Category Archives: Travels

Life Update

Hello everyone!

It has been awhile since my last post, so I thought I’d give a quick update on what I’ve been doing:

About 8 months ago, my maternal grandmother passed away. As my mother is the executor of the estate, her and my father have been dealing with consolidating all of the worldly belongings of my grandmother’s. Thankfully, most of her things had been sold/given away when she sold her home over 15 years ago, but she still had enough stuff to fill a 3-bedroom condo – all of which has now been moved to my parent’s house and a storage unit.

So what have I been doing? Well, basically I’ve been helping my parents deal with the estate, clean up our house, get rid of the random stuff that we haven’t used in over 15 years, and train their crazy 70 pound puppy named Zippy who likes to jump up on people like Tigger (she is currently laying on the chair next to me). And in the course of all this, I have finally gotten convinced to take the LSAT to prepare for my likely career as a lawyer (Dad also keeps dragging me to his Alma Mater’s law school reunion events. His thought: ‘Well, if she has to get a law degree, she has to get it from UNC-Chapel Hill’).

So thats a quick update on my life! And because I hate studying for tests, I’m going to be spending some extra time before I leave for Europe on July 5th writing some blog posts to update everyone about how my trip went! (Honestly, if anyone has anything to help me procrastinate, I would love it!)

Exciting Update!

Despite my unfortunate end to the first leg of my 2017 Grand Adventure, I have exciting news!

Over the past 14 years, I have traveled to 33 different countries and taken over 70,000 photos (insane right?) Now that I have free time (yay graduating from University! And also, not say yay, but I had a ton of free time lying in bed sick in Colombia….), I’ve been going through all my photos. I realize, why keep so many beautiful photos alone on my computer? So I decided to post them for all to see!

In honor of my birthday this week, I have posted a series of photos to SmugMug – a photo selling website: https://gingerwithoutborders.smugmug.com/

If you want an awesome photo for your wall, or if you want to give me a little ‘birthday present’ – check out some of my photos! (My favorites are from Hawaii or the Galapagos).

These are not (by far) all my photos (I still have 55,000 more to go through…) But these are some of my favorites from the past 4 years! And over the next month, I’ll be posting new ones each week on Monday.
One last thing: If you really like a photo but are interested in some changes to it, let me know! I am happy to edit them to fit your needs/preferences!

An Unfortunate End to My Colombia Trip

As of May 24th:

To my (extreme) dismay, for the first time in my life I may actually have to leave a trip early due to a medical illness  After an amazing weekend in Cartagena, I unfortunately contracted a pretty severe ear infection where I lost the hearing in my left ear, which led to a series of visits to Clinica del Country (one of the best hospitals in Colombia) and more visits to two different specialists. We were hoping that after a procedure with the second specialist, my ear infection would get better – and it did, for a short period of time before I caught a pretty terrible cold that now is giving me inner-ear vertigo while my original ear infection is starting to get worse again

Summary: Unfortunately I won’t be making it to NYC for the UN conference I had planned on attending, and it’s very possible I will have to fly back to the US this weekend… Not the best outcome (I was really looking forward to spending my 24th birthday in Cartagena!) but like I always say: ‘Nothing is good or bad, as long as there is a story’ and ya’ll – I got some INSANE stories out of this whole experience.

As of May 25th:

When I was treated by the specialist on Monday, we agreed that my hearing should return to normal by Friday. Unfortunately, it is thursday night and my hearing is still impaired… So today I made the difficult decision to return back to the US tomorrow to seek further medical treatment with the doctor who has previously treated my ear infections. Which really sucks because I’ve barely been able to see Colombia

I would like to point out two things though. First of all – I am forever grateful to the amazing doctors here in Colombia who have gone above and beyond to help me (one doctor even opened his office at 9am on a Sunday just for me; you would never see a doctor in the US or Canada do that for someone  ) It is a common misconception that developing nations have poor medical systems, and that is true in some countries, but Colombia is not one of them.

Second – I really don’t want people to think that because I got sick somehow Colombia is a dirty or dangerous country. Honestly everyone I have met here has been super kind, and this is a freak infection (if anything you could say the Hilton is a dirty place, since I got an infection at one of their resorts. But again, it was a freak infection.) And once I am well (and have the money to return), I am definitely coming back to explore more! Everyone else should too – this country is freakin’ beautiful.

Summary: My trip is getting cut short… but the Colombian doctors who have treated me have been incredible, the people here are amazing, and everyone should visit Colombia! I definitely will again!

 

Because Fear of the Unknown Affects Us All

To be honest, before every long trip (and even some short trips) that I’ve taken, I get a little nervous. My heart starts fluttering – have I made enough plans to make sure I have a smooth trip? Is it going to go as planned? Will I like it? Will it be worth it? I’m traveling to a completely unknown area, and I am all alone, is this a good idea? Should I just cancel? If my flight gets delayed or cancelled, is it a blessing in disguise? Should I just stay home?

These thoughts have consumed my mind before every trip I have taken; when I was 14, flying off to 8 days in Japan with my middle school, I was so nervous I thought I would do something terrible wrong and cause an international incident. No joke. My mother spent hours calming my down from a full-out, crying-so-hard-I-couldn’t-speak freak out. But, just like mom said, I did not actually cause an international incident (would that even have been possible? Probably not).

The thoughts happened when I flew to Greece and Italy a few years later, and when I went to Australia the year after – and the year after that. They happened when I flew out to UBC for the first time (although, let’s be honest, who doesn’t freak out a little when they move all the way across the country, into a totally different country, where you know absolutely no one?) Even when I was going to Europe in October, my heart was fluttering. As I was rushing to the airport, wondering if I’d be late to my flight, the thought crept into my mind – ‘well, if I miss the flight, I can just stay here. Thats a lot less scary than two months, alone, traveling all across Europe.’

As I laid in my bed last night, the thoughts crept back in – ‘What if the fake-gun-fiasco (as I have now named it; if you don’t know what I mean, read my last blog post) means I can’t fly? Then I’ll just stay home. I might kill my parents after, but 6 weeks here is a LOT less scary than 6 weeks in place I have never been…’ But despite my heart beating rapidly and my mind nervously wondering what the next 6 weeks have in store for me (and despite the fake-gun-fiasco), I boarded my flight into the unknown, defeating the anxiety bubbling in the pit of my stomach, and started my next Grand Adventure!

Fear of the unknown affects even the most seasoned travelers, but giving into that fear means you miss some of the most exciting adventures the world can offer!

Because No Plane Ride is Ever Uneventful

If you follow my travels, you will know that any flights I take are far from uneventful. To be exact, I cannot name you the last time something outrageous didn’t happen on one of my flights. I can, however, tell you the most outrageous (albeit, in some lights, possibly deserved?) thing that has ever happened to me on any trip. Ever.

For a little background – over the past four years I have been a student of Krav Maga (Israeli Military Martial Arts), practicing at the UBC REC center normally twice a week. Over that time, I have achieved a yellow belt, first stripe status (and would have already tested for my second stripe, but I’m always out of town when testing occurs…) Needless to say, after four years I’d consider myself very devoted to practicing Krav Maga, which caused me to get two things: a practice knife and a practice gun, both of which I use to prepare for my belt tests. And since I’m moving back to America, I brought them back in my luggage, with all my other earthly possessions still in Vancouver, so I can practice at home as well. But I was smart – I put them at the very top of a checked bag filled otherwise with clothes, at a place easily accessible by TSA, and totally expected my bag to be searched by TSA. No doubt.

Also – both the gun and the knife are 100% plastic, 100% solid (meaning they cannot be modified into a real weapon), and the gun is a comically bright banana yellow. Both are very clearly fake, no question. (The knife

See, clearly not a real gun.

And to be clear, I knew it might be a red flag for TSA, but I honestly did not think it would be that big of a deal. Turns out – I was wrong.

It was such a big deal that US Customs agents pulled me into the back room, called the RCMP, had both Customs and the RCMP question me, filed a full out report, and searched through all my bags – TWICE. Lesson learned, don’t fly with fake guns. Because despite being clearly legal on the TSA’s website: “They are okay, but please pack them in your checked bag”, you will get pulled over. And it will cause a problem. But unlike real guns, there is no procedure to declare you have a fake gun, and there is no guarantee TSA won’t just confiscate it (thankfully they returned mine.) So there is literally no way to bring one without causing trouble at the current administration’s TSA checkpoints.

For those curious, here is the full story:

Check my bags, no problem. Get through security check, no problem. I’m in a trusted traveller program (well, two of them: Nexus and Global Entry), so everything is a breeze. Get up to the Customs agent (you do US Customs in Vancouver if you are flying straight to the states, which I was), he passes me through – again, no problem. Walking to leave the area when a guard approached me, “Lena Raxter?”

Me: “Yes sir?”

Him: “You’ve been selected for a random screening, please come with me”

Me: (thinking) Shit, if this is some of the bullshit executive order, try-to-deny-an-American-entry-back-into-my-own-country, I’mma be super pissed.

Him: “If you just have a seat, an agent will be with you soon”

Me: (not thinking, mainly because this is super weird and has never happened to me in the hundreds of international flights I’ve flown) *takes out my phone to check the time*

Him: Ma’am, please, no phones. Please come with me, is there anything I should know about your bags?

Me: Yes sir, I have a fake training gun in one of my duffel bags that I use for martial arts.

Him: (With an expression that I thought was surprise on his face?) Oh, okay, thank you for letting me know. We’ll get your bags. Here, this border agent will help you.

Me: (sits with the border agent, still a bit pissed, wondering if I’ll make my flight)

Guard 2: (asks tons of questions about where I live, my criminal record, etc. etc., repeating at least three times ‘So you lived in Vancouver?’ and I’m like ‘umm…. I just said that?’ Still wondering if this is another of the Trump-era witch hunts.)

Original guard, whispering to Guard 2: “We have her bags and have removed her from the flight” Wait now, WHAT????

Now, I’ll admit firsthand, I did get a bit defensive. Why? Because number one: you removed me from the flight???? Maybe I heard him wrong, maybe he just removed my bags, but I have pretty good hearing y’all.

And two: when the border guard started talking to me about my fake training gun I use for completely legitimate purposes (my yellow belt was also in the bag the gun was in), he made a point of questioning my judgement.

Guard 2: “What level are you?”

Me: “Yellow belt, first stripe.”

Guard 2: “And what does that mean?”

Me: (Explains in deep detail)

Guard 2: “So that means you should have good judgement?”

Me: “Well, um, yes, I would think so?”

Guard 2: *rant about how I couldn’t have good judgement because blah blah blah (summary – bringing this fake gun is bad judgement)* Rant included: “Would you bring a fake grenade on a plane?” Well, no sir, I wouldn’t, that is actually illegal.

OKAY, dude no. Lets remember: I put it at the top of the bag. I stated immediately to the first guard that I had it. The gun is banana yellow (on purpose, because I never wanted people to mistake it for a real one). I can, in vivid detail, explain what I use it for and my qualifications I have attained through the practice I have done using the training weapons. Just to stress this, I never concealed I had it, while at the same time making it extremely accessible. And also had checked into TSA’s requirements: “Please pack them in your checked bag.

(Now, maybe I should have told United at the gate that it was in my bag. But I honestly had completely forgotten – after all, I was carrying around four 50lbs bags plus a backpack and a giant jacket stuffed with other jackets. So it completely slipped my mind.)

But no sir, please don’t question my judgement for following the very regulations that our government has set. When I was doing something that was completely, 100% legal according to TSA’s website.

Side note – I also got really pissed when he said “And I’m here to protect my country and say who can go into it” – Again, sir, No. Because this is my country too. I’ll give you leeway, because you are guarding entry to my country and hey, maybe it was a real gun – but when I am upfront and clear, don’t act like I am trying to subvert the letter of the law for the nation I was born and raised in.

Following this, two RCMP agents (for those who don’t know, they are like Canada’s version of federal police. Kind of like the FBI, but they function as a police force for areas that lack a local police force.) And, like Canadians normally are, they were supppeerr nice.  I talked with the officers, explained – in very vivid detail again and with a fully calm tone, which is probably how I managed to make my flight – everything that I had explained to the Customs agent. The officer smiled, thanked me, told me I wasn’t in any trouble,  that they were also informed that the gun was fake and comically yellow by the screening agents. They understand, no big deal, everything is fine, they are just required to follow up on this. Then he asks for my address, I give it to him, he says no problem, have a great day.

30min later, FINALLY, after more annoying questions and what seemed like an endless amount of typing into his computer, the US Customs guard finally lets me leave. So I run to my flight, only to find out it had been delayed more and still hadn’t started boarding yet. (Yay! But also, really?)

Here is where I can be at fault – I did pack a fake gun into a checked bag and was taking it across international borders. Despite being super careful and upfront about it, I can understand how it was a problem. That being said, as my angry father is hearing the retelling of this story – “No dear! You do not need to apologize! All you did was pack a fake gun, which is completely legal!” (Dad is a lawyer, for those who don’t know.)  And to be honest, if they did this to someone who is carrying a US passport, neither my father nor I can bear to imagine what foreigners are being put through!

But either way: dude – what a freaking crazy experience. I did not, in a million years, realize a comically yellow, solid, plastic, fake gun would make that big of a fuss. As long as there is a story, right?

Also, lesson learned (again) – Canadians are nicer than Americans. Much nicer.

Grand Adventure Summer 2017!

A common question I get nowadays is “Lena, why are you leaving Vancouver again? Where are you going now?” Well. A lot of places. Because staying in one place is overrated, right?

SO: In the next two days I’ll be taking off on my next giant adventure, traveling to 3 continents in 3.5 months!

“Jesus, really Lena? Whhhyyyy??? Hoowwww??? WHHHEREEE??” WELL! To answer your questions:

On Tuesday, April 18th I head back to North Carolina to see my family, only to pretty much immediately jump in the car and road trip up to DC with my mother for the March For Science on Earth Day [April 22nd]. (Super excited, will make sure to take plenty of photos and make a blog post!) But once the march is over, Mom and I pretty much immediately jump back in the car to make the 5 hour trip back to Raleigh since I fly out again on April 25th. Only this time I’m gone for over a month and I’ll only have two days to pack… (Because that won’t backfire on me, right?)

From April 25th to April 30th, I’ll be utilizing my International Relations skills as an NGO-Representative for the Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, while also exploring Mexico City with my amazing Mexican friends! And also learning how incredibly inept my spanish actually is, despite 6 months of practicing…. Bright side – it’ll make some awesome stories? Or I may get stranded in the middle of nowhere and struggle to find my way back (cough cough repeat of every freakin’ day during my EuroTrip cough cough). But either way, stories. So we’re good.

On April 30th, I fly off to meet up with my super awesome GBFF, Carlos, in Bogota, Colombia! I may not be spending a full year there like planned, but I’ll be spending a month traveling around the country and attempting (and probably failing) to become fluent in Spanish! Just like Europe, my dad thinks I am going to get kidnapped and die. So I once again will be required by parental decree to make blog posts every day or face my father calling the US Embassy thinking I have met a terrible fate (when let’s be honest, I probably will just have been curled up in a ball hungover from the past night’s fiesta. Because Latins party HARD, and my liver may not survive their standards. AKA I may die. We’ll see. But again, stories right?)

After a month of adventures in Bogota, Carlos and I (and any friends who want to join!) jet off to Cartagena for a week of Lena’s birthday celebrations! So from probably about May 30th to June 3rd, I will not be sober. Should I be sober during this time, I have failed at life. Because really, when you are in Cartagena for your 24th birthday there is no reason to be sober. At all. Ever. Never.

On June 4th my South American adventure will unfortunately come to an end…because I am flying up to New York City for the UN’s OCEAN conference! Another week in the UN doing what I love, and being reminded why there is some semblance of hope for the world despite there being a narcissistic carrot making its mark by disgracing the title: ‘Leader of the Free World.’

On June 12th I’ll finally return back to Raleigh to recuperate (AKA allow my liver to detox). And for three weeks I’ll have some quality family time, including my first state-side July 4th in three years (YESSSSS!!! Being by the pool all day, drinking copious amounts of beer, watching awesome fireworks, making my liver need to detox again. Oh how I have missed Independence Day in the USA!)

Sadly, immediately after, I’ll be leaving again – this time for Europe! On July 5th I fly back to Amsterdam, 9 months after I last was there. And from July 6th to July 9th I’ll be re-experiencing the city – but this time not in a Christian Hostel in the middle of the red light district. Because dear lord I never want to do that again. Weirdest. Experience. EVER.

On July 9th I say goodbye again to Amsterdam, and head off to the Hague for the Hague Academy of International Law for three weeks of learning about the UN and public international law from experts! Which is basically the UN nerd’s version of Mecca, because ya’ll know Imma be nerding out for the entire three weeks that I have access to the largest library of International Law in the world. It’s gonna happen. No doubt.

And when my nerdy three weeks of heaven sadly come to an end, I have a week (maybe more, if I decide to stay longer) to explore more of Europe before heading back state-side and calling my three month adventure to a close.

So yeah – those are my adventures for the next three and a half months! This is gon’ be fun ya’ll!!!

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So Bedbugs Are a Real Thing

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a very interesting experience after my most recent whirlwind of trips.

As a kid, my mother would always tuck me into bed and we would take turns saying each line in a old (I’m assuming southern?) nursery rhyme: “Night night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” For most of my life, I had no idea what a bedbug was – I just thought it was made up, maybe it used to exist but didn’t anymore. As I got older, I found out they really were a thing, but I would probably never have to deal with them, right? Because I always go to nice hotels, and bedbugs won’t be in nice hotels, right? Wrong.

Bedbugs are actually super common. And once you have them, it’s damned near impossible to get rid of them. One of my best friends growing up got bedbugs once; they had to fumigate their whole house. A few years later, my parent’s friends got them too and had to fumigate their whole house twice. So basically bedbugs are the devil. Horrible, terrible little fuckers that just. wont. die.

Fastforward to last week. I actually can’t exactly remember which day I first saw the spots on my hands and arms, but it was right when I got back from Las Vegas. And at first I was thinking – um, why do I look like I was a meal for some vicious little creature? Then I realized – ffuuuccckkkk, ARE THESE BEDBUG BITES?!?!?!?! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO.

As a true denier, I circled each spot in the hopes that they would disappear if I was watching them….. Yes, I realize this was irrational. But I was itching myself to death.
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Not as bad. But still like….WWWHHATTT????
THEY GOT MY FUCKING FACE!!! 😭😭😭😭😭

At first I’m like – “Okay, what can these be? Let’s think of literally everything that they could possibly be and hope it isn’t bedbugs.” That night I go out to dinner with a group of close friends, and since I’m itching like mad I decide to ask them: “What do these bites look like?” Of course, one of my friends there has had bedbugs. And immediately responds “bedbugs.” And I’m like “………fml” Only then, another friend responds “No no, that’s a rash, you are fine; come over to my house for the night, I’ll give you antihistamines, we’ll have a girls night, it’ll be fun.” Well, who do I listen to? Obviously the one that says not bedbugs, because I refuse to accept the reality that I did, indeed, open my home up for housing then set out a meal of my – apparently delicious – body for the little fuckers. So I take my second friend up on her offer, and the next morning I wake up in so much itchy pain that I feel like I am dying and finally give in to the reality that I really need to go to the doctor about this shit.

For those that don’t know – if you don’t have what is called “MSP” in British Columbia, you are not covered by the ‘free’ Canadian healthcare. It costs about $80/month (it used to be $60, but every year BC keeps raising the fees grumble grumble grumble) but once you pay that, you don’t have to pay for any doctor’s visits, etc. and your prescriptions are extremely cheap because they are subsidized. Which is awesome. Only I don’t have MSP anymore. Because when my visa changed from a student visa to a work permit, I didn’t know I had to re-enroll and I’m too damn lazy/don’t live in Vancouver enough to take the time to actually get healthcare here again. So what would be a free doctor’s visit turns into a $120 visit with a $20 prescription for a steroid cream so I don’t scratch holes into my arms (I nearly had, apparently I scratched in my sleep….) Moral of this story – it is more advantageous to just take the time to actually re-enroll. Have I? Nope. Why? Because I leave Vancouver again in a month. Annnnddddd: I’m still too damn lazy. Even though I have endless amounts of free time. Because that involves being productive, and my brain is like “No school! No work! Let’s sleep all day! Vacaattiionnnnnnn!!!!”

Anyway, after this SUPER FUN doctor’s visit, I go buy a steamer (my friend who had bedbugs before said it is the cheapest way to get rid of them, but you have to keep treating everything over and over and over for months – also $140, so my wallet was crying even though I knew my parents would help me pay for it.) AND I STEAM THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYTHING IN MY APARTMENT. My roommate thought I was insane when she came home and I was hunched over the floor steaming every inch I could reach. How many times did I steam my suitcase? Like 3. The couch? Like 5. My room? About 8 times. My bed? Fifteen freaking times. And I washed every piece of clothing, bedding, detachable object in the place at least two times. And put my bedding in the dryer for (and I’m actually not kidding) five hours. On extreme heat. Because I was not about to have bedbugs come back with me on my next adventures. Or get near my face again. That shit was not about to happen.

Well. Good news. The bugs never really came back. I say really because I woke one day with two little bites on my leg where my PJs cut off, and I flipped a shit and put my bedding back in the dryer for 3 hours on extreme heat then steamed every inch of my room AGAIN. BUT – lesson learned – bedbugs are real. They can live in really nice hotels. And somehow after 2 months in hostels around Europe I never got them, but apparently 3 days in America means bedbugs galore! (Can we start a #damnitdonald for shit like this, like they did with #thanksObama?) But then again, it may not have been bedbugs since I never actually saw any bugs, but like….it was bedbugs. Let’s be honest.

Also – if this ever happens to you, don’t bother getting an exterminator, $140 steamer + heating up every detachable thing in your house that fits in the dryer may just do the trick.

And just to reiterate. Because I can’t say it enough. Bedbugs are real. And they suck. And are essentially the devil. Like for real. My arms still haven’t healed. But at least my face has. Bright side?

What Has Lena Been Up To?

It has been a month since my last post. Why? Especially when my goal has been to write once a week? Well…. Many reasons have contributed to this, but the main is my insane travel schedule mixed with health issues to end with my avoidance of writing anything.

From the 28th of January until the 12th of February, I was in New York City – which, as you could tell from my posts, was amazing! Super wonderful for my future career, and I had a ton of fun with my wonderful friend Karol.

From the 12th of February to the 15th of February, I was in North Carolina. I successfully surprised my father for his birthday, which was actually super surprising since my mother is terrible at lying. More than once she nearly spoiled the surprise (example: she wrote a doctor’s appointment for me on the calendar, then realized her mistake and quickly scratched it out hoping my father hadn’t noticed).

From the 15th to the 18th of February, I was in Vancouver. I met with a potential employer, and ended up getting the job – only to have it fall through due to sketchy business practices by the company (long story, ask me in person). I also met with a group of friends in regards to another UN-related business venture but I’ll say more about that once it has become more official!

From the 18th to the 21st of February, I was visiting my best friend in Los Angeles. It was so great! We went to Disney, we used the hot tub in her backyard, we went shopping. We basically did everything best friends need to do, especially after not seeing each other for a year. And now I miss her again….

From the 22nd until the 25th of February, I was in Las Vegas. It was…an experience, that’s for sure. Day One – the classic ‘I have to take this call, OMG its an emergency, I’ve got to go’ date-ending excuse actually happened to me! But it was super funny, because it was at like 2am when I was totally okay with just going to bed and the guy had just realized he wasn’t going to get me up to his room. And now I have that story to tell! (If that was Day One, imagine what days 2 and 3 were like. It got worse each night!) Also, cool thing, we got to see Fat Joe in concert!!! For free! Hell yes for women getting into clubs free before 1am in Vegas!

After the 25th of February, I’ve been back in Vancouver. I ended up getting bed bug bites – because apparently they aren’t just a myth from my bedtime rhyme when I was a kid (“Night night; sleep tight; don’t let the bed bugs bite!”) Once that finally stopped making me wanna die from itching so bad, I actually accidentally gave myself a black eye in my martial arts class…. I’m a bit of a clutz…

So yeah! Thats been my past month. I’ll have more free time again, which hopefully means more posts? But we’ll see!

The Adventure Has Come to An End

As of 11:20pm on December 21st, my 2month/63 day/18 country adventure has finally come to an end…. It took 3 flights and around 22 hours to finally get home – including 3 different border crossings, one too many beers at the Dublin Airport, and an 8 hour flight with a crying baby two aisles over. And ultimately I can say the trip was a success! Minus a few poorly planned moments.

To say I am tired is an understatement. Those that follow my blog might have realized this – I pretty much gave up on blogging after I reached London. Every night I would get back to the hostel, talk to the people in my room, attempt to plan what I would write for my blog post, then end up falling asleep before I even opened the WordPress app on my phone. Even in Norway, my brain was so dead I couldn’t even think of what I would write about (to be honest, my brain is still in that mode! Jet lag has destroyed my ability to sleep past 9am or stay up past 8pm.)

Normally when I come home from a long time away, I’ll start to unpack and give my parents their gifts. This time? Straight upstairs to take a shower (22 hours in airports makes you feel super grimy) and fall straight asleep. But now that I am home, and my brain is starting to remotely work again, I’m going to try to catch up on some missed posts with the cool stories from those days!

Also, since it is Christmas Eve and the beginning of Hanukkah, happy holidays everyone!

The Front of the Train

So I have this fear. Well, not so much a fear as a rational opinion based on a series of facts. I do not like to sit in the front carriages of a train. Why? Because, should the train crash, those carriages are always the ones with the most carnage. And while I am not really afraid of death, I’d rather not die in a train crash. Or lose a limb. Or have any other permenant injury. I’d really just prefer to be at the very back of the train where I can go and help if something happened, rather than be one of the people needing help.  See? Totally rational right? 
And since I am a totally rational person who would prefer not to die or be injured in a train crash, I have actively avoided sitting in the first 3 carriages of any train, including metros, my entire trip. And it worked – until today.
Today I took a train to London from Paris. Things I learned: you have to go through full out airport-style customs to get onto the train. And once you have, they even have dutyfree stores. Just like airports. Cool. Also super glad I got to the train station an hour early; customs took forever. 
Thing I did not like: I was sitting backwards. Again. But this time I hadn’t eaten in 18hrs, so bright side: less motion sickness. Thing I really, really didn’t like: my assigned seat was Car 2, seat 83, AT THE VERY FRONT OF THE TRAIN. 😐 Cue massive internal freak out. Best part? Dude next to me kept muttering in angry French about the train company doing something stupid. When you are internally freaking out, having a super angry dude sitting next to you really doesn’t help. At all. 

I ended up walking to the food cart (safely 5 carriages in, away from potential danger), and stood there ‘eating’ random small things until I got tired of train surfing (there were no seats so you had to stand and ride the train like a surfboard and hope not to be thrown around by the shaking of the train. I claimed one of the tables to hold on to for better stability, but it was still super hard to stay still. Good leg and core workout though!)
Thankfully the train ride was uneventful. You couldn’t even tell when we went under the English Channel (which was a bit disappointing; I had hoped it would be more obvious.) And now I am safely in the hostel, waiting to check in.
One last thing before I end my post today – OMG I AM SO HAPPY EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH NO MORE MIMING WHAT I MEAN I CAN ACTUALLY UNDERSTAND STREET SIGNS AND WHAT PEOPLE SAY AKDJDOSKSNDNDKSKSJSKSKSKSKSJSJSKS!!!!!!!!  As you can tell, I am pretty happy to be in England.

PS Dad – I am still alive. And can finally understand the people around me. It is glorious.