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Cardiff, Wales

Cardiff

Wales photo album

Wales! That little country tacked onto the side of England… we were only there a short time, and didn’t really get to explore much. However, what we saw was interesting. Most of these pictures were taken at a pretty little park, where we walked around a bit. Our other destinations in Cardiff were a souvenir gift shop, a book store, a thrift store, and a fast food chicken place.

At the thrift store I was tempted to buy a bunch of interesting books on the Welsh language, but I maintained my self-control, reasoning that it would be very unlikely for me to return to Wales anytime soon in the future. As for the chicken place, well… we were hungry, and our options were limited. My memories from the chicken place were that if you wanted ketchup, you had to pay extra, and we were practically the only white people in the restaurant, everyone else looking middle-eastern! So much for traditional Welsh food.

Maybe one of these days I will make it back to Wales. I’m sure there’s much more to see than I was able to breeze through on my short visit!

An open letter to passport stampers everywhere

Dear passport stamper person,

Let me begin by thanking you for your service. I’m sure you serve an important role in the immigration office, making sure that only legitimate travelers are allowed into your country, and that terrorists and suchlike are denied. I also am aware that your job is not necessarily a pleasant one, and that you would probably much rather be at home watching TV at 11 PM instead of stamping passports. So please accept my sincere gratitude for your efforts.

However, I do have a minor complaint. Are you aware that my U.S. passport features 17 pages for you to stamp visas on? I certainly don’t expect you to count them like I just did, but I can’t help but notice that, every time you stamp my passport, you always add your stamp somewhere in the first few spreads, which have been stamped many times before. It’s almost as if, instead of looking for a blank space to stamp on, you are looking for the very spot in my passport that is so overstamped, that no one could possibly spot, much less read, a new stamp! Every time is the same, continuing the vicious cycle.

I know this is an insignificant grievance, but when I look through my passport and see whole blank pages, just longing for someone to stamp on them, I can’t help but wonder what you were thinking when I handed you my passport and you thumbed through it. All I ask is that you look more carefully next time, and give some love to the lonely back pages of my passport before it expires.

Sincerely,

Mashkioya, world traveler

Who Are You Going to Call First?

forebodingcastle

Everything seemed to be going according to plan. We had finished worshiping with the church in Dublin, caught the city tram, taken the train down to Cork and made it to the airport in good time. By this time my sister and I fancied ourselves old pros at flying, and as we found our gate and heard people around us talking in Spanish, I was daydreaming about how nice it would be to arrive in Spain. Ah, the sunny homeland of my second language—I couldn’t wait to get there! And yet as we stood in line to board the plane, I was suddenly brought back to reality.

“I can’t let you on” the stewardess said, after looking at our boarding passes. We were incredulous. Whatever had we done wrong? “You didn’t get your passports checked, so I can’t let you on the flight.” We frantically asked if there was time to run back and do that before the flight left, but there was no way—by that time the Ryanair plane would be well on its way, aiming to land ahead of schedule amid classical music and applause by the jostled passengers.  Read More

Stratford-upon-Avon, England

Church of the Holy Trinity

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Along the River Avon in eastern England lies a peaceful town called Stratford-upon-Avon, presumably given that name to distinguish is from other, less interesting Stratfords, such as Stratford, Texas. (I am joking, of course!) I got to visit this town when I was in England four years ago, and took some pictures, which I you can see in the linked photo album. Stratford-upon-Avon is best known as the hometown of William Shakespeare, and we got to visit his birthplace, as well as another house he lived in, if I remember right (I hesitate to make any definitive statements about Shakespeare since I have forgotten most of what I learned that day). We also visited the “Church of the Holy Trinity” which houses Shakespeare’s tomb, over which this interesting rhyme is placed:

Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosèd here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

I don’t know that Shakespeare himself wrote the rhyme, but so far it has worked! Some less prestigious souls were buried outside in the churchyard, making for a very interesting place to explore indeed.

One thing I noticed in these old buildings was that the doorways were often quite low. Apparently people back then were shorter (or at least shorter than me) and they’ve even had to put a warning sign on a lintel in one house that says “Mind your head.” All this and more you can see in the photos. Enjoy!

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How to Not Look Like an American Tourist in Europe

My sister on a Belgian parkbench

I don’t really like being a tourist. At least I try to avoid the term, even if I am travelling and taking pictures of commonly visited sights in foreign countries. I guess the main thing is that I want to experience the culture more, speak the language, and get deeper than the superficial experience enjoyed by most other tourists. So when I went to Europe, I naturally wanted to try to blend in as much as I could. I did some preparation before the trip, but much of what I now know I discovered in my travels. If you are planning to go to Europe and you too want to avoid looking like a tourist, this post is for you! Here are some things that I’ve learned: Read More