Ouch! Getting Into A Fix Abroad

Reading a recent installment of Pigs In The Toilet, where Jeff survives a haircut with a razor which sounds more like a medieval torture device, I started thinking about about all the “fixes” you can get into abroad.

Just taking care of everyday things can be an adventure, even when there’s no great risk of bodily harm. Figuring out which line to stand in at the post office when you go there to pay bills. Realizing that by opening, perforating along the lines, and submitting that accordian-like paper, you are committing yourself to pay for six months of garbage pickup, and there is no going back once you’ve passed it over the counter. Ordering a diva coffee and also, in Eastern Europe at least, ordering your groceries in a closet-sized shop with a line of people waiting behind you.

There’s also that niggling sense of politeness that prevents you from walking away from situations that actually do present some danger.

I have accepted car rides from men I didn’t know while traveling alone in foreign countries. I’m fine! I enjoyed a great motorbike ride in one case, and in the other got to the tram stop much, much quicker. I’ve been hiking just outside Sarajevo with my (Bosnian) boss and two other foreigners. No mines, after all, and in fact it was beautiful (it is generally known if an area is safe or not)… but I didn’t arrive at this by asking my boss in advance. It’s awkward to bring up mines and the war. And so I just went, making sure to trail behind her. I of course put trust in the fairly universal self-preservation instinct and assumed that my boss would not lead three of her teachers to an unsafe area, but she had said before that she “just didn’t think about mines, ever.”

I guess my point is, this sense of politeness built into most of us is often helpful for forging relationships in normal situations, but adhering to it without fail can also put you in dangerous situations. Saying “trust your instinct” is easy enough; actually doing it is harder.

The reality, though, is that most of the time it is just an adventure. I still have all my limbs and I’m pretty sure Jeff’s scalp is mostly in tact – and look at all the great stories we have for it!