|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 23, 2013 at 6:25 AM||comments (0)|
When I was in third grade I learned about the Panama canal. It was the first time someone taught me about the importance of another country's resources on the United States. And it stuck.
Over 15 years later, I finally saw the canal. And thanks to CouchSurfing, it was with a guy who works for a huge shipping company in Panama and knew absolutely everything about it (like, occasionally the little trains that pull the ships along get yanked into the water. Who knew!?).
Here are some more facts you might all enjoy about the canal:
- The French tried to build it first and failed miserably so the United States purchased the rights to the property. We ran the canal until 1999 and then gave it back to the country who owned it - Panama. Strangely, the people of Panama don't seem to hate Americans... which is suprising since we took the profit from their largest resource until just recently.
And they still use our dollar...
- According to one website it costs a ship $450,000 per passage if carrying 4,500 containers. That's half a million dollars for 48 miles of travel! My friend gave me a slightly higher estimate of $500,000 but at that price, what's an extra 50k?
That would be one expensive cruise!
- Depending on who you ask, it takes 6-12 hours to go through the entire canal.
I didn't even have the patience to watch one ship go completely through the Miraflores locks.
- 20,000 people died during the French construction of the canal.
Which is not surprising. Imagine building THAT before cars.
- And not about the canal, but I still found it interesting - Panama Hats are almost always made in Ecuador!!! And some sell for over 25K!
Sort of like how that Belgian company owns Anheuser-Busch.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on March 9, 2013 at 5:40 PM||comments (2)|
After a work trip to Chicago, I stopped for a personal visit to Milwaukee. Which makes Wisconsin the 27th or 28th state I've seen (I think).
During my short overnight visit, I stayed with one of the nicest CouchSurfers in the world. I was his first surfer to stay on his couchbed and he was a superb host. Luckily I found someone who grew up in Wisconsin so he was able to give me a pretty good feel for the area.
Strangely, Milwaukee is one of those cities where you can see pieces from every part in a day or two. So we drove around and my host calmly told me about all the different neighborhoods we passed. There was the Third Ward (very artsy/hip/cool), there's Brady St. (very college-y but there are some awesome coffee shops there) and there's the domes (cool bio domes. The desert one is my fave!). He kept up his calm, collected, entirely enjoyable personality the whole time.
I could easily picture him in California.
Then came the last few hours of my trip and we were trying to figure out what to do. He thought for a while and then asked in his quiet, kind way of speaking, "do you like cheese curds?".
To which I replied "...ummmmm?"
Because I'm not from Wisconsin and I have no freaking idea what cheese curds are.. as if that requires an explanation. I would assume they come from curdled cheese but who the heck really knows.
And then his personality totally changed. His eyes lit up, he sat up straight and his voice got slightly higher and incrementally louder, "Well, we NEED to get some cheese curds!". And so we did.
We hurried to the public market and bought fried cheese curds with ranch dressing. And yes, they are exactly what they sound like, cheese pieces with fried dough.
But they're freaking delicious!
And they should have been, considering my Wisconsin friend also worked at a cheese shop for a while. Which he, of course, loved.
So it's settled. Wisconsin really is made of cheese.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on February 13, 2013 at 8:05 AM||comments (2)|
Last weekend I stopped in AZ after a quick work trip to LA (with my own money, for any co-workers who may read this ;). As some of you know, I've decided to try tacking on personal trips while travelling for work so eventually I'll be able to see all 50 states. Which will be nice considering how few people *cough*my fiance*cough* get to experience American outside of their own state.
So to AZ, and naturally, the Grand Canyon it was!
A Couchsurfer in the area invited me to stay with her and decided to take the drive up to the Grand Canyon as well. So we took off on our drive at a bleary eyed 7am and after a coffee pitstop - hallelujiah for caffeine! - made our way north from Gilbert, AZ (fun fact about the Gilbert - it's the largest "town" in the country) and sped towards one of the earth's greatest natural wonders.
Until we stopped moving. Because of a blizzard. In Arizona. While driving a car that weighed no more than 10 pounds. In the desert.
We were suddenly skating around on an ice plateau with several other cars and a single snowplow. A 2 hour trip turned into a four hour trek as we crawled inch by inch towards the park. My trusty Couchsurfing friend kept me entertained with hitchhiking stories (how awesome is that BTW?!?!? A hitchhiking girl who can make a 4 hour drive seem fun?? I adore her.) until we finally hit a clear patch. Pulling on to the direct road to the Grand Canyon National Park, we saw clear skies and, for the first time that day. And sun.
Back to a speedy pace the rest of the way until..... stopped. Right past the entrance gate the blizzard begain again. And that's when I realized I travelled across the country to view snow. Lots and lots of snow.
With a glimmer of hope still left, we got out for a "hike" which consisted of shivering baby steps towards a hopelessly invisible canyon. We leaned over the edge at Mather Point which is supposed to look like this:
And instead saw this:
So instead of viewing what should have been beautiful and grand, we played a quick little game of "spot the canyon".
And that. Is the Grand Canyon.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 19, 2011 at 3:58 PM||comments (0)|
I wrote this MONTHS ago when this amazing Turkish guy stayed on my couch for a few nights. He's probably my favorite person and I discovered so many cool places while he was staying with us!
A couchsurfer friend of mine stayed a few nights on my horrifically uncomfortable futon after coming back from a meandering trip through Belgium. To deal with the mediocrity of my apartment (and satisfy his newly acquired beer-tooth), he dragged me out to Voldenuit Belgian Beer Lounge in lower Manhattan.
Now let me just say, I know a thing or two about wine, have an encyclopedic knowledge of sake and adore a good vodka. But for the first time in my life, I paid a second glance to the wonderful world of beer.
First came the Delirium Tremens on tap. Admittedly, it was a little watered down, but still much heartier than your typical American beer. With little pink elephant logos all over my glass (and plenty of girly-Republican jokes from my friend), I took a sip of the relatively pale ale. There wasn't much foam in the glass and I swear I tasted some sort of spice after I swallowed but my friend insisted I was imagining it. Overall, though, it kicked any beer I'd ever tried out of the water.
But then came a variety that changed my life: Leffe Brune. With a rich brownish foam on top, I took a look at the chalice holding my new-found beverage. Apparently Leffe is huge in Belgium and just taking a whiff of it, I knew why. Then came the first sip of the heartiest beer I've ever had. Instead of a drink, I felt like it'd be better defined as a meal with it's rich, wheat taste and subtle sweetness. Normally I equate beer to drinking toilet water, especially when it comes to Budweiser or Miller. But this beer, it was nothing but wonderful the whole way down.
At 6.5% alcohol, I couldn't taste much after my second oversized serving. However, I'm pretty sure it was more than the alcohol that was making my head spin. It was the fact I discovered an entire world that I'd never paid any attention: the world of fine beer.
A few days later I found myself stuck drinking my previous favorite brew, Newcastle, expecting the same sense of love. Unfortunately, it did just the opposite and made me remember once again how lackluster beer can be.
Unless, of course, you happen to be at a Belgian beer garden in the West Village. In which case, order away.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on April 10, 2011 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
Couchsurfing is my favorite. Have I ever mentioned that?
Because of CS, I've spent my entire weekend doing things I would never tell my mom about (until AFTER I already did them of course!) and have nothing but love for Boston so far.
It started with a poetry festival at the Boston library and then a day wandering around the city, watching skateboarders, hanging out, drinking coffee.
Then I headed off for a friendly meet up with Sergei, the random CouchSurfer who offered to host me Saturday night. I found him lounging outside the BU gym after he got out of classes at the law school nearby. He was wearing a leather jacket and I was speeding to find him in my heeled boots and ginormous backpack.
We said hello and exchanged a few words about school and law and Boston. Then he lead me to the parking lot where we found his motorcycle safely resting as far away from the other bikes and cars as possible. I awkwardly attempted to put on my helmet (a 15 minute endeavor) and then hopped on the back ready to go.
He happily shouted that we were taking the "scenic route" and then sped off with no delay.
We veered off the road past Boston University and headed over the bridge to Cambridge. He picked up speed on the freeway as I stared dumbly to my right - the water between Cambridge and downtown Boston sat before me.
Inside my helmet, my eyes stayed glued to the scene speeding past me. Sail boats idled quitly in the water. Harvard students stood along a dirt path, walking, talking, kissing. Behind it all, Boston stood as a backdrop to the activity, each building standing tall beside the others while the sun sank slowly behind them.
Sergei shouted back in his lovable accent (Russian.. because now that I'm dating Daniel everyone I meet seems to be Russian) and asked if I was ok.
In that moment there was nothing else I could do.
FYI: I stole this picture, definitely did not take it.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on December 3, 2010 at 7:44 AM||comments (0)|
Last night I had a full blown Madrid night complete with great Spanish wine, lots of sightseeing and tapas that would make your mouth water.
It started at a bear statue outside the Metro station where my third CouchSurfing host met me and proceeded to take me through every neighborhood in Madrid. He explained what different buildings were, told me about the population, the culture, everything. Then we wandered into a huge market with small stands for random tapas and caña. A few small beers later we wandered back into the cold air and discovered a holiday market, wonderful coffee shop for Cafe con Leche (seriously, coffee here puts all of the United States to shame) and worked our way back to his apartment for dinner.
To finish off the night - and boy, was I ready to finish the night considering I slept for 3 hours on a bus between Barcelona and Madrid the previous night - we ended up walking through one of the huge public parks in the city center and then met up with a few friends of his at a bar. One girl was Polish (now living in Spain), my host is originally from Argentina, and we were soon joined by a Brazilian girl who spoke little English but was one of the best human beings I've ever met.
Sitting behind another glass of Spanish vino, I took a moment to look at where I was. Around me were people from three different countries using an awkward mix of English and Spanish. Somehow, from sheer interest in one another, we managed to make it work. After discussing accents we moved to sharing silly jokes and talking about discotecs (sp?).
And the four of us had some of the best conversation I've ever seen until well past 2am in a small Spanish bar in Madrid. The perfect addition to an already wonderful vacation.
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on November 2, 2010 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
My parents came to visit me last weekend and during the night they had a visitor. Of the unsavory variety. In fact, it was a pimp (or some sort of crazy man) demanding that my parents give him "his money" at 4 in the morning.
And don't you worry, I'll write that whole story soon.
Anyways, it seems my visitors bad luck goes further than my parents. I invited this girl from couchsurfing.org over for two nights with hopes of making a friend and getting some bonus points for hosting my first surfer. Turns out, the day she decided to come was a very bad day for train travel.
Here's how the texts went while I waited for her to find her way to Bay Ridge. Keep in mind I've never met this girl in my life and had a maximum of two or three email exchanges with her:
Her 10:03pm: Update- there is a shuttle from 59 boo mta.
Me 10:04pm: Oh no!! R u on the shuttle at least? lol
Her 10:05pm: Not yet. It stopped at 36 so i'm waiting for the n to 59 then shuttle. I'm sorry.
Of course, I didn't mind at all. I usually don't go to bed until well after midnight so it didn't phase me one bit. Instead, I offered to order her some miso soup and then finished watching South Park with Daniel.
Until my phone buzzed. Quick look down and this is what I saw:
Her 10:31pm: Dead body on the tracks apprently
Turns out that while my new friend was making her way to my apartment, someone jumped onto the rails (or fell... or ...) and got ripped apart at the middle. She figured out what was going on as soon as she heard the collective "gasp" in the car and then the follow up whispers. And yes, people saw the body.
Because, of course, it wouldn't be a story if they didn't actually see it.
Which makes me wonder... is this just a spurt of bad luck or should I stop inviting people to BK?
|Posted by Nikki Yeager on September 30, 2010 at 8:31 PM||comments (0)|
I've decided to take this CouchSurfing thing seriously. Well, as seriously as you can take a loose community of willy nilly travelers willing to hitchhike across countries and spend nights on stranger's floors, couches or whatever little air mattress may be available.
But honestly, the people on that website are exactly the type of people I like. Travelers with a lack of fear about life and a passion for all things new and different. People who aren't afraid to pick up and leave it all behind for a few days, a few weeks... a few months. Most of whom have an excellent and carefree sense of self.
Anyways, I met this amazing Armenian guy today who speaks 5 or 6 languages, restores old cars and just came out with an album. He's touring the U.S. to promote his music. You know, doing t.v. appearances and radio shows and all sorts of important stuff.
And then setting aside a random hour or two to run around the city, drinking tea with me.
Anyways, you should definitely check out his music at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Peter-Jam/ and take a second to talk to him. The man travels like it's his job, teaches guitar and grew up in Lebanon.
Very fascinating guy no matter how you look at it.