Thursday, December 20, 2012

Arghhhh, I Just Want to Get Into Your Country

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get a visa? Nope, not the credit card kind. That's fairly easy as they want you to have poor money skills and pay them all sorts of interest. I'm talking about a visa to get into a foreign country. Surprisingly difficult.
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Today I finished up my application for a student visa for India. In total, I've spent about six hours over the last week trying to get this ready. If I didn't live 1,000 miles from the consulate it might have been faster to do it in person. I was asked all sorts of questions on my application like:

-my occupation
-my parents' occupations and nationalities
-what other countries have I visited in the last ten years
-what university I'm visiting
-have I ever visited India or been denied a visa before
-are any of my grandparents from Pakistan.

I have to ship an envelope with a proof of address, another passport picture (in addition to my actual passport), a letter inviting me the visit the university, proof that I will be able to financially support myself while there, and about $100....to be paid by money order. Then hopefully, they'll mail back my passport with a super fancy stamp in it. Or, someone may simply use it to steal my identity and buy a llama.

One other problem, I didn't even know what a money order was. Besides hearing of them as a potential payment method for a Snuggie, a Perfect Meatloaf, or some other crap sold on infomercials, no idea. That seems a little lo-tech for my generation. And sadly, the shipping process was so intricate my bank was closed by the time I got there. That's what happens when there were five inches of snow last night so it took three times as long as normal to get there and the only parking spaces were not yet plowed.

Money order, I'm going to deal with you tomorrow.

Then maybe, India will let me into their country. You'd think they would want it to be easier. After all, tourists bring in the big money. Even when they are poor college students.

Until next time, God bless America.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Part 2: Clickety Clack on the Track

Da da dahhhhhhh! Time for Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Part 2!

As I'm sure you can guess, Part 2 will be about trains. I could mix it up and do the automobiles first but I'm sure there's at least one OCD person who would be bothered by the lack of order. So, trains! Above ground trains only, subways are a whole different thing.

I've only ridden two different train routes in my life. I choose not to count taking the little steam train at our local children's zoo or riding Thunder Mountain in Disney World. Though the latter costs more than my actual train trips.

These two train trips were fairly different experiences. First, I'll begin with the more successful. After all, everyone loves an optimist.

I took a train from Milan to Venice and then back again later that same day. This was my first experience of even remotely independent international travel. One other student and I took a day trip together during a free day of our study abroad. She and I got up incredibly early, so early in fact that the subway was closed. I didn't even know the subway ever closed. There was a gate across it! We took it to the train station and bought our tickets at an automated machine (thankfully, it had an English setting, incredibly easy to figure out and could avoid interacting with potentially unpleasant workers). We got on the train, got to Venice, and made it back to Milan in the evening with no problems. The train was clean, comfortable, spacious (little tables of four places at all the windows), and right on time. I felt so accomplished, a master of public transportation taking the subway and train in the same day without any direction.

The second trip was not as easy. I took a train from Warsaw to Krakow. Thankfully, the ticket was bought for me because the few people in Poland who didn't speak English were in such inconvenient jobs. It quickly went down hill from there. To begin, the train was over half an hour late, and while this was happening departure board continued to say it was leaving on time. An announcement came over the speaker in Polish and everyone on the platform started leaving. Panic! Was it cancelled? The board still said that platform half an hour ago. Thank God someone translated and said the platform was changed. The numbering system was so odd it took me longer than I would like to admit to find the new platform. At least I didn't miss it.

Eventually, the train left. Then there was the problem of finding my seat. It wasn't nearly as spacious as the Italian train (and I had 8 weeks worth of luggage as did the 7 other people I was traveling with). It looked a lot like this:


Um, I'm not sure everyone's bag is going to fit. They were not expecting people with weeks worth of luggage, or luggage at all it seems.

The other passengers were definitely not happy with the large bags. I was repeatedly glared at reproachfully. As they were speaking Polish, they may even have been insulting me but I like to think they were nicer than that. And really, those seats weren't any bigger than airplane ones. I have a bigger personal bubble than that.

Train travel seems very dependent on the specific line. I really enjoyed the first, but the second not so much. Their bathrooms were gross. I know many people take the train for all their travel and it can be pretty awesome. I'm just not quite that lucky it seems.

Until next time, God bless America.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Part1: The Weirdest Flight of My Life

Hello all! I greatly appreciated the indignation on my behalf after not receiving a lollipop for a plethora of vaccinations this week. That should definitely be standard practice. I would go and complain if I'd had any nasty side effects.

Now, to today's topic, TRANSPORTATION! I understand you may not be quite as excited as I am but I'm sure you will be soon. And, it may seem a little redundant after Buses Make Me Nervous. But, that does not cover an important issue. How to get from one city to the next? There are three main ways...

Planes, trains, and automobiles! 

I've used all three and I'm sure you are at rapt attention waiting for my thoughts on each. First we have,

Planes!

I've only taken a plane between international cities once. It was an....interesting experience. I flew from Rome to Palermo and obviously back the other way. There weren't many choices for getting from Point A to Point B as Palermo is not on the mainland. I am extremely thankful I didn't have to take a boat. (I live in the Nebraska which couldn't get much more landlocked so I am incapable of walking on boats.)

Back to the flight. It was on a regional airline called EasyJet. It came with one bonus, or possibly detriment, of reduced security. I didn't even have to take off my shoes through the metal detector! Ahhhh, the small pleasures of life. I did get patted down though (but I set off the metal detector so can't really complain about that. And, it was less invasive than the normal procedures in the U.S.)

I was a little amazed by certain aspects of this flight. It was extremely delayed (which isn't really that weird these days), but the behaviors of the other passengers upon landing were so odd. I think this is better presented visually.

This illustrates the minute we landed. And by that, I mean we just hit the tarmac and are still taxi-ing around to the gate.
As you can see, that's me in the corner with a "Wtf?" expression. We had just hit the ground and immediately everyone jumps up, grabs their bags, starts chattering away in Italian (some on their phones), and crowds toward the exit. I was so amazed. Where was the surly stewardess to tell them, "The pilot has not turned off the fasten seat belt sign." Or, "Any and all electronic devices must remain off until an announcement is made that they are safe to use." Maybe I should drop out of engineering school and be a stewardess. I think I've got this down; I would rule the cabin with an iron fist.

While this was going on, I chose to simply stay seated, with seat belt securely fastened, until we stopped at the gate. It's been ingrained into my mind and I did not want to get flattened by the mob rushing to the exit or be stuck in the face by a bag from an overhead bin which, did in fact, shift during the flight.

These sorts of flights are quick and fairly cheap. The whole experience was a little strange to me because things occurred which would get you arrested by the TSA. But, it got me there without any sort of physical injury. I just kept wondering what other corners were cut. I don't advocate using a plane unless you have a specific reason (like the Mediterranean Sea) because you don't want to have to waste time in an airport. Blech.

I'll be sharing my experiences with trains and automobiles soon. I think each deserves its own attention.

So until next time, God bless America.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I Feel Like a Pin Cushion

This week I finally started my preparations for travel to India. A visa is in the works (I hope, the university is supposed to be taking care of that). But, on Monday, I did something equally important.

I was stabbed with a ton of needles! And no, it was not exciting like that exclamation point may lead you to believe.

The university has a Travel Clinic intended to help students like myself avoid disastrous, jungle diseases. I was given a total of five vaccinations which covered seven diseases, varying from flu to typhoid to polio. My boyfriend has been calling me Typhoid Carrie this week. I hope I won't unknowingly cause an epidemic of pertussis or diphtheria.

You know it's a lot of shots when they won't even give you a band-aid for each prick. They start stabbing you close together so they won't have to be wasteful with medical supplies. It feels pretty cheap when I'm only given three band-aids for five shots. I didn't even get a sucker. Damn.

My appointment was with a five foot tall Chinese woman. She looked a lot more menacing when various needles were laid out on the counter. The teddy bear designed quilt laying on the cot didn't help the creepy factor. I was glad I got to sit in an office chair instead of on that. It seemed like a horror movie waiting to happen. I guess it's only on faith that I was immunized for those diseases, it'a always possible it was a conspiracy to give me the plague.

Thankfully, I have avoided terrible side-effects as yet. The worst that has happened has been terrible pains in both my arms. (After all, with five shots they do two in one shoulder, two in the other, and the last on the underside of an arm, stupid polio). Two days after being poked I can once again lift my arms above my shoulders. Success.

Until next time, God bless America.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Time to Get Serious

There's something important I'd like to discuss today that isn't very pretty. It goes along with Geometric Shapes = Genders ?. Now that you know whether you are a circle or a triangle, there is another critical issue. Because really, when you're traveling, it's bound to happen. You'll be walking down the street like Henrietta here and all of a sudden, you need to....um, visit the facilities.

But where? No idea what's behind that door. And the only things nearby are a Medieval church and a sketchy food cart. I doubt those will be much help. What she needs are...

Europe doesn't quite work like the U.S. Here we have some sort of shop all over if you need a stop. 

Look! A Starbucks. 

Over there! A Walgreens. 

Hooray! A gas station.

All shops (except those in the mall) are generally large enough they have their own bathrooms, too. So, we Americans (or maybe just us Midwesterners, I don't know how it works on the coasts) aren't used to this search. Therefore, I've compiled the top ten ways to find one.

1. Restaurants. While we have Starbucks, Walgreens, and gas stations on every corner, Europe has an Italian restaurant on every corner. I've never liked this option very much because if the hosts and hostesses are paying attention, you get glared at. The restrooms are always hidden in the back and someone will wonder who is loitering. I was always worried about being threatened with a fork in some languge I don't speak or having to buy something.

2. Coffee shops. These are pretty easy to find. And unlike bakeries, it is assumed you'll want to hang around so it'll have a bathroom. I can't believe some bakeries don't have bathrooms. Argh.

3. Subway stations. If you are lucky enough to be in a city with a subway, there's a good chance there is one down there. It is possibly staffed by an angry man. The one I visited was. I guess he doesn't like working underground.

4. Bars. This is one of my favorite options. People like bars. And people walk in and out of them regularly. You can walk right in and no one will question you. This is a good way to avoid the glares of restaurant workers who want you to buy something or get out. Instead, the bar tender doesn't care and can pretend you are just sitting outside.

5. The Mall. Easy enough if you can find it. You can even stop and buy a cupcake if you want.

6. Fancy Hotel Lobbies. This is my absolute FAVORITE option. Fancy hotels are used to the fact that people come and go so you never get questioned. Feel free to loiter in the lobby. It might even be air conditioned. Ahhhh. And, since they are often used for meetings, there is always an open restroom right off the edge of the lobby. No danger of having to ask someone where it is. **Disclaimer* I do not recommend using the facilities of a hotel where you aren't staying, that'd be taking advantage :) *Disclaimer**

7. Museums. Why yes I did just want to visit the Pharmacy Museum, it wasn't for any other reason. (I really did visit the Pharmacy Museum in Cracow, and not because of this. I did enjoy all the herbs I recognized from Harry Potter potions class. Did you know there really is a thing known as bezoar?) This is a rather expensive option but you might even learn something on your way out. Oops, that might have turned you off.

8. Public Restrooms. I hope they are nicer than port-o-potties in the park. Many cities have odd, underground buildings where you can pay for a use. There is always some woman sitting there to make change. These are, at least usually, clean and are sometimes on the maps. Convenient.

9. American Fast Food Restaurants. They are always prepared. Try the KFC or McD's, they are fancier than ours. Especially if it is a two story building. Then they just think you're eating in the other room.

10. And, I hope you don't have to resort to this....a Bush! Every male person I traveled to Europe with used this option at one point. That isn't a good idea. I even saw one man getting a little chat with the police for this reason one evening while walking by myself. Awkward.

There you go. I hope it helps you some day. If you're all really nice to me, I may even throw in my super secret tip number 11!

Until next time, God bless America.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Did You Miss Me?

Hello again everyone!

I know it has been ever so long. There was a family emergency, a holiday, and then 40 pages worth of research papers due and 40 minutes worth of presentations to give yesterday. But, that's enough excuses. You really don't want to hear about that.

Last time, I had asked for some guesses as to where I would be traveling next semester. I was happy that some people actually responded! Joy. But, more importantly, we got a correct answer!!!!!!

I will be heading to Chennai, India to spend about two months at the India Institute of Technology at Madras. I think there will be a week thrown in there somewhere where I'd head to Mumbai to visit a different university but you never know. So far, I don't have a plane ticket, a visa, or even know when I'll be leaving exactly.



I have been warned to not drink the water, bring a handkerchief as you'll sweat like a pig in February, avoid wearing low-cut shirts, and most importantly, be wary of monkeys. A student at my university has been to IIT Madras before and had a monkey enter through an open window and steal things from her room. I guess that's what can happen when you're in the middle of a jungle. I'm just more used to watching out for squirrels. And really, the worst thing they can do is cause you to hit a tree when swerving to avoid them in your car (assuming you're nice enough to try and avoid them).

I would like to congratulate Sarcastic Ninja for correctly guessing my destination. (Applause, and I hope you join in, it always sounds really pathetic when only a single person is clapping). For correctly guessing, our winner gets.......


Suspense





Suspense






Suspense







Suspense







their own personal stick figure!!!!!!
That was the most academic-looking stick figure I could do. I think he looks rather professorial. Snazzy.

So, starting in February, this blog may change a little. I have no idea what sorts of things I'll find over in Asia. I'm sure there will be all sorts of interesting things to share. And, I may make some snafus that'll brighten your day.

Until next time, God bless America.

And, I promise. It won't be a few weeks before I return.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

To Asia I Will Go...

To Asia I will go, Heigh Ho the Dairy-Oh to Asia I will go.

I have no idea what the actual words to that little musical quip are. That's what happens when you learn something at age five, spelling is not the priority.

Now to the point, I have some exciting news. I will be traveling to Asia next semester for eight weeks! I will then be able to regale you with tales of a place more exotic than central Europe. It will be a bit more of a culture shock so I can only imagine what intriguing things I'll get to share with you all

I would like to introduce a little game. It'll be oh so very much fun.

Let's see who can guess where I'm going. Here are three clues to help you. (And really, we all have internet access so someone should be able to figure it out.)

-It is a city with a national park within its limits
-It is a port city which has been previously owned by the Portuguese, French, and British
-It is a city which holds the greatest concentration of Carnatic musicians

Not that I know what that last clue even means, though I'm sure I'll find out later. If you are the first person to guess correctly, I will dedicate a post and an awesome award to praise you. And, you might even get to appear as a stick figure.
Yay.

Until next time, God bless America.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tips for Tipping

While traveling, you are going to eat out....a lot. You are unlikely to have access to a kitchen, and let's be realistic, Americans like to eat.

You might want to be adventurous and try the super-authentic sit-down restaurant or you can be a boring American and stick to Pizza Hut. (I don't suggest you try the super sketchy food stand on the corner. Just ew.) Besides, their Pizza Huts are fancier than ours. They even sell wine. Doesn't that sounds like a high-class establishment?

Regardless of your food choice, you will inevitably run into the issue of how to pay for your meal. Here are the important things I learned:

1. No European restaurant  should take your credit card from you.

All restaurants have those little hand-held machines you see at farmer's market stands. They should swipe it in front of you. If someone takes your card to a different room, you may soon end up begging for coins on the corner as a random person ruins your credit score buying expensive bottles of vodka.

2. Tip with cash.

We're all used to the little tip line of a receipt. But, don't be tempted. You shouldn't use that. Nope, nope, nope. If  you tip with the credit card receipt, the restaurant will keep a percentage of the it. So rude. You're already paying the restaurant for the food, tip your waitress instead. Use some cash. Besides, you feel like such a citizen of the world when you have Forints, Euros, Zlotys, and Swiss Francs in your pocket.

3. Don't tip more than 10-12%.

I've always been told you should tip 18-20% for good service, 10% if your waiter ignored you, and a kleenex if they were flat-out mean. That's not quite the case over seas. 10% is what you should be giving for good service. Don't give your waiter the impression they are better at their job than they really are, unless you just want to make some friends. 

4. Ask for your bill when you want to leave.

You will not be given a bill unless you ask for it. Periods. Americans expect to get a bill while you're still eating because the restaurant wants you out as soon as possible. They've got people to feed. Europeans find that rude. They expect you want to sit and converse. Who wants to do that? You've already been spending every minute of every day together throughout your vacation. You don't really have any else to say by now. So, just catch your server's attention so you can go. There's too much to see and awkward silence isn't fun for anyone.

Until next time, God bless America



Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This is Halloween

Happy Halloween everybody!

I hope you are up to all sorts of shenanigans.


The most shenanigans I have going on is singing "Woody's Round-up" to my jack-o-lantern and waiting for trick or treaters to arrive. And of course, I'm not already rifling through the candy and eating it myself...

Here was my costume. (I didn't wear it on Halloween but to the Not-So-Scary-Halloween Party at Disney World earlier this month.)

In preparation, I did learn how to make a bird cage veil so if anyone has any upcoming nuptials I can share some tips.

Anyone have any interesting costumes?

Until next time, Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Help Me! I'm Lost and I Don't Know Where I Am!

Have you ever gotten lost? I'm sure the women in the audience are saying, "Of course not, I make sure to use the GPS directions on my phone even when I'm only going around the corner". And, I'm sure the men in the audience are saying, "Of course not, I have an excellent sense of direction, those hunter instincts" even as they driving through a desert like the lost couple in Cars.

(By the way, is it correct to call it an audience in this media form? I guess your living room, smart phone, or office while hoping the boss doesn't come by can be part of an audience. But, that also assumes there are several people engaged in rapt attention...that one is iffy.)

Getting lost in a foreign country is both likely and unpleasant. My phone doesn't work over seas so I need to rely on, God help me, a map! And really, who wants to spend $14.95 on a decent map of every city you'll visit? That adds up quickly; you could buy a lot of food or booze with it instead. The alternative is you use the free maps handed out by hotels. These range from incredibly helpful to this:


Notice how the hotel and tourist sites are incredibly huge. This ensures that you have no idea where they actually are. It's better to make sure the images cover several blocks so you can get really close and then get lost wandering around piazzas and back alleys full of feral cats. And, if you happen to get distracted by something pretty, like beautiful Renaissance architecture or a hot guy on a vespa, the lack of street names makes sure you can never find yourself again.

What to do in this situation to avoid this scenario?

No one wants to end up praying near the front of a church for a holy intervention. Rome at least has cathedrals on almost every corner so you could do this as a last result. You could even do so inside if you'd like. If you're in Rome, I hope you're Catholic, I'm not sure you'll find another type of church.

So, the alternative. You could ask someone for directions!!!! A radical idea I know. I've said before that all Europeans speak English. While this is generally true, it may be hard to find someone who is fluent enough to tell you more than where's the bathroom. I got pretty good at this after having trouble finding the bus stop in Poland, Germany, and Hungary. To help out, here are: 

The Travelin-gineer's Helpful Hints for Finding Help.

1. If you see a service industry nearby (such as a hotel or restaurant) try there first.
2. If you don't see a service industry, look for someone who appears to be under the age of 35.
     2a. By under 35, I don't mean a child. Don't come off as a creeper.
3. Find someone who is alone. I found some young people are embarrassed to speak English in front of their friends if they aren't completely fluent. You are also less likely to be interrupting.
4. Approach someone with a smile in a well-lit, open area. Let's not celebrate a vacation by getting maced.
5. If this person looks at you puzzled, repeat with another individual.

There you go. I hope this helps if you are ever lost in foreign country. If you still can't find someone who speaks English, sorry. Maybe you should think about hailing a cab. 

Until next time, God bless America.



Saturday, October 20, 2012

Oh Airlines, How I Loathe Thee

If you are going to be traveling any decent distance, you are likely to be flying. If you are, I feel sorry for you.  I've realized that basic customer service expectations are too high. Specifically:

-Your flight will leave on time
-Your flight will arrive on time
-Your bag will arrive with you
-Your bag will arrive in the condition in which you checked it.

This just isn't true anymore. To be safe, I now assume my bag will be lost or severely damaged on every flight. This is a good assumption because then you can pack to make sure you don't end up like Quinton in Quinton's Foremost Blunders Episode 1. Hopefully you at least have some clothes. I know Europeans are more comfortable with nudity than Americans, but I still think you'll have some issues if you try and prance about town in your birthday suit.

When I flew to Berlin, my bag was left in Miami. It didn't get to me for three days. And, I think I've figured out the culprit. Each of the last three times my bag was lost it was randomly searched. I guess my bag looks incredibly suspicious. Not sure why. It's just a red roll-ey bag. Maybe it works like a traffic light. Red means STOP!!!! and search? It seems so.

Unless you are incredibly lucky, your bag will be lost at some point. So, let's act like Boy and Girl Scouts, or characters of The Lion King, and Be Prepared!

Roar.....

Sorry, I got distracted with day dreams of being in The Lion King. Let's see what can happen if you don't pack anything useful in your carry-on. Here's Selma.


Ew, that doesn't look pretty. Let's analyze it so as to not make these same mistakes.

First, we see a grungy, grody skirt because she's been wearing the same clothes for four days. Next, we notice a swollen eyelid. Maybe she should of brought some contact solution, or at least her glasses. Pain or blindness can be a toss-up.

Look, there's a noticeable rash forming because she forgot her daily medications. Lastly, we notice the dirty hair and stink lines. You don't want to maintain your personal bubble with an odor. Maybe some toiletries would be a good choice.

Make sure you can comfortably live out of your carry-on for at least two days. It'll make you a lot more chipper if the airline fulfills their expectations and tries to ruin your vacation.

Until next time, God bless America.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Second Breakfast? Sounds Like Heresy to Me

I ran into an interesting phenomenon in Europe known as second breakfast. I still don't quite understand it. After all, while I generally stick to cereal for breakfast, most people I know consider coffee or a pop tart to be sufficient. And, some college students are fine with an un-toasted, frozen waffle and a Mountain Dew. Ahhhh, the breakfast of champions.

There are special occasions when a significant other may make eggs, sausage, pancakes, or even crepes (if they're feeling fancy) for breakfast. But, otherwise breakfast doesn't get much attention or acclaim. I was amazed to discover that Europeans seem to love breakfast enough to have it twice. Especially since they don't eat the same things for breakfast that I do. I don't consider tomatoes, cold sandwich meats, and cucumbers to be breakfast food. To me, that sounds like it's time for a picnic.

The idea of second breakfast caused me to raise a few questions. If you have breakfast twice, when do you eat lunch? Is it like an afternoon snack? Then what happens to dinner? Am I going to be eating at midnight?

So many questions. Oh nooooooooooooooooooooooo! It's absolutely overwhelming!

As most people are visual, I decided to explain this with a graph. I apologize that it is informal. I can just imagine past science teachers criticizing me for the lack of units. Hopefully none of you are grading me.

In case you don't remember anything about how to read graphs, I'll explain. First and second breakfasts occur at approximately 7 and 11 am, respectively. Lunch is around 2 or 3 in the afternoon and is the biggest meal of the day. Dinner is around 8 pm.

Remember this if you're ever looking for a restaurant. I ran into issues that some don't even open their kitchens until after 1. As I don't eat two breakfasts, I was frickin' hungry at noon and no one would feed me! And if you're looking to beat the crowds, eat dinner at 6. No one is going to be there so you can be as awkwardly American as you'd like. The waiters may even speak in their native languages so as not to bother you (wink wink). More like make sure you can't understand them insulting your habits.

Until next time, God bless America.

Back in Nebraska

Hello everyone! I'm back. I did not fall off the face of the Earth. A most wonderful thing called gravity made sure of that.

I spent the last week on vacation in the land of the mouse, otherwise known as Disney World. I hope you're proud of me. I never even wore a fanny pack or a poncho. It was a rather successful trip. After all, none of the following things happened:

-I was not patted down at the airport.
-The airport did not lose my bags.
-While they were delayed, I never missed a connecting flight.
-I escaped blister-free.
-I did not get a cold...or the plague.
-I was only once kicked by a small child, and never puked on by one.
-I was not trampled by a scary double stroller which always seem to be driven like tanks.

It is a little sad that no missed connections, lost baggage, or personal searches by TSA members means it was a successful airport experience.

So, I'm back and delightfully exhausted. Now it's time to get back to the important things. Like blogging. It's not like I have grad school or work to worry about. Hmmm, perhaps the discombobulation of dirty clothes and random-over-priced souvenirs which are currently hiding my floor should be the next step.

Until next time, God bless America.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Geometric Shapes = Genders?

Have you ever walked by the restrooms in the U.S. and not known which is the men's and which is the women's? I haven't. The little pictures are pretty self-explanatory.
Look, obviously a women's bathroom. Even if you can't read the word, "WOMEN", you still know. Her....stylish shirt dress gives it away at first glance. And, if you are still lost and think it may be a kilt, you can simply compare it to the sign on the other door.
While it is true that people can wear pants regardless of gender, I think the point of these are pretty clear.

I had always figured this was common worldwide. If I could tell the difference between cartoon humanoid cutouts and knew the words for men and women in whatever language was native, I'd be fine. 

I was wrong. Oh, the naivety of me. 

This is what I got for assuming others do things the same way Americans do.
What?!?! A circle or a triangle, what is that supposed to mean? Wait, I'm a smart woman. I made it through engineering school. I've taken 14 years of math. I should be more than qualified to tell the different between basic geometric shapes. I can logic this out.

Which to choose? Which to choose? Hmmm, do I think women are more likely to be represented by circles or triangles?

I guess we're curvy so maybe we're round, like circles.
But, I am wearing a skirt, and it is rather triangle-shaped.
And, we're known for being nice so would someone really consider women to have such pointy edges?
Really, do I want to consider myself a circle? I think that implies I'm fat. Stupid circle.

Argh....this isn't getting me anywhere.

Geometric shapes do not seem like a good alternative to little humanoid cutouts. Thankfully, some university students helped me out and I was able to avoid stepping into the men's restroom and being yelled at to leave in Polish. Or worse, stepping into the men's restroom and not being yelled at to leave in Polish.

Make sure to remember women are circles and men are triangles. It may come in helpful some day. Maybe I should start drawing people like this to try and ingrain it in your mind.
On second thought, I don't think so. Neither Josh nor I look very happy. I vote we stick with the humanoid cutouts.

Until next time, God bless America.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Discontentment in the City of Love

John and Mindy are continuing their European excursion. We last saw them in "The Cursed Carriage Ride" looking to entertain themselves with a little trip across the city. Today, they're considering a classy, personalized souvenir. But, they aren't really seeing eye-to-eye. I think it's time we see why. After all, a classy, personalized souvenir sounds pretty good to me. Definitely better than a kitschy beret. Oh, I guess Mindy already got one of those.


Whoops. You have to watch out with all those swindlers preying on poor, gullible tourists. I really think they should have learned after, "I'm on Vacation and Already Stressed". 

I'm sure it'll be fine. A little CAD (Computer-Aided-Doctoring) and it'll look super legit.

Until next time, God bless America.








Thursday, September 27, 2012

Please Please Talk to Me!

Do you speak more than one language?

(Answering in fourteen different languages to prove your amazing worldly prowess is showing off. Don't be so egotistical.)

If you do, good for you. Hopefully it's one that will be helpful someday.

If you're an American, I bet English is it. At least I hope you speak English. I know that I do. And as an engineering student, that puts me ahead of most of my peers. Numbers are the better choice for them. If I knew how to insert them, I'd toss in all the random Greek letters I've learned over the years. But, I digress.

I only speak English, or American if you prefer. After all, I don't spell color with a "u". We, Americans, are a little self-centric. It's hard for us to understand that other places don't necessarily do things the way we do. (Not sure why they wouldn't because we're just that awesome.) I think this is historically the biggest reason American tourists are insulted. We assume everyone we meet speaks English.

Want to know a secret? (looks around suspiciously)

THEY DO!!!!!

In eight weeks in central Europe, I ran into a single person who spoke absolutely no English. Any idea who that person was?

Nope, it wasn't a random person on the street I was emphatically greeting to expel some of my excited energy.

It was a postal worker.

You'd think someone at the post office in Warsaw (across the street from a hotel nonetheless) might speak English. Tourists do like to send post cards after all. Your random relatives need to see what you're doing every minute of every day. Updating your facebook status and skyping with them every night is not enough. A postcard makes it so much more legit. For that reason, I think it's time to give you one.


Until next time, God bless America.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I know it's been a while....

I feel like such a failure having taken so long to update. But I have an excuse, I've written two papers, given two presentations, and had a test in the last two days. The joys of being a grad student. It's so much fun to read a hundred pages of journal articles about on-ramp merging models, planning theory, and the correct way to perform a safety study. Ugh.

I do have one better excuse (which is also more relevant to this blog topic). I'm planning a vacation!!!!

Want a clue as to where?

How about this?

Thoughts?
     A Star Wars convention and you didn't do your Leia-hair very well.
Um, no. I'm not that much of a dork.
     A secret cult meeting where you worship black circles.
Once again, no. I prefer trapezoids anyway.
     Spain.
Let me say this in Spanish, no.

We're going to Disney World! And by we, I mean my boyfriend and I. That's him standing there next to me. He's the one who so wonderfully brings Quinton to life.

I absolutely love Disney. I really may be that much of a dork...or secretly a six year old who was abducted by aliens and had my child's body replaced with an adult female version. If you don't like Disney, I'm sorry I'm not sure we can be friends.

And, because I'm sure you're wondering, I may have to pull out a fanny pack.

Until next time, God bless America.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Quinton's Foremost Blunders Episode 2

We last left Quinton in Pisa. We all remember his stylish pajamas from Episode 1. Thankfully, his luggage has finally caught up with him so the stylish Hawaiian tee and bucket hat are back. But, his luck hasn't been perfect. Quinton tripped while climbing the leaning tower and broke an ankle. Those marble steps are slippery!

So, what's the next stop?!?!

VENICE!!!!! 

Where else would you go in Italy? Venice is such a wondrous city, especially if you're on crutches................
um..................................................
maybe....................................
meh, we'll make it work.

Really, they're just canals. Besides, it's not like a modern city would still be that unfriendly to those in wheelchairs. I'm sure those bridges have been redesigned to make it easier. I'll bet Quinton is doing just fine. Let's check in.


Oops, I guess Quinton decided those bridges were too difficult on crutches. I guess a boat, or perhaps a life raft, is the next most logical option in a canal city. Though that gondolier doesn't look too happy about it. I really hope he doesn't catch anything. I can almost smell that water from here.

Until next time, God bless America.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Liebster Award

Hey, guess what?

I have received the Liebster Award! Oh, I feel so accomplished. Hopefully, I'll figure out how I am supposed to do this and not make some horrible faux pas. And really, if I do, I'm sure you'll forgive me. It's not like this blog is the epitome of seriousness anyway.
Truthfully, I really appreciative that Life on Peanut Layne decided to bestow this upon me. I'm pretty new to blogging and am glad there are some readers who actually seem to like what I'm doing!

As far as I know, this is how it works:

The Rules:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving you the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post. Go to their page and tell them.
5. No tag backs.

11 Facts About Scary Carrie I'm Sure You're Just Dying to Know
1. I am such a nerd, I even know pi to the hundred-millionths place: 3.14159265

2. Disney World is still my favorite vacation spot even though this blog focuses on my time in Europe

3. I have trouble reading deep or dramatic novels because I feel  like life is serious enough, I'd rather know a happy ending is coming

4. I was born in the 80s and am glad I missed most of them because I can't stand the music

5. I am from Nebraska but have never stepped foot on a farm

6. I love my Kindle

7. I'm super clumsy illustrated by the fact that I ran through a rose bush as a child

8. I adore snow but my feet get cold when it's 75 degrees outside

9. I bought the Fox and the Hound on DVD but have never been able to force myself to watch it because it makes me so depressed

10. I'm incredibly opinionated

11. I am very susceptible to sympathetic yawning

Questions Asked to Me
1. Do you have any phobias?
No, I am slightly afraid of lots of things like snakes, spiders, any large creature that is likely to try and kill you but nothing beyond rational fears.

2. What's your favorite season?
I like winter because I am a Christmas freak.

3. What's the inspiration behind your blog title?
My blog title is pretty literal. I'm writing about travel-related topics and am an engineering student so I just combined the two.

4. Where is your favorite place to shop?
I like wandering around Hobby Lobby because there are so many random things. Obviously I need one of these metal roosters to hang on the wall or a pink-leopard-print fleur-de-lis.

5. What's your favorite food?
Chocolate, any kind.

6. Do you have a favorite room or spot in the house?
I like my living room couch. I use it for napping, homework, blogging, or creeping on the neighbors as they walk by because I get a great view out the front window.

7. Do you have a favorite quote?
Last week I heard, "An optimist will tell you a glass is half-full, the pessimist that its half empty, and the engineer will tell you its twice the size it needs to be".

8. What made you start blogging?
After time in Europe with my parents (where I completely took control), my mom made a passing comment about writing a book of all I learned to make travel easier for others. I decided to blog instead, and quickly found that I would do better making it more humorous and less instructive.

9. Do you have a facebook page for your blog?

10. Do you any bad habits?
I am terrible about putting away my shoes and coats when I come back in the house.

11. What is your dream job or career?
I am still working on that. 

11 Bloggers To Whom I am Giving the Liebster Award
I apologize in advance if you've already gotten the award and just want to be left alone.

A Tea-Tray in the Sky
Cheapskate Blethering
Delightfullly Ludicrous
Dumb Stuff Drawn
I'm Just Saying;...(Damn!)
Mis/adventures in Book Land
Potentially Crap Blog
Sarcastic Art Review Fun Time
Sorry Kid, Your Mom Doesn't Play Well With Others
Stories About My Underpants
Valerie Nunez and the Flying Platypi

But even if you feel like I am simply here to irk you, here are your questions.
1. What's the weirdest Halloween costume you've ever had?

2. Which high school stereotype were you? (nerd, jock, cheerleader, etc.)

3. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

4. What do you do when you have writer's block?

5.What's your favorite children's book?

6. What's one TV show you are embarrassed to like?

7.Where do you really want to visit?

8. What is one way you consider your blog to be successful?

9. What super power would you love to have?

10. Would you prefer to work in a circus or be an astronaut?

11. Why did you pick your topic for your blog?

There you go. Now pass it on.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

For the Love of Cabbage

I'm not much of an adventurous diner. To me, mild is so spicy I feel like I'm about to die. If I could, I'd invent a new sauce simply called, "Bland". Can't you just imagine it?


I'd buy that. You know anything that is such a nondescript, gray color will be easy on the palate. But, back to the point. My lack of culinary daring made travel to Poland seem like a good choice. Because really, that area of the world eats meat and potatoes, awesome. Not to mention some chocolate thrown in. I can definitely deal with that.

After a few weeks, I found that I was sick of it. Really, how many pieces of pork can a person eat? I decided it was time to branch out and I was surprised by what I found.


Because obviously, we need to eat soup with every meal and not just when you're sick or cold. But wait, there's more!!!!


But maybe soup isn't your thing. I had definitely gotten sick of soup so decided to try my hand at the local Mexican restaurant, simply titled "The Mexican". It seemed super authentic. Especially once you saw the blank look on the waiter's face after sitting down and saying "Como esta?" 

Regardless, I ordered a taco. Chicken of course as Poland only seems to believe in beef if it's veal. And, I was surprised by what I got. I think an exploded view shows it best.


Any idea what the "Super Secret Section" was?

It was CABBAGE!!!! (well, it was kind of coleslaw, but they are synonymous in Poland)

I still have no idea why there was cabbage. Or why it was hidden underneath the taco so I couldn't see it until after I started eating. It felt like an intentional lie! The, "I'm going to pretend to serve you the rice-you-so-desperately-miss but hide the fact that it only covers 50% of the surface area of the plate, the rest is the cabbage you despise. Mwahahahahaha!"

I was unable to escape the cabbage. It was in soups, salads, kebabs, and a side dish to everything. I had hoped The Mexican would be cabbage-free. But I was wrong. Oh, the horror.

Until next time, God bless America.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Creeping Creeper Who Creeps

We all have different definitions of what we consider "normally" friendly. You may be a hand shaker, a hugger, or an emphatic waver. I hope you're not one of those who stands in the corner with crazy eyes, a serial killer smile, and stares.

What I find most interesting is how geographic these definitions are. Take, for example, how things work in Nebraska.
If you don't believe me, you've obviously never met a Husker fan. I've had random Nebraska cheers aimed at me in Oklahoma, Texas, Florida, and Germany just for wearing a red shirt with an "N" on it. It's kind of like a not-so-secret cult, actually. We're not crazy, just a little too friendly for some people.

When we're not bonding over our love of football, volleyball, and various other sporting events, we Americans like to greet each other with the smile and nod. Let's see how this works. Here comes Jerry and Tim.
They're both a little preoccupied with mp3 players and smart phones to actually talk to someone in person. Why would you do that? That's what technology is for. So instead, they settle for the friendly, "Look I'm acknowledging your existence with a nod as if to say, 'Sup'?". That's classy.

The weird thing is this can come off odd in other places. I quickly realized the American welcome of smile and nod is not really acceptable in other places. Let's see what happens when Philip meets Eva on the street.

Ouch, they're trying as hard as possible to avoid eye contact. I definitely don't see a smile or a nod coming. It looks we're going to settle for cold indifference or choosing to blatantly ignoring people. This is why when I walked around smiling, looking everyone in the eye, and nodding I came off as a creeper. You tend to get stared at, and not in a "That American chick is so adorable" kind of way. Here's what it looked like when I ran into Philip.

Really, I was just trying to be friendly. Though I may have done just a little more than smile and nod. I can't help that I'm super excited to be somewhere other than Nebraska. I'm not actually a creeper, though a few Europeans may disagree.

Until next time, God bless America.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quinton's Foremost Blunders Episode 1

Quinton, The Quintessential Ugly American Tourist, made his first appearance in "I'm on Vacation and Already Stressed". But now, it's time for his first official cartoon. Hooray! I know you're all so excited, I can see you there on the edge of your seats.

So we welcome Quinton, who didn't make a great packing choice. He checked a bag with the airline and it included the majority of his essentials. After all, he needed to fill his carry-on with film. There are just so many pictures to take! It's a little unlucky that the guy at the electronics store didn't mention his new camera doesn't actually use film.

Guess what happened to Quinton's checked bag?

Your guess is as good as mine because we still don't know where it ended up. It's only been four days. After all, it's not like you pay the airlines hundreds of dollars to put bar codes on your bags or anything.....
But, Quinton has decided to soldier on with his head held high. No reason to let a little lost bag ruin your vacation. Look, he made it to the leaning tower of Pisa.


Wow, I had no idea Quinton liked kittens so much. At least he found a way to make sure his picture is one to remember. Does it count as a kitschy tourist picture if yours if the only one like that? And really, with a sleeping cap he can pretend he's a wizard in his spare time. Maybe he's the one who made it tilt.

Unless you want to make pink, kitten pajamas the new fashion trend, you may want to put some clothes in your carry-on. I really doubt you need that much film. Though, I think Quinton's picture is pretty epic.

Until next time, God bless America.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

J-J-J-J-J-J-J-Jaywalking

Have you ever been almost killed by a Hungarian car?
I have.

Definitely wasn't the highlight of my vacation. At least I wasn't actually hit, broken bones were not my idea of a good souvenir. That's why I've decided that I'm going to to share some information about international crosswalks so you can make it home with all your appendages intact. You're welcome :).

I'm a college student so I jaywalk constantly. If a car is coming I know it's going to stop for me because I'm just that awesome. This is also true if that "car" happens to be a tractor. I'm from Nebraska, that's more common than you'd think. And really, there's no reason to be scared of tractors, they don't even go that quickly. Besides, Nebraskans always stop for pedestrians because they only want to rundown you down if you're a deer or a squirrel.

Midwesterners are never in a hurry. Cities are small and there isn't much else nearby. How much of a hurry can you be in if the only thing outside a 5-mile radius is a corn field? And, I doubt a 10 second stop will make you late to the office six blocks away. To make sure you got it, here's how it works in Nebraska.

Walk sign is on, go right ahead. The guy in the tractor is even wishing you a good day.

Don't walk, go right ahead. The guy in the tractor is still wishing you a good day.

That's not quite how it works in Europe. No one jaywalks. It was incredibly weird for me to see people stand on the corner, even when no one was coming. You start to wonder if they're blind and simply didn't see the sign. If you do try and cross, bam, $60 fine. Ouch. I'd rather spend that on some fancy doodads.

More importantly, since no one jaywalks, drivers don't watch for you. If you aren't supposed to be walking, they'll speed right on by. At least the cars are tiny. They're so small they may just bounce off but you probably don't want to risk it. Here's what my experience was like.

Walk sign is on, look at me go. That little car is waiting for me oh so patiently.

Don't walk, I'm glad I didn't get too far out there. My poor bows!!!! I hope they didn't fall down a sewer grate.

Some countries are worse than others. Take Italy for example, you may be hit regardless of the walk sign. All those mopeds seem to be in quite a hurry. Here's what it looked like.

Sorry, you need to excuse me. I'm going to go cry in the fetal position now.

Until next time, God bless America.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Would You Like a City Tour?

No, I would not like a city tour thank you very much. This is the most commonly asked question to any American tourist. As previously mentioned in "White Tennis Shoes are Super Sexy", Americans have a tendency to stick out. Therefore, panderers stalk us like predators. You can see their eyes light up with, "Look, Americans, they have money, mwahahahahahaha". If you're lucky, you may be harassed by someone who doesn't use a demonic laugh.

I'm sure you won't be lucky enough to avoid them all so we need to prepare you for when they bother you. This is what it started to sound like as I walked down the street.

Would you like a city tour?
No thank you.
City tour?
No.
Take a city tour?
No!
Sure you wouldn't like a city tour?
Leave me the hell alone!
City tour?
Don't make me mace you.

Hopefully your patience is greater than mine. I've been told the best thing to do is ignore them but it's a little hard to do when you're hot and your feet are killing you. Some panderers are going to just have to deal with a little frustration.

I found the best way to make it past the obnoxious city tour aficionados is to blend in. You walk around by yourself dressed as much like the native population as possible. Obviously, this doesn't work when in large groups of if you simply don't look at all like the native population. We know Quinton would have problems with that. So, I think it's time we invent a new approach to avoid them. Watch me and follow along.

Ha, I bet you can't see me. And then, neither can the panderers. Maybe you should pick up on my camouflage techniques so you can avoid them too, and save yourselves $100 or some jail time.

Until next time, God bless America.

The Cursed Carriage Ride

It's time to check in on John and Mindy. Hopefully The Curmudgeon and the Spaz have solved some of their issues.






Ouch, I guess it's not at all improved. At least Mindy is having a good time.

Until next time, God bless America.