a large, hot brick, andwine bar where I had the best jamon of my life. As a fan of jamon, this is no small statement. On a side note, do you remember The Heat of the Meat, when I smuggled ham out of Spain on my last trip?
Anyway, the tour was amazing as it focused primarily on eating and drinking rather than walking. I'll always choose the former over the latter given the opportunity. It was a beautiful kickoff to a trip that consisted of very little other than eating and drinking. Near the end of our trip, we went out with the tour guide, Andres, who is now my best friend. He took us to 6 or 7 tapas joints and peer pressured us into eating things Americans usually spit out into their napkins. He even introduced us to his friend, Dr. Love.
Things I ate in Spain:
4.7 pounds. Sigh. In other news, I move to Dublin in less than two weeks.
There are big differences between prostitutes in Madrid and San Francisco. In Madrid, for one, they are attractive. They don't really dress like the prostitutes in the US. They dress like women who have abandonment issues relating to their fathers, yes, but they don't wear clear heels or show nipple nearly as often. They do look like whores, of course, but so does the rest of the population.
We've been playing a game called "whore or Spaniard." Sitting at any number of tapas bars, we watch the women walk by, and try and determine who is, indeed, a whore. It's much harder than you might think, as the women here are very intent on making sure that everyone knows that they are in the posession of tits and ass, despite any sort of cellulite on said T&A. I've come up with a point system--black hair, for example, gives a woman +4, as the majority of the prostitutes seem to be dark-eyed Gypsies.
Today I am on to Granada, where if the last few days have been any indication, I will stuff my face and speak in broken Spanish. The only things I know how to say so far: "ham" and "I am not, but my friend is very drunk."
The next night was worse, but due to confidentiality, I'm not able to repeat most of it. What happens in Miami stays in Miami, after all. Attendance at Gloria Estefan's club happened, partying in South Beach happened, dancing happened, and my targeting of the Latino market culminated on the dance floor when I met a cute Argentinian who works for my company's largest competitor. A hopeless case, of course--star crossed lovers and all of that. However, I'm starting to consider that I may be limiting myself with the 'Flags of Europe.' There are many other continents that I could potentially explore, it seems.
Miami is a strange place. Everything is really expensive, but in an underhanded, annoying sort of way. New York is expensive. London is expensive. They are upfront about their expensiveness. Don't bother, they suggest. Miami fools you though--the $14 drink seems do-able, until you realize there's a mandatory $2 gratuity charge tacked on to it. Everything has mandatory gratuity charges of 18%. Since I'm a pretty standard 20% tipper, I could actually save money on this city, except that they are banking on the probability that you won't noticed the gratuity charge, and tip on top of it. Which of course I've done at least half the time. The bagel I ordered via room service (a Jew to the very last) totaled nearly $30 when the delivery charge and gratuity fee were added. I could give a shit as I'm expensing it anyway, but I don't like the sneakiness of it all. Just say that the fucking bagel costs $30--I feel like less of a chump that way.
Tonight we had 'authentic' Cuban food for dinner; it was wonderful. While we were eating, a flash rainstorm poured down into the 90 degree heat, and I tried to imagine living here. I can't, of course, but I do like the tendency of men here to wear white fedoras.
This time, though, I didn't stay in a tiny, dirty shithole where I would feel intellectually superior to my lower-class fellow men staying in resorts. This time, I stayed in a hotel with air conditioning and three pools. I got my version of a tan--a large number of freckles on my shoulders that began to blend together and a burnt nose. My legs, luckily, remain pasty white.
I met a sweet Mexican boy in a club, seven years my junior, who claimed to be on hallucinogenics. He pulled out a cigarette and started flicking drops of water onto it until it was nearly soaked. I asked him what he was doing.
"It lasts longer this way," he explained. "I learned it in jail." I asked what he was in jail for. Stealing a truck, it turned out. And having marijuana on him at the time. The final blow was, he told me, when he beat up a police officer.
"Why did you do that?" I asked.
"He was kicking my..." The boy struggled for the correct word. "He kicked my puppy. My dog? No, he kicked my puppy." He smiled, glad to have properly conveyed his love for his puppy.
A few days after getting back from Mexico, I went on a business trip to LA. This was very exciting as I got a rental car with power windows and locks, and got to hit the LA freeways ala Clueless. I also got to see some old friends and talk smack about other old friends. I stayed at a loud hipster hotel that is notable only for the fact that they have a naked model lounging in a glass box behind the reception desk. When I checked in, she was listening to her ipod. If I wanted to see a chick in her underwear lazing around looking disaffected, I'd check out a mirror on any given weekend.
The hotel was filled with overly tan hipsters of all ages, clearly abusers of both children and cocaine. Bleached teeth (and probably assholes) were everywhere. Not long after checking in, I lay in bed, cursing youth. The pounding music in the club downstairs was shaking my room, and penetrating my earplugs. My hatred for hipsters grew by the second. By midnight, I became the woman that called the front desk begging that the bass be turned down. I had to wake up early, after all. It's official now, I've gotten old.
In a cab, trying to go home. The cab driver pulls the car over, and tries to grope me. Doesn't stop until I begin crying loudly. The same night, my brother was solicited by a prostitute and punched in the face.
Snapshot of my mother:
My mother recounts a time when my brother was a child and while swimming in the ocean, had to be rescued by a lifeguard. "Max was drowning and I just swam to shore," she laughs, a little proudly. "I could only think about saving myself."
Upon arrival, I began opening drawers as many travelers do, in a search to safely store my delicates. In the back of the first drawer I encountered a pair of socks. I gingerly picked them up, and only after a moment was hit by the most remarkable stink I may have ever encountered. Keep in mind that I have worked with the homeless, and do not throw around terms like 'remarkable stink' lightly. What was so extraordinary was that such a large smell came from so small an item. I began gagging uncontrollably and shouting loudly, until my mother ran in with a garbage bag. Unwilling to keep them in the house, even in a protective plastic covering, I threw them out the window and into the Roman slum below. But the smell remained--it had transferred to my hand in some horrific noxious, cosmic joke. My sense of smell is admittedly delicate--this is one reason that I decided on my current career choice. When presented with two job offers, one in field that involves me wearing dress shirts and making powerpoint presentations and the other working with homeless teens, I chose the path of least nasal offense.
After the incident with the socks, I scrubbed a number of layers of flesh off my skin just to be certain, and thought the matter was done with. Little did I know that the socks were a portentous predictor of my trip and Rome in general. I don't understand enough about plumbing to explain it fully, but apparently there are some major differences between the American and the Italian plumbing system; allegedly there are no 'traps' here, and therefore each toilet leads directly to some general stinkhole below the city where the stinks gather and fester, and then rise back up through the pipes and back into people's houses. This seems to affect most of the population, as I've smelled this same, sewer-y smell in the streets, in stores, and even the houses of those wealthy enough to afford any number of scented candles. However, I (and perhaps my mother and brother) seem to be the only one bothered by this odiforous problem as I see a sea of calm Italian faces wherever I go, while my nose constantly twitches in the aromatic trauma of being exposed to the funk of 40,000 years. This is perhaps what is most traumatic about the situation, no one seems to realize the horror they are living in and go about their daily lives, content.
A birthday update and the ways I have tried to abate the smell through creative uses of vomit coming at you the next time I get internet access.
Who's going to move to England and be knighted Lady Beastie of Beastfordshire?
"So, Lina, what do you think you will need to do to prepare yourself for this new position?"
I think for a minute. This is, after all, an interview with my boss's boss. "Well," I say finally, "I think I'm going to need to work on my alcohol tolerance."
Meeting with my new boss
"So what else am I going to need to know before I start this new job?" I ask, in all seriousness. I've been voraciously devouring Powerpoint documents and studying reports as if my life depended on it.
"You're going to have to start watching cricket."
"What?" I asked, confused. "I was being serious."
"So was I," he replied. "You're really going to have to learn about cricket."
Around midnight, at a club. After running into one of the men that interviewed me the day before, I begin to merrily harass him about how he would rate my interviewing skills.
He considers me for a moment and then said, "Lina, I think you are going to fit in well in our office."
"How's that?" I ask, pie-eyed.
"Well, you're double-fisting your drinks, and you just tried to kiss me on the mouth.*"
Well played Lina, well played.
*Just to state the obvious, I did not actually try to kiss my boss's boss on the mouth. I think he may have tried to do some strange European custom of kissing my cheek as a greeting, and like a frightened American deer, I turned my head at the wrong moment.
Things I learned (learnt) while in London:
So as you might have guessed, I'm now giving some sort of consideration to moving to London. I haven't even arrived back statesides, and I'm already having complaints registered from all sides. "Why would you want to move?" they whinge, "Everyone there is so unhappy."
I know that this may come as a surprise to my more sporadic readers (i.e. my father), but I am probably one of the most functionally miserable, borderline suicides that manages to roll into a collared shirt and heels and out the door on a daily basis. I can't help but think to be in a place where I would be the "cheerful, bubbly" one couldn't be bad for my psyche. (Yes, these were terms that were used to describe me by a member of management in London.) How can you not love that?
(For the purpose of clarification, let me say that I was not physically surrounded by handsome men as I was waking up, per se. I was just acknowledging the handsomeness and Englishness that is surrounding me in general on this little vacation.)
I ate a Yorkshire pudding yesterday.
It must come as no surprise to the reader that upon entering high school and being forced to take a language course, I chose German. My teacher, Herr Silber, favored an informal approach to teaching, which consisted of us watching American movies in English and then, after the screening, he would parrot our favorite lines back to us in German. During the two years I studied under his tutelage, we watched Jurassic Park six or seven times. Although this brought us no closer to mastering the German language, we did have the pleasure of hearing our esteemed instructor repeat 'that is one big pile of shit,' in both English and German, more than a dozen times, after we all voted it to be our favorite quote.
In addition to American movies, Herr Silber found that the only way that he could get through the early classes of a California public school was by adding large quantities of alcohol to his morning coffee. His nose was lined with the telltale red veins that one sees in the faces of chronic drinkers, and on occasion, his eyes would well up with tears as he reminisced about his native Osterreich.
Depending on where Herr Silber found himself in the continuum of drinking to hangover, would determine the class format that day. Sometimes we cracked our books and repeated dialogues about riding bikes and traveling via bus. More often though, we would intensely debate the textbook's main character, Jens Kroeger, and the unnatural rosyness of his cheeks. Was this a mistake on the part of the color calibration department at the textbook factory, or were the German-speaking peoples indeed more flushed than we? As the only actual native German speaker that we knew, Herr Silber was our only basis of comparison, so we studied his complexion in great detail as he glowered at us from behind his podium.
It was known in the public school system that you only took a language class if you had some possibility of going to college. Two years of a foreign language was required for admission to any accredited school, so those of us who considered going to one of said schools enrolled in either Spanish, French, or German. In our class, however, there were four young men that appeared to have enrolled on a lark, rather than due to any sort of collegiate ambition. Herr Silber referred to the group as 'The Quartet,' and took their insults much more seriously than he took those of the rest of the class. There was no obvious reason for this, other than perhaps Herr Silber didn't consider them to be serious scholars like the rest of us.
By the beginning of our second year in German, we had learned how to claim 'my pocket calculator is lost!' and the Quartet had been reduced to a Duet. These two, however, were far more dedicated to class disruption than the ones who had bent so easily under Herr Silber's will and dropped the class. Travis was one of the two that remained in our class, biding his time until he was old enough to drop out of school legally. He was fond of taking my hands while staring boldly into my eyes and claiming, 'Your hands, they are so soft, they are like baby hands.' Although amusing the first time, it was apt to be repeated two or three times during any given 50-minute session. His daily routine also tended to include obscene outbursts whenever any question that was directed at him wasn't answerable with one of the two words that he knew after taking a year and a half of German.
After being sent to the principal's office several times for various offenses, Travis settled down, and ignored the class completely, even when directly addressed. He was silent for a few weeks, studying his textbook intently, and jotting down notes on a scrap of paper. Finally one day, a look of serene calm gracing his face, he walked to the front of the class and approached the instructor's podium.
'Well Travis, what do you have for me?' Herr Silber questioned him.
And then, in flawless German, Travis replied, 'Suck my third leg.' His victory complete, he picked up his books and left for the principal's office, without needing to be asked.
Only a few weeks later, we were given our quarterly progress reports. Our current grades were recorded, and the instructors were allowed to mark any of a few canned responses. Travis' current grade was the lowest possible'an F'and his comment read 'Working up to apparent potential.'
I, however, had the highest grade'an A'as did my friend Kim. This was not due to any inherent ability on our parts, rather, Herr Silber had promised Kim a perfect score on both her midterm and final exam if she would take the German exchange student, Ena, into her house. I had jumped onto the offer and suggested that I should be given perfect scores too, since I was living at Kim's house at least half-time. When I was refused, I told Herr Silber that I would report his alcohol consumption to those in authority at the school, and miraculously my grade shot up as well.
Ena had already been kicked out of her original host family's house. She was a large, broad-shouldered girl, with a propensity towards cowl-necked sweaters and a fondness for Budweiser beer. Her cheeks were as rosy as the children in our textbook, and she smoked more cigarettes than any teenager I had met previously. She didn't seem to believe in the regulatory laws of the United States either--she would light up a cigarette anywhere, whether on campus or in class, and always seemed surprised when she was forced to extinguish them. Kim had been chosen as her new host because of the extremely lax parenting in her household, and due to the fact that she lived only a block away from campus. This would allow Ena the ability to sneak back home to drink during lunch, which Herr Silber recognized was a formidable need.
Each day, Ena would sit on the diving board of the pool, a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other, with the phone from the house on the end of its tautly stretched cord tucked under her chin, chatting away in German. Judging from the number of phone calls that Ena made that semester, she missed her life on a horse farm in Germany very much, and found our attempts at alcoholism pathetic. We didn't actually learn any German from Ena, although she did teach us that in Germany, a sixteen-year-old can easily both look and dress like a woman twenty years her senior.
Those two years of German did help in the bid to get me admitted into college, however, beyond that, it has helped me very little. I am fluent, if you consider being able to say, 'Lick my ass,' and 'You are a pigdog,' fluency. I can also riff on pocket calculators'the possibility that they are lost, to your left or right or even right in front of you.
I've considered the possibility of studying another language, now that I am older. Were I to pick one, I'd probably choose French. During my last trip to Paris, I entered the country knowing only the words, 'yes' and 'I love you.' By the end of my trip I knew how to say 'ham.' Clearly I have a natural ability when it comes to the French language. I've also mulled over learning how to fake an English, or even possibly an Australian, accent. I think perhaps, due to my talent with languages, this may be more appropriate for my skill level. I mean, if Bridget Jones can be played by an American, I can certainly learn how to start throwing around words like 'bloody' and 'tosser.' I've been paging through travel guides, and practicing how I will say 'cheers' rather than 'thank you' when the stewardess hands out peanuts on my flight. Thusly, my language studies will begin.
So here I am, updating again. God, I'm good. Anyway, I still haven't posted much about my trip, so I am going to start with Barcelona. In Barcelona, there is a huge outdoor marketplace with hundreds of stands, teaming with people. A substantial number of these stands sell nothing but fish and meat, and the flies in the neighborhood are acutely aware of this fact.
I was feeling a little low by the end of my trip, when I was in Barcelona. I had already been away from home for two weeks, and as anyone who has tried to wrestle me out of my apartment for more than 20 minutes knows, this was quite a feat for me. The fact that it was about 6934 degrees didn't help much either.
So I did the only someone in my position would reasonably do, I bought copious amounts of meat.
Apparently the Spainards are really into ham. The guidebooks warned vegetarians that their requests for no meat in their meal would not rule out pork because, "That's not meat, it's ham." Ham in Spain is a separate food group.
So I started out by purchasing some of the ham of the black-footed pig. Then I set my sights upon some sort of other unidentified meat, which although unknown was still appealing in its own way. Unfortunately, I don't speak a word of Spanish except the ones I learned on the bus in middle school which consisted primarily of, "chinga tu madre," "puta," and "pindejo." I just pointed and waved Euros around like the maniacal American that I am until my hands were filled with rich, succulent, cured meats.
Cat, my vegetarian travelling companion for that leg of the trip had been uncharacteristically quiet during my meat frenzy. Finally she looked at me and said, "Lina, you know it's illegal to bring meat back into the States, right?"
My jaw dropped. Meat fell from my hands like rain. The ramifications of foreign meat's legality during the customs process hadn't even occurred to me. But it was too late to turn back now. I had bought the meat, and goddammit I was going to bring it home.
After considering my options for a while, I decided to buy some salt cod to round off the equation and then dragged Cat through the city in search of Ziploc bags to keep my meat as sanitary as possible. For I had decided to give the meat as a gift to my Daddy (biological, not financial) who had the good sense to have a life-threatening emergency the day before I left on my trip. If anything would cure my father, it would be salted Spanish meats.
So I packed the meats in three Ziplocs a piece, and then smashed them into the very back of my now humongous backpack. I was going to have to make it through customs without letting on that I had a crapload of meat in my luggage. Inadvertently, I had become a meat smuggler.
On the plane, they passed out a customs form. I scanned it quickly and my eyes immediately lit upon 11(b).
11. Mark an X in the Yes or No box. Are you bringing with you:
b. meats, animals, or animal/wildlife products?
I looked around nervously, and left it blank. Finally, I turned to the businessman in the seat next to me, and said, "We don't actually have to tell the truth on these things, do we?"
He looked at me and said sarcastically, "I think that's the idea, actually."
My resolve strengthened, I checked "NO," and prepared to disembark.
I picked up my bag at the luggage carousal, and marched into the customs line, as nonchalantly as possible. It was only then that I noticed the officer cruising the line with a beagle who looked like it may have been trained to kill backpacking young people. Logically, I knew that the pooch's job was to catch drug smugglers. But how could a dog resist barking when he smelled delicious Jamon Iberico?
Luckily, my backpack was in the most logical place it could be, on my back, and the dog ignored it in favor of sniffing luggage closer to the ground. When I finally got to the desk I handed the clerk my form (which was filled with lies, of course) and stood there nervously as she tapped away at her computer. Finally, she looked at me and said, "I have one question for you Ma'am." I stood there apprehensively as she examined my paperwork again, and then finally looked up and said, "Well, did you have fun?"
Here we are in Stockholm playing Viking.
And here I am in Barcelona purchasing the meat that I would soon smuggle into the country.
spoonery (9:40:58 AM): youre going to update right
spoonery (9:40:59 AM): you have like 20 minutes
spoonery (9:41:21 AM): i wouldnt want your nerdlings thinking "what the hell is going on" for a month
lina (9:44:57 AM): so what should i say?
lina (9:45:01 AM): write me a script
spoonery (9:45:02 AM): that you are leaving
spoonery (9:45:05 AM): and your tooth is fine
spoonery (9:45:17 AM): and youre not going to smoke any more ever except maybe a little in europe
spoonery (9:45:23 AM): because you dont need to be frazzled in a foreign country