Manners

One of my old supervisors used to tell me that my life stresses her out, and I see her point.  How is it even possible that I have so many adventures?  I’m not sure if it’s under-organisation and resultant chaos, the fact that I travel so much, or simply blind luck.  For example, in catching the coach from Istanbul to Athens on Monday night, I witnessed not one but two car crashes.  In the first, the car was spinning in the middle of the road like a top, and the bus narrowly avoid it; for the other I was awoken by our coach trying to stop to avoid the disaster in front, to the point that our back wheels started to skid.

The near-death-experiences were fine, but the coach ride itself was not a fun time.  Last time I caught that coach (except in the reverse direction, in March last year), the bus was fully pimped out, and what’s more, I was the only one on board.  This time the coach was a fair bit older and it was packed.  There was a girl next to me who was fat enough that she didn’t fit in her seat and so was sitting partially on me.  There are very few things which I get completely, unreasonably, almost psychotically upset about, but the two big ones are hearing people eat (I nearly lose my mind), and having peoples’ fat touch me.  Eugh.  This girl decided to position herself slightly sideways, so that I had the distinct impression her ass cheeks were trying to digest my leg (really—she farted, and I felt it on my leg before I smelled it).  So, it was a pretty objectionable 16 hours.  I did have a random moment in the middle of it though, at the third rest-stop: the girl poked me awake, so I staggered outside and found puppies!!  So naturally I made friends and played with them, before walking into the grungy bathroom where (I made bad notes for this) either ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ or ‘Dying in your arms tonight’ was playing, so I naturally had a bit of a karaoke session.

It was quite weird to leave Istanbul actually.  I spent 11 days there in the end, with all of the last part being with Marina and Sensei.  Happily, I’ll see Sensei this Sunday as she comes through Athens, and Marina in London in a couple of months’ time.  They’re absolutely awesome people 🙂  Our final room in the hotel was gorgeous, as well—the view was insane.  The staff were pretty hilarious, too (though we named them ‘Sarkhan’ (actually his name) and ‘Hot Guy #2’ because we didn’t know the second man’s name.  Hot Guy #1 was a waiter at a restaurant we ate at a couple of times.  No objectification here!)

I also feel like I started to regain my manners in Istanbul.  I think I mentioned the hassling on the street before.  Well, this time I tried to ignore it, with the occasional bout of directness (eg while sitting outside the Blue Mosque with my Polish friend Ana, a guy came up to us and I said straight up: “we don’t want to buy anything, and we don’t want to talk.”  Ana then followed with “we are in the middle of a very important conversation and we don’t want to talk to you”.  Team direct much?  He looked baffled and ended up walking away).  However, ignoring people didn’t seem to be working very well, so I switched to being outrageously polite and saying “no thank you”, or “not today”, and actually answering people’s questions: and suddenly the process was significantly less painful.

Of course, maybe my manners aren’t fully restored.  I was walking near the flea market in the centre of Athens earlier, looking for a place to have some lunch/dinner.  I saw a guy who was about to walk up to me and he seemed really creepy, so I avoided eye contact and headed away from him.  At which point he started to follow me down the street.  First he muttered something about ‘Greek woman’ then asked me if I was tired.  I said ‘yes’, still not really acknowledging him, and he asked why.  I then said that it wasn’t really any of his business, and he goes “oh, so you are a rude bitch.”  I chortled to myself then pointed out to him that I wasn’t the one following a stranger down the street, before turning on my heel and walking in the opposite direction.  I actually needed to go to the street behind me anyway, but had walked the wrong way in an effort to avoid him!  I’m not sure that trying to discourage some guy who’s following me counts as bad manners, however.

The reason I was tired was partly because of the epic bus trip and lack of sleep associated with it, partly because of the late night then early morning teaching English via Skype (I now have 3 students until I go to Finland next month), and partly because I’ve been writing.  I finished the prologue/first chapter to the novel earlier today (huzzah!).  I’ve also continued working on my language skills of course, though I haven’t done any uni work in a few days.

On that note, I think I’m all written out for the day, so I’ll bid you adieu!

Vamos a la Playa

I must say, my boobs have been man-handled more in the last four days than in the preceding year.  In the most innocent of ways, of course ;).

I remember I was talking to a French guy in Helsinki and he was appalled that Finnish people have business meetings.  In the sauna.  While they’re naked.  I said to him that “for all French guys have this reputation, you’re a bit uptight, aren’t you?”

In some ways, nudity is kind of a privilege while travelling.  Privacy is, anyway, at least in hostels.  Obviously you share a room, and the bathrooms aren’t usually much more enclosed.  I’ve never been especially modest, but by now I’m completely indifferent to getting changed in front of people of either gender: it’s more their sensibilities I’m concerned about.

I don’t necessarily feel the same way about random people touching me.  At least, until I went to the Turkish Baths in Istanbul last year, and ended up naked on a stone slab, while some other almost-naked lady rubbed a jar of honey into my body.  Now I just go with whatever.

There’s a Dutch guy in my hostel room, Peter, and we discovered that we both wanted to go snorkelling, so we decided to go to Playa Blanca (White Beach) yesterday.  I’ve actually never met a Dutch person who hasn’t been a reasonable human being, which is I guess how I end up in the Netherlands so often.  Anyway, he suggested that we get up at 8:30 or some such and head off.  Fortuitously, I got up way earlier, and at 8:30 went to go and ask at the front desk what time we could catch the bus to PB?  The guy said “right now”.  And he did not look like he was joking.  It turns out it’s a full day-trip by boat, and the last one leaves at 9am.  Much scurrying ensued.

We picked up an Englishman, Angus, and a Portuguese girl, Rita (I thanked her and Peter for having rhyming names, making it easier for me to remember) on the way.  We then jumped onto the boat and it was freaking fantastic.  Water is totally my element, and zooming across it was superb.

Upon arrival at the beach, we went snorkelling for a bit.  It was pretty cool, I saw some nice fish and a huge lobster.  In saying that, I did my Open Water course on the Great Barrier Reef, so I have been somewhat spoiled as far as fish go.

We had a little hut on the beach (yesterday became rather outrageously gouge-y as far as wallets went), so post-swim went and chilled there.  At some point, a man with a wheelbarrow full of coconuts and alcohol rolled up, and I couldn’t resist.  I didn’t have my camera though (shock!!) so the photo of me in complete beach-bum mode with pina colada-filled cocktail will have to wait.  Next, ladies offering massages rolled up.  Apparently they were very literal with the ‘whole body’ description (boob molestation #1).

Post-lunch, it was more swimming, chilling and day-dreaming.  To be honest, I’m not really made for sitting on a beach.  Running around/playing sport on it, yes.  Swimming, yes.  Sailing, hells yes.  But inactivity frustrates me.  Nonetheless, it was pleasant.

In the evening we headed to an old wall along the sea-coast, to watch the sunset:

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We stopped by Cafe del Mar for a moment, as in doing my running-off thing and dragging Rita along with me, we’d lost the guys.  Then it was pretty much dinner and bed.

This morning I got up early to check-out.  Luckily (?!?) I’d woken up at 2am and had never been able to go back to sleep again, so that was fairly easily achieved.  I then went on a trip to a nearby volcano, Volcan de Lodo El Totumo.  After a couple of hours of sitting on the bus as we picked up all of the other people in the city, we went on out.

Wiki’s just told me that according to local folk-lore, the volcano used to be full of the normal volcano-y stuff: ashes, lava, action heroes.  Then a local priest transformed it to mud by sprinkling some holy water into it.  Seems a little dubious to me.  The holy water part, not the action heroes (of course).  It’s quite small, with a fabulous view of a lake and wetlands from the top.  You climb in, lower yourself down into the super-dense mud, and then the attendants give you a ‘massage’.  I use these ones ” because it’s not so much a massage as them slopping you with mud (molestation #2).  As I’m sure you’ve gathered, today’s featured image is from the volcano.

After you’ve had enough of playing in the mud, you endeavour the slippery climb out then jaunt on down to the lake.  There, women grab you by the hand and sit you down in the water, and help you wash the mud off.  Haha unexpectedly, they also took all of our clothes off.  Sudden nudity!  And, needless to say, molestation #3 took place.

I’m now back at the hostel in Cartagena, and in about an hour will head to the airport for my flight to Medellin.  All of the inactivity is starting to drive me a little cuckoo, so I’m looking forward to a big night out and then a few as-active-as-possible days there.  And let’s see if I can keep my clothes on, this time.