Batteries May Need Recharging


I'm quite aware of the fact that nobody wants to feel sorry for the girl who decided in June to "take the rest of the year off," but can we just talk for a minute about the downside of traveling? Sean and I have now officially been gone for two months and I never want to see any of the clothes I packed ever again. I also won't be sad to leave behind cold showers, drippy taps, overhearing the inane one-sided conversations of frat boys chatting on Skype in Internet cafes, constantly having to know where my passport is, squat toilets, mosquito bites that may or may not be the gateway to dengue fever, keeping my wardrobe packed tightly into plastic bags in my backpack and trying to remember every morning which one is tank tops and which one is pants, having to bargain for everything, tuk-tuk drivers who won't take no for an answer, and---yeah, you're going to wish you hadn't read this one---getting SOMEONE ELSE'S POOP ON MY SKIRT.

You heard me. I don't know how it happened, except to say that the bathroom at the bus station in Phnom Penh was incredibly squalid, and actually you know what? I really can't talk about it anymore or I'm going to require some therapy I just can't afford.

So you know what we did yesterday? We took the day off. We just sort of checked out for a while, and we didn't really mean to, but it started because we slept until 10:30am---pure sloth for people used to getting up at five to catch buses and see sunrises---and by the time we'd negotiated the cold showers in the shared bathroom and fortified ourselves with some brunch, the rest of the day seemed kind of like a bust. We've found this new Internet place, which is run by an Israeli family---there are an incredible amount of Israeli travelers in Bangkok, for some reason---and it's FREE, and since free is my favorite price, we've been coming here every day and spending an embarassing amount of time online, and also trying to look vaguely Israeli when anyone looks at us inquiringly, though really they seem not to mind at all. I have been ordering a lot of food here in order to try and overcompensate, and let me just tell you that the Israelis? THEY KNOW THEIR HUMMUS. They also have clowns on planes. I think I'm going to move there.

So after a day of doing not really very much at all, we decided to spend the evening doing even less. And how can you do less than not really doing very much at all? Why, you can go and see a movie.

Yes, Internet, in the cultural capital of Thailand, where I could have visited one of several hundred temples, buddhas, night bazaars, art galleries, theatres, or parks, I chose to see Nicolas Cage in World Trade Center. You may now confiscate my passport because I should obviously never be allowed to go to a foreign country ever again.

The thing is, though, it gets worse. I'm really sorry to have to tell you this, and I hope we can still be friends---except for those of you who think a mango is orange, because you? YOU ARE DEAD TO ME---but we did something even more awful than going to see a movie. Please don't laugh. We went to McDonalds.

I know! Oh, trust me, I know. You can't possibly be more embarassed for me than I am for myself. Up until now we've been veritable culinary crusaders on this trip we're on; we've pulled up tiny plastic chairs at outdoor street kitchens, sampled the national dish of every country we've been to, downed local brews, and bought fruit and noodles and spring rolls from carts on the side of the road. Every single time we've seen a Western food establishment on our travels---particularly a McDonalds or a Burger King---we've rolled our eyes and sighed in disgust, and my first thought has always been "who eats there?" Yesterday, however, when the golden arches rolled into view and we only had twenty minutes until the movie started, and I was tired and grumpy and hungry, my first thought was merely FRENCH FRIES.

I can't even remember the last time I set foot in a McDonalds, though I feel entirely confident that it was sometime during the 1990s, and that, as we all know, was LAST CENTURY. Don't get me wrong; it's not that I don't enjoy a good burger. That's just it, in fact---I enjoy a good burger, and McDonalds isn't good, it's disgusting crap. But oh, the taste of that sugary white bun, the sudden squelch of the pickle, and that melty layer of radioactive cheese, it took me straight back to being eight and nine and ten again, when McDonalds was an occasional special treat, most often accompanied by some activity one finds exhilarating when one is eight or nine or ten, like ice-skating or sticker-collecting.

So that was worth it, I think. Totally disgusting and inauthentic, of course, and if you tell anyone, I'm going to spread vicious rumors about you and your cable repair man, but worth it all the same. Maybe I'll have another one next century.

Sep 25, 2006

I'm so glad to read this sort of post, because I was starting to think that it was only me who gets cranky on vacations after awhile. You are to be commended for doing this whole trip in the first place... it's the kind of thing I would LOVE to do, in theory.... but in reality, I know that the lack of having my own shampoo (not t mention a hot PRIVATE shower) would get to me so much after a few weeks that I would make the trip miserable for myself and anyone unlucky enough to be traveling with me.

And if it makes you feel better, I lived in Spain for 4 months in college, and during that time I went to McDonald's at least once a week (after I got over my haughty "who would eat at a McDonald's in Spain, LOSERS" mentality, that is). I can't remember the last time I went to a McD's in the States, it was probably 10 years ago at least. But when you're in a foreign country, it's just comforting to have something you know... plus, they have different stuff, so it's not really THAT bad. Spanish McDonald's had awesome soft serve ice cream for ridiculously cheap. If they have anything remotely similar there, I highly recommend it.

Sep 25, 2006

Oh my gosh, this is hilarious. When I traveled around Southeast Asia after the bar exam, I totally crashed on the vacation thing when we were in Bangkok. I ate at McDonald's and had Starbucks and went to see a movie. I have absolutely no recollection of what the movie was, but it was some kind of action crapola. But I thoroughly enjoyed sitting on my butt in the a/c for a good couple of hours after all that running around Doing Stuff. You'll get the mojo back.

Someone. Else's. Poop. On you. AAAAAH!

Wood from sweetjuniper
Sep 25, 2006

When I lived in Beijing I went to McDonald's at least once every two weeks. I loved it. I hadn't been back until our recent cross country roadtrip when we had to go everyday in search of playlands. And happy meal toys.

lovely post, lovely freckles.

Look, I know I am just a random internet poster but I saw this contest for fun fearless couples in my recent issue of Cosmopolitan and you guys instantly came to mind. The deadline is October 2, the prize is a trip for two to Paris. After wearing someone elses excrement on your clothing you may need a trip to to city of lights. There is an entry form on cosmopolitan magazines website. I think visiting a country during a coup totally qualifies you for fun and fearless.

I Think You Should
Sep 25, 2006

At the end of my two months studying abroad in law school, we went to TGI Fridays in Prague. Twice. In one week. Our big plan for our last Tuesday night was to go see some awful movie with Matt Dillon and Liv Tyler and eat at TGI Fridays. And we were excited about this.

Sep 25, 2006

I feel you, honey. When we were in the Philippines earlier this year, we found ourselves in McDonalds more often than I am compelled to admit. But only because the majority of the food in the Philippines? HORRIBLE. And they apparently know it, which is why you'll find a Western restaurant on nearly every corner.

Gah. No wonder I gained weight while I was there.

Sep 25, 2006

I loved this post and hoped your "day off" was just what you & Sean needed. When I backpacked through Europe alone (and that's Europe for gods sakes so I really have no excuse) I remember getting to Denmark and being THRILLED at the idea of eating at Fridays and then going to see I AM SAM with Sean Penn. So American and yet so comforting. So I think we've all been there at some point & can relate!
And also? So happy to hear you were pulling for a YELLOW mango all along.

Sep 25, 2006

Don't worry about it - it's all a part of travelling. I've been to MacDonald's in several different foreign countries (even though I don't eat it at home) and every time I fee sheepish and like "that person." Going to a movie can be considered a cultural event - it's not everywhere you have to stand and watch a propaganda movie for the King before you can dive into your popcorn (or squid snacks depending on your locale). Everyone runs out of steam at some point or another and you'll eventually get back into the swing of things...enjoy!

Sarah Marie
Sep 25, 2006

I think we've all been there. After spending a month in Siena, Italy, I let myself visit a McDonalds. I felt so guilty, since I could have been dining at a restaurant that used to be a house--a house so long ago that ancestors were buried in the living room. This restaurant was on one of many cobblestone streets on which they don't allow cars. Fast food in Tuscany--a guilty guilty pleasure, but somehow a very necessary one.

Anyway, my point is, there is no need to threaten us with stories of fallacious sexploits, sweet Holly! And where are all of your custom-tailored clothes? Can't you wear those instead of tank tops and poop skirts?

Sep 25, 2006

After a month in Europe eating the food there, staying in hostels, wearing the same clothes (That after a while they just even SMELL wrong) I was so happy to eat at McDonalds, I didn't even care they seemed to also offer some sort of pig brain wrap. I couldn't translate what it actually was, but I ordered a cheeseburger and fries and just about died from happiness at that catsup covered cardboard taste that I was at least familiar with.

Sep 25, 2006

Even better than last century, you had not eaten in McDonald's since the last MILLENIUM. And every thousand years or so, a girl deserves some unhealthy corporate food. In my opinion, anyway.

Sep 25, 2006

Why, I myself was at a McDonald's just last night. And now, thanks to you, I can consider that kind of cosmopolitan of me.

And I KNEW you were on the side of yellow! Hope Sean's not too disappointed to be wrong. How could he be? He's still got the girl--the girl with poop on her skirt (what a fantastic song that would make!), right?

Hope your funk lifts and you're back on the meeting Israeli Plane Clowns trail again soon.

Sep 25, 2006

I went to a McDonald's while visiting Amsterdam in 1993 (yeah, just like Vincent describes in Pulp Fiction: Royale with Cheese...) Anyway, it was a total weak-traveler- seeks-comfort moment, like the one you describe, but one that soon became a humorous one when the local Amsterdam teens there somehow realized that my traveling companion and I were Americans. And from near LA, no less. Their first question?

"You know Axl Rose personality?!?"

They were pretty crushed to find that, no, we didn't know Axl Rose personally, but the question--posed with such raw optimism--became our catch phrase/travel mantra whenever things on the road got, you know, WEIRD. And they always do.

Sep 25, 2006

I love McDonald's SPECIFICALLY because the food tastes EXACTLY like it did when I was eight, which was THIRTY YEARS AGO.

And please PLEASE throw that skirt away. I will send you a new one. Just throw it away.

Sep 25, 2006

That's a great picture of you.

You just look so *over* it, if temporarily.

Sep 25, 2006

Try traveling Eastern Europe with a 7 year old - you'll love McDonald's! Actually my son is a great traveler and is willing to try new foods, but we have eaten at McD's in England, Bulgaria and Moldova. We ate at a lot of other places too.

It really became a joke and we took pictures of us eating at the many McD's. It started because we hit London one morning with almost no sleep and a 3 hour wait for our room to be ready. We started walking looking for something to do and eat. We saw a McDonalds and due to hunger, tiredness and lack of anything better settled for that. I remember saying to my son "Thousands of dollars and thousands of miles just to eat another Happy Meal."
It has become a catch phrase for us. That was over a year ago and sometimes when we stop at one when traveling he will still say it to me to make me laugh.

So just take your picture, enjoy and think of us. It will be like adding to the collective travel experience.

It's funny, but I don't really like to eat at McD's usually, but in a foreign country it is very comforting, and no matter how much you are enjoying your travels, somtimes you just need that.

Plus the ketchup is good. We would buy extra just to have-- seems other countries don't really have the same idea about tomato products we do.

Sep 25, 2006

After getting S.E's.P. (Someone Else's Poop) on your deserve whatever food/drink you want. Mangos, by the way, are MANGO-colored. Which is a saffron-y shade of yellowish-orange. Your story reminds me of my husbands' tale of woe/Golden Arch craving from Rome. He'd been on a scary night-train all night, arrived in Rome at dawn and headed straight for the Colliseum, etc, on foot.

After some hours of weary-eyed exploration, and a long nap propped up against one of the giant columns, he developed a deep and severe case of McDonalds Tunnel Vision. MTV, as you now know, is cured only by the immediate consumption of something greasy/cardboard-esqe, strewn with plastic cheese and laden with sugary ketchup. Mmmmmmm. I for one, have taken a mid-day nap in a park in central London. Not smart, but it did the job. The moral of the stories: Don't feel bad about taking some rest day(s).

And please, burn that skirt. For our mental peace.

Sep 25, 2006

No apologies needed - I would have hit that point weeks ago. Or at some point every single day.

Do what you need to do. The whole point is to have fun, right?

And there'll always be another Thai temple to visit.....

Sep 25, 2006

Dude. I totally want McDonald's right now.

And when I was in Portugal I was constantly eyeing the McD's on the street corners, but my husband would have none of it.

I mean really, I was curious to see if it would taste differently. An experiment, of sorts.

Consider yourself a scientist!! Conducting important experiments!!

Sep 25, 2006

I've done quite a bit of traveling myself and I completely understand. At some point, the momentum you've been running on catches up with you and hits you in the face. Hard. Something about the root of the word travel being "to work" - as much as it is a wonderfully fun experience, it's hectic and break-neck and so very tiring. I used to get sick, as a rule, a couple of months into travel. I'm going to go ahead and assume that you're sick too and therefore the McDonald's!

Sep 25, 2006

My husband and I lived out of two suitcases for two months when we moved to Japan. When we finally got a house and our stuff back, I too hated everything in that suitcase and I'm guessing it holds a lot more than your backpack does. I took everything and put it in a far corner of our new house with the hopes that someday I will actually want to see it again. Outlook looks dims. I completely understand your exhaustion. Living here so far has been like a vacation as we only recently moved into a house and prior to that spent many hours in bad hotels. We too buckled on occasion for Mikey D's. You made it much longer than we did! Hope you are revived from your day off!

Sep 26, 2006

this post is so funny because of the lovely commenters who start their comments with WHEN I WAS IN __________(insert foreign country) how cosmo are we all???
well, when I WAS IN GERMANY for 10 yrs thru highschool, we went to Mcdonalds every friday night before we hit the Flash, the local discotheque.

Good story Holl.(omg can i call you that? were friends ,right?) I am still cracking up from the last post and One flew over the coup coups nest.

Sep 26, 2006

I HEAR YOU!!! and if you are still in Bangkok when you read this you have to go and try the Dunkin' Donuts right opposite the Siam Paragon on Sukhumvit. After a few days of seeing temples all around Bangkok and Ayuthaya, my friend and I were all templed out, so much so that we were getting really edgy from just 'doing stuff' and being all cultural. Then we spotted the Dunkin' Donuts. A chocolate covered donut and an iced coffe is nectar from the Gods. It was like we were given new life.

shiso mama
Sep 26, 2006

We spent our honeymoon in Vietnam and Bali, and I'll have to confess that by the time we made it to Bali, we were so exhausted that we spent the entire week in our fancy resort, ordering room service hamburgers and watching World Cup soccer. I still feel compelled to make stuff up when people asked us how we enjoyed Bali.

Sep 26, 2006

The trick with McDonald's is not to think of it a FOOD.
Just love it and accept it for what it is.

Sep 26, 2006

I like to think that going to McD's in a foreign country is part of the whole travel experience. Most of the food is like the stuff here at home but then instead of apple pies they have green pea pies or sichuan spicy chicken sandwiches... After living in Chengdu (in the spicy Sichuan province) for a few months I really needed a meal that wasnt going to make me burn the next morning, you know?! Once or twice we just checked into the Holiday Inn and watched tv and had drinks. Cut yourself some slack. :-)

Sep 26, 2006

Your expression in that photo - I believe that's called "bershon"...? Forget where I first heard that word. But you've got it bad.

( Ah. Here: )

And I'm actually impressed you lasted so long before hitting the Travel Wall. Good on you! I would have been at McD's a few weeks ago, I'm sure.

Sep 26, 2006

I can relate. My sister and I went backpacking around Europe for the summer a couple of years ago and we crashed too. I can understand. You hit a brick wall. I'm glad to read that you had the same experience b/c when I told people back home what happened, they couldn't believe me or understand me.

Renee in GA
Sep 26, 2006

The last McDonald's I visited was in Slovakia. They charged extra for the ketchup but those precious packets were worth every penny (forint?). My missionary friends in various countries would speak reverently of their jaunts to TGI Fridays, which were planned weeks in advance. Whatever works for you!

Sep 26, 2006

My hubby and I totally broke down and did the same thing (McD's and a movie in Paris) on one of the last days of our honeymoon. The sad part? Our honeymoon was only two weeks long and we couldn't keep ourselves from breaking down and baring our ugly American roots...

Sep 27, 2006

You look lovely, if temporarily kept from strangling skirt-soilers with something nuggety or fry-ish.

Sep 27, 2006

My best friend and I eat french fries in McyD's all over the world. It's our right and duty as Americans to celebrate our culture. Also, the McDonald's in Rome has an excellent salad bar.

jenny lee
Sep 27, 2006

PFFFTTTtttt mangos ARE orange.

Sep 27, 2006

and still, if i get a shot at another life via reincarnation (or, you know, whatever), i'd want something very much resembling yours.

Sep 27, 2006

...posting a comment for the first time in a few months to say: mangos are quite clearly orange.

And Holly, after your Mcfession, I'm putting your 'peace, justice, truth' card in the bin. And I've got you an early Christmas present - - should I put the certificate in the post, c/o the Israeli internet cafe..?

Vaguely Urban
Sep 27, 2006

When I was in Thailand, I saw Moulin Rouge! Did they play the national anthem first, or is that not done, post-coup? (I've been wondering.)

Come to think of it, I saw Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels in Bulgaria.

Sometimes, you just need a day off.

Sep 28, 2006

Thank goodness you are normal! I have travelled a fair amount in my day - both for business and pleasure - and it never failed that when I was away for any significant amount of time, tired, sick of my clothes and surroundings and just needed a break, I would find myself walking into McDs and doing the dance of joy while eating my french fries, Diet Coke (which tastes so different outside of North America) and burger of choice. Sometimes a movie followed or if I had totally snapped, I would check myself into a decent (read - has a private bath) and spend a night there.

I concur totally with everyone - sometimes you do just need a day off! Now go buy yourself something pretty!

Sep 28, 2006

Are you noticing a theme amongst the commenters?

Sep 29, 2006

Oh, ignore Josh. When I was inter-railing we went to McDonald's an embarassingly large amount. You're supposed to enjoy yourself. The locals all go, when they've saved up for six months or whatever.

And anyway, we all know Josh eats crisps ALL the time.