Posted tagged ‘airports’

The lull before the…other lull

October 22, 2013

Imagine if Adam Sandler made a martial arts movie. That’s the train wreck my life has seemed like since last I slapped a keyboard with these ham-hands. Yes, I know there are people with bowel-eating bugs and bullets for neighbors in other countries. This isn’t their story, it’s mine.

We went to Italy. I could post pictures and tell a goofy-yet-alluring tale of our time there, but I’m pissed. Up until the rental car turn-in, it was a magical ride through a beautiful country, peppered with stony silences when I pissed Achebeyo off from time to time. Now comes the rant.

While I usually don’t out companies, good or bad, I have to say that Sicily By Car is a criminal organization that hides innocuous and unnecessary parts of their rental cars, tells you that you lost them when you return the car, then charges you FOUR TIMES the amount it actually costs to replace the part you never knew was supposed to be in the car in the first place. Beware of this company if you ever travel to Rome and want to rent a car. MAKE them go to the car with you before you sign anything and MAKE them explain every last little piece that should or should not be there. Then take pictures of the car and the criminal in training to use as evidence later. This company can suck the dirt out of a dead donkey’s stinkhole, as far as I’m concerned.

Upon returning home, we were faced with a cat who decided that her goal in life was to completely cover our carpet in regurgitated food and hair. You’d think she had eaten at several wig-and-food buffets each day while we were gone for the amount of puke there was all over the house. It was the final impetus for us to purchase a carpet cleaner for our home, and the final piece of the cat-food puzzle we needed to determine that our cat is allergic to…well, everything. Everything except venison, apparently. I’d hate to see how she would fare out in the wild on her own. Just looking at her, you can tell she doesn’t have the chops to take down a doe on her own, let alone a buck with horns. After horking up a squishy hair-turd a few days ago, I think she’s finally back on track to keeping what she crams in her facehole mostly rear-exit-only.

My job has provided me with unending inspiration for frustration. Between multiple furloughs because our government is more concerned with their own financial futures than any genuine concern for “We the people”, an office neighbor who believes that speaker phones not only need to be set to ear-liquifying volume, but also need to be shouted into with a bullhorn, and another office neighbor who feels the need to read every email sent to everyone OUT LOUD to make sure you understood it, things have been tough. It’s enough to make you want to join one of those vow-of-silence monasteries. At least it would be quiet…if a little too non-co-ed.

Every time I’ve sat down to write, something else catches my attention. Me and The Lazy have become pretty symbiotic lately, and I stopped fighting him openly. I took this moment while he’s busy plotting my unproductive evening to slip in a quick refresher on tossing letters together on screen. Maybe if I win my current battle with Italy’s Satan’s Bullying Car service, I’ll write more about that trip later. I’ll just have to find something long-range for The Lazy to start planning to keep him occupied.

Cura-meh-cao

April 12, 2013

***I’ve put off writing this article for lack of inspiration, but then it hit me: maybe THAT’S my inspiration.***

It probably isn’t fair to start off a report about such a beautiful and storied island like Curaçao by giving the impression that I didn’t like it. Makes me seem like I’ve got an industrial strength rod lodged in the ol’ methane-hole. The thing is, I didn’t dislike it, it simply didn’t resonate with me.

They labeled the island…just in case.

Maybe it was the fact that Achebeyo and I have traveled all over the Caribbean so this was just one more in a long line of tropical shopping malls, or possibly the fact that we must have unintentionally chosen International Non-Stop Kite Weather week for our visit (you could have stayed airborne the entire trip with the right parafoil kite). Any number of factors combined could have created this distinct lack of enthusiasm for writing this article, and that simply isn’t fair to this tropical paradise.

The island really is gorgeous, with beautiful multicolored buildings that would seem at first to riot against one another, but actually work quite well on the larger canvas of the island. The shorelines were rocky where we stayed, but there were plenty of beaches on the map boasting flour-soft sand. The people were friendly and helpful, often guiding us away from our own time-wasting ignorance, such as leading us to the pay station in the middle of the longhouse-style cafeteria when we mistakenly stood in food pick-up line. Nothing about this place was bad…it just wasn’t great.

From atop Fort Rif, defending against…loud tourists?

We arrived on a Friday afternoon and had managed not to mangle each other emotionally during what I like to call Arrival Angst. It’s that frustration that builds at the airports and parking lots and taxis until you actually flop onto the bed (minus the crime scene comforter, of course) in your destination. Aside from the typical travel warning my gastrointestinal tract issued (“Per standard operating procedures, we will be halting all functions for the foreseeable future, barring any infusion of significantly spicy food or foreign tap water.”), our arrival was uneventful.

While the room occasionally made noises like the plumbing was filled with movie-grade, mutant, angry bees, and randomly farted when neither of us was standing in that part of the room (I swear), it was a typical hotel sleeping berth. Let’s gloss over the part where our room faced a softball stadium and we occasionally heard noises from that place like someone was murdering werewolves…for fun or profit, I can’t be certain. Regardless, our first “day” was mellow and fairly uneventful. We ‘splored the surrounding mini-city of our hotel complex, but managed not to get ensnared by the excessively-marked-up name-brand stores.

Our hotel village from the pontoon bridge.

We got vague directions to the nearest dive shop and proceeded on the Renpiti plan of navigation: go in the general direction of the half-understood, vague directions until we luck out and find the place so I can dispense the I-told-you-so‘s with feigned confidence. The place was being run by a visiting couple, he of ‘merican heritage, she of Aussie descent. They were warm and friendly and booked us for a wall dive the following day. We wandered around the city some more until we felt we had accumulated enough pinkened skin, then ventured back to the hotel room. We had dinner at a local Indian place and stiffed the staff on tips because I assumed they included it in the pricey bill (like most places we visit outside of the U.S.). Yeah, I was unintentionally that guy. We slunk back to our room like the dirty foreigners we were.

Even though we would be entering the sea from the shore the following day, and not an ocean-borne vomit comet (that would be the next day), I implored Achebeyo to take some light-coma-inducing motion sickness pills just in case. With the winds nearing skin-peeling force, it’s never a bad idea to issue stand-down orders to your stomach in advance. We set triple alarms for the following morning and slept like the sweaty dead.

When we awoke and snarfed down some meager snacks, penance for the lack of tipping the previous night, we made our now-confident way back to the dive shop. We geared up and carried what might turn us into scabbed crybabies to the entry point. You never want to duck-walk in fins over gravel mounds. The entry point was along a pier and very calm. We dove to 15ft before ever reaching pukeville.

The dive was clear and beautiful. If I wasn’t so afflicted with The Lazy, I’d pull stills from my GoPro and share them with you. Alas…

After we finished the dive, with Achebeyo deciding we didn’t need to be molecularly bonded the entire time underwater, we opted to clean up and head back into town to do two things: find an affordable place to eat, and discover the whereabouts of the elusive Piranha Jack t-shirt store. That day, we would only accomplish the former.

The place we chose to eat, after being repeatedly snubbed by a few touristy restaurants (our tipping fiasco must have been shared on the morning news), happened to be where all the locals were eating: a Nordic longhouse-style cafeteria. I sent Achebeyo off to find a seat while I stood in what I thought was the line to order food. A local soon informed me that I would need to actually place an order before standing in this line. It was fortunate he was kind enough to walk me to the ordering table, as it was buried in the middle of the rest of the tables full of happy diners. I finally ordered, paid and went back into the order placement line. After about 10-15 minutes, they took my ticket and told me to go sit among the multitudes of random faces and they would bring my food to me. I joined Achebeyo and three other friendly folks (one resident and his two visiting sisters). These people told us two fundamental facts: 1) we absolutely MUST visit Kleine Curaçao, and 2) if the cafeteria got our orders kind of right, it was as close as we would get. Fortunately for us, we got exactly what we ordered, and it was the best meal we had the entire time on the island…not to mention the cheapest.

The pontoon bridge of pontooniness.

It looks like a barge, but it handles like a skiff.

Ideas for tomorrow’s adventure burning in our brains, we wandered back across the pontoon bridge to our hotel and promptly booked the following day’s Kleine Curaçao trip. This deserted island is located 15 miles off of Curaçao’s eastern tip, and it promised to be more than simply a boat ride to a remote beach, if the shore shattering waves in the bay were any indication. Once again, we both took anti-puke-a-tron meds and sank like lead weights into sleep.

If you’ve ever been anywhere in the Caribbean (or any other island environment), you’ll know what I mean by IPT. For the uninitiated, that’s Island People’s Time. That means if you are supposed to be downstairs and ready to board the shuttle at 7am, they’ll be there at 7:45 to pick you up. I mean, I’m no stranger to The Lazy, but come on! We managed to make it to the boat in time to stand in line with all the other late-arriving passengers (otherwise known as “everyone”), and promptly made our way to the upper deck to stake our claim on…standing room only. This would actually prove to be a boon, as we’d be forced by location to stare at the horizon, instead of the bile-agitating floor of the boat’s top deck. Thus began what I like to call Puke Roulette.

On the ride out of the calm harbor, they gave us lengthy instructions in Dutch. The English version seemed like an afterthought, as the translator was on his first boat trip himself and tended to disappear below and return covered in cleansing sea water. The gist of what he told us was that if we needed external stomach-storage, he had the plastic bags. Looking around me, grinning ear to ear, I began to silently predict who would be having shouting matches with Ralph.

It was a long roller-coaster ride out to the island, and many people availed themselves of the bounty of plastic bags, including one Dutch gal whom I previously had money on making it all the way without showing her last meal. My upheaval-avoidance plan was two-fold: stare at the horizon when not predicting the yakkers, and laugh my tail off each time someone else sang the song of the stomach. You’d think karma would have visited me like a greasy avenger, but I must have banked up some cosmic favors, because I was happy and laughing the whole time. Achebeyo too, though she frequently accosted me for making her look at the technicolor contents of the plastic bags being handed forward.

We finally arrived at the island and endured a 20 minute speech IN DUTCH, extolling the virtues and explaining the dangers of the island. Once that was finished, with no translation, they began taking people to shore by Zodiac boat. I could have swam to shore with the other enthusiastic, impatient folks, but Achebeyo insisted that my life would be cut tragically short if I left her to carry all of our gear to shore on her own. I opted to live longer.

The beach of not-so-much solitude.

As the island had grown in our view from the boat, it looked like that flat patch of barren coral was flipping us the bird. Upon closer inspection, it was merely the island’s diminished manhood in the form of a lighthouse and two oddly placed outbuildings.

Eff you too, island.

We had befriended a lovely couple on the boat: he a heart surgeon living in Philly, and she a medical manager from Jamaica. We bonded over “breakfast”, a Dutch meal comprised of sandwiches and boiled eggs. The jokes shared were funny in context, but hard to relate here. For instance, “I’ve never found anything like that in my butt before, officer” doesn’t really play well out of context. Regardless, we truly enjoyed hanging out with these two, as well as the Dutch couple who’s female participant I had previously bet on not yakking on the boat. They asked to borrow our snorkel gear when we weren’t using it, and I was happy to oblige. Any chance to share one of my most favorite activities in the world.

Achebeyo and I explored the ruined lighthouse, conveniently placed in the middle of the island, and then moved on to view the results of such strategic placement.

Who needs accurate maps when you’ve got a lighthouse?

Apparently, most charts showed this island as having a lighthouse at the eastern tip of the island, instead of smack-dab in the center. Makes late-night navigation a bit…wrecky. We made our way back to the beach in time for lunch, then walked down to where we were told the turtles were out in force. We saw three.

After some snorkeling and solo exploration of the island, I was able to convince Achebeyo that my life would end tragically if I was not allowed to swim back out to the boat before everyone else made it back there, if for no other reason than to secure our previous places on the upper deck. She finally relented and I made my chubby-dolphin way underwater back to the boat…only to find others had the same idea before me. Luckily, none of them wanted to stand, so our spots were available. We eventually made it back to the cove and the buses that would deposit us where we started from that morning. We didn’t manage to get contact information from the Dutch couple, but the first couple we chatted with gave us a business card and email addresses to stay in touch…which I’ve been unable to find after unpacking.

The last day was spent in a dogged attempt to find the Piranha Jack place (a compelling logo is a compelling logo), and hanging out at the Infinity Pool at the hotel. It’s a second-floor “beach” that starts out like this…

2nd floor beach access.

shows more of itself the closer you get…

Still 2nd floor beach.

then reveals its secrets only when you risk your expensive camera by swimming to the ocean edge of the pool:

Dive off that ledge and you’ll eat delicious rocks.

It was a wonderful novelty beach, but it lacked the thrill of potential stingray and jellyfish encounters. We soaked up as much shaded sun as we could endure, then cleaned up and went to dinner one last time. I tipped graciously, seeing as how I won $22 on penny-slots at the hotel’s casino. What can I say? The hotel gave us free $5 gambling cards and we had nothing else to do. Achebeyo’s card lasted less than 5 minutes, but at least she didn’t lose her own $5. Oh, and I managed to find that darn Piranha Jack store and get the requisite t-shirt.

On the way back, I nearly lost it at Miami International airport when a bored mother decided to let the rest of the airport babysit her sugar-amped child while she buried herself in a magazine. This kid was racing around for hours, flinging saliva and noise everywhere he could, but I was the bad guy when I shooed him away from me and my bags. I can live with that.

We returned to a feline overlord with a urinary tract infection and jobs that seemed far busier than they were before we left. At least, that’s my excuse for not writing sooner. Will we go back to Curaçao? Probably not. Am I glad we went once? If for no other reason than travel-bragging rights, yes.

Thai for Two – part 4 (Muy Muy Samui)

January 16, 2013

***A weekend of unabashed laziness and a busy start to the work week is no excuse to not entertain people I don’t know.***

After Achebeyo and I finished battling over how much time we’d spend underwater, we decided to explore the resort and the surrounding neighborhood. The resort itself was gorgeous, even if their private beach was a bit unforgiving on unshod feet. They had several pools, two restaurants, a massage therapy clinic and much more than I’m currently able to adequately relate with my sleep-deferred memories. While we aren’t really resort-minded people, we’re definitely going back to this place in the foreseeable future, or else…you know, with the pouting and tears and stuff.

The surrounding neighborhood had a little 24/7 market where we picked up some much needed supplies (we live in the US, so that would be snacks), and a nice little open-air restaurant that served the best woon sen noodles I’ve ever had (it’s Thailand…HOME of authentic Thai food). We made it a point to go there every night for dinner, as it was a nice walk both ways.

After the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had on vacation (don’t get me started on Crete and the insanely noisy Irish tourists who all got hang-up calls from me at 6am, after they woke us up getting in at 4am), we awoke to prepare for what had been touted on the never-fallible Internet as one of the best dives I would ever have. The British ex-pat who ran our tour soon yanked (get it?) the rose-colored glasses off of our faces and informed us that during that time of the year, it was one of the worst dives we could go on in that part of the world. After losing my GoPro Hero camera and mask on the first dive, as well as having to buddy-breathe with Achebeyo on the second dive due to a faulty regulator on my rented gear, I wholeheartedly endorse this “worst” rating. Listen, can we stop talking about it? It’s making me agitated all over again. Suffice it to say that any diving we do there from now on will be with a different outfit, and likely in the Phuket region.

We set our sights on the next day’s land tour: Grandfather Rock (a decidedly phallic rock formation), a wildlife park, hand-carved statue garden on top of a mountain, and secluded waterfall with a natural rock pool big enough to jump into and splash the smiles from our fellow travelers. What? Everyone was jumping. I was just the only one doing cannonball drops.

Rock of (phallic) Ages

The best part of the day, for me, was the wildlife park. While I often go off the rails on other web sites about humans being the only species on this planet that hold other species prisoner for our own amusement, here on my site we’ll assume we don’t know that guy (it’s still wrong, but that type of tirade isn’t what I want for this blog; bash me all you want, faceless Internet personalities) and press on.

While there were many points of interest on this part of the trip, including breaking my rule of no trunk on the first date:

I trunk you too, bro…wait, are you drunk?

elephant “happy” endings:

Not me. I’m not stupid enough to put my junk in jeopardy like this.

king cobra dating advice:

Bite my lip once, shame on…me!

and prehistoric death-machine teasing:

I think I left my sock in there somewhere…

By the way, take a close look at the “wall” around the cobra love-zone. Where do you think an angry lord of the serpents goes when he’s tired of being sexually harassed in the workplace? That’s right! The audience! Thankfully, I’ve been snapped at enough by Achebeyo that I can avoid the much slower monarch of snakes.

After we rode an elephant around a large compound, we vowed never to do it again. Not only was the ride incredibly painful and awkward, the elephants all looked like they wished for a Dr. Pachyderm Kevorkian. Doesn’t make you feel very proud to be human. There was a picture of me practically laying on top of a full-grown tiger that might seem impressive if not for the obvious presence of substances that suppress the urge to maul and slowly digest greasy tourists. Still, it was worth a visit to elephant Alcatraz to say I courted contrived and controlled danger.

The rock garden was impressive, especially when you consider that these very heavy stones were hauled up the mountain one at a time by one man and his ox, back before steam-powered motor carriages were a sparkle in a Flemish man’s brain. The garden had many variations on different themes, including animals, houses, warriors and a Thai rock (no roll) band. The best pictures of that place were Achebeyo’s, and I’m too lazy to ask her for digital copies. One more reason you really need to visit the place yourself.

The following day, we arranged to rent a scooter and visit a local mall for souvenir gifts before heading to our appointment with what I can only describe as the absolute center of the serene universe: a resort spa where cameras were not allowed, and you felt like violating that rule would be like jamming an angry king cobra in your pants before landing your first commercial aircraft. Just plain wrong, in other words.

It was all outdoors, but constructed in such a way that you welcomed it. Even the men’s shower was outdoors, if properly secluded. It took me back to my nudist days, only with fewer opportunities for a bruised and battered body. We had enough time before our appointment to don their supplied sarongs, dip in the cooler outside pools before venturing into the steam heated Hobbit holes to sweat out the poisons. At one station, there was even a fruit-based body scrub that I indulged in because I knew this betrayal of manhood would never be witnessed by anyone else.

Before long, our massage therapists were ready for us, and they led us to a raised pavilion on a hill overlooking the whole compound (hello, me from earlier, showering nude outdoors!) and proceeded to provide the kind of G-rated massage that poets write epic poems about. At one point during the hour and a half session, I fell asleep to the sound of the gentle rainstorm that passed through while the birds were singing their little hearts out. If I could have applied for a job as furniture there, we wouldn’t be sharing this moment now. Stating that I will return would be like stating I’ll pass that nickle I accidentally swallowed on a dare: it will happen in time.

We spent the last day on the island being lazy and hanging out in our villa snacking on various salty goods. When it came time to leave, we had made such good friends with the staff that they actually teared up at seeing us go. While I’m rarely critical of any place we visit, it’s also rare for me to go out of my way to write glowing reviews. You know, The Lazy. The moment I had access to high-speed Internet, I was on Trip Advisor talking that place up like I owned it. We left a little piece of us there, and not just the usual skin cells and hair.

Back in Bangkok for one day before we left, we decided to keep it simple and just walk around the places we had already visited. We went back to the mall where we had the excellent meal, and even went into their basement aquarium attraction. It was interesting, if crowded. Since we were carry-on only passengers, we (she) had to limit what we (she) bought at the mall. We made it out of there with some candy and a few shirts.

The flight back to the US was long, made even longer by the impromptu, storm-dodging stay in Tokyo over night. Not the way I wanted my first trip to Japan to be, but it was better than becoming a real-life JJ Abrams story. Even that delay couldn’t dampen the post-travel, soft-fresh-cookie feeling of our Thailand visit. We agreed that we would do everything possible to make it back there in 2013. I think the amended agreement now reads, as soon as reasonably possible. Your own travel constitution should be amended to include a trip to this beautiful, friendly country. Or, you know, stay put and live vicariously through me.

Thai for Two – part 1 (Just Add Sweat)

January 8, 2013

***I’ve put this off long enough, so hopefully anyone (Achebeyo) who might have remembered it differently will just go with my version.***

March of last year, Achebeyo and I went on a pre-super-malaria trip to Thailand. I was planning on waiting until we went this year to write up my memories from that last trip, but it looks like Nature is giving us the double-knuckle  bird with this drug-resistant bug. I’ve got enough sweating and fatigue right here at home, thank you. Even though I’ve slept a few times since then, I suppose I could wrangle up some damp memories from our previous visit. Maybe it will help me forget that I’m slogging it out in the trenches in (insert metaphor, simile or other comparison to employment-based hell here).

As tends to happen once enough time has elapsed, and vivid dreams endured while taking over-the-counter cough(alcohol) syrup ensue, I’ve blanked out the 18+ hour flight across the globe. Any time you have to spend more than four hours in a metal room crammed to the rivets with other meatbags, there should be a complimentary and mandatory sedation service…mainly for kids, parents and anyone who feels compelled to perform drum solos with their feet on the back of your chair. Also loud-talkers. Seriously, just gas the whole plane and let us sleep in pants-messing peace. I, for one, won’t miss the fun of “choosing” the one menu item left after everyone else in front of you took the “good” option for in-flight meals, but we do have an assortment of cheeses and deli meats for $40 if you like constipation. I’m telling you, once teleportation is a safe reality…

We landed and did the dance of the carry-on-only travelers, and Achebeyo and I managed to find our pre-arranged taxi with little hassle. We had both taken varying lengths of time studying the Thai language, her enough to hold most conversations on her own, me enough to bow and say good morning, good evening, please and thank you. The niceties are important when you look like an incubating problem child. Our hotel upgraded us to persons of importance for free, based on Achebeyo’s status as “Above Moderate Spender” on their consumer watch list. Fortunately, this meant that we were at the top of the hotel and flip-flop distance from the club lounge.

Bangkok, right before I slept for 12 hours.

Eventually the travel-coma wore off and we decided to peel ourselves off the bed to go explore the city. We cleaned up and dressed lightly but appropriately for the day. You can’t enter any of the temples in shorts, tank tops or tutus. Buddha’s not a fan of the wife-beater or crazy clown looks. Luckily, I’m as much of a fan of exposing my skin in foreign countries as I am of eating bug-riddled cow pies, so that was not an issue for me. We would get to watch later as someone actually took issue with being in a different country and having to follow local customs and courtesies. I could see getting upset if they wanted you to strip down naked in the middle of the temple courtyard and set your clothing on fire before entering, but being asked to appropriately clothe yourself before entering their sacred (and financially lucrative) places? Foreigner, please.

The moment we exited our hotel, the word “hot”, as we previously understood it, became meaningless. For someone with a high cellular respiration rate (the by-product of which is salty water), this meant at least one intentional shower per day, and several soakings in my own fluids. We opted to stick to the skywalks, trains and malls as often as possible on our initially meandering path through the city. I say initially, because the moment any of the wonderfully polite and kind Thai people saw us even glance briefly at a map or if-you-could-read-this-you’d-know-you-are-here wall charts they would go out of their way to help us find the best route to our destination. We had to suppress our travel-hardened tendency to see every offer of help as a scam or a threat and let the friendly assistance guide our obviously clueless steps. It was a bit of a paradigm shift for us, but we adapted readily; Achebeyo with the actual conversations and me with the bowing and repeated polite niceties.

After a little bit of walking, one train and one boat ride up the river…

Cool it! It’s the water-cops!

we made it to our initial destination, The Grand Palace.

It doesn’t get much more grand than this.

To get there from the dock, we had to pass through a mini-maze of outdoor stalls with food and trinkets. Since we had no intentions of being glued to a toilet this early in the trip, we opted to skip the food and took our obviously under-informed selves out into the street where our formerly shattered traveler’s defenses would have been of great assistance.

The one and only complaint I had while visiting Bangkok (apart from seeing only one of the famed Thai ladyboys, and only from a distance) was the tuk tuk (three-wheeled, open-cab motorcycle) driver who tried with all of his might to scam us. Okay, so maybe scam is a harsh term. He tried with all of his might to convince us that we needed to visit all of the stores that give him kickbacks for bringing in paying customers while waiting for the Grand Palace to open.

Apparently the Grand Palace is closed, according to conflicting stories from various (tuk tuk driver) sources, until anywhere from 11am to 1pm local time. Any number of other temples were open, including the one our driver took us to, but not the Grand Palace.

One of the conveniently open temples near the merchant district.

As we were still reveling in the rose-tinted excitement of being in a country we had never visited before, none of this registered on us until Achebeyo decided to tell our driver that we wouldn’t need to visit any more stores.

Several stops in a row had seen us walk into a blissfully air conditioned store, uncertain as to why we were there (beyond the need to take a break from steam-cleaning our skin), then rapidly return to the pit-drenching heat outside. The moment we began to ask our driver to take us back to the Grand Palace, his friendly demeanor and apparently feigned polite attitude dropped like cloudy water from my face. I opted to let the one of us who could actually speak enough of the language to be suitably indignant take charge.

Achebeyo stood firm in her insistence that we be returned to the entrance to the Grand Palace, where this mini-debacle began. After a heated exchange between the two, we were deposited at our requested destination and told that our fare would be tripled. I figured it was worth $20 US to get a brief tour of the over-priced merchant district, and a decent story to tell later.

Continued in Thai for Two – part 2 (Grand Dehydration)

The Pura Vida Files – part 1

November 19, 2012

Anyone who’s ever flown in the last 30 years will agree, scientists really need to get cracking on that whole teleportation gig. Between the TSA (who apparently are hired for their scowling abilities as much as anything else), the “can’t bring your own drinks in, but you can buy our 300% marked-up ones” airport rules (because everyone knows that airport vendor employees are beyond reproach) and the oblivious unwashed masses of travelers, it can try even the most patient of humble folks. I am far from patient on my best day.

The notes I took, both in the airports and on the planes, reveal someone itching to douse himself in radioactive waste just to see if flying might be a random side effect. Seriously. Let me break this down for you a bit. If you’re an adult who hasn’t been raised in a secluded basement somewhere, with your only human contact coming from the hand that shoves food through the slot in the door, I shouldn’t have to tell you that kicking the seat of the person in front of you (whether or not the rhythm is gonna get you) is a no-no. When staring at her with my “I’m not psycho, sweetie, I’m just grumpy” half-smile didn’t work, I opted to take matters in hand…literally. You’ve never seen someone so shocked to have their foot prevented from hammering out their own personal rendition of “Stomp” on someone’s place of rest. She reminded me of my impertinence throughout the rest of the flight to Costa Rica, however, by yanking back on my headrest like a Greco-Roman grappler every time she needed to move or blink her eyes.

I also learned that it’s important to choose what you will wear on your excursions across the sky. Evidently, I was wearing my “put your ass here” jacket, coupled with my “let me eat your bags” (interpret as you like) face-paint. Since I live in fear that a stray molecule of mine will wind up in someone’s food, face or fanny that I go out of my way to ensure I don’t invade anyone’s space, it bugs the living snot out of me that nobody else seems to give a damn about that sort of thing. It’s almost as if they’re saying, “Don’t you DARE touch me, but let me plaster my anatomy and belongings all over your face and neck.” The next time we travel, I’m painting my forehead to say “I have herpes”.

Achebeyo lives in fear of what I might say or do in public, which is why we typically don’t go to movies in the theater until they’re about ready to chuck those reels into the return bin. She’s mortified every time I force polite behavior out of the world around me. Which I completely understand, honestly. If you’re a kind, caring and decent person who leaves others alone, having someone with you who seems to attract unbridled asininity can be tough. But she manages to get through it…usually by yanking my chain and calling me to heel.

We eventually made it off the plane without assistance from local authorities, and proceeded to do the taxi driver avoidance shuffle. Since we had booked our shuttle to the hotel in advance, we had to bounce, verbally and physically, through the hordes of waiting drivers looking for the sign that said “ACHEBEYO & LACKEY”. Unfortunately, our driver was wearing his Predator cloaking device and we “missed” him…according to him. Of course he wasn’t late. We just couldn’t find him for thirty minutes while walking back and forth past the place he said he was waiting the whole time. Since it was late, and we were facing a potential 2-hr ride to the hotel, we hopped in without much more fuss.

On your left you’ll see…nothing. The beauty of this country was lost to us on our ride in, as it was dark and much of the landscape after San Jose was jungle. Our driver seemed bent on proving to us he could court death (something not exclusive to any one place we’ve visited) as he careened inches past anything and everything in his way. From what I could tell, he mostly navigated by the vestigial eyes in the back of his head, since he liked to turn around to talk to us when he reached any speed above 5mph. Sure, tell me all about the largest concentration of crocodiles in the world, just not when you’re about to commit vehicular homicide! To say it was a relief to make it safely to the hotel would be like saying heart attacks are bad news. We staggered out of the shuttle and got settled into our room in short order, all thoughts of adventure hiding behind utter exhaustion and relief at making it safely to our destination. A good night’s rest, and dreams of roller coasters from hell, and the next phase would begin.

Continued in The Pura Vida Files – part 2 (Jungle Tantrums)


%d bloggers like this: