Monday, June 27, 2011

Being sad in Holland

Look how happy we look.
I know I've written about this sadness phenomenon maybe a smidge too often. Sorry. But, as I sleepily told Brookie on an evil Skype connection last night, "So much of life is so sad for everyone."

Anyway, when you love someone and (Coldplay is expecting me to break into song any second here) you do it so much for so long, and it happens that for various reasons you have to not do that anymore, then you spend months trying to fill up your life and your sadness with other things and other love, but they don't really work out.

So you get a prescription and you run away.

And you realize that you don't understand anything about anything and you make horrific discoveries inside your little self like vanity, fear, and need. And you feel like nothing is quite as shiney as it should be, and the universe feels a little crumbly and unstable, and suddenly you find yourself in Holland.

And here's the thing about Holland:
It is so beautiful.
Hallo, Kinderdijk. I love you.
Capelle Schollevaar, where I'm staying, is a haven of peace and quiet, canals, lily pads, and the ubiquitous bicycle. Even a thriving community of 18th century windmills! It's almost too cute. And clean. And quiet.

Beautiful Delft (not Gouda, which is also beautiful-- like the cheese). Gracie dearest is sharing her camera.
And beyond all that, we've had two (very rare here) warm, sunny days. Even the elements are trying to convince me to be happy in Holland. And, ungrateful wretch that I am, I'm being a sad, crumbly-universe-observing fool that is sad in Holland.
Some very unAnna-like behaviors have reappeared. Namely, inability to sleep, lack of appetite, blah blah blah. I just want to wear wooden shoes and smoke weed (just kidding, I don't do that... wear wooden shoes, I mean).

And here's another thing: There are baby animals everywhere. Fuzzy swans, awkward calves, prancey lambs, ecstatic puppies. I ride through the countryside (the whole country is a countryside, I've noticed) on a generously-loaned bicycle, and smile at all the baby animals and baby Dutch humans on their Dutch mommies' bikes and think about how much I miss those three little human girls that my siblings gave birth to, and then I remember that I'll never be loved enough by anyone to have babies with them.

...Brookie says this form of paranoia is quite common, but I question the normalcy of becoming devastated at the mere sight of a duckling who is minding his own Dutch business, or how possible it is to even be sad in Holland.

Wednesday Gracie and I leave for the Mother Country. Jolly Old London. Do you think I can be happy in England?

Love, stroopwaffles, and Anne Frank,

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lost and Found

And now, the moment you've been waiting for.
DUN DUN DUN DUN! ta daaaaa:

The rapidly growing list of everything I've lost/ broken/ otherwise rendered useless on this little tripsie of mine:
  • laptop.
  • ipod (Shea's. not mine.) 
  • camera.
  • sunglasses (Ryan's. not mine.)
  • umbrella.
  • debit card.
Aaand the much less cringe-inducing list of everything I've gained:
  • A wham-bang finish to my study abroad program in Lyon and Geneva.  
  • A last-minute change of plans to see places I've always wanted to like:

Dubrovnik. (My new favorite place?)

We followed our honeymooner friends on a ridiculously cheap cruise in a surprising act of spontaneity.
And saw some more of the world.
And took a scarey overnight train and woke up in Paris and somehow got to Rotterdam.

Love, towel animals, and no time to miss Paris,

p.s. I think I've just, in one go, posted more pictures of myself than on my whole blog combined and I feel weird about that and like I need to explain. We made a goal of actually taking pictures of ourselves since we never do, so now I'm in all of them. Oh bother.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How cool it is that we're "The girls who lived in Paris and then backpacked through Europe"

I don't want to toot my own anything and risk giving you the false impression you may have already gathered that I'm a little absorbed-with-self.
But just indulge momentarily with me in this delightful little bite-sized bit of joy:

The other day we were probably doing something quiet for fear of disturbing our crazy French host mom, and Alyssa said with a firey passion,
"Hey. When we get home, we'll be 'the girls who lived in Paris and then backpacked through Europe'."

And I couldn't help but slightly loosen my normally dignified demeanor to guffaw a little.
Because that is pretty cool.
The cool girls accidentally obscuring the intended view of the magnificent Mont St. Michel.
 Here it is:
The spooky island of quicksand, wax figures, and medieval creperies.
Love, train tickets, and au revoirs,

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What the River Said

Île de la Cité from the Pont des Arts

[From my journal, in the end of May, in response to this]
Well, here I am, listening to the river. I'm on the Pont des Arts because, whether or not it's cliche, it's my favorite bridge in Paris. (Then again, loving Paris itself can be a cliche, can't it? So it's alright.)
It's definitely the most welcoming bridge in this old town of mine. 

I like that no matter when you come here, someone will be playing the guitar and someone else will be drinking wine in glasses with their friends, and Japanese tourists will be waving up at you from below as they spend their first day in Paris on an "informative boat ride."
I like the ugly padlocks that cover the grilles, fiercely affirming that Claire and Jerome will equal <3 4 ever, because it is clamped publicly,
just within view of the Eiffel Tower (if the Eiffel Tower stands on its tip-toes).
I like that I can see the Seine just as it decides to fork, making way for the Île de la Cité, and giving a peak of Notre Dame at Paris' heart.
I like the memories I have on this bridge, like Wednesday night drinks and smokes (them, not me) with nice but insistent french men, or the guy who knelt in front of me, politely said "vous êtes magnifique,"and then went on his merry French way without a backward glance.
But what is the river telling me, you ask? Well, that's between me and the river. But I'll tell you some of what I hear:
Stilettos, church bells, and a whistle.
Garbage bag rustling.
Oh no, now I'm distracted by how good the sun feels on my legs.
French, German. (The sun feels amazing!)
Little kids laughing, Arabic, stroller.
Americans (they're loud).
Rollerskates... a sort of late afternoon hum...

So how does this translate? It's telling me that I came here with a heavy heart and some desperate hopes of escape and reinvention. But I'm not Sabrina.
No, no. I'm trying to grow my hair out and my french still isn't that good.
I haven't acquired a poodle or much of a lilting, monochrome walk, and I still look very much like me, with a few more zits and maybe a few extra pastry pounds. Maybe I'm even starting to look a little bit like a pastry. (I am what I eat...or I eat, therefore I am. Something like that)

But I feel the effects of dipping my toes in a  culture steeped in a love of beauty and a complicated past; something a little like myself, but foreign enough that I've been so confused and uncomfortable on so many occasions that I've had to get to know myself better as a means of survival.

The river is telling me that I can run away to Paris but not from myself, and when it's time to leave it will be possible (it must be) to find beauty and healing and myself elsewhere. In Adam Gopnik's delightful Paris to the Moon (I highly recommend, even if you know/ care nothing about France), his wife Martha says as it's time to go home, 

"In Paris we have a beautiful existence but not a full life, and in New York we have a full life but an unbeautiful existence."
I find comfort in this, realizing that my sun on the Pont des Arts is fast setting, and my time in Paris is waning like that moon it takes you to. But this beautiful existence has helped me begin to tentatively cross the bridge to the full life I want to have when reality picks me up at the airport.
And I'll never be able to repay the river for that. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Other People's Ghosts

I love being up here.
Okay, so maybe I'm beating this "going-to-Europe-to-find-myself"thing over the head, but bear with me. Plus it's my blog.
 I don't know if I've mentioned that I'm kind of crazy? I won't go into detail, but I am. A little.
Not the cute, eccentric, "just-a-little-batty" (think Aunt Clara from "Bewitched") type,  nor the exciting Gothic romance broody-dark-eyebrows-and-chiseled-jaw-he-has-a-past-ooo-I-wonder-what-it-is type. I'm just a little crazy, and I'll leave it at that.

But just as I was reaching the apex of my craziness, it was time to come to France. Finally! The distant dream always somewhere in the mid-section of my brain, nagging to be realized, begging to be fulfilled!!!!! (!!!!!) It was time.
So I told my demons to hold still for a minute (these aren't the freaky type that need to be exorcised or anything. They're just metaphorical and pretty mild, but follow me everywhere.) and wriggled them into my backpack. I reminded my ghosts to be quiet, and brought them along in my faithful Target messanger bag.

And I walked right up to my new Parisian apartment in the Seizième, demons and ghosts in tow. Nervous smile on face. Dear friend Gracie at my side, blissfully unaware of any supernatural danger lurking in my luggage.

As soon as I unpacked them they convinced me that coming here to learn about other people's ghosts wouldn't get rid of mine. Those other, deeper ghosts would merely give my young, less experienced ones more material to work with: Oh! Foreign culture? Alienation. Check. Masterpieces and glamorous, happy people and ridiculous amounts of public displays of affection between unbelievably hot twenty-somethings? Inferiority complex back in black. Loneliness. Constant reminder of tragic love life. Check check check.
They took me off guard and found it much easier to plague and haunt me than I expected them to.

So sometimes I let them stay in bed with me half the day and ache, and sometimes I kicked them in the face and ran to the Musee D'Orsay to lose myself among the ghosts of others. But even when they weren't with me I thought about them and looked for them between every gargoyle, along each tree-lined boulevard. So they haunted me all the same.

I, however, have an interesting paranormal discovery to announce. With only a few official nights in Paris left, I've noticed a certain vacant space behind my shoulder that's prime lurking real estate. Maybe my ghosts liked the chilly atmosphere of the Bayeux cathedral's crypt or the stinky one of the Miromesnil metro station on Line 9 (always like rotting fish. always). Perhaps my demons have become as fond of inimitabile gelato as I have and now spend all their time at one of Paris' twenty Amarino's locations.
But whatever their sight-seeing and dining schedules as of late, I'm definitely seeing the little guys around a lot less often.
And I'm just here to say...
Hey. That's totally cool with me.

Love, baguettes, and it's almost time to take over the world with a backpack,

Saturday, June 4, 2011

...And then we went to Belgium to check our e-mail

Thank you, Kenny, for crouching behind me so my shoulder didn't fall off
Ever since the netbook-left-in-taxi catastrophe of April 2011, I've spent a small fortune in internet cafe time to do my homework and read Brooklynn's e-mails (you're welcome to e-mail me too, if you love me).
Paris is sooo expensive that a 10 euro lunch feels like a triumph (that's almost $15, by the way) while in Provo I would cringe to pay $6, or (oh, the horror!) $7.

So, the other day Gracie said, "Hey do you want to go to Belgium?" And I said "Yeah, sure." And she said "waffles and frites!" And I said "and we can check our e-mail".  
Because, heaven knows we aren't getting enough starch in France (this is very untrue. We're eating so much bread we're becoming bread-- white and puffy), and Brussels may just be a land of promise (no cats and the streets paved with cheese and all that) where maybe, just maybe, internet is a right and not a priveledge for ardent World of Warcraft fans-- and poor little students like Nina and Gracie-- who are willing to pay.

And so we took three (not one. missed that one) trains to Belgium on a lovely Friday morning, and I wore a bit too short of shorts (exposing my monstrous, stilt-like legs), which turned out to be an inconvenience by about the eighth uncomfortable male encounter ("MADEMOISELLES! HELLL-LO!""Laissez-nous tranquilles.").
But when we got there, our excellent, comic book-loving friend Kenny enthusiastically greeted us on the escalator with waffles and chocolate! I'm convinced no one should be welcomed to Belgium any other way.

Other great things about "Hey, we're in Belgium today" day:
-Trying on armor (even if it's awkwardly chained to a table and intended for small children)
-riotous football celebrations
-Taking ghostly black and white Holgas (which I'll add to this post if I ever get them developed)
-Beautious architecture. Really, so lovely. The city is very clean and happy.
-Talking to a beer expert who allegedly once drank a cup of cherry beer straight from the Mannequin Pis

Then we took a nap in a park with an old man sunbathing in a speedo (thought I was in Paris for a second) and young men playing pétanque in scarves. Lovely.
But did we use the internet? Good gracious! My tab was .25. And I got to wish that Ryan Hall fellow happy birthday.

Belgium, then, is indeed the promised land, with Brussels its holy capital, and I forgot to mention Speculoos, which tastes like Teddy Graham paste and oh wow it's so good.
Love, starch, and cacophonous Japanese raiding of the chocolate shop,

Friday, June 3, 2011

Things we miss about America

For fear of sounding too naive and touristy (and just from plain earnestness), I asked Gracie to help me compile a list of complaints against la vie in La France on our way to Brussels (oops, we may have missed the train by thirty seconds and were in Gare du Nord at 6:30 am, which is not a good time or place to be,  we soon discovered).

Things we miss about America (by Nina and Gracie)

  • Red Robin fries and milkshakes and COOKED hamburger (this will be my first meal back in Provo)
  • Friendliness
  • English.
  • Being laughed at for being funny or witty or cute. Not just at your own expense. All the time.
  • Mexican food
  • Italian food
  • Busyness
  • Stand up showers!
  • Things open before 10 and after 5 and on Mondays
  • Clean, thick towels (we have since discovered that this is merely an issue with our slightly crazy host mom, not the French as a whole. One time she dragged a giant chain through the dining room and we're not sure why. Also, all her towels are threadbare and smell of mildew and other things)
  • Wearing shorts without causing an uncomfortable ruckus (in Provo, anyway)
  • Laughing, smiling in public
  • No pee (everywhere, always).
  • Big things, like deodorant and Costco muffins (everything in France is mini except Big Gulp-sized generic cologne that looks and smells like urine and lemons)
  • This place. The Pillar House. The girls and boys that make it the happiest place on earth.
 After a suitable period of traipsing around Europe, I think I'll be more than ready to return to my dear ones for some summer fairy magic time.

Things we don't miss about America
being here:


Thursday, June 2, 2011

An American (Holga) in Paris

What do you do when your digital camera leaves this mortal existence (whether by suicide, assassination, or natural causes I'll never know)?
Why, you take your plastic toy camera on the town, of course!

And there's no better place to soothe the grief-stricken heart of an amateur photographer than the Latin quarter. I checked.

First, I suggest the ever-looming towers of Notre Dame to play with some double-exposing and think about Victor Hugo. Did you know he had a fifty-year love affair? That's perserverance if I ever heard of it. Also, Gracie almost died in his house (slippery stairs and worn-out soles.)I had a conniption when I found out Charles Dickens had been in the same room in which I was standing. Pffff, forget Victor (gah! Just kidding! That felt awful).

This place is so photogenic. It never ceases to amaze me. 
I, on the other hand, am working on it:

Just off of Rue Mouffetard, the best, cutest street of all the streets
I make the camera go blurry.

Next, I suggest crossing the river for a magical time surrounded by ceiling-high stacks of books (In English!)at Shakespeare and Company [here].
It's too dark inside for little Miss Holga, but she was able to capture a little bit of the ambiance
Then, why not spend some more time with some of your favorite literary dead guys? You can visit them all at their final resting place in the incredible Panthéon (just a hop, skip, and a jump past the Sorbonne),which gives you a lovely panoramic view of your favorite city.
Also blurry, in case you didn't notice. I'm working on this.
 Here, Gracie was followed around by a lonely Polish man (and fellow lover of literature) who offered to buy her a drink if she guessed his country of origin. 

She guessed the Bahamas.

It's so hard to capture the beauty and charm and just feel of everything I'm experiencing. Especially with only this little plastic camera that's designed for 7 feet away max and prefers everything to be blurry (I mean it's an artistic choice...). I feel a bit like these lovers here. So smitten, but squished between gargantuan pillars that overshadow and consume me. There's no way to capture it, really. It speaks for itself.

 But I'll just say that the Latin Quarter is a haven of my favorite things: books, food, and Parisian beauty. What is was makes it what it is, and what is is is somewhere I will dearly miss.

Love, Pizza, and Voltaire,


I want to carry you
and for you to carry me
the way voices are said to carry over water.

Just this morning on the shore,
I could hear two people talking quietly
in a rowboat on the far side of the lake.

They were talking about fishing,
then one changed the subject,
and, I swear, they began talking about you.

Billy Collins

that's all, folks


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