Monday, November 2, 2015

On Traveling: Dublin, London, & Languages

Traveling does weird things to you. It reminds you of your past as you stand in a place that is brand new. It makes you reach out to strangers and sleep in beds that aren’t your own and share rusty words with people you barely know.

It makes you write in your journal almost every day, save a leaf from a walk through Hyde Park, and press it between your books. It makes you look at yourself with a whole new gratitude.

It makes you reflect, relax, and reach into all the dusty corners of your life and shine them anew.

The above is going to sound mushy-gushy to a lot of you. But I have to share that before traveling, I don’t think I was aware that there are so so so so sooooo many people in the world and so much history and that I am a very small but very necessary part of the whole puzzle. Before traveling, I knew about the United States and the very basic history of the world taught in a four month college course. Now, I meet people who have friends, partners, and family that have been directly affected by the current and past issues of our world. I see different monuments and I am reminded that there was so much before me. I hear about the government and listen to my new friends talk about taxes and rights and what they hope for. I’m constantly grateful. I’m constantly in awe that this is my life.

This past week I traveled to Dublin, Ireland, and London, England. I have a lot I can write about but I am going to try and condense it for the sake of readers with busy lives.

In Dublin, I learned that people are freaking good. There are more good ones than bad ones and I will argue to the end of the Earth that this is true. We choose to believe that people are only looking out for themselves and are self-indulgent. People like helping people. People like knowing they are appreciated. People like talking to people about things they rarely get to say out loud. And my final point, we are all people. If you have a problem with everyone you come in contact with, look inwards and reflect. I met the kindest people in Dublin. The kind of people who offer up their homes, their advice, and their sense of direction (that I was seriously lacking) for nothing at all. I ate some of the best food and cried at the Cliffs of Moher. If you ever find yourself in Dublin, book a tour and see the cliffs. Mary Oliver wrote in Long Life, “What does it mean that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it?” After reading this, I assumed she stood at the cliffs.  I have no idea what to do with the Earth’s beauty but I’m happy to witness it and tell about it. I was happy to stand up there with forty-something people from my bus group and stare out in awe. I think the world is so beautiful because we are supposed to allow ourselves to get lost in it for a while.


In London, I was able to reconnect with friends I made when I was in Bali, Indonesia a year and a half ago. That was the highlight of my trip. Travel connects you with people you adore almost instantly. When none of you are well-slept or showered and you all are trying to figure out a new place, you bond. For me, the people I met in Bali mark such a beautiful time in my life and they all taught me new things. The best part is, I love them outside of our time in Bali. The connections I have with them are ones I plan to keep.

I got home last night and felt pretty down about having to jump back into full days of French classes this morning. Dublin and London are both English-speaking countries which made my professor jokingly ask me why I felt the need to practice my English over the break and not my French. Let me tell you, sitting in class for five hours a day listening and trying to speak a language that isn’t your own makes you want to find the founder of your primary language and hug them. I love English. I love reading it, writing it, speaking it. I love how challenging it is for me to speak French but if I am being honest, I miss English often. The only way to properly explain this is to tell you about a vivid memory of mine from kindergarten. I was five and I went to a friend’s house where her mom asked if I wanted ice cream. The “ice cream” was made out of rice and skim milk with no sugar. I took a bite and watch my friend scarf her portion down. I immediately thought of Ben & Jerry's and how much my friend was missing out on in a world where there is flavors like Phish Food and Red Velvet Cake. If French and English were ice cream, French is the rice, sugarless watered down stuff I was fed at five, and English is the traditionally delicious Ben and Jerry’s.  Did I eat the rice cream? Yeah, it was good for me and my friend’s mom was watching me closely. But it only reminded me of how good the other stuff was. That’s how I feel on a daily basis when I want to use words like, “blissful”, “serendipity”, and “epiphany” and read books about complex things and talk about presidential candidates. Instead, my level in French right now allows me to have basic conversations about the weather, and read books that have more pictures than words. 

My professor did let us watch a movie today about a woman who begins selling pot to her small town in order to stay afloat after her husband passes and only leaves money for his mistress, so I guess the rice cream isn’t always bad.

Wishing you all a beautiful week. Xoxo. Here are some photos from London. I'll be sharing the ones from Dublin later this week.

Haunted Victorian Halloween party in London

East End has some of the best thrift stores I've ever seen


Art from the Tate Modern Museum



No Starbucks in Pau, France, so when we travel we treat ourselves.

Bali reunion dinner!

Friday, October 23, 2015

A list to myself

Do you ever look back at things you've been through or things you've done and wish you could have given yourself a little wisdom from where you are now?

A little pep talk to let yourself know that everything would work out. That life would be a big, often messy, but always rewarding, adventure. That like everything else, it all ends being more than okay.

Before I studied abroad, I had all these unanswered questions. I could feel them looming above me as I was dropped off at the airport: Will I miss home? Will I be okay? Will I learn French quickly? How will I get through the tough days? Is this a good idea?

It's been nearly two months since I began my study abroad experience. Almost every other day I've been writing down what I've learned. Here is a list of things I would tell that girl that was nervously waiting at her gate with a ticket to Paris.

 1. You'll miss home. Someone's laugh will remind you of your sisters, and you won't be able to replicate the way your mom makes you tea when you're sick. You'll miss your room and the way you know your way around. You'll miss these things but you'll get them back.

 2. You'll be so grateful for people who show the smallest gestures of kindness. The bus driver who took the time to say, "Bonjour, Comment allez-vous?" (hello, how are you?). The farmer's market worker who gave you an extra peach for free. The librarian who showed you where your favorite English books are. These people will get you through the tough days.

 3. You'll learn to let go. Sometimes because there's nothing left to hold on to. Sometimes because it's hurts more to hold on. You'll learn you can move more freely this way.

4. You'll fall in love with mornings in new cities and watch the sky at night simply because you have the time.

 5. You'll get lost in grocery stores. You'll buy baby food instead of apple sauce. You'll want almond milk the first week and realize you don't know the word for almond. Or for milk.

 6. You'll cry on a Saturday morning after going to the market and walking on cobble stone streets because life is so beautiful. And forgiving. You made it this far. I can promise you it only gets better. Time has a way of bringing you just to where you need to be.

 7. You'll feel your strength when you least expect it. You'll feel confident in areas of your life you never felt secure in before. You'll read maps, travel by foot, bus, and train. You'll learn in an environment that is completely unique to you. You'll have a new appreciation for your body and the way it carries you to where you need to be.

 8. You'll make friends with people from all over the world. You'll sit at the table with them long after the food is gone. You'll stay up late and finish a bag of cookies and a bottle of wine. You'll drink lots of tea while taking about religion and family and fresh starts and more.

 9. You'll stop counting calories, avoiding making eye contact with desserts, and shaming your body. You'll love yourself without a list of exceptions and expectations.

 10. A lot of things are exactly as you see them. People are not. Take time to get to know those who spark curiosity, or even frustration.

 11. Sometimes there is nothing more to a bad day than it being a bad day. Sometimes you will ask questions that never get answered. Sometimes you'll embarrass yourself, like this one time you confuse the French words for chef and president and talk about how Obama should prepare food and tips for safe hygiene. Just keep living with intention. It's how you figure the questions out (and laugh at yourself).

 12. You'll take a bus nearly everyday. You'll share hand railings with strangers. You'll make silly faces at babies. You'll learn to love sharing a crowded space with people that are all headed home to somewhere or someone.

 13. You'll learn that there is a whole life outside of being someone's something. There's a whole part of you that no one else will understand until you do. Make peace with your past. Love the person who made it to this point.

14. You'll ask someone if they need help in English and realize you're in France. They will look at you strangely and then understand what you meant. You'll realize kindness is universal. Hold the door open. Say bless you. Give the old woman your seat. You'll learn if you don't have the words, empathy will do.

 15. You'll write list like this often. On the bus, at a cafe, you'll stop what you are doing and write. Because it all means something. All of these little experiences collectively as a group are part of your becoming. Collect them, love them, share them. You'll be so glad you did.

Some recent photos from Pau, the Pyrenees, and Bordeaux.






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