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Posts tagged ‘Travel’

16
Oct

A Pleasant Chat With Myself …with no regrets

Writing 201, poetry: Pleasure, Sonnet, Apostrophe
(not that kind of apostrophe…)

                     Say What, SELF?

Talking to Myself is something I do
Listing accomplishments, dreams, and regrets.
Bragging to Self is always permitted
as long as the truth is told.

But sometimes I resent what SELF has to say
in questioning and doubting and high-handed
pouting over things that
I never got to do.

Travel might have been, should have been, would have been
had the opportunity and ability been present
much sooner in life than it was..

What’s that you say, Self?–
I didn’t apply myself?
I wasted much of the time of my life
on the mundane and unnecessary (in the grand scheme)
pursuits such as housework and not
enough adventure and travel?

Well that’s not the case!  I hasten to say–
I’m not indignant, I just need to explain.
My years as a gadabout (now I only can write about)
Only regretting but never forgetting
the places I did NOT get to and sites unseen.

What’s that you say, Self?
I never got to Australia — why not?
Well you know the reason…lack of money.
No, it is NOT an excuse
a trip to my Grandpa’s land
never made the itinerary
until it was too late.

Well, I’ve been to Minnesota, where I’m infamous for closing the airport
twice in two years.

What’s that you’re saying, S?
Yes, indeed there IS now a sign on the door
DO NOT CLOSE OUR AIRPORT!
It’s the airport that never closes,
rain, sleet or snow notwithstandingl
but it did clamp down in a blizzard
(NO it is not fair to blame it on ME,
just because of a misunderstanding…

Well, OK, do you remember THIS, Self?

I’ve been to the jungle and mountaintops, where I slept in relative comfort
guarded by masked men with guns.
I love that cool, lofty city, high in the mountains–rebels and soldiers, and all.
Now don’t get judgemental and argumental, it was all pure and nobel.
YES, I do admit to thinking as the shadow appeared on the wall–
what the hell am I doing here, after all?

 What’s that you ask, SELF?
Now–don’t take me to task, prattling about morality
and culpability, and what would people think?
You know that I always bask in adventure and human rights
YES I was able to deal with the ghosts aflight in the nights.

So, sophistication was never my thing, and try as I might there was no chance
to be anything but me–boring old ME.

What is it now, SELF?
You remember it all? You DID love the days when I
could run through airports without too much effort,
and react bravely to full-gear soldiers with rifles, looking for passports
— and exist for weeks on a few Spanish phrases.

At the end of this sonnet, if that’s what it is,
Myself and I have agreed that no changes are needed
to worry and fret and make-up regrets, and argue and re-hash old times we would change
Now I can WRITE about memories of times when I REALLY was traveling…
not just in rhymes.

13
Sep

Say What? Overcoming Language Differences…

You know what I’m saying?

Sometimes understanding is difficult to achieve.   I have been in situations where I have had to or wanted to make myself clear.  Conversations that come to mind are often hilarious, although at the time miscommunication was not one bit funny…but frustrating, or even frightening.

I can read Spanish, but speaking it is very difficult for me.   I still translate the words from English before writing or speaking in Spanish.     The first language other than English that I learned was when I was in my twenties, trying to teach myself German before I went to Germany to live.      I bought a copy of Berlitz German, and proceeded to study and write sentences.   I will say that I learned some rudimentary proununciation and grammar rules, the vocabulary words were harder.

The first Germans that I met were in the  railway station, and on the train taking me from the port at Bremerhaven, to Frankfurt, where my army husband met me at the station on Christmas Day,1955.      When I got on the train, to my small compartment, which had a tiny washroom in it, I prudently barricaded the door with my assorted baggage…When the train reached my destination stop, the conductor opened the door…outward.   So much for closed doors.

We moved into a brand new apartment in  U.S. Army quarters, where our neighbors in the building were all U.S. soldiers.   But then almost everyone we met spoke English…so my German sort of languished.

Strange as it seems, the first foreign language that emerges from my brain is, to this day, German…which doesn’t help much in countries where Spanish is called for.

I did have some not-so-funny at the time but humorous adventures.  The one that comes to mind as both amusing and embarrassing was when I hired a taxi to drive me up a giant mountain to the city that was my destination.    I was able to figure out that the taxi fare would be the equivalent of US$20, so I knew that I could pay the driver in twenties…which was all I had at the time.   I did not have any Mexican Pesos, only US dollars…which contrary to popular belief, are not always welcome.

On the hour and a half trip up the mountain, I tried to chit-chat a bit with the driver.  He was a young man, and was about as conversant in English as I was in Spanish.   He asked me if I had any candy, but I thought he was talking about a kiss.  So idiot that I am, I got worried…it was highly unlikely that this good looking young guy would be making a pass at an old lady…but well, ya never know.

By the time we got to the city I had something new to worry about…the $20  bills.   I think the driver was wondering if I knew where we were going, as it was dark, and I had forgotten the name of the street where the hotel that I was headed for was located.   (duh…)     But he followed my directions: right, left, left, right, etc.  and we stopped in front of the hotel.   The owner answered the bell, and responded.

I explained in Spanish that all I had was 20 dollar bills…and that I intended to pay the driver for the fare, plus give him another twenty for his work…..which was a lot of money in pesos.   The hotel owner understood me…and convinced the driver that the company would be pleased with the US dollars, and that he would be able to convert his twenty.   Meanwhile I was holding my breath…I had no desire to meet the local policia … but all was well.  I got to my room and slept like a baby.

That issue about the candy was just ignorance on my part.

On the trip down that mountain, two weeks later, I was as usual…car sick.   I hoped to make it to the airport, but ….. Not knowing the words…. I just reached over to the taxi driver and tapped his arm…he glanced at me…and had no trouble understanding my   “senor…” and my impromptu  upchuck-gesture, which needed no words, and he pulled over to the side of the road to let me out.

During the two weeks I was there I did not meet any English-speakers, but it was possible to get by with my rudimentary Spanish.   Part of the issue there was that outside of town officials and shopkeepers, most of the people around did not themselves speak Spanish, let alone English…but an indigenous language.

6
Feb

A Place I would NEVER want to visit? Nah…

Is there such a place? I don’t think so. Oh sure, there are places where I would not want to be at a given time…say in the midst of a fire-fight in a war zone. But that could be anywhere at any time…even a small town stand-off between police and a gunman. I wouldn’t want to be in Florida during a major hurricane. Or out on a polar ice cap wearing a bikini. A lovely volcanic island would not be very attractive when covered with molten lava.

Would I like to visit those places? Not under the circumstances described, but in fact there is no place that I would cross off my list of places to visit EVER. There is an inherent charm in every place. Or if “charm” is not really the way to describe it, I should say an inherent “interest” or “attraction” or even a morbid fascination.

At this time of year in Northern Ohio we often hear people say they are moving to or vacationing “some place warm to get away from the winters.” These are the same people who say they live in this area because they “like the changing seasons” or don’t like the heat and humidity elsewhere.

Having lived in, visited, or traveled all kinds of places in the United States and elsewhere, I can honestly say that there was no place that I did not like, if for no other reason than the unique characteristics.

During actual residence in Texas, Oklahoma, Germany, and Arizona (all courtesy of the U.S. Army)… the exciting and mundane all blended into day-to-day living conditions in special circumstances. Living in a place for any period of time over a few days is admittedly much different than spending a couple of fun weeks in hotels and resorts. Eating in restaurants is much different than whipping up spaghetti in one’s own kitchen.

The features that delight some tourists and disgust others — oceans, deserts, iceflows, mountains, heat, cold, forests, miscellaneous bugs and disgusting or scary animals — remain pretty much static in any given location. It can be mighty hot in Arizona; cold and rainy in Seattle; friendly people in Georgia, detached ones in New England; alligators in swamps and bears in national parks. Yeah, some people love it and some don’t.

A bit of discretion and common sense is a good thing when it comes to choosing timing of a visit to a certain area. Go to Florida when its warm and sunny; go to Michigan when the weather is condusive to getting out and enjoying those lakes. Try to avoid New York during blizzard season.

Then there is me–like I always say “do as I say, not as I do….” Back in the 1990s when a grad student here in Ohio, I had occasion one year to schedule two research trips. Where and when? Wisconsin in the spring, when there was still snow on the ground…and New Orleans in September, when it was too hot and muggy to move. Now those are two destinations that I should have chosen better times of the year…reversing them would have been good. But although my timing left a lot to be desired, I LOVED both destinations.