Adventures from Here and There

Venice, Part 2 of 2 Years in a Nutshell December 26, 2012

Filed under: Travel — travelchokri @ 2:05 am
Tags: , , ,

Last March/April, my mom, her 2 sisters, my sister and myself took a trip to Italy. Below is a description of one of our adventures. The first is my story and the second, my sister’s point of view. It’s interesting how 2 people can view the same situation differently.

My Version

And we arrived in Venice. It was slightly late as there was a flight delay from Rome, our prior destination. We finally figured out how to get tickets from the machine for the water taxi and boarded the boat. We were staying at 2 different hotels, as finding 2 rooms, one for 3 people and one for 2, were not easy to come by. The 3 ladies were very central and right off a main stop on the canal. Shaz (my sis) and I dropped them off, made sure they were settled, and then asked the hotel concierge directions to ours. It was only 10 minutes away, he said, but since it was further down on the canal and the path leading to it didn’t exist, we had to walk into squares and take a few lefts and rights until we found it. Both Shaz and I know we aren’t that great with map reading, but as long as we stayed on the side of the water, we’d be fine.

It was somewhat misty out and late, about 1130pm. The place was deserted and there were a few lights that helped us see the street signs. We saw a small bakery and a woman inside, laying out some delicious looking croissants. She was kind enough to let us buy 2, even though she wasn’t open, and passed our goodies to us through the grill. So we continue and I say to Shaz, ‘let’s walk on the path until it ends, then we can hang a left and continue through the squares.’ So we walk swiftly with croissant in one hand and suitcase being pulled by the other. All of a sudden, we see a man, clearly drunk, dragging one leg as he walked. He was walking fast behind us, and so we picked up speed. Shaz at this point was feeling uneasy and I told her to relax, it was fine. We continued to walk and then without any warning, the path at the edge of the canal ended. There was no left turn to make! There was nowhere to go. We heard the man and his draggy leg getting closer to us. Panic set into Shaz. The plan was to turn around, since we had nowhere to go, wait for him to approach us and then we run on either side of him, hoping he gets confused. And so we waited in anticipation. Shaz might’ve dropped her croissant at this point, but I had time for a couple of bites. And as he approached the dead end, we ran as planned. And we ran and ran, not knowing in which direction we were going. I laughed so hard I thought I was going to pee my pants. And then a rat ran in front of me and I screamed, and probably scared Shaz. And then we ended up in one of the squares. We tried to read the map but it didn’t make sense. We went up some stairs, and down others. We turned left and right and crossed bridges and window shopped. We saw a young fellow and asked him for help but he said he wasn’t from there and so we continued to be lost. I rang the bell of a hotel, since at a certain time, the doors are locked. But no one came to our rescue. We were alone and it was late and an eerie feeling over came us. It was like being in a scary movie.

We ran into the young chap again a short while later and he asked us what place we were looking for. I was suspicious as he had told us during our first run in that he wasn’t from here. So I stayed a few feet back from him, and Shaz decided to engage in conversation with the guy. So he continues to tell us how he’s lost. I can smell the alcohol on him. So now, my younger sister, the kind person that she is, asks him where he needed to go. She explains to him where the water is and provided assistance to him. He continued to ask questions and I was not impressed at this point. He seemed shady to me and for crying out loud, we needed to find our hotel, as 45 minutes had passed. And so I had to say ‘Shaz, this is about us and we are lost and we have to go now’. And so we walked away from situation and 10 minutes later, found ourself at the same square again!

As we continued with our journey, 3 really big guys were walking towards us. Now, this made me panic for the first time. Oddly enough, Shaz seemed fine by it. I curled my fingers into a fist, and stared at their faces. I’m not sure what I was going to do, but thankfully a man, out of nowhere intercepted and paced back and forth, on his phone. The 3 guys just looked at us and carried on walking. We didn’t stop the man on the phone to ask him to help because he seemed very engaged in his conversation. It was a frustrating moment and I thought that maybe we should turn around and go back to the 3 ladies’ hotel and just sleep there for the night. But again, how would we get there when we didn’t know where we were?! There were so many small streets and dead ends, that it made Venice seem like a complicated maze. Over an hour had passed and se continued to get lost. We made a turn and ended up back on the canal. I saw a hotel and told Shaz I was going to buzz and ask them for help. Was I ever glad when I read the hotel sign and realized it was where we were staying! A 10 minute trip, took us an hour and a half! The next morning we made it to the ladies’ hotel in 8 minutes. We were pros, or so we thought. That evening, it took us an hour again when heading back to our hotel! And this pattern continued for the 4 days. We have no clue why we were able to find our way in the morning, but continued to get lost each evening. how bizarre.

Shaz’s Version

It was 1:00 am when we finally left the Aunts and Mom in their hotel room. We dragged our luggage down the stairs and made our way to the concierge to ask him for directions to our hotel. The kind man at the desk gave us a small map and highlighted our seven minute route. There was no way it should take longer than seven minutes according to him. With our luggage clickety clacking behind us, we made our way onto the boardwalk. Near by, a bakery had begun their early morning baking of delicious croissants and delectable sweets. Shez and I were able to knock on the gates and get two chocolate croissants…yummy! With the croissant in one hand and my luggage wheels clicking against the cobble stone boardwalk, we were on our way to our hotel.

As we walked, talked and ate our croissants, I couldn’t help but soak in the smell of the water splashing against the walls of the canal and the beautiful stars floating above us. As I was lulled into this fantasy world, I started to hear a thud…drag…thud…drag. What could that possibly be, I ask myself. So I turn around. And that’s when I see him…hunched over, dragging his left leg, eyes locked on us. Shez! I say. We need to get out of here. This guy is going to do something to us!!

As I turn around and look ahead, I see we are approaching a dead end. To the right of me is the canal and to the left are little alley ways where we can make good our escape! But Shez, being the eldest and the wisest, says lets keep going, he’s just drunk. Just drunk? Just drunk? His leg is dragging because he’s hiding a sawed off shotgun and he’s planning on robbing us of our luggage! All I could think about was what was in my luggage that I could take out to use as a weapon…tweezers? Hairspray? My roll brush? Wtf!! It’s just Shez, myself and this dude. He could chop us into pieces, shove us in our own luggage (mine was locked by the way so good luck to him 😉 and throw us in the water and no one would be the wiser! We finally reach the end of the boardwalk and he’s right behind us. He decided to follow us to the end! I looked at Shez and said I’m outta here! With my luggage in one hand the chocolate croissant falling out of the other (awesome) I bolt around one side and she runs around the other. With my 50lb bag flying behind me we start running down the alley. Zig zagging through any open street we can find, climbing up stairs and running across bridges on my to climb down stairs. The weight of my bag is taking a toll on me, but I know I have to run!

We finally take shelter between the crevice of two buildings so we can catch our breathe. The wheels of my luggage are worn… I’m surprised they are still attached. As we slowly begin to catch our breathe, Shez says, see I told you he was just drunk and wasn’t following us…and then…I hear it again…thud…drag…thud…drag! The drunken bastard is following us!! We start running again! Up and down alley ways not knowing which direction we are headed or where we are. The streets are empty. The bistros are closed. Not a soul is stirring. We decide to stop to figure out where are. Luckily I still had the map in hand. As we try to position ourselves and the map to face north, we begin to walk down the alley looking for a street sign. With our luck the sign we see isn’t on our map. By this time it’s 2 maybe 3 am and I’m exhausted and just want to crawl into bed. We find ourselves walking and walking, taking a left turn here and a right turn there…only to pass the same building  for the third time.

Out of the blue, a curly headed boy comes out from one of the side streets and asks us for help as he is lost. I show him our map and we try to figure out where we are. It’s at this point that Shez decides to pipe up and says we have to leave. I felt so bad because he was lost and didn’t have a map like we did. Shez says, of all the people that you should be scared of, it should be him! But he was lost I said. That was enough of that conversation. So we keep on walking trying to figure out where we are, but no luck. At one point, Shez says, lets just go back to moms hotel and sleep there for the night…and how, pre tell, are we going to get there?!? We have no clue where we are. Tired and miserable, we keep on walking. Our luggage clinking behind us. We see a building with a light on and excuse to ring the doorbell. I stood there, in anticipation, hoping someone would answer the bloody door! But not a soul in sight. So…we keep walking. As we turn the corner and walk down another alley, three men, alcoholic beverages in hand, come out from another. They start to walk towards us. At this point, I can’t even think about what I could take out of my luggage to help us. Then I hear Shez say…we’re dead. Awesome. If she says we’re dead…we are definitely dead. As they keep walking towards us, getting closer and closer, all I think about it is how I’m going to punch them all in the balls. And that’s when it happens…a security guard with a gun belt walks out from another side street, steps in between us…he’s on the phone. Phew. The three men turn and walk the other way. We need to get to our hotel. Before we can ask the security guard for help he’s on his way chatting on his phone. We turn down another side street and see light pouring through a door. We decide to walk towards it hoping someone will be there. The doors open. It’s our bloody hotel. It’s 3am.


2 Years in a Nutshell, Part I December 16, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 9:00 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The posts over the next couple of weeks will be in no apparent order, but it will document my memories of the last 2 years, specifically related to my work and travels.

I think that I have seen just too much sometimes, that things that might phase the ordinary person, do not always get to me. I mean, I have had my fair share of interesting sagas- I was almost locked in a restaurant on hotel grounds, with the music being turned up so loud that I could not even hear myself. Then 3 men walked into the restaurant from the back entrance…good thing my instincts told me to bolt out of there. I learned, that in some countries, you should never be the last person dining, especially the last woman. In some hotels, people come into your room when the do not disturb sign is up! Men will shake your hand and hold it for a few seconds too long. I sat next to a woman on a plane, chanting loudly and making tsk tsk sounds every few seconds. Oh and yes, how about the man who was clearly having too much fun under the blanket on a 9 hour plane ride! No joke.

Never mind the cockroaches, ants in my hotel bed and mice I’ve had to battle. Oh yes, I cannot forget the 2 children who massacred the plane, as their parents watched. The best in flight video ever….different types of cutlery are shown on the screen above the toilet with a big red X on them. Seriously, how many people take their meal trays in the bathroom with them? This lady cried once because she wasn’t allowed on the plane. It was about to take off and she was too busy shopping. Apparently, it wasn’t her fault that the gate was so far away. She screamed to let her on the plane while it was in taxi. Then she made the person at the desk walk her back to the main terminal to pick her bags up. I watched all of this as i waited for my delayed flight. And yes,I have missed 3 flights this year alone.

A bachelor party took place on the plane from Majorca to Geneva. They were a fun bunch though, dressed in pink. In front of me sat a little boy, about 2 years old. He was traveling with his father, who left him alone twice to go to the bathroom, unbuckled and who then fell asleep before we were even all the way up in the air. The poor boy was so bored, tearing up a magazine and crawling under the seat. At one point, I got up, reached over the father, and brought the child back to sit with me. At least we could entertain one another. His father didn’t even blink. We played games on the iPad and took funny pictures with the iphone booth app. It was great fun. It wasn’t until the pilot announced that we would be landing shortly, that the dad awoke and panicked. I tapped him on his shoulder to tell him the little one was with me. He just said ok and closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Of course, sometimes the journeys are chilling. Like when the helicopter had to land in the middle of nowhere in Kyrgyzstan. There were about 11 of us if I recall correctly. How would 11 ppl find their way to the city while in the middle of the mountains? A trailer type thing drove by. An Australian and New Zealand couple were on a road trip. They were on their way to Afghanistan. Imagine they had exactly 11 seats left in the vehicle. Divine intervention.

I was forgotten once at 3am when I landed in Islamabad, Pakistan and recovered my lost luggage, which was dropped on the runway and later found. Instead of doing the obvious and heading to the Serena with one of their cars which would have been the safest thing to do, I found ‘mommy’. He claimed to know where the hotel was that I had to go to. I told him there were two with the same name and I needed the guest house. He said he’d been living there all of his life and he knew where he had to take me. To make the story short, we ended up at the wrong place, got lost going to where we were supposed to after he got directions to the right one and ran out of gas. I was left alone at 430am in the middle of the road, while he went to find a cab, which he didnt get. He called a friend to get us…yes, I know, mad thing to do. I finally insisted he take me to the Serena and I’d sort things out the next day. Lucky for me he was a nice man. Honest. And he really did make sure I felt comfortable. He actually made his friend stay behind on the road and watch his car while he dropped me.

I must say that anyone that I know that has been to India has had a nightmare story. I was rather lucky to have met great people for the most part. No rickshaw drivers took me for a ride- well a joyride! Once one got lost but it was my fault because I didnt realize there was more than one Taj hotel, and he was super apologetic. I then decided to walk at 11pm, having no clue where I was and not knowing that Delhi was one of the unsafest places in India to be romping around, let alone. After all these years of living alone, I rented an apartment in Delhi, well a room. The other room was empty and I honestly did not think after a month of being there by myself, that someone would move in. Yes indeed, Hugo from Paris. A 20 something year old who was there on an internship….to party! Beer bottles lay around and chip wrappers were left here and there, along with the countless number of pizza boxes. But leaving the doors unlocked and the iron on….gees. He fell in love with a Russian model and soon I saw Hugo less. She had a 10pm curfew so they tried to make the most of the evening. He was a nice boy though, always offering me his pasta with ketchup or trying to get me to come out and party.

Of course, there was Josephine from Uganda who journeyed with me from Dokollo, Uganda to Kampala. She shared her tragic but inspiring life story- a woman who had fought all odds. However, about 6 months ago she emailed me to say that her caregiver had gotten her pregnant. Sometimes, life is made too difficult for people. However, her baby is negative as Josephine was infected with HIV.

I have been asked to climb on the back of motorbikes without a helmet and almost attacked by baboons. I have had to sly away from stray dogs. Walked with keys in my hand just in case I needed to poke someone’s eyes out. Been spat on. Sunken into mud. Hugged and been hugged. High fived. Been adorned. Laughed so hard it hurt. Danced in the rain. Been drugged. Been eaten alive by bed bugs. Thrown up on an airplane. Seen flight attendants throw up because the turbulence was so bad. Shared intimate conversations with strangers. Fallen a few times. Had nice, strong strangers help me with my bags. Had some of the best, unhealthy foods. Loitered at the grandest hotels. Smiled with glee. Loved. Been peed on….

I have gotten lost plenty of times, including in the subway station in Moscow because I couldn’t find my way out amongst the hundreds of people in there and that made me a bit anxious. I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English. I saw a bus driver in Delhi get beaten. That made my arm hands stand up. I’ve watched children play all sorts of outdoor games. Gotten rashes and DE. Seen some of the best beaches in the world. Listened to some of the loveliest tunes around. Lost things. Found things. Melted in the heat. Gone blue in the cold. Seen different kinds of wildlife. Gotten stuck in the most horrendous traffic jams. Shopped till I dropped.

It is true what people say….once you start, you can’t stop!


Interaction of Human Souls December 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 3:23 pm

In our lifetime we meet many persons from different walks of life.
Some we like, some we become fond of, with some we feel comfortable,
with some we feel affectionate, some we want them to stay around with us,
with some we strike meaningful conversation, with some we feel the warmth
and sincerity, some become life long friends after having met the first time,
some become loyal and trust worthy
BUT there are some we don’t seem to like even during our first meeting, without assigning any genuine reason we would like to keep away from,
some people we meet quite frankly, we seem to develop a dislike for, and there are some we don’t want to know.

The Question is : Why this happens.
This is due to interaction between different souls.
I came across this in a newsgroup and found it profound, it sheds some
light on why we react to some people and why we sometimes feel that we
have known that person even though we have never met them.
With each person who passes through your life, you have a soul agreement.
What this means is that, long ago in the realm of the soul, you promised
to have some special encounter, share some life-shaping experience,
complete some soul-honing work with that particular soul in this life.
Soul agreements are commitments to the evolution of our individual souls
in conjunction with one another, as one by one we make the journey to
that state of seamless awareness that the mystics call Enlightenment.
It is because of these agreements on a soul level that at times you may
feel a mysterious strange connection with some other person, why
difficult people may at times inexplicably inhabit your life, why you may
find yourself on a journey with a particular person – as if you had an
unwritteen contract to fulfill – and then discover that, as if by
amputation, your association is suddenly over.

As the community of souls who have gathered together in life on Earth, we
have agreed not only to remember for each other the pure state that was
our origin, but also to act out whatever portion of the needlessly
changing tableau of human experience. We have been called upon to play to
ensure our own souls growth, And that of the souls to whom we have made
these deep promises.

Some of us are here to be beautiful and strong, others to be cranky and
difficult, some teach us through the searing heartbreak others to
But no matter what role we are playing, we are all enacting a part in
that one great spiritual destiny, which is to remember our eternal
essence and move toward ultimate union. So it is that every person you
meet, each soul who crosses your path and affects you- wonderfully and
terribly, briefly, or for a lifetime- is here for that reason, and every
relatioonship you engage in is but a small scene in the vast,
ever-unfolding human panoply that is being endlessly enacted for the purpose of your souls development.

When you recognize this, you will suddenly, breathtakingly see that each
person has been brought to you with a high and elegant purpose, that each
soul has come to touch your soul and teach it, and that each relationship
exists to hasten your own souls beautiful awakening. No longer is anyone a stranger, no longer can any of your relationships be seen as failures to mistakes. In the light of the Spirit, we see that we are all playing out roles that are the fulfillment of an exquisite and all-encompassing plan.
To recognize this is to step out of conflict, and into Grace. For when we
realize that life has been so beautifully designed, we will bask in the light of the Spirit we will live in absolute Peace.