Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Adventure in Amsterdam

(This post is part two of our adventure to Portugal. I will eventually have a category for this trip.)

We´ve made it past the first part of our trip. The plane landed and we exited and found ourselves surrounded by a foreign airport. The signs are in English and Dutch and announcements are made overhead in both languages.

Hunger strikes and cravings remain, so we find ourselves sitting in a little cafe/bar on the second floor. A lovely woman approaches us and takes our order. Not being overly experienced, we both recognize the word, "Cappacino" on the menu and order the grande sizes (although the word is actually large here, we still use the Spanish word we see so commonly in America). Tengo hambre is something I remember from high school Spanish, useless here in Amsterdam. I also remember Ich habe hunger from German class. DM and I both order warm sausage rolls, meat wrapped up into a pastry. We each take a bite and realize our tastes do not favor this type of food. I order again, getting myself a chocolate muffin. I choose chocolate because it is familiar, but I forget to remember that I do not actually like chocolate and chocolate cake is a taste I´ve never acquired. We sit in the little cafe for a bit. Then we decide we should at least find our gate.

After walking for what seems like eons, we pass through security and our passports are looked at. Not stamped, just viewed before we pass through yet another metal detector. Without any problems, we continue with the other sheep being herded through the building and find our destination. It is gate C5 and the attendants behind the counter are working for Air France. They do not have the version of Minnesota nice we are used to and we don´t decide to stick around, waiting at the gate. Traveling a bit farther, we find a little bar that serves Coca-Cola and Coke Light. The chairs around the little tables are vibrant orange, yellow, red, and blue. We park ourselves in the oversized chairs and relax, still awestruck by the fact we are in a foreign country.

As we are sitting there, taking in the moment, an attractive man asks to sit at one of the empty chairs. His name is Sveinole and he is from Norway. His final destination on his trip is St. Martin in the Carribean and we sit, talking with him for about a hour. He tells stories of visiting California (sky-diving even!) and tells us what a wonderful time we will have in Portugal. He reassures us that Porties are wonderfully pleasant.

The man then shows me his boarding pass, why I have yet to determine. I do not know if he was trying to prove his trip or if he was hoping to share information about himself that we would not have the courage to ask. It does not matter. We laugh at the jokes he makes and enjoy the pleasant conversation. It is our first true experience on this trip talking to someone from another country. Speaking with someone whose life experiences are not our own.

Then he asks us for our contact information. Being the polite Minnesotans we are, we do share our emails. He gives us his email as well. He pulls out his passport to show me. I notice his date of birth (because I have a thing for numbers) and realize he is only one year older than DM.

Over and over he tells us how cold Norway is during the winter. We nod our heads in agreement, understanding how chilly it can be to venture outdoors when all logic tells you to stay in bed, wrapped up in the warmth of blankets, gigantic pillows, and a comforter reading a great book.

At one point, the man starts hitting on us. It is amazing to watch him compliment us both over and over, being overly friendly, and then inviting us to go to the Carribean with him! We do decline the offer, nicely. He then hands me his bank card and starts telling me his PIN over and over. He asks me to buy biers (yes, a little bit of the spelling has carried over already) for our table. DM and I are not drinkers and I do my best to not take his cash card. Finally, he realizes that I do not want to go to the counter to buy bier (which he asked to make sure I was over 18 - I guess this is a compliment?) and he heads up to make his own purchase.

DM and I are shocked by the fact he just leaves his wallet and his carry-on bag at the table. The wallet is sitting out in the open and we are amazed at how trusting this man is. Neither of us touch his belongings and I know my radar went up to watch his bag as I watch my own in airports.

He returns to the table and has brought us both bottles of Coke. We smile and thank him and know it is now time to go back to the gate and wait to board our plane for the final destination. We had joked about the influence of the Scandavian languages on the Minnesota dialects and I kept thinking about the joke a former banker would make at work. Whenever asked to do something, he would lay the Minnesota accent on his native Indian tongue (he was from Bombay) and say, "Ja, sure, you betcha Wally!"

On the moving walkway back to the gate, DM and I laugh together. We have had our first adventure on the trip and it was one we never expected. All the people around us are very friendly and we enjoy people watching from our seats at the gate.

An announcement is made overhead and we have to switch gates. We are now departing from C8, not C5. It is still within view so the trek over is not a long one. We need to talk to the attendant behind the counter and DM walks into a sign that informs travelers that the line is for priority passengers. The sign topples over and we both turn a bit red.

We take our seats at the gate and a group of travelers sit down in the same section where DM and I have made camp. They are returning to Portugal after a convention for Herbalife - ´Lose weight now - Ask me how!´ One of the young men is involved in an animated argument, we have no idea what the topic is, but we do know that he is passionate about it. We sit, people watching, and this beautiful young woman says to us in English, "He always has to be right." We smile and laugh under our breath.

As we are boarding the plane, we are still near this group of travelers. The young man is still stressing his point. DM says to me, "Why don´t we have friends like that?" Then we realize it. We do. We have our own passions and our own friends who will stand up and be heard. And I´m more and more excited to take-off, land, and meet Johnny than ever!


Our flight is wonderful. It is only 2 and a half hours long and the ride is smooth and quick. The food service on this flight is fantastic. We are given fresh bread with cream cheese and red bell peppers. The hot noodles served are covered in delicious spices and taste like a home cooked meal. The sweet part of the meal is a fluffy dessert with a tropical fruit jam on top. It reminds me of a dessert my mom makes that our family just refers to as, "DESSERT". My dad always looks at it wide-eyed, knowing what a treat he is in for.

During the flight, we both try and get some sleep. My neck gets cramped and the plane is a bit chilly. I want to moisten my throat so I go to open the bottle of Coke the Norwegian gentleman bought for me. It explodes.

There I am, sitting in close quarters with DM, and we´re both covered in soda. I feel horribly embarrassed and cold. It is close to time to land and this I am grateful for. The take-off and landing were smooth, maybe some of the best flying I´ve witnessed on a commercial airline, but we are both ready to be done traveling.

We get off the plane and head towards the baggage area. I scan all crowds of people, knowing that Johnny will be waiting after customs, but keep thinking maybe I´ll spot her. We stand at the luggage carrier for awhile and finally we see the familiar bags being carried around to us.

The sign for customs is nearby and we head over, taking the "Nothing to Declare" line. We don´t think bringing tons of books through will cause a problem. And then we are through the line and no one even looks at our passports. The hallway opens up to a lobby and there, sitting off to the side in a green shirt, is Johnny! This is when reality hits me. We are here. We are in Portugal and we are seeing a friend who we know so well through blogging, but we´ve never met in real life. It is fabulous. It is absolutely amazing.

We bring our bags to the car and Johnny takes us to her place, both of us watching the sights pass before our eyes. She stops for Coke (LOVE HER!) and soon we are at her flat, meeting her pets and having a grand old time.

The jet lag sets in about four hours after we have landed and we both struggle to keep our eyes open. A nap before heading out to dinner sounds like a blessing. After quick showers, we both turn in. An hour later, Johnny knocks on the door, trying to see if we´re able to go out. DM never even wakes up.

We sleep until about 4 am (Portugal time) and now have set up in the living room. I found it a quiet time to blog about our adventures and I´m watching the sky light up outside. The insects were chirping earlier and now the birds are singing their lovely songs. Occasionally, I hear a car pass by on the road or a dog bark. Portugal is starting to wake up.

JIP, Johnny´s lovely cat who has become my friend, keeps wandering in and out of the room. She sits on my lap sometimes as I type, purring softly and kneading my leg. She is a beautiful feline and so full of love.

I do not know what we have on our agenda for the next 8 days, but I know it will be wonderful. I´m having a wonderful time here. Thoughts of work are a million miles away and I am perfectly fine with that. I am on an adventure and loving it!