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San Fran/Eugene/LA – Day 105-112 – Easter Surprises!

April 21st – 28th 2011

San Fran
My friend, Rachel, had to work during the day so I decided to unpack, do laundry, download photos and work on my blog. I also had the chance to go for brunch with a friend I had met in Spain. It’s always great catching up with folks you meet on your travels.

Around lunch time I decided to pop out for some food and opted for something from Safeways. I got about 5 steps in and then froze… artificial lighting, elevator music and so much food and choice… my brain could not fathom the choices. I finally decided on cheesy bread, salami and cheese. The deli lady was from El Salvadore and we chatted a bit in Spanish. Am really missing that aspect of traveling in a non-English speaking country, I truly love the challenge of communication.

The rest of the day was spent trying to sort out the nuclear bomb that appeared to have hit my bag and figure out how to get everything into one bag so that I could get it all to Eugene the next day. After some sorting and deciding and tossing out I finally managed it.
You know you are a backpacker when you can fit a closet into a bag!

Surprise!!!
I had decided to surprise my parents for easter and had managed to find some reasonably priced tickets. Keeping secrets from my mom has always been nigh impossible for me (my brother and father stopped telling me what gifts they bought her when I was 5 as I kept giving it away). But somehow I managed to keep this one under my belt and it was so worth it. My friend Sarah, picked me up from the airport, we stopped in at a store and picked up some blue bunny ears and a bunch of flowers and headed to the folks. The story was that Sarah was going to stop by and drop off something I had left in her drawer at work, this way ensuring at least one of the folks would be home.

Sarah walked up while I hid behind a hedge. Dad opened the door and the conversation went like this:
Dad: hey Sarah, how are you?
Mom: hi there Sarah
Sarah: I am good, this is what I found in my drawer
Kathy: Surprise!!
Mom: What are you doing here?
Kathy: Surprise!
Dad: yes, but what are you doing here? You are supposed to be in SF or somewhere!
Kathy: oh for pete’s sake folks don’t I get a hug!

Got to love leaving your folks essentially speechless and shell shocked! Of course that didn’t mean they would run out to get me the steak I had been craving, mainly because they had just had some for lunch.

Easter Egg Hunt
Saturday I made a store run to pick up candy and plastic easter eggs. Today my best mate, Darcie, was bringing her 2 and a half (one still incubating) kids for lunch and an easter egg hunt. Dad and I stuffed the eggs, he decided some of them should be stuffed with Bob the squirrel’s peanuts (and people wonder why I have a warped sense of life with a father like that).

Side note ~ we have a wild squirrel, dubbed Bob by my mum, who comes and literally knocks at the glass sliding door until we give him a peanut, recently he demands 2.

It was a great day with 2 beautiful girls running around trying to find the eggs and then being very good and making sure each one had the same number and not eating the candy until after lent. Then we had a fantastic steak lunch (mmmmm steak), but all good visits come to an end and it was soon time for them to head home. Its crazy to think the next time I see them there will be 3 little ones.

On the Road Again
After Easter Sunday brunch at friends, repacking and sorting my bag again, it was time to head out again. So often when you are on the road all you want is a weekend at home to recoup but it never seems possible. It was great being able to make that wish a reality, especially as it could be over 7months before Iget to see the folks again.

Living it Large in LA
My next stop was a few days with a friend in LA. I had worked with Alex at the Woodland Park Zoo and when a cheap ticket to Sydney popped up on my radar it was the perfect opportunity to catch up. Since Alex had to teach a bio lab the first day I sat in a local coffee shop and worked on blog entries. Then we went and explored some of the area around Cloverfield (the suburb she lived in). Day 2 we met up with a good friend of hers deep in the LA jungle, went for a pedicure and then headed along the coast.

A stop for some amazing seafood and then a quick break on the beach. The water was beautiful, the beach was stunning… Except for the highway behind us and the freezing temps of the ocean, it was perfect.

My last day in LA was spent relaxing, we went for a long walk to the store and then had nap time and finally finished packing. The flight to Sydney left at midnight, I hate midnight flights as I always have trouble sleeping on planes, and little did I know what this trip was going to entail.

Stay tuned for another full day of travel, this time by plane…

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Lima to San Fran – Day 104 cont… – Did someone say Security?

April 20th 2011

It’s too bloody early…
Having a flight at 6.30am means getting up at 3.45am and heading to the airport at 4am. That’s just too early to be healthy. But I managed to roll out of bed, gather my gear and Fernando walked me to my waiting chariot. Then airport bound for my flight from Lima to Bogota, Columbia, a 3hr layover then to San Salvadore, El Salvadore, a 52min layover then into San Fran airport around 10pm. As much as I love to travel, its the actual traveling part I dislike the most.

Airport tax and pisco
I had perfectly calculated my remaining money to ensure that I could cover the airport tax, buy some pisco for my friend in LA and still have some money for food and snacks. My funds included $30 US and 43soles (Peruvian). When I got to airport tax the conversation went like this:
Clerk: that will be 30 please
Me: excellent, here is 30 soles
Clerk: that would be dollars please
Me: American Dollars??!!??
Clerk: yes
Me: ahhh I have $30 and some soles
Clerk: $30 and 2 soles will cover it
Me: well there goes dinner

I tried to draw some money out of the cash machine just to have backup as soles would not be usable outside of Peru, and the exchange rate wasn’t worth changing it. However, Peruvian ATM’s do not like me and so I figured I would try in Bogota. I found duty free and ask for a bottle of pisco that was 40 soles or less, they had one for exactly 40 soles. Sealing it up nicely in a bag I headed to my gate. There weren’t even drinking fountains around but managed to get a glass of free water from one of the restaurants. I now had a whopping 45c US and 27c Peruvian.

Security round 1…2…3…4
I had already gone through the mandatory security check in Lima, but arriving in Bogota they checked my bag again and had me go through a scanner. Then I attempted to find an ATM, none to be found and so used my credit card to get some grub. Then it was onto my gate where I had to go through a full on pat down and rummage through my bag. They also took the pisco out of the protective tin and swished it around, I was waiting for them to take a sip.

Finally made it on my flight an was a little nervous about my next leg as there was only a 52min layover, but we were on time and there were no worries…or so I thought.

As I was waiting to deboard the flight, the attendant (who up to this moment had made all announcements in English and Spanish) made an announcement in Spanish. It went something like this “blah blah Katty Smidt blah blah”. It is very unnerving to hear your name in the middle of a sentence and have no idea what it is about. As I left the plane I was told to talk to the gate person, who told me to go to gate 53. When I got to gate 53 (which was completely cordoned off with stretchy ropes, trapping travelers at the gate for flight to San Fran), the conversation went something like this:
Me: hi, here is my bag and ticket
Security 1: hola, ahhhh Katty Smidt, hey it Katty Smidt
(well searching through my bag)
Security 2: ahhh Katty Smidt, ok.
Me: yes its me, why??
Security 1: Pisco, mmmm
Me: yes its for my friend
Security 2: you need to put in check in, here look
(very small print on inside bag of duty free bag “some items will not be allowed to be carried on for certain flights on certain airlines to certain countries”)
Me: well thats clear as mud
(confused look from security)
Me: no problem just check it.
Security 1: ok
Me: can I leave the barrier to plug in my computer?
(5feet from the barrier was a plug)
Security 1: mmmm no. But come with me.
(follow security 1 out of barrier, down security only stairs to find my checked bag waiting for me to be searched – just in case I magically transported something into it)
Security 1: mmmm bag full, pisco must go in bag
Me: well yes it is full, but I will take out my hiking boots and squeeze it in
(back up stairs to roped off area)
Security 1: you can sit here with computer right by us

Think I was almost on a first name basis with that guy.

Back in the US of A
After anther 6hr flight I finally landed at San Francisco airport and marveled at the fact that I understood everyone. As exciting as understanding was it also seemed like a bit of a let down, no more challenge when it came to communication, it definately made life interesting. Picked up by my mate I prepared to spend the next day chilaxing at her house and planning the best surprise ever…

Stay tuned to hear details…

 
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Posted by on May 14, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

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Exploring the Mission, riding the TSA carnival and twiddling thumbs

Day 2 (San Fran)
There wasn´t much movement in the Shorr house until about 1pm and I was perfectly ok with that. Knowing that you a full day of travel starting at midnight definately encourages the part of the brain that wants to do as little as humanly possible.
However lunch was required so after throwing in some laundry, we dragged ourselves outside to a local chinese-japanese restuarant. After much humming and hahing we settled for some sushi for Rach and some egg fried rice, sesame fried chicken and fried eggroll for me… so bad but soooo good!
After all that calorie intake, at least on my part, it was decided that a short walk was in order down through the Mission District. After walking for a couple of hours, exploring a couple of stores we stopped and had some delicious coffee at a trendy little spot called Ritual Coffee Roaster on 21st and Valencia.
Heading back we realised our short walk had morphed into around 3miles, well I guess thats the eggroll worked off.

Back at the house I had another shower, hand washed a shirt and tossed it in the dryer. Then got all my shite together and started the waiting game. I can honestly say the worst part of traveling for me is waiting. Waiting to go to the airport, waiting for the flight, waiting to land… and by 8pm my nerves were getting the better of me, that or the food had given me indigestion. Rach eventually suggested we just head to the airport as I was starting to make her quite ancy. This sounded perfectly fine with me, if I have to wait I would rather wait at the airport where I can wonder round and distract myself.

At the airport I was one of the first in line at Taca airlines and soon had a spot for check in. Unfortunately it also happened to be the one counter that experienced technical difficulties when it tried to print my baggage tag, go figure. After about 30min of arguing with the machine and getting a few others to help they finally got the tag printed on another machine. Then it was off to security.

Back at the Eugene airport we still only have a metal detector and so I was quite excited to be in line for the new carnival ride, the imaging thingy-me-bob.
How to proceed:
– remove bag place in bin along with hand bag and laptop out of case
– remove shoes place in bin
– remove coat, jacket and vest place in bin
– remove money belt, money neck pouch and bracelet place in bin
– hope you have removed all neccesary items
– step into ride and place hands above head
– be amused by the MRI type thing swing around you and joke with the TSA guys
– walk over to little yellow spots and wait for thumbs up
(note you do not need to have your hands up still, as I realised 5minutes into a conversation with the TSA lady about the cuteness of my penguin socks – she never told me to put them down).
– get thumbs up and proceed to replace all items in the opposit order
(supress urge to ask for printout of photo like they have at splash mountain… really felt like I deserved one)

I was quite famished after that exciting adventure and after I wolfed down a delicious chicken panini I worked on calling as many mates as possible to use up the 3000 minutes I had left from rollover…. turns out most people didn´t answer and here I thought you would all be waiting with baited breath at the phone.
Wandering around the stores I found an international cell phone that promised to solve all my travel communication woes for $60.
Decided I was now old enough that buying one of the neck pillows would not be pretentious and stupid… and the soft fleecy cover had nothing to do with it.

With barely 2hrs to go till boarding I found my gate and sat down to call some more friends and play with my new toy. However soon I realised I was not smarter than the phone and so took it back to get help. As it turns out, much to the dismay of the salesman, the international phone works for Australia and New Zealand and no where else… call me crazy but that would make it not exactly international per say. Luckily I was able to return it.

Heading back to the gate I sat and called Janys, aka Smurphy. During our conversation I realised I didn´t have my cell charger anywhere… this night just gets better. I realised I must have left it at the drinking fountain but it wasn´t there and the store clerk next door had not had anyone drop it off. Then I remembered it was in a bag from the tech shop so headed that way. I had barely walked through the door when the clerk grabbed it and handed it over, thank heavens for honest people. He was rather bemused to see me again, and I am just going to take it as a compliment that he knew I was the one who had lost it.
Well at least I managed to make the last 20minute wait exciting. Shortly thereafter the clock struck midnight and we were boarding a plane for South America.

Stay tuned for day 3 with long layovers and waiting for pick up…

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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