A Brothaman from the Mothaland

If there was one thing I could wish for that everybody could experience, besides life’s necessities like available food, unlimited clean water and genuine happiness, it would be the opportunity to be cultured.

I am physically cultured by way of birth, tracing my ancestry back to many different origins; but since I am unfamiliar with my exact roots, I have found the need to become cultured otherwise: through travel.

Moravian Karst: discovery of the unknown...

Moravian Karst: discovery of the unknown…


Though I have not seen all that is to be seen, I have gained so much more knowledge of the world in which we live and the actors that make their marks on it. I have been exposed to various means of communication between myself and the foreigner, the local and I, me and my distant family and friends. I have observed the different ways of survival, our main goal in living: some survive solely on the basic needs, others with the need for something ‘more’. And I have also come to appreciate how our differences, beyond borders and oceans, are what really make us quite similar.

Now, with all of this in mind, one thing which I had not really been exposed to in a while but which I came across during last week’s visit to the beautiful state of the Czech Republic is the behaviour of those less cultured. For the most part, my origins are of a minority race, thus, I hold a more flavoured appearance so to speak. I had been jokingly forewarned that due to this, I may receive a few double-takes or extra-long stares here and there, which I found understandable due to the restrictions of the nation’s past. However, once I was actually in the position to see it happen with my own eyes, the level of my self-comfort dwindled, and my frustration grew.

I know how it feels to witness something unfamiliar, unique, and foreign; I know how it is to be surprised by something new and different. But quite frankly, I also know that I am not the first black person to step foot inside this country, which made me the most confused. Black people have been exposed to many parts of the world, and there are various iconic members of the Black community who appear on global TV, in politics, and elsewhere which makes it quite hard for one not to be exposed to this culture. So when I received an extra-long stare or a double-take, I kept asking myself, “Have you really never seen one of me before?”

Pustevny: Green, green and more green!

Pustevny: Green, green and more green!


Which brings me back to the start: I wish culture upon everyone; whether it be physical or mental, knowing or sharing cultures is what helps keep this world as one. I am not mad at the behaviour of some of the people there. I myself had not previously been exposed to Czech culture, and besides the uncomfortable feeling of difference, the place itself is marvelous. The landscape is wondrous; I was surprised at the amount of green everywhere; and the food is one to remember (when ordering a side-dish, definitely go for the “dumplings ;” and for dessert, some “zmrzlina” or “lázeňské oplatky” goes a long way). Still, I am absolutely grateful for that trip; I had the time of my life with those who really mattered. And now I can say I know some Czech – so I’ll take that to the bank, thank-you very much.

It only makes sense to end this one off with a cliché quote from Ghandi: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Brzy na shledanou,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

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Vingt-et-un

If anyone told me as a child what my life would be like now, I would never believe them.

The mystery of life is so enticing; we go on about our days not really knowing what lies ahead (no matter how much we try to plan every move) with a strong thirst for finding out where we are going and how far we’ll get.

Ever since I can remember, I have been curious about it all: how I got here, what I am here for, and who and what will I discover. That curiosity has led me into some trouble, I must admit; not everything needs to be understood, I’ve learned, but just accepted. On the other hand, that curiosity has led me to some of the greatest moments of my life thus far, and this exchange has been one of the greatest.

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La Tour Eiffel: ya d’autre si belle comme elle?

I honestly could not have predicted how this exchange would change my life. Looking back on it at the beginning, I was scared, frightened; I just kept assuming, imaging the worst once I got on that plane from home onward. I knew that change was coming, but as life’s mysterious ways play, I was not quite sure how or if I’d like it.

Yet, as Gail Sheehy once said, “If we don’t change, we don’t grow; and if we don’t grow, we aren’t living,” and that is my ultimate goal in life – to live; so with that, changes must come…and I must grow. I have slowly watched myself progress in academics, social and professional settings, but this exchange, like my previous travel endeavors, has shown me more of myself than ever before, and I do quite like it.

I like myself.

I feel some find it hard to say, to admit with humility that they appreciate themselves. But I do, I really do. And when I say I appreciate myself, that comes along with everything that makes me me. My mother, my father, my sister, my aunts, uncles, cousins, my friends, co-workers, even my laptop that I’m using to write this with.

I owe all that I have accomplished to everyone and everything that has helped me get there, and I am forever grateful for that support – there is nothing stronger.

So with that, I shall celebrate today by celebrating the lives that give life to my own.

With love.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

“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.

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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:

adventureception.

In the most uncertain of times, it is often best not to judge the moment, but just let it be; that is something that travelling and being away from any and all things familiar gradually teaches you, I find.

This past weekend brought about my first adventure within an adventure as a couple of friends and I went a bit north from our current city of residence to a smaller, quaint ville called Aix-les-Bains. Our number one destination there was the grand Lac du Bourget, a beautiful lake by the mountainside. But of course, like every adventure, there was a lot of extra stuff in between where the journey started and where it ended.

The start was a little shaky.

We were running a bit behind schedule but luckily we weren’t found running behind our train. The ride was smooth and the trip not very long. Once we arrived in Aix-les-Bains, we attempted to look for a nice café to dine in for lunch. The search was endless as many shops were closed (you’ll often find yourself question when people work and how they make any sufficient income over here).

Once we found what seemed to be a reasonable stop, we eventually realized its unsatisfactory menu items and decided to leave after sitting down, taking a look at what was offered and quickly using the washroom. The latter was our worst mistake as the owner of the shop decided, right after we left her shop, to come from behind her counter, storm outside  to where we had stopped to take a look at the shop across hers and yell at us for occupying her washroom but not her business.

After we had lunch at the wonderful restaurant Au Bureau, the endless search for an open bakery started. Once we retrieved our goods, we went on our way to the lake.

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Lac du Bourget is an absolutely stunning sight to see. The way the sun glistened on the water ripples was near indescribable (but luckily captured on photo). I highly recommend this destination to anyone  desiring to visit the lower France regions.

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As I sat there admiring Mother Nature’s softer side, I  couldn’t help but think of how much  little thought went into this trip. It  was really more of a point-on-the- map-and-just-go sort of thing and it  worked – it really did work.

That’s why whenever someone asks me what I want to do with my life, I always think it should be rephrased with, “What does life want to do with me?” Now, of course that is a question I cannot answer as I have yet to completely break through the surface that is my life; still, I find it best to just sometimes let it be. Let it be and you will see.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the moment:

It’s Not a Goodbye, But the End of a Hello

One more sleep.

That’s all I have left. Just one more sleep. One more until my adventure – the very one I have been dreaming of for years, planning incessantly in between my present and past plans – begins, and I honestly cannot believe it.

It’s strange, really; when you dream of something for so long and begin to see it realized, you kind of wonder if it’s really happening at all. Even more so, you get scared of seeing it through for endless reasons: the fear of things all going wrong; the chance that you may fail at what you once thought was your destiny; the fact that, at some point, you may find yourself alone.

All these thoughts have been running through my head, day and night. Lately I’ve been turning up the volume on a lot of things to sort of drown out the silence. One thing I can’t seem to grasp, however, is why I am feeling this way as strongly as I am  about this trip when I just finished another one just like it.

But then again, that’s the thing. It isn’t just like the last time. Nothing is ever just like the last time. That’s kind of the beauty of the future – it often teases the present but never mimics the past. I like that element of surprise; it scares the living daylight out of me sometimes, but that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

I literally just watched the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (the coincidence of my spontaneously viewing this film during the period of my current life occurrences is still boggling my mind – it’s a great watch, I recommend it to ALL), and one powerful quote ran through the film:

Walter Mitty: quote

Walter Mitty: quote

And it is. Others may add onto it or tweak it a bit but we really are here to see, learn from, and understand each other and what we can discover; not necessarily the meaning of life, but how to live. “To see behind walls,” not literally behind them but more so walking up to a wall unknowing of what lies behind it and yet willing to continue. That is how one learns to live, and that is how I plan to take on this trip. I can plan only so much, and be as cautious as my mother and my mother’s mother have taught me to be, but there comes a point when great opportunities are deemed as such only by those who are brave enough to uncover their greatness.

This movie was honestly like a remedy to my unnerved soul, and a reminder that sometimes, you just have to trust the world. I mean, we live in it, right?

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

A Splash of Drama with a Little Bit of Drama on the Side

Every trip requires some planning. But then there are those trips that deserve no planning at all; you just go.

For me, I can never “just go” anywhere. There has to be some form of planning involved; my meticulous nature demands it. That’s why it strikes me as so odd why I cannot seem to follow any of the planning I have done and been advised to do for the trips I am about to embark on.

One of the planned tasks I assigned myself to accomplish today was getting vaccinations: a dreadful task for anyone afraid of even the dullest of needles (me). But one of my destinations requires that I put chemicals into my body to protect me from supposed evils in the tropics. Here’s to hoping it was worth it.

Unfortunately, as previously mentioned, I cannot seem to stay on task with planning for this trip and am very much behind. The vaccinations I need must be applied at least a month before I leave (the month deadline just ended about two days ago).

Anyways, I went to the travel doctor today to get consulting and, well, things got really interesting. The consultation went well, there were no problems there. The downfall occurred when I went to purchase the prescriptions.

I went into this consultation blindly, I must admit, and needless to say, I was missing a few very important things: insurance numbers, proper background information on what vaccinations are needed for my destination, and just simply a clear, calm head.

After various calls made, and scribbles and scratch-outs of numbers, we got that sorted out.

Then came the application of the drugs – but that actually went by quite easily. No sweat.

The real pain, however, came after. As I left the doctor’s office to enter the neighboring convenience store to treat myself with some sweet candy after my freshly-made needle wound, the metal door of the store slammed the heel of my foot and all that came after (that I can remember, really) was blood.

I’ll leave it to your imagination to picture the chaos that ensued as I re-entered the doctor’s office and was treated for my more severe wound.

As I’ve said already, things are about to get interesting in my life, and today was just proof of that. All I can really say is that I can’t wait for what tomorrow has in store.

À la prochaine,

Moi

Music for the Moment: