Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Mom-Town Blues or Man plans & God laughs

I get up at 5 to do some work but then sleep more until 8:30 !


Good thing I have taken photographs of the bus schedules, because the buses don't run often, in particular today on Sunday.

Miss my bus and wait 1.5 hours for the next one !
It's time to visit mother.
The next 1.5 hours turn out as what I'd like to call a Walk and Whine Visit.  No need to report; I'd rather forget.


I've sent an e-mail to Vietnam and the almost instant reply brings tears to my eyes.   

Not tears of sorrow but the other kind.  

As if missing the climate, the water, the friendly people wasn't enough, I learn that there is a 2-year-old German-Viet boy who calls my name every time  he sees lights in the windows of 'my' room in the hotel where I stayed 3 times.

Don't worry Timotheus,  I'll be back !


Another Hong Kong Style duck .  They are really listening to me this time when I tell them to make the sauce spicy ;-)


Tomorrow is 9/11.   The daily telephone call to Grandma doesn't get answered today.  I call back twice.  No answer.   Let's hope she is sitting in the sun on her chair in the garden.

Grandma is not answering the phone.   
Merde !  It's late in Vancouver and there is nothing I can do until later this afternoon my time.  But given that Grandma is 99 years old, I might have to book a flight back to Vancouver for Wednesday.  MERDE !

The day is getting better and better (YES, that is SARCASM).   Mother's caretaker, whom I was supposed to meet today, is responding to neither e-mails nor text messages.   Sure, it's 9/11 but this is getting a bit much.

Oh Screw It. I'm heading into town to rent a bicycle.  At least I'll be mobile ;-)


Mother's caretaker makes contact while I'm on the way to the bus stop.  
Back to the hotel; I'll take the next bus one hour from now.

I have rented my e-bike with charger and am sitting in my Gelato Cafe with a glass of wine (if any day ever called for one or ten, it is today) and am waiting for mother's caretaker. 

Did I just sit here for THREE HOURS talking to Mom's caretaker? LOL. Nope, can't pretend that it was just business; we enjoy each other's company.
We couldn't really plan anything anyway because if things go WRONG later this afternoon, I will be on a plane to Canada in two days.


I' going cycle to Real Market to replace my small day backpack (WHERE did I buy it again? Siem Reap or Phnom Penh?  Anyhoo, it was cheap but the zipper is all buggered up. So I need a new one.

What a nice ride !  If the weather was better and I wasn't expecting making a non-answered telephone call later today, this would be heaven ;-)

Holy FUCK!   Backpacks are OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive in Germany.   They want 40 Euros for a replacement of my $10 day pack and the large $17 backpack I just bought in Sai Gon, would cost me at least $120 here.  
I briefly toy with the idea of NOT having a day pack until I'm back in Asia, but after realizing the complications involved settle on an ugly 10 Euro model that will do just fine until I'm out of Krazy-Land (TM) again.


I'm in my hotel room twiddling thumbs.   I should still visit my mother, but I'm not in the right head space to listen to meaningless babble. 


I cycle over to Mother's home and invite her for Greek food next door.  The move is not entirely unselfish.  I don't want to be alone when I try calling Grandma's neighbour after trying Grandma for the last time.

Bad move.  When I explain to mother what is going on, i.e. that her mother might be have departed, she shows less emotion about the issue than a refrigerator that learns that its manufacturer has gone bankrupt.  

Sociopath is the correct word for that, I believe.

Grandma's neighbour doesn't answer the phone.  Neither does Grandma.   

Looks like I'll be heading back to Vancouver soon.

Midnight.  The phone rings.   It's the neighbour.   After going over to the house he tells me he can hear grandma calling through the mail slot.  At the moment when I'm writing this, I'm waiting for him to call back again.  He went over to the house with keys and a bolt cutter for the security chain.  From this distant vantage point I can only imagine what is going on over there.  Grandma must have been on the floor for over 24 hours now.  Will he be able to cut through the security chain?   Will he call the ambulance before calling me back?   If I didn't have a computer, I would be pacing back and forth in my room.

When he calls back, he is in the house and hands the phone to Grandma on the floor where she has been for over 24 hours.  She sounds almost normal, LOL.   Her first question: Is her daughter doing well in the old-age home?   What a contrast. 
I go back to sleep; an ambulance will take her to the hospital and I will deal with the rest tomorrow.

I've called the airline and for $300 they changed my return flight from Oct 5 to tomorrow.   Hotels close to the Airport are ridiculously expensive tonight (think $200+ even all the way out to Mainz). I refuse to pay that much for a regular room, so I'll be staying one more night in my $75 abode and will take a train from Mom-Town in the morning that will get me to the airport in due time.

I've cancelled my stays in Istanbul & Kiev, and booked my Deutsche Bahn ticket to get to the airport tomorrow.  That's it.  Everything is organized. Now it's time to wait for the schedule to unfold.

While writing the e-mails to friends in Europe to inform them that I will NOT visit during the next weeks, I realize how many happy visits I had planned in the next 3 weeks.  Writing the e-mail to Taskin in Istanbul is particularly difficult.  I know how disappointed he will be and I realize how much I was looking forward to seeing him again.
I renew the e-bike for another day.  Mother is not to be found when I check the home.  Out with her care-taker?


Time for some ME-TIME (TM).   

 I hop on the bike and head for the bike path along the Ruhr River.  From yesterday's trip I remember that there is a restaurant by the camping area where the Lenne creek flows into the Ruhr.   

The weather is questionable but at least it's not raining

When it sees/hears the bicycle approach, a strange-looking bird swims away from the shore.  WTF?   Part of its strange look is due to the fact that it's carrying its kid on its back.

I need something different from the regular restaurants I've been going to and this might just be it.

Now is this not a very civilized way to consume a glass of wine? LOL.

 Add to that my first Currywurst of this trip.  They can't make fries because I'm the only guest and they don't want to bring 10 liters of oil up to a boil just to make a small portion of fries.  Makes sense, so I'm getting Bratkartoffeln ;-).

It's home-made ketchup and it tastes amazing.  The Bratkartoffeln are great too.  Another good decision ;-)

The only noise I can hear is from trains crossing a railroad bridge further down the river.  Oh, hang on. There must be an Autobahn close by, because even in this idyllic spot, one can hear the tell-tale sounds of distant car engines.  The worst invention ever ;-( 

While I'm eating under the outside tent, it starts raining hard.  Good timing ;-)  When I point at the rain and ask the waitress whether she has enough wine for me to wait it out, she grins and assures me that she does.

OMG, in 24 hours I will be in a friggin plane already again !


Returning the bicycle is easy after business hours because they have a radio fob on the bike keys that opens the door of the bike rental store.  There is an Aldi right across the Bahnhofsplatz (Lugana wine, YUM), and mother's  home is right next to that.   A great town for minimum commutes.  
While I say goodbye to Mother, the Vancouver hospital calls me and informs me of Grandma's condition.  Given that she would have DIED of dehydration within the next 48 hours, Grandma is doing very well.  I tell the hospital that I'll be there in person within 48 hours.   
Mother is pretending for 5 seconds to be interested in Grandmother's fate and then goes back to her normal routine.  Sigh.

Hong Kong Duck again.  Good thing I'm leaving Germany tomorrow.  I could get used to eating like this. But my waist-size would change rapidly ;-(

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Speaking in Tongues (or From Frankfurt to Mom-Town)

Wow, sleeping on the plane, sleeping in the afternoon, and now another 7 hours.  That should be enough sleep. In particular since I'm taking a train later, LOL.

Booking.com still doesn't work.  They better fix their problem soon. I realize how dependent I have become on this site.


The breakfast room of this giant cheap hotel is EMPTY.  Even the buffet is loaded only sparsely.  What about all those tour buses that are parked outside the hotel?  I was expecting hoards of Chinese tourists descending on the buffet offerings.
Talking to the buffet guardian brings clarity.  The hotel is usually empty on Weekends (no business travelers?) and all those buses are parked outside because the drivers of the EMPTY buses are staying in this hotel.  Go figure !

When I tell the receptionist that I just had breakfast and still had to pay for it, he first asks whether this is my first time in this hotel, and after I tell him that I'll stay here again in 4 weeks, he says it's on him.   


I follow a hunch and say Tesekku"r, which produces a small bow and a hand on the heart gesture.   

The German hotel landscape has MUCH improved with the spread of Turkish hotel ownership !


I'm NOT taking a taxi to the train station at the airport.  My train leaves at 9:58 and the bus leaves here in town at 8:58 but it's raining.   The hotel's airport shuttle seems to be the best median solution.
What am I doing here?  THIS is what I'm trying to get away from !
The process of looking out the window of a train travelling along the Romantic Rhine Route somehow calls for a glass of wine.   German trains have Bistro Cars but not only are they trying to make money from that wine but I also had 30 minutes to kill and there is a Rewe mart in the train station.  So my backpack now is loaded with 3 piccolos of white wine, a pack of salty pretzels, as well as some sweet buns.  That should get me through the 3+ hours of train travel ;-)


I've secured myself a window seat on the right side of the Northbound train. Some people will recognize how relevant that is ;-)  A train PA announcement informs me that THIS train is missing its Bistro Car.   LOL.   Good thing I bought my provisions at Rewe !


During the regular train stop in Koblenz (very mixed memories of 15 months in the German army), the PA announces that the departure will be delayed due to SOCCER FANS on the rampage along the track.  I'm already relieved that the soccer fans are causing problems OUTSIDE the train this time and not INSIDE like the last time I took this train in May.    
 What's that expression again?
 I like my coffee black. Black like the German soul.


The train passes through Cologne.  I spent my childhood here and my teenage years.  Times I remember with feelings of mostly horror.  But the city was not to blame for my fucked-up formative years.  That honour goes to the woman I'm going to visit in an old-age home tomorrow morning.  But there is no point in dishing out blame.  And I feel no need for it anyway. It was what it was.  The point of this article is the usual:  Where is HOME?  Cologne was home once. But with my Spare Mom gone, Cologne is just an empty shell now.  A gentle smile passes across my face when I recognize the city, but that's all.  It's no longer home for me and it's no longer home to people who are important to me.  I've let go. 
Maybe in the future I will cease to harbour feelings of disgust and revulsion for my present home?  Somehow I doubt it.  While I had a rotten childhood in Cologne, neither the city nor its inhabitants were to blame for it.   Whereas in Vancouver,  the city and the ignant merciless majority of its inhabitants are the root of the evil that call Gulag.


I'm in Mom-Town. Radstation, the e-bike rental place is closed on the weekend. The last public transit bus left 5 minutes ago and the next one won't run for 45 minutes.   I call the taxi company and they tell me that it would be a ONE HOUR wait until they can drive me. 
 WTF?   Third World conditions have spread to Mom-Town.

Mom's old-age home is located RIGHT ACROSS the train station, as is the Ice-Cafe.  

Hmm.... Choices .....

Good thing I'm already stuffed with the wine and pretzels I consumed on the train, LOL.

In retrospect, the little devil was right.  Nothing has changed.  
It's all about mother.  And she's using other people and their lives to make it all about herself.  
Sad, because that makes her one of those people who SUCK the good energy out of a room and its other occupants faster than an ice cube melts in hot chicken soup. 


I arrive at the hotel.  As usual, the door is closed but by some magic the door bell connects to some cell phone somewhere on this planet and a voice tells me which code to punch into the automatic key dispensing gizmo.
I let myself in.

After 2.5 full days of traveling, almost half the clothes I carry with me are dirty. Time for sink laundry.  My hotel is particularly suitable for this since they have a giant liquid soap dispenser at the sink with a functioning plug AND one of those heated towel-rack things.  Even wet pants or a hoodie dry overnight.


OMG, tomorrow is SUNDAY, which means that the closed doors of LIDL will be barring me from buying wine.   That means that either I'm not having any wine tomorrow or that I'm heading there today before it closes.   I don't even have to listen to the angels and demons on my shoulder to know which one it will be.


When I leave the hotel, I finally figure out WHERE that loud talking noise was coming from that I was hearing through my window.  It's 4 Guys and a Case of Beer sitting on the front steps of the hotel.   Ohhhhhhhh, I HATE the low-lives of Germany.  
I'd actually prefer it if they were wandering the streets with a crack pipe instead of a beer crate.  They'd most likely be much more quiet !


I'm back in Pagode Chinese & Mongolian Restaurant.  Don't laugh, there just isn't any other decent restaurant around here. 

Duck Hong Kong style?  LOL, oh, why not, Alan will get a kick out of that.

The previous owner/waiter or waiter/waiter pair is no longer here.  They're 'working somewhere else' I am informed after asking. 

But there is something new: the restaurant has WiFi now!  Smells like new owners.   

When I say Xie Xie after the waitress gives me the WiFi code she follows up with a giggle and a smile. 

This will do just fabulously !

Back in the hotel, I watch another episode of The Expanse on Netflix.  Good TV? That's almost an oxymoron but this stuff is GOOD.   Click on THIS LINK to listen to a 1 minute audio file of the theme music.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Another Long Day: A journey to Krautistan (YVR to FRA)

It's the standard routine before leaving town.   Two hours of sleep will have to do and hopefully will ensure that I will sleep in the plane.

5 am 

Laundry and Pack

Drive the excess bags to Grandma's and say Au Revoir.


Return the rental car


Cycle to West Vancouver for some last minute banking.


Last Breakfast at Denny's and store the bike with the saddle bag in the hotel.


Bus & Skytrain to the airport


A glass of OVERPRICED wine (CAD$ 11.50 for a 5 once glass) at LIFT Bar in Vancouver Airport, but the Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc is Yummy.  But for that SAME price I've bought a BOTTLE of outstanding Chilean Sauvignon Blanc in Vietnam ;-)

Wow 1; that flight wasn't long enough.  I could have slept more, LOL.  I was pretty much only awake for meals.  I didn't even watch a single movie.

9:00 am Central European Time

Wow 2: Within 20 minutes from touch-down, I have walked the endless corridors of FRA airport, passed an automated-gate passport control, had a cigarette, and have stepped onto the bus that is going to take me to my hotel.   Try THAT in Vancouver ;-(


I'm in my hotel room in Walldorf


Martins Thai Bistro. My Sri-Lankan regular restaurant when staying close to FRA.
  I order the Octopus Curry with Rice and I'm amazed.  My selection of places to eat when in Bangkok still needs to improve because the Thai food here in Frankfurt beats quite a few of the dishes I ate when in Bangkok.  But I limited my choice of eating venue over there by tying to eat where I could drink wine.  NOT the best idea in Thailand.


I get some sad news from Roberts Creek.  My dog friend Max had reached an age and a degree of decrepitude so that his owners saw no other way but to let him sleep away.  

I'm sure there are lots of balls to fetch where he went ;-)

I hear from April. She's getting MARRIED at 6 pm on Saturday, South Carolina time.   I'm very happy for her.  

NEW episodes of THE EXPANSE on Netflix.  OMG, the first season of that show was SO AMAZING, I actually bought the books that this series is based on.  Never read them, but here is the 2nd season.