Over the past few years, I have not posted as much lately here. Let’s face it FaceBook is where it is at these days to share things. But the main reason has been that I had been in a slump where almost nothing felt interesting to me let alone share.
Back in 2009 when I left university for the last time and decided to leave university and start travelling, I was really in a search to try and find meaning. Then in 2010 when I first set foot on British soil and took my first Contiki it was amazing. Then came 2011 and I tried to duplicate the experience and it was more disappointing and less amazing (just a little). Then when my Great Aunt passed away in 2012, I tried again to travel Europe and it just wasn’t quite the same as that first time either. I wasn’t having any luck at finding meaning in anything, or a relationship.
Then in 2014, I took a cruise and it was impressive. So, I did it again in 2015 and it was very much less so than the first time although it was still special like each of the trips before by the people I meet on the journey.
Although this has now changed and I’m not sure where this will end or how long it will take to catch up to no but boy do I have a story to share, and I will start to post it here.
Note– This is the second of multiple posts in the series of my coping with GBS.
This journey can begin in many places, so I will start where things started to change, the trip began, and I was shit on. Before this event every week was just like the week before and there was very little interesting going on. Somewhat crippled by my anxiety.
I had posted on Facebook that I was going to audition for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on a whim. I had at this point never really auditioned for anything like this. So as the day came, I was dreading doing the audition, but felt deep inside it was something I had to do. I even took the preparation of actually listening to the audiobook of the play, or just part of the first act actually. To be honest I had never read a work of Shakespeare in
its entirety before this. Reading a complete book has rarely ever happened in my life.
As I entered the room there were several others there that reading the material and debating their take on the characters and knew them all like they were best friends. It was rather intimidating being the first interview but I knew I wanted one of the small roles and was going to try for it anyway. I went upstairs and read the closing part just to read something, which was followed by a short discussion why this piece was so important to the whole play. In reality, I could have cared less about the interpretation and was trembling to just get out of there. I then left to grab a coffee
and ran into so friends and we’re standing around talking.
It was while having this conversation that my fate changed. I was shit on! There was a gull that was flying over-head and right on my head it got me and dripped a bit. Newfoundlanders say that being shit on by a bird is good luck, but for me
, it was the beginning of my fate with luck.
This is the third in my series on Life with GBS, if you haven’t read the first two then you should.
The next weekend, I got the call that I got a part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream if I wanted it. At this point, I was terrified that A whim had gotten me way over my head. I had not done this, and it was completely foreign territory. However, without thinking I said yes anyway.
I got the roles of Snug the Joiner that is a very shy and insecure person that is part of a group of mechanicals that is putting together a play at the palace. And in the play, portrayed a Loin that is probably the origin of the Cowardly Lion. The second role I got was the fairy Cobweb. At first, I was really worried that the second role was going to be too much since I never even tried to memorize lines before. As the following weekend came and we were supposed to have the first read through the cast list was published. As I read through it I noticed, I was not on it. At this moment I was overcome with relief that I was not over my head with having to pull off the biggest performance of leaving my comfort zone in years. On the other hand, my anxiety that everyone hates me kicked in and I was devastated. So, I messaged the director and asked if there was a typo not giving an indication of how I felt. To my relief it was and the list got reposted.
For the following two months I had rehearsed and memorized my lines. To my relief, the cast was very friendly and welcoming. The first mistake I made memorizing the lines was not learning the cue lines that came before it. Then learning the acting and where to be and where to move that was not in the script helped a lot with the lines I learned to go with their placement.
As we approached show time there was a night after rehearsal that most of the cast met at Pepper’s Pub and we had a great conversation and meal, and then went to hit up the dance floor at Callahan’s. One thing I learned that night is that performers are a different breed and that even though I had been working on improving my fitness by keeping up with them was really hard.
Now to continue the story. The biggest point of fear is the moment before doing something. However, I have at this point completely learned my part and it is showtime for the final full rehearsal and there are a limited number of media and a few other people in the audience. It makes this effectively the first show. I’m standing behind the curtain waiting for my cue, which was in the second part of the first act, and am trembling because although I’m not on stage yet, I have no way to escape out of doing this. After two months of faking it, pretending to be an actor, I step out on stage. I don’t remember much of that show I was in character and pulled it off.
The next day, the first day of paying guests, I trip on my way to work, rip open my knee and elbow, but the most tragic event happened. My coffee cup exploded all over the sidewalk and I lost it. A world without coffee is not a great world. That night I was faking it again and really was focused and didn’t even notice the audience. Each night after the show I got to meet some of the audience. The reason why the story started here was that after the Friday show, I invited my mother to travel with me to see London and Paris on the fateful trip when the story gets interesting.
I did absolutely love the acting and had auditioned again the next year but have never gotten a chance to do it again yet hopefully as I heal, I will get a part in the future. The following April I did perform with my friend Tony in a Shakespeare open mic a bit from Coriolanus. Unfortunately, he messed up his line. (sarcastic supportive emoji 🙄)
It was also at this point that I convinced myself that it was time for Contiki trip number 4. My friend Tony also wanted to join me for the Contiki and to do a post-tour trip to visit Pompeii and Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. (Do I even need to state it is in Germany. Doesn’t everyone know Munich is in Germany?)
Later, my mother sent me a list of things she would find interesting like the Tower of London, the English Moores, Normandy, and where in Paris that Princess Diana was killed. (Moan, not Paris again…)
So the plan is to bring my mother for a few days, send her home. Meet Tony and then go on Contiki, then a post week of exploration.
In August 2015, it was like Christmas! The Summer 2016 flyer came out and I drooled over every page. Vacation planning is not something I do a lot of, it is more of a familiarization of options. As I reviewed my options, let’s face it, maximizing the number of new countries was the main option.
There resulted in one tour that became the only one that worked for dates to take my mother to Europe, and her need to user the Labour Day weekend to make it work, and the need to still hit Oktoberfest with Tony. That tour was the Trail to Rome starting September 9, 2016. It would leave London, then go to in order; Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Krakow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Venice, and Rome. This was it or bust!I have always booked these trips through the tour group directly, as it was just easier. Since the past trips, I took some cruises and booked them through a particular travel agent. As a few weeks passed, the trip date after the one I wanted went completely sold out and my trip was limited availability now. So I went online and booked the trip directly with Contiki. Since the rest of the trip dependent on others, I didn’t get the insurance (later in the story this was a very wise decision), or airfare.
Around the end of the year, some things came up and my mother was going to have to cancel. Then the trip sold out and Tony was only going to do the end week. Come April I needed to buy my airfare and the trip was not firmed up but I knew I was going to take book-end weeks before and after the trip so I planned to fly to London (so I could store my big bag and travel light), then after the trip give half a week to plan later and then fly Rome to Munich for Oktoberfest, spend 3 nights there, and fly home from there.
Now I researched my flights and tweeted the flights to perfection and timings to not be too early, too late, or wait times too long or too short. I also planned to try out Lufthansa to come home. Since this was 3 segments and multi-airline, I determined a travel agent would be my best bet, and I needed to get travel insurance still.
Now since I booked my trip my regular agent didn’t seem pleased that I booked the package directly with Contiki. In addition, I am quite superstitious about things and the two cruises I booked through her using different airlines, both had my luggage delayed. I, therefore, decided to use a different location of the same company to book the flights. I showed up with a post-it note that had dates, flight codes, and airport codes that would confuse most people as a pile of gibberish, but to her, it made perfect sense and I had tickets in no time.
I also bought travel cancellation insurance through her. I thought the price was a little high and later found out it was the plus plan, and that was why. By the time I found that out it was too late to do anything about it.
Let’s continue the story, it is now a year ago last June. It was a great June, I had auditioned again for “As You Like It” and didn’t get a part. I had made Mango Waffles, and ate the peeling, and I booked my trip front bookend.
Apparently Mango skin contains the same chemicals as poison ivy and shortly after I had a face that was totally swollen. On the same day I went for a very long walk and was quite sunburned and my face had really swelled up for a few days. Since then I have had these puss bubbles come and go on different parts of my head. (Important for a later part of this story.)At this point I have decided that for the front book-end I would go to Copenhagen, Denmark. The 2nd place option was Cork, Ireland. Copenhagen won out since it also presented the possibility to day trip to Sweden. For this trip I wanted to try new things and I was debating EasyJet or RyanAir. In the end I chose RyanAir just because every review said that it was the worst airline ever. I thought that everyone must be picky and booked the return flight. My credit card wouldn’t work and had to use PayPal to get the ticket.
The next item I booked was my hotels. In 2011, when I was in Berlin I had fond memories of The Generator so I booked the Generator for my nights in Copenhagen and Denmark.
That was all I planned. Everything else was done improv style for that portion.
For the final piece, I was watching everything book up quickly and decided I could no longer wait for Tony and booked a hostel in Munich. For Rome, the Generator was opening a new location and was advertised as coming soon. It was really stressful and Contiki couldn’t tell me where we were staying in “Rome” and only that it is “usually near Termani”. It wasn’t until mid-August that they opened up bookings and I grabbed it up the same day!
A big part of this trip was to not credit card this trip and to prepay everything that I booked. I had also decided that I really wanted to see Naples and Pompeii. I booked the Tranitalia train to Naples but had heard it was better to get the train tickets there for Naples to Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius.
On July 23rd I received a text from my mother that simply said “can you call me up country”. Now I don’t call my mother very often, let alone up country. This was out of the ordinary. I called her up and she pleaded with me not to go. She apparently had dreams that if I go on the trip that something bad was going to happen. At that point I had so much booked that it was too much stress not to go, but little did I know it was going to be very stressful and cut down the fun of the trip.
About a week before the trip one of the head bubbles started getting really big, and it was too inconvenient to see a doctor before I left on the trip and resolved to see him when I came back.
This is not a random number, it is a big one, but not random. I woke up on the morning of September 2nd, 2016 full of energy and excited as hell. I was about to embark on the most epic trip to date. I thought to myself this is one trip that I will never forget. I remember it was a sunny day. I got up early and walked to McAllister Place and caught the bus uptown to start the day off by doing the same thing I have done for almost 3 years of Saturdays, I went to Billy’s Seafood for breakfast. I remember that I had my favourite menu item the Smoked Salmon Omelette and lots of coffee. Billy’s I always tell people is like dinner theatre the staff especially Billy the owner are a hoot.
For most people, they would have already done the packing rather than go out for breakfast, but that is not my style. After breakfast, I went home and had 90 minutes to get ready for 28 days of travelling. So at this point, you would think I would pack right? Nope! I shaved and took a shower (for 60 minutes.) After 20 minutes of running around to not forget anything, I have my bag packed! Then to weigh it 33kg. Repack 28kg. Repack 27kg. Repack 25kg. Repack 24kg. Repack 26kg!!!! Repack 23kg (cue fireworks!)
I then called a Simonds Taxi and to the airport, I was off! I arrived an hour early for my flight checked in and relaxed there was no turning back. As the plane arrived, I took lots of close photos and emailed them to myself. You never know when and air accident investigator will need them. This was part of the feeling of impending doom that was in the back of my mind from my mother begging me not to go.
I got on the plane and it was a rather unremarkable journey to Montreal. Once at Montreal’s Trudeau International, I went to find my gate, and then to find Starbucks for coffee.
I then got on my flight to London’s Heathrow airport. On the flight, I ordered the beef meal. That was a mistake, the bean salad is to die for, as in your will die. I spent the whole night with the worst gas since the last time I had the bean salad in 2013 on the same flight. It was the overnight flight but I got very little sleep.
We land in London and the first experience with “British Unholy Queueing” happened at the customs halls. This is where people use the seatbelt ropes, and keep changing them so you have no clue how long it is going to take and as you get close… nope, the line has changed again.
After I cleared the UK Border control, I went to the main lobby and picked up my Lebara SIM card so I didn’t pay the ridiculous rates Canadian cell phone companies charge. One of the perks of an unlocked phone.
Since I didn’t want to pay for luggage on my plane to Copenhagen, I decided to drop off my main suitcase at the Contiki basement. So I bought an Oyster Card and hopped on the tube.
“Please stand clear of the doors. Let customers off the train first please.”
“This is a Piccadilly Line service to Cockfosters” (giggle)
“The next stop is Russel Square. Alight Here for the British Museum, please mind the gap between the station and the platform.”
I got to the Contiki Basement and dropped my bag off and then wandered Camden, headed to St. Pancreas train station for lunch and then walked to Russel Square, Then to Green Park where I was a bit tired and had some time to kill so I slept for two hours and then walked by Buckingham Palace to Victoria Station and got on my “National Express” bus to London Luton airport. (That is nowhere near London) It is literally like calling the Fredericton Airport the (Saint John-Fredericton Airport) and assuming it was anywhere close to Saint John.
After a two-hour bus journey, I make it to Luton and the bus stops at the front door. The airport is smaller than a lot of big city airports and was very under construction everywhere. However, in typical British fashion, there was no problem everything was fine. I was really early and hungry and the airport check-in for my flight wasn’t open yet. I asked the RyanAir agent where the food places were and they ended up being on the other side of security. I looked really disappointed. However, the agent early checked me in and I was off to get food.
It seemed like forever that we waited in line and the line was long and was mixed with another flight going to a place I never heard of. I kind of thought I wanted to go there instead for a while. I turned out to be some place in Romania.
As I got on the plane, I once again took photos of the plane and emailed them to myself. This plane was like nothing I have ever flown in. The seats were very basic, no seat pockets, advertising on the bins, no leg room at all, and very friendly flight attendants. (Flight Attendants are always nice.) As we flew we had very bad turbulence and I was scared to death that this was where my mother was right and this was going to be the end, but we landed safely.
I got off the plane and got my passport stamped for country 24, Denmark. This was big as it was a while since I added Turks and Caicos on my quest for 40 countries by 40.
The Copenhagen airport was massive and it was late at night (10:30 pm) I walked to the subway station and then got on the train to my hostel, The Generator. On the train, there was a very drunk man that got on with his big bottle of hard liquor and was rambling in what I assume was Danish. It was heavy raining that night, and I was wet and tired, so after check-in, I went straight to bed.
I woke up in a strange room, it was dark in the eight-person hostel room when I arrived the previous night it was September 5th and a very sunny day. As I looked around the room, across from me was a beautiful young Scandinavian blonde laying on top of her sheets wearing a… There was nothing to describe as there was nothing that she was wearing. 😎
I didn’t get breakfast at the hostel, so I went for a walk. Nearby the hostel there was a beautiful park, Kongens Have (The King’s Garden). It was filled with new university students doing a scavenger hunt of the statues and Rosenberg Slot (Rosenberg Castle/ The King’s Summer Pleasure Palace). There was also a Danish Military parade going on. However, I was hungry and had no Danish Krone, so I went to the ATM at the Nordea Bank and took out some cash and low and behold there was a bakery right next door. So I got my breakfast danishes. (How could I choose just one.)
I then spent the remainder of the morning doing a scavenger hunt of every numbered item on my map of things to see and get a photo of each. I passed by a female Danish Military Officer who was taking a break, and as I walked by taking photos of the buildings (looking like a tourist) she talks to me.
Officer: “Hey, are you checking me out?”
Shocked me: “No”
Officer: “Why not, in the hottest woman in the Danish Military.”
Me: (Says nothing, turns red, walks away.)
I then went back to the hostel to lay down a bit, I was still jet-lagged. I was going to go see some museums that afternoon but that never happened. I instead went for an aimless walk towards the waterfront fortress and since I was nearby going to see the Little Mermaid statue was inevitable.
I then went back to the hostel and had dinner at the bar. The main bartender was this amazing redhead Italian. As I finished my meal and a few Danish beers. It was happy hour, therefore I missed the sunset. I had a free shot of something called Fisk, it was basically like drinking mouthwash. Then the bartender asked who wanted the extra Fisk shot… everyone looks away… I take it. #sayyestolife
Then the beer pong comes out and the teams are formed because some Aussies have huge mouths on how much they can drink, and how great they are, it is AU/NZ vs. CA/US if the 8 people at the bar. Somehow not due to much of my help we win.
The next sunny morning I get up and the plan is to get to Sweden. However, that proves difficult as the ticket machines have English as an option but Danish and Swedish names for the stops and a few abbreviations that make no sense at all and my MasterCard wasn’t working and my MasterCard Debit was only sometimes working on them. I somehow manage to get a one-way train ticket to Malmö Central Train Station. That was only the beginning of my problems. Nørreport station has so many stations and tracks and people going everywhere that it made no sense at all, I needed to ask the security guy if it was the right spot.
On the train we have to stop at the airport I switch trains. Then the train has to stop halfway for passport control. Officially there are no customs but they are looking for migrant refugees. The officer that checked my passport was a hot blonde. It sounded like she was saying “Hey Hey-hey” to everyone. When I arrived I strolled around my plan for the day was really only to see the Marine Technology museum and to get a knickknack for my mantle.
As I walked through the park. (Hungover from the night before.) I came across a castle, Malmöhus Slott. I decided to pay admission and check it out. It was much bigger inside with a museum, art galleries, and an aquarium. It was a very well done history of the area and how the town transferred back and forth between the Danish and Swedish Kings. The admission also included the Science and Maritime House that I originally wanted to see and that place was pure nerdvana no matter what you liked.
After this, I went back to the train station to return to Copenhagen. However, none of my cards would work! I was freaking out and tried to find a pay phone but they were non-existent anywhere in Malmö. In the end, my debit card worked on one machine and I made it back and went to the hostel. It was dinner time, then happy-hour (or hours), then bed as I had to fly the next day.
As I woke up, it was an overcast day with a few showers. I had a few hours before I had to go to the airport, so I determined that going to Starbucks and getting a photo with the Hans Christian Anderson statue was to be the goal. I took a lot of photos and headed to the airport, and flew back to London.
Every Turn A Surprise, With New Horizons To Pursue
This is part 9 of the series, with my 7th time in London. (Err Camden, and Westminster) The title of this post will make sense later in this post. We are on September 7th as this portion of the story begins.
I arrived by bus to the Victoria coach station, where I found a pay phone and called my bank collect to get my credit card to work again because like in Sweden, it was cut off again. After that was taken care of, I went to the nearest Underground station “Victoria” that involved going through Victoria Train Station at rush hour. This station has 4 overground and 3 underground lines and it looked like every line arrived at once and like bees in a hive, all moving very efficiently but looked nuts to figure out.
I took the Victoria Line then transferred to the Piccadilly Line to Russell Square. I checked into the Generator, had dinner there, and went down the street to The London Pub at the Royal National Hotel. I met up with a few Contiki groups, drivers, and team managers, and had a couple of British beers. There is something about British beers that mess you up.
The next morning, I saw a sign for a free walking tour. So, I plan on doing that for the morning. It was a really good tour and walked from hostel to hostel, and then we get on the tube to Green Park where all the tour wranglers bring the people. The tour guide was really funny and new his stuff. He took us in 5 minutes to get a better changing of the guard view, then people waiting 3-4 hours had.
We then went to the buildings around Parliament and Westminster Abbey and lots of things on the way. The way the free tours work is they pay per person for the advertising costs to the company and then they get paid by tips. I tipped my guy well. After the tour, I only hung around the area for a half hour or so, then took the tube to Canada Water. I originally went here in 2010 since it had Canada in the name to explore the area, but it has a decent but still shabby mall, Surrey Quay. Now, this mall has gone downhill in the last 6 years but still has a full Tesco and a Burger King with free Wi-Fi.
I had broken my Garmin VivoFit 2 band and I was hoping to find a new one but had no luck here. One of the shops suggested you can get anything at the Camden Market, so that was where I headed next. I never found what I was looking for but I have no regrets of going to Camden Market as it was amazing window shopping, although I didn’t buy anything.
I was starting to run short on time so I headed back to the hostel, showered, and changed. One of the big things to do in London was to see a musical. I had got my ticket at a ticket seller in the subway station that had a ridiculous service fee, but I later found out the ticket works out about the same anyway if I had bought it from the theatre. Let’s face it if you are penny-pinching theatre ticket prices, you are not going to a West End London show.
If you recognized the post title, you know that the show I’m going to see is Disney’s Aladdin the Musical. The London theatre crowd is unique and hilarious to watch. From the elite posh couples to the tourists, to the families on a special outing, to the folks that this was the backup since they couldn’t get into Harry Potter. On thing about this show was that no one puts on a show like Disney. The music, story, dancing, singing, special effects (like the magic carpet), and Pyro were spot on and fantastic.
After the show, I did what all Londoners do. I went to the pub, London Pub. Had “some” drinks and chats with the Contiki crowds. Then went back to my hostel and there was a TopDeck party going on. Who was I to miss out on a party, so I partied on.
I had to check out of this hostel and had hours to kill so I dropped off my bag at the Contiki Basement and went to Green Park to tour Buckingham Palace. It was really bad, the hangover was so intense that I couldn’t move far without puking so I slept in Green Park again for a few hours. I then went to St. Pancreas Station used the washroom and got lunch and checked email on wi-fi.
It was time to check into the Royal National Hotel so I went to the Contiki Basement, picked up my London knickknack along the way, got my suitcase and bag and, rested until the evening meeting with the tour manager Kyle and driver Alex. After the meeting can you guess what happened? I went to the Pub…
The next morning it was an early morning and I was excited and ready to go. No hangover for some reason this morning.
It is September 10, 2016. They day begins with a nice British Breakfast on the ferry from Dover to Calais. It was a sunny and calm day. I have just taken the compulsory photo of the White Cliffs of Dover. Followed by a coffee just to tip and clear out my UK Pounds.
I have yet to mention this but with two exceptions to be mentioned later in the story (Several posts from now), I have a habit of blowing the rest of my currency as I switch currency zones. After passing through customs and getting my passport stamped, it is a several hour drive to Amsterdam. I stayed at Nieuw Slotania Hotel in Amsterdam. I took a walk to the supermarket across the street where I found they sold Brunswick Sardines that come from my home province. While waiting in the lobby I ran into Nunu my driver from my 2011 tour and was so excited to see him. We had a few more run-ins as the tour progressed.
That night we went out to see a live sex show at the Casa Rosso. While waiting out front it was hilarious people up in the hotel across the canal put on a show for us. After the I went to a coffee shop and had a brownie. Then the group found a club and I decided not to go in. I instead went window shopping and ended up depressed that I lacked the confidence to even see one of them, that I in life am alone, that I have no one to share the experience of this amazing trip, and that I feel old and no energy to party. I, therefore, went to Dam Square and got the streetcar back.
The next morning was sunny as well. I didn’t want to take the bike tour of Edam, so I wandered the town aimlessly again like 2011. I, however, found a cool skinny church.
Then we went to a cheese and clog shop. Then dropped off in town. The first thing I got was a stroopwafel, then went with some of the travel-mates to go to a pancake house that was to die for
I went back to the House of Bols that was not as great as 2013. Then I didn’t go to any other museum and just got lost. I followed the wrong canal for half an hour unknowingly before I was surprised nothing I expected to be there was there and I GPSed my location.
I met up with the tour bus again and we went for the optional meal after a group photo to Volendam for a nice dinner. After that, we went to a shots bar and I had a bunch of shots, everyone went to a club. My goal was to party in Leidseplein for the first time ever but I ended up being depressed and called it a night around 11 pm.
The next day was one of the longer travel days. We ended up in Berlin and checked into Plus Berlin around supper time. That night I have several beers at the hotel bar. Then called it a night. The next morning at breakfast I got one of the best pictures of my trip.
The morning began with a need to find Advil for my hangover. I found the Mall of Berlin and spent so much time there it was my lunch stop. After the mall, I found a Spy Museum that was the greatest museum on the whole trip.
From there I hung out around Alexanderplatz until we met up and went to dinner at the Hofbräuhaus, did a tour of Berlin in the Cold War. (different tour than a few years ago) This tour turned into a bar hop and the first bar was nothing more than an abandoned building with a bar, a ghettoblaster, and a toilet.
The second bar was an awesome patio and go a little scary when this drunk guy started to cuddle a female member of our group, then nearly started a fight, was ejected, and then threatened to kill one of the people of our group. (I was drunk so some details are vague) We then finished off at a bar across the street. I had two drinks before a gay German guy started hitting on me and I had to leave. I learned that night what ladies go through.
The next morning I was off to Prague, but that will wait for another post.
The party bus adventure continues. The date is now September 14th, 2016. This day has a stop along the way in the most beautiful city of Dresden, Germany.
As most of the crew were sightseeing, or going to a local restaurant, I ditched them and headed straight for the McDonald’s that was a few blocks over for a quick lunch. I explored the area and curled around the outside of the square to areas I never had time to see and found a building with lots of cool details to photo.
We then proceeded on the rest of the day to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. The tour began with the typical castle tour. I never gets old as the church in the castle is the most amazing thing ever. We then proceeded past all the pick pockets to the Charles Bridge, and into the town square to see the astronomical clock that I never found impressive to look at, but has a cool story.
We then checked into the Plus Prague for dinner and pre-drinks. Heading into town, as we jumped on the streetcar we went several blocks then got thrown off the street car for being obnoxious drunks. The guy even let us off on a piece of track that no trains come on. We then got on a different streetcar and made it to town.
This was my first big club night at Zlatý Strom this place was awesome. There was so many room with different feel, style, and music. There is even a pole dancing room. The large drinks don’t hurt, even if it was $23CAD when in a foreign currency I don’t convert it, I just get what I want.
After leaving this place at 2 in the morning, I really wanted a Kabab. Unfortunately, I didn’t get one because the line was too long and got in a cab back to the hostel.
The next morning I did not want to be alive. Everyone else went to a bike tour but my head was so bad that is bad it needed 400UI of Advil. Even then I didn’t get up until almost 11am. Last time in Prague, I had really wanted to see a Honey Badger at the Prague Zoo.
I found out that it was easy to get to with an express bus from the nearby subway station. I spent most of the afternoon there and didn’t even see it all, but for the first time of my life I seen a Honey Badger!!
After the Zoo, I went downtown to visit the mall and get a souvenir for Prague. (Which I Lost) I ran into a big chunk of the guys from the tour, and they were all weighting for the streetcar back to the hostel. I instead convinced them the subway was better, and the pack agreed to follow me.
I had dinner and joined everyone for pre-drinks, but opted not to go out since I was starting to feel a sore throat.
The next morning began another travel day. The trip involved a stop at this amazing and very creepy skull church Hřbitovní kostel Všech Svatých in Kutná Hora.
“Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true. When will you realize… Vienna waits for you?” –Billy Joel
This is truly a special city. One does not really understand Europe without Vienna. This was the first of the several cities that were new to me on the Contiki tour. I was starting to feel like I was more the tour guide in some of the previous cities and they started to seem ordinary. Not, Vienna.
It is September 16th, about 10 days to go until the fateful day and the greatest day ever. When we arrived in Vienna we checked into the a&t Holiday Hostel Vienna then dressed up for a night out. The night started with a concert with a quartet, opera singers, and ballroom dancers. Of course there was an intermission with wine. After this we went to Kern & Waldmann amusement park for dinner. I think the restaurant was called Schweizerhaus. The beer and the food was amazing.
While here others in the group went on rides as I watched. I was getting more and more depressed by the minute. I was really convinced if I went on a ride, that was it. A scene from the Final Destination movie was about to happen. After the rides a few people decided to go back. I went with them not wanting to have to rely on a taxi to get home.
At the subway station, I got a 24 hour ticket and got on the train helping a few others find the right train. On the train I realized our tour manager was wrong about the trains ending and I wanted to tell people at the bar. This and I had no excuse for transportation that I stood up half way back to the hotel and decided tonight would be a “Fuck It” night, even with a bit of a sore throat, and ran off the train and switched to a train going back.
I was headed back to the club Prater DOME and there were no regrets. When I got there the amusement park was dying down for the night, but the club was rocking. This place was one that gives you a card and you cover the tab on the way out. I went to the bar and got a drink, and another, and another, and another.
Then I got to the dancing point of the night. The music kept me going and going. I was on top of the world and the depressed me was too drunk to care. That is until I was too drunk to go to the bar and order more. This place had evil bottled alcohol vending machines. So a few more drinks later… it is close to 3:30am and I call it quits, mostly because one of the women on the tour is too drunk to stay and needs help getting back, more so someone to help her get back safe. So I bring her on the subway, and then guessing based on a bad map find the way back. I drank lots of water and slept well for a few hours.
The next day was great but more quiet for obvious reasons. We started with a sightseeing tour of the area around the Royal Palace, and made our way to the Swarovski crystal “museum” that was really just a pay to look at shiny things in a store that you can buy if you a super rich. There was literally 5 things under 10€ to spend the 5€ for a free gift. The breakfast at the hotel really didn’t cut it so the group of us headed to McDonald’s. I had a coffee since Austria is well know for their coffee.
I then wandered around and saw lots of cool things on a “Not the typical tourist traps you would see on a Vienna tour” tour. It included highlights like the cement benches that the locals consider the ugliest, a mural of a cow playing backgammon, the little know lookout for St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the tiniest alley in Vienna.
After this I had some time to kill and tried finding the movie museum that I ran by earlier but never did find it. Instead I found a museum about the history of stage performance and how Vienna as a centre of music and culture for hundreds of years was ahead of everyone and developed almost every stage technique used today. For stage fans this place is second only the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. (technically Southwark)
Still not feeling the greatest I went to ride the Metro for a bit and see a weird shaped building. Then it was off to the see the Schnapps museum (shop). It was good and interesting how the company was run and then ended.
We then went to see the Summer Royal Palace, and had a classic Vienna dinner. Since we were practically forbidden to “go big” that night it turned into a quite rest night.
Sundays are typically good quiet days to reflect on the week that has passed. It is now September 18th. We are leaving Vienna, and for the first time in weeks, I am not hung over. After a decent but shorter ride we arrive at Olympia Olomouc mall in the Czech Republic and there is a TV in the middle playing a Canada vs Czech Republic game from a tournament being held in Canada. Canada was of course winning. Go Team Canada! However, it was thee lunch stop and since we were at a food court I had to try local food… I at at this local place that serves fried chicken in wraps called KFC.
Back on the bus and we arrived at the Birkenau concentration camp. It had gotten really foggy, dark, and cool as we arrived there with spots of rain. It was very spooky. I went in two of the buildings and there was lots of Jewish groups having guided tours. I didn’t read most of the plaques or go in most of the buildings, the place just hit me with sorrow and I just wandered around the paths.
Next we went across the street to the much smaller and more interesting Auschwitz camp. This place was built in the late 1800’s to house the Polish troops from the Franco-Prussian war. Then around 1940 the entire town was deserted as the Polish peoples were no longer allowed to live in the area and their leaders were jailed here. Then as this place was filled up, the second camp was built across the street. If you went to Auschwitz you were lucky compared to Birkenau.
I managed to go through three buildings, each of the twenty some buildings are dedicated to the story of a different group of people that were “holcausted”. The buildings I went through told the stories of the Polish People, the Politicians and the Cripples. After that I couldn’t take anymore and had to just wander around. Something was just not right and I’m a person that needs to know why to understand and there is just no why when it comes to the holocaust.
Then it was off to Krakow for dinner, and then a night on the town. Not sure how much money to take out, I take out 250 Polish Zlotys. ($90 CAD) I had lots of shots at an awesome shots bar. As everyone else mostly decided to leave to find a club, I wasn’t really in the mood so I went to get a Chicken Kabab that tasted off but I was drunk and hungry so I ate it anyways (a big mistake). The other person I was walking back with wanted to go to the gift shop at the Hard Rock Cafe so I waited outside for her. As we were walking down the street every single place on the Main Street it seems converts to a Strip-club, and get calls to come in. I was really partied out at this point and getting sick from the Kabab.
Since the Summer I was getting these bubbles on my head, and still am but not as bad. This night incredibly drunk, I decide that I need to get a better look at this. It has been worrying me since before the trip, and I didn’t have time to see a doctor. I therefore spend two hours in the shower shaving my head with a face razor. This was a huge ordeal, and I wanted to give up a few times. How can you give up with a partly shaved head? So I had to finish.
The next morning was a free day for the morning, I went to the old town square and met up with the “free” walking tour. We spent hours going around and seeing everything and learning the importance of Krakow since Medieval times, and finishing with the castle. I tipped him 50 Zloty for the amazing tour, which apparently was an excessive amount. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at another Kabab place for lunch.
The group then took the bus to the nearby salt mine. This place was beyond amazing and we walked for hours through this maze of underground marvels. There was the most amazing cathedral carved in the cave. Although I couldn’t take a picture of it without buying a licence. My feet were so sore this day, the tough skin was starting to crack and bleed at this point of the trip. It was a lot of walking for sandals.
Then we went back to town to make and eat Polish Pirogies and other awesome Polish food. Since My feet were sore I didn’t go out and had drinks near the IBIS Budget hotel.
The next morning we left Krakow, we made a few hour stop along the way in the beautiful town of Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. Unlike Pisa, the whole church is leaning in this town. I had to borrow pocket change in this town as my Euros were in the suitcase and we were transitioning from Zlotys to Forints and I really needed to use the washroom. After touring the town, I found the grocery store and picked up lunch on my credit card. We then took the best group photo of the trip and were off to Hungary.
We arrive in Budapest around 5pm on September 20th. We were staying at Wombats Budapest and I was hungry. I needed to find a currency exchange place since I had too much Polish Zlotys left and the receptionist recommended this place around the corner. (Ibla Change) I did very well, I got close to 12,050 Forints. ($55 Canadian) Most of the other places were giving 8,700 for it. Now this place was really cheep! (Think the waiter from EuroTrip that would open his own hotel on a US Nickle.)
We went for a river tour that night and it was an amazing buffet and was as pretty as Budapest at night. On the cruise there was one couple that had been fighting the past couple days made up and got engaged!
After the cruise if you read the past posts in this series it was Shots and Beer time. We walked though this ally of restaurants and bars that was incredible. There was this amazing grunge looking place we went to that had many stories and bars in it. It was so packed, after a few beers, I just left everyone and walked back to the hotel. This is when I was approached by a woman of the night, we talked a bit, but I turned her down. She then got upset and started yelling something in Hungarian and then spit on me and said I was cursed.
Totally freaked out I went back to my room and showered. My giant bubble on my head bursts at this point and was filled with yellow puss. I decide to shower and go to bed. As I move the sheets there is a little black bug moving along the sheets. I move the mattress and there is more and then so look at the joints of the bunk bed any there is even more. Then I check the other sets of beds in the room and there is none.I go to reception and they address the problem by cleaning my stuff and giving me a different co-ed shared room for the night as they are fully booked, and would get a new room the next day. As I enter the room it is dark and I use my phone as a flashlight to make the bed (check for bugs) and then I fell asleep.
As I awoke the next morning I awake and look around the room, and there is a Australian blonde laying on the sheets, like Copenhagen, naked. I had a tour in the morning so I got breakfast and placed my stuff in storage until I got my room. The tour was okay we walked all around the Pest part of town, seen the statues, buildings and learned the history. The tour ended in the Terror Museum that was okay, but there are better things to do like the baths
After the tour some of us went to a fancy Italian restaurant that was so good. I then left the group and wandered to the Buda side to climb up to the castle and take photos. I then went to find a restaurant in that ally that was the most expensive local cuisine as I had so much money left (about 5000 forints).
That night everyone was going out again and I joined them for pre-drinks but was not feeling going out. So I just sat and talked until late with those who were sitting around.
The next morning we drove to Slovenia, we were close to the Croatian border where there is a fence and fields to keep out the migrants. Kind of felt like the Berlin Wall in theory. We got to see the biggest tourist trap in the area Lake Bled that has a famous cake. Let’s face it you had me at cake, that was what I was doing getting coffee and cake. The cake was good and the patio views were good too.
We then ended up at the destination city of Ljubljana the capital of Slovenia. Most of the group ended up going to a Mexican restaurant that was really good. Then we ended up at a very cool dungeon bar for drinks. As half the group went to a club, I went with the other group for drinks at a kind of sketchy packed place. It was the most fun I’ve had. I got waisted… again.
As we headed back it was hilarious everyone was following me as I was waisted trying to find my way back.
The next morning it was off to the final country, Italy.
As the story starts to get more dramatic we need to get into the mood. I have a fitting sound track for this portion. “Walk to Rialto Bridge”
This is the final day September 23rd before things start to go bad. The morning is sunny. We check out of Hotel Park in Ljubljana. Since the elevator is small I walk my bag down with a lot of effort 12 stories of stairs. I’m not feeling the greatest, I drank too much the night before. (Again)
After a small breakfast it is on the coach for a 2 hour drive to the meal stop where I get a better meal, then over an hour to the causeway to Venice, but we hop a boat that drops us off near Piazza de San Marco. (aka tourist trap/pigeon central) I went with a group to have lunch at a small restaurant, then ditched them.
I grabbed a bottle of wine and got lost for the afternoon. I really didn’t do any of the big attractions since I’ve done most of them before, and the 3 hour line to see in San Marco was not a useful waste of time. I spent most of my time exploring parts of the island I have never seen, and try flavours of Gelati (you can’t just have one Gelato) I had not tried. My heals were bleeding from cracked heals at this point, 25-35k steps a day in sandals will do that.
Late afternoon the group reconvened and went on a gondola ride. This time around they didn’t sell wine to drink on the gondola which was disappointing but still an opportunity to get more canal photos.
After the trip we had a free hour to get more Gelati, and I found the supermarket that I could stick up on bottles of wine for half the price. Also a perk was I could weigh the bottles and knew exactly how much weight allowance I had to make for it.
The next plan on the Itinerary was a tastes of Venice tour where we went to 3 different restaurants and sampled the food and had a glass of wine at each. Most of the food was great but there was a battered seafood place and some of them made my tongue go a bit weird, but not really as bad as an allergy. I think in hindsight that this may have been an accelerator factor of the symptoms to come.
After the tour we had about two hours and the sun had set and Venice at sunset then night is much cooler than Venice in the daytime. I started by going to the Aperol Spritz party in a piazza and with the wine a bit tipsy. Then I went to see the Academia Bridge that I didn’t get to see on this trip yet. I was starting to run out of time so I hurried back to San Marco’s Piazza as we were warned that they would leave without us. At past stops, this was an empty threat as people were late all the time.
Not this time we actually left two people on the island. After a boat ride to the other side, we got on the bus crossed the causeway and checked into Hotel Vienna. This place was a place to sleep and that is about all.
The next morning after breakfast it was on the road again, off to Rome! As the saying goes “All roads lead to Rome” and the tour I was on was even called the “Trail to Rome”. The adventure as well will end in Rome. As we left Venice we had some goodbyes as a few were not destined for Rome and rented a car and drove around for a few days.
The trip to Rome was short, and my feet were hurting a bit so I was fortunate it was a bus day. With only one stop we arrived in Rome around 2pm and had an hour to get settled and then go on a walkabout.
We will leave it here and the next post will be the last of the Europe Trip 2016 story, but not the last of this series.
This post also has a soundtrack. The André Rieu version of Arrivederci Roma.
It is September 24th, as we left for the sightseeing of Rome. I was a bit worried to go out on the street. There was a long protest going down the street for the freedom and recognition of a people in a region near Georgia. (The country) The parade ended
just before go time and my feet were really sore. My last pairs of socks had holes in them and combined with the bleeding heels walking was getting harder. Rome is also not known for the flattest and smoothest sidewalks/streets either.
We hopped on the bus and went to the area near the Italian government buildings. For there we walked around Rome to the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain and various other buildings. We also ran into a group of protestors that were fighting for the right of deaf people to have interpreters at churches. They made a lot of noise.
Then we went for a fancy supper and my feet were killing me. At supper, I had noticed my feet were still hurting even when not standing on them, and my butt and hip were getting a sensation of falling asleep. I stood up and walked outside a few times to relieve the cramps and asleep feeling but it was getting worse. By the end of the night
, my feet were going from sore to numb.
After dinner, we went back to the hostel for drinks as for a chunk of us it was the big
goodbye night. The rest of the travellers would be heading to London again over the next week. The place was small and cramped but I didn’t want to miss out as this was the last big night with everyone so I stayed until about midnight. The group then decided to go to a club but I really wasn’t feeling it.
An amazing person that was also leaving in Rome decided not to go out and since I have feelings for her and we are in Rome, we went for a stroll around the block and I tried to hit on her nervously. She explained what was important to her, and I respected her and we continued to walk back to the hotel and called it a night.
The next morning I woke up and the scariest thing happened. My feet were still numb and three fingers on both hands were numb. This had me really scared and the hotel had terrible internet so I had breakfast and checked out of The Yellow Hostel. I knew my next hotel the check in was not until
2 pm but I wanted to drop off my heavy bag to baggage storage there, as I was planning to travel light for 3 days and had the necessities in my side bag.
To my luck the hotel
lets me check in early and I started to Google what could be going wrong with me. The main hits were Diabetic Nerve Pain or MS. (In my head better than diabetic as I love good food.) The internet was bad so I decided to go out and went to Termini station to get online. From there I started iMessaging / Facebook messaging and emailing everyone I could back home to get advice.
Since it was just after
6 am back home only a few answered. None suggested coming back and several suggested it could be something even worse and that I should go to the hospital. My sister was one of the few that answered but wasn’t happy I woke her on a Sunday morning. I ate lunch at McDonald’s in the station then went to find Michelangelo’s Keyhole that I missed by a few metres in 2013. Once you miss doing something it really sticks with you.
As I climbed the hill and passed the rose garden, I crested the top of the hill and saw a long line of people. This is the universal sign of you found the attraction.
I waited about 45 minutes in line and then made it to the front and looked in the hole. It was cool but had bigger hype and expectations than I was hoping for. On the way back down there is a park with an overlooking view of the Vatican.
Considering how much my feet hurt, I had to rest. I started to question myself on what I should do. It was at that point that I thought I heard a voice say “Go Home” in the wind. As I was walking down the hill, I need to go to the bathroom suddenly and had little control and didn’t quite make it to the pay toilet, that also was dirty and had little paper left. It was not good and I was so conscious of my smell. I went back to the hostel to look at my insurance papers and get my numbers in line to go to Ospedale Santo Spirito near the Vatican. However
, when reading my travel insurance papers, I read it in detail and noticed an Early Return clause and called them up via Skype and asked about it.
The lady explained that it would cover any economy class ticket on a reimbursement basis. I then was worried about trying to contact my travel agent on a Sunday and jumped on the Air Canada app and looked up flights. I didn’t want to miss the Coliseum tour I had booked later that day so flying out that night wasn’t on my radar. (That would have been the smartest option.)
The fastest and cheapest flight back the next morning was to fly Rome to Philadelphia to Toronto to Saint John. I almost booked it but then I noticed that if I went Rome to Munich to Toronto to Saint John I could leave Rome early rather than stupid early, I would avoid the US TSA, get a Munich passport stamp, and fly in a Dreamliner! (Since I wasn’t paying it what is an extra $40 for more sleep and a wish list airplane.) I booked the trip and coordinated with a friend to pick me up at the airport the next afternoon and bring me to the hospital. The internet then crapped out and I
left for my tour.
As I went through Termini, my mother got back to me and I told her I was coming home. I then headed off to the tour. I had already done this tour in 2010 so it looked the same as before and I was not really into it. All I was thinking about was leaving the next day. I took a bunch of photos to prove I was there but I was so weak and sore that I was glad it was over. I said no more goodbyes and slipped away and back to the hostel. I ordered a chicken burger and fries at the hostel restaurant and thought my sore throat was coming back, but it turned out probably the muscles were going numb and I was
losing my swallowing abilities. I then got my bag from storage and went to bed. I was going to shower in the morning. As it turns out I won’t get to shower again until December.
The next morning I woke up at 5:30 am and am really numb. It is terribly bad, I can barely stand from kneeling without the ladder, and I had the top bunk bed. I didn’t pack the night before and I put all my liquids in my main suitcase and started throwing away clothes that I didn’t want to get at
the weight. After three attempts I make it to the exact most I can check in. (Wine bottles are heavy.) I grab my side bag and suitcase and am off. It is only a few blocks to the train station but it is a slight uphill slope and my legs can barely make it. Rome at night is also a very scary place in those parts.
I am starving and I pick up a few things at the convenience store style place in Termini and go to the kiosk to get my train ticket to the airport. I decide on the Leonardo Express train over the local train as I don’t know how much effort I have left. The train arrives and I get on barely enough grip to lift my excessive bag.
I then arrive at the Leonardo
da Vinci airport and walk a long hall to the Lufthansa check-in for my first flight to Munich. She checks everything for me takes the bag and then I proceed through security. This is a really simple process as I have gotten good at this. I then find my gate and have a seat. Once it comes birding time I have great difficulty standing. I do manage and get on the flight. Scared to death, I start to be even more scared thinking about my mother’s prediction something bad was going to happen.
When the plane arrived, I went to the other terminal to get my flight that involved lots of halls, trains, elevators and, escalators. After getting my Schengen leaving stamp, I go to the gate and wait for boarding. Then boarding gets announced and I cannot stand up. I am really scared and freaking out just like a bathroom in Amsterdam incident. After everyone mostly boards I manage to use my everything to stand and it is not at all good. I get on the plane and have a seat in the second row of economy class. As it happens to turn out the group of people around me work for Air Canada and used their travel perks to go to Oktoberfest (lucky them). The gentleman to my left was leaving the airline to change careers. My hands were not working well to at all at this point so I couldn’t put my seatbelt on and he helped me. I din. Want to keep asking for help so I didn’t get to watch a movie at all for the flight and got to watch as we flew back the map of where we were. Our flight was delayed due to a technical fault, this made me nervous that this was it, the technical fault was how this was going to all end. After they fixed the plane, it took almost another hour to get a new route, and the route took us north until we followed the UK coast then towards Greenland and then direct to Toronto.
As the meal came I could not eat hardly anything and drank the water and wine and bean salad. (Again the bean salad is always a mistake.) I had the guy next to me open the items I did eat. He could tell something was not right and we talked briefly. He was friends with the crew and I think he told them as I was embarrassed to ask for help. I have a bad anxiety for things like that.
Since I had 8 hours to Toronto left I decided sleeping it off was the best decision. I
, however, started around Greenland noticing if I slept I stopped breathing and this scared the hell out of me but not as bad as telling someone and divert the plane in 2 hours to Newfoundland as we were literally in the middle of nowhere and piss off everyone on the flight. I instead waited it out silently as it got worse and worse. I needed to use the bathroom and got up and waited in line to make it just in time. I then returned to my seat. This is the last time I would get up or use the bathroom on my own.
We then land in Toronto. My phone still had my UK SIM card and I physically don’t have a tool to open the SIM card door so I turn it on but can’t use it. If I could I could text everyone or post on Twitter that I arrived. As the doors open, I try to get up and can’t with my own power to the guy next to me helps me up and grabs my bag for me.
I take about 60 steps to get off the plane and the first step is a big one so I roll my ankle and can’t get up and am blocking the door. I am in fear at this point more from blocking everyone behind me, and only
have 25 minutes to get through customs and my flight to Saint John. The flight attendant guy was right behind me and I was rolled to the side and covered with a blanket until the rest of the passengers deplaned. Then he took off and the flight crew and airport manager took care of everything asking me lots of questions. The ambulance arrived and I was forced to help due to my weight to get up to a wheelchair and then transfer to the stretcher.
I asked about my checked bag and the Air Canada manager assured me they would take care of everything. I was taken down the sky ramp steps and placed in the ambulance and off we went.
Next post I will continue with the hospital portion of this story. This concludes the travel portion.
As I was in the ambulance rushing to the hospital. I noticed that it was a Peel Region paramedic so I realized I wasn’t going to Toronto and probably Mississauga and the ride seemed really long. The biggest thought on my mind at that moment was not my condition, but that I couldn’t get ahold of my friends that were meeting me, that my bag was still at the airport, and that I haven’t cleared customs.
I started to notice that the turns and distance of freeways didn’t seem right for Mississauga. I asked the paramedic and he said we were headed to Brampton Civic Hospital.Once we arrived, I was rolled into the hospital an the person at the hospital pointed to one of a long hallway of hospital beds and the Paramedic had me roll over to the other bed. Then I was left in the hallway for a long time. A woman eventually arrives and I give her my insurance card and Medicare card and she admits me to the hospital. I’m not moving much at this point.
After another long wait this nurse comes with a phone. The Peel Police are on the line and ask if it is okay to tell my sister where I am at. I agreed and she then left. I was so tired and couldn’t sleep because of I would stop breathing.
The nurse comes back and I have to pee so she gets me a urinal that I can’t use. I think it is because I am laying down, the reality is I lost control of the mussels. The doctor thinks he knows what it is and has to take a spinal tap to check. I get brought into the little room for the test. I also decide at that time that it is a good idea to try to stand and pee. The nurse stops me and tests come back that it is Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).
This head doctor in the ICU comes to talk to me, but I was occupied and didn’t remember most of what she said but I remember her say that I was going to be admired, that it was going to take 4 weeks to be resolved, because I am under 40 that the survival rate is pretty good. She also wanted my medical history because I was going to have to have a trach put in within a half hour.
I was moved to the ICU and they put a catheter in me. The room was light coloured, there was a window to my left, there was an LCD TV straight ahead, and a red LED clock above it. To the right of the TV there is a board that had notices on it like the date, doctor, treatment, and the room phone number.
At this point I don’t remember much that really happened. The next few post will be what I remember, but a lot of it never happened my brain made it real to me.
The following events are what I remember happening but I was on good drugs and were what my mind remembers happening only. I cannot tell what never actually happened.
After blacking in an out, there were periods where I was conscious an periods that I wasn’t. After the first night, I was put to sleep and rested well or as well as I could with the breathing machine. Initially I felt that I was kind of in control but the machine was not in time with what I was trying to breath. I learned that if I just gave in and stopped trying to breath I was getting more air.
I also remember being asked constantly if I was in pain. Moving my eyes was all I had to communicate. After trying so many times to get them to stop asking they just kept on and I was getting fed up and just gave in and always said yes. This is when an Indian doctor that looked like Kumar with big white teeth smile,came and he told me “Trust me I get you good stuff.”
Then I totally lost track of time and days and nights blurred together. The second night, I was moved to the dark basement and the nurse was in the other room. The repetition of the breathing machine was hypnotic and I began floating towards the door at the end of the hall when my eyes were closed and returned to the bed when my eyes were open. The bed kept moving under me as well.
Later on in the night I floated around and waited on the sun rising and was left out in the parking lot. The nurse that kept hurting me decided to clean me and I was stuffed in the back of the car. Then hosed down at the car wash. Then left around outside in a outdoor hardware store and they were trying to find me as I was sliding down the path looking for water. I was so hot and needed water.
I was eventually found and brought back to my hospital room.
One night I remember a nurse come in and it was early night. She had an American accent and I remember he saying “You like baseball buddy?” I don’t but she put it on anyways. It was the first time I see the TV working. The TV was left on constantly for the most part of the night, and I lost track of the game and blacked out, when I returned to reality, the SportsNet morning show was left on and it repeats over and over in a torturous fashion. The nurse kept telling my that my mother and sister called and that they were thinking of me. Which I knew as I heard them complaining on how demanding, and annoying they were trying to get information that they don’t have to give. They also talked strategies on how to avoid my mother.
There was a day that they started stretching me, and running some tests. I remember not doing well. Then as I was waiting for them to move my bed to it’s spot, one wheel fell over the edge of the construction area and the stretched was stuck sideways and I couldn’t hold on and was going to fall off. The nurse came to help and decided to change me instead of helping. I didn’t understand why he would do that, but then I came to reality and realized there was no staircase there.
There was this program manager doctor and her husband that was running the hospital and then things started going down hill from there. Although he never talked. He used this long tube things to control objects. They had a lake house and the lake was frozen that kept me from getting to water.
This is another one of my memories while under good drugs in hospital, most of it never happened but it is how I remember it happening.
I was brought for the morning after cleanup to this glass office building that was being used to house patients. As the day went on the nurse was having trouble moving me for cleaning and the brought in a lift thing to try that didn’t work out. However, as I was on the lift and couldn’t move it had me down near the floor and beside the desk. Then this snake came out from the desk and this guy used a spinning rope on a stick thing to kill it but there were dozens more everywhere.
The decided that I needed to get back to the main hospital so I was moved through the Indian spice store next door and they used a hose to dry and get the snake infestation out but it got too much and I got pulled under into the drain with some other dead bodies that were grossing me out. I managed to be pulled out and placed on another stretcher. This left us in a parking lot out side the mall. In the parking lot they were shooting a running scene and as I was laying on the bed they were running as this Indian boy sewed and reupholstered a hospital bed. Then we just kept running and running like a stop action scene that went on for ever and ever.
While this happens my mother and step-father showed up and were discussing with the program director as special surgery to fix something. The hospital was down with it, as a special exception.
Eventually it came to a point I couldn’t take it anymore but couldn’t stop to get out. Unless I gave in nothing was happening, if I opened my eyes it would resume. If I closed them it would reset. Then I started to float up in the air, and drop into the cold wet muddy ditch and be flowed down the river. My thoughts were to do nothing and wait for a nurse to come and get me like they did about twice a day.
Then the nurse came and she couldn’t get me. I just floated there. Then I started to float around this castle like amusement park. Except all the people were socializing beer bottle men, with different New Brunswick town labels, and the women were cocktails with long legs. There seemed to be no escaping. I even tried breaking beer bottles on them to get them to throw me out and it didn’t work.
I kept hearing the hospital announcements and then found out that this castle was part of the Brampton hospital and the “Code” announcements could be heard there. I kept trying to escape and every now and then a nurse came and tried to get me to go back but not succeeding. I was getting cold and wet and tired and just wanted to leave.
Eventually one does, and I start to follow her to get out. I thought my tracheotomy device had broken and parts went into my stomach. As we were almost out. I thought going on a ride thing to see the exhibit was a good idea because I was getting tired of walking. It was an exhibit of histories of washrooms and racists. (Probably related to CNN news coverage on the TV)
After through the exhibit I couldn’t stand up. The GBS like things were happening in the legs. The seat on a string just kept moving and was headed to a woman’s section and no one would let my chair go there, and then they wanted me to buy a ticket and I had no way to and the chair kept doing repetitions.
The people rearranged the track and directed the seat to security for my bad behaviour as I pissed them off. As I was moving along the track I was getting worried that I was I was going to die as I was spitting up batteries from the implanted breathing machine. (I never had one of those in reality) Then this nurse guy comes to take care of me to try and get me off this chair.
The end of the line is this bed rest area machine, that I have to win a game to proceed and I had not time for this and was getting frustrated and starting to black out. It then released me into another room and it was filled with people playing bingo and eating a fried chicken buffet. I was trying still to get out of the chair.
The Bingo amusement started to rise up and the people eating in that section were crushed to death and there was blood everywhere, they then tried cutting the ropes and it went back down, and then it went up again and everyone in the room was sliced to death with stings. I was then being dragged across the town as the Black Lives Matters and hippy protesters were trying to mob me. I had no way of doing anything. The guy nurse was trying to prep me for the surgery and was hired by my mother.
After slaughtering the majority of the town I almost die and get trapped against a fence by this old house. The whole remaining town wants me dead and starts a lynch mob. I sneak into the house and it turns out to be a very old protester fraternity with all these escape tunnels. The place is like a church so a I decide to prey there, and rob their sacred symbols.
I then end up turning myself into a police officer, who then grabs me and we start running down the trail. The sound of my breathing machine I swallowed is making a repeating noice that sounds like their chant, so it starts the protestors in sync which makes my police officer more able to duck and shoot them in self defence. When clear we keep running and running through the streets and run through a dinner where the cop gets a sandwich and I throw garbage on the floor that just further gets the town people more upset at me.
There is a cop car next to us progestin the run and propaganda on the buildings. I lose the cop when a car is set on fire, I climb onto a rail and try to jump and kill myself, I felt so bad even though I had no control of the situation. Unfortunately there was a young girl’s graduation recital and they were upset they didn’t want the girls to see what I was going to do.
I then heard my mother and step-father in the car upset that it had come to this my mother was in tears. I then started to run along the power lines following them as they were on the phone with a relative local to the area. I really wanted nothing else but to see them one last time and tell her I loved her. That and grape pop, I really wanted grape pop.
As I kept running, another guy my age started running with me and filming it, he also gave me a wi-fi phone since I lost my phone at the hospital. Mostly so we could communicate. Every time I stopped running the mob would find me. I just couldn’t stop to talk to my mother.
I then came across this grocery store that was having a party and was using my pictures and logo without my permission, and they had grape pop. So I trashed the place and pooped and slid on a slopped wall of ice cream. The called the police and the police came to get me and I started running again.
Until I found the convenience store that was identical to the first. So I trashed it again. This went on for a few times. I then learned that the guy that gave me the phone was working for the store and was robot from the waist down. Him and his friends were machines that worked to run the store efficiently and that all the items were perfectly and efficiently merchandised for profit. There was an alarm that sounded every time an inefficiency occurred. I rested there I was so tired but the owner wanted me gone, but for some reason I stayed.
He sleeps next to me and I was so confused, and started questioning if this was really real and wanted out but couldn’t. I tried kissing him to piss him off but he shook his head that that wasn’t the solution.
The next morning I went to try to buy a Bell SIM card and a real phone but had no money. I then convinced the system to give me what a I want and use a glitch to get unlimited credit. Then the mall we were in was attacked and so headed to the Sears that was made of paper and had paper people that set up the store for the holidays and was more elite then a real store. The then robbed the nurse that happened to be with me and wanted my to turn myself in. I refused and they started a demonstration inside. Out the window all you could see was smoke clouds from the city on fire.
I managed to hide by there was a TV crew taping a show. Then I blacked out. When I woke up we were at the lake house and they were taping an antiques roadshow. I couldn’t help myself and was bored so I started breaking things then trying not to break things. After the event we went outside as others had wine and I tried to go swimming but there was ice on the water and couldn’t. Then the protesters started beating on the door for a long time then faster and faster for a long time. (This was a vibrator in the bed)
I was avoiding them so I hid in the woods and got lost, I found an amusement park. I tried to get A&W or McDonalds but couldn’t since I had no money, and barely any clothes. The 4 doctors that hung out together was at the McDonald’s and were plotting making this sex documentary for CBC that followed these sex workers in New York that would be beaten for telling their story. Having never experienced that and wanting to make TV, I agreed.
We then went to NYC and I waited in the hot car forever. Trying hard to not black out until my scene. It ends up getting cut and not happening. I then end up driving back with the crew and there are protests and fires along the highway, so we never get to stop for lunch and I am really thirsty and want water badly. I then wake back in Brampton at the store until the nurse comes to move me.
I’m going to move the story along and will in the future write more hallucination stories.
Once it was determined that I was going to go home, the nurse told me and I wanted to bad to leave Brampton. Mostly because I believed that the whole town wanted to kill me in the riots. I was still having lots of difficulties staying awake.
I thought that so was moved onto a ship and was going to sail back to Saint John. I was stuck in a small little all-white room. We then stopped, a giant rock had collapsed the passage and this Newfie came down from the bridge and said: “She’s between not good and not so good.” I knocked over something and the ship caught on fire and sank. I was so scared I wasn’t going to make it back.
Then I woke up (October 23, 2016) again and remember the nurses and air paramedic trying to switch over my breathing machine but it was the wrong size. They eventually did something but I got bored and blacked out again. I then woke up and I was outside and it was cool, they then put me on the plane and I felt strapped against a wall. I had tons of stuff and equipment beside me. Then the plane took off, and I blacked out.
I remember that we landed. During the flight, I had this metal rack thing with me and I was not supposed to play with it and I couldn’t help myself and be stuck in it again by the time we landed. I was taken out of the plane and they decided to get me out of it by dropping me upside-down on to another hospital bed. It really scared me. Then I black out.
I wake and we are in the hallway of the hospital on the 4th floor headed into the ICU and then moved into the pod. I then black out again. After several days they performed another round of IVIG treatment and then the night of November 4th, I had this weird dream. I was in an amusement park house on the West Side. I was pulled out of the collapsing building and then was put back in my hospital bed. Then I started winning against the ropes that we keeping me in place. The little animal thing that was robotic was biting me and I was trying to get my clamps off my had but they keep ending up back on. The animal thing is attached it’s leash to my right arm and decided it wanted to take off and jumps off the bed punning me down. Then this drunk naked guy falls down on me and passes out on my left leg and right shoulder. I wake up and I can move my right leg, left elbow, and right wrist. Over the next week, I transitioned into breathing myself.
Around November 8th the breathing machine was removed and I started to eat liquids then real food. I finally got the water I craved. Honestly, I tried to do this in terror of blacking out again. Then November 11th, I was moved after lunch to the Neuro floor and I was so excited!
It’s now November 12th and I just got moved out of the ICU! It was a bit exciting for the change of scenery. However, it took forever to get service. I needed desperately people to talk to. I was having pain from not moving so bad in what I still couldn’t move. It was very sore where so was laying on the bed.
I was also still having trauma issues mentally from trying to convince myself that this we real and not a false rabbit hole I went down in some of my hallucinations.
The first night was interesting, there was an old guy in the bed next to me and he kept trying to hang himself in the rails until then moved him late at night. They eventually moved him to another room.
The next day, I was once again ringing and people would not come for a half hour to an hour. I felt so helpless and sad that I survived. This was the first day I had the really mean (or over-worked) nurse that told my sister it was unrealistic that they would come to help me within a reasonable time. There was a new person placed in the room next to me. He had visitors that brought him a McDonald’s Chicken Nugget Happy Meal. The even fought over the toy.
The guy had a TV service and I didn’t because I am cheap and didn’t want to spend the ridiculous money they cost. (Almost 5 times the price of home cable for fewer channels.) That night he fell asleep watching Ghostbusters on AMC. It repeated all night so I could not tell what time it was and I had started to get terrors again.
In the morning after breakfast, I was taken for a bath! My first one in months. It was so nice to soak in there and not have the pressure points of laying in that bed. However, after the bath, everything changed. The previous day the catheter was starting to burn and hurt and they changed it. They also ran a test and it tested positive for ESBL, so I had to be moved into isolation. Which meant that the nurses and everyone would need to gown up to see me.
The almost now non-existent nurses became even rarer. I had it arranged that my mother visited me for supper and my stepfather visited me most lunches that week to help me eat since my hands were very weak. Although during the meals that no one was there I tried hard to do some of it myself since it would take so long and I was hungry.
That week I also started doing more and worked with Physio and OT for trying some stretching and sitting on the bed. I was also moved by a Hoyer to sit in a wheelchair for about 2 hours a day for lunch. It hurt so much from the pressure on my butt. The next week they tried using the steady lift to try transferring me to the commode but that didn’t work very well, and the commode really hurt
Near the end of the week, I made the decision to have the catheter removed. I was nervous about not being ready but I tried anyways. I needed help with the urinal so that relied on the almost non-existent nurses. My urges would not give much time either so, I ended up wetting myself a lot.
Given that anxiety had always been an issue for me, dealing with asking for help was very hard, it was even harder dealing with having to be cleaned. I was so glad that the following, Wednesday much sooner than expected I was moved off that floor to the rehab unit.
On my left hand, my Ulnar nerve had never really come back. The end of March, I had a referral to the plastic surgeon to see if he could do anything. It was pretty fast after the referral that I got the appointment to see him earlier in the following week.
I accepted and met with him. I really wasn’t sure what to expect. He had me attempt a couple of movements and explained the surgery that he wanted to try. After the meeting, I had to fill out a long form and then just wait. I was a bit nervous waiting for the operation and never heard anything back for a few months. On the last week of June, I was at work and my phone rang and it was his office and they offered July 12th as the date, and I eagerly agreed. She explained the hospital would call and make the arrangements.
The next day I had the call from the hospital and did the registration and was given the time and made an appointment for a phone pre-op screening call. On June 30th I had the call before I took off on the Canada Day quest. I was told to wash the night before and the morning of, not to eat after midnight, and to take my pills before 8 am, and bring my medications with me.
Leading up to the day I was getting more and more nervous. Besides the normal surgery complications, I was more scared by the 5% statistic that the anesthetic was going to trigger the GBS again.
When it came the day for the surgery, I got up early and showered, and got dressed. I had plenty of time so I drove to the bank and took out some money to pay for parking. I returned home and met my mother before driving myself to the hospital. Since I was early, I went to visit some nurses on my way to day surgery.
When I went to day surgery, I was immediately brought back and was changed and weighed. They put these socks on that pumped up and down to squeeze my leg every few minutes. Shortly after I was taken down the hall to the surgery hall and met with the Anesthesiologist who asked some questions and spent a while reading my files. I was then brought into the surgical suite and had to slide over to the table. They then took a few minutes to position me and place my arm on a side table.
The Anesthesiologist poked me in the other arm a few times and really hurt me a lot. After he got me to breathe in some air, and I blacked out with no dreams at all.
It woke up and my left arm felt like a cat scratched my wrist and elbow. It was covered with a bandage. There was a nurse sitting beside me, that kept checking my vitals. After I woke up she took out the IV tubes and gave me a popsicle to eat. I asked what time it was and it was almost two and a half hours later. I was kind of shocked at the amount of time.
I was moved back to the day surgery suite and got redressed and given Tylenol and Advil then instructed not to touch the bandage until I see the doctor 14 days later on the 25th. I also had my arm placed in a sling for the time. I then got home and watched TV and fell asleep until supper time.
Living with a sling really sucks. My fingers almost feel as before, there may be a touch more feeling on my pinky finger. The hardest part is pulling up pants with one had. It would be so much easier is it was socially acceptable to wear a dress.
After lunch, on November 23rd I was wheeled down the hall to the next tower. I had escaped the mean nurses and now entered the rehabilitation program floor. I remember the weather was overcast or raining it was dark. This isolation room would be my final prison for the next 3 months. I had remembered being told the ESBL treatments were for a week. I was told within a few days that the isolation was to be permanent due to hospital policies.
The first nurse I saw went through the riot act that made me fear that the poor treatment from the last floor was going to continue. I spent the rest of my night in the room just listening to what I could hear from the hall.
The next day involved being assessed for what I was capable of. It was also more just waiting around doing nothing.
Over the next few weeks, I tried really hard and progressed to sitting up and sliding on a transfer board to a wheelchair with help. It was lots of long nights and days. Typically only a little over an hour of physiotherapy and occupational therapy. I was always excited when the respiratory therapist came four times a day to use this big hand pump thing to keep my lungs expanded.
Sitting in a wheelchair for hours was really hard. My bum would get sore from the pressure on it and it felt weird due to the lack of full feeling. There was one day in December, I made it up to 9 hours in the chair. That day they held a Christmas party and had some good singers.
I was upgraded to a better wheelchair and I started trying to push myself, which at first I could only do a few footsteps in length, but I think it was key to getting my arms stronger. I was eventually able to wheel pretty fast. Since I was in isolation, I was only able to get out with someone gowned up. Considering how busy everyone was, it didn’t happen that much. Partially because of my anxiety I couldn’t bring myself to ask for help.
Just before Christmas, they started me with standing. It hurt a lot using the standing lift, especially when slowly standing. I soon learned that if I stood up myself when almost there it hurt less. After standing a couple of days, I was put in a suspended support and walked a few metres on the first day.
The next time, I considered taking rests but when up I just kept going and walked a good distance, until after Christmas I was able to walk without a standing support and moved on to a two-wheel walker. It was at this time that I came up with the goal of going to my work Christmas party in mid-January, although I had not told anyone yet.
Back when I was in ICU, you cannot imagine what it is like to not really know what is real and what is in your head.
When I first had the machines breathing for me, I felt like I was in control of them and that they were supporting me when my brain wanted air until I would lose focus on breathing and then it would kick in. Every function of one’s body has it’s own unique rhythm from heartbeat to a breath of air.
At first when it kicked in the timing was wrong and it was pissing me off royally! Not as much however as the medical professionals asking is I was in pain and not being able to effectively communicate so they gave me good stuff and I would come in and out of consciousness but no one seemed to know and I blacked out again.
After a while, I just gave in and let the machine breath for me. I stopped fighting it and it became less noticeable except I knew I couldn’t breathe as well as before and my air wasn’t right and I tried to just go back to sleep and get the four weeks I thought I was promised over with.
When I became time for me to get out of everything. I would wake up and there would be no one there. I couldn’t talk, but learned that if I tried to fight the machine and breath erratically that it would set off alarms and people would come. Most of the time they seemed pissed off and tried to get me to relax but I desperately needed someone there to try and keep me from drifting back into the fake world of my head. However, no one would stay and for many days I would drift back.
I really am not sure what it was but there came a point where they changed my air and I had to struggle to breathe on my own. It was however that that made me decide I was going to breath myself again, then within days from that about 3-4, it was removed.
On the spur of the moment I came up with a wild goal of getting to my work Christmas party on January 21st. I then told my Physio and OT that this was going to be my goal right after the Christmas holiday.
Step 1: The Car Transfer
Up to this point
, I was barely able to slide on a varnished board but I gave it my everything to be able to do that. However, in doing that my muscles started to build more rapidly and I was moving on to being able to stand using a two-wheel walker, and walking a little with it with a physiotherapist. We had arranged an afternoon with my step-father that had a higher vehicle to get into to try with Physio to get the okay to go. The day I picked turned out to be a quite warm day for January and in one try I was able to get in and place myself in the sea. I couldn’t get my own seat belt on myself but it looked promising.
Step 2: Arrange tickets
My coworkers were visiting me in the hospital regularly and I got them to arrange to get me a ticket and my parents a ticket as well, and it was to be kept a very tight secret which is almost impossible to do with
the closeness of the people I work with.
Step 3: Not arrive naked
Up to this point
, I had not needed any clothes so I was just wearing Johnnies and pyjama pants most days. I had to arrange for my sister to bring me clothes. She got me everything I needed. I had also been working for weeks trying to be able to move enough to pull it off.
It was really funny the nurse helping me with the buttons as my fingers were still very week. I was nervous of having to use the bathroom while out.
Step 4: Arrange for my parents to bring me
This should have been the easy part but my anxiety made it the hardest part. Fortunately
, they were on board and I arranged for them to be able to go as well, which they enthusiastically agreed to do.
Operation a success!
It then became the night of the party. I arranged to get picked up after dinner as it was the best time to have the nurses get me ready to go out with the limited help I still needed. I was just starting with a walker a bit in therapy, but the most part I was wheelchair bound. With the help of my mother
, I made my way down to the waiting car. It was pretty cold and the temperature hit me as I had left the hospital for the first time since September (almost 4 months).
At this point
, my tentative release date was just a few weeks away and this was a real challenge to see my progress. We drove around for a bit as I had about 2 hours to kill before the party. So many things had looked different but quite the same. I was so happy to at least be home. If I had stayed in Brampton, or even if I was transferred to rehab at the Stan Cassidy Centre in Fredericton I don’t think I would have been as motivated for this as I was and it was a goal that pushed me forward and gives hope that more was possible.
I waited fashionably late to arrive, almost a half hour after the doors opened. Mainly to have more people there to get a bigger welcoming. Much of what I do is plotted for maximum effect. The ramp was in the back door and the key people in on the secret met me and I transferred out of the car and into the wheelchair and I entered the legion hall.
So many people came up to me to see how I was doing it was incredible! The buffet began and I waited in line. My mother helped me, and everyone tried to help me. I really wanted to try and see what I could do but no one was letting that happen.
Eventually, I did manage to ditch everyone and made a solo run to the buffet. I had lots of trouble with the nachos and squeezing thongs.
I danced as much as I could in my chair and had a great time. I eventually needed to use the washroom and managed on my own. I wheeled up to the urinal and stood up on my own grabbing the pipe for support, and it took everything I had to do it. I really wasn’t ready but my brain was determined that there must be a way. As I left the washroom I found the handicapped washroom that would have been safer and easier. It was too late for that. I danced a lot more, said some goodbyes and left.
I wanted to let go and fly down the ramp but nobody was going to let that happen. I got frustrated that no one was letting me try things myself. When I got back to the hospital, I wanted to wheel myself back to the room but my mother wouldn’t let me do that and we got
into an argument again. I was just so frustrated that so was not being considerate as I should have been. I wanted nothing more than to be independent.
I made it back and the nurse helped me back to bed and after some meds, I fell soundly asleep.