9th list of 10: Things I need to do when home in States for 17 days

As I started my 101 entry, I thought I should do something fun. Inspired by Polly, I have decided to make 10 lists of 10; here is number 9.

  1. Travel to St. Louis, see friends, get dog and bring her home– this process is hampered by the fact that I no longer have a car and am jetlagged; however, it is doable thanks to my wonderful parents who are doing the driving. (Thanks mom and dad)
  2. Travel to Chicago and get work visa for Chile– aparently, this is something I have to do in person. Since I am in Chicago anyway we are going to see Wicked which I am uber-excited about.  (You can tell I am excited by the need to use the much under-utilized adjective “uber”).
  3. Travel to Duluth to see sister, brother in law, and their kids.  Yay! Also, see my sister’s house.
  4. Go to the dentist– this one is somehow less exciting then the last few.
  5. Have my friend Soda come visit– and thankfully drive with me up to Duluth.
  6. Bring Harley (the dog) to the vet so that she can fly to Chile with me.  Yay! My pup is moving to her third country in her 4.5 year life. 
  7. Go to locker that I am renting to store my stuff and renew contract.  While there put in anything left at parents’ condo and take out anything I want to bring to Chile with me.
  8. Visit Grandma multiple times.
  9. Talk to people in Chile and figure out 1- who is picking me up at airport; 2- where I am going; 3- how I am getting to Vina; 4- where I am living in Vina; 5- how to open a bank account there; and 6- contact organizations I am working with and remind them of my imminent arrival.
  10. Sleep.  If at all possible. It would be nice to arrive not completely overtired and/or sick. That said, point 10 is almost impossible.
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Angkor Wat Photos

Bayon, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Photos of the trip are up (click on the photo above). Stories to come. Please enjoy!

Sometimes frustration is okay– sometimes it’s not

Sometimes I need to take a moment and breathe.  I need to take a second to have faith that everything will work out in the end. I have to reflect for a minute that the world is not actually against me—despite all evidence to the contrary.  

Yesterday was one of those days.  A friend of mine (Hi Jen!) said that I should think of it as having a Cambodia day.  And, admittedly, it was and yet it wasn’t.  It was a Cambodia day in that all my frustrations were pitted because of cultural imbalances and misunderstandings.  Language barriers certainly didn’t help either.  And if I were in another country I could blame it on them. Or if I were home, I could have blamed it on the company—well, really, if I were at home I could have asked to talked to the manager and demanded to have my situation fixed immediately.  Maybe this is really where the problem lies—I am used to being able to have things fixed NOW or at least be compensated if they aren’t.

This might make more sense if I tell you the story. 

I do not have a plane ticket home yet. I do, however, have tons of reservations.  I have settled on one leaving on the 11th with Eva Air.  I talked to the travel agent and clarified that it would be fine if I paid on Monday and got the ticket issued then. Monday morning I called to request the ticket and give directions to my office.  Travel Agent (TA) called back and said the price has gone up 45 USD.  Annoying.  I agree.  One hour later she calls back and says they cannot issue the ticket because I only have 1 hour and 45 minutes in LA airport and that I need 2 hours. This leads to the obvious question: well, why did you give me this booking then.

Hours pass. Multiple phone calls are made to Eva Air, TA, and a different travel agency (TA2). Nothing is resolved. 

I keep my cool. I tell them that I am “very dissatisfied”. Nothing happens.  I am told to give them time.  They never call back. Not once. My cool is lessened as I worry that I will be stranded here forever. I briefly consider a ticket that has me flying Phnom Penh, Taipei, LA, DC, St. Louis—until I find out that it will be 300 USD more expensive.

The day ends with no resolution.  I am flustered at best. 

Jen invites me over for dinner.  I stop by to pick up Indian on the way.  She orders from a deli as well. My moto tries to over charge me.  I needed good karma.  I still need good plane karma (if you have any, send it my way please!). I give him 2500 riel for what should have been a 2000 trip maximum.  He complains; wants a dollar (4000 riel). I can’t even argue I am so annoyed.  I walk away.

The deli delivers the food but forgets the drinks.  Jen lives up 4 flights of steps; the delivery man agrees to bring the drinks up the steps and Jen shows him with flight to use.  The deli, in its infinite wisdom, sends a different delivery person who never manages to find the steps.  I call several times. I shout down the stairwell in Khmer.  

Its just going to be one of those days.  Nothing goes right. Little makes sense. Much would have been simpler if it had just been done right the first time. I am left here. Lost in the chaos, wanting to scream, but knowing that culturally it would be completely inappropriate to do so.

Here is for hoping that tomorrow I get plane tickets…

Photo Wednesday: Synergy

Synergy, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Today I am starting a new tradition on my blog: Photo Wednesday. Photo Wednesday will consist of every Wednesday me sharing a picture I have taken or that has been taken of me that I feel should be shared. It might be shared because it makes a statement. It might be shared because I find it beautiful. It might be shared for a million reasons, but in general, those reasons will not be written with it. At most a line or two. The idea is that the photo is central. Today I kick it off with this photo which I call Synergy.

Per request photos will now include a little info including who is in them and when where they were take.  Synergy: take in Jaipur, India. Subject: Asia.

India trip in photos

Horse drawn carriage to the Taj Majal, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Pics are up from the India trip. Click HERE! There are less than 100, which is hard, because i had 560 to choose from. So if anyone is interested in more…..

Road Rules Part I: Blow Horn India

Truck, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Although I have not actually driven a car in India, I have spent sometime over the past week observing the rules of the road. After careful consideration, I have come up with the following guidelines for correct horn usage a la India style.

  • Beep if you see a horse.
  • Beep if you see a cow.
  • Beep if you see a camel.
  • Beep if you see an elephant.
  • Beep if you see a pig.
  • Beep if you see another car.
  • Beep if you see a truck.
  • Beep if you see a motorcycle.
  • Beep if you see a toy car (technically these are known as autos—they are green and small and have three wheels, use CNG, and are everywhere).
  • Beep if you are about the merge.
  • Beep if you are illegally going through a red light.
  • Beep if you are not going to stop at the stop sign.
  • Beep if you are changing lanes.
  • Beep if you don’t believe in lanes.
  • Beep if you are about to get hit.
  • Beep if you think you are about to get hit.
  • Beep if you think the guy next to you is thinking of hitting you.
  • Beep if you are about to hit someone.
  • Beep if you are thinking about doing something that would hit someone.
  • Beep if you are about to hit something.
  • Beep if you are about thinking about doing something that would hit something.
  • Beep if you see an accident.
  • Beep if a car is stopped in front of you (in this case continue beeping until the person moves regardless of if they can do anything about it).
  • Beep if you haven’t hit your horn at any point in the past 30 seconds.
  • A single beep cannot count towards two of the above at once. For example if you see both another car that is about to hit you and a cow, you should beep three full times (once for the car, once for the cow, once for almost being hit)

Please keep in mind that while these general mandates are not followed by everyone and are not legally binding—they are the norm (and only slightly exaggerated- perhaps).

As Kelso would say: “BURN”

A play in one act. 

Characters:

C- A well traveled American woman

S- A well traveled Indian woman

Kelso- character from “That 70’s Show”

Monkeys

Dog

Setting:

Inside a car, traveling somewhere in Rajistan.  Scenery filled with dry brush, rolling hills. In the background several monkeys play and a single dog watches the traffic.

Queue monkeys. 

C- Oooo. Monkeys.

S- (glancing to the side) That’s a dog. 

(pause)

C- I may be American, but I do know the difference between a monkey and a dog!

Kelso (voice from off stage)- BURN!

Curtain.

 

Where in the world is Clare?

Clare at the Taj, originally uploaded by coming2cambodia.

Ahh the eternal question? Where am I off to now?

The current answer, obviously from the photo, is India! And besides June NOT being the time one should travel to India (116 F/ 47 C when I landed) the trip is amazing. I promise to regail you all with stories upon my return to Phnom Penh.

Graduation trip

Graduation Collage

I am, after many more airplane issues (including almost getting arrested and almost being stranded in Taipei for 3 days– not related incidents), back in Phnom Penh. I promise to resume posting soon. Until then, I give you a lot of photos from the graduation weekend. It was everything I could have hoped for and more– except it was too short!

Learned lessons

When I was 16, I was a Rotary Exchange student to Chile.  Before my departure, my parents and I attended a plethora of meetings about what it meant to be an exchange student, financial issues, travel arrangements, and general logistics.  Some of these meetings were large and included American high school students going to many countries, other meetings were smaller and less formal in format.  Throughout these meetings, there were a few key lessons they drilled into our heads (different lessons for parents and for students). One of the fundamental lessons I learned, and I thought it was funny at the time, was that if you had problems while traveling, cry. Moreover, if you see another rotary exchange student crying, cry.

This may seem silly. It did, in fact, seem silly. 

Rotary generally has students travel in a group to their country.  There were fifty-some of us on our way to Chile—really, I feel sorry for any of the other people who has to share the main cabin of the plane with us. So the idea was that if one of us had a problem and started crying, the airlines would respond more quickly to get the student to stop crying. If an entire group of fifty started to cry—the service would be quicker still and any problem would be solved immediately to stop us from creating a scene.

On the way to Chile, we did not get to try out this theory.  I continued to think it was pretty sill—but then I came home.  When I came back to the states, I had 5 checked bags all of which were over weight!  It’s amazing the amount of stuff one teenager can collect—of course I had help from classmates who all gave me gifts, my ex-boyfriend’s father who gave me a collection of copper statues (beautiful and heavy), my new found love of all things Chile, and 13 huge books of photos. At the airlines counter, the woman told me I could only have two bags.  I was prepared to pay the overweight baggage—I was not prepared to choose. As I stood staring at my bags and thinking what was inside of them, I burst out crying. It was not premeditated—it was an involuntary reaction to having pieces of my life taken from me (I may or may not have been a dramatic teenager). The woman, waving her hands in a very impressive fashion, begged me to stop crying and put all my bags through at no extra cost to show me how much she wanted me to stop crying.

Fast forward more than 10 years to yesterday.  Yesterday morning I had not woken up yet for my last day at work before my long awaited trip home for graduation when the phone rang. After making the woman explain who she was four times (more because I was still asleep than because of her English), I was told that my flight the next day from Phnom Penh to Taipei was canceled.  I asked how I would get home and she said she would look into it. 

Now awake, I threw on clothes and went to work to check the internet. I spent most of yesterday morning arguing with the travel agency: No, I did not want a full refund and to buy a new ticket as that would cost me a LOT of money.  No, I did not want to spend the night in LA and get in a day late to St. Louis.  No, I did not trust them that they could get me through customs in LA including picking up and dropping off luggage in 50 and make it to a flight which left in 50 minutes. No, I did not want to cancel the flight. Many phone calls and refusal of offers later, I had in my hands a list of flights that would get me to Taipei on time to connect with my original flights to the states.  Unfortunately, China Airlines refused to let me fly through Bangkok.  My option: leave right now and go through Ho Chi Minh. I agree. I had been arguing for 3.5 hours when I get this offer.

I run home and pack in record time (under 5 minutes including climbing and descending the 4 flights of stairs).  In my defense, I already had packed all my gifts for other people—just not my own clothes and stuff. I grab my camera, computer, cords, and whatever clothes I see. End result: I have ALL of my pants with me, 3 shirts, 1 skirt, 1 dress, 4 bras, no underwear, no toothbrush, no toiletries at all, only the flip flops on my feet, and no socks.

I run by the office and throw my flash with documents for my boss on her desk. The organization sends a car to bring me to the airport. I get to the airport where I am told to speak with Mr. Leu at Vietnam Airlines who will issue me my tickets.  I go to the Vietnam airlines desk and they tell me they have no idea what I am talking about and that I need to pay for the ticket. They call my travel agent and again refuse to give me a ticket. They tell me to go talk to someone at the China Airlines counter.  

Time is running low; there is no one at the China Airlines counter. I call the phone number listed on their door. No answer. Its lunch hour and I assume the staff is eating somewhere. I start asking everyone around if they know who works there. No. After the fifth person I ask, I am very frustrated.  When I am frustrated, I cry. I start to cry—said fifth person darts around trying to find someone to deal with me. I call the travel agency who says they will call the main office. I am trying hard not to cry, but standing their with all my luggage (and no idea what I have packed) and no ticket I can barely keep the tears at bay. And time is running out.

Crying pays off!  They find someone (the cleaning boy) who knows who I need to talk to. He gets someone from China Airlines who gets me someone who gets me a ticket. All I have to do is hand him my ticket referral from the agency.  Can’t find it.  I think I must have left it with Vietnam Airlines, so they send someone to check. Nope. I rip my stuff apart looking for ticket while tearing up again—besides being frustrated, I am hungry having not eaten since the night before. The China Airlines woman says everything will be alright and not to cry, they will get me home. 

I do finally get on the flight and get to Taipei. I spend the night in a hotel (provided by the airlines).  At this very moment, I am sitting in the airport in Taipei waiting for my plane.  I am on my way home.  Once again, perseverance and tears have paid off.  I guess that long ago Rotary lesson still holds true: airlines do not line adults (or high school students) crying while in their line and will do anything to make the person stop crying.

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