Tag Archives: lost luggage

Packing light

I’m sitting here at my desk with a cafĂ© au lait, waiting for PG to come pick me up so we can head to the airport for our flight to Vegas. I’ve said my goodbyes to DD, who left for work 45 minutes ago, admonishing me to “bring me back something blingy to show me you love me”. I’ll be phoning my mother within the half-hour: I thought I’d wait a bit, on the off-chance that she might have actually slept past 7 am today.

And I’m worrying about my suitcase.

I mean, we’re only going for four nights, five days, and it will be hot, so I haven’t packed many clothes, and certainly nothing bulky. How much room do a few tank tops and several skirts take anyway? I have my toiletries down to a science as well, and in fact, that little bag is permanently packed, so all I really had to do was replenish a few items and add a couple more. And get this, guys: I’m only taking TWO pairs of shoes – and one pair is flipflops, while I’m wearing the other pair!

So really, the suitcase doesn’t have a whole lot in it.

Still, you know my history with suitcases on planes. I get to destinations, my suitcase doesn’t.

So I’m worrying. Which items exactly, of the ones I have packed, am I prepared to live without for the duration of the trip – you know, just in case my case once again goes AWOL? I can’t fit everything into my oversized purse (I’ve tried, believe me!), and I have a little too many liquids and gels to do that anyway, so some stuff would still have to go in the case. I’ve got to get myself another system – but it’s too late for this trip. I should have been worrying about this weeks ago!

PG thinks this is all hilarious. He has not ever lost his suitcase in the netherworld of airline travel. (He also has not travelled quite as much as I have, so perhaps that would explain it.)

“Ha ha ha,” I reply grimly. “You have not travelled much with me, my friend. There is a dark cloud of lost luggage hovering around me. You’ll be enveloped in it as well. Beware.”

So I sit here stewing, but hoping for the best. After all, we have a direct flight, so there is a much greater chance this time that my luggage will get on the same plane as I do.

But still.

Pray for me and my luggage, won’t you?

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Walk like an Egyptian

DD and I are safely back from our Egyptian idyll. I am currently doing the third of what seems like twelve thousand loads of laundry, composing a grocery list in my head, rediscovering the various trinkets we bought for ourselves and as gifts for others, half-heartedly putting things away, wondering where the hell I hid my Canadian money and all the crap I removed from my wallet before we left …

… and of course, catching up on emails and blogs. You know, the fun stuff.

I have to admit that this was not the “best trip evar”. I was actually rather pleased to get home after two weeks on the road, living out of a suitcase, whereas normally it is a bittersweet feeling to come home.

Why? Well, first of all, our effing luggage did not arrive in Cairo with us. Yes. Again. (You may recall the luggage saga on our Greek vacation last year.) We are a cursed people, that’s my only explanation. And this time, it took FOUR days for us to retrieve it ourselves back at the airport because the bloody airline somehow couldn’t get it together to send it out to the hotel when it arrived in Cairo the day after we did. Oh, there were many phone calls to the lost luggage department of this airline, both from me (after I mastered Egyptian phones), the hotel reception people, and two different people from our travel agency. Everyone was disgusted with the treatment we got. As one of the fellows said, it is normal to have to deal with lost luggage, but it is NOT normal to have to go out the airport yourself to get it back. That was a first for him.

Secondly, poor DD got sick on our second day. (Maybe it was wearing the same clothes that she travelled in?) She was throwing up and generally feeling lousy, and we hadn’t even had time to ingest any of the water yet. That nausea later morphed into an overall feeling of just being ill, and that lasted most of the trip, off and on. Then one morning she woke up with a headcold, and is still coughing now. Next came her pulled thigh muscles from the crouching position necessary to enter a pyramid – the poor girl could barely walk for two days! Not to mention we both had the runs for a day or so (that one is apparently a regular occurrence with tourists to Egypt, and fortunately, we were prepared with meds for that).

But she was a trooper and didn’t miss much at all, as crappy as she was feeling at times. And she kept apologizing for ruining my trip, despite my assurances that she wasn’t ruining it at all, that of course I’d stay with her if she didn’t feel up to some visit somewhere. (My maternal instinct kicks in quite strongly when my offspring is ill, even though she’s 23.)

The third thing was the whole tour experience. As you know, I don’t DO tours, but in Egypt being part of a tour group is pretty much required, as it’s just too tough to travel on your own. But by the end both DD and I resented being herded here and there, being told to stand/ sit/ walk/ stay/ go/ try/ climb/ ride/ be careful/ look/ admire/ listen. Our tour group was small, just four people including us, plus our tour guide. The other two people were men, and we felt that our guide was catering way more to them than to us. Sometimes it was like tagging along with a bunch of frat boys! Thank goodness that we had a fair bit of time alone to bitch to each other and to renew our energy before the next outing somewhere.

The whole Middle East culture shock thing was huge for me, as well. I had a taste of it last year in Istanbul, and it’s interesting and different for the first few days, but two weeks can seem like a very long time to be a complete fish out of the water. It’s just so mentally tiring to have to constantly be aware of the societal norms around you – and there is little common ground with your own culture, so your points of reference are pretty much zero. Yes, I have a somewhat adventurous spirit, but I have to say that I was often very glad to be walking around with my group and that my group included men. It’s hard to get used to all the other women around wearing hajib or burqa in such hot temperatures. It was difficult, if not impossible to do much shopping because of the shopkeepers’ constant hassling, and also because we didn’t know many “average” prices, so we were at an enormous disadvantage if we wanted to bargain, unless our tour guide was there to give us a ballpark figure for whatever item we were interested in buying. The whole tipping thing was baffling as well, but fortunately our tour guide collected a whack of American money from each of us right at the start of the tour, and he doled it out in appropriate amounts to the appropriate people at the appropriate times. That was a relief, I must say!

Still, I’m glad we went, and I honestly wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

And the best part was probably that our luggage actually arrived home with us! (It’s the little things, you know?)

Vacation-part 3

Yes, my bloggy buddies, there is indeed a Part 3 to the never-to-be famous Pinklea Vacation Series. This part won’t be full of photos, however (You, at the back! Sit down and quit cheering!). This part details Four Things That I Did Not Like On My Vacation.

The main thing I did not like was being without luggage for our entire first day. It wasn’t so much the lack of clothes or toiletries, because those can always be purchased (and some, in fact, were). What really bothered me were my contact lenses. I wear daily contacts, meaning that I put a brand new pair in every morning. I can wear them for two days, or even three if I’m very careful (they are extremely thin), but there is absolutely no way I could wear them for three weeks. And of course I had my package of extra contacts tucked away in my suitcase. So if my luggage was permanently lost, I had two options: 1) be unable to see clearly more than a couple of metres away, or 2) find an English-speaking ophthalmologist somewhere in Athens, have my eyes examined and a prescription written and new contacts purchased. Fortunately, in the end, I didn’t have to deal with either scenario. Lesson learned: Do not pack ALL your contacts in your suitcase, keep SOME in your purse Just In Case.

Another thing I did not like was being on a tour. Granted, our tour was only four days, and also granted, we did get to places that would have been a lot more difficult to get to had we opted to do it all ourselves (Olympia, Delphi, Arachova). That was the only reason we took the tour in the first place. But it was awful to be shunted here and there, to be told bluntly “The bus will leave in 30 minutes, so please be back here on time”, to be practically forced to follow our tour guide through museums (we ended up listening to her introductions, then quietly slipping away to explore on our own as much as we could), to be taken to tourist-trap shops over and over and being overly encouraged to buy-buy-buy, to have no choice in restaurants for lunch or dinner – and often no choice in what we ate, either. I know that many people are very comfortable with this sort of travel and find it so much easier than finding their own hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc, but DD and I are not those people. Lesson learned: Avoid tours if at all possible, and if it is not possible, SUCK IT UP and make the best of it.

I also did not much like waking up with a very sore back in Crete. I didn’t even do anything to it, I just woke up in the morning and discovered that I couldn’t bend without pain. This is the same back pain that I experienced last March, which was only alleviated with several visits to a chiropractor. O – kay. But I was in Crete this time. My chiropractor was very, very far away. My three options: 1) Let it ruin the remaining week of my holiday, whining loudly about my enormous suffering. 2) Find an English-speaking chiropractor in Iraklion, stay put for a few days and have a couple of treatments to realign my back. 3) Roll out of bed slowly and gingerly, then carry on with the planned itinerary, being as careful as possible to minimize bending and carrying, take drugs if required, then seek treatment when we get home. I chose number 3, and managed reasonably well till our return and two (so far) visits to my own chiropractor. Lesson learned: Be very careful of your back, and always bring Tylenol and Advil whenever you travel Just In Case.

The final thing that I did not like was the male-dominated atmosphere in Istanbul. This is a little tricky to explain, because I did enjoy Istanbul and I am glad I went there. But would I go back? I don’t think so. You see, when you are a tourist, more specifically a female tourist in the touristy old part of the city, everywhere you go there are men at the front of stores and restaurants yelling at you to come in. They’re not necessarily rude, it’s just how they do business, but I got very tired of being constantly called out at as I walked down the street. “Hey gorgeous!” “American or Australian?” “Come in and look around!” “Excuse me, girls!” and my all-time favourite call of “Hey! How can I help you spend your money today?” We literally could not stop to admire anything in a window because there would instantly be one or two men right there in our faces. It was never, ever women working in the shops or restaurants either. And as DD pointed out, you never see groups of females walking around together either, unless they are young teenagers. If you see a woman, she is surrounded by her children and her husband or other male family members. The women are always covered up (headscarves, shoulders and arms covered, long skirts), while men and children appear to be free to wear whatever they please. I know that Turkey is a Muslim country and I know they do have a different attitude towards women than we are used to in North America or Western Europe and I do respect that – but it was still disconcerting. Their explanation is that men are the weaker sex, so in order for women to be safe around them, women must be discreetly behaved and cover up much of their bodies. Huh?! MEN are weak so WOMEN are required to behave and dress in a particular manner?! I’m sorry, I just can’t agree with that, and this way of thinking is just so obvious in Istanbul that I must confess that it bothered me. Lesson learned: Be grateful for the experience of visiting a Muslim country, but think twice about visiting another in the future.

So – there it is. I really did have a wonderful vacation (I think DD did, too) with many, many good points, and if there were only four little things that weren’t exactly pleasing to me, oh well. Nothing’s perfect. But this vacation came pretty close, overall!