Living in foreign countries where we didn’t speak the language even close to fluently and weren’t aware of all the customs led to some interesting experiences on our South American Adventure. Fortunately, strangers stepped in to save the day!
Posts Tagged internet
Hello? Is anyone there?
I’m the blogger who posted here almost a year ago (although I did edit the most recent post earlier this year). Yes, it’s been too long, but I’m back!
I’m excited to announce that Mr. HalfFull and I are going on another epic adventure this summer!
Mr. HalfFull got his photo op around the world. Now it’s time for mine.
If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know I drink coffee. In fact, when I ventured around the world on the 30/40 World Tour: Quest for Passion, I found that my passions are coffee and napping. I learned this through various opportunities to enjoy them and be deprived of them. Undoubtedly, coffee and napping are essential to my life. Deep, I know.
Let’s take a photo tour of my coffee encounters around the world…
My coffee experience in New Zealand was the complete opposite of Fiji. New Zealand has the most coffee roasters per capita of any country in the world. They take their coffee culture very seriously; even gas stations have espresso machines with baristas, and no one serves drip coffee.
New Zealand was perhaps the best coffee country on the 30/40 World Tour, but the French-speaking countries like New Caledonia weren’t bad either.
- Do you try to limit your coffee intake?
- What things/actions are essential to your life?
- Do you have any coffee location recommendations for me?
On our 30/40 World Tour, we would typically book our accommodation before we arrived in a new location. However, on the Oz Experience bus tour, we didn’t have much downtime to do research online. Because of the mechanical problems, we usually arrived at our hotel/hostel late and were so excited to have a bed for stretched out sleep. (Sleeping on a bus can get a bit cramped.) We also had to wake up early to cover the mileage the next morning, so neither the evenings or mornings gave us much time to surf.
Everyone else on the bus tour had a reservation in Melbourne – even the backpacker teenagers! (I wonder if their moms booked it.) So Squatter made the rounds through Melbourne dropping people off at their various hostels. After my two nights on the tour, I knew I wanted a nicer place to stay. So we got off at the last stop and started walking toward St. Kilda.
We were tired and hungry at this point, which is not a great combo for a traveler with no idea where she is going and a heavy pack on her back. I don’t do so well with the unknown, especially under those circumstances. Mr. HalfFull often reminds me to live my way into the answers and embrace the unknown. But it’s so hard! I like to have a plan and direction.
Our goal was to find a restaurant with free wifi where we could eat and book a hotel like hobos with all our luggage. Even though we traveled light, I still found it a little embarrassing to have so much stuff at a nice restaurant. But they were super gracious at Phamish café and didn’t seem to mind. We were “phamished” so we ordered the sampler appetizer, which turned out to be a huge platter with all sorts of foodie deliciousness. It was quite a contrast from eating powdered eggs.
We didn’t find a lot of reasonable accommodation options in St. Kilda. There were a couple of fancy hotels, but they were rather pricey. I was leery of sketchy places after our last two nights, but reluctantly I consented to a hostel called The Coffee Place. I think its name and color scheme was the only reason I thought it might be okay.
When we arrived, I wasn’t so sure. It was basically run by kids playing video games. In other words, it could have been a frat house. I’m too old for this!
We went up to our room by climbing several flights of stairs. The door wasn’t secure like a front door; it was more like a lightweight bedroom door. Inside everything was clean, but very sparse. There was almost no furniture aside from the bed. However, there was one small built-in shelf with a coffee maker – after all, it was The Coffee Palace.
After seeing the room, I lost it. This was no palace. The tears streamed down my cheeks. There was really nothing wrong with the room; it was fully functional, clean, and spacious. I think I was just exhausted from the bus tour; I didn’t get my afternoon naps or sleep-in time in the mornings! Plus, I was an introvert on a bus full of people for three days. I was drained from all the interaction. I guess six weeks of being on the move left me feeling rather half empty – maybe even completely empty.
We enjoyed Phamish café so much that we went back there for breakfast the next morning. I had a cappuccino and internet time…I was back baby! Plus, we were staying at The Coffee Palace for two nights, so I wasn’t lugging my bag around this time, and knew where I would be sleeping that night.
Mr. HalfFull loves sports; I become a football widow during the NFL season. We actually got married on a bye weekend for his football team! He also loves college basketball, and once again goes missing during March Madness. So he was super excited to have the opportunity to witness Aussie rules football in person.
It was game day, so we walked to the train station and were surprised that there were no ticket kiosks. A person on the platform informed us that you could buy tickets on the train. This seemed strange to us, but obviously we knew nothing about public transportation in Melbourne. So we boarded the train and found the ticket machine. We soon learned that the ticket machine only takes coins. What does an ATM not give you? Coins!
So we had no coins and couldn’t buy tickets; I felt like a fugitive. Hopefully, they would let us play the dumb American card. We really did have the best of intentions!
Finally, we arrived downtown at the enormous stadium that seats over 100,000 people. We were about to engage in some more illegal activity. We didn’t have tickets and were scouring the crowd outside the stadium looking for scalpers. We knew the game was a huge local rivalry between Carlton and Collingwood and thus, was sold out.
We didn’t find the shady people Mr. HalfFull was seeking, so we headed to the club ticket counter. The woman informed us that indeed the game was sold out, but she told us to look for scalpers and warned us not to pay more than face value. An employee advised us to seek out scalpers! Is scalping not illegal in Melbourne?
We walked all the way around the stadium with no luck. Mr. HalfFull didn’t seem so half full and resigned himself to the fact that we weren’t getting into the game. Then he spotted a guy with long hair, facial hair, tattoos, and rings on every finger. He looked like the type of guy you didn’t want to fight. Mr. HalfFull thought he might be a scalper. We hung around to listen to his conversation and learned that he too was looking for tickets.
Our chances seemed pretty much exhausted when I overheard the conversation of a family nearby. They were talking about how it was too bad that “those two” couldn’t come. What? Two tickets?
So I butted into their circle and asked if they had two extra tickets. They did, but they were tickets for children. Bummer!
We started walking away when they said, “But we aren’t going to use them, so you’re welcome to try. Just walk in with us and be our kids for the day! There’s no harm in trying.” I didn’t know what the penalty was for using the wrong age-group ticket, but we had already ridden the train illegally, so what the heck! Weren’t the Australians descendants of criminals anyway? (Kids, this is why they tell you not to smoke because it’s just a gateway to more and more.)
The tickets worked and we all got in! The introvert had accosted strangers in a foreign country to fulfill Mr. HalfFull’s dream. It was amazing.
The stadium was huge and circular, unlike our oblong stadiums. It was impressive to watch these super fit athletes play with no padding. There was a lot of leg to tantalize the ladies. Plus, there were no big bellies like in the NFL. Even the referees were super fit.
The family we sat with explained the rules to us; they were so much fun. We tried to pay them for the tickets and buy them beers, but they didn’t want anything. They even emailed us a few days later to ask if we wanted to grab “a pot.” After looking that up online, I learned that it’s beer, not tea.
We knew that meat pies are an Aussie football stadium staple. Even after our disappointment with pies in Sydney, we tried the stadium fare. It was okay. I guess they can’t make them like the flaky pastries in New Zealand because it needs to be self-contained and more spill-proof for the stadium.
That evening we had tickets to see a play called My Romantic History at Red Stitch theater. It was a super cute playhouse. Much of the play took place in the bathroom and the set consisted of three bathroom stalls. That brought our live theater count to six on the 30/40 World Tour.
Mr. HalfFull got his football and I got my theater. It was a good day all around, especially considering the tears the night before.
- Do you make reservations before you arrive or wing it?
- How do you handle the unknown? Are you able to relax and let things unfold?
- Did you have a breaking point while traveling? What helped you get over it?
- Have you broken the rules while traveling?
- If you are not normally a sports fan, do you still think it would be interesting to witness in a foreign country?
- Have you been surprised by the kindness of strangers?
You may be wondering why, after a week in Fiji and a week in New Zealand, I am writing about America. Prior to this trip, I took easy/free internet access in the United States for granted. After landing at LAX, we took a bus to Santa Monica to kill time before our next flight. I expected that I would need to patronize a café to get on a network. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could sit in Palisades Park and use the city’s free internet! But on Likuri Island (our first stop in Fiji, where we used generator electricity during the day and none at night) there was no broadband internet, but you could pay per hour to sit in their office and use antique computers.
In Fiji and New Zealand, I have discovered that there is no such thing as unlimited internet. They limit you by the hour or megabyte, and sometimes both, meaning that if you reach your megabyte limit before your time is up, you get booted. Plus, the connections have been painfully slow, especially when every minute is counted. These constraints add a lot of stress for a half empty perfectionist!
On top of the internet limitations, I know my half empty mind won’t be able to move on until I get these thoughts off of my mental to-do list. But no worries (as the Kiwis often say), I have lists of observations and tons of images to write about. But for today, I present you my final thoughts while leaving America for 10 weeks.
Before embarking on my 30/40 World Tour, I hadn’t been to an airport since Thanksgiving and hadn’t been to Dulles airport in much longer, so it was interesting to see all the changes. The first thing that caught my eye was TSA employees in tuxedo-like uniforms. At first, I thought this might be a classy new concierge service. But alas, no. The tuxedo guys don’t check your tickets or bags; they just stare at you. I guess they are profilers looking for odd behavior. I can tell you what’s odd — wearing a tuxedo at the airport!
The second new thing for me was the naked full body scanners. I felt very uncomfortable since I was not sporting metallic ink underwear. Mr. HalfFull told me later that he sucked in his gut and wanted to yell, “Shrinkage!” as they scanned his junk. Fortunately, he kept this thought to himself.
The third new airport feature was awesome! Dulles International Airport now has underground trams called AeroTrain. A lot of airports have these, but we have used people movers driving across the runways for years at Dulles. I was impressed – very efficient and sleek. Perhaps some Scandinavian efficiency engineer from IKEA created the system of tram doors on both sides. One side opens about 5-10 seconds before the other. So people on the tram exit on the side with open doors, while people waiting to board are outside the set of closed doors on the opposite side. We noticed a Dulles employee avoid the stampede off the tram, exit off the delayed side, and then scoot right up the escalator by himself. This guy didn’t fall prey to the herd mentality.
Since we were not checking bags and had already printed our boarding passes at home, we didn’t have to visit the ticket counter at all. With time to spare, Mr. HalfFull visited a tech gadget store in search of a single electrical adapter for all seven of our 30/40 World Tour countries. Lo and behold, they had one! Plus it also has a USB charger and surge protection, all in a neat little package priced at $40. Great success!
While sitting on a bench with our luggage waiting for Mr. HalfFull, I noticed a store subtly called “America!” They had t-shirts and souvenirs, plus a video playing above the checkout counter that was visible from my vantage point. I couldn’t hear any sound, but I could clearly see a reenactment of a group of terrorists with red cloths tied around their heads hijacking an airplane. Are you kidding me? They should have called the store “Tea Party!” This seemed like an odd video choice in a terminal full of potential customers moments before boarding airplanes.
As you know from my incessant mentions of coffee, I suppose I’m a bit of an addict. With the new charger in hand, Mr. HalfFull set off to acquire small skim lattes with Splenda from Capitol Grounds. (I haven’t found Splenda since leaving the US! Hmm…) As soon as he returned, our boarding group was called. Perfect timing!
Guess who was on our flight? NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, sporting a Milwaukee Bucks shirt! I wonder if he travels under the name Lew Alcindor to avoid hassles with the tuxedo dudes.
- Did internet availability overseas affect your travel?
- What do you think of the tuxedo TSA guys?
- Have you experienced the naked full body scanner? How did you feel?
- Do you have metallic ink underwear?
- Have you ever seen a terrorist reenactment video at an airport?
- Have you flown with celebrities?