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Adventures from Here and There

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!

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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.

 

What Are You Thankful For? September 17, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 11:53 am
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Today I am thankful for having shutters on my windows in Geneva. I actually did not know these existed until a friend stayed at my place and  I came home and they were shut! Up until then, the sun would shine in early every morning through my white curtains! I chose white because I like the simplicity of that colourless colour. I actually have to wash them soon as they have not been cleaned ever since I put them up. But I was worried about the sunlight coming in before and that is why I never took them down…but now I know that I have shutters and they are okay to be removed for a day or two.

I am thankful for finding my thick socks yesterday in an old bag at the bottom of my closet. It is starting to get cold here and I was wondering where I would find such socks in Geneva. Socks are hard to find in this city. Fun socks at least are not easy to come by. And the cost of 5 pairs back at home is what I would pay for one here! I found my brown polka dotted ones. I have them in my purse in case my feet get cold. Right now they are keeping  my ipad warm.

And this weekend I have to be thankful for the CSI Miami dvd that I found in a box. I do not have cable. The movie store down the road has been closed down. I cannot get netflix and sites such as Sidereel do not work half the time because they are blocked in Switzerland! I needed something to do on Saturday night and Mr. Caine kept me company. Okay fine, I know it is unrealistic, but I like the shots of Miami. I imagine myself on a beach when I see that.

So what do you have to be thankful for today??

 

The Visitors August 13, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff — travelchokri @ 8:39 pm
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It has been nice having people visit me in Geneva ever since I got back from India…literally, one day after. Faridoun from Croatia, or is it London or actually is it Kenya?! came on the Sunday and hung out here until Thursday. We went to the fete, rode bikes, ate a ton of food, sheesha-d, drank lots of coffee, and had interesting chats with other ‘out there’ people. Faridoun, I hope the talk on Ted X goes amazingly – human trafficking.

Next, came Nafisa from Nairobi. Well, she is really from Tajikistan, lived many years in Afghanistan and now has moved to Kenya and works in the same field as me. We did not indulge in Russian vodka as she loves to do, but instead we went to the fete with some others from here and there – nice to meet you Andwele and Scott from Afghanistan, well not really from there…and see you in Toronto Andwele. We went to an outdoor concert and had some interesting concotions and on the way home we wandered into a giant trampoline, leaving me with a few cuts and bruises. The haunted house was not scary at all but Nafisa kept screaming just for the sake of it. False advertising. She left for a wedding in Montreux. Not her wedding but some friends of hers who are not from here either but decided to have their wedding at one of the most expensive places that you can have a wedding…Switzerland. I wonder if they served Swiss food – racelette and fondue?

Then Farrah re-entered my life 4 days later. This was a much more chilled visit together, as my Farrah is almost 8 months pregnant.  We met up with Laili and had chais and went baby shopping. So I think in the 4 days of hanging out with them I must have got sympathy pregnancy (even if i am not the partner of either of them) or what is it called…or hysterical pregnancy? Because I was feeling tired and needed afternoon naps like them. I also felt stomach pains and then today, my tummy was out to wazoo! Maybe it is just bloating. Yes, I have eaten horribly the last few months, that it is probably just catching up now. I guess the bottle of Prosecco did not help either. Prosecco, not proscuitto as a dear friend keeps calling it.

Farrah and I of course could not go 4 days without shopping together and I ended up purchasing  a wallet which was very much not needed. It is getting personalized with my initials right now…well not right now exactly to be specific. We ate a lot too. I mean she was preggers and I was beginning to think I was, so can’t blame us. We watched an hour show of fireworks which is supposed to be second best to China. It was crazy. It was like all of Geneva was out that night. I am impressed with Farrah’s ambitious nature while she is preggers – we watched it all, except for when we took a break at Starbucks for chai lattes and chocolate chunk cookies. We enjoyed the fete and went on rides and played games. Didn’t win anything but that is okay. I wore red lipstick. She wore flat shoes! She went on the swings. I went in a ball in the water. It was peaceful and I would like one myself. Then I can float in the sea, not in Geneva as there is the lake and not the sea. But I can take it to a sea and blow it up and get in. But how will I get back to shore? Maybe I will float to the Maldives. I must remember then to take a picnic in case I get hungry. And a good book. Oh and yes, my docking station with plenty of batteries. It would be nice to see a rainbow from my ball and perhaps I will see fish that sing.

We watched a dumb movie, the name I cannot remember. We watched a funny but disturbing movie called Project X. We wondered if teenagers today are really like that?? Some of it must be true. Farrah worried about the future of Bug (the thing inside of her). But Bug will not turn out like those wild ones. For he has Kuku Masi to keep him on track. The only things I will teach him are how to draw on his bedroom walls, and eat off the kitchen floor. Yes, I will teach Bug wonders. Yesterday, we watched 16 Candles. I watch it at least twice a year for the last 6 years. I think that only North Americans can really relate to that movie and it is very culturally contexted (i do not think that is a word, but neither is confuzzled and i like that one). Whenever I would get non North  Americans to watch that movie over the past 6 years, they would get bored and not relate to some of the quirkiness in it. The Brat Pack. What a cool era.

Well, now, there is just me again. Until Thursday that is, then I am off on another adventure. Goodnight.

 

Madness in Geneva? August 9, 2012

Filed under: Random Stuff,Uncategorized — travelchokri @ 8:24 am
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Being back in Geneva has been alright. I was somewhat worried as to how I would feel after being in India for 3 months, surrounded by madness. This is a calm and quiet place. I guess a good one after 3 months in chaos. The Fete is on, which is the Geneva festival in the summer, so whenever I have the need for craziness, I just go there. It is 2 mins away from my place. The Middle Eastern folk are no longer here, as it is Ramadhan. Last year, the city was full of bhurkas and fabulous cars, which they fly down to Geneva for the summer. Strolling along the water, roller blading and biking have been somewhat tougher with all the people around, but still doable.

I have been getting more sleep than usual, which is good. Perhaps the days of insomnia are over? The energy is still there and it is difficult to find things to do at all hours. I work 9 to 14 hours a day, depending on where I am. I sleep for 4 to 5, which gives me 6 to 9 hours to play with! I read. I write stories. I blog. I facebook and now instagram! I watch movies. Go for walks. I meet with friends. I sometimes do scrapbooking. Tried knitting. Looking at online courses.  I think the next step might be meditation.

I had friends come into town the following day after I landed, and they continue to come. I went on a trampoline with visitors and fell many times. Farrah arrives this evening. My pregnant Farrah. More strolls along the lake and picnics at the waterfront. Cannot forget shopping and eating good food.

I am having many chai lattes again from Starbucks. Why do they call it chai tea latte? Isn’t chai and tea the same thing? Yesterday, a man was talking so loud on his phone and walking around, as though we all wanted to hear what he had to say. And then he complained about his drink twice about how watery it was, while he was still on the phone. Be nice. And get off the phone and explain to the person what the problem with the drink is. I felt like pouring it on his head. Did I say that out loud? I remember when my brother was about 6 years old. I was reading the famous Superfudge, by Judy Blume, which still happens to be one of my favourites. Fudge was being a pain in the butt and not eating. So his brother said…’eat it or wear it.’ I recall wanting to try that myself so I pushed my little brothers buttons and ended up creating a scenario where I could use that line too. Poor thing, he ended up with milk and cereal all over his head and lap. He pays me back now with carpet burns whenever I go home for a visit. He is much bigger than me now.

Dima left for Sri Lanka today. She was my noisy neighbour. She used to have parties through the night on weekdays too. One day before I met her, I banged on her wall with a broom very loudly. But I do not think she got the point. Then one day, I was watching a movie at 11pm at night and the girl had the audicity to knock on my door and ask me if I could keep it down…that she was trying to sleep! I did. Then some time later, I needed a bottle opener. I knocked on her door because I could not find mine. We became friends from that day onwards. I think we saw each other at least once a day ever since that day. I will miss that girl.

Time to go.