Around the World With a Vagabond

Oprah Sightings, Attempted Smuggling, & Too Many Boobies December 12, 2010


The plotting began the night before the Christmas party.


Chris had found out at the last minute that his company’s Christmas party was to be an employee-only Christmas party. Strictly no partners, guests, or plus-ones allowed.


I had been looking forward to going and was bummed out to find out I’d been banned. What kind of Christmas-spirit-crap was that? Chris was disappointed too. “Don’t worry, “ he told me. “ We’ll smuggle you in.  Who gives a shit? It’s Christmas.”




And so we schemed how I would get past the strict bouncers, claim someone else’s employee ID, avoid eye-contact with the Boss Man and enjoy the festivities without being escorted out or getting Chris fired.


We concocted an elaborate plan on whose identity I was to take if questioned, and worked with someone on the inside who would slip me an employee wristband.  I memorized the names and descriptions of people I was to avoid. Easy.


With the same thoroughness and forward thinking I planned my Christmas party outfit.  I would wear a pretty red dress, heels, and bring flip-flops for the end of the night for when my feet hurt too much from dancing.


I was doing well to plan ahead with both fancy Christmas outfit and the Operation Christmas Party Smuggle. What I failed to do was tie these ideas together.


Once slipping past stocky security and snapping the blue band that had passed through many cooperative hands to get to my ineligible wrist, I should have kept a low profile and not:


  • Called attention to myself by wearing a sexy red dress at a casual dress party.
  • Forgotten that my American accent stands out in a room of Aussies.
  • Overload on champagne and partake in audible antics of joy.




Not only was no one else wearing anything much dressier than khakis and tie-less shirts, most of the clothing was neutral toned down blacks and grays. The only black I was wearing were my 5 inch heels.  My red dress was a short and strappy silky number that didn’t necessitate a bra. Simple and Christmassy in my mind, but fair to say it stood out amongst the overall attire of employees at this particular work function.


Stealthy and a little scared, I found my way inside the pub and upstairs to the rooftop bar  – we entered the function room and walked smack into the Big Boss.  I fake-smiled confidently and hurried off to hide in the ladies room for a few minutes just in case.


But . . . nothing happened!!! Yay! Chris handed me glass of champagne number 1, and we proceeded through the crowd, him smiling, me smiling and avoiding eye contact and chatting with a few of his friends who knew what we were up to, but glad to have us!


The longer I was there, the more comfortable I felt.  I mingled! I met people! I helped myself to sushi and tempura!  I was handed champagne glass number 2 and began to tell stories to a few of Chris’s work mates. And I had a GOOD story!


En route to the Christmas party, Chris and I had an encounter with none other than the Prime Minister of Australia and Oprah Winfrey!  As our tram trundled over the Yarra River into downtown, I noticed how crowded the road was with cops. Looking again, I noticed the TV cameras and giant fuzzy microphones extending over a gathering crowd when Chris shouted, “Hey! It’s the Prime Minister!  . . . . . . .And Oprah!”


We rang the bell to stop the tram and jumped out.  Like a couple of star-struck teenyboppers, we hurried to join the growing crowd.


Julia Gillard (the PM) was walking along the riverbank having a conversation with Oprah.  A film crew was walking ahead along the roped off path.  Two helicopters hovered overhead, a police boat putted along the river, several MIB patrolled the crowd and followed the pair closely as cops wearing sunglasses scampered around with their phones and their guns.


It was so EXCITING!! The crowd was buzzing and shouting out declarations of adoration at Oprah.  We somehow managed to get right up to the rope, and Chris caught the whole thing on his camera. It was 5 minutes of glory.  We were about three feet away, and close enough to see the make-up creases on the women’s faces.


As if royalty, they strolled past, we smiled and waved.  We couldn’t stop staring. It was awesome!


After a few more minutes, the women were ushered into black tinted SUVs and drove away, leaving a trail of reporters and photographers and a dispersing chattering crowd behind.


By the time I finished telling this story, I was on champagne number 3, and my audience had grown by another employee or two, and maybe a manager.


Deciding to check out the balcony, Chris and I maneuvered our way to the other side of the rooftop and take in the twilight horizon and sprawling city lights of Melbourne and the tucked away suburbs.  It was a pretty cool view. . . . and then:


“Is that a fat lady getting naked down there?” asked Chris.


I looked and, sure enough, on the second floor of nearby housing was framed a fat lady directly in front of her window and in plain sight of the busy pub balcony.


“Is she really getting naked?”


We, again, couldn’t stop staring. We were shameless. But then, so was she.


The fat lady, very obviously seeking her own audience, proceeded to remove her shirt. Her back was to us as she undid her bra, and then . . BOOM!!  Full frontal naked fat lady boobies.  She had spun around and was looking straight up at the pub balcony.  This must be a regular thing for her, so practiced was her unsnapping and spinning.


I think the crowd on the balcony was too engaged in their own conversations to notice, and Chris and I, hysterical and snorting, were the only appreciative viewers.  Fat Booby Lady’s window light flicked off, and Chris and I headed to the dance floor.


And dance we did.  Spinning around and making up line dances, we had a blast.  But somehow, between Oprah and the champagne and the Fat Booby Lady, I’d forgotten that I wasn’t actually supposed to be at the party and should still try to stay undercover.


Smiles and eye contact I now openly exchanged with everyone.  Dancing was not in the dark corner of the pub, but smack dab in the middle of the dance floor.  Spinning round and round and round, I’d also forgotten that my dress was a no-bra dress, as Chris twirled me in and then twirled me out, and then twirled me in, I looked down to see booby-on-the-right had made an escape.


Shrieking, I adjusted my dress. I have no idea if it had just then peeped out, or if when Chris flung in me in an outward twirl towards other employees and managers, booby-on-the-right was making a grand appearance.  I also have no idea if the professional photographer who had been circling the room was still on the prowl.


Well, a boob’s a boob.  We just kept dancing.


Now, if my fancy red dress, the celebrity stories accentuated with gestures and an American accent, or quick-booby-flashes didn’t draw any attention to this smuggled-in party-crasher, the piggy back ride across the center of the dance floor surely did.


It was during a favorite line of an overplayed track that my shameful dance moves suddenly and desperately called for a swift front kick. My black heels that had kept me vertical all night suddenly had a strap snap, and my right high heel went flying.


No one was hurt, and I was happy to dance barefoot until the song finished. However, there had been several incidents involving broken glass, and Chris didn’t want me to cut open my bare feet.  He, a few beers down himself, insisted on carrying me on his back across the room, and across the dance floor, where I could retrieve my back-up flip-flops and also get champagne number 9ish or 11th-ish.


Up I hopped onto Chris’s back, red dress swishing, one arm loosely around his neck, and the other arm pumping the air while I shouted, “Forward, ho!” and “Giddy-up Cowboy!”  Chris did his best to weave his way straight through the middle of the dance floor with his belligerent shoe-less girlfriend on his back, who was shouting down orders, high-fiving the crowd, and still dancing all at once. I think Chris may have busted a move on the dance floor too.  All I know for sure is that I definitely made eye contact with the Boss Man at this exact moment. In fact, I think I shouted a Black Eyed Pea lyric at him as we stumbled forward and passed by laughing.


I don’t know what the repercussions of this will be for Chris when he goes to work on Monday. Maybe nothing.  Maybe a reprimand. Or maybe possibly he’ll be more popular.


All I know is that I’m awesome at smuggling in, but with blending in, I failed spectacularly.


Why I Will Live to be 100 October 26, 2010

Filed under: Stories For My Brother,Why I Will Live to Be 100 — christynichols @ 12:18 am
Tags: , , , , ,


People have always told me that it’s important to have goals.  Most of the time they were talking about securing a spouse and a house, and probably a good job.  At the moment, I have none of those things, and am nowhere near achieving them, so I have a different goal.


It’s always better to have goals that you are already accidentally half-way to reaching anyway, to help boost confidence and keep a positive feeling. I regularly drink green tea, drink red wine, eat my salads, and indulge in honey.  And I yoga.


These are all good healthy things to do in moderation, and after I thought about what good they were all for, I came to one conclusion that ultimately gave me my life goal:


I am going to live to be 100.


And, I am going to keep living my life in such a way that when I am old and have lost my mind, my glasses, and my teeth, I can keep myself entertained by reliving vicariously through my own youth.


My unwillingness to give up any of the above and an uncannily ferocious determination to light 100 candles will ensure that I make it to that birthday.


No matter how much my purple veiny hand shakes, I will light every damn one of those candles myself. You know how old people can be inanely insistent. That will be me.


Yes, I will live to be 100, and the Vit C Eye Cream I use will save me from looking so horribly offensive as so many centurions do.


And I don’t plan on looking a day over  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .50.


Just to make sure reaching the age of 100 was feasible, I calculated my natural life span by taking a quick survey on My results said I would live to 94.


I thought that was a bit shit . . . . to come so close and fall short by only a couple of years. I could live longer, the website’s feedback said, if I increased calcium and flossed.


Okay.  But there’s only so much yogurt I can eat a day, and milk hurts my brain, unless it’s in coffee.


When I do have yogurt, it’s always mixed with honey, so I Googled honey in hopes that it would help me add half a dozen years or so.


Honey is one of my favorite things to eat. It is one of the best things ever in the world, and I was so happy when Google revealed that honey is an anti-oxidant AND it helps absorb calcium! Yay! No brittle bones! So I can keep eating it! Honey makes me happy, and I know I am not alone in this.


Last year, I met a bee man in Savannah who was also a big fan of honey, and its role in human life expectancy, but in a slightly different way.


I was in this historic city lined with broken-brick streets and black mossy trees wandering down streets and through courtyards when I came across the Honey Store.


It might have been named something else entirely, but in my memory, the outside of the Honey Store was bright yellow, almost glowing, and irresistibly beckoning.


Inside was unlike anything one might expect in a honey store. Usually, such shops are lined with shelves full of jars shaped like bear heads glistening with the sweet stuff.


Here, there were giant mock beehives! Yes.  Made of linen. Or cotton, I don’t know, but the entire inside of the store was decorated as if for children. It was awesome.


But what was even better than fake giant beehives was the long white counter because along this long white counter stood a long line of people.  The Honey Store was giving away free samples of their special honey!!


I know there is so much more about Savannah to remember, but it’s the personal little experiences that make a place memorable.  I was so happy with the yellow and the giant pretend-hives, I giddily took my place in line.


Behind me, was the bee man.


I can’t remember how the conversation started with the bee man. You may have been picturing a guy in a large bumblebee suit, but that’s not why this guy is called the bee man.  He was a bee scientist. Cue the lab coat.


In fact, I am not too sure what the bee man looked like because I imagine his face completely shrouded in a swarm of honeybees. I think he was gawky.


The bee man was an animated fellow. He told me his job is to save the dying honeybees from a virus. And from exhaustion. And malnourishment. The bee man had been stung 400 times in the last 6 months. The bee man told me he does not need to wear a space suit in a lab because the bees know his scent. Because of this, he told me, he rarely showers.


I don’t have a very strong sense of smell, so I don’t remember being offended by any odor. I do remember wondering how come he was still stung 400 times if the bees knew his scent?


But he was super excited and buzzing with energy. The bee man was soon to be leaving to do research in Africa (or maybe it was Australia?).  He was going to save the honey bees through his research, and as a result, save humanity. The human food supply is dependent on bee pollination, and he was a would-be bee-hero.


I picture him in Africa or Australia, poking at bee parts, sticky-honey fingers, face hidden from a swarm of buzzing bees that has attached itself in one teeming hum to his face.


The bee-man was going to save us all from extinction by starvation.


I wonder how he got on.


If I am going to live to be 100, I am going to need my honey.


The Great Ocean Hiking Trip That Almost Was October 15, 2010


If anyone has ever read any of my travel stories before, then they know that each story begins the same: with great enthusiasm and high ambition, and not much else.


This story is no different.


The Planning


Even though I am a seasoned traveler and wandering adventurer, I still can never get the planning and preparing part quite right.


In the past, I have forgotten basic things that most people would never forget. Things like water and first aid or a phone and map. Forgetting to pack these items on an overnight hiking trip is like forgetting your shoes. Although, Chris actually has forgotten his shoes before, so between the two of us, we didn’t stand much of a chance.


Still, when Chris and I decided to spend 3 days hiking the Great Ocean Walk, the first things I put on the “To Pack” list was water, first aid, a map, and a phone.


The Great Ocean Road trims the bottom of Australia, rolling through about a 100km stretch of rugged coastline and lush rainforest. The track is dotted every 10 km or so with fishing villages, lighthouses, koala bears, and not much in the way of services.  There are no toilets or showers at any of the hike-in campsites, and only rainwater is available. Between the paved Great Ocean Road and the pounding ocean waves, the rainforest trees grow tall and canopy the wet ground.


We hadn’t had a good weekend away in ages, and so I wanted to pack as much adventure and relaxation and sightseeing as I possibly could into our three days.


To appreciate this story, it is import to understand how high my expectations were.


I was very excited. As in, small-child-on-Christmas-Eve excited. The plan was to rise early Saturday morning, travel south by bus and train for a four-hour journey to the coast.


We would arrive at Apollo Bay, and start walking west! Everything we needed was in a pack on our backs! We would hike along the ocean and through forest all afternoon until we reached our campsite by sunset!


After a peaceful sleep, we would pack up, and hike 22km over scenic terrain to our next campsite. We would admire the beauty of untouched nature, and talk about how nice it was to finally get away.  Perhaps we would see a koala.


On the third day we would wake up bright and chirpy at about 5am, and hike another 15km over rocky beach cliffs and steep hilly forests.  Here, we would wander off the Great Ocean Walk onto the Great Ocean Road, flag down a bus or hitchhike, or something, and find our way back to Apollo Bay so we could catch the bus back to the city. It would be three awesome days of hiking in the Australian bush, covering 45km!


But that’s not what happened.


The Problems


Problem 1: Instead of arriving in Apollo Bay happy and exuberant, we were exhausted and carsick.  This was a last-minute trip, and so the grocery shopping had been done at 10pm the night before. We mad-rushed through the grocery store and bought only canned food, 8 bananas, and wine. We then started packing our bags at midnight, and went to bed by 2am.   Five hours later, we began our train and bus journeys down twisty-turny roads and by the time we arrived it was all I could do not to throw up.


But off we went, each with a pack on our back. Chris also carried the tent. I carried a plastic bag full of our bananas.


Problem 2: Chris’s bag. In our haste, Chris had grabbed a bag that he had forgotten he hated. A kilometer into our hike, the straps broke and had to be tied.  We were only hiking for three days, but had somewhat bulky supplies.  But all of this weight jumbled into two crappy bags takes a toll on a person’s shoulders and back and general hiking spirit. Chris was no exception.


After fumbling with the straps, I discovered that the first aid kit came with safety pins.  I safety-pinned the straps together and this way Chris could hike with less hindrance, the weight of the bag now secure.


Problem 3: About 2 hours in, it began to rain. I had my handy-dandy waterproof jacket and stayed mostly dry. Chris had no such thing, and he and his safety pins were rained on for about 20 minutes as we hiked through what was now mud.


Which brings me to Problem 4: There was SO much mud. The thick gloopy kind of mud that suctions your shoes off as you walk through it.  Clinging to broken branches and scratchy foliage along the edge of the mud pits, we did our best to maneuver our way around them.  Chris made it okay, but I slipped twice.


Problem 5: After about 4 hours of trekking, we realized it was taking us longer than expected to find our camping site. Chris’s bag constantly needed readjusting, our clothes were wet and muddy, and the bags were very heavy. I pulled out the map I had picked up way back in Apollo Bay.  It turned out to be the wrong map. It was a map of the right area, but different places of interest were marked on it.


Our campsite was not one of these places of interest.


It was a moment of defeat. Tired, hungry, muddy, rained on, and lost in the approaching darkness with our broken bags and bananas, I decided to call the Great Ocean Hiking Rangers and ask them how long until I found my campsite.


Problem 5.  I discovered that my cell phone did not have reception way out there in the outback.




We trudged on in tense silence for about ten minutes. And then, rounding a bend in the thick clustered eucalyptus trees, we walked smack into our site. Hurray.


Problem 6. I don’t really know if this next problem really is one, but it is bizarre and so worth mentioning.


As we were setting up our tent, out from the deep, dark, damp forest came this strange sound. It wasn’t very far off.  It lasted for several seconds, and stopped us mid-conversation and mid- unpacking. It sounded part snarl, part motorcycle engine, part growl, and it sounded like it came from something big. The sound was something of a cross between a lion and a velociraptor.


I went through a checklist in my mind of dangerous Australian wildlife:

  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • .  .  .  .  .
  • Spiders


I had no idea what could have made that noise.  Then we heard it again. We didn’t know what to do. We were alone.  I had forgotten to pack my knife, but, really. Me with a knife? I would have only lost it in the forest as I fled screaming.


Chris said maybe it was a boar. Or maybe it was a rabid kangaroo or koala.  Or maybe it was a rabid hybrid of the two.  The Great Rabid Koalaroo scaring the shit out of hikers in the forest.


We decided to eat our canned food and just go to bed.


Problem 7: That first night will go down as one of the most uncomfortable nights we have ever tried to sleep through.  As we set up the tent, the skies opened and the rain came down. We didn’t pack sleeping pads because we didn’t want to carry them, and we only packed one sleeping bag for the same reason – minimizing weight.


This was a case of bad judgment. Because we were only bringing one, Chris picked the warmest feather-down bag he had.  Unfortunately, this also made it the heaviest sleeping bag, weighing down his backpack and breaking his backpack straps.


Our clever plan was to unzip the entire thing and use it as a blanket for us both. But doing this meant we slept on the hard, cold ground, tug-of-warring for the cover all night, and because it was unzipped, most of the warmth escaped anyway.


So in our attempt to be efficient, we only made our experience heavier and colder.


That night, I tucked in with a feeling of hope.


Hope that the next day our bags would hold.


Hope that it wouldn’t rain anymore.


Hope that I would fall asleep soon because I was so cold and the ground was so hard.


Hope that the Great Rabid Koalaroo was not growling at us and would not eat us in the night.


Hope that the night would just end.


The Beach


It only took half a day and 10km of the Australian wildlife to beat us down. Instead of doing all the awesome hiking things I had planned, we decided to retrace our steps to a pretty little beach we had passed through before, and just chill out for the day.  Then, we could flag down a ride to the nearest hostel for the night. No more safety pins. No more mud. No more lost.


That didn’t happen either.


If torn and muddy jeans and safety-pinned bags weren’t enough to make us look like a couple of homeless people, the bag of trash we now carried with us certainly did.


There were no trashcans anywhere along the trail. Hikers are meant to take all of their rubbish with them when they leave, so, being good people, we kept the empty cans and wine bottles and carried them the entire trip.


An hour into Day 2, walking back the way we came, we found ourselves on one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen.  The sand was soft and crumbly. The lush forest rose around the hills hugging the beach.  Craggy black rocks decorated the shoreline, and turquoise waves crashed and tumbled, and shot up foamy spray over and over against the rocks. The sun was warm. We were happy.


We dropped our bags and trash on the sand and ate our breakfast, lunch, and snack for the day all in one go. Lying on our backs, we soon fell asleep to the sound of waves and birds and the occasional Chinese tourist that wandered down from the trail.


A little later Chris suggested that we just set the tent up on this beach for the night instead of bothering with a hostel.


At first I was like, “No! The rules! There’s no campsite here and there’s a ‘Danger High Tide” sign! We can’t break the rules.”


Then I remembered that most of the time I think this, I end up breaking the rules anyway, and nothing bad happens.  Nothing really bad, anyway.


So we did! We set the tent up just next to a protective rocky cliff face, and just safely up from where highest point of tide would reach. We could tell where the high tide came in because of the ribbon of broken shells and seaweed pieces that arched across the sand.


The ground slanted a little, so we arranged the tent in a way that would hopefully prevent our bodies from sliding sideways, and slumping our heads into the same small corner while we slept.


Sometime in the night, I awoke to strange splashing noises. I nudged Chris, who poked his head out of the tent to investigate.  I waited in the dark tent.  And waited.




He was looking for what seemed like a long time.


Carefully, he came back in and zipped up the tent. “I think it’s fine” he said.


I would like to add “with confidence” to that last sentence. “I think it’s fine” he said, with confidence.


But I think it was more like “tiredly”, as in “I think it’s fine” he said, tiredly.


A bit later I woke again to louder splashing, gurgling, and water-rushing noises that sounded alarmingly close to my head.  I don’t know why I didn’t check myself, but I didn’t.


I think it was one of those moments where I just closed my eyes to the problem.  The day before had been so hard, and today had been so good! I just didn’t want the good day part to change, so I went back to sleep.  Later, I found out Chris had also woken up the second time, but for similar reasons, ignored the rushing water at our tent.


In the morning, as we blinked into the morning sun shining on our illegal campsite, we saw that the nighttime tide has rushed well past our tent, and well past the ribbon of seaweed that I thought had been a good indicator.


Luckily, the tide rushes in as an arc, and not a full slate of tide wiping out and pulling away everything in its path.  Our little tent was 2 feet away from where the tidal arc sloped back towards the shore and, except for quite a bit of splashing, we stayed dry and were not swept out to sea in the night.


The End


In the end, we hiked 10km in one direction, and then back again to where we had started.  The 45km hike sighting koalas and lighthouses was not to be.


However, we headed back in good spirits. I had 3-day-old mud stains up to the ripped knees of my jeans. We had not slept well or showered. Chris’s bag was barely holding on with 5 safety pins and 4 threads. We had eaten through the cans and every last banana and drunk all the water.


We were tired, sweaty, carrying a massive see-through bag of trash, and getting sunburned.


But we had not starved, drowned, been lost, injured, or attacked by the Great Koalaroo.


It might not have been the Great Ocean Hiking trip I had imagined, but by the last day, we had adapted. It was a beautiful day.


Basketball Star! September 30, 2010

Filed under: Basketball Star!,What Happened in Australia — christynichols @ 1:39 am
Tags: , , ,

The boyfriend keeps telling me to write something really happy about Australia, because all I seem to write about are bar fights and dumplings.


However, things are a little stagnant at the mo, what with the rain and the shortage of funds and the whole waiting-for-my-visa saga.


I spend most of my time with my dear friend Mac, working online, studying online, and generally living a cyber life until better times.  The only reminder that there still is a world around me is the occasional “thunk . . .thunk . . . thunk” that I can hear from outside.


The boyfriend’s sister happens to be a super-cool b-ball player, and when she’s home from uni, she livens up the place with her “thunk . . . thunk . . . thunking” with the ball out back. (Or is it “dunk . . . dunk . . . dunking”?)


Either way, her b-balling reminds me of when I was a basketball star, way, way, way long time ago in the land of England . . . . . . .

It my first term studying abroad in Sussex, and I momentarily found my athletic calling ….basketball! (This was before I discovered yoga.)


One evening, myself and two other chicks ventured into the school gym. Myself, my roommate Di and neighbor Jen decided to play a game with about 8 other guys.


Or actually, they were playing, and we three just jumped in and assigned ourselves to teams without really asking.  They let us, but I think really because they all liked to play with Di because she went to Basketball Camp and was really good, and Jen and I were with her, so it was like a package deal.


We played until midnight – but this was only the 2nd time I had ever actually played a proper game with teammates and rules.  The players were nice and threw me the ball anyway.


I took the ball and dribbled all the way down the courts, so excited to be moving with the ball in the game! But then I had to turn and dribble all the way back to the other end as I realized people were shouting, “wrong way!” at me.


For twenty minutes after that, I bobbed around the court and ran with the crowd and tried to pretend that I knew what was going on. I shouted encouragement, and understood when they ignored my shouts of “Over here!” and threw to someone else instead.


Finally, they threw me the ball again! Hurray!  I dribbled and ran along the side all the way down the court – no one was around me, and I was thinking “Alright! I can do it! I’m a basketball star!!”


I looked and following me on the other side of the court was Di all by herself so I became really excited and made a GREAT pass to her – forgetting for a moment that she was my roommate not my teammate. So then they got a point when she made a basket from the ball I threw her.


That’s ok.  I helped.


It’s at this point that I began to think I had sports ADD.   I kept forgetting to pay attention to what was going on. I would be with the players on the court and looking around, but not always following the ball. I was just looking around in general as everyone else ran back and forth.


Twice more they threw me the ball. Once it hit me in the shoulder, and once it bounced in front of me.  The unfortunate teammates of mine realized that they needed to get my attention before passing me the ball. So they started to call out my name when they were going to throw me the ball so I would know to stop and think “HEY! A basketball is being thrown AT MY HEAD! LOOK UP!” and I would look and I would catch it!


It was nice of them to be so considerate, but then as soon as the other team heard my team kindly call my name, my opponents all clobbered me at once and I would get scared and lose the ball.


To remedy this, my teammates then began doing “Christy fake-outs”. They would call my name and I would look up all excited because they still wanted to play with me, and the other team would head in my direction to try to steal the ball, but then my teammates would throw it to someone else instead of me!


That’s ok.  I was part of the plan.


But, through all of this confusion, I did manage to make some baskets and score some points.  FOUR of them!  The first time I was on the side of the basket up in the front corner and someone passed it to me, and they shouted, “Shoot!”


So I did, but at the same time my arms were shooting, my mouth was saying, “I can’t shoot!”  But I MADE IT ANYWAY!!! I was SO happy!  I said “YAY!!!” and they all said “YAY!!!” But I think they said it in a sarcastic Christy-is-retarded kind of way.


But that’s ok.  It was a positive cheer.


I can’t remember which team won. But I left the court feeling like a winner.


I don’t know how my teammates felt.  I’m sure they felt like winners too.


The Bar Fight September 4, 2010

Filed under: The Bar Fight,What Happened in Australia — christynichols @ 4:08 am
Tags: , , , , ,


So I was having a bad week. I was in a yucky mood because of, like 18 different frustrating things.  I was waiting in the train station bar placating myself with red wine, and hoping to avoid alienating Chris when he joined me later, he being the only person around who would actually feel sorry for me.


So there I sat in the bar, book and wine at the table, and I hear over the din of Beyonce songs some punk guy screaming and shouting at some punk girl. They were probably about 20.  You would call these kinds of people “chavs” in England; in America they would be “white trash.” I don’t know what they are called here.


These two began to shout and swear and actually push each other, but they did this as they were leaving.  Myself and a few other lone patrons of the busy station bar turned our heads and watched the shouting match move itself towards the sliding glass door and out onto the main walkway of Southern Cross Station.


Ok, breathing out, tension gone, we all returned to our drinks and books and conversations.


But the calm was not to last. The two punks in hoodies shouted and swore their way back into the bar and carried on, showing little regard to anyone else.


I was busy bitching out things and people in my head. I didn’t need these two idiots doing it out loud right next to me.


They had moved their rowdy quarrel behind me when over the swearing and over the Beyonce came this BOOMING voice:


“GET OUT!!!!!!!!!”




The guy punk responded in a string of low-key mangled obscenities.  I turned my head and looked back. The booming belonged to a large powerful-looking man in a heavy beige suit. He was either late fifties, maybe early sixties, and huge. Not fat. Just big.




. . . . .. . . . . String of mangled obscenities from young punk . . ..


“PISS OFF!!!,” yelled Mr. Booming Voice with his large arm pointing towards the exit. And with that, the large booming man stormed towards the skinny angry punk and grabbed the front of his hoodie.  If the punk had been wearing a shirt with a collar, I guess the booming man would have collared him.


The angry little punk writhed and tripped over his own feet as the booming man literally dragged this guy out of the bar and threw him onto the platform.


The punk did not know what to do.  His stance was defiant, and the small bag he had been carrying he threw to the ground.  So . . . . . I guess he threw down.  They stood there, facing off.  It was a face off.


It was so  . . . . . EXCITING!! Every head in the station bar was turned! It was young verses old, punk verses class, scrawny verses brawny…  It was going to come to blows!!!  We all watched through the glass as Mr. Booming Voice towered over the scrappy little hoodie.


But then, even though the mangled obscenities carried on and the booming voice overpowered the busy station noises, the confrontation seemed to stop. I think the punk only could stand there with the F-word as his weapon.  He had nothing.  The booming man came back in to finish his beer.


He all but received a standing ovation. The people in the bar around me thanked him, nodded a smile at him, and complimented him on his powerful voice and physical initiative to throw out troublemakers.  It was awesome!!


I wanted to give him a double thumbs up, but then I thought that was the kind of thing a loser would do, so I exchanged smiles with the older guy at the table next to me instead.


If this was the old west, Mr. Booming Voice, as he returned, would have pushed past the swinging saloon doors, dusted his trousers off, and returned the smoking barrel to his holster. Then the mustachioed bar owner would have slid a glass of whiskey down the wooden bar towards Mr. Booming Voice and give him the ol’ nod.  The piano player would break the silence and we all would get back to our poker. There’d be a dead man left in the street, probably, but hey.


People don’t take care of business that way anymore.  Bar fights are usually one piss-head fighting with another, and usually patrons want them both out. Where’s the fight for honor? For peace? Where’s the chivalry?


Maybe it’s barbaric, but what the booming voiced man did by dragging that punk out of the bar completely impressed me. He handled the situation with his bare hands, and restored peace to the bar!


A guy who can pull that off will always be a good guy in my book.


Welcome to Colombia December 21, 2009

Filed under: Welcome to Colombia — christynichols @ 5:15 am
Tags: , , , ,

We arrived in a torrent of rain and thunder and crashing lightning. Our baggage was soaked, and the airport terminal was flooded to our ankles in rain water.  Bienvenedo gringos.

The three-legged flight from Los Angeles was not too bad. Other than a midnight departure time and sharing half of my middle seat with an obese, but sympathetic, woman, the flights were fairly smooth.  My stomach only dropped once as we took off from Ft. Lauderdale, and though the ocean view through the plastic windows flashed momentary terror, it was only momentary.  I was calm throughout the flights. The beers helped too.

I really should be able to say more about Bogota, but the truth is the hostel is lovely, and I mostly caged myself inside the vividly painted courtyards of an 18th Century Colonial house-turned-hostel for days. I’ve submitted myself to every hammock at least once.  It was a very peaceful, and lazy week.

It didn’t quite start off that way though.  Flashback to our soggy jeans and crowds of Spanish speakers all vying for the next taxi, Chris and I were finally were able to cut past customs, and out the door.

After a too-long conversation in bad Spanish with a taxi driver, we were able to sort out a ride to our hostel, Musicology in La Candelaria.   We’d heard mixed reviews about this area of Bogota. We’d heard it was decent, and tucked away in a university area.  We also had heard it was a dodgy part of town, infested with angry, raging criminals with a thirst for gringoes.  Only one way to find out.

The taxi ride was harrowing. We hadn’t slept in about 24 hours, and hadn’t eaten much, and the taxi drove as if in a high speed chase, except he seemed to be doing the chasing.  Lane lines meant nothing to him, nor did honking buses or speedy motorcycles.  The rain still fell on our windshield, potholes the size of Volkswaggens swallowed our wheels every few blocks, and armed militia men stood on dark corners of broken-brick streets. Our manic driver kept shouting that our destination address was “peligrosso! peligrosso!” and kept reaching into the back seat to stab Chris in the chest with a pretend knife he made out of his first two fingers.   Scared the crap out of us.

The neighborhood we drove through did little to ease my worries.  The streets were dark, narrow, and crumbling. Not in the charming and quaint way that so many of Europe’s streets are narrow and crumbling. These streets screamed of menace. Unkempt, criminal, malevolent dark streets graffitied over and guarded by homeless, putrid drunks slumping in corners.  Many of these corners were guarded with what looked like militia – sometimes 6 or 7 in counting, all with huge guns at the ready.  I was terrified.

After about a 30 min distressing drive, we arrived at Musicology – it was a haven after the other neighborhoods we had driven through.   Painted blue on the outside, with a music note hanging over the gated entrance, we were welcomed into a lush green Spanish courtyard.  The walls were brightly painted, and several hammocks hung between the beams.  We were lead to the “Reggae” room, and made to feel at home.

Finally comforted, we headed straight to the bar upstairs.  The barman was an English guy, probably early 40’s, who was from Hastings.  He looked like a criminal. Tats on his neck, arms, and legs, and face piercings.  He spent the next 45 minutes telling us every mugging story he knew. Local, of course. When Chris and I finally made our way to our hostel bed, I was a rack of nerves. Neither of us slept very well that first night.

Barman Jason turned out to be a decent bloke.  He had been working at the hostel for 2 months, and was set to move on, when he took in a poor stray black labrador. He tried to convince the hostel owner to take her in, and the owner only would as long as the barman stayed for one more month and trained the dog. So that is exactly what this “criminal” is doing.  In a week, he had the lab fixed, got her teeth done, and had started training her to behave herself.  Not a bad guy.

Our first day in Bogota was pretty awful.  After a restless night, I woke  in the morning  struck with the worst cramps I have had in years.  I took loads of Ibuprofin, but it didn’t help. Chris was starving, so after a lovely chat with the hostel owner, an Israeli named Inball, we wandered out into the cobble-stoned streets and up the hill towards a small kitchen serving hot soup.

The buildings along the street were so colorful! Pinks and reds and blues, high balconies with plants and laundry overhanging from lines out of windows.  But despite the colors and the quaintness of the streets, it was still very run-down.  The buildings didn’t seem to have much upkeep, cracked and pitted with holes as they were. Turning any one corner meant entering a bad part of town, with homeless sleeping in the streets, and military men on guard.

Chris and I headed up the hill to this small restaurant with just a couple picnic tables inside. For $2, you could get a whole plate of chicken, beans, rice, plantains, a bowl of soup, salad, and fresh squeezed fruit juice!

Chris woofed his down, but I was still feeling awful.  I really wanted to eat the food, but I had the shakes so bad.  I felt sick and couldn’t eat.  I sat facing the door, watching as burros laden with heavy satchels walked by.  I just couldn’t appreciate anything.   I asked for the baño, and the small Colombian woman walked me to the shop next door.

The shop next door had very little room, perhaps only for a customer or two.  The woman rolled away an ice-cream cooler that revealed a small door.  She gestured towards the door, so I walked through and into the tiniest bathroom I have ever been in.  It was about as wide as the average bedroom closet, but only about half as long.  Even so, it still contained a toilet, a small sink, and a urinal, almost all on top of each other. The door did not reach all the way from ceiling to floor, so I partly felt I was still in the shop with the men working there, but whatever. My stomach hurt so bad, I didn’t care.  There was also no toilet paper, but nothing to do about that.

Anyway, got back to the restaurant, and just couldn’t hack it, so Chris lead me back to the hostel. I didn’t quite make it.  As he was trying to buzz us in, I started throwing up in the street. I hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours, so there wasn’t too much of a mess, but I couldn’t hold it back. I threw up all over the pretty blue paint on the wall of our hostel. We were buzzed in, and I threw up in the entryway, luckily into a trash bucket.  Chris walked me down the hall, and into our room, where I threw up again in the toilet.  It was awful.  I was shaking, had been sick, had diarrhea, and cramps – it was the worst I could remember feeling in a long time, and was exhausted. Chris tucked me into bed, and I tried to sleep away the pain.

Wasn’t too sure what hit me.  I hadn’t eaten anything for it to be food poisoning.  I had had a weekend in Vegas, a very long flight, lots of booze in between, and had just started the pill, so I accounted it all to hormones and physical dehydration and exhaustion.

Found out later it was altitude poisoning.   I guess it hits travelers frequently. Bogota sits pretty high at 2640 meters, and is the third highest major city in the world.

Whatever the cause, I felt so sick.  So between fearing we’d be victimized and feeling ill, it’d been a rough start to our travels.

Welcome to Colombia.


Another Bathroom Blog

Filed under: Another Bathroom Blog — christynichols @ 5:13 am
Tags: , , ,

Using the bathroom on a moving bus is always a challenge – hygienically, and sometimes acrobatically.  The unsuspected swerve, the unidentifiable puddles, the small, cramped space.  This Colombian bus was no different.  Actually, it was different. It was the most difficult time I’ve ever had trying to pee while moving.

It started off decent enough, I guess.  The bus rocked me off my feet a few times while I headed towards the toilet at the rear of the bus. There was a couple making out in the back row seats that I tried not to observe too closely. I yanked on the toilet door to open it, and closeted myself inside.

Suddenly I was slammed into the opposite side of the toilet as the bus took an unanticipated high speed turn. Inside the toilet, there was the sensation of being in a wind tunnel.  The bus was flying . . high speed ahead, rolling, tumbling, vrooming right and left around hairpin turns the bus was too big to really be able to handle. A small window high in the cubicle had been kept open and the sound the air made as it was sucked out of the bathroom was so noisy! Like hanging your head out of the window of a fast-moving train, or shouting goodbyes under the whirly-blades of a helicopter, or perhaps standing under the engine of a plane about to depart. It was loud. The engine, the whipping wind, all was roaring loud, and between the constant motion of the bus and the white noise of the window wine, I couldn’t deal.

I tried to reach up and shut the noise out.  I don’t know why this was a necessary step, but I did it, lurching forward against the back of the toilet as another rapid swerve knocked me off balance. Then stepping back, falling back, trying not to actually fall down.  It was like gravity or any sense of balance failed to exist.  I could not stand up straight, and I kept lurching for support from walls and handles I was, at the same time, trying not to touch.

And the trapdoor bathroom had that smell. Sour. Rank. Closed in. And the fact that the one light was dull and dim was somewhat of a comfort, as it failed to illuminate the filth that was undoubtedly lingering on everything I was falling into.

Anyway, I’d managed to close out the roaring wind from the window, so tried to get on with business.  I swung to the left, swung to the right, the noise at the window was still loud, and I just couldn’t keep my balance. The bus must have then started to take a very large curve, as, pants around my ankles, the bus lurched towards the right.  I tried to shift my weight left to counter balance, and braced my feet on the floor.  My right hand grabbed at the railing on my right, my left hand clutched the door handle  -trying to both push against it so I wouldn’t fall, and pull the handle forward to keep it from opening and flinging me into the couple making out in the back row seats. I remained in this lurching, bare-assed position for what seemed like 20 minutes, the crazed skills of the driver forcing everything to swing unbalanced to the right. Then the left. Then back-then-suddenly-forward-and-then-right as the bus continued to hurtle us all down the mountain through the dark night – completely unsympathetic to my situation.

I’ve forgotten to mention we had snuck a bottle of red wine on the bus as we were leaving, and I had finished a few sneaky paper cups full. So, during this entire toilet challenge, I couldn’t stop laughing.  I think I was writing this story in my head as it was happening.  There I was, drunk, fighting a losing battle against the velocity of the bus, and trying not to pee on my shoes.  Or step in other people’s puddles of pee.

It was really funny, and pretty gross, and I was my only audience.