The Day I Got Food Poisoning…

A Stroll in Strasbourg: the city where France meets Germany, everyone is trilingual, and the sausages and doughnuts keep you wanting more...

A Stroll in Strasbourg: the city where France meets Germany, everyone is trilingual, and the sausages and doughnuts keep you wanting more…

I will admit that I like to over-dramatize life sometimes; but after verifying the definition of this illness via viable sources such as the Internet, my hypochondriac mind can assuredly say that I am currently suffering from food poisoning (probably in the slightest, but it still counts).

According to these feasible sources, food poisoning is caused by the ingestion of alimentation containing unwanted bacteria of sorts. I had lunch with a friend at one of the university’s cafeterias, and though I am always skeptical of their choice of meat presented, my hungry belly is never strong enough to object.

Further skimming of these website articles and I found that the common remedy seemed to be re-hydration. Due to the effects of the illness, the most important thing to do during recovery is to maintain the body’s fluid levels as one tends to lose a lot as the bacterial invasion passes through (once again, my over-dramatized description prevails – I am not in such a bad state).

But, I could not help but apply my new-found maladie‘s remedy to my other, lesser woes. The same day I ingested the ghastly (no pun intended) cafeteria food, I had to then endure my final two-hour French class which I have been taking since the beginning of the semester.

Perfecting another language, I find, is like singing a familiar (but not known by heart) song. Some parts of it, you get right; some parts you get wrong; some parts, you just have absolutely no clue how it goes. But practice makes perfect, so one must continue avoiding defeat to learn the lyrics until it can be sung without fault. Likewise, when it comes to learning a language that one has been studying for the past, oh say, twelve years, it takes quite a bit of motivation to continue practicing after having high and low moments, a lot of rights and so many wrongs, and just complete incomprehension.

Which brings me back to French class: I have always enjoyed my French classes from high school until my second year of university when my grammar credits were finally completed and, to be frank, my teachers and professors have enjoyed my presence and participation just as much. But for some reason, it seems as though I try and try in this class and I keep pulling failures out of the hat. Though I make mistakes while on the road, my day-to-day interaction with the Frenchmen tends to run smoothly, with understanding and inquiry on both sides of the conversation; however, every time I step in that class, my confidence in the language and my second favourite passion in life plummets.

Rehydration.

As I sip from my water bottle to replenish my interior fluids, I must also refuel my drive, restock my incentives, and continue on. Though twelve years is a heck of a long while – more than a decade, in fact – there is a reason why I have been studying French for those twelve long years and am currently in France to achieve my ultimate goal of being fluent as a current in the ocean. It is a sad sight to see one give up the race before it has started, but it is even more disappointing to see one give up near the finish line.

So, I must continue on.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

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“Me with bike.”

The infamous poet T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go,” and my trip to the modest island of Ireland proved just that.

Control is good; control is stable; control is power. But to depend on life to constantly give one control over ever possible detail of everyday happenings is an impossible feat, and nonetheless ridiculous at that. Still, my developing mind is naïve and, from time to time, I regain hope that at some point what has been planned will go as planned.

Guinness Lake: named after the beer, but so much better...

Guinness Lake: named after the beer, but so much better…

Yet, as I continue to travel and discover others parts of the world and the people who reside there, I continue to grasp the fact that control is not everything; in fact, the appreciation for the lack of control involved is what can make an event become an adventure. I had been organizing this trip since before I left home: the plan was to go to Ireland during my March break for a week, participate in a few tours in and around Dublin, the “city where the girls are pretty”, and then make my way to a nearby city to visit a co-worker who would greet me with a much-needed familiar face and show me around her temporary neck-of-the-woods.

Little did I know that once I arrived in the land of luck, a cancellation here and a sorry there would leave me with three empty days in a foreign land and a hurried search for a place to lay my head at night.

I was not in the greatest of moods, to say the least.

My anger grew gradually but never quite reached the level of stress and nervousness which I had at the thoughts of the control slowly slipping from my grasp (Drake’s Trust Issues, one could refer to the feeling as). But once again, a little step-outside-the-body moment and I was back to reality. I was in DUBLIN for pete’s sake; when would that ever happen again?

So I pulled up my big-girl pants, booked an extra two nights at Abigail’s Budget hostel (great place!) and set out to do what I intended – to LIVE. Since I had already lost control over my previous plans, I sort of just decided to wing the rest of the trip, which turned out to be the best plan ever.

Phoenix Park: take a ride around, even the little things will have you stopping for a gaze...

Phoenix Park: take a ride around, even the little things will have you stopping for a gaze…

To sum it up, I managed to meet a  bunch of great people from around the world (from Brazil to Boston with quite a lot of French in between); got to see some amazing sites which should make Ireland a definite destination on anyone’s list, like the Cliffs of Moher and Guinness Lake; witnessed a raunchy (but it’s Ireland, I mean, come on!) comedy show; and opposite to that, experienced the upscale side of Dublin as I watched a psychologically-intriguing play at one of Europe’s oldest theatres.

Smock Ally Theatre: one of Europe's oldest...

Smock Ally Theatre: one of Europe’s oldest…

And like all adventures, this one did indeed go out with a bang. As I had to hurriedly search for a place to rest my head after my plans fell through, I was left without much choice on my last night, and being momentarily homeless in the airport was my best bet. But then I remembered that I signed up as a member of a site called “couchsurfing.org” and as fate so had it, after multiple requests for a couch for the night, and even more frequent denials, late in the afternoon on Friday, I received a message from a friendly stranger asking if I still needed help.

And he sure did lend quite a helpful hand.

Cliffs of Moher: never have I seen a view...

Cliffs of Moher: never have I seen a view…

Which brings me back to Sir Eliot’s quote: control, as I’ve said before, is good. Control is stable. But control is also limiting. As I let go of whatever real control I had left or could have slightly regathered, I was able to open up my eyes and mind to the endless possibilities that were practically slapping me across the face as they passed.

Now, I’m not saying sleeping in a bunch of strangers’ houses is what gives you real sense of living, let’s be practical here; I do advise, however, to loosely hold the wheel sometimes, because you never know where the side road may take you. If it is a dark, sketchy side road though, with an unnecessarily high amount of potholes, back away, I repeat, BACK AWAY.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

La vie en rose.

Some people say that life is a test; I disagree. Life, I find, is more of a learning process in which each day brings a new lesson. Of course there are those moments when we are tested – pop-quiz style, if you will – to see how much we have recuperated from such lessons; and this week those moments seemed to me to be consecutive.

The week started out in a tumble: a floor-mate and I had a disagreement (I call it that since the word leaves enough vagueness as to what the “disagreement” was about because, frankly, I still don’t know myself). Now, I’m not one to favor dependence on others for happiness or entertainment; however, confrontation makes me uncomfortable and to be involuntarily placed in that kind of situation undoubtedly dampened my mood.

School was a series of tumbles. It started off with me being about half an hour late for one of my courses. In all honesty, it was not my fault as classes (and professors) continuously change here for the exact same course. As such, the new location was a few ways away from its usual spot and, after wandering around for fifteen minutes looking for a sign from above of how to find this blasted classroom, a classmate happened upon my lost self, himself being in the same position, and we both found the class together…eventually. Apparently administration had sent an email out to the entire body. I beg to differ.

But anyhow, the school mishaps continued as I purposely stayed for the full day on Thursday – as in twelve hours and a bit – just to buy tickets to go on a trip I had been eyeing for a while. The tickets were on sale at 1 p.m. and the plan was to get there half an hour early with money and all.

They were sold out before noon.

On that same day, I received an email from the coordinator of another trip I was registered for this past Saturday that it was now cancelled due to the weather. I had about had enough.

I felt as though life had tested me this week (quite well, I might add), and all I had retained was but a sour mentality and a lot of extra time.

Then the cliche thought came to me as it always does to the voluntarily lazy who eventually realize time’s worth: I was gaining nothing from feeling sorry for myself. Even more so, there was no need for me to feel sorry myself. I mean, I’m in France for crying out loud! So a few things didn’t go my way. I build a bridge and get over it. I snap my fingers and get back to what matters. I pick myself up, and I move on.

And so I did.

IMG_2866

Le Palais des Papes

My friend had been asking me to go on a spontaneous, all-whimsical adventure with him, which I was hesitant to agree to due to my natural tendency to plan in advance; but by now, “what if”s were not an option. Life’s always the one to say, “On your marks. Ready? Set?” and often times, it’s us who chooses to go.

So within a few hours after my Friday classes ended, I found myself on a three-hour train ride to meet a quirky dread-locked fella in Avignon, a city in the province of Côte d’Azur in southern France; a little bit after that, and I had already explored the Pope’s Palace, wandered past the grand Notre Dame des Doms, and crossed the mythical Pont d’Avignon. I even got to cross off my bucket-list ‘performing live in France’ as I joined an impromptu spectacle with some instrumental street performers to sing some jazz and blues. C’était formidable.

La ville: Avignon

La ville: Avignon

And though the tests may get harder and the lessons more challenging to comprehend, the experience will never be less than wonderful. So bring on the next one life, my pencils have been sharpened.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

On est là.

I used to do this thing as a kid while travelling; once I arrived somewhere, the first thing I would do was always to take one deep breath in and taste the air of the foreign land. The air was always new, unfamiliar to me, and desired immensely.

Once I arrived in France this past week, it was only natural for me to do the same. It struck me by surprise, however, that the smell was no different from where I came from nor where I’ve been.

I don’t know if it’s because I was still inside the airport when I inhaled, but another thought which explains otherwise has crossed my mind. Before I left for this trip, I mentally held the journey, this country, and its people so highly, much more highly than my own life (sort of like a fairy tale experience that only happens in dreams). Because I put it all on such a high pedestal, I made it out to seem almost impossible to feat myself, which explains most of my pre-flight fears.

But as I habituate myself to the area, its inhabitants, and its incredible views, I slowly come to realize that the task was not so unreachable.

Now, that’s not to say that the French are mediocre people and their way of life is seldom unique; on the contrary, the French are quite a relaxed yet active people, a combination which I do not see often. What I’m really trying to say, I guess, is that I needed not to change myself in order to understand where I was going; France and I would merely discover each other.

For instance, I arrived in Lyon, a city just above Grenoble where I currently reside and will reside for the next six months, and stayed there for two days (including New Year’s) to take a look around and prep myself for what was to come in Grenoble. Upon arrival, my arm pits were honestly sweating bullets and I felt lost for a second. I didn’t want to open my mouth and immediately be targeted as an Anglophone, or worse, a foreigner. But it wasn’t like that at all.

Once I got out the airport, I met a too-hip-for-his-age taxi driver who drove me to my hostel, Cool & Bed (if you’re ever in Lyon, pay it a visit – nice place!). The city is absolutely beautiful – a must-see if near the area.

To build a bridge...

To build a bridge…

My trip to Grenoble was very interesting, to say the least. I used the same too-cool-for-school taxi driver who played rap, jazz, and soul music all throughout the ride. While I spoke to him about my life in Canada and he described his love for Snoop Dogg, I finally felt at peace. It’s silly to think that rap music can calm a person, but it did the job!

My residence is on a mountain (literally); Le Rabot is a bit of a trip to get to by foot (my taxi driver was worried we were lost as I pointed him in the direction of the residence) but the view from my rooms is, as I continue to repeat, spectacular. As soon as I reached my room, I was acquainted with a floor mate who has kept me active every day since. Often times, I just want to stay in my room and relax, really ease myself into the area; but at others, I know I should dive right in since this opportunity comes only to so little and only so often. So with that, I am very pleased at our acquaintance.

To sum up the week, I’ve went grocery shopping; ate a crêpe (comme il faut); went on an adventurous trip to Ikea (yes, they have one here, and yes, it’s just as crazy inside as it is in North America); visited my university and today, recently went up further on the mountain which holds my residence, all the way up to the top to La Bastille, an old prison used by the French monarchy and an important symbol for the French Republican movement.

Et on marche...

Et on marche…

But all in all, life here is normal just like anywhere else. I think back to the shock of the not-so-unusual scent once I landed, and there comes a point, I guess, when you realize that life is life. We each have our own to live, and that is no different anywhere else in the world. We all need to eat, breathe, sleep, connect, feel; it’s an old tradition, one that’s kept us alive and will keep doing so.

So the next time I sniff, if anything smells differently, it’ll probably be due to a washroom entrance I’ll find myself standing by.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Back to the Future

William Penn once said, “Time is what we want most, but use worst,” and that is one of my greatest fears. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about time; how much I have, how much I’ve used, and how much others have in comparison to me. It’s a world-wind of thoughts that involves too much math and not enough positivity; but alas, it is a difficult task to stray the mind from a topic with which it is already determined upon.

Today marks exactly three months since I returned home from the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Sometimes I feel like I literally just came back; other times I feel like I never even went. It’s strange when I look back on the mesmerizing photos from that time and think, “Did I actually do that?” But then, I recall the itchy hives I currently suffer from since coming back, and reassure myself that yes, I did indeed go.

IMG_1767

Even more so, I look back at some of the photos I’ve taken within the three months of being back at home, and I’ve done quite a bit also: volunteered at a renowned international film festival, went to a Tori Kelly concert (she’s the bomb, check her out!), took a boat cruise with friends around the heart of downtown, and performed some songs for the first time in a long while in front of a crowd of students at my university.

And now, as I nervously organize myself for exams the end of this semester, my mind occasionally wanders to the plan of next semester: six months in France.

It’s funny, really; I tell people about my plans and they say, “Wow, look at you. You’re doing it all!” But that’s not how I feel, no. I feel like I’m doing some stuff, yes. But not all. I don’t even feel like I’ve done much. Then I look at other, more successful people my age or younger and think that I definitely have not done anything compared to them.

That’s where the want for time comes into play. I keep wishing that I could rewind the time; do a few things differently, keep a few more the same, and then live life over again using my time more effectively. But reality never likes to change now, does it?

It’s also the thought of what I will be doing once I return which frightens me. A bit more of school then what?

But as my thoughts continue to roll around in my head, I’m starting to realize that I have time – plenty of it. And the more time I can say that I’ve used, the luckier I am. There are quite a few others out there who haven’t even reached my age yet with not much time left. Unfortunately, we tend to be very blind to what we have been blessed with when we are so focused on what we want.

So the future? I don’t really know. But that’s just it: I don’t really know. And that is the beauty of the future I guess, that little element of surprise. I’m sure the Me five years ago would be surprised to see what I’m doing now. I’m still a bit shocked and there’s more in store. But since I don’t yet know what to expect, might as well just enjoy what the present can give me here and now.

As long as the book is still open, time will tell.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

Man fi get kuff

Jamaica airport immigration, 1971

Jamaica airport immigration, 1971 (Photo credit: rickpilot_2000)

Travelling, I find, helps one discover, not only the world outside, but also the world within. And as this discovery develops for me, I’ve come to realize a few things about myself and my identity when mingled with so many others.

I was born in a little, but very well-known, island called Jamaica.

I lived there for the first 8 years of my life, then moved a lot more north with my family in the hopes of gaining a more advanced education which could provide me with a better future.

Now, while I appreciate my life to the fullest, and there isn’t a day that goes by when I am not so very grateful for the life I have been provided with by my parents and their hard work and dedication, I am constantly in an identity battle with myself and others around me.

I identify myself, essentially, as a Jamaican since that was my place of birth, where my roots have been sowed, and I am very proud of it.

Yet, every other day, it seems, I am being told that I am not a Jamaican (mostly by those that are not even of Jamaican descent).

They use stereotypical characteristics like the accent with which Jamaicans speak, the attitude with which all Jamaicans are supposed to exhibit, and certain activities all Jamaicans are supposed to partake in to classify a Jamaican’s true authenticity.

As a Jamaican thrust into the frightening diaspora of the young North American life, I could do nothing but adapt to my surroundings. Adaptation, which was subliminally imposed on me by some of my new neighbors and fellow classmates after I moved, seemed like the most plausible key to survival.

Still, what one comes to realize as he or she grows older and is exposed to so much more, is that when you adapt, you lose something that was once there before.

So a lot of my Jamaican habits and mannerisms that would give me a “better hand” at the Jamaican-authenticity test, were lost as I tried so desperately to fit in in order to feel comfortable with my new home and myself again.

And with that comes my ongoing frustrations with my identity and its unnecessary importance to people who really shouldn’t be all too concerned about it.

It’s amazing to see how swiftly stereotypes glide over seas and beyond borders, without so much as a question of their truths.

Still, I must remind myself that I shouldn’t worry about what others think, because they don’t do it too often.

I am who I am, and as Shakespeare says, “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

The world is how the world is, and as I lose my innocence yet manage to gain some wisdom, I must learn to accept and move on from the things I do not have the power to change.

Pura vida,
Moi

Music for the Moment: