October 28, 2017 § Leave a comment
An imagined but quite possible day in a life overseas . . .
This morning I woke up with my to-do list waiting for me on the nightstand. Item number one was Get out of bed (I’d written that one down so I could start the day by crossing it off). Number two said Copy document. That’s because yesterday at the county government office, when I went to get my resident permit renewed, the lady behind the desk told me I needed to bring a copy of my registration letter to leave with them.
I was more than ready to get that taken care of and move on to the other, bigger, better, more important things on my list. It was an impressive list. I had quite the day planned.
After a quick shower and a slice of toast for breakfast, I grabbed my permit documents and walked the four blocks to the bus stop and took the bus to the copy shop, about 15 minutes away. But when I stepped off the bus I saw that the copy shop wasn’t a copy shop anymore. Instead, sometime over the weekend, it had been turned into a KFG Chicken restaurant. (That’s right, a KFG not a KFC. This one had a big green smiling rooster on its sign.) I called my teammate to get her advice, and she said I could get a copy at a bank. There was a bank down the street, and after going there and standing in line, I asked the teller if she could help me make a copy. She said that was impossible.
On the way back to the bus stop, I called another teammate, and he told me to try the photo shop next to the new high school. I decided to take a taxi there to save time, but the only cash I had was a large bill and I figured the driver wouldn’t have change for it, so I walked back to the bank to withdraw some money from the ATM. But then the ATM ate my card and wouldn’t spit it out no matter how many buttons I pushed. I went back into the bank to retrieve it, but they said that was impossible—at least until after two business days.
You can read the rest at A Life Overseas. . . .
December 8, 2016 § 1 Comment
Carrying a suitcase in a suitcase so that you can bring back more stuff than you take. This can be as simple as a duffle bag inside another piece of luggage, but in its purest form, it is a checked bag precisely fitting inside another checked bag. The term metapacking can be extended also to encompass using a cheap or broken suitcase to transport items one way and then disposing of that suitcase after you arrive. Seasoned travelers always keep a broken suitcase lying around.
Something you find inside your luggage when you start packing—something you haven’t seen since you’re last trip. Discovering it brings out such responses as “Oh, that’s where that is,” or “I do have one of those.” A wad of ten-dollar bills is eurekaching, a piece of jewelry, eurekabling.
flotsam and jetsam and thensam
The abundance of things that people give you and your children right before you leave for the airport or get on the plane. This include gifts, souvenirs, snacks, word-find and sudoku books, coloring books with a four-pack of crayons, and those faces with metal shavings that you form into a beard with a magnet.
The feeling of accomplishment one feels after packing every necessary item just right in a suitcase. A landmark study out of the University of Gatwick-Hempstead shows that tetrisness activates the same portion of the brain as when one successfully folds a fitted sheet.
bait and glitch
You find a cheap plane ticket online and go through all the steps to buy it, double and triple checking all the details, and then when you select “confirm,” you get that encouraging message that says, “The fare you’ve selected is no longer available.” Maybe it’s because the search site wasn’t up to date or because someone else recklessly grabbed the last seat while you were prudently making up your mind. If it’s the latter, it just proves the old standard, “Time flies when you’re choosing flight times” (or something like that).
How you feel when you’re ready for bed the night before a morning flight, with all your luggage placed neatly (more or less) next to the door—lined up like the Von Trapp family ready to sing “So Long, Farewell.” You may have mixed feelings, and you may or may not sleep. In extreme cases, you hear yourself humming the tune.
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight
I’m glad to go,
I cannot tell a lie
I flit, I float
I fleetly flee, I fly
So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye
I leave and heave a sigh and say goodbye—Goodbye!
Countless requests for coffee, a get-together, or a meal made by friends who have just realized that your departure for a long or permanent stay is only. two. weeks. away.
direct flight to the dog house
This is what you receive after you proudly show the money-saving itinerary—that you just booked—to your spouse, and said spouse points out that it includes a 14-hour layover (also known as a “wayover”) and that you and your four children will need to collect all checked baggage between each of the five connecting flights. Travel to the doghouse does accumulate frequent-flyer miles, but they can only be redeemed for undesirable trips, such as to overnight stays on the living-room couch.
Leaving your tightly locked up (?) house thinking you might have left the iron on (even though you don’t remember having done any ironing) is one thing, but watching your hand zip your passport into the front pocket of your backpack and then just two minutes later checking to see if it’s actually there because you’re afraid that you didn’t in fact zip your passport into the front pocket of your backpack but instead, due to a muscle spasm, may have opened the car window and tossed your passport onto the shoulder of the highway—or what if it just spontaneously combusted, leaving no smoke or ashes?—that’s disaffearance.
The TSAT (pronounced Tee Ess Ay Tee or Tee-Sat) is an oral exam in which family members yell questions and answers from room to room concerning Transportation Security Administration regulations:
Is it the 3-1-1 rule or 1-1-3 . . . or 3-2-1 or 9-1-1? Does deodorant count as a liquid? What about wet wipes? Or snow globes? Or chocolate-covered cherries? Can I take nail clippers in my carry-on? What about tweezers? Duct tape? Scotch tape? Chopsticks? Toothpicks? Javelins?
September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment
The Interwebs have been in an uproar the last few days over an article in Air China’s inflight magazine Wings of China. As reported by journalist Haze Fan for CNBC, the latest issue of the magazine touts London as a top destination but includes the following “safety” advice in a section called “Tips from Air China”:
London is generally a safe place to travel, however precautions are needed when entering areas mainly populated by Indians, Pakistanis and black people. We advise tourists not to go out alone at night, and females always to be accompanied by another person when travelling.
Fan notes that the capital city is currently being led by a mayor, Sadiq Khan, who was born in London to Pakistani parents.
After Fan’s reporting, Air China North America issued the following apology via Twitter:
We at Air China Limited do not condone discrimination in any shape or form. We regret and apologize for the offensive language. . . .
But Air China was not done reversing its engines. The company also pulled the magazine from their planes and even deleted the above Tweet. Wings of China is now offline, as well.
So . . . I can’t send you to the Wings of China to read the article yourself, but I will remind you that if you’d like to see some other airline mags from around the world, go to my list of over 100 links at “Inflight Magazines: My Virtual Seat-Back Pocket Runneth Over.” Maybe you’ll be the one to scoop the next big piece of travel news.
(Haze Fan, “Air China Magazine Warns London Visitors to Avoid Ethnic Minority Areas,” CNBC, Sept. 7, 2016; Haze Fan, “Air China’s Magazine Says Media, Readers Misinterpreted London Travel Advice,” CNBC, Sept. 8, 2016)
[photo: “B-5178 | Air China | Boeing 737-86N | Grey Peony Livery | PEK,” by Byeangel, used under a Creative Commons license]
May 4, 2016 § Leave a comment
Your passport is easy to take for granted . . . unless you need it and you can’t find it, or it’s stolen, or it’s expired. But the US Department of State doesn’t take it for granted. Here are some ways that they’re working on improving your passport, as well as tips on how to keep your travel headaches to a minimum.
No more adding pages
• As of this January, passport holders are no longer able to add pages to an existing passport so that it can hold more entry and exit stamps. Travelers previously could add 24 pages to a full passport, but now, with that no longer an option, passport applicants outside the US are issued a 52 page book, while those in the US can choose between 23 and 52 pages.
(U.S. Department of State, “Extra Visa Pages No Longer Issued Effective January 1, 2016,” November 19, 2015)
Why carrying copies is a good idea
• At “Lost or Stolen Passports Abroad,” the Department of State advises travelers overseas to take along a photocopy of their passport ID page. I recently had the chance to ask a foreign service officer what purpose that serves and here’s what he said: While US embassies and consulates have the ability to replace a lost or stolen passport without you providing any documents or ID, there are other reasons for having copies. The passport copies are most helpful to carry with you while you leave the real thing in a safe location. If someone asks to see your passport while you’re out, you can show your copy; or if a place such as a hotel asks to hold your passport, you can offer your copy instead. He suggested carrying two color copies for this purpose. While officers can give you a new passport without presenting any documents or identification, it’s better, according to the Department website, if you have a photo ID, a police report (or, says the officer, the ability to say that you tried to get one), your passport copy, and your travel itinerary (to document that you need the new passport quickly.)
What about a passport card?
• Whenever I see a passport application, I wonder about the advantages of getting a passport card. Now I know why I probably don’t need one. A passport card is not a replacement for a passport book for general international travel. Instead, the card can be used only for land and sea travel between the US and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean. The card could be useful in any country in place of a color photocopy for getting a replacement passport (see above), but it won’t work for air travel, regardless of your destination. Even in the countries where the card can be used, without your passport book you’ll be in trouble if an emergency occurs and you need to fly back to the US. Also, if you’re on a cruise and for some reason miss the boat (literally), you won’t be able to use your card to fly—to catch up with the ship or to go back home.
(Ned Levi, “Passport Card: Does It Make Sense to Purchase One?” May 10, 2010)
Don’t get below 6 months
• While many countries require you to have at least 6 months left on your passport before they’ll let you enter, the Department of State suggests you replace your passport when you cross the one-year-left mark. Not only will this keep you from being caught unprepared, but if you enter a country with only six months left on your passport, stay for a while and then decide to go to another country with the six-month restriction, you’ll be denied entry.
Expect more changes
• US passports are scheduled for a big design update this year. The security updates will include an information page with a polycarbonate coating and containing an embedded data chip, the number laser-cut through pages, raised designs, and ink that shows multiple colors when viewed from different angles.
(Katherine LaGrave, “U.S. Passports to Get a Makeover in 2016,” Condé Nast Traveler, February 22, 2016)
Registering is easy
• This one isn’t directly related to passports, but it does apply to international travel. (Consider it a bonus.) The Department of State encourages citizens to register with them when traveling abroad, but what does that entail? It’s as easy as going to step.state.gov and signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). You can also enroll to receive advisories and alerts, even when you’re not the one traveling, so that you can keep up to date while others are outside the country.
April 13, 2016 § 2 Comments
One of my father’s favorite jokes was to say a phrase of dubious meaning, and often questionable grammar, and tag William Shakespeare as the source. It went something like this:
No matter where you go, there you are . . . Shakespeare.
Seems that Dad was ahead of his time. All over the Interwebs, there are oft-used quotations attributed to oft-quoted people—Mark Twain, Martin Luther, Martin Luther King, Jr., Winston Churchill, Erma Bombeck . . . and Shakespeare. The trouble is, the pairings are oft-wrong.
Take, for instance, this popular quotation:
The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
Nearly every online citation says it comes from the pen of St. Augustine, but as far as I can tell, no one has been able to find it in his writings.
The closest I’ve seen is in his Letter 43, written circa 397. While discussing schisms in the church in Africa and recounting some church history, he refers to the world as a book. But rather than using that as a metaphor to promote travel, he is proclaiming that the world shows the working out of biblical principles. Translated from Latin, he writes,
If, after all that you have read, you are still in doubt, be convinced by what you see. By all means let us give up arguing from ancient manuscripts, public archives, or the act of courts, civil or ecclesiastical. We have a greater book—the world itself. In it I read the accomplishment of that of which I read the promise in the Book of God: “The Lord hath said unto Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.
Jump ahead to 1750, and Louis-Charles Fougeret de Monbron writes Le Cosmopolite ou le Citoyen du Monde (The Cosmopolitan or the Citizen of the World), which opens with the following paragraph (as translated into English):
The universe is a sort of book, whose first page one has read when one has seen only one’s own country. I have leafed through a great many that I have found equally bad. This inquiry has not been at all unfruitful. I hated my country. All the oddities of the different people among whom I have lived have reconciled me to it. Should I gain no other benefit from my travels than this, I will have regretted neither the pains nor the fatigues.
British travel writer John Feltham joins our discussion with his publication of English Enchiridion in 1700. His collection of “apothegms, moral maxims. &c” includes one that seems to tie together Augustine and the thoughts of Fougeret de Monbron (it is not a direct quotation of either), and attempts to bring the early church father into the travel-writing fold:
St. Augustine, when he speaks of the great advantages of travelling, says, that the world is a great book, and none study this book so much as a traveller. They that never stir from their home read only one page of this book.
A few years later, Le Cosmopolite caught the attention of the young poet Lord Byron. In a letter to R. C. Dallas in 1811, he writes, “I send you a motto” and quotes the work’s opening paragraph. He tells Dallas, “If not too long, I think it will suit the book.” The book turned out to be his Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, published in installments from 1812 to 1818, and the passage, still in French, became the work’s epigraph.
And finally, in 1824, Thomas Fielding gave us a more familiar rendering of the phrase in his Selected Proverbs of All Nations, crediting it to Augustine:
“The world is a great book, of which they that never stir from home read only a page.”
Simplify the language and you have “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” Oversimplify the authorship and you have Augustine.
Bring on the inspirational photos.
March 29, 2016 § 2 Comments
I know of a man who has an airport ministry. All day long he tells traveller’s that The End Is Near. You’d think that the authorities would silence him, but not only is he tolerated, he’s openly encouraged. In fact, airport officials around the world let him use their PA systems.
Of course, “The End” that Jack Fox is talking about isn’t the Second Coming. It’s a much more mundane finale. Close you’re eyes and imagine a voice saying, “Caution. The moving walkway is ending.” That’s him. Jack’s is the calm, helpful voice behind the announcements in hundreds of airports across the globe.
Why do I call it a ministry? Because Jack does. When he prepares for a recording session, he tells The Verge, “I picture someone standing on a moving sidewalk and I’m talking to that person with a friendly quality to my voice, so it won’t be so cold and sterile.” And then he adds, “My father was a minister, and I think of this as my airport ministry.”
Fox is not alone in his airport exhortations. His good friend, Carolyn Hopkins, has been lending her voice to announcements even longer than he has. Both work for Louisville’s Innovative Electronic Designs (IED), which supplies computerized paging systems for airports and other transit systems the world over. The Verge article describes them as “two cheerful, church-going retirees who also happen to be longtime buddies.”
Like Fox, Hopkins started in radio before joining IED, and like Fox, she was influenced in her career by a parent: “I got into it because my father had a magnificent, deep voice,” she tells the Bangor Daily News (she lives in Maine, now). “I loved to listen to it, so I liked doing that kind of thing. I would practice. I would create radio programs, with intros and segues. I did voices. It was a lot of fun.”
Below is an audio clip of Fox from his interview with The Verge. I couldn’t find him in a video that I could embed, but if you’d like to see the face behind the voice, there’s a news clip featuring him from WDRB in Louisville. The first video below is a “CBS This Morning” story on Hopkins.
Now that I know who these two are, I’m going to appreciate their suggestions more the next time I’m thinking about parking in the unloading zone.
Jack Fox and Carolyn Hopkins:two of the best-known yet least recognized people in the world . . . kind of like these two:
(Lesley Anderson, “The Speakers: How Two People Became the Voice of 110 Airports and the NYC Subway,” The Verge, July 18, 2013; Abigail Curtis, “From a Tiny Studio in Maine, Her Voice Is Heard around the World,” January 11, 2016)