Sunday, June 26, 2011

Brand New Experiences

So far this trip is Europe has been surprise after surprise... I have not been sure about any of the next steps I will take since arriving in Rota, Spain.  I am not even sure which day I arrived although I could figure it out with a little bit of calculating and the date on my EU Railpass.  Yes, I really need to draw a map of my travels.  This trip will be worth it even if I have to eat Ramen Noodles for the first half year of my career as an officer!  But I doubt very much this will happen...

Anyway, now I am in Vienna, Austria and it has been quite an amazing adventure.  I lost one computer plug in Delft, Netherlands... and one quick-dry towel: location unknown.  Otherwise I have everything, and more importantly everything that is important.  I have been taking more and more pictures as the trip progresses and seen many old faces from Coimbra.  Sometimes I have heard or seen things that answer questions I had when I left Portugal, and sometimes I realize that I myself am different from when we were in Portugal.  I am more confident, I speak a little more all the languages I have tried, and I am confident about traveling around.  And yes I realize I have repeated myself a little.

So obviously I did not materialize in Vienna.  I arrived in Rota, Spain with some spontaneous allies: graduates of academies besides myself.  However, of the four of us, I had the most experience (in my opinion from what I could gather) in Europe.  Unfortunately was one guy with a guide to travel Europe which he had highlighted in many places.  I still believe there were many different ways for him to go about his travel plans and traveling with us was not optimal for him.  Somehow or another we ended up sticking together to get out of Spain and we went from Rota by taxi to Cadiz, Spain which was a recommendation from one of my friends who did Erasmus in Coimbra.  He said Cadiz was a nice party and university town, and indeed it was a great place to stop for the night.  The next day we got lost finding the train station, which was the beginning of my annoyance with Guidebook Boy who insisted that all the pointless walking was the true European experience.  The bastard had a fancily packed proper hiking bag mounted lightly on his shoulders and I was carrying my duffel bag, and had no intention of hiking around with it anywhere... I had not packed hiking boots for just that reason.  At any rate at the train station I convinced everyone the bus was better to get to Seville, and from Seville the other guy and myself bought EU Railpasses, which makes rail travel free!  But you still have to pay for reservations on high speed trains, but it easily pays for itself when you look how much you have saved.

There are more intricate stories I promise, but now I need sleep again.  This is what I will leave you with: from Seville to Madrid to Barcelona, all in Spain.  Then from Barcelona to Paris and for a few days there with a friend, and then Paris to Delft in the Netherlands and finally from Delft to Vienna.  I have tried one entirely exciting new thing after another sometimes food, and sometimes experiences, once a drinking game which I highly do not recommend but that story must wait until I get some sleep and have a computer and internet once more... adieu, adieu... ate logo

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thoughts on BBQ Sauce

So today's musings were brought about at McDonald's in Delaware.  I'm hoping to catch a space available flight out of this town and my chances are better here!  However, the topic I was thinking about was which McDonald's charge extra for BBQ sauce?  Why do they do that?  Is it a manager by manager decision?  Is it something a regional director might decide?  Do McDonald's who charge for extra sauce do better in profit?  Does it make any difference at all?  Are the McDonald's who charge for extra sauce more highly rated in customer service?  I'm just so terribly curious about this now... I mean ten cents isn't much to cough up, but it's inconvenient to ask for an extra sauce after you get your food and have to fish out a dime which considering how much I use credit cards is a slim chance lately.

Then my thoughts turned to AT&T and their free internets at McDonald's.  I mean... that's great for their business, right?  Even though people get it free I don't see many folks with their computers at McDonald's... but what does it cost to maintain internet?  What does it cost to provide?  Do they invest in measures to prevent people in cars from 'stealing' service from locations without using their services?  I like the internet at McDonald's better than Starbucks because Starbucks is so full usually.  In spite of their popularity... they really don't have that much seating... but then again they had to do some cost cuts and raise the sale of their instant coffee to come back from a slump, so they must not have much issue with their presentation.

On top of all this, I'm renting a car to get around before this flight... and the GPS they gave me didn't hold a battery charge and died after less than an hour.  When I went to the Budget Car Rental in this town I had to ask for a refund for this.  The manager agreed pleasantly enough, but I was still surprised she didn't volunteer that when I told her at the beginning it didn't work.  Now I have to continue the quest haha, but I'll keep you up-to-date on if the flight goes as planned tonight.  I think I'm gonna buy some snacks I'm not sure how long I'll have to wait.

Saturday, June 11, 2011


So my journey is truely beginning now.  I'm on a Mega Bus writing this blog and it's a nice feeling:  freedom.  It's a fleeting feeling, soon I'll be at the beck and call of Uncle Sam... too soon in my opinion I'd rather not think of all that.  I still have moments of panic where I think I left something crucial in my sister's apartment or worse still somewhere between her apartment and the South Station bus terminal.  Yet as this trip progresses I have a strange sense of calm... with the exception of how dang heavy my laptop is... I feel like I'm traveling light for two weeks prepared for any kind of weather.

The other night I met this guy and this story still amazes myself, so I have to re-tell it here.  I was at bar called the Meadhall, a nice place with a little overpriced food, but an amazing beer selection.  Met my sister's fiance and a colleague of his from work who was nice and well-traveled.  We were somewhat watching the Bruins game on the tvs on the second floor.  Meadhall used to be a bookstore or a library, in fact there are reading lamps on the nice racing track-style bar.  From our seats on the second story we had a great vantage of about half the restaurant and I sort of noticed this cute blonde waiter.  Well after a little Dutch courage and the fact that my sister and her fiance and his colleague were all happily coupled and I was in my words, "super single," I pointed him out to my sister and was goaded into at least making up a question to have an excuse to talk to him.

When I got to the bottom floor though he was on his way to the kitchen and I missed my opportunity to innocuously ask a question.  So I retreated to the bar momentarily to rally my courage... the bartender asked me if I'd like a drink and who am I to say no at the bar?  So I accepted and got carded again, and to my pleasure the drink was gratis because he saw my military I.D.  He asked if there was anything else I needed and struck by inspiration I asked him coyly if the waiter I'd noticed had a girlfriend.  Very amused he asked for my name and said he would find out.  Then he did one better and came back with a satisfied smirk, saying that the waiter was single and even better he was sending him over to say hi to me!

I immediately got self-conscious and happy.  I mean... what was I going to say?  "Hi, I was watching you from the second floor and thought I'd come down and hit on you."  He ended up being Brazilian (the portuguese just keeps paying off) and was happy to talk to me and was getting off work in five minutes.  I still cannot believe how effective it was to ask the bartender... but I am certainly happy I took that chance.  Now back to the trip and getting to Stewart International Airport or Dover.  Europe or bust!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thunderstorms in Boston

The weather has been stormy, and I wish I could just appreciate the thunder as it rumbles across the sky and rain as it pours down bringing that scent and a cool breeze much needed in these hot days... but I am trying to plan my trip which is getting shorter and shorter as I hope that everything will fall into place before beginning the journey.

In order to take advantage of all the opportunities in front of me, I am going to have to leap.  I can no longer wait here and hope to get a call back from the Stewart International Airport, and I can no longer look frantically online for more specific instructions to get a space available flight.  I have to pack and taking a leap of faith.

I finally have a handle on my plan though.  I have my laptop, it's up and running.  All that's left is actually going and not being paralyzed by fear.  It's hard, and it's even more difficult to stir myself to take this trip by myself.  There are people I know, people who I would like to see, and who have expressed wanting to see me in Europe.  This is the most time I'll get off for a long time, and I need to take advantage of it!  I'll never ever have this time off and be twenty-one!  I want to say that I was young, single, and took advantage of it!

I am happy for those that I know who have other fulfilling things in their lives, I am jealous of my fellow colleagues who have already gone to travel.  I am merely torn that I don't have more time, but I do not regret the time I've spent before this trip.  I got to do quite a bit, and it was fun.  Now, I've got to just go that extra mile so to speak.  If this is potentially a free flight, I'm going to have to earn it.  But first, I'm going to have to sleep.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Random Mini Country Profile (1)

So... I've decided my general knowledge of the world is poor in comparison to where I'd like it to be... so I'm going to start doing some small blogs on countries I randomly deem of importance that relate to whatever I'm doing at the time whether it be in big way or something random.  Right now, as I read Life of Pi, I've decided I will start with India.  So some current data on India courtesy of the CIA World Factbook:

The Republic of India is currently a Federal Republic, with President Pratibha Patil, and she is the 12th president (elected in 2007) and first woman to be president of the Republic of India, though not the first woman in charge in this country (interesting story on Indira Ghandi, the longest runner for woman holding the position of prime minister, 1966-1977 and 1980 until she was assassinated 31 October 1984).  The capital, as many may know, is New Delhi, which is located in the northern part of the country.  It borders Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Pakistan.  It has the world's third tallest mountain, the Kanchenjunga on the border with Nepal.  Population of 1,189,172,906 (July 2011 est). second only to China and followed by the U.S.

And yes, that is India in a nutshell, and I really should be expanding on why I think this is important and how it applies to my life, but right now I just feel like I have an inadequate grasp of what's going on in the world... and maybe writing some things into this blog will keep my mind active and keep me from only knowing what is immediately in the news.  I promise to write something more personal, interesting, and in depth next time.  Tonight, again:  sleep.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Up All Night: Decisions Decisions

What have I been doing these last two weeks?  Well I stayed in Boston through Thursday May 26th, and went to New York City to meet up with a friend for a drink.  We ended up having wine and cheese on the balcony of her new place and we talked politics, it was nice.  I've still got to read Obama's Wars  on her recommendation.  I learned that Mexican novelas were really popular in Russia back in the day... and it reminded me of this guy who is sorta teaching me some Russian lately, I could pronounce some but cannot for the life of me spell it and I've not really made any effort to learn that alphabet.  At any rate, I spent that night at a fancy hotel because all my plans were falling through and after being denied a place to stay in the city by one friend who has been a total flake lately... I was too proud to ask anyone else, and felt so sad that I hadn't left for Europe yet and could read about one of my friends and his sleek, cool statuses about the countries he's been in.  I had to block his statuses from my facebook wall because it's just pissing me off.  I really shouldn't be so worked up, I'll be living in Germany next year!  Anyway... moving past May 26th lol

On Friday, May 27th and through Sunday I was around West Point to pick up my car and take care of some stuff.  I ended up having a... well... a date actually, which actually brings a smile to my face.  A guy took me to a golf course and taught me how to swing - no easy feat, since I am particularly difficult to teach when I'm self-conscious and I can think of no situation where I would be more self-conscious than on a golf course with a cute guy who expects me to smoothly learn how to swing and not only swing, but correctly and accurately.  You have no idea how nervous I was when he handed me one of his golf clubs.  I felt like everything could go horribly wrong, that I would somehow damage one of his nice golf clubs (which he'd bragged about) or hit him with it, or worse, get hit because I was standing in the wrong place.  Yet... his calm and patience and encouragement and actually good instruction... was perfect and I can say that beyond not being a disaster... I can actually swing and hit a golf ball with semi-decent accuracy and I've only practiced... on four separate occasions.  Yes, so besides that I finally got to go sun-bathing out by Flirty Walk, a funny thing to consider since I'm no longer a Cadet, and I saw the following movies in theater:  Priest, and The Hangover 2.  After a nice weekend there, I drove up to Albany to meet an old friend who is doing his CTLT-time at Fort Drum, which he says isn't so bad.  I'm not convinced and won't go there unless I'm under orders.  Then I realized I'd left my West Point ring with the guy who was teaching me golf and I had to go back to West Point again, but first I was determined to do a small road trip.  So I chose to drive to Vermont from Albany since it was a State I'd never been to.

Vermont ended up being fun.  I was driving late at night on a two-lane highway there... it was creepy and I was glad to have a full tank of gas as I drove Atticus through the insect-ridden curvy roads.  I hit so many bugs... I also saw a live raccoon shuffle across the road, and didn't have to run him over.  The roads were fun, and creepy enough that it was easy for me to stay awake.  In Vermont, it turned out Lake Champlain was overflowing and the highway my GPS planned to take was washed out, so I had to take the car ferry.  I took pictures, it was another adventure.  In Vermont, I got tail-gated and passed dangerously quite a few times.  My favorite was a tiny silver Honda (not sure the model) with a spoiler who flew by me annoyed I guess by my keeping to the speed limit and then 10 minutes later I saw him pulled over by a cop with the lights flashing.  It made me chuckle.

I took some pictures of Lake Champlain... but there wasn't much to do.  I had an early lunch in a tavern and asked about the area, it was the best beer-battered shrimp I've ever had actually.  So I drove back to West Point area to pick up my ring and hang out some more.  Ended up getting to ride along as my friend played 9 holes of golf one day and due to the popularity of the West Point Golf Course we ended up playing with some other folks who were all different and interesting.  He played 9 holes one day and 18 a different day but these are the people we met.  The first was a man and his son who were from Bohn... they were Germans and novice golfers, and the son, Martin went to Bucknell.  The father, Klaus, was very nice although he apparently didn't have good golf etiquette (I wouldn't know, but my golfing friend informed me in hushed and annoyed tones in between holes.  It amused me when he said, 'Four-year-olds stand behind the hole.' I had to remind him that I would probably be guilty of the same without someone as knowledgeable as him with me, a nice compliment snuck in with essentially a hush up).

On Thursday, I was back in the city to see a friend who I may meet up with in Paris, and we had a picnic in Battery Park and afterward I learned a little Italian and we shot some hoops, since you couldn't really say we played a game of basketball.

Finally, I booked tickets online to see X-Men: First Class the most amazing movie of my life.  Nothing will ever top it, and I swear I will learn everything I possibly can about that movie.  I loved it, and wore my vintage style X-Men shirt to it even though it's worn out and I usually wear it for pajamas.  I went with the same friend who taught me to golf, because I was pretty sure he'd be the only one who could appreciate it with me at the time the movie was coming out.  My X-Men knowledge really came out.  I think the thing I really loved about the movie was how it was set against real historical events.  That's how X-Men was truly supposed to be.  It's not X-Men in a vacuum, it's the X-Universe... it was so satisfying.  It was also better than Bryan Singer's perspective in X-Men and X2 because it wasn't so serious, it had the snarky quips and smooth yet almost corny lines that the comics deliver.  The fight scenes were satisfyingly long and the movie flowed like a comic with scenes taking up moments much like a comic where the rich imagery pulls you into one moment and when you get to another moment you feel like it was actually simultaneously occurring elsewhere in the fight.  I absolutely loved the choice who played Erik, or Magneto, because that's my favorite character and he was appropriately athletic and deep and wonderful.  haha Anyway... my only criticisms would be with the death of Sebastian Shaw... in fact the whole portrayal that he was the scientist who brought about Magneto... the line that Magneto delivered when he killed Shaw, didn't sit well with me, and the outfit Magneto had at the end.... ehhh.... it wasn't quite as I'd imagined it would be... I think the red that like Iron Man has would have been better.... but other than those tiny details.... LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!

Then I made my way to Boston.  Yesterday, Saturday was the Craft Beer Festival.  It was a fun event and my first beer fest.  I was happy it was an American Breweries fest although I was partial to the german-style beers.  Still planning the Euro-trip and much more confident now that it's gonna happen.  Now just have to get some sleep.