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Panama, Colombia, Ecuador (Including Gallapagos), Peru, Bolivia, Chile (Including Easter Island), Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Mexico

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Life on the Road

No real place to fit any of the following in so thought a post titled 'Life on the Road' might be best. As we travel, I and, I'm sure Steven too, see and think of things that are unique, odd especially interesting, to us at least, that merit a mention somewhere. Unfortunately, I've not normally written them down as they've happened or occurred so away they went.

A young KFC clerk at Budapest airport who spoke very good English said he "hated" Hungary and questioned why we didn't simply stay in the good old US of A. He said that if he were lucky enough to live there, he'd never want to leave. When we bought a cone and fries, he said "In Eastern Europe, you have to pay for ketchup." I was surprised that a man in his 20's would use that term thinking that it was a term of my era not his.

It's been amazing to me the number of people I/we've had very brief conversations with in Hungary but especially here in Romania who have been almost stupefied as to WHY we'd ever come to their countries. When I reply that we want to tour their homelands, they are incredulous. I don't remember this happening anywhere near the same extent last year

Interesting to see a very strong security guard/police presence in all the grocery stores regardless of whether we’ve been in Czech Republic, Hungary or Romania; don’t know if there are also undercover guards too. All somewhat unnerving seeing these large men all toting guns, nightsticks and the like as you shop but it does become second nature and you almost forget about them.

Talking about nature, now that we're in eastern Romania, I need to always make sure I have toilet paper with me whenevere we're out and about since it's not always provided. Steven, smart man that he is, has had a stash with him in his backpack ever since we left Denver! We need to remember now too NOT to throw TP in the toilet but in the handy waste (pun intended!) basket just like in Russia and points east last year. For at least the last 2 weeks, you could always tell if Russians had been using the facilities previously by the used TP in the basket even though the toilets worked fine in that regard. I know, a case of TMI!
Romanian money: We’d never seen a plastic coating on all the bills before; interesting too that they have a see through hologram which varied depending on the value of the bill. I’d think their currency would last an awful lot longer than the paper bills we’re all used to. I heard one other country has the same plastic money but wonder why other countries have not adopted it too.

Tickets for Buses and trains: We had reserved as many bus and train tickets as we could from home as it was obviously easy to do online and that way we didn’t have to waste time en route trying to figure out whether to take the bus or train, when they left, where they left from, etc. Plus for us, it’s reassuring to have all that figured out in advance from the comfort of home. However, that all changed once we got to Hungary (except for the snafu with my having bought senior tickets when neither of us qualified) and especially in Romania when we had to buy intercity bus tickets directly from the driver. It’s all worked really well as we’ve always been able to find someone who speaks enough English to help us at the stations and often on the buses too. It’s also of course allowed us the added luxury of being spontaneous (don’t fall over yourselves laughing now!) and just showing up at the station when we wanted to leave rather than having to go at a set time when we may have felt we’d seen enough of a certain town, for instance.

A huge part of long trips like these for us has been our meeting and getting to know, if only briefly, people in the hostels we’ve stayed at. Being able to exchange travel stories, learn about their favorite places to go AND stay away from, a little bit about their lives and countries is always illuminating.

Here are some of the people: At the hostel in Pecs, Hungary, I semi worked on the blog and chatted for several hours before Steven got up with a 33 year old man, David, whose family was from Hungary. He was virtually fluent in English, and in German now since he moved to Germany at a young age and now works in Munich while also getting another Master’s at a university in Pecs on occasional weekends. He spent several blissful years in Houston getting a degree and would give his eye teeth to be back permanently anywhere in the States. U hope he realizes his dreams.

 It was interesting to discover how knowledgeable he was about US politics, media etc. It should put most Americans to shame to see how aware so many people outside our shores are about our country, our history and way of life. I was amused when David referred to Colorado’s ‘Green Rush’ as I hadn’t heard our nascent legalized marijuana industry referred to that way.

In Brasov's Jugend Stube Hostel, Steven and I had the pleasure of meeting Jean-Baptiste, also 33, an artist born and raised in Romania until his family moved to France when he was 13. He was with his lovely French girlfriend, Amandine, touring his homeland at her behest. He talked about what life was like in Communism Romania during his formative years. I hope you both venture out to Colorado one day as our doors will always be open for you and that we will continue to stay in touch.

Met Gerrit from Dortmund, Germany on the bus from Brasov to Bucharest where I'm posting this now. He’s in med school back in Germany but has spent the last year volunteering at a Romanina children’s home for abused children who had been removed from their parents’ homes all over the country, he said. He plans on returning to the home for a few days over the Christmas holidays as flights can be as low as only 25 euros each way, about $65! He mentioned how there’s a shortage of doctors in Germany despite the fact med school is free and there are lots of students in med school. So many of them go to England, Canada or the US because of the higher wages and the working conditions aren’t as good for doctors in Germany, he mentioned.
Sorry, I didn't realize til now that Gerrit's eyes were closed when I took the picture.
One of our strangest interactions was with a Romanian man, aged 60 like myself, in the middle of Bucharest, who initiated conversation with us and began chatting in English saying he was a retired English professor. He said he had noticed me help a very old woman up some church steps a good half or so earlier, (more than a tad freaky and should have been our first clue to say a firm goodbye). Then, upon learning I was brought up in Canada, he began spouting off all sorts of things about William Lyon Mackenzie King, Canadian musical artists, et al. This all the while we were walking for a few blocks down major streets. The punch line came when he said he had had a heart attack and needed some money for his pills. When we said no, he turned an about face with nary a word and so quickly that any military man woul have been proud to have seen! He seemed to move darn quickly for a man with heart problems, methinks.
Didn't catch his name though he did introduce himself!

More 'episodes' of Life on the Road at a later date.