Ready, Set, Run!

by Maija Swanson
(Chicago)

My sister and I were on vacation in the Yucatan. We were going to attend the night show at Chichen Itza. There was a huge group of Venezuelans that were there as well.

It was suggested that we line up well beforehand. After waiting in a nice, calm line for about an hour, the ticket gate opened and a stampede ensued. People ran across the park like I had never seen. Even people who I would never have guessed were runners regularly ran. My sister and I looked at each other and took off running with everyone else. It was the only thing to do!

When we arrived at our seats, it was open seating. It was calm. People had chosen their seats and were sitting, waiting for the sun to set completely. I asked a Venezuelan woman about it all and she said that was custom whenever there was open seating, a scramble for the best seats. Who would have guessed? Our lesson learned? Always wear running shoes. (We were, thank goodness!)

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Goverment Hospital in West Papua

by Amei Binns
(Germany)

It happened within minutes: a high temperature, unable to walk, an ambulance took me to the nearest hospital.

No bed, but a plastic couch, no bedding, no blanket, no mosquite nets, no running water, no food, the lights were on permanently. They did not really want to take me because I was on my own and no family member would bring food or look after me.

I was pretty desperate. But then something happened that made everything bearable: one of the
nurses went off and came back with bottled water and biscuits, the doctor gave me her jacket because I was freezing, and on the last day the nurse who had worked until midnight came back at 5am to take me to the airport in his own car. A doctor accompanied him and together they organized my luggage, a wheelchair ....It was difficult to make him accept any money.

It was awful at the time but when I think back I remember this incredible kindness of a young doctor and a nurse who did everything in their power to make the situation bearable for me.

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No Ringy-Dingy

by Gwen McCauley
(Ottawa, ON, Canada)

A few years back I was traveling with a couple friends from Australia to Singapore to London and then back to Canada. We had been very busy on business in Australia and I hadn't gotten around to calling my hubbie on my last day there. Figured that since Singapore was such an advanced Asian centre it wouldn't be an issue.

Well! That was certainly an erroneous assumption. It took me forever to get a pile of coins and locate a public telephone in a place quiet enough to hear myself think. I love Singapore, but the noise levels were amazing. Finally found a working phone and then discovered all instructions were in languages other than English. And these were like no phones I'd ever seen. Couldn't figure out whether to put the money in first, or dial first and then put money in when I got a dial tone. Had no clue how much money was required. And couldn't find anyone who spoke English and was willing to take 2 minutes to show me how it worked.

One day went by, two days went by. Finally I broke down and had the hotel operator place a call for me. She demanded my calling card number, including PIN. Duh? What should have been my first clue that trouble was coming?

Anyhow, finally connected with a not very happy spouse who hadn't heard from me in 4 days at a time when he knew I was changing countries.

After returning home I got a phone call from the local telco about my huge unpaid long distance bill and the fact that my phone was about to be disconnected unless I paid the $2,500 in outstanding charges. Fortunately I had worked for the company for years and knew how to get a security investigation done, have the charges reversed, etc., etc. Took about 4 months to resolve and the final amount of revenue involved was just under $5,000.

Fortunately these days I travel with laptop and iPhone so don't expect a situation like that again. And hubbie has now learned that when I'm traveling in foreign lands it isn't always easy to stay in touch. He cuts me some slack!

And I've learned that just because you think you know doesn't mean you have a clue! Oh wait, I think I hear the phone ringing ...

Gwen McCauley
http://www.gwenmccauley.ca
Follow me at http://www.twitter.com/gwenmccauley

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