red, gold, and green

All of that excellent worrying, wasted.

I did call Expedia yesterday to see if I could use the credit. I had a direct flight to London Heathrow picked out for late April on Lufthansa that was well under my original ticket price, so I called up the special hotline for wieners with travel credit and tried to set everything in motion.

I failed, though. Apparently Expedia DOES check with the airline to see if the credit is valid, and Lufthansa came back saying I had already been issued a refund. There was something fucky going on with the site too, as my faux-credit showed a “must use” date of November 2020 when it had been showing as end of August 2021 up until the day I made the phone call. Alas, someone on Lufthansa’s end is maintaining that database of flight credits REALLY well, and as it turns out, I don’t actually have the credit that appears on my Expedia account.

No free trip for me. I think I confused the hell out of the poor woman at Expedia, because when she said I had been issued a refund, she swore up and down I would get it in the mail soon. I thanked her for her time and for checking for me, but I think she was waiting for me to flip out on her. I can’t imagine most people, when seeing they have a credit on their account, would just go away after being told it was in error, but .. well, I already received the refund (twice). I knew she was right, and I wasn’t going to try and push the issue any more than I already had. I mean, I picked up a PHONE and DIALLED a NUMBER and frankly that was enough social interaction for at least a week.

Definitely not the end of the world. I saw it through to a resolution, and while it wasn’t the ideal outcome*, I can’t be sad about it.

*: I’m pretending that the “ideal outcome” would have been a free trip, but let’s face it: had the credit actually worked, I’d just get shiny new anxiety about a thousand other things, up to and including imagining some sort of Final Destination scenario had I actually gotten on the plane. Frankly, this is for the best. I can book my own damn trip, with blackjack, and hookers. In fact, forget the trip.

Fingers crossed the world gets unfucked between now and September, because I really really REALLY want to go to New York.

karma chameleon

My anxiety is really superstitious. If I don’t complete the rituals involved in dozens of insignificant acts, the world will end and it will all be my fault. I don’t have time for that kind of existential crisis, so I cross my fingers and throw salt over my shoulder and never give my bad thoughts voice or they’ll come true and that would really suck. No ladders or broken mirrors or umbrellas opened indoors. Can’t hang a new calendar early, or even change the page – mostly because that would be really confusing, but also bad things will happen apparently so I just avoid it altogether. No need to invite the bad times, right? And there’s lots of wood around to knock on, so we should be okay.

My superstitions go hand in hand with the idea of karma. It’s generally pretty easy to avoid being a bad person, but somewhere in the back of my mind I worry that the point system is real and any time I’ve accidentally littered I get negative points and that’s why I don’t know math. It’s stressful and it makes me have internal debates about doing things that are beyond inconsequential, but WHAT IF. I swear I’m not indecisive, I’m just weighing the contents of my soul so if you could just give me a minute here, everything will be fine.

All of this is to say that I have an ethical problem of my own making, and I’m not sure what to do about it: Is it “bad” if I take an opportunity I did not earn?

Before I explain fully, here are some pertinent facts:

  • This is not a tangible object
  • If I don’t follow through, it ceases to exist
  • No one will miss out on anything if I take it OR if I don’t
  • No one will lose any money if I take it OR if I don’t
  • The odds of getting “caught” are almost non-existent
  • Taking the opportunity (or not taking it) will affect zero people other than myself

.. but I didn’t earn the opportunity, nor did I pay for it. It’s not mine, but it could be if I took it. So, do I take it?

I was supposed to go to Prague in April of 2020. That didn’t happen for obvious reasons, and I was given a flight credit from the airline. To use the credit, I have to book a flight before the end of this month for travel before the end of July 2022. If I don’t use the credit, it simply disappears. I can’t transfer it to anyone, or use it for anyone other than myself.

No brainer, right? Use the credit, book a flight, maybe go somewhere next year.

This is me, and nothing is ever that simple. The problem? I received a refund for that flight.

.. twice.

Prior to my flight, all airlines and agencies were telling customers to “go through your bank” to deal with pandemic-cancelled trips in the hopes your credit card company could come through for you. It took several hours on hold with a bunch of different companies, but eventually my bank did reverse the charge for the flight. The money came with a warning: the airline is given an opportunity to fight the charge reversal, and if that happens, the bank would claw that money back until a resolution is worked out. I left the money where it was, but no one ever came for it and whatever statute of limitations the bank put on that refund has long since passed.

I didn’t know that would happen, though, so I also submitted a claim against my travel insurance. I didn’t think anything would happen there, because in the ten years since I became an International Kimli of Mystery, not once has travel insurance ever worked out in my favour. Not even for our Super Typhoon’d trip to Japan that we didn’t take in 2019, for loophole reasons. I guess “global pandemic” isn’t something the insurance companies wanted to deal with, so they processed my claim and cut me a cheque.

Because of my aforementioned anxiety around karma, I actually tried to return the funds. I called the bank multiple times, but could never get through to anyone to explain the situation and eventually I stopped trying. I think I reasoned with myself that by waiting on hold for longer than I waited to get the charge reversal the first time around, I had done my due diligence in trying to do the “right” thing. I forgot about the duelling refunds after that, because I had so much going on in my life at the time. So busy. Jam-packed life of action.

Time rolled onwards, and it’s now the summer of 2021. Ed and I have both received all vaccines, and things are starting to look positive for the first time in almost two years. I logged into my favourite booking site to do some wishful thinking when I saw a button that said “Check your credits”. I did, and wtf: I have a credit with an airline. For a flight I’ve already been refunded for, twice.

Now what?

I could book a flight, of course, but would it be “wrong” of me to do so? And if so, by who’s standards? If I had to choose an entity that would suffer from my deceit, I suppose it would be the airline – but at the end of the day, do I really care about an airline’s bottom line? No. Fuck ’em. If they didn’t screw me, they’d screw someone else.

So that’s what I’m wrestling with. What would you do if you were me? As I see it, my options are basically:

  1. Try to book a flight. What’s the worst that could happen? By next summer, the Kappa Beta Phi variant will limit our freedom anyway, so I’ll probably just end up with another credit and have the same non-problem.
  2. Ignore the credit. I’ve already been given my just desserts, and I had seconds. Taking more would just be greedy.

Each of the refunds I’ve been given for the cancelled Prague trip come from different corporations – the bank, the travel insurance company, and now the airline. No one is going to hold a meeting with the other companies to find out if anyone has been double or triple-dipping during the pandemic confusion, so if I DO try to use the credit – strictly for science, obviously – no one loses out, the airline would just re-sell the seat. If I don’t take it, the only person who loses out is me. I really do hate losing out, but .. karma.

What’s stronger: my need to see this through just to see if I can, or my anxiety?

something about this feels suspect

making plans

We have a trip scheduled.

It’s not the road trip to Edmonton that we’ve been trying to take since 2017 and have been foiled each time by the planet (smoke from fires, landslides, unseasonable winter conditions, COVID, radioactive Q-supporting yeti, etc), although that is tentatively penciled in for August – no, we have a Actual Trip planned.

We’re going* to New York in September.

Folks, I am basically beside myself with excitement. Not because we get to fly somewhere, not because we get quality time with excellent friends we haven’t seen in 18 months, not because it’s somewhere other than my beloved balcony – no, I am super fucking extra bouncy excited because of EATING.

Fuck my complicated fat girl relationship with food, I am 100% going to eat my way through New York the entire time we’re there and oh my god I cannot wait. Yeah, we have some non-food related plans while we’re there – there’s a Kusama exhibit I’ve been dying to see, and I really want to go to Coney Island and ride the Wonder Wheel again – but the rest of the time? We will be walking and eating and wearing masks and eating and also there will be a lot of eating and Diet Coke from Chipotle because fuck Chick-fil-A forever.

We get in on Friday night and my plans involve taking off my pants and ordering Chinese food (or as my people call it, “food”). That’s it. No pants and white rice all night long.

The last time we were in NYC was November 2019 as a consolation prize for that whole “no-Japan-because-Super-Typhoon” thing, and it was the first time we’d ever had Chinese food in New York. It was fucking incredible – like, I was very sad that I was full. It was probably the best Chinese food I’d ever eaten – suddenly, all the sitcoms talking about Chinese food in New York made sense. I’ve been patiently waiting for our triumphant return to the city so I can eat all the food I didn’t eat during the pandemic, and I cannot fucking wait. I don’t even feel guilty about how much I’m looking forward to food in New York, that’s how excited I am.

Everything is paid for and planned, but the actual “going” part is the only question mark at the moment. The border between US and Canada isn’t open yet, but it’s actually always been open for flights – we just can’t drive there (and I really want to). Only remaining complication is the America’s refusal to acknowledge the Astra-Zenica vaccine as valid, and unfortunately that’s the one most Canadians have – Ed’s rocking a half AZ, half Moderna life, whereas I’m a Pfizer baby through and through. Will it be resolved before we go? We’re more than two months out, so while it’s obviously time to start packing, we don’t know what’s going to happen. As of Tuesday, double-vaxxed Americans can come to Canada, but we can’t go down there until at least August 21st – and there’s no guarantee that this’ll be worked out before then. Hell, Québec is even offering AZ-vaxxed folks the opportunity to get a THIRD shot so they’ll be allowed to cross the “No AZ” border. Not entirely sure why a third untested shot has more protection than the proven-everywhere-except-the-US AZ shot has, but .. well, America. Nothing makes sense there, including why the Chinese food is so good in New York. Is it drugs? I hope it’s drugs.

I’m probably getting ahead of myself here, but I’m also trying to book .. something. I don’t know where or when, but something. I have a large credit with Lufthansa that has to be booked before the end of August, and used before the end of July 22 .. but where do I want to go? Will MWC happen next year? Would Ed even get to go to it if it does? Or should I just throw all these unknowns in the trash and book a comforting and long-overdue trip to London? The UK is terrifying right now, but surely it’ll be better before next July .. won’t it? I don’t know. I hate not knowing.

I’m going to practice wearing a bib!

this makes me uncomfortable!

isolation report day 73

Bored. Cranky. Playing a LOT of Animal Crossing.

Outside of that, I do believe I have encountered a first for all of mankind: I have received not one but TWO refunds for my COVID-canceled Prague trip.

Like, what.

When I booked the trip (in November of 2019), I was still living in a happy bubble in which travel insurance wasn’t a useless and frustrating option; still holding out hope that we’d be refunded for our Super Typhoon-canceled Japan trip (we weren’t). Since that time I’ve come to realize that travel insurance is simply a waste of money that could be better spent on literally anything else, but since I had purchased the insurance for Prague, I thought I’d go through the motions of making a claim because let’s face it I have nothing but time these days.

I submitted a half-hearted insurance claim with the info I had. Logically, I qualified for coverage: trip cancelled through no fault of my own, complete with documentation. However, logic rarely has anything to do with insurance claims, so I was fully expecting my claim to be denied because COVID was outside the purposefully-vague policy conditions. I quickly forgot about my claim, going so far as needing to be prompted twice by the insurance company to send in any corroborating information. I did and heard nothing, which is what I expected.

In the meantime, I was able to cancel the hotel and excursion bookings with no issue, and received prompt refunds for the bookings. The airline, though, decided that people shouldn’t get money back: instead, they would give people credit for their cancelled flights; credit that expires at the end of August. And has to be used for travel before the end of 2020. Thumbs up, Lufthansa – the world will absolutely be recovered from the apocalypse by August. What excellent business sense you have!

I have lost literally thousands of dollars in the last 8 months because of fucked up travel circumstances out of my control, and this was just one more feather in the ugliest cap that ever did exist. Fed up, I contacted my bank and started the chargeback process. It took several hours to get through, but I was eventually able to talk to an actual human who got the process rolling for me. All that was left to do was sit back, play some more Animal Crossing, and wait for the airline to inevitably deny my claim and claw the money back.

True to the bank’s word, the initial cost of my flight was applied back to my credit card approximately two weeks later. This is a temporary thing – the bank has to give the airline time to review my request, and nine point nine times out of ten, they deny the chargeback. Once that happens, the bank will take the full cost of my flight back out of my credit card. To make sure I had the funds to cover this, I put the “refund” into a separate account so I could throw it back on the Visa when Lufthansa played their dirty game.

The clawback hasn’t happened yet, and the money is still sitting in my Swiss bank account for untraceable money crimes. While it would be awfully nice if the airline decided to stop fucking people over, I realize they probably can’t and many airlines will go bankrupt due to the apocalypse. Sucks, but not my problem or responsibility, so I feel no guilt at demanding my money back. There is a nation-wide fuck shortage, and I don’t have enough extra fucks to generate pity for giant corporations receiving government bailouts.

So, here we sit: refund (temporarily) received from Visa. It could be months before the airline is able to wade through the thousands of chargeback requests they’re getting and deny them all.

Then, last week: a cheque arrived from the insurance company for the full amount of my flight. My claim had been paid in full.

What the fuuuuuuck!

I deposited the cheque (into a different offshore banking account; I really do commit a lot of money crimes) and sat on the situation over the long weekend. At present, I am on hold with my bank (going into hour 2) to get them to reverse my chargeback claim. As fun as it would be to keep both refunds and go on some sort of spree, I really don’t want this to come back and bite me in the ass down the road when I might be less able to pay back an ill-gotten $1500. Is this what being a reasonable adult is like? Frankly, I’m not a fan.

The RBC hold music is driving me batty, and I’m rapidly running out of patience to sit here much longer. From what I remember, it took well over two hours for my initial call to be answered, so I’ll reluctantly give it a bit more time – beyond that, though, how much effort am I required to put in to Do the Right Thing? I’m pretty confident that Lufthansa is going to claw this money back any day now, but I was also pretty confident that the insurance company would deny my claim because I wore mismatched socks that one time in 5th grade, so I’m not holding much faith in my intuition these days. If I can’t get through to the bank (aka give up on this fucking awful hold music), can I just sit on the money until I hear .. anything? Banking is still stuck somewhere in the 19th century, so there’s no online option for me to go through to deal with this (and I somehow doubt “take back this money” would be something they’ve built an interface for) – I have to use my Mouth Words and talk to an Actual Human, which is among my least favourite things to do.

When they come to throw me in jail in 2023 because of this money I’ve stolen through no real effort, at least I can say I TRIED to do the right thing. That’ll count when I’m begging for leniency, right? I’m way too awkward to go to jail, and too much of a shit disturber – I’ll form gangs. Weird ones. No one wants to deal with my weird prison gangs, trust me.

Yesterday I experienced my first thunder storm in Animal Crossing, so that was fun. How’s everyone else holding up?

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sure, jan(et).

 

 

amster-done

After 4 years of trying, we’ve finally earned the right to display the Amsterdam travel poster on our kitchen wall. Success!

Ed and I spent 5 days in Amsterdam and 3 days in Haarlem with Excellent Friends and it was so fun. Cold, but fun. We’d actually spent the three previous years in countries much souther than the Netherlands, and so were somewhat unprepared for the horrors of a Dutch winter – the rain we could handle, but the wind and boner-killing COLD of it all was truly dazzling in the worst possible way. It seems that traveling to exciting new places and purchasing emergency climate-appropriate clothing is rapidly becoming a thing for us – we happened upon a Dutch clothing store (hilariously called America Today) selling delightfully warm and waterproof jackets, and the four of us gleefully bundled up to stave off the misery.

The weather wasn’t all bad while we were there – we did have two or three glorious days, which were appreciated that much more when they came around. I can only imagine that the Netherlands are fucking magical when it’s not winter, because even with the wind and rain it was pretty damn excellent. I would definitely go again. Maybe not in February, but again.

It’s been a while, but let’s see if I can remember how to do this.

Amsterdam in Numbers

  • Dutch pancakes eaten: 14
  • Bottles of Diet Coke smuggled into the country: 11; they lasted 6 days
  • Museums visited: 4 (Van Gogh, Moco, a diamond museum, and the glorious Rijksmuseum)
  • Epiphanies about Van Gogh: 1 (in addition to the mental illness, he had some problematic views about the “peasants” he so admired)
  • Cafes visited by me: 0. Funny thing about Amsterdam’s drug culture: it’s not as good as Seattle or Vancouver. I have zero interest in mushrooms, but thought about visiting a cafe or two because when in Rome and all that. Thing is, all their joints are spliffs – a mixture of pot and tobacco. I may fill my body with chemicals and have highly questionable habits, but I draw the line at tobacco – it’s super fucking gross and makes me cough and stink and sad. Plus, I’m WAY too cool to look like a common tourist so I just didn’t bother.
  • Red Light District visits: 3
  • Stairs climbed to get to our amazing hotel room in Haarlem: 56, several times a day ow
  • Gallons of freshly squeezed orange juice enjoyed: 4
  • Canals almost fallen into: 2
  • Bicycles hit by: 1
  • Kitties pet: 4!
  • Amazing retro clothing stores found in Haarlem: 1
  • Emergency leggings purchased at Primark: 3
  • Bird-shaped leather goods bought: 4
  • People thanked in neither Dutch nor English: 2 (Spanish)
  • Canal cruises taken: 2
  • Cheese eaten: too much
  • Chocolate: see above
  • Shoe-themed souvenirs brought home: 8
  • Trip casualties: 2 (the lint roller and my reusable straw in Fancy Case were accidentally left behind in Amsterdam)
  • Hotels selected because of the great name: 1
  • Likelihood of a return visit to Holland: 169

So, what’s next?

I don’t know, and it’s driving me batty. All travel planning is on hold until Covid-19 shows itself out. I’m sure my upcoming posts will be less coherent the longer my cabin fever (and hopefully not real fever) goes on.

 

i hope you had the decade of your life

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.

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more waffles than waffle house

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.

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taking lsd before crossing the brooklyn bridge: check

everything is terrible

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.

giphy

it me.

 

baggage whine and beer

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.

bless the rains

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:

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i never said it was a GOOD first view

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:

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just like the videogame!

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.