European Vacation 2014. Okay okay, so I was a few pounds heavier then, aside from being two years younger. Please take note: No photoshop at all this time. My sister just sent me these pics which she had kept away from me for almost three long years. Grrr…
It happened a few years ago when I decided to take time off from work so I could spend some special traveling period with my son, visiting a few places around here; an opportunity that would serve in strengthening our bond as parent and child as well.
Baguio City, from the Pearl of the Orient: a tourist spot in our country known for its much elevated land and cooler climate. I had never been there; I put it on top of our target list in spite of the 16-hour excruciating bus ride (for me) back and forth.
The day after we arrived and settled at a reasonably-priced hotel, my son and I, with our backpacks, strolled along the popular metropolis’s green parks. Much of the pretty scenery available for free, we tried to explore on foot.
On our way to a specific destination one day, a house with a spacious open green yard enticed me to get closer so I could have a better look at its surroundings. “The view looks lovelier over there. Let’s go!” I prodded my son.
But as soon as we got nearer, we caught sight of a dog sitting in the porch — which, upon seeing us, started woofing furiously. It looked large when it threateningly stood up. Then we heard another dog barking from somewhere. Trouble was no doubt flashing on the horizon. Before we were able to pull back, the first dog we saw started heading toward our way – at the same time that another equally scary one turned up to chase us.
Both my son and I got shaken by the sight of the approaching danger. And it was him who made the decision there and then what to do next as I heard him cry out, “Mommy, run!”
Lacking of a chance to think more clearly, we bolted and found ourselves fleeing from the scene as fast as we could. We were running for our lives. The hapless circumstance of the grassy terrain slanting upward plus the back pack I was carrying ended up becoming obstacles to a speedier escape. Taller and younger, my boy was instantly able to advance ahead by three yards.
In my struggle to catch up, something caught the front edge of my foot and down I fell hard. I couldn’t get up.
My heart might have stopped beating at that moment: I knew the dogs would be all over me in a matter of seconds.
The loud barks soon sounded considerably nearer; I froze in terror. . .
To my amazement, no physical attack was happening . . . I turned my head to look at the dogs behind me. They were just standing there, fiercely barking, a couple of feet away from where I was lying. It seemed as if a fine glass was fencing them off from me. The barks continued piercing like hell, yet they weren’t charging any further. Someone from inside the house began yelling to make the burly animals come back. Still stunned, I managed to rise to my feet and trudged in the direction where my son — who had been standing far away and probably stupefied by it all — was waiting. The dogs persisted on barking wildly while I took more steps for distance. They were, however, letting me go.
That very night at our hotel, I checked my lower legs for any bites or scratches. There were none, of course, because no mauling had taken place. I just couldn’t believe my luck.
I’ve thought about that incident many times. I have since held to the quixotic notion all the pets I had loved and cared for – all of whom had long gone to dog heaven – were looking after me. They saved me that day. How I owe them dearly – every one of my beloved pets that came and went.
All of whom will remain as among the greatest loves of my life.
This happened exactly middle of last year during my two-week vacation.
Ferry ride is not for someone like me with a sissy stomach. Notwithstanding, my sister and I managed to buy food and drinks upon boarding. I chose macaroni and cheese, which appeared delectable, plus a vegetable salad. But as soon as we started eating, the dizziness kicked in, turning the insides of my abdomen upside down.
Taking two tabs of anti-dizzy med, I closed my eyes for several minutes hoping the feeling of nausea would go away. My sister with a more robust stomach likewise took one tablet after munching some burger and french fries. She then decided to discontinue snacking, opting to take a stroll around.
“Just leave me here, I’ll be fine.” I assured her before she walked away while I took my tray to sit at a more convenient table in the front.
Hardly a minute had elapsed when I heard movement in the back. Curious, I turned around and saw a man just about to devour what was left of my sister’s meal which were a few fries and half of a sandwich burger. The man was chubby, with a moustache (though decent-looking), and wearing an orange vest. He was probably in his late 30s or early 40s. His veneer hardly gave away the notion he eats passengers’ leftover meals.
Trying not to show surprise, I sat up straight again. My mind, however, was digesting the unexpected sight as it never occurred to me such cases exist in a country like the UK.
Since I couldn’t finish my snack as well, I decided to stand up and leave my table to see what the man would do next. Sure enough, as soon as I reached a certain distance, he placed himself in front of the more recently abandoned food and ate what had remained of my macaroni and cheese – he didn’t touch the vegetables.
He mustn’t have had any money to be able to buy his own meal, I inferred. Yet he was not bothering anyone for some cash so he could feed himself. He’d just sit down quietly and finish uneaten food left behind by ferry travelers and would clean up after he was done. He even seemed embarrassed being caught doing that.
I reached for my purse, looked for something that could buy him a good full meal. Maybe I had a 5 or 10-pound bill to spare him. Alas, I had neither. The minimum inside my purse was a 20-pound bill. I hesitated, estimating the two months’ worth of breakfast/lunch/dinner I could purchase with this money back in my country.
“But I am never going to see this person again. There won’t be another chance I could be of one-time help to him,” I convinced myself.
He was already reading a newspaper when I approached him at the same table. I stretched out my hand holding the 20-pound bill. He was stunned for a few seconds. “For me?” he managed to ask. I just nodded without saying anything. An uncomfortable few more seconds ticked by before he finally took the money from my hand, inserted it in his orange-vest pocket and bowed his head down again to continue reading. Maybe he felt a little embarrassed, but I didn’t know how else I could have done it.
I searched for my sister, and told her about the poor man. She subsequently cast a look at him.
A number of hours had already passed when on our way to the hotel she hazarded I must have given the man a little money. I didn’t deny. She asked how much. I told her the truth. She said, “Okay, but that’s equivalent to more or less 2000 in pesos.” I reasoned not having had a lesser denomination in possession.
“And he’s probably a mental case,” my sister dismissed.
Hmm, that possibility hadn’t entered my mind.
All the same, I hoped the poor guy was able to buy himself some food with the small amount of money (in London standards) I handed over to him.
It was my first time in Europe. This part of the world is different from my side of the hemisphere in several ways. So try to understand the thrill I felt and the pleasure the trip gave me. Allow me some hangover as well. Travelling can be exhausting. Plus I’m now back to work. Busy busy me – don’t have enough time to pen much these days. I’ll be writing more again as soon as I find the time.
My best experience during the tour: Getting to the Top of Europe. In the heart of Jungfrau/Wilderswil region – one of the most visited places in the Swiss Alps.
Switzerland is a very beautiful country. It’s one of the most expensive in the world, too. The Jungfraujoch ticket cost around P12000: close to my whole month salary. Yet we were allowed only two hours at “the top of Europe.”
I spent the most time in Kensington-London because it was the meeting place of the tour group. The area houses good museums and splendid Gothic architectural buildings.
There are a lot of things to love and enjoy in London.
It was a Sunday when we touched the grounds of Germany. The shops were closed. The charming town we visited was quiet. Peaceful.
I liked Paris the least. The city isn’t clean. It reminds me of Manila somehow. The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum are overrated, in my opinion. Though they say both of them look better at night with lights.
Btw, do you know the people in Netherlands are awesomely tall?
Honestly, the modern buildings, infrastructure in those countries are not so different from what we have here in the Philippines. Also, when it comes to natural, beautiful places – my country can be a front runner. I like Europe very much nonetheless. The people may not be warm and friendly, but they are far more disciplined – and honest I suppose. I may write about my observations in another post.