returning to Omaha was a quest. Traveling was a chore with the timezone changes, three flights, waiting, whining kids in front of us, a grumpy guy behind us, and low blood-sugar levels the last two flights. From the door of our hostel to the front door of my place, we made it in around 27 hours. Because traveling solo or with another person is stressful enough, I have to empathize with people traveling with kids through these terminals. Talk about a challenge to navigate through insecurity, to find something to eat, to keep the kids occupied, and to not lose any of the kids. I gotta hand it to the folks who travel with kids.
Jamie and I returned from the bullfight and a short trip to eat at around midnight where we packed up all our stuff and grabbed about five or six hours of rest before we checked out. The hostel we stayed at was quite in the sense that you never ran into any of the other guests, but noisy for the fact that a bar and restaurant were located directly below us. Because Madrid is famous for it's nightlife, people will stay up well past sunrise. This meant that earplugs were a necessity. But because we didn't want to miss our flight, we got the chance to hear everything happening in the streets. That night an intense game of drunken soccer with a crushed beer can occurred. Soccer is fun, but not at 3am and not along a street that echoes quite well. Sleeping didnt happen well. We awoke, showered, paid our rent, and made our way to the subway. As a sidebar, it's funny how you dont see the people we saw during regular business hours. I suppose junkies, winos, pimps, and prostitutes sleep in...and we were in a good part of town, too. With our backpacks draped around us we navigate our way past some nefarious and questionable activities happening in plain daylight to the metro. It's six am and the people on the train are zombies. Jamie and I are the only ones without bloodshot eyes, slow shuffling, and droopy heads. Across the platform was a guy in a group of three that couldn't stay awake. So, his friends did what intoxicated guys would do...flick him in the ear with their fingers and joke around with their buddy who falling to sleep while standing up. Some things dont change, no matter where you go. The hour-long train ride gets us to the terminal where we check in and make our way past the insecurity checkpoints. No 3-1-1. No "please remove your footwear, sir." Just pass your belongings through the xray and get on with your life. I always sigh in exasperation when passing through TSA insecurity. They do their routine because they are told to, right? Because we got to the terminal early enough, Jamie and I were able to secure seats next to the bulkhead. The good news was the extra legroom. The not-so-good-news was the positioning right behind first class. Their food, wine, champagne, movie selection, Bose noise-canceling headphones, and comfortable seats were just feet away. sigh...maybe next time if I work a bit harder, I can enjoy that luxury. On this flight is where I meet a grumpy guy who I will call Lex Luther. I dont think that Lex liked my presence in front of him because we were the same height, but he didnt have the leg room that I enjoyed. So Lex gave me a few dirty glances whenever i got up from my seat to use the restroom, stretch, or grab something from my bag. Getting to the terminal early paid off. Lex should have learned from Richard Nixon who said you gotta make hay while the sun shines. So...anyway you look at it, these flights from Europe are long. "Excuse me, ma'am...How many hours will this flight be?" "Long." That should be the only response. The flight was nine hours from Madrid to Miami. With the prebording and safety briefings, we were in our seats for a little over 10 hours. We arrive in Miami and pass through immigration where we stand and wait for our bags before passing through customs. While we wait for our bags, Lex makes another appearance and tries to squeeze Jamie out of her waiting spot by the baggage carousel. His maneuvering and strategy to be the first person to grab the bags off the carousel was all for naught when the the carousel rotated clockwise away from him, instead of counterclockwise like the carousels beside us. People go nuts when they want their baggage right as it comes off of the carousel. They will crowd right beside the entrance to be the first to grab the stuff and must not realize this mechanism does rotate in a circle. Lex was not happy about the bags moving away from him and Jamie was a bit miffed because this guy tried to box her out like a bball player. He's lucky Jamie didnt throw an 'bow to the gut. We get our stuff after a 20-minute wait, pass through customs, and drop our backpacks off at the luggage connection. But because the international and domestic terminals are separate, we get to pass through insecurity again and do the ol' 3-1-1 and please-remove-your-shoes routine. Arg. We get through that and make it to our gate for the 2-hour layover and watch the same 30-minute CNN news broadcasts a few times. We are both pretty tired and our blood sugar levels are pretty low. We grab a bit to eat and make it onto Dallas where our next flight to Omaha had a Nanny 911potential. The family of five was spread between two rows where the two young sons (think the twin boys from Desperate Housewives but not as mischievous) were in their own row with the Mom, five-year old daughter, and Dad behind the boys. The dad plugs his iPod in and tunes out while mom leans her chair back onto my knees, removes her sandals, and puts her feet between the seats ahead of her and tells the boys to behave. We thought, "oh boy, here we go." The kids were pretty rowdy until take off where the dim light puts them to sleep. Jamie and I were thankful things quieted down because we were getting to the end of our patience after being up for over 24 hours. When we landed in O-town we were in a much better mood because we were home. The two boys on the plane awoke and the first thing you hear was, "Daaaad, Jake slobbered on me!" to which the dad replies, "That's not slobber. Honey, can you grab me some napkins?" During the course of the flight, Jake had thrown up onto his brother! And to think that the sour smell was my unwashed sandals! Jamie and I empathized with the family and were glad to see they hung around to clean up the mess. You gotta hand it to families who travel with kids...You people are a brave bunch. The airport pickup is always the next daunting task at the end of a journey. Anyone who has flown knows the frustration that occurs when your ride is not on time to pick you up. Long ago my folks would say, "just call us when you land and then we will leave for the airport." This policy has lead to days where the noses of family members get bent out of shape for the fact that waiting outside the Omaha airport for your dad is frustrating...especially when your dad is a guy who will get stopped for slowing before he gets stopped for speeding. Especially when he never travels and gets to experience the waiting! This did not happen on this trip. Ma and Pa were right there for the pickup and waited a minute or two for our bags to arrive and we were off. We were exhausted and my parents wanted to talk about the trip. It was nice to see my folks after a long trip and we are very thankful for the timely airport pickup. Thanks guys! So we are back and we are still getting used to the seven hour timezone difference. My boss said yesterday that the adjustment period takes about one day for each hour of timezone you pass through. Jamie and I are looking at around seven days before our bodies are caught up. Sounds about right since I woke up at 330 and 430 yesterday and today. It feels great to get some rest, enjoy prices that are in dollars, and drive my own car again. Europe was a learning experience and I'm glad Jamie and I went for the two weeks. More stories to come. In future postings you will get to learn about: Missing remote controls. The Dolce Vita hostel (three roach rating by Lonely Planet), and some out and about stories that you may find entertaining. It's time to get ready for work.
What´s up, buddy! The Sagrada Familia is a piece of work! Amazing! I wish you could see this, but wait...you are busy studying physics and prepping to become a teacher. Perhaps you can mold the minds of tomorrows leaders the same way that Gaudi molded this church together. See a lot of street performers here. What a great way to earn a living, juggling for dollars...err...make that Euros. See you soon, buddy!
just got here and the hostel is pretty cool. more to come after a bit of rest
Just a few quick tidbits as internet time is a bit costly.
Below are some pictures from Park Guell and the Gaudi Gardens. Very impressive mosaic tiles. Also, is a picture of our tiny hostel room. Very little breathing room, but clean and cozy...right?
Some quick things I´ll write about when I get some more time is the visit to the Garden, my first Vegemite experience, and whatever else i feel about. also, more to come when i find a better keyboard...this one is a bear to type on. arg!
The lucky guy to receive my anonymous postcards from abroad is Joe Kohlhaas. Joe just graduated with a degree in physics and wants to be a teacher. He is pursuing his masters degree in physics and used to sell gelatos on RAGBRAI. His girlfriend's name is Shiney.
I wrote a little postcard to Joe and it said something like this...
Dear Joe, we could sure use some of your physics handiwork here in Morocco. its just chaos here. chaos
if physics doesnt workout, you can alway sell gelatos. it gets pretty hot in the desert...mmm gelatos!
Two or three more postcards to go and he will be thoroughly confused.
The past few days in Morocco have been an adventure and we have successfully blended in with the local population. We have assimilated with the culture and customs...just like Dr. Marcus Brody did from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. we are enjoying many of the local foods such as McDonald's, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Dunkin Donuts. Ahhhhh...only in Morocco can you get culture like this.
Actually the past few days have been fun, but we still stick out for a few reasons like: 1. we are tall. 2. we are pale. 3. our clothing is much different. 4. we walk around and look up at all the different buildings. 5. beggars bother us. Oh well, it happens i guess. We have been wandering around the different streets for the past day and have tried some of the local food. The mint tea is excellent and may be our new choice drink for the next few months. The street markets have lots of brightly colored fruits and veggies and you are encouraged to haggle for price. One thing that has made me consider becoming vegetarian is seeing the chickens couped up in tiny cages. Think about five or six chickens penned up in a crate smaller than the size of a apple box. Turns you off to yardbird pretty quickly ya know...
Jamie and I would like to share a fun experience or two with you. The internet cafes here are a bit expensive, so a full story will be provided after the return. The first story is about my first experience with a barber. I'd been growing a beard for the past three weeks before traveling and saw a barber giving a guy a shave with a straight blade while strolling through the streets of the Petite Socco. A straight blade cut has been something I've always wanted to try, so i thought...why not? what's the worst that could happen, right? Pushing those thoughts aside, I get the barber's attention, rub my hairy chin, and raise my eyebrows. He understood and was like, "you bet, take a seat." I spent a few minutes waiting until Mohammad finished with his existing customer. After that guy left, I was leaned back in the barber's chair in a position where I could see all of the diplomas Mr. Mohammad Chomrikh had earned. I felt a bit safer knowing he had some training. He readied his chair and began prepping my beard. The warm later relaxed my face and soon after Mohammad was cutting away. I gotta hand it to him. This guy knew his trade and I have never had a shave so close. After getting all the hair and stubble off, he would run his fingers across my upper lip and face to feel for any rough spots, then he touch them up with his blade. This guy was a pro and my face was incredibly smooth. I paid the 30 Durhams (~ 4 bucks) and thanked him for a great shave. If you ever get a chance for a shave with a straight blade, do it...it's well worth the feeling.
the second story has to do with an experience we had with a man named Rahdish. Jamie and I had finished up lunch at the Medina and were making our way up towards the Kasbah when a gentleman told us we were headed in the wrong direction. He graciously offered to take us and give us a small "tour". The nickle and dime tour consisted of a little bit about Moroccan history, the Kasbah, the port, some of the famous figures who had visited cafes around the museum. We were kinda skeptical of the guy when he talked about Mick Jagger dined at this one restaurant, but the foto we saw at the place was of Kieth Richards. Close...sort of. Rahdish was a friendly guy and Jamie and I were about to pay him for his time, when he was like, "come mai friend, I show you great view of Tangier."
We felt obligated to the guy, so we followed him into this rug store and went up five floors of decorative rugs and swag to the top of the building. Yea, the views of Tangier were great, but this is where he hit us with the guilt trip. We took our fotos, said thanks, and handed him the 20 or so Durhams that we had. For 15 minutes of his time, we thought it was a pretty good deal. Right? Well, he says, "for me to bring you up here, my friend charges me 50 Durhams." Jamie and I look at each other and were like, "we knew this was too good to be true." I did have an additional 50 Durhams in my pocket, so the guy started to shake his head and say things like, "i do this for you, mai friend, and this is all you give?" We told him we were sorry and that is all that we had. He leads us down the stairs to a room that now had three guys in it. "Oh, boy, we thought..this is where we get robbed" The shop keeper wanted us to stay around and hear his sales pitch about all the things we could buy. "No pressure" was repeated a few times. Jamie and I looked at each other and were like, "get me the heck outta here." We left the building in haste and Rahdish was still pressuring us for payment. Any gift will do is what he said. I opened my bag and pulled out some wetnips, a straw, and a my camera bag. We really had nothing else. He suggested a pen as a gift, but we didnt have one of those. We felt guilty, departed ways, and then walked double time back to the Medina where there were plenty of people.
The experience was a bit scary for what could have happened. Looking back on the incident, it could have been a lot worse and we quickly learned that nothing is for free. Turns out, the nickle and dime tour ended up costing us about 10 bucks and a bit of stress.
Spain and Morocco are here! Wish you were beautiful
...wait..i always get those mixed up.
anyways. We have recovered from the long flights and are expecting lots of fun from these two countries. Today we are in Morocco and the sweet smell of diesel fuel exhaust smacks you in the face when you step on the streets.
Tangier is a departure from life in the US. Definitely different.
After a two-year one-month and nine-day wait, things are packed up and ready to go.
It's time to travel again!
The Big Day is Here!
I've been running around the last few days tying up loose ends, working, seeing some friends, putting in the garden, hitting the taco ride, and finishing up the last bit of schoolwork. Finally it's time to enjoy this trip. Jamie and I are excited to travel together and see a new part of the world. Hopefully the airlines will have their act together and we won't be seeing the insides of the airport too much. Not sure if the whole rewiring thing effects our planes or our schedule much. Sitting in an airport during your PTO is never fun, we purchased travel insurance for a few dollars to at least assuage the pain of sitting in an airport or having something stolen.
We leave for Chicago late this morning and will arrive in Spain early tomorrow morning. Because Sunday is a day of rest in most parts of the world, things in Madrid will be shut down and not nearly as hellish to navigate through. This should give us time to recuperate and plan our week a little better. I emailed the hostel to double check the reservation and inquired about the possibility of a futbol game. They responded and said there is a game Sunday night at 9 bells. Perfect! Jamie has never been and she will definitely enjoy it. I gotta say that soccer is the world's game. The sport carries more weight than the Olympics for the fact that a country will shut down while their team plays. Friends I met in Argentina say that the city becomes a ghost town and the 9 de Julio will empty, kids stay home from school, and parents head to friends homes during World Cup to observe the match. The passion for soccer puts any college or pro football fan base to shame. Hopefully Jamie and I will catch a good match.
We will be gone for ~two weeks and will be backpacking. The whole backpacking thing reminds me of a person I knew who was going to Europe and preferred a suitcase to carry their belongings. They insisted they didn't need a backpack. But my question was, have you ever heard of someone suitcasing through Europe? Never! It's always backpacking somewhere, never suitcasing. Do you hear stories that start out like, "Yea, remember the summer time after college I spent suitcasing through Europe...best time of my life, man." Suitcasing sounds so inflexible and informal that I bet Bill Bryson would make fun of you in his next book if he saw you traveling with this huge box on wheels. Anyways, take it for what it's worth. I like backpacks because they are easier to handle, your hands are freed up and you can easily move through a crowd without taking out too many people.
Here's a little description of what we've packed inside of our two packs.
I learned a great trick from my friend Dean Jacobs who recommended to group related items into sweaterbags. I tried this on my last trip and it makes packing/unpacking simple. Instead of unpacking five pairs of socks, you unpack the sweaterbag of socks. I have about five things to unpack now. Here's a quick break down of what im bringing and fitting into my Arcteryx Bora 80
Five shirts: two long sleeve, short sleeve, formal (sort of) and a sweater.
Two pairs of pants: one pair jeans the other are my North Face convertible pants/shorts
Nikon D40x pretty excited to take some cool shots with my new D-SLR.
Jamie packed along the same lines, but maybe a little more stuff. Here's the thing though...She's lucky because she's much smaller than I am and can fit more into her bag than I can. She's a packing machine.
Anyways...I'm off to run some more errands before Ma and Pa drives us to the airport. We asked them to pick us up a little earlier for the simple fact that my dad drives ~10-15 mph under the speed limit. Seriously, he will get stopped for slowing before he gets stopped for speeding. We appreciate them taking the time to drop us off.
After a two year break, it's time to break out and travel again. This trip will be Spain and Morocco!
The trip will be a blast and I'm looking forward to marking two more continents off my list. There is a ton to do over in Madrid and I'm looking forward to eating some tapas and seeing some bullfighting.
I'm also looking forward to writing a few postcards. Here's a little background information about me and my postcards. During the last trip, I sent 170-some postcards to friends and family describing various sights and experiences. It's fun to send a postcard and it's exciting to receive mail that's not a bill, right? You bet!
Well, how about this...have you every wanted to antagonize your friend from afar? Well then, listen up. I have established an eBay auction that will allow you the opportunity to anonymously bid on me sending your friend postcards from the middle of Spain and Morocco. You provide me intimate details about your friend and I will write them asking them about information only their close friends would know.
hope all is well and your friend wonders why someone is sending them postcards from abroad.
Here's the link if the embedded link doesnt work. http://cgi.ebay.com/annoy-your-friends-with-anonymous-postcards-from-abroad_W0QQitemZ200221954665QQihZ010QQcategoryZ919QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem