Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Speaking of ghastly travel problems, I just heard of a truly stunning set endured by a colleague. This young man was managing a group of Americans attending a meeting in Russia.
Which is already complicated enough.
So, arrived in Moscow after a 14 hour flight, he learned that one of his flock had decided not to come. Yikes, a 6 thousand dollar ticket must IMMEDIATELY be cancelled, or the value evaporated and the money was gone.
Then, one of the doddery old fellows hastened over with the dire news that he had lost his immigration card–a VERY IMPORTANT document without which he would be unable to leave the country.

To obtain a new one is a horrifying job that requires long confrontations with the bureaucracy (who mostly don’t speak English).
And as he frantically phoned about trying to deal with these problems—his briefcase was stolen.
Inside the briefcase was a thumb drive which contained ALL THE PASSPORT INFORMATION of the group.

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Thursday last week was the long awaited day appointed to visit my Los Angeles grandson. Fecklessly forgetting that it meant GETTING TO THE AIRPORT AT 5 AM, I had purchased a 7 AM ticket. So, I got up at 4:15, dressed and dashed out of the house and drove to the airport–MISSING THE TURNOFF TO THE PARKING LOT. Just as I had done the last time. But no problem! I remembered the solution: drive through the airport and then take the exit to the car park on the other side. Then there was a fork in the road with a sign pointing left saying “Airport”–naturally, I chose the other road, not wishing to return to the airport from which I had just come. But as the road wound on and on–it was still dark, remember–a sad feeling that I had once again missed the road came upon me. I tried turning back the way I had come but no, quite lost in the wilds of Virginia.

In a fever of apprehension, I asked my phone to get me to the airport, and took long slow breaths as she told me where to turn, how far to go before turning again. She got me onto the Dulles Toll Road–SIX DOLLARS, but whatever. And then when she told me to exit, I ONCE AGAIN took the wrong fork in the road. But no problem, she got me back on ($4.50) and this time I made it to the Economy Parking Lot. But lo! My torment was not yet over! The entrance machine bade me insert my card–and then wouldn’t give it back. I frantically hit the help button and gasped out my sorry dilemma to the patient man on the other end. He eventually had to restart the machine to remind it of its duty– and I got my card back. Then parking, the bus, the TREMENDOUSLY LONG line for the security check, and onto the gate with very little time to spare. Which meant NO BREAKFAST! Well, well, I had a chocolate bar in my bag, and there was coffee on the plane. And there was a cornucopia of movies to watch, so eventually the ghastly horror of the morning faded away and 5 hours later I entered the flower garlanded city of Los Angeles.

It was a simply wonderful visit, and the little lad is an angel. We had such fun together!
And then early this morning I sped back to the airport to return home. My, such crowds! Many many other people had decided to return home the day after the holiday. But when I tried to check in I discovered that I had in fact wisely decided to come back the day OF the holiday! HA HA!! I was a day late! A kindly Asian lady helped me buy another ticket, found me a place on the plane, and soon I was soaring towards DC.
Where I am very grateful to be now.
But I cannot help but feel that this travel event was not one that showed me off to my best advantage.
PS I ALMOST lost the airport car park ticket. It had floated out of my bag, but luckily was still sitting on the floor of the bus under my seat.

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How many hours to Babylon?

Tomorrow I shall visit the Pakistani embassy to get visas for 3 colleagues who will be attending a November meeting in Islamabad. That is, assuming the would-be travelers have sent me the one last document needed for this complicated process: a recent bank statement.  I have everything else, which is to say, 1) their passports, 2) completed visa forms, 3) invitations, 4) glowing letter from current employer, 5) completed document of business good will as required on the (rather clunky) website.
It will take FOUR TO SIX WEEKS.
And each visa costs $331.
Some countries are rather casual about visitors–no visa required to visit Austria, Belgium, Hong Kong, many others–but not this one.
I am filled with admiration for my colleagues–so casually making ready to travel to a dangerous and disagreeable place. They believe in what they do, and for all I know, they may be doing good. In any case, I admire them–good people who spend their precious lives flying in airplanes for hours and hours. To them I raise my glass: may their missions succeed! And may their dinners be the BEST AIRLINE DINNERS EVER.

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Behold me returned from my travels! I took the train to New York and visited the adorable grandchild, who goes from strength to strength–he is now turning his remarkable powers towards acquiring language–communicating with the world. His emotions veer from ebullient joy to bottomless grief–he chuckles like old King Cole, howls like a banshee, and smiles like an angel–truly, children are wonders.

And I must remark that traveling on the train through this grand country is always humbling–thrusting through the backside of cities and towns, fields and forests, the train offers a constantly changing view of inexplicable structures, dilapidated buildings (carefully decorated with endless graffiti, hours of work done by nameless people, why, why do they labor so?), huge oil tanks, row upon row of tiny houses, proud industrial palaces–I keep watching and wondering that such amazing diversity can exist.

And when I returned home I found that a foolish robin red breast has made its nest right in front of my window, on a branch readily accessible to cats. As soon as those eggs hatch, my cat Bertie is grounded.
Children are precious.

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Granny Hope and her travels

Behold me returned from New York, domicile of my adorable grandson. In passing, I cannot but admit that the child is perhaps the cutest baby IN THE WORLD.


I am now EXPERT in travel to and from the metropolis. I didn’t get lost once! Well, there was a bad moment this morning when I couldn’t find my subway ticket, but Beatrice provided another, and I didn’t miss the train back after all. Though on the subway ride to Penn Station I had to engage in the Deep Breathing of Calmness to Avert Panic. Heavens, there are MANY trains to DC! If you miss one, there are MANY more! There is no possibility of being trapped forever in New York! Which is very nice place, of course, containing dear children and dear grandchild, but is not HOME.

On the way back I was reading The Bertie Project (the latest Alexander McCall Smith) and just loving it–chortling away as I sipped the ghastly Amtrak coffee and masticated the worst blueberry muffin yet encountered in my 69 years. And I am a veteran of SODEXO CATERING! Which is to say, I have previously encountered some champions in the sorry parade of truly odious blueberry muffins.
McCall Smith–may he live forever–is such a charming man, and so delightfully prolific. I don’t know how anyone can resist him, though I gather some do.
I have put up some quotes on the Quoting the Quotes page.

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Granny Agonistes

Visiting the adorable grandson presents this aged granny with many challenges–OVER WHICH I HAVE TRIUMPHED! Behold me returned home from yet another excellent Granny Experience! There have been moments when I feared ignominious failure–but NOT SO! This granny prevailed!

1. Getting to the Actual Physical Locale of the Grandson
Transport to the great Metropolis is readily accessible, but a taxi must be summoned to get to the bus or train. I prudently arranged for the taxi to come at Crack of Dawn, and as I gulped my coffee in the predawn, he called to say he was out front. But–he wasn’t. After a frantic session of vexing phone calls and a certain amount of fluster and panic, it appeared he was patiently waiting at a neighbor’s house. HAHaha.
So, off to the bus stop.
You will of course ask, how much did I tip him?
Yes, even though he almost gave me a heart attack.
Because why, because he was almost having a heart attack too. We’re all of us poor fools and things happen.

2. Accessing the Precious Portal
This grandson is protected in a place that has THREE DOORS of Constant Vigilance, each accessed with the Keys of Extreme Bafflement!

  • Key 1: The front door. There are TWO locks to this door, but only one is actually the true lock. A granny’s LOVE can discover which is the true lock. Eventually.
  • Key 2. The Inner Door. This is the Key of Mystery. Only an adept–linked to the lore of ages–can plumb the intricacies of this key. This key requires the skill and the knowing. It has taken me three months to master this key–but finally I HAVE MASTERED KEY 2!
  • Key 3. Eh. ANYONE can make Key 3 work. Piece of cake.

3. Baby Transport
Taking the baby for a Walk: the technology is FEARSOME, comrades. There are so many steps, literal and figurative.

  • Let us start with the Device: there is a NINE PAGE manual available here.
  • So, embiggen the Stroller Frame by pushing a particular button and pulling on a particular part of the device.
  • Then, with a deft movement, you clamp the Bassinet onto the Stroller Frame.
  • NOT FACING BACKWARDS, you imbecile.
  • Whoops. too late, you’ve already put the baby inside.
  • OK, fine, you can peer in from time to time during your walk.
  • But first, UNLOCK and RELOCK all those doors mentioned in Item 2. Then, gently lower the stroller down all the steps–LUCKY THING you are strong as OX– and then OFF FOR A BRISK BROOKLYN WALK! The baby loves this.
  • Then, back home–back up all the stairs!
  • Unlock all the doors of the Precious Portal and bring the device inside.
  • Detach the Bassinet from the Stroller Frame.
  • Bring the Bassinet into the apartment= wake up the baby who is furious at the end of his pleasant walk.
  • Give screaming baby to his mom
  • Attempt to fold up Stroller Frame. HA! As might as well Try and catch a falling star or Get with child a Mandrake root.
  • Never mind, it is just fine the way it is.

4. Baby Rocking Devices
These magical machines rock the baby while you lounge about at your ease! In the old days, we used to have to desperately rock the babies manually but no longer! There are wonderful high tech rocking baby holding devices so that parents or grannies can relax, have a well deserved glass of wine, and take pictures of the little ones unable to resist Mr. Sandman–thanks to the hypnotic influence of technology.

And here I am, home again, and already missing the little fellow. He is mighty sweet!

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Today the sky is blue and the air is filled with the peaceful sounds of water—the ice and snow are melting, or at least are energetically trying to melt. My back yard faces away from the sun and is still mostly white, and my drive way is still half ice—but, so much better than yesterday, which completely wins the Worst Day of 2015 Prize—but heavens, here I am tempting fate. Let us say, it was a Not Very Good Day, how about. Yesterday was the day I was to travel to North Carolina for the meeting I have been working on for months—many many speakers and attendees, all needing hotel, transportation, food, and cosseting—my job. Thousands of emails, calls, conferences. Tiresome, very. And then, the grand day, when everyone packed their suitcases and headed to the airport.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

There was sleet and snow and freezing rain up and down the east coast and mid west, and the flight cancellations started rolling in. My own airline kept brightly posting “Still On Time!” messages (sly, very) so I summoned the cab and set off, after a tearful farewell to the cats (who seemed completely unmoved). My first horrid shock was finding that actually getting to the taxi—walking down the driveway—was fraught with peril. A sheet of ice, gently inclined towards the street. The kindly driver attempted to help and almost fell over himself. HOWEVER, I made it into the cab, explained how to get to airport (he understandably wanted to take the only route he knew, which was to go downtown and proceed from there). Once we got there, I was somewhat shocked to find endless lines of people waiting to get on new flights, theirs having been cancelled. But ha, mine was still On Time! So I had a pleasant supper at my employer’s expense, and then settled to wait for the plane.

On Time!

AH—small change. Delayed for an hour.

With death in my heart, I watched the sign board for another hour. Sure enough: Cancelled. All this time there was a constant stream of texts and emails from other project staff and our travel agency. I eventually got a seat on another flight arriving after the meeting ended today, but happily, my boss said it wasn’t worth it. So, out into the freezing rain to find another taxi and go home. A disagreeable ride, the roads very slippery—but nothing compared to the slippery state of my driveway. Impossible to mount that hill of ice, so somehow managed to climb the ice covered steps and get to the front door. Such a relief to come home! The cats welcomed me home, but without much enthusiasm–it was past their bedtime, after all, and the kindly neighbor had already given them their dinner.

And somehow the meeting has managed to continue without me. I find I am able to bear it.

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