Hold The Door For Me!
I may have played that phrase in my mind a hundred times. I can’t help it when I see a shoreline in the distance and wonder where it goes. I want to go there.
Is it an island, or part of another country? Are the natives friendly and what do they eat? Should we fly or drive? What will it cost to visit and what is the currency?
When I visit somewhere I like contact with the people. I want to experience the flavour of the land. What do they do there? Is it mainly fishing and farming or a major seaport? Are there beaches or mountains? What do they teach in schools?
Finland Was Like That For Me!
I saw the shore of Finland in the distance, from Oslo, Norway. I was fascinated and I wanted to visit Helsinki.
I liked the sound of the name, I think.
If I had to take an armchair visit to Helsinki, I would know that the population of the city is only 634,000, and English is spoken everywhere……Good thing too, or I wouldn’t go there……..Oh and I bet they would miss me!
The winters must be cruel as it goes down to -3F in February which seems to be the coldest month. It goes as high as 79F in July, which is the warmest month.
That doesn’t seem so bad.
But their tourist board says the summers are comfortable and partly cloudy and the winters are long, freezing, snowy, windy, and mostly cloudy.
I will plan my trip for July, and pack warm clothes.
Just think, if they say it’s bad, it must be bad.
But that information will not keep me away from Finland.
Some Places, Not So Much
Coming from a large family and close together in age, four of us left home in four years. At that time three brothers moved to western Canada, and I moved to South Africa.
Brother Ken who was being trained as an air traffic controller was sent to Inuvik in the Northwest Territories. Remote, land of the midnight sun and perpetual winter.
Was he crazy? Did he really want to go there? What’s the attraction? Well, it was company training, a great opportunity. They were young, and they wanted to do it. From Inuvik, Ken was at a mid-point from New York, Montreal, London, Madrid, Moscow, Vancouver, and various other places on the globe. But Inuvik, in the arctic circle, was very quiet. It was a perfect place to be trained in this profession. And so he, Wendy, and his family lived there for two and a half years.
At the same time, in South Africa, I was acclimatizing to Christmas in summer. I sent out Christmas cards and received them in return.
Ken sent a card saying all the usual Christmasy things: “Merry Christmas and be safe and well. Thanks for the card and mail takes a long time to get here.
Oh, and the sun just went down, today, for the last time and we will not see it again for 21 days.
Have a lovely, bright, sunny, and warm Christmas.”
Yes, I felt bad for them and I kept the card!
Time Well Utilized
The Arctic Circle is very remote. Those guys didn’t have much to do, so they played games. And they played tricks on each other.
A newbie arrived and he was sure to be properly introduced to everyone and yes, a party would take place! Why not? These men were air traffic controllers. They did not drink alcohol anytime near their scheduled work hours.
But the newbie thought this must be their time off. They all had a drink in their hand; the newbie was set up.
He was ready to pass out; he had to get his sleep. They told him that he had a 4 am meeting in the tower in the morning. He’d better be responsible.
An hour later, enter the Mission Impossible team of Inuvik, ATCD (air traffic controller division). (Remember that name).
The clocks were turned forward four hours to 3:45 am. The sun was the same; dark. Who would know what time it was? They changed the time on the new guy’s watch and his alarm clock. He only had two hours’ sleep. They woke him up.
“Look at the time; you’ll be late! It’s already 3:45 am! You were supposed to be responsible. Might as well just pack your bags and go home. You could be done here”.
Him: “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this. I must have drank too much. O please, help me, help me!”
Or words to that effect.
I love the mission impossible theme here, but my heart goes out to that newbie! No, there was no 4 am meeting scheduled in the tower. All part of the setup.
Would I live in the Arctic Circle? Maybe, if I knew how long I would be there.
I would not have let this opportunity go by any more than my brother did.
For everywhere you live, you inherit another life!
Are You Ready Out There?
I remember hearing the meaning of “luck”.
What is it? “It is being prepared for a situation when it presents itself”.
Ergo, as luck would have it:
On a flight across the Atlantic, we touched down in Greenland to refuel.
We did not leave the plane but a few new people came on board…….From Greenland.
They were the same as we were – they weren’t different in any way. We thought Greenland was remote and isolated. Something should be different. We thought they would be alien!
Everyone watched in silence while these new travelers came on board. As they found their seats they greeted their seatmates and got grunts in return. Ok, we needed to cut some slack here. I think they were probably nice guys.
Then, the flight attendant got on the phone and asked, “Does anyone here want to stay in Greenland for the weekend?” I looked at my husband and was ready to jump up with an agreeable nod from him…… A nano-second too late!!
Another couple jumped up immediately and were ushered off the plane, given a hotel pass to cover their expenses and a generous food allowance. They had three days to explore and discover Greenland. This will be one of their unforgettable memories.
We were just not “lucky” this time.
Do You Speak Brazilian?
We arranged a flight from Johannesburg to Canada, via Rio de Janeiro. It was a package deal.
The deal was a 12-hour layover in Rio, complete with transportation from the airport and back. They would look after our luggage for us so we took our carry-on. We had never been to Rio, and we wanted to go there.
Arriving at customs in Brazil everyone spoke Portuguese. Everyone. There was not one English-speaking person there and we were having a hard time explaining why we did not have luggage.
Why were we spending twelve hours in Rio to move on later?
Were we terrorists?
We stood there, a velvet-covered chain between us and the new land. We could not enter unless we had a good reason for being there. We sat and we waited until their “English expert” arrived.
Our Interpreter breezed in, greeted everyone and the customs officials smiled and breathed a sigh of relief.
Now, this would be resolved…..Just watch.
The expert’s English was a whole lot better than my Portuguese because I don’t speak it. Of course, we had to tell the whole story again; we were asked the same questions, I think.
We waited, and we sat. No one seemed able to make a decision about us. Except for my husband.
He calmly took my hand and walked over to that velvet-covered chain that kept us out of the country. He un-clipped the chain and pulled me through, clipped the chain back up and we walked into Brazil.
The hairs on my neck bristled. I expected that we would be tackled to the ground and handcuffed. But everyone watched as we calmly walked away. They were glad to be rid of us. Situation resolved.
Was This A Type-O?
When I book an international flight I assume that the person helping me has flown internationally. I expect the travel agency expert to know more than I do. She knew what she was talking about and we made a great itinerary. Then she handed everything over to her assistant, who tied it all together and issued our tickets.
When we flew into New York we were scheduled to pick up a rental car to drive to Niagara Falls. We were told by the rental agency that our car was waiting for us in Newark.
That’s in New Jersey. And we could not change this arrangement.
We had to take an airline bus to Newark, from Kennedy Airport, which took three hours, one way.
Unfortunately, the assistant who issued our tickets, thought that “Newark” was a type-o for New York. She had no idea that this was a major city in another state. She had never been out of her own country.
What does all this matter in the broad scheme of things? These memories are what I have left of all my travels.
Not only was I pleasantly surprised with all the different food but also with the things that happened along the way. The interactions and the spontaneity were priceless.
Every incidence is what gives a situation its spice and colour. Without that, it’s black, white and grey. As if nothing happened.
There were hundreds of incidences, but not life-threatening stuff. Good stuff.
It’s the reason why, if I see a distant shore, I want to go there.
I loved every bit of it.