Poor Stevie

October 2010 archive

you can’t straighten my curls

At the end of this trip, I hope to write a comprehensive travel guide outlining budgets, travel options, the best hostels, cool cities, dud cities and where to find the best donuts (Okay, I’ll tell you that now: Rila Monestary, Bulgaria. You buy them from a stand called “Happy American Donuts” and you add your own sugar. Dangerous! And Happy!). But there’s a little something I want to share with you now because it’s a discovery all y’all ladies can use at home.

Behold the world’s most perfect travel hairstyle!

steph1

It’s the side bun circa 1989! I also rocked this look for my wedding. (However, at my wedding I wasn’t wearing a second-hand coat from Cluj and – luckily – wasn’t completely infested with bed bugs, as I was at the time this photo was taken. Thank you, Romania!) The side bun is the perfect travel hairstyle because a) you can lean your head back on train/bus seats and relax b) it’s really easy to do c) it gets your hair out of the way of the straps on your 14kg backpack and d) it can easily translate from weary traveller to international party girl with just a flick of a comb.

Here’s the view from the back:

steph4

It’s a little messy here, yes. But that’s from all the lying back and relaxing I’d been doing from Brasov to Bucharest. (The dude in the photo is an NYC-er we met at our Brasov hostel. He was an inspiration to me – he ordered fried chicken for breakfast.)

And below is the same hairstyle a few hours later, while preparing for a long night aboard a sleeper train (and, obviously, earning a little extra cash on the side as a model for Big W photo frame happy example shots).

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(This post has been brought to you by the overuse of brackets for witty remarks on the snide.)

a big bone shaker

The world doesn’t need another photo of a couple of idiots grinning in front of the Trevi fountain.

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After years and years of dreaming about visiting Italy, it is everything I imagined.

women seem wicked

Before I begin the second installment of Weird Things I’ve Noticed About Europe, I want to tell you that I just saw the Acropolis. THE ACROPOLIS, DUDES! It was seriously impressive and I got all girly about it.

Herewith Weird Things I’ve Noticed About Europe Part Deux

The venga bus is coming: On just about every bus we’ve caught, the driver puts on some kind of dated mix tape of vaguely nationalistic songs. On our bus ride from Bulgaria to Greece the driver’s music could hardly be heard over some kind of torturous malfunctioning alarm that buzzed endlessly. The poor dude had to pull over the clunky old wagon heaps of times to check something and eventually he fixed whatever was going on. And that’s when the partae really got goin’. As we crossed the border, Madonna’s Like A Prayer came on followed by Sinead O’Connor’s Nothing Compares 2 U. But even better, he kept replaying one Greek party song with a chorus that went a little something like this: “I’ve waited for so long, can’t we do it now? (touch my body)”. Clearly, it wasn’t just the bus that needed a good fiddle under the bonnet.

Gone to the dogs: Something that’s really distracting in Europe is the presence of – how I can I put this politely? Nope, I can’t – dog’s nuts. I know, surely I could be spending time admiring ancient monuments, great art and nature, but of course I’m spending all my time checking out animal genitalia. Forgive me. It’s just hard not to notice because stray dogs are absolutely everywhere and, obviously, the two are related. You don’t desex dogs and they go and mate with each other, have babies and form gangs. Exactly like bogans.

Double Lines: Catching buses or riding in cars in Europe is absolutely terrifying because there are no road rules. Red lights mean nothing, double lines mean nothing, speed limits mean nothing, impending head-on collisions mean nothing. Overtaking in Greece, for example, is done wherever and whenever – the oncoming cars just calmly shift to the side of the road. It is actually a miracle I’m not blogging from beyond the grave.

Real men: Just about everywhere we went in Eastern Europe, there were men on the street pushing prams…with dogs in them. I don’t know if they just don’t sell leashes in that part of the world, but it just seemed to be the done thing and it was no laughing matter. The first time I saw it, a man was pushing two regal looking cocker spaniels around in a pink pram. Thinking he was just an eccentric dog lover I looked at him, then pointedly at the dog babies, and smiled. Nope, not funny you idiot western woman – practical.

Sunday Best: There are more sex shops in Europe than people, dog’s nuts, crazy bus drivers and cocker spaniels in prams combined. We’ve been to countries where we’ve been advised to cover up, dress modestly around churches and be ultra respectful to the older generation. It’s those same countries where everything will shut on a Sunday in the name of the sweet Lord. Everything except the sex shops on every corner. Need a latex dress last minute? No problem! How about some fluffy handcuffs? Done. What about a leash? Yeah, sure I’m tired of pushing my wife around in a pram, anyway.

hump day

Last night J-man and I were doing the typical Romanian thing and having a drink in an Irish pub in downtown Brasov, Transylvania.

“Happy three month anniversary,” I said, raising my glass.

“Happy anniversary – we’ve been married for three months!” he replied, then quizically looked at the date on his watch.

Yup, it’s been three months since we got on a jetplane to Thailand.  Here in freezing, beautiful, slightly scary Romania, it seems a century ago since we were sitting poolside,  sipping cocktails and gorging on seafood banquets. With countless sleeper trains, overnight buses and bouts of explosive weebum now firmly under my (tightening) belt, I would like to share with you a list of things travel has taught me about myself.

A list of things travel has taught me about myself:

– I am not normal.

Most people do the thing where they check for their passport and tickets a couple of times and arrive at the airport/train station with a little time to spare. I feel like I have cooled out a lot since J-man scolded me for dragging him to the bus stop in Amsterdam about four hours before our overnight bus to Berlin was due to leave, but I am still a total freak when it comes to pre-travel preparation. Here’s a little checklist I go through the night before moving onto a new city:

  • Check for tickets
  • Check time on tickets
  • Ask J-man to set alarm
  • Pack bag
  • Check tickets are still in bag
  • Make sure J-man has set the alarm
  • Have clothes, shoes and handbag ready next to bed
  • Make sure J-man is asleep before I check the tickets again
  • Tiptoe over to J-man’s bed to check he has set the alarm
  • Lie awake wondering what it will be like if we miss the train and have to spend the rest of our lives in a place called Cluj
  • Freak out about whereabouts of passport and rustle around trying to find passport
  • Locate passport in the place I always keep it
  • Dream about missing train/bus
  • Wake up 15 minutes before alarm goes off in order to “clear the decks”, even if not necessasry, to avoid using train/bus toilets
  • Wake up long-suffering, easy-going husband and force feed him breakfast at dawn so we can make our 1pm train/bus.

– I can read maps.

I first realised this when J-man and I were in Amsterdam trying to hunt down the Red Light District. J-man, who at this point had christened himself “Papa Compass” thanks in part to the compass on his Jason Bourne-style watch, snatched the map from me and led the way. Into surburbia we went and, upon passing several families with small children, I told him I suspected we were going in the opposite direction. “Trust Papa Compass,” he said. So I let him go, until finally he relented and I – the ever faithful wife – took us directly to where the girls in red boxes were trying to sell sex to drunk Poms.

– I DO have a bladder of steel.

There was a time in my life where I would have to stop to wizz at least twice between Lucknow and Orange. I remember once being so scared to tell my parents I needed to wee during a trip to Tuckerbag, that I snuck off to a neighbouring vacant building, thinking its “To Let” sign said “toilet”. Things have since improved, but suddenly I am the girl who can wait until I GET TO A WHOLE NEW COUNTRY before I wee.

– I am not afraid of germs aka my immune system is awesome!

Sometimes you have to do gross stuff overseas. Sometimes there’re no soap, old-looking sheets, three days of the same socks, two days of the same underpants, sharing train compartments with sickly old people, trusting fellow-hostelers to wash their dishes properly, buying food from dirty-looking bakeries and touching money so brown cavemen probably used it to buy their fur loin cloths. All of this and I haven’t even had so much as caught a sniffle (knocking on closest wood).  I rule!

Other things:

  • I am a massive baby and miss my family
  • I am a total cheapskate and will not hand over money for anything I do not have to (case in point, both the bras I packed have lost their underwire and my jeans shrunk to kid size in the wash. I scoff at suggestions of replacements)
  • I am not yet done with Sydney
  • I have the world’s biggest appetite
  • I am brave. Sort of.