Street Harassment and Self Respect

Today began with a rough start. My friend and I are in Budapest and we had stopped to take a picture of a bridge when suddenly I felt a tap on my butt.  I figured it was someone passing by, tapping my with a handbag or hip by accident on the busy street. I was wrong. Glancing behind me I saw a guy driving away on a tiny little moped, accompanied by a group of guys laughing hysterically and glancing back at me. Naturally I was pissed off and ready to fight this guy. Under no circumstance was this acceptable. But, then it hit me just how hilarious and pathetic the situation was. Not only did he mostly miss my ass, he didn’t even do it for his own pleasure. Instead, this was his sad attempt to try and prove his fragile (or possibly nonexistent)  masculinity to his friends. He is so insecure about his image that he was literally willing to physically assault someone on the street. Also, if the guys who assaulted me (or any other guilty of street harassment) happens to read this, I have a special message for you. You disgust me.

I desperately wish people would understand assaulting people (verbally or physically) does nothing to enforce gender norms or masculinity. It only deteriorates any respect that people might have had for someone before the incident. As a society, its pathetic and deplorable that we allow this to continue. Admittedly, it is an easy thing to blow off. Women and men both find various ways to justify the behavior. Even subconsciously, we have a tendency to do it. When the incident occurred this morning the first thought that came to my mind was that I was standing in the middle of the sidewalk. It was “rude” of me. I thought that perhaps that he slapped my ass because I was in his way. But, then I thought about the MILLION other ways he could have told me to move. For all I care, he could have yelled at me, called me an ignorant tourist. Even that would have been better then the call he made. This behavior was simply disgusting and I was not to blame for the incident, nor is anyone who has even been harassed on the street.

The Downpour

Today in Budapest was significant  because of the amount of rain that fell. Being from Colorado, my friend and I drastically underestimated the rain in Budapest.

We woke up around 9 that morning and headed across the river to the “Buda” side of Budapest. From there we hiked to the fisherman’s bastion and castle hill. Coming from an elevation of 9,000 feet actually makes life much easier. As we passed other tourists that seemed to be breathing heavily from the hike, we were rolling in the extra oxygen. We felt like super-humans. From the top of the funicular (a little train that takes you up to the top of the hill) the view seems surreal. You can see the entirety of the city on a clear day. After we soaked in the view properly, we headed on to go explore the contents within the castle walls.  Besides pretty buildings and a few nicely kept gardens, there wasn’t too much to see until we finally found a museum, which had been suggested to me by a friend who recently studied abroad here.

Called the “Hospital Museum” it was actually a 5-mile long nuclear-proof bunker the had been transformed throughout that ages by different political parties and governments within Budapest. During its time it served as a hospital for both Soviet troops, nationalists, and German solders as a red cross certified safe place for everyone. Because of its intentional certification, the place was respected and spared by raids. During the later part of ww2 through the end of the cold war, it served as a nuclear-safe bunker.  On the tour, we had the chance to see the old generators, water storage supply units, air circulation systems for the tunnel, and giant diesel fuel tanks that could run everything in case of power loss. Fun Fact: We learned on the tour that the Hungarian word for “radiation” is actually “sugar.” My mind immediately went to “sugar cookies” and I wondered about the confusion and worry this might bring to Hungarian tourists in America.

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This is the entrance to the Hospital Museum / Nuclear Bunker

By the end of the day we ended up outside the Hungarian Parliament. This giant building is actually a little intimidating. Despite the armed guards every couple feet, its gothic pillars and tours accurately represent its prestige. When we sat down to enjoy the view, it had started to sprinkle rain. But by the time my friend and I had made it back to our hotel, we were drenched. My jeans were soaked and I could feel water squish between my toes as I walked. My hair had begun to drip onto my face. It seemed everyone was carrying around umbrellas except for us.  When we made it into the hotel, the front desk assistant gave us a look that might have been a mix of sympathy and disgust at the mud we just tracked into his clean lobby.

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Me, enjoying a calm  drizzle before the downpour.

Budapest: Here I Come

2016 has been a big year. It has changed me as person, for both good and bad reasons. The last five months of my life have been some of the most emotional ones I have ever experienced. Those who know me realize that I’m not one to openly express what I feel, it’s not in my nature. So as my first completed year of college comes to  an end, I’ve decided it is time to exercise my newfound freedom and take a trip across the globe.

When I first imaged taking this trip, I pictured being accompanied by my two best friends.  But, after a heartbreaking loss, it will only be my friend Lauren and I. Although our friend Luke won’t be able to accompany us physically, he will accompany us in our thoughts and our hearts. Although my trio may be gone, our original optimism and inclination for adventure continues. The world awaits and we will take it on with heavy hearts.

A year ago, I would have never pictured where I am today. Throwing together an international trip in only a week has been a challenge, but an exciting learning experience. I’m so thankful that I was raised with an international and opportunistic mind set. I get a thrill out of planning each and every new adventure.

This trip is unique because, unlike in the past when I had others doing my planning, the details were completely left up to my friend and I. To my surprise, the difficulty did not lie in the reservations or flights. The difficult part is getting ahold of the proper currency and learning enough of the language to get by. If you haven’t heard, Hungarian is arguably one of the most difficult languages to learn on the entire planet. According to wikipedia it has 14 vowel phonemes and 25 consonant phonemes… whatever that means. My overly American accent is not prepared to handle the sounds required to achieve proper pronunciation. It also turns out that Hungarian Forints aren’t typically kept in stock at currency exchange centers in the state of Colorado. Right now, our game plan for learning the language is to make friends on the plane during our layover from Heathrow to Budapest. As for currency, we are forced to try our luck at an airport currency exchange kiosk.

 

 

Napali coast… a wild adventure 

The Napali coast. It’s a natural phenomenon of which I have never seen anything similar to before. As featured in the Jurassic parks movie, it’s greenery and elegance are reflected in everything around it. The hills are best described as velvety green and the water that splashes onto the coast a turquoise blue. 

An upside to traveling with a professional rock climber is that they push your boundaries and test your adventurous limits. We left our condo around six am in order to drive up to the Napali coast where we would be doing our eight mile hike. Now eight miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is considerably more strenuous when half the trek is swimming through rivers, crawling through mud, and stumbling down boulders on near vertical surfaces. 

Our group of seven split up into two groups. Peter the rock climber, my friend Jess, and I (being the most capable for the trek) went up ahead and left the others to take a slower pace.  

As we neared the trailhead, giant warning signs greeted us.

 “Caution: flash flood area” 
“Caution: strong tide current”
“Cation: steep cliffs ahead” 
“Cation: falling rocks” 
The sight was slightly ominous. But there was a certain thrill in the air. It was almost like a challenge. It was pushing us toward the end of the world and unexplored territory. (At least unexplored to me)

It took us about three hours to hike into the back country where we would turn around and head back. The loop was 22 miles if you were to complete the entire thing. 

At the 4 miles we ended up at the bottom of the mountains near the turquoise ocean. But it was much more interesting then your adverage beach. The high tide had created a type of land bridge and a separate body of water in an inlet. It wasn’t exactly a lake, but rather a giant tide pool of smooth sand and guppies. It was only about waist deep at most, and the sun had warmed the water to almost hot tub temperature. Maybe around 90 degrees. Unlike the ocean which was staid by strong and dangerous tide, this pool was completely still even though it was only twenty feet away. It was also stunningly clear water. You could see every little detail on the bottom including variation in the color of grains of sand. It seemed surreal. 

On the side of the pool were cliff walls which opened into caves and large caverns. Being the capable adventurer he is, Peter had a head lamp so we took a look around but stopped when we noticed a deep dark underwater lake. There are very few things I fear, but I must admit this is one of them. There was an incident when I was younger that prompts me to have a fear of cave lakes and drowning in general, but we won’t go into that now. Either way there was no way in hell I was going into that water to continue. I was able to convince the others to turn back when we noticed another warning sign. 

“Caution: Do NOT swim. Possible flesh eating bacteria present” 

But as we weren’t to turn back we were handed a tempting offer. If you were to continue another two miles up the trail you would reach a waterfall with another pool at the bottom. He offered to take both Jess and I but we decided to decline once we assessed our water situation and found it was almost gone.  

At the end of the day we thankful that we had declined his offer. When we picked him up from his further adventure another four hours later, he admitted he was glad we didn’t join him. Evidently the condition of the terrain only worsened, the mid afternoon sun was scorching, and in the four hours we gave him before we picked him up he only managed to make it another mile. Worst of all, he didn’t even reach the waterfall. Given that he is a professional rock climber, this is a horrifying thought to consider how rough this trail really was. 

We learned a few days later that the state of Hawaii requires proof of experience and a license to continue past the point I went. Oops.  

I’ve adopted it as a personal goal of mine in the future to return to the island and complete the 22 mile loop. Maybe like a bucket list goal, so to say.  

 

Travel Talk 

Here I sit in San Francisco, waiting for my flight.  Our flight was supposed to be at 2:30. Air port delays are often annoying but I actually appreciate the time to get stuff done. Stuff like write this blog post.  (I may as well, because I just learned we won’t even get more information until 7 am in San Francisco. That’s 8 am in Denver.) 

It’s always an odd phenomenon when one travels on a flight longer then 5 hours. You somehow manage to experience 24 hours of sunrises, sunsets, and starry skies as you follow th skyline in that short span. Four hours ago I left the Lihue airport around sunset. Now I sit in San Francisco enjoying a chai latte and watching the sunset through a terminal window. 

This latest trip for me has been different than most others I go on. I usually travel for the excitement, thrill, history, and adventure. But this time it was a nice mix of all this stuff and a decent amount of relaxation. You don’t realize how stressed out you are until you have the opportunity to sit on a beach and analyze your life.  And I’ll let you in on a little secret. Most of those stress triggers might be just completely irrelevant in the scheme of things. 

Now…. Onto the details about my trip! 

The condo we and our family friends rented was near Poipu beach. This is a beach on the southern side of Kauai, Hawaii. It was absolutely beautiful. 

Wildlife and animals: 

Because of the heat most mornings I had a hard time sleeping in. So instead of laying in bead, I would go for walks on the beach every morning. There is something pristine and perfect about green sea turtles which were sprinkled on the beaches this time of morning before people took over the area. The full moon would draw them out and coax the onto the beach.  Besides the turtles, I also happened across a Hawaiian seal one morning. 

All over the island and not just on Poipu, wild cats and chickens have taken over. They are everywhere and although I was surprised by it, locals have just seemed to accept it as fact. You would think that the cat population would keep the chickens to a minimum, but the cats don’t seem to interested in the chicken buffet. 

Another interesting spot for birdwatching is the light house and national animal sanctuary on the northeastern side of the island. Around mid summer, which happens to be now, redfooted boobies build there nests and hatch eggs. The whole side of the rocky oceanfront looked like it had been toiltet papered by a group of troublesome teens… But instead of trash all those white  speaks were actually birds. 

Food: 

My favorite food island was by far the fruit. The Mango, pineapple, papaya, guava, and banana on the island are all to die for. Sweet, tangy, and delectable are all under statements. The next runners up were the locally caught sushi and shave ice. There’s nothing like fresh food and a cool treat on a very hot day. 

Adventures:

Well I would update you about these now, but they are nothing without picture evidence as proof. For example, when I went exploring canvas and remote beaches on the Napali Coast (where Jurassic park was filmed) it wouldn’t have same the effect without context of an image. There are certain things you can’t explain with words. 

Surf’s up

Today I learned to surf. This might not sound like a huge deal, but considering I am from Colorado, it’s a pretty unique experience for me. 

It was just about as painful as I expected, but it was surprisingly easier the I thought it would be. The key is to fall…. A lot. This is true partially because you just naturally get better with practice. But it is mostly true because I’ve realized that when you get accustomed to falling you don’t fear it anymore and the natural feel of balance slowly comes. If you aren’t fearful of falling, you aren’t distracted by it. Focus and relaxation is a pretty big deal evidently. 

Unfortunately through, when I did fall the first few times, I fell hard. Little did I know that I would end up flipping my board over a coral reef and slicing open my right foot with about five sizable gashes. Also during this incident I managed to knock the wind our of myself.  Dazed and confused, is at there holding onto my board for dear life for a few seconds before the pain subsided.

The next rookie mistake I made was letting myself get pulled into a current that ended up with me spraining my hand when I landed on the beach. My right hand got stuck under my board. Don’t ask me how… I’m not even sure myself. 

Yet despite the pain, it was totally worth it. By the end my second hour I could actually catch a wave and ride it for a few feet before face planing into the sand. When you manage to successfully ride a wave you feel like pure sunshine. It’s like you’re on top of the world and nothing can bring you down. (Well except for maybe a shark or tsunami)  

 

LA? No way…  and other interesting observations 

I am not a fan of LA. 

Well, I suppose that judgement is a little presumptuous. Let’s just say I am not a fan of LAX, or it’s airport. I have never actually spent significant time in the city besides layovers. 

As you fly into the city a layer of thick pollution coats the city. From the sky you just see mile upon mile of dirty commercial sprawl with small residencies intertwined among the urban expanse. There is no greenery on the ground, maybe with the exception of a few palm trees. This is not surprising considering the entire city is made up of one large concerted block. I believe it was Amy Poehler who once said that she will never fully understand LA.  Now I know why. 

Once our plane landed we were forced to taxi around for about half an hour before we were able find our way to a gangplank. Evidently there was a backload of flights being held up because of various mechanical issues. 

Flight attendants tell you to remain calm and quiet in this situation but I am here to tell you that “calm and quiet” doesn’t happen when you have a connecting flight to catch in exactly fifteen minutes. There is nothing more aggravating  then being held captive on an incoming flight when the seconds ticking by are an annoying reminder that your plane started to bored and you are a sitting duck several concourses away. In a situation like this, there is no chill. 

Once we finally were able to make our way off the plane, it hit me just how  appreciative of effiency I am exactly. I remember complaining a few months ago about the inconsistency and inefficiency of the Heathrow airport in London. LAX makes their connection transportation system look like first class service. Once we made out way off the plane, we were stranded on a little island in the middle of the Tarmac so we had to take a bus back to the central part of the airport. Now I wish I could say this went smoothly and quickly. But we were put on a bus where we left in the 105 degree heat for quit  some time given our tight connection . Were obviously inconvincing her because she seemed to be in the middle of a a gossip session with one of her close friends. They literally started to braid each others hair when my family and I finally got the guts to ask if we could get a move on. With an eye roll and a snort she finally asked her friend to leave so we could get a move on. Like I said before, I am used to effcency and I appreciate people who take their jobs seriously and have a little respect for the airlines who pay them. Silly me, guess I needed a reality check. 

But, somehow we still managed to catch our flight because of some sort of magical intervention from above. We made the cut off for boarding by exactly two minuets. As I write this I’m looking out the window and admiring large expanse of ocean. But on our way from Denver to LA the view was a bit more unique. The Grand Canyon indeed looks like a giant crack in the earth compared to all the flat desert around it. It was an unusual site and one I felt honored to see on such a clear day. 

 Fun fact: it takes about four minuets to fly over the Grand Canyon in a commercial jet. 

Now on our other connection from LA to Lihui, Hawaii I saw something else amazing. From above cloud level, the Pacific Ocean appeared to be the exact same shade aqua blue as the sky above it.  The fluffy clouds in between the two layers looked like a thin layer of marshmallow in this sandwich of blue. It looked like the sky had been reflected into a mirror.   (See picture below) 

Finally as we settle into our little bungalow/condo I finally have time to tell you about my journey so far. I was surprised to find that the rooms don’t have air conditioning, but the soft ocean breezes and free wifi more then make up for it. The view off our balcony happens to be that of a cactus garden. This worries me slightly because I have a bad history with cactuses. The last time I was near a cactus garden the surgeon had to pull eight thornes out of my thighs, arms, and face.