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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Anchorage, Alaska. (#Anchorage #Alaska)

Alaska is a state I’d wanted to visit for a long time. So when I found out about a flight that was somewhat affordable, I figured I’d pounce on it while I had a couple extra coins. I went from October 4-9, 2018 (arriving home October 10) and frankly, I wish I’d stayed longer. The nature and the history alone took up more than enough of my time and I wanted more time to explore. But alas… real life and reality.

Anyway, here are a few photos from my mobile phone. I took most of my photos with my real camera so sorry, folks… without a proper computer/laptop, I can’t share those at the moment. Those photos are even more amazing. (NOTE: all or most of the following photos are unedited and unfiltered.) However, whether by mobile phone or regular camera, photos don’t do this state any justice in showcasing its incredible beauty.

 

ChugachChugach
Potter MarshPotter Marsh
City view across Cook Inlet.City view across Cook Inlet.
Earthquake ParkEarthquake Park

 

 

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Brown bear.Brown bear.

The state has some good food.

The state has some good food.

Like this spot.Like this spot.
Reindeer sausage.Reindeer sausage.
Halibut tacos.Halibut tacos.

 

I look forward to visiting again, hopefully sooner rather than later. And I hope you enjoyed this short post. May you soar into 2019.

United Arab Emirates – Dubai in 36 hours or less.

Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I had the opportunity to go, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates.

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Dubai was never on my list of places to travel, but since I’d be there, I wasn’t going to pass it up while visiting the United Arab Emirates. While booking & planning, I initially planned to spend 2 days there – hopefully enough to get a feel for the city. I changed my mind and decided that less than 2 days should suffice, and I’m glad I made that decision. I’ll explain why later.

We left Abu Dhabi on Saturday afternoon for a short jaunt to Dubai for a little over 24 hours. Dubai is 90 minutes drive from Abu Dhabi without traffic, and easy to reach by bus or car (rental, taxi, etc.). We took a cheap Greyhound-style bus for 25 AED one-way.

Emirates Express.
Emirates Express.

It took us longer than 90 minutes because there was a dust storm that caused multiple accidents; we saw at least 30 damaged or destroyed cars on the roadside. 😐

Upon arriving to Dubai, we took a taxi to Citymax Bur Dubai. There wasn’t much time to spare before we had to leave to head to Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world for our evening viewing.

We planned to meet afterwards with a travel group member, but Dubai Mall (located next to Burj Khalifa and the largest mall [by total area] in the world) is so big that we couldn’t find him, and my phone died. We (minus step-dad) were also supposed to see other people from the same travel group for a party. But by then, I’m exhausted & sleepy from jet-lag and walking around; we’re annoyed about not finding the person in that humongous mall; and we were hungry. So we returned to the hotel instead. I messaged the travel group members to explain what happened, we ate at one of the hotel’s restaurants (Indian Claypot), and stayed in until check-out time Sunday afternoon.

Another person from my travel group met us at check-out. He knew where the Gold Souk was, so he led us there.

NOTE: The United Arab Emirates heavily regulate their precious metals, so unless one buys jewelry on the street (NOT recommended), one is assured that the gold (or other precious metal[s]) is of top quality.

While me and my friend walked around, step-dad and Travel Friend sat down. Step-dad didn’t tell us right away that he wasn’t feeling well (typical man), so I got annoyed when I found out. Luckily, Travel Friend had a hotel room nearby and step-dad rested there while the 3 of us went to eat. (To make a long story short – step-dad loves spicy food but this time, the food at Indian Claypot was extra spicy and tore up his stomach the next day. I bought him a couple of medications, but bread, crackers & ginger ale did the trick and he was better by the next evening.)

Shameless plug – if you travel, especially abroad, make sure that you buy travel insurance. Annual travel insurance is cheaper than per-trip insurance. Along with step-dad getting sick (thank goodness it wasn’t worse), 2 members of my travel group died in Panama a little over 2 months ago. Their deaths gave me the needed push to buy travel insurance from now on.

After we ate, we hung out a bit while step-dad rested. We left Travel Friend’s hotel a little after sunset to return to Abu Dhabi; we’d see him the next day. We got a taxi to the bus station, where we caught a bus back to Abu Dhabi and stayed with another travel group member for the rest of our stay.

______________________

Dubai is a lively city and reminds me of Manhattantimes 10. 😐 For me – a born & raised New Yorker – to say that, means something. I can also speak for my friend and step-dad (also born & raised New Yorkers) when I say that while we think Dubai is a beautiful city, it was quite overwhelming (especially as an introvert) to be around so many people, lights, and tall/large buildings & structures. So as I said in the beginning, I’m glad that we stayed for only a little over 24 hours.

Stay tuned – desert safari next

50 Signs You Grew Up In New York City

I love my city. There’s none out there like it. Check out this list for my hometown.

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I love my city. There’s none out there like it. Check out this list for my hometown. Are there any lists out there like this for your respective cities, and if so, are those lists right? If you’re a fellow born & raised New Yorker, what do you think of this list?

10 Beautifully Simple Things You Forget To Do In Your City

It usually amazes me when someone from here tells me that I’ve visited places here that they’ve never visited before… and they’ve lived here all or most of their lives (!!!). Here’s a short & simple guide for those of you who don’t explore your own hometowns. You may think your hometown is boring or worthless or useless, but maybe if you take on these simple suggestions, you’ll re-discover your city in a new light.

3 years (part 3).

Last but not least, what else have I learned here so far?

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(If you didn’t read the other parts, here you go: part 1 & part 2.)

Last but certainly not least, what else have I learned here so far?

11. If you can make it in another country, you can make it anywhere. Add a bonus if you live in a big city within another country. Becoming an expatriate is not for the faint of heart. Many people can’t make it for many reasons. That doesn’t automatically make those people weak, so don’t assume that that’s what I mean. What I do mean is that some people have illusions about what it’s like to expatriate. I’m sorry to break it to you, but Eat Pray Love is not real for anyone except Elizabeth Gilbert (or other [Caucasian] people who can afford it, and since the economy has been garbage for the past few years, maybe they can’t either). So if you can put aside your bullshit illusions, accept what you aren’t familiar with, and be as patient as a saint, maybe then you’ll survive with just a bruise or two.

12. I need to live in or near a big city. I already discussed this here.

13. I appreciate living near the European mainland. It’s easier & cheaper to get to other cities & countries; sometimes it feels like the center of the earth for that reason. Even for me, getting home is as simple as a direct flight without any layovers or plane changes. It’s unfortunate that I’ve not taken as much advantage of this as possible, but real life got in the way. I hope to take more advantage of this next year; I’m well overdue for a long trip somewhere far away.

14. You’ll have to do almost everything (if not everything) on your own. One of the annoying things about living here is the amount of red tape one has to cut through to get anything done. For example, if you need a technician to check your boiler and the expected wait time is 1 week, just go ahead and add an extra week to your wait time. You may as well buy a book for dummies and check the boiler yourself because you’ll get it done quicker that way. There’s another way that people get things done around here – either threaten to cancel a service like I did or raise hell until you get what you need.

15. No matter where I am on this planet, I’ll look back at experiencing expatriation with indescribable feelings and a wiser mind. I’m glad that I made my dream come true.
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There are more, but that’s it for this series. I think too much sometimes, and I don’t want to make this any longer than necessary. Thanks for reading.

Keep calm and drink tea.
Keep calm and drink tea.

While each expatriate’s experience is unique, have I missed anything that you’d put on your own list?

On the road again.

So by the time you read this, I’ll be heading to…

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It has been a while since I’ve taken a proper trip anywhere. Don’t get me wrong… going home is always great, but it isn’t a vacation. The last time I went anywhere besides home was a little over a year ago, when I went up north to the Lake District for a short weekend. (I still need to write about that trip. *hanging head in shame*) Oh yeah, there was also that day trip to Bristol that didn’t turn out quite the right way.

Despite my current financial challenges, I knew that it was well past time for me to go somewhere. So just like with Portugal, I paid for this trip little by little, and I’m going with the same travel Meetup group. (For now, it’s easier that way because the group founder made the arrangements – flights, accommodation, side trips [included or optional], etc. – and due to being so busy, I didn’t feel like doing tons of research for deals like I normally do.) This is a trip I would’ve taken last year but unfortunately, finances held me back worse than they do now. I’m glad that I got a 2nd chance.

So by the time you read this, I’ll be heading to Dubrovnik, Croatia (Wikipedia link) for a few days, with a side (day) trip to Montenegro. Since I don’t have the best track record with writing up my trips (*hanging head in shame again*), I’m considering blogging about this trip with photos – a few words about each photo, while hopefully the photos will speak for themselves. Photo-blogging isn’t necessarily easy, but it’s easier, if you understand what I mean.

I’ll see you on the other side.

Take off.
Take off.

City girl.

I’m a New York City girl. I was born & raised there, it’s part of my identity, and it reverberates through my heart & soul. No matter where I go, it’ll always be my first home.

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(My From Above post inspired me to write the following post.)

I’m a New York City girl. I was born & raised there, it’s part of my identity, and it reverberates through my heart & soul. No matter where I go, it’ll always be my first home.

So when I began receiving e-mails some years ago from different agencies & organisations, recruiting Americans to work overseas, I refused many of them. Why, you ask? Among other reasons, I just couldn’t see myself living that far away from a city centre. It was only when I was ready, and only when I received e-mails from bigger places, that I decided it was time to make my move.

So here I am, solo, almost 3 years later. Although I know people here, they either don’t like doing the things I do and/or they’re flakes. Also, although there are lots of couples here (which is a feat in itself, in my opinion), dating in this country is different from dating back home. Since moving here, no one likes me, no one approaches me, and despite my many efforts at being open to dating/relationships here, nothing ever happened. As a result, I do things solo 98% of the time.

This is where being a city girl comes in handy. There are so many things to do here, I can get on solo with no problems. For example, in the From Above post, I went to the food festival on my own. I asked a couple of people if they wanted to go, and they either never responded or they flaked out on me at the last minute… which is why I often don’t bother inviting people with me anywhere. Since my friends are back home and they’re the only ones who like at least some of the things I like, I just do things on my own over here. What better place to do that than in a big city? (And as I’ve said countless times, thank goodness for Meetup.) I know I wouldn’t do well solo if I was far outside of a big city. I probably would’ve moved back home by now, honestly, if I lived that far away.

¡Viva la revolución!
¡Viva la revolución!

So for me, living in or very close to a big city suits me best. I need access to many different venues & activities, and a big city usually has these things easily accessible to its inhabitants & visitors. Don’t get me wrong – I appreciate suburban & rural areas for escaping from the negative aspects of city life, including stupid self-entitled neighbours with loud, crying, whining ass children noise & rude people. But even in a big city, I can find (and have found) a quiet place to call home.

So expatriates, in what environment did you grow up? In what environment are you currently living, and which one do you prefer & why?

See? There's peace & quiet & greenery here too.
See? There’s peace & quiet & greenery here too.

Reblog/Re-blog: The Neurotic’s Guide To Relocating To A New City

Do you identify with the original post, or did you have a different experience? Feel free to comment & share.

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This post sounds about right to me. Personally, I found myself nodding my head in agreement while reading this. Fellow expatriates, take a look. Do you identify with the original post, or was yours a different experience? Feel free to comment & share.

Side note: This post somewhat ties in to the next post that I’ve already drafted (and briefly mentioned in my Weekly Photo Challenge: From Above post). Please stay tuned.