Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Temporarily Anchored

I'm STILL in Winnipeg!
I thought that we were leaving on Monday.
However, Biruk procrastinated sooooo many things. Like paying parking tickets and getting his picture taken for his application for Canadian citizenship and finishing up things for his car insurance- you know, minor things.
So I thought we would leave today, early in the morning. However, boys and their cars. He just bought it and it still needs a few things- not necessary items, mostly we are just waiting for the bumper to be painted. However, he wants to be able to sell it soon and his mechanic friends are here in Winnipeg and are going to do it for free.
I was pestering him like crazy that I really, really wanted to leave already. I feel ansy, I feel like I'm running out of time- like a bomb about to go off. Perhaps its being on a 6 month visa, I feel like it's a count-down. Perhaps its because of numerous delays already. Maybe because I'm impatient and I see this as being unorganized and irresponsible and it really annoys me.
Whatever it is, I want to leave already!

There were blizzard warnings all day yesterday. The blizzard we recieved?
A tiny bit of snow, too little to count even as flurries and just down right cold weather.
Its freezing here! And the wind is brutal: making -26 c feel like -40 c with the wind chill (frostbite in 5 minutes).
However- the roads are clear, its just windy and cold.
In Manitoba, that is.
Where we are headed there has been a significant amount of snow fall.
And a significant amount of phone calls warning, even pleading for Biruk and I not to travel.
Biruk's aunt in Calgary has heard of about 5 car accidents that are probably due to the weather and he had another aunt asking him not to go and then praying for him, I am guessing for a change of heart?
Even Biruk's Muslim mechanic friends warned him not to go.
We figure with about 10 phone calls and warnings not to go, God might be telling us something.
So we are waiting until Thursday to go.
Even ansy me caved in and decided that I don't have control over this situation and there has to be some reason why so many people are concerned about us traveling tomorrow.

Please keep us in your prayers- for safety as well as guidance for when and which highways to travel.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Travel Tortures

Last time I took the Greyhound, I had a good experience. Things went smoothly and the worst that happened was that a bus arrived to pick us up late and I got into Winnipeg later than expected. But that was all- nice time to rest and sleep. It was great.
Not so this time.

It can all be traced to the first bus.
We left relatively on time. But it wasn’t too far along the trip that we slowed to a crawl. Apparently, there was a car accident along the way.
This slowed us down so that I arrived to the Chicago bus station at 9:30 pm. My next bus was supposed to leave at 9:15 pm. Apparently, it waited- when I came running into the station they announced that it had just pulled away.
I could have cried.

The next bus for Minneapolis left at 12:30 am and arrived at 9 am.
However, with that change, I missed my next bus- which left at 7 am. And that means I missed my next bus.
In Chicago I was told that since I missed my first bus to Minneapolis, and therefore from Minneapolis to Fargo, the next bus from Minneapolis to Fargo did not depart until 6 pm.
10 hours in a random bus station?!?!
I call my parents for their advice, and for someone to talk to. When everything is screwed up and going bad, you need someone to talk to, to get sympathy, for someone to know everything is screwed up and to help with the loneliness.
They talk to me and advise that I wait, even the 10 hours in the bus station. I calculate that puts me into Winnipeg at 1 am or something like that.

It gets better.

I go to check on the arrival time into Winnipeg.
Why must the agent groan like that? Please stop with the grimaces! Just tell me, please!
I actually did ask the lady to please stop making those noises- if the news was bad, I just wanted the news, no nervous build-up, please.
“I was wrong. Your bus doesn’t leave until 7 am. It’s the same bus, everyday.”
So I would have to spend the day at the bus station?
“No, honey. That bus station closes at 1 am. You would have to go somewhere else for the night.”

I had just settled myself into the idea of 10 hours in a bus station. Overnight in Minneapolis?

I feel like crying and I’m upset enough to not be hungry. The smell of the greasy cheeseburger of the kid next to me- who keeps offering my Zanic (or some other type of medication)- is making me feel queasy. (Not to mention this is the kid who was recently released from jail for public intoxication- because last time he was on the bus he was drunk and sharing alcohol with other passengers and just couldn't understand why that would be illegal.)

So I begin to call about airline tickets, out of either Minneapolis or Chicago.
My mom checks for me and there aren’t a lot of prospects. The cheapest one is nearly $500 and it sends me from Minneapolis to Ft. Lauderdale and then to Winnipeg. Leaving sometime in the morning and getting me into Winnipeg at 8 pm.
I’m at the point where I need to decide- because my bus is about to board. I have no where to sleep, and we are in downtown Chicago. So I get on the Minneapolis bus just so that I can have somewhere to sleep for the night.

I conk out right away. I am a pretty solid sleeper when I am tired and my brain is begging for sleep so it can stop thinking.

About and hour later someone wakes me up.
“Girl, you’d better get up- we’re transferring buses.”
“What? What’s going on? Where are we?”
“We’re still in Chicago. This bus is broken down. We are transferring to another bus.”
Still in Chicago!

I’m the last one off the bus, scrambling to wake up and get my stuff.
I could feel the people sigh as I boarded, knowing that one of them was going to have to share and not have both seats to him or herself.

I sat beside a man from the United Kingdom, whose accent was thick and I couldn’t understand much of what he said to me. I felt sorry, asking him to repeat himself and repeat himself, because usually I am pretty good with understanding people no matter the accent.
He even told me he was hoping that I wouldn’t sit next to him, because he wanted his own seat.

I arrive in Minneapolis, having slept for most of the ride, but still a little groggy.
There’s not much to do, find out a bit more about departure time of my bus in case I decide to do that, and then head to the airport and figure out about flights to Winnipeg.

In Minneapolis, I find out the lady in Chicago didn’t really know what she was doing.
Buses leave for Winnipeg from Fargo every other day. This means there is a bus leaving Wednesday, and then on Friday. There is no bus on Thursday.
This means that although I could leave (after spending the night, of course) Minneapolis to Fargo, but still have to spend the night in Fargo, because I have no where to go until 3 pm on Friday. Putting me into Winnipeg late Friday night!!!

I did start crying.

I went to the airport, compared a few (ridiculous!) prices and ended up purchasing a ticket to Winnpeg.
The funny part? I fly back to Chicago on a flight that stops in Chicago enroute to Indianapolis!
Could I back track much more? (I am daring to even as that question, as I realize it is possible!)

I arrive in Chicago O’Hare, probably my least favorite place on the planet. Most people who know me know that I hate the Chicago airport because SOMETHING always happens.

The plane is delayed, but not by a lot. Until we end up circling in the air for a while.
I arrive and rush a bit to my gate. Just in time to hear the announcement;
“For those of you on Flight Number blah blah blah I am sorry to say that it has be canceled. Please proceed to the customer service desk for further information and possible rebooking.”
Since I had just arrived and not sat down, I was the first infront of the pack to reach customer service.
I had been rebooked on an 8pm flight.
After calling my dad and telling him the news, which is slightly humorous now- and my dad calls the “trip from hell” I walked back, to see a long, snaking line at the customer service desk.

5 hours ahead of time, they hadn't posted the gate for the Winnipeg flight yet. However, when they did post my flight it was...


So I wait in the long, long line for customer service to find out my fate. It's Chicago, with light snow falling- so plenty of other cancelled or delayed flights and lots of people complaining about their delays. I calmly mention that I've been travelling since the day before and last night I slept on a bus.
The agent looks for the best options for me. We thought she got one to Toronto to Winnipeg, however that just was a tease that raised my hopes.
Sadly, she had to book me a flight for tomorrow afternoon (12:00).
"But where do I go tonight? I don't have anywhere to sleep."
"Well... I think that you need to be 18 years old for the hotel vouchers..."
"Ma'am, I'm 20 years old." Come on! How young do I look?!?!

I'm sure this lady had heard sob stories all evening, but I could tell she had sympathy for me.
"Are you okay?"
I told her a shot version of my story and could see in her face that she really wanted to help me. But she couldn't make it stop snowing.
So now, I am in a hotel room, on United Airlines dollar, waiting until tomorrow to head off.

All I wanted to do was surprise my boyfriend and come early to visit him!
Either I am being punished for something, I am going to be rewarded for this later, or none of the above and its just something that happens- and all of those possibilities of what could go wrong went wrong to me.

I should be grateful because at least I'm safe and warm and have somewhere to sleep. Even if I don't have a change of clothes- the one's I've been wearing since Tuesday (my bags are somewhere, or under some airplane).
When I finally do reach Winnipeg, I might I will find this humorous.
I gave up the surprise and just called Biruk. He was excited to know that I am coming tomorrow and still felt surprised. However, I know it doesn't compare to actually showing up unannounced- but he's been a good sport about it all.

What do you think are my chances with getting some sort of refund or reimbursement from Greyhound?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

To-know when traveling

I should have known.
I had heard it enough times.
And I knew better than to be in a foreign country and not know how to say "stop".

I was 'helping' at a children's center while my sister had a meeting about the sponsorship program to send those children to private school.
The children were active, affectionate and full of energy.
I braided some hair for the girls. I watched "Tommy Boy" in Portuguese- it is much funnier in Portuguese because the voice of Chris Farley is a deepthroated, almost mystery-movie voice.
And then we played. It was keep away, it was volley ball, it was tag and wrestle-tickling, it was cops and robbers, it was bow and arrows. It was some morbid game where they gave me a stuffed animal that was my 'baby' and then proceeded to kidnap it, while a few were the heroes and would confiscate it back for me.
Then they played, lets pull on every limb of the Gringa! Lets wrap our bodies around her legs and have her walk like that.
One problem- I don't know how to tell them to stop!
I kept saying 'no! no!' and 'tired', but I couldn't say 'stop'.

I remembered that it began with a 'P', but all that would come to my mind was 'pedra' (stone) and 'petro' (black). Neither of which would help in this situation.

Jenna blames me, because I learned how to flirt in Portuguese, and how to say "kiss me" (but that was only because one of her co-workers names is dangerously near the same as the command for a kiss).

The children did not kill me, but they did wear me out.

I learned that the word for stop is 'pare'.
More importantly- as far as we know every one of the children has been sponsored for private schools!
Just a little plug- the only things still needed are school supplies and small lunches.

Today is my last day in Brasil. It was fabulous weather- sunny and hot at the beach (39 C), and then just as we boarded the metro clouds formed. As we walked home, there was a wonderful shower to keep us cooled off. I'm only slightly sunburned, a little tired- the perfect amount to keep me until take-off so that I can nap my 8-hour flight away. We enjoyed ourselves on the metro. Talking in quiet English about the persons around us, hoping that they didn't understand it, but a bit of humor that they actually might know what we were saying.
One man was fidgeting too much. I tried to count how long he could go without wiggling like a small child. He could go 5 seconds without big fidgets- such as limb movement, but only 1 second without little fidgets- biting his lip, wiggling his nose.
Every time we ride the metro Jenna and I people watch. This often includes critiques and humor at other's expense. Sometimes its just being nosey, like wondering the title of a book someone is reading. Other times its disgust at a child vomiting in the train, or a woman not only allowing- but encouraging her child to pee on a large concrete support in the station.

I really enjoyed visiting Brasil. It took me a bit- and I still don't understand the rules of shoes- what kind to wear, what brand is okay to wear and all those fashion-musts that Brasil has. Apparently, wearing the wrong shoes to the wrong place labels a girl as a lesbian. Oops! I don't think I could live here, but it was fun to visit. I know Jenna will read this, so don't I have to embellish?
No. Jenna already got on me because I was too honest when I was supposed to 'tell them what they want to hear' (like that I enjoyed the church service- I had no idea what was said, or if I liked the pizza- I didn't) I like being accused of being too honest, even if it means I probably couldn't live in Brasil.

Tomorrow I'll be back in Spencer with my family and apparently have alot of phone calls to answer. My father informed me that a mystery person continues to call late at night, but will not reveal his identity and my mother relayed that a friend wanted my number in Brasil and had no problem calling from Canada to South America.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Jenna posting again

Ellen complains, but I'm quite happy with the cooler weather and clouds that have settled in and cooled down the city this week. I just hope they scatter away by Friday so that our trip to see the Christ statues won't be a bust. There's not much to see when Christ's outstretched arms are floating over puffy cloud formations...

This is the longest that I've hosted a visitor, barring Servant Teams, and the dynamics are quite different...our days are a bit more relaxing, with less pressure to see the high points of the city, all our ministries and still hit the beach in under a week. On the other hand, the continual need for translation is exhausting and I find myself falling asleep at 10:00 pm, where I normally don't sleep until somewhere after midnight. It's weird to live with someone again. I'm quite accustomed to my routine, and hate finding my contact solution where I didn't put it, or have to ask where a pan went or a t-shirt. On the other hand, having someone else to help do dishes, wash laundry, and assist with food preparation and eating is nice. Really nice.

I'm beginning to feel the urge to have a car. Yesterday, especially, when Ellen wanted to go running. It took a good forty or fifty minutes by metro and bus to get to the Lagoa, where there's a nice, fairly safe trail to run, bike, or just walk. Ellen took off and left me to wander along the banks of the lake, watching the workmen disassemble the giant Christmas tree and ponder what I'm going to write about for my seriously overdue Cry article. After a 30 minute run, she was ready to head back and power-walked away again in the opposite direction, towards the bus stop. It took me a little longer. Note to the elderly and the arthritic: Ellen doesn't have much patience! It took almost an hour to get home. Had there been the option of a car, we could have arrived sooner, left later, or even have gone somewhere for dinner after. But I didn't want to go walking with a purse, which meant that we had to come home for dinner...

Some things are easier with personal transportation. But I'm still not ready to go to driving school, though I may end up getting my driver's license here as a way to have a legitimate Brazilian ID card...if I can pass the medical AND psychological tests that are required...but I'm still going to leave learning to drive a stick in insane traffic for a little later. My shoulders get tight just thinking about it!

Today we're planning on taking a walk around downtown, buying some coconut rings and seeing the Lapa arches, before heading to the Missionaries of Charity and helping serve dinner to about 160 homeless (or at least hungry) men. Then poor Ellen will have to come to class with me, where she'll sit in the library and do her correspondence class for three hours while I sit through another introductory class in which the professor will ask us all to explain who we are and why we're there...and I'll have to explain why I'm the lone foreigner again, and have the professor ask half-a-dozen times if I can understand him....

I'm kind of looking forward to tomorrow. We're going to do some rock climbing and eat lots of meat. That sounds like my kind of day!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Guest Blogger: Jenna Pashley

Since Ellen is visiting me in Brazil for a month, we thought it would be fun to do some guest blogging...you can visit her guest posting on my blog here.

It's been a crazy week and a half.

After some confusion on Wednesday afternoon, trying to return from my Christmas travels, in which I was stuck in another state without bus tickets (one of my traveling partners had lost his wallet, containing his identification AND our tickets),I found myself miraculously NOT missing my bus, my friends being allowed to travel, and managing to arrive in the city on time: 1:30 am Thursday. I walked the two bus stops home with my heavy bags (including cheese, a jar of homemade jaboticaba jam, and a ziplock full of strawberry Twizzlers which are detested by all Brazilians). After a few hours of peaceful sleep, I found myself crawling out of bed and rushing to the airport. Ellen arrived on Thursday morning at 8 am, to seasonably hot weather, and got a whirlwind tour of the city that evening, as we drove like madmen around the South Zone to look at the big Christmas tree in the lake and eat popcorn and mystery meat. On Friday, we repacked our bags and crawled into a tiny car on our way to spend the New Year's holiday in a chic resort town about three hours outside of Rio.

Christmas, New Year's, and Carnaval are the times of the year that I most dread and most enjoy, because without family in the city, there is no backup plan. If vacation and travel plans fall through, I'm stuck in my furnace of a house for a long weekend alone...so it was a true blessing to have been invited to spend Friday through Monday at a friend of a friend's house in Buzios, just a short drive from the beach. When bed-and-breakfast rates are a staggering R$1000 or $2000 or more for the holiday weekend, this would have been completely out of our budget. I want to spoil my sister, but even so...

So we had a free place to stay and a friend with a car...we made new friendships...we played in the waves and laid out on the beach with out super-strong SPF 55 sunblock (and still got a little burnt)...I got Ellen to almost wear a Brazilian swimsuit. We climbed barefoot on rocks, dove off boulders, and swam fifteen minutes back to shore so we wouldn't have to endure the painful walk over hot, almost volcanic rock. We crashed a hotel's beach deck and sat on their chairs until the sun slipped away. We danced. What we didn't do a lot of was eat, as apparently these friends of mine can go for 8 or 9 hours on a chocolate milk and a piece of bread. There was one night when we seriously didn't sit down to eat lunch until around 9:00 pm!

Ellen's amazing. She jumped right into trying to communicate alone, mixing Spanish and English and catching on quickly to Portuguese rhythms. She made friends quickly and everyone enjoyed spending time with her, though I'm positive that the five intense days of practical immersion in Portuguese have taken a toll. We both are tired of being told we look like twins, and I'm not sure how long my brain can hold out doing simultaneous translation. Or how long she can sit and smile when I forget to translate. It can't be easy, but she's been incredibly upbeat and eager to jump right in!

We got back super early today to a house smelling like vomit. Apparently you shouldn't leave potatoes in the hot sun for days and days unattended. Which is why it was good that our neighbors invited us for lunch today (fantastic as it's New Year's day, nothing is open, and outside of the rotten potatoes, I have onions, garlic, stale bread and some cheese to eat). God takes good care of Ellen: we had rice and farofa and potato salad, roast chicken, french toast, a soupy, ice cream like dessert with ladyfingers and leite condensado, and some casserole of codfish, eggs, potatoes, and green olives. I even ate the olives, it was that good! We talked about being missionaries and listened to American music; the lady is a Guns-and-Roses fanatic and loves that I'm from Indiana, as apparently, one of the members of the band is as well. When Ellen started showing signs of Portugese wear-and-tear, we slipped back upstairs to sleep under the fan with wet blankets and laugh about our crazy dreams, probably induced either by codfish, the heat, or a possible low-grade fever. Who knows?

And now we're enjoying the "cool of the evening." It's too hot for real reflection, so I'll leave the deep things to Ellen and sign off, to eat Nutella with a spoon and drink a couple of liters of water. And maybe take my sixth shower of the day...