Archive | August, 2012

Oh Berlin, I’ll see you again soon!

20 Aug

I can clearly remember my first urge to travel abroad. For whatever reason, I’ve been obsessed with Germany since I was a little kid. It may have to do with the fact that I had two German Au Pairs when I was a kid. Maybe it has to do with my candy obsession and a secret desire to be Gretel, and shove the witch in the oven and eat her delicious candy house all up. I’m not sure exactly why I was obsessed with Germany, but it prompted me to take German all throughout Junior high, high school and college (only to move to Russia and learn Russian instead), and to dream of going there some day.

Well, I finally got the chance to go on the European trip of a lifetime and to see the city I’d been waiting for so long to see–Berlin. Oh yeah. Berlin. My Au Pairs would be so proud. Frau Bills (Jr. High German teacher, and favorite teach of life, consequently) would be so proud. Ashley was living her perfect dream of seeing Berlin. And this is how it went.

First things first. I was really hoping to whip out my German skills and solidify years and years of book study with impressive dialogue. Basically, this is what happened.

Attempt One

Me: “Wo ist…wo ist…die Bushaltestelle?”

German Lady: Blank stare. “I speak English. If you get off at this stop and turn right, you’ll see the bus station.”

Attempt Two

Me (best German accent I can produce): Ich mochte Bratwurst, bitte.

Waiter: Great! I’ll bring it out to you, and what would your friend like to eat?

Friend: I’ll have one too.

Unfortunately, I realized that everyone pretty much speaks English, and that my attempts to speak German only prompted people to speak back to me in English. Well, except for the people who work at the hospital…

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By day .5 of being in Berlin, I got uber (high five self for using a German word) sick. I’m talking stuck in the hostel for 2 days straight sick, busy thinking of ways to put myself out of my misery sick, instead of waltzing around Berlin getting my passport stamped at Checkpoint Charlie, and taking pictures by the Berlin wall. Finally, my friend, Jeni, made me go to the hospital which is where I learned socialized medicine is actually kind of a bummer, especially when you’re a foreigner, and I also learned that my German isn’t all that good.

I went to the ER and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited and waited (insert the word waited for about 2 hours more of reading) for someone to help me. Once I FINALLY got someone to help me, I realized that unlike everyone I had encountered before, the hospital Germans didn’t speak English. Turns out that playing “Ich spreche Deutsch ” is not as fun when you’re bleeding out your ears (side note: that was a drastic over exaggeration…I do that when I’m sick, and I’ll continue to do it till I have the right blanket, the right amount of attention, and chicken noodle soup, okay? I’m a bit of a diva when I’m sick).

Anway, try two went like this:

Me: Ich bin krank…

Dr.: Germangerman german krank?

Me: Ich habe Halsschmerzen. Ich fühle mich nicht gut…Um, do you speak English? Does anyone speak English? I don’t know how to explain what is wrong with me, other than Ich bin krank.

Dr.: Germangermangerman Warten Sie hier, bitte. Germangermangerrmangerman…Wir haben einen Arzt, der Englisch spricht. Warten Sie hier. germangerman. blahhhhhh. ?!?!?!!?????????!!!!!!!!

Anyway, I paid 150 Euros and waited for 6 hours to finally get a doctor that spoke English, only to find out I had a viral infection that was only treatable by Root Beer medicine. Now I get why Germans don’t like Root Beer.

The unsweetened Root Beer they gave me made me feel good enough to go wander the streets for a day, or two and I got to see some amazing things including: The Berlin Wall, East Germany, Check Point Charlie, Potsdamer Platz, Brandenburg Gate, and I saw some really cool underground art. I’ll have to blog about that separately.

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I’m sick and happy. And, I don’t know what I’m wearing either.

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Berlin Wall, sick Ashley, nasty outfit, happy girl!

Needless to say, as sick as I was, Berlin was still a dream, especially because I was walking around in a daze most of the time. I’m excited to return and will drink all the Root Beer in the world to prepare immune system for German diseases, so I don’t get sick.

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Outfit was better and I was feeling better too.

For real, though, when you travel, make sure you bring some familiar medicine from home and make sure not to get in the way of anyone else’s germs!

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Need a place to stay for free on your trip? Try the awesomeness of couchsurfing.org.

9 Aug

I decided to backpack across Europe right after the movie “Taken” was released. As a result, everyone I knew chastised me and told me to be careful to not get kidnapped and sold into sex slavery. I promised them that I would be smart and safe and reassured them that even if I was captured, my father, who is a very talented and successful graphic designer, would come rescue me for sure. Thanks, Dad. Big card for you on Father’s Day! That being said, I utilized a service that may sound nuts, but happened to be the most awesome thing of life. I urge everyone who likes traveling to give it a whirl.

Instead of paying to stay in hotels and hostels in my favorite destinations, I used couchsurfing.org. Couchsurfing.org is an organization that connects other travels. Basically, you sign up and create a profile, and offer your couch for travelers.  In return, people in cool locations offer their couch to you. I cannot begin to tell you about the awesomeness of this service.

First, it is a great way to meet new friends who also love traveling. I met great people in France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, and I also met people from other countries who were staying with us at the same time. It was fun to talk about travel and hear about the best places to go from other avid travelers.

Couchsurfing.org is also unique in that you are staying with people who live in the area. That means you have a primary source on where to go, what to do, and what to eat.  I saved a ton of time I would have wasted researching on the internet and looking at maps by just asking my kind host. I also had some great experiences with food, which is sort of my specialty. Get this. One of my Italian hosts invited his chef friend over, and he cooked the most amazing Italian meal. It was the best meal I’ve ever had in my life. Straight up delicious. I also attended a wonderful picnic in France on Bastille Day.  I saw fireworks erupt all over Paris—an experience, I wouldn’t have had if I’d been left to my own devices.

While couchsurfing.org is amazing, there are a few good things to know/do.

  1. Make sure to bring a cool treat for your host. They are offering their house, time and energy to host you, so bring something special and unique to share with them.
  2. Learn how to make something delicious. A great way to bond and to show your appreciation is to cook an amazing meal for them.
  3. Make sure to read recommendations on their profile. Staying with a stranger can be nerve wracking, but couchsurfing.org offers recommendations. This means, people who have stayed there before write a little review on the host. This way you can guarantee a personality fit and your safety. Don’t stay with anyone who has negative reviews, or no reviews. Simple as that.
  4. Travel with a friend if you can. Traveling with a friend is a lot more fun, and also safer.
  5. Make sure to open your house to travelers as well.

If you have plans to stay somewhere else, you can also use couchsurfing.org for recommendations and to just meet cool people. When I was in Berlin, I met up with a couple people from couchsurfing.org, and they showed me a bunch of cool outsider art, graffiti and an underground culture that only Berliner’s typically visit.

Next time you are traveling, consider using couchsurfing.org to met new friends and find a great place to stay.

If you have any cool travel tips, I would love to publish a post about them. Here’s how to submit. Also, feel free to follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Las Vegas RollerCon: Come for the bouts; Stay for the butts

2 Aug

If you’re looking for the perfect place to escape the heat this summer, Las Vegas is not the place to go. It is hot, hot, hot. But if you’re looking for a fun time and endlessly entertaining people-watching, Las Vegas (specifically during RollerCon) is where you want to be, with one caveat:  don’t stay at the Riviera.

RollerCon is an annual roller derby convention. Skaters, referees, officials, vendors, and spectators from all over the world take over the Riviera for one week. Everything to do with the convention takes place at the Riviera, so if you’re part of RollerCon, it’s difficult to avoid this crappy hotel. This was my first time going to RollerCon, and while I can’t say for sure if I’ll go again, I know one thing: I’ll never stay at the Riviera again.

If you’re the kind of person who enjoys sleeping on only one flimsy floppy pillow, and you like your garbage piling up for three days before housekeeping bothers to stop by, and you don’t mind having only two washcloth-sized towels to use for three people, then you’ll love the Riv. But if you prefer that your trash be emptied regularly, and your request for extra pillows and towels be honored without having to chase the housekeeping staff down the hallway, then opt for another hotel. To say I was disappointed in the level of service would be an understatement.

So that’s my rant about the Riviera. Now on to the good stuff: butts, butts, and more butts! RollerCon is the mecca for butts of all kinds. Big ones, small ones, round ones, flat ones, jiggly ones, rock hard ones, ones eating booty shorts, and of course, bare ones. Everywhere you looked, there were more butts to behold. I spent a LOT of time staring at butts. I even stayed to watch one bout because I admired a skater’s butt so much. Sure some butts I’d rather not see, but I had to appreciate the confidence of these people – they put it all out there, and they didn’t care what anyone thought. I admired their ability to just let it all hang out, and too bad if you don’t like it.

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While I’m on the subject of butts, I have to mention The Thunder From Down Under. That show? Was the greatest ninety minutes of my life.  If you’re in Vegas with your girlfriends, I highly recommend checking out these Aussie hotties. VIP seats were only $60, I screamed so much that I lost my voice for the rest of the week, AND I got to touch six-pack abs and bare butts. Totally worth it.

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RollerCon was an amazing experience. Getting to spend a week skating, watching bouts, learning from derby royalty, buying ridiculous amounts of derby merchandise, and spending time being lazy at the pool was awesome. There were events that pushed me outside my comfort zone – like the Black & Blue Ball, to which I wore a blue spandex body suit – something I would NEVER have the guts to do in real life. And I got to watch some of the world’s best derby players in person, which made the cost of the whole trip worth it. But playing the drums on a stripper’s bare butt cheeks? Priceless. 

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Author Bio: Bone Junior has been playing roller derby with the Red Rockettes since January 2011, blogging since 2006, and shamelessly tooting her own horn since 1982. You can read more from Bone at http://www.sarahisdabomb.com/.

Thanks to Bone Jr. for your Pic and a Paragraph submission. Love it! Keep ’em coming.