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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Photo/Post delay.

My trip is over. I had a wonderful time overall, and I hope to return to Chilé – and that other country that will remain a surprise – again in the (near or far) future. There’s so much to explore, and the landscapes are otherworldly and absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately, there was 1 major blip during the trip…

 

I forgot my laptop on one of my flights in-country. I realized it a few minutes later, but of course, there are very few honest people on this planet so the laptop was never returned. Despite the laptop’s age, it was my only way to connect with the world in general. Yes, I have a phone, but it’s more difficult to do things on phones due to text size, lighting, etc.

 

So until I get myself a new laptop or tablet, I’ll hold off on posting anything about the trip. The blog posts would be so much better with the photos, so you can get an idea of the beauty that abounds in Chilé and that other country. I hope that you stayed tuned, in the meantime, until then. (I already started 1 post, so I’m not playing around.)

 

Thank you for your consideration.

Hell hath no fury.

No one paid attention to her warnings; she said she’d be back. Many brushed her off.

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No one paid attention to her warnings; she said she’d be back. Many brushed her off. The man sat around, laughing with the other non-believers, and ignored his ex’s warnings. After all, she’d made threats before and never followed through, so why should he or anyone else believe her now?

There was 1 consistent thing about her, though: She didn’t always follow through, but she always gave a warning. Hindsight is 20/20.

So when she struck, boy, did she strike. She threw, flipped, and broke everything in her path. And when she was all finished, the man would have to pick up the pieces of his shattered life and start over from scratch. He’d know better next time – hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

Like this woman, Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States with strength and furore. Meteorologists gave warnings which – unlike in the above scenario – most people heeded, and they did what they had to do to prepare and/or get the hell out of the way. Sandy started in the Caribbean, leaving death & destruction in her wake, and made her way up to the United States, where she first caused some problems in the southeast. But even that wasn’t the beginning. Over 2-3 days, Sandy lost a little strength but quickly made up for it as she went further northeast. The Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, northward… most states weren’t spared Sandy’s wrath.

Sandy was a bit temperamental, though, hitting some areas harder than others, as if some were less deserving of her wrath than other areas (even though they still felt her wrath). One of those areas is my hometown, New York City, and especially my borough. And watching everything from 3500 miles away is hard.

I’m one of those people who, when disaster strikes, wants to do whatever it takes to help – whether it’s a small cash donation or a big volunteering effort. 3 years after Hurricane Katrina, I volunteered with HfH for a day to help build a house. I couldn’t volunteer when Hurricane Katrina hit, so when I got the chance, I took it even though it was 3 years later. So being 3500 miles away from home, worrying about my loved ones and being unable to help, weighed down on me.

Along New York City’s coastline, people lost their homes, cars, and businesses. Trees and electrical live wires came down. Some schools and banks are still closed for a while. Public transportation shut down for a while (still experiencing a few glitches). And worst of all, some people lost their lives, with the youngest victims being 2 little brothers (photo). There are people who still don’t have electricity, heat and/or water in the middle of December.

I’m glad that my loved ones are safe, but my hometown is forever changed and my next visit will be bittersweet.

My hometown is still in dire need of help. Please give to reputable charities & causes so that we can rebuild again. (But please stay away from American Red Crosshere’s just one of many reasons why. And here’s yet another reason why. ) Thank you.

Links:
Volunteer and/or give responsibly (again, please stay away from American Red Cross – please see links in the last paragraph) http://www.fema.gov/volunteer-donate-responsibly

Personally, I donated to this organization because they have earmarks for Sandy’s devastation in Haiti, the United States, and general charity causes. They’re also ethical, and my currency converted to U.S. dollars. http://www.ftsociety.org/sandy-relief-fund/

I also like HfH. Donate to the one in my hometown – it’s rated 4 stars. https://www.habitat.org/cd/giving/one/donate.aspx?link=470

I’ve also heard great things about Occupy Sandy. Help them out – I may join their efforts when I visit home. https://www.wepay.com/donations/occupy-sandy-cleanup-volunteers

Bodies of missing Staten Island boys found http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121101/south-beach/body-of-two-year-old-missing-staten-island-found-thursday-police-said

Staten Island boys laid to rest http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20121109/dyker-heights/thousands-mourn-boys-killed-when-flood-tore-them-from-moms-arms

Comprehensive, ongoing & local Hurricane Sandy coverage http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/tags/hurricane-sandy

President Barack Obama surveys New Jersey storm damage http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/11/01/president-obama-tours-storm-damage-new-jersey

President Barack Obama tours storm damage in New York http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/photogallery/president-barack-obama-tours-storm-damage-new-york

Hurricane Sandy in pictures – D’NALI http://dnali.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/sandy-in-pictures/

So much on my mind that I can’t recline – Jose Vilson http://thejosevilson.com/2012/10/30/so-much-on-my-mind-that-i-cant-recline-on-hurricane-sandy

Stop stupid. Vincenzo screams – Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge http://philosophermouseofthehedge.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/stop-stupid-vincenzo-screams/

WebMD blog post: managing through a storm http://blogs.webmd.com/art-of-relationships/2012/10/managing-through-a-storm.html

WebMD news post: riding out a storm http://www.webmd.com/news/20121030/riding-out-the-storm-safely

Unsung heroine.

I learned about Mary Seacole about 9 months after moving here. She was the Black equivalent of America’s Florence Nightingale.

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October is Black History Month in the United Kingdom. I like it more here because it’s longer than in the United States (February – 28 days long, 29 days long every 4 years) and, in my area, there are lots of things going on during the month to celebrate, reflect & remember. For example, I had the honour of hearing Kofi Annan (Wikipedia link) speak earlier this month, and I’ll see another international figure of Black heritage speak later this month. But for now, I’d like to highlight a Black history figure who hasn’t received (well overdue) attention until recently, within the past few years.

I learned about Mary Seacole (Wikipedia link) about 9 months after moving here. An art gallery hosted an organisation, focused on raising funds to build a statue in her name, to talk about this little-known woman who made a big impact in Britain. She was the Black equivalent of Florence Nightingale.

I took photos of the painted portraits of Mary Seacole during the discussion, but unfortunately I can’t find them. If or when I do, I’ll add them to this post. In the meantime, check out Mary Seacole by going to the link below, expand your knowledge & learn you something. 😉

October is Black History Month – Mary Seacole

Consider donating to the Mary Seacole Memorial Statue fund.

Mary Seacole.
Mary Seacole.

Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta 2012.

I went to Bristol, United Kindgom for the first time with a photography Meetup group to see the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.

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08.11.2012

Well, we didn’t see any balloons. 😐

I went to Bristol (Wikipedia link), United Kingdom for the first time with a photography Meetup group to see the Bristol Hot Air Balloon Fiesta. There were 6 of us – 5 of us went in the group leader’s car, while another member drove there on his own. Group leader let me sit in the front because of my injury, and on the way there, all of us (except group leader of course) fell asleep. It was a nice day as far as the weather & temperature – nice, sunny, blue sky, pretty warm. There were thousands of people, plenty of amusement park rides, and lots of food trucks & vendors all over the grounds.

Unfortunately, the wind was an issue. The Royal Air Force (RAF) did a group skydive, and it was obvious that the wind was quite strong. As a result, the organisers decided to cancel the hot air balloon part of the fiesta. We were very disappointed, and since none of us wanted to get on rides since we specifically came to photograph the hot air balloon evening/night programme, we decided to leave early.

So unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the fiesta or Bristol proper. I did, however, get a few shots of the RAF parachuting down. Check ’em out.

2 of the balloons that never were.
2 of the balloons that never were.

Time off & out.

I’ve not been home since Xmas and I’m well overdue for a visit home.

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I’ve not been home since Xmas and I’m well overdue for a visit home. I miss my close family members, friends, hugs & kisses. So by the time you read this, I’ll be on my way home. I’ll have a post or two scheduled for you during my time off; otherwise, I’ll be back to blogging later this month. Until later.

Take off.
Take off.

Related post: 2nd home sweet home.

Tourist for a moment.

Because this is history in the making, I’ve taken a few photos that commemorate the Olympics in mind, body & spirit.

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I don’t consider myself a tourist, in general when traveling & since living here for a little over 2 years. I have a somewhat biased view of tourists, especially of my countrymen & countrywomen, that I’ve discussed here a few times. But since I live in the midst of what is now & will remain history, I can’t help but be just a bit excited, as an expatriate, about the 2012 Summer Olympics taking place in London (and other cities throughout the United Kingdom) – a major coming together of nations & myriad activities. I decided to hang around instead of escape the country for a few weeks, like some people here are doing/have already done. Now granted, that feeling of excitement is quickly gone once it’s time to battle traffic going to & from work (and many Britons feel the same) 😐 but hopefully you get the idea.

Because this is history in the making, I’ve taken a few photos that commemorate the Olympics in mind, body & spirit. I’m still dealing with medical issues and can’t blog as much as I’d like (I have probably 20 drafts waiting for me to complete them), but I’m going to try posting more photos with simple writing so that I don’t aggravate my medical issues or your eyes from too much reading. That way, you’ll get to see a post or two & watch everything from my point of view, while I try fulfilling my Post A Week challenge.

So check out the following photos, and there will be more coming over the next few weeks. (P.S. That includes the Paralympics – often neglected yet just as important & exciting as the Olympics.) Enjoy.

20120725-123848.jpg

Short commercial break: Trayvon Martin.

This isn’t a 100% travel- or expatriate-related post, but it’s important enough for me to stray away from those topics for a second.

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https://twitter.com/#!/spinstercompass/status/181834199068721152

(written March 17, 2012)

Trayvon Martin.

This isn’t a 100% travel- or expatriate-related post, but it’s important enough for me to stray away from those topics a bit. As an expatriate, it’s important to me to keep abreast of current events in my home country. The following story is also one of the reasons why I left the United States and, therefore, somewhat relates to my expatriate experiences. I’m going to keep this post short because Trayvon Martin’s story infuriates me to no end, and I refuse to read or listen to anything about it until this cold-blooded racist asshole killer gets locked up. However, I wanted to give this story another platform so that it can reach all corners of the earth if possible.

When I first heard about this, I read that the scumbag killed an innocent & unarmed Black American 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin because he looked suspicious in the neighborhood… even though his father lives in said neighborhood. I checked to see if this boy had any criminal history because sometimes, people protest certain things even though the person involved was less than savory while alive, but of course this boy has no criminal history whatsoever. Then I read that when police searched the 17 year old’s body, they found a bag of Skittles & a can of iced tea – no weapons whatsoever. (I guess that Skittles & iced tea are really fucking lethal weapons that either I didn’t know about or described as such in state or federal legislation since I moved over here, unbeknownst to me.) Then I read that this scumbag is still walking the streets 1 month after he gunned down this innocent & unarmed Black American boy who went to the corner store to buy his little brother some candy & something to drink. As a matter-of-fact, this scumbag just started college courses to study criminal justice!

Who looks more dangerous?
Who looks more dangerous?

Now do you understand why this infuriates me? Now do you see why I refuse to read or listen to anything about this until this scumbag gets locked up & sentenced to no less than 25 years to life?

I’ve said enough; I feel the fury & rage again so I’ll end here.

Please, I beg of you, sign this Change petition. While I’m not listening to or reading about this unless real justice gets served, I suggest that you read more/do your research about this senseless & needless killing on your own. And if you feel so moved, raise hell about this case. One way that you can do that is by calling Sanford (Florida) Police Department’s Bill Lee at (407) 688-5070 (overseas – 001 407 688 5070). Tell Bill Lee to arrest George Zimmerman, the scumbag who killed this boy for no valid reason. Call Bill Lee until he can’t take it anymore. As for me, I’ll repeat this one more time:

I refuse to read or listen to anything about it until this cold-blooded racist asshole killer gets brought to justice. I don’t want to hear anything less than 25 years to life. Anything less is unacceptable.

UPDATE: Over 1,000,000 signatures. GREAT!!! 🙂 http://www.wesh.com/r/30738229/detail.html Keep on signing, keep on calling, keep on raising hell.

New York Times op-ed piece http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/17/opinion/blow-the-curious-case-of-trayvon-martin.html?_r=1&src=tp&smid=fb-share
I’m not the only one blogging this. http://showedupandshowedout.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/trayvon-martin/
Witnesses to his death heard his cries before he got shot http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/03/15/2696446/trayvon-martin-case.html
Audio – 911 call http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmnqKotpSD0
Change.org petition to arrest this scumbag killer http://www.change.org/trayvon
MoveOn.org petition to arrest this scumbag killer http://www.moveon.org/r?r=272971&id=37516-14438746-KyhaBix&t=2

Customer service.

One of the best inventions known to man is online grocery shopping. As someone who has a hectic job, no car (yet) or energy sometimes, this is a (lazy/tired/exhausted/working) woman’s dream come true. So once I got settled into my own flat, I took full advantage. I pick up items from the big-box versions of (online & non-online) stores when basic items run out or I need something quick, but most is online.

Most people in the United Kingdom get paid only once per month, so we’re careful with grocery shopping. While I don’t have a family to feed, I make sure that I have enough cash to buy food along with paying annoying bills. So I was quite annoyed a few months ago when I missed my grocery delivery from a certain store because of its terrible customer service.

I’d just been paid and, as usual, placed my grocery order. I thought that everything was fine until I received a text message from the grocery store (something to the effect of)

Please contact customer service as soon as possible at (phone number), otherwise today’s order is canceled.

Again, I don’t have a family to feed, but I have to eat just like everyone else. So even though I was on public transportation and hate talking on the phone in public, food is important so I called back. The customer service representation, a woman, said “We’re having trouble getting your payment for your order.” I said

Alright. I’m on my way to work, so I’ll go to the bank and see what’s going on because I know that the money is there. I’ll call back afterwards; maybe there’s an issue at the bank.

So instead of going to the office, I went to the bank first. After waiting in the queue for a few minutes (rare), the bank teller (known as “cashier” in the United Kingdom) was ready for me. I explained the situation, she checked my account and said

Everything’s fine. You have more than enough to cover the order.

I said

Would you mind if I called (grocery store) in front of you to see what happens? For some reason, my order isn’t going through.

There were very few people in the bank (rare) so she let me go ahead.

I called customer service & spoke with a different representative. I explained the situation, requesting that he attempt the order again. He tried it and the order didn’t go through. He said (something to the effect of)

It’s isn’t going through. You don’t have enough money, so you need to go to your bank and see what’s going on.

I said

Sir, I’m in the bank now standing in front of a cashier who already checked my account, and there’s more than enough to cover the order. Please try again.

He tried again and said

It’s not going through. You don’t have enough money. It’s not a problem on (grocery store’s) end.

I repeated myself again and added

It has to be on your end. I’m telling you, the cashier is showing me the computer screen with my account information as we speak and there is more than enough to cover it. You can even speak to her if you’d like.

(By this time, she was speaking loud enough for him to hear that the account is fine and that it has to be on [grocery store’s] end and not the bank’s end.)

He stated that it wasn’t necessary because it was the bank’s fault and “the bank needs to fix the problem, not (grocery store).” I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor, and he said that no one was available (liar).

By this time I was late for work, annoyed & hungry since I didn’t have breakfast, and pissed that I wouldn’t have groceries because my refrigerator was close to bare. I also had a strict exercise schedule after work so if I had to go to the store myself, it threw a wrench into my after-work plans. So I let him have it nice & loud. (That’s also the day that I realized the strength of my New York City accent and boy, did it come out that day.) I can’t remember every word, but it went something like this:

I’ve lived here for a year. I’ve ordered groceries from this store ever since I moved here. I’ve given you my business each month without fail, and this is how you wanna treat me? I told you for the hundredth time that I’m in the bank in front of a cashier and the money is there, I asked you to let me speak with a supervisor and you said no, and you refuse to bend. You refuse to consider that (grocery store) have the issue, not me. So you know what? Cancel my order and my account. I’ve had it. You’ve lost another customer.

He said “Okay.” and I hung up on him. Friggin’ jerk.

I thanked the teller, apologized for being loud in the bank (she understood), and went to work. I told my co-workers what happened and while they found it amusing, they also found it annoying. I didn’t know that customer service in this country was so… lacking.

Coming from the United States, I’m used to better customer service overall; some representatives even brown-nose when it’s unnecessary. I salute good customer service representatives because I know the nonsense they have to deal with – rude & downright disgusting customers, terrible pay, sometimes no health or vacation benefits & terrible bosses/employers. I’ve worked in customer service as a teller & in other capacities and know how bad it is. I’ve walked away from a few customers in the past – didn’t wanna catch a case. 😐

So, I “get” it. Customer service isn’t the best job to work in. Been there, done that, the customer is not always right. I also understand, having been to European countries, that Europe’s overall culture isn’t into customer service that brown-noses like the U.S. But no matter the country, representatives should offer a level of service such that the customer is helped as much as possible. That level of service is lacking here overall; even native Britons complain about it. (I’ve heard that France is worse.)

I doubt that it’ll ever change and that’s fine. I don’t have to like it but I’m used to it. I’ve written this rant for wanna-be expatriates and/or travelers: no country is perfect, including so-called First World countries. You’ll run into annoyances like this sometimes. You don’t have to totally assimilate into the adopted country’s culture, but understand that some things are standard & may never change. Figure out ways to deal or return to your home country.

Epilogue: I e-mailed a complaint to the store. A woman e-mailed me and her response was utter garbage – no apology for her colleague, no request to stay with the store, no offers to make me reconsider leaving the store – nothing. That evening, I skipped the gym and went food shopping at another store. I order online from the new store instead & haven’t had any issues since. I also found out that the former store is a Wal-Mart affiliate. Now it all makes sense. 😐

Does anyone have any annoying customer service stories? What’s customer service like in your adopted country? Do you prefer customer service in your home country, or is it better in your adopted country?