Archive For The “Europe” Category
June 17, 2016
Yesterday was my one year anniversary with Europe. It feels incredible and strange and unbelievable all at the same time. I remember the day I left so well, not just because I wrote it down, but because I don’t think it’s possible to forget something so significant. I remember the toilet flooded and how the morning was spent trying to soak up all the water from the floor with towels. I remember I ate a leftover sausage for lunch and how I sat outside on the new deck, wishing I could sit there a little longer. And I remember driving away from home, wanting to cry and trying not to.
365 days is a long time. It’s been 365 days since I hugged my mom. 365 days since I got a good-morning kiss on my head from my dad. 365 since I held my grandma’s hand or sat in the car with my sisters. 365 days.
On day number 1, when I arrived in Berlin and settled down in my bed for my first sleep away from home, I could never have predicted how day number 365 would feel waking up in my bed in Paris. I just looked through some photos — all of the things that I’ve seen and done — and smells came back to me, and feelings rushed upon me, and for the first time in my life, I felt wiser. I have been waiting, seemingly forever, for a growth spurt, and I think I finally got it. It didn’t come in gaining height as I imagined it would – it came in gaining wisdom and in gaining experience. Thinking back to every moment where I stood completely lost, or lonely, or scared, dragging around a suitcase that was too heavy for me, surrounded by people I didn’t know speaking languages I didn’t understand, I realize that all those moments in which I felt that I was made too small for this world, I really wasn’t. Well, maybe I was made a little too small, but that was probably only so that I had a reason to grow. Now that I’ve had my growth spurt, I think I’m just the right size.
I know the world is far from perfect, but I still believe that it’s good and I still love it, and I fall a little bit more in love with it each passing day.
I have missed birthdays, and Christmas, milestones and little, every day moments, but I knew I would be sacrificing those things when I signed up for this. I keep looking back to the last picture I took with my family. My hair is longer now and my denim top has two holes in the elbows which means I should probably throw it out, but I know the real change in me is invisible to the naked eye. People always say you are supposed to do the thing that scares you. Sometimes I don’t understand why I’ve been so afraid of change — I would be more disappointed in myself right now if I hadn’t changed. Yes, I am grateful that in 365 days the world has changed me — for the better – and I hope that one day, I’ll be able to repay the favour and somehow change the world.
June 15, 2016
The Steps of Sacre-Coeur
I just walked from the Arc de Triomphe to Sacre Coeur and it’s sunny (hot!) but with a chance of rain. I visited the church and am now sitting on the steps, overlooking the magnificent view of Paris. As soon as I arrived in Montmartre and saw the art displayed in the windows, smelt the sweet, sweet smell wafting out of every Boulangerie, and heard the waiters inviting me in for a drink, my love for Paris was rekindled. I did a full circle around all the artists set up and admired all the different depictions of Paris and wished that I was wealthy enough to buy all of them. Then I saw a white building with this beautiful rainbow of pink flowers, and I walked down to the view of the Eiffel Tower, and I remembered how when I was here last September, I heard a woman singing “La Vie en Rose” and decided that I would live in Paris one day.
There is no other city in the world like Paris – none. Every day I look about me and feel so lucky that these are the streets I’ve gotten to know – really know – not just pass through. I can come sit by the Sacre Coeur at my leisure and see the Eiffel Tower every day, and watch the roses bloom. I can drink wine and eat cheese and I’m 24, and I have hazel eyes, and I love my mom, and I wrote a book, and I’m writing another one, and the sun is shining. If there ever comes a day when I feel that life is being unfair to me, I will think about this period in my life and remember how good life has been to me.
Later – 17:13
A man named Mario has started singing and everyone is singing along. There are a group of very popular Swedish boys sitting to my left – everyone is talking to them. One lady even took a picture with them. It’s actually highly entertaining – and with the sun beating down on my neck, I’m feeling very happy. Now the Swedes keep requesting “No Woman, No Cry.” OMG – a drunk guy just went up to the mic and started singing”Money, Money, Money” for the Swedes – they laughed! (I did too). The drunk guy has now proceeded to provide harmony for “Hotel California” and he’s not even half bad. I’m dying!!
The singing is now over. Mario finished with “Imagine” and “Hey Jude” and everyone was singing along to the “Na na na na” part. “This is pretty cool,” said Mario. “We have young people, old people – really old people – and we’re from all over the world and we don’t speak the same language, but we’re sitting in front of Paris singing together. Enjoy it, people.” Then one of the Swedes started clapping and everybody joined in. It was so special – I’m so glad I stayed!
Much Later –
I went to an Irish pub called O’Sullivans to watch the France vs Albania football game. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a full soccer game in my life but now I am officially a fan – it was so exciting! Though apart from the two goals scored at the end, my favourite part was during the National Anthem because everyone in the bar was singing his little heart out (except for me because I didn’t know any of the words so I tried to blend into the corner and be invisible. I was also alone, so it was pretty easy to go unnoticed). Even though I’m not French, I felt a strange sense of nationalistic pride. Throughout the game, there were cries of “Allez! Allez! Allez!” echoing throughout the room. With all the noise and commotion, I thought they were yelling “Allah” at first, but “Allez” makes more sense. When France finally scored, it was such a happy moment. Everyone was yelling and hugging and these guys stood in front of the big screen and started dancing. The celebration was even bigger for the second goal.
Initially I was unsure if I wanted to go watch the game at a pub since I had no one to go with but I really wanted to soak up the atmosphere and I’m glad I decided to go anyway. Thankfully the bar tender spoke English (I admit, I chose an Irish pub for this reason) and I embarrassed myself by pouring my beer into my glass so that it was 3/4 full of white foam. “Nice pouring job,” he said to me as I waited for the foam to die down. Then I took my beer and found a corner (actually a perfect spot with a backrest and a ledge so I could see the screen perfectly without all these bodies blocking my view) and basically didn’t talk to anybody the rest of the night because all I could hear around me was french and my brain was tired.
Then I walked to the bus station and everybody was still out celebrating and the Eiffel Tower was lit up in the blue, white, and red – Vive La France!
December 21, 2015
On a Bench in St. James Park
Oh, London, I love you! I love your order and your neatness and seeing the brick houses all lined up in a row like they were — oh my goodness, I’ve been sitting on this park bench for less than 10 minutes, and I’ve already been intruded upon by a squirrel and a man named Bafti. First of all, the squirrel was a main attraction: it came to sit beside me on the bench and everyone stopped to take pictures of it. (I guess people aren’t used to seeing squirrels). Bafti was a man who also sat beside me on the bench (after the squirrel left) and he said “hello, how are you?” in a British accent and then proceeded with all the small talk stuff (what’s your name, where are you from etc) Eventually he asks me if I want to get drinks later, and I don’t want to but I never know how to say “no” politely so instead I tell him to give me his number and I’ll message him if I’m free. Also, apparently I am not as good at understanding the British accent as I thought because I had to ask him to repeat so many things. Anyway, I was kinda hoping that if anyone did approach me on a park bench, it would be Harry Styles or Prince Harry…but nope, it was Bafti.
Well! As I was saying, I like the neat, little brick houses all looking like Privet Drive. The similarity and the sense of order about them is oddly comforting. I love the pastel colours of Notting Hill and the lights that have been strung up, and the wreaths with red ribbons hanging on people’s doors. There’s something about London that is so posh-lovely. Even this fence I’m sitting across from in St. James Park, with ducks bobbing in the water behind it, looks nice. It looks like right out of a scene from 101 Dalmations or The Lady and the Tramp. Something about London makes me want to have a dog and stroll down park lanes for the rest of my life. The smoke rising from the chimneys, the sun gleaming over the city, the way the ducks look swimming in the rain…I can’t explain what makes it all seem so extraordinary to me! I feel like I’m walking in a book –a perfect little storybook of picturesque bridges and flocks of pigeons that fly directly above you as you are walking under a tree. There are little children in winter hats and coats smiling at you as they walk by with their parents and there are old men throwing crumbs at birds, and graceful swans floating in front of you. London is, in a word, lovely. I think that’s the absolute best way to describe it.
This morning, I did the walking tour. We walked down Knockturn Alley, learned about the Tudors (thank you grade 8 social studies for keeping me well-informed anyway), saw one of the ten hidden noses hidden around London in protest of their version of “Big Brother”, and saw the house where King Henry VIII lived and where Princess Di also lived while the divorce process was taking place. We also learned about all the people who have broken into Buckingham Palace as it didn’t become a crime until 2007 when it was no longer declared “public property”. One of the stories included a drunk Irish man who somehow got past security and stumbled upon a bottle of wine (which he drank) and then winded up in the Queen’s room. (I wonder how much of this is actually true!)
People are still drifting by. I feel like I need to document everyone. There’s an old lady with a dog and the dog kept trying to go under the bench. A man with his Christmas shopping just passed! Oh dear, the rain from the tree branches is starting to fall on me. I guess it’s time to make my way to Baker Street and then Trafalgar Square for Christmas caroling. Bye!