by Maria Ruiz
Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.
Traveling around the world was a lot of fun. But not every experience was. Sometimes a glimpse into another life leaves one feeling sad and helpless. Some of the things we saw were funny, some outrageous, and some shocking. But never boring. And each one opened another little window into another culture.
We were driving the Pan American Highway and got to Nicaragua where it suddenly petered out to a dirt road. We drove quite slowly and then ahead, we saw asphalt. What we didn’t see were the pot holes. Some were big enough to swim in and the whole road looked like a lace shawl. Ted wove in and out but to no avail. We were shaking so bad that screws were starting to loosen from the cabinets. A few more miles and it started raining screws in the motorhome. Then we spotted a man with a couple of boys standing in the middle of the road. As we approached, the man put out his hand while pointing to the boys with shovels and the buckets of dirt and rocks. Ted gave the man a few coins and the boys started shoveling. We drove over the freshly packed holes and down the road. In the rear view mirror we watched as the boys dug out the dirt and replaced it in the buckets. They would have fresh dirt and rocks for the next vehicle.
In Europe, one really shocked us. Our propane tanks needed refilling, and as we drove through the small city of San Merano, a city-state completely surrounded by Italy, we searched for a gas station with the propane sign. All propane tanks are filled in regular gas stations where there is a sign. We finally saw one and pulled in. Ted shut the motor off, and we waited for the attendant.
He came toward us, lit cigarette hanging from his lips. As we asked for a fill, he would take a breath, and the tip of the cigarette would glow red. He opened our tank, inserted the nozzle and held it while it filled, all the time inhaling and glowing. Ted handed him the needed euros, and we quickly drove off.
In Florence, we found the RV park on the grounds of a large villa that had been converted to a youth hostel. After we settled in, I went in search of the laundry and found it under the back stairs and the washer was empty. I filled it, inserted the tokens and went back to the RV. After the thirty-five minutes I returned and put the clean but wet clothes into the dryer. After another forty-five minutes, I collected our clothes. Back at the RV, I started folding the clean clothes. There were my panties, the sheets and towels, and Ted’s socks. But not a single piece of Ted’s underwear. I know I had some when I started but now, none. Someone had stolen his Fruit of the Looms. After we laughed at the strange theft, we visited a department store on our next trip into downtown Florence.
We drove to Sicily two days before Christmas. It is a lovely island, and we were on very good roads. We had an RV park picked out and headed toward it. Since it was in the middle of winter, there were very few, if any, RVs on the roads. We got to the entrance, and it was locked shut. I noticed a door bell and talk box. I pushed the buttons and soon someone answered. It only took a moment or two before the faceless voice realized that I didn’t speak Italian. Soon, someone opened the large metal gates, and we drove in.
Ted found an empty spot and we pulled in. In only a few minutes, we were connected and were settling down when someone knocked on our door. Who could that be? I wondered. Outside stood a woman with a box in her arms. I said, ‘Hola’. I really don’t know what the proper greeting is in Italian so I used what I had learned in Mexico. It usually was enough. Now this lovely lady handed me three very fresh radicchio heads. Somehow, talking very slowly, she told me these were from her home garden, and she wanted us to have them for Christmas. I was so touched I almost cried. She patted me on the back, kissed my cheek and left. It was a priceless gift.
Thailand, half way around the world, could be on another planet because of its differences. Everything about it is different. Food, architecture, culture, and beliefs. We found a very nice apartment in Bangkok and settled down to enjoy all the sights, sounds, and smells of Asia. The apartment had two doormen on the first floor, and they volunteered to babysit Sherman, our dog, when we were out sightseeing.
The apartment was a ‘western’ apartment. That meant that it had a kitchen sink, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a single burner hot plate. Most Thai homes don’t have any kitchen of any kind because the people can eat on the streets for about fifty cents a day. Ted and I tried some of the meals, but they were so spicy hot that we did our own cooking.
The apartment came furnished and had a telephone. One day the phone rang, and I picked it up saying, “Hello.” A man’s voice then said he would be arriving on Saturday and wanted one about age twenty and maybe two. I figured out what he was asking for and told him he had the wrong number. He apologized and hung up. Several months later we got another call like the first. This time I asked where they had gotten our number. “Well, on the internet.” I asked where on the internet, and he gave me the name of the website. After he hung up, we opened up the website and sure enough, there were pictures of lovely Thai ladies in suggestive poses and our phone number.
When the landlord came over, I asked him about it. He told us the two men before us had run a tourist business and had used our number. Since neither the landlord or us, had the password, we were unable to cancel the webpage. Fortunately, those were the only two calls like that we got in the year we stayed in Bangkok. No wonder the two men went back home, they didn’t get enough business.
These were just some of the things we saw and experienced. These are the memories that only the two of us share and made our travels unique to us.