Teaching English Abroad: THE HOW TO VIDEO

After a constant influx of questions surrounding teaching English abroad and all that jazz, I decided at long last to make a brief(ish) and pretty basic video surrounding the subject…I realised as I was doing it that I shouldn’t go too far into detail as it would be a few hours long…so this really is the bare bones.

Here I talk about where you can teach English, the best sites on which to find jobs, and a couple of my own experiences surrounding the field. Will probably do a couple of more detailed videos if people seem interested!

Any questions just get in touch! 

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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2016 Travel Plans…

Here is a brief run-down of my plan for 2016…it’s rather comprehensive – but if I pull it off then that’ll mean a whole host of new stories for Storytime with John! 

So wish me luck, please!

Oh, and if you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Broke? Travel Anyway!

I often get emails, and messages from people – asking the same question – “how do you afford travel? Are you from a rich family? Do you have connections? Did you get some crazy compensation deal – and have decided to blow it all on roaming the world rather than making sound investments?!” 

Well, no. No to all of those. I wish it was something as easy as being in a car accident – and getting free money, but it isn’t. It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz…it looks like a spectacular vision until you see the cogs turning behind the curtain. Yes, the actual facts of the matter are a lot less glossy – and  whilst this may be hard to take for some…I actually work. 

Take my first major trip on my own, for example. My year abroad studying in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

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For two years before that I worked at an electrical store, moving televisions around, and trying to sell people outdated SCART cables they didn’t want…taking overtime whenever I could, whilst also taking shifts at my Aunt’s pub on the weekend…all the while squirreling away money whenever possible. With no disrespect intended, I wasn’t like the others that were accepted on to the study abroad programme (Newcastle UK – Atlanta USA) there would be no money from my Mother, or Father…I’m one of five children, I would feel rude even asking.

But I made it – and before I knew it I was in the midst of my own travel scrapbook! Carving out new memories for myself…whether it be visa worries at passport control, attempting to make the transition to the different pace of American life, or dancing insane jigs with Waka Flocka, I had flew from the ordinary day-to-day, and was living out these once impossible fantasies!

Sounds dreamy, dreamy – I’m sure? But the truth was my budgeted money soon ran out, and there were a couple of very hairy months – I recall that after weeks of eating next to nothing I sent my parents a whimpering email explaining the situation…and I received something along the lines of – “you’ll figure it out.” And I felt it was harsh, but the fact is…you will…if you want it that badly – you will. (And I’m still alive, so I guess I did!)

Study abroad programmes can be a great way to get away, and experience a different culture first hand – there are often great schemes, and incentives – with mine I was actually reimbursed for any costs throughout the year. Which meant I had thousands to play with at the end of it all – long story short, two weeks in Greece with some of my best friends from back home. 

My second major trip came just after I graduated university- although I was recruited before I had even been given my degree…and a month after I flew out to Beijing, China.

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Again I had saved, and saved working some terrible job – this time around it was a sportswear store, selling people trainers, and trying not to touch their sweaty feet as I assisted them with trying on their shoes. Not ideal – but a means to an end. This was just so I had some initial spends, as the programme actually flew me out at no cost, and many of the site-seeing trips, and other interesting adventures were paid for, or massively subsidised.

Either way, there I was again – in a totally foreign, and unknown environment…forced out of my comfort zone…but that’s what it’s all about…I was experiencing all of the weirdness, that was so different to anything the 9 to 5 version of myself would be encountering…whether it be bizarre disputes over taxi fares, relaxed views to public pooping, or trying to sample local dishes without being sick (such as dog) – I knew these were memories that would last a lifetime.

And thanks to the cheap day-to-day living China affords, I was able to save a little for the NEXT trip…you see, that is important – always have the next trip in mind. 

My third major trip to Scandinavia came unexpectedly…but was well worth it…

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My sister – someone who has worked all over the world with nothing more than a can-do attitude, and flexibility – found a two month long  job in the Arctic Circle at a remote lodge…it was placed right between Sweden, and Finland. Did I fancy it? Well…OF COURSE I DID! There was a catch though, we had to fly out (again at their expense, so no worries) the following day! You see, sometimes the opportunity comes abruptly, and if you ponder over it too much, it will go to someone else – you sometimes just have to grab it, and say YES! 

And I certainly did. Before I knew it I was crashing snowmobiles in Sweden, experiencing The Shining effect first hand in Finland, and after I finished my contract – experiencing the raw natural beauty of the Norwegian Fjords first hand.

The work was often not pretty; six day weeks, with long hours – and if my boss was ever pissed off he would make me scrub toilets for an ungodly amount of time…but still…huski racing? The Northern Lights? Spending a night in an igloo? You can’t tell me that wasn’t worth it. 

For my next major trip, I was off to South Korea! I scraped together the last of my meager savings – put up with the horrendous visa process…and then went on my way!

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And I couldn’t have asked for more! Yet again I was flown out at my employer’s expense, provided with a cosy home to stay in for free, and continue to live very comfortably – whilst also having an amazing time, with some amazing kids, in a truly amazing country! And, using Korea as a base, I have been able to save very efficiently, which allows for a great many adventures; including a  Christmas trip to Vietnam,  an interesting excursion to North Korea’s border, a heat-stricken jaunt to Nepal…back home to England, and Scotland – then on to Italy, Hungary, and Austriathen…well, you get the picture – the world suddenly doesn’t seem as hugely inaccessible as it once did!

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You see it’s not difficult, you just make it difficult. If you really want to travel, like really, really want to…then be willing to work, and be willing to take every opportunity. Rich, or not – you’ll get there – so stop just posting random sunset photographs, with “W A N D E R L U S T” etched over them, and start planning that next trip…and start filling up your passport, and with it your little book of memories. 

~

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GET THE DADBOD!

Some words of advice from my Eastern European(?!) alter-ego…not sure where he came from but whatever – DADBOD! GET ON IT!

I’m silly sometimes, sorry. Okay…all the time…

If you have a video request you can leave a comment, or send me an email – if it’s a cool/interesting idea then I will get to it as soon as I can!

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Please buy my collection of stories! Get it in paperback here – or on Kindle here! ALL proceeds go towards Macmillan Cancer Support!

Waffling On (Belgium)

Belgium ~ Bruge – 2004

I re-watched the fantastic film In Bruges recently, and it reminded me of my trip there over ten years ago! Back then I had no idea about what to expect from this idyllic little spot…I remember asking my Mother, and her telling me something about riding a canal boat.

Didn’t exactly sound like party central to the thirteen year old me!

Canal Bruge GIF

But what I found in Bruges, was a treasure trove of beauty, and a haven of delicious things!

I mean the beautiful Gothic center alone, some of which dates back to the 1200s, is simply awe inspiring…and reason enough to visit as it’s an amazing place to just wander around. It is one of those places, that is nice to get lost in…unfortunately, after a while your arm hurts from all the whoa, look at that pointing when you spot little things of interest…but that’s actually alright, because you can sooth your pain by eating your body weight in some of the finest waffles on the planet!The best emporiums make it in front of you, which is a bit of a tease, but makes the experience all the more special…then you layer them in cinnamon, and sugar…I can’t stress enough, how good these things are – they are crunchy on the outside, and chewy in the middle (if done right!)…oh sweet Jesus, Mary, Moses…that stuff is the thing of heaven.

I can picture that first bite now…that taste that made my whole life flash before my eyes…

Life Flash GIF

Speaking of which, I remember buying a couple of bags of them, to bring back, and share with friends at school. They were battered, and broken by the time we arrived back in the UK…I remember the surge of secret glee I felt at considering they would probably not want them anymore…I’d pretend to be hurt for a bit, then take them home, and scoff the lot myself! Fools!

But that didn’t happen, and I had to fight back bitter tears as I watched the waffles deplete one after another, till I was left with a load of empty plastic bags,  and even more regret. So word to the wise, triple what you think a normal sane person would bring back…and then triple it again. In fact, you will want to pick up some of the delicious chocolate too…so best to just bring an empty case, or throw out all of your clothes, and possessions before you leave so you can have plenty of space for that which is more important: confectionery items. In fact, it is totally okay to tie whoever you are travelling with up, and use their plane seat as extra storage for all of the tasty treats you want to bring home with you.

I know I am waffling a lot, about…well, waffles…but if you are going to waffle on, then what better subject than waffles? I can’t get waffles out of my head…there’s nothing else I can remember about the place…

Oh wait, no ~ did I mention beer?!

Beer Bruge GIF

I was underage by quite a bit, but from what I remember this wasn’t a huge issue, I mean having a little try isn’t a big deal…right? Well apparently not, so we headed to a brewery, which doubled as a museum – and were shown around…we saw all of the machines in action, and were told the history of the place by the cheery owner. He would stop us every so often, and let us try small tasters of each type they produced. I felt like a rebel with every sip, but looking back, the only person who thought I was being naughty was…well, me! 

After a short while the tour came to a close, and I will never forget the Belgian’s closing line…and I quote directly;

“So you have seen what we have, and you have tasted what we have…so I now hope that you no longer drink that English piss. Thank you very much!” 

He then did a little bow, as the group laughed and applauded. I mean, yeah – our beer does taste like horse-piss…even worse when you compare it to the Belgian stuff…but come on, low blow. Mind, he wasn’t all bad, as after that jibe he handed out coupons for one free pint of any beer we wanted! Perfect, the day was getting better, and better! 

“I’ll take that! You won’t be allowed it anyway…” that was my Dad – all I could see was a cloud of smoke, as he sped off to pick up my beer for himself. My Mother snatched my sisters, and quickly followed after him.

There was only one thing for it, only one way in which we could drown the sorrow that accompanies huge losses in life…“another waffle?” I suggested…

And you know what? The world felt right again. So in short my friends…although this was a funny line in the film…

Bruge GIF

I can’t say I agree! Because, well…I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I was still pretty impressed!

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Hate at First Sight (Hungary)

Hungary ~ Budapest – 2014

I hadn’t been to Hungary in well over five years, so on this recent trip to eastern Europe I was hoping for a different experience with more mature eyes…for those of you who didn’t read it before, this was my last encounter with the country:- “scrotum-stares-hungary” I mean the name says it all…but it’s still probably worth a quick read just so you are up to speed!

Anyway, rest assured I had my fingers crossed hoping that there would be a lot less scrotums this time around, and a little less staring if possible! Well the short version is that I didn’t see any scrotums on this adventure (automatic huge plus!), but the staring was at threat level midnight! This time there was a lot more hostility to the gazes, I think it was due to the fact that I was now a young man…so therefore probably fair game, perhaps when I was a child they didn’t think it was so acceptable to give me the type of look that suggests they want to rip off my head and use it as an ornament, or more likely – an ash tray.

Hostile GIF

As my brother and I walked around it became clear that the male portion of the population were the most forthright in their glares – they sneered, growled, and made every other caveman-ish attempt to make us feel uncomfortable. We stood out I guess, the native’s clothes looked like they had been purchased in the early 90s…usually the look was completed with a raggedy mullet curling down the flabby neck of its owner – so in comparison, despite the fact we were just wearing shirts and dark jeans, in their eyes we may as well have been wearing Elton John style glitter jackets. This is largely conjecture, but we came to the conclusion that they probably thought we were two young homosexual chaps on a nice week break together…and that they would try and laser-eye the homosexuality out of us, or at least make us feel sufficiently uncomfortable with the whole thing. Hard to enjoy licking an ice cream cone, with 20 bigoted men staring at your every movement. Very awkward. 

On the subway we took to staring at the ground, pretending we were not aware of the blatant display of hatred – in our hometown it was pretty much the same drill in certain areas. Both places were filled with people who will aggressively stare, and if you even glance at them it will be all, “are you looking at me?! You want to start something?! Someone hold my brain I’m going to fuck this cheeky bastard up!!!” I can’t speak Hungarian, but I imagine it is pretty much the same, word for word. One time we stepped on the train, cue hateful stares of course – but this time we were also met with a strange gypsy-looking lady humming a bizarre tune loudly to the rest of the cramped carriage…I assumed she was asking for money for her performance, but nope…she was just rocking back and forth wailing out of her lungs…this would make a great eerie tune on a horror movie sequence, I thought to myself…but was cut short from this imaginary sequence by a mustached man in front of me – he pointed at my trainers, so naturally I looked down…maybe my laces were untied, or a bird had shit on them or something…nothing…I looked back at him, and he pointed again – oh God, leave me alone – I shook my head, and looked away, wondering if my ear drums would explode anytime soon so I wouldn’t have to be subjected to the lady’s groaning tune anymore –

“JUST LOOK, JUST LOOK!”

I knew it was him. I took my time to turn to face him, and even when I did it was with a slow robotic movement…I didn’t want to have anything more to do with him, but perhaps if I didn’t give him drips of conversation he would pin me down and make me listen to the harpy-lady’s song for the rest of time. And I couldn’t take that. He made gestures that insinuated he wanted me to take of my shoes, and give them to him…you know, just so he could look.

Oh my God, I am going to be beaten up and robbed for my trainers…I’ll have to walk back to the flat in my socks…I bet there will be loads of little stones that are mildly uncomfortable to tread on…oh God, no…just FUCK OFF, comb your mustache, slap a Gran, go cow-tipping, something, anything – whatever you do – JUST LEAVE ME ALONE!!!

So scared GIF

I shot him a confused look, that in my head would be perfect Oscar-winning acting…”I done, I done no…what you say…when…I done” I stammered to him slowly, even introducing my hands and shoulders, to further emphasise just how little sense his broken English was making to me…in my head I was Russian…but I suppose it doesn’t really matter, so long as he didn’t run off with my Nike Airs.

We arrived at a station, the doors opened – and the majority of the cabin flooded out together, they had been some kind of strange collective group…the strange singing lady, the burly sneaker thief, and the rest of his staring entourage. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief…as did my shoes.

Stepped in shit on the way back to the flat though, go figure – should have left him have em after all! 

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Anything but Fine (Austria)

Austria ~ Vienna – 2014

As I walked the streets of Vienna, I couldn’t help but realise something; (well…aside from the gorgeous architectural heritage sprawled out on every block, and the cheery friendly folk inhabiting the bustling pavements!) No, instead what gripped me more intensely was something a lot less in your face – something that passes you by quite easily, but once you notice it – you cannot stop seeing it…Vienna is very clean, well maintained – which is great and everything, but it appears that rules are followed completely by just about everyone. I have probably lost you there, why is this a bad thing you may ask? So let me explain…the reason this struck me as unusual is that it all felt a little…well…forced. Yes, yes, people were following the rules but it was to the letter! Perhaps I am a hoodlum and I don’t even realise it, but it all made me a little uncomfortable at times.

It reminded me of a programme I used to watch as a kid – The Demon Headmaster; where the crazy head of the school would take off his glasses and hypnotise the kids into doing his will…sounds super, super paedo crazy these days I know, but it was a different climate, and the innocent child’s mind doesn’t see it that way. Anyway so in the show the afflicted kids would walk around in a daze just obeying orders, when I saw that crowds of people were standing at the pedestrian stop sign despite the fact that there was not a single vehicle in sight, it made me sure that there was something in the water here, or there was a hypnotism feature built into the Austrian television. It was the only theory that made sense to me.

Demon-Headmaster GIF

Of course my brother and I didn’t have the same problem, we simply assessed the situation and crossed the road – after all, we were drinking bottled water (ahem…okay, okay…I mean beer) and were only watching streamed episodes of our favourite comedy shows on my laptop. So we were safe! Coming to think of it that’s probably a top travel tip, so perhaps you ought to write it down? Just a thought.

You’ve probably already guessed that this policy of ours ended up badly.

On one ill-fated occasion we stopped at the end of the pavement for the red man – just as the rest of the drone population did, we looked right, then left – then repeated – feel free to compliment me on my road safety skills, cheers! – we subsequently came to a conclusion it was safe to cross due to there being NO traffic whatsoever and, well…did so!

WAAHHHHHH-WAHHHHH!” a bizarre screeching sound rang out behind me once I had reached the middle of the small road – I turned around slightly in shock, and in my peripheral vision saw a plump lady dressed in a strange outfit, still screaming and gyrating wildly – naturally I took her to be an absolute mental case, so quickly rushed myself over to safety! Phew!

Running GIF

“Fucking pigs!” my brother joked under his breath,

“What?” I chuckled, vaguely confused,

We continued walking as he explained that the high pitched noise had been two policewomen who had probably been kicking off about crossing the road on a red man – we shrugged in a ah well no big deal kinda way, and went back to the map, we were lost – that’s for sure – but we didn’t really care much, we had ate a huge lunch and a few…err…bottles of water, so we were happy to just wander about aimlessly…we got to the next block and stopped at the red man signal – this time around he was right, the road was impassible as cars streamed wildly in and out, honking as they went.

AAAY! AAAY!” something screamed in my ear hole,

“Erm, hi?” I replied – to the two extremely pissed off ladies standing next to me,

SHLURGUNN-SHLURGUNN-SHLOOZHLE, SHLIGINN…” one of them was blabbering away some total nonsense with aggressive vigor, as the other stood arms crossed, intermittently nodding in agreement.

Confusion GIF

“We don’t understand you, sorry, we-” my brother began,

“English – English!” I begged,

OH, O-KAY. YOU RUNNING AND LAUGHING!” she blurted out, red in the face with emotion,

“No…no…” I almost giggled at the thought of being apprehended for laughing, but held myself together…”I didn’t run or laugh, I would never do tha -”

YES!” interrupted the other one – “YOU LOOKED AROUND! SAW US STANDING! LAUGHED! THEN LOOKED AGAIN! LAUGHED AGAIN! THEN WITH THE RUNNING AWAY! YES!”

Oh my goodness! I really was a menace, somebody stop me!

I glanced at my brother uneasily, glaring with wide eyes – we were both sporting the standard ruby coloured Taggart cheeks – as per usual in awkward situations such as these! I tried to plead my innocence but it was a lost cause, she had fabricated some story blatantly: I mean do I look like the kind of guy who would laugh? Or run? Or even worse, do them both together? Of course not.

SO NOW YOU PAY. YES. THIRTY EUROS – SO IT’S SIXTY EUROS FOR TWO.”

“WHAT?!” my brother exclaimed,

YES! Eeen London you can’t jus cross the road…we knows zis…you have to-”

“YES YOU CAN! IF YOU WANT TO CROSS, YOU…YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO CROSS THE ROAD, REALLY?”

YAH – NO – you cannot in London, it’s the rule – so -”

“WELL IT’S A RIDICULOUS RULE!” he replied defiantly, “yes, yes! It may be a ridiculous rule – but it is the rule, so we have to follow it!” Urgh, what a great mentality to have…I glanced down at my feet because I wasn’t sure where to look, and became aware of the sympathetic stares from the other drone members of the public – which appeared to range from sympathetic looks to shakes of the head…I bet this shit happens all the time, I mean it should be an unofficial rule that if someone looks clueless and has a map in their hand there should be some form of leniency! My brother was going off on one, but despite the fact I was pissed off, I had sudden flashbacks to documentaries about young guys being locked up for years in foreign parts for some bogus crimes, and as we had a plane to catch the next day, I couldn’t see how this would fit into our itinerary:

Prison GIF

“Alright, okay. JAMES – shh…”

I grabbed my wallet and sniffled as I counted out fifty Euros, my brother muttered that he had barely any money left – “HE HAS FIFTY SO HE PAYS.” Of course, of course I do. As I handed over the money I felt my blood pressure rise and every vein in my eyeballs throb – “so where does this money go?” my brother began to inquire, “IT GOES TO US – THEN WE TAKE IT TO THE BUILDING AND YES!” So basically straight in their back pocket then. Fantastic! They began to fill out some little ticket sheet, didn’t once ask for names or any form of ID, or well…anything…just took the money and then that was that.

FIned

We began to walk off down the street (rather than crossing like we had originally planned), just to get away from them – but they followed, we quickened our pace to try and escape – but they stayed with us, largely because we had to be sure to stop and wait for the green man at every crossing. Eventually we looped around and made a break for it, eventually getting back to the hotel where I could top my wallet back up from my stash.

“Fucking ridiculous that!” my brother would repeat, over and over, “THIRTY EUROS?! Fucking ridiculous that!” I would nod and agree, shedding a private tear at paying FIFTY Euros for the privilege of crossing the road when my own brain told me I should. I was also a little irked that someone who had paid ten Euros was being more vocal in outrage than myself…perhaps he had forgotten…I should remind him…nahhh, save that for a rainy day – bank that gold for an argument in the future.

Celebrate GIF

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More from this country below:

https://storytimewithjohn.com/2014/08/28/not-so-fancy-footwork/

Not so Fassi! (Italy)

Italy ~ Rome – 2014

Maps are annoying. I mean, that’s why some genius invented the isn’t it? But when you are without a car in a foreign country, people would be right to think you are odd (at best), or a complete and utter maniac, if you were to wander the streets clutching a big chunky device that is shouting out – “TURN RIGHT AFTER 100 YARDS!” You couldn’t really argue with them for coming to this logical conclusion…I mean you would look mad. That’s unquestionable, even if you did have the Sean Connery setting on…actually, perhaps that would be even worse.

With all that said, I did run into some problems with regular map-reading in Italy. Stupid problems that other people probably wouldn’t have encountered…but problems all the same. You see the friendly chap (Paolo) at the hotel had given me a map and had outlined all of the sites I should look for – I think I still have it somewhere…yeah, here we are –

Fassi Pic

Yeah, so he outlined where we can see the Roman Colosseum, Vatican City, and all of the other tourist must sees, which was awfully nice of him. He did it all with such zeal and enthusiasm, as if he had built them with his own hands just yesterday – he also gave us a recommendation for a historic ice cream place he appeared very excited about: Palazzo del Freddo Giovanni Fassi, or Fassi Ice cream to ignorant foreign souls like myself. Paolo also recommended that “people like you”, I assume he meant people who are so white they are practically see-through, really ought to stay indoors during the hottest period of the Italian summer day; which is 1-4pm ish. He certainly doesn’t need to tell me twice! I’ve had my fingers burned enough times!

I’ve also had my ears, nose, cheeks, back, and various other parts burned as well…but that’s not the well known saying, so I…yeah…anyway, sorry, you get the point.

So yeah, with the inferno hours well remembered, the next day we set out relatively early, to give us some time before the unforgiving sun turned my neck into pork crackling. I grabbed my trusty annotated map and headed out the door! I had a good idea of the general way we would be heading, but by coincidence we bumped into Paolo as we were on route, and I was able to double check if I was going in the the right direction – “yes, yes! You are exactly, exactly!” Brilliant! It was all working out! I mean so far we were only at the end of the street the hotel was on…but still, we were exactly, exactly! Woooo!

However before we knew it we found ourselves in a very different setting. We had already passed by some boarded up buildings, as well as what appeared to be a deserted railway system… “this can’t be it, there’s no way, this can-” I interrupted my little sister, shrieking defiantly that it is DEFINITELY the right way, as it said so on the map. As I attempted to avoid her gaze I took a brief look around the immediate vicinity…on second thought it certainly didn’t look like the kind of place where you would find a traditional ice cream shop. Why you ask? Well, for one the entire inhabitants were wearing patchwork coats despite the heat, there was also this little man-made cardboard village in a neat row behind some rubbish bins – complete with cardboard doors and tears for window holes…oh and someone was warming their hands over an oil barrel whilst whistling a tune…and…well, long story short, we had clearly stumbled into the bad side of town.

Fearful GIF

Maybe it’s up there? Past that, errrr, cardboard bit?” I muttered halfheartedly…

There is no ice cream here John. Let’s go.”

Argh, no – it has to be here! Paolo said…Paolo said!”

Eventually I had to accept defeat. And one thing was for certain, I was very upset, I mean we had came here with one purpose, and that was to sample some of the world’s best ice cream – but instead I was walking through a piss stench-filled subway for the second time today…life can be so harsh sometimes guys, it is often too much to manage.

I took another look at the map…and instantly recognised that I had lead us to the location of where he had wrote Fassi Ice Cream, rather than where he had pointed with the red arrow…

“Well, I said that John – you didn’t listen!”

YOU MUST HAVE WHISPERED IT, BECAUSE I DIDN’T HEAR IT!” I barked back, delirious with hunger after skipping breakfast…I had expected to be well on my way to diabetes by now, and my instant reaction was an insane uncontrollable anger – I suppose I am a little like The Hulk but instead my problem is people won’t like me when I am hungry. I’ll be the first to admit I am a horrible, horrible person when I haven’t ate. Just the worst.

Hungry GIF

Sorry…I…let’s just head back this way, okay?”

We looped around the corner beside the railway tracks, and as we passed the bushes we were met with two grubby looking gentlemen who were taking up most of the pathway – we automatically went in single file to allow for us to both pass, it was a pretty tight squeeze as they were refusing to budge! As we tried to nudge our way past something caught my eye – I glanced down at one of the two – then looked back in front, glanced down again – what was that? I looked back in front, glanced down again – then looked back in front…errrrrrr…one of them had just made direct bleary eye contact with me, whilst in the process of shooting heroin in one of his thin arms…errrrrrr…I suddenly remembered my manners and gave him a friendly nod, which I coupled with a hiya, probably not exactly the right setting for such a phrase…but it was all that came out of my dry, raspy throat.

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We continued on in single file, around the short bend of the path – I tried to glance behind my shoulder, to see if they were following – actually I was expecting to have someone leap on me whilst wildly jabbing a used needle in my neck repeatedly – perhaps I have an over-active imagination, but it was actually pretty terrifying.

Anyway, a little dark, I know, apologies! But it gets WORSE! Once we actually got to the ice cream shop after a huge nightmarish detour, I accidentally picked out the wrong flavour…with devastating results…you see, the flavours were unnamed – they only had little pictures on…so I thought I was getting chocolate, caramel, and toffee – but instead I actually got chocolate, tiramisu, and rum n’ raisin:

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IT WAS HORRIBLE. The rum flavour was so heavy that it overpowered the other ones completely…my God it was foul…I had basically skipped breakfast in lieu of some strong rum – if I wasn’t on holiday you would rightly call me an alcoholic. But as we all should know, there are a whole different set of rules regarding alcohol when it comes to vacations! Thankfully!

I spent the rest of the day trying not to be too disappointed, and of course when I ran into Paolo later I told him nothing other than:

“Yeah! Found the place no problem! Thanks for the map! Ice cream…wow…best I have ever had!”

I wonder whether every single person does the same thing, you know – just out of politeness…next time I’ll tell him the truth…mehh, who am I kidding?

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Fancy footwork!

My couple of days in Austria were for the most part overwhelmingly positive, (stay tuned for the single negative part in another post soon!) – I mean, the place is beautiful; filled with breathtaking architecture, some of the best art the world has ever seen, and people who are warm and friendly – especially when compared with their far more stern and stand-offish Hungarian neighbours. Case in point, in Hungary someone tried to have a go at stealing my trainers…in Austria a stranger saw me battling with a map and pointed me in the right direction…

Also the coffee in Hungary tastes like someone has put some coffee granules in their mouths, washed it about with a bit of luke warm water, and then spat it into warm-ish milk – making sure to stir thoroughly before serving to unsuspecting customers. Coffee in Austria is totally on point: espresso that makes you feel like it isn’t such a big deal that you haven’t slept more than four hours a night for a week straight…now I look at the situation with fresh well rested eyes, I am starting to question whether the caffeine situation has a lot to do with my (probably) terrible bias – yeah, probably – so apologies to both sides, but you do both have great cakes – so perhaps you can take solace in that? Joint first on the cake podium? No? Okay.

Continue reading “Fancy footwork!”

Scrotum Stares

Hungary – Budapest ~ 2005

If you ever venture to Eastern Europe, then be prepared for one thing – the stares. They’re wonderful places, and they’re filled with just as wonderful people (I’m sure), but it seems, that wherever you go, the total sum of its inhabitants can’t help but stare you down with a look that says “I’m seriously going to murder you and harvest your organs”. But you know…different cultures, one love, live and let live. All that jazz.

Ermmm. Moving swiftly on!

Anyway, I’ve visited the city of Budapest, in Hungary, a couple of times – and apart from the vicious murderous stares that I’ve just mentioned, I find it to be a beautiful and culturally rich place, what with the elaborate architecture and historic monuments, I would probably recommend it to any would-be tourist! That is, if it wasn’t for the scrotums. You see no trip to Budapest is complete without a visit to the Turkish bath spas…

“You just have to try them! (People will tell you!) You’ll feel so relaxed and it will just melt away your stress!”

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Well you know what people? Call me a prude if you like, but there is something about a large group of naked 80 year men staring at me while I shower that makes me uncomfortable…maybe it’s the fact that they’re licking their lips? Maybe it’s the fact that their testicles are hanging down to their knees? Who knows…but hey, it didn’t do much for relieving my stress…even when they massaged my shoulders without me giving consent. I didn’t mean to seem ungrateful or anything,  but the whispering in my ear was a bit much.

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