Carol Bontekoe

This blog has been keeping track of my adventures since 2004. The stories and the adventures have come from my college dorm room to Uganda, Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, learning Dutch in the Netherlands to living in the wilds of Homer, Alaska. I went back to school in Amsterdam to study Theaterwetenschap (Theatre Science) at University of Amsterdam. And now my adventures as a Fruit Fly, a Sexy Unicorn, and creating a movement with Team Sparkle in Chicago.

Friday, August 1, 2008

WAR...SAW ugh what is it good for?

I am in Warsaw, Poland right now. I have been here since the wee hours of the morning. I had no choice, my bike needed to be brought to the city for immediate attention.
Yesterday when I went to buy a ticket I went from window to window asking if anyone spoke English or Russian.
No one. Seriously? Do these people never leave Poland?
I finally was reduced to trying to get the ticket that I needed with no language between me and the ticket agent. I was genuinely hurt... I have put in the effort to learn two different languages and I speak the international language of the world and these women couldn't be bothered to learn a little English or at least a little Russian? What were they doing during those Soviet Block years? Unless they are younger than they look... I mean... Lets just say whatever one is thinks... Slavs don't age well...
"ONE!" 'I held up my index finger... in case you aren't the world traveler that I am -holding up your index finger while shouting, "one" is the international code for... one. I'm just trying to make your future travels easier.
I kept shouting and waving my index finger about so it looked like I was doing the jitterbug. "PLEEAASE. ONE for WARSAW!" "BILET!!! Oden! Moshna..."
something in Polish blah something in Polish.
"Ya know... War(act like bombs are being dropped over head) Saw(act out sawing motion)"
blah blah blah Polish Blah blah Blah
I point to a sign that shows the ticket I want the over night bus to Warsaw that ends at 6 the next morning.
some more polish.
Just one." i do a side step and wave my arms in one direction... That's the international sign for one way.... although sometimes this looks like the hula. She eventually tapped something into the computer and then said 40 in Russian. I gave her a look... Could the Bitch speak Russian this whole time..?.. Either way I paid the price and got my ticket.It could be a return for all I know.
I had the rest of the day to kill. Everything in the town kinda shut down a round 8pm My bus wasn't leaving till 10:40pm, but with a lack of places to go I decided to wait at the bus stop with my bike. No one else really showed up till about 10 minutes before the bus came. They were all being seen off by family, friends, boy/girlfriends. I was alone with my bike. I didn't feel alone though I felt I had a mission. I felt like I had a sick child who needed urgent help but the only place we could get help for her disease was in the capital city.
I pictured myself with a babushka scarf tied around my head, barefoot(mostly cuz I was barefoot cuz my boots made my feet hurt), clutching my poor sick dying bike. We would ride across the country if that is what it took to get help.
Blah blah blah polish blah blah
"Does anyone speak English? Pa-Ruski? ENGLISH?"
"Where are you from?"
I didn't know why the man had to ask that... what does it matter where I'm from I still need someone to help me in some language other than Polish.
"America... tell him the bike is coming with me. I can't leave the bike I'm going to Warsaw for the bike. Please, tell him."
Long blank stare
blah polish blah
even longer blank stare
awkward standing around time
me looking away slowly but shaking the bike at the men.
look back slowly
eye contact
the driver gestures me to follow him.
He opens up a compartment area for me to put the bike into. I tried. Didn't fit. tried again. didn't fit. just as I was about to freak out and smash the bike against the bus and yell, "IT HAS TO FIT!" the guy who"spoke English" grabbed it from me and jammed it in. fine. can't hardly break it more than it is already broken.
The bus ride was terrifying. And I'm saying this even though my first time in a mini bus in Uganda, called a Matatu, we hit a cyclist and kept driving. This was so much scarier. The bus driver was going insanely fast and I watched as every semi went just a breath past my window.
Even though the driver was going insanely fast I didn't even connect in my brain that we might show up early. We pulled up to a stop that looked like it must be the center of Warsaw, there were all these big buildings with names of hotels that I recognized. I figured it couldn't be. It was only 4 in the morning. My ticket said I would arrive in Warsaw at 6. I figured we must be like in another town or near the airport or something. I figured I would just wait for the final stop. Pretty quickly after we left the stop I realized that was in fact the center and we were now heading out to the airport.
When the bus pulled up to the airport and everyone got off I still stayed on the bus. I had an hour and forty more minutes on the bus. They owed me that time. And no one ever mentioned airports... they didn't even do the international sign of holding out their arms while humming mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
I waited then kind of wandered over to the door and stuck my head out
"Is this the last stop?"
"Yes, it is," replied a man who never bothered to speak up in English before that moment.
"So... I like gotta get off."
nod of the head.
I got my bike and bags and tried to figure out what i should do. Well, getting out of the departure zone would be a start. There was no direct route to the arrivals which was directly below the departures so I had to walk against traffic, fortunately at that hour there wasn't much, and go all the way around the terminal and down. In total it took about an hour and a half for me to get back into not a big deal but I still felt stupid. I took a bus where the whole time it seemed like the bus driver was trying to knock me off my feet. Thank God my legs don't straighten out anymore and my quads are really strong. I was able to remain standing the whole time, while holding my bike in place that was trying to roll off. I still haven't slept... maybe I should go and do that... maybe this whole weird ride to Warsaw was some weird dream...maybe...


  1. *secret smile* said...

    Good to know about that index finger... I mean really, who would have guessed?

    All I can say is... I probably would have an ulcer after that bus ride. I just hope your stomach lining is still intact.

    Keep it up, Carol! You are inspiring me! And cracking me up at the same time! Not an easy feat...

  2. Pat & Bill said...

    What do you mean: "I speak the international language of the world". Do you mean Esperanto? Esperanto is a planned language which belongs to no one country or group of states.

    Take a look at


  3. Anonymous said...

    I'm impressed with your trip -- you make me want to leave corporate America and have an exciting international life again! Your posts are hilarious.

    -- Megan Schmidt

  4. Sam said...

    Ahh crazy bus rides... gotta love them! My scariest may have been the bus ride from Playa del Carmen to Chichen Itza, when a tree being bulldozed fell onto the bus while we were going full speed, the bus backing up on a busy road, driver getting out and yelling at the bulldozer driver. Or maybe it was collectively the bus rides across Jamaica... shudder. Or maybe the taxi rides in Cuzco, Peru, where apparently a stop sign means honk your horn and speed up, and a red light means lay on the horn and speed up.

  5. Tom said...

    You have performed a feat for the greater good of the bike. The bike should thank you for your sacrifice. I know I would. Tho I hope you never have to rush me to Warsaw for some medical help...