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Adventures from Here and There

‘My Bike’ It’s more than just a fun ride! March 22, 2013

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 3:08 pm
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IMG-20130322-WA000It all began about a week ago when I wandered into the pillow section of one of the local department stores and saw this light blue beauty. It was love at first sight. I thought perhaps it was a display piece and so I sat on it, had a friend take a picture, and off we went. That night I dreamt of riding along the lake and into the clouds and over the moon. I had a popsicle in one hand and a balloon in the other.

I went back to the shop a couple of days later and learned that it was in fact for sale. I left the store again. You see, I only have about a week and a half left in Geneva. Did it make sense to buy it? I could ship it wherever I went next. But would I be able to ride it on the streets of Kenya, India or Haiti?

Yesterday was Navroz, the first day of spring, and the New Year. It was also late night Thursday, the only evening that shops are open until 9pm in Geneva. I had just left a function and while I was on the bus, I had this overwhelming urge to stop at the department store. It was on the way home. I hopped off 20 minutes before closing and went straight for the pillow section. It was still there. I took a look at it, it all seemed fine and it was mine within 5 minutes!

I rode it home along the dark, streets and past the lakeside, but decided I would wait until the following day to ride it along the water. Since I had just come back from a formal event, I was in a dress, pretty boots and had a small evening purse with me. I was an interesting sight to the few that witnessed my jubilation. When I got home I realized that the bike was not going to fit in the elevator. Of course it wouldn’t. 2 people can barely fit inside the elevator without having to smell each other’s breath. So now, I had no choice but to carry her up five flights of spiraling staircases. I had no clue how to do this. I lifted my dress up a bit, swung the purse handle over my shoulder, bent my knees and lifted her. I made my way up the never ending stairs, pausing on each floor along the way. By the time I hit the top floor, I was sweating like I had just been in a bike marathon and definitely had pulled a muscle or two in my back.

I found a nice spot for it by the balcony after having to re-arrange some furniture and sat there admiring it. While I was riding it home though, I noticed that the front wheel made some weird sound…clickety click. It was somewhat annoying to me and I needed to figure out what it was. So I asked a long, lost friend, who had also given me the push to buy the bike, despite my hesitations, if he was around to Skype, so he could tell me what the noise was. I have not seen him in about 20 years and nor had we spoken before he got the idea into my head. I just had this feeling that he knew about bikes. He was kind enough to take my call at 10:30pm, his local time. Well, we weren’t able to solve the mystery, but we did have a great catch up session.

There is a bike store around the corner from my place and I decided to take it over this afternoon. I got to the shop and it was closed until 2pm. The second shop that I went to was also closed. Who closes shop at noon? We aren’t in Spain! And so I hopped back on and rode it to the department store where I bought her from. Along the way, something weird happened and the brake felt funny and all of a sudden, it snapped! I couldn’t stop! My legs quickly reacted though and I was able to place them down on the ground to stop myself from hitting a lady with a bag of g I got off and then some sort or groceries. And then a screw fell off. This was not good. I walked it the rest of the way.

I got to the department store and the sales girl who sold me the bike was there. She didn’t speak English well and my French is…pretty much obsolete. So she called over a sales person who spoke English, somewhat. I explained the whole ordeal to him and he sort of understood but said he was going to call a colleague of his. And so this man, who somewhat resembled Sean Penn, arrived minutes later. He seemed to know all about bikes and put the brakes back together for me. Both men realized that the reflector lights were not working and so they fixed them and the bell, that was buggered too. They tightened a few screws and then told me there was not enough air in the bike. The whole time, people were walking by and smiling and admiring my blue beauty. A couple of passerbys wanted to know where they could find one. I was proud.

One of the men felt that the seat was not leveled for my height and so he got to work. Julian arrived. He worked in the bike section on the first floor. They had called him down to inspect the bike. Julian was a young and energetic soul, but he needed to pull his pants up a bit. I went upstairs with him because apparently I had to buy a bike pump, since there was not air in both of the tires. Luckily, Julian was kind enough and told me to bring the bike to the back area where he would fill my tires up without me having to buy one.

So, I left the bike with Julian and asked him what the clickety click was too because the men downstairs were not sure. I ran downstairs to the chocolate shop and bought some Easter chocolates for my 3 friends downstairs who were soooo kind and fixed my blue beauty for me. There was an exchange of happiness. I ran back up to see Julian and he asked me what had happened to the bike. I was not sure what he meant bu that until he pointed to two long, deep scratches. What the…! How did those get there? And then another long scratch at the back. I was super confused. After further investigation he realized that when the seat was adjusted it had been done in an incorrect manner and that is what caused the deep scratches. I felt sad and Julian told me it was bad. He said he would accompany me downstairs and we would sort it out. I knew the only other bike that they had sold this morning Julian had fallen in love with blue beauty too. He had asked me how much it was, if there were more. He wanted one too. He did not seem the type at all to be riding a light blue bike. He would definitely need to pull his pants up though if he decided to ride a bike.

My 3 friends and Julian gathered around and Julian showed them the scratches. Alex, the only female threw her hand to her mouth in shock when she saw the scratches. You could tell that she felt terrible. The others did too. The manager came. Other shoppers surrounded us, making faces like they were looking at a dead body on the ground. There was a cloud of sadness above us all.

Alex ran to the arts and crafts section and brought back paint! Okay, this was going too far now. And then someone else brought a permanent marker! Another manager was called and he said that only 2 bikes had been ordered and they couldn’t get another. Then all of a sudden all 4 em employees got onto their fancy shop phones, and began talking really fast in French. I heard ‘Madagascar’ and a bunch of other words that I could not translate. Alex told me that they would call the ‘Chief’ and get me a discount if I wanted to keep her still. Did I want to keep a bike that had failed on me and that was now damaged? I felt that we had started off on the wrong foot. It was almost as though she was just not meant for me. Julian on the other hand was still admiring her.

One of the men got off his phone and told me he would get a new one by the 26th. Everyone sighed in relief. I was happy with the result. Julian decided he wanted to keep this blue beauty and I was happy for him.

I know that I could have probably got that bike for half the price and the opportunity to enjoy it for the next few days before packing it up. But I could see the happiness in Julian’s eyes. And I know how I am. I hate scratches on new things, even if I make them myself later on. It bothers me when magazine covers are slightly bent on the news stands. I don’t like it when handbags have scuffs on them even before I have had the chance to take them home. The decision to wait was a good one. And so my blue beauty has gone to someone else and I shall wait for another. I do hope that on the 26th when I go back to the store, that it is in fact there!

Maybe Julian and I can ride our blue bikes together. And so now I wait. It was an eventful afternoon, but a nice one in the end. The blue beauty brought smiles to many faces.

Oh and by the way, in the end…no one was able to figure out clickety click sound was!

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Bathing Cookies March 7, 2013

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 8:59 pm
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Absolutely no control. While the cupcakes are in hiatus, the cookies were still an evil temptation. A box a day would disappear. The last open box had to go. But how? I knew throwing them away would not make them less reachable…they’re in a box…still good inside, even if in a bin! So they got a bath first. And then were discarded. Now…how to get rid of those evil croissants?

 

50 Things to do in 3 Months January 22, 2013

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 5:05 pm

So, as I was sitting with a couple of girlfriends, having raclette last Sunday, it dawned on me…once again, that I will have a bit more time in the next few months to do a little bit of ‘fun’ stuff.

So, I came up with a list of 50 Things to Do before the end of April. I will bold ones that I complete.

1) Downhill ski – okay i watched!
2) Read at least 2 books that dad gave me to read last year and…
3) engage in a discussion with him about the books
4) Invite Estelle and Wahida over for a home cooked meal (since they seem to be my insipration for this list)…fine we went out for dinner
5) Take a writing course
6) Sleep in
7) Take a dip in the outdoor thermal baths
8) Tour Lyon
9) Have tea with someone from Interpol – the intention was there, we just did not connect
10) Get pampered in Budapest
11) Break plates in Greece – did not end up going to Greece
12) Sheesha in Istanbul
13) See a classical music concert – went to an opera instead
14) Take more photos
15) Go to the gym at least twice a week
16) Avoid chocolate for one week (this one will be tough)- I gave up on this
17) Find a new place for red velvet cupcakes
18) Write a travel piece
19) Be more patient
20) Choose 3 cities that I want to live in by 2022
21) Dance to techno in my apartment
22) Take a GIT class
23) Organize a wii party (will have to find one!)
24) Bikiniboggan
25) Get a medical check up done
26) Try a new fruit
27) Practice gratitude more
28) Take a train to Paris
29) Read Ricardo’s Oxfam Blog – browsed
30) Watch the news once a week – i began doing this but then became mentally exhausted
31) Blog every 2 weeks
32) Research on literacy
33) Eat Kale
34) Say good morning to 3 strangers every Monday
35) Eat more spinach
36) Start my 2 year photography book
37) Take vitamins everyday – does every 2 days count?
38) A random train ride through Switzerland and visit Lea and Yannick in Zug
39) Take pictures of children playing in the park (this one could lead to other issues)
40) Buy orange pants
41) Read through the Geneva Know it All book
42) Find 3 things to do from the Geneva Know it All book
43) Have chocolate moelleux (after the one week chocolate hiatus)
44) Try snowboarding
45) Watch the movie, the First Grader
46) Buy a big belt
47) Have a Starbucks everyday for one week
48) Write a letter to someone that I have never written to before
49) Wake up at 2am and grab a croissant from the bakery below me
50) Stretch and breathe and enjoy life

 

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

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 9:00 pm
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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!

 

Mango Lotion…this is a must! November 19, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 10:51 am

So I do not usually endorse products, but this one time, I have the desire to.

If you are a fan of mango scented lotions, then I must recommend L’Occitane’s Mango Flower Hand Cream. There is one for the body too, but I think I might attract too many strange…bugs if I lather myself in this stuff. I have tried other mango lotions out there, from different companies, but I must say, this one is definitely one you should grab, since it is a limited edition. Buy a few! It really does bring out the mango scent…the flavour, I am not sure and do not plan on tasting it. I had tried Body Shop’s mango butter years ago, and the taste of glycerine lingered in my mouth for the whole day. But if anyone would like to lick my hands, just let me know. I must add though that you will have to apply it often if you want to smell like a mango, as the scent does not linger for long.

I think this particular cream reminds me of my flat in India, and the plaza next door to it. There was a stand that I would frequent, where I found the best mango shakes! Of course, I would not look at what was happening behind the counter, as I noticed the black fingernails on the young gentleman that would prepare my drink, using his bare hands to cut the mangoes and throw them in, during my first visit to him. He had become accustomed to me asking for no ice, and less milk and adding my own bottled water that I brought with me to the blender. And if I ordered a small, ‘Madame, just buy big one today,’ he would nod and say. Oh those yummylicious mango shakes! I could do mango sandwiches, mango butter, mango lassi and mango martinis even!

 

This and That October 7, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 1:22 pm
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I’m dreaming again…this time of Brazil and Columbia. Anyone else having the same dream?

Fabulous weekend…Indian summer. Yesterday, I made it to a dance class that I used to go to last year. It was great to be jazzing and jiggying with it so early in the morning. Ran errands after that and then Kahila and I wandered through place de molard and lunched in old town, as we watched the costumed Ninja Turtles, detectives and other brightly masked characters playing out whichever fairytale they were in.

We strolled by the lake and found a little boat to carry us away. It was labouress! We were showered by the jet d’eau. It felt like being on the Maid of the Mist, though I’ve never done that. Finding a parking spot for our boat was a challenge as the large swans felt they owned the place. Which probably should be the case.

I walked along the water until I got to my place and rested for a couple of hours before getting ready to go to a housewarming in Chambessy. Friends from Kenya have moved here. I fail to understand how I can handle such complex transportation systems in places like Delhi or London with such ease.  I have a ‘feel’ for it. But when it comes to simple, more direct ways of traveling, such as in Geneva, I find it virtually impossible to get to my destination without misplacing myself. What should have taken me 15 minutes, took 1 hour and 45 minutes, by the time I got off the wrong train, caught a tram back to the main station, found the right train and then walked to the complex. All that exercise…I deserved a few drinks, double helpings of food and a plateful of brownies and apple crumble. Okay, so maybe I over did it.

People from here and there were at the party. I had met Estelle once before. Interesting one. She works in the area of climate change and corruption. Her husband I believe, works for an oil company. Contradiction. He was not there. The two of them have managed to be in the type of marriage that many in my field choose…married but living apart. It has been 10 years for them. At least he will be leaving the States soon and moving to the Netherlands in the new year. But I wonder how they will merge when they both end up living under the same roof some day.

Estelle, like me, seems to put her trust in other people’s hands while traveling to foreign countries. We shared our experiences of getting into strangers cars, having coffee with ‘dangerous’ folk, meeting some of the most interesting people because of these experiences, and feeling as though someone must be watching over us. I know that I must come across people who are not so ‘pure’ at times, I just cannot see it so easily. For example, a few weekends ago, Kahila and I went out in Geneva and met an interesting group. Well, they seemed ordinary to me, but she picked up on some vibe and sensed that we were not the ‘best’ to be hanging out with.  She was also able to pin point to a certain degree why she felt they were who she thought they were. Without getting into so many details, I would never have figured it out. It was only when one of them said to me at some point in the night…’sometimes you will meet good people, and sometimes not so good, you should be careful’, did I realize she was right and that he was warning me himself about the people that he was amongst. I think her intuition is strong and though she is super friendly and outgoing, she can still spot the shades of grey.

Well, at least Estelle and I have found one another. Tomorrow, we are going to go to the dance class together. It will be her first time. I hope her eyelashes do not fall off.

Yesterday night, I came home to the smells of the bakery. Yes, I still live above the tantalizing bakery where I am succumbed to the smells of bread and croissants by midnight. Often, I cannot resist. Yesterday though, there was no room in the belly.

Today, it is time to prepare for my next adventure. Kenya, I am coming. Mombasa, I shall be home soon.

 

Play more, wonder often a… September 18, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 12:49 pm
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Play more, wonder often and daydream.

This post is slightly different, in that you are the thinker, writer or artist.

Everyone should get their creatvity flowing once in awhile. For some, this comes naturally, while for others it can be a difficult experience. Try to create a story based on the following scenarios. Write it down or draw a picture to tell the story!

1) Your boss tells you that you are in charge of designing the new office. What does it look like?

2) You have just discovered that aliens exist.

3) On your door step, lies a bag with a million dollars.

There is no such thing as being born creative. Everyone has a creative side to them waiting to come out and play!