Friday, July 30, 2010
Monday, July 12, 2010
Wow, Cierra blogged! I think going to London, Paris, New York, Zurich, Madrid, Rome, Barcelona, Dublin, etc.. Would be a great adventure. In Paris we met a young Korean woman who was doing this sort of trip, seeing the big European cities. So go Cierra!! So glad I was able to start you on a life of travel.
Today is Monday, July 11th
I woke up today feeling inexplicably but intensely sad. I think this is probably partly due to the fact that I am still adjusting to being back, and feeling out of sorts and disoriented. Trying to reconnect with friends, and also with myself. Trying to reconcile all the things I went through for the past month, and to process the emotions that were most likely on hold while I was in travel and survival mode.
I think I had tremendous fear about my trip. Mostly related to the financial part of it. I’m just beginning to sift through the layers of this and how it took over my life for at least the past 9 months! But the fear was not only about this trip. It has to do with much older issues about me and survival, and my ability to be successful, a "real" grown-up, etc.. I think I mentioned in a few blogs that during some of the lower points on the trip I felt like a failure. But I wasn’t really failing at anything specific. It was more a sense that when things were hard I blamed myself and was sure that there was something I should have done differently or better in order to have avoided the mistakes or the negative experience. It also seemed to me that if I had more money, I could just hop in a taxi, travel first class, buy an expensive dinner instead of walking a mile to a cheaper place, stay in a four star hotel that was more conveniently located.. When I was not able to stick to the spending plan I had for the trip, this was proof to me that I was failing and that I probably should not have taken my daughter to Europe in the first place. And there were so many little things I had not anticipated. In retrospect, aside from a few emergencies and the food expenses being so high, I did okay. But I ended up using a credit card at the very end and this was not part of my plan. I will be able to pay it all off within 2-3 months, but the point is that the fear I had about the finances in the first place made it harder for me to even go to Europe without having a credit card as a back-up, and using credit cards is not something I do in my life anymore.
Where the fear set in was throughout this past year trying to save for this trip, but really struggling to do so. When I would tell people I was going to Italy and France, I had this sense of them thinking I must have a LOT of money, and therefore I didn’t deserve to complain about my money stress. But the truth is, it WAS too much for me to do financially right now in my life. I see now that I handled the fear and the planning for the trip in what is typical fashion for me. I try to force solutions to all the things I’m afraid of, but in doing so, I don’t have an open mind, and then I get myself into more difficult circumstances. So, for example, when I got advice to possibly shorten the trip, I was stubborn and didn’t want to do this. In the end, I was so exhausted and ready to come home by then end of June, it really would have been fine to come home then. (A week early). We would not have seen Paris, but there could have been other times in life to go to Paris! And I also think in terms of negative absolutes – “this will be the last time in my life I’ll ever get to go to Europe, because I will grow old alone and poor” – is a typical way of thinking for me. Sad, but too often true.
I don’t write this to beat up on myself more, but to try to learn from this and to assess why I am so sad today. Cierra went river rafting with her dad, and I’m alone with my morning, my cats, and my intense emotions. Listening to Jack Johnson, sipping tea. The learning continues, even back here at home.
Last night I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Berkeley. I sat with my little niece and nephew and watched a movie, cuddled up on the couch with them. I think it was the safest and most comforted I have felt in a long time, holding their little bodies and smelling the baby's little head (you know that baby head smell?). I suppose another part of this sadness is just being alone, not having someone to talk to before I go to bed at night or when I wake up in them morning. So for now, my blogging is my way to be less alone, to talk to and connect with you all, and to share some of this soul struggle of a life lesson. I hope my mood will lighten soon, and I will be able to focus on positives and to go through my life lessons with grace.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Wow, reading through this, I just realized how much I complain! I mean here I am, going to this amazing high school and having the time of my life this summer and all I can do is complain about it? Jeez! There must be something seriously wrong with me! Well anyway, on to more important things. I really enjoyed my time in Europe and I just CAN'T wait to go back someday. Speaking of which, I had this thought in the airport in Boston. Basically, when I'm about 19 or maybe 20, I want to travel around the world, visiting the most important and well-known cities, starting and ending with the one nearest to where I live. Now, this is where you come in. I need help making a list of these places that I should go and the number of days in which I'm to see them. Any suggestions? I realize of course that this will not be for another five or six years but hey! Planning a trip takes time and believe me, it's no picnic! I'd LOVE to hear your ideas, so please comment!
Now, back to returning from my trip. I've been getting pretty tired at around 5:00 p.m but trying to stay awake until at least 9:00 so that I'll sleep in in the morning. The time difference has definitely been the one thing that's just totally thrown me off. Don't get me wrong though, I find the whole thing really interesting but it's kinda tripping me out. But oh well it's all part of the fun I suppose. Well, like I said, I'm pretty exhausted so I'm going to say so long and farewell to everyone out there in cyber land!
Until next time then
Friday, July 9, 2010
Been traveling since 5:00 a.m. France time, which means we have been traveling since 8:00 p.m. yesterday, San Francisco time, and wont get home till about 11:00 p.m. tonight. Basically that’s about 27 hours of traveling straight! Took the metro to a bus to an airport about 1 hour outside of Paris. Then flew to Dublin where we had a BLEH.
I’m so relieved to be back in the US. I can’t wait till this last leg of the journey is done.
But the computer is very low on battery juice, so I’ll just add more tomorrow.
Friday, July 9th
I’m HOME!! Wow. Never have been so happy to see my little apartment before. It actually is a HUGE apartment by European standards! Cierra is still asleep and I’m going to take one of my cats to the vet.
Here are some pictures of Mical And Claudia's Apartment so you can see just how good we have things here:
This is the living room where Cierra, Miraa, and I slept. Cierra is still sleeping in this picture.
These are pictures of the kitchen:
And this is the hallway.
The other room is M&C's bedroom, but it was small too. They said their apartment was actually really big. Many people live in just one room, kitchen, toilet, and all. C'est la vie!
Anyway, there are still several things to post. There were two other places we went to in Italy - Vicenza and Lake Como, and still much more to say about Paris, and the travels in general. I must sleep a bit more. I hope Cierra will do more posting! (HINT HINT).
Happy to be home, looking forward to Thai food, going to the movies, and running at Phoenix Lake :-)
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Tuesday, July 6th
Just back from seeing L’Arc du Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Had a huge French meal at a restaurant my brother took us to. It was delicious but I’m glad I walked a few miles afterwards. I’ve pretty much given up on being gluten free and today just decided to eat all the bread and pastries I wanted. It is hard to find a grounded place with food when traveling. So much of the time I feel like I have to just be okay with what is. The result of course is that both Cierra and I are having gluten reactions. For me it's a lot about rashes and perpetual itching...
Paris this week has been amazing. So full of experiences I think i could write a whole book just about this week!
Some Paris highlights were spending time with Mical and Claudia, seeing some incredible historical buildings. I'm in love with all the statues and sculptures here. Being in the Louvre for almost 6 hours and only scratching the surface of seeing the art there, using my very very rusty french again which I studied for eight years but haven't used for about 25 years! Pictures will have to wait a few more days because it's too late tonight for me to download. We went to Montmartre today. Saw the Moulin Rouge, the Jewish section, a view of the whole city, some really amazing musicians playing on some stairs, and then tonight Cierra and I went to the Arc Du Triomph AND the Eiffel Tower. When we got there they were sparkling lights on the entire tower, which aparently they do every hour for about 15 minutes. We had perfect timing and got there just around midnight!
I'm wide awake at 2:00 a.m. and have to be up at 5:00 to take the metro to a bus to an airport to fly to Dublin, the Boston, then finally SFO. I get incredibly anxious about traveling so it's no surprise I can't sleep. Had a great and intense last day here. Some things I can't post in this blog but suffice to say this has been quite a week in PAris. Our timing was not actually so great for Mical and Claudia because of how long they have had people staying with them and how much they need their apartment to be their own again. But we all had a good talk today and then went to see more of the city and to get hot chocolate at a famous place near the Louvre called Angelina's. It was by far the best, creamiest, richest, bestest hot chocolate I will probably ever have in my life. Claudia also gave me a beautiful gift today. A green necklace that she got in Rome. It's incredibly beautiful and I think it will attract wonderful things and people into my life.
I am so glad to be coming home! Things I miss most about home:
Ice, electric fans, swimming pools, air conditioning, my car, my cats, gluten free eating, cold things to drink when it is hot, knowing what to expect, convenience, my friends and my family (who are not here), taking a bath, uncrowded spaces.
What I will miss about Europe:
Mical and Claudia, speaking French, really really good food, Pain au chocolate, the beautiful things I see at each new turn, great public transportation, learning new things (sometimes the hard way), hearing several languages spoken all around me at once, things that are more than 200 years old.
I have learned a lot these past 26 days. And there are, of course, so many things I would have done differently had I known what I know now. But the mistakes are part of the whole experience. I definitely got to see my own resiliency as well as Cierra's! I'm very proud of her. She was a trooper and put up with me when I was falling apart. She's a good traveler and really has been able to appreciate all of this. We have about 24 hours of travel ahead, so I'll hopefully write more on the plane.
Bon nuit, or bon matin! it's 2:47 a.m. Mon Dieu!
Monday, July 5, 2010
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Still in Paris. It’s rather stormy today. Thunder, lightning, etc.. I’m grateful because it should cool things off. It’s a little after 9:00 am. Cierra is still sound asleep and I’m listening to the storm. We’re staying in D’Alesia, a neighborhood in the left bank in Paris. The apartments in Paris a TINY. This one is supposed to be one of the larger ones. All I can say is that we American’s are so used to SPACE, we have no idea how little space you can live in. We are five here right now, Mical and Claudia, Miraa, Mical’s mom, and Cierra and I. Miraa flies home on July 5th, and Cierra and I on the 8th. It’s a one bedroom, and a small living room. I have always complained about the size of my kitchen at home but this kitchen is half the size of mine! I’m going to take some pics of the apartment to give you some idea of the space, but it takes me a while to upload my pics on this computer because I'm usually fighting over it with Cierra.
Somehow it’s working out fine in the apartment, even having Mical and I being sick, and in the heat and humidity. I think you learn how to move differently in smaller spaces, and to simplify what you do.
Not sure what we will do today. This evening we go for dinner to a home of some of Claudia’s cousins. Her step father, Jacky, is French so this is his side of the family. Maybe we will hit a museum before that.
Anyway, I want to try to catch up and I must write about Venezia. When I booked a hotel for us, I ended up finding a pretty good deal in what I thought was Maestre, the City on the mainland closest to Venice, about 10 minutes by train or bus. But where we actually stayed was in a place called Magheara, a town just south of Maestre. This would have been okay if we had a rental car, or even if there were more busses going in to Venice, but the reality was that we arrived on Thursday evening June 24th and we were told by the people at our hotel there would be a strike of all the busses, boats, and trains on Friday from 10-1:00. I asked her if we could go earlier in the morning on the 9:15 bus, and she said yes, they would be running earlier. So we went up to our room and got ready to head into Venice for the evening, to look around and have some dinner there. We had a nice evening, though we were tired, and were able to make decisions about what we would do there the next day. Our bus back to the hotel left at either 10:20, or not until 12:00 midnight. So we caught the 10:20 p.m. and got back about an hour later. The bus was not so nice. People were drunk, some smelled bad, and it was packed.
The next morning we got up early to have breakfast and catch the 9:15 bus. At this point in the trip, I had started getting sick with a cough, and I was trying to ignore it as best I could because we had to see Venice! So we had breakfast and went across the street to wait for the bus. We got there about 5 minutes early. There was one bus that came, but was going into Maestre not all the was into Venice, so we didn’t get on that bus (1st mistake). We waited with a large group of people, mostly all tourists trying to head into Venice. There was a group of Russian Gymnasts, about 8 little girls, their parents, and a couple of their guides. They began to worry too when I explained what I knew about the strike. We all waited anxiously for almost an hour and eventually many people began to give up and go back to their hotels. Two young women from England said it was about 9 Kilometers to Maestre. I figured we could walk there and see if there was a cab or maybe a train we could get to Venice. 9 Kilometers is not quite six miles, but I was determined and we didn’t want to wait half a day in the room. So we started off (2nd mistake!). The walk went through a kind of industrial area. There was very little shoulder on the side of the road for us to walk, and the cars were whizzing past us. Cierra was mad, I was frustrated, and felt so powerless yet determined to get there somehow. This would have been a good time to practice letting go, trusting, and waiting, but I was stubborn. We walked for about 4 miles. Eventually we saw a place across the street we could get some water and I wanted coffee. So we went there and had a rest. Cierra went to the bathroom and I looked across the street and saw the bus pass!!! I was furious. So we went on walking feeling liked we had been tricked. Somehow I took the stupid strike personally. I began to beat up on myself – the failure that I am and putting Cierra in this situation, and this was the low low point. I started crying and asking God what I should do. About another mile later we saw a hotel across the street and we decided to ask how much it might be to take a taxi to Venice. They told us it would be at least 40 – 50 Euro, in other words, a LOT. But then another bus went past. He told me that the strikes do not include everyone. Individual drivers decide themselves if they will drive. So we went back across the street and waited for the bus and eventually another one came!! We took that into downtown Maestre and then caught another bus, who also was not striking, into Venice. We got there at about 11:30 a.m. If the woman at the hotel had explained that not ALL the busses would strike then I might have avoided the mistakes.
But getting into Venice after the morning we had had was wonderful. We started wandering through the streets, stopping in shops, taking pictures, etc.. The day was great. It was a Friday and we knew from the guide book that there was a Jewish section of Venice, where the original Ghetto was. There are about 5 synagogues there and since we felt in need of some sense of connection, we thought we might even be able to attend Friday night services. I had a small hope that we might get a feeling of belonging, something I knew I was in great need of, but I also had more doubt than hope that we could find this feeling of belonging in Venice Italy, of all places. So we took the boat to the ghetto, and when we arrived, we started to see some kosher food shops and restaurants, shops selling Jewish items – mazzuzahs, posters, manoras, etc.. We came to where the synagogue was and met a man who looked religious, a white shirt, black pants, wearing a yarmulka. We asked him about services and he explained that they started at 7:30. He gave us some candles and told us the women first go to light their candles at the Gam Gam restaurant around the corner from the synagogue, and then they go into services. He also invited us to have dinner with everyone from the congregation at Gam Gam afterwards. I still had doubts that they would really let us eat dinner with them, or I assumed if they did it would cost a fortune, but I was open to what was unfolding. We almost were not allowed to go into the synagogue because we did not have our passports with us, but they just asked me a bunch of questions and sort of “screened” us, and told us not to leave before the services ended. So in we went. The women sat separate from the men, and we had this kind of wooden barrier between us and the men, not without holes carved in it, but enough so that we felt very separate and it would be hard for the men to look at the women. I am assuming this was the point, because the men should not be distracted from their prayer..? The service was, of course, all in Italian or Hebrew. There were other visitors there too, so Cierra and I didn’t feel out of place. But the Hebrew was spoken so quickly, and not very lyrically, which is what we are used to. I was able to recognize a song, and Cierra was able to recognize a little of the Hebrew, but it was a vastly different experience than we are used to at our reform synagogue in Marin!
After services we timidly walked toward Gam Gam, and once there, were welcomed by the rabbi who asked where we were from and then ushered us to a table! He was so warm and friendly, I felt like we were being invited into a friend’s home. We sat with other Americans and some Canadians, and had one of the most delicious meals we have had on this trip, and of course we ate challah. I was very very grateful throughout the meal. Cierra couldn’t get over the experience of having plenty of food to eat.
When it was getting close to 10:00 p.m., the meal wasn’t over but we thought we should catch out bus home and started getting ready to leave. The Rabbi asked us why we were leaving and I explained that we had to catch a bus. He then invited us to stay over because he had an extra room!! I was completely floored. We decided to stay later to catch the later bus and finished the meal. We left very full and happy, and were not charged a dime. So it was as if we had a home away from home for the evening. The Rabbi also invited us back the next day for services and then lunch, but I said we were leaving the next day for Vicenza.
So that is the Venice story. Pretty amazing and wonderful after a rough start!
More soon. Ciao!
Friday, July 2, 2010
It's July 2nd, and we are now in Paris, It has been many days since I have been able to write and we have had many ups and downs. But I’ll start with where I left off. The bizarre bathroom experience occurred on our trip from Cinque Terre to Venezia. We had about an hour to wait in a train station, so after our Indian “kebab” lunch, I searched for the loo. I found some people waiting outside of three doors. Beside each door was a machine for you to put .50 Euro. The machine told you what to do, in Italian. So I waited. When a woman came out of one of the doors, I figured I’d just go right in instead of paying the .50 E. Bad idea. Luckily a nice tourist also in line pantomimed to me that the bathrooms are self cleaning and of you go in when the other person emerges, you will be sprayed by the soap and water that basically is like a car wash for the bathroom. So luckily, I waited. The door, like a high tech elevator door, slid closed and I heard the water being sprayed in the little room. I thanked the guy, and waited till the machine told me to put my money in. When I went in, the door closed itself, elevator style, and I noticed a red button you could push in case you got trapped in there!! Then everything in there had a button. The toilet paper, the flush, etc.. really tres bizarre! Before our train came I told Cierra she had to try it, and she was as weirded out as I was. But before that, we were in Cinque Terre:
Tuesday, June 21st
We got to Cinque Terre late on Tuesday afternoon. We stayed in the 2nd of the five towns, Cinque = five, terre = land, so literally it’s the five lands. Our town was called Manarola, and it’s one of the smaller towns. Each town is kind of built on a steep peninsula. I LOVED it there. Manarola is actually built over a stream that runs down the mountain and so parts of the village are built above or around this stream. I can’t quite describe how magical it was to get off the train and find the restaurant of the people who rented us a room. The restaurant was down near the center of town close to the water. We talked with the owner who then told her husband to take us to our room. I first thought we would be in the building above the restaurant, but we were told to follow this nice man, the husband, who began walking us up the road through the town. As we walked he and I tried a little communication in French and Italian. It was very VERY steep, and we kept climbing. Cierra was carrying her backpack, but mine rolls on wheels and the very nice man was pulling it for me, so I had much less to carry, and could begin to take in the things I was seeing. It’s like a dream, the beauty and perfection of this place. We finally got to our room at the tippy-toppest part of the town. Above this the hillside is all filled with gardens and more trails. It was all so breathtakingly, almost shockingly beautiful, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world to be there!
Our room was clean and airy, with a small balcony. Here is the incredible view from our balcony:
After settling in we changed clothes and took our time walking back down into town.
We then bought a two day Cinque Terre pass so we could hike the trails and take the trains. We decided to hike to the third town of the five, Corniglia. By this time it must have been 5:00 pm and the hike was still pretty hot, but gorgeous.
Cierra and I were very tired though, having gotten up at 5:00 a.m. So we stopped for a drink in Vernazza, the fourth town:
then we took the train back to Manarola and had a nice (expensive) dinner. We then went back up to bed. The next day was also breathtakingly beautiful. These pictures don’t even do it justice!
We had to leave the next morning which was sad, but we had a train to Venice to catch. This was when we ended up in the crazy toilet train station. It was another long day of travel north and it took all day and several trains. The trains in Italy are very different then I remember from when I was a teen. They mostly smell bad, are packed, and hopefully you get a train with air conditioning. So when I planned this trip, I had images of being on the trains based on my experiences of 25 years ago, and I was in for a rude awakening! The worst part is that being in Italy, getting information from anyone is like pulling teeth, so most of our train experiences were stressful, frustrating and exhausting. They also warn you in the guide books that on the Italian train system, even if you buy a ticket, and it has the date on the ticket, you still have to validate it in these little yellow boxes before you board the train. The boxes on not on the platform, but are inside the stations. If you are caught on board with an un-validated ticket, you get a large fine from the people who work checking tickets on the train. On one ride I realized I had forgotten to validate our tickets, and I waited anxiously for the duration of that train ride to see if we would get caught. We almost did, but the conductor got involved in some other problem with some passengers tickets, and he never came and checked ours. Phew!!
One thing that has struck me often on this trip, are the differences between me as a teenager, and Cierra. I unfortunately was raised by parents who did not really take care of me. Both emotionally and physically. I grew up struggling with really bad situations that were extremely difficult or painful without having a parent who could help me solve problems or who might take some responsibility off my young shoulders. I have done years of work on myself to try to learn how to trust in the world, to feel that I deserve to ask for help and to receive help, and that I don’t have to do everything on my own. But being a single parent often re-awakens the old experiences of having huge responsibilities that were so overwhelming as a child. So you must guess where this is leading, right? Being alone with my daughter in Italy and traveling on multiple trains trying to get help from people who mostly don’t speak my language and who respond to requests for help in gruff or even hostile ways was a re-triggering for me. I see how I tend to go through life with a worrisome cloud over me, and it shows on my face. I mostly feel I've handled it okay here, but there were several times when I would feel like I wanted to hop on the next plane home and as if I have failed in bringing Cierra to Europe. It doesn't make a lot of logical sense, but that's about as best I can describe it right now. It was emotionally exhausting for me and it is only now, writing from the relative safety of my brother’s flat in Paris that I realize why it was a rough week for me in many ways. Cierra is different when there are problems. She gets worried, but she also knows I will handle and take care of things. She has had the experience since birth of two parents who take care of her needs, and thus she has such a deep sense of trust in just being in the world. She doesn’t mind taking up space or depending on the help of others. She doesn’t have deep shame and feels good about herself most of the time. I see it in her as we wander through Europe. It’s nice to know she has this solid self that I am only getting a grasp on now in my life.
So I will write about Venezia next time. Venice was where we had the best high and the worst low of this trip so far. But I’m hot and have to go out to the store for some vegetables to make a kale salad tonight. It’s 4:00 pm and wont get dark here till about 10:30 tonight. I’m praying for cooler weather tomorrow!
Ciao, Au Revoir, bon nuit!
Lost track of what the date is but I know it’s Wednesday.
Ok so remember a couple of posts ago I was talking (well appreciating) the hot Italian guys? (If you don’t, then I really don’t know how to help you) but anyway, I, being in the midst of all these gorgeous, shirtless Italian boys, simply just couldn’t resist…
Friday July 2, 2010
Well, seeing as that post (the one above. you know, from Wednesday?) was not nearly long enough, I thought I would finish it today.
I'm in Paris now, and boy am I glad! We are staying at my uncle's little flat and we have Internet and free food and it's just great! But on to more important things. Yesterday, I had my first real croissant and got to see the Notre Dame (which was A-MAZING!) HOWEVER, I do have one complaint. It's hotter than hell! It's supposed to cool down tomorrow though, so hopefully that means we can go SHOPPING! God I hate being hot. It makes everything, and I mean EVERYTHING more difficult. It always makes it hard to focus or get anything done... but I'll stop complaining...for now.
So you know how I finished that book Runaway like a week ago? Ya, well since then I have been without a book which has really not been good considering all the waiting I had to do in the past nine days. It's very strange for me when I have nothing to do because I am so used to just doing one thing after the next and never stopping. There's always somewhere we have to go or something I have to get done, so when all I have to do is wait, I get antsy. And it's bad too, I can't sit still which means I get more hot then I already am! But you already know ALL about that!
You know what I recently discovered? When you're hot, one of the simplest ways to cool down is to just stop moving. Of course this is a bit difficult when you have a forty pound backpack on your back... But back to books. So yesterday, we found this little bookstore (an ENGLISH bookstore) which turned out to be the Shakespeare And Company bookstore. (Apparently, it's pretty famous.) So, I got two books, one of which being Through The Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. (but you already knew that) So I am no longer without a book which, my friends, is very happy news indeed.
"Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the the borogoves,
And the mome wraths outgrabe."
This is by far one of the greatest nonsense poems in the history of English literature! And this is only the first stanza! I've always loved the stories of Alice and if you haven't seen the new movie yet, you should! It's was so well done (as Tim Berton's movies always are) and it's well cast too so if you haven't seen it, hurry up and do so and if you have, then see it again!
Well, that's all for now. I'm too hot to really write anymore so Au Revoir!
Saturday, June 26, 2010
After the wedding on Sunday the 20th, everyone pretty much left town the next morning. Cierra and I left Santa Therese area and headed to the West side of the Island to Alghero, where our flight would leave the next morning AND which is thankfully the same airport where Cierra’s backpack was sent. We got a ride there with my brother’s friends Scott and Laura. The trip to Alghero took a few hours, but was pretty much uneventful. Except that Scott was really cranky and didn't try to hide this from the rest of us. We went straight to the airport before heading into town to find a hotel, because Cierra and I were desperate to find her backpack. Something as simple as picking up a backpack took over an hour and went something like this:
We found a baggage department and waited in a line, only to be told to go to another office related to the airline holding the bag. We waited there while a screaming African man took about 15 minutes of time, well, screaming, at the young woman sitting at the desk. When it was our turn, we showed her the bag receipt and she looked confused, told us in Italian that the bag was not there but with the police? Or maybe she said security. So I asked where we should go and she went in the next office and talked with another woman, and then got a key out of a drawer. I was really kind of holding my breath through all of this, hardly daring to believe that we would actually get the bag. She then walked across the hallway to the security office, but she came right back without the backpack!! Then she talked again with the other woman in the office next to hers, who told her to make a call. She made the call, and tried again to go across the hall to the security office, but no luck. Then she talked with the other woman again, and then told us to follow her. We followed her across the airport corridor toward departing flights and she told us to go through the security screening. So we did, but of course they wouldn’t let us through because WE HAD NO BOARDING PASSES!!!!! She was gone by then, and we were stuck trying to explain to the Italian security guards that we had been following a woman to get our bag back, and he looked around and said “What woman?” Finally, realizing we could not follow her, our woman, (whom I was seeing as the incompetent woman by then), came back and rescued us, only to be told that we did not have to go through security, so we then followed her around security and went outside where the planes are, then back inside another door, over to a closet which she unlocked. I immediately spotted Cierra’s backpack there. It was one of maybe 4-5 bags there, and I tried to point it out to miss incompetent but she shooed me out of the closet in Italian. She finally looked at and matched the numbers on her paper with Cierra’s backpack, and gave it to us. PHEW!!!! We hugged and kissed the backpack and made our way back to the main part of the airport, found Scott and Laura, and left. So that was the saga of the lost luggage. THE END.
We later found a pretty nice hotel in Alghero and spent the night there because all of us left early the next morning. Scott and Laura were flying home from Rome, and Cierra and I were flying into Pisa where we would get a train to Cinque Terre. Laura was really helpful because she and Scott had already been traveling through Italy a while before the wedding and she had some very helpful information about the hotels for us. One thing is that you have a card attached to the key ring, which has to be placed in a slot near the door for the electricity to work in the room. This way, when you leave, there is no way to waste electricity or air conditioning because you leave your room key at the front desk. She gave us her Italian phrase book, which has been very useful at times, and she and Scott gave us some tips about finding places where they sell “Kababs”, a kind of wrap with meat and lettuce, kind of like gyros which are greek food. These kebab places are relatively inexpensive and "to go", so they can save money when one is hungry.
But I must pause here to talk about the food. There is not much in the way of vegetables to be had when you are on the go. Of course, if you can cook, there are plenty of ways to eat veggies, make salads, etc.. But without a kitchen, it’s hard. Combine this with trying not to eat gluten or dairy, and you are in trouble. Since leaving Sardinia, we have struggled with how to eat so we feel healthy, avoid foods that cause us to have bad reactions, and not spend a fortune at restaurants. I’m sorry to say, we are pretty much failing at all of the above. One success was a “kebab” place across from a train station in Viareggio, where we stopped on the way to Venezia. It was kind of like Indian food, and we had rice, chicken, and potatoes in a curry sauce. We have also been able to find some rice cakes which we can eat with Nutella for breakfast, or with meat and cheese, tomatoes and olives for lunch. We usually have yogurt, fruit and coffee for breakfast. But dinner is not easy. We have often been exhausted and starved by dinner, and that’s when all the places with foccacia or pizza start calling to us. It’s also hard to find places to go to the bathroom, so often you have to pay for something to eat or drink if you want to pee. EVERYTHING costs money here. Going to the bathroom in Venice cost us each 1.50 Euros each time, which is about the equivalent of $2.00, so aside from when we ate in restaurants and used the bathrooms there, I spent $8.00 for us to pee!! The other money issue I discovered is that since I bought all our train tickets in advance through RailEurope, I paid around $650.00 for both of us to ride trains for a week. Now that we are here, and asking the price for train rides on the local trains, it appears I was charged almost three times what we should have paid for these train rides!!! It makes me nauseous just thinking about the "helpful" woman who sold me these tickets. I feel like someone should sue this company for what they are doing to innocent and ignorant tourists!!
But back to the food. It’s really good, and very fresh. There is amazing fruit, cheese, fish, wine, yumm. But each time we eat out, because we try to avoid pasta, we spend about $50.00 to get some fish and maybe some potatoes. A grilled fish, with nothing else, can easily cost 10 – 15 euros, and so we have to order French fries or salads so we don’t end up hungry. The salads are usually just romaine lettuce, maybe tomatoes and carrots. They cost about 5 euros, or about $7.00. So if I had no concerns about money, this might be a bit easier, but that is not the case. Once we get to Paris we are staying with my brother so we can cook. But otherwise this is turning out to be another difficult part of this trip. I should stop complaining though. I know it’s such an amazing reality that we are even here, and yet I have to write what my experiences are, or this blog will not happen. So I will move on from the food issue.
Okay, one more thing. The Italians can be rather gruff at times. Not all, and when people are nice and helpful, it REALLY makes a difference, but there are some who just can be downright mean when you ask for help. I think the traveling experience is helping me get a little thicker skinned. I have to ask for assistance at each new place we go, often in a mixture of Italian, English, or French. It seems like the people who work in the informazzione booths at train stations or airports really DONT want to give you any information! The post office experiences have been the best so far. Actually kind of hilarious. The people we have had helping us have actually been very nice, but I don’t know if we will ever see the things again that we mailed home. We really brought too much and have also bought some things so it became clear pretty quickly that we needed to send some things home. The funny part is that we get very different responses depending on the post office. Today was crazy. We wanted to send home 3 books and a pair of sandals. They made me separate the shoes from the books for some reason, which one woman tried to explain to me in French. It costs a small fortune to send anything, so it was probably not worth it, but after you spend 30 minutes trying to get a box and then trying to understand what they are saying, I have found I just want to be done with it all. I spent about 47 Euros which is about $60.00. OY!
I had a funny experience the first post office we went to in La Spezia. I waited almost an hour in line, and then the man helped me put everything in a box and tape it. (By the way, he didn’t mind that there were shoes and books in the same box). But after all this, it was 1:30 and they were closing for the day. So I had to leave with all my stuff in a large box because they wont postpone their lunch break for anything, and he said they would not reopen until the following morning at 8:00 a.m.! So we had to mail it from the next town on our journey. It's all rather exhausting, but definitely a learning experience!
I will have to explain about the bus and train strike that occurred on Friday, but it will have to wait for another time, 'cause again it is late and we need to sleep. Thank you for reading this. It helps me to have all these new experiences and then say to Cierra, "we have to blog about this!!"
Things I will blog about in the next several blogs:
Cinque Terre, the train/bus strike, a very bizarre bathroom experience at the train station in Viareggio, Venice and the incredible shabbat evening, and my thoughts about being a fearful person in the world, (me), Vs. a trusting person in the world, (Cierra).
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Photo from 6/15 - Santa Theresa, Sardinia.
6/20/10 - Mical And Claudia's wedding
WOW!! What a day!
After a final effort to reach SOMEONE at an Italian airport, I finally found out that Cierra's pack is in Alghero, and that since we are driving there tomorrow, we can pick it up then. PHEW. What a relief. I think I will hug and kiss the backpack when I actually see it.
We spent most of the day helping with decorations, name place settings, and trying to help make the whole event happen as best we could. I don’t think I’ve ever been so involved in a wedding that was not my own, and it felt really good to help and to be part of this new international family. I may not have mentioned before how much I value family, community, and feeling “part of” some kind of group effort. I really believe that this kind of involvement is what gives us meaning in life. So for me, to come to such a far away place and being surrounded by people from all over the world, I felt included and was happy to help, despite the stress.
My brother, Mical, married Claudia Canu, who’s family is from Sardinia. Mical is a pretty incredible guy, having been on his own since the age of sixteen when he decided to move out to CA from Maryland as an emancipated minor. He has lived in South Africa, Chile, France, and now he has just gotten a job in Sardinia, so he and Claudia will be moving to Cagliari, Sardinia in August. Having had this connection and experiencing the culture here, I can honestly say I might even consider moving here someday if it works out. But who knows what the future brings?
There were friends and family at the wedding from Italy, USA, France, Norway, Germany, and England. I was able to fully enjoy myself , (finally), having had a phone call from an airport official in Alghero, Sardinia, letting me know that Cierra’s bag was there and thankfully, this is the airport we had to fly out of today. So knowing we would actually be able to get Cierra’s bag was a huge relief and I was able to be fully present for the festivities. The wedding was beautiful and translated back and forth between English and Italian. It was beautiful!! Cierra took some amazing pictures during the ceremony. I decided not to take pictures so I could just enjoy the moment of ritual focused on love and family.
After the ceremony we went to a restaurant and a few of us, Cierra, myself, Sheila and Katia, spent a very harried 30-40 minutes frantically placing name ‘cards”, which were actually leaves we had picked and written names on with a silver pen, and we finally got everyone placed while the wedding party drank wine and had their hors d’oeuvres outside. It was also the coldest and windiest day we had on Sardinia, so everyone was happy to finally come inside and sit at their tables. Cierra sat with a small table of three teens incliding her. One seventeen-year-old girl, Sylvia, who is a cousin of Claudia’s, was placed with Cierra on purpose because she really wants to visit the US. They became friends over the course of the evening and we invited her to visit us in the future. I think they are already Facebook friends. I had a fun evening and loved watching my nephew tear up the dance floor. I had no idea he was such an awesome dancer. I'm sure my brother Lucas has it on video. He also has Cierra's song, which was amazing. She sang with one of Claudia's cousins, who played guitar. It was the perfect bringing together of both families.
There has been a lot going on since the wedding on Sunday. I did hug and kiss the backpack by the way. We were in Cinque Terre, which I have to say is probably the most shockingly beautiful places I think I have ever seen. We stayed in Manarola, and I will post pictures possibly tomorrow night. I have much more to say, but it's 12:20 at night and I'm sitting in a hotel lobby in Maestre, just outside of Venice. The mosquitos are eating me alive here, and Cierra is up in our room asleep. We had a long day of train and bus rides today, ending with a few hours in Venezia tonight. Seeing the Grand Canal, for the first time since I was eighteen, I couldn't believe I was really there and kept saying so to Cierra. I will have to pay more to use the internet tomorrow night, but had to get this posted tonight.
I'm feeling a little homesick. This is not an easy experience, but still one I will never forget. Cierra is a wonderful traveling companion. She continues to impress me.
June 24, 2010
On a train going to Venice
For those of you who don’t like reading, (you know who you are. You’re the ones who know us in some way or another, and therefore feel obligated to read this and are probably in denial because you are actually enjoying it) this is going to be another long post, so consider yourself forewarned! The reason for my EXTREMELY (yep that’s right!) long post is that so much has happened in the past few days, and I have LOADS to share about and plus, a few days gave my mind plenty of time to cook up some good ideas that could probably be spread out over at least three posts. So, here it goes.
First I would like to go back to a week ago to explain what happened to my lost bag.
June 15, 2010: Still no bag
June 16, 2010: Still no bag
June 17, 2010: NO BAG
June 18, 2010: (you guessed it!) NO BAG!
June 19, 2010: We find out that my bag has been sitting in Rome for 5 days
June 20, 2010: (The wedding) we find out that my bag is in Alghero (YAY!)
June 21, 2010: We FINALLY pick up my bag at the airport (with a bit of a hassle)
So, yes I am finally reunited with my bag! But still, WHAT A FREAKIN’ NIGHTMARE!!!!!
OK. On to my next subject. (You got through the first one, so you may as well keep going!)
In honor of Father’s Day, (yes, I am well aware that it was several days ago but I’ve been a little busy) I wanted to write to my dad. (For all the rest of you reading, feel free to read this too. If I had wanted to write something for my dad’s eyes only, I would have sent him a letter!)
Dear Daddy, (yes I still call him daddy, along with various other names. You got a problem with that?)
I miss you so much! Everywhere I go, I think, “Wow! My dad would love it here!” And you know what I decided? We are going to travel to some exotic place together (I’m not sure when but that’s ok…)
Just the two of us! Oh! And we still have to go on that air balloon ride. Don’t think I forgot about that!
But anyway, I wouldn’t exactly say that we’ve had bad luck so far, (although from our previous posts, I guess it sort of seems that way) but we definitely haven’t had the best of luck either. The whole trip has been pretty full of ups and downs but I guess that’s what traveling to foreign countries brings. You know, like a packaged deal. Speaking of packages, when I finally did get my bag, I discovered pretty quickly that I had brought WAAAAAAYYYYY too much stuff! (Which everyone probably expected me to do!) So, my mom and I had to send some things home yesterday (which was also pretty difficult) and are thinking we might need to send even more things home tomorrow. Mom has been a giant stress case about pretty much everything and continues to be amazed at my positive energy. (But how could she not be)
I also wanted to wish you a happy (late) Father’s Day and tell you that I love you. J I can’t wait to see you again and tell you about all my adventures in detail.
P.S. Keep reading Dad.
Next section. (I guess that would make this section 3?)
Cinque Terre was GEORGEOUS!!!!!! We stayed at the very tipy top of Manorola (the second town) and explored Riomaggiore, Vernazza, our little town, and Monterosso. We got some fabulous pictures and though you might want to see them so here you go:
Ok, so, yesterday, we had dinner in Vernazza and then had some gelato and when we got back to the train station it was like 9:00 P.M. Now, first let me tell you that we had heard a little earlier that there was going to be a train strike here in Italy and we were (of course) worrying about it. So, as we’re worrying, along comes this gaggle of guys (21 and up I think) who walked right up to where we were sitting to look at the train schedule and they overheard us worrying about what the hell we were going to do if the trains went on strike! So, that sparked up this whole conversation because we were all there waiting for our trains (which we ended up having to do for like an hour!) and eventually, one asked (just like they always do) how old I was. Well actually he asked if I was in collage or high school and I said, “I’m actually just going into high school this year.” And then he said, “No!?” and then I was like, ”Yep!” And he was like, ”Wow!” and then I said, “ Ya, I get that a lot.” And the whole thing was just hilarious! Oh and It turns out that the strike probably won’t effect us at all.
On to section 4!
I’m pretty sure most of you know this, but I LOVE to read. And I’m not taking about the reading that you do for school, because I HATE that. It’s a total waste of time and paper and the books usually suck. But anyway, as my mom mentioned a while back, we have this favorite author. And I, just today, finished another of her books called Runaway. Now the coolest part about this book was that it was about a girl, Holly, from another one of her books in the Sammy Keys series. So, Runaway is Holly’s story about losing her mother, going into foster care, running away, and being a homeless twelve-year-old, up until the point in her story where Sammy finds her and helps her out. And I LOVED it! After I finished it I started thinking about why I love these books so much and this is what I came up with:
Oh, but first I just wanted to say that if you ever read this Ms. Wendelin Van Draanen, this part is for you. I really wanted to thank you for writing and inspiring the way I write.
- I like the style in which the books are written. First person narrative. My favorite! And the way she writes, totally inspired my style of writing.
- The books make me believe in finding my own mysteries, giving people a second chance, fighting for what I believe in, and making the most of the life that I have.
- They are SO fun to read! And I can’t put them down once I’ve started them.
- And they are definitely one of the reasons that I love to read.
Despite all the ups and downs, I really am enjoying myself. I STILL can’t believe that I’m here and I am so grateful! And I know that some things will continue to be difficult, but I feel like this is all worth it. I am on the trip of a lifetime! And the best part? This is only just the beginning.
Monday, June 21, 2010
Now my turn… Second night in Sardinia. It was HELL getting here, but Cierra has summarized the hell fairly well. The only thing I would add is that I had hardly slept the entire week before leaving for this trip, so you can imagine the end-of-rope-ness by the time we had the security issues trying to get to Sardinia. I only shed a few tears of exhaustion. But things got much better as soon as we cleared immigration in Alghero. Everyone was there to meet us, and we all got into cars to head to a little town on the ocean for dinner. There were probably twelve of us, and we all had a fabulous meal and tried our best to speak Italian to the waitresses. My niece, Magnolia, is really painfully cute, and was so happy to see Cierra that she made all the badness go away.
Of course, there is the family stuff. This is, after all, a wedding. I’m sorry to say that there has been some drama, some awkwardness, and some issues with who is staying in which apartment with whom. But I love my brother’s fiancé, Claudia, and her family. Her mom, Juliana, is a very warm and strong woman from Sardinia. Her stepfather, Jacquie, is French, always smiling, friendly and warm. And although he seems to understand English, he speaks mostly French and Italian. So at 1:30 a.m. when I was trying to explain the problem that we had seven people and six beds, he didn’t seem able to communicate with even when I explained it in French.
Somehow we got through the night and into beds. Today, I actually had moments of feeling like I have truly arrived on a vacation. Especially lying on the beach listening to all the languages being spoken around me. Italian, French, English, and something I couldn’t quite determine.. I had a nap in the afternoon, and was woken at about 6:00 pm to the sound and drama of a thunderstorm. We all had dinner together at one of the apartments tonight, and I had fun talking and getting to know everyone.
Tuesday, 6/15. I’m still jet lagged. It’s hard to hit the wall and feel like I still need to be functioning and pleasant. Mostly I’m tired, woke up at 6:00 a.m. again today and feeling the effects of lack of sleep and still not having Cierra’s bag. We are staying in the far northern part of Sardinia. You can see Corsica from the beach here. It’s beautiful, although, just like it has been in northern CA, they are having strange weather and more cold and rain than usual for this time of year. We went with several others into town today, and went to a regular Italian lunch at a restaurant on the ocean. We went with Benjamin, “Beni”, who is German, Katia who is Italian from Northern Italy, and Dave who is from Northern CA and met my brother Mical when he was seventeen in Northern CA. I took pictures of two of the dishes we got at the restaurant, because of the presentation of them, one grilled vegetables, the other of a fish dish. Everything we have eaten here has been delicious, but I can’t actually do the “EAT” part of Eat Pray, Love, because I am highly allergic to gluten and get hives if I eat it. I also wont fit into the dress I got for the wedding if I eat too much this week! Since the bread, pasta, pizza, and pastries here are such an important part of Italian cuisine, I can’t talk a lot about the food, but today I ate pickled thistles for the first time and liked them a lot.
After lunch we hiked along the coast a bit, even though it was raining off and on. And then later in the evening all 25 people in our group went to have dinner at a family like restaurant near here where you had a choice for your multi-course meal of “Mare”, or “Terre”, Sea or Land – meaning meat or seafood. Again, delicious food, but much bread and pasta. I had a slight melt-down. Couldn’t keep the tears from coming. Mostly because we still can’t locate Cierra’s luggage and everything is so difficult here – difficult to find phone numbers or Internet access. We found one Internet café in a town about 30 minutes away, so it has been hard to get there. We are a large group of about 25 – 30 people and we are sharing about 5-6 rented cars. I am not one of the drivers, so I have to depend on others to get anywhere. I feel so out of control, mostly about Cierra’s lost luggage. Also, the money situation is stressful because for each text I send or call I make, I have to pay. I realize how easy we have it at home. Not just with having phone and Internet access, but really with every kind of business or establishment. Here you are lucky to get anyone on the phone, anyone who is willing to go out of their way to help look for things, I went online to search for Cierra’s bag and all I found was that they say it was delivered. We have given an address of a hotel near here for them to deliver it to, but it’s still not there, and I’m afraid we are in too much of a remote place for them to find us.
Wednesday – still no backpack. We went to the hotel twice today to check, as well as my calling Dublin Airport twice to speak to the lost baggage department. They told me it was sent via Air France through Rome, and then to Cagliari, the farthest airport from where we are in Sardinia. Supposedly it arrived in Cagliary yesterday. Cierra seems much less upset about this than I am, which surprises me. She seems to be able to let go and stop worrying about it, whereas I can’t let go and trust we will get it. I’m also perturbed about other little things – how we will afford to get through the rest of the trip, how to manage in each of the places we plan to visit since I forgot our book on Italy! I can’t believe I left it at home. And managing in situations where I feel so helpless and not in control is not easy for me. We went to a gorgeous beach today, and I finally got some sun. Then we came home and cooked a good dinner for those of us who are here. I love spending so much time here with Lucas Sheila, Magnolia, my niece and Josiah my nephew. At home we don't get to spend a lot of time together even though they just live in Berkeley. But to spend the week with them in the apartment has been great.
Wednesday night – Thunder just hit while I am waiting up for Cierra. Several people from the wedding party went to the other house where many of the group are staying about 25 minutes away from here. It’s midnight and they are not back yet so I’m waiting up. It sounds like we will get another storm. I must get to sleep. Hopefully the luggage will arrive safe and sound tomorrow. I’m still worried. How will we get through the trip if she has no clothes? How can I relax and enjoy myself when I am still worried? Cierra is able to forget the fears knowing I will take care of everything. She’s happy and connected, safe in the knowledge that all will be handled. But I feel the weight of the problem – no place to stay our last night here, not quite enough money for the trip, no car to get to the airport on the last day, and trying to handle it all without help. I think sometimes foreign travel magnifies what does not work for us in our lives at home – in my case, being on my own for everything on a daily basis, and here, I have to take care of things that I am completely powerless over, and also to depend on people I don’t know.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
You wont believe this, but there is still no backpack for Cierra. I have been pretty upset, and still trying to enjoy my days while feeling frustrated and fearful that we may have lost her backpack full of all her summer things for good. Aer Lingus has told me we can spend up to 180 Euros to get Cierra some essentials. The problem is that if the bag is delivered to the hotel in Sardinia after we leave, then we may never get it back! I don’t cope well with situations like this. I’m actually feeling depressed, and then aghast that I could be depressed while on the vacation of a lifetime!! So I’m stuck – calling Aer Lingus and getting different stories every day – today they said that the backpack was in Rome all week and was supposed to be sent to Sardinia today. But it’s Saturday so unless it got here this morning and couriered to the northern tip of the island, then we definitely wont get it tomorrow because it’s Sunday and NOTHING happens here on Sundays. So if Monday it’s still not here I may have to drive all around the island going to all three airports because we leave here Tuesday morning. The drive alone will be about ten hours, and that’s if I don’t get lost. But what else can I do? I can’t seem to let go of the backpack. It’s more than just the clothes and makeup. It’s deeper for me. I’m feeling like it’s such a huge loss, and I keep going over and over in my head what was in the backpack to determine the exact loss/contents. I have to learn to let go!! I'm s impressed with Cierra's ability to let go and still trust that everything will work out. She is so mature about all of this. She even said, when we first discovered that it was missing, that it was a good thing it was her luggage that went missing instead of mine. She's right too, which doesn't make me feel very proud of myself...
Monday night, June 21st, Alghero, Sardinia
We are in a hotel tonight and paid for internet access which is how we are finally able to upload all of this. Tomorrow we fly to the mainland so it will be easier to blog daily. I'll also be uploading pictures from the past week. Must give my impressions of the wedding, the family, etc.. But since we have to leave for the airport at 5:30 am tomorrow, now it is time to sleep.