The Hapless Vacationer

Compliments of Guest Blogger, Fia Essen

I reluctantly admit I was once a hapless vacationer, charmed by a Greek island and a realtor’s well-practiced tale of tranquil living. I fell in love with a beautiful wreck of a house and simultaneously became convinced I possessed previously dormant carpentry skills. Oh yes, I was almost certain I was one of those people who can build you a shopping mall if you hand them nothing but a length of rope and a Q-tip. Let’s suffice it to say I was quickly brought back to earth with a resounding thud when I fell off a ladder while trying to change a light bulb… so I hired a contractor.

Three days before Mr. Manolis, my contractor, was supposed to begin turning my Greek ruin into a habitable dwelling, I came home from a jog to find a three-man crew lined up in my driveway.

“Hello,” I puffed. “Are you starting today? Did I get the date wrong?”

The three men looked at each other, shrugged, and then stared blankly back at me. I took a moment to catch my breath before asking the same questions in Greek. They looked at each other and shrugged again.

“Okay,” I sighed. “No Greek.”

The almost scarily tall and scarecrow thin man on the left shook his head.

“And no English,” I stated needlessly.

The considerably shorter and much wider man in the middle nodded.

“Italiano?” I tried.

The average height man of equally average weight on the right cleared his throat and said, “Bulgaria.”

“Oh great,” I muttered.

I began the process of opening my very warped wooden front door, which involved a running start and throwing the entire weight of my body against it. Then I headed to my bedroom to call Mr. Manolis. After having called his cell phone a dozen times, paged him and called his office just as many, I gave up. I returned to the crew of three who were shuffling aimlessly around the hallway and said, “You can go.”

“Go?” they parroted in comical unison.

“Yes.” I pointed at the open door. “Go.”

The three of them whispered to each other for a minute. Finally, the human beanstalk said, “Okay. Go.”

I smiled in relief. “Thank you.”

I went back to my bedroom and booted up my laptop. Just as I was about to delete a veritable cornucopia of spam, an earsplitting creak followed by a thud sent me bolting back into the hallway where I found Larry, Curly and Moe standing in a gaping hole where my massive wooden door hung only minutes earlier.

3 Stoogies“What?” I gasped. “What did you do?”

The vertically challenged and rotund barrel-like man gave the front door that was now laying on the floor a kick with his booted foot, and said, “Go!”

Now, almost four years later, I’ve sold the house to another tourist with more optimism than sense… and I’m nearly fluent in Bulgarian.

#

Fia Essen

Sofia Essen is the Managing Director and a Change Counselor at Essen & Essen. Change is the theme of Sofia’s existence. Helping people to both deal with change and create it is her specialty. She permanently left the country of her birth before her ninth birthday and she has been on the move ever since. You can find her at: http://fiaessen.wordpress.com/

The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer Survives Vacation

Traffic SignCompliments of Guest Blogger The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer      (aka Pat Childers)

August 22 near Cong, County Mayo  

First day Ireland. Staying at B&B in Cong where they filmed The Quiet Man. Unable to find John Wayne. Weather is actually quite lovely 70 F and mostly sunny.

August 22 near Cong, County Mayo

Conversation:
Me: I forgot they drive on the left here.
He: What?
Me: they drive on the left.
He: Here’s a map. Figure out where we’re going.
Me: No GPS?
He: What?
Me: I’ll figure it out.
He: Oh no a roundabout.
Me: Go straight.
He: What?
Me: That way (pointing)
He: Don’t point. Tell me.
Me: Ok go straight.
He: What?

That’s pretty much the way it’s gone so far

Day 1 into Day 2

Was spent exploring the republic of Ireland’s public health system. A scant 16 hours later we were very pleased to learn no blood clot in my leg, just massively swollen hematoma. Met a lot of nice people though. Spent time on a hospital gurney in the hallway, had blood test and vascular ultrasound and nice little doctor from Pakistan. Cost: 200 euros (260 US). I’m worth it.

Day 3

Can’t go to Cong without a trip to The Quiet Man Museum, not open weekends or noon to 1:00, or whenever they don’t feel like it. The main event is a replica of the cottage John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara moved into, with replica clothes if you feel up to reenacting the wedding night scene.

Cowlowres

Just a note to my Wisconsin friends and family — Ireland has the biggest, cleanest cows I’ve ever seen. It’s as if a cow washer appears before dawn to shine them up and then deposit them on little knolls facing the road. I’m sure this has a lot to do with the quality of the cheese too.

Day 4

castleDlowresCastles everywhere most built around 1140 to 1500. The homes are big and beautiful and the fences are made of rocks. No shoulders on the roads just solid rock fences.

The food has been great. You get a bowl of French fries with everything. I had a pork dinner on mashed potatoes with sides of boiled potatoes and a big bowl of French fries. My grandchildren would love it. Going to Kinvara tomorrow. My leg is getting better.

Day 5

Was a lot of rocks. Drove through the Burren which is a large mountain of rock with a bunch of rocks on top. Then they stack the rocks up and call them fences. But really they are just more piles of rocks.

BurrenrockslowresDay 6

We puttered around then went to Dunguire Castle in Kinvara for a banquet dinner and some Irish songs and poetry. The food was quite good. More potatoes with green beans and carrots and a chicken breast. Reminded me of every wedding I’ve ever been to. The sun came out and we took lots of castle sunset pictures.

Day 7

Was a lot of driving from Kinvara to Dingle Town on the aptly named Dingle Peninsula. The roads are wide enough to fit two small compact cars abreast as long as you don’t open the doors. On the sides are piles of rock fences covered with ivy and bushes. In the center of the road is a white line that marks where the edge of your right hand mirror can reach because you’re driving on the left. The object appears to be to drive as fast as possible maintaining a one-inch margin from the rocks on one side and 0 to one inch on the right. When a tour bus or large farm machinery approaches you grab the steering wheel with both hands and wet your pants.

Day 8

We dingled all over the peninsula today and saw many archeological sites as civilization dates from around 3000 bc here. People built houses called beehive huts completely out of rocks (what else?) that still stand today. It was a totally grey day but wild fuchsia bushes sit atop the rock walls that line the roads and add beautiful orange and red color to the probably bloodstained undergrowth. I will have to photoshop the sun into the pictures.

Day 9

We drove from the Dingle peninsula to Shannon. We had the displeasure of stopping for a bite to eat and toilet at a little place that advertised “burgers and hot pizza.” It was the Irish version of a 7/11. She said there was a toilet next door in the green building. I ordered a burger. She said they didn’t have any. No pizza either. They had hot little pies with a bit of gravy inside so we bought them both. What concerned me was the sign that said “food must be consumed within 90 minutes.” Or what, I thought? Anyway there was no green building, it was blue. And it was locked up. “I’ve been using that toilet all day,” she said. I still want to know what would have happened if we hadn’t eaten the pies in less than 90 minutes.

An update about the weather in Ireland. Generally the mornings are cool and cloudy except when the sun peeks through. Then it clouds over until it sprinkles. Suddenly the clouds dissipate and the sun comes out. Grab your camera and look for the rainbow. Oops too late. It’s cloudy again and warm. Take off your sweater. Your face flushes with perspiration just before a cold breeze makes you put your sweater back on. There’s the sun again, you sly dog. Stay there!! No it’s gone and a gentle rain begins to fall as you put your raincoat on. Time to eat breakfast.

Day 10

The final day of our vacation in southwest Ireland. They have gone a long way toward keeping the Irish culture intact here. The signs are usually in Gaelic and English but sometimes, just for fun, they’re just the old Irish and you are suddenly in limbo because these words are so strange you know somebody was kidding around when they made them up — Oifig an Phoist (post office) or Beag (little). Sadly I never did find the one for toilet.

#

The Oldest Living Middle-Aged Writer lives in Midwestern flyover country with her dogs. There have been reported sightings of her husband. In between innings of the Cubs game she is working on her web site and can be contacted at pat@pjchilders.com.

The Traveling Sisterhood

Compliments of Guest Blogger, Jane Matteson Mundell

TheTraveling Sisterhood

In New Orleans last year with part of the Sisterhood

Preparing for a trip at the end of this month has me reflecting on how I got to this place in my life: with a lot of luck, creative scheduling, a fair amount of determination, and a dozen long-distance friends who have celebrated the silver anniversary mark with me.

From our very early days of weekend trips to low-budget cottages in Michigan or driving five hours or more to meet half way in various cities, to “rallying the troops” to help me survive my daughter’s wedding in Sicily – yes five of them were in attendance – the girlfriends have always been there. We have overcome disappointments, deaths and divorces. We have celebrated accomplishments, milestones and happiness. We have done it without hesitation, often for hours on the phone or by way of unrelenting email strings – yes, usually “reply all.”

Now as I prepare for a trip to Hilton Head because one of the friends found a great place for a full week on the beach and wouldn’t think of using that time for anything but an opportunity to bring our group together, I think I know how I got to this place in my life.

So, today I am going to call my daughters and let them know once again how important it is to nurture their friendships. Someday, with luck, creative scheduling and determination, they too will know the joy of silver anniversary friendships.

#

Jane Matteson Mundell has visited 40 US states, 5 countries and a few Caribbean Islands with many of her dozen, lifelong friends.