Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grump, Grump Grump (Working through fiascos)

You can punch harder when standing on solid ground than on a water bed. Your legs can generate more power when pushing off an engaged core rather than a soft one. When you are working from a strong stable base, you can do more. When I am in a foreign country where I know nothing, I am working from an unstable place. It makes uncertain situations seem more daunting. It is why traveling pushes us in so many new directions. In the past couple weeks, I was pushed pretty hard by trying to leave Krakow, trying to get my camera fixed, and getting my bag after flying back to the USA. Here are the rants. They don't convey nearly enough of the ups and downs as I got good and bad news in each situation. While I am getting better at letting go and remaining even keeled, I have a long way to go.

On the way to the train station, I saw this fancy car parked up on the curb. I am used to fancier cars being a little better taken care of. I like it.

After two and a half days in Krakow, I was ready to get back on the road. I needed to head to Slovenia to catch my flight back to the USA so I decided that instead of riding back over the same terrain, I would take the overnight train back to Budapest and continue on my original plan of biking to Lake Balaton and then just head to Slovenia instead of Croatia. Unfortunately, my excellently laid plans were blown away.

When I think of trains, I tend to think of them as buses or subways that you can always just hop on. There is always room. However, trains are usually not like that in Europe, especially with a bike. You have to book it in advance, like an airplane. Because of that, I went to the train station during the day to buy a ticket instead of just showing up. They said that no trains leaving Krakow and traveling internationally could carry bikes. This sounded ridiculous. Trains always cross borders in Europe carrying bikes. Why would Krakow be different? I went back to the hostel and they agreed with me. Then, they called the train station to work it out, assuming I was hitting a language barrier. They asked and were told that I would have to talk to the conductor on the train to buy a bike supplement. I went back to the train station to buy my ticket. There were no tickets left for that night. Apparently, the excellent (sarcasm) hostel staff did not ask that question. It isn't their fault, but I was used to getting great help at each hostel and assumed that question would have been asked. It is my fault for assuming. If you want a job done right . . .

Anyway, I went back to the hostel super grumpy about not being able to go to Budapest. I was going to be stuck in Krakow and their only room cost three times as much. I should have switched hostels. I wanted to leave after the first night because of the noise, but stuck it out for ease. Because it was late, I stuck it out again. How many times do we settle for something because it is the devil we know or takes less work rather that the devil we don't know or something that takes more work? Grrr. It didn't help that the one lady who 'helped' me laughed when she found out why I was still at the hostel later. I almost took a bus back to the Tatras to then return by bike, but finally decided to just take a train in the morning when there was room and would talk to the conductor about the bike. I was extra grumpy after having to pay extra at the hostel and grumpier at myself for being too lazy to switch hostels.

My morning train did not take the direct route over the mountains. It went west to the Czech Republic, then southwest to the far border of Slovakia before heading east into Hungary. The conductors change at each border and on each train. The conductors on my first train were not a problem. They saw my bike and talked to me and then were supposed to come back to sell me the bike supplement. They didn't. At the Czech border, the conductors changed and played a different tune. Bikes were not allowed on the train. They searched the entire train until they found out who had the bike. I begged. I pleaded. I offered money to buy a supplement (though if they took it as a bribe that would have been alright too). I got tossed off. I got grumpy. I would have to take two other trains that would accept bikes to cross the Czech Republic. I caught the first train easily. When I tried to buy a bike supplement though, I was out of luck again. He only accepted Czech krowns and I did not have any in my wallet, only Euros and Polish Zlotychs. He left in disgust, but let me ride. In Perran, I needed to change trains. I hurried over to the platform listed on the board, but there was no train. Then, my destination and platform were taken off the board. I asked around and they said it was already gone, but it had been on the board and no train had gone by. I was confused. I found out when the next one was coming. When it was almost time for it to leave, I, again, didn't see a train. I asked around and it turned out that there are two spots for trains on this platform. The first one is right beside the platform where you normally get on. The second one was past the end of the platform where a ton of weeds were overgrowing the track so much that it didn't look like trains even went there. I realized that was probably where the first train had been, but I didn't know to look for it there. No issues with the bike this time though.

The red dot to the right of the pole marks the hidden train platform, 2.5, that does not go to Hogwarts.

I finally arrived at the Czech border. I had a big layover. I headed into town and was super excited to see Albert's, the grocery store my world's team had used the most in Prague. It was like visiting an old friend. I was also able to spend the krowns that I ended up finding as change in my bag. I bought a ton of dried fruit and left the country with two cents. No more carrying around extra weight in coins that change places won't take. At the train station, I asked about bike trains and buying a supplement. They said there was one last train to Budapest and it did accept bikes, but it was already sold out. I resolved to rely on my experience in Austria where I just hopped on a legal bike train and hope the conductor would work with me. I did not want to spend the night where I was. I wanted to at least get a little closer to Budapest. I hopped on the train and it was an express with only five stops before reaching Budapest. We passed the first one before I even had my ticket checked. I was really apprehensive as I waited to find out if I would get booted. I was hoping to at least get to Bratislava or Esztergom, Hungary where I had been before instead of a new town. I was too tired and frustrated to be excited about the adventure of finding my way in an unknown place. However, all of my apprehension did not matter. The conductor checked my ticket and moved on without saying a word. I breathed such a HUGE sigh of relief I almost deflated. I spent the long train ride talking to some Germans who were going to bike from Budapest back to Germany. Seventeen hours after my train ride started, I was checking into my hostel. I missed going out with friends in Budapest, but oh well. I made it and was happy with that. Throughout most of the experience, you could have called me emotionally volatile. I had not surrendered to my conditions yet and was all types of grumpy. I believed that I could control my fate. Once I let that go during my layover, I was happier.

I am trying to reach the same state with my camera situation, but I don't think that is going to happen. I want to have some control because I want my expensive camera back in my possession and not bouncing around Europe. I think the reason I can't let this one go is because I care enough about taking photos with that camera that it owns me instead me owning it. Anyway, without further ago, the still ongoing camera saga.

My camera broke in Krakow. It is under warranty so I could try to fix it in Europe while I was there or try to do it for the week I was going to be in the states. The only trick with doing it in Europe is that there is usually only one place to fix it per country. There was not one in Krakow. There was one in Budapest. I took it there. My US Canon warranty cannot be used in Europe. Boo, but since they say they can fix my camera and mail it to me within a week, I decide paying for it will be worth it. A week will put me at day one of the Julian Alps in Slovenia which should be spectacular. I try to pay the estimate before leaving to simplify things, but they won't let me. Instead, I am told they will contact me Monday for an address and payment. Monday comes, nothing. I decide to take the initiative and email then with my hostel address in Bled and credit card information. They contact me back late Tuesday to tell me they don't accept credit cards and won't ship it until I wire them the money. I start to get irritated because I tried to pay them at the shop to avoid this and can't figure out how a camera shop that sells things costing over $1000 does not take credit cards. In the morning, I try to wire money which is pretty common in Europe. It will take 2-3 days to do which I don't want to do because I want my camera to ship ASAP. I go to Western Union. Just as I am about to send the money off to be delivered ten minutes later, they inform me that they can only deliver to specific people, not businesses. Grumble, grumble. My camera should already be in the mail. I go back and wire the money.

Luckily, the money arrives the next day. They contact me for an address and let me know they have 2 day delivery lined up to get it somewhere on Monday. I give them an address in Ljubljana where I am going to fly out of. I will arrive there Tuesday and fly out Wednesday. I am settled that I am done with this mini-drama. I'm not. When I check in on Tuesday, there is no camera. I contact the camera shop who contacts the courier to find out that it should arrive by 6pm Tuesday. At 3pm, it hasn't arrived. I have my hostel call the courier. They say it will arrive on Wednesday, after I am gone. I start to grump. I contact the camera shop who contacts the courier to find out that my camera is actually still on its way to Slovenia. Apparently, 2 day delivery means . . . . I have no idea what. The hostel can accept my camera while I am gone, but won't be held responsible for it. Grump, grump, give me my camera back, grump, grump. I leave Ljubljana without a solution. The camera company contacts me about forwarding the camera somewhere else. The courier company will not forward it to the USA and is saying I need to be in one place for five days for them to forward it somewhere else. Grump, grump. While I am waiting to respond to that email with an address, the courier company apparently decides to deliver my camera even though they are supposed to be waiting for a new address. It is now sitting at a hostel in Ljubljana waiting for me to return. I can only hope it doesn't disappear. Grump, grump, grump.

A statue in Breclaw, Czech Republic from my train day that explains how I felt during a lot these fiascos.

This last bit is an addendum. I thought being back in the USA would alleviate working through some of these issues, but it hasn't. I had expectations and they just weren't met. When I flew home, the airline lost my bag. I did not need to check it. I did it for leisure so it is my own fault. I had a 4 hour layover in Paris for my very small backpack to be transferred to the next plane. It didn't make it. They said they would deliver it the next day by 10pm which would not help with my dad's memorial service, but at least I would get my bag. It didn't show. I called the next day to ask where it was. The first person could not give me any information about where it was. The second person said they called to confirm the address, but no one answered so they did not deliver it. I don't believe that. They had a primary and secondary number. Neither one had a missed call or a voicemail. They also could not deliver if that day and it was the last day at my sisters. They said they could get it there the next day so I chose to change my plans and hang around one more day to get it. On my way to a wedding on the third day, they called to confirm the address. Someone had changed Northampton, MA to a Northampton, NY. Ugh...grr...grumble. In the afternoon still no bag. My sister called and eventually made the bag appear. Yeah for family!!! Yeah for Jen!! Boo for Air France. Why is it so hard? It would help a lot of I wasn't a moving target, but having my bag delivered the next day or with my original flight shouldn't be a big expectation or deal to make happen. Oh well.

Anyway, lots of good these past few weeks, but that is the worst bad all in one place. Every time, it amazes me how grumpy I can get about it. These are all a lot of chances for me to practice letting go and accepting my situation, but man it is hard sometimes. The fortune cookie I got the day I wrote this said, "The world belongs to enthusiast who keeps cool."

The calm center I hope for as I remind myself to breath the next time things go wrong.

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