Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Like sands through the hourglass...

I am going to need some help from the audience on this one. If there are any sci-if, time/space continuum freaks out there, this question is for you.

Typically, when I travel from one country to the next, I lose/gain time in the opposite direction when I return. For example, when I fly from the US to Japan, I lose a day, but when I fly back to the States, that time is gained right back again so that time gained/lost during travel cancel each other out.

For this trip, though, I purchased an around-the-world ticket (for its price and convenience). On Friday the 19th, I left Japan and travelled west to Europe on a 12 hour flight, through 7 time zones. After leaving Europe, I will continue to fly west (and for the first time - yay!) across the Atlantic, over another 8 time zones to Chicago and then Des Moines. Lastly, at the end of the summer, I will fly west once more, this time crossing the Pacific (again), back to Japan, and going through 10 time zones in the process.

This brings me to my final conclusion that, all in all, I will cross all of the time zones in the world, going in the same direction, thus successfully gaining another day of life upon the culmination of my travels.

So my questions are, is this possible? Have I calculated this correctly? And on my next birthday, will I actually be 29 and one extra day old?

My hourglass might just might be a bit off...

Monday, June 22, 2009

First thought, best thought...

Now, my first and best thoughts about Europe so far?

It is amazing.

For starters, the people here are enormously tall (which means that I am not!). The men are absolutely beautiful. The women are too - in a stunning and enviable way. Fashion is hip and easy and not hard to purchase (or copy!). And most importantly, much to my (guilty) pleasure, there are at least 6 H&M stores in all of our major cities, as well as an average of 1.2 in every airport we pass through.

Everything is VERY expensive, but, because I can't yet wrap my head around the Euro, it's easy to fall into the habit of thinking that I'm spending dollars intead. This makes money go quickly and effortlessly out of my pocket (€9,50 for two cups of coffee? That sounds about right?!). This is the reason that after less than three days in Europe, I have spent twice as much as I had planned on spending in so short a time. But, to be honest, I don't mind.

I would murder for some red licorice. I had forgotten that in most countries of the world, licorice is only sold in the black variety, which is very yuk. When I want a sweet, though, I buy a Mars bar, which is actually a Milky Way. The Europeans have disguised a Three Muskateer bar as a Milky Way, and real Mars bars don't exist. Thankfully for my waist, I don't like croissants, although to my body's severe dislike, I have begun to eat cheese again, as a.) I am just so glad that it's not raw fish, and b.) simple dishes such cheese on toast with jam or a slice of thin crust Mediterranean pizza are just too delicious to pass up. Also, in two day's time, I have learned to drink two previously disliked beverages - coffee and beer, and now enjoy both as frequently as possible.

I was earlier embarrassed by a Western traveler (for the sake of humor, we'll call him a Canadian) who was very put off that he needed to show his boarding pass to buy a newspaper at the corner store here at the airport. He evidently thought that, by demanding his Euros back and taking his business to the next stand, that his tantrum might improve this inconvenience for further customers, or for when he walked to the next stand. As you can imagine, he was not a winner either way.

The man across from me is reading a newspaper of the nicer-looking variety. I can't read the title (well, I can understand the world 'das' (the)). I am assuming that it is a newspaper only because it looks like one in style and content (big headings with important looking people in pictures, poll charts, weather boxes, etc.). At the same time, though, is a photo of a topless model on the front page. It looks very out of place, although it evidently isn't offensive to anyone else sitting next to or around me. Whatever, right?

I am excited for Greece. The men are gorgeous, tan, and fit, with dark yes and great hair. The food is delicious - my stomach is excited to have giant olives, souvlaki, and the excellent cheeses there, including yummy feta (which is like not cheese-cheating at all, as it is from goats, not cows).

I am sitting in the Frankfurt airport as I write this. As I recently walked through the terminals and made passing glances at departure boards, I found that I was no longer a bit envious that my next destination isn't somewhere a bit more exotic than Des Moines, Iowa or Nagoya, Japan (or even Delhi, India!). Instead I am satisfied and grateful for the opportunity to see our world in this way.

Most importantly at this moment, though, I am desperately jonesing for a much-needed nap, and am hoping to load first so that I may begin that quest immediately. From this exact moment, we will have been out of Japan for 84 hours, for which for only 17 I have slept. My body is tired and wearing down, my eyes are bloodshot and red, and I have the headache of a century. I am SO tired that the moving sidewalks even seemed tedious. A few minutes ago, I half-sleepily finished a delicious deli ham and cheese sandwich and a fresh squeezed juice that cost me €11. My belly is full and I am very satisfied. I would like to get me some sleep very soon.

Now, though, before I board, it's time to head for one last quick glance at H&M (again). That should easily keep me awake for a bit...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Spricht Deutsch

Dutch and German (having separate languages, people, and countries), like Americans and Canadians, should not be confused one for the other.

As far as speaking goes, both languages are throaty and harsh, and, depending on the person speaking, can be beautiful to listen to or a better-avioded spit-bath. Dutch wins the top prize in my book for being easier to understand, singularly sexed (there are no feminine/masculine changes like in the more-difficult ein/einer/eina German language), a bit more soft, and (I'm playing favorites here, of course), part of my heritage.

Because the two languages are very much alike, mistakes are easy. A great example can be found by looking at the name of both languages. The German language is called Deutsch (doy-ee-ch), which can be easily confused with the Nether-language Dutch. On top of that, (and much to Heidi's dismay), I couldn't help but not only confuse the two and often speak the little German I know in front of her, but also to mistakenly occasionally refer to Dutch people as Germans. Yikes - big difference, Wen.

The the similarities between both tongues is striking, though, as both sound alike in their vocabulary and accent. It was interesting to find that, this morning on my flight from Amsterdam to Munich, the flight attendant began by speaking Dutch and English (repeating all messages in both), but that by the end of the flight (and as if the passengers on board had magically changed nationalities), had politely switched to giving both messages in German and English instead. Although funny, nobody seemed too put off by it - most Dutch speakers can understand German, even though they have difficulty speaking it. It would be my guess that Germans are the opposite, and have no problems hearing or speaking the much-easier Dutch.

Getting around and needing to use it, though has not proved difficult thus far. As the first of our flights took us through Germany on the way to Amsterdam, then back through Germany on our way to Athens, we were immersed in both languages almost immediately. I quickly remembered that I had begun to study a bit of German before leaving for New Zealand 3 years ago. I know about 20 German wrods, including greetings such as 'guten morgen' (good morning) and 'auf wiedershein' (goodnight), helpful phrases such as 'vie ist dast weither' (how is the weather?), as well as common vocabulary words such as Mercedes and Hermes. So, I was prepared (and excited) to use a little bit of German while passing through Frankfurt after our first flight from Japan. That morning, approaching the first customs agent in the airport, I gave a hearty, 'Guten tag!' (good day!), to which he, almost as enthusiastically replied, 'Hey! How're you going!?' So, lucky for us, so far as we've gone through this part of the continent, English has been everywhere.

I have also found that less-common Asian languages, such as Japanese, do not get me very far. Nobody seems to understand 'Sumimasen', and the habit of saying as a common, every-hour phrase has not yet parted crowds, nor summoned an omni-waiting waiter to my table as much as it has just drawn me awkward looks. People are so-far very kind to be interested in hearing about Japan, though, and they always think my little purse washcloth (for drying my hands) is very cute.

So I'll go on my way, continuing to figure out languages one country at a time. For now, though, as I head to Athens, I look forward to another non-Roman alphabet, and figure it will all be Greek to me.