Travel Day – Switzerland to Belgium

If I hadn’t known that the Swiss and the French were so-very-different, I absolutely would have experienced culture shock earlier today.

At Leaping Lindy in Bern, Switzerland, everything ran on time. The Swiss bought our plane tickets early, arranged to pick us up on time, bought us train tickets to go to Bern from Zürich’s, put us in a lovely hotel, made sure we had food, and our drinks in the evenings were covered. Mind you, this was all the first day we arrived. On Saturday and Sunday, the students arrived early, classes started and ended on time, people were very polite, and everything was straight forward. The students were good at asking questions but mostly just listened and tried everything we told them to do. On Monday, Kevin and I had a slue of privates scheduled, but our organizer took care of all the small details that normally slip through the crack. We had a studio within walking distance to our hotel to teach 3 hours worth of classes, the students were there on time, someone had a key, the music worked in the dance studio, and there was water. Normally scheduling a private with 5 different people in another city is tricky because something is unaccounted for: the key, water, food, people run late, the sound system doesn’t work, etc., but in Switzerland, someone has accounted for everything. I was, and am, so impressed.
After three hours of privates, we headed to the station and took a train to Zürich’s where we taught another private. Again, all the details were accounted for. After the private, we headed to Uster where Kevin and I taught 2.5hr of group classes and everything ran smoothly. Classes started on time, students were on time and attentive during class, the sound system worked, and everyone had access to water. (Ooh, small slip up: Someone forgot the cable for the iPod to sound system, but the explanation of why that happened was that the person organizing the group class was German, not Swiss. 🙂 Then the Swiss person arrived with a cable and we started on time).
Finally, after class was done, Kevin and I headed home with our new hosts and there place was amazing. We had a room to ourselves, both had a bed, there was laundry, and wifi. A-mazing. And everything worked!!! I was a little beside myself, but lapped up every minute of it. It’s not that things don’t run smoothly in other countries, it’s just that things run exceptionally well in Switzerland. Now, I also say that, and am impressed by that, because I like having a schedule. I like when things run on time. I am the type of person who loves writing notes on post-its. Now, all of that aside, I must say that the Swiss aren’t as eccentric as the French or Italians.

Fast forward to Wednesday. Our host drives us to the airport, walks us in, helps us with our luggage, we check in and drop our luggage. We go through passport control, do some shopping, wander around, then go through security, which Kevin and I were the ONLY ones there. Nobody else was in sight. Nada. I little bizarre, but it kinda of felt like an expensive, European Pittsburgh. We head to the boarding gate, check in, then take a bus to our plane. About an hour later, we are in Paris at CDG.

Here’s the turning point of the entire adventure. After we exited the plane, we check our boarding pass to see where to go next, and there is no mention of the next gate. Now, that’s not particularly strange, but it’s noteworthy. Unfortunately, we were in Terminal G which is a bus ride away from everything, so we needed to know if we were staying in the terminal or not. We couldn’t find our light on any of the boards, but Kev guess we should go to connecting flights which was around the corner. We got to a passport control where we could scan our plane tickets and figure out where we were going. “No record” according to Air France. So we asked passport control. They didn’t know. They said maybe we should go to terminal 1. We headed towards the next set of gates, passed luggage, and found a full board with information. Our flight was not on there. WTF! Our flight was leaving in 35 minutes and it wasn’t on the board. ARG!! The Customer Service desk is open so I headed over there. I present my ticket and ask where to go. The man behind the counter had no idea. “What the hell is going on here? Why doesn’t anyone know where this is?” I ask myself. He looks up our flight number and says that we’re taking a train.

So we’re taking a train. Why the fuck didn’t anyone know that we were taking a train?! That explains why it wasn’t on the boards, but why didn’t anyone else know this? Why did our next organizer, after I sent our itinerary not say “BTW, just so you know, you’re taking a train to Brussels.” When I double checked that planes could fly into the Railway Station in Brussels (fuck, maybe that was the first obvious giveaway), I was assured the airport was connected to the train station (which is the same as CDG so I had no need to question it). When we checked-in in Switzerland, why didn’t the attendant say anything to us? Fuck…..maybe because she didn’t know either. But if she didn’t know either, then where is our luggage? Hahha, this is getting better and better….

Kev and I are let back in to the luggage area by the man who told us we were taking a train. When Kev and I get there, we see that the luggage from our flight has all been collected. Ok, then where is it? We go over to the customer service desk and wait to be helped. Kev and I check, double check, and recheck our tickets. Our boarding passes said they were boarding passes, there was an AF plane number on it, and it said “Here is your flight Information.” Riiiiiight. That aside, it also said “Voiture 1” which means “Car 1” which means train. The seating was also open, but it is with Southwest as well. The boarding time and departure time were only 10 minutes apart, so that should have also been a giveaway….but still…..it said it was a boarding pass!
Finally it’s our turn with the representative. The long of the short of it is that we should try to catch the train because she doesn’t know when the next one will come and she doesn’t know where our luggage is. Mind you, our luggage has been checked all the way through to Brussels, but on what flight? Apparently on the flight we are supposed to take, but there is no plane…..only a train. Does someone take the luggage to the train? After a 3 minute phone call, we find out no. Ok…..so were is our luggage. I understand that it’s unaccounted for currently, but I am pretty darn sure it was on the plane with us from Switzerland, but where was it going? We were told it would make it to Brussels as some point and then someone would bring it to us at Air France’s expense.
That’s rather nice of them to do. Little do they know that we are in Liege which is an hour away from Brussels. I realize there is nothing we can do about this and have some extra clothing and all my valuables on me, but it’s a little bit of a hassle. Ok….now to the train. We need to take the bus terminal F and then head to the train station. Check. We have 15 minutes to do this and a 10 minutes bus ride. We will be fine, I think. Well, we should be fine because the French are a tad flexible on their time schedule; however, I’ve also accepted the fact that we were going to miss our train and figured we catch the next one, hopefully with our luggage in tow.
We catch the bus which slowly winds it’s way through the airport and make it to the train station. I race after Kevin as he runs toward signs that look appropriate. Finally we see a sign for Brussels which is not on the electronic boards, but in a small corner. Unfortunately because of the train crash a few days ago and now the trains are not in use. This means we are taking a bus.

Quick recap with some extra details that you the reader do not yet have. Originally we asked our organizer to find us flights. The only flights he could find from Switzerland were $1200/person flights. That’s ridiculous. Clearly he didn’t look that hard or he’s just used to traveling much nicer than Kevin and I are. I had also asked our other organizers in France (for the next gig) what would be the best way to get to his city. A train would be boring and long, so we should fly instead. Ok, so both of them were little to no help with transportation (in every other way, they’ve been a huge help). The Swiss have bought our international ticket, and I bought our internal-Europe tickets. I found Kevin and myself some flights, sent them to the organizers, got the ok, bought them. Yesterday before leaving for Brussels I sent an email reminding our organizers that we were coming into a different place than the main airport, just as an FYI. I get a message back saying he had class to teach, so we should take a train to Liege, and then we’ll get picked up by someone. It’s nice to be picked up by the organizer, but I understand they have lives outside of the event. It would have been nice to know earlier so that I could have scheduled around that, but no problem. Then, we find out, almost too late, that we aren’t taking a plane to Brussels, we’re taking a train. Then our luggage cannot be located because it’s been improperly tagged (has this never happened before? shouldn’t there be something in the system that alerts people to the fact they are taking a train instead of a plane?). Barely making our train, we find out it’s a bus that will take 3.5hr to get to Brussels. And still, after all of this, we will need to take a train to another city and get picked up by someone for a car ride.

Boy what a day.

I am not quite sure what tone of voice you hear me speaking in when you read this (yes, I checked that sentence and decided to keep it as it was), but I want to clarify that. I am not mad or put out in the least, I am actually rather surprised. I think because I had such an organized weekend, where all the small details were taken care of,  now I feel like this jumble-of-a-time is an adventure instead of a hassle. Luckily I don’t have to teach tonight (so no time crunch) and I was smart enough to keep my valuable and some extra clothes on me, so I am fine. I’ve got Kev – who is taking this rather well, but is a tiny bit more charged than I am about this who situation – I’ve got my computer, warm clothes and some food.

I don’t know what the weekend has in store for us, but I presume this is just the beginning of a very exciting adventure. More later….. 🙂

BONUS

QLL – Don’t take yourself too seriously. Travel days are only as stressful as YOU make them. Keep important stuff on you. Try to schedule yourself some downtime. And finally, in the words of the awesome Shesha Marvin, “There are no emergencies in lindy hop.”

Preparing for Winter

As some of you know, I grew up in a relatively warm climate. The Bay Area has seasons, but to get winter, and I mean real winter, you have to drive somewhere to find it. Here in Pittsburgh, on the other hand, you just have to look outside.

Yesterday (Friday), my dentist called to see if was going to keep my appointment. I asked why wouldn’t I. She informed me that a storm was coming in and a lot of people were canceling. I didn’t realize that people would cancel appointments because of a storm so I rescheduled mine for earlier. Apparently the weather was going to get exciting around noon, so I agreed to a 2:30pm appointment.

It was 10:30am at the time and figured if I was going to go out, I should probably do that sooner rather than later. I ran to Target to get a laundry bag, kleenex, and some other knick knacks. After the storm hit, I realized I should have picked up bottles of water, canned food, and matches. Oh hindsight bias! Aren’t you wonderful?! *said with a high, cutesy voice.

The “storm” hit around noon, as scheduled. It was lovely. The prettiest storm I had ever seen! Beautiful, little snowflakes fluttered from the sky  in a light dusting. Our neighborhood slowly started to blanket. Around 1:00pm, that’s when the “flutter” became a “fall.” Snow came from the sky much more vigorously, but was still so pretty! “Oh how cute” I thought to myself. “This whole storm this is rather grand! If ‘storms’ mean that Pittsburgh becomes a winter wonderland… than I’m in!”  canceled my appointment 20 minutes later.

It continued to snow all day. Apparently, it wasn’t the “lovely snowflakes” we had to worry about. It was the fact that it was going to warmed up a bit, then the snow would melt,  then the temperature was going to drop (which it did) and everything was going to freeze (which it did) and finally there would be ice. Hmm….this “winter wonderland” didn’t seem nearly as wonderful as I had expected. It’s like the dentist lady knew something I didn’t. It’s like she’s lived in winter before and understood what “storm” really meant. Hmmm…..so what could I do to turn my frown upside down? I asked myself  “What could Sharon and I do to make being trapped in the house better?” There was only one answer: “DELIVERY!!”

Shaz got on the google machine and looked up delivery restaurants. We found this awesome delivery site called Meals Delivered and they have access to 40 different restaurants. We could order almost anything!!! What a great place we live in. We ordered up some Thai food because Kevin wasn’t around and waited for our food to come to us.

Forty minutes passed and we were starving. Garrr….was it the storm? Was is the weather? Or did delivery just take that long? It arrived within the next five minutes and Shaz and I chowed down. Yum yum yum. The food was soooooooooo good. About an hour later I was falling asleep. “Dang it! It’s only 7pm and I am fit for a nap!” That’s how I said it in my head, but as I announced that to Shaz, it sounded more like mumbles. I decided to grab a half hour nap.

Around 8 (yup, my half hour nap took longer than expected) I woke up and Shaz told me she was going to bed. I figured I might as well go back to sleep if my partner in crime was hitting they hay. Snooze time.

~

I hear yelling in the street. “Crap, what time is it?” I look at my phone and it’s 2am. “Great. Now I am going to be awake all night.” Kids were in the street throwing snowballs. Since I had been asleep a foot of snow had dropped. It was gorgeous! Slowly our street started to fad away under all the snow. “Winter is rather lovely” I say to myself while enjoying it from a heated view.

What does a girl do with spare time in the middle of the night? Get on internet!!! I read lots of cool things, wrote some great emails, discovered the meaning of life, posted some blogs, stretched, and so on. Ok, most of those things are true 😀 Anyways, it starts to get light outside and I figure that’s my cue to go back to bed. It was about 8am when I started to wrap things up. At least another foot of snow has dropped and my car has disappeared in the snow. At 8:30, the power went out. Fuck. The internet is down. And seriously, that was my first though. …. I know. I am shaking my head as well. Stop judging! 🙂

I check to see if the stove works. Gas works just fine, fire doesn’t light because it’s electric. Now realizing that we’ll probably run out of heat because the starter on the gas heater is electric. Buggar! Call John (our fix-it man). John says we should be fine, there are guys working hard to get power back to everyone but because there is so much snow the road are blocked. That being said, the house is warm and will stay that way for a while. I feel better.

I watched people try to dig themselves out of their house for a bit before retiring to bed. Ahhhhhhh, sleep. What a wonderful thing. At 9am Shaz woke up and so did I. I gave her the run down of what I knew and she geared up to go outside. I told her if she made it to Giant Eagles, she should grab matches.

Hopefully she’ll post her video, but she has some really great footage of her experience in the snow. The snow was sooooooooo fluffy and so amazing…wow. Perhaps pictures will do it justice. Shaz was knee-deep during a bit of her walk about a mile down the road. How fun! Well, let me be specific. “How fun” when you get to visit a city. I don’t think I’d like that every day.

Fast forward to 2pm. Shaz and I keep thinking about fun things we could do today, oh but wait, they all require power. Merde!

We could watch movies. Nope.
We could make costumes on my new sewing machine. Nope.
We could make popcorn. Nope.
We could make toast! Nope. Unless we wanted to do it over the gas stove.
We could catch up on all the writing we wanted to do. Nope, not if we were planning on doing that on our computer.
I could talk on the phone! Nope. Not unless I was willing to run out of battery and then not have a phone.

Crap. What a fun, possibly-creative day we could have had if we had just had power!

In the end, we were fine. We had endless cups of tea, chatted, I worked out a teeny bit, and then we made pesto pasta and a salad. Around dinner time it was starting to get dark. We lit some candles and prepared the guest room to be an awesome, girly fort! We had magazines, laundry, books, trumpets, canes and top hats to keep us busy. Hehe, well, some of things are harder to use in the dark, but they were there! Then we fell asleep around 8pm, reading by candle light. Lots of people called to make sure we were ok, which woke me up, but the sentiments were really nice.

OK, now onto Quick Life Lesson! What did I learn from this?

  • When a storm is coming, pay attention to what’s going on. And take it seriously.
  • If you have time to get supplies before a storm hits, go do it. Seriously, just go pick stuff up while you can still get out.
  • Keep your electronics charged so you have access to them. This includes spare cell phones. You never know when one cell phone will die and you need to make a call.
  • Have water, canned food, matches, windup flash lights and serious sleeping bags in your house. When the time comes, you’ll be super grateful you have these things.
  • If the power goes out, conserve your batteries so you can use them when you need to.
  • Pick a small room with the least amount of windows to sleep in for the evening. Covered the window with a sleeping bag or something to help create an airlock.
  • Stay warm.

Ok, so some of you East Coast folk probably know all of that already, but I didn’t. I haven’t lost power during the wintertime before, and even though it wasn’t scary, I knew I wasn’t prepared. I will definitely remember that picking up supplies ahead of time is freaking smart. Making sure there is enough food in the house to comfortably eat for 3 days is super, duper smart. Gas stoves rock. Fully charged electronics are awesome!

Ok, so that’s the story and there was the QLL. xoxo

QLL – don’t drink the water

I learned this the last time I went to Mexico (and Egypt for that matter), and since I am back in the area, I felt like this was appropriate.

There are some places where the tap water taste awesome and there are some places that it doesn’t. There are some places where tap water revitalizes you, and there are some places that give subject you to Montezuma’s Revenge!! Drink bottled water while on vacation (in some areas) and remember that vegetables are washed in local water meaning…..that awesome salsa you just had will do you in later!

QLL – cruises are awesome

Why did I not know this before this week? To be honest, I was thinking this cruise gig was going to be a total bust, but low and behold, within an hour of being on the ship (we hadn’t even left port yet), I was sold. I am a believer!

Now, I am sure that cruising isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. Relatively they aren’t all that expensive. For the price of a hotel room for 6 nights, you can take a 7 day cruise, get fed until you have to be rolled back to your room, order room service, go on water slides, watch movies on the big screen, escape the winter weather (depending on where you’re going), play splashy-splashy in the middle of January, play games (i.e. putt-putt golf, bingo, cards, shuffle board, trivia challenges, etc.) watch dance shows, and more! My favorite things: being completely surrounded by ocean and nothing else, a great gym (which is surprisingly empty), an awesome spa, and a killer shower in the room.

Life lesson: cruises are a blast, and they might be for you. If you decide to go on one, bring someone you’ d like to spend time with, sunscreen, outfits for theme nights, and a carefree attitude. Oh yeah, and if you need to do internet, just suck it up and buy the biggest package, chances are you’ll need it. Yes it’s expensive, but it beats being out of communication when can need to connect.

QLL – bleeding hair color

Guys, I am going to guess that this won’t mean too much to you unless you’ve had a girlfriend that dyes her hair funky colors…..

Two days ago I got my color touched up – the red on the bottom and the blond on top – and have been dealing with it ever since. I had the red lightened so it wasn’t so maroon and had bright red dye added on top. If you’ve ever dyed your hair red, or spilled red wine on something light for that matter, you’ll know that red is a very difficult color to get out (it’s due to the shape of the molecule, btw). Well, two days after having my hair done, the red is still coming out of my hair and onto my shirt collars and fingers…..anything my hair touches it stains. Oh yeah, and that includes the blond. I have been rubbing the red sections of my hair with paper towel for about 2 days with no end to the bleeding in sight. My fingernails have a red tinge to them and my blond hair is a wee bit pink. Oy!!!

Well, I talked to my color lady and she told me to use dish detergent on the red to stop it from being greasy (after 4 washes it’s still greasy and a tad cruchy. Ewww is right) and lots of conditioner to seal it. Then I need to heat up some olive oil and put that on the blond, which should help suck out some of the rosy stain, and then condition that separately. I am trying it tomorrow morning and will let you know how it turns out.

I’ll see you guys at Lindy Focus, hopefully with hair color that stays put!

xoxo

QLL – noise on airplanes

Travel with a pair of earplugs if you’re going to be flying, especially during the holidays. Not only are parents stressed out, but so are their children (perhaps causation and correlation?). This in turn can possibly mean that the children will be screaming and crying on the airplane. Now, if you’re like me, you’ll have the luck of being right near that lovely and charming family…different issue 🙂

If you don’t have noise canceling headphones, at least have earplugs. They come in a variety of colors, are cheap, and they can block out a decent amount of noise. Once you start wearing them on a flight, you’ll never travel without them. Unless of course, you forget them. Grrrr.