Venice – Homeward bound

Published April 25, 2013 by Christa Maurice

Travel days suck. They just do.

It was recommended that I catch the 11:25 bus. ‘K. At 11:10 I checked out and by 11:15 I was standing at the bus stop. The bus however was not so cooperative. When it hadn’t appeared by 11:40, I studied the schedule and found that there was an 11:50. So I waited. And that bus didn’t show up either. As there was another one at 12:15 I gambled and won. Then I couldn’t find where to check in and the very helpful Italians wouldn’t tell me where I needed to go and the signs were no help at all. I went to an information booth and the man behind the glass would only shake his head at me. I’m aware of how annoying it is to answer stupid questions all the time, but nobody held a gun to your head and made you go into hospitality. But I found the departures desk, checked in (where the woman screwed up my seating assignments on both flights so instead of having window seats I ended up in the middle both flights.)

On the flight to Dusseldorf I was nearly sick despite my trusty Dramamine. In case it ever happens to you, try to arrange to be sick with a helpful English speaker next to you. I had a very helpful, but non-English speaking Danish man to one side and a fluent English speaking German man on the other side trying to pretend it wasn’t happening. It’s got to be me. I exude a pheromone that attracts only unpleasant Germans. Not that I wasn’t trying to pretend it wasn’t happening too, but when you’re sitting there with an airsick bag clutched in one hand and a napkin in the other, pretending only works so well.

I had a glorious 6 hour layover in Dusseldorf and to my good fortune this terminal was much better than the last. It even had a super secret waiting area with cots. Then is was shoveled into my next flight where I was not just in the middle of the row, but also in the middle of the plane and once again we had a rather rough landing that left me clenching my teeth and thinking, “I think I can, I think I can.” Honestly, all of Europe seemed to have an unwelcome mat out. Other places, even random people on the street were nice to me. In Italy pretty much only the bus drivers were nice to me and I think that had a lot to do with how bedraggled and wet I was that first day.

In Abu Dhabi I took my sweet time getting off the plane and through Immigration. I had a 4 hour wait for the bus to Al Ain. At the Immigration desk I watched the officer poker face everyone who went through until he got to me. He looked at me, looked at my residence visa, grinned and waved me on.

I arrived in Al Ain at 10:30 in the morning. There is a 2 hour time difference between Venice and Al Ain, but that still has me traveling for 21 hours. The fish feeder had quit working at some point while I was gone, but the fish had the grace to not eat each other.

Travel is starting to get a bit wearing. Having to figure everything out all the time, like when the grocery store is open. Getting lost. Arriving at a destination and realizing you’ve forgotten something key. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Crabby immigration officials. Unhelpful information desks. You know, I’d really like to know what’s going on next time I go someplace. I may be headed to Paris Disneyland for Christmas next year out of desperation.

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Venice – Day 4

Published April 24, 2013 by Christa Maurice

Monday was the day the toilet wouldn’t stop running. Initially, I thought I would go into Venice late because I hadn’t seen it at night, but when time to leave came I just didn’t have the interest to go and my knee still hurt from a three day accumulation of stairs. Since my iPad battery was dead I decided to take a walk while it charged, planning on the way back to stop at the neighborhood grocery store for a snack of some sort as I could not face cold lasagna again. The grocery store was open as I passed it on the way down the road. I walked down the road for a while and then turned around and walked up the road for a while and then started back. The entire round trip took about an hour and apparently I looked like a local because someone stopped me for directions and looked completely freaked out when I said, “sorry, no Italian.” I went to the grocery store only to find that it was closed. Open at 2, closed at 3. From past experience I can guess it will be open again around 5, but until then I’m stuck with nothing but €3 Cokes and €2 Kit Kats (also beer, whiskey, gin and brandy, but I’m even less likely to get into those.) I used the bathroom, flushed and got my iPad off the charger. Now just imagine, the flush sounds like Niagara Falls at peak volume. The room is eight by ten. There is no escape from the noise. Plus I have spent the last three years in a place where water is precious. So I headed down to the desk. All the way down the stairs I could hear the water running through the pipes. I’m not exaggerating. I was standing at the desk explaining and asked the desk clerk if she could hear it and she could. The very lovely repairman came up and fixed it, explaining to me what had happened and how he fixed it, entirely in Italian of course and now I’m afraid to use it again.

Around dinner time I decided to make another stab at the grocery store. I replaced my suitcase so that it no longer looked like animals had been nesting in it and determined how much space I had to smuggle home goodies from the grocery store. Too bad the grocery store wasn’t more accommodating. It’s just a little neighborhood place and while the ginseng coffee looked interesting I figured I didn’t need anymore help being wired. The neighborhood people think I’m amusing and smile at me when they see me now. The cashier in the grocery store was very patient while I sort through my mess of coins to pay for my meager dinner. This is unusual. Italy doesn’t have, shall we say, a service oriented culture. If you are lucky when you walk into a shop they will ignore you. If you’re not, they will watch you like they expect you to start randomly pocketing stuff. Once you decide to purchase something, sometimes they are pleasant and sometimes they act like you are bothering them. For the first few days when I walked down the street the passersby stared at me like I was an invading Hun. Now, they’re smiling back. Too bad I’m leaving tomorrow. They’ve just started to like me.

I did learn why I never managed to see Venice after dark. The freaking sun doesn’t set until eight o’clock! What the heck! In Abu dhabi the sun is setting at seven and by eight I’m in bed. I thought it was because I was going out too early. This is just another way in which Venice is like Disney World. To get the best experience you really have to stay in the park, er on the island, islands. Whatever. To get the best experience you must be on site. That way you can go out early for the entertaining sight of the milk boat and the trash boat, go back to your hotel for a midday rest and drying off session if it happens to be raining or you had the mis fortune of walking into high tide because you didn’t expect it to be on the sidewalk, then go back out for an afternoon stroll, maybe fetch dinner and you’ll have the energy to see Venice after dark when the sun sets ridiculously late. However, unlike Disney, you will have to drag your luggage through half of Venice to an overcrowded vaporatto to the bus that will take you to the airport. And how you find your hotel in the first place is a mystery. I couldn’t find anything twice unless it was the Rialto Bridge or San Marco Square, both of which seem to have their own gravity.

Travel day tomorrow. The airport bus leaves here at quarter to twelve. The bus in to Al Ain arrives at ten. Almost twenty-two joy filled hours of buses, airports and crowded planes unless I luck into another upgrade. Come on, upgrade! I need to get some sleep.

Venice – Day 3

Published April 23, 2013 by Christa Maurice

On Sunday I learned that Venice is a two day trip, tops. This being my third day and being sunny, I counted my remaining cash, found I was still in very good shape for walking around money. Before I left Mestre i thought I’d be clever and buy a Coke in the grocery store as they are over a euro more in Venice, but forgetting that it’s Sunday and the store would be closed. Clever, but not as clever as I’d hoped. In Venice, i decided to ride a vaporatto for its entire run. Not as much fun as it sounds. Instead of circling, which I had assumed, it goes to one end of the route (in this case San Marco Square), turns around and goes to the other end of its run (a different stop near San Marco Square.) It took an hour from end to end. San Marco Square was positively packed with people. I had been under the impression that it was busy before. Wrong. The flags were flying in front of the church. Huge ten foot by twelve foot at least flags. There were costumed drummers. There was some kind of promotion going on, but I couldn’t sort out what was going on and, as usual, I was headed upstream. After leaving the Square, I walked around trying to avoid ending up at the Rialto. I was successful, but it was close.

Within three hours, and remember there was an hour on a boat, I was walking around trying to decided if I had actually been all over the island or if it was just starting to look the same. The previous day I had come up with a master plan to eat spaghetti Bolognese at a particular restaurant very close to the Ferrovia (accent on Ferro because it is the train station) vaporatto stop. The restaurant I wanted was jammed, so I walked along the road, this being the Times Square of Venice, there would be another. I found one that didn’t look crowded and when I walked inside I discovered why. No the food was not terrible, but the narrow opening lead to a giant, and from the sound of things, Chuckie Cheese type restaurant. I sat up front and got my spaghetti. I think it’s illegal to not have spaghetti as some point while in Italy and I don’t want to be stopped at the border. It wasn’t what I had hoped for, very oily and no bite, but it was tasty and more important the place mats were maps of venice giving me the opportunity to discover that I had missed and entire, large, section of the city.

Post lunch, I set off in the direction on the undiscovered country. Suddenly, the streets opened up to be streets. Not quite two lanes wide, but not so cramped that you felt like you had to ask passersby if they had been tested and had protection. There were also more street performers. Previously I had seen a lot of beggars, but no street performers. I have a rule about beggar and street performers. I don’t give money to people who aren’t making an effort to earn it. Seriously, if the little old lady in the babushka outside the cathedral had a sign that said she would pray for my soul in exchange for a donation, I would have gone for it, but just holding out a cup? I took a short video of the two guys playing guitar and gave them some money. Opera guy was cleaning up. The jazz quartet was doing okay, but they have to split it four ways. The Charlie Chaplin mime was doing terribly and when I passes his way again he had packed it in, hopefully for greener pastures and not because the gangs of roving purse sellers had chased him off. Need a purse? Need sunglasses? Need a ball of goo that will reform itself into a gold pig after you splat it against something? You can get all that stuff easily and I would buy from street vendors, but I have a purse and sunglasses and no need for splaty gold pigs. I happened to walk past a purse dealer who was involved in negotiation with a little girl as her mother looked on. The dealer was having a ball trying to talk this girl into letting her mother buy a purse but the little girl kept saying that her mother couldn’t have another purse because Daddy said no more.

Also during my afternoon roving I discovered a grocery store. I had come across butchers and fruit and vegetable vendors, but no basic grocery stores. When traveling in other countries, one of the things I like to look at are the grocery stores. Oddly the German girl I met on the plane said she also liked to look at grocery stores. She mentioned being amazed that in Canada they sold eggs by the dozen. In Germany she said you can only get them by the half dozen. She was fascinated by the fact that you could get eggs in the UAE in flats of 30. In Italy eggs are available in dozens. If I could have gotten half that stuff back to the UAE, I would have needed to buy a new suitcase.

After the grocery store, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel. This always requires an hour or so of finding a vaporatto stop and I was still trying to avoid the Rialto bridge which of course meant I ended up in San Marco Square. As I passed I noticed that the line to get into the cathedral wasn’t long so I hopped in it and was disappointed. In Notre Dame you went into the church, all the way into the church. In San Marco you walked through the foyer and into their gift shop. If I had waited in line for that I’d have been peeved. As I passed outside, I noticed that they had closed up so maybe I just got unlucky.

On the vaporatto to the bus station I got stuck in the middle of a group of obnoxious Germans. Maybe I’m just unlucky that way too. This group couldn’t understand that no standing in front of the driver meant them too. They kept standing up to take pictures, once nearly causing an accident. I was so distracted by their antics that I nearly failed to take in how empty the canal was. Every other time I had been on the Grand Canal there had been so many vaporattos, water taxis, gondolas and personal boats that one could almost hop across, but at this point in the day it was so quiet that I could see water. In one stretch there was only one other boat and it was a vaporatto (headed directly for us. I don’t know how they manage to not have dozens of accidents a week.)

The bus route, as if sensing that I may have gotten my bearing finally, threw me one more curve ball. The bus wasn’t there when I got to the correct lane so I waited for ages in the cold with several other people. When the bus finally arrived it wasn’t the full route. It was the limited route. There I was hoping I could get on the bus without having to pull out my hotel postcard and show it to the driver and I had to anyway.

On the upside I did get the show to stop coming out in one stream. On the downside, apparently its interpretation of “shower” is a circle of water that a person can easily stand in the center of without getting wet. I may have been better off with the broken version, but since I don’t know how I fixed it, I don’t know how to break it again.

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Venice – Day 2

Published April 22, 2013 by Christa Maurice

And what a difference a day makes. I woke up Saturday to sun. Well, not sun, but thin clouds with patches of blue. Because the previous day’s inbound bus had been packed and the high tide had been ever so much fun what with the wet feet all day, I decided to leave later. Sleeping in was not an option as everyone else in the building was up, slamming doors and running water so I dragged my self down to the fully stocked but still disappointing breakfast. Okay, call me spoiled but I’m used to a much more varied menu. Scrambled eggs, wet bacon, tinned pears, a couple of unattractive bread choices, slices of lunch meat and one kind of cheese, cereal and water or, I swear, Tang to drink is just not up to snuff. No fried halluomi, no bread pudding, some hotels have a table devoted to fruit! At least they brought coffee to the table.

I stalled until nearly ten before setting out to the bus where I triple checked and committed to memory the number (12) and when it arrived in Venice I committed the lane number to memory (B5). To be fair the bus I had gotten on the day before was #2 in lane B6. So close. I had planned to go straight to the vaporatto for a sightseeing cruise, but when I got off the bus I noticed a different bridge into the city. The route I had taken in the day before was under construction so it was like a cattle run, but with graffiti, and it dumped you into the Times Square version of Venice. This bridge went into a neighborhood area with a few little shops and laundry hanging across the canals. It was sunny. I was warm. My camera battery was charged. What more did I need?

Lunch. The missed dinner and the unappetizing breakfast caught up with me around midday and I kind of got my heart set on a rolled sandwich containing some form of pig meat. The previous day, when I didn’t want food because I was too busy being cold, I saw them all over the place. Saturday, nada. I even attempted to retrace my route from the day before and that was a dismal failure. Every thing in Venice is a narrow alley or an odd shaped courtyard with a capped well in the middle of it. I spent half the day being certain I was in that very courtyard before, but weren’t they doing construction then? And no sandwiches to be found. I eventually broke down and purchased a calzone which was spectacularly disappointing and overpriced. Of course, within half an hour I spotted a shop selling the sandwiches I had wanted. It’s a sandwich. I have tortillas and ham at home. But this is Venice!

Legs tired I decided to take that vaporatto ride I had been promising myself. I found the nearest stop, which was not a line I had been on before and hopped on figuring they all went around in circles.

They don’t.

Before I learned that, I rode down the Grand Canal which was much more attractive in the sun and I hopped off at an impressive looking building that turned out to be the only thing to see in that general area. Then I hopped back on the vaporatto and rode it to the end of the line which was on an entirely different island. There was a huge terminal there so I wandered around a bit. Took some pictures. Debated gelato. Then I found another vaporatto going in a more favorable direction.

On the way to the island of difficult return, I had seen a park from the boat. There was a stop there, so it was just a matter of getting on a boat that went there. After being in busy downtown Venice and terrifyingly crowded San Marco Square, the park was astonishing. More trees than people! Statues! A wide boulevard leading to a fountain that appeared to have a statue of Marco Polo on top. That whole block leading back in the general direction of San Marco Square was very quiet and largely owned by Chinese people. My first clue was the pair of little Chinese girls riding their bikes down the road chattering in Italian. I gave in to the desire for gelato there. Not ice cream, not ice milk either, somewhere in between but tasty.

I managed to get to the Rialto Bridge (and then in a bad case of Twilight Zone-ism, couldn’t get away from it). It is purported to be the prettiest bridge in Venice. Those who purport need to look around a little. There are at least a dozen prettier bridges. It’s not just the hordes of tourists ruining the view either. It’s a tall bridge with shops built on it in two rows near some unassuming buildings and along the backs of the shops there is graffiti. What is pretty about this? I saw dozens of bridges, tall bridges, low bridges, wide bridges, bridges with stairs, bridges between buildings, bridges in front of beautiful buildings. What makes this bridge better? Advertising. Don’t fall for it. Unfortunately, like a black hole, once you get near it, you can’t seem to get away.

At some point while I was trying to escape the gravity of the Rialto Bridge I started seeing signs on the ground for bathrooms. After the impossibility of finding bathrooms in Paris curiosity got the better of me and I followed the signs down the road, up an alley, through a tiny courtyard with a restaurant, down another alley, around a corner to a surprisingly clean building where they were charging one and a half euros to use the facilities. They were clean and stocked so I couldn’t really complain except that I only had a two euro coin and they gave me ten pennies and a handful of other small coins as part of my change increasing the weight of my purse unnecessarily.

Having burned up most of the day, I decided it was time to head back to the hotel. At the top of the bridge leading to the bus station, I spotted my bus and in the effort to hurry nearly went face first down the cement steps. On the bus I asked the driver if he went to the neighborhood my hotel is in and handed him my card. He said he did. I told him that I had gotten on the wrong bus the night before and he chuckled, but made sure I got off at the right stop. I stopped in at the restaurant for some carry out and ended up buying a three day supply of lasagna. Who knew that the piece he was indicating was actually twice the length of the spatula?

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Venice – Day 1

Published April 21, 2013 by Christa Maurice

The first day I went on a circuit of the neighborhood, mostly because I realized I had forgotten to pack contact solution and needed a pharmacy. I found one imaginatively named Acqua & Sapone where I was unable to find what I needed on my own. Silly me, I should have known contact solution would be on the bottom shelf under the condoms and across from baby bottles. I did find a lovely restaurant where the very nice man taught me Italian for take out (porta via) and made me a calzone.

The next morning I woke up to rain. I thought ‘yay! Rain!’ Shows you how dumb I am. After breakfast, which I got to as the poor breakfast guy was trying to rebuild after it was demolished by outgoing Chinese tourists, I got instructions on how to get to Venice. I had to go to the block behind the hotel where the restaurant was and buy a ticket from the tobacconist. There were one, two, three and five day options. I’m here for four days. Perfect. I bought a three day ticket, hopped on the very crowded bus and headed into rainy Venice.

Now, on top of the water coming from the sky, high tide means that the water in the canal comes up over the sidewalk and if you aren’t paying attention, you will walk into a cold puddle. When I was reading up in it, one of the sites mentioned that rubber boots were a good idea. No really, rubber boots. You can tell the locals because they’re the ones in the knee high rubber boots. So I’m soaked from all sides, but jeez, this is Venice and I need to find a camera store because my camera battery was dead. (Did I mention that? Dead. Like the last time I used it I forgot to turn it off dead. And I’m in Venice.) So I’m wandering around drenched, looking for a camera store and I realize that, as there are buses on land, there are public transportation boats in Venice. I further realize that this card I bought to get into Venice works on the vapratto too! In Venice, the only way to get around is by boat or on foot, wet sodden foot. So I try to determine how this works, give up and sit down to wait hoping all will be revealed. As I’m waiting these two Chinese girls come over to ask me a question. I tell them I don’t know anything, but they don’t realize thata ima nota talkin ina Italiana accent. When I explain that I am a tourist also, they ask someone else who can tell them what they need to know and I go with them.

Cute girls. They had one day in Venice before they went on to another city and they were studying in England. What a group we made. The American teaching in Abu Dhabi and the Chinese girls studying in England looking for San Marcos Square in Venice in the rain. It took us about 45 minutes to find the place and we were freezing. Also, I was seasick. The sea between the islands is just alarmingly wide and the water was rough.The square had flooded in low tide so there were platforms set up as pathways. I parted company with the girls there because I spotted a camera shop where I found a universal charger. Woohoo!

After that I wandered around for a while just gazing. People kept stopping me to ask me questions. I know not why. I look about as Italian as Serena Williams. But I answered as best I could. Then I decided to look for a vaporatto landing to head back to the hotel. I should have known when I couldn’t manage to get to one that there were rough times ahead. I could see them, but there always seemed to be some combination of water and masonry in the way.

I managed and after a very long and packed ride I got back to the bus station. (Also terrifying. When I say the boat was packed, I mean to the gills. All I could think was we were going to sink and could I swim in thirty pounds of fake fur coat, blue jeans and sneakers?) At that point I realized I had no clue what bus I needed to get back to the hotel and there are no maps. Gah. So I read signs and spotted Mestre, the town I am staying in. On that bus I asked the driver if it went to Mestre. He reacted as if I had asked if the bus went on the road. Of course. That probably should have been a clue. I dismissed my initial bad feelings because I really couldn’t see on the way out. Eventually, I couldn’t dismiss anymore and I realized the hotel clerk had given me a card with a map of where the hotel is on it. I pulled that out the card and asked the woman across from me if I was on the right bus. After several minutes of hemming and hawing the answer boiled down to “this bus no.” She couldn’t tell me any more so I hopped off and began polling perfect strangers as to what to do. Twice I got sets of directions and set off. Both sets were correct, but I was about five miles off course at that point, as well as soaked and with my shoes eating into my heels. In desperation I got on the first bus I saw and asked the driver if he went anywhere near where I needed to be. Of course not, but he was very kind and spoke good enough English to put me off at a stop where I was to catch either the nine or the fifteen and they would take me where I needed to go. The fifteen happened to be the first one by, but I wasn’t taking any chances and showed the driver my card. He let me stand up front with him and counted down the stops until we got to the one nearest my hotel from which I could see the sign. A twenty minute trip into town took me an hour and a half to get back.

I was so tired and cold that I curled up on the bed planning to go to the restaurant around the corner for dinner later. Never happened. Before crawling into bed, I had the foresight to hang my clothes on the towel warmer and open my umbrella in the shower. After an hour and a half resting, I took the dry stuff down and arranged my shoes so they could dry. I also fiddled with the charger and then fell asleep for three hours. When I woke up it was bed time, my shoes were dry and my camera battery was charged. So it wasn’t a total loss. But no supper!

Venice – Outbound

Published April 20, 2013 by Christa Maurice

The trip started with a half empty bus – make that 80 percent empty bus to the airport. Not all too surprising considering that I was traveling in the middle of the break. At the airport I found my gate and settled in but not long before boarding they cleared everyone out inviting massive confusion and every man for himself-ism. This is when I don’t miss traveling with the ex. He would have been freaking out about getting on the plane first. I, on the other hand, knew that my carry on luggage consisted of my purse and my sunny personality. However, I draw the line at line cutting.

When a line resolved itself, I got in it. Then a very large German man decided he could ease his way in ahead of me if he was patient enough. I watched him out of my peripheral vision and patiently but firmly edged him behind me. For my persistence, when I got to the desk, the clerk stared fiddling with my ticket. I started grinning inside. Upgrade, baby. Reward for being persistent and not letting pushy man have his way. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

The flight was lovely. Had I been in coach I would have had to endure every second wide awake while some stranger slept on my shoulder, but in business I ordered my breakfast for after take off, ate and proceeded to sleep for most of the flight. The guy next to me was my total hero though. He finished eating before me and was sleeping before the very attentive crew could pick up his tray. He slept, as far as I can tell, straight through to an hour before landing.

Dusseldorf Airport threatens to top my worst airports ever. Recall that of the top 10 worst airports in the world according to Expedia, I have been to four. This one wasn’t on the list, but it should have been. We we ejected from the plane into a featureless hallway that eventually led to a set of stairs and down to passport control. Passport control? I’m not staying in Germany. I checked my ticket which helpfully said I would be departing from gate B. I saw a sign for gate C, but not B. So I located a very helpful policeman who told me I would indeed have to go through passport control. The man in passport control demanded to know where I was going. Venice, Italy. How long I would be staying? Five days. Then he glared at me like he suspected that I was lying so I added that I had to go back to Abu Dhabi where I teach kindergarten. Kindergarten usually gets them. I swear I could swan through the tightest security in the world with a bright grin and a comment about teaching kindergarten. Not this guy. He glared at me a second longer before stamping my passport and handing it back to me. No “enjoy your stay,” no “have a nice trip,” nada. So I set off in search of the next hurdle, security. At security, while the guy in front of me fiddled with everything he owned like he’d never been through airport security before, I took off my watch and dropped it into my purse and pulled out my iPad. I dumped it all into the tray, but the guard stopped me before I could get through the metal detector. He needed my ticket. Then he needed my passport. Then he wanted my sweater. For the record, my sweater is a paper thin boyfriend sweater that I don’t usually unbutton. I pull it over my head like a cardigan, but I was so baffled that I ended up unbuttoning it thinking he only wanted to see under and then had to throw it in the tub. Maybe the guy in front of me wasn’t so disorganized after all. And the guard? Looked seriously annoyed the entire time. He’s going to have wrinkles.

After my pleasant encounter with security, I continued through the maze of Dusseldorf Airport. They’re doing construction. Are you surprised? I’m not. It seems like every airport on the planet is doing construction, except Amman in Jordan. Pretty sure the dust is what’s holding that one together. The hamster tube I had to go through had lots of great big windows showing me all the wonderful things (food, shopping) available in the the neighboring building. Thanks. I needed that. Eventually the maze dumped me into Gate B which is actually about twenty gates bunched together, but they won’t tell you which one is yours until less than two hours before your flight.

I had a five hour layover.

At least the food was good. By which I mean they had ham sandwiches.

On the flight to Venice, I was seated next to a very chatty German woman with excellent English. After my frequent bad encounters with Germans, it was nice to meet a friendly, pleasant one. We traded anecdotes all the way to Venice and I consulted with her about one of my students (I can’t help myself.) Then I hopped a cab to my hotel.

The only four stars this hotel has are in the logo. It reminds me a lot of Fawlty Towers, but without the charm. The automatic door doesn’t open until you are stopped immediately in front of it. (To be fair, this seems to be common. If you walk too fast you will be smacked in the face by a door that has not decided to open yet.) The lobby furniture was burgundy, but at some later date the cushions were recovered in aqua blue making for an eye bending color combination. My room key is a metal key on an astonishingly heavy fob. It was handed to me and the elevator pointed out, but no one helped me to my room. Eh, one less tip. The doors and trim are painted gunmetal gray in a very high gloss. The first several times I walked up to my door in the rather dark hall, I flinched, thinking there was someone there when it was only my reflection. The room itself is about eight by ten, but I do have my own bathroom. Sadly, the shower has no spray. It’s like standing under a hose and no matter what I do the water ends up all over the floor.

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Living Overseas Is Awesome: Hit On Again

Published March 15, 2013 by Christa Maurice

Today, I went grocery shopping with a friend. Sounds a little odd, I know, but here the only way to get to the grocery store is by car or by cab and since I share a car with this friend to lower expenses and since the very best time to grocery shop is Friday morning at 8:30 (all the Muslims have church on Friday mornings) it only makes sense to go together. (We also happen to be freakishly in sync. We end up at the registers within 10 minutes of each other every time. Weird, huh?)

Anyway , there I was shopping and this middle aged, kandoora wearing Emirati man came up to me and said, “hello.”

“Hello.”

“Are you a teacher?”

Adult female uncovered in a Muslim country, what are the odds? “Yes.” I also kept walking to demonstrate my lack of interest.

“Are you married?”

I’m not, but… “Yes.” Still walking and looking at produce. I was hoping for blackberries, but then I spotted the carrots and remembered that they were on sale. Love my Bunny Luv baby carrots.

“Is your husband here?”

“Yes. He is at home.” In for a penny, in for a pound. Hey look, blackberries!

The Emirati Casanova got the message about that point. Or perhaps I just managed to get far enough away that he wasn’t going to lose face by yelling after me. A few minutes later I saw him approach another woman who pushed her cart away shaking her head. This isn’t the first time I’ve been hit on by an Emirati man. One day I was actually followed through the grocery store by a man with worse English and another time I was approached by a man in a mall parking lot who blocked my car into the space while trying to convince me to help him “practice his English.” (That was actually slightly threatening, but it was the middle of the day and the middle of the mall parking lot. If he had even tried to get out of his SUV, I planned to run screaming.) The grocery store pick-up is kind of annoying. The mall pick up is a little scary until it’s over, then it’s funny. The highway pick up is usually pretty funny. (That involves a man pacing your car or tailing you for several miles before pulling in front of you and then pulling off. I think they expect you to follow them based on the awesomeness of their car or the darkness of their tinted windows. Had that happen once in a cab in the middle of town. Not as funny out on the middle of the dessert between here and Dubai.)

But back to the point. Finished shopping, got in the car and on the way home my friend said, “I had a nice thing happen. A guy hit on me. I was very flattered.”

I was remarkably on the ball and didn’t blurt out that he’d hit on me and another woman or that I found it annoying. I guess it’s a matter of perception. She’s a glass half-full person and I must be a “please leave me alone creepy man, I was eyeing the Pakistani boy stocking the oranges” person.