Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Long Way Home

This is going to be a post about getting home, a journey spread over a week. 

On Saturday:
I am currently sitting in the Travemünde harbour, completely Internet-less (just like JFK, only it is not a huge international airport), and have two more hours left in Germany. Apparently, when buying water at the harbour traveller shop you need to submit a declaration saying you will indeed export the Danish bottles and will not return them to Germany to collect the two-Danish-crone deposit. Also, there are about 20 foot passengers on our ferry without a car or a truck, so I had to call the company who sent somebody to pick us up from the train station. In general, it would be hard to live without a phone in Germany. A phone call is the German alternative for emails at MIT for problem-solving. 

Speaking of MIT and Germany, though, I am really struggling with English right now. Ever since last Friday when I last met my fellow interns, I have had very little need to speak English; none actually. I might need to start practicing again in August, otherwise I will just not be able to find my way from Logan.

The most eventful day this past week was Tuesday when I moved out of my dorm and trained to Bremen. The Thursday before, I called my housemaster to set up an appointment for moving out. He said I should stop by at the office instead, I asked if the next morning at 8 would work, since I was not planning on getting back before midnight.  He assured me that was fine. So, next morning at 8, the office was empty, nobody answered the phone and I had to go to work. I could not call him again either since his phone was turned off. On Monday, I tried again. This time he agreed to set up an appointment by phone: 8:30 the next morning because I had to leave at 9. He promised there will be somebody there to collect the key. Tuesday at 8:40 I finally realised they are late and that is very uncharacteristic of the Germans. So I waited for five more minutes and tried to call again. Once again, the cell phone had been turned off and there I was, in desperate need to leave to take the bus to the train station and with no instructions what to do in a what-if situation. I panicked and called a friend who tried to calm me down (ridiculously hard when I really believe there is reason to worry). Eventually, his phone was turned on again at 9, he said something had come up and that I should just leave the key in the post box and maybe clean a little bit. I did not know he even had a post box! Anyway, everything turned out fine and I arrived at the bus stop together with the bus. All my anger and depression dissolved the moment his phone started ringing, but I still don’t understand how on Earth was I supposed to know what to do on my own.  

Alas, the adventures were far from over yet. First of all, I could not figure out how the ICE works before several text messages to another friend (god bless the existence of people). The French guy sitting next to me had up hoisted my luggage to the hand luggage compartment above, but my suitcase is far from hand luggage. It is huge and also, this time, awfully heavy. So most of the train ride I was staring upwards, worried my suitcase would kill somebody (it could probably have broken a neck). Everything was going great, we were past Osnabrück and Bremen was the next stop. Suddenly the train stopped and we just sat around for five minutes, then the announcement that there is a tree one the tracks and unless we can circumnavigate somehow, we will need to return to Osnabrück and take a detour. After some 15 more minutes of waiting, the train switched direction and, greetings to Zizz, I also got to go to Hannover, completely involuntarily. The ICE decided to continue onwards to Hamburg, which meant all of us travelling to Bremen had to get off and connect to a regional train. Me and my four pieces of luggage were not happy. Instead of 3 hours 30 minutes, I arrived in Bremen exactly 6 hours after leaving Bonn. I think I now understand the songs about Deutsche Bahn a lot better (also, there had been a tree on the tracks three days before when I went to Münster-in the same region-but we were only 10 minutes delayed or so). 

Well, the adventures were still far from being over. The ferry was fine, I slept more than I ever though I could, but the next day in Ventspils, I learned why Estonians still believe Latvians have 6 toes a foot and why the South really is the South. The bus from Ventspils to Riga only had 28 seats and 35 passangers, you have to pay extra for every piece of luggage and soon, the door started malfunctioning. At first, the bus driver just jumped off, pushed a button outside and ran back inside before the door closed. Pretty soon the door had had enough, though, and it opened itself while we were driving. The bus driver did not seem to concerned about people's safety, but he was afraid of getting a fine. So we stopped, he negotiated with the company for 15 minutes and a new bus was sent to collect us from Ventspils (we were over an hour away from there). So we just waited. The next bus that had left an hour later just drove by without even thinking of stopping, although that one was half-empty (a pessimist, hey?) and there were lots of people waiting next to the road, some of whom had trains to catch and tickets to St. Petersburg already bought. The new bus finally arrived and looked exactly the same. Latvians are ridiculously calm people. To catch up, we started speeding and most of the time the speed exceeded 120 kmh (and the limit was 50-70). Apparently, Latvian police specialises on open doors rather than speeding. Having been to Riga before, I can only guess they would probably have too much work otherwise. There was also a road construction on the way and we also got to travel 50 metres backwards (the other option next to the lorry trying to pass would have been 5 to the right, into the ditch). 

We obviously missed our train and took a bus to Tartu. I still like trains better. A lot. 

At the Travemünde beach, a seagull tried to steal my bag, so my camera was full of seagull and I could not take any more pictures. 

I am home now. I am tired, but not from travelling. I'm tired to be home. There is nothing more tiring than doing nothing. 

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