The Longest Day of the Year

I knew my travel day was going to be long, because I have seen a map and understand the distance/time relationship between Portland and Copenhagen; but, 20 hours is a lot longer than it sounds.

I have known-traveler status and pre-check on my trips so I got to the airport about an hour before my flight from Portland to LAX. What I hadn’t counted on was Alaska requiring me to see a desk agent instead of using a kiosk to get my boarding pass, nor the long-ass line waiting for the desk agents. I put on my best puppy dog eyes and apologized to the desk agent about skipping into the first class line but could she do me a favor? And, in fact, she could.

I whizzed through security and got to my gate just in time for my flight to be delayed by an hour. On the flight to LA I ordered coffee. I figured my best bet for fighting jet lag in Copenhagen was to try and sleep very little on the flight and then when I got to Denmark at 22:00 I’d be ready for bed. I am really thankful that airlines serve coffee at drinkable temperature, that way it burned less when three seconds after my coffee was served I spilled it all over myself, my carry-on and my neighbor. My second cup managed to get mostly in my mouth.

LAX is now in my top 3 of worst airports ever. When I got off my plane there was no gate agent and the departures board did not list my flight to Heathrow. My boarding pass had no information about what gate I was at because I had gotten it way before there was a gate assignment. I wandered around looking completely lost for about 15 minutes before finding a gate agent. As I approached the counter the window behind him glared sun right into my eyes and I was blinded. I blinked for a second, opened my eyes and the gate agent, like an oasis in a Bugs Bunny desert, disappeared. I turned around to see where he’d gone. I looked behind the counter to see if he’d ducked out of sight. I turned 360 degrees again and there he was. It was like Alaskan Airlines had hired David Blaine to help me find my connecting flight.

He sent me to the Tom Bradley International Terminal, which was approximately in San Diego. I got my steps for an entire month at LAX, and got to my gate just in time for my flight to be delayed by an hour. When life gives you lemons, do yoga. I went through a yoga routine from my new favorite yoga app, Daily Yoga – turns out yesterday was International Yoga day, so it was appropriate. Also, I was in LA – so, really….

I snuggled into my plane seat, turned on some podcasts and played stupid games on my phone until about midnight. Then I watched the new Triple X movie – Vin Diesel is my new boyfriend, sorry Andrew. Then I watched Jack Reacher. This may be controversial, but I love Tom Cruise. The movie was totally mediocre, but Tom Cruise – he’s a good actor. In fact, other than Eyes Wide Shut, I cannot think of a movie he is in that I have seen that I did not enjoy. I totally want to hate him because he’s a Scientologist and a nut-job (redundant, I know), but, I can’t. He’s really good at his job.

I got three hours of sleep on my flight and it was early evening in London. Normally, Heathrow is the worst – it, in fact, is also in the top three of my “the worst” airports. Maybe because my expectations were so low, maybe because I was tired and not feeling super feisty, or probably because my departing flight was in the same terminal as my arrival flight, I had a breezy time getting through customs and getting a salad and coffee just in time for my flight to be delayed by an hour. For those of you math wizards at home, you would think that 3 one-hour delays would mean my 20 hour flying day was 23. However, you are not taking into account that airlines lie about how long flights take so that they can make up time in these cases, and all told my arrival was only 30 minutes later than I had expected.

For those of you comedy nerds at home, yes, that is the third beat – which meant it was funny instead of frustrating.

I got to my gate to board my final flight to Copenhagen and felt like I was in the Redwood Forest. Every single person getting ready to board was at least two heads taller than me, and blonde. It got me a little excited in a way because I just assumed that the seats in the plane would have more room, I assumed wrong. Those poor Danes, if I’m uncomfortable on a plane, they have to be in agony.

I got through customs rapidly, got in a cab and headed to my AirBnB. I asked my taxi driver, “What is one food I have to have while in Copenhagen?”

“Shwarma.”

“I’m sorry, I must be having trouble understanding your accent, it sounded like you said shwarma, like the Middle Eastern dish.”

“Yes, shwarma.”

Then he proceeded to tell me all of his favorite shwarma places near my AirBnB – common theme: they are all called “[someone’s name] Shwarma House”. To be fair, when I walked around this morning, I could not actually walk a block without seeing a shwarma or kabob place.

My AirBnB is on the 6th floor of a 5 story walk up – they don’t count the first floor landing. I settled in after chatting with the landlord. I asked him how to pronounce Copenhagen (is it cope-in-HAY-ggin or cope-en-HAH-ggen?). He laughed at me immediately and said that either one is fine, but that it is coop-en-HAWen. He walked me around the very spacious apartment, then showed me the bathroom which is a closet sized shower with a toilet inside – very efficient.

I slept in until 4:30 AM, when I realized I hadn’t eaten since my LAX salad. It’s also when I realized that while I am excited about this adventure, I am a little overwhelmed. I want to do a lot of things; but, I am in a strange place alone and have not yet learned to navigate it all. I think today if I make it to the gym and the grocery store and don’t go to sleep until night time, I am going to count it as a win.

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7:30! I slept in. I mean, I woke up at 4:45 first, but then I forced myself back to sleep – so it counts.

The only plan we had for the day was to get to Busan. Our train didn’t leave until noon so we had some time to kill. I avoided another incident by not helping Andrew pack his clothes, and even got to tell him, “I told you so!” later when he got a text from the AirBnB host about the single sock he left behind.

Seoul is about 200 miles away from Busan and with five stops it was only going to take two hours on the KTX. Andrew was jazzed about riding the high speed rail to Busan. Because, boy. I had never been on a high speed train and wasn’t really sure what to expect. After the trip, I felt a little let down by all the hype. Because, girl.

I don’t know what I was really expecting, maybe some g-force or the scenery to feel like it was whipping by so fast the window was a Gerhard Richter. But, no, it was just a train ride. Though it is amazing it only took two hours. It would be neat if the west coast had this. Then I could be in Seattle in an hour and LA in 6. Putting it in that context, I see why it’s exciting.

We got to Busan and both of us felt pretty run down. The directions to our AirBnB were vague and felt more like a scavenger hunt than directions. Walk towards the ocean, when it’s in view find the restaurant that’s been closed for two years and turn left, go to the area that is known as (but not marked) “playland” make a pentagram with the point facing the mistiest location of the boardwalk…

I eventually put the address in Google Maps and found the place. The reason for all the cloak and dagger is because better directions would have been – follow the grossest fish smell in town and find the blue hostel located in the center of the smell. If you can’t find the smell, listen for a jackhammer in concrete sound (that’ll be right below the room you are in – but don’t worry you won’t see it because your view of the ocean right beyond the jackhammer is completely blocked by an awning.). If the jackhammering has stopped by the time you get here look for the rickety fair rides right next door where there’s a swing boat and intermittent sounds of shrieking that will only get louder as the night gets drunker.

Andrew and I have decided that this trip, although fun, is not really our cup of vacation. We like beach towns and feeling lazy and relaxed. I like big cities for about a day or two for the experience, but then I like remote, outdoorsy, naturey lounginess with intermittent alcoholic beverages that I ply on my tee-totaling boyfriend. This is one of the reasons we decided to go to Busan, to get a relaxed beach experience.

Unfortunately, we should have done more research. Busan is the second most populous city in Korea and there is not a square inch of it that they didn’t find “the perfect spot” to develop with skyscrapers with flashing lights. It felt busy, and crowded, and dirty.

Andrew and I checked into our room. It was dinky. No drawers. The sheets felt like what brillo pads are recycled into. I now understand the homophone of hostel. We looked at each other and sighed, “this blows.” And it really did. We decided food was in order before making any decisions about what to do.

Busan seems to cater a bit more to Americans than Seoul. We found a hamburger and a chicken salad and decided to make the best of it for the rest of our day.

And by making the best of it, I mean going to Karaoke.

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Andrew Rickrolled me with Never Gonna Give You Up. And now I have Rickrolled you because you have the song in your head from reading the caption.

We paid 5000₩ for a half an hour that kept having more time added to it for some reason so it ended up being about 45 minutes.

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Of course we duetted.

This was super fun, and we will do it again before we leave Korea.

After Karaoke we wandered around a bit and walked along the waterside. Busan is so overbuilt. It’s like Atlantic City, but without the charm.

IMG_0867IMG_0865IMG_0869The entire city is covered in neon.

We got back to the room and Andrew was feeling run down. We did some internet searching and found a lovely AirBnB to change to.

Back in Seoul.

No, Seoul wasn’t going to be our tropical paradise locale either, but we were familiar with it, and it felt cleaner, and quieter than Busan. We would take the KTX back the next day. But first, another buffing for me on the sheets of sandpaper while listening to the lovely white noise of drunk people shrieking on a swing.

 

Iceland Day 3, and the rest

You know how on Gilligan’s Island for the first season the theme song went “…with Gilligan, the Skipper too, the Millionaire and his wife, the movie star and the rest…” the rest, like the two other people, which is SO MUCH MORE than the five we’ve already named so now it’s just THE REST. Eventually they changed it to “the Professor and Maryann.” But it still bugs me that it started off as the rest. Were there plans for others? Were there others on the ship that just didn’t make it? Or were they planning on killing off the Professor and Maryann?

Andrew and I went to Husavik to go whale watching and as he was buying tickets the lady at the counter attempted to warn us off from purchasing them or from getting on the boat. “This isn’t a good day. The swells are already 2 meters and it’s only going to get worse. People are having sea sickness and it’s foggy so you can’t see the horizon which only makes it worse”. It was like the part in a scary movie where people are moving into the house and the house says, “GET OUT” and the people are like – oh, that’s probably not even a thing…

I did go and buy some liquid sea sickness tincture at the apothecary which Andrew and I each took. When we got to the boat the woman who would be our guide warned us not to get on because the swells were 2 meters and there was fog and sea sickness. We got on. Already we were bundled up, but then we put on the coveralls and rain jackets that were provided with the tour. I asked Andrew about how long the trip was. “It’s a three hour tour.” A THREE HOUR TOUR!!!

I decided right there and then that I was going to be the Movie Star in Gilligan’s Iceland, because I was certainly not going to be anyone’s wife, and I did not want to be “and the rest”. Andrew opted for the Millionaire, so I started scoping the boat for a good selection for his wife and away we sailed (after a thorough search with the only candidate being a possibly single woman with the brattiest girl in the world as her daughter, we decided he’d make a better the Professor).

About an hour into the tour the guide got super excited because a bird flew by. It was The Last Puffin (which is the working title of a kid’s book I’m writing – or possibly an anti-smoking pamphlet). Puffins migrate at the end of summer and generally all at once. They left Iceland a week before we showed up and this one had not gotten the memo.

Maybe another 20 minutes in and the guide stated with glee, “Over at 10 o’clock. Over at 10 o’clock!” We’d been taught to think of the boat as a clock with the bow being 12 o’clock and the stern 6 o’clock and all the other numbers approximated between. I was already situated at 9 o’clock and didn’t have to move. But a lot of my shipmates did have to lurch over to my side of the ship. And then I saw it. A fellow traveler at 10 o’clock hurling over the side. I also saw the whale that was being pointed out, but the vomiting was a bit of a distraction. My sister used to be an EMT and my mother was a nurse and they always said that everyone has their bodily fluid that they cannot handle – for some it’s blood, others it poo, for me it’s vomit. It’s disgusting and even talking about it makes me reach for the sea sickness tincture. But there’s this man right in front of me on the ship not really thinking about anything other than “maybe I should have said no to the lox for breakfast.”

Ultimately, he and about half the boat went to the back of the ship (where it’s relatively calmer) as the seas got crazier and the whale watching more intense. We saw humpback whales, two of them, swimming and eating and diving right with each other. This is relatively uncommon as the humpbacks are usually solitary. They would dive for about 8 minutes then come up and breathe a few times before diving again. It was pretty cool. Then, just as I started getting too cold and tired for it all we started heading back and were served hot chocolate (to those who could stomach it). We got back to the dock, peeled off our clothes and went to find some hot food. I was relieved the three hour tour was only three hours and not three seasons.

Whale watching was surprisingly exhausting.

The next day we drove around the Northern Iceland area. There are crater-like mounds that were created by hot lava hitting land that had cold water in it.

These crater-mounds surround a lake. The scenery is gorgeous and my camera is not doing it justice.

These crater-mounds surround a lake. The scenery is gorgeous and my camera is not doing it justice.

There was lots of horses and some more sheep.

Then after touring around we found our second hot springs. This one too was man made and more of a warm springs. That didn’t deter us from spending about an hour and a half in the water. We went home ready for napping.

We stopped by the grocery for some food. Surprisingly, for a Scandanavian country, they still had carts that were Andrew sized. Apparently, Andrew is the approximate size of an average Icelandic toddler.

We stopped by the grocery for some food. Surprisingly, for a Scandanavian country, they still had carts that were Andrew sized. Apparently, Andrew is the approximate size of an average Icelandic toddler.

After a light nap and some dinner we went out on the town. As we were about to leave the bar I learned they were having pub quiz in only 30 minutes. I sat back down and told Andrew we were staying. Over the next half hour every human between the age of 16 and 25 in town was in the pub. Andrew and I were the oldest people in the bar. It got so full I decided the excitement of Icelandic trivia was outweighed by the quiet and peace of the house we were staying in and the promise of more knitting. Well, this is not my 40th birthday present for nothing, it was time for my Metamucil.

The next day we drove back to Reykjavik.

During all of our driving and for some time each evening, I was knitting the sweater pattern that I had picked up in Alafoss on our way up to Akureyri. By Friday night I had joined the sleeves to the body and only had the decolletage and neck left to knit.

Saturday we wandered the streets of Reykjavic. Andrew guided us through research he’d done on the Interwebs and a snarky guidebook he’d found in the AirBnB that had commentary in it such as – if you are injured by someone in Iceland here are emergency things you might need, and also, consider your life choices and what got you into a fight in the first place. Before we left for our walkabout Andrew commented on my clothing choices out of concern for my warmth. I commented on his conversation choices out of concern for my independence. We left the house in good spirits and teased each other every time we had to remove or add a layer of clothing. Overall, though, the weather was lovely and despite his posts to the contrary, I packed and dressed exactly right during our time here. Our walk through Reykjavic was scenic and included the infamous Icelandic hot dog which tasted like a hot dog with bonus lamb meat. I had about 2/3s of one, Andrew had about 2/3 of a lamb.

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The mountains in the background had rolling clouds on them adding amazing drama to the picturesque European buildings.

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Andrew “smiling”

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Icelanders are into their bathing. Not just hot springs but also pools. Our first night in Akureyri our landlord invited us to the pool with him – which at the time I thought was a bit weird. During our drives I was doing a lot of scenery watching and knitting so it was a while before I noticed that not only were there highway signs for gas, food, and lodging, but also signs for swimming pools.

Also seen here are signs for music, Animal husbandry, and emailing.

By the time we got back to Rejkyavic I realized what a culture of bathing it was and was ready to experience it. The pool in Reykjavic is huge. It is out doors and has a lap pool, a children’s lap pool, and a variety of hot tubs ranging in temperature and salinity. After testing out several, Andrew and I dozed lightly in the 38 (Celsius) degree saltwater offering with about 20 other people. I played a game of “American?” and in my head was basically singing the Madeline Kahn song in History of the World Part I, “Yes,  no, no, no, no, no, no. Yes, no…”

That evening we went home and I put the finishing touches on my Icelandic Lopi sweater.

I knit this in five days. Some days I had more time to spend on it than others. I would guess that total knitting time was 20 - 25 hours.

I knit this in five days. Some days I had more time to spend on it than others. I would guess that total knitting time was 20 – 25 hours.

And this is what I did in Iceland instead of blogging.

Sunday we drove the Golden Circle – again, self-guided. Some of the tours were 15 hours long and that sounded like an awfully long time to put up with people we don’t know when one of us is an introvert and the other one of us hates people (and one of us likes hot chocolate but only when one of us orders it for the other one of us and never has one of us order it for one of us selves – read Andrew’s FB photo-blog if you want to [kind of] understand this).

We got to the park where the tectonic plates are literally pulling apart from each other and there was not really that much to look at. I mean, the scenery was magnificent, but that’s par for the course around here. Apparently there is some interesting scuba diving available here, but the most interesting thing for us about scuba is Andrew’s fear trepidation anxiety concern worry aversion to getting his face in the water. We hopped back into the car and headed to Gullfoss (gold falls).

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I grew up in Niagara Falls and every weekend I would walk from my house to the falls and wander around Goat Island (sadly, there are no Goats on Goat Island). I was not expecting to be as awed by Gullfoss as I was (sadly, there is no gold at gold falls). They were mesmerizing and astonishing and breathtaking. We hiked all the way down to them and just sat for a bit.

Our next stop was Geysir (pronounced Kay-sir in Iceland, Gai-zer in America, and Gi-zer in retirement homes and England). Geysir is the original geyser that all other geysers take their name from. It is basically an occasionally spewing hot spring (insert your geyser spewing joke here) and has been active for 10,000 years (insert your geezer spewing joke here).

No jaunt around Iceland would be complete without a hot springs dip so off we went to Secret Lagoon. This hot spring, in Fludir, was probably the most natural we have bathed in. The water temperature was slightly more variable, there were fewer tourists and it seemed most of them were brought by an Icelander. Andrew is a great tour guide. I drove us home – having no knitting left to do. Andrew napped – having more than a half hour in a moving vehicle.

We had a nice dinner at Resto, a seafood restaurant about 3 minutes from our lodgings. Andrew turned his nose up at my fish soup because it smelled like fish. I questioned his taking me to a fish restaurant, and his upbringing in Alaska. Then we relaxed at home for a bit before taking a night stroll on the water.

Today is our last day here. Andrew worked out at CrossFit Reykjavic and now we are in a coffee shop relaxing, and one of us is catching up on blogging while the other one of us is drinking hot chocolate that one of us bought for the other one of us and now that one of us is done blogging one of us wants to go to the pool so that one or both of us can get our soak on.

Then we will find some dinner, pack up, and in the morning say bless (Icelandic for goodbye) to a lovely island.

Tomorrow we have a 7 hour layover in New York. I would like to reiterate my idea of airport karaoke to any enterprising entrepreneurs out there.

Horsing Around

Downtown Reykjavik

Downtown Reykjavik – Everything looks so European

After a pleasant and well needed nap, Andrew and I went off to explore downtown. We needed some snacks for the house and wanted to get a real sense of the culture, the buzz of the town, the taste of the local flavors, so we went shopping and then found some dinner at Tacobarinn.

Icelandic is a very nuanced language. When spoken by the locals it sounds like Elvish (Elvic? Elven? Elverican?). Often if there is a double letter in a word it means that the letter is pronounced with a throaty “h” sound (Takk means thanks and sounds like tahhkh). They also have letters that we don’t have in English like ð, and Ð and sometimes a combination of letters is pronounced differently for example Hv sounds like “kv”. So, sometimes words look like they sound a certain way (and by inference mean a certain thing) but then you find out that it’s something completely different. For example this  is pronounced slip-fell-ah-gid and not slip-felatio and is a paint store and not whatever you thought a slip-felatio store might be. Tacobarinn, on the other hand, is exactly what it sounds and looks like. Andrew and I spent our first dinner in Iceland at a Taco Bar (it was delicious).

We called it an early night and prayed to the Gods of Jet-lag that we’d be able to sleep through the night and feel rested on Iceland time.

Apparently, sarcastic god prayer works in Iceland because that is just what happened. We got almost 12 hours of sleep and hit day two in Iceland feeling human.

Our first stop was to a place called Alafoss. Foss means waterfall. And apparently Ala means “What you won’t find here:”. We did however buy some lovely Icelandic yarn from the Alafosslopi yarn company (I am going to knit an Icelandic sweater while on vacation). And when I say we bought yarn I mean Andrew bought yarn because I forgot to tell my bank that I was in Iceland and I am sure it was a surprise to them that after paying for my coffee in Reykjavic that morning, I was 20 miles away buying yarn.

Our trip to Akureyri was extremely cloudy, as in we were driving in the clouds. Visibility was maybe two car lengths. This was daunting to me as there are sheep all along the roadways and the driving pamphlet I got at the rental place warned about sheep crossing the road. I was afraid that I was going to drive into a cloud in our Yaris and come out on a Serta. I eventually got used to the conditions and let Andrew lay back for his traditional I-don’t-know-how-to-stay-awake-on-a-drive-that-takes-more-than-a-half-hour nap while I listened to some podcasts on the bluetooth. During the drive we stopped a few times and took in the views and attempted to touch sheep.

Beautiful scenery after we chased some sheep around.

Beautiful scenery after we chased some sheep around.

Our house in Akureyri is on top of a hill right above the downtown. The landlord walked us around and then invited us to come for a swim at the public pool. Iceland is big on pools and swimming. He also told us to crank the heat as much as we wanted – it’s pretty handy to live on top of a volcano/geyser. My first order of business was to call my bank and get them to reactivate my card. Our second order of business was for Andrew to call his bank and do the same as he’d received a voicemail stating they were concerned about some charges. At no time while I was using Andrew’s phone or while he was waiting for me to hang up so that he could call his bank did it occur to either of us that we were calling the same bank and could have used the same call. Let’s blame being tired.

We walked downtown for dinner and found a Spanish tapas restaurant called Goya. If you ever have the pleasure of being in this area, go to any restaurant that isn’t this one. The food was mediocre at best. I did, however, get my bacon fix for the day in bacon wrapped dates and try horse for the first time. It tasted like overly soy-sauced meat. Also on the menu was a caramel beef item. It sounded interesting but was basically like eating a cow sundae. I also ordered a house mojito – they used Sprite in it. I can’t warn you away from this restaurant enough.

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I was ready to pull the Trigger on this one.

After dinner we walked around a bit and climbed to a beautiful church. Iceland is a Lutheran country but has one of the most outwardly declared Atheistic populations. This did not surprise me as there were not that many churches in the area. After gawking at the church for a bit we kept walking and happened upon a botanical (Icelandic for “mostly just wildflowers”) garden.

Ornamental Cabbage

Ornamental Cabbage

Coming up, whale watching…

A Looney Bin of Andrews

My boyfriend is batshit crazy.

In the winter times Andrew likes to travel because he is not fond of the cold and dark. But, also, because until recently he needed to plan escape-from-the-stifling-love-and-energy-from-all-of-her-joyousness-that-is-my-extrovert-Hadas time. He may still need a bit of that, but no longer is it several weeks and I am allowed to go vacationing with him now (especially since he realized that vacations are more fun with my joyousness and energy).

As Andrew and I were planning our vacation we couldn’t find anything that struck our fancy. We initially wanted to go to Thailand or Vietnam, but airfares were a bit high. We started looking into Central America because, monkeys. But, we had just been there and there was limited excitement for it from either of us.

Then, suddenly…

Remember this?

I was a pre-teen when this commercial came out and it has stuck with me all these years. Now watching it, and the people in the background, I realize that pre-teen me was not the demographic they were aiming for and that pre-40 me may still be a bit young. At the time however, I was ready to be on board. Everyone looked fit and fun and sparkly. Also there was singing. And energy. And joy. As I grew up the desire to cruise has waned, my love of Kathy Lee diminished (though I do hair-envy the 80’s over-layered, over-featherd bob she is sporting).

I had no idea how to book the right cruise, or what different cruises offered or even what cruise lines were available. I started Google searching and immediately felt overwhelmed. But, hey, if I am going to go on my 80’s dream vacation, I figured, I can book it in an 80’s fashion. Turns out my friend Andy is a travel agent.

I discretely found out that Andy gets most of his work from helping large groups coordinate their travel. “Umm, Andy, I hope I am not being rude, but, how do you still have a job as a travel agent in 2014?”

Andy was fantastic. He selected a few cruises for the date range we gave him and booked us on Norwegian Dawn for a West Caribbean (New Orleans, Cozumel, Belize, Honduras, Costa Maya, New Orleans) cruise. We were flying to New Orleans on Friday.

Thursday before travel was a busy day for me. Knowing how busy it would be I got most of my packing done before the day began. It started off with an informational interview with a man named Andrew who holds the job I want to have in about 10 years.

Aside: It seems like everyone I know is named Andrew. Either that, or I only know one person and he plays many roles in my life – like a doll. Or, I suppose it could be that this entire blog is fabricated and I am not clever enough to come up with another name.

The Oregon Employment Department has some wonderful resources available and one such resource is grant money available for education. I am applying for a grant to take a CISSP certification class. During the informational interview, Andrew (not the boyfriend one) invited me to happy hour with a bunch of IT Security nerds that evening. Later, I went to an informal chat about a potential job – like an interview, but unofficial. On my way to happy hour I called Andrew (the boyfriend one), and found out that a tree hit our power lines during a crazy windstorm, which caused a small fire and a large (at least in our house) power outage.

By the time I got home Andrew (hereon in this will be the boyfriend one) was moving around but also seemed mildly catatonic.

He was in full-on bat-shit crazy mode.

There he was, wandering around the house with a headlamp on his head trying to pack in the dark. When Andrew gets crazy he shuts down – which you’d think would be impossible to notice on an introvert. He basically starts obsessing about the thing that is wrong and nothing else in the world can be right because that thing is wrong.

Example:

Problem statement: we don’t have electricity

Andrew’s internal dialogue: the cats will die, I will forget to pack something because I couldn’t see it, the electricity will come on and the house will burn down because we weren’t here, our house sitter will come in to take care of the cats and not understand the lights don’t work and not know how to use a flashlight or stairs in the dark and will fall down our stairs…

This keeps going and going while he doubles up on contingency planning like “tell house sitter in email, text and on handwritten instructions that the lights are out”.

Meanwhile, I get home and start cooing at him (and maybe teasing a little). I pat myself on the back for making him buy a gas stove and make us some chili. I bring up Andrew’s packing list from our shared documents on my phone because Andrew’s phone is not cooperating (cough cough T-Mobile cough) and help him finish packing. Once he’s done packing I talk him into changing to the bag with roller wheels on it, which is a good thing because it gives him something to do while winding down from being worked up.

Finally, after talking him through worst case scenarios and having him do 15 minutes of meditation I tuck him into bed and start reading. I have to give a shout out to meditation here. Time was, when Andrew would have a freakout he’d double down on it by also having three days of insomnia. Calm.com helped him relax enough to actually sleep. Having said that, we tried the Calm “anxiety relief” meditation and got about 1.5 minutes into it before bursting into giggles when the app-voice, after getting our breathing and body relaxed, said, “practice smiling”.

The next morning Andrew wakes up and I get up from the couch where I stayed up all night reading (hey, at least my addiction feeds my intellect instead of depleting it). We do our morning chores and eat breakfast and are ready to hit the road about an hour before we need to leave the house. This allows Andrew to do some compulsive walk throughs of the house and for both of us to have kitty snuggle time before leaving the girls to non-electricitied inevitable doom for a week.

Our flight to San Diego was uneventful. I slept most of the way because I’d had no sleep the night before.

The San Diego airport is THE WORST. We were imprisoned in the Southwest terminal and our flight to New Orleans was delayed 3 hours on top of our already scheduled 2 hour layover. The terminal is shaped like the end of a Q-Tip. The center of the terminal has two restaurants and within the terminal is the ubiquitous Hudson News. Around the edges of the terminal are the gates for Southwest. At the entrance to the terminal is security. If we were to leave the terminal to try and find more appealing food options we’d have to go through security to get back in – hence the imprisonment.

I think of all the airports I have flown through this one was the worst. Although, I can only complain so much because I did find us seats together with electrical outlets for charging.

Andrew spent the five hours of layover reviewing cruise excursion capabilities, while I zoned out to The Nerdist. At about hour 4 he looks at me and says, “I think I feel better now.”

Take away lesson: When faced with obsessive-compulsive introverted (OCI) freakout, give OCI something more mundane to obsess about to help calm frayed nerves.

In New Orleans we grabbed a cab to our AirBnB and I prayed, mostly silently, the entire trip. I know cab drivers are universally insane, but this guy was drifting in and out of lanes, playing chicken with cars when lanes were merging and taking illegal left turns. It was like we had our very own roller-coaster pre-cruise excursion.

Our BnB is lovely. It’s an old house (as so many houses in NO are) in the Garden District converted into a duplex. The house is longer than it is wide and from the front door you can see all the way to the back. The front room is the living room, then you walk through to the dining room which has a door to the next room which is the bedroom, that has a door to the hall leading to the kitchen and the hall has the bathroom in it. Yes, for those of you playing at home, you have to walk through the bedroom to access the kitchen. the setup is a little odd. But, we weren’t having company – or really going to be using the kitchen much.

We went out and grabbed a bite to eat at a nearby restaurant called The Rum House – Caribbean Taqueria. The tacos were really fantastic. I had a lamb vindaloo and a scallops, Andrew had a brisket and a jerk chicken. We shared a Rum House Salad which featured radicchio (that always sounds like a Harry Potter curse to me) and goat cheese. Then we went home and called it a night.

We slept 9.5 hours.

We tooled around the French Quarter and looked at the Mississippi. I wanted to experience some fine New Orleans dining but half the restaurants I was interested in were not serving lunch. Eventually we figured out that NOLA, Emeril’s casual restaurant, was two block away and open. I ordered the shrimp and grits and Andrew had the pan seared salmon. We each had a butter lettuce wedge. In truth, I was thoroughly disappointed. The wedge was so overdressed that it was like soup. I had two bites of it and when the waitstaff removed my plate they didn’t even ask if there was a problem. The shrimp and grits had great flavor but was super greasy. I suppose I could call it fine dining because if you ask me how it was I’d say, “It was fine. Just, fine.”

Then we went back to the house and slept for 2.5 hours.

It’s fair to say our travel travails were exhausting.

Dinner was at a dog and sausage place called Dat Dog. I had the Hot Brat and Andrew had Alligator. Each was great. Dat Dog is across the street from ComedySportz New Orleans where Andrew and I played a show. It was really fun and Yvonne, the owner, is super high energy and a fabulous host. If you are in New Orleans go see a show.

Today we are getting on a boat headed for the W. Caribbean, and so I leave you with this:

 

for Andrew (the boyfriend)’s version of these events, see www.AndrewBerkowitz.com/blog

A Tale of Two Cities

Friday I got up at 8:15 to the sound of a purring in my ear.

The AirBnB I was staying at was a one bedroom apartment a few clicks (I’m so Canadian) out of downtown Vancouver. My host (B.E.) was staying in her bedroom and I had a “private” room – better defined as a fold-out in the living room. The privacy was provided by curtains she had hung between the kitchen and couch. She was a pleasant young girl if not a little bit chatty and her cat Maci was even chattier (but more snuggly).

I showered and dressed and looked out at the rainy day.

What I felt like doing was going to my couch at home and knitting in front of a black and white Audrey Hepburn movie while sipping on some whiskey-fied tea. But, damn it, I was on vacation. It was time to go tourist.

The light-rail was two blocks away and upon getting there I started to second guess the internal scoffing I did when B.E. showed me where the umbrella was. Three blocks of walking downtown looking for a breakfast place and I looked like I had just gotten done with an all day all access Splash Mountain visit. I found some warmth and sustenance and determined my day.

I still really wanted to knit. And drink. And watch a movie.

Instead, I got back on the tram and went to the waterfront. Once there I wandered around the gaslight area for a little while and stumbled upon a knit shop. Within a few minutes I found a project and made my purchases, I walked back out with a plan. I was going to go back to the apartment and knit and watch a movie on Netflix because really it was what I had wanted to do and apparently God wanted the same for me which is why that knit shop was right there where I was.

I got back to the apartment and did not run into any of the neighbors who I had been told were nice, but I was to say I was a friend visiting from out of town if they asked any questions. I dried off and got cozy with my knitting, the Lance Armstrong documentary, and Maci snuggled and purring on my lap.

About an hour in, I heard the door open and looked up to find a 20-something looking at me and chatting away in what I can easily pick out as an Israeli accent. It turns out that she was a friend of D.E. and was crashing at her apartment because she had just rented out her own apartment on AirBnB last minute and D.E. said it was cool. She was on a juice cleanse and was starving because the thought of drinking the juice she had made for herself was making her sick, but really, she needed to lose weight because her boyfriend was losing interest in her and also she owned a vegan juice bar so if she was going to recommend these things to her clients she should really try them herself. But, oops, she’d be right back because if there was one thing for certain the cleanse part of the cleanse is accurate.

While she was in the bathroom I quickly changed clothes and sped out of the apartment to some Malaysian food.

I sat at the restaurant knitting and listening to the conversations around me. All the while, I was trying to figure out what to do. Vancouver was pretty, but it was just like Portland – except I didn’t know where to go to have fun and the only people I knew were the magpies in the ever-shinking one bedroom I was staying in. I got back to the apartment, asked my host to show me how to work the TV and started chatting on the computer with various friends online.

One of my friends invited me to brunch the next morning. At that point, I had already considered going home the next day. Well, what the hell, it was 9:30PM and I was awake enough to drive. I packed myself up, said goodbye to my host, and hit the road.

The border crossing had a pretty decent line at it and I was already going through the many scenarios of questioning I would face. “Says here you were going to be in Canada until Sunday. Back so soon? Please follow the agent with the latex gloves into that room Miss.” But, once I got to the booth the guy took my card and asked where I was from. “Vancouver, Washington.” “Ahhh,” he nodded, “the real Vancouver.” handed me my ID and sent me on my way.

I got back to my house at 2:40 in the morning and slept like a log.

The rest of the weekend has been great. I got some knitting done, some brunching in, some friend time and 9 holes of golf this morning. It was the perfect vacation in Vancouver.

And now, I will knit, and drink, and watch an old black and white Hepburn.

Oy, Canada

Before getting canned from my job (I am getting more comfortable with this circumstance) I planned a vacation in Vancouver, BC. – just for me, Thursday through Sunday. Then I got fired and decided to go through with it anyway, and in fact, I probably need it even more so.

I have never been to West Canadia. Having grown up for sometime in Niagara Falls I am well versed with Canadian culture like Molsons, niceness and Tim Hortons, but I have heard so much about how beautiful Vancouver BC is I thought it would be a good getaway. I got on AirBnB (my favorite company – for real) and found a space for rent nearish downtown.

With no real plans I packed up one backpack with a menagerie of clothes (I might want to wear while hiking at a hip-hop club during a warm winter) and one backpack of toiletries, got in the car and headed north.

Everyone I had spoken to told me it would be about a four and a half hour drive, but it turns out everyone I spoke to is a damned liar.

I left the house at 9:30 and stopped at the Starbucks at 9:45. Snuggled up to my quad tall breve latte and The Nerdist podcasts that I needed to catch up on, I drove on. Just north of Olympia I filled up with gas. The only slowness was around Seattle at 12:30. By 2:00 in Bellingham it was time for lunch. For those of you doing the math I had hit 4.5 hours but not yet Canadia. Yes, it was near, but then Vancouver was at least another half hour after the border. Luckily I wasn’t on a schedule so I found a brewery.

I ordered a cherry cider and tried to order a Caesar salad with chicken minus croutons, but, apparently the Caeser dressing had gluten in it. Andrew makes me a Caesar salad regularly at home. It has anchovies and olive oil and balsamic vinegar and lemon and garlic and a raw (coddled) egg and parmesan – but no gluten – and it’s perfect. When the waitress came back and told me the Caesar had gluten I practically gave her the recipe to go and make me the salad properly, instead I ordered the house salad with bacon and chicken. I was thoroughly disappointed and sulking until the salad came out and was good.

But the bacon. Oh my gosh the bacon. It was cooked perfectly. The right amount of crisp to non-crisp ratio, perfect smokiness, still warm but not too hot to make the salad wilt. It was fantastic. And the cherry cider washed it all down perfectly.

Just before I got to the border I pulled over on the highway to turn my cell data off. I don’t know why I waited that long, or didn’t wait until customs where there was the inevitable line, I can only guess I wanted to look like a suspect.

I got up to the lady in the booth, handed her my passport card and silently prayed that I was the only one of the two of us that could smell nothing but cherry cider as I spoke.

She: where are you from

Me: Vancouver, Washington

She: Have you ever been to Canada

Me: No. I mean, yes! But not on this coast. Only on the east coast.

She: When was the last time you were in Canada?

Me: ummmm…  2 years ago. No! Last year in June? Or July?

My Brain: this is a lot of questions.

She: what are you doing in Canada

Me: Just visiting

She: Who are you visiting

Me: no one

My Brain: You just said you were visiting you dumbass. Jesus, Hadas, don’t you speak Canadian?!?! she’s going to think you are drunk or something

She: (raised eyebrow)

Me: I mean, I am staying with a person from AirBnB but I don’t actually know her. I, errrr, really it’s just a little vacation

She: Oh? Where do you work

My Brain: just say Nike, just say Nike

Me: Well, actually, I just got fired on Tuesday morning.

She: Oh? What did you do?

Me: Security…. I mean, IT security…. For Nike?

My brain: Why are you asking her? Oh my god, she thinks you’re drunk. Are you drunk? We are going to get arrested.

She: (handing me back a yellow slip and my ID card) Pull over to the left and hand this slip to the man standing there.

Which I did. Then I parked, grabbed my phone and purse and key and went into the lobby where I was summoned to the counter. The customs agent started grilling me like I’d been grilled outside only this time he was repeating questions like where did I live about four or five times. He asked me if I lived alone and why my boyfriend didn’t come with me and then when he found out I was driving my boyfriends car asked if he would find any of my boyfriend’s things in it.

Me: ummm maybe? There might be like some tire chains and maybe a yoga mat in the trunk.

My Brain: What a stupid question, everything you find in there is his. Unless it’s mine… DUH

He: I mean something illegal

Me: Hahahaha. Oh, you’re serious… ummm… no.

My Brain: They don’t think you are drunk, they think you are a drug mule. God I hope I don’t have to go through a strip search.

He: Okay. Go sit down.

But instead of going directly to sit down, I decided to do the one thing to make myself even more suspect than I already was and asked for the bathroom. I blame the cherry cider.

After about twenty minutes of rummaging through the car and my bags, customs determined I was not the drug mule they thought I might be and sent me on my merry way. I made it to Vancouver and my lodging safely.

Now off to find Tim Hortons.