Turbulence. (#Algiers #Algeria)

Finally. It was time to go.

I booked this flight about 6 months before departure. Accommodation sorted. At least 1 tour sorted. Basic foundation was already set.

But since this is me we’re talking about, nothing goes smoothly. So of course, bulls*** started just a few hours before my flight. Money, of course, because why not. But I wouldn’t let it deter me. It’d been almost 2 years since my last proper vacation (and I still have to finish those blog posts from that trip… so ashamed of myself.). Yes, there have been a few short jaunts in between, but nothing as long and far away as this. So no matter what, I was leaving. I needed a break from work, from life.

From New York City to Paris, France; a 5 hour layover there; then from Paris to Algiers, Algeria. I know that going through customs in a different country is annoying, but it’s to be expected everywhere and I deal with it. However, I wasn’t expecting to be interrogated by Algerian police.

You read correctly. I was interrogated by Algerian police.

I handed over all of my travel documents at the customs desk and thought that all was well, until I was told to “hold on for a moment”. I knew that some bulls*** was bound to happen because again, that’s just my luck.

Here we f***ing go…

Along with being exhausted, tired/sleepy from limited sleep, and in some pain, I was also angry and kinda scared. My French language skills are very limited, despite my attempts to practice before I left for this trip, and I don’t have any Arabic language skills. So while an officer was telling me that I’d be fine, my face clearly showed that I knew otherwise.

(As an aside, it “helped” a bit that another American woman – a government worker at that! – was also being interrogated. She said to me, “This is terrible, isn’t it?” I nodded with a scowl on my face.)

They opted to interrogate me outside of the officers’ quarters. A female officer who spoke English interpreted & translated for her fellow officers, and asked surprisingly specific questions about why I was in Algeria, what I do for a living, who I see and the age range of the population, etc. ad nauseam. Thank goodness, I didn’t have any reason to lie and was also smart enough to have access to certain things on my mobile phone to prove myself.

TIP: if your mobile phone allows, store your most important documents on something like Google Drive, and make those documents available offline while traveling. It may make a big difference for you in case of emergency.

After what seemed like forever, they let me go. One of the officers hailed a taxi for me and I went to my hotel. But alas, as is my luck, there was more turbulence ahead.

To be continued…

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IBIT post: anatomy of an airfare.

Check out this blog post from I’m Black & I Travel. Here’s an excerpt:

Why does international air travel cost so much? A breakdown of a single transcontinental flight reveals just how much you pay in taxes and fees — and why.

Read more here >>> Airlines: Anatomy Of An Airfare http://imblacknitravel.com/airlines-airfares/

Take off.
Take off.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Illumination.

For more about how the Weekly Photo Challenge started, take a look at this link. For more about this week’s Weekly Photo Challenge, click here.
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DTW airport – Detroit, Michigan, United States.

Between terminals - light at the end of the tunnel.
Between terminals – light at the end of the tunnel.

Related Weekly Photo Challenge link: http://quotidianhudsonriver.com/2013/01/15/1-15-13-weekly-photo-challenge-illumination

Re-blog: I Will Never Fly With United Airlines Again

Originally posted on talinorfali:
On the night of October 18th, 2012, I had embarked on United Airlines from Las Vegas, Nevada to Cleveland Ohio for a layover to where we were supposed to fly to our final destination to Buffalo International airport, which never happened. We were supposed to fly out by 8:30am from Cleveland…

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As an expatriate who travels home at least twice per year, travels elsewhere one or more times per year, and now has a chronic injury, comfort & quality service are most important to me – especially for long-haul flights. I’ve also had a few travel horror stories of my own over the years.

Check out the original blog post and read about this person’s recent travel annoyance(s), then come back here and let me know about your travel horror stories.

talinorfali

On the night of October 18th, 2012, I had embarked on United Airlines from Las Vegas, Nevada to Cleveland Ohio for a layover to where we were supposed to fly to our final destination to Buffalo International airport, which never happened. We were supposed to fly out by 8:30am from Cleveland to make it to Buffalo at almost 10am in the morning, but that never happened. They kept announcing that there is a delay, the plane has not arrived from Newark, New Jersey, and kept making us wait and wait, and then the announced that the plane has arrived, but we have to wait again until 10:30am to board our plane, that never happened either. At this point, people started getting really mad and saying, can’t we just board any plane to buffalo? The Airline personnel were very rude to people, and not being professionals at all, and they were…

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Bom dia: Lisbon, Portugal – day 1.

This was the day. I’d been excited about it for a while. I don’t know about any of you, but when a trip is coming up, I don’t get excited about it until the last minute.

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04.06.2012

This was the day. I’d been excited about it for a while. I don’t know about any of you, but when a trip is coming up, I don’t get excited about it until the last minute. I might have fleeting moments of excitement in the days or weeks beforehand, but the excitement always grows at the last minute. It’s surreal – I know that I’m going somewhere but it doesn’t feel real until I land in my destination.

I made sure to get enough sleep to manage the trip on public transportation the next morning. I didn’t feel like paying for a cab this time around, at least for the trip to the airport. It went well overall; it took 90 minutes to get there, which isn’t too bad for a major world airport like Heathrow and on a holiday weekend. The only thing that annoyed the hell out of me was the price for the Heathrow Express – £19.00 one way.

I got to the airport before the rest of the group. Oh, I forgot to mention the group…

I joined Meetup about 3 months ago as a way to get out a bit more, as a challenge to myself for 2012 and beyond. (I may write a post or two about how that’s going in the future.) Among other things, I looked for traveler groups and sure enough, I found one that caught my eye: Solo Travelers. As someone who likes traveling solo, this group and its description sounded perfect. This group already planned its 2012 trips, and while I’d love to go on each one of their trips, I’m not rich. But there were a few that appealed to me, and Lisbon caught my eye first – affordable, 2 hour plane ride, long weekend (I hate very short trips). A few days after joining the group, I paid a deposit and secured my spot. While I prefer traveling solo, traveling with other solo travelers made sense to me for a couple of reasons:

1. While we arrived & departed together from each airport, staying together was optional. If we didn’t vibe together, or wanted to do our own things, we could always split up.

2. This was another way to challenge myself to more & make new potential connections.

So there you have it – I traveled with other solo travelers. How did that go, you ask? Stay tuned.

The group went to the wrong gate because of a mix-up, so the group leader sent a text message on my way to the airport and I met the group at the correct gate instead. They arrived 10 minutes later, and the group leader introduced himself & the other group members. We checked in, got our boarding passes & went through security together, but split up until we got on the plane. While we were split up, I tried getting some cash out of my account, but the ATM declined my card . No sweat, though… I’d try when we arrived, and at least I had enough elsewhere.

I should have sat next to a group member, with whom my intuition sensed good vibes, but she was gracious enough to allow a couple to sit together. That was very nice of her… but not for me because the woman in the couple was so annoying that I wanted to punch her in her jackass face & throat. 😐 Lucky for me that I usually fall asleep on flights because I slept for at least half of the flight… which meant that she annoyed me only half as much as she would have if I was awake for the full flight.

When we landed, it was a nice surprise to disembark to nice weather since the weather authority predicted rain in Lisbon for most of the weekend.

Not too bad.
Not too bad.

Before we took our taxis to the hotel, I told the group leader about my ATM issue and he said “No problem, I’ll cover you until you get access to your account. These things happen.” Quite embarrassed – it’s my issue and I take ownership of it – but relieved that it wouldn’t be a huge issue. Our hotel was a short distance from the airport, and the taxi fare was pretty cheap for European standards – well less than €10.00 for each taxi.

We arrived at the hotel, and I was quite impressed. I should have shared a room with an older British woman, but she must have made a good connection with another group member because upon hotel check-in, she said that I was sharing with someone else instead. (That turned out to be a good thing. Stay tuned.) New roommate & I went to our hotel room; were we impressed again. I forgot to take a photo of the outside & our room, but check out the view from our window:

Taken as soon as we got into the room.
Taken as soon as we got into the room.

We settled in, chose our beds, got some help with our TV & internet settings from hotel staff, and relaxed (except for contacting my U.S. bank) until it was time for dinner. For the first night, we all dined together. We weren’t sure where to eat, but at least there were options within walking distance of the hotel. We walked a bit and I spotted an ATM – perfect time to give the group leader his money back. I inserted my card, figuring that there was something wrong with the ATM at Heathrow since the bank didn’t see anything wrong with my card during our phone call.

Of course it was my card. Cash machines in Portugal are pretty damn good because unlike at Heathrow, the ATM flashed the following words on the screen:

Your ATM card has expired.

FUUUUUUCK. 😐

Sure enough, I checked the card and it’d expired 6 days before the trip. I was even more embarrassed. I told the group leader and he was fine with it. He asked if I was alright for dinner and I assured him that I was. Unlike a few years ago, I didn’t throw a temper tantrum or cry or hide away in my room for the night. I just kept calm and thought about what to do next.

We decided on a restaurant across the street from the hotel; unlike a few of the other restaurants in the vicinity, this one was more affordable and there were locals eating there, which signaled to us that the food was probably decent.

Sete Mares.
Sete Mares.

Since my money was funny, I ate within my budget.

Cheese omelet with chips (French fries) & salad.
Cheese omelet with chips (French fries) & salad.

It was very good – no need for condiments or seasonings, it tasted good as shown in the photo. The restaurant specializes in seafood, though.

Yes, they're live.
Yes, they're live.

Some of the group members liked their food, while others could have taken or left it. The main complaint for those who could have taken or left it – the food was too oily. Thank goodness that mine was good.

We stayed for 2-3 hours, and some of us were tired so we went back to the hotel afterwards to get some rest for the next day. I called my family to tell them about the money situation, and my aunt said that she’d wire money the next afternoon. That was fine with me, as I wouldn’t be spending much money anyway, even after getting her money. It was quite annoying to know that I had money that was inaccessible, but it wasn’t worth turning the trip into doom & gloom. Thank goodness for age, wisdom, growth, and back-up plans. New roommate & I chatted a bit, then watched some TV and settled in for the night.

Stay tuned, everyone.

Boa noite.
Boa noite.

Day 2 ahead…

Home (sweet home).

Happy holidays.
Happy holidays.

It’s that time again…

I’m heading home for a little more than a fortnight and will be on a plane by the time you get this. I’ve got a couple of posts scheduled to keep you reading whilst I’m away, so please stay tuned.

This time will be a little different, though. This will be my 2nd Xmas at my 1st home while working in my 2nd home. Many of my insights are the same, but there are some that are definitely different. I don’t know how these new insights will affect my time back home, but I’m anticipating the outcomes once I return to my 2nd home. Here are a few of my new insights:

– My friendship group has gotten smaller. It comes with the territory of being an expatriate. Rather than mourning the losses, I’m gonna try appreciating the ones who are still around.

– My definition of friendship has changed. It’s hard to explain and, therefore, I’ll test things out while I’m home.

– My definition of family has changed. A wise friend told her husband that “there is a difference between family and relatives”. That’s one of the best insights I’ve had this year and goes with my edited version – “blood is not (always) thicker than water”. Contrary to popular belief, one can choose one’s family, and that’s powerful.

I almost stayed here for Xmas for financial reasons. But I decided to break away from the usual Spinster and take care of my Self first. I can’t control everything, so I’m allowing the universe to take its course for once. I wanted to go home, so I made choices to make it happen, and I think that that’s what the universe wanted. I’m looking forward to seeing my loved ones & getting some rest/recovering from jet-lag because things are hectic at work & I haven’t had a proper vacation since June. With so much vacation time in Europe, that’s a long time to go without self-care and time off. Perfect timing from the universe.

I wish all of you a Merry Christmas and happy holidays, no matter what you celebrate (or don’t). To those of you traveling, I wish you a safe journey to your destination(s) and a wonderful time when you get there. Be mindful/careful and have fun. Relax, take a chill pill… whatever you do, just enjoy.

Anniversary.

1 year ago today, I landed at Heathrow Airport to work/live in another country. The time went by so fast. And I’m still alive, still standing.

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1 year ago today, I landed at Heathrow Airport to work/live in another country.  The time went by so fast.  And I’m still alive, still standing.

I’m not gonna write a long entry about the year; instead, I already have a few posts coming down the pipe that’ll address my experience(s)/thoughts about the year, and my other blog is under re-construction and should be done by the end of the week.  You can, however, read this & this & maybe even this to get an idea (if you haven’t already) of my experience moving here, along with reading other posts right after those.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences so far, and I hope that it inspires someone to make that move.

Realizations (part III).

I’m glad that I expatriated. While I miss some familiar comforts of home, there are other things that I can do without…..

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With the amount of time I spent at home, I did what I usually do – think too much. Or maybe it isn’t a matter of thinking too much; that I have a 2nd home & traveled to my always-1st home gives me plenty of material to compare & contrast. I decided to compile a list of most of these thoughts for your reading pleasure. (Click here for part 1 and click here for part 2.)

13. I really just can’t with the TSA. Ever since 09.11.2001, the United States have been on an elevated terror alert. As a result, civil liberties have been slowly but surely eroded, and TSA is one of the avenues through which this occurs. Taking off shoes & belts & coats/jackets & hats, the inability to carry liquids over 100 ml. (3 oz.), fingerprinting, constant questioning….. I’m sick of it. When I went home on vacation, I remembered the reason I’m not fond of TSA: 3 different TSA agents questioned me 3 times and, with all the clothing & shoes I took off for the metal detectors, I should have just stripped butt-ass-naked. This is in spite of the fact that I have a U.S. passport and work visa. This is also in striking contrast to Australia, where I didn’t have to take off anything going into or coming out of the country. Maybe if the United States minded its….. Never mind, won’t even go there. Another complaint for another day. :-/ Next time I return home, I want to enroll in the global entry program to avoid all or most of this TSA bullshit.

This = American civil liberties.
This = American civil liberties.

14. I need to find at least 1 hobby to keep myself busy, especially since my 2 friends (co-worker & wife) are returning to the States for good in just a few days. I’ll miss them and I don’t want to fall into a long funk. I have other acquaintances/friends in & outside of work, but they’re married/partnered and have their own lives. I’ll keep looking for something affordable; hopefully I’ll find something soon – whether it be a book club, photography class, language class, some form of exercise, etc.

15. In keeping with #14, this will force me to meet other people. It’ll be hard because of my nature & age (it’s hard to make new friends as one gets older), but my only other option is staying in my house all the time. And while I don’t mind spending time at home alone, I’d rather not be a total recluse, especially during warmer months. (Side note: Have you ever taken a personality test? If so, what’s your personality type? And here’s some history behind it.)

16. Without going into too much detail, I know that I made my exit from my last job at the perfect time. While I don’t subscribe to any religion or deity, I know that the universe works things out in its own way sometimes.

17. I’m glad that I expatriated. While I miss some familiar comforts of home, there are other things that I can do without: damn annoying A-merry-can accents (except certain regional accents, like mine), American-centrism, racism/prejudice, fake diversity, the state of romantic relationships in my specific community (so sick & tired of that conversation), American poli-tricks & poli-trick-tians, chemical-laden & genetically modified foods….. and many more. England is nowhere near being a utopia, let me make it clear. But some of the things that cause concerns back home aren’t even a thought here because it just makes sense. In this country, pragmatism seems like the rule and not the exception.

18. It’s taken a while to get my house together. The move took a toll on me to the point that I neglected my house and myself. Thanks to my 2 friends (co-worker & wife), my house is not cluttered anymore and I’m going to keep it that way. It’s coming along slowly but surely; I just need a little more furniture, and some artwork (something like these beautiful pieces created by my colleague back home) for my bedroom & living room.

19. I’m done with direct debit in this country. I really just can’t with the banks here; even straight cash takes forever to clear here, and it causes problems when paying bills. I’m gonna pay all my bills on my own just like I did back home.

20. I’ve begun settling in & adjusting here. I’m beginning to feel at home. I hope that this is a signal of things to come. It’s good being back in my 2nd home.

My thoughts are many….. too many. But 3 parts is enough, don’t wanna bombard you. Until next time.

Welcome home.
Welcome home.

Disappearing acts.

August 2nd came & went and sure enough, he didn’t return. By this time, we’d already established our work schedules and were too busy to remember. But he never returned.

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Good night, sweetheart, I got to go now
Time won’t permit me to play no more now
But I’ll be back to do another show now
So good night, so long, bye, bye

Chuck Berry – Goodnight, Well It’s Time To Go

Before we left dinner, we exchanged numbers with intentions of meeting up again soon. Most of the people I met began work 4 days later, but 1 person started before me.

E arrived 2 weeks before me and he, too, came here solo. Everyone else has a spouse/partner so it was probably difficult for him. A different agency from ours recruited him, I later found out. Since I sat on one end of the table and he at the other end, we didn’t really talk except to exchange numbers and find out where we’re from. Neither of us knew that the other worked at the same place, nor did either of us know that we were from the same part of the United States until we went our separate ways that night.

I went to work the next day and, sure enough, we ran into each other – E was coming from shadowing a visit, and I was on my way to shadow a visit with one of my new team members. We said hello in passing since we were both in a hurry. It was Friday and even though it was my 1st week, it was still tiring. I was in the latter stages of jet lag, getting used to a new timezone, and beginning a new life. Needless to say, thank goodness it was Friday.

On the way home I sent E a text to say hello and TGIF. He wrote back and asked if I was doing anything over the weekend. I’m not sure about the rest of the weekend, but I definitely didn’t have any plans that day. He said we should hang out, maybe grab something to eat. I was really tired & hot, but I decided to take him up on his offer. I’d already pushed past my social anxiety to attend last night’s dinner; why not push myself a little further and meet up with him?

We decided to meet at a central place, but I was running a bit late. When I got to the tube station to transfer to the next one, the tube I needed to take shut down for some reason. (I learned later that it happens all the damn time. 😐 ) I sent E a text, telling him the situation and that I’d see him in a bit.

I finally got to the place and noticed that he wasn’t there yet. About 30 minutes later, I received a text from him stating that he was on his way to meet me. Then I realized something….. Wait….. Did he leave to meet me at the tube station where I was initially stuck? I sent him a text with that question and sure enough, he’d left the central place to meet me where I got stuck. That was very thoughtful of him, but now I had to go back to where I was before. Sigh.

I sent him a text and said “I’m coming back over there. Don’t move.” I went to the nearest tube station to catch the next one and thank goodness, even with 1 transfer to another tube, everything was running better. I arrived & called him to let him know that I’d arrived. He didn’t answer so I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

For at least 1/2 hour.

Whilst waiting, I sent text messages describing my clothing (black shirt, black slacks, black flip-flops), if he’d forgotten what I looked like. Since this particular tube station is quite large, I also walked around to see if I’d find him, which was unfruitful. I knew something was wrong, so I tried calling E again, but alas….. My phone was out of credit for phone calls and there was nothing open at that time of night to allow for adding credit. I had some loose coins, so I called from a pay phone (the pay phones in London suck, by the way), and wouldn’t you know it….. E didn’t have any credit either because his phone went straight to voice-mail, and the phone operator stated that E wouldn’t receive any notifications until he added credit to his phone.

I used the last bit of credit I had to send E a text message explaining what happened, and I headed back to N’s house. I was a little disappointed but at least I tried. Besides, being tired gave me an excuse to head home.

The next day (Saturday) I had a couple of appointments to view flats. Even though I’d just gotten there and N wasn’t rushing me out of the house, I’ve always hated being a burden to others so I began flat hunting early. During the 2nd appointment, I received a text from E apologizing for last night. He confirmed that he ran out of credit and, since the tube station is so big, couldn’t find me. I called him and we apologized to each other. He then said, “You won’t believe where I am now.” I said, “Where?” He said, “At the airport. I have an emergency back home.” He then told me about having to return home because of a family emergency, as well as the long journey to the airport. One of his co-workers gave him a ride to the airport, which was nice, but she didn’t know where she was going and got lost. This led to him missing his original flight, which led to him spending more money on a brand new plane ticket. At the end of the conversation, he said he’d be back on Tuesday. I told him I’d send him a text message with my e-mail address so that he could contact me and, in turn, I’d tell everyone else. I wished him good luck and said “see you back at the office on Tuesday”.

Tuesday came and went.

By this time, everyone who was at the dinner started working, and I told them the situation. We figured that it was something serious since he hadn’t returned by Tuesday. A week and a half went by; we decided that one of us should find his supervisor to see if he was alright. I found the supervisor, who stated that he wasn’t returning until August 2nd. We were right – we knew it was something serious. Toward the end of the month, I had lunch with my recruiter and told him the situation. Having worked in the business for years, he said

“I’m a cynical bastard. That young man isn’t coming back.” (I love how brutally honest many Britons are.)

I said, “You really think so?” He said, “Listen, I’ve worked in this business long enough to know. When they pull the disappearing act, they’re not coming back, especially if there’s no explanation.”

August 2nd came & went and sure enough, he didn’t return. By this time, we’d already established our work schedules and were too busy to remember. But he never returned.

Epilogue:
After a little investigative work (also known as being nosey), my co-worker’s wife figured out that E likely returned to the United States for his son. Yes….. He has a son that no one knew about. We still don’t know all the facts, but based on the investigative work & finding out that he left a son (and possibly the child’s mother?) there, that was our conclusion. He’s connected with a few of us on Facebook, but mum’s still the word.
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Has this ever happened with you? Or better yet, have you done this yourself? Tell us here.

Spinster’s travels.

Hello ladies & gentlemen. I have an announcement to make.

Before being crazy enough to move to another country, I’ve always had a deep love for travel. Last year, I made one of my travel dreams come true…..

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Hello ladies & gentlemen. I have an announcement to make.

Even before being crazy enough to move to another country, I always had a deep love for travel. (Please see my Hello world! entry.) Last year, I made one of my travel dreams come true, thanks to a dare that I looked into for kicks & giggles but wound up becoming all too real. I definitely don’t regret it because it was something I always wanted to do, but if anyone told me in the past that this would happen so early in my life, I wouldn’t take the person seriously. As a result of my trip, I blogged about it afterwards, entitling the blog And She’s Off!: Spinster’s Travels, but abandoned it a while later. (Believe it or not, I entered all but the last 2-3 days of the trip into that blog. Not to worry though – for those of you who’d be interested, that blog will resurrect again for my future travel jaunts. It’s hidden for now and under construction.)

When I started this blog last month, I received positive feedback from George, whose main site is CheapOair, a website/search engine for cheap airline tickets. Because he liked what he read, he asked if I’d be willing to do a guest post on his site. I said yes. A few things got in the way but now it’s finished.

So without further ado, please take a look at my guest post for CheapOair about my trip to Oz. Click on the link below. Please leave feedback on my blog (and CheapOair too, if you want). Get a drink, sit back, relax and enjoy reading it. 😉

My humble thanks goes to George for giving me this opportunity.

My CheapOair guest post >>> Spinster’s Travels: The Wizard of Oz

Oz.