Abroad Musings, Vol. 2

Being abroad means a lot of things. It means having to adjust to living in an entirely new country, making new friends, and learning to live without a regular supply of peanut butter. It also means dealing with a lot of very annoying, very tedious bureaucratic messes by yourself and in different languages. Some of these things are more fun than others. I hope you all find some humor in this travel saga; as I write this from Berlin, I am only beginning to appreciate its future storytelling clout.

I’ll start by sharing a few excerpts from my journal, written as I weathered a 5 hour delay in the Vienna airport a few days ago: ‘No one conveniently told me my original flight had been cancelled, so lucky me gets to spend the afternoon in the Vienna airport instead of Berlin.’ and ‘[text has been altered to omit rather colorful expressions].’ Apparently I was feeling philosophical, because then this followed: ‘Patience and flexibility — I guess that’s something I’m really starting to take away from this trip. Miscommunication? Let’s try again. Oh, this operator only speaks Turkish? Who else can I talk to? Who can I go to for help? When should I and what can I accomplish by myself? What risks am I willing to take and when should I listen to my gut and back off?’ Philosophical it may be, but those are important questions that I do end up asking myself almost everyday.

I wasn’t quite so into introspective questioning after finding out that I had not actually been rebooked to Istanbul, as my rebooking confirmation stated, at 1 a.m. in the morning. I was less into the introspection after spending hours on hold, speaking increasingly tense and decreasingly polite English/German, after 4 hours of stressed half sleep. And after breaking down, cancelling my original booking with no guarantee of a refund, and calling my folks in Seattle at 4 a.m. Pacific time to figure out how I was going to get to Istanbul in time to catch my flight to Athens, I just wanted some peanut butter and a long nap.

I am now eating some stale rice and a rather mealy apple, and appreciating my family’s swift response. I am not writing exactly what my plans are because I am terrified of jinxing those too, but I’ll reveal the conclusion to this saga in my next blog post.

The last 24 hours have been the most stressful ones I’ve had recently, but there is a lot of learning to be had. Patience and flexibility are very valuable virtues that I am still cultivating; get receipts for absolutely everything every time; don’t be afraid to ask for help; apparently this is what being an independent adult is like (not actually, but at least at times); and if all else fails, there’s a lot of chocolate in Europe, and the new Justin Timberlake album works wonders on the nerves.

I promise more photos in the next post!