|The Overnight Train to Umari:::
After spending an unforgettable day at the Taj Mahal Tracey and I returned
to our hotel to find that for some reason our train assistant had
been cancelled. A train assistant is someone who accompanies you through
the busy and confusing train station, to make sure that you get on
the correct train. The previous train station was overwhelming so
we felt a bit panicked when we heard this news. A misunderstanding
in an earlier conversation is why the service was cancelled and our
assistant was off assisting some other happy client.
Jagroop, our wonderful and ambitious driver promised he’d take us
to the station and put us on the correct train. “Hurray for Jagroop.”
Dropping us at the train Jagroop said goodbye and left us at our sleeper
car. Behind a dirty curtain was our sleeper car. Inside of the sleeper
car were four beds and, oh yeah, a man sleeping in one of them. The
man had long white hair and a long white beard and was wearing a Punjabi,
traditional Indian clothing. Confused, I checked my ticket which stated
first class female which would lead me to believe that only females
should be in this car. An attendant came by to check our tickets.
I tried to question him about why this man was in our car when our
tickets are clearly labeled female. I think what the attendant said
was that the man in our car worked on the train and would be getting
off. He never got off!!
Tracey and I placed our bags on the bottom bunk, sat on the bags,
and leaned into each other. Sitting for a while we just stared at
the man wondering what we should do. I wanted to lie down and sleep
but didn’t want to wake up and find him sniffing my clothes or something
even creepier, so I just sat there. Moments later I looked down and
a giant cockroach was crawling up my leg. Quickly I flicked it off
and it landed on the man’s bed and crawled up his Punjabi. Thank god
for comedy. Tired and in need of rest Tracey went to the top bunk
and we attempted sleep. I slept on my bag and airplane pillow with
one eye open. All night long a baby cried and the strange man had
In the early morning I woke up to see the man staring at us. He began
to hum and brush his teeth. He attempted to speak English to us and
it seemed that he was fairly nice. Suddenly the train stopped and
our curtain was flung open by a man holding a sign with my name on
it. We jumped off that train faster than I flicked the cockroach off
- Agra, India 11/08
I had never heard of The Little Princess until planning for my trip to Budapest. She is a bronze statue designed by Laszlo Marton and was placed on top of a railing along the Danube River. The Little Princess looks more like a little prince but I'm sure that is a story of its own. I decided that I wanted to see the statue, so added it to my list of things to do.
On that chilly January morning my friend Tracy and I set out to find The Little Princess. We bumped into a kind man who pointed across the river to the approximate whereabouts of the statue. We knew it was somewhere on the east or Pest side of the river. So, we set off across the Chain Bridge to the Pest side of the river. Trustingly, we followed the kind mans approximate directions and headed north along the river, the complete opposite direction of The Little Princess.
After a half hour walk we decided to turn around, "we must have missed it" we thought. We began to use an image of The Little Princess and background to locate this evasive statue. Basically everywhere we stood looked like it could have been the exact spot that The Little Princess should be. "Could she have been moved?" we thought. Nearing the Chain Bridge and feeling defeated we voted to keep going a bit south. To our excitement and self annoyance, there she was. The Little Princess, sitting on the railing by the Tram along the river. Victory was ours. Too bad my camera battery ran out…
- Budapest, Hungary 1/08
Unfortunately this is not really my story to tell but I was one bad excuse away from an exciting ride on this Sinbad hot air balloon. During our tour in Egypt, Tracey decided she wanted to go on the early morning hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. “Do you want to go?” she said. What I now regret having said is “No, those things always crash”.
As I was coming in to our room from a night out, Tracey was getting up for her hot air balloon ride. Hours later when she returned to our cabin I said “how was it?”. It all started with the transport van being broken and having to use someone’s personal car with doors did not open from the inside. Shady! Upon arrival at the meeting place, all Americans were herded into their own van. This van broke down in a small desolate town. “Have you people ever heard of a tune up”? Another van was summoned and they eventually made it safely to the hot air balloons and began their ascent over the valley. Just a tip: hot air balloon rides are generally unpleasant when the climate is hot. The balloon needs heat in order to rise, therefore not a smooth or quiet ride. Tracey noticed all the other balloons going toward the mountains as hers kept going straight. Suddenly a gust of wind knocked the balloon over and the balloon began spinning out of control. The captain said “get into landing positions”. I think he meant crash positions. There they all were, crouching down in this basket waiting to crash to the ground. The captain and crew are working to right the balloon when the captain yells something else. The crew got down into “landing positions” and pulled out their Korans (Qur’ ans) and began chanting. Some other man in crash position began to laugh. Closer and closer to the ground they come when somehow, by some miracle they had a safe crash landing. The captain and crew are then smiling, cheering, playing the drums, and saying “happy landing”. The final cherry on top was being awarded the Sinbad hot air balloon company t-shirt, which made the whole ride worth while.
-Valley of the Kings, Egypt 7/06
During a quick trip to the Netherlands me, my sister and a couple of friends decided to stop over in Brugges, Belgium for a night. We wandered around until we found a hostel. After finding our room my sister and I went looking for a shower. Situated underneath a drafty window were three long stalls. There was indeed a shower head but there was also a button, no turning knobs, a button! There was also a small yellow plastic curtain in the middle of the stall and no lock on the door. “Fabulous”! We just looked at each other, smiled and giggled. We picked the 2 stalls next to each other and balanced our clothes on the wall of the stall.
Let me first say that it was winter and the bathroom had no heat making it very cold. The shower was like no other I had ever taken. In order to get water out of the shower head, one must push and HOLD the button. The water is of course cold but eventually did warm up. While holding the button I tried to move my body as far away from the splashing droplets of freezing cold water until it became warm. Once I got going it wasn’t so bad however, if the button is released then pushed in again, the water will come out cold all over again. While the water was warm I made sure I got myself ready for lathering before releasing the button. I let go of the button and began to soap up afterwards tossing the soap over the wall to my sister. I was freezing, my body was shaking and completely covered with goose bumps, I think I could see my breath. All I had left to do was rinse off when all of a sudden someone walked in. I began twisting my body to cover up and yelling “hello”. It was a girl mumbling something strange then she mysteriously left as quickly as she came. Feeling relieved to be alone again I pushed the button, leaned as far away as I could and waited for the water to warm up then rinsed off. Only when we finished did we realize that we had no towels. Fortunately my sister had a large pair of sweatpants so we each used a pant leg as a towel. My lesson was that when packing for a trip it might be wise to remember a towel or at least a large pair of sweatpants…
-Bruges, Belgium 11/00
Baden Baden is a bathing town at the foothills of the Black Forest. The water is rich in sodium chloride and comes from the natural springs of Florentine Hill. I was vacationing with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. A stop at the bath house was on our itinerary. Because I was shy and a bit embarrassed I was hesitant and debated with myself for days about whether to go to the bath house or not.
When the day finally came, I did go to the bath house. Fortunately it was coed that day so my uncle and cousin Matt separated from us girls. My cousins Kir, Jen and I asked my aunt to go ahead of us. In the changing room I was extra slow about getting naked. My cousins stripped down to their bare essentials and began telling me to hurry up. Kir, naked, began to dance and did the moonwalk through the changing area in order to lighten this visual situation. All three of us walked into the baths naked together.
Our 2 hours of bathing began in the steam room. We sat in and moved through a few steam rooms with varying heat. The next step was a brush massage. A big German lady had a brush with warm soapy water and scrubbed down our entire bodies ending with a butt smack, yes a butt smack. Us three girls giggled and ran to the showers. We found out later that my aunt requested, with her limited German, that the big German lady give us an extra hard butt smack. After the showers came a series of pools from hot to freezing. The last pool was freezing cold I jumped in and quickly jumped out. Warm towels awaited us followed by a lotion rub.
We were led into a quiet sleeping room lined circularly with beds. I was laid down and tightly wrapped like a cocoon on the ultra comfy bed. I looked up at the ceiling and thought “I never sleep. What am I going to do here for 45 minutes?” I don’t remember anything else except Matt waking me up. I had completely sunken into this bed and into a deep sleep. After all my bellyaching this had been an unforgettable experience that I hope to do again.
-Baden Baden, Germany 5/99
Ettiene was a French exchange student who lived with my cousins during his stay in the U.S. While in Paris, my cousins’ and I had dinner with Ettiene and his family at their home. A fabulous spread of quiche, cheese, meat, fish, vegetables and strawberry desert was served to us. The food, company, scenery, and entire day were perfection.
The day wound down to an end, we all lined up at the bathroom. I stood at the end of the line. I used the toilet and prepared to flush. There was a plastic knob on the top of the toilet tank. I tried to push it, nothing happened. Then I tried to pull it and it lifted off from the tank. Underneath the knob was a plastic stick. “What is this” I thought. “Maybe it is where cleaning solution is added.” Quickly, I put the knob back and searched the toilet for another knob. I looked to the left and I looked to the right. “Oh no! How do you flush this thing?” I frantically began pushing wall tiles hoping that there was a secret button. I may have even begun to kick the toilet. As my mind raced I went back to the original plastic knob and moved it to expose the plastic stick. I pulled the plastic stick and the toilet flushed. Relieved I washed up and left the bathroom.
It wasn’t until we left the apartment that I mentioned the strange toilet and realized that I seemed to be the only person who had a problem with the toilet. My cousin Kir began to laugh and confessed to breaking the toilet. The plastic knob that was loose on top of the toilet tank was once attached. Kir went to the bathroom immediately before I did and she pulled the knob off. I wonder, does that nice family regret inviting us for dinner.
-Paris, France 5/99