Backyard Fun for the Undone

Here’s a not-so trick question: where is home to you? Is it where you are now? Or is it where you want to be?

Upon returning from my trip, this question has been the most frequent and frustrating thought to ever take rest on my brain. Home is where I am now; home is here where I am, where my family is, where familiarity and history is. Yet at this stage in my life, I am in the midst of deciding where my own home will be, separate from my family’s but inclusive of my career and goals.

To be truthful, I don’t know where that is – still. I went away not just with the intention to imporve my language skills, but also to find out if my place was someplace over there. I still don’t quite know, which is what continues to fuel my drive, my need to travel. Traveling is a dream, it’s a gift I wish upon the world; but it’s also something that must be taken in moderate doses.

I can’t keep trying to “find” my place; a never-ending search isn’t really a search after a point.

Algonquin Park - Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

Algonquin Park – Canoe Lake: blue never looked so bright!

My level of quiet frustration has grown even more whilst talking amongst friends who share similar tales of wanting to go away, away to the “Land That is Not Their Own”. These could be permanent displacements or temporary ones (i.e. an exchange, vacation). And that brings me to my next question: what is so bad about one’s own backyard, absent from terrorful wars and violence, that pushes them away from it?

I in no way disclude myself from this statement when I say that we, in the days of increased globalization and accessible shared medias, have the urge to move – it’s in our nature as once nomadic creatures. Before, however, we moved for survival; now, we move for convenience. Don’t get me wrong, many of us are in the position and the right to do so; but have you not ever wondered of the the wonders that are your own?

I recently visited one of the many national parks in this beautiful country just three hours north, and my experience was spectacular, to say the least. I may have explored almost an entire continent, but I would never consider myself a world traveller – and that trip proved I had much more to see, and not too far from home either.

Algonquin Park - Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

Algonquin Park – Lookout Trail: autumn at its best..

The Earth is too beautiful a place to have what goes on within it taint its appearance; the grass is just as green wherever you go. We were rooted in our origins for a reason; where we come from has treasure all of its own, even in all its surrounding rubble.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

A Hug for My Teddies

To feel ecstatic and all the while solemn, that is to live out of a suitcase.

Even when staying at a home, and not a hostel; with family, and not strangers; in comfort not unease, I still can not shake the feeling of wanting to finally settle, to be home again.

To sit or to settle?

To sit or to settle?

While I was on my exchange in France, things were different: my residence room was mine – temporarily, yes – but still, for the time, mine. I also had a family; not blood-related, but close enough; and I knew I had to settle since I would be there for such a long period of time.

Now that I have been constantly on the move for about two months, the need to return home is ever-pressing.

But I’m conflicted: I want to go home so badly, in desperate need to hug my family, friends, and teddy bears, but I’m also saddened to distance myself even more from the family I have made as well as discovered over here. Before I left, I had the fear of missing out on the fascinating changes at home, but now more than ever, I mourn the loss of chances to experience the changes and growth of my family abroad.

Yet, there really is nothing to mourn about. Thanks to certain technologies like Skype and FaceBook, I am able to easily stay in contact with others miles away – so long as they are willing. But that’s the thing; how many of those which I have befriended are actually willing to keep it so?

I recently watched a Tyler Perry video, a clip from one of his Madea plays on broadway, and in the clip Madea spoke of something very important. She said,

“Your life is like a tree. Some people who come into your life are like the leaves on the branches, only there to take from the tree and give shade every now and then, that’s the only thing they can do. Some people are like branches on that tree: you think that they’re a friend who will stay but the minute you step out, they’ll leave you high and dry. But if you find two or three people who are like the roots of a tree, they’re the kind of people that aren’t going anywhere. If those roots weren’t in there, that tree couldn’t live.”

Thanks to travelling, I understand who are the leaves and branches in my life, and I know who are the roots. I know that once that plane takes off, many a hands will be waving goodbye, until next time; but I also know that once that plane lands, even many more arms will be open to take me back.

Brighton! - where the sun shines in the name alone!

Brighton! – where the sun shines in the name alone!

At the start of this trip, a reflection came to me and I’ve been using it to head this trip ever since: I’ll always be up for the adventure as long as home is the last stop. So yeah, it’s been a blast, but now I’m ready to go.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:

On the ride

“So this cousin is your dad’s fourth cousin’s daughter-in-law’s brother’s uncle’s wife’s neighbor’s dog’s friend’s sister’s mom…”

I previously spoke of my background; where I come from, how I moved from there, and how I do not know my exact roots. I also spoke of becoming cultured by travelling and learning the cultures, and in turn, histories, of these new friends and “family”. I always thought my family to be a small one: my mom’s side was big, yes, but that was due mainly to extra family brought in by marriages, etc (I can count the number of cousins I have on her side on one hand – nope – let’s make it two fingers). But then on my dad’s side, what I thought to be just one cousin not even my age, I am now discovering is immense.

One of the many lochs of Scotand...

Scotland: Lochland

The opening line for this entry is exactly the sort of thing I have been hearing over and over for the past few days here in London, and I am absolutely loving it.

While living with my immediate family up north for the past decade and a bit, I always loved our closeness and small family-gatherings since all we have are each other up there; but now, to discover that I have a whole pool of people I can call cousins, second cousins, friends-of-seconds-who-are-like-family, it’s just such a heart-warming feeling!

Oslo Opera House: a view..

Oslo Opera House: a view..

I have changed my ways as I’ve grown and come to appreciate the same quality of love in smaller numbers, but for a time, I used to get really jealous – yes, jealous is the right, true word here – when a friend of mine would brag, if you will, about her weekend family gatherings, another wedding she had to go to or her new baby cousin. I kept wishing that I could experience a big family like that where the head count went on for hours if not days, but I never thought I would.

And now I am.

This just proves how much one can discover by getting out of one’s shell, from under one’s rock, and just giving the world a big hello.

I’ve been trying to meld well into life’s new adventures as I cope with the end of the last one: it’s been hard, I’ll admit, but these past few weeks venturing to Scotland’s gem highlands, the ABBA museum of Stockholm, and the statues of Oslo’s Vigelandsparken, and now discovering the extent of my blood have shown me that there is so much more to come.

What a rush!

Stockholm: What a rush!

I won’t forget yesterday but I must still look ahead to tomorrow.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music for the Moment:

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:

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:

xoxo

If you dig a little, you can find treasure in your own backyard.; and this week, I got a little muddy.

Every North American that comes to Europe, in my opinion, has the mentality that they must explore. No matter how much it takes, nor by what means, as many countries must be visited and checked off while you’re here because it’s EUROPE (also, reading articles like these just gets the Dora the Explorer in you even more hyper:  http://themindunleashed.org/2014/04/visited-201-countries-world-without-using-plane.html ).So naturally, when I found out that I would finally be crossing the pond, I quickly made a list of all the wonders I had to see on the other side.

One thing that has been difficult for me to check off my list is Italy, Italia, the land of all things Vatican and pesto. I almost had a chance to go this weekend, to start off a week-long vacation at uni, but my plans were thrown off by travel doubts and too many inquiries into the means of getting to the ends. So, I had no choice but to stay in Grenoble, which frustrated my plans and ruffled my feathers a little too.

Funny enough though, when things don’t go right, we can always go left.

I like to keep up with life’s pace so doing absolutely nothing this weekend was a definite ‘no’. However, I did end up discovering a piece of France’s beauty that was only a few kilometers away in a town called Vizille. There is a chateau, a mesmerizing park, and an atmosphere of exploration which necessitated but only a half hour’s drive.

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders...

Chateau Vizille: a palace of wonders…

There’s a line in the American Idol winner, Fantasia’s first ever single, “I Believe,” where she questions, “Ever felt like you were dreaming, just to find that you’re awake?” As I take in everything that is happening in my life at this time, it is hard to believe that I am awake; that this indeed is not a dream. To have your dreams spring to life almost feels as if it’s someone else who’s living them and you’ve just got the best seat in the house, watching tirelessly as you stuff a handful of extra-buttered popcorn into your mouth with every new scene.

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard....

Swan Lake: beauty in the backyard….

She continues to sing, “And that magic that surrounds you can lift you up, and guide you on your way.” That magic that surrounds me is my family – and that includes all; blood relatives, friends-so-close-they’re-family, and my residence family, living here with me while on exchange. The love and support I receive in my life for no matter what I do is astounding, and like Fantasia as she sings in the spotlight on the eve of her Idol title, I too feel like I have won, and that feeling is bliss.

À la prochaine,
Moi

Music of the Moment:
Pour mes amours, ceux qui me donnent leurs coeurs et qui acceptent gracieusement le mien…

P.S. Happy Birthday Lexi :*

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:

“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: