Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Rome, Italy—Lisbon, Portugal—Day 269

I flew to Lisbon today on an Alitalia flight from Rome. Luckily for me the flight wasn’t until 12:50pm giving me plenty of time to get myself up and ready and to the airport with time to spare. I checked out of Hotel “Revolting” and got a taxi to the train station, where I was able to catch an express train directly to the airport.

All this was just great—except for a small factor that I haven’t mentioned yet. My suitcase had been in the process of breaking from my last day in Germany all throughout Italy, getting progressively worse. What I mean is that the handle that you pull out in order to be able to drag the suitcase (I have one small hard-cased suitcase with wheels and one shoulder bag that can be conveniently attached to the rolly one so that it all can be transported together). Anyways, the handle was constantly getting stuck and difficult to pull out in order to drag it. One had to do a series of yanks and shakes to get it out but finally, just before we arrived in Rome, it gave out, meaning that I had to CARRY it. Now I wouldn’t be complaining if it wasn’t like 40 pounds but since it is, I will. You can hear it from my friends—I don’t really have all that much stuff with me (personal items, changes of clothes, etc.—neither Elizabeth or Mo complained about how infrequently I changed my clothes—something I was getting more and more embarrassed about as time passed, and er, when it became more and more noticeable) so my suitcases are filled with computer and camera gear, extra cds, AND my computer! This all takes up most of my room and has proven to be considerably heavy.

I have boasted before about how strong I am getting from lugging everything around, but a few weeks ago I noticed something not so amazing.

I was wondering why on earth my backpack didn’t seem to be fitting right. It seemed like no matter what I would do, no matter how much I would adjust my straps, it never seemed to fit right. One side felt different and off compared to the other one, and no matter how much I tried to fix it, I couldn’t. I thought I must have a faulty backpack until I stood and looked in a mirror.

Turns out that my right shoulder is LOWER than the left side, and no, it wasn’t like this before. OH MY GOD! My should had dislocated (or at least SIGNIFICANTLY shifted downwards) and my shoulders were now LOPSIDED. Ahh! Of COURSE! My right side is the one that I use to drag all of my stuff around with (more often than the left) and the one that seems to bear the brunt of everything so I wasn’t surprised to see that it had in fact shifted downwards.

So I had to drag all my stuff out of the hotel and into the taxi then drag it all into the train station. Thank goodness for trolleys! I then lugged it all on the train to the airport and off again, then hauled it to the nearest trolley I could find in the airport, shoveling out 1 Euro for the life-saver on wheels.

I checked my bags through and was happy to go through customs with just two carryon bags instead of the five I had seemed to accumulate (I was able to shove things into my suitcases after taking out my computer). Anyways, I made it on the plane and was one of two people seated in business class! Why I was in business class is a mystery to me (no upgrades, my ticket was for business class!) but it was funny being in the front of the plane with one other person and everyone else in the back. I didn’t mind reclining back in my huge chair and thought only briefly about the people in the back while I dined on my chicken and wiped my hands on my personal, heated towel.

Landing in Lisbon, I collected my bags (after having multiple people stop and ask me directions and other such things in Portuguese) and inquired about getting a taxi to my hotel from the information booth. The girl working there told me that I could take a bus to my hotel and that it was “just a short walk” from the bus stop to my hotel.

Why I agreed to this, I don’t know. My brain must have momentarily shut off and forgotten about the load that I was literally carrying.

I boarded the bus, paying my 1 Euro ten to get on (what a deal!) and we started down into the city. I had my map in hand and was told that we had quite some time before we were to make it to my stop by a woman on the bus. So I put my map away and started to not pay attention to the stops when all of a sudden we were at my stop! I almost missed it and it took some time for me to get my stuff together (my two carryons—a backpack and my huge computer case AND my two suitcases) and practically fell off the bus. I then started walking with an amazing strength that lasted, oh, ten feet. In the wrong direction of course. I hurdled myself down the road, counting my steps and telling myself, ok, when you walk thirty steps you can take a break. Ok, maybe 25. Ok, no really, 20. Ok 15. Stop. Pant pant pant. I have found that shaking my arms can help quite a bit so you can imagine me standing there on the road, shaking my hands like a mad woman, then picking up my enormous weight and practically trying to throw myself down the street. Its funny when you have to do something like this—you think that the faster you go, the quicker it will be over so you open up yourself to the possibility that going faster increases your likelihood of say, falling, spraining an ankle, you know, those types of things.

After walking quite a bit in the wrong direction before realizing it (an tourist information booth was amazingly right on the nearest corner to which I collapsed and asked where my hotel was) and the girl working at the desk smiled sweetly and pointed my back in the direction I came from. “Its just passed the coffee shop” she said to me.

So, thinking I was really just going to die, I started back again. I thought for sure a heart attack was going to come on. My hands were killing me (clearly my shoulder was getting pulled farther and farther down—there wasn’t anything I could do about it) and clearly I was going to die. One, two, three, four five, six….stop. pant pant pant. One, two three….stop. pant pant pant. I was getting nowhere at a pretty decent rate if I might say.

I made it almost back to where I was dropped off by the bus when a man stopped me (or maybe I was stopped already!) and said “You need help.”

He was right, I did. For a brief moment I thought, no! what if he is going to STEAL my things? Helloooo Sarah. Like he could run away with these heavy cases!?!? I gratefully accepted his offer although it seemed like he wasn’t asking me if I needed help, he was telling me that I did. So he carried my broken wheelie suitcase to the steps of the hotel and told me “good luck” as he left. I thanked him and went inside the hotel, dropping my things on the floor, walking up to the desk and wiping the seat off my face.

I am sure I just made a lovely sight. The people in the lobby didn’t seem all that pleased. Plus I haven’t done laundry in who-knows-when so I am sure I wasn’t, er, the greatest asset to the room really. I’ll spare you the details.

Anyways, I was soon checked in and headed up stairs in a teeny tiny elevator with the concierge guy (feeling mortified at having to be in such a tight enclosed space with the man in my current state) and was shown to my room where after he left, I collapsed.

After regaining myself and doing some stretching and amazingly (and painfully) my shoulder popped back to where it is supposed to be. I wasn’t sure if it did, but it seems like it has so we’ll see how long this lasts! Getting a new suitcase is definitely a priority here.

I spent the rest of the day walking around Lisbon—down to the main square and the Rossio, walking through the Baixa area down to the friverfront and through side streets basically trying to figure my way around the city without getting too lost—which obviously meant a lot of walking. I really am amazed at myself—it seems like I can just walk for hours and hours even though my feet tell me to stop, and my stomach tells me to stop and eat, I can just keep going. The afternoon and evening passed and I made my way back to the hotel where I collapsed for the second time today. Or third—but who’s counting.