Lots of memes going around about this decade ending in X days, asking what you’ve done in that time. Ten years is a solid chunk of your life, and this decade saw me go from my 30s to my 40s in several million blinks of an eye. I stopped blogging daily somewhere in the middle of the decade, so large parts of my life have not been dutifully documented for prosperity’s sake – this will inevitably come back to bite me in the ass when I am super old(er) and someone says “hey, what did you do on August 15th in 2017?” and I don’t know because the only thing I have to go off of is an Instagram post of a picture of 10-year-old Kimli holding a pigeon. That is not helpful. Why did I stop blogging? This is terrible.
I have had more metaphorical waffles in the last three days than I’ve ever had in my life. Here are some of the things I am waffling between like it’s a goddamn sport:
- I’m totally fine with being at home!
- No wait, I am filled with angst and sadness!
- Let’s go to Vegas for a few days to keep ourselves entertained!
- Vegas is not Japan and I don’t gamble or drink so wtf why Vegas!
- We can rebook the trip for next month!
- It’ll be a rushed, truncated version of our original trip and that will not be as satisfying!
- New York?
- New York!
- But I would have had New York ANYWAY, so I’m still missing out!
- Did we make the right decision in cancelling?
- Everyone else is going ahead with their Japan plans!
- The pictures of all the flooding look awful, and a lot of infrastructure is still shut down
- But I am so miserable being at home!
.. and so on, and so forth. No new developments on the Refund Saga, but a thousand piecemeal suggestions have come and gone in the last three days. I keep changing my mind. Yesterday, I wanted to go to Vegas. Later that evening, Operation New York was a go. This morning, I wanted to make late November work for a shorter Japan trip. After doing the dishes, I decided on requesting a compromise for travel in 2020. I’d like to say my last (excellent) suggestion is the best one and will definitely be what we do going forward, but I’d said that at least half a dozen times in the last 72 hours. I no longer know what the fuck, because the fuck keeps changing. I am a soggy, gluten-free waffle made out of quinoa and squash. I am a poor approximation of food.
We do have plans to go to New York in early November. It was going to be a working trip – fly in, work during the day, then explore at night like Tourist Batman. One suggestion I had early on was to instead take time off while we’re in NY, making it a real trip instead of one where we work out of someone else’s house for a few days so we don’t use up vacation time. This is actually a really good idea, and one we’re probably going to go ahead with. New York is a fun city, we’d get to have some daytime adventures and food, and it’s ultimately less time off work than Japan would have been (I don’t have paid vacation, so everything I do is carefully balanced with “how much is this going to cost me”). Win win, right?
Mostly, yes. I’m still a little angsty, because I would have had New York (albeit on a lesser scale) ANYWAY, so I’m still out the whole of a vacation to Japan. I thought on this a little bit while jamming forks into the dishwasher, and realized I could maybe use the situation to my advantage. See, our trip to Japan was to have been 10 days. This never really sat right with me, because it seems like a really long way to go for less than 2 weeks, but Ed uncharacteristically put his foot down and insisted we take a slightly shorter trip than I like. I agreed at the time, because let’s face it, Japan was international trip #4 of 6 in 2019 alone so sure, I could give up a few days. I want a longer trip though, so I suggested another compromise on top of the other 50 compromises we’ve both made over the weekend: I will stop attempting to cram a do-over Japan trip into our rapidly dwindling 2019 and be satisfied with upgrading New York from Working Trip to Actual Vacation, in exchange for a minimum of two full weeks in Japan in 2020.
This was agreed to. We hugged on it. It’s the plan at the moment and I like it, but it will probably change 7 more times before we get anything resolved with the airline regarding our unused tickets for last week.
I am so good at compromise, you guys!
I’ve been slowly unpacking my suitcase, and it is very sad times. I’ve been hitting the pumpkin pie a little harder than usual to help me get through it. Thank god for whipped cream.
I’m sure there’s some sort of interesting psychological reason behind my feeling like I must always apologize before complaining, but I’m not really in the mood to examine the science behind my emotions .. so I’ll just jump right into the justification: I know things could be so much worse and I feel awful for complaining, BUT.
I’m so, so, so sad. We are supposed to be in Japan right now for our vacation – not a working vacation, not a few days tacked onto the end of work trip, but an actual vacation, with hotels and spending money and tickets to see things. I’d been planning this trip since at least January – the flights were booked in March, hotels and train routes researched, half a million things scheduled and arranged and paid in advance – and we were supposed to have left yesterday, to fly into Haneda Airport. We didn’t go. And instead of being unable to sleep at 2am in Tokyo, I’m sitting at my desk trying to care about work and being awfully fatalistic about every little thing that comes my way.
The night before we were supposed to leave – literally 16 hours before our flight departed – we got wind (harrr) of Super Typhoon Hagibis bearing down on Japan, effectively shutting the country down for at least the weekend (and possibly longer, depending on the amount of damage the storm does). It’s not traditionally typhoon season in Japan (I researched this!), but Hagibis started out as a tropical storm that quickly grew into a Serious Situation faster than anyone thought possible, bypassing the “typhoon” title and going right into “Super Typhoon”. Windows are boarded up, store shelves are empty, hatches have been battened, and all flights and rail service has been cancelled for October 12 (with warnings that the cancellations may continue into the 13th and beyond). The Rugby World Cup and Japanese Grand Prix have cancelled games and races this weekend. The entire country is planning for Bad Times Ahead.
Who the fuck are we to fly into a country in the middle of a natural disaster and expect to be entertained? Personal safety aside, I can’t justify that level of entitlement. Ed and I armed ourselves with cats and blankets and made some fast decisions: we cancelled our trip. We didn’t know if our flight would even make it off the ground, and we weren’t comfortable with just waiting around to see. And even if it did, what then? We land in Tokyo and will either be trapped in the airport if trains have already shut down, or we’d get to our hotel and be unable to leave. That isn’t what I want out of a vacation, and I don’t want people to have to cater to me while concerned for their homes and lives .. so we got on the phone and started making calls. First up was Expedia, who understood the situation and got us full, immediate refunds for the pre-paid and technically non-refundable hotel bookings. I contacted our pet sitter to cancel the week, cancelled our parking reservation, and looked into the other things I had obsessively planned. The biggest hurdle was going to be the flight reservation, but we were unable to do anything about it because all the call centres were closed.
The following morning, we gathered in the living room to continue the Cancellation Spree. Unfortunately, this is where everything went to (even more) shit: the flights were booked partially with reward miles and partially cash. We had to contact the agency we used to redeem the miles, who tried in vain to contact the airline (their lines were crazy jammed for some reason) but ultimately had to give up when she couldn’t get through after an hour. Without the airline’s authorization, the agency could not issue us a refund, full stop. We had her cancel the fights, and she advised us to contact the airline ourselves after the storm had passed to see if we could get their authorization for the refund. Without it, we’re boned. Hooray!
The airline’s website does acknowledge that shit’s all fucky thanks to the typhoon, so their website says that people should call from the 15th onward to talk about refunds. That’s good! They specifically call out flights that were disrupted on the 11th, 12th, and 13th. That’s .. good? That’s the catch, though: our flight was on the 10th, and landed on the evening of the 11th. Does that qualify in their refund timeline? Also complicating matters: our flight DID LEAVE. It departed YVR at 1640, and landed in HND at 1833. We technically could have flown to Tokyo without issue, and just had to deal with that little super typhoon thing while there.
That’s where I sit right now. I have no idea if we’ll be refunded for our flights or not, or if they’ll stick to the rules and say nope, sorry. Without that information, I can’t reschedule us for anything else. At the moment, I could rebook us on the same flight to Tokyo for next Thursday, try to find new hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto, and cross my fingers that the country isn’t hit too badly by the typhoon, but I need to wait to see if we’ll get the refund or at least credit for the flights, or potentially be out another $2k. Our JR Rail passes are another issue: they’re good for three months past the issue date, which means have to be used by November 15th or returned before that date for an 80% refund. By the time I get this information, it’ll likely be too expensive to book the flight for two days out, and the 17th is the only other day we could possibly leave for this trip. I am in limbo, which is the place I hate most in the world (even more than Calgary). I am super sad and laden with the unknowns. I am freezing my ass off at work instead of being on vacation. We have no food in the house, no Thanksgiving plans, and no idea what we’re going to do next. EVERYTHING IS THE WORST EVER.
Oh, and the landscapers destroyed my Tower of London poppy and took the shattered pieces. It was in our yard as a tribute to my grandfather’s service in WW1. It’s literally irreplaceable – they sold the poppies from the original exhibit, and they’re all gone. Ed discovered the destruction yesterday morning, which just added to the overall assessment that the universe is garbage. All of the things are made of suck.
I feel like a brat for being so upset over a ruined vacation. I know it’s not the end of the world. I know I’ll probably get to go to Japan again, even if I have to wait until next year. I know I travel a lot, and if I have to miss one trip out of a dozen, boo hoo for me. But .. I was really looking forward to this trip. I’d spent the last 6 months being excited for yesterday, and in the course of an hour, everything went to hell. I am sad.
Back to work, I guess.
Summer hasn’t even started yet, and I’m over it. I really dislike being hot. Our house has no AC. Fire season is about to begin, and they’re predicting a bad one. When I open all our windows to get some air, the entire province can see me in the altogether and I CHARGE people for that shit. Summer: I am not a fan.
In addition to being a petulant whiny bitch about some mild discomfort on my part, summer denotes the annual period of NO TRAVEL. We don’t stray very far from home in the summer, because while it is hot here, it is significantly hotter everywhere else. Sweating in Europe is only slightly more desireable than sweating in North America, and not by a large enough margin to overlook. Also, the rest of the world travels in the summer and I am not a fan of the rest of the world. I am a reclusive hermit with wanderlust. Could I BE any more contrary?
We have two upcoming trips that I am looking forward to, but they’re not for another 3 months. I’m very excited to be Somewhere Else relatively soon, but I’ve got a pretty wicked case of cabin fever going right now. I know it’s wholly irrational – hi, have you met me – but I’ve come to really be grumpy at summer as a whole because I feel STUCK. It’s too hot to nest in Halfwack, I can’t go anywhere, and my impatience for September to arrive has me on edge.
Yes, poor Kimli. I should start a GoFundMe for my pain and suffering.
Ever since my friend Lani told me about a whirlwind trip to Marrakech, it’s been on my mind. Last year, when I learned we (well, Ed) would be going to Barcelona for the conference, I put on my planning hat and did what I do moderately well: start planning a complicated trip. I like planning things. When I don’t have any plans brewing, I get anxious and cranky.
Several spreadsheets later, I had drawn up a couple of different itineraries that would take us to Marrakech. Going to Madrid was sort of an afterthought – as we’d already done Barcelona, I really wanted to go somewhere new. It was also cheaper to fly to Morocco from Madrid than it was from Barcelona, AND we’d get to take the train. It was a solid, if somewhat convuluted, plan.
On Monday, Ed and I woke up early to grab some breakfast and get to the airport. The flight to Marrakech was only two hours or so, and it went by fairly quickly. Our flight landed on the tarmac, so when I tripped down the stairs I got my very first view of an entirely new place:
I had been worried (because it’s what I do) about two specific things when landing in Marrakech: how do I get money, and how do I get internet. These two things were literally addressed within the first ten feet after exiting passport control: there were two booths set up with girls offering free SIM cards, and data at about €1/GB. €20 later, Ed and I were armed with 10GB of internet each for three days, which is probably enough.
Getting cash was simple, as well. The Moroccan currency is the dirham, 1 of which is around $0.14 CDN/$0.10 USD. Two large kiosks were set up in the airport: one for cash exchanges, and one for credit cards. A short queue later, we were on our way to the taxi stand with a fistful of dirham so Ed could try to haggle his way into town (it didn’t work – taxis are pretty much the only way out of the airport, so they’re pretty firm on the price. Getting back to the airport cost a great deal less.).
Because this was our first trip into new territory, we didn’t have any grand plans to explore outside of the Red City. Our taxi dropped us off outside the medina, and gave us vague directions to our riad – most of the hotels and inns in the centre of Marrakech are within the cramped, twisty walls of the old city, and cabs cannot get you there. It wasn’t a far walk, and it gave us some ample gawking time at the activity buzzing all around us.
We reached Riad Jona (picked at random) around 3pm, and I was delighted to see that the riad closely resembled my only previous experience with Moroccan architecture – the second level of the video game No One Lives Forever. The staff sat us down in the lounge, and prepared Moroccan mint tea and cookies for us to enjoy while we filled out some paperwork:
We got a full tour of the riad while our bags were taken to our room, then were given some tips on how to navigate Marrakech. This was super useful and provided the answers to a lot of questions that we had, so we really appreciated it. It was also explained to us that meals were available in the riad, but dinner had to be requested several hours in advance so they could prepare it. We scanned the menu, and ordered several things for dinner that night – never having had Moroccan food before, we really didn’t know what to expect so we choose what looked interesting and hoped for the best.
Okay, that’s all the boring logistical stuff – now for the reactions.
You guuuuys, Marrakech is FUCKING AMAZING.
The food – especially the meals we had at the riad – was incredible. We ate dinner there every night, because the food was so good there was no reason to go elsewhere. Our favourites were this chicken, almond and cinnamon pie thing that tasted like a sweet, savoury, flaky, cripsy miracle, and a stew baked in a tajine with monkfish and other things that weren’t monkfish but crazy delicious. Both of those were ordered twice during our stay. The riad also served breakfast each morning, full of fruit and tea and delicious crepe things with homemade yogurt and jams. In the afternoon after walking our feet off, we’d find a random cafe in the souk and have a snack while people watching. We ate SO WELL in Marrakech, and everything we had was incredible.
The market in the centre of old Marrakech was enormous and beautiful and chaotic. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of colourful displays of pottery, leather goods, fabrics, and spices – oh god, the spices. Everything smelled so good, thanks to the incense burned at various stalls. I could have happily spent a week getting lost in the winding, twisting streets of the souk, finding stray cats and narrowly avoiding the donkey-pulled carts and scooters coming from both directions. It was amazing. Both Ed and I agreed that between Madrid and Marrakech, this was the best and most exciting vacation we’d ever had.
I had a done a lot of reading on Moroccan culture and the things to do and not do, so armed with that knowledge and the information given to guests at the riad, we were fairly well suited for our trip. I had done a lot of worrying (again, because me) about my wardrobe – I didn’t want to call attention to myself and I definitely didn’t want to offend anyone with my tendency to wear clothing cut nipple-low, so I had purposefully chosen dresses that were long enough to cover my knees, high enough to hide my huge rack, and light enough for the weather (which was sunny and hovering around 24C/75F the entire time). It was cooler in the evenings, but the clothing we both packed was perfect for the environment.
Haggling was interesting. It was the thing I was least looking forward to, because I am very bad at talking to people. Ed handled most of it, but I was starting to feel comfortable going back and forth towards the end of our trip and even attempted to haggle for myself a few times (but likely still paid way too much for things because I don’t want to insult anyone or not give them what the item is worth). Many of the shops in the souk sell identical items, so it’s easy to find something you love, not come to an agreement on the price, then find it elsewhere with someone more willing to bargain. We walked away from several places, and were either convinced to return or simply found the item somewhere else.
Shopping in the souk was so much fun. Everything is bright and colourful and smells good. I wanted to bring so much stuff home with me, but I was limited by the size of our carry-on bags and Ed’s watchful eye. I still brought home a lot of cool stuff and gifts for friends, but had to acquiesce on things I logicistally could not manage: gorgeous brass lamps, tajines for Moroccan cooking, tea sets, donkeys. Luckily, the internet is beautiful thing, and after we returned home I was able to find several Moroccan websites that would ship the things I couldn’t bring home with me. Take that, wallet!
We did have a couple of small run-ins with really aggressive people in the marketplace. We had been warned about the Henna Ladies, and the only one that managed to get close to us had an iron fucking grip on my hand that required both Ed and I to free myself from. The Henna Ladies will trap you by applying henna to your hand unasked, then extort money from you. Ed still has a smudge of henna on his hand from where he intercepted her brush on its way to my skin, but we got away relatively unscathed. The other incident was an overly friendly shopkeep who kept hugging me, calling me princess, begging for a photo, and ultimately kissed my neck – all of which I was/am HELLA UNCOMFORTABLE WITH. Ed once again ran interferance for me, and afterward I needed a stiff drink (of orange juice) to calm my nerves. Did not like. F—–, would not be mauled by strangers again.
However, the rest of our time in Marrakech was lovely as fuck. Ed describes it as “relaxing chaos”, which it really was. If you ever get a chance to go to Morocco, I highly recommend it – I’m already planning another visit to see Fes and Casablanca in the future. As much as I loved it there, it’s probably not a place I’d go to on my own .. I’m sure I could manage, but I don’t wanna. So I won’t. And it gives me an excuse to plan another magical trip, which is always a great thing.
Also I didn’t see a single fucking Tropius so clearly I need to go back to Africa.
We just got back from Spain and Morocco, and it was fucking amazing.
For most of the first week, we were in Barcelona. This part wasn’t vacation – Ed was attending MWC with his company, and I was working from the hotel. I was also sick, having the symptoms I felt the day before we left turn into a full-blown flu/cold thing. We landed late Saturday night, and by noon the next day I had completely lost my voice. This sucked. I was 2/2 for Sick in Barcelona (albeit nowhere near as sick as last time), and I was over it before it had officially begun. I’m starting to think Barcelona is a somewhat cursed destination for me.
Still, my only real plan until Friday was to work, so instead of working in a sunny Spanish cafe somewhere, I stayed in my hotel room and worked and felt horrible. I did force myself out a few times to wander the Gothic Quarter in search of food, visit Casa Batlló, and have some amazing tacos, but for the most part I was left to my own miserable devices and recovery. The recovery part was essential, because as of Thursday at 5pm, our vacation was starting and I had plans. Many, many plans.
Luckily, by this time I was feeling much better so on Friday, I officially got my Barcelona Do-Over. We walked from our hotel to La Boqueria for some fruit and chocolate, then headed to Sagrada Familia which neither of us got to see last time (I was on my deathbed, and the others went only to find it closed due to an emergency). It was okay I guess:
I have a serious boner for stained glass, and it fucking delivered. The day was overcast, but we got some sunlight during our visit and it looked like this and holy shit. I understand why it moves people to tears (not me though, I’m way too cool to cry) (okay, my rage at the idiots doing photo shoots kept the awed tears at bay) – I have never seen anything like it. It’s amazing. If I ever go back to Barcelona, I will go visit again after I recover from whatever illness will strike me then. We took the elevator up one of the towers, and had some stunning views of the city:
Saw Gaudi’s grapes, walked backed down the spiral stairs and got shaky-leg, tingled in the pants over the stained glass some more, and generally just had a great time admiring the insanity of Gaudi’s vision.
From there, we went to Park Güell which I had also missed last time ’round. The weather was nice, and we enjoyed walking through the park .. but wasn’t crazy about the teeming crowds of people, all trying to take selfies and fashion pictures of each other. I still wasn’t feeling 100% so we didn’t climb up into the park, but did spend a good amount of time admiring the structures and park features:
With that, our week in Barcelona was over. Next stop: Madrid! We’d never been there before, so we hopped a train and had a pleasant ride to the capital of Spain.
Madrid was really nice – in fact, we both agreed that we like it more than Barcelona (sorry). It reminded me a lot of Paris for some reason, except cleaner and friendlier and less tower-centric. I had picked our hotel at random some months before, and once again hit the jackpot – it was outside of the bustling tourist area, but a fantastic location for walking (and a block away from all the art), quiet, comfortable, and had an EPIC breakfast each morning. We’d absolutely stay there again. Our train got in around 5pm, so after checking in we wandered around the neighbourhood in search of food, finding an incredible Mexican restaurant several blocks away. We ate ourselves stupid, then rolled back to the hotel to sleep.
As it was our first time in Madrid, we booked tickets on the hop-on-hop-off bus tour to get our bearings. Sunday in Madrid was super nice, so we round the routes several times to take in the city. There was much we wanted to do, but we really only had the Sunday to play with .. because the next morning, we were off to friggin’ Morocco. I had booked the hotel in Madrid for the entire week (we’d be leaving from the Madrid airport instead of Barcelona), in part so we could leave the majority of our stuff behind and travel light to Marrakech. It’s a somewhat extravagant luxury, but amazing for my overthinking brain and general anxiety.
I’m gonna end this here, because Marrakech deserves its own post. Madrid was awesome, and we’re hoping to go again next year if Ed does MWC again. We didn’t have time to check out the museum or palace or Primark or the Madrid equivalent of Times Square – our 2.5 days wasn’t nearly enough.
You know, everything was fine. I was more or less resigned to the fact that I would never get to live in the UK because I couldn’t get my visa situation sorted out (and that whole “Ed likes to crush my dreams” thing, but we try not to think about that). I was perfectly happy to sit here in my outraged misery, trying to be content with visiting London as often as I could instead of moving there – even temporarily – to bask in the rolling green fields and eggs that don’t go in the fridge. I endured. I acquiesced. I mourned my dreams in – well, not silence, but with heaving sighs and an aching longing that could not be quenched. Basically, I Scarlet O’Hara’d all up in this bitch.
Then, today. I was writing a post on reddit to complain about my ancestral paperwork woes and researched the requirements again to make sure my post was accurate. It was then I discovered that the Ancestry Visa Requirements for the UK had changed slightly:
You’ll also need to provide:
- your full birth certificate
- your marriage certificate or civil partnership registration document if your husband, wife or civil partner wants to join you
- the full birth certificates of the parent and grandparent your ancestry claim is based on
- marriage certificates for your parents and grandparents if they were married
Those bolded and underlined words? Those were not there before. And they completely remove the blockage I had with my application. I’ve never been able to locate my grandfather’s birth certificate, and cannot prove he and my grandmother were actually married. It always pissed me off, because he wasn’t the relative I was claiming ancestry through – yes, my great-grandfather moved his family from Ireland to Canada, but the Ancesty Visa only goes back two generations so it was a moot point. I HAVE my grandmother’s and father’s birth certificate, and a valid reason why I don’t have a marriage certificate for my grandparents. With those 6 words, my path to an Ancestry Visa is suddenly clear. I could apply for this. I have, or can get, everything I need to make it go, up to and including the painful £516 application fee.
But .. getting that visa is not going to change the fact that I have a life here. We’re not even a year into our new place. Our cats are here. Ed does not want to move, even temporarily. I desperately want this – like, bucket list item that ranks even higher than that multi-dick scenario I keep talking about – but getting that coveted, I-assume-stamped bit of paper would do nothing towards making my dream actually happen.
The temptation to do it just because I CAN is strong, but I think it would just make me even sadder to think about. I’ve done ridiculous things out of bureaucratic spite before, but $1000 is a lot of money to pay for something that would make me cry and mope endlessly.
But damn if I’m not super tempted.