Maybe it wasn’t as extreme as in the movie “Terminal” (watch if you haven’t seen yet!), but I did get to bond with Schipol airport a bit closer than I expected to over the past week… I swear it wasn’t MY fault! It’s just that SOME people seem to have been jinxed in some strange travel-related way and spread the jinx over to some of the rest of us mortals, including the guess-who’s-writing-this person… This is what happened:
It all began in Prague… Actually, scratch that. It all began in Zurich, because this is where the fateful star alignment brought together the main protagonists of the whole shebang to begin with.
(main characters): your humble servant (whose every plan of a chill-down summer has been shattered mercilessly by this heartless bitch called ‘unforeseen circumstance’); Aline (someone who probably regrets having a driver’s license and a car by now :D); Fabiano (aka DJ Nyx, who must have either angered or enchanted – we’re still debating which one – enough Schengen gods to be so determinately held back from leaving the zone)
(supporting characters): Dadinho (THE man who coined the currently trending in select circles inclination of the word ‘afterpaaaahhhrty’); Kendra (Nyx’s gorgeous dance partner, and a beautiful human being whose ability to keep her cool in all situations and remain absolutely charming no matter what is something I want private lessons in); Jonathan (Kendra’s boyfriend/Fabiano’s good friend, entangled in parts of this mess entirely by proxy, who probably didn’t expect quite THAT much adventure out of this vacation); Natasha (partially responsible for the Tarzan story and for organizing everyone to transfer orderly from BraSa to Candela for the nights out 🙂 ).
in episodes: a load of other people.
Chapter 2 (because chapter one was in Zurich, remember 😉 ): Post-Prague Samba/Zouk Congress 2012-Stress Disorder.
The Prague Congress (August 16-19) was fun, although a bit smaller than I expected turnout-wise. On top of that, my intelligent strategy of hiding behind tall people didn’t quite work…
Someone tipped her off and she got me…
We were supposed to parody this bit of choreography:
And, of course, it didn’t end well…
Popular poll suggested we actually won, but the prize was awarded to a different couple – they had more friends and those were louder… There is never any justice in such competitions!
Anyway… The congress, of course, didn’t lack the customary set of afterpaaaahhhrties (drinks, talks, laughs, music and even some food 🙂 ), but they are not the focus of the current story. The focus is the events that began on Monday, August 20th. The three musketeers – Fabiano, Kendra and Jonathan – were bound to go to London on that day, which they did. Except that they have managed to win the Murphy’s Law-ttery and run into the most grungy immigration officer of the day. Hours of unpleasant nonsense later they were back in Prague Ruzyne airport…
Cut to my crib, circa 00:30am. My Dutch crew of congress guests is gone. I am still under the legitimately substantiated impression that I have a flight to catch to Paris in a few hours, so I am amidst an extensive clean-up before leaving Prague yet again for a month. Enter the Facebook message (in reply to my inquiry on how was the flight) from Fabiano: “well… things didn’t go as planned”. And here began the international rescue/reorganize operation of the upcoming 24 hours.
Step 1: get them a taxi from the Airport to my place. One trick was making Fabiano tell me which exit they are nearest to (to tell to the taxi driver where to park). Then, somehow even though I sent the address of the destination, the taxi driver didn’t have it when he arrived, so an extra trip to an available WiFi hub was required to get my address.
In the meantime: I learn that Paris is off. Way to tell me – a few hours before the flight! Could well have been done on Friday, but oh well – gives me time to sleep the Prague Congress off :). That, and I can help out with the current situation better from the home base…
Finally, the weary travelers arrived.
Step 2: organize sleeping spots for everyone, all the while listening to what all happened at Heathrow airport. In short, it was some silly miscommunication (advice to travelers: always know the address of where you’re staying in UK when you travel there – might help! 😀 ) that resulted in immigration services saying that every one of them is required working visas to enter the UK (even Jonathan, who wasn’t involved in anything in any remotest way). That is, even for visiting friends… Yeah, go figure… And consequent un-pleasantries… We look up what times are the US and UK embassies open for the morning.
Step 3: get a little bit of sleep.
Chapter 3: A long day in the city.
Morning of August 21 – vaguely memorable to me because I slept through most of it. Up-date from the misplaced crew was amusing (in a “WTF” kind of way): no one at either embassy could believe that whole situation even happened. Oh and by the way, unfortunately, working visas to UK for US citizens applying from within EU are only issued in the main headquarters in Warsaw. Ah, but they only communicate on those issues by e-mail, not phone. Ehm, but it takes them roughly a week to answer e-mails… Should I mention that everyone’s flight back to the USA was scheduled to depart from London on the 28th?..
Step 4: spend a few hours of group online/on phone efforts trying to re-route everything and explore other available options. In the end, Kendra managed to get through to an airlines clerk who said it was possible, after all, to waive the fees for changing the outbound flights’ departure point. New route was set: instead of flying from London, flying from Amsterdam. Bus tickets to Amsterdam were arranged and we finally went for a well-deserved dinner (joined by Dadihno and Leo). The rest of the night was spent wandering around Prague, wondering why every bar seemed to be so empty (besides it being Tuesday and summertime…), eating some sausages on the Venceslaw’s Square, making a final pit-stop at McD’s and finally heading back to the casa around 6am. Curtains down, blackout…
Chapter 4: By the skin of their teeth...
I set my alarm to 14:00. The bus was leaving at 17:00. That would give everyone enough time to wake up, eat something, get ready and go. I also presumed everyone else also had alarms set… Whether they did or not, the next time I woke up (after hitting the “off” button) was 15:25 – roughly half an hour before we should have ideally left for the station.
Cue: mild panic and futile attempts to make Fabiano – of course, THE one with most stuff out of the bags – wake up, start moving and pack everything.
Kendra and Jonathan were awake and pretty much packed up from the night before. With some collective effort, we managed to leave about 16:15, arrived to the station 12 minutes before the bus departure (could be 15 but wasted a few because out of all the days when this could have happened I got caught without the ticket by the control. Saddest part? I DID send a text message to buy the ticket. I always do in the metro. Except this was a special day and I sent it to the wrong number. Here go 30 Euros… Granted, I found some money hidden away between my papers a day before AND was riding the system dirty for many years, I figured I won’t let that episode upset me… ), had (almost) enough time for the guys to get some food. Kendra and I were at the bus platform with the suitcases 1 minute before departure time, Jonathan and Fabiano joined 1 minute past departure time. It was THIS close, but I told them right away they’re NOT missing a connection under my supervision :).
Chapter 5: A few extra days in Prague
Only for me. I was so tired that I didn’t even bother telling anyone I was still in the city and slept it all off for a couple of days, finishing the clean-up in between. Besides, I got a request to help someone work on a specific piece of writing, so all the relatively sane waking hours were devoted exclusively to that task – all the way till the end of the story :). On 24th and 25th I stopped by shortly for the parties at Dancer’s club and then finally packed for Amsterdam.
In the meantime: Fabiano owned another nickname (Tarzan… For this (although you may not be able to see it due to privacy settings… Here’s viewer’s digest: after one of the parties in Amsterdam, a canal near Leidseplein. Roughly 5am. Natasha and Fabiano decide to take a picture on the boats, jump into the canal, swim to the boats, take the picture… Natasha swims back, Fabiano catches a big tree branch and swings towards the shore… Video ends there, but a few seconds later he crashes right back into the water… In other words, just a regular night out 🙂 ) and they got to teach a last-minute workshop in Paris on the weekend.
On the 26th I, of course, haven’t managed to sleep (hardly ever happens when I have such an early flight). The whole home – Prague airport – Rotterdam airport – Rotterdam Central – Amsterdam Central – Wilco’s place stretch was one zombified blur, but at least I packed my MP3 so it had a soundtrack :).
My very kind host has a twisted sense of humor, I suspect… First he subjected me to torture-by-camera, otherwise known as ‘an interview’ – in my current half-dead state! And then, of course, there was a party to go to (I mean, who would have ever thought…) at Monte Christo – good news was that it’s just a stone’s throw away… I managed to forget my irreplaceable hairbrush (yes, they exist) there, but picked it right back on Monday afternoon :). Otherwise it was a nice but early (thank goodness) night, followed by well needed sleep.
Chapter 6: Goodbye party Vol. whatever…
This is kind of the day where it all began to get more spooky… August 27, Amsterdam, evening. Meeting up at BraSa then going to Leidseplein for the last night out with the whole crew whose flight back to USA is tomorrow: Nyx, Kendra, Jonathan.
Kendra and Jonathan were tired and went back to catch some sleep. The weird and crazy people carried on… One of the Latin clubs we went to had a House party, so we went to Candela. They had an open mic night there and we ended up having a live concert by the very one person responsible for all the hassle 🙂 :
So far so good… The end of the night was slowly approaching and, finally, it was so late/early that Aline realized we might just as well drop Fabiano off at the airport. We grabbed some coffee and croissants at a gas station while he was getting ready, then picked him up and went to Schipol… (keep track now, this is round 1)
All the customary goodbyes behind us, we parted ways. We just left the parking lot when Fabiano messaged to tell that Jonathan and Kendra were not at the gate and he won’t be leaving without them… A few phone calls and messages later, however, they showed up and all was quiet on the Western Front – for the time being. I was back soon and in bed right away, so I had slept through the further developments of that day…
The developments were rather ‘interesting’. Namely, Fabiano didn’t get on that flight! He was stopped for questioning at the gate or something like that and didn’t make it… So he had to get back to Amsterdam – yet again… Aka “Just when I thought I was out – they pulllllled me back in!”…
Tuesday night everyone was so tired that even the already-customary evening out was skipped.
We did, however, go for (yet another) goodbye party on Wednesday 29th. This time Jonathan and Kendra were not there – they were back in the US. It began, yet again, at the same place where you can get 10 shots for 10 Euros:
We were joined by a few other crazy Zouk people – it was good fun :).
We then moved on to Candela (yet again) and had a lot of fun dancing and fooling around. As last time, by the morning it has been decided that we might as well drop Fabiano off at Schipol (round 2)… In a Groundhog Day type of a deja-vu, we also used the time he took to get ready to go to the same exact gas station for the same exact croissants/coffee/apple juice deal :). Except this time we also danced a bit near the coffee machines, to great amusement of some random guy who popped up to fill up the gas tank :).
Maybe our ritual dance at the gas station appeased the Schengen gods, or maybe us praying to the airport deities when we got there had an effect, but this time the scenario in Schipol repeated only partially. Oh, and we were smart enough to try to arrive there well ahead of time – he thought the flight was at 09:50, but it was actually 09:15! Phew… So even though the ladies at the check-in already recognized him and said welcome back – the story had a different ending. For one thing, Fabiano’s suitcase gave up on all this bullshit (as in, tore) and had to be sealed. For another thing, this time he actually got onto the flight – wheee!!!!
Hence finished our party spree with DJ Nyx (by the way, if you haven’t heard this yet, you’re from the wrong planet!), but not my strange ‘love affair’ with Schipol airport (and, to be fair, Candela as well 🙂 )…
Chapter 7: Amsterdam Zouk Congress – afterpaaaahhhrty!
Okay, so I fell asleep at the Thursday night congress pre-party… I mean, every number of sleepless nights has its limits… By the way, I have a complaint to make: on the website (and at the door to the pre-party, when it concerned ALL the other people) it said that the entrance was FREE for both full pass holders and PARTY PASS holders, like myself. Several people with party passes I spoke to confirmed this. However, when I had arrived, the girls at the door said that I had to pay the 5 Euro entrance fee… Why? So girls, whoever you were: please give 5 Euros back to Wilco, who was kind enough to chip in for me (I didn’t plan on spending anything, so I left the wallet at home), because I TOLD you at the door I had a party pass and I thus didn’t have to pay to get in. I mean it – I’ll check later on if you did. It’s bad karma for you.
As for the congress itself – seriously, what else can you do when it finishes at about 3am (for NO good reason, mind you, as I’ve recently learned… No it has nothing to do with permissions/noise levels… Which means that if certain people made slightly different arrangements, which would NOT cost them all THAT much more, we all could go on dancing well into the morning hours, getting far more than 3 hours of dance-time for the money… Yes, this is supposed to be a hint 😉 )? Exactly – go for an afterpaaaahhhrty! Friday and Saturday nights this is exactly what has happened. I think the fact that bouncers at Candela started greeting us like friends by now speaks for itself :). I am probably missing someone, but this time the composition of the crowd roughly included: myself, Aline, Nicky, Natasha, Sula, Dadinho, David, Kamacho, Nicolas and a few others.
Sunday Congress party finished at 4am – same time as Candela closed up… But by the time everyone said goodbye to everyone we realized that, well, we might just as well drop Dadinho off at the Schipol airport (round 3)… So we did, then I went to get a bit of sleep and later that same day – Monday August 3d – I went back to… you guessed it – Schipol airport (round 4)! I was catching a train to the Hague from there.
So here I am now, with a slight flu after all this, finally able to relax a bit after what started to seem over the past few weeks as one never-ending party with very short breaks :). As far as the magic goes: what do YOU think – were Schengen gods enchanted or pissed off?