Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The statistics

I am back in Serbia for a few days as I pass through on my journey.

Days Travelled: 57

Lowest Temperature: -5 Celsius (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina) 


  •  Bruised foot from tripping on uneven stairs

Countries Visited: 8

Cities Visited: 22

Postcards Written: 4

Time Spent in Transit: 91 hours

Variety of Beer Tasted: 21

Border Crossings: 14

Current Location: Belgrade, Serbia 

Number of Times I have Paid to do Laundry: 2

Hard Core Traveller Story: Someone cutting their hair off with a hunting knife in Spain. 

Help Ex Jobs: 2

View The Road Travelled in a larger map

Friday, February 15, 2013

I need to start working again, my supplies are running low. Most of my clothes are destroyed and I don't really have the money to restock at the moment. I decided to travel light this trip so I only have a small back pack and my laptop bag. (A hardcore traveller, I am not)

The contents of my bag include:

  • Seven pairs of underwear
  • Two bras
  • Three pairs of socks
  • Two long sleeved undershirts
  • Two singlets
  • Skinny leg jeans
  • One pair of black tights
  • Two t-shirts
  • A high waisted skirt
  • Four dresses 
  • A cardigan
  • Versatile Scarf. 
This may seem like a lot of clothes, but everything I own is silly and Australian - meaning it is very thin and offers little to no warmth. I am often wearing a third of my bag's contents at any given time.

What is damaged:

  • The jeans have a hole in the crotch and the in seam is starting to split
  • Both the bras and the skirt are too big (a fun side effect of constant travel)
  • One dress has a whole in it
  • The seam has come down on a dress
  • My tight have lost their most crucial element, their tightness. The elastic is going.
  • I got my scarf hooked on some barb wire climbing a fence. It as a manageable hole
  • The seam on my back pack has split.

I just don't know what to do with myself. I am waiting in a coffee shop in Uzice, Serbia to do an interview with a woman in Poland. Fingers Crossed. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

More border misadventures.

I definitely think the best border crossing are the ones where you have to physically walk across the border. Crossing into Armenia from Georgia we had to walk from outside of the Georgian side right through and out to the Armenian side and the bus would meet us there. The Georgian side was easy, knowing a little of the language, they took our photo and sent us on our merry way. 

The trouble started when we got to the Armenian side, I was all ready giggly due to lack of sleep and spending time with one of the funniest people I know. The people in front of us had to of been part of some bearded men's society. The all had long, long beards and more than one was a fiery shade of red. They were not Georgians and seemed like an odd group of people to choose to travel there. 

My turn at the booth I made chit chat with the man, just basic things, he was smiling and everything was going great. My friend walked up behind me in the line and that was when I noticed this guy had sauce on his face. Not a little bit. Like a least a teaspoon of tomato sauce smeared on his face. How could no one have told him? I turned around and tried to tell my friend about it, I couldn't hold it back any more and I started to laugh. My friend sternly told me that this is not the place to get the giggles. An Armenian border guard was directly behind me with an automatic weapon. I turned back to the guard, who began to giggle with me, thinking we must have shared some sort of joke. He stamped me through and wished me a pleasant stay.

My friend later told me that the stamping guard was still smiling when he got to the window, so my friend thought it acceptable to smile also. The border guard instantly went from happy, smiling to stone cold. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pictures of Shkodra

I really want to have dental work done at that place ^^.

Children frolicking in a construction site

Horse drawn carriages in the street
The mosque and the fountain in the middle of town

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The first and last time I want to visit a foreign police station.

I am writing this from a police station. What started as a simple walk has ended here. I am completely fine, nothing happened, the guest house owner really overreacted.

We went of for a walk yesterday afternoon, it's about a 35 minute walk into town. Once we got there we decided that it was time for a beer. Which turned into several beers and at some point switched to cognac for a few drink then back to beers.  We had a few small bowls of chips, then a few bowls of apple chunks. It seemed like an odd dish to get in a bar but they were amazing. Someone also bought us some roasted almonds. So all in all it was a great night. That bar shut, we went somewhere else. About 1 AM we decided to head back to the guest house.

We got back to the hostel and the gate was locked. I gave Claire a boost over the fence, figuring that it would have the key on the other side. It did not, but that didn't matter anyway because we were completely locked out of the house. I looked for a way to get into the yard. Claire looked for a way into the house, the search proved futile on both ends. I could hear Claire making an absurd amount of noise, surely they were going to wake up and let us in. They did not. Claire climbed back over the fence and we walked back into town to find a hotel.

Found a hotel, crashed out, ate an awesome breakfast the next day and started the walk back to the hostel.  The owner had called the police because we didn't show up back at the hostel. We tried to explain that we came back and it was locked. The owner made such a big deal about how he hadn't slept a wink, which was clearly a lie because he would have heard us in the yard.

We had to go to the police station and retract the missing persons report, we were asked a a lot of questions  that seemed excessive and unnecessary. How many years we had spent in school? What are our father's first names? The detective really kept pushing the fact that we needed to tell the truth.

 I don't know why they think we would lie about it? We had done nothing wrong, we were safe. It was a super strange situation.

A cat asleep on a hay bail, the Albanian Alps in the background. 


The owner received a 700 EURO fine. When the police came to the guesthouse they found out he hadn't been paying his taxes. Today he tried to tell us that it was our fault he got the fine and hinted that we should pay it. I am leaving when Claire leaves because this dude seems to be loosing his shit and I don't want to be the only one here with him.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The good fight

Some days are really hard, your tired and everything feels like a struggle. You think why am I even here, why do I care? Then you see something like this on a wall and remember that people are still fighting the good fight.

I think Eastern Europe is one of the only places left in the world where Nazism still holds any power. It's not uncommon to see swastikas sprayed on to walls. But some clever little gem has created this stencil to fix the problem. Put that swastika in the bin, where it belongs.  

Border Faux Pas

I am at the border crossing between Serbia and Macedonia, we have been stopped here for about half an hour. The police are intently checking the bus, dragging people off the bus and forcing them to unlock their luggage so it can be searched. I have my bags with me on the bus, so they seem to think they don't need to be checked.

I think I may have committed a border faux pas a few minutes ago.

A police officer came on to the bus to check everyone who hadn't gotten off to unlock their luggage  This happened to correspond with  American Pie coming on the radio, it's a great song, it needs to be sung. I couldn't help myself, I started quietly, but once I felt the rhythm I just couldn't stop singing. It was never overly loud, but I didn't stop when the officer got me, he did not look impressed. He looked at me as if my singing was actually a code that would point him in the direction of any illegal activity.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sharing the same irrational fear

One of the last weekends I spent in Georgia, I got very drunk in a bar in Zugdidi with some friends, there was four of us at this bar, we were the only people there. All night.

As 3AM rolled around we decided it was probably time to head to bed and let the poor bar owner shut up. Engela and Brent wanted to spend some alone time together, went to a hotel. Priyanka and I being stingy decided to go to the hostel which was a 15 minute walk outside of town.

We were drunk and hungry so we stopped and got some food and sat on the curb and ate it. Priyanka decided chips sandwiches would be good feast. That girl is a genius, they were amazing. One loaf of bed and a bag of chips was more than enough drunk food AND we had left overs for breakfast.

After we ate we walked to the hostel, it looked pretty quiet, but it was the end of the semester we just figured there wasn't too many people around because they had already started sending people home for the holidays. There was no one at the hostel. No staff. No patrons. They had shut up for the winter. There was a number to call if there was no one around, but at what was closer to 4 AM they didn't answer.

What were two drunk, traveller to do?

We built a cubby house out of the furniture they had left outside, took all the towels off the clothes line and tried to use them as blankets. It was winter, so it was freezing. We had been trying to sleep for about half an hour when Pri asked,

"Do you think it's cold enough to get frost bite?"

The thing was I couldn't sleep because I was being plagued with the same question. It was a completely irrational fear, it wasn't that cold and we weren't really exposed to the elements. I think in the end we got about half an hour sleep. 7 AM  rolled around, we got up and bailed, we didn't want the staff to turn up and try and charge us for using their furniture (the staff at this place were not very fond of TLG, I would not put it past them to charge us). As we were walking out of the hostel it started to snow for the first time that winter. Priyanka, being from India, had never seen snow before and previous to this day was so excited about snow that I thought she might cry. We were so tired, she didn't even crack a smile and sulked that it wasn't real snow, it was slush.

 We walked to the main road and hitched to Batumi where some friends of ours were, we made it there in two hours - a  record time. It took us four cars and about 20 minutes of walking down some creepy village road. The best ride we got that day was a man in a big, black four wheel drive who pulled over and picked us up. Drove us into into the city and didn't say a word the whole time. It allowed us to nap and refresh ourselves for another night of drinking. Pretty sure he only picked us up because he felt bad we were stuck in the rain.

Time to stop Peter Pan-ing

I thought once I stopped working in a coffee shop I would be able to kick the caffeine addiction. I was wrong. What is one to do when tiny little cups of delicious tasting energy are less than a dollar?
I'm back in Tirana for a few days, the weather is poorly so I have taken to a coffee shop to write this and feed my addiction.

I'm back in Tirana because I was offered a teaching position in Ankara. I deliberated over the decision to take this job for a long time. About an hour, which for me is a long time. I have a tendency to be impulsive and make flippant life decisions.

I don't know if I am  ready to work again. It means a lot of thing, responsibilities, having to get up at a certain time, I won't be able to leave a city just because I don't like the weather. But reality has come crashing down, eventually:

  •  I am going to need to make some real money- this job could offer me that. 
  • It would be nice to know where I am going to sleep every night- this job could offer me that. 
  • It would be nice to have a people I know around me that aren't going to be leaving at dawn to catch a train - this job could offer me that. 
  • It would be nice to have more than four different outfits- this job could offer me that. Dear lord I could go shopping again.
  • It would be nice to have some professional experience to put on my resume - this job could offer me that. 

But something is wrong, I can feel myself hesitating when I think about it. It's the Peter Pan syndrome. Peter Pan syndrome is a sociological term that was coined a few years ago in reference to generation Y. We are the generation that refuses to grow up.

We spend longer in school, working menial jobs, living off our parents; we get married later, put off kids until our 30's because in our own eyes, we're still children. Gone are the days, where men would be in full time employment and and women would be chained to the kitchen with a baby by 25.

 We are given so many more opportunities and one of these is travel. The world is no longer a big scary place, it is in our backyard and through the miracles of budget airlines, accessible.  So we see the world and tell ourselves after  we have conquered that, we'll stop, get a job... grow up.

I guess that's what is wrong with me, if I take this job I'm growing up and god forbid making a mature decision. I may as well just buy a house in the 'burbs and pop out some babies because that's what this job is saying about my future.

I guess I am over reacting, as it's only a four month contract. There will be plenty of time afterwards for lustful adventures and drunken mistakes.

But I'm still unsure.

PS. These pictures in no way correlate the story. They make up for the lack of picture of Tirana.

A fitting farewell to what may be my last post from Albania.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Saranda, Albania
I went for a casual three hour bike ride today. When I finally returned to Saranda, I had forgotten how to walk. I stumbled a few steps, laughing, before the feeling eventually returned to my extremities.

To the left is the map of the route we took. It was 14.9 KM one way. I am going to call it a 30 KM round trip - completed in a little over three hours .

Monday, February 4, 2013

I‘m a good sport but some things are beyond me.

I am pretty willing to try anything that is considered a national delicacy. The above however, was something I just could not handle. It may look pretty innocuous,  but it was not. When I walked into the kitchen I was asked to stir a pale brown liquid whilst it thickened. When I asked what was in it, my host said he didn't know, the women made it. Next he cut some old, stale bread into small chunks and threw it into the liquid. It quickly became mush. When it was piping hot it was sprinkled with cheese (which was very nice) and hot oil was poured on top. Hot, wet, oily bread. 

Bread should never be wet, the only exceptions being: 
  • Bread and butter pudding
  • In the pre-cooking stages of French toast
  • If your at a Supra and there is no napkins and you have to wipe your hands on bread instead

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My first HELP X

My first Help X job is simple. It is in a hostel in Saranda, Southern Albania - I am to help out at the hostel, clean up after breakfast, sweep/mop floors and check guests in. Easy. The only problem is I am the only person here. 

I don't know if I am to just wait until (if) someone turns up. I've completed the cleaning jobs, made fresh coffee for if someone shows up, I'm probably going to drink it all. The weather is poor at the moment so I am not missing much outside. 

It is the perfect time to write some blogs. The above picture was me testing out the mobile function, I can now send something from my mobile, directly to the blog. Dangerous I think, it will probably lead to an increase in random, poorly thought out prose. 

Not unlike this post. 

The story of how I got the blood clot

Three days after the fall
I was really drunk in Tbilisi with some friends, we got back to the hostel quite late at night. Thinking I had a bit too much to drink I decided to go down stairs and vomit, thus reducing my hangover for the morning. I had forgotten though, that the bathroom floor was really wet and slippery. I fell over and smashed my arm against the edge of the sink.

At first I thought it just to be bruised, but it hadn't gone down in two weeks. So I had to go to the hospital which was an hour away. The hospital was a chaotic old soviet building, the x-ray technician I had was missing an ear. None of these things were building my confidence in the medical care I was about to receive.

After having my arm x-rayed I was taken to another room to wait. The technician came back and said that my arm wasn't broken it was just a very large blood clot and if I was married this would never have happened. I was given some cream and sent on my way.

UPDATE: The clot is still there.

Crazies on the bus. Part 2

It has happened. Not once, not twice, but thrice times I have been vomited next to on public transport. The first two were small children and the third was a middle aged man.

Berat, Albania

  1. I will start with the middle aged man because that occurred last night and is still fresh in my mind. The thing I don't understand is, he was a local adult, he could speak the same language as the driver. Why didn't he alert the driver to the fact he was feeling unwell? He could have pulled over calmly and this man could eject the contents of his stomach into some shrubbery instead into a plastic bag less than a metre from me. But alas, it wasn't until after he had spewed, that the bus stopped. 
  2. The second time. I had probably one of the worse hangover I have ever had in my life. I was supposed to hitch hike with my friend back home, but I just wasn't feeling up to it so I decided to catch a bus. (This was the day after I got the blood clot, a story for another day.) The driver made me take the seat right at the front, in between a boy in his late teens and a woman with a two year old daughter. Before we left the mother gave her child a bottle of coke and this cake thing that is the equivalent of a twinkie. About two hours into a five hour bus ride, this little girl was sick. All over her mother, the floor and the chair. The smell was vile, I probably would have retched even if I wasn't hungover. This time the bus did not stop, we waited until the designated rest period. I entirely blame the mother in this instance. That was way too much sugar for a child.
  3. Which brings me to the first time someone vomited next to me on a bus. It was a 12 hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang, during the day, this was not some cushy sleeper bus. I was with my sister who has the ability to sleep through anything so she was not phased by anything that was going on around us. Three hours into the journey a young family hoped on to the bus, two children under seven and a baby. The baby screamed - non-stop for five hours. The parents passed it around the bus and tried to make it hush but nothing seemed to work. Then it (I say it because it was wearing gender neutral colours) vomited. Everywhere. I don't know how it was possible for such a little person to create so much mess. But it was hideous, I started retching. Elisha told me to move away from it if it was going to make me sick. I would have had to step in it to get away. So I closed my eyes and dreamed of the beach. It will never be known if the child vomited because it screamed for five hours, or if it screamed for five hours because it was already sick. 
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Friday, February 1, 2013

My drunken ramblings

When I get back to the hostel after spending time drinking, I think it is the perfect time to talk to my friends at home. It is the middle of the day for them, so my conversation are always less coherent then theirs.  

  • "I just wanted him for his passports."
  • "Predictive text is my enemy; it's weak me. Fuck. Against me**"
  • "Farmville will fix it! Imaginary things that rely on you. You'll feel need to milk the cows and harvest and loved when it remembers your name."
  • "I'm calling shenanigans - you are too old to timezone by yourself."
  • "You could play in photoshop and make things. Then sell them as business logos if you get bored."
  • "It can be a chapter in your memoir."
  • "I'm jealous, you'll get to eat salt and vinegar chips."