Saturday, November 24, 2012

Travel Jerk

The French woman directing our taxi driver got her consonants mixed up, and when the driver was confused, she simply shouted the directions louder.  My languages skills are not good enough to try this approach, as I can only say “here” and “where”. This proved not enough to get us to our hotel.  Neither did the normally trusty hotel card with directions on it.  The directions were so small that 5 out of 6 (statistically measured) cabbies could not read it. This is worrisome, since good vision is something to hope for in a cabby.

I have become a jerk, and here is the result. An old woman has just had some kind of attack on the plane. She has been put on oxygen, although no doctor is called (editor’s note – try not to have an attack requiring more than oxygen on the plane). My first though was for her, but my very quick second though was about what I would do if we had to stay overnight somewhere. I was disappointed to realize we were closer to Bangkok (more friends in Hong Kong), until I realize none of these airports have curfews, so would likely have taken off again after depositing the ill passenger anyway.
I am surrounded by aging people who are on an organized tour to Singapore, and it is one of these who has succumbed to the excitement. They have no speaking volume other than a hoarse shout, and my neighbour, who wears a pink and grey leopard print jacket, continues to elbow me and commandeer precious armrest space. (Editor’s note: I am aware that there are no pink and grey leopards). They nearly couldn’t manage to sit down for takeoff, and my neighbour has just mastered the operation of the seatbelt. This is good news, since I had always thought that those instructions went to waste. After this accomplishment, she rewarded herself with a snack of rotten fish. In all my travels, this is the worst smelling food I’ve experienced, and a potential cause of the aforementioned medical incident.

The driver didn’t meet us in when we arrived, the air was polluted, the noise and MSG hindered sleeping, and the man behind me kicks my seat while shouting to his friend. Here is the story of me becoming a jerk.
Laura Becoming a Jerk
While travelling this week, I am taken around by expats, proud of their love for the place and the restaurants to which they’re taking me. I had big economic plans to go to the glasses market, as I hear cheap glasses can make excellent Christmas gifts, worth the painstaking negotiations. My disappointment at failing in this mission exceeded my appreciation of the food from my hosts.

On the second night, we did not go to the recommended restaurant, having worked too late. Instead, we went to what we found to be a Korean place. There, we ordered dog. No, of course not on purpose. We can’t read the word dog in any Asian language, can you (editor’s note: Barry can)? So we ordered some dishes from the pictures on the menu. Luckily, one of the very few words the waitress knew was dog, so she was able to warn us. We quickly switched to the dish below, which may have been some kind of squid. It, along with the spicy frog legs (above), was tasty. Would we have known we were eating dog? Apparently it tastes like lamb.
My hotel room had a kitchenette, but no apparent hot water. The first night, I opted for a sponge bath and a call to maintenance. The second night, coming in from the cold air, my chilled fingers mistook the cool water for warm, which the rest of me regretted. The third night, I left the water running for 15 minutes. While this was successful in heating it and subsequently me, it was likely not my best contribution to social efficiency.

Through all of this, I’m reading a book about the poor treatment of the Singaporeans by the British in colonial times, and have just finished a book about some atrocities in the70s  (through which, by my astute calculations, those shouting around me have lived). Yet despite this, my colleague and I cannot resist commenting after the 3rd person cuts in front of us in line while boarding. I can’t help sighing in despair at the ruckus around me, the fish, and the arm real estate. I feel united with the Singaporean flight attendants in their (totally hidden) disdain. And I am a jerk.