Saturday, December 10, 2011

Overseas Adventurer

My Oldest is en route to his Thailand Winter Holiday as I write. Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I can verify that his flight left on schedule and they arrived at their first layover at 7:50 a.m. (our time).

He will spend (almost) 1 1/2 hours in Calgary before they leave for Vancouver where they have a three hour layover. Next stop Hong Kong.

Calgary and Vancouver? Those were the first two stops en route to my Great Alaskan Holiday. I've been there, done that. I can feel the excitement. The anticipation. All is calm. All is bright. Still within the safe and known confines of our home country.

Hong Kong? Then Bangkok? I'm sorta shakin' in my boots now.

I am not, nor will ever be a world traveller. I love staying within the confines of my very own country, where I know the language (yes, Quebec frightens me a little), the culture, the food and the 'bathrooming' protocols.

Travelling the world takes me back to sleepovers-at-friend's houses when I was a child.

As a fussy eater and fearful-of-most-anything-unknown-to-me sort of child, my worst fear was the food. I did not really enjoy anything that my mom didn't make (Mom knew all of my quirks, likes and dislikes and catered to me accordingly).

My next big fear is out-of-home bathrooms. This stems from the days spent visiting my mom's family when I was a child. It seems to me that I can remember the days visiting Mom's family were day-long affairs where you went from one home to the next. That would mean a foreign lunch and most likely an equally frightening supper. Which meant that the need for a bathroom at some point during that 12 hour stretch was almost inevitable. Almost. I think that I probably 'held it' most of those days ...

One aunt had two options. An outhouse or a toilet in the basement (my vision of this, is not pretty ... though I never did venture downstairs so I will never know if that toilet had walls around it or not). Obviously, this was one stop where I never used the facilities.

Another aunt had a real bathroom, with running water and all the amenities. But the trick was ... that one never knew if one was allowed to flush the toilet because it often overflowed. Thus, this was an 'unflushing' sort of bathroom that carried many risks. Many, many happy memories are at this aunt's home because this is where my Closest Cousin lived. So I did 'take the risk' when absolutely necessary.

My uncle's home was filled with love and young children. My aunt was a fabulous mother and a wonderful person in every way. Housekeeping was simply not a priority. Thus ... I do not even recall ever walking through the door of the bathroom in that house. I believe that I must have overheard a conversation which made me believe that would not be advisable. One thing I do remember, is that this was always a short stop.

My third aunt lived in The City and her washroom facilities were as close to home as I knew. That was my 'safe house'.

Thus ... my issues with bathrooms stem from my childhood and I have not overcome those particular demons. I need cleanliness, the known ability to flush, the safety factor of a spare roll of toilet paper at all times and water. Lots of water.

I researched the bathroom facilities in Thailand. Though what I read was from one person's perspective, I believe that some of the facts would be country-wide. There isn't an abundance of water, so flushing is not the same as we know it. Toilet paper is utilized in very small rations and definitely not flushed along with the waste.

My fear of the language and cultural barriers are based on far less personal experience.

One short holiday to Montreal (where everyone that I spoke to also knew English) is all that I have to base my opinions on. Picking up my breakfast sandwich at Tim Horton's during the beginning of a breakfast rush hour remains to haunt me. Though they took my order in English, they announced it (when it was ready) in French. Thankfully I ordered my sandwich on an English muffin, so I had one easily translatable word to help me identify my order ...

The cultural differences were perhaps 'just me'. I felt a sense of disdain from time to time. As if the clerk was perhaps thinking (add thick, French accent to this word when you read it) "Idiot", as I stumbled over myself in a foreign world.

My opinions are my own and most definitely not correct. But these feelings keep me very content to holiday within my own Prairie Provinces (with the occasional Alaskan Cruise Holiday tossed in for good measure) ... and visiting the U.S. does not frighten me (though I do need to have a good reason to go; aka friend or family or dance event).

As My Oldest heads westward towards his destination, I'm afraid that I do not share his excitement. I woke up this morning thinking, "If I had to run to a foreign country as a refugee, to find shelter and safety ... I could do it." To willingly decide to pay money out of my hard earned savings and use up five weeks of vacation time? That would not be a choice that I would make.

But I wish My Son the best, all the same. I will live vicariously through his stories and memories that he makes. Hopefully he has so many good things to say, that I will rethink my position (though I highly doubt it).

**Update**: First text from My Son "Not so excited right now ... really tired ... only slept for two hours and we have 26 hours of travelling to go! I just found out that they overbooked the flight to Hong Kong ... so I'm on stand by for that flight ..."

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