Lost & Found.

You’ll come to realize that sometimes when lost, we find things we never thought of looking for.

I came to this realization this past weekend whilst traveling on what I thought to be a simple journey to Niagara Falls, but which turned into quite an adventure.

The theme is Fall.

The theme is Fall.

My father’s birthday was this week and my entire family booked a trip to go down south to spend some time in luxury. Beyond my hint of jealousy, I was disappointed that I could not go because I had work. I finally decided to beg my boss to let me go and off I was on Friday morning.

Everything was planned and I left home for a doctor’s appointment before the journey really started.

When the first bus was late, I knew things were not going to go as planned. An hour and a half later and I’ve missed my first bus on the route to Niagara.

This isn’t good.

Frustrated and hungry, I walked to the bus stop with all my things and emotions and slouched onto the bench in the bus shelter. Along comes a woman, who I soon discover is Jamaican, and we begin to talk about everything we miss about the island and what we don’t understand about it.

Casino: class is in session.

Casino: class is in session.

Once the bus comes, we both hop on but it’s a full bus so I sit where I find space: beside a man who I soon discover just moved from India. After asking him if I’m going the right way (and getting a confused response because he didn’t really know), we talked about India and Canada and everything we love about it and what he understands about English.

Once at the next bus station, we part ways. In a flurry, I’m on my next bus going to where I should be. Things are looking up.

But this is where I get (properly) lost.

Thanks to terrible signage, I miss my stop. “Hi, Mr. Bus Driver,” I said. “You’re still going here right?” He gives me a dazed look. “I already passed there; were you sleeping or something?”

Panic flows over me. Unlike the stress that comes with being lost in an unknown country as I’ve experienced many times before, there’s something about being lost in a place you thought you knew that can throw you off just the same.

“Here, get on that bus over there and go back to the stop you missed.” The bus I should get on leaves before I do. Damn.

So I wait.

And then a girl comes up to me and asks if I know when a different bus is coming. And so I tell her my whole story and I soon discover she comes from where I do and we talk about that place and how it’s special and what I understand about buses to Niagara.

Then my bus comes.

I get on and ask specifically where my stop is and what the sign will say to get off. The driver tells me a slightly-less wrong answer but I manage to get off at the stop I initially thought was my stop that is my stop.

Almost there.

I ask a girl in the bus shelter when the next bus is coming. She says she doesn’t know because she’s not taking it. I soon discover she’s going where I just came from and we talk about my difficult trip, the bus company’s confusing signage and what we don’t understand about it.

Pellar Estates: The theme is Fall.

Pellar Estates: The theme is Fall.

She leaves and it’s just me. Alone in that lot, waiting until my bus finally came and I’m reunited with my family.

Sometimes when you reach your destination, you get just that: exactly what you were expecting. But rarely is every two journey the same. My trip didn’t go as planned, no. But think of all the people I met and their stories I heard. I can’t recall if I’ve ever openly spoken to so many strangers before in a day. It’s as if I traveled the country (and a bit of the world, too) just through their words.

This very short trip taught me a lot; but most of all, it taught me to speak up and to listen. There’s a lot going on out there, beyond ourselves. A lot.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

hustle and flow.

Travelling is useful for a boundless amount of reasons: it helps you discover new places, wonderful new people, new cultures, new foods and even a new life!

Just the same, travelling can also help you discover what isn’t for you.

This past week, I’ve been visiting one of the world’s top cities in one of the world’s greatest states, New York, USA, and I’ve never more in my life concretely justified that I can never and will never live in a place.

A trip down...

Carr: A trip down Madison Avenue?

That’s a hard thing for me to say as I am a traveller at heart and a strong believer that there’s the good and the bad in every spot on this Earth. However – and I say this after deep consideration – this state (and country, for that matter) is not for me.

From the struggle to find a store that would trade dollar bills for quarters to get on the bus (because apparently change is really hard to come by for shop keepers) to the lingering smells and polluted sewer drains throughout the streets that made me sneeze at every intersection to the countless-hours search for a parking spot somewhat near your cousin’s house or spending an hour (or more) just getting onto the George Washington Bridge, being a tourist in New York state has been my life’s current greatest challenge.

No trip will be perfect, if there’s anything I’ve learned from all my recent travels. Yet, no matter what we tried to do to minimize issues, others always appeared. But that’s the beauty of travel, too: it continually puts you out of your comfort zone, out of normalcy, which makes you appreciate it even more.

9/11 Memorial: A must-see.

9/11 Memorial: A must-see.

Still, then came the thoughts of how others function in such a society. Entering a 5-lane-merging-from-all-directions highway which takes at least half an hour must increase one’s stress levels somewhat, and on a daily basis, this is probably not very healthy. To add to that, the long, continuous work hours and the every-man-for-himself mentality, people here must seem to take every day as a literal survival course. But then again, it matters how you look at it: coincidentally on my way home, I was reading a book given to me by a friend entitled, Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse by twentysomething author Alida Nugent, in which she described city-living in New York. One quote she mentions specifically stuck out:

“There is no open-armness about city life, no kind voices to tell you not to take a certain route at night or where to get the best sandwiches at 2 A.M. Instead, there is concrete. […] You become part of a big, uniformed fish school with no one destination but an underlying thought: keep going.” (p. 181)

Keep going.

Whether in New York or New Caledonia, keep going. Back at work after a week’s vacation, keep going. With all the ups and downs in life, keep going.

The Bronx: all the way up!

The Bronx: all the way up!

So, who is not to say that what I consider organized chaos another considers a comfortable routine? Like people and practices, some places take time to get used to, and New York is no exception. I will admit that even my home away from home was not an absolute haven at first glance. Time Square was bright (as expected), Central Park was right green (as ever) and Jamaica Avenue had deals I’ll never find again in my life. West Village has a piece of my heart and Wall Street, a bit of my change. Some of the people were not the nicest, but others sure put a smile on my face. The pace of the city keeps even the weakest in shape and all of these things are what make this place what it is.

Jersey read my mind.

Jersey read my mind. It was fun, NYC!

It all depends on perspective, and this time around I saw all sides of the coin. I’ll visit New York again, but I’ll never live there, and that’s okay. To finish off with Nugent’s just ending: “I hope you find your ‘here’ someday. I hope you know you’re already there.”

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

Comme les Éléphants

While wondering the halls of the musée Dauphinois right by my French residence, I happened upon a quote by mountaineer, Caroline Villeneuve, that read, “Mon rêve, c’était de faire comme les éléphants, de revenir où je suis née” or in English, “My dream, it was to do as the elephants, to come back to where I was born.” For some reason, this has resonated with me since then and I did not really know why until now.

I recently returned from a fulfilling trip back to Jamaica. It was the first time I travelled for the holidays since moving further north, and I have decided that travel during the winter season to a warmer destination can cause some painful withdrawals, upon return, which I do not admire at this time.

Uptown Kingston at primet-time: Hop on while you can!

Uptown Kingston at prime-time: hop on while you can!

Still, though I have taken this trip before, I had never taken it like this. The fragile innocence of youth can blind one to the realities that they have lived, and this trip exposed me to many of these facts and figures I had not concretely defined before.

Simply put, it was a family trip to celebrate the start of the end and the end of the start.

Nevertheless I went into this with an agenda; comme les éléphants, I knew that there was much to rediscover and I only had two weeks. I prepared myself as I had during last summer’s European adventure: I made a list of destinations after a quick search on TripAdvisor and I made a promise to myself that no time would be wasted; at least once every day, the sun would shine on my face. Soon I came to realise that my agenda was becoming of something more.

Negril: Rick's Café at sunset is a must.

Negril: Rick’s Café at sunset is a must.

It is quite difficult to explain exactly my experience; to analogize, it is as if I have been telling a story I once remembered so clearly as a kid, as clear as real life. Every time I retold this story, something was added to it or taken away; and so everytime I retold this story, it felt less true, less authentic, like I had never really known it before. So once I began seeing characters and objects from this story again, things slowly came back to me, still faint but ever so familiar.

Unlike my European escapades where walking was a must, we drove everywhere; it was a blessing and a curse as the heat could kill, but I had to absorb everything in 5 seconds or less. Even so, for the things that took more time, like going to the supermarket or meeting my father’s friend from high school, I was like a sponge in water.

St. Catherine - Flat Bridge: on the road.

St. Catherine : on the road to Flat Bridge.

Conversations had more depth, people and places had more features, and my memories had more flavour. I concluded then that, in all my denial as a proud immigrant against acclimatization, I could now properly justify my multinationality as the proof was right there.

I did indeed live a part of this story, but a long time ago; when trees grow, their roots stretch out, reaching ends once unknown to that same trunk. So I may have lost my accent, and I cannot easily differenciate between uptown and downtown as other locals; but my roots all started from the same spot that I can and will always return to.

It never hurts to learn what you have always known.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

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:

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: