Thursday, December 29, 2011

OhMyGodWhatHappened?!

Ok, so here's the deal.

I didn't die.

I know most of you are relieved. Especially those of you whom I owe money/favors/whateverthehellyouthinkIoweyou.

Blogger noticed some kind of undefined "suspicious activity" and decided to hulk out or something, so my blog was blocked. Now it's fixed.

At the moment I'm beating down the wanderlust in Texas, penniless, scrambling for a job, and bumming at my parents like most other recent post-grads. My parents are currently in the honeymoon phase of having me back, where they still think I'm awesome until they walk out at 2am and see me munching on cheetos and snickers in front of the computer during the beginning of a three-week binge on Skyrim. This hasn't happened yet, but only because I've carefully timed my Skyrim hits.

It's not a glamorous life, but it's not on the streets of Torino, Italy either. I'll explain that particular reference later, when I write the "My Night As An Italian Tramp" post.

So my plan (for this blog, at least) is to flesh out the bullet-point notes of my trip in my journal. Probably with less cursing this time, because now I'll be walking around College Station and might run into your condemning looks.

JUST KIDDING BITCHES, I DO WAT I WANT!

Anyway. If anyone knows of a job that's not shameful (No, Uncle David, I will NOT apply at the Dirty Sock), please let me know. I'm trying to make enough money to do this trip in the Summer, when the daylight lasts longer and there are festivals to crash.

I hope everyone had a nice round of Holidays. Remember to wash the shame off before you come home after New Year's Eve.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Exeter - Lithuania

Cast of Characters for Kaunas, Lithuania:

Toby: My travel companion.

Ieva: Lithuanian couchsurfer, possessing a huge crush on Toby.

Jon: Swedish traveler on “business”, staying at the hostel.

Andreas and Andreas: Traveling Greeks staying at the hostel.

Bret and Felicity: A kiwi couple

I was creeped on again on my way out of Exeter and back to Bath for the night before my flight to Lithuania. I was sitting on a bench at the Exeter train station, waiting on my train to Bath on Sept 30th. The platform was fairly crowded, but there was an empty space next to me. A rather normal-looking guy came and sat down, greeting me with a “’Ello, love” as the English are want to do. I smiled and replied with a “Hello” before going back to reading my book. Honestly, I don’t know why I say anything to men anymore. I’ve run into a lot of creepers and it seems like all they need is a reciprocated greeting before they launch into their pathetic life story.

This guy was no exception. Not only was he no exception, he jubilantly informed me that he had been released from prison that very day and was on his way back to Bristol to reclaim his flat, turn his gas back on, get himself “smarted up” and out to the clubs to hopefully find a good lay for the night. Oh, and by the way, the reason he was thrown in prison was totally not his fault, and that security guard just fell on his fist and he had nothing to do with all that fighting stuff they accused him of. Really.

He was very happy and friendly, but the situation was so sudden and his story was so bizarre that I was too stunned to tell him I was married or something. I had been wearing that wedding band as a normal ring around Exeter because I didn’t think I needed it. Obviously I just need to permanently travel with a symbolic MARRIED: DO NOT ENGAGE proclamation on my finger.

Actually, it might only keep the nice, attractive, respectable men away and have no effect on the creepers. Damn.

A little old lady sat down next to him and he greeted her with the same happy “’Ello, love!” I thought I was free at that point, so I started to gather my things under the guise of a restroom visit. I had a thought to rescue the little old lady, but before I could make my decision he jumped up and told me he was visiting the toilet. Then he asked if I would watch his stuff. I agreed out of politeness. He then pointed to a grocery bag and said, “There’s candy and a newspaper in there if you fancy some of that. There’s also a magazine in there – oh, but on second though it’s a lad’s mag, so you probably won’t want to read it. Or maybe you do . . .” and walked off.

Did an ex-con really just offer me candy and a porno at a train station? Yes, this stuff happens to me.

After he came back he thanked me and I made my great escape with a smile and a “Good luck!”

I really need to get rid of this creeper magnet I have hidden on me somewhere.

So I caught my train and made it back to Bath a few hours later. I was greeted with a “Welcome home!” by Rob when I walked into Bloomfield House, and spent the night regaling the Barnard-Westons with stories of my last two weeks and listening to their own news about Rob’s trip to Uganda, Finn’s plans for his school break, and Kari’s experiences with the guests. I really feel at home whenever I’m there. I absolutely love that family. Finn convinced me to make enchiladas for them again, and we busted out a bottle of wine and had a great time. Thankfully no knife fights were had.

I woke up at 5am the next morning and got a lift from Finn to the train station at 6am. We parted with a hug. I then spent the next four hours riding trains and buses across the countryside and navigating London’s subway system, which was a singular kind of hell. There’s not much to say about it other than that it’s annoying as all get out when they close the lines for maintenance.

I spent six hours in London Lutin’s airport before I left for Lithuania.

Ryanair flights are crap, and Lithuanians treat flights as a kind of party. The seatbelt lights were flashing on and off the entire flight without any reason. We stayed at the airport for thirty extra minutes before takeoff because forty bags were somehow mislabeled. You don’t have seat designations – you just pick where you want to sit, so people are constantly getting up and trading places and wandering around. The flight attendants are contracted to try and sell you tons of useless shit. The pilot is probably using this as a chance for experience before signing up with airlines that have higher standards, because he couldn’t land smoothly for anything.

I arrived in Lithuania feeling groggy, tired, gross, and thoroughly sick of airlines. I stood in the queue for my passport check with a feeling of apprehension and dread. However, the woman only looked at my passport, glanced at me, and then stamped it and sent me through. BAM! Europe at your feet. I freaking love being American. There’s an agreement between most of the EU countries that if you’re accepted into one EU country, you’re automatically accepted into all the others. It’s called a Shengen Visa and it’s badass. I now have access to any EU country coming from any other EU country with no hassle.

Toby was waiting for me in the airport. We caught a bus back to the hostel and he told me all about his experiences during the week and the people he had met. We arrived at our hostel in the middle of Kaunas city center, a mixture of modern architecture and fountains and old Cold War type buildings. The Monk’s Bunk was hidden in an alley behind a Hezburger (Lithuanian equivalent of McDonalds) on the main street. It looked dark and ominous from the outside and I was pretty skeptical at first. The inside was beautiful and cozy though, and the accommodations were way better than what I had experienced in Cork. You remember the French chicks. Ugh.

My bunk in "The Monk's Bunk"

The wall of visiting countrymen - each visitor paints their flag on the wall if it isn't already there

I took a shower and promptly passed out. The next morning Toby woke up early and got us a breakfast of pastries and suspicious milk. Then he took a nap while I explored Lithuania a bit.

Tasty pastry breakfast with suspicious milk brand

Kaunas is a little eerie. It’s an odd mix of old architecture and new, shiny buildings. One street will be new and modern and bright, and the next will be a dark, depressing stretch of Cold-War era buildings and scary-looking graffiti.






In Lithuania they don't just give chocolates, they give feelings.

Not many Lithuanians actually speak English fluently. Many speak Russian, but obviously that doesn’t help me out. English has become popular with younger Lithuanians and especially academics, but the majority of the over-35 population doesn’t speak English. Asking for directions is a pain. If you start talking to an older person in English, they generally just glance at you and keep walking as if they haven’t heard. Some will stop and smile and then start speaking rapid Lithuanian and making extravagant hand gestures that make absolutely no sense. After a few seconds of encountering a blank look they give up and walk away.

I finally found a hairdresser in this huge mall and chopped my hair off. The woman didn’t know a lick of English, but I had searched for a reasonable hairdresser in England for about a month and I just didn’t care anymore. I’m traveling. I don’t need to look pretty.

Thankfully she did a good job because, no lie, I probably would have really regretted it if my hair looked terrible. I say I wouldn’t, but I would have. We all know it. Also, that haircut turned out to be about $5. Amazing, I know.

Side story: Toby informed me that morning that he only had a pair of big hiking boots with him and that he needed to apologize because they tend to smell at the end of the day. Bastard decided to inform me of this after I actually arrived. He thought it was funny as hell. So I left that morning with a mission to fix this problem.

I bought him some Eastern European shoe spray and presented it as a gift to him later. Haha, sucker! I don’t suffer smelly man feet.

After exploring Lithuania for the morning and half the afternoon, I returned to the Monk’s Bunk and hung out there for a while with Toby. We decided to try a traditional Lithuanian restaurant for dinner. We ordered cepelinai, which as is a traditional potato dumpling dish. They refer to them as “pancakes” when speaking English, but I have no idea why as it’s really a stuffed and boiled or fried potato that is distinctly un-pancake like. Toby had the traditional kind, which was boiled and stuffed with minced meat, sour cream, and “bacon sauce”. I ate Žemaičių blynai, which was a “grated boiled potato pancake filled with cooked and minced meat, sour cream, and butter sauce”. It was actually fried, so I’m not sure if that was a typo or what. It was okay, but not amazing.

Lithuanian "pancakes"


We met Toby’s cute Lithuanian friend Ieva at the hostel after dinner because she wanted to go out. We decided to hang out and chat for a while. Jon, a Swedish guy who was staying in our room, happened to pass by with a bag full of booze in hand. According to Toby he had been there for a few days but didn’t seem inclined to hang out with the other guys that had been there before I arrived. Naturally I called him over and introduced myself, and asked if he wanted to join. Much to Toby’s surprise, he accepted and sat down to share his beer.

We had a great time chatting about what everyone was doing, our plans for life, where we were all traveling, etc. Jon seems to lead an almost charmed life. His luck is simply impressive. He was an electrician in Sweden, but bagged his current job as some kind of customs salesman (it was confusing) for Scandinavian airlines by going to a bar and meeting and drinking with his now current boss. Now he travels all over Europe and works a few hours a day in meetings with representatives before spending the rest of the time binge drinking and partying on company money with his boss’ consent.

Ieva is a pretty Lithuanian girl that just got her degree in graphic design and plans to go and make it big in London. She wants to go over and work as a waitress in the most popular area of London, First Zone, and apply for jobs around there. Lots of Lithuanians have this idea. Toby and I didn’t tell her that this probably wouldn’t work out. Hopefully she’ll beat the odds and actually make it.

Anyway, we set out for to a pub after we talked for a bit and loosened up. Poor Ieva wore heels for the first time in five years. She was having a bad time of it, and her walking resembled some kind of epileptic gazelle. We went somewhere called the B.O. Bar. I’m not kidding. They had no idea what they were advertising.

We spent the rest of Sunday night at that bar, with Ieva and I watching Jon and Toby get absolutely smashed. Toby and Jon spent a lot of time wandering around the bar making friends with people at other tables (somehow successfully), while Ieva told me how much she liked Toby.

I was jealous of those two. I spent most of the night convincing Ieva that it was probably a bad idea to try and start a relationship with travelers. Especially British ones.

Eventually Ieva and I decided we wanted to leave. Jon was beyond plastered at this point and had found a rowdy group of English-speakers to entertain. I felt a little responsible for him, so I went to ask if he wanted to leave yet. He said no, but also decided that his best course of action was to reach around me and grab my butt.

I slapped him.

Then I gave the person next to him a pen and told them to write “The Monk’s Bunk” on Jon’s arm and deposit him into a taxi at the end of the night. Thankfully I waited a few seconds before high-tailing it out of there, because they wrote “Frank’s Bunk” instead and I had to get them to cross it out and write the correct name before I left. There’s no telling what would have happened to Jon if I hadn’t waited. Do Lithuanian’s name any place “Frank”?

I deposited Ieva in a taxi with a hug, and Toby and I walked back to the hostel. Jon showed up a few hours later with bloody knuckles, so I had to patch him up before he passed out in a chair. We think he fell on the stairs outside the hostel. Poor guy.

Jon after a long night out. Check out his arm.

The next day we bought tickets for a night bus to Warsaw, Poland, and spent the day playing table hockey with a couple of Greeks named Andreas and listening to a newly arrived Bret and Felicity tell us about their trip around Europe and Africa. You meet all kinds of interesting people in hostels.

We packed our bags, settled our accounts, and left the hostel to catch the bus at 10pm and begin the next phase of our journey.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My drunken week in Exeter


Exeter Cast of Characters:

Sean: Couchsurfer who hosted me. Does British Sign Language fluently and works at the Exeter School for the Deaf. Possesses a very dry British wit (as in he can be an asshole while still somehow being charming). Knows tons of people. (I was going to write "speaks British Sign Language", but then I realized that doesn't work like it normally would . . .)

Matt: Friend of Sean’s. Has a degree in Geography, but manages the kitchens in a hip pub/restaurant in Exeter for now. Non-couchsurfer. Very, very nice.

Darren: Friend of Sean’s. Deaf, works at the school. Reads lips and can moderately communicate with non-signing people. Also very nice. (Just assume that everyone is nice from here on out).

Aidan: Friend of Sean’s. Deaf, works at the school. Can’t read lips.

Harry: Friend of Sean’s. Works as an aircraft maintenance engineer for Flybe airlines. Loves to get into America vs. Britain arguments. Possesses a very dry British wit.

Chaz: Sean’s roommate. Doesn’t really like people staying over at their place. Engaged, and his fiancée basically lives there.

Rachel: Friend of Darren’s and Sean’s and works at the school with them.

Cat: Girl that Darren was briefly interested in. Friends with Rachel.

Sam: Friend of Cat’s.

Lucy: Friend of Cat’s.

Tucker: Friend of Sam’s.

Cullen: Adorable flaming homosexual from Exeter. I asked him to go shopping with me.

Friday, mid-way through my Devon workaway, my first weekend off: After Toby left Gandy’s (the pub we were meeting in), I texted Sean that I was free. I spent the next twenty minutes speaking with Alicia on the phone about her master’s program, Toby and Lithuania, and other stuff while I waited. I was surprised when he showed up – Sean is only a few inches taller than me. For once I was looking a man straight in the eyes. OH EM GEE, RIGHT?! Is this what tall women feel like?!!?

Thankfully he doesn’t have any kind of Napoleon complex. He’s actually very charming. It was easy to start talking to him. He asked me if he could invite his friend Matt along because he had just gotten off work. Of course I said yes and we chatted about our travels while we waited for Matt to arrive. Sean has traveled extensively through South America, SE Asia, and Australia. He has some crazy stories.

I’ve learned that there are generally crazy stories when Australia is involved.

When Matt arrived we chatted for a bit and then started off toward Sean’s place to drop off my bags. It was dark by this time, but Exeter was still alive with people. Exeter reminds me a little of College Station, actually. It’s built kind of around a University, so it isn’t too large, but it has a large population outside of the University too. There definitely isn’t some huge loyalty tying the town and the University together like there is in Aggieland though. It also provides a meeting point for the rural areas of SW England and the more populous areas in Central England.

Matt and Sean took me by the Exeter Cathedral. It’s a beautiful piece of architecture. They let me stop and take a few pictures. Toby showed it to me earlier that day, but at night it had a different presence entirely.

Right after this is when my camera died. I was in a rush to leave Riverside earlier, so I had forgotten my extra battery. I’ll have to take tons of pictures of Exeter architecture when I come back later in the year.

We arrived at Sean’s to drop my stuff off and have a few drinks. They asked me about America (as people usually do) and we swapped stories, music preferences, etc. Not too long afterward we left the house and went to the first bar, The Three Pigs. I got carded. Again. I accept that I look like jailbait. The Three Pigs is an old-timey pub. Lots of dark wood, cushiony seats, and long tables. It was nice. We only had a few drinks there before we left for another pub to meet up with more of Sean’s friends.

The other pub is called Firehouse, and we spent most of the night there. Apparently Sean knows EVERYONE in Exeter, because he got accosted by members of both the deaf and hearing communities when we arrived. Thankfully Matt was with me because he stayed by me and reassured me that this was normal and we should just move on to the bar. Just like Matt said, Sean showed up a few minutes later. He bought the first round and ordered a huge pizza for us to share. Sean used to work at Firehouse, so the bartenders were all really nice to me and exclaimed over the fact that I’m American.

We took our drinks upstairs and found a table. A lot of bars in England have multiple levels. It’s really neat. Also, it’s not unusual for people to get really close to each other. Seriously, my personal bubble was under siege. Sean, Matt, and I sat down at a really long table with benches. Another party joined us. They were sitting not more than two feet away from me, but we were still very distinctly different groups. It was kind of weird. I’m slowly getting used to it.

Darren and Aiden joined us. Sean made the introductions. I have to say it was really cool. Darren can lip read. He had meningitis when he was five and lost most of his hearing. He can still hear a very little bit with the use of hearing aids, but the cool thing is that he can speak mostly accurately too. His consonants are a little soft, but you can generally get the idea of what he’s saying. Aidan is completely deaf and has been since birth. Sean had to translate for us but Aidan didn’t seem to mind. Being able to converse with them was fantastic. It makes me really want to learn sign language. They taught me the sign for my name. Lack of hearing certainly didn’t seem to slow them down at all. Sometimes Sean would lapse into only sign language, but thankfully Matt was just as lost as me at those points, so we bonded in our mutual awkwardness.

So. Sean played interpreter, and we played drinking games.

Why did no one warn me about sambuca?

Aidan put a shot of sambuca (a terrible, terrible drink) in his mouth and Darren lit it on fire. Then the idiot KEPT HIS MOUTH OPEN and of course got burned and spit it all over the table. It was hilarious. It wouldn’t have been if Aidan had hurt himself, but he was laughing along with us. And the night degenerated from there; in a good and bad way. Good because lots of fun and merriment was had by all. Bad because British men kept putting drinks in front of me, and I felt obligated to drink them and I got absolutely wasted. It was shameful. I really wasn’t planning on drinking very much at all, but they kept buying drinks for me without me even asking. However, I had only one shot of sambuca before I decided I will never drink that crap again and gave each shot they bought me to Matt. Then I spent thirty minutes in the pub rest room worshiping the porcelain God and listening to the chick in the next stall that was in the same predicament. I said Hi. We bonded in our mutual misery. I would emerge after a little bit to see the guys drunkenly circled up in the hallway with a glass of water for me and a chorus of laughter and joking. They’d ask if I was okay, and I would say yes, and then I’d hold up a finger and run back into the bathroom to the sound of their laughing uproariously behind me. Everyone was quite drunk by that point except for Sean.

We jubilantly exited when the bar closed. I remember Matt being distinctly wobbly. I got lots of hugs from Darren and Aidan, who were also quite wobbly. Sean had to hail a cab, take me back to his place, make me drink tons of water, and then deal with me alternating between calling him an asshole and throwing up some more, and then put me to bed. I don't know why the guy didn't kick me out the next morning. I don’t know how I didn’t die that night. God. He thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Then the next morning he made breakfast for me! Best host ever? I think so. Thankfully I was the first person he ever hosted so he was as ignorant of the process as I was. Also, thankfully, I wasn't hungover. Amazing, I know. That was probably the worst bout of wasted-ness I've had since I was an ignorant, un-boozed freshman in college. Sean told me he’s never going to buy that much alcohol for a couchsurfer again. Ever. He also told me I was lucky that I was a short, slightly helpless-looking woman, because other wise he would have left me outside on the grass until the morning.

I love being a little blond girl.

After breakfast Sean took me around Exeter and showed me a bunch of the sights. We had a Cornish pasty on the front lawn of the cathedral, walked down the quay, and looked at a bunch of shops. He went with me to buy my rucksack and sleeping bag for the trip to Lithuania. He also went with me to buy a wedding ring (for protection against the creepers on the road), and we made a big show of buying a ring for seven quid (British pounds) in a jewelers. He went down on one knee and everything. The guy was a real sport. The jeweler was horrified. I’m pretty sure at one point he was on the verge of telling me that I deserved better.

The Exeter Cathedral the night before. The architecture is intricate and beautiful. Sean told me that all the statues are clothed except for one guy near the top of the Cathedral. Medieval jokes, har har.

A real Cornish pasty on the lawn! Amazing.



A few shops in Exeter. Neat, right?

At one point we went to meet Darren and Aidan. They laughed at me, but gave me some big hugs and told me I was welcome to drink with them any time. Acceptance into that group is a trial by fire.

Sean invited me to stay another night, so I thanked him by making burritos for dinner. Harry came over and I facilitated their new addiction to guacamole. Honestly, I just need to sign up as a cultural ambassador for Mexico. Afterward we went to the pub that Matt works at and asked him how he was feeling. He looked distinctly hellish. Poor guy. I felt a little guilty for giving him my sambuca.

This time I only had one drink and decided to stop early. That one drink gave me a flashback to Friday and I nearly started getting sick again. Ugh. I don't think I'll be drinking for a long time. Also, there were no deaf guys spitting fire this time. It was a much quieter night.

I came back to the farm on Sunday and picked up the usual routine on Monday. I spent a couple of days working and doing my thing, but Sean and Harry contacted me and invited me to go surfing with them on Wednesday. I jumped at the chance. I’ve never been surfing before, and both Sean and Harry are really fun to hang out with.

Wednesday rolled around and Ann let me work a half day. (Aren’t these people amazingly cool?) I packed an overnight bag because Harry, Sean, Matt, and I were planning on going out that night and depositing me back at the farm the next morning. Matt offered to let me sleep on his couch because Sean’s roommate wasn’t very happy that I spontaneously camped out Saturday night. Chaz is a little prickly, but there’s a complicated situation involved that I can’t really get into. Suffice to say that he doesn’t like Sean having people over (not just couchsurfers) and Sean is planning on moving into a new place with Harry next month. Yes, they’ve already invited me back to bum in their extra bedroom. Yes, I am that cool.

Anyway, Sean and Harry picked me up on Wednesday afternoon. I had borrowed a wetsuit from Declan so we immediately hit the beach. It was awesome! The water wasn’t too cold and Sean and Harry taught me how to properly body board. Sadly the waves weren’t large enough to properly go surfing, but we had a great time anyway. After a few hours of hanging out we washed off, went into town, and ate “fish and chips”.

I’m going to take this opportunity to make a side note and add a little colloquialism lesson here:

Fish & Chips = fish and French fries. They are large French fries. The British refuse this, but it’s true.

Crisps = what we would call chips. There have been multiple arguments over this matter with the Exeter boys.

Biscuits = cookies. They also call them cookies. Why, I have no idea. They have no explanation, other than “it’s British and British English is superior so there.”

Knackered = tired.

Mental = crazy. Not that that was difficult to figure out, but it’s weird when Brits say “that’s mental!” all the time.

Chav = what we would call some ghetto kid that wears his pants below his butt and blings himself out. I like this one.

Bloke = dude

There are a few other words, but I can’t remember them right now. They’re slowly integrating into my vocabulary. I used the word “knackered” the other day and Sean said I almost sounded British, but that my “blatantly offensive” American accent ruined it. I get this kind of treatment all the time.

The British's revered fish and chips. Yes, those are french fries. I told them but they wouldn't concede. Ignorant Englishmen.

After fish and chips we went back to Sean’s and played some drinking games with cards involved. I made sure to not drink too much this time. Good thing, because it was my turn to play babysitter, apparently.


Harry being a foolish drunk Brit

Because men can't get inebriated without challenging each other at SOMETHING.

Matt and I in a bar - oh, excuse me, it's a pub.



We went out, met up with Matt, and hit the pubs again. A lot of ridiculousness happened. Suffice to say the boys were wasted. Harry left about twenty minutes before us to catch a cab back to Sean’s. I herded Sean back a little while later. Matt was relatively okay. Harry let us in (wasted and in green boxer-shorts), and I got everyone water. Then for some reason Harry poured some on me. So I soaked him. A huge water fight commenced, and suddenly Chaz popped through the living room door in his skivvies and shouted, “SOME OF US HAVE TO WORK TOMORROW!” The carpet was soaked. Matt was surprisingly dry and sober, so he decided to go home. I settled Harry and Sean and finally got some sleep. I had planned on catching a ride from Harry back to Riverside in the morning to work.

Yeah.. I didn’t make it back to the farm the next morning. I called at 7:30am to tell Ann that nobody was awake. Then I promptly passed out again and missed the next couple of phone calls. I woke up around noon to the sound of moaning and groaning.

Sean decided to make a full English breakfast for the three of us. It was delicious. For your information, a full English breakfast consists of fatty bacon, poached or fried eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread (like a French fry, but it looks like a waffle and fakes Americans out), sausages, and baked beans. Some regions serve it with black pudding, which is some kind of congealed blood in sausage form, but thankfully I’ve only visited sane Brits and have never had to politely refuse their gross blood sausage while trying to keep the look of revulsion and horror from taking over my face.

I realized that Matt had run home with Declan’s wetsuit, so I tried to get a hold of him. He was at work though, so I had to wait around for a few hours before I could return to the farm. I felt absurdly guilty. I hadn’t worked that day when I said I would.

Matt joined us and we sorted all the possessions. The guys were talking about going out that night to meet friends and invited me along. I had planned to stay at the farm that night and leave for the airport early Friday morning from Riverside. Mick was going to drop me off. However, if I left from Exeter I could go straight to Bath, no problem. And that way I wouldn’t inconvenience my workaway family any more, and I could spend one more night in Exeter with my friends. I also felt bad for staying the night there when I hadn’t worked for it that day. It didn’t take much to convince me to come back to Exeter for the night.

Harry took me back to the farm house and I collected my things. I said a quick goodbye to the family and Harry dropped me off at the Tiverton bus station on his way home. He lives just outside Tiverton, so it wasn’t inconvenient for him. I took the bus back to Exeter and let him go home and take a nap.

I made it back to Exeter just as it was getting dark. I ended up spending a little bit sitting outside the bus station, watching the sunset while I waited for Sean and Matt to get back to me after I’d contacted them. Matt was at work and had offered to let me stay on his couch earlier, but I didn’t know where his place was. Sean was busy apologizing to Chaz for disturbing the peace the night before.

I only had to wait for half an hour. Matt was working at the Imperial that night (another pub) and offered to let me drop my bags in the staff room there while he was working. Sean said that he was going to be busy until tennish, but that Darren was at the Imperial with friends and invited me to join. He sent me directions, and I made my way across the city.

That night was absolutely hilarious. I met Matt and gave him my bags. He’s such a sweetheart for taking care of me like that. I then joined Darren and his friends Cat and Rachel. Sam and Tucker joined us shortly afterward, and we all sat around talking until around ten when Matt got off work and Sean arrived. Harry decided to actually sleep that night.

They were all absurdly interested in hearing stories about Texas and drinking games and rodeos. Sam is obsessed with Forest Gump. I bet him a pint of Heineken that he couldn’t go one hour without quoting that movie. He totally lost. After retrieving my lovely new Heineken for me, he bet me another that I couldn’t finish it before he did.

Texans don’t turn down bets like that.

I won another Heineken.

I’m pretty sure Sean thinks I’m drunk about 50% of the time, and hungover for another 25%. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk that much in a week before. I know I’m starting to sound like a lush. I’m really not like this. It’s just that when meeting English and Irish people for the first time, there’s generally copious amounts of free-flowing booze involved.

Anyway, when Sean and Matt joined us we decided to move to another bar. Same kind of story there, except a few random people joined us. Tucker (an enjoyable, younger, chav-type) spotted a friend named Cullin and called him over. Cullin spent the next hour shamelessly hitting on Sam and being about as flaming as you can imagine. It was delightful. I asked him to be my best shopping buddy. He said anytime, as long as I kept attracting hot guys. Yep, definitely best friend material.

We had a grand time until the wee hours of the morning. Matt had left half way through because he had to rise early for work the next morning. Sean deposited me safely at Matt’s flat and made me promise to come back to Exeter in November.

I woke the next morning to an empty flat, a big mysterious bruise on my forearm, and with no idea where I was in Exeter. So I took a shower, packed my bags, left a thankful message for Matt, and ventured onto the streets with my bag. I made my way to Exeter train station and left Exeter with happy memories and excitement for the future. I miss it already, but I know I’ll return in November and visit all my new friends again. There will probably be booze involved.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My Spontaneous Decision to Leave the UK

The only problem I experienced while at Riverside had nothing to do with the workaway experience or the host family. I started feeling restless again. I’ve experienced this nearly overwhelming urge of wanderlust for the last year, hence my hurried escape to this side of the pond mere days after graduating. I thought this feeling would disappear after I came over here. It did, for a little bit. But now I’ve become used to England and I feel like I want to see more. I started feeling restless while in Bath, but I could get around it by going into the city and finding new things to see. When I went into the remote countryside at Riverside it became nearly unbearable. I wanted to go. It’s not like I was being called somewhere or I had this feeling that I needed to see something in particular. It was more that I needed to see more than I was, almost like I was wasting time. I honestly couldn’t ignore it anymore.

I got on couchsurfing and searched for hosts in the nearest city, Exeter. I found a prospective host named Sean and popped him a couchsurf request for the Friday of my weekend off. I also searched around on forums in couchsurfing for people who are traveling abroad.

I stumbled on this one forum regarding couchsurfers seeking companions in their travels. On a whim I posted a message asking if any experienced travelers were going to the main European continent during the month of October and wanted company. Within twenty-four hours a few people had replied. Some were leaving the next week, so I didn’t even look at their profiles. A few girls were going to Germany and then back to London starting October 1st, but I wanted to see more of Europe than that.

One guy in particular said that he and his friend were leaving for Lithuania on Sep 26th, but if I wanted to join them they could wait for me there. Their plan was to travel through the Eastern European countries via couchsurfing, bus riding, train, hiking, and hitching. They had no definite route and said they would love company. I contacted Toby, the guy who replied to my message, and had a chat with him. Surprisingly he was located in a town twenty minutes away! We chatted for a few hours and decided to meet up in Crediton (a nearby town) the next evening. However, he contacted me later and told me he couldn’t make it due to a family matter. So we set up to meet on Friday in Exeter, the day I was going to couchsurf with Sean. I was really excited. The thought of traveling through Europe and seeing and experiencing as much as I could definitely appealed to me. I wanted to make sure Toby wasn’t a creeper first though.

On Friday I packed an overnight bag and Ann took me up to the bus station in Nomansland. My plan was to meet Toby and talk to him about traveling, and then meet Sean afterward and see some of the city before staying the night on his couch. I would spend Saturday exploring more of the city and then either request to sleep on Sean’s couch again or travel back to the farm if he turned out to be a creeper.

Toby met me at the bus station in Exeter. We immediately hit it off. He’s very funny and instantly made me feel comfortable. He was courteous, polite, and completely mindful of the oddity of the situation. However, he was also entirely comfortable with it. He took me to a nearby food place and bought me a Cornish pasty. Not pastry – pasty. It’s almost like a flaky, less greasy, way tastier hot pocket. It was amazing.

After that we went to one of his favorite pubs to get acquainted and talk about travels. We had already been chatting online for a couple of days about things, but it was essential for me to get a real sense of him. We spent a few hours in that pub talking. It was great. We shared stories about where we had been and what we had seen. Toby has traveled all over SE Asia and Australia. We also talked about the trip to Eastern Europe and what he wanted to do and whether my goals would mesh well with his plans. Everything really fit together kind of perfectly.

I asked about Toby’s friend Jevan, the other person we were going to be traveling with. Toby said Jevan has traveled with him before and that they’re best friends, but that it looked like Jevan might not be joining us for a few weeks. He was supposed to fly out a few days after Toby, but he had called Toby that morning and said he couldn’t afford the plane ticket just yet. So for the first leg it would just be me and Toby. He told me a little more and showed me Jevan’s facebook and the messages they had sent to each other in the last few days. It looked legit and I wasn’t getting any kind of bad vibe from Toby. Toby’s couchsurfing profile also has tons of good reviews from both male and female couchsurfers that had traveled and stayed with him. I decided this guy was okay.

I know most of you are probably thinking that this seems incredibly risky. You’re right. But the biggest lesson I’ve learned on this trip is that the world has an overwhelming amount of nice, good people. This doesn’t mean I’m blindly trusting Toby. However, I want to see more of Europe and I would forever regret it if I didn’t take this opportunity. I have enough money saved still that I can get myself a ticket back to Scotland and Alicia if things don’t work out like I want them to.

I booked a plane ticket for Kaunas, Lithuania on October 1st. It was only $80. I bought a rucksack and some gear. Our plan is to begin in Lithuania and work our way down to Turkey in about a month and a half, in time for me to be back in England on November 15th to workaway in Bath at the B&B again. I’m excited and hopeful and I can’t wait to begin. Hopefully this will be a life-changing adventure.

Life on a smallholding

Cast of Characters for Devon, England:

Ann – Hostess, makes amazing cheeses, chutneys, jellies, puddings, (any food, actually), and oversees the farm. Wonderfully nice and efficient.

Mick – Host, teaches Islamic and Arabic politics at Exeter University. Traveled widely when younger. Makes me secretly feel like a fatty because he’s ridiculously fit.

Ruth – Fellow workawayer, ex-soliciter, owner of a very dry, distinctly British wit. Travels in a camper van. Extremely entertaining.

Rowan – Eldest son of hosts, rugby crazy.

Declan – Younger son of hosts and expert killer of wasps.

Charlie – English rat terrier mix. Fearless. Attacks cars, wasps, and towels with admirable fervor.

My father told me that my last post was crap, so here’s my sincere attempt at adequately explaining what the hell is going on. If it’s confusing, don’t worry – my Dad will reiterate that my posts are confusing heaps of crap and I’ll improve.

So the journey to Tiverton from Bath wasn’t too exciting. I ended up buying a huge rolling luggage case, but it was too big for casual travel so I borrowed a smaller roller luggage thing from Kari and Rob and left part of my wardrobe behind with them in Bath. I made sure they won’t forget me by stationing my overly large purple luggage in their music room. You know, besides stabbing my hand with a knife. They definitely won’t forget me.

I left from the bed and breakfast and starting rolling my way down the hill, but I had to run back up because I forgot my socks in my other luggage. Typical. I really can’t go anywhere without first going BACK because I forgot something. I then had to restart my trip down the hill to Bath city center and I was running WAY behind. Thankfully Rob drove by and stopped to pick me up off the side of the road and deposit me in front of the train station.

See? I’m getting the hang of this bum thing!

I took the train to Bristol and met a girl name Lily along the way by striking up a conversation. Lily is an artist. She showed me where to get my second set of tickets for the ride to Tiverton. Honestly, she was very sweet. We had a few laughs and parted ways with a hug.

The rest of my journey was uneventful. I took the train to Tiverton, took a bus from the Tiverton train station to the bus station, and then switched over to another bus to get to Nomansland, my destination.

Yes, that’s right, I’m in Nomansland, Devon, England. No, there were no epic battles fought here, much to my disappointment.

Ann picked me up at the Mount Pleasant Inn and drove me the short way to Riverside, the farm. The farm is gorgeous. It’s on a hill and they have a beautiful farmhouse, a barn for the goats, a milking section, a billy goat section, two pigs, a duck area, and an area for the geese and chickens. There’s a wind turbine on top of the hill and a quaint tree house nearby. The surrounding area is green and luscious and beautiful, and there are sprawling gardens (herb AND vegetable), fields, and orchards. A stream runs along the edge of the property. It’s a little slice of paradise.

I met Mick, Ruth, Declan, and Rowan. All of Ann’s family towers over me. I’m used to it. Even their youngest, who is 11-ish (I think) is my height. Thankfully they’re all very, very nice, and the boys are well-mannered.

Things are very tidy and organized here. The family is very efficient. I love it! My day-to-day routine is pretty straightforward. I wake up at 6:45am and get ready before having breakfast with the family at 7. Then the chores begin at 8-ish. I feed and water the ducks, geese, and chickens, and collect any eggs they might have laid. This usually takes me about 15 minutes. I also climb to the top of their hill and close a gate that adjoins their field with a neighbor’s. The neighbor’s cows roam their fields at night, and then I close the gate so we can let the goats loose to roam during the day.

After I do all this I join Ruth and Ann at the barn. Ann is usually milking and feeding the adult goats one at a time in the milking area while Ruth fills the hay racks and gives the goats clean water. Ruth and I have taken turns milking the goats. Yes, it’s somewhat awkward. Here’s why:

For your entertainment. Thanks Ruth.

After the milking is finished Ann retreats to the dairy and Ruth and I finish the chores. We clean out the feed buckets, let the goats out, and wash the milking area. Sometimes there are extra big jobs to do, such as cleaning the yard. By the way, when I say “yard”, I mean the British type of yard, meaning the concrete in front of the barn. Not the lawns.

Ruth and I have had some good conversations during this time. I can’t be around her without laughing at her dry tone and witty one-liners.

We usually finish these chores around 10am. At this point I take Charlie for a walk. On hills. Big hills. That I’ve stupidly started trying to run up. This excursion generally lasts for thirty minutes to an hour. It’s a very rural area, so there aren’t very many people on the road. The roads are also very narrow, so if I do see someone I have to get right up against the hedges for them to pass. I’ve done that for quite a few tractors, actually. At one point I saw a neighbor herding two bullocks with a four-by-four.

I come back for “barley cup” around between 10:30 and 11am. This is basically morning tea. “Barley cup” is a neat alternative to coffee, actually. It’s tasty and doesn’t make you crash. I’m also not tempted to put loads of sugar and cream in it.

From 11:30-ish to 1:00-ish is miscellaneous work. I’ve done a variety of things during this time. Ruth, Ann, and I pickled onions at one point. We also made chutneys and jams. I’ve observed Ann working on her cheese. One day I did weeding. Another time I helped Mick with cutting up firewood and stacking the logs. Yet another time I went out back with a handsaw and started cutting down some small trees that were growing up in front of the shed. I’ve helped Ann trim the goats’ hooves. I dipped into my long-buried vet tech skills and administered medicine to a goat. I made new labels and signs for Ann’s booth at a fair she went to sell cheese at. There are always things to do on a smallholding like this.

At 1:00pm we have lunch. Half the time it’s leftovers from the night before, but it’s ALWAYS delicious. Both Ann and Mick make amazing, wonderful, and delightful dishes. Ann is a vegetarian, so she gets creative with some of the food. I love it. They probably think I’m a total cow because I always eat a ton at their table. Good thing I’m running up ginormous hills with Charlie.

At 2:00pm I feed the poultry and pigs again. This usually marks the end of my work day. We sit down for afternoon tea and biscuits (read: cookies) at 4:00 when the boys come home. After that I’m free to kind of hang out. I generally spend a few hours on my computer chatting with my family and friends before joining the family for dinner. Again, amazing food. AND Ann and Ruth make wonderful, wonderful puddings.

When I say puddings, I mean desert. For some reason all deserts are referred to as puddings here. The first time Ann said “Save room for pudding” and then brought out an apple crisp I was quite confused. There’s been quite a few of these language misunderstandings.

That’s a basic summary of my day. Ruth left half-way through my first week and I was very sad. She was a ton of fun to work with. Thankfully Ann and Mick are both very entertaining people and working alone wasn’t bad at all. The first week and a half of my stay was spent entirely at the farm.

The farm itself was amazing. I enjoyed working on a smallholding and I definitely enjoyed watching Ann make cheese and learning about the process. I told Dad about it and we’re going to try to make some hard cheese when I get back home during Christmas. It won’t be near as good as Ann’s, no doubt, but I’m excited nonetheless.

Good news: when I made enchiladas for this host family I didn’t stab myself in the hand. And yes, they loved the enchiladas.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Bath, England

Hello again!! I know you missed me. Or at least missed my sarcastic comments.

Don't lie. I know you’re all just looking for a break from work. Lazies.

Let’s dive right in to topic numero uno, shall we? Thom Is An Asshole. That pretty much sums it up. He offered to take me to Bristol to see some sites, but when the appointed time came (Friday, Sept 9th, 10am), he was a no-show. I texted him. He texted back that his car wouldn’t start, which was believable because it almost didn’t start when we did a pub crawl the first time we got together, so I said okay and busied myself around the B&B.

I texted him again around noon. He said that he had cycled up to the mechanic, purchased some parts, was then trying to fix his car, and that it shouldn’t take too long. I said “Ouch. Good luck!” and that was the last I heard from Thom. I refused to text him for updates anymore. He never texted or e-mailed me back. Therefore, he’s an asshole.

So I never went to Bristol, but I’m contacting a couchsurfing host in Bristol for Sep 30th to try and get a whirlwind tour before I get back on the Ireland-bound plane on Oct 1st. I’ll try and at least get a picture of a real-life Banksy street art piece, and then I’ll send it to a certain someone and be like “HAH, SUCKER! Jealous?!?” He knows who he is - though he probably doesn’t read this blog, actually. That’ll just make it all the sweeter. Teehee.

Topic Two: I Am Officially (in a very unofficial way) An Enchilada Ambassador. I know I can make some damn tasty enchiladas, so every time a host asks for an authentic Texan meal I make enchiladas and call them tex-mex amazingness. Both hosts have adopted the recipe and freaking love them. They’re all “Oh-em-gee-this-is-so-good-is-this-Mexican-please-teach-me-goddess-of-food!!” Right. Just like that. I’m working on the third host now.

Maybe I’ll branch out to something else next time. I love enchiladas and all that, but I should probably learn how to cook other things. You know, things not considered “college bum food”.

Moving on. Brits can’t believe my name isn’t short for something. Seriously, every Brit I come into contact with is like, “So, what’s Misty short for?”

I look at them blankly, “What?”

They begin to look uncomfortable, “Isn’t your name short for something?”

I usually arch my brow in that very patronizing way. You know the look. It disciplines small children and has absolutely no effect on idiots. “What would it be short for?”

They usually say, “I don’t know.”

I end with. “Me neither. My name’s just Misty.”

I know, I’m such a jerk. It’s just too funny to pass up though. Apparently my name is very, very uncommon in Britain. Except for dogs and horses. Which reminds me of a memory from third grade where we had an assignment to see who/what we were named after and I had to tell the class I was named after my grandfather’s horse. I later learned that the horse just happened to be named Misty too, but Dad thought it would be funny to tell me I was named after a horse. I still remember the humiliation . . . *Sigh* Thanks MOM AND DAD.

Anyway. For the last week of my stay with the Barnard-Weston’s, I primarily hung out with Kari, Rob, Finn, Felix, and Claudia. Arun (my age) disappeared as often as she could, and Anna was busy with her own life. They were both very nice and polite, but Arun already had other plans and Anna just wasn’t interested in hanging out with me. It’s cool. I get it.

Kari and I became really close. Or at least I like to think so. She’s a fantastic woman and I’m happy I had the chance to spend time with her. Her meticulous ways, alternative ideas, and exceptional people skills really impressed me. Besides being intelligent and fun, she’s a wonderful mother. She believes in arming her kids with a powerful weapon – knowledge. All of her children are far more mature and independent than other children their age that I know.

Rob became my temporary mentor. He aided me in figuring out what kind of career I want. I’m not saying I figured it out, but he gave me a lot of security and a lot of things to think about. There’s no way you can keep your mind closed to new ideas and ways of thinking while talking to him. He’s brimming with possibilities. If you ever feel completely apathetic toward life, just talk to Rob. He’ll get you excited about something. Honestly, I can’t thank him enough. Besides being an incredible (and ridiculously intelligent) person, he’s also an excellent adviser.

Finn became my best British buddy while I was there. We spent a lot of time chatting. He helped me make enchiladas and tried to teach me the rules of Cricket (a pointless task. Poor guy.) He also taught me an alternative way of throwing a tennis ball via a snapping motion – yeah, it’s fucking weird. But neat. I advised him on the correct pronunciation of words and introduced him to some badass American movies like Lucky Number Sleven and Snatch. Overall we had a great time hanging out. Except for when I had to threaten to beat him down. Eventually I’ll actually do it.

He still mispronounces words. These Brits are hopeless, I swear.

I really feel like I gained a second family. Kari got angry at Thom on my behalf. She also became my surrogate mother when I was wounded. I’ll tell you about that later. Felix tried to pick out men for me to date once he learned that I’m single. Thankfully he’s a badass sportsman, because he’s worthless as a matchmaker. Claudia is freaking adorable. I’m pretty sure she’s going to grow up to have men trailing behind her like lost puppies. She already has a boyfriend wrapped around her little finger and she’s 11. Obviously she has things well in hand.

I’ll stop gushing. On to topic 5: When Misty Stabbed Herself With A Knife Like A Dumbass.

This was during my Enchiladas Take Two excursion. Finn was helping while Felix and Claudia were pretending to help while actually just hanging out. About three quarters of the way through I was cutting avocados to make guacamole. I stabbed the knife into the pit of an avocado and pulled, but the knife popped out sans pit. Felix said, “Let me try!” and walked behind me to get a knife. I said, “Nah, I’ve got it” and stabbed the pit again. It didn’t work. I tried one more time. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Felix reach for the avocado in my hand. Reflexively I turned away so he didn’t get stabbed with the knife. The knife hit the avocado pit, slipped, and went STRAIGHT into my hand. Fail.

I removed the intruding knife and looked at my palm. It immediately started gushing blood. I said, “Oh.” Then I calmly put the knife down, turned, and walked to the sink to begin running water over my wound and grab a wad of paper towels. Felix was busy with the other avocado. Finn is more observant. He said, “What just happened?” I looked over my shoulder, smiled, and said, “Oh, nothing, just a cut.”

Finn walked up and I held up my hand for him to see. Then I realized that blood is all over my hand and arm like some kind of terrible 80s horror movie where vampires and vampire hunters are having a holy battle and a vampire grabs a human and rips some flesh off and . . .

Ok, so it wasn’t that crazy looking, but it was pretty crazy.

Felix noticed and started freaking out. Not really freaking out like he’s afraid or anything, but freaking out because there’s so much blood. Finn helped me collect paper towels, Felix is all “Oh my god oh my god oh my god” and I’m not sure what Claudia was doing. I was smiling and laughing at Felix and trying to calm everyone down.

Kari must have had some kind of supernatural Mommy sense tingling or something because she walked through the kitchen door right then. Between me, Finn, and Kari we got it taken care of. Eventually it stopped bleeding. I wrapped it up tight and carried on with cooking, with the help of Kari and Finn. You know, because I’m a badass. Later Kari wrapped it up in gauze and stuff to keep the pressure on (but mostly to help me remember that my hand was injured and I probably shouldn’t slam it down on door handles to open doors like a dumb blond). Every time someone asked me about it I told them a different story about how I was a street boxer or how I got into an epic knife fight. Awesome conversation starter? Yes.

THE WOUND. After an hour of holding paper towels on it. Yes, it doesn't look like much, but it's deeper than it looks. Promise.

Topic Six: After Being Stuck In Captivity For Days With Brits, A Phone Call Saves My Accent.

Finn, Felix, Claudia, and I were running around the grocery store looking for cooking ingredients. I don’t know why Kari kept letting me go out with them as their “supervisor”, because I really had absolutely no authority in those situations. More often than not we came back with junk food and tiramisu along with the requisite items. Maybe she’s just gearing me up for childbearing.

And yes, I had a lot of tiramisu at their place. And yes, I’m a fatass. You’ll be happy to know that I’m taking steps to reverse this . . . phenomenon.

Anyway, so we were running around the store. Or rather, I was alternating between staring at the ingredients list and looking down aisles like a confused tourist, Finn was asking me what needed to be done, Claudia was grabbing things, asking me if she can have them, and putting them in the basket regardless, and Felix was just grabbing shit and putting it in the basket. Suddenly my phone rang. This is an unusual occurrence. I’m pretty sure I only carry it around so I can say that I have a phone and I’m not completely out of the loop.

I picked up the phone. It was Alicia. She said, “Hi!” and I stopped paying attention to everything else around me. Finn intruded once or twice with questions, but I shoved the grocery list at him and told him to find things. Then I happily trailed along behind him and alternated between excitedly talking to Alicia and asking Finn if I sounded more American now. He said I did. He was probably lying. Salvation in the form of my cousin: I was in my happy place. Eventually I had to get off the phone and take charge again because it was getting late, but I was completely stoked that I had talked to her.

The rest of the week went by pretty quickly. I helped Kari out during the day, went into Bath a few times to meet people and see things, and hung out with the kids at night usually. At one point I met a Polish guy and we went out for drinks and to talk about our travels. He told me to avoid Italy because the Italians are assholes. Nevermind the sites, apparently, because the Italians don’t deserve your tourism. I didn’t tell him that my ancestors were Italian. He also taught me how to say hello and toast in Polish. That’s really all I need to learn, right?

What else to report? I was invited to come back to the Bloomfield House B&B later on in the year. I feel very special – I’ll be the first workawayer to return! I’m going back November 15th – December 1st. I’m pretty excited. I think next time I’ll take some day excursions and visit London and Bristol and the surrounding countryside now that I’ve gotten into comfortably using couchsurfing.

I’ve also realized exactly how much I overpacked and thankfully Kari and Rob let me leave my big bag and extra stuff at their place and gave me a smaller luggage case to bring along on my travels. It really made a difference. My back isn’t screaming in pain anymore.

I left their house satisfied, confident, and a little sad. I’ll miss them, but I have the travel itch again and I want to see more things. Next is the cheesemaker’s. All that will be in the next post.

I'll leave you with some pictures:

The Pig and Fiddle. Cool? Yes.

This journey would not be complete without me making EVEN MORE kitty friends.

My watch on Finn's wrist next to his watch. This shows you that Brits wear fucking huge watches.

Finn holding Claudia up so she can touch the lamp. No, God is NOT anointing Finn with his divine light. That's just a lamp. And a cool camera happenstance.

Here's a typical Bath, England street. Yes, it's way cooler than our streets.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Reawakening

Ok so I’m super sorry I haven’t posted in like …. two weeks. Ahem. I know that you guys are just dying with curiosity about my day to day happenings. I’m sure that you’ve all wanted to call me to make sure that I was still alive and hadn’t been stolen by some crazy couchsurfer or come to nefarious harm via British pretentiousness or attacked by ninjas or something, but you’re all too broke to afford the international calls. Of course.

I’ll write a super long post tomorrow about the following topics:

1. Thom ditched me. He’s an asshole. I don’t really care though, because Kari + Rob + kids taught me about what I missed in not going up with four siblings.

2. I’ve become an enchilada ambassador.

3. “The Big M” by Felix.

4. Trading exposure to Lucky Number Sleven for mad ball-throwing lessons from Finn.

5. Also, I’m now a badass street boxer. Didn’t you know?

6. After being stuck in captivity for days with Brits, a phone call saved my accent.

7. Muesli, Tahini, Courgette

8. Making pizza

9. Christopher Bennett saying I could stay with him. It’s on the interwebs, so now it’s law.

10. My life as a goat girl

11. Plans from here on out. SHIT HAS CHANGED, YO.

See? That’s a long ass post that I’ve been procrastinating about. But I’ll flesh out the topics tomorrow after I do all my work, and hopefully you’ll have something by tomorrow evening (afternoon your time, actually). Have faith, people. I’ll make it as funny as I can.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lots of kids = no toilet paper?

There I was, sitting in my bed, watching about Brits in the Sahara desert, when my TV suddenly changed the channel. There was an untouched remote beside me.

O-kaaay.

I picked up the remote and changed the channel back. I set the remote down. The channel changed to some sports network, remote untouched.

Wtf?

I picked up the remote and angrily changed the channel back. Then I ran over to the window of my room and peeked outside. Nobody there. The channel changed back to tennis. I ran to the door and opened it. Claudia was standing outside.

I narrowed my eyes. “Did you change the channel?”

Claudia looked startled. “Nooo….”

I said, “Is this a joke?”

Claudia looked around. “Nooo…”

I lifted my mama’s-about-to-beat-a-child finger. “Are you lying to me?”

Claudia’s eyes got big. “It was Finn! His TV is connected to yours!”

Wtf? Finn lives in the room next door to mine. He’s Kari’s 17 year old.

Claudia whispered, “Do you want me to tell him to stop watching TV?”

I told her, “No, it’s okay. I have my computer.” Then I retreated back inside my room. I heard the hallway door close after Claudia. I decided to go to the bathroom and get ready for bed. I went across the hall (the bathroom is separate, but every bedroom has their own designated bathroom so nobody has to share) and brushed my teeth. I looked around in boredom. Suddenly, I noticed that there’s no toilet paper. I distinctly remember putting a full roll on the back of the toilet earlier that day. I looked around. No toilet paper. I got an idea. I stormed across the hall and knocked on Finn’s door. I heard a murmured inquiry.

I demanded, “Finn! Get out here!”

He opened the door and smiled. I glared. “Finn, did you steal my toilet paper?”

“Oh. Yeah,” he said sheepishly, “I was changing the channels too. Sorry.”

I shook my finger at him, “Boy, you better replace my roll.” He grinned and walked into his parent’s room. Soon he came back out with a roll of toilet paper. He passed it to me and retreated back inside his hole.

These people are serious about making workawayers feel like family.

Diving into couchsurfing.com

The last few days haven’t been exceedingly eventful, but some interesting things have happened. I woke up late yesterday morning and went down to help Kari clean up after breakfast. It wasn’t difficult and I only worked for about an hour. Afterward I was suckered into throwing a tennis ball for Tully the border collie until he got tired. That took a bit. Thankfully I had my MP3 player. I’ve also gained a completely devoted new friend.

Kari mentioned another workawayer had used couchsurfing.com to meet people in the area to show her around. I was already signed up for couchsurfing, so I decided to give it a go. I messaged two guys and two girls from the area about meeting up sometime in the next two weeks to get a glimpse of the Bath underground scene. Surprisingly both girls messaged me back saying they were busy and both guys offered to meet me either that day or the next. I asked Kari if couchsurfing was actually some kind of undercover Match.com alternative. She said she didn’t think so, but that you never know. Thanks, Kari.

A guy named Thom got back to me first and asked if I wanted to meet him that night. Now, on my profile I mention that I’m short and I’m prone to giving tall people sass. After agreeing that tonight would be great, Thom starts in with the short jokes. Bastard. I gave it right back to him. As you can imagine, we continued this flinging of height-related insults via text for a few hours. We decided to meet at the Bath bus station around 9pm.

The other guy, Colin, replied about an hour later. He offered to show me around via a pub crawl that night or after coffee the next day. I told him I already had plans for that night and said I’d meet him Sunday.

I got ready to go into town and came downstairs to ask for a house key at 8:20pm. I heard oldy American music playing loudly from the kitchen, so I went in to investigate. I find Kari, her daughter Ana (18), her niece Ashley (18), Ana’s friend Kati (18), and Claudia dancing around the kitchen. I look on the island and see a huge bottle of litchi liqueur and several glasses of wine. There are also several pans of food cooking on the stove. Kari and company see me and a round of “Hellooo!!” sounds. Immediately Ana grabs a shot glass, rinses it, fills it with litchi, and hands it to me with a, “Drink this!”

I asked, “What is it?”

Kari replies, “A liqueur Rob and I picked up in France.”

Ooh. French. Naturally, I take the shot. Yup, pretty smooth.

Did I mention I hadn’t had any food in about twelve hours?

Ana passes me a glass of wine. Rob enters shortly thereafter and is treated to the same hospitality, but doesn’t drink. The next twenty minutes vacillates between a classic British dinner party and the dancing kitchen scene from Practical Magic. It was fantastic.



I told Kari and company that I was going into town to meet Thom. Kari told me to stay a little longer so I could wolf down some food, and then she got Rob to take me into town so I didn’t have to walk. They also fed me another glass of wine. I was way less nervous after I left that kitchen.

Rob dropped me off at the bus station a little later and told me to call him if I needed some kneecaps busted and a rescue. I told him I’d definitely send out the alarm if Thom turned out to be a white slaver. Thankfully Thom was brilliant. He showed me the best view of the city from the top of one of Bath’s hills. Then we went to a couple of famous Bath pubs and talked about everything from philosophy and American politics to the hipster movement and the pros and cons of varying heights. Did I mention he’s something like 6’3” and I don’t even come up to his shoulder? Walking next to him was a trial.

Bath at night turned out to be gorgeous except for the young skanks walking around. I literally saw a girl trying to hold down her skirt while she was walking because it was an inch away from baring all her tawdry wares. Can’t fault the architecture though.

Thom dropped me off at the Bloomfield House with the offer to show me some of the more traditional sites on Monday. As a guide he was pretty great. I’m glad I have a local who will show me around!

I went to bed early so I could wake early and help Kari with the breakfast crowd. I spent a good bit of this morning helping with the guests, serving, and cleaning the kitchen. Meanwhile Rob spoke with me about what I wanted to do and his business ventures. He really inspired me. I look forward to talking with him more about business and free trade. I’d give you a sketch of our conversation, but it lasted for over an hour and was very fast paced and varied. I might be able to get hooked up with an internship through him though, and he mentioned a possible letter of recommendation if I decide to go into responsible business management (a degree program in the UK). Either way he’s an influential figure in business here in the UK, and I hope to at least learn a little more from him.

After the kitchen chores were done I played with Tully again. When he was tired I tackled and organized some of Kari’s paperwork for her. She also took me on a round of the rooms to show me what exactly she looks for in a clean and well-made guest room.

Notice the menagerie I’ve adopted along with Kari’s paperwork. Lap provider and bookkeeper? That’s me!

This is Penny. She's an adorable tiny kitten that LOVES cuddling. She's too cute for words.

Kari let me go around 2:30pm, and I went to meet Colin for coffee at 3:30pm. Colin was also a wonderful companion and guide! He’s a postgrad biologist at the University of Bath and we spent a long time talking about his fascinating research into aging. It was refreshing to talk to another biologist again! It made me reminiscent of discussing theories with my old bio buddies Bryan, Nick, Laura, Chris, and Bethany. He’s also from North Ireland and very nerdy. I enjoyed his accent immensely, but his corduroy pants made me giggle.

Colin showed me the Circus, the best Italian ice cream shop in town, and some of the most beautiful parks in the area. We grabbed some ice cream (I had cappuccino flavored) and watched the Bristol Brass Band on the lawn in front of the Circus. He also showed me the Jane Austen shop and recommended a few restaurants to check out. After a few hours of roaming and talking we split with plans to see more of the city later on in the week. He was a fantastic guide.

Tomorrow I think I’ll go visit Bath by myself for a while before meeting up with Thom so I can stop and take pictures without feeling like someone is waiting on me. I know where the Roman Baths are, so I’ll visit those first thing after I get off work tomorrow. Stay tuned for pictures!