Ongoing Europe Investigation

Prior to the lone exploration of France and Belgium, I learned of the French’s common disinclination towards speaking English due to their pride and history of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) with the United Kingdom. With Paris being one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, I assumed the majority of the city residents, especially those employed in hotels or restaurants, were obliged to study English. However, oftentimes when I sought assistance with directions, I noticed the civilians’ frequent deliberate avoiding, ignoring, and even mocking me. One evening, I heard an arbitrary ignoramus call me the b-word in Korean a couple of times on my way back to my hotel, but I had already walked too far to turn around and retaliate. Regardless of what kind of behavior some strangers carried, I took this traveling experience to further educate myself on people of different cultures. The natives of France, though many were gone on vacation, appeared either overly generous, such as buying me a subway ticket when I was lost, or inexplicably rude, like utterly disregarding my questions and presence as if I did not even exist. I did not spot anyone in-between, neither benevolent nor malevolent. The progressive stressing of my feet from walking and dehydration drastically wore my patience thin, and I at times instinctively threw cruel phrases I should have kept under control.

Bonjour, France & Belgium!

Bonjour, France & Belgium!

Upon my arrival in Paris, after checking into my two-star hotel room about the size of a standard apartment bathroom, I proceeded to the bus tour to examine as many historic sites as time permitted. Consequently, I crossed out most plans on my six-day travel list on the first day and hence needed to search for additional activities to pursue. With a friend’s suggestion, I reserved the following day solely for the Louvre, the largest museum in the world. Because I seldom focus on every piece of art on display in detail, I underestimated the immense size of the building and quantity of artworks. In spite of how quickly I walked through each object, by the time I left the museum, I had still spent nearly eight hours inside. With Paris being neighbors with Belgium, I used the third day to travel to Brussels, once again riding on the bus tour to apply the time wisely and to the fullest. Due to the minuteness of the city, adventuring in a vehicle helped me witness virtually every significant tourist attraction, including the top of the Atomium, outside the Royal Palace, and various cathedrals, in a few hours. Misplacing my twenty-one-euro bus tour pass in-between caused a temporary panic; nonetheless, the bus I hopped on next to explain the situation to the driver coincidentally ended up being the same bus where I had dropped my copy of the receipt, letting me retrieve official access to the tour without any added cost. Brussels’ tomato soup and spaghetti momentarily flew my soul to Heaven, but the city’s incomprehensible refusal to offer free water brought my conscience back to Earth.

I chose the Palace of Versailles to spend the fourth day. A lack of signs and clarity near the initial gate led to line confusions, as I waited in the wrong line for the first forty minutes until a man in front of me informed me I needed to purchase an admission ticket first elsewhere. He saved my spot, but reaching the box office before he entered the palace appeared unlikely. Luckily, a couple who bought an extra ticket for a person soon sold that to me, as that person did not show up. The ornateness of the palace motivated me to become successful and, one day, live in a house remotely as decorated. I chased after other tourist attractions in Versailles following the royal tour, but the city did not offer much else. I completed the final two days visiting two more celebrated museums, Les Invalides and Musee d’Orsay, and shopping, though Le Tour de France on the day of departure prevented me from sightseeing world-famous shopping street Champs-Elysees.

To gain cultural experience, I utilized my friendly and outgoing personality to converse with and befriend numerous individuals from diverse countries. Since Europe comprises many of the world’s prominent tourist attractions, traveling on this continent creates various opportunities to interact with those outside one’s background and comfort zone, widening his or her perspectives on the world. This third trip to Europe in a year certainly served this purpose, opening my eyes to aspects previously unfamiliar to me.

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Cruising to the Bahamas

I was originally scheduled to leave for a cruise to the Bahamas two weeks earlier for four nights on Carnival Sensation, but the unusual delay of my employment authorization document card delivery prevented me from leaving the United States without taking the risk of being forbidden to return. With the travel ticket being nonrefundable and nontransferable, I did not want to see that money go to waste. Following a series of persistent phone calls with managers of Priceline, where I purchased my original ticket, I eventually was connected to a benevolent experienced representative, who rescheduled the cruise to two weeks after for additional fees and an extra night on Carnival Fantasy, departing from and arriving in a nearer port to my home. I bought the cheapest round-trip bus ticket available online, but the company’s vagueness threw two bullets at me on my way to Charleston, South Carolina, from where the cruise departed. The bus was prepared to leave at 4:30 in the morning, and until five minutes to departure time, I waited at the bus company’s headquarters instead of the bus station. The gate was locked, and the 24/7 helpline remained unresponsive to my calls. My brother, who drove me, estimated where the bus should have been and took me to the proper location; I arrived two minutes to 4:30. I sprinted to the front desk to print out my tickets, but the clerk, observing my desperation, decided to play with my emotions, sluggishly chatting with other customers behind me during my turn and asking me, “Am I supposed to hop up and down for you?” I had never longed to knock every one of someone’s teeth out that badly. I safely made it onto the bus, but the driver soon required I bring a tag for my bag. I ran back inside the office and filled out and brought back a tag, but he was requesting a confirmation tag from the front desk. The aforementioned classless clerk had deliberately not printed out my tag when I received my tickets to make me come back. While conversing with a man beside me on the bus, I fell asleep for a couple of hours. A minute after waking up, I heard the bus driver announce that passengers going to Charleston must step off the bus and transfer. I did not know I had to switch onto a different bus, and had I remained asleep for minutes longer, I would have missed the cruise. I could not help but accredit God for saving me twice and safely bringing me to the ship.

Traveling alone on a cruise while most people came in couples or families, I felt awkward from time to time, but this also allowed me to befriend numerous strangers of different ages from various parts of the world. Most people appeared to enjoy my company. Food was unlimited, and once I purchased limitless soda, my instinct forced me to abuse the heavenly deal. I, on average, ordered four to five plates of expensive luxurious appetizers and main dishes and three to four desserts every dinner. I likely had the travel ticket’s worth of food, if not more. I caught an arbitrary cold on the second day and felt feeble until the end of the trip, especially the two days the ship landed in the Bahamas, first in Freeport and second in Nassau. Therefore, I sought and participated in short and inexpensive events, going to the nearest sea in Freeport and riding on a ferryboat to Paradise Island in Nassau, and returned to the ship fairly early. Carnival Fantasy itself offered countless games and shows, involving music, trivia, auctions, gambling, and parties, that guests could never run out of entertainment sources.

The most memorable yet embarrassing event must have been the 18+ competition. I was wandering around and just happened to sit in the room that held the contest without knowing the details minutes prior to the hostess’ appearance. I volunteered for two games, one of which required dragging a towel on all fours and the other that asked for blowing up three balloons and popping each of them with a female partner in a new sexually stimulating position. I, inexperienced and ignorant in this world, did not comprehend these suggested innuendos. I blew up the balloons and my partner tied them. We successfully popped the first using our chests but failed in the next two stances: doggy and cowboy styles. When the crowd cracked up and the entertainer shared dirty jokes, I caught up on what the game portrayed. My partner’s children being in the audience did not help me cope with the inexplicable embarrassment. Following, other participants were told to find a pair of pants from the viewer and wear them. One of the only guys in the front row, I became one of the first targets. I resisted but had no choice but to relinquish my pants, and the woman who wore them did not return them to me when she was supposed to, leading to her disqualification and my prolonged humiliation. I essentially sat down with my pants off in public for nearly fifteen minutes. I was awarded medals for partaking in these two games, and these medals will continue to remind me of this uncomfortable experience.

One unanticipated event, artwork auction, granted me the greatest contentment on the journey. I had never attended an auction; thus, I used this as an opportunity to educate myself on the subject. I visited two and eventually won two raffles for artworks. The host also generously offered a free painting to those who stayed until the end of each auction, giving me four valuable free paintings, which may easily sum up to a few hundred dollars, by respected artists. Abusing the bliss of unlimited food and free artworks, I felt I had earned more than I had paid for the travel.

When I returned home from the same sketchy bus ride, I noticed my body uncontrollably swaying back and forth. With the constant instability on the ocean, my muscles had become accustomed to the ship environment. Throughout these five nights, not once did I think of anyone or anything outside Carnival Fantasy. I refused to pay an irrational amount of money for slow and unstable Internet; consequently, I was disconnected from the outside world and had only the ship service to rely on for amusement. I could understand why numerous people choose sailing to be temporarily liberated from the stresses of their own world.