Wednesday, January 25, 2012

RHETO Extravaganza: 14/1/2012


     At 5:30 am I was woken up by my correspondent. I had to meet up with my Belgian classmates before boarding the bus. Probably no person alive would willingly get up that early, but we had to if we wanted to get to our next destination on schedule. My efforts to arrive on time to meet the buses did not make a difference as a result of the tardiness of one student who showed up an hour late; holding everyone else hostage at the parking lot. The fault was not his, but the severity of the roads due to the snowy weather the night before.
     Our first stop was in Vienne in order to tour the city and to check out an opera house. The scene was incredible; around every corner I saw artistic buildings, expertly carved statues, and marvelous pieces of art. Following the tour at the opera house and shopping at the stores, the teachers explained to the students that we could not board the bus until midnight. I gasped in surprise; it would be agonizing to wander the streets that late at night with this cold, bitter temperature. The teachers explained that, since we left later than expected, the bus driver started his 9 hour break later in the day, henceforth, we would board the bus later. By law, every bus driver must have at least a 9 hour break period to sleep.

     To maximise our chance of survival, the teachers did not bring us to the restaurant until 9 p.m. All the students previously paid for the meal, but drinks were not included. I asked the waiter how much a soda was and he told me that it would cost me 3 euros! He also commented if I wanted mayonnaise with my fries it would only cost me around 1 euro (unbelievable!). Vienne is an extremely pricy place to live. We managed to lengthen our stay at the restaurant until 10:30 p.m., on the other hand, we still had an hour and a half to kill. My teachers gave us a mini-tour to distract us from our misery as our fingers and toes froze. Eventually, people walked off to entertain themselves and to seek shelter. My friends and I walked around to keep the blood flowing to our limbs and stopped near a historic building to hide from the wind. A police officer noticed our group and circled around us in his car discreetly in a not-so-discreetly way. He even got out of his car, walked in front of us, and stood in an intimidating stance before us with an intense stare. We ignored him because we were not doing anything wrong and we were not a gang looking to vandalise something or other. The police officer must have been bored after the minutes rolled by, because he reentered his car; this did not stop him from staking out near us for most of the time we waited for the bus.
     With much relief and joy, the bus finally came to pick us up. People gathered around the doors, trying to be the first get inside to avoid the cold. Unfortunately, the bus parked on the subway tracks and a train was heading in our direction. The bus pulled away without giving a few students and myself the time to get in. A few more minutes passed by and the bus came back to collect us: the ones who were left behind. I claimed an area on the floor and slept merrily near the heater.
     My last day in Slovakia with my correspondent ended sooner than I would have expected as our schedule lead us to Vienne. The shopping spree and tours were delightful. In contrast, our night was quite a struggle as the students attempted to survive the cold weather before boarding the bus. No limbs were amputated due to the extremity of the temperature during this period and I can safely say that, if possible, my classmates and I will try to avoid another similar episode like our last night.

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