Local Heart, Global Soul

July 10, 2015

Cross The Street To Get The Joke…

Filed under: PHOTOGRAPHY,THE NETHERLANDS,Vaals — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , ,
(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Following yesterday’s post we were picking up mosquito bite salve from the pharmacy and books from the bookshop in the Dutch town of Vaals and afterwards Himself asked if I could start walking back to the car.

There were few car parks where the shops were, so he’d dropped us off when we arrived and parked in a large car parking area a few blocks away.

Now, instead of collecting the car and coming back to pick us up (which he often does) he’s wanting me to walk part of the way… it’s not usual so I’m curious, but he’s not giving us any clues.

I set out with the crutches and kids, making my way slowly down the street.

It’s a beautiful day so this can be my physiotherapy for the day, but I’m still really curious.

A short distance further, he asks me to stop. I look around and don’t see much around me, except that Himself has a silly and expectant grin on his face. I know him well enough to know I’m missing some jok so start to look around  with a more exacting eye. Then I saw it… the border sign half hidden in the hedge… hey wait… I now realise that I’m standing in Germany! Himself knows that anyone born and raised in a country like New Zealand finds it strange that borders can be crossed like this, and since the Schengen agreement, that within many European countries, that border posts no longer exist. Instead the crossings are marked only by signs like these. After I get the surprise, I then see the name of the street next to the sign: “Grensstraat” (border street). Borders between countries don’t always need to be huge imposing barriers… crossing them sometimes it only takes the effort needed to cross the street.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

November 15, 2012

The Sun Sets On Today’s Adventure…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The drive back from Melaka to  Johor Bahru, or “JB” as the locals call it is a quiet one, the day has been long and everyone is tired so most of us use at least part of the three hour trip to catch a nap.

I have numerous photos of banana trees, various plantations, buildings, a ton more oil palms but nothing turned out exciting enough to make me want to post them.

Eventually I turn the camera off and join the rest of the snoozing passengers. When I wake we are almost at JB, the sun is low and as is usual in the tropics darkness will be soon and swift.

Once again we need to go through the hassle at the border crossing: off the bus, the struggle to keep up and find the bus back at the other end.

I have to confess that whilst I like visiting Malaysia I’m not enamoured with the rigmarole needed to enter the country to do so.

Once we are settled back in the coach, it’s a matter of relaxing again whilst we cross from the northern end of Singapore to Singapore City, and Sentosa island at the southern end. The coach stops at one of the big hotels in the centre of town where a minivan is waiting to take us to Sentosa. Velvetine stepped off the coach earlier at a spot close to where she lives but we will see her tomorrow. We will be pleased to get back to the hotel for a good feed, because we’ve all worked up an appetite.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

October 19, 2012

Really Less of a Border Crossing and More Of An Obstacle Course…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Now that Indonesia has been stuck off the travel list for this trip, there is only one practical alternative  left for our next adventure: Malaysia.

Last evening we made plans and with the help of Reception were lucky to secure a place on a bus trip, but it leaves very early in the morning so we kick ourselves out of bed bright and early (ok, perhaps a little less of the bright…) take a shuttle bus from the Rasa Sentosa to the Casino on the other side of Sentosa Island, change to a larger shuttle bus and then to our tour bus, one of several parked in the carpark of the  Singapore Flyer.

We sort out our tickets, climb aboard a large air-conditioned coach and a short while later are heading north.

Sentosa island is fairly well at the central southerly point of the island State of Singapore and the place we are headed towards first is pretty well right at the central top of the island of Singapore.

On the Singapore side of the Johor Strait is Woodlands, on Malaysian side is the city of  Johor Bahru, which  is usually abbreviated  by the populations on both sides to “JB”.

Our Singaporean friend “Velvetine’  is not only a mine of local knowledge but also an excellent travel companion and friend. We met in person some six years ago for the first time after meeting several years previous to that via the cooking website “Recipezaar”(now called “Food.com”) so have known each other since about 2003 or 2004.

We are living proof that total strangers on different sides of the world of the kind who were often first dubbed as   “oh,  one of your  imaginary internet friends?” can turn into a fabulous and lasting friendship that apparently only gets better with time.

Her internet nickname has always been “Velvetine” and mine naturally enough is “Kiwidutch” and we discovered that we share a passion for not just cooking and all things Foodie, but also for travel, photography and to Himself’s astonished delight, for the small remote Pacific  island nations, namely Kiribati.

Velvetine is the biggest reason that our Singapore stopovers have grown over the years from 12 or 18 hours to five days, and the time always flies by too quickly and there are always sniffles and handkerchiefs at the airport when we say goodbye.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Today however we are going on adventures together… and this starts with the leaving of Singapore.

Unlike a bus trip I did as a teenager from France to the uk, where a stack of Passports were collected  by the driver, handed to a customs agent who came on board to check that the faces matched the names and we never left our seats, this is completely different.

We are required to not only exit the bus but also to join  throngs of people streaming into the border crossing building, and on crutches I’m struggling to keep up.

We also have to take a slightly different route to find the lifts and avoid the stairs and to be honest on the Malaysian side it’s not intuitive or brilliantly marked.

We’ve been warned that if we don’t find the bus at the other end it will leave without us because they have a schedule to keep and Velvetine is worth her weight in gold at this moment because she has done this crossing many times before and has a good idea where we could find the lifts and how to get back the the main route again once we had negotiated border control.

Even so we are rushing like lunatics, quicker people in a hurry are weaving around us in droves.  Himself  is herding the kids like little sheep so that they don’t get lost or bowled over, Velvetine is helping us both and even my now strong arms from a year on crutches are aching and feeling like jelly.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

All in all it’s an awful of lot of bus hopping  and walking through the checkpoints of both countries and seems like a lot of hassle, but clearly I’m spoilt by the ease with which we can cross borders within Europe.

Velvetine warns that it’s probably not a good idea to try and take photos inside the customs areas as they may take a dim view for security reasons, so I have no photos of the route inside, but eventually we end up in a basement area where our bus is now waiting in a queue of some twenty others and on the Malaysian side we negotiate the final obstacles which consist of  massive curbs and no ramps down to get to the bus.

Luckily Himself  is on hand to help me negotiate these.  How a wheelchair user would negotiate this terrain and experience I have no idea, except to say  “with great difficulty”.

If there was an easier way to do all this, certainly no one offered to show us  how,  nor were there obvious signs that would help us, so my first impression of Malaysia ended up being that people with disabilities or mobility impaired are not made to feel particularly welcome.

For an exceptionally new building on the Malaysian side it seems unreasonably complicated to negotiate  your way though, is this yet another case of the designer getting a brief for a building but having no contact with the people or experience needed to take place inside it? Who knows? Either way it’s the most tiring, exhausting, rushed and frustrating way I’ve ever had experience to enter a foreign country.

We all flop into our seats on the bus and grab our water bottles out of our backpacks… we’ve successfully crossed the border, let the adventures begin.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

September 19, 2010

Oops,We are in Spain but We’ve Left the Kids Behind in Portugal!

Filed under: PORTUGAL — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Parents who travel  with younger children in car for longer journeys soon realise that you have to do quite a lot to keep them occupied and entertained.

A ratty disinterested child can quickly sour the mood of the whole car and turn your driving adventure into a nightmare.

Silly games are one of the best and most simple aids… the sillier the better.

Use whatever is to hand going out of the window, a game of reverse “I Spy”… where the kids are rewarded for “finding”  silly things like a cow wearing a straw  sun-hats.

They may spot the cow and the straw hat separately of course, and you can add high heeled shoes, a pink skirt,  striped pants, a sun umbrella, a jet ski, or whatever weird and wonderful combinations you or your kids can think of.

Todays silly game is ” Oops we’ve left the kids behind in another country!” It’s a game that doesn’t last long but it does raise a laugh.

We are crossing from Portugal to Spain by bridge over the Minho  River, and somewhere in the centre of the river is the actual border between the two countries.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

This is of course the European Union so there are no customs posts, just a sign at the beginning of the bridge  to tell you that you’ve entered Spain (or Portugal if you are travelling in the other direction).

Yes, I know that the “Espagnha” is crossed out on the sign and ” Galiza” is spray painted underneath, that’s because this, the Galician region of Spain is partly self governed but many aspire to complete autonomy.

This is a small and very literal sign of their unwillingness to call their region “Spain” and all the local signs on the various Portuguese routes into Galicia that we saw have been marked in a similar manner.

So, we use one of Little Mr’s toy cars and a crack in the pavement before the car ride to illustrate the imaginary line in the centre of the river that is the border.

We show him that if we were to stop the car in the very centre of the bridge then in theory,  Mama and Papa in the front seats would be in Spain, but that the kids in the back seat would still be in Portugal.

Kiwi Daughter “gets it” right away, Little Mr. is still a tad unsure…

So, we are in the car a short time after the demo with the toys, and approaching the bridge that will take us to Spain.

Himself and I start with ” Hey we are in Portugal, we are in Portugal, …but look at the sign,  we are almost in Spain!”,  (we go over the idea of where the “border” is, one more time for Little Mr’s benefit) .. we intensify the pattern as we progress over the bridge, until the point when we are in the middle, then we change to an alarmed “Oh Oh, My Children, where are they?  I am in Spain and I have left them behind  in Portugal!”

This is followed by a relieved, ” Oh Thank Goodness they have caught up, they are now in Spain with us too, Hey we are all in Spain!!!” …. By now Kiwi Daughter is laughing because she got it and Little Mr is laughing because Kiwi Daughter and everyone else is.

So, this is the Kiwidutch Family ” We’ve Left the Kids behind in another Country” Game… of course if you can count the actual nano second moment that it happened then good luck to you… and I can only hope to have inspired you to invent equally silly games for car travel.

We are in Portugal, We are in Portugal….

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are in still in Portugal, We are still in Portugal….

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are getting closer, very close now…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Mama and Papa are in Spain, but AGGGGHHHH the kids are still in Portugal!!! (cue the giggles…)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

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