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My Dad is Persnickety

13 Mar


In one week’s time, my Dad, puppy Velcro, and I are headed to Georgia to drop me off at the start of the Appalachian Trail.  Don’t ask me why Velcro is coming along.  I don’t know.

Anyway, so we need to book a hotel room for the couple of nights we are down there.  Here is the e-mail chain that went down:

11:06 a.m.

From: Lucie

To: Dad

Subject: Hotel for Georgia


The only place that will accept Velcro is the Super 8.  Good news is that it costs $49/night.

Love, Lucie

12:15 p.m.

From: Dad

To: Lucie

Subject: Re: Hotel for Georgia



1:07 p.m.

Dad, we’ll be okay.  However, based on select reviews from TripAdvisor (see below), I suggest you bring bathroom shoes, sheets, bed bug spray, extra clothes, a flashlight, shampoo, and Febreze.  And keep an eye out for Al Patel.

  • “The room was the type you are afraid to walk to the bathroom without putting your shoes on.”
  • “The crime scene tape was gone, but the stains were still there.”
  • “Crash here only if you are afraid to sleep in your car.”
  • “The manager, Al Patel, was entertaining a hooker in the room next door.  Her pimp was waiting in the parking lot.  Needless to say, the sheets were dirty.  When I complained, they pretended not to understand.”
  • “Never again.  That’s what hell must be like.  Prepare for battle with bed bugs.”
  • “Room needs to be condemned.  Leaking sewage, moldy, and no heat.”
  • “The wall paper was coming down, there was no shampoo, and the towels are made for midgets.”
  • “When I arrived in the room, 2 of the 4 lights did not work.  When I went to take a bath, there was a wad of pubic hair still in the tub from the last customer.”
  • “The desk clerk gave us an occupied room, and my daughter walked in on a sleeping couple.  Needless to say, she was terrified.  NEVER AGAIN.”

1:35 p.m.

Ah let’s go to nearest Hampton Inn! Please use Hilton Honors acct 857 148 536. We will hide Velcro. Thanks Love Dad
Sent via Blackberry

E-mails from Last Night

25 Nov

E-mail sent from my iPhone last night at 2351 hours

To: Alex

From: Lucie

Subject: Bed bugs in my pillow


E-mail sent last night at 2357 hours

To: Alex

From: Lucie

Subject: Also


Would you think twice about riding an elevator with this sign outside it?

In fairness, I did ride this elevator once. It did not instill confidence.

Sorry, busted ankle, we’re taking the stairs!

E-mail received last night at 2359 hours

To: Lucie

From: Alex

Subject: Re: Also


um, I think the moral of the previous two emails is that you should switch hostels…

Diplomacy in Singapore, Lucie-style

23 Oct

I got into Singapore the day before yesterday and was walking down the street with all of my stuff.  I didn’t think I looked particularly lost, but I did have a map over my head because it was raining.  When I meet the nicest people I’ve ever come across in my whole life.  They are 4 women, of 4 different nationalities, who stop and ask if they can help me.  They then look up the location of my hostel on their phones, take me to the bus stop and show me which bus to get on, and then one of them gives me her bus/metro/public transit card.

Can we take you out to dinner, they ask?  Can I show you around the city tomorrow, says one?  I get their numbers, and I get on the bus.  I flash the bus/metro/public transit card: it has $20 of credit on it.  What the banana leaf.  Who is that nice?

So last night, I meet up with 2 of the women: Cheryl (Malay-born) and Rachel (Australian-born).  We eat cheap hawker food and then go for drinks at 1-Altitude, the swankiest rooftop bar in the city (indeed, the highest al fresco bar in the world…).

Cheryl and I wait for Rachel.

Then we get hawker satays.

And then to the rooftop!

Rachel, me, and Cheryl on the rooftop.

Me on the rooftop — you can see the view better in this one.

Inevitably, I soon come across Graham, a London-born foreign exchange banker who is tall, almost-30, and good-looking (though a bit boyish for my taste).  He’s wearing fancy jeans, a patterned dress shirt with the sleeves casually rolled up, and expensive Italian (?) crocodile (?) shoes.  And drinking a mojito with half a mint bush in it.  [I really wish I had a picture for y’all.  I won’t let you down next time, I swear!]

Meanwhile I’m wearing hiking pants that haven’t been washed for 2 weeks and a t-shirt that has a hole over the boob so I have to wear my black bra so the hole’s not conspicuous.  I also have on a pink running watch stained brown by sweat and a backpack full of, among other things: jungle-grade bug spray, Percocet, a headlamp, a SteriPEN, and a giant orange safety whistle.  Let’s also not forget my ankle brace from when I fell off the curb and flip flops with a broken strap.

Here’s how the conversation went:

Graham:  “Where are you from?”  [Note snooty British accent.]

Me:  “Amer’ca!”

Graham:  “Obviously.”  [Rolls eyes.]

Me:  “Have you been…  to ‘Merica?”

Graham:  “Yeah.”  [Note indignant tone.]

Me:  “Did you love it?”

Graham:  [Hesitation.]

Me:  [Reassuring smile.]

Graham:  “I liked America.  I didn’t like the people.”

Me:  “Well, cut us some slack.  You know, it can be tough being the shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere.”

Graham:  “I don’t even know what to say to that.”

Me:  “How about… God Bless America?”  [Breaking slightly into song.]

Graham:  [Silent smirking.]

Me:  Lord Graham Cracker?  [In mock-snooty British accent.]

Graham:  “Why are you calling me a graham cracker?”

Me:  “I’m just making reference to the fact that you may need roasted marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate melted onto you to make you palatable.”

So that went well.  I will not be Lady Graham Cracker anytime soon, but at least I got three $16 beers out of it.

And motivation to finally vote.

Outside a restaurant in Singapore.  Hmm… the Obama Burger or the Romney Meatloaf?  I guess the vegetarians are out of luck.

So I woke up today and live streamed the end of the final presidential debate.  And then I printed my absentee ballot (yes, I finally got it) and took it to the Embassy:

Go ahead, make fun of me. We all know I sweat a lot and in huge beads.

It Rains in Kathmandu.

14 Sep

I’d like to post more regularly, but the 650dialup e-mail is really slowing my program down (uploading these videos took me… umm… all day).  In regards to my last post, I really, truly, deeply appreciate all of the support — via comments, e-mails, and Facebook messages.  I will write more on how things are shaking down in that department (let’s just say a move to a new neighborhood — where I feel safer and more comfortable — is imminent so hopefully we’re on the cusp of turning this ship around).

For now, for my own sake while I remain where I am, I’m keeping it light!  So enjoy these videos I shot yesterday!

If you’d like to hear commentary by Lucie, watch this one.  [Note the Nepalese man at the end pointing out a “jumbo micro bus” to me.  My response: “whatttt the shite?”]

Or, if you prefer musical accompaniment, this is the result of an afternoon spent playing around with Windows Movie Maker:

My Battle for the Vote

16 Aug

Earlier this week, I applied for an absentee ballot, noting that I would like to receive my ballot via e-mail (now possible for overseas voters!) because I will be backpacking around the world for a year.

The Elections Board e-mails me today:

Ms. Van Damme,

Our office must reject your application for an absentee ballot because, unfortunately, you must provide a mailing address in order to qualify for a ballot.  Even though you have requested it be e-mailed, there must be an address listed on the form, where you can receive mail or other important information. But it cannot be within the country.

I e-mail back:

Hello Ms. Wilmons,

The situation is that, for the entirety of the next year, I will be traveling overseas, through a number of countries, and thus I won’t have a permanent mailing address.  Please advise as to what I should do.  I would really like to be able to vote.

I get back:

I am sorry, but you are going to have to provide some type of physical address in order to vote.  If you come up with an address, please let me know.

Sincerely, Yetta

Pause.  Holy moly, I am about to be disenfranchised!  Co-worker Bert comes up with a good idea: I e-mail the lady I’ll be living with in Nepal (while I’m working for the NGO) to ask what her address is.  She writes back:

Addresses aren’t really a thing here.  Our address to the best of my knowledge is:
Above Hygiene Bakery
Pabitra Workshop, Kathmandu

Hmmph.  I write Yetta back:

Hi Yetta,

I have come up with an address.  It is in Nepal, where I will be in a few weeks:

Above Hygiene Bakery
Pabitra Workshop, Kathmandu

Thank you so much for your help!  Lucie

No word back yet.  Please cross your fingers for the Lucie suffrage movement.

Men Are Idiots.

15 Aug

Disclaimer: I don’t mean to offend anyone.

But I’m at the gym late last night.  The choices at the magazine rack: the Naval Academy alumni magazine and Men’s Health.  I pick up Men’s Health and hop on the bike.  I wonder, what’s in these men’s magazine anyways?

You have got to be kidding me.  This is 5 minutes with 1 magazine:





Staying Healthy While Abroad, Part II

9 Aug

Great chapter.

The book review continues!  More about “How to Shit Around the World” by the “Shit Doctor.”

Let’s start with some good news.  The book says that infectious and communicable diseases only kill 4% of those travelers that die abroad (accidents are the most likely way to go).  Comforting (maybe?).

Next, the snippet in the book that really stops you in your tracks:

Who takes their three-month-old infant trekking in the Himalayas?  And what the heck does it matter that it was “along a forested ridge that crossed a road halfway”?  Any guess what happens next?!! I will tell you. Someone steals their diapers, and Harriet gets bronchitis.

While we’re on the subject of Nepal (where I will be in less than a month, ahhh!):

So many questions!  What do smart female trekkers in Nepal do? And what exactly does she mean by “unwanted nocturnal encounters”?

Onto some more gems I’ve mined from the pages.  The most common ailment of the traveler is, of course, none other than traveler’s diarrhea, which seems easy enough to handle:

Simple enough.

But then she implies that a book may be necessary as well:

What does reading have to do with shitting?

In any event, when you are dealing with the shits around the world, you will have no toilet paper.  Which you should feel good about:

And, for the record, I’m willing to bet that I am way above average when it comes to toilet paper usage.

On a slightly more serious note, though, here’s my basic strategy on trying to stay healthy on the Big Trip:

  • Smart preparation (vaccines, meds, insurance, awareness).
  • Keep in mind the trusty travelers’ maxim: “Peel it, boil it, cook it, or forget it.”
  • Eat freshly cooked, piping hot food.  This will mean a lot of eating local (pad thai in Thailand, folks, not lasagna) and, likely, not being afraid of the street vendor, however questionable his setup.
  • Never touch a salad.  Someone probably shit all over it in the field, and no one has bothered to wash it.  And even if they did wash it, it was probably with shit water.
  • The fact that water is bottled means jack.  When in doubt, sterilize.  Yay for my Steripen!
  • Be more hygienic than I am at home = in particular, lots of hand washing.

I’ll let you know how it works out!  Comment below if you’ve got a suggestion for me.