Legally Illegal… again

“One is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an end.”
~Jiddu Krishnamurti

April 29, 2017
Bucharest, Romania

 

So… It turns out that the 90 out of 180 days thing isn’t so simple… I left Romania December 20.. had to wait 90 days to come back and was 100% sure that it had restarted and had another 90 out of 180 days.

Not true
Not at all.

I am still waiting for the paperwork from home to come through to get the volunteer visa. My dad paid (and I am slowly paying him back) $131 to have it shipped within a week but it never came to the school. It was addressed to me and then underneath had the housing complex where the school was.  The post office sent us updates… it flew from JFK… it arrived at the Bucharest airport… it was cleared through security.. it was ready to deliver.. and then nothing.
The school headmaster called and called and argued that it is there and that we have proof and gave them the tracking number but they claimed there was nothing there. By the end of the next week it arrived back at my parents house.
So we tried again.. and since I had a 2 week break during the last two weeks of April we agreed to not pay the absurd amount of money and have it delivered when we got back from break, May 3. We all were gonna be enjoying our vacation anyway.

No problem…. or so we thought.

I went back to Budapest for 3 days to visit my old hostel and my volunteer friends…. more on that later…

I arrived back to Bucharest April 26. I always get a little nervous at the any border, just because,… and last time I was at the Romanian border they claimed I had to leave the country for 5 days cuz my 90 days wasn’t up until then.
Of course, I started crying. I was SURE I was allowed back. I had plans to go to work. To see my friends. I didn’t have the money to go anywhere else.. after not getting paid since the beginning of January and on the move… paying for gas, meals, hostels, drinks, airplane tickets.. my money dwindled quickly.. along with that one time I got fined on the tram in Budapest (I had the ticket with me, I just hadn’t validated it and they made me pay an absurd amount of Forints all the money I had left,.. and I still had a week there.. but thankfully friends pitched in to help me get through)… I had pretty much negative money. Luckily, I had done my research before and emailed the Romanian Border police first and had it in an email… in writing.. from their boss… that I was allowed in on that day…. after about an hour of waiting and trying to calm myself down, they let me wait in the international terminal for 6 hours until I finally could go home at midnight.

Anyway, here I was, April 26, weak, sick, tired (I had just had a bought of 24 hour food poisoning and hadn’t been able to sleep or keep anything down since 2 nights before) and ready to go home to my bed.
I stepped up to the booth and handed over my passport. I never know what to do at this point. They take the passport, click on their computer or scan or whatever it is they do… but it was taking too long.. fear gripped my heart… I scanned my brain to think of why it was taking so long… was it cuz I stayed late in December? over the 90 days? I paid the fine.. I was let back in last time..
Finally, he looked at me and asked how long I planned to stay… (at least a month to figure things out, I said…cuz I thought that of the 90 days I had left that started on the 20 of March I knew I had at least a month left and it was a safe number to stay)
His eyes squinted a bit and his face tensed and asked what I was doing and who I was staying with (I am visiting friends, traveling and working on getting a visa)
He sighed.. no response.. got up from his chair and walked out through the back of the booth, I assumed to talk to a higher up.
I was used to this by now. Being left at the customs booth… its not a fun feeling.. everyone knows there’s some problem with you.. they stare.. “What did she do?”   smirks.. some looks of pity..
After about 5 agonizing minutes that seemed like an eternity he told me to come follow him to the back of the booth.
“You have to leave in 3 days” he said.
WHAT???
“No, no, that’s not true. I started here in September.. I stayed 90 days then left for 90 days and came back March 20 and have 90 more days! Check again!” I said, I could feel the tears filling up and slowly trickling down my face. My voice quivering. This couldn’t be happening again!
He took me into the booth and showed me on his computer and it said it,…. that I had been here 88 days and had 3 days left.
“How can that be? I just got back!? I have 90 days of 180 starting March 20!”
“No, not anymore. Go to immigration. Go to the immigration office.”
I tried to comprehend what was going on. I slowly walked to the arrivals room where my friend was waiting for me.  Partway down the longest hallway in the world I leaned against the wall and and tried to regain my composure. Wiped my face clean of tears. Settle my ragged breathing. And I walked on.
He couldn’t believe it either. We looked up everything we could and everything we read said 180 out of 90 days.
We went to the immigration office. I was weak. I was tired. My stomach was once again in knots and swirling around. 3 days! No. I have to go back to my school. I have to all those music festivals this summer. I have to go to the hippie beach at Vama Veche. I have to see the Merry Cemetery in Maramureş. Hike the mountains.. see the mud volcanoes… kayak the Danube delta…  I’m just learning Romanian.
Of course there was crazy traffic due to the taxis going on strike against Uber. So we took the metro. Once we finally got there we learned it didn’t open for another 2 hours. I couldn’t wait downtown for that long. I knew I needed to. But my body was breaking down. I was falling asleep. I had no energy. I was zapped. My head was spinning.
So went home and slept. and slept some more. and woke up the next morning to make the long journey back.
Where we explained the situation. Handed over my passport. And waited. and waited. In a tiny room. People kept going through the doors, but no one stopped to pay attention to us. As the time went on, my fear grew and grew.
Finally a man in full Romanian Police uniform came out with my passport and a white sheet of paper with all kinds of calculations and confirmed my worst fear.
Yes I now had 2 days left.
He tried to explain that rules changed a bit ago and there are a lot of calculations involved. About counting BACKWARDS 180 days to count the 90 days… My mind went blank. I spaced out. I froze.  I was in shock.
So he turned to my friend and explained it to him in Romanian.
After we left that awful place, I called my boss and we decided to try to get what we had of the paperwork and bring it in. A long, slow blur of a day of collecting the paperwork, waiting for an email of an updated document we needed, driving to a different immigration office only to find they closed 3 hours before. And the next day they were closed.

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I tried hard to hold the tears back. What do I do now? Do I leave the country tonight and come back when the documents arrive from the US and hope I am allowed back into the country? Where would I go? It was already 3:45… I doubt there would be any affordable flights out of the county this late. Maybe I could get a ride to Bulgaria and chill there for a week… they have a beautiful seaside I hear.. and I’ve heard rave reviews about Sofia.. and what if they don’t let me back in?

My boss talked to the one lady left behind the desk who was in charge of a different area of immigration. She assured us that all I needed to do was stay in the country, come back when the paperwork was ready, pay a fine for staying over the limit and turn the papers in.

So we deiced to do that.

But I can’t help but be anxious… I already stayed late once… would they let me again? Since I did stay over and was illegally here (its a 3 day weekend and the last day for me is Saturday and I can’t pay the fine before and I can’t go in Sunday or Monday) would they still let me turn in my paperwork? Would they make me leave the country immediately that day? Would I have to leave until the paperwork was done? Usually you are supposed to turn in the paperwork 30 days before your last day.. but I had no Idea of the new rules! I thought I had 90 days!

So my friends took me to the beach for the day to help me get this off my mind.. for some sun.. some sand.. some salt water (much too cold to swim but I definitely put my feet in. And because maybe that would be my only chance to see my beautiful Vama Veche and the Black Sea.

 

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Constanța, Romania is quite an interesting town… lots of abandoned looking buildings and some interesting street art.. It was the first time I saw the seaside since summer (though I was at the ocean in Cali…) so I was super excited..

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Constanța. Even though it was the last weekend in April… a 3 day weekend… the weekend most people come to party at the seaside.. the “beginning of summer”,, it was pretty chilly and empty… though it was only Friday when we went…

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An abandoned Casino right there on the sea in Constanța.. there are guards there and ropes strung up to keep people out… though all my friends have snuck in there at one point.. and I plan to as well… all in good time… its absolutely majestic in there… and the chandeliers and everything are still in place from its heyday.. built by King Carol back in 1900… and if those walls could talk… all the fancy parties with Europe’s elite…

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Constanța… I had to climb over the rocks to get closer to the sea :)))

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Vama Veche, Romania. 🙂 A little hippie-ish village down near the border of Bulgaria. Of course the day we got there there was a thick shroud of mist engulfing the whole area.. leaving it looking a tad bit creepy… intriguing…  empty…

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The waters here are absolutely stunning! A beautiful icy blue nearest the shore and then fades into deeper shades of blue… though I couldn’t see too far out because of the crazy weather..

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Vama Veche… Black Sea… beautiful 🙂

IMG_9761Vama Veche. I had to dip my toes in the water even though it was 10 degrees C and the wind was whipping. (When we first drove over the weather said 17 and so I put shorts on… not the brightest move.. but thanks to living in Canada, it takes a lot to get me cold so I was fine)

Back to Budapest

Friday, February 3, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

I have a feeling that there will be many posts about Budapest in the upcoming month and a half.
I have posted myself here until the 180 days are up and I can finally go back to Romania! I could have tried to get a job in the USA (that would be difficult since I would only be there for a short while). I also could have saved money and stayed with my parents (but that would have been boring).
Instead, I am helping out at a hostel here in Budapest. Living the life. Meeting new people. Attending all of the ruin bars in town to find the best ones. Getting lost in the city to find its hidden treasures. And inviting friends to come on down so I can personally show them the best day ever.
I remember on my way to Romania, I spent a short time in this enchanting city and knew I needed to come back… why not see all there is to see and more and stay here for a month and a half!:)
In fact, my first night here, I had a whirlwind night of meeting my fellow helpers and going to the coolest ruin bar in town, Szimpla. There were all kinds of neat things to find on the walls and on the floor and the ceiling. The hallways and stairs were narrow and stone so it had a labyrinth-like feel to it.. there was a toilet on the ground floor right by the dance floor (hopefully no one has actually used it).. there was a fish tank upstairs.. the outside courtyard was overrun with great green leafy trees and a big red sports car… there was writing all over the walls.. ohhh it was my dream bar!!! I never got bored just looking around at the hodgepodge of wonderful things to entertain myself with!  Unique… different.. bizarre.. beautiful… enchanting… so very fresh than a normal bar :))  and they had some pretty hiphoppening music to get down to as well! ;)) I have a feeling I will be back in the near future.
I also did a quick walk through of the city again.  Below are the pictures… I will have a bit of an update on the city and the experiences after I have been here longer… but so far it is a tad overwhelming.. I speak no Hungarian, but I recently learned my favorite phrase in Hungarian, “Why not?” I’d say it is pretty useful for an adventurous traveler to know…  Less people know English here than in Bucharest… But ohh the buildings are so beautiful.. and the bridges… and the random statues all over.. I am so glad I chose this place to chill at.. I think the time will pass quickly
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What a wonderful view… It is so much prettier in real life.. or in a  better camera… But that is the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion from the Chain Bridge..

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I love this little statue.. I saw this guy when I first came here and absolutely adored it,.. Just beyond,.. in the background is the famous Chain Bridge…

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Another fun little statue of a girl playing catch with her puppy :)) Just down the walkway from the Chain Bridge to the White Bridge…

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I love this little portly police guy :))

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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St Stephen’s Basilica… I’ll go inside one day… but I love the coffee shop on the right hand side… mostly because it is called “California Coffee Company” and I adore California..

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The Green Bridge near sunset.. Just behind me is the huge Central Market Hall where you can find a huge assortment of fresh and local cheeses and meats and breads and fish and Hungarian specialties.. It was so overwhelming that the first time all I came out with was a pomegranate.. but I learned that most of the people know enough English for someone to purchase something since it is quite the tourist attraction too..

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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The start of the Chain Bridge.. with the lovely fierce lions protecting on either side.

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Can you tell that I love this bridge>! :))

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And again, the Green Bridge… Ohhhh how I wish I had a better camera to show you guys how beautiful it really is!!

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And here is my favorite Market… soOoOoo much fresh meats and cheeses and breads and fish and vegetables and fruits…. Don’t be afraid to talk up the workers, most of them know at least some English since this place is pretty famous and a lot of tourists pop by for Hungarian specialties. :))

Venice is not just for lovers 

“Venice is the most romantic place in the world but it’s even better when there’s no one around.” ~Woody Allen. 
Wednesday August 17, 2016

Day 90

Venice, Italy 

 Venice… Everyone I talk to says its one of the most romantic cities on earth. With its little canals and gondola rides in sunsets and quaint little restaurants with candles and wide brimmed wine glasses and beautiful narrow streets… 

They asked me why I would go to such a romantic city by myself? 

“I bet you are going so you can find your own Italian Stallion, eh?” They would laugh, slapping my shoulder for emphasis. “Come on, you know how Italians are….” They would wink coyly. All I could do was laugh back. Listen. This is my trip. There is no right or wrong way to travel. I’m going because I want to see it. I want to experience it for myself. I don’t need to follow societies rules.  Besides, I am not looking for love. I want friends. Experiences. Memories. Moments. And I can find that just fine without a lover. This is MY time. And I am loving it. 

But most of what I saw were restaurants overflowing with tired, hot and worn down tourists stuffing pasta, pizza and wine into their face, but pausing first to take a picture to show off to the world that they were having the best day ever. The narrow streets were packed… rivers of lost people. And they all walked soooo slow. Pausing to check their phone or snap a picture, causing everyone following in their footsteps to make quick attempts to avoid a human domino scenario. 

I have to admit though, I was quite charmed by some parts of the deeper bits the city. The bits where locals lurk and the typical tourist is too happy with the known to want to venture off. I talked to the dishwasher who was dumping dirty water into a back alleyway, asking him about his day and where i should go. I talked to a bored looking young lady sitting behind the counter of a beautiful jewelry shop. I was going to find the secrets. And I certainly ran into some strange and beautiful people. 

I arrived and was hit with an overwhelming sense of thrilled excitement and nervousness. I had no idea where I was sleeping that night. The hostels were full. The hotels were absurdly expensive. 

I wanted badly to run around the city and find all the secrets. The nooks and crannies. But I decided to do the logical thing and try to find a place to sleep for the night. 

I wandered until I found a cute little cafe with beautiful umbrellas decorated with dangling Italian flag colored tassels over their tables and signs for free WiFi. I ordered a Spritz and sent out a few last minute couch surf requests. I always hate doing that.,. I usually like to take my time and write a nice message and personalize it to that person cuz I genuinely want to stay with them. But today I let fate take over. I sent out a bunch at random, each one with a quick little personalized remark so it didn’t look too much like a copy-and-paste. Because I didn’t write to just everybody. But to the ones I thought would be interesting to stay with. Ones that I knew I would get along with or sometimes those that seemed not like me, as a challenge to still find things to connect over. 

Thankfully I got a response within 5 minutes and another option for the next night. I promised I would be at their house with a bottle of wine at 7. Perrrfecctttt!! 

I threw my huge backpack over my shoulders, it seemed to increase in weight every time I put it on. After paying, I headed out to explore. 

My favorite thing. I weaved in and out of the alleyways and over the canals. Trying to take the path less traveled. The way with the least amount of people. Soon I found myself deep in the labyrinth. The only one around. It was beautiful. It really was a beautiful town. Colorful buildings. No cars. Surrounded by water. Canals. 

I grew weary with the giant backpack on my back. The sun beat down, causing my throat to grow raw with thirst. But wow this city sure had a lot of pretty. 

That night, as I was walking to my CouchsurfErs place, I noticed the clouds looked a little murky. Weird. I checked all the street signs and couldn’t find the one I was supposed to turn on. I felt a raindrop. 

Weird. I looked up. More raindrops pelted my face. 

Perfect. 

I kept walking, quickening my pace, debating if I should stop to pull out my sweatshirt or my rain fly for my backpack. 

I finally found the road. Just as I turned, the sky opened. Buckets of water fell. I shook off my flip flops and carried them. At least it was warm rain. After another ten minutes of walking in the rain, I finally made it to his place and I was greeted with a warm towel and eager conversation. 🙂

As the night passed, more people joined. His roomate, his friend, and 2 other Couchsurfers. All of us different ages. All of us from different places. Different countries. Different paths in our lives. Different languages. Different upbringings. But all of us with the same mindset.

The world is our oyster.