In Transition

I woke this morning to a whisper of, “Bye bye, Bethie,” from just inside the hotel room door.

Pause.

“Are you leaving?” – me

But I was already too late. Click. Door closed. I’d heard my travel companions of the last week moving quietly around the room in low light, getting themselves and their things ready for departure, but had assumed that they would wake me up when they were ready to leave with more than a whisper, for a heartfelt goodbye and a warm hug. They’re too kind for that, apparently.

It occurred to me that I could still catch them downstairs, so I threw on some clothes and hobbled down to the lobby–more on the hobbling in a minute–and was greeted by silence. Too late. They were on their way. When I got back upstairs and took off the sweater I’d thrown on, I realized how stinky I was. So, lucky for them that they were gone. Note for the rest of you: No hugs when I’m interrupted from sleep anytime before, say, 9am. (How did they know?)

The hobbling. Apparently yesterday’s walking around was just too much for me. Last night, when we got back to the hotel, my right Achilles was acting up. I was hoping a night of sleep would fix it, but it’s just as bad today, if not worse. So, this is funny. It’s funny because of how little, physically we have done on this vacation. In response to my Day Three post about sleeping in and going to the store (and not doing anything else), my friend Jesse said, “Sometimes you need a break from your vacation.” Right! So many vacations are like that. Except that this is not one of them. We’ve mastered the art of inactivity, and it’s been blissful, if not a little disturbing. My hips are sore from so much lying around. No joke. My friend Nikko goes on vacation and blows out his knee skiing a volcano in Chile; I go on vacation and tweak my Achilles strolling around Helsinki. It’s like we went from zero to 60 yesterday, where by zero I mean zero and by 60 I mean maybe, say, two.

So, apparently I need to recover from recovering.

And so begins Leg Two. (Ha, ha.)

Provided I can walk (I’m only slightly joking), I will be doing more doing for the next week or so. The Finland leg finishes (ha, ha, again, on two counts) (leg and finishing in Finland, get it?) in several hours when I board a plane for Amsterdam en route to Madrid. After two nights in Madrid, staying with my host family from my high school Rotary Youth Exchange year, I’ll fly out to the Canary Islands to get some volcano time. (Glaciers and volcanoes are still my two biggest geo-loves. Got some glaciated terrain time in Finland, and now it’s time for something a little more fiery.) (And warm.) Four nights on the small island of El Hierro and the another four in Madrid before I fly back to the States.

That is, if I can hobble my way through the airport.

— [That was written indulgently at the plentiful hotel breakfast buffet. The following is from the airport.] —

My big plan for today has been foiled. I like transition days, and I was excited to do some writing, catching up on blogging about the trip. Unfortunately, a few things have gotten in the way.

First, though, a success. I successfully took public transportation to the airport for the small price of 5.5 Euros. Yay me. There’s something satisfying to me about navigating a public transportation system, and it allowed me to get a view of the sites we visited yesterday as well as save some money. I was on the wrong side of the train for views (who knew) but stood up a couple times to look across at road cuts and hills and the flat spaces in between. The landscape reminds me of Long Island or the Seattle area (but much less steep), also smoothed over by glaciers. Helsinki is a city built on bedrock. Visiting the church yesterday gave a nice view into it. Driving through it reveals still more. It’s interesting to see rock in a city–I think of cities as consisting of asphalt, and not of being connected to the rock underneath. (Other cities where you can see what’s underneath? Anyone?)

The first glitch at the airport was that my flight was full. I was supposed to fly to Amsterdam on a KLM flight and then to Madrid, arriving at 9:20pm. I was instead offered a seat on a flight directly to Madrid on Finnair, leaving three hours later and arriving about an hour earlier. Seems reasonable, except 1) had I known, I would have stayed longer in Helsinki to visit the Apple Store in hopes of reclaiming my expensive locked toy and taken some time to scribe in a cafe*; and 2) for some reason my phone won’t get on the wifi at the Helsinki airport. My travel companions’, yes. Mine, no. Mine would get on at the hotel, but there’s something about the airport. This makes me hate the airport. Additionally, my Bluetooth keyboard won’t connect to my phone. I know, these are not real problems. But I was counting on this transition day to write and reflect, in the way that feels good and easy to me, which is using a real keyboard and with access to the internet. Instead of being able to post entries from the airport, I’ve been typing in my thoughts with my thumbs, which probably means I will soon add tendinitis to my list of vacation ailments.

Oh, and because the airport apparently doesn’t want me to communicate with anyone outside of it (it’s a jealous HEL), I’m not able to tell my host family I’m on a different flight. Which means, I suppose, that I’ll have some time at the airport there to get online. That is, if it lets me. Hopefully MAD is better than HEL.

On the upside, the agent got me a window seat on this flight. Thanks, ticket agent!

*My iPad locked up during cabinning. For context: I purchased this iPad no more than three days before departure for our trip. I had thought about it, did a little research, made up my mind and then decided to upgrade, and took the plunge, and was subsequently super excited to have this new tool. I got the Pro version because I was floored by the graphics possibilities. I didn’t even know until I started to research what it can do. Amazing! My mind was blown. Really. And then…. just several days into our trip, on which I was going to use this devise for cartooning and journaling and blogging and planning logistics, it locked up. In the hurry to set up the device at the store (by the salesperson’s part moreso than mine), I had missed a couple critical details. 1) The iPad will require your passcode, not your fingerprint, in certain circumstances; 2) The iPad will lock for good if you exceed the maximum number of passcode tries; 3) You will lose anything on the iPad that is not backed up in the cloud when you reset it. Big bummer. I had written a couple journal entries and a brilliant, illustrated children’s book about whales that was going to probably change the world. For the better. Stupid (amazing) toy.

During my stint at the airport, I passed some time at this bar, where I drank coffee and typed a lot with my thumbs and had a pretty funny exchange with a boisterous group from South Africa on their way north to do exactly what we had just done. Except that they were going to stay at one of the resorts with the glass igloos. Bully for them.

I couldn’t help but get a picture of this scene once I realized what all these people from different groups were watching. I was sitting against the same wall as the screen and couldn’t see the content until I got up. I assumed it was a soccer match. But no. It was a Nordic ski race.

There’s often something that goes wrong with traveling, and it seemed that this day set me up for the rest of my trip, where logistically everything worked but not necessarily smoothly. According to my journal, “All I did on the flight was catch up on blog entries by thumb-typing on my iPhone. I ate most of a partially frozen 8-Euro chicken Caesar wrap.” In Madrid, tired, both of my host parents had come to fetch me. Fortunately, my wifi worked, and I was able to communicate with my mother via WhatsApp. Our conversation went something like:

Me: I’m here! / Her: We’re arriving. Wait at the taxi stop. / Me: Okay, will do. / Her: We’re here. Eduardo’s getting out to look for you. / Me: Okay, great. [Time passes] / Her: I have to move the car. / Me: Maybe he went inside? I don’t see him. / Her: No, stay put, don’t worry. [Time passes.] / Me: Maybe there’s more than one taxi stop? Are there two sides to the airport? / Her: Only one taxi stop.

We eventually figure out we’re at essentially different airports. They’re at Terminal 2, where I would have come out on my original flight, and I’m at Terminal 4, the new one, which is actually a different location. Fortunately not too far away. We then have an upstairs-downstairs confusion, because nothing can be simple, but again, thank you wifi, thank you technology, because without that…

Fantastic to see them. Not long after that we were dining at their flat in Majadahonda, a suburb of Madrid, where I had spent a year of my teenage life, and I had arrived at my destination. Briefly, anyway.

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One thought on “In Transition

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  1. i love that you write all of this down because i learn different stuff from when we talk. hurt ankle? change of flight plans? communication problems? what a complicated travel day!

    Liked by 1 person

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