Written in 2001
When: November 2000
Where: Moscow, Russia
What: Ended up paying a ton for a jacket
Of all the stories I've written so far I think they're all funny, except this one. This one still makes my teeth gringe when I think about it. I can fall into a coma, or have really bad days, and laugh about it later. But I don't like being ripped off, especially by a government and system. During this time my view of Russia was flushed down the toilet, but I would get over that and view the country better afterwards. It all started when winter was coming and I asked my family to ship me some things. I needed a winter jacket, boots, gloves, and a teach yourself German course. It would have been the same price to ship it through the postal service than to buy the whole lot in Moscow. Now this jacket is very special to me, I bought it from my old ski coach who coached the Canadian national ski team. This jacket was a team jacket, so it was worth a lot but I got it at a good price. So my family sent the package, but not by the post like I had asked, but by Federal Express. It cost them around $270 US to send, ouch. Guessing the value of it all, they put it at $660 US. It took almost two weeks before it even arrived in Moscow. But when it did Russian customs wanted around $400 US to clear it. Angry as hell I told them to send it back to Canada, only to be told that it would cost even more, it would take weeks to process, and in the end Russian customs could keep it anyway. I was furious and screamed at the customs agents on the phone. They told me this was Russia, not Canada. Idiots. A government that robs its own people and foreigners like that. This jacket was very special, and with the help of my family we actually paid the money to get it. When you add it all up it cost around $670 US just to get this package. Don't get me wrong Russia is an interesting country with smart and friendly people, but it is a very, very stupid system that in the end keeps this country from getting anywhere. As you can see here.
My three big starts
When: First days in each country
Where: England, Holland, and Russia
What: Ended up paying a ton for a jacket
A strange and funny fact of my trip that I can't wait to break the streak of is the fact that for every first day I have been in a new country I would live in, those first days were nuts. For example when I arrived in Oxford, England from Canada I was told by the employment centre that there was a problem with my visa. I had been issued a wrong visa, the British Embassy in Canada had made a mistake in advising which visa to get. So I had to leave for France, come back, only to be stuck at customs in Dover, and then return to Dover again days later to get my new and proper visa. That taken care of things went well afterwards. Then comes my first day in Holland. I left England one evening and traveled all night to reach Holland the next afternoon, when I got near Rotterdam I had an oil leak on the highway that covered the bottom of my bike and wheels. My first day in Holland was spent traveling from that town by train to Rotterdam looking for oil and parts, with all my bags, running around the city, coming back to the bike, and working on it until late that night. Fixing it I was then on my way but got lost looking for the small hotel in a small town, when I got there it was around 2-3 am. I had to wake up at 6 to go to work. I was now in Holland. This picture shows me and my bags at the Rotterdam station going back to repair the bike. But Russia gets the goofy first day award. After riding for sixteen hours on my bike, through rain, fog, and near freezing temperature, I finally reached Moscow. But unable to reach my contact person. My night was nuts, I couldn't read the signs, didn't have a map of the city, couldn't find a safe place to park my bike to go eat or rest, etc... I couldn't go anywhere. It was a very long night. Out of money I spent the night sitting on a sofa in a secured hotel with fenced parking. Only to fall sick that morning. I wouldn't be able to reach my new employer for another day. Fortunately my family wanted to pay for a hotel room, which at first I didn't want them to, but I wasn't feeling well, big headache, vomiting, so I finally got one. The next day the school was open and my stay in Russia started ,and it was great. So that makes for three wild first days, and one wild last day in Russia. All these put together it's just a fact about my trip so far and it makes it even more interesting. I never see these things in a negative way, only from a funny point of view. At least afterwards. I like challenges and these experiences keep making me stronger, it definitely helps in the troubleshooting department. Now I'm going to Switzerland and I'll try and break this streak.