Baptism in the Bathroom

A place like Uilenstede, perhaps like many other student housings, all the young and (some) reckless youngsters can go in and out with such an ease, especially no access card necessary and no security guards in all towers. After a Chinese girl who came to my room, once inhabited by her past-time lover, to keep the memory of him alive, a visit from unusual guests didn’t end just that.

Who rang my room this time?

Two Korean girls, one had long and wavy hair and her female friend with short and straight hair. That’s the only way I can describe about these particular guests because I’m so bad at names. After a short greeting with big smile to break the ice, the short-haired girl started a conversation.

“We would like to present a school project.”

She held an A4 folder in her hand, folding its plastic cover to the rear side to show me a printed version of a power point proposal in large font size. She read it all out loud, page by page, so what I needed to do was basically to listen to her and look at the charts and other graphic images. Well, “read” is not exactly the right word. The words fell so freely, so naturally as if she had done it a million times before. The texts actually didn’t do much for her.

i do my best to embrace beautiful churches around the world, yet too bad i mostly skip sunday services

Who creates men, animals and plants? God. Jesus was sent to the world to mingle with us as a human being and to forgive our sins. Jesus’ parents are Mary and Joseph. Nowadays many people forget to praise the Lord, or even don’t believe in God. And many more. All I know she brought these simple and common facts to live.

Like multilevel marketing business, it is very necessary to make a prospect second one’s thoughts and ideas before going to the next stage. Lucky them, I’m Catholic who entered a Catholic school for 15 years. I’m not one of those people who think Jesus is just another Jew and definitely not an Anti-Christ. Although I don’t go to church that often, frankly speaking, what they said didn’t against Christian bible and everything I learned at school. In short, I agreed with them.

Helping a school project? Why not? So I let them in.

We had a small talk about school stuff and a bit of life experience as foreigners in the Netherlands. It turned out that the Korean girls were studying business in a university in Amsterdam. Neither theology nor Christianity related. One thing I know: that the presentation was part of the school project was a lie.

They gave me souvenirs, a drawstring pouch-shaped mobile phone key chain and a pin, depicting an image of a church and the texts circling the inner side of the pin mentioned the name of church the girls belonged to.

“Look, we are also in Indonesia!” The short-haired girl exclaimed proudly, pointing the location of Indonesia in the world map from the leaflet that claimed the church existence around the globe. “You’re from Jakarta, right?”

I nodded. I had said that during our small talk. The fact that it has spread in two to three major cities in Indonesia is quite amazing, I admit.

Then, they were back to business. The church does not claim itself as a Catholic, a Protestant, an Anglican, a Presbyterian or else. It welcomes everyone regardless various sorts of Christians. Gradually, it shifted to a deeper content — about God created men. How Christianity started. The role of Jesus and miracles He created, including Lazarus’ resurrection from death. Judgement day. Apocalypse. Revelation. I met them over seven years ago. And I forget lots of details about our Christianity talk.

But I remember what I felt about the story of judgement day, apocalypse and revelation. “The ultimate victory of good over evil”. Those scared (and still scares) me a lot. I started introspecting.

How many times have I sacrificed Sunday services for taking some booze at the club until the morning light? I should wipe out my vengeance over people I hate and forgive them instead. Do I cheat on my friends and families? I hardly pray. Have I been a good person? How much time left for me to fix everything before my time comes? Will I go straight to heaven or hell or somewhere in between?

The girls offered me baptism, even if I was baptized long before I could spell a single word. Yeah, may be I have been a lost child and need help to bring me back to the right way.

So re-baptism, with my own consciousness, sounded like a great offer.

What-is-Baptism
good question! pic credit: http://www.catholicgators.org/baptism/

What I had to do next was to find a place that didn’t make my bedroom wet. If there was no Jordan river, my bathroom instead would do just fine.

I was a bit embarrassed. As I knelt down on the floor, my face was just a few centimeters from the toilet seat, accidentally left open, since my bathroom was so narrow. What an uninteresting view! They put a white veil over my head, that looked more like a wide handkerchief with lace ornaments all over the borders.

I heard a doorbell. One of the girls went outside to open the door of my unit.

I looked back, suddenly I saw an Asian man in his 40’s wearing glasses, clerical clothing and a cross necklace. While holding a bible, he made a cross sign with his right hand. So I did the same. In the name of God, and Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Next thing I heard was a language far beyond my comprehension and recognition coming from his mouth. It sounded like howling wolves and native Indian chanting altogether.

“whojoajsjlaihjoxbccjpjapqokdpjroapjotpojpajvpvjsznpa….”

All right, I just put it that way to prove that I really didn’t know what the priest said. I soon recognized that I just heard a spiritual language, also called “speaking in tongues”, a Methodist friend of mine once said. The voice he heard was from the Holy Spirit. If one fully surrenders to God, one will be able to receive it — if I understand it correctly. Tell me if I’m wrong about this.

However, I remember feeling awkward being surrounded by church members who spoke that way long time ago. I was completely absorbed into tones of questions and denials, not a solemnity and holiness of baptism.

What am I doing here? Why do I accept these people in my room? There is no such thing like the language of Holy Spirit in my Catholic church. What are they going to do with me? I don’t even know what he said. How do I know if he doesn’t bully me? What if it’s not the language of Holy Spirit? Et cetera.

One of the girls took off the veil from my head. The priest immediately poured water to my head with a plastic glass I used to gargle to symbolize baptism.

Amen.

They said goodbye and asked when they could get in touch with me. After that, they left to continue their mission.

A week after returning from London, I received a phone call. Oh my, that was from the girl who offered me baptism. I almost completely forgot about her and the church. She asked me repeatedly week by week to attend services. Most of the time, she called when I was working. I found it very annoying. I kept avoiding her and never returned the call.

May be I accepted re-baptism not from my own consciousness, but my own sympathy to help students with a “school project”. May be I was still in a complete denial about the language of Holy Spirit. May be it was just an immediate response of being afraid of going to hell.

May be I haven’t opened my heart and soul for re-baptism. May be I don’t even know the real meaning of baptism or re-baptism, after all.

The girls forget taking back the white veil they lent me and the pouch — exactly the same design as the mobile phone key chain — to put it in. Oh well, regard them as souvenirs, then.

If you ask me whether I become more religious than before after my re-baptism, the answer is no. I still don’t understand what really happened to me on that day.

The only thing I know that it seemed like another unusual encounter in my room. And I’m not ready yet for the next big thing (after re-baptism).

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I Remember: Why We Travel

“man-made” beach, helsingborg

I remember some jealous commentaries from European people about what my country, Indonesia, has: beach, sunshine and heat.

A friend of mine in Helsigborg showed me the so-called “Tropical Beach” that draws the end of Swedish territory. Nothing special about it, until she told me this, “The beach is artificial. The government creates it to make its people’s dream come true: to have their own beach, which is not possible in nature.”

A German girl envied me living in the city situated just 1.5 hours from Bali by flight, meaning that I can go sunbathing and enjoy magnificent beaches anytime I want in a shoestring budget (and she can’t).

Also, a Dutch woman asked me why I thought of living in Holland if the country I come from is beautiful where the sun shines all year-long.

Was I proud about it? No, I wasn’t. On the other hand, beach was not my thing even though I live in a tropical country with thousands of beaches I can choose to visit. I disliked the sun burning my skin. I couldn’t stand the heat and humid air that makes me sweat. I feel it most of the time and it bothered me.

When I came to Holland, something struck me. Volatile weather change, strong wind, rain, and snow has lessened the chances for the sun to get its turn to appear. Majestic antique buildings stood arrogantly, as if they knew we would count on them to warm our bodies by entering heated chambers they offer. Indeed, it was my first time to feel it all year-long, not just 2 or 3 weeks on a family holiday.

A couple of years later, my friends and I looked for milder weather, more sunshine and went to the beach in Rhodos Island in Greece and Benidorm in Spain. Still being skeptical about how getting myself roasted could be fun, I followed what the majority decided.

A magnificent view of clear blue sky and shimmering seawater reflected from the sunlight indulged me with unlimited space to be wild and free. The sun opened its hands wide open to embrace me with warmth that I had never felt for a long time and the breeze soothed me, giving me calming effect physically and mentally.

lindos, greece

It was an awakening experience. Suddenly, something popped up my mind, “Hey, I think I have that too in my country!” Why didn’t I get the same sensation as when I was Greece and Spain?

Have we ever ask ourselves why we travel in the first place? Stress-relief from a job? Experience and see things what our hometown never has? Get a better living or education? More business opportunity? Be closer with someone we love? Run away from a trauma? There’s nothing wrong about the reason behind it, unless we invade the locals and make their life miserable.

However, let’s think reverse. I just did. There are times when we don’t appreciate things around us because it’s just there effortlessly and we see it everyday, like sunshine and beach in my case. Many of us don’t feel enough and satisfied with the place we live. We think other people’s land is greener than ours. Our imagination runs wild, wishing there were snow, pyramids, a river as wide as Amazon, nature phenomena like aurora borealis and midnight sun in our hometown and so on.

Sometimes we need to learn the hard way that it takes months or years to realize that our hometown has more than we know. Perhaps, what we need and want is just right there, but we are just not aware until we lose it.

It took me years to understand the kind of jealousy with beaches and sunshine until I dealt with rain, dark sky and wind that infiltrated though my skin pores to the bone until I trembled from coldness throughout the year in Holland, where the real sunny time actually only happens about 2 out of 12 months. Going for a quick grocery with sandals and shorts was a luxury I could’t have since I needed to arm myself with winter clothing to face unfriendly weather.

May be another reason why we travel is already inside your head (or not), and expressing it in words is the only thing left: to let us know that other people’s land is not always greener than ours and to be more grateful with what our hometown has given us, although there’s no obligation to like everything there. The thing we waste could be other people’s (unattainable) luxury.

For the last few years, I’ve been appreciating sunshine, beach and heat more than before. Heat from the sun doesn’t bother me that much any longer. I’m still not a beach person until now, but I’m able to enjoy the sunny beach responsibly, protecting my skin with sunblock and no sunbathing at noon, and I cherish that moment.

Last but not least, I remember what my friend said in response to my amazement why some people don’t travel if money, time and fear are not their obstacles. “May be they have found what they want in life without looking too far and are happy with it.”

I guess he has a good point about it.

So how about you? Why do (or don’t) you travel in the first place?

The Visitor at 439-5223

Back to my school life some years ago when I stayed in Uilenstede, a student housing district in Amstelveen, The Netherlands…….

I  was alone in my room, cleaning a dusty desk, bedside table, and all the things I put on top. Suddenly, the loud sound of a doorbell broke the silence.

I walked out from my room to the corridor to open the door. A long wavy-haired, fair-skinned Chinese girl stood in front of me, asking a permission to see my room. I didn’t find it a strange question. The management office always advised their future tenants to ring any current tenants’ room suppose they want know how it looks like and hopefully somebody will open the door for them.

She attentively observed things around her, from an unfolded blanket, an untidy bed sheet, piles of papers on top of the printer, textbooks on a desk, arranged perfume and cosmetic bottles on a dressing table, a laptop on a sleep mode, unmatched pairs of furniture until a plugged water kettle on the floor. All right, I wasn’t proud of it. But I didn’t expect a company either.

Next, she asked me a permission for the second time to take a look at the balcony. The wind was mild, the bright sunshine gave some warmth on her face. She took her time a bit longer in the balcony than any other visitors. Most probably she drowned herself into her own world, playing with her own mind out there.

walk or swim: it’s their call!

After she was back inside, I started a conversation, “Do you study here?”

“No. I’m just visiting.” replied the girl.

We ended up talking about places she visited in Amsterdam and some European cities with her family, and I told a bit about myself. She introduced herself as Vivian. Knowing that she didn’t and wouldn’t stay in The Netherlands, I was very curious how she knew about Uilenstede, the place which is mostly popular among local and international students in the country, not tourists.

She finally revealed her main purpose of coming to my place. “I know someone who lived here. I just wanna see how it looks like and how he lived, how his life was. He used to study here.” She even said that the room I resided, unit 439 room 5223, was exactly the one where he stayed during his school life. I was like, wow! So my room was not just a random pick!

However, In response to my question about where he lives now, she only said, “I don’t know.”

Living my bedroom, we passed the corridor for the last time to show her the living room with public kitchen and washing machine. She didn’t ask for it, it was only my initiative to do so. She looked at it at a glance without expressing so much interest. Then I realised that it was not the most important thing for her.

She thanked me for allowing her to enter my room. After that, she headed to the elevator and went to the metro station to join the rest of her family.

I haven’t heard about her ever since. Months later, I emailed her to the Hotmail address she gave on that day. There was no reply. May be her account was already dead. May be she simply has forgotten me. Or else.

tram 5 that took me to Uilenstede hit a car near Zuid WTC

If I had an intention to write a blog at that time when I met her, I could have lead our conversation to someone whom I know very little: a Chinese male who once pursued his study in The Netherlands. This someone is the key character of the story. This someone also holds the reason why she didn’t know where he lives now. Or why she didn’t want to tell me about it. There must be something about someone, who was able to trigger a girl named Vivian to feel his life under her shoes by visiting his former 18-square-meter room.

The only way to know more about someone is to trespass someone else’s (aka the girl’s) privacy by asking more intimate questions, which is against my nature. Which didn’t cross my mind either. And I would never get that chance, ever.

Someone who didn’t love her back but she couldn’t accept it? Someone broke her up or passed away but she couldn’t let him go? Did the answer “I don’t know” conceal the sorrow of hers? I could only use my imagination to guess.

Nevertheless, I have one wish: I wish someone knew how much she admired (admires?) and loved (loves?) him.

It was a very small and forgotten part of a gal’s (my) life in travel that I had never shared to anyone. If you read this post, it means you hear (read) it from me for the first time. I don’t know if it is interesting enough to tell. I just feel like sharing it to you now.

Oh, wait! I still have another wish: creative people like you can turn a usual story like this into an epic novel.

walking home

I Feel Like Travelling

While I was looking at my free postcard collections, I suddenly found the longest word count postcard I’ve ever had that really fits my travel blog, depicting various moods and feelings travellers might experience on their journeys. I started collecting postcards during my study life in The Netherlands in 2002 to save money on greeting cards. Somehow the new hobby is addictive, so I’ve got hundreds of them with me until now and still counting.

Most postcards I have are printed by Boomerang and distributed in public places, namely cinemas, restaurants, cafe, bars, universities, theater and health clubs in several European countries.

The following postcard was printed in 2003 in The Netherlands to promote works by a Dutch artist Esther Kokmeijer on her website www.estherkokmeijer.nl. Her works are mainly inspired during her travels around the globe.

I FEEL……………LIKE TRAVELLING

The back part of the card says, “Boomerang supports travellers.”

I retype what it says in the front part in case you can’t read it clearly:

I FEEL MOVED TOUCHED AFFECTED TIPSY SHAKEN ATTACHED DEVOTED AFFECTIONATE ATTRACTIVE AFFECTION CAREFREE COMFORTABLE HORRIBLE LOVED GHASTLY DEPENDENT ABSENTMINDED DREARY NASTY DISMAL DRY WAKEFUL WATCHFUL POWERFUL OMNISCIENT FEAR CHRISTIAN LONELY TIMID ANGUISH THOUGHTFUL AGONY FRIGHTENED HARMLESS INNOCENT SUSPICIOUS ADVENTUROUS EIGHTEEN PLEASANT COSY SNUG SELFISH SCARED CALM COMPOSED QUIET STUFFY SAD DEJECTED DISTRESSED DEPRESSED BEASTLY REAL DESIRABLE EAGER GREEDY CAUTIOUS WARY NEEDY ROTTEN WRETCHED AWKWARD CRAMPED MISERABLE PERPLEXITY DAZED STUNNED OVERCOME CONVENTIONAL CREATIVE CYNICAL SATISFACTION AWFUL BITTERSWEET HAPPY PLEASED JOYFUL GLADNESS WICKED LOW SULKY CHAOTIC SMART COMPLETE DAILY LUCKY DAYLIGHT  BRAVE PLUCKY LEEK PITHY SHY SOLID DELICATE GLAD DEVOUT BLOCKED INTENSE DIFFUSE THICK CONSIDERATE AIMLESS LIVELY AIR AFFLICTED MELANCHOLY SORROWFUL DREAMY ENGLISH INTOXICATED DRUNK BUSY AMBIGUOUS DOUBTFUL DUBIOUS FUSTY STALE SECLUDED FOOLISH ABSURD FORCED DYNAMIC RAPTURE GENUINE SUBTITLED ECONOMICAL GENEROUS PLAIN SIMPLE RESPECT HONESTY TRANSPARENT HONOURABLE AMBITIOUS ETERNAL EVERLASTING EGOCENTRIC SINGULAR CONTEMPORARY OBSTINATE STUBBORN ENDLESS WONDERFUL REFINED EMOTIONAL EMPIRIC ENTHUSIASTIC PITIFUL LANKY ROUSING COWARDICE WIND DREADFUL SHOCKING THANKFUL EARNEST EROTIC EXPRESSIVE POINTLESS USELESS EFFICIENT SILLY WILD OVERJOYED STUPID DOMINANT HEARTBURNING MINDLESS TERRIFIED FRUITY ENERGETIC SOAKED GIDDY EXTREME BAD EXTRAVERT FAMOUS FANATIC FANCY FANTASTIC DECENT RESPECTABLE FEMINISTIC PHENOMENAL LOVELY SENSITIVE SUBTLE HOMESICK PHILOSOPHIC FLATTERED FLEXIBLE ROBUST  FORMAL FORMIDABLE BEAUTIFUL QUEASY FINE FRAGILE FRIVOLOUS FURIOUS COVERED SPIRITLESS FUTURISTIC DONE GALLANT SHAKY BOUND SAFE SECURE ROAST COMPLICATED UNTHANKFUL FLUTY THOUGHTLESS ABSENT MINDFUL ICY EASY PASSIONATE SQUASHED PATIENT DARING MEEK ENFORCED LIBERATED SPIRITUAL WITTY JOY INHIBITED MYSTERIOUS TEMPERED LASCIVIOUS FUNNY CUTE INTERESTED I COLOURED ARTIFICIAL LOVE LEARNED BELOVED PET EQUAL FAITH RELIABLE RELIGIOUS MERCY HAPPINESS FORTUNE ELATION BLESSED PRETENTIOUS LAZY MEAN EMBARRASSED GENIUS ORGANISED SORE MENDACIOUS LIGHTSOME LIKABLE JOVIAL UNSUSPECTED  HOT SLEAZY ONEROUS HABIT IRRITABLE IRRITATED EXHAUSTED HEARTACHE CONVENIENT SUCCESSFUL DIZZY CLOSER DANGER TINY CAPTIVE SHARP ME TENDER CALLOUS ENORMOUS GREAT UNSCRUPULOUS KIND FRIENDLY GRACE CHEAP IMPORTANT POPULAR WOUNDED NORMAL SCABBY USUAL COMMON SOCIABLE CORPULENT HEALTHY MISERY MYSELF GIGANTIC RAVISHING IMMENSE GLAMOUR GLORIOUS SPLENDID GLITTERING SPARKLE SNEAKY SHIFTY GOD PIOUS GOOD MILD INSIDE GULLIBLE WILLINGLY FILTHY AMUSING FACETIOUS BOUNDLESS GREY RUDE CRITICAL PRECARIOUS HALF INTERESTED DUTIFUL DROOPING LISTLESS HEARTFELT HUGE HEARTBEAT PASSION ENCHANTING MENDACIOUS HEARTWARMING POWERLESS COVETOUS MODERN DELIGHTFUL HOLY BRIGHT HEROIC LOADS HEAVENLY REBORN RECOGNITION HIM GORGEOUS COWARDLY DUTCH PRIDE SCENTED HOPE DRAMATIC FEARFUL  ZING SHIVERY HELPLESS DUST HELPFUL MOODY HUMOROUS SPRING IDEALISTIC SOMEONE DILIGENT IMMUNE IMPORT FRUITLESS IMPRESSIONS INTIMATE COLD INTROVERT INFLUENCE INSIGHT IRONY IRRATIONAL IRRITATING ANNOYING JETLAG YOUTHFUL ITCH JESUS IDLE CHIPPY ZONKED CHILLY CHILDISH PIMPLES CREEPS SMALL NATURE LITTLE COLOURFUL DOLTISH FEVERISH STRONG HARD PEEVISH TICKLISH TOUCHY ARTISTIC KISSED ANGER DYNAMITE EXCITED GIGGLY LAUGHABLE RIDICULOUS REMISSION NAIVE MIGHTY LAX SLACK SLOW DULL AIRSICK EXACTITUDE TROUBLESOME EMPTINESS VOID GUTS NICE ROPY LIFELESS EXPERIENCE BODILY OPPRESSION MENSTRUATION DISAGREEMENT UNSUSPECTED CHARITABLE LOVING BROKENHEARTED TENDERHEARTED SWEET CHARMING ASHEN LIMITS LIPS CRAFTY LOOSE LUSTY SOBER NUTS WEIRD CRAZY MASSIVE COMPASSION SUBORDINATE COMPASSIONATE FOLLOWED REMARKABLE EMBRACE NUDE FAKE AFTERGLOW TROUBLE DAMPNESS NEGATIVE NERVOUS NOBODY DIMINUTIVE MEANINGLESS ECUMENIC INQUIETUDE RASHED FATAL WORTHY NONCHALANT GRUFF NOSTALGIA IMPATIENT UNLIMITED ROUTINE IMMODEST COOL INFINITY UNAUTHORIZED INEXPERIENCED FREE UNASHAMED CARELESS BREAKABLE UNMATCHED RAIN SMOTHERY ETERNITY CORRUPTIBLE SUBMISSIVE UNPOPULAR REVOLUTION LOST UNBREAKABLE LONGING SPEECHLESS LIKE TRAVELLING

Anything left? Nope? Phew! Total inscription word count: 503 words! It’s amazing how a postcard could hold so many words without a back page contribution. Please note that the 503 words are gathered in 1 sentence only!

So what’s the moral behind it? My interpretation is both good and bad situation, mood and feeling during the trip are part of the art of travelling. They should not kill the spirit of exploring beauty and wonders of the world through travelling. I believe it is the first and foremost resolution of true and avid travellers. Suppose you’re still thinking what resolution you need to make this year, may be you can put this one first on your list. Whether it’s the first, third, tenth or seventieth resolution, it’s your call.

In the future, I will occasionally post my other selected postcard collections that are interesting to share or related to my post.

Gellukig nieuwjaar en goede reis! Happy new year and have a great trip! (Ehm, slightly too late for a new year greeting?)

Days at Baltic Sea

 

Baltic Sea Cruise routes in chronological order: Copenhagen – Oslo – Aarhus – Tallinn – St. Petersburg – Helsinki – Stockholm – Copenhagen

Twelve of thirty days of my recent Eurotrip was at sea. Seven months after Costa Concordia disaster, my family and I took a Baltic Sea excursion from Princess Cruise (where both brands are coincidentally under the same parent company, Carnival Corporation), starting from Copenhagen (as marked by the following black dot).

For many, a cruise ship is a luxury vehicle sailing to reach any desired destination. But for many others, it is actually the destination – far more important than where it docks. So let’s skip the disaster part, and let me tell you the meaning of Escape Completely, as mentioned on Princess Cruise’s tagline.

NEW IN TOWN

Emerald Princess

Once being on board, you’re registered in the town hall of Emerald Princess, the name of the ship taking you to Baltic Sea. Your cruise card is the second most important thing you need to carry at all times after your passport to enter your stateroom, make purchases and re-board the ship.

The flag on the right side signifies the country you visit
outdoor sports

Bring the map to find where you can find the ship’s luxurious facilities, from fitness, library, casino, discotheque to photo studio, so you don’t need to sacrifice your needs, hobbies and habits completely. Only machine rooms, crew’s cabins and the least wanted places to go – jail and mortuary – are not on your map. Without it, some passengers cannot find their own stateroom on the first and second day! Getting to know other passengers travelling with you could make you feel like home, too.

Skywalker Nightclub

NEVER ENDING FOOD SUPPLY

fine dining experience

Variety of food is two thumbs up! So yeah, you’ll always wonder what they have for buffet, tea time and fine dining. Later on, you’ll get some clue about food availability.

I got it starting from the 4th day on. My favourite fennel salad with shrimps is available 24 hours only at International Café on deck 5. I could get double chocolate chip cookies at Horizon Court and Café Caribe on deck 15 during lunch and dinner, except breakfast. Pizza and ice cream parlour opens on deck 15 from 11 am to 11 pm. I could customize my orders at the five-star quality fine dining as long as it is on the menu. For instance, replacing shrimp cocktail with spaghetti Alfredo or skipping the fatty dessert to keep up a strict diet program.

Syamsi, an Indonesia crew, proudly poses for the farewell ice cream cake. It marks the end of the cruise on the way back to Copenhagen.

ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD

“Life shows are like a box of chocolate. You never know what you gonna get.”

Princess Theater saved the best for last. I didn’t really fancy the first week shows, until I missed one of the best music performers on the last day! However, I managed to watch “International Crew Talent Show”, where the crews demonstrated their hidden talents, from traditional Balinese dance, belly dance, singing, drama until piano performances. To be honest, some crews sang as good as the professionals the company hired, even better!

For passengers who love singing, they can join Princess Pop Star competition. It’s like American Idol with more diverse nationalities. And my uncle made it to the grand final! Yeaayy! Or join Texas Hold’em Tournament for gamblers!

Princess Dancers

As a classical music lover, I found The Alegria String Quartet rocked The Piazza on deck 5. From Strauss, Mozart, Vivaldi until The Beatles, the 4 pretty ladies were violin and cello killers. On their peak performance, the Quartet’s leading lady asked a passenger’s participation to hold her violin’s bow. Then, she drew the strings across the bow the passenger held instead of drawing the bow across the strings. The audience was stunned and finally gave the longest applause in the end of the show.

Liam Steward, the singer and pianist entertaining at Crooners Bar every evening, could kill any song with that blew the audience away. The fact that he’s a hunk is an advantage!

Alegria String Quarter’s Peak Performance

ALL INCLUSIVE?

Knowing that you paid everything in advance, you might immediately believe that all kinds of facility, food and beverage are included in the price. My best advice is: do not hesitate to ask, especially with names or words that sound specific and rosy.

There are extra charges applied for alcoholic drinks, yoga, massage, particular activity like “creating your own matryoshka“, and specialised restaurants like Sabatini’s and Crown Grill have $25 cover charge. Internet connection costs $.79 per minute. Since it is only possible to use satellite to get the network at sea, the connection is slower than that at home and office. My cousin knows it best. He spent $11 for sending 2 short emails!

Holiday in a luxurious cruise ship is not a budget trip. It is meant for those who indulge, reward themselves with achievements in life: marriage, birthday, wedding anniversary, career promotion, successful business or just a family gathering. Certain retired couples with decent amount of retirement funds spend the rest of their life in the ship. Youngsters need to have more savings to pay the trip. FYI, the price for “non-free” food and drinks on board are fair, not too overwhelming. Nonetheless, there is no harm to think wisely before you spend.

INTANGIBLE LUXURY

Princess top deck

Departing, arriving or on the way to destined cities, the best place to witness breathtaking views are the outdoor section of deck 15 and 16. Oslo and Warnemünde are the prettiest cities seen from the top deck, as well as Stockholm while heading to and leaving the harbour (not when it docked). Moreover, clean breeze, sunshine and 20 degree temperature made the place heaven on earth that did not happen everyday.

feeding seagulls with ice cream cone (I know it’s not the best pic to capture the moment!)

Watching seagulls flying high so close to me, on the same level as I stood was another unforgettable experience. While a passenger was feeding seagulls with an ice cream cone, everybody laughed and took pictures of aggressive birds pecking the cone edges with hints of vanilla ice cream left inside.

stateroom corridor

$11 per day gratuity for the crews is part of the company’s house rules. However, making friends with them is what money can’t buy. It broadens your horizon about life behind all the luxurious service and facilities, from long working hours until their tradition, i.e. how Indonesian crews celebrate Indonesian independence day at sea. Since they come from various countries, who knows they have the same nationality as yours!

Besides, far far away from traffic jam and air pollution, picturesque sea view (especially for a city girl like me), friendship with other passengers are also priceless. For everything else, there is MasterCard Princess Cruise Card.

Give me more time to put my journey in words for all cities I visited. This I promise you in my next post.

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EUROMAP

EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, it’s made to do so!

In a Nutshell: Careless or Clueless?

Generally speaking, my trip to Turkey was full of surprises, like a non-stop long roller coaster ride for the whole week. I expected it would be the one of the most relaxing holiday moments to escape daily routines. But somehow, it happened otherwise. I still believe I could reduce or avoid the surprises, couldn’t I? Well, behind all the incidents or surprises during the trip: was I careless or clueless?

she’s either a pet, an animal farm or a public transportation and hopefully not food!

ALANYA

1. Almost locked up abroad for entering without visa: careless

Was I bullied at the immigration office in Alanya Airport regarding the visa? I checked the Turkish Embassy website and damn, they were right! The regulation has changed, so it’s true that Indonesian passport holders need a visa to visit the country. No matter if you just went there 1, 2 years or even 6 months ago, and which passport have, always verify bureaucracy regulations before visiting a place outside your own country. Everybody knows, but sometimes underestimates this issue.

2. Leaking shower hose in the hotel bathroom: clueless

Who knows whether you get a room with dirty bed sheets, broken remote control or leaking shower hose? Just be critical, report immediately to the hotel officials. If the complaint is too unbearable, get a replacement room when available if you want. It’s your right to get a decent and comfortable room – you paid for it, didn’t you? I  visited the country 6 years ago, websites and online bookings were not as developed as today. Nowadays, it’s very easy (and advisable) to check testimonials from visitors who previously stayed in the place you’re going to stay before making a decision.

rock house window, cappadocia

CAPPADOCIA

1. Local excursion didn’t fulfill some of their promises: clueless (with hints of careless)

“The tour includes the famous underground city and rock churches.” Yep, that’s what they said. They took us to the underground city, but not the most visited one. They took us to the famous area of rock churches in Göreme, but actually they only stopped right in front of the entrance gate and the entrance fee was not included in the package.

Having a preliminary research about your future destination will be helpful, either online (internet cafe, mobile internet – your choice) or go to Tourist Info if you prefer talking to the officials. Well, perhaps asking tourist info officials in Alanya about Cappadocia is not the best choice. But at least you know something and you can take the national tourism board brochures showing destinations in other regions when available.Therefore, you can take notes or keep in mind some names of the most visited places.

But in my case, it was completely a sudden decision! Yet I should have gone to Tourist Info or internet cafe first. I didn’t have to decide right away. Or just let the rest be adventure and suck it all!

Regardless, each city or country has its own way of doing things. Before taking an excursion from a local tour company in a city you’re not familiar with, make sure you ask more details about the tour packages they offer. Elaborate more questions such as, “Which underground city?”,  “What’s the name of the castle?, “Is the entrance fee included?” and so on. It might sound you’re too critical or suspicious. However, some destinations could be once in a lifetime for you. Unless you have much time, choose only the most popular and recommended sites that suits you.

Too much information results in lack of adventure, but too little results in ineffective time management. Nonetheless, getting lost and meeting unpredictable things are part of the art of traveling. Otherwise, what’s the fun? Where’s the adventure? What will you tell your peers about your trip? “Nothing much and as planned”? Even sometimes you meet unexpected things from a 9 to 5 job, don’t you?

2. Leaving a luggage in the baggage after getting off the minibus: careless

Just check your things to ensure nothing left behind before leaving the minibus, as simple as that!

Just don’t think Indonesian if you come to a store called “Pelit”. I don’t know what it means in Turkish, but in Indonesian it means “stingy” – unappealing translation, huh?

Well, probably some of you have had the same experience before and to be honest, I didn’t present any new traveling advice. I’m just learning from my mistakes -my introspection-, share them to you all, and hopefully they will be useful for everyone. Have a great trip!

Things I Shouldn’t Do While Travelling

Greetings from Budapest! Until the day I write this article, I’m still on the third week of my Eurotrip.

image

I post this through WordPress mobile version since I don’t bring my laptop. I promise to deliver more holiday pics as soon as I finish my journey.

So far, I’ve learned something from the trip, especially things I shouldn’t
do during the trip. Not something new to be honest, only things I forget and ignore.

DON’T BRING SPARE MEMORY CARDS
For those who are on a long trip and love taking pictures, not bringing spare memory cards is a disasterous decision. Resizing, sorting and deleting unwanted pics every night is a waste of time and energy. Moreover, bare in mind that if you have an old digital camera having less than 10 megapixels, you only can use a 2GB memory card. Higher capacity memory cards won’t comply with the old system. That’s why 4GB card doesn’t work on my 6 year old Lumix camera with 6 megapixels. It’s time consuming to search for an electronic store in touristic areas and 2GB cards are getting rare in the market nowadays.

LEAVE THE TOILET BOWL OPEN AFTER USE
It’s not about Feng Shui. I advise you to close the toilet bowl lid in wherever and whatever hotel you stay to keep your belongings away from the toilet bowl. When I was in Copenhagen, I accidentally dropped a 15 ml body lotion into a toilet bowl. What happened next was unexpected. That small bottle was sucked in automatically into the flushing hole instead of remaining still on the base of the bowl! I didn’t have time to catch the flowing bottle at all. In fact, the hotel toilet bowl has an automated vacuum capability, even without pressing the ‘flush’ button. Luckily the lotion was a complimentary from the hotel. What if it happens to your diamond ring??

CARELESS WITH SMALL CHANGES
Holiday is meant for relaxation. However, sometimes you just don’t want to sweat small stuff, including small changes you get from the store. I lost €20 change in Warnemunde just because I didn’t recount my changes before leaving the store. I spent approximately €7 in the cafe, then I gave the cashier lady a €50 banknote. After getting back to the cruise ship, I suddenly realized that I only had €23 left in my wallet! I supposed to have another €20 with me.

I wasn’t sure what was going on. Most probably the lady gave me wrong amount of change. However, I mostly suspected that my other €20 was gone with the wind. She put 2 times €20 bank notes and some coins on top. I grabbed the coins first and took too long to find my coin wallet. The wind was pretty strong at that time, the cashier was close to the exit door (no doors, btw) and the notes were brand new and smooth.

I believe one of them fell down because of the wind but I didn’t realize it. Nex time, grab the whole change all at once and arrange it in the proper place later on!

DO NOT LEARN FROM THE PAST
My history as a clumsy traveller repeats: I lost my 72 hour pass in Budapest on the second day! Years ago, I lost my ID card, ATM card, debit card, a few bucks of cash, public transportation monthly pass etc. It’s been my unwanted daily dose for a long time. I suppose to be more careful and do not hold maps, brochures and a card altogether at the same time. I’m sure it fell down, again….

Well, that’s all for now. I promise to tell you more stories of my journey after returning to Jakarta. Cheers!