Sunday, April 11, 2010

XXX Amsterdam

[Contrary to the title, this entry actually is G rated!]

In December 2008, my friend K and I ventured forth to Amsterdam, among other locations. We visited the cheesy tourist trap souvenir shops which featured ugly fuzzy Dutch shoes slippers (which, surprisingly, I already have a pair of, bought in the US no less, from Holland Michigan of course; even though they look awful I love 'em!). Many of the souvenirs had three black Xes on them. I thought it was a bit odd, but speculated that maybe it referenced Amsterdam's seedier aspects. I later found out that the three Xes were actually Amsterdam's city crest and were to depict St. Andrew's crosses (poor dude was crucified on a cross like these...uplifting city crest, eh?)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

We were interrogated. I kinda liked it.

I am lucky to know some really interesting and funny people. One such person is B, who is from northern Europe originally. She is a ball of energy and is always making me laugh because she goes on offbeat adventures, can befriend just about anyone, and has a perennially sunny disposition.

I was telling her about my recent trip to Budapest and how we (mostly) unintentionally didn't have train tickets. She traveled once to Belarus from Poland and found that the same thing had happened to her. However, when she traveled, it was during the time when Russia still controlled Belarus. When the train inspectors found B on the train without a ticket, they pulled B and her friend off the train. They interrogated B. When B told me the story, chuckling, she said "We were interrogated. I kinda liked it, though; it was interesting!"

Of course, getting interrogated can be awful, but with B's sunny disposition and love of adventure (and since nothing bad happened to them), she laughs about the situation now. She's the only person that I can think of that would actually get a kick out of being interrogated.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


When K and I were in Prague, we decided to venture forth to Kutná Hora to see the Sedlec Ossuary. It was quite the trip, involving several bus legs and a couple hours of travel. As we made our way, we saw some Japanese tourists who seemed to have a great idea, probably born of necessity on their part. When they were trying to find the correct bus, one tourist would point questioningly to a picture of the destination (in this case, the bone church). The driver seemed to get the point: the girls wanted to get to that destination and would answer in the negative or affirmative if he was going there. Since they had to rely on their second (or third!) language and the bus driver did, too, the picture was a good shortcut and offered very little in the way of misunderstanding.

K and I decided that such a method would work great in the future, especially if we travel to locales with little English.

As an aside, I thought that one of the girl's accent was really interesting (it must be the Sociolinguist in me). When she spoke English, you could tell obviously that she had a Japanese accent, but it was also blended with a British and American sound, too. I bet she had classes with both Brits and Americans. It was an interesting combination.

So, what exactly IS Around the... ?

If this were a thesis or something more academic, I'd discuss the scope of the work, conduct a literature review, and pursue all types of other academic thingadoos. This blog obviously isn't anything of the sort, but we need to at least start with what it is (assuming, dear reader, that you cannot figure that out on your own).

This corner is called Around the... I wanted to be cool and call it Around the World, but that would be a bit pretentious and I do have financial and time constraints so it's more likely to be Around the Town Where I Live, or heck, Around the Block, depending on how adventurous I am that week. Since blogging really is navel gazing at its best (or worst, or most trite), it could even be Around the Bit of Pink Matter that is My Brain.

So, off we go. I will talk a bit about trips, Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (oops, that was Borat!), random things I've thought about, etc. Ciao, mis amingos.