Friday, November 30, 2012

Working Holiday, Part I

In Sarajevo, Bosnia, Ross and I stayed in a guesthouse owned by a guy named Oliver. When we arrived, we got to chitchatting with the group of travelers who had formed in Oliver's common room and the usual questions came up...where are you from? For how long are you traveling? What do you do for work?...etc.

That last one is always a little difficult for me to answer, because of course at the moment I'm unemployed, and I have held a few different jobs over the past few years. Bored with my own repeated story I usually say, "I worked in an office" or "I helped people buy houses." Depending on the asker's English comprehension level and the amount of time available, and frankly whether I feel like hearing the sound of my own voice, I might give the full story. This includes an explanation of how in December of 2009 I quit my office job in a mortgage company and since then have traveled off-and-on, going home to the U.S. to work and save for additional travel. I have bartended, waitressed, worked for a utilities company in Louisiana, Michigan and Arizona, and covered the maternity leave of a former coworker at my former office. That night in Sarajevo, I had the time, a captivated audience, and I felt like telling the complete story.

"You've bartended?" Oliver asked. "Would you like to help me at my club on Friday night?"

"Uh...yah!" I responded, excited...not only at the prospect of actually doing something as exciting as bartending on vacation, but also, in some way, to repay his kindness in letting Ross and me stay for free in his home. He had already picked us up from the train station, fed us a *wow this is incredibly delicious* meal and offered as much beer as we wanted to drink, and I suppose I felt the imagined pressure of an exponentially growing debt to this man's hospitality.

The club is called Fis Kultura, and he opened it during the siege in Sarajevo. Back then there was no running water, sporadic stolen electricity, bullets whizzing by, and nothing to sell, but Oliver opened it anyway. He had a few pool tables and everybody basically sat around playing pool. From time to time, if somebody brought in a bottle of alcohol, he would sell it. Opening the club was Oliver's way of creating normalcy during wartime, and the club definitely has a 'cozy neighborhood bar' vibe to it, to this day.

We got to the club at 8:45 pm, and Oliver unlocked the doors. He instructed me to put all of he beers that were piled up in crates into the beer refrigerator while he fussed around with the music. An important cord was missing from the DJ equipment, and Oliver left me to go find a new cord.

"Wait!" I pleaded, terrified of being left alone. "How much does everything cost?" He quickly ran through the prices of the different kinds of beer and the various bottles above my head, but of course I wouldn't remember them all. And then he left. I didn't have any customers yet but was terrified that somebody would show up. I washed some dishes, chopped up some lemons and limes, wiped the counters obsessively and shook in my boots. A pretty girl with long dark hair and straight-across bangs came in. "Sarajevsko", she requested.

"English, please?" I asked and she said the same thing, in English. "Four," I said, holding up three fingers, and made my first sale. She laughed at me since "Sarajevsko" is not a Bosnian word, but the name of a beer. Thus, repeating it in "English" basically just meant repeating it. And then I realized I forgot to ask Oliver where the beer opener was located. I looked around, frantic, apologized, looked some more, but thank goodness she said she'd be all right and left the bar with the unopened beer. (Totally illegal in Minnesota.) As soon as she walked out, I found three openers hanging overhead. Finally Oliver returned, triumphant, with a tiny little connector cord. We had music! I also beamed, proud that I had made a few sales in his absence. All by myself. Without speaking the language.

Every time somebody ordered "Tuborg", another type of beer, I thought they wanted "two" of something. "English?" I would ask and they would look confused and repeat "Tuborg". "OH! Sorry," I would reply and cackle, embarrassed. Things went this way for most of the night, as we got busier and busier.

I did NOT know how to work these things.


Whenever I started to feel overwhelmed, there was Oliver, taking orders or restocking glasses just as I was about to run out. We got a nice rhythm going, filling orders and trying to stay out of each other's way in the tiny bar area. He gave me a few pointers: "I noticed something about you. You grab the glass like this. Grab it like this, and you won't put fingerprints on it. People will appreciate." Or, "put a straw in the Pepsi" or "ask people if they have smaller change." I found myself trying to please him and was very proud when he called me a Monster and a Busy Bee. "You have missed working. I can see it's been hard for you to be away from it." And he was right. Being busy at the bar was really good for me. It's hard to explain, but traveling for extended periods can make you lose your sense of purpose. Of course that's the whole point and most days it's really nice taking a break from responsibility, but I felt so happy to be busy there, in a strange way that I hadn't felt since arriving in Europe. But maybe I was too happy and too busy.

Oliver stopped me at one point and gave me the best advice I have ever received. "Slow down," he said. "These people are patient. They know they will get their beer. You're going to burn yourself out." I was embarrassed at first, like a child who's been scolded, just like when he told me I was holding the glasses wrong. But I realized he was right. Of course he was right. I was running around his club, frantic, probably sweating, trying to make sure to be the perfect bartender so that nobody had to wait for anything. As soon as I applied his suggestion, I began to really enjoy myself. He even forced me to take a break, taking over the bar for me as I sat down in his office and sipped a Jack Daniels on the rocks that he poured for me.

Of course my presence as the bartender who spoke only English was bound to illicit some confusion with the customers. I got a few different reactions. My favorite? "You're from Minnesota? How exotic!" Ha! Yes. Me. Exotic! Mostly they just asked, "What are you doing here?" "Just passing through," was my initial reply, but once in a while I'd catch Oliver smiling when I said, "I'm helping my friend."

He let me help again the next night. He offered me a permanent job, too, but of course I couldn't take it.


The sign says, "I'm KADY. English, please."

Oliver and me.



Thursday, November 29, 2012


This picture was taken shortly after Summer and I ran into each other's arms ran into each other's arms after meeting near the Taksim train station in Istanbul:

Ross, Summer and I walked for miles down to the Bosporus and found this food cart where a man made fresh fish sandwiches right in front us. They were so good I had two. Everybody acted like I was some huge gross fatty and I justified myself by saying, "Come on! It's basically like having a foot-long!"
Fisherman catch these off the footbridge and then sell them to the sandwich maker. I guess they're each about a foot long. Ha!
Trust me. You would want two, too. That crusted toasty bread and all the tomatoes and parsley and onion, guuuuh. After that we walked some more and found some ice cream. (After a foot-long *or two* what better way to fat it up than with some ice cream?) The man who was making them thought he was pretty hilarious and did this to us:
I think he knew better than to mess with Ross.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Summer-isms, Vol. 43

"What's gonna happen when I get dengue?"

"I'll be happy when this chicken kicks in."

"'It's all about the Benjamins.'"

"Another butt? Is it just another butt my butt is touching?"

"Plus Matt Damon would never wear his hair like that."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fishing for The Authentic Experience

I love fishing. I don't need to catch any fish or anything, I just love being in the boat, feet up, waiting for a tug on my line. It's easier and more lazy if the tug never happens, and so I don't much care if it happens at all.

On the island of Gaafaru in the Maldives, I was so happy for the opportunity to go fishing with Mifu's family, free of charge.

The first time, it was from shore. I was given a pole with a short line on it with a hook on the end. I was instructed to stand in the water, and then as the millions and zillions of little fish swam by me, I was to flick the hook in their midst, jiggle the line a little, and FLICK it back, fast and hard. Hopefully there would be a little fishy on the hook. I flicked and flicked and tripped over my feet (any idea how hard it is to walk on the rocky ocean floor in flip flops?) and hoped to catch one but also hoped never to catch one, as I soon realized I would have to touch the fish to get it off my hook. I don't like touching fish. Also I didn't have anywhere to put a fish once I caught it. The locals all gathered around the shore to watch me try, and a few real fishermen came into the water with me. They were catching them left and right. I just couldn't get the hang of it. Also my pants were getting soaked because I couldnt hold them up properly. Two times I flicked and got a little fishy on my hook. I screamed! The villagers laughed! The fish fell off the hook! Both times! It was fun. And I'm glad I didn't actually catch anything, because, ew.

The second time, Mifu's brothers took us out on their boat for night fishing. I was told that they don't use poles. Instead, they just drop in a line and bring the fish in hand-over-hand. Summer and I were given little white gloves, and I was glad because I kept picturing the Old Man and the Sea and his poor, bloody hands trying to bring in that big fish. I was told if I felt a tug, to release and let the fish swim away for a few feet and then YANK! the line and bring it in. At first, we weren't catching anything. We dropped our lines in the water, using chopped up octopus as bait. Nothing. We "reeled in" and moved the boat almost immediately, and I rolled my eyes, imagining I was fishing with my OCD dad Hal Hexum and we were going to just move every five minutes and never relax and actually fish. We dropped our lines in again. Pretty soon they started biting and they never stopped until about an hour later when we decided to go home. I've heard of such fishing occurrences, but never experienced one myself. My dad calls it "not being able to keep your line in the water", and that's exactly what it was like. The fish were almost biting faster than we could pull them in.

Unlike fishing in Minnesota, we were allowed to catch as many as we wanted with no limits, and no license required. For the first ten or eleven fish, I was given the line after the fish bit and Mifu's brother had already set the hook. This was a little disappointing for me because I was dying to catch my own fish. After a while though he let me try it on my own and I caught two all by myself. One of them was the second-biggest we caught all night! Of course the Maldivians were baiting my hook and getting the fish off the hook. Because, ew.

Unfortunately, Summer didn't enjoy herself as much as I did. She does NOT like fishing and only came along for the boat ride. She said "no" and "I don't want to" several times to the men who kept handing her the line with a fish on it and she felt forced to comply (kind of like when you're offered food in someone's home in some cultures. There is no "no"). I would say she loves fishing just about as much as I love animals.

We caught 27 fish in all. Never once on this trip have I ever thought that ol' Hal would enjoy anything I was experiencing, (the man considers a trip to the grocery store 'traveling') but I know he would have really liked this fishing trip. I could see him getting excited, just as I got excited every time I pulled a fish in, and it made me miss home a little bit thinking of him that night.

For you, Dad.

Not sure which part I liked best: catchin' em', or eatin' em'.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ugh. Sorry.

Today I've had enough. I got 138 Anonymous spam comments to my blog. They show up to my computer in the form of emails and its getting very annoying. Though some are pretty funny (people pretend they really like your "content" or "very informative post" so I know its a bunch of bull right away), I can't take it anymore. I'm not ready to turn word verification on because I know it's annoying.

I still get excited that an email might be news from home (and it NEVER is, jerks). So I turned Anonymous commenting off for now, to see if it will help.

All you have to do when commenting is choose Open ID, and then type your name. Or Poop Butt. It doesn't matter, it's an "Open" ID.

I hope this solves the problem. If not, it's back to word verification.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Favorites: Mean Mean Kelly

New to A Lady Reveals Nothing? You've missed SO MUCH. Not to worry. Every Sunday, I dig through the archives to repost an old favorite. Mostly because I'm too lazy to come up with new content every single day. Enjoy! This story originally appeared on November 17, 2011:

When I was ten years old, I missed the bus one day and my mean, mean 16-year-old sister Kelly had to take me to school.  She was already running late and driving me was going to make her even more late and so she was really mad.

She ripped and tore through the streets of International Falls Minnesota in my dad's white-with-red-racing-stripe-1960s-Rambler with me in the passenger seat, prepping me for the drop-off.


I got ready.  I had my backpack in hand, I got my seatbelt off... (Just kidding.  It was 1987, and this was a 1960's Rambler.  There were no seat belts.) Anyway, I crouched while she slowed to a roll in front of my school and I jumped!

When she tells the story she describes peeling away from my school and glancing in the rearview mirror to make sure I got up off of the road.  Instead what she saw was me in the rear view mirror, arms flailing, running after her car screaming for her to "STOP!"

She got SO MAD.  She slammed on the breaks.  She screamed, "WHAT?!?" at her tiny little crying ten-year-old baby sister who had shut her backpack in the car door.

Saturday, November 24, 2012


Hostels are weird places, but in order to travel for extended periods, I must use them almost exclusively, unless I'm able to hit up friends of friends of friends for a place on their couch.

The obvious pros and cons are:

  • Easy to meet fellow travelers
  • Free and comprehensive city maps and lots of suggestions for what to do
  • Cheap cheap cheap
  • Helpful staff with no sales incentive to help navigate the city
  • Usually: free breakfast, free wifi, free tea/coffee/water

  • No privacy
  • Possible dirtiness
  • Shared bathrooms
  • The fear your things will be stolen
  • Noisy dormmates with little regard to the time and whether or not you are sleeping
  • Snorers

...and sometimes you get a weirdo.
While in Kotor Bay, Montenegro Ross and I had an entire eight-bed dorm to ourselves. This is the equivalent of hostel gold, folks. That never happens. Anyway, it was too good to be true of course because a quirky, older Northern Irish man named Gavin checked in sometime around 8pm. I knew he was 'off' from the get-go, but we were polite and invited him to join us on a walk to the grocery store. Afterwards we joined the entire hostel for social hour in the lobby and sometime around midnight I went to bed.

Use your best Northern Irish accent for this next part, folks:
I was awakened at midnight by Gavin who simply said, "Katie". I said "what?" and he said "nothing".
Again at 2am..."Katie..."..."what?"..."nothing."
And then at 5:45am..."Katie..."..."what?"...

..."May I lie with you?"

Though he was very polite and indeed used proper grammar, I couldn't help my knee-jerk reaction to shout "No!", and didn't close my eyes again until he got up and left for his bus at 6:30.

Ross said I sounded offended. I was.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Are You Kidding Me? I Would Never Eat a Chocolate Bar "By Mistake"

Summer and I just left our fancy lady hotel room, and upon checkout were interrogated about a missing mini bar chocolate bar. We assured the hotel manager that we didn't use anything from the mini bar. He seemed placated and continued our check-out. Five minutes later, he asked again, "Are you absolutely sure, that maybe, even by mistake, you didn't eat a chocolate bar?"


The whole thing was a little embarrassing. Look, we didn't eat the chocolate bar. But the fact that he questioned us twice made me feel incredibly guilty, as if I HAD eaten the chocolate bar. It's kind of like how my sister Kasey keeps her hands visible at all times on top of her grocery cart so that nobody could ever think she was stealing something. If she needs to use her Chapstick while shopping, she makes a big production of keeping her hands visible, reaching into her purse so the cameras will see it was her Chapstick.

He knew we were nice girls and everything based on our negotiating the price of the room, and we definitely explained that we had no money (sali ne in his native tongue), and he did say, "I know you wouldn't spend so much on accommodation and then steal a chocolate bar". In the end, I think he believed us. At least I hope so. We stared him down and tried to look as serious as we possibly could, but come on, do we LOOK like the kind of people who joke around at fancy hotels?


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ross-isms, Vol. 3

"Nothing says 'business casual' like a suit and a backpack."

"You know the blanket doesn't go from my feet to my shoulders."

"Every guy knows he's marrying a bucketful of crazy."

"I need to quit falling in love with alcohol I can't get back in the States."

"I'm gonna buy a leather jacket so that when I'm running for the train I look cool."

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

MAD Runners

This morning I had the privilege of working out with the Maldivian Association of Distance Runners. At 5am. No joke. I woke my sorry American butt up and walked to a running track to meet with the die-hard group, who meet every single morning at 5am. Seriously.

I was feeling very nervous because I haven't run since I did that 7k in Berlin, and I was sure that these crazy marathon people would leave me in their dust. Fortunately for me, they were only set to do an "easy 6.5k" this morning. Fortunately again, three other women showed up. I started feeling better. And then I was introduced to our coach: Naseer Ismail, two time 800-meter Olympian (1996 and 2000). Yikes.

We started with an intense stretch and warm-up session, in which we hopped and skipped in place, did lots of calisthenics and that thing where you move your arms all around, and then we jogged a very easy slow 400 meters around the track. "I can do this..." I thought, but joked that I hoped the 400 meters counted towards our total of 6.5 kilometers for the morning. It didn't.

And then, we set out.

The city of Male in the Maldives technically a very small island (its the most densely populated city in the world), which has a ring road circumference of 5.3km. MAD does most of its training runs on this ring road. Including all of its long runs. It's just about 3 miles, and so if they want to do a 15 mile run, you got it: 5 times around the island. (Makes me appreciate the miles and miles of running track and trails back home in Minnesota.) Mercifully it's also a very flat city, Maldives boasts the lowest high-point of any country in the world. (7 feet above sea level.)


She's got three-year-old twins at home! She's running her first marathon!


It was HOT. My asthma started acting up, my face turned full flush beet red, and I thought I was going to die. Twice. After we finished running, we had to run yet another lap around the track before we were finished. And then I thought we were done. Nope. I expected to first die, and then to go home and sleep. Instead, Olympic Coach had us do three sets of thirty push-ups, sit-ups, and back sit-ups. And after that, more stretching (oh how I looooove stretching), and another warm-down lap around the track. I learned that we did 7.1k excluding the track laps. But I count every step and every track lap, and so in the end I'm calling it a total of 7.9k, or 4.75 miles!

Runners are the same the world over. They like to meet in groups, encourage each other, joke around, tease a friend for their brand new, too-bright shoes, (pictured above) and go to breakfast in their sweaty, sweaty clothes afterward. Here I am receiving a police escort:
He's a policeman! He's running his first marathon!

The Maldivian Association for Distance Running and their honorary guest for the day: Me.

I'm so proud of these guys, most of whom are running their first marathon in Singapore on December 2nd, and so grateful they invited me to join them on a training run.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I Love Animals

Everybody knows I'm an "animal person". I'm super comfortable around animals for sure. I fact, I trust them implicitly to never do me any harm whatsoever. That's why I always insist on being near them at every opportunity. Especially the big, unpredictable kind that can stomp you to death...

Totally and completely comfortable.

(There was hair on that elephant.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lovers' Bridges

They're all over the place. (As if to remind me I don't have a lover.) You're supposed to hook it onto the bridge and throw away the key into the river. And as long as its locked up you'll be in love. It's too bad I and the Montenegran boy went with a combination lock...

Saturday, November 17, 2012


As a divorced woman, I'm no stranger to rejection. I've even come to expect it, which is precisely why I sabotage any budding relationship possibilities. However I was completely taken aback by a particularly hurtful email I received from an acquaintance in response to a sincere inquiry looking for news of his safety after a natural disaster.

While staying on Kotor Bay in Montenegro, I decided to go ocean-kayaking. Not satisfied with the hostel's published price of $36 for the day and no option for an hourly rate, I walked out of the walled city and headed for the shore to see about finding a better deal.

When I got there I found a few kayaks locked up on a stand, for rent by the most adorable 20-something Montenegran boy. He was sitting in a fold-up camping chair feeding a stray cat. Awwwww! I asked him how much. $7 for one hour! (Money saving tip: buy direct from the source.) I only needed an hour anyway. He gave me the most hilarious tutorial about "how to kayak" even after I told him I was an old pro. He called my butt my 'bottom' when describing how to get in and out of the kayak. Awwwwww! And then offered to keep my shoes so they wouldn't get wet. Awwwwwww! I gave them to him, but tried to keep the little socks I wear, because, gross. He grabbed them out of my hand. "Oh. Um. No...I'll keep them...gross!" I said as he held them in his hand and walked them over to my shoes.

"How could I be grossed out by the socks of such a beautiful woman?" he said. Awwwwwwwww!

I set out.

I really enjoyed myself, at times taking photos with one hand and paddling with the other. When I returned the kayak, the adorable Montenegran boy remarked, surprised, "You have beautiful eyes." (AWWWWWWWWWW!)

I ended up chatting-slash-flirting with him for quite a while (obviously) and later in the conversation he said something again about my green eyes (they're blue). I joked about wanting a baby -- as is my custom with much-younger men. We laughed as he told me how when he arrived to work that morning, he found a human turd right in front of his kayak stand and he was pretty sure somebody did it on purpose. Oh, how we laughed. (My kinda humor).

I helped him bring all the boats in. After he closed up shop, he offered to walk me back to my hostel since he was going that way anyway. I couldn't refuse when he offered to buy me food at a sidewalk meat stand. I could, however, refuse when he offered to take me to his parents' house so we could 'continue' our 'date'. He said I was overthinking it.

Three weeks later, I heard of the 4.5 magnitude earthquake near Kotor Bay and so I sent a "hope you and your family are safe"-type email, in reply to which he sent a lengthy response filled with smiley faces and the following direct quote:

"I am alive and well, but it was rough :-) However, I don't want to stay in touch. [...] I hope you will understand and be cool about it, and remember me as the funy [sic] guy from Kotor :-)"
I replied:

"I hope nobody poops on your office today. And by that of course I mean I hope somebody poops on your office today."

I was dumped via email by someone with whom I'm not even involved.

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