BootsnAll Travel Network



OMG, I live here now.

April 15th, 2008

Hi guys! Here I am in Orlando, where I live now. Yep, the old hometown. Got a grapefruit and some Viagra at the border. Good thing I held out for Florida, cause I was so sick of driving by the time I hit Valdosta, GA, that I had decided to move there and commute. I ate lunch at a Chik-fil-A there and when I went to the bathroom before I left, I found a $5 bill wrapped in a Disney World receipt on the floor of the stall! Georgia rocks! Chik-fil-A is good too, as fast food goes. Despite the dorky name, I think they serve actual chicken, and the owners are religious, so they’re closed on Sundays to give employees a day off. Weird, but nice I suppose. Google maps also had me drive through the center of Atlanta instead of using the bypass, so I got to drive on an eight-lane freeway for the first time. (while texting, drinking a soda and eating sunflower seeds) The $5 bill was undoubtedly the highlight of my never-ending drive though. Let’s see if I can break down the rest of the last two days for you:

Day 1: Goodbye, cheeseheads. The day before I left, I went to Target to get a new adapter for the portable CD player in my ghetto car, which does not have one, only a tape deck. I have to use a tape/lighter plug-in combo thingie to get CDs to play on a discman.

Me to Target girl: Do you have a car adapter for a CD player?
She, with utterly blank expression: A CD player? You mean like an iPod?
You’d think I said, “Excuse me, do you have Earth, Wind and Fire on 8-track?”
Me: No, you retard, I mean a CD player! OK, fine, I didn’t say that. I did have to go to Best Buy though.

So I left Jeff and Julie’s house in Milton, armed with my new adapter, a few music CDs and a book on CD by David Sedaris. Had to stop at Super Wal-Mart in Janesville though, because between Julie’s house in Milton and the Interstate, my discman broke. Oh well, picked up a crappy one for $10 – thanks Wal-Mart! Finally left Wisconsin around 10:30am. The rest of the day:

10:30-11:30 – Illinois
11:30-12:30 – Illinois
12:30-1:30 – Illinois
1:30-1:38 – Stop to pee in Illinois. Carry on stoically.

I think I can abridge the hours between 1:38 and 4:30 and just sum it up by saying: Illinois. Then, in a flash, I was in Kentucky! Who even knew those states bordered each other? Wisconsin is only one long, flat buffer state away from the South! After a brief time in Kentucky, I was into Tennessee, and nearing Nashville, where I should’ve stayed the night, but noooo, I forced myself to carry on to Chattanooga, despite extreme tiredness and crabbiness, arriving just under 11 hours after I left Wisconsin. Forgot the time change, so by the time I ended up at a Super 8 by the Interstate, it was 9:48 instead of 8:48, so I had to jet over to Cracker Barrel to get some to-go dinner. Any port in a storm, my friends.

Day 2: As detailed above, today was the day I made money in the bathroom at Chik-fil-A. How often can a respectable lady like myself say that? Drove and drove and drove, crossing the border to the Sunshine State in mid-afternoon. Here’s a series of signs along the highway, in order of appearance:

WE BARE ALL
Trucker Discount
breakfast, lunch, dinner
(Well, I am a little peckish!)

WE BARE ALL
Couples welcome!
(How thoughtful!)

WE BARE ALL
Food ‘n Fun!
Adult Toy’s

Now, I’m sure you can all guess what had me chafing at that last one – yep, the inappropriate apostrophe. When will these smut peddlers learn some basic grammar? The signs did continue, though without any more horrible grammatical mistakes. Next was:

CAFE RISQUE
Trucker discount and showers!
(Ewwwwwww. Whatever cach√© they hoped to earn by changing the name to ‘Cafe Risque” was obliterated and then some by the image of a bunch of dirty truckers showering after you-know-whatting their you-know-whats.)

Finally, as if worried that totally naked chicks wouldn’t be enough to entice the truckers to their establishment, the last sign promised that in addition to some nakedness, you could play pool, video games and eat some great food! I declined to stop, though I may have to take a road trip up there in the future to check out the video games. I hope they have Ms. Pacman.

Arrived in Orlando without further incident at around 5:30 – rush hour! I luckily picked a crack motel right by my exit from the turnpike onto the Interstate though, so I avoided the traffic. My room isn’t really that bad, though only one outlet works in here, which means either my phone charges or my computer does. I’m more worried for the safety of my TV in the front seat of my truck, though when I called the front desk to inquire if it would be OK, the dude reassured me that we’re right next door to the sheriff’s office. I said, so if it gets stolen, they’ll be here right away? I don’t think he laughed though. Tomorrow I have a bunch of apartment appointments, would like to get that settled by Thursday. My POD is waiting for me somewhere in Orlando, minus my floor lamp, though. (Thanks Shawn; I would’ve let you have it if you’d just asked.) So glad I did the POD, because I would have had to use the runaway truck ramp in Tennessee if I’d been driving a Uhaul pulling my truck.

Spent the evening driving around my potential new neighborhood looking for “For Rent” signs. It’s feeling a little surreal that this totally alien city is home now. I suppose that will dissipate once I have a place and some structure, though. A busy few days await. Will keep y’all (am Southerner, now) posted. xx

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I am a mosquito pin cushion

March 1st, 2008

Seriously, people, my skin looks like that pointillist painting from Ferris Bueller. I’ve lost so much blood it’s my new diet plan. Bye bye tapeworm, hello, blood loss! Well, I’m still here in the British Virgin Islands, my last night on Virgin Gorda (fat virgin in Spanish), thusly called because it’s very hilly on both ends and skinny in the middle. Tomorrow night it’s back to Tortola, the most populated of the BVI, and Spanish for turtle dove. None of those left though, because they brought a bunch of mongooses here (which look a little like ferrets) to eat all the snakes. After they ate all the snakes, they ate all the birds. Now they just eat out of the dumpsters. To tell you the truth, I’m a little road weary. I just want to unpack my bag, somewhere, anywhere. Though I suppose I shouldn’t look a gift hotel room in the mouth. I could be ass-deep in snow right now.

Not taking many pictures because it seems like something is wrong with my camera since Phoenix, like a little white cloud in the right corner, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s gorgeous here. Maybe I’ll snap some shots tomorrow. It’s very hilly, like San Francisco hilly; the brake-burning smell has become all too familiar in my rental car. I just hope they hold out till I leave tomorrow and I don’t plummet. It’s very green too, but arid. All sorts of leafy plants like bougainvillea, but also cacti growing everywhere. The character of the islands is very different from the Caymans and the Turks and Caicos. Duh, I suppose, but I guess I always thought of the Caribbean as sun and sand and that all the islands were pretty much the same in that regard – they’re not. Both Cayman and Turks and Caicos are beach destinations, and I would say the Virgin Islands definitely are not. The Virgin Islands are more of a boat destination – cruise ships, yachts, sailboats – than a beach destination. So if anyone was thinking of chartering a yacht for a week’s sailing, this is the place.

Today I went to this cool area called The Baths (no pictures, sorry). It’s an area of beach and little grottoes with all these huge boulders thrown around like some giant tossed his marbles (not cookies) there. It’s usually overrun with cruise ship tourists, but today was very peaceful and quiet because there were no cruise ships in harbor. It was a pretty relaxing day, but somehow I ended up with a weird tan/burn line across the middle of my neck. I think it was caused by one of my chins resting there and blocking the sun. Speaking of sun, I don’t think I’m getting enough. When I start on the US Virgin Islands on the 7th, I’m going to spend much more time blowing off work and lying on the beach. Like, why do I need to actually GO to all these hotels anyway? I can get all this crap off the Internet. The most important thing is to come home with a tan, right? Right! xx

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Does anyone hear crickets chirping?

February 25th, 2008

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Hi all! Due to everyone thinking I’m dead, I’ve decided to post an entry. I am, in fact, alive and well on Tortola, the largest of the British Virgin Islands. One witty friend, who shall remain nameless, asked if I’d met any virgins yet. I don’t think so. I think I left you on Day 2 in the Cayman Islands…the three weeks that followed that post have been a blur of delicious meals, nice hotels and oh yeah, work. Seriously, just so you don’t hate me too much, I want you to know I only went to the beach ONE day in Grand Cayman! (Cue strings) Otherwise, I was practically a slave! I was on Grand Cayman for a total of eight days, and I just can’t think of anything bad to tell you. One day, it rained a little. While I was on a catamaran trip to snorkel with stingrays. I hate myself, really.

Most of you already know the “Do I look like a hooker or what?” story, so I won’t recount it again.

Let’s see…after eight days on Grand Cayman, it was off via puddle-jumper to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Spent the day driving around The Brac (as the 2 people who live there call it) and then flew again that same day to Little Cayman, even more sparsely populated, with one old man and his pet iguana. JK! (sort of) Stayed at this awesome place on LC, super-extra pricey, where the only other – Wait, news flash -

**OMG, I just heard someone say there’s snow in Orlando today?? Orlando?? WTF is going on up there? Uh, never coming back.

OK, I’ve recovered from the shock. Someone get me a pina colada. As I was saying, this resort was super-duper swell, but all the other guests were rich American couples in their 60s. I swear, I was the youngest person there by 30 years. OK, maybe 25 years. Not a great nightlife spot, but it was probably good for my liver.

Did two dives on Little Cayman, and though better than Grand Cayman, the coral was still covered in brown algae. There would be little patches of color, surrounded by dead, dead, dead stuff. Sigh. In the afternoon I rode a bike around the island checking things out, and made a stop at the coral research center on the island to see what was going on. Apparently, the coral and the algae are locked in a battle of wills, both eating the same food. Since the water is warmer than it used to be, the algae is winning. Sigh. Still, they were like, “We really don’t know anything for sure.” Scientists.

After two nights there, it was back to Grand Cayman and on to the Turks and Caicos! Where? I didn’t know either, until recently. They’re very close to the Bahamas and used to be part of them, actually. Unfortunately, my flight out of GC was so delayed that I missed my TC connection, and ended up spending the night in a Holiday Inn at the Miami airport. Never mind though, because the airline had to pay for it, and dinner, and breakie! Yay! All about the free stuff. Left the next morning for Providenciales (Provo), the main island in the Turks and Caicos chain. When I first contacted the appropriate people weeks ago about this trip, they were like “Don’t worry about a thing!” What they meant was: “You’re totally screwed.” Because I thought all the arrangements were in hand, I didn’t book anything for the TC, except, thank God, the little pink rental car I had for three days. Courtesy of myself. At one point they were like, “We found you a resort on North Caicos that will give a media rate of $375/night.” Are you f-ing kidding me? What am I, Bill Bryson? So I ended up spending only three nights on Provo and not going to the North or Middle Caicos at all.

Provo is kind of flat and scrubby – truly a desert island, but the beach is phenomenal. Warm, blindingly white sand and turquoise seas. Spent the last of my three days on Provo “researching” the beach in person. Also researched the bottom of about a million Red Stripe bottles, then spent the next day researching how it feels to fly with a killer hangover. My findings:
Beaches = good!
Red Stripe = very good!
Beach + approximately a dozen Red Stripes + early morning flight = blows hard.

Again, why do I do it? Oh well. Flew, in a surly mood, to Grand Turk that morning, and despite a name that conjures images of a fat Middle Eastern man, it’s very, very small. It reminds me of what Key West must have been like before cruise ships and the rest of us discovered it. Though Grand Turk does have a cruise ship terminal, which is bizarre, cause there really are like 12 people living there. Well, maybe like 4,000. It’s this teeny little island, and the cruise ship looks like a sideways sky scraper next to it. It’s little and charming, not much to do but dive, which I did. The verdict: better than Cayman, but still, you can just see that the coral is slowly dying. No one will blame global warming though till it’s all dead, and then they’ll go, hmmm, I guess it’s conclusive! Sorry, no more of that.

Had three days there, and then it was off to the British Virgin Islands, where I now sit, tapping away on the old Mac. Very hilly (like San Francisco hilly) and green. Was supposed to go to an island called Jost Van Dyke today for an ATV tour, but there was some communications snafu, so I’m working away. Has been great here, with the tourist board picking up most of my expenses. Total surprise, too, cause I didn’t even know if someone was meeting me at the airport! But all turned out well. OK, that’s it for now; this is way too long already. The pic at the top is of a guy pulling conch out of out of their shells to eat. Which I didn’t cause I’m afraid of an allergy. TC not the place to find out.

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Bud Light: Suck One

February 3rd, 2008

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This title, in fact, has nothing to do with this entry, but it was funny, don’t you think? Here I am in the Cayman Islands, watching the 4th quarter of the Super Bowl (ads, mostly), and who f-ing cares, anyway, since the Pack is out? Not me. Both teams can blow me. I wish they could both lose.

Well, readers, I have no tales of woe, no missed buses, no puking locals, no rats chewing through my bag. I got here to Grand Cayman yesterday, and people actually clapped when the plane landed. I can see why. Picked up my rental car from Coconut Cars, and they drive on the left here since it’s a British protectorate or something. Know what that means? Cadbury. But I digress – they drive on the left, but my car is an American one, so I’m sitting on the right (correct) side. Which actually makes it easier. I’ve had a few moments of panic when I think “Why are those cars coming at me??!” in the right lane, but I’ve adjusted well.

Update: The Giants just won! Wow, what an upset. Anyway, see above. So I started my day with some scuba diving, courtesy of the resort where I’m staying – I realize that everything I say right now will sound like bragging. Nice dives, great weather (blahblahblah), but the coral is seriously degraded. Covered with some weird algae crap. I asked if it was “because of us or global warming or what,” and the divemaster said, “Oh, it’s definitely not because of us, it’s because of global warming,” thinking I meant, “did the divers swimming through the tunnels in the coral kill it?” Which I didn’t. It’s because of global warming, BTW. Yay us.

The weather, it goes without saying, is phenomenal. Mid-80s and mostly sunny. The vegetation on the island is a little scrubby because it’s pretty flat, but the beach is gorgeous and the sea is the color of Aidan’s turquoise rings from Sex and the City. Island culture seems pretty diverse, with a mix of European, Canadian and American ex-pats and Caymanians. Lots of people I’ve talked to say things like, “I came here on vacation 11 years ago and never left.” As for animal life, you’ve got your usual stray cats and dogs, not really more than home I think, and many, many chickens. Chickens everywhere. America seems to be the only country that coops up its chickens in tiny little cages, cause the birds here are living the life. Have also met some cool people diving, who invited me to some big party on Wednesday night for Ash Wednesday. I’ll be going in a strictly research capacity.

Spent the afternoon, after the dive, driving around the island, checking things out. Was going to watch the Super Bowl with some other people from the dive boat, but ended up missing them at the bar where they said they were going and decided instead to check out a restaurant that’s not in the book, but has been glowingly recommended. Readers, here’s where I really start to brag. I had:

Appetizer: tuna carpaccio and mojito
Main Course: wahoo (local white fish) escovitche (little yummy fried balls with onions and scotch peppers) and Chardonnay
Dessert: sticky toffee pudding and cappuccino (decaf, of course)
After-dinner drinks: limoncello and glass of Bordeaux
All: Free. I hate myself, I really do.

Now I’m sitting in my room, after watching the second half of the 4th quarter, and ready for bed. Got a big day tomorrow, cause it’s my last day with the rental car, so have to bust a move all over this island. Meeting with the Cayman Islands tourist board ladies and checking out 1 million hotels. If only I could get this gig full-time…

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Overheard on the Greyhound

January 30th, 2008

Hey guys, going to restart the travel blog, as I’m off to the sunny Caribbean shortly. Getting paid (not too much, don’t worry) to go to the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos and US and British Virgin Islands for a travel guide. Am going to try and blog from there, but I thought I’d post this email about the Greyhound trip, too, just for posterity. Hope all you readers are well!

Overheard on the Greyhound
Well, I’m here in sunny Phoenix, Arizona, at my sister Janet’s place, after a Greyhound ride that started in Madison at 8:45 pm on Saturday (rescheduled from Thursday so I could watch The Game – GO PACK!) and ended yesterday, Monday, at 5:00 pm. That’s 45 hours, 15 minutes for you math-challenged types, like myself. (Added an hour for time change to Mountain) If I’d realized what I was getting into, would I have gotten on the bus of doom? Probably. I’ve taken the Dog (props to Nicolle’s friend Colleen) before, but on shorter-haul trips, like Kansas City to Minneapolis and once from Flagstaff to LA, but nothing like this. I was going to photo-journal and blog my progression across the great USA, and my progression from semi-presentable citizen to disheveled mess, but I was too busy guarding my seat. Here’s the breakdown:

Where we stopped: Madison-Milwaukee-Chicago-Springfield, IL-St. Louis-Rolla, MO-Lebanon, MO, Springfield, MO-Joplin, MO-St. Louis, MO-Tulsa, OK-OK City, OK-Elk City, OK-Amarillo, TX-Albuquerque, NM-Gallup, NM-Homer, AZ-Winslow, AZ (not that cool)-Flagstaff, AZ-Glendale, AZ-Phoenix, AZ. The good news is that I was on the same bus from St. Louis-Phoenix. The bad news is that there was some heating malfunction on the bus, and I had to use my coat and sarong-thingy as a blanket the whole time. And keep the hood of my hoodie up. Also had to get OFF the bus at almost all those stops, so they could “service” it, etc.

What I ate: It was ugly, people, real ugly. The best (and only) restaurant we stopped at was McDonald’s yesterday for breakfast. That was the most well-balanced thing I ate. Otherwise, it’s a blur of Chex Mix, Cheez-Its and Keebler mini cookies. Also had some treats from Trader Joes. (Thanks KP!) Last night after a long scrub-down, I insisted that Janet transport me immediately to the Cheesecake Factory, my very favorite (chain) restaurant, where I proceeded to stuff myself silly and had to unbutton my new fat pants just to stand up after the meal.

How long I slept: Sleep? Who needs sleep?! Not me! I took the magical Israeli sleeping pills I’ve mentioned and: The magic has died. I guess they made me a little drowsy, but the magical side effects seem to have disappeared for me. Does anyone want to buy some sweet pills? They totally mess with your mind, man. I managed to get some sleep though, thanks in large part to a fuzzy neck pillow I borrowed from Jen. I’ve always thought those things were extra-dorky, but it saved my life. Longest uninterrupted run was about four hours between Amarillo and Gallup.

Who I shared my seat with: I managed to look mean and unfriendly for most of the trip and had a seat to myself. I shared with a large snoring man for a little while, and then when a seat opened up across the aisle, I was like “I think that one’s free.” Otherwise, just a few short-haul peeps.

Conversations overheard: By far the best part of the trip. The bus attracts an entirely more interesting group of people than flying, and I think it’s almost expected that you strike up a convo with your seat mate, whereas when you fly, there’s no such obligation, unless your seat mate happens to be a cute man without a wedding ring. Which has never happened to me, BTW. Since I rarely had a seat mate of my own, I had to eavesdrop. Our first specimen is a young lady who got on in Chicago. Think Britney Spears, only trashier. She sat behind me on the Joplin-Tulsa leg of the trip talking to some hippie dude, and was so funny I started writing down quotes. I think she knew I was listening though, so I had to put on my iPod and pretend to be listening to that. She was en route to Tulsa to see her family, and had to borrow dude’s cell phone to call them:

Instead of WWJD? let’s play WWW(hite)T(rash)D?

“Momma, I got some good news and some bad news for you when I see you. OK, the good news is I’m gettin’ married. The bad news is I’m leavin’ for North Carolina in two days.” Seems she met a young army man, on a previous Greyhound trip, and was moving to the base to marry him. Sounds cool, except that her son isn’t welcome – “I would take him, but they don’t allow kids on the army base. He’ll have fun with nana anyway.” She’s the mom of a 4-year-old, God help him. So, WWWTD? Yep, abandon the kid to live with the new hubby, so she’s leaving the kid with Grandma in Tulsa. Some snippets of conversation: “I raised him since I was 14 with no daddy. My baby’s daddy got shot.” (Which makes her 18). She is also recently divorced, she said, but “my ex-hubby ain’t the baby daddy.” When he gets old enough, she’s going to tell her son, “Your daddy was a drug dealer and he got shot.” She says “I’m glad he’s dead, cause he wasn’t there for me or my son.” Now she’s off to North Carolina and she won’t see him for two years. WWWTD? “When I come back, I’m going to come back with lots of moola, then he’ll love me cause I’ll make up for the two years by buying him shit.”

Junior does have some problems, though, as you can imagine. Seems he routinely bullies other kids, including some 11-year-old whose floatie he stole at the pool. He also likes to hurt animals and get drunk. At her wedding, he was drinking beer right out of the hose of the Bud Light keg (NOT making that up). WWWTD? Instead of stopping him, she decided to let him get wasted cause, “It taught him a lesson, cause he doesn’t know any better.” Um, mom? Isn’t that what you’re there for? He passed out in the bathroom on the floor at around 5 pm, but she was decent enough to bring him some blankets and make her friends use the other bathroom so he could sleep. “He didn’t wake up till 12 the next day and he had a hangover!” It was hilarious, and she got to sleep in! He’s also looking under her friends’ skirts at age 4 – “He’s gonna be a ladies man.” Uh, I think you mean date rapist. It was so bad, I thought she might be making it up. I think she knew I was writing down what she said though, and I started to get tired of her, so I plugged in the old shuffle and she shut right up.

Uneventful trip till Amarillo, I think, where we picked up a sack of crazy for the ages. “I’m crazy.” He said as he got off the bus in Phoenix. “I can prove it.” No need, my friend, no need. He sat next to the bus driver and talked to/at him for hours. And hours. Barely pausing for breath. Some tidbits:

On driving: “They took my driver’s license, cause I’m too good at it. I was going 120 cause I thought a nuclear war was going on and I thought my car could fly.”

On his ex-wife: “She only wants me for sex. That’s not a bad thing. She’s one of those type who gets really pissed off at me and then she wants to have sex. When we got done, she never held me, she just got up and walked away like a man.”

On personal hygiene, to the bus driver: “Have you ever worn a pair of shoes for four days?” Seems our hero was on the bus since the east coast somewhere, but it “sure beats the hell out of flying.”

To the bus driver: “Hey, what’s your name anyway?” The driver was like, “You can just call me Louie.” (Not his real name) Crazy said “I’ll just call you Richard, then when I get pissed off at you I can call you Dick.” Mostly he just called him boss.

Let’s see what else… He was going to go to Vegas, but “like 100 casinos have banned me. I’m too good.” He thought instead he might go to a casino here in Phoenix, and walk the 12 miles from the bus station. “An ordinary man couldn’t do that, you know.” It was remarkable, really, that the bus driver was able to keep it together. He kept hitting the brakes randomly though, I suspect to send crazy through the windshield.

That does it, people. See you in the Cayman Islands!
xx

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Back To Life, Back To Reality or: Thank God I Can Watch the Packers Now

November 17th, 2007

Hi all! Well, this is it, the last blog post. Ever. Here I am in London, hanging out with my friend Toni and her boyfriend Sam, watching Jackie Brown. Ah, home life. My friends Suzie and Alex got married yesterday at a country manor – no shit – in the lovely English countryside. It was like a Currier and Ives postcard, about 150 people, and all the older ladies wore hats. Like big hats, with feathers and stuff on them, that came in big hat boxes. I’ve never been to a wedding with hats before. The beginning of the wedding was so very English and proper, and then by the end, there were people dancing on tables. Right about then, Suzie’s mom asked me if it was like an American wedding, and I said, “It is now.” In bed by midnight though, as the champagne started flowing around 2pm, and this little lady can’t handle her booze so well any more. After a healthy English breakfast (minus the beans) Toni and Sam and I caught a train back to London, where I now sit on the couch wrapped up in a cozy comforter.

Got here from India on the 9th and brrr, um, winter is, like, cold and stuff. Got off the plane in my India clothes – sandals and socks, fisherman pants (at least they were long) and a flowy scarf. Went over to to Suzie and Alex’s for the weekend and shopped on Oxford St. for an outfit for the wedding – dress, shoes, bag and accessories for ¬£67, which = $134. A crackin’ good deal for London! And there are pictures on Flickr of the wedding, so you can all tell me how the dress looked. And my tan. :) Went back to Oxford St. the next day to buy some winter clothes and met Toni for a little more last-minute wedding shopping. Me = shopped out. Next day I met my friend Fiona for the day: uh-oh, more shopping. We mostly just wandered around Camden Market, Covent Garden and Harrod’s, looking for some sort of folk-art knick-knack chicken cause my weirdo parents collect them. Sorry mom and dad, I did my best, but there was no chicken to be had.

Next day Toni and I met my friends Himesh and Danny (from the safari in Kenya) for Thai food (oh, how I’ve missed you, Thai food) and drinks. It’s been great to catch up with everybody – strange to see them out of context, but great. Went off to the countryside on Thursday, and, as I said, here I sit on the couch. Ahh. We have to go out again tonight though to meet some of Toni’s friends. Too bad I have to change out of my jammies. Leaving on Monday, back to Michigan for Thanksgiving! Hooray turkey and Packers! So, all, that’s it. The end. Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it, see you soon and peace out, homies. xxx

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Goan, Goan, Gone

November 6th, 2007

So clever, this one! Hi all from Mumbai, aka Bombay. Closing in on the last few days of my trip and really can’t believe it’s coming to a close. You may have noticed that I’ve lost a little enthusiasm for the blog here in India – like I said, it’s not because it’s not interesting enough to write about – in fact, it’s too interesting. You’ll just have to talk to me, not e-me, when I get home, if you want the stories. But, I didn’t want to leave you all hanging completely, so I’ll just give you a quick where-I’ve-been entry. Toni and I split in Jaipur, about two weeks ago – she headed home, and I took a 30-hour train ride to Goa, a former Portuguese outpost on the coast. Train ride was fun, sat in a compartment with a friendly Indian family – they all are, really – with lots of questions regarding my age, marital status, job, trip, country etc. They had an adorable 3-year old boy who kept saying “Salute!” and putting his wee little hand to his head. I had to salute, or else. Here in Goa there’s lots of cool architecture and interesting sites – so I’m told. Cause all I’ve done for the last nine days is sit on the beach, roasting like a little sausage.

Here in Mumbai, aka Bombay, it’s much, much better than Delhi, with wide, relatively clean streets, lots of Victorian architecture, and no one hassles you. And I’ve only seen three cows! There were that many taking a crap outside my hotel door in Delhi. Very polluted, smoggy and noisy, but on the whole, enjoyable. I’ve been looking for a dress for this wedding I’m going to, thinking it would be cheaper than getting one in London, and guess what: it’s not. It’s a pricey city. I might go to an airconditioned mall later today and look for one. That way even if I don’t find one, I won’t melt, because boy is it hot. HOT. Like 100 degress with 90% humidity hot. Picture it: 16 million sweating bodies. Note to self: next world tour, include Scandinavia.

Before I got here, as I said, I was lounging on a beach in Goa. I think I set the record for most Sudokus completed by one person in any nine-day period. The beach itself wasn’t spectacular, but the setting was very relaxed, the weather and sunsets were perfect and I got a good tan: mission accomplished. Lots of westerners have established homes there, and come for the entire winter season. Lots of aging hippies and backpackers taking a break from ‘India.’ It was a very refreshing nine days, that’s for sure. And like I said, I’m going to be t-a-n for that wedding.

I leave for London tomorrow – might be an extra in a Bollywood movie for the day before I go! I wonder if they saw me on Millionaire and know I’m already famous in my home country. I should ask for a private dressing room. Okay all, off to face the heat and do yet more Christmas shopping. All for you, readers. Well, some of you. I’ll write one more entry from London, promise. xx

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Indian Adventures Continue

October 23rd, 2007

Hi all. Writing about India is proving difficult for me. Each day is so full that reliving it on the computer is frankly, pretty exhausting. But, Toni is off getting henna done so I have a little time to fill you in. Here’s a brief rundown of what we’ve been up to: After Delhi, we boarded a night train – very comfy in 3rd-class AC – for Varanasi. Not cheap though. Which leads me to dispel a common myth about India: It’s not cheap, people. Sure, it’s cheap if you want to go “chair” class on the train, which means there will be 50 Indian men in your non-AC church-pew seat, if you want to sleep in bug-infested motels, and if you only eat street food. But generally, it compares to Thailand, which isn’t the cheapest country in Southeast Asia. Never mind though, as everyone has told me, “It’s still cheap for you, Becky.” Too true.

So, we hung in Varanasi for a few days, one of the most holy places in Hinduism and the most auspicious place to die, as your body is cremated along the Ganges and your ashes are sprinkled in it. There are two “burning ghats” where they do this – the others are used for bathing, washing clothes, and apparently for depositing rubbish. Unfortunately for Varanasi, there are 30 open sewage drains emptying directly into the river here. The water doesn’t have any more oxygen in it; it’s just H2, not H2O. On our second night there, we watched an elaborate “puja,” meaning ‘prayer’ or ‘offering’, ceremony, and then were invited to be blessed by a Brahman priest and set some little flowers with candles afloat in the river. It was mom’s birthday, so I had him bless the whole family, for which he wanted 500 rupees, about $12, (I gave him 100 rupees). So, we set these flowers afloat, and these kids that were hanging out with us were like, “push the flowers away,” so we actually had to stick our hands in the water. Then they splashed us, for “good luck.” I was afraid my skin would burn off where the water hit me, but so far, I’m okay.

Let’s see, after Varanasi and a side trip to a town called Sarnath, where Budda preached his first sermon (very cool!), we were off on another night train to Satna, near Khajuraho, to see some stone temples that I studied in an Indian art history class a few years ago. I actually wrote my final paper for the class on the temples, so it was cool to see them in person. They’re famous for erotic carvings, a few in particular, and one involving an elephant. Interested parties can look at my pictures when I get home. Picked up an Israeli girl traveling on her own, and the three of us took the bus ride from hell to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. Our new friend had some magical Israeli sleeping pills though, which all three of us took when we got on the bus. I’m telling you, it was like I was tripping or something. I’d lift my arm and think “Did I just lift my arm?” Whoa. So the first half of the 10 hours passed pretty smoothly, I must say.

Got to Agra late on a Thursday to find out that: the Taj Mahal is closed on Fridays! OMG. And we went up to the roof of our hotel to see it at night and guess what? It’s not lit at all. Total blackness. One of the most recognizable icons in the world and there are no lights on it at night? That’s like turning off the Eiffel Tower. Oh well. I’ve learned not to ask questions here, just accept. So the next day, we toured the fort in Agra and went to a local market, which was tons of fun cause we didn’t get hassled to buy things at all. We were more of an oddity than anything. It was also the last day of Ramadan, and we were touring around near the mosque in Agra, so we saw hundreds and hundreds of men walking to pray and heard the ceremony over the loudspeaker – very cool. Ate a yummy masala dosa, which is kind of like a savory potato-filled crepe. The food, my God, the food. Took a sunset walk around the back side of the Taj Mahal and got some fantastic pictures of both the building and the garbage-choked river flowing right behind it. That’s India, I guess – beauty and ugliness side by side. Had a nice dinner overlooking the Taj. More on the glorious, delicious, carb-o-riffic Indian food later. Suffice it to say: yum.

Awoke the next morning for a sunrise trip to the Taj Mahal, and I have to say that seeing it in person was worth the cost of my plane ticket alone. It was truly spectacular, one of the few things in life that lives up to its reputation and your expectations. It is more beautiful than you even think it could possibly be. As the sun came up, the entire building glowed pink. Without exaggerating, I can say it’s the most beautiful, awe-inspiring building I’ve ever seen. You should all see it, and I mean it. Spent the morning there watching the sun come up, and then went to: a shopping mall. We had asked the front-desk guy at our hotel about a good place to do some shopping, where “Indian people go,” for Indian clothes and that sort of thing, and he directed us to a place called “Big Bazaar.” Cool, we thought, a big bazaar! The big bazaar is a shopping mall, complete with KFC and McDonalds. Oh well, it was air-conditioned! That night we took an overnight bus ride to Udaipur. The bus was so rattle-y that the window would shake open every 5 minutes, so Toni and I took turns closing it all night long. Hilarious! Once again, thank God for the Israeli magical sleeping pills. Arrived in Udaipur 15 – yes, 15 – hours after we started, and found: my most favoritest city yet. Okay, all, that’s where I’m going to leave it. Toni has been gone for a long, long time now. I’m hoping she isn’t being force-hennaed. I’ll update if I can. If you don’t hear anything for a while, google “Goa,” cause that’s where I’m going. xxx

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Holy Culture Shock

October 17th, 2007

Hi all. Taking a little time today to fill you in on what Toni and I have been up to. The days are so full that it’s hard to remember all the details. I’ll do my best for you though, readers. I’ll cast my mind back now to two weeks ago, when I was an India virgin. Arrived in Delhi at around 5am and got a “pre-paid” taxi from the airport to the hotel, because if you take a regular one they try to rip you off. Remember that theme, people, because it’s constant. Got to the hotel around 6am and woke up Toni, had a little catch-up, went back to sleepie.

Day 1: We emerged from the hotel, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and faced: utter pandemonium. “Traffic” doesn’t even begin to cover it. A small sample of what you may find on a Delhi street: cows, goats, sheep, donkeys, pigs, oxen – your basic barnyard family, plus monkeys – pedestrians, beggars, touts, dogs, street vendors, cars, bicycles, motorbikes, bicycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, rubbish, waste from all the previously mentioned animals and people, etc. etc. etc. We wanted to find some place for breakie, but instead found a very helpful auto rickshaw driver who took us to a restaurant for the low, low fare of 5 rupees. Now, not having a guidebook yet, we had no idea that the ride should have cost around 30 rupees. Our driver waited for us during breakie and then, so kindly, took us to the “official” tourism office. Here began attempted scam #1, where we were subjected to a hard-sell, and told that every single train leaving Delhi to the places we wanted to go was full for the next two weeks, but they could book us a mini-bus tour for the low, low price of 275 pounds. Right. When we balked, the price suddenly dropped, but when we said, well, we think we’d like to GO to the train station ourselves, the man got pretty belligerent, “Oh, you think I’m lying??” No dude, we KNOW you’re lying.

We escaped and asked our faithful rickshaw driver, who was working on commission for that travel agency of course, to take us to the train station. We soon realized that we had been subjected to one of the classic India scams. Determined to find our own way, it still took us most of the rest of the day to even find the correct office to purchase our train tickets, as our disgruntled driver had purposely taken us to the wrong train station. Upon entering the wrong station, we were given directions to the wrong tourist office, but at least the dude in there was honest enough to tell us we were in the wrong place – we were so grateful we booked a day tour for the next day. Finally around 3pm, we found the correct office, which is located in the main Delhi train station. Even in the courtyard of the station though, we literally had to fend off guys telling us the office was “closed, moved, renovated, burned down, etc.” and trying to redirect us to the “real” office. Another almost-confrontation ensued when I questioned the truthfulness of one of these helpful men. “Excuse me, ma’am, do you think I’m lying?” That’s balls, man, lying to someone, and then getting upset with them for noticing. Anyway, we found the office and booked ourselves on the night train to Varanasi, the spiritual heart of Hinduism, where many people go to die and be cremated along the Ganges. More on Varanasi later. Day one came to a close with a much-needed beer at a rooftop hotel on the Main Bazaar street, and a rickshaw ride home which should have cost 15 rupees but for which we were charged 40. Wise to the scam by now, we paid him 20 and high-tailed it into the hotel. That, dear readers, was Day One. Okay, off to check out the fort here in Jodpur. Will blog more when I’m alone and Toni isn’t sitting here waiting for me to get done. Love youse!

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Same Same But Different

October 4th, 2007

Hi all! Killing a few hours before the shuttle comes to take me to the airport in Bangkok, where I’ll have a further few hours before my 2:30am flight to Delhi. Wowee gee, I can’t believe time has flown by so fast. Had two rainy days on Ko Chang before I switched to another island, nearer Bangkok, called Ko Samet. As they say here when something is similar, or when you say “Do you have this in blue?” and they only have it in brown, “same same.” Cambodia and Vietnam? Same same. Becky, Janet and Karen? Same same. Get it? Lots of the tourists wear T-shirts around that say “Same Same” on the front and “But Different” on the back.

So, Ko Samet and Ko Chang? Same same, but Ko Samet was sunny! Hooray! I had three blissful days of sun, but since my pasty little body isn’t used to it anymore, I slightly overcooked myself on the first day and ended up burnt to a crisp. Even my cleavage is peeling, which is even grosser than it sounds.

Been back in Bangkok for a few days now, doing some shopping and finishing up my Indian visa process. Went to the embassy on Tuesday, which is a multi-step journey involving a boat trip, a skytrain (kind of like the El) and a 20-minute walk – about 1 and 1/2 hours to get there. That is, if I want to save $3 on the taxi, and I’m cheap, so I do. Anyway, got over there on Tuesday to find it closed for Gandhi’s birth or death anniversary. Dude totally ruined my day. So went back on Wednesday, got the visa, and celebrated with an Indian-food pigout! Not a moment too soon, either, cause I need a noodle and rice break, for reals.

So I’ve just been filling my days here in Bangkok with the Internet, some shopping, going back and forth to the embassy and hanging out with some cool German girls I met in Ko Chang. I sent home a huge box today, surface mail – should get there by spring. My bag is literally 3/4 empty in anticipation of all the gorgeousness that is Indian textiles, clothes, bags, etc. I might even buy another bag there. And I better pick up some pressies for Christmas! Requests? xx

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