"" Writer's Wanderings: May 2017

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Project

Embarkation does not always mean you are getting on a ship and setting off on a cruise. This journey that I've started is quite different. Somewhere in my web surfing or social media, I'm not sure which, I saw a posting about making sleeping mats for the homeless from plastic grocery bags. The idea nagged at me for a while and then took hold. So here I am on another adventure.

I started with trying to get people to collect bags for me and then enlisted as many ladies from my church as I could to join in the project. It has created a new exciting journey. Our local grocery store (Heinen's) which has a recycling program agreed to donate their collected bags to us. Online, I found several postings on instructions for making the mats which are really quite simple if you know how to crochet. So here's how it goes if you might be interested in your own project:

Grocery bags work best because they are not so thick as some plastic bags are. You flatten the bag, fold it over several times lengthwise, cut off the sealed end and then the handles and then cut 1 inch strips to make what is called "plarn." The video from Craft For Humanity shows the whole process quite well. She makes her strips a little wider but I found that it is much more difficult to crochet that way.

Take the loops and tie one inside the other to make your chain of plarn. Roll it in a ball and you are ready to crochet. A size P hook (10mm) works best. Chain about 42-44 stiches (it should measure 2 1/2 feet) and turn. Single crochet back and forth until you have a mat measuring 6 feet. The carry strap is a chain 6 feet long with a row of single crochet on it. Join the two ends to make a loop and wrap it around your rolled mat, looping one end into the other.

This project took on a life of its own as the grocery store employees became excited as well and have really given me more bags that I can keep up with. Now I need to schedule more work nights to share the load. The cutting and making the plarn takes the longest. If you embark on a similar journey and want to involve others, you can find people who would like to help but don't know how to crochet to cut bags and make plarn.

The only danger in this whole project is becoming known as the bag lady. In this case though, I'll wear the title proudly as we make the mats that will be distributed sometime in the fall or early winter when our church collects gloves and blankets and coats and takes them into downtown Cleveland to hand out.

I'm thinking this may also be a good project to send to churches in other countries who sit on bare floors--sometimes just the earth--to worship as we saw in Papua New Guinea. I'm sure there are lots more applications but one thing at a time.

Monday, May 29, 2017

A Look Back to Normandy

[One of our best remembered trips from 2009]

One of the main objectives for our riverboat trip on the Seine was to be able to see the beaches at Normandy where the landing of American, British, and Canadian troops was the turning point in WWII. After our arrival in Le Havre and over-night stay aboard the Viking Seine, we joined the other passengers on buses for the trip west to the beaches.

The first stop was the Gold Beach where the British came ashore. There is a museum there with a movie and slide show that explains the building of the artificial harbor that allowed ships to bring and unload the supplies and ammunition needed for the troops. Existing harbors were all under German control so this was the only way to safely supply the troops.

It was an amazing engineering project. There were two harbors built, one American and one British, but only the British one survived due to a huge storm that hit the coast just about the same time as the landing of the troops.

Large concrete structures were made in England and floated over to the coast of France when it was time to put them together. They formed the break wall and then eventually floating docks were used to lay “roadways” that allowed for tanks and jeeps to be off loaded and driven to shore.

After spending some time at the museum and beach area, we ate at a restaurant called June 6 and then boarded the buses again for the ride to the American cemetery. As expected, the cemetery is a deeply reflective experience rather you have a direct connection to those buried there or not. Over 9,000 graves dot the landscape, all laid out in neat military order. Their sacrifice and the service of their fellow GIs stopped one of the largest threats to freedom the world has ever faced.

Moving on, we next visited Omaha beach, one of two beaches where American soldiers came ashore. While the beach area was flat, the soldiers were at a disadvantage because of the cliff areas from which the enemy could position themselves to fire down at those below. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to spill out of a landing vehicle and into a maelstrom of gunfire.

Our last stop was atop a cliff area where the German bunkers were. There were several guns positioned there at one time which could swivel and cover both the Omaha and Utah beaches. The position was bombed as the Allied assault began and the craters you see in my picture are from those bombs.

The next time the Honor Guard passes at the parade with our flag or the Star Spangled Banner is played, stand in remembrance and thankfulness for the freedom you have to enjoy your parade and/or your sports event. Freedom is fragile.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Flashback Friday - Our First International Trip

Our very first passports in hand, we flew to New York and then on to Heathrow Airport in London. It had to be the late 1980s. There was no fuss with security and once through immigration we were greeted by Bob's sales rep, David, who was English but had lived for a few years in the US. He popped us into the car with our luggage and we were on our way.

Of course the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car and we were driving on the wrong side of the road. With little sleep and anxiety over being in unfamiliar territory we began our crazy journey through the streets of London. Roundabouts made me dizzy and then I happened to glance at the speedometer from my place in the back seat. He was doing 100! It wasn't until later that I realized it was only about 60 mph. All I could think of was, "I'm gonna die!"

Finally it was time to check into the hotel and see if we were lucky enough to have our room ready for us. Thankfully it was. We may have napped a bit. I can't remember but I do remember the visitors we had. A knock on our door and we kind of looked at each other. Had David decided to stop by? Had we left something in the car?

Bob opened the door which was around the corner from where I sat. I could hear a female voice but couldn't understand what she was saying. Bob's voice came through loud and clear though.

"Uh, no. No. That's won't be necessary. Thanks anyway. My wife is here with me."

He closed the door and gave a chuckle. He explained there were two ladies-of-the-evening who had offered him their services. I laughed. He looked so uncomfortable.

Later we saw them hanging out in the entryway to the hotel. They didn't acknowledge Bob. I guess they didn't want to embarrass him with his wife. When we returned to the hotel, they were gone. We assumed when we never saw them again that they had been removed or just moved on.

During the day, Bob worked the trade show (our reason for being there) and I got to explore. David had shown us how to use the tube (the subway) and I ventured out several times. My only scare was hearing a rowdy crowd headed in my direction and I feared it was one of the demonstrations that were happening around that time with the IRA. They were upon me before I had a chance to react but I realized with relief that it was only a group of young men all dressed in soccer gear and celebrating. I breathed a sigh of relief although today I know that it could have been just as dangerous a situation. Those soccer fans can be intense.

Sadly David is gone now but while he was still with us we always blamed him for getting us to travel to London. It was the beginning of a wanderlust that has not yet abated.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Have Hot Dog, Will Travel

Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I'd truly like to be.
For if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me. 

And now that little chorus is stuck in your head too. On my trip to the Walmart's near me a few days ago I was surprised to see the iconic wienermobile sitting at the entrance. Now that's a way to travel in style.

There are six wienermobiles that travel the highways throughout the year. The drivers who are hired to work from June to June of the next year are called hot doggers. They also hand out the iconic whistles which I should have stopped and picked up but forgot.

The 27 foot long vehicle was first created in 1936 by the nephew of Oscar Mayer, Carl. Since 2004 the wienermobile has been able to play the Oscar Mayer song in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova. 

The last time I saw a wienermobile was when we visited the Henry Ford Museum. The 1952 version of the vehicle is there. This one in front of Walmart's though was a double-take moment. What a way to travel!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CLEMET Zoo - The Trumpeter's Nest

A couple of years ago we had our granddaughter at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and were thrilled to watch little trumpeter swans following mommy all over the pond where they had nested. They were soft fluffy cuteness and we enjoyed revisiting to see their growth over the summer. If I recall correctly they were sent to another area to try to reintroduce the trumpeter swans into the environment as they are slowly disappearing.

This year we were excited to see the pair of swans nesting again. Well, mom was on the nest and dad was sleeping nearby. Trumpeter swans mate for life and it was good to see this pair still together and healthy. They are the largest of all waterfowl measuring up to six feet in length and can weigh almost 30 pounds. Their trumpet sound can be heard all over the zoo when they are excited.

We stopped and mom eyed us for a minute. They choose to make their nest which is about 5 feet in diameter near a walkway. The nest is always in the same spot each year. Bob jokingly said, "Can we see what you've got in there?" A moment later, mom stood up and sure enough the nest was full. There were about a half dozen eggs the size of my fist in there.

She stepped around them carefully and then stuck her head under a couple and moved them a bit. Once she liked where they were positioned, she turned herself around and sat back down. Either the eggs needed to be turned or she was just trying to make it a little more comfortable.

Bob thanked her for her kindness and we walked off feeling we had witnessed something special.

That's why I love the zoo so much.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Flashback Friday - The Smokies

One of our first vacations with all five of our kids was to the Smokey Mountains. We rented a beautiful house on a mountainside near Gatlinburg and drove to it from our home in Ohio. We had a station wagon at that time (later we would graduate to a van) that we packed up and headed south. There were no problems with it until we reached the mountains and began the climb.

Our youngest son, newly adopted at the age of five, did not have good speech skills yet. He is developmentally handicapped and at that point in life had few words in his vocabulary communicating mostly with grunts and sounds and hand signals. What he did and still does have is a great smile. He smiled all the way to Tennessee.

We began to notice the car not getting much acceleration up the inclines. We would make it to the top of one holding our breath and hoping that the next one would be okay. At one particular incline almost to our destination, the car crept along slowing and slowing almost to a stop. We were so close to the house. Bob didn't want to turn around and try to find a service garage at that point so he kept the pedal pushed to the floor and his hands tight on the steering wheel.

 I don't think any of us were praying out loud. Maybe I didn't realize it and I was. The kids had been very quiet feeling the anxiety of the situation with the car not having any power. Suddenly we heard a loud pop and for a moment the car lurched and chugged then began accelerating on the incline. Before anyone could say a word we heard a chuckle from Donny and then, "God fixa car!"

Not only did God fix the car (it ran like a charm after that) but it was definitely a break through in Don's language skills.

Oh yes, the rest of the vacation. We hiked. We relaxed in the big hot tub. And we fished. The fishing was the other dear memory. It was a stocked trout pond. Now imagine trying to keep track of five kids who were pulling in trout one after the other. Finally one of the attendants said, "Ma'am how many fish do you want to take home? You know you buy them by the pound."

I looked at the kids and the pile of fish. Yikes! "I think we'll stop now." It was a quick but successful fishing session and we enjoyed the fresh trout on the grill for dinner.

And then there was the indoor skydiving. But that's another flashback for another Friday. Fond memories.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Avoiding The Local Travel Scams

The older we get the more likely we are to be targeted for scams. Seniors are thought to be less savvy than younger travelers but no matter what your age, those who feel they can cleverly scam you out of money and/or possessions are ever present in the tourist areas of the world. I could tell you what the most recent scams are that I read about but by the time I post this and you read it the scammers will be on to something different. So here are a few common sense things to remember as you are out and about in foreign places.

Whenever you are approached by someone who wants to stop you and talk or sell you something be wary. When in Paris several years ago we were approached not once but three different times with the is-this-your-ring scam. Someone would run after you with a ring in their hand and ask if it was yours. If not, they would offer to go off and sell the ring. Of course you are not going to go with them so they will conveniently let you pay them half of its value and then you can have the ring to pawn or sell yourself. Others have approached us with items to sell and one almost succeeded in emptying my fanny pack which was in front of me and under my jacket.

Stay with authorized taxis. You can find out that information in tourist books or on board your cruise ship or at a tourist information booth. Otherwise you may be overcharged or be given counterfeit change.

Be aware of your surroundings. Travel in groups when possible or stay on the main roads and byways. While pickpockets may like large crowds, muggers will enjoy the less traveled alleys. Get a money belt but don't carry a large amount of cash. The best place to get money at an ATM is inside a bank or at the airport. It is less likely you will encounter trouble. And for goodness sake--don't take all your money out of your wallet or pocket or money belt at one time and hold it in your hand showing how much you are carrying.

Probably the scariest scam that we encountered albeit not directly was when we passed through Mozambique. While we were escorted with a tour group on our way to a safari in South Africa, others from our ship were exploring the capital city. Whether actual police officers or not, there were two instances of cameras being confiscated. We had been told that you could not take a picture of someone in uniform or an official government building. The camera owners were accused of taking forbidden pictures and were told that if they paid a fine they would return the camera. One man was told they would detain his wife too. Luckily they returned wife and camera when he emptied his wallet for them. I think I would have left my camera on the ship.

Whether home or abroad, common sense is the best thing to travel with. Don't leave home without it.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Marking Time Between Trips

We have several months before we embark on our next journey. There comes a point where you get all caught up with things at home and wanderlust begins to set in again. Some of that will be solved by a few trips closer to home but a little wandering around the web helps as well. One of my web sojourns led me to an article about some unusual places to stay in various spots around the world.

Bali, Australia, Mexico, British Columbia, Georgia (USA), France, Italy, the article listed ten. They ranged in price from $250/night to $10,000/night. So practically speaking I'd probably opt for the one in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, although Mexico is not a favorite destination. The house is interesting though. Made to look like a collection of sea shells it has an inviting feel to it. I checked its listing and the price shown was actually $308 but the offerings are many including the pool. Several pictures I found from TripAdvisor shows the inside is as unique as the outside. Most reviews were good.

On the other end of the scale is the 11 acre estate in Los Altos Hills, California. Now if I won the lottery and had more money than I knew what to do with and I was a Beyonce fan (she stayed there for her Superbowl appearance) I'd consider it. Sleek and modern. Rooftop garden with views of the valley. Of course a pool and a spa and a pricetag of $10,000/night. Maybe we could get four other couples to go in with us. That would make it only $2.000/night. Ah, dream on.

My real choice though would be the Parisian Mansion in Saint-Germain en Laye, France. It's a moderate $1650/night. Built in 1679 by the same man who designed the Chateau in Versailles, it has seven bedrooms and sleeps 12. Splitting the cost on that would make it actually affordable. It's 20 minutes outside of Paris. Oh, and did I mention it comes with a housekeeping staff. Wonder if we could get a chef too?

Ah, dreams, the stuff that makes life more interesting.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Electronics Ban On Airplanes

Just when you thought security clearance couldn't get any more difficult along comes another change. A short time ago all electronic devices larger than a cell phone were banned from flights to the USA from a list of Middle East countries. Supposedly there was a concern that a bomb could be put in the device that was difficult to screen in the usual carry on screening.  Apparently the screening of checked bags is more thorough or more able to detect a device that has been tampered with.

You can stow your devices in your checked luggage although I have read that some airlines are concerned that all those lithium batteries could be dangerous down in the hold. That could be why the proposed ban on electronic devices on flights to the USA from Europe is still awaiting approval.

The last place I want my Surface tablet, my camera and my e-reader to be when I travel is in checked baggage. Not only would I be concerned about damage, since anyone who has watched the loading and unloading knows how those bags are tossed, but I'd also be concerned about possibility of theft either in the transport or in the baggage claim. So what's a wandering writer to do?

I searched for information and suggestions online and found a few. None were really acceptable. Clean the memory of your computer and store it in the cloud then download what you need. Sounds feasible as long as your computer arrives with you. If not, you will have to wait until the new one is purchased. Still, your valuable information will not be lost.

Another suggestion was to purchase some sort of container that would show you if someone tried to access your computer while in transit. It is said that those who are malicious could plug in a USB drive and load a program that would allow access to your computer later from a remote location. Now how they would have time to do that while it is going through security and being loaded on a place is questionable but it is feasible I guess.

I can live with not using my Surface while I fly. Living without my e-reader is a little harder but I can read on my phone if necessary. The question is how will the airlines respond who have restructured their entertainment to be accessed by WiFi on board through a passenger's device?

It all seems to be getting quite complicated. But backing up to the original reason for banning the devices--the fact that the screening of carry ons is not as effective as checked bags doesn't make sense. Let's get the screening fixed.

We've lived with having to take our shoes off, learned math with the 311 bag and even put up with imaging devices to be sure we didn't have something explosive (other than normal physical functions) in our underwear. What next? Guess I'll be dusting off my old Royal and oiling the keys.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Crooked River - Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Senecas and the Mohawks each had a name for the river that divides east from west in the Cleveland area. The Mohawks named it Cuyohaga which meant "place of the jawbone" probably because it makes quite a turn near Akron on its way from Geauga County to Lake Erie. The Senecas however named it Cuyahoga which meant "crooked" and that was the name that stuck.

There is a bridge on Route 82 that passes over the Cuyahoga Valley and in this time of early spring with the trees just getting their spring green dressing, it is breathtaking. As we cross over and I look out into the valley I can only imagine the awe that must have been in the hearts of those who first settled here.

Not only is our river  a gem but the valley which is largely owned by the National Park Service is teeming with wildlife and adventure. Those reports of the Cuyahoga catching fire are true but it seems that it is all old history now as the approach of the last fire nears the fiftieth anniversary mark. The river has been cleaned up thanks to many volunteers and ecology minded industry leaders.

The Erie Canal that runs parallel to the river between Akron and Canton has a tow path that has been restored and extended. Blue herons, eagles and river otters can be found along the waterways. Plans are being made for canoeing the river. A new visitor center is on the horizon in addition to several already there. And of course there is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway that makes available all sorts of train adventures including the Polar Express during the holiday season.

The CVNP is one of the few national parks that is free to explore. Lots to learn. Lots to see. Much to explore. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Air Rage - Don't Loose Your Cool

Who knows if there will be another air rage story by the time this posts but the latest was another ridiculous explosion of bad behavior, this time on the part of the air passengers. When I saw the latest incident with the brawl in the Ft. Lauderdale airport over Spirit Airlines cancellations of flights, I joked that it was tough for all those cruise passengers to leave their ship and hit reality again. But really, when you have made plans and they all of a sudden go bad to worst it gets frustrating. There's no reason to lose your cool though.

Instead of starting a fight, put that energy into alternative planning. There is always a way around a problem even when it seems out of your control. Take a deep breath and think. It may cost you some extra money and/or time which may not seem fair but getting to your destination whether home or somewhere else will give you a few degrees of separation from the event and certainly a cooler head to go about finding compensation for your inconvenience or problem.

Hopefully airlines will ease off on their overbooking after some of the recent bad customer experiences but there are also a few things we as passengers can do as well. First of all arrive at the airport early enough so that you are not rushing through security. It's not a fun experience. I get that. But be prepared for it and don't get there so late that if there is a line you aren't tapping your foot and making your blood pressure soar. Having time for a cup of coffee or a perusal of the airport's venues will put you in a better mood for the next hassle--boarding.

Most airlines order their boarding either by customer priority or by seating arrangements. The most organized is when they board from the rear of the plane to the front and/or the two inside seats first then the aisle seats. Unfortunately everyone feels they are owed priority with their loyalty points and they jostle for position in the lines that are assigned them. It is laughable that the first two lines to board are getting longer and longer as loyalty points are liberally handed out.

Of course if you are among the last to board, you may lose opportunity to put your luggage in the overhead. No one wants to be asked to check luggage that has valuables in it. That's why I always suggest trying to get your carry on down to one that will fit under the seat--just in case.

Now I know that airlines are charging more and more for checked luggage. Maybe if they would ease up on that some of the air rage might dissipate. That, less overbooking and a little more knee room might make flying a bit more fun and less of a hassle. All I can say is thank goodness they don't allow guns on planes. There's enough blood shed in the road rage incidents.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Ordering Coffee Abroad

Our education in ordering coffee abroad started with our first trip to London. My husband didn't have much of a problem since he drinks his black. I on the other hand was surprised when I ordered coffee with cream and got a cup of coffee with whipped cream on top. I stirred it in and drank it. It wasn't too bad but the coffee itself was way stronger than we were used to.

Observing the locals is probably the best way to learn things. When I heard someone order coffee, white, I realized that was the way to order what I wanted. We eventually solved the problem of the strong coffee by ordering a pot of hot water as well to dilute the coffee.

Well on to Australia. Unless you order your coffee flat white, you will get something that resembles a latte with foamy milk. Coffee still comes a bit strong and more espresso than a regular brew.

Cappuccino is the way to go in Italy although in most cafes the locals are really into their espresso. We sat with our cappuccinos in Rome at a side walk table and watched through the door as locals who were often triple parked and blocking the road ran into the cafe, ordered their shot or double shot of espresso, stood at the counter and chucked it down, then ran out to move their car before they could be ticketed. Oh, and watch out for those cappuccinos on St. Mark's Square. They can get expensive. Read about them on another post of mine.

Probably the closest thing to ordering coffee that resembles what we get at home is to order an Americano. It's sometimes brewed or else it is espresso that is not nearly so strong. Get it "white" if you like cream in your coffee or ask for a little milk in it.

The safest way to get your coffee the way you like it is to find a Starbucks or a McDonald's. McCafes are popular everywhere and one of the best was in Singapore. Starbucks is popular in Tokyo but you'll have a harder time finding one in Australia. For some reason they don't seem to be as popular yet. I'm sure they're working on that, mate.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Australia--Trying To Master The Language

What? You're American. You speak "English". Don't Australians do the same? Sort of.

When our son went off to Townsville as an exchange student at James Cook University, we got our first introduction to Australia. It was love at first sight and we've been back many times. The first thing we learned was that Cairns was pronounced "cans". Cairns is close to Townsville and is the city where we always stopped to access the Great Barrier Reef and as a stopping off place before going on to Papua New Guinea for diving.

Along the way and several visits under our belt, we learned that Melbourne is not pronounced "mel-born" but rather "mel-bin", Canberra (the capital) is "can-bra" and Brisbane is "bris-bin". Sydney is still Sydney although with an Australian accent it is a little more romantic sounding (think Crocodile Dundee).

Of course even the country is not always referred to as Australia but rather Oz. Why? I'm glad you asked. Australians love to shorten words. The people are called Aussies and the shortened version of Australian is Aus which sounds like Oz. Think that's confusing? Take a look at the words below.

Brekky is breakfast
Maccas is MacDonald's (BTW Burger King is called Hungry Jack's because someone had already trademarked BK in Australia when the company wanted to open the franchise there)
Mozzie is a mosquito
Servo a gas station
Bottle-o a liquor store
Docket is a bill or receipt
Fair dinkum - true, genuine
No worries has of course been adopted by many to mean no problem

So as you see, English is not English everywhere it's spoken--at least not the "Queen's English" as so many refer to the original English as it came from the United Kingdom which was known as Great Britain or the Commonwealth or. . .It does get confusing. We always claim to speak American. People just nod and smile in understanding.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Making The Connection

Nothing is worse than missing a connection that you really wanted to make. Connections in the airport. Connecting with your ride. The connection you need to get from one place to another. But for me the biggest disappointment is picking up my phone and seeing that I missed connecting with one of my kids or grandkids--especially the ones who live on the other side of the world since we have a narrower window to connect in with the time difference.

Then there is the problem with a poor connection. It happened not too long ago on a video chat. The little warning bar kept telling us we had a poor connection. We solved it by going to another app.

Communicating with loved ones is what keeps us connected to one another. Keeps us caring for each other. Keeps us in a relationship. In the "old days" we dialed a phone. Today we touch the numbers on a screen. But it does take power to keep those lines open and connecting.

As I started to try and end a conversation with a granddaughter the other day, I said, "I have to go soon. My battery is getting really low."

Her answer, "Plug it in."

I smiled. A simple answer but one we don't always think about. We think we have power but we don't. Not really. There is a power source though that is greater than any other. The trouble is we don't always think to plug into it. We don't "dial" it up. Bottom line: we forget to connect to the One Source that can provide the power to get us through the tough times, to rejoice with us in the good times, to say "job well done", to comfort, to bring peace. How is your connection? Have you dialed up your Heavenly Father lately? He's always there to receive you. And his power is limitless.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Avoiding The Crush On Public Transportation

While grocery shopping the other day I had a pleasant time. Now if you know me, you know how much I hate grocery shopping. In the middle of a sojourn down the snacks aisle, a message popped up at the top of my grocery list. (I have mine on my phone). My granddaughter in Japan was using FaceBook messaging to connect with me. Hmm. I was sure it was past her bedtime over there. After a few exchanges and lots of emojis, I discovered that she was working on a video project for school that involved comparing transportation in Japan with some other places in the world.

Interesting project, I said, Japan should come out on top with all of their trains that connect to just about any place you might want to go. When all was said and done--well not done, she was procrastinating I'm sure but she sent me the link to a YouTube video that compared Tokyo with Mexico City. Take a look at it. Makes you wonder if you want to get anywhere near a subway train. (https://youtu.be/EK54OgkP8o4)

Yes, I can attest to the fact that the Tokyo trains can be that crowded but it usually happens on work week days during rush hours and when there is a holiday and you are heading for an event that hundreds of thousands are heading to as well. While the video shows orderly lines, it isn't always quite that way. So what's a tourist to do?

Whether it is Tokyo, Mexico City, Paris (just as crowded but less commotion), London (Brits do queue better) or any other major city of the world with a subway know that the trains will be packed at rush hours. Plan accordingly. The train or subway is probably the fastest way to get to your destination but the frustration and the crush could leave you with a bad experience.

In Tokyo you might wait til mid-morning but if you really have to get there first thing and it looks like the train is packed, wait for the next one. Sometimes the express trains are more packed than the ones that make stops and you will only be giving up a couple of minutes of your time.

In Paris, ask about the "tourist trains". When we were there, there were certain lines that hit all the tourist spots and the Parisians do not usually take those to work and back.

I've never been on the trains in Mexico City but I do know that if you travel to London you will learn quickly how to queue (line up in an organized fashion). It is quite civil and much less chaotic--at least it was when we visited. But the world is changing and no matter what it looks like today, it won't look like that tomorrow. That's what makes travel such an adventure.

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