Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The kindness of strangers makes the world go round

Today as I was leaving the airport in Maastricht, Holland (read: too small to have maps or tourist information at the airport), a cab driver asked if I wanted a ride. He said if a bunch of us rode together we could do it for 10 euro each and not have to wait for the bus. 

I make my way to the bus stop and forget this guy. I asked a woman there if she knew how to get to my hostel, and she knew the general area and could point me in the right direction. Score. 

Not five minutes later, my friend the enterprising cab driver pulls up and says, "you didn't find anyone? Six euro each." 

Well, I found someone then -- four someones, including the woman who was going to tell me where to go. They all pile into the cab. I stand on the curb like a schmuck and pray, yelling in my head, "I'm the one who's totally lost here. The cheap cab is mine!" Why did I ever leave Ireland? At least they speak the same language. Why did I leave the U.S.? I know my way around Utah. 

I got in the bus and got off at a large bus station because a) it was near the river and looked about where it was on the map I looked up but foolishly didn't print off, b) my lost friend told me to get off at the main bus station and this looked pretty main and c) everyone else was getting off. I'm totally a lemming. 

While there I made friends with a British woman who also wasn't entirely sure where she was going, and we asked a couple of Dutch men for help. They gave us enough guidance to get us in the right direction, including finding a city map. I found my hostel with ease after that, including the good news that I'm alone in my room, the bathroom is attached and my window looks out onto the river. It's really beautiful. 

All if this happened after the airportravaganza. I discovered too late that my bag was too big to carry on. No big deal, just check it when I arrive, right? Wrong. That would cost approximately seven times what my ticket cost. I could gate check it, for the price of four times my ticket, but that was only if the plane had room. If it didn't, the bag stayed. 

At this point, I did what any reasonable person would do -- find a flight to Copenhagen that left after mine did and see if it had open seats, just in case I couldn't gate check my bag. 

It turns out I could; it actually turned out that I easily could have fit my backpack into the overhead compartment. C'est la vie. 

Upon arrival in Maastricht, I watched my bag go around and around the carousel as the customs officer grilled people. I wasn't sure he was going to let me in the country. I assured him I did have a ticket out of the EU, that I wasn't staying in the Netherlands for more than a few days and my purpose was not nefarious. He wanted to know when I'd arrived in Europe and through what city. 

" Dublin," I answered. 

"And also Germany?" Looking at my passport, oozing distrust. 

"That was last year," I said, wondering what would happen if my passport was rejected. 

It wasn't, he stamped me, and I collected my bag, at this point the only one there. 

My morning in Dublin was chill. I went to the natural history museum and the National Museum of Ireland. It was at this second museum that I heard a little girl charge into the Vikings exhibit. 

"Look at the monster!" She squealed, running to a Norse skeleton. 

"That's not a monster," her mother said. "That's what's inside all of us. It's nothing to be afraid of." 

"It's a monster," the girl repeated. 

However, judging by her lit-up face, fear wasn't what she was thinking. 

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