Posts Tagged ‘female backpacking europe alone’

If you call and Charo answers…it’s just me

Friday, November 14th, 2008

The one and only Maria del Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza Rasten (a.k.a. Charo)

The one and only María del Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Baeza Rasten (a.k.a. Charo)

First watch this (and, yes, you must endure a 30-second ad for Tide first).

Call in a second party to verify that there’s no way this is for real…and yet why is Diane Sawyer involved?

Then let’s talk.

http://cosmos.bcst.yahoo.com/up/player/popup/?rn=3906861&cl=10658663&ch=4226723&src=news

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(and if somehow this doesn’t come through, Google “Yahoo foreign accent syndrome video”)

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WHAT THE HELL!?!?

She doesn’t just have an accent, she’s not even speaking English correctly any more: “It’s the voice I have for 49 year.”

Is this something new I need to worry about!? I’m going to wake up some day speaking like a remedial ESL student? Maybe with an Asian accent (the single most far-fetched accent for a blond white woman. Except maybe for Jamaican.) I love flied lice!

What I really don’t like is the alleged fluency in languages she doesn’t know (she claimed), and never studied (ditto). So is she like possessed by a host of dead foreign people!? Channeling? How the heck is this possible!?!? It’s obviously not some form of savant-ism or super intellect, because she never studied those languages. I don’t know about you, but that spooks me out.

Another question: I can do a pretty good fake Scottish, British, and Irish accents. Couldn’t these women just do a fake American accent? Just asking…

On the other hand, put through this filter, perhaps Madonna isn’t faking a British accent. Perhaps she’s just having a series of minor strokes?

p.s.

After Liviu’s comment (on ‘Leaving on a Midnight Train to Sighisoara’ and worth a read – the comment that is!), I am feeling REALLY grateful to still have an intact brain at all.  And kidneys. And my own liver. Seriously. All throughout Romania people kept looking horrified that I was alone and saying things like, “You must have very big courage,” but I just thought they were being friendly or referring to my oversized backpack. Jinkies! I almost lived the movie ‘Hostel’!

I enjoy the crazy travel stories as much as (or more than?) the next guy, but not ones that start with, “Let me tell you about why I’m attached to this here dialysis machine…”

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Happy Halloween!!

Friday, October 31st, 2008
Although I'm a tiny bit embarassed to share this, here is your blogger as Catwoman.

Although I'm a tiny bit embarrassed to share this with you, I said I would so...here you go!

Halloween is an iconic American tradition, and I’m happy I decided to come home in time to participate. I have a Cat Woman costume that borders on obscene (and yes, those of you who appreciate me for more than my mind, I promise to post a picture) and a whole lot of enthusiasm to be back in a land where I can eavesdrop and actually understand what’s being said.

I also got home in time to vote. I won’t get into my politics – although it might make for a more popular blog in the short run – as I largely agree with anyone who suggests that it’s pretty much six of one, half-dozen of the other (meaning all candidates are largely interchangeable in the big picture). At the same time, I can’t say I’ll miss George W. If anything, my association with the man (association being that I happen to hail from the country he governs) has been the source of much antagonism and ill-will throughout Europe.

I believe in method acting.

I believe in method acting.

In particular, I recall a Greek cabbie who – without any discussion of my views whatsoever – launched into a fairly intense diatribe upon learning that I was American. The point repeated over and over was that, “After the towers fell, everyone was for America. Everyone. We were all for America. But then George Bush ruined that. He ruined America.”

I’m not suggesting that’s a coherent or well-phrased argument, but I will say that it summarizes the feelings of EVERYONE who dared to share an opinion the last three months. It’s sad to me that we have lost the respect of the greater world, and it seems a crying shame.

But enough about that. It’s Halloween, and I’m home. And tomorrow is a brand new day. And come Tuesday it’s a brand new presidency. And in the middle of all this opportunity is my brand new life. And anything is possible.

I’m off to squeeze into a poorly made shiny plastic outfit and find some good old fashioned fun. Whether or not you celebrate Halloween, I wish you a wonderful Saturday night! Take stock of what’s going RIGHT in your life, and make a toast to happiness: “May you have the hindsight to know where you’ve been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.”

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Goodbye with a smile

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Right after I cleared customs at JFK. Looking surprisingly lively for having been up 26 consecutive hours (with more to go!)

Right after I cleared customs at JFK. Looking surprisingly lively for having been up 26 consecutive hours (with more to go!) As an aside, the customs process we've set up for visitors (with the fingerprint and the photo and all that) is the living, breathing definition of clusterf-ck.

It’s nice to be back among people who flush their toilet paper. In Turkey – if there is any – they want you to throw it into a community trash bin or just on the floor in the general vicinity. Either way. this practice ensures a perpetual state of horror for the Western user. It’s also a fairly solid guarantee that the entire room always smells like a construction site Port-a-potty that’s been baking in the sun for a month.

Having lived with this TP scenario for the last three weeks, I thought I’d seen it all. That was until the water stopped running at the hostel last night, and things turned a little bit “Midnight Express.” After defiling the three bathrooms (which wasn’t much of a stretch), the natives grew restless. My friend and I were up late into the night, and at one point I heard water running. “It’s back on!” I told her happily, and she listened for a moment and informed me that what we were actually listening to was the sound of men urinating in the shower next to our room. ***cringe***

But, as you know, that is behind us now. I’m on an Air France flight from Paris to New York, and she is on a train to Macedonia. Although I’m in economy class, the trip seems positively luxurious. There’s a little TV in the back of the seat in front of me with dozens of movies (I just watched “Baby Mama” and “Sex and the City” and have moved on to “Hancock”), they served me a decent hot dinner that wasn’t a greasy schwarma sandwich, and no one has gratuitously hit on me in thirteen hours. Don’t get me wrong. I loved Turkey, but the men really need to get a grip.

We never actually got into the Blue Mosque the first time around, so we went back yesterday. Our timing was once again off, as prayer was in full swing, so my friend went to the bathroom, and I waited outside by the entrance while some guy shot a video of me. That ought to be some fascinating footage – me minding my own business, then realizing what was happening and transitioning from self-conscious to annoyed. It occurred to me that this must be a small taste of what it’s like to be a celebrity – you can’t get five feet down the street without people hassling you. Admittedly, in that case there are a few more perks (millions of dollars, mansions, fancy dinners, creative work, etc.), but it would still be a drag to put up with that day after day after day.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I saw my friend approaching and chatting with a man in a suit. They shook hands, and as they drew closer I recognized him: The Blue Mosque Man from two days before!!! The jerk that treated her like crap! Could it be?? Was he apologizing for his behavior?

They came up, and I looked at her wide-eyed. He turned, put out a hand, and introduced himself as if we had never met.. Wha….???? I said to her, “Isn’t that the….???” and she said, “Yes.”

“What did you just say to her?” he snapped.

In hindsight, what I SHOULD have said is “That I recognize you. You met us two days ago, and you’re a total dick. Go away,” but instead I felt intimidated by the way he was looking at me, and went into an inadvertent Helen Keller impersonation – deaf, dumb, and blind. I completely ignored him and grabbed her. He followed us for a little while, and – true to form – took his leave with a rude comment. And he wasn’t the only guy to turn hostile when rebuffed yesterday. Un-freaking-believable. They should make these guys wear a sign.

But don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of Turkey, and I would recommend visiting EVEN IF you have blue eyes and blond hair. Honestly. I would like to go back and see the areas I didn’t get to visit and spend some more time on the coast.

Güle güle (pronounced goolay goolay and probably not too bad sung to the tune of “Wooly Bully”) is one of the key phrases of my (pitifully limited) Turkish vocabulary. It means ‘goodbye with a smile’, and despite the annoyances and troubles and the concern that I might be forced to open a can of American whoop @ss on some unsuspecting guy, I am leaving there with a smile.

Otherwise, I’m kind of a weird mix of emotions right now. I’m ready to take a break from the traveling for a while, but I don’t know what happens next. I don’t have my career or even a job to return to, and I know deep inside I don’t want to go back down that road if I can possibly help it. I feel a little scared, but the plan is to channel that fear into writing and see what the universe offers up in the upcoming weeks and months. Put into perspective, my level of fear pales in comparison to how i felt when I left just three months ago for Iceland.

Traveling is all-encompassing. It takes you out of your head and away from your day to day concerns. It gives you a chance to just ‘be’, and reconnect with yourself, and spend your time as you wish, and see what that feels like. So now that I have this knowledge and this knowing, it’s time to apply it. One of my friends told me today, “You will be refreshed once you get back. Take some time to reflect on your trip and decompress. Then everything will begin to become clear for you.”

Amen to that.

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Time to Move On

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Waiting outside the Blue Mosque for the hour they let us infidels in.

Waiting outside the Blue Mosque for the hour they let us infidels in.

In preparation for one of the longer travel days of my life, I have some serious packing to do. I have a ton of things to tell you about, but I hope you forgive me as I think I’ll pend them until tomorrow (when I have extensive sitting on my butt plane time and a five-hour layover at Charles de Gaulle to find an internet hot spot.)

The Blue Mosque with perfect lighting (just after sunset)

The Blue Mosque with perfect lighting (just after sunset)

In exchange for your indulgence, I’ll post some pictures from the last couple days, and hopefully the captions will satisfy any Turkey cravings. Be careful the triptophan chaser. It’s a doozy.

As for me, the hostel no longer offers running water, and a strange man walked into the room T and I share while I was changing (she was downstairs at the time). It’s time to go.

I thought this shot was National Geographic-worthy. YET ANOTHER possible career opportunity!?

I thought this shot was National Geographic-worthy. YET ANOTHER possible career opportunity!?

It’s been a long, short, strange, complicated, exhilarating, exhausting, frustrating, and wonderful three months. In a way, I’m sorry to see it end. On the other hand, if there is one thing you know about me by now, it’s that I like to move on. And I’m ready. Admittedly, the locale isn’t quite so exotic, but I’m certain the story will continue to be compelling. And if it isn’t, I’ll just start making sh*t up.

Inside a mosque, flashing the blue eyes that get us into so much trouble...

Inside a mosque, flashing the blue eyes that get us into so much trouble...

So I leave you tonight with the (immortal?) words of Mr. Tom Petty,

Time to move on. Time to get going,

What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing

Under my feet, babe, the grass is growing

Time to move on. Time to get going.

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Forget running. I think we should consider building an Ark.

Sunday, October 26th, 2008
Before the race with my running partner. You can see that I am already DRENCHED.

Before the race with my running partner. We hadn't even started, and you can see that I am already DRENCHED.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. It sounded like someone had turned a hose – a fire hose – on the hostel room window. I kept having, “Look! It’s the sun!” dreams to counteract it, but every time I woke up, the torrential rains seemed worse. It was practically Biblical in proportion. If it starts raining locusts or blood tomorrow, I won’t be terribly surprised.

Thus, sleep deprived and somewhat dreading what was no doubt going to be an outrageously wet morning, I got up at 6:30 a.m. and suited up – as best I could – for the run. It is safe to say that I was tragically unprepared. In order to face a long run in 12C/58F degree weather, I had:

  • Running Shorts

  • Short-sleeve t-shirt

  • Jog bra

  • Baseball cap

  • Socks

  • Running shoes

That’s it. That was the complete and total assembled wardrobe and I was drenched to the BONE within minutes. I think we can all consider ourselves lucky that this post isn’t coming to you from a Turkish hospital where I am being treated for hypothermia.

God bless ‘em, but Turkey is wildly disorganized. At least they seem to know it. We were required to board the buses by 7:30 a.m, and they arrived at starting point of the race within ten minutes. Thus, we pulled onto the side of the road and sat there for over an hour – nothing like giving yourself a nice wide berth for unplanned mistakes and unintended consequences. As someone who attracts chaos and confusion wherever I go, I can appreciate this.

Faux race simulation for your benefit. I didnt want to risk ruining the camera by bringing it with me in the torrential rains.

Faux race simulation for your benefit. I didn't want to risk ruining the camera by bringing it with me in the torrential rains.

As we sat on the bus, I surveyed the Noah-esque scene outside. For a brief period, there was a glimmer of sun in the distance, and I felt a rising confidence that my dream had been a premonition. Sadly, my hopes were dashed when the clouds closed and the rains beat down even more furiously than before. For a while, there was even lightening.

Despite it all, the race began at 9:00 a.m. with zero fan fare. I heard a car backfire a few miles away (or perhaps that was the sound of a water-soaked starter pistol?) and the traditional ‘slow trot’ that marks every race on earth began. Istanbul is on both Asia and Europe, and the marathon’s ‘claim to fame’ (which is a bit of a stretch) is that you can run from one continent to the other. Specifically, that entails starting on Asia side, crossing three bridges, and ending by the Blue Mosque on the European side of the city.

Meanwhile, I’m not a super-seasoned competitive runner, but I have done a half-dozen or so in the States. There, crowds show, bands play, people cheer, and there’s an energy and a vibe that gets you fired up and keeps you moving. In comparison, the Istanbul Marathon was like a trip to the morgue. At one point, I ran in total silence for half an hour. I got so lost in thought that I almost crashed into some pedestrians who were wandering across the barricaded street in no particular hurry to get out of my or my fellow runners’ ways. The Turkish are like the wild turkeys we have at home – in the street and not really interested in your opinion of that.

As for the marathon itself, it could be the rain, but I doubt it. To be frank, there is no vibe, no energy, and no scene. No one showed up. No bands. No music. No giving a sh*t. At the most, people looked on confused or even annoyed at these two thousand or so individuals running in the pouring, driving, freezing rain. I thought we deserved a “Boorah” or maybe an appreciative whistle or something just for being insane enough to persist in this weather…but nothing. Even the WINNERS got nothing. As the triumphant Kenyan crossed the finish line in what was probably Arctic weather to his African sensibilities, a couple people yelled “Bravo!” From that point on, I screamed like mad for all the people in the final chute of the complete marathon.

With respect to the ridiculously relentless rain, I can count on one hand the times in my life I have been so cold. It was unreal. Just when you thought the wind and the water had to back off, it would get even worse. At one point a rain drop went directly into my ear canal and hurt for like an hour. The hair on my arms stood on end the entire time. Sometimes, the only sound I could hear was the “squish” of people’s shoes as we worked our way through the ankle-deep water backed up in the streets. Happily, my friend and I were wonderfully matched runners, and comfortably stayed together the entire time, occasionally moaning about how this had to be the single wettest run of our entire lives.

Otherwise, and to my own complete and total shock, I ran really well. I kept a good pace and was never tired. Only in the last couple kilometers did the cold get to my muscles, and I honestly felt like I could’ve gone at least 5KM further, maybe more. It kind of has me fired up to train for and do a full marathon. As for how I managed to muster this athletic prowess with virtually no preparation and my sporadic running schedule, it has to be carrying that damn backpack for three months. I can think of no other reason I was so strong.

And oddly enough, in many ways, the race was a fitting metaphor for this trip. As I was running up a hill near the end, I started giving myself the pep talk I’ve given so many times before, “You can do this. Just hang in there. You’re doing great. You’re tough. You’re all over this. You rock.” I realized I was pulling on many of the same physical and mental reserves I’ve used the whole time: Pushing yourself when you’re miserable, enjoying the moment and the wonderment of finding yourself in such a foreign and magical place even if it’s not quite going according to plan, stretching your physical and mental limits, and all the while discovering strength you never knew you had. Boorah!

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