Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Day

I have been reading the book We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. In spite of the author’s name, it is a woman. The book won the Orange Award for Literature in 2005. We picked up the book in South Africa last year, but I never got around to reading it. Ron had and strongly urged me to read it soon. Well I finished last night before going trying to find the Sandman. However, my mind was in a tidal wave of thoughts about ATM cards, credit cards, worrying about cash if the hotel could not get our card to work, running out of money before our trip is over, which is really quite ironic. For the first time ever, we have enough cash in our accounts to cover this trip in its entirety without having to use credit cards at all. However, with Bank of America putting a stop on my ATM card and our Hungarian bank’s ATM not working, we are having to struggle with the cash on hand. Ron’s card has worked once. As a last resort, we will try his again, but the sadist/masochist duality in me does not want to draw money from that account. After all, we have over 3,000 Euros sitting in a bank in Hungary waiting to be drawn on for this trip, so I really don’t see the reason we should pay Bank of America $5.00 for every withdrawal PLUS their currency conversion fee on top of it. With these boil, boil, toil, and trouble thoughts, sleep was elusive. When it finally arrived, my slumbering nightmares were about school shootings and watching someone prepare for the next one. This is Kevin’s fault or rather Ms. Shriver’s. She is solely responsible for these transmissions into my subconscious, because for certain if they were mine, I would be lining up bankers, not innocent school children.

Knowing that Santa did not find us, there was no real motivation to crawl out of bed when the alarm went off other than knowing Ron rested well and had his heart set on more explorations. He was sweet enough to go the Italy for coffee and pastries while I showered and dragged myself together.

As soon as we reached the lobby, we told the desk we wanted to pay our bill. If we had to arrange for money, we wanted to know if they were going to have issues with our card also. It went through like a charm, averting one cardiac arrest. When I explained to the desk clerk our problem with the restaurant last night, she explained they had a chip reader also, but were trained in the other method also for instances like this. She claims there is no reason why the restaurant should not have been able to run our card. We are having to leave here at 3:30 am to take a taxi to the airport in KL for an Air Asia flight at 7:00 am. If I did not have enough material to produce a trilogy of full length nightmare movies, here is an added bonus. Air Asia has a luggage weight limit of 15 kg. When we left Vienna, my carry on, which did have the bulk of our clothes and six books was weighing in at 42 kg. We have dumped things, have not purchased a thing that has not been consumable, and hopefully they will know how to run a credit card machine to charge us for the excess baggage. There is nothing left to leave behind.

Being conscientious, we went straight to a money changer and converted more Euros and then on to Libra, the restaurant we owed the money to clearing ourselves of debt. It was 11:30 am, but they were not open for the lunch trade. Ringing the bell and pounding on the door did not produce any results either. We knew there was a historic mosque in the area, so we hunted it down and found it on Harmony Road. This road is so aptly named because there is a mosque, a Buddhist temple and a Hindu shrine with two blocks. When we were in Thailand, the Buddhist temples really spoke to my soul, but there is something about a Hindu temple that speaks to my imagination. This one in particular was dedicated to Ganesh, the elephant headed god. When I started to take a picture of a small Ganesh statue, a monk ran up to me waving his hands. I said “No pictures”, but without responding he placed a lei of flowers around Ganesh’s adequate neck and then signaled that now he was ready for his close-up.

Ron being the ever optimist, we went back to try out the other hop-on hop-off bus to see if we could get to the Portuguese neighborhood, though I reminded him that most likely they were all Catholic and nothing would be open. We entered the bus for two Ringgits for an all day ticket. We did the full circuit taking close to two hours of our time, touring neighborhoods reminding me of the time I lost my way in NYC and ended up in Harlem, back in the early 70s. We never did get close to the area of the city Ron wanted to see, so we let it go and returned to our starting point.

Again, we tried Libra to pay our outstanding bill, but still at 3:30 the place was closed tight. The neighboring business was open and when I questioned him, he said they would open at 5:30. He then asked if he could help and when I told him why we were insistent on finding someone, he called the manager for us. We arranged to leave the money with the neighbor. Cynically, I will now have to monitor Ron’s charge card to make sure that charge did not actually go through. We stopped at the Geographer’s Café for a beer where Christmas carols were BLASTING. I really cannot take it seriously hearing “I Am Dreaming of a White Christmas” when Ron and I are the whitest things around. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” are unnerving also in this environment. Perhaps they don’t play “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” because of moral issues; hmmm…I wonder.

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