In Training for Hannover

Once upon a time, I was supposed to take a train from Amsterdam to Hannover to spend a week in Germany with a friend, but that all went terribly wrong when I accidentally exited the train too early.

Being an American and growing up dealing with boats and planes a lot, trains were not something I had a lot of exposure to in my life. That is unless you count trains between airport terminals and trains at Disney World.

The plan was fairly straightforward and simple:

Step 1: Get on the train in Amsterdam

Step 2: Transfer a few stops later

Step 3: Read a book as I traveled from The Netherlands to Germany.

I nailed Step 1 and easily found my platform and got on the right train leaving Amsterdam. I did not however succeed at any of the other steps in my 3-step plan!

How was I supposed to know that three different stations all would share practically the same names and all that changed were the ending part- Zuid, Centraal, and Noord?

Listening very carefully for which stop I was supposed to transfer at, I heard the name of the station I thought was the one I needed and exited the train. After waiting a bit and being the only person on that platform for a train that should be departing fairly soon, I finally found someone to ask, and promptly found out that I had been overeager in my exiting and that this in fact was not the Noord version of the stop but rather the Zuid version or vice versa.

Europe

Having missed my train to Hannover, I was told that I should get on the next train and go to the actual station I should have gotten off at originally and try to rebook myself on the next train going to Hannover.

When I got to that station, I was told that if I hurried and caught a train going to still yet a different train station, I might be able to catch another train going to Hannover and still make it that evening.

I got on yet another train and stared out the windows as I passed farmland, pastures, and a less populated version of the Netherlands. Sadly, upon arriving at that station, I was told I had just missed the train and that the best thing to do would be to wait and start again the next day. I was offered the option of staying at that train station in rural Holland overnight, or a return ticket to Amsterdam where I could try my adventure all over the next day. I opted to return to Amsterdam and spent one more night in Amsterdam and tried my trip to Hannover again the next morning.

This time around, I knew ahead of time not to jump off the train prematurely and this time around everything ran smoothly and I reached Hannover without a glitch.

Book It To Anywhere

I love lots of things and find many things very fascinating, but I can’t live without two very specific things: I can’t live without traveling and I can’t live without reading.

What I love about reading is that a good book can transport you from your rainy nook where you’re curled up reading to being a part of the running of the bulls in Pamplona or diving for treasure in the Florida Keys.

As a voracious young reader, several books influenced my sense of adventure and made me want to pack a lunch and runoff. The following is a very short and incomplete list of books that have made me feel like an adventure was definitely needed.

1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

The Sun Also Rises

2. Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

Captains Courageous

3. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild

4. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

5. Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

Around the World in 80 Days

6. Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Kite Runner

This One Time at Summer Camp…

This is another installment of Flashback Friday and once again we travel back in time to another set of memories and experiences I had during my younger years.Today’s story only goes back to the summer of 2007. Now that I think of it, 2007 was quite a few years ago! Anyway, I was living in Oaxaca, Mexico working with a small organization. Rather suddenly, my mother called me and told me that she and my dad thought it would be great if I could organize a two-week trip to Abaco, Bahamas. I was to plan a trip for myself, my brother, and 6 of our cousins so that we could volunteer at a summer camp during its high school youth camp. Part of me thought that the idea sounded fun and part of me inwardly groaned at the thought of organizing something where multiple countries were involved and shaky to nonexistent internet was likely to make the task even harder. Eventually I said yes.

Fast forward to July and there we all were (well most of us) trying to meet each other at our boarding gate in Dallas as we convened from 3 different parts of the US. By the time we finally found each other, we were one cousin short as she was the maid of honor in a wedding and would fly out to meet us in Miami as soon as the wedding reception was over.

The Bahamas

family flying fun

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about our flight from Miami to Abaco. Only small planes fly back and forth from Florida to the Bahamas so my family and I found ourselves taking up more than half the plane. Though the flight was short, it was really quite eventful as we experienced drops in 10 feet increments until we thought we were just going to fall out of the sky. We also didn’t find it very encouraging that the pilot’s door flew open during one of those drops and we all heard her express “oops!” As our lives flashed before our eyes, we all realized that almost every child from my mother’s side of the family was aboard this plane that may or may not make it. We were so thrilled when we landed that we thought honestly nothing could be worse.

Boy were we wrong.

We were greeted at the airport and taken immediately to camp where we were to settle in and spend the evening and next day setting up. Upon arrival, we were told that we would be doing all the games, the morning music, and that I would become the Assistant Camp Director. Before we left, we had known that games might possibly be something we would participate in, but holding and facilitating a week of games was very different. The task of leading music was not quite what we were up for and as for becoming the Assistant Camp Director of a camp I had very little knowledge of, well that was going to be a riot.

My “team” and I had to quickly assess what fun things we had brought and decided to deal with game planning and supply gathering the next day. It’s always better to face your problems in the daylight and being that it was the Bahamas, we had plenty of sunshine to not only face all of our problems but also cause dehydration and sun burns.

The Bahamas

figuring out the rules for recreation time

What followed can only be described as craziness. We hardly slept, we did everything from building huge bonfires to washing all the dishes for every meal for a week. We taught them how to play ultimate frisbee during the day and chased them out of dark spaces at night on “hanky panky patrol.” We broke up fights, we crowned a camp king and camp queen, we inspected rooms, and we did a talent show. We pretty much did everything and anything and somehow miraculously managed to come out mostly unscathed.

The Bahamas

dishes galore

The final night was dizzying for us, the campers were amped up on sugar and the excitement of camp and we were exhausted and dreaming of escape from the Bahamas. In chapel we kept singing “I’ll fly away oh glory” and while the author of that particular song probably was referencing going to heaven, I know for a fact that every one of my family members was thinking about the day we would fly back to the US.

As we departed from camp, each of us breathed a sigh of relief and clapped each other on the backs as a sign of a job well done. The campers had loved us, the staff thought we did a great job, and now we were ready for some beach time and it was off to a hotel for a few days of R&R. Suddenly that dream of escaping came to a grinding halt as the van we were leaving the camp in broke down and we were stuck several miles from camp and several miles from civilization. It was here that the term WWGD? was coined. What Would Gilligan Do? I’m sure Gilligan wanted off his little island after so many seasons of being stranded there, and so did we.

When we finally got to our hotel and recovered poolside and beachside, the horrors had started to fade away and we all knew we had a summer camp story that would rival anyone else’s.

Liebster Award: Paying it Forward

A big thank you to Shelby Travels for nominating my blog for the Liebster Award! The idea behind this award is that small blogs can familiarize themselves with other blogs and increase exposure as they get to know each other and share a little about themselves. Being relatively new at this blogging thing, I was particularly grateful to be included in Shelby’s nominations.

The rules for this are simple:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link to his/her blog
  2. Answer the 10 questions by the nominee before you
  3. Nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 readers and notify them of their nomination
  4. Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer- reuse the questions asked of me

I would like to nominate (in no particular order):

1. Cookies and Roses
2. Jocelyn Harper
3. lifetomyfullest
4. Wanderhunger
5. Mi vida en España
6. Passports and Visa
7. The Octopus Diaries 
8. Emily’s Full Plate
9. It’s A Wonderful Adventure
10. islandmystic 86

Me

1. Why do you blog?

I actually was told by a friend of mine that I needed to tell others about what I experienced while being abroad and through all my travels. I kind of just shrugged and dismissed the idea by saying I didn’t really have the time. Here I am now just as busy as before but blogging and loving the opportunity to share stories ranging from the mundane to the unimaginable. I love how blogging and the blogging realm adds another layer of community for those whose wanderings have taken them far and near.

2. What is the strangest experience you’ve had?

Ohhh, this is an incredibly tough one. I think one of the oddest experiences I had actually happened in Taipei. The entire trip was supposed to be rather straightforward, but somehow it took a detour toward the weird. I was visiting a temple on a mountain and there weren’t really any buses or taxis in the vicinity, so this well-meaning youngish guy offered my friends and I a ride down the mountain in his car. The prospect of walking down a mountain in light rain or all 4 of us riding down in his car was weighed and we figured 1) this is Taiwan not some scary dangerous place 2) walking in the rain didn’t sound that great. We all piled into his tiny little car and proceeded down the mountain. He didn’t really say much to us as he drove and then he turned on was can only be described as bells, whistles, cymbals, and other assorted noisemakers. We all looked at each other and tried not to laugh because we were all wedged into a tiny car that was loudly playing “music” as it zoomed down the mountain. Each clang of the cymbal and every “boop” and “bop” of the noisemakers were well-timed to a swerve or a curve in the road. By the time we had clanged our way down the mountain, we quickly jumped out of the car and thanked him for driving us down, and ran away trying to keep our bursts of confused laughter stifled until he had driven away. What were we thinking?

3. What city did you go to on your first plane ride?

I honestly can’t remember. I am willing to bet that it was some inconsequential flight to or from Houston, Texas.

4. What is great about your native city/country?

Having bounced around between 3 countries during childhood, it’s hard to narrow down which city actually is my “native” city. I may not have spent most of my childhood in Corpus Christi, Texas, but that is where I have my mail sent. Corpus Christi is a great city with a nice coastal casual feel. One of the nice things about the city is that there is an abundance of taquerias, which makes getting breakfast tacos at all hours very easy. It also has a nice community feel to it and yet not the suffocating everyone is on top of everyone feel of a big city.

5. Where are you off to next? Why?

I’m always looking for that next trip to take. My next big trip is supposed to be Myanmar in the fall. If I remember correctly, Myanmar opened to the outside world in 2011. This means that Myanmar hasn’t yet been tainted by commercialism and hoards of crazed tourists tramping all over the place. However, this also means that there really aren’t that many hotels and this probably won’t be a luxurious trip as much as a good experience. I would really like to experience some of the culture found in Myanmar as it really is a more untouched and pure Asian civilization.

6. Who inspires you?

I never can just choose a single person, but at the risk of sounding overly found of my family, I’ll choose my mother. I think my mother inspires me because she backpacked through Europe alone when she was just a teenager and has always been supportive of my desire to learn firsthand about other cultures. She loved to travel and when I was just a kid, she could have easily left me at home with my grandparents while she and my dad traveled, but instead, she chose to take me along with her. This exposure at such a young age helped plant the seed of travel in me and look where it has taken me!

7. What is your dream vacation?

Haha, my dream vacation is probably not exactly the dream vacation of everyone. My dream vacation would include biking or taking a tuk tuk through old architecture or temples that have been around for hundreds of years. I would want to drink tea or coffee with locals, and take a hike at night and listen to the sound of that the city makes (each city has its own sound…some more bustling, some filled with car sounds, some with the musical soul of the city). My dream vacation would also include touring and volunteering at a local NGO and listening to the stories of those around me. My vacations tend to have a lot of seeing, smelling, tasting, and listening. After I return home, there is a lot of thinking and processing of the experience and then comes the part where I start telling everyone about everything I experienced.

8. List three cities that you highly recommend.

I love Amsterdam, even though my time was short there, it was a great city. I also like Bangkok, I know the crowdedness of the city and the sometimes overly aggressive vendors and tuk tuk drivers can be a lot to deal with, but Bangkok is something everyone should experience. Another city I like is Buenos Aires, I was young when I went, but I loved the feel and rhythm of the city.

9. Any nightmare vacations?

Oh definitely, but part of the nightmare now makes it a great story to tell. I’m sure the story will eventually surface in one of my Flashback Friday posts!

10. Would you like to live in a foreign country? Which one?

I currently live in a foreign country and I have a list of potential next countries to live it…right now I’m entertaining thoughts about living in Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Turkey.

Yum vs. Yuck

When I first moved to Taipei, I hadn’t really had a lot of exposure to real Asian food. I was extremely familiar with the Americanized version and had favorites such as:

  • Sesame chicken
  • General Joe’s chicken
  • Beef and broccoli
  • Lo mein
  • Egg drop soup
  • Egg rolls

What a surprise it was when none of the local food looked or tasted like something I was familiar with. As I made friends with my new classmates and a few local Taiwanese, they began to push me to try some of the local delicacies. I devised a game called Yum vs. Yuck to rate the oddities thrown my way. Here are a few of the Yums and a few Yucks I have accumulated whilst living in Taiwan.

Taiwan

– Yums –
Bubble Milk Tea
Din Tai Fung’s Xiao Long Bao
Steamed Pork Buns
Pork Sausage on a Stick

– Yucks –
Oyster omelet
Stinky tofu
Pigs’ blood cake
Mooncakes with salty eggs in the middle

While there have been some hits and misses with my food exploration, I encourage everyone to be brave and give local delicacies a try!

B&B Giveaway!

My friend from Backpacks & Blackboards is having a giveaway…take a few seconds, stop by, and register! As they say in the Hunger Games, “may the odds be ever in your favor”

Backpacks & Blackboards

backpacksandblackboards.com backpacksandblackboards.com

To the B&B Readers,

I have exciting news for you! Backpacks & Blackboards will be having a giveaway! Nothing big but a product I think is pretty cool! (But I can’t tell you just yet. Surprises are wonderful!) I have8 intotal to giveaway. Here’s the short and sweet way to enter:

1. Make sure you are following Backpacks & Blackboards, either through WordPress or Email.

2. Fill out this simple feedback form so that I can learn a little more about you. I promise that your answers will not impact your chances of winning. (On the form, I ask for your email only so that I can notify you if you win, no spam.)

I will draw at random on Sunday and will email the winners to let them know! In the meantime, feel free to share this with your friends as well. & If you haven’t already…

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Drowning in Laundry

In honor of Flashback Friday, I decided I would share a story from my childhood.

When I was about 10 years old, my mother, little brother, and I were living on a boat in Port Lucaya, Grand Bahamas. While that may sound luxurious and exotic, living on a boat did have its difficulties- namely; it made it very difficult to wash our clothes.

The marina was kind enough to give us the name of a lady who would wash, dry, and fold our laundry, all we had to do was take it to her and pick it up. So once a week, my mother, brother, and I would cart our laundry to Clarice and rejoice when we would pick it up and have clean clothes for the next week.

This was our washing routine and nothing really changed about it. I stood on the dock with the clean bag of laundry, my mother put my brother on the boat and found toys to entertain him, and then she would come out and grab the bag of laundry and toss it onto the boat and watch me jump aboard.

One evening after returning to the boat, instead of waiting and going through the usual routine, I got it into my mind that all I needed to do was toss the bag laundry onto the boat and gravity would do the rest. Why wait for my mother to come out and toss it onboard when I could do it and save some time. It wasn’t fully low tide yet, so the boat was just a little lower than the dock, so all I had to do was time the gap and both the laundry and I would make it onto the deck of the boat below.

Texas

As I eased the laundry closer to the edge and waited for the gap to close a bit, I grabbed the laundry and jumped onto the boat. The next thing I knew, I was plunging into the dark water and sinking quickly toward the bottom of the marina. I was a good swimmer and had been swimming for years, but as I tried to push the laundry back to the surface, the realization that wet laundry was a lot heavier than dry laundry hit me and I found myself about to drown because of our laundry. Not wanting to die yet, I turned loose of the laundry and kicked my way to the surface.

Sputtering and gasping for breath I found my mother yelling and looking for me and I was quickly scooped out of the water. After explaining what I had tried to do and how I thought I could drop the laundry onto the boat myself and not have to wait for her to situate my brother, she told me it was ok but that now I needed to figure out a way to rescue our clothes resting on the bottom of the marina.

I then spent the next few hours trying to hook the laundry bag with my fishing pole so that I could reel it back to the surface and we could take it back to Clarice the next day to have her re-wash it.

Needless to say and household mothers take note, I will never forget the time when I was drowning in laundry.