Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Semanas Catorce a Dieciseis: The Final Moments

29 April ~ 22 May 2011

I was robbed the other week—yup, you heard right. My time with my iPhone, which I had only possessed for a mere five months, had apparently expired. I’m not proud to reveal how said action occurred, but to be frank, I was outwitted by a ten-year old. In my defense, I would like to believe he had some kind of formal training—a klepto apprentice, if you will. The fact is, being duped by a child does something to a person… it really does.

So here is the full story: I was sitting outside of Dunkin Coffee studying French…in Spain…and was using my phone as a paperweight for the stack of flashcards I was making. The flashcards were at most seven inches away from me when this dirty young boy approached me with a cardboard sign with some black scribble on it. This is nothing new in Spain as there are always people, mainly the Senegalese men trying to sell you knock-off sunglasses and watches, pestering you when sitting outside. Like I was always do, I shook my head and said no, and continued to work. Ten minutes later when I was packing up, I had realized what had happened: that scumbag low-life loser put his sign over my stuff, and used the hand not holding the sign to grab my phone and slide it back to himself when he pulled back his sign. I mean, you could have at least given me my SIM card. And, if you’re reading this—from my phone—would you like the charger seeing that I have no need for it now?

After I packed up my things, I went on a wild goose chase through the alleyways of Granada with bulging crimson eyes and a little bit of steam spewing from my ears. I had absolutely zero qualms about linebacker-tackling a child in public—none. But let’s get even further into the ingeniousness of it all; it was a holiday in Spain, Día de la Cruz, and there were thousands of kids everywhere! After nearly an hour of hopeless circling, I gave up and went to Lauren and Ashley’s for emotional support. Only Ashley was home, but she let me use her laptop to temporarily suspend my account so whoever now owned my phone couldn’t make calls or use data and rack up a dizzying phone bill.

As would be expected, an awkward moment regarding the aforementioned catastrophe would follow. It was roughly 2 am the night my phone departed, and I was nearly asleep. I was still in limbo and could hear what was going on in the apartment. I could hear Tina informing Rosa and José about my phone situation—not only the fact that it was stolen, but I had no alarm clock now—when I hear footsteps nearing my door. I knew José was going to come in so, I leaped up and began throwing on my t-shirt and dorm shorts, the latter never making it on before he knocked and walked in. “¿Estabas dormiendo? Were you sleeping?Like an idiot, I said “no….” as if he couldn’t see the internet alarm I had found that was set on my laptop, and a completely dark room with me holding my shorts in place like they were on. If this was not awkward already, when Rosa and Tina both poked their heads in around José’s body, it most certainly was—me, half-dressed, face-to-face with all three roommates with a prevailing uncomfortable silence that could kill.

Thankfully, there was a pizza party at Patrick’s to lighten up the rather awful week. We ordered 100- euros worth of pizza like the lot of fatties that we are and tried to decide upon a movie. At one point, I thought we had all agreed, with the exception of myself, on a horror movie in Spanish—great, the last thing I want is to be scared shitless AND not understand what is even being said. It turned out to be Shutter Island in English to my great fortune. What is with all of Leo’s latest movies having to be seen twice to understand what the hell just happened? –Just a random thought.

This next part might be a bit graphic for some of you, so if you want, skip to the next paragraph, but I need to let the world know this. I had a bit of a bad bowel movement the other night; there was blood. Sometimes I have a bit of blood every once in a while, but never this much. It was no big deal until the morning after. I decided to wear my new white shorts to class the next day and every single time I felt a bit of gas coming, I panicked and tried my absolute hardest not to let it pass. The only thing I could envision was somehow causing blood to come out again, and seep through my thin white shorts. I did not want to look as if I had just somehow had a period. I've been trying to keep my uterus a secret.

One night, when I was just bumming for company, I went to Lizzie’s. I was standing in the kitchen when I could vaguely hear Adele’s “Turning Tables.” I just assumed Valerie was jamming out in her room, which is, to be fair, roughly on the opposite side of their kitchen wall. I had mentioned to Lizzie that I could hear her music and we both had our ears up to the wall listening. We then began to try and freak her out by punching the wall and raking it with our fingernails. We then wandered into Lizzie’s room, where I could then hear Pitbull and Ne-Yo’s “Give Me Everything.” That’s odd. I then just said it must have been her upstairs neighbor the whole time. I clearly remember standing by her door looking up at the ceiling and saying “Yup, it’s your upstairs neighbor, I can hear it clear as day right here.” I walked over to her bed to sit down and she remarked that the music “seems to be moving.” Nothing caught my attention more than when I next heard Zoe Badwi’s “Freefallin.” Zoe is an Australian artist I came across on the Internet, and I found it too much of coincidence that all of these songs were on my iPod as well. I reached into my cargo pocket where I discovered my iPod blaring at full blast on shuffle. Whoops. Can you spell r-e-t-a-r-d?

Sadly, my days in Granada were winding down. I could not believe how quickly four months had managed to fly by. I don’t remember many details from these final moments as I got lazy with my blog note-taking, but because I was spending every moment taking it all in for one last hoorah. I remember having another rendezvous with Ariel’s cousin again; she was deported from Italy and needed a place to go. I don’t recall exact details for the deportation, but I’m suspecting they were mafia-related.

Oh yeah, I had my 21st birthday during my final days. It was an absolute disaster. Well, it was fun, before I fell asleep for two-and-a-half hours clinging to the porcelain god. That was…a blast (no pun intended). Normally, 21st birthdays aren’t a cause for extra celebration in Europe since they crawl out of the womb alcoholics, but I had my caring circle of American pals that ensured it was a celebration. You would think it would have been the burning Absinthe shot I took that put me up over the edge after roughly four mixed drinks, a couple of apple schnapps shots, and a beer, but no, it was the rum and Coke I had nearly an hour and a half later; thank you for that again, Lauren. The next thing I knew, I was sitting outside the club on the sidewalk trying to make my world not do summersaults. At some point, Valerie began entertaining us with a dazzling story about Gandalf and the stick, not to be confused with Harry Potter.

                                                         Some point later...

Knowing the day after my 21st would most likely be a pounding, nauseating affair, I somehow, by the grace of all of the world’s gods, to pack my suitcases three days before I left. I was reviewing Air Berlin’s baggage policy when I came across this…interesting rule: “The following articles may only be carried in checked baggage: toy guns and commercially available toys that could be used as a weapon.” Hmmm…I really don’t believe you can club someone to death with a squirt gun—or! Oh, no! What if someone holds up the plane with a Nerf gun?!

My flight home was a bit stupid—well, I was stupid for booking it. I had not even realized I booked a flight that left Málaga Sunday afternoon and arrived in Berlin Sunday night for a twelve hour layover. In the U.S. I wouldn’t think twice about potentially spending the night in the terminal outside of my gate, but such initially seemed impossible in Berlin. I had arrived around nine Sunday evening and my flight to New York left at ten the following morning. I went to the gate my flight was supposed to leave from, but there was a passport check station before you could even enter the gate. I then decided to do a lap around the terminal to find a place to camp out to find, there wasn’t any. What the hell am I going to do? I asked a lady at one of the check-in counters, who was getting ready to leave, if the terminal was open all night. She told me it was not, but terminal D was. “Ok, great. Thanks” She looked rather puzzled, but I made my way over to the adjacent terminal.

This was just awesome might I add…sitting…waiting…alone…in the empty terminal with ten-and-a-half hours to go until my connecting flight. I even kept a log of my mind-numbingly boring night:

10:50p: Watching the night man on his squeegee machine washing the floor.

10:57p: The cleaning man just ran into the airport directory sign on his machine…quite funny.

11:01p: Discovered I have Bejeweled Blitz on my laptop! Mildly entertaining!

11:50p: Done with Bejeweled. I now have company: a drunk who is walking laps, two other passengers waiting patiently, and what I thought were two more drunks might just be two hobos because I am currently watching the one dig through the trash.

11:57p: And now there is a lost Asian man wandering aimlessly with his luggage cart.

1:01a: Finished an epic doodle. One passenger must feel unsafe sleeping with us, which may explain why he is now sleeping behind the ticket counter.

1:25a: Can’t possibly do anything else. I’m going to attempt sleeping.

4:45a: Just finished taking nearly 16-18 fifteen minute naps since comfort was not available on these metal chairs. Off to my terminal to the Starbucks until boarding.  

Un saludo,


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Semana Trece: Lisbon the Plagiarizer

22 April ~ 28 April 2011

I was finally bullied into going to Portugal through the passive-aggressive tactics of Lizzie and Emily. For those that are geographically challenged, Portugal is the small, random entity attached to Spain, much like the state of Delaware to the U.S. Despite Portuguese being a romance language, it sounds nothing like one; it sounds more-or-less like German or Russian. And let me just say, Lisbon is totally stealing multiple chapters out of San Fran’s book, and is getting away with it: street cars, a golden gate bridge, hilly terrain with steep-angled streets, and proximity to water. If I were to plagiarize, I’d get a zero on the assignment and have a botched school record so, I would like to see some sort of punishment exercised on Lisbon.

Lemurs are awesome.

To start the final voyage of my semester, I took a bus from Granada to Sevilla where the gang had already been for a few days. As soon as I arrived, Lizzie and Emily met me and we sprinted to T.G.I. Friday’s which I had been fantasizing about for some weeks. As a food junkie, leaving all of your accustomed foods takes a toll, and as the weeks have creep on, the more and more you drool for all of the things you can’t have. I started making a list for the things I need in the car ready for me when I get off the plane (Shelby be prepared) and other places I’ll need to visit in the ensuing days. In the car, I will need a mint Oreo blizzard (Shelby, get a cooler), a Thanksgiving dinner, ginger snaps, golden Oreos, cherry cheesecake, and possibly Olive Garden breadsticks with a side of alfredo sauce for dipping.

As if dinner was not enough, later, we went to a little place called Wankandy—yes! Basically, it is a Spanish equivalent to Dylan’s Candy Bar. I was slightly unhappy with them, however, since they did not have my cherry gummies…as if that stopped me from still getting way too much candy than is necessary for someone not 8-years old. If you were wondering, no oompa loompas were present in the store, I checked.

Eventually we had to make the walk to the bus station for our midnight departure for Lisbon. Given it was a seven-hour journey, I was quick to take Emily up on her sleeping pill offer since I can’t ever sleep on buses. Well, I still didn’t sleep. Go figure. The entire time I was in a weird limbo land straddling consciousness and dreams, and had a brief nightmare that I went fishing. It was horrible. When we got to the bus station, we found out that the metro did not open for business for another hour and a half.

It was quite dead in the metro station, minus the few waves of people arriving by train. It was rather hot and sticky, so I decided to go one floor down, stand behind one of the support columns, and change from my jeans to shorts. As luck would have it, while in my boxers sifting through my backpack for my shorts, one of the said waves of people came flooding down the stairs. “Be a chameleon. Be a chameleon. If you don’t move, they won’t see you.” After releasing a sigh of relief once they had passed, I turned around to see one of the janitor ladies looking at me with disdain. It’s not my fault the bathrooms were closed. You should just be lucky I’m not peeing in the lobby. Yeah, take that!

Upon our arrival at the Oasis Hostel, we crashed in the living room (on one of the most fantastic couches ever, I must say) until breakfast. We ventured out after having the best scrambled eggs I had ever had. Our first stop, after hiking up through the Alfama quarter was the fle market. Here in Lisbon, flea markets offer everything you could ever need: out-of-print European coins, jumper cables, medieval swords and shields (if that’s your thing), chargers to every cell phone made before the new millennium, and tampons, if you’re really in a pinch.

I did come to Portugal fully-prepared with my list of things to do: two separate pastry shops, one in Lisbon, and one in Bélem. This is very important stuff. We visited the first one, Versailles, and had delicious, caramel I-don’t-know whats and the best coffee I have had in Europe thus far. The only annoyance was that you had to stand and eat at the bar—too much physical exertion. I’m here to eat sweets and get fat; I don’t want to have to engage in modest exercise in order to do so. Like in all similar places, I was in such a trance of bliss that I left my umbrella on the floor when we left. I’m not having much luck with umbrellas on the road.

What is the logical thing to do after leaving a pastry shop? Cross the street and go to McDonald’s! But let me just ask, have you ever SEEN Portuguese McDonald’s? They have computer kiosks where you can order your food! Other than the fact that it took me four tries and two different employees, it was the coolest thing ever. On the way home, we stopped at one of the many miradors (like Kodak photo spots for the Disney World connoisseurs out there). Dinner that night was prepared by either a hostel worker, or a guest, I’m not entirely sure. I really don’t think I was paying attention to anything this trip. Anyway, it was some sort of red curry dish…with some other items, one of which was crunchy…

The unique aspect of hostel stays is the wide—wide—variety of people you meet. After dinner, Emily and I decided to take up a competitive game of tangrams. It was over the course of playing I met one of our fellow hostel mates: NAB (New Age boy). What started it all was Glee. Lizzie is holding out on watching Glee, for some odd reason of wanting to live above others, and maintain an authentic theater snob disposition (as if there is a secret Broadway agency that would know who became a theater lover after Glee made it popular). Regardless, I still thought she had to see the “Umbrella/Singing in the Rain” video, at least for its cinematographic value.

Seconds from being over, NAB said something to the effect of “Wow, are you really watching Glee?” That’s an odd statement to make first of all, because you are mocking me, yet you somehow know what we are watching. Well from that point on, NAB couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He is a self-proclaimed New Ager (if that even still exists) born and raised in San Francisco, and now attends school in Iowa—IOWA. What New Ager would leave one of the most New Age-y places in the country, to go to school in IOWA. Does anyone even live there? He also kept rambling on and on about luh-coast-ay (Lacoste for us who speak English), and at one point asked if the three of us were dating—rather enthusiastically.

The next morning, we found a package on the couch that was Bianca, who came to join our mad little tea party. After my routine peppermint tea, toast and nutella, and eggs, we were off to catch a train to Sintra, a town on the Atlantic coast. Rolling into the station, we saw a Pizza Hut attached to the train station, and had no other choice but to go. Not only was the pizza the best since leaving home, but they had a cookie dough pizza that was to die for. Completely satisfied and lethargic, we had to slowly make our way into town to get to the palace and gardens.

The palace complex was amazing and was fully-equipped with caves, spiral staircase wells, observation towers, fountains, and trails. The scariest part was the one bit of the underground cave system. We thought we had hit a dead end, but it wasn’t until someone took a picture that we realized it continued on in complete darkness. For some reason, they told me to go first. A while back, I changed locations in the park because a rather large ant was crawling on me, and now you think I’m the best candidate to lead y’all into a creepy, dark cave?

The worst part of the day was just about to come, the walk up to the Moorish castle. I have never—ever!—walked up such a steep incline for that amount of time. Holy cowballs. The best part, the part where I about fainted, was when we got to the entrance to the castle, and the guard asked us for our tickets. “…Tickets?” He then showed us on the map where tickets were to be purchased, at the bottom of the hill. Seeing the utter depression that came over our faces, he allowed us to enter the gate and buy tickets inside. The climb was so worth the views we had from atop the castle wall. Our little happy dance took a bit of a  blow when we saw another fortress even higher up on a different hill. But the chances of me willingly going up the other mountain was equal to the chance of a Taylor Swift song not being about fairytales, unicorns, and rainbows.

Exhausted, but with a whole night remaining, we decided to go to a bar called The Bedroom. Unfortunately, The Bedroom did not appear to be open. What the hell? It was around 9 p.m. so it should have definitely been open. We tried banging on the door, ringing the doorbell, knocking on the sliding peephole door (the technical name of which I don’t know—who would?), and anything else remotely annoying. No one felt like letting us in—they’re loss—so, we headed to another bar where we were surrounded by miniature plastic people a.k.a. figurines. It was fantastic. They even put a clown in Emily’s drink, not literally—how gross?—but a paper cutout of a clown head was attached to her straw.

Fast forward to the next day and we were off again on a train, but this time to Bélem. We first went to a modern art museum; you know how those go: statues of thumbs, blinding white lights with creepy white plastered men, garbage cans lined up in a row (very emotional and inspirational), a movie with ants, and photos of a random lady eating lunch in a field. Afterward, completely confused and exhausted, we went to the second pastry joint on my list. We got the pastries to-go and went next door to Starbucks. It was a pastry dreamland and it was fantabulous.

We also visited a monument dedicated to the Portuguese explorers. While there, Emily shut the elevator doors on the elevator operator who got off on a random floor to grab something and most likely disrupted the entire logistics of the monument. We ended our day in Bélem with a visit to the Torre Bélem, which is like the emblem of Portugal tourism. 

After the tower, we then went for dinner and dessert… again at McDonald’s. The man taking my order single-handedly ruined my Portugal experience. I didn’t believe my order was of the complicated sort, but apparently, it was calculus to his dumb ass. I ordered a double cheeseburger with NO toppings, just cheese, and an OREO McFlurry. What did I get? I got a double cheeseburger with ALL of the fixings and an M&M McFlurry. Really, man? Really? Oreo sounds nothing like M&M. As if this was not enough, we all ordered two apple pies afterward for an amazing bargain of one euro.

Returning back to Lisbon proved to be a very sore spot in my mind. I won’t even delve into the complicated workings of the Lisbon public transit ticketing system, but just trust me, it was complicated. I wasn’t sure if I had somehow nullified my card when I swiped it under the wrong machine so, I decided to walk closely behind Bianca as she walked through the gate. These gates were the kind that required you to wave your card over the sensor and the doors would slide to the right to open, and then close quickly after you walk through. It was a complete and utter failure. The doors tried to slam shut, but this time they couldn’t because my body was preventing that from happening—Oww! I’m surprised I didn’t have dislocated shoulders as the slamming action created quite the sound. I so hope the surveillance coverage of this ends up on YouTube.

It was then time to pack up and head to the bus station for our overnight bus back. There was  just a truly irritating Asian woman on our return bus—what a monster she was. Apparently, China woman felt entitled to both seats in her row, and on purpose, scooted over to the aisle seat when we made our first stop and put her extra luggage on the window seat. Appalled by this, it was soon outdone when someone asked to sit next to her and she shook her head and pointed to the back of the bus! WTF?! The nerve! Who stepped on your fortune cookie?

Thanks to Lizzie, Emily, and Bianca for an awesome time!......seriously, IOWA?

Un saludo,


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Semana Doce: What day is it?

15 April ~ 21 April 2011

With all of my recent excursions out of Spain, I have completely lost any sense of time or date. I decided that instead of writing the blog dedicated to my most recent outing to Portugal, I should honor all of the in-and-out experiences in Granada from the past three weeks.

I am gradually becoming more and more deathly afraid of my amiable flatmates. It has gotten to the point that when I hear one of them coming, I drop everything I’m doing and make a mad dash to my room where I quickly shut the door and breathe heavily while still resting on the door like I just escaped an encounter with Michael Myers from Halloween. Similarly, I check to make sure the coast is clear when I leave my room. The root of the problem is my inability to small-talk in Spanish; I can barely do this in English without feeling awkward and stupid so, I’m definitely not equipped to do so in Spanish.

Classes are, well, getting more and more irritating as the semester progresses. Really, the hardest part about classes, we have all agreed, is either getting up, or the walk to class. The worst of them all is geography of Spain. Oh, my. That class is…a train wreck—a really bad one where all of the passengers onboard become seriously maimed or dead. Most of it falls upon the teacher, Javier. As a human with feelings, I do feel bad for him a bit but, it is his fault. Whenever you walk into the computer lab for that class, it has the aura of a human jungle since the windows are kept shut all day and the bad odors of poor hygiene students blends with the hot, humid air already present. The next irritating part is Javier himself. He wears clothes five-times too large for his body, he looks in utter pain when he speaks, and his body language screams I just had an entire six pack of Red Bull and a line of coke. He imparts that feeling of intense anxiety upon me. We won’t even delve into the mounds of busy work he gives us.

The only redeeming class is my POE class (basically writing and speaking class). Each Monday, a select few of us give news presentations to explain and then discuss. Many choose to do rather monotonous topics such as the Japan nuclear crisis with their discussion question being: “What do you think we can do to solve this?” Well, I don’t know. Why don’t you just ask me if I know the cure for cancer? Maybe that person thought we were all skilled in nuclear science. I, however, decide to lighten things up pretty drastically like discussing such world-shaking topics as Rebecca Black, or American Idol. The other week I spoke about the oddly huge success of Black’s “Friday.” There were some classmates, including the teacher, that had not seen this object with intense comical value so, what did we do? We watched it in class, that’s right. And then what was our homework? We had to translate the lyrics into Spanish!

The second most irritating class is grammar. Grammar is a bit of a mixed bag, though. At times I’m enjoying myself, and others I’m suicidal. However, this past week we had a pretty fun game called “Problems.” We were reviewing commands in Spanish, and to practice, we each had to write down a problem we have, real or not, and then tape it on the back of someone without them seeing. Then, the teacher would call people up to the front of the room so we could all read their problem and then help that person figure out their problem by giving them commands that would help solve their problem. Most people wrote lame phrases like: “My parents are coming to town but I have class. What should I do? Sadly, the person with the best “problem” was not called up for us to help because we ran out of time. Here’s what she had:

                                                    "Tengo noventa y nueva problemas y todas son putas." 
                                                    (AKA I got 99 problems and all of them are bitches)

Also, after all of this travelling, I have been able to revisit my favorite café with regularity. This past Wednesday I had the honor of being indirectly involved in the most awkward and random conversation ever. Mind you, this guy was on Skype so there are no responses from the other person, just the freak in the café.

                -Are you still talking to (person x)? ….(I didn’t catch the name)
                -Is he still doing the whole dildo thing?
                -Alright, because I’m going to need supplies.
                -OK, I’ll let you know when I’m in London and we can go to a rave or something.

I’m not sure if you, freak man, are aware, but you are sitting in a dead-silent café with two other people, and you are screaming into your microphone. We can hear you. Lastly, I hope those products are not for you. Now leave, and let me finish studying French in Spain.

Lately in Granada, we have been under fire from Mother Nature. When I came back from my three days in Portugal, the once sunny, warm weather we had, instantly dissipated and the cold, rainy weather from late February resurfaced. Also, that puta has decided to attack us with cotton balls—seriously! The trees are shedding some fluffy white material that we are calling cotton (it might be but, I don’t know—plants aren’t my strong suit). They almost resemble those white things you picked up when little, or still do, and blew to make all of the white things (sorry for this realistic depiction) float away while you made a wish. Well, whether that made any sense or not, these damn things come off the trees in droves when the wind blows and it almost appears that it is snowing.

Most of the time you can see them, but such isn’t always the case. Sometimes, just a fragment of the material floats and gets into your eye, or as it was in my case, both eyes! I was walking to my potato shop (more on that piece of heaven later) when all of the sudden—BAM! I had just yelled some expletive and cupped my right eye when—BAM! What the hell! Now I had cotton in both eyes and was blind as I had to cup my left eye as well. I’m surprised I didn’t get hit by a car, because, for some reason, I kept walking while covering both eyes until reason settled in and I pulled over and attended my burning eyes. Yes, I did just say ‘pulled over’ like I was a car.  

The next night, after Mother Nature attempted to blind me, we all went up to the mirador (lookout point) with Ariel’s visiting cousin. We were all sitting on the wall watching the sun set over the Sierra Nevada and Alhambra when the funniest accident happened that didn’t involve me. There was this guy on the street beneath the wall who, actually, looked as if he had fallen in the bushes that produced those cotton balls as his hair was spot-dyed white in the front part, which was rather long, while the back half of his head was short? Anyway, he was starting up his moped for his girlfriend trying to be cool and suave when he hit the throttle thinking he was in reverse to get out of the parking spot, but was really in drive. Needless to say, his ass went straight into the wall in front of him. Instead of taking a taxi like I would have at that point, dumb dumb girlfriend hopped on the back and off they went.

A couple of weeks ago, most of the gang decided to go to the beach and asked me to go with them. I normally don’t say “no,” but this time I had to. Bryce doesn’t do the beach. I like beach atmospheres, being near/around a beach, but typically not on the beach engaging in beach activities. There are many things I’m paranoid of in addition to the gross and undisputed outcome of sand plus water all over your body. Here is my list of apprehensions:

1.)    Drowning.
2.)    Impaling myself with my own surfboard or flotation device.
3.)    Getting eaten/marred by a shark.
4.)    Getting eaten by Loch Ness monster. I’m closer to Scotland than ever.
5.)    Drowning.
6.)    Getting stung by a jellyfish or sting ray. If it can happen to Steve Irwin, it can happen to anyone.
7.)    Coming face-to-face with an octopus. This one would cause immediate death.
8.)    Getting caught in a plastic bottle carrier.
9.)    Getting electrocuted by an eel.
10.) Stepping on a sea urchin.
11.) Getting caught in a school of seahorses.
12.)  One of the above causing me to crap my wetsuit and have it evenly disperse throughout.

In the event I ever do choose to go, I hope you don’t mind my floaties. Also, someone will have to be strapped to my back like they do in two-person sky diving. My life vest will also be worn at all times on land, including seaside bars—floaties up!

Un saludo,


Monday, April 25, 2011

Semana Once: Berlin: Salvation

8 April ~ 14 April 2011

The last time I wrote I was cowering in a corner holding all of my possessions dearly in a sketchy alleyway in Prague praying to the only god I know, Oprah, that I make it out of this twisted, evil carnival land alive. Elissa was with me as well praying to her god, sweet baby J. Feeling the presence of our gods rushing through our bodies, we made a dash to the bus station before it wore off and we woke up in one of Jigsaw’s puzzles—please not the head trap with a padlock one--that looked so complicated. The people onboard this bus from Hell to Berlin must have thought, “Oh, here come the stupid people” as we greeted the bus with open arms and embraced it, unlike I do with stranger’s babies they try to pass of to me as if I want to hold them. Really?

Our euphoria was quickly brought down to Earth as we again got lost getting to our hostel. We walked the Friedrichstrasse for a mile in each direction multiple times before getting the right direction. Checking in to our hostel was a bit of a mixed bag as we were greeted by the lead singer from Twisted Sister who was rocking out to some metal soundtrack. We seemed to be the only ones there under the age of 40 to stay at a sleeping establishment and sightsee and not waiting for the Motley Crue concert to start. Hopefully this was due to the fact that everyone our age was wasted and still in bed with hangovers and not up rocking out at 10 a.m.

Up first on our German visit was Checkpoint Charlie. When we arrived to the small hut with a fake American guard played by a German, we were a little confused as to who exactly Charlie was. There was a large pole with a sizeable photo of an American soldier. Is this Charlie? After a confusing couple of minutes we decided to bid adieu to Charlie, wherever he was, and go to the Brandenburg Gate. One of the most irritating things about visiting touristy places is the photo debacle that ensues. I’m so used to envisioning these places of importance as I see in National Geographic Traveler magazines clear of people and with optimal visual effects i.e. a beautiful sunset, an apocalyptic storm cloud, nighttime with streams of headlights and taillights, or pristine snow cover. So, when we arrived to Brandenburg Gate, there was not a sunset or any of the other cool things you see in pictures and even worse, there were people. I wanted to grab a megaphone and ask if anyone minded if they cleared so I could get my pictures. It would just be a few minutes. I mean, they did owe me, I had to listen to the Germanic language for far too long than my ears could handle--no offense :)

                                                                                  Brandenburg Gate

We then thought it would be cool to go into the Reichstag and see the city from the glass dome that was built on top. Unfortunately, some a-hole decided to call in a bomb threat at some point last November and it was not shut down to the public, unless you had reservations to the expensive restaurant up top. So terrorists can’t enjoy a nice meal? I don’t know if the Germans were too busy beer-guzzling on 9/11 but these people learned how to hijack and fly effing jumbo jets, so I think they will figure a way around the “dinner-reservation only” method of getting into the building. Not so difficult.

The next morning we went to the Neues Museum to see Egyptian and other ancient artifacts. The museum was spectacular on the inside and I plan on stealing many of their ideas for my future home. I should say everything was spectacular minus the asshole and sauerkraut-scented bathrooms which was…pleasant. The US Open could also gain some things from the museum, particularly their imposing and Hitler-like museum cops. Not only were these guards extremely physical as one literally pushed me back when I walked in a wrong door, but their eyesight was incredible. Elissa was “reading” the hieroglyphics to me when this German lady appeared next to Elissa and said, “Don’t touch!” This lady should definitely be working the lines at the US Open in place of the Asian woman that rocked Serena’s world (which I thought was uh-mazing). I would like to see the German guard and Serena go at it, although I still think Serena would literally eat her, but she’d put up a better fight than the cowardly Asian woman who was for some reason intimated by a pissed-off Serena.  

                                                Not that scary

 We left the museum to join up with our walking tour group of Berlin. The tour was OK minus the two losers that were with us as well. The one had asked the tour guide if he had ever seen this special series on the History Channel. Really? Yes, Germans get our basic cable line-up too. Why don’t you ask him if he watches American Idol while you’re at it? The other loser had a ridiculous ginger mustache and shabby baseball cap to cover up his equally obnoxious and disheveled ginger locks. Besides sleeping with one eye and listening to the tour guide with the other, he asked, when we visited the Empty Bookshelf Memorial if there were ever books in the library. This almost compares to the time when my brother argued that gravity is what held things up. (We hope he was just very tired).

Elissa and I kept remarking for the past two days at this point about the ubiquitous presence of sand everywhere—like it was sandier than boardwalks. We soon found out that Berlin, which is part of the province of Brandenburg, is known as the Sandpit and that it was built on top of sand, much like Florida. That explains that. The most amazing thing I learned on our trip is that Hitler’s former office and headquarters is now a Chinese restaurant. Oh, the irony.

The next morning we had to meet our other walking tour group for the tour of Sachsenhausen concentration camp. The camp was about twenty miles north of Berlin and we had to catch a train up to Oranienburg and then walk to Sachsenhausen. Of course, as the Universe would have it, there was a lady with a walking problem on our four-hour walking tour. I don’t mean to be rude to anyone with walking problems, but I find it rather selfish to sign up for a walking tour (as the website makes specifically clear) and then expect for everyone to wait for you. Not only did she hold us up now and again, but she was the bozo of the crowd that kept asking the questions that our tour guide had just explained, or better yet, as I deemed, completely stupid questions like “So what was it about the Jews that Hitler didn’t like?” Maybe it is a bit unfair of me to expect for someone to know the fundamental platform that launched the Holocaust when visiting a concentration camp, or perhaps in Australia (where she was from) they don’t learn about the Holocaust for seven straight years like we do.

Many of the original structures weren’t standing anymore, but that almost augmented the eerie and somber ambiance that envelops visitors when they enter the grounds. The worst part was walking to station Zed which is where the furnaces were that just make your stomach turn. While in the barracks, Elissa told me she saw a couple making out in the corner which, to me, just seemed a bit insensitive. As the tour progressed it became colder and colder, and the wind all the more strong. At this point, being improperly dressed, my concentration was lost and all I could think about was our reservations at the warm TV tower, also insensitive in retrospect.

Eventually, we did make it to the TV tower for our wonderful dinner after trying to break in through, apparently, an employee’s-only area. I still have yet to figure out how we ended up there. We both had the cream of parmesan soup to start which was divine. For our entrées we both chose the tortellini with ratatouille which was again, really good. The fun part was dessert. I had a normal, hazelnut-pecan-caramely sundae, while Elissa chose to have the “fitness sundae.” The fitness sundae includes what most people prize to eat for dessert: sour cream, poppy seed ice cream, raspberry vinaigrette, pesto pineapples, whipped cream, and more disgusting items I cannot remember at this point in time. And that freak liked it.

The dinner, with a 360° nighttime view of Berlin, was a perfect cap to a near-perfect hooky vacation. The following morning we made the rather long trip to Berlin Schoenfeld airport. This was my first time riding Ryanair and boy do you really get what you paid for. First of all, the seats do not even have seatback pockets. Secondly, there is not even a slightly organized system for seating as everyone stands like a bunch of animals penned up until the gates are opened and everyone goes crazy running to get on the plane. Thirdly, due to the absence of seatback pockets, the safety card instructions are printed on the seatbacks because yes, I do wish to stare at the crash-landing instructions for the entirety of a flight. I was just hoping that, in the unlikely event of a “water landing,” they weren’t going to whip out the waterproof credit card machines and charge for the life vests.

Other than that, Elissa, it was a pleasure, and I’m sorry for allegedly repeating things you had just said five minutes prior. 

Un saludo,