I now completely understand just how frustrating travel must be for people on the Amazing Race. Being in Ireland for an entire month, I almost forgot the amount of confusion that comes with being in a foreign, non English speaking country, with no translator, no transportation, and no local currency. Welcome to the adventure called the World Race.
So, let me set this up for you. We just recently had a short debrief in Romania where our whole squad met together for something called "team changes." Upon being introduced to our new teams we were given the opportunity to have a night on the town to "make a memory." So, on our first night as a new team, we take to the streets.
Problem number one. Seeing as though everyone on my team just arrived to Bucharest late the night before, we have no local currency. No big deal, you might think... just find an ATM. False. This is not America, therefore ATMs do not exist at every turn. Nor do some people even know what an ATM is. Oh, and despite the fact that we think that everyone should know at least some English.. they don't.
Problem number two. No local currency means no local transportation. For some reason bus drivers aren't too keen on just taking you in with no money in hopes that you will pay them back later. Bummer, right?
Problem number three. It's Sunday and our living quarters are located in what you might call the outskirts of town. What does that mean? That means even the quaint corner store at the end of the road, where the people live above their business... even that is closed. Awesome.
So, in true World Race style...we take off walking. You see, there is this slight misconception that we as world racers begin to believe... we kind of think that if we want to get somewhere badly enough, we can always just walk. Does that work in some cases? Absolutely. In this one? Absolutely not.
A good hour later, after passing every field and industrial business along the way... we finally see a sign for Bucharest. Meaning, we still aren't anywhere close. So, instead we settle for a Hotel/Restaurant mix called the Hornet which, according to the sign is just another mile down the road. One mile... no big deal.
Once we reach the Hornet Hotel, we quickly realize there is no way we would be able to afford a meal in this place, seeing as our budget is limited to a mere $4/day. Despite that fact, we decide to investigate the situation anyway. Much to our surprise, the receptionist at the front desk does speak English, broken English, but English none the less. After finding out there is no ATM anywhere nearby, we are miles away from the city, and no, she cannot exchange money for us... we are left with only one option. Call a cab.
15 minutes later, we are stepping into two separate cabs. Unlike many foreign countries, they do still obey the rules on the amount of people allowed to be in one vehicle at any given time. The wonderful lady at the hotel then nicely explained to each cab driver where it was we needed to be taken. My cab driver, who gave off the vibe that he pretty much hated life, grumbled, argued, and then consented to taking us where we needed to go. All was well. Until we pulled out of the parking lot, and our driver is already headed in a different direction than the other cab. Perfect.
After 35 minutes, and 30 lei later (about $10... which is a fortune by WR standards), our driver stops the car and says "finish." We took that as our cue to get out. Found an ATM, and paid the not so nice cabbie. After doing a quick scan and not seeing the other half of our team anywhere in sight, in my very best sign language I ask "where is the other car?" The only reply I got was... "I bring you to ATM, I bring you to ATM. Finish."
We are now somewhere in downtown Bucharest with only half a team and the only thing that looks familiar in site is the McDonalds. So, what to do? We walk up and down the street a couple of times. We get some money from the ATM. Check out a few stores. Then we decide, oh well.. if we are lost, we might as well be lost on a full stomach, Mickey D's here we come.
We sit down to enjoy our nice, greasy hamburgers and it is in that moment that we realize we don't have a clue what the place we are staying is called or the town in which it is located. The three of us apparently have full confidence in our team leader, who is also lost somewhere in Bucharest, to always be able to get us back home. We then decide, why ruin a good meal worrying? So, we bless the food, pray for some divine intervention, and chow down.
Just as we finish eating, in walks another one of the teams from our squad. It never fails that you can somehow find other Americans if you just go to McDonalds. Not to mention that one of the girls on this team actually speaks Romanian. Coincidence? I think not. God's provision? Absolutely. So, we make plans to meet back up with their team later in order to make our way back home via the cheap local transportation. Despite the fact that we still have 3 team members lost somewhere in the city, all is well once again.
As we finish eating and step outside to spend some time exploring... guess who we run into? Our other three team members... who, I might add, had spent the last hour or so walking the square area around the McDonalds looking for us. Whoops. Apparently, they had very different priorities than we did! Needless, to say... we were united once again and reminded that even in crazy circumstances, God proves himself faithful.
Thanks to our wonderful adventure, my new team (consisting of James Woodley, Kara Graham, Alicia Tarjeft, Stacey Compton, Robby Smith, and myself) is rightly named...
If this is day one, I can only imagine what it's going to look life from here!