Photos from a Green Island

I’ve been in Dublin for a little over two weeks now, and I am completely in love and film development is crazy cheap and this hobby of mine is going to get out of control this year.

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The First Week in Dublin

First of all, thank you to the overwhelming support I got from real-world humans after my last post, and I PROMISE I’m okay! Y’all’s hearts are too sweet.

Second, I’ve officially been in Dublin for a week, and it is beyond incredible! If everything that happened leading up to this move was unlucky, it was only balancing the scales for everything that would follow. Due to a missed flight, I didn’t end up getting into Dublin until after midnight last Friday, and I did get a little lost finding my hostel (in what I’ve since been told isn’t a great part of town) and ended up circling the same block three times with about eighty pounds of luggage. Eventually I found it, a man with giant eyes and a vaguely Eastern European accent gave me my key, and I passed out in what I’ve since become convinced was a dirty and currently-in-use bunk.

The next morning, I woke up at 6 am in a panic that all my electronics were dead, I had my first apartment viewing at 11, and I didn’t have the right converter for Ireland. So I set out on the town to find a converter, revive my electronics at a coffee shop, and look up directions to the viewing. I then went and got a phone plan (um, 20 euros a month for unlimited data????) and headed to the viewing. It was a studio apartment, and I knew I had no chance of getting it in Dublin’s absolutely insane renting world, but I thought I’d try. Instead, I ended up meeting a really cool French woman in the same situation as me, and we exchanged contact information to get together later.

I wandered. I went to the National Gallery. Within twenty-four hours of being in Dublin, I was sipping Irish whisky on a park bench with a ginger Irishman in Saint Stephen’s Green and staying up until 4 am with the city.

Every time something has started to go wrong in this country it has fixed itself. Was supposed to make an appointment with immigration ten weeks in advance, but can instead try gambling on something sooner at 2:30 every day? How about noon next Monday. The hostel seems to come from the pits of hell (i.e. a chain smoker who didn’t stop smoking in the room from the moment he moved into when he was kicked out the next day; a large, fat man on the bed above you who amps himself up to get to the top bunk in his underwear next to your face around 4 am every night; a man flat out sleeping naked there)? Let it make you bond with the other international students  that the French woman introduces you to, and have them hook you up with a spot at their accommodation in the middle of downtown.  Find a surprise negative charge on your Trinity account that seems to have come out of nowhere? Oh no, that’s just because red and in the negative somehow means that the school owes you that number and then gives you everything you need to open an Irish bank account to give it to you. Are fifty cents short for a bus ride? Just get on anyway.

One of my best friends from when I studied abroad in Denmark came to visit and we got drunk at the Guinness Storehouse (a kind of Disneyland meets a museum meets alcoholism fiasco), watched a full rainbow fall over the city, and sunbathed over vegetarian food in Merrion Square.

I got to meet an Irish friend I’ve had online for almost a year now in person.

Got a beautiful apartment with beautiful roommates. Got a hand from a beautiful friend in the move.

Have somehow wandered into every scene from a bad Irish romance novel several times over.

I seriously just can’t believe how happy and at ease I feel in this city.  I can be a pretty shy person, but I genuinely feel like I want to talk to/befriend/get to know every single person that I see here. There is nothing that a city can give a person more than the simple sense of belonging, and I have never felt this more than I do in Dublin. I absolutely cannot wait for the year to come.

The First Couple Weeks Back in Europe

…have been really fucking intense. Like, Jesus Christ, has it always been this bad? No cheeky tongue-in-said-cheek artsy-ass way to convolute it: the past few weeks have just been an adventure.

My original plan coming back to Europe before starting school in Dublin on September 11 was to go and WWOOF (organic farm labor in exchange for food and housing) near Paris for about a week and a half, move to Dublin, get a phone/housing/bank account/etc etc, and start school. I found an orchard just a train ride out of Paris that looked quite lovely, and the host and I set up the ten-day arrangement for mid-August.

Starting at the Chicago Airport on my way to Paris, things already went awry when I had paid for two checked bags that somehow didn’t show up on my ticket (calling Kiwi did nothing, by the way), and I dealt with it simply by weeping at the check-in lady until she let both on the plane.

Then, at the orchard, I was (somehow) surprised to find that the host was a single old man retired from a career as a lawyer. Without thinking, I had just assumed it would be like the last three times I had WWOOFed where it had always been a family with at least one other WWOOFer. A little nervous about this set-up, I went along with it for four days that, I found, just got creepier and creepier. The man complimented me consistently on everything from my French to my personality to (especially) my looks. One night, I couldn’t get away from him to go to sleep because he wanted to talk to me about how a smile like mine was a gift to the world for fifteen minutes straight. I had read his reviews on the WWOOFing website and they had all been very positive, so I stayed thinking that it was probably just me being overly sensitive. However, one day, he took me with him to the grocery store, and, when he asked me if there was anything French I particularly missed, and I said the Trésor cereal, he bought it and said I could maybe thank him with a kiss. When I recoiled a little, not sure what to say, he said “no, maybe not here” and then gave me a big speech in the car ride home about how it was more important to give than to receive. Upon talking to the boy I had dated in France this past year—who now lives in Brussels—about it, he told me I needed to leave, and that I was welcome at his for the next seven days before I left for Dublin.

I booked the bus. Unsure of what to tell my WWOOFing host, I said I was going to Brussels for the weekend and just needed to take all of my things with me because I owed my friend a lot of books and instruments. He believed me for a few hours, but then got suspicious and demanded over and over that I tell him the truth. When eventually I said I was going to Brussels for good, he yelled at me that I was a coward and a liar all the way from packing up my things to carrying them all the way across his gravel driveway in the pouring rain to the gate out of his property. It was insane. If you are thinking of WWOOFing, it is absolutely wonderful (usually), but BE CAREFUL and make sure you will not be alone!

This past week in Brussels was nice, but certainly intense in its own way due to spending more time with my ex-boyfriend than we probably ever did while we were actually dating. I had nothing to do (why I had wanted to use this time for WWOOFing in the first place) and picked fights. Alcohol is cheap in Belgium, and we probably drank a little too much. Then, two days ago, the Fella got in a bike accident that sent him over the handles of his bike and into the street. Although he did not go to the doctor and says he’s getting better, he’s been in pain and unable to move his right arm since.

I almost fell for a housing scam in Dublin yesterday.

Currently, I am sitting in the Paris Beauvais Airport for the next nine hours after having already been travelling for eleven hours straight because, due to a string of unfortunate events, I missed my flight to Dublin by fourteen minutes.

I hate to believe in luck and, if there is such a thing, I know that I have an obnoxious amount of it. But I still can’t help but wonder if I am momentarily cursed, and when it will lift (I had just gotten in a car accident and, separately, a flat-tire on the freeway the week before coming to Europe).

I keep beating myself up for being here, and, as always, reading about what’s crumbling to pieces at home.

I hope these weeks have not been a reflection of what this year is to hold. I am incredibly, beyond excited to live in one of my favorite cities in the world, but, after all this, I am honestly feeling discouraged and a little out of my depth.

An IUD Perspective

To be completely honest, I feel a little weird writing a blog post about getting an IUD. Not that women should be ashamed of their bodies or anything, but it’s a little strange to broadcast to the world what’s inside my uterus these days. However, I really quickly want to share a bit about my experience getting an IUD this past week, since I know I looked to the experience of others on the internet while getting ready for mine, and many on the internet had experiences that were fairly different than mine and my best friend’s, who had gotten hers a couple months ago and helped me through mine. So here’s what went down from my perspective…

Why I chose to get an IUD
I stared taking the pill when I was fourteen because I had horrendously painful periods (i.e. dripping sweat due to the pain in the middle of class until it would get so bad I’d have to go home), and didn’t stop until this past year when I moved to France and– for some reason that I forget now– didn’t bring enough with me. When I got into a relationship, I started the pill back up and experienced crushing mood swings and depression that I hadn’t felt since puberty. This experience made me question if the depression I felt all throughout high school was entirely a natural byproduct of, well, being a teenager, or actually how my body just deals with hormones. Either way, I had to stop taking the pill, and I’ve felt pretty averse to starting hormones ever again since.

How I chose my IUD
I started by going to my health insurance’s website and seeing which IUDs they covered. I then looked up the three that were covered and decided I wanted Paragard, since it was the copper, non-hormonal, option. The way copper IUDs work is that they kill sperm, while hormonal IUDs do more for making the uterus not suitable for eggs. They are 99% effective at preventing pregnancy and last for TWELVE YEARS! With copper IUDs, they normally make period cramps a lot worse for the first couple months (the doctor discouraged me from this option due to my history of painful periods, but, again, I was trying to avoid hormones). I then researched Planned Parenthoods around me to see which one took my insurance, called them to ask if they had Paragard, and made an appointment.

Getting the IUD

This is where my experience seems to diverge from many. Prior to getting my IUD, I had read that it generally wasn’t that painful, and just felt like period cramps. My mom’s best friend and her daughter had been fine afterward and drove themselves home. The doctor herself said that experiences varied, but most didn’t experience too much pain.

My best friend was visiting me from Albuquerque by chance on this day. This friend is probably the toughest woman I know and is a wildfire firefighter. She had gotten her IUD a few months prior and said it was more painful than breaking bones. When she got hurt in the field this summer, her crew asked her how painful it was from 1 to 10 and what the 10 was. The 10 was getting her IUD. Anyway, she said she would drive me home just in case, since I had been planning to drive myself.

And I am glad she did. I would like to think I have a pretty high pain tolerance: I’ve broken an arm and a leg, I’ve had mono and strep throat at the same time (and didn’t even notice until I went to the doctor for a regular check up), I’ve danced several dance concerts with shin splints. The operation, though, was incredibly painful. There were several points where I thought I was going to have to back out and ask the doctor to stop. I cried. I almost passed out. It was definitely the most pain I had ever felt, and it lasted for a little over two hours. After the two hours, the pass-out-level pain came and went in pretty frequent waves for the next two days. Now, they are coming sporadically at bad-period levels, but, for example, they kept me up for a couple hours last night. I am not out of it yet, but I expect, from what the doctor said, for this phase to last for about two months.

And, again, everybody’s experiences vary. For me, this was definitely the most pain I have ever experienced.

But hey I’m still happy as a clam to have an IUD! I can’t (99% at least) get pregnant for the next twelve years, which is basically the rest of my fertile life! Two months is only .01% of my relationship with this IUD fella, even if it’s pretty awful.

Hope another story was helpful, and I wish you the best with your IUD!

Happy Independence Day

I kind of think I love America. Just a little. In total secrecy. Only to be repeated on this one holiday while hiding behind an American flag just as fireworks explode loud enough for anybody listening to ask, “what did you just say?”

Every Fourth of July, I get a bit of that mushy feeling in the pit of my stomach that nurses plant in every red-blooded American at the hospital, and that is then fertilized with bald eagle spit and the bits of apple pie that get stuck to a poorly-greased pan that they sneak into all of our public school lunches throughout the entirety of our childhood.

But I feel it stronger this year that I have since said childhood: which is weird. This is the first Fourth of July with Donald Trump in the white house. Without going into an enormous list of specifics beyond that, American politics, generally, look like dystopian fiction right now. Not that they were great to begin with. At a pretty young age—growing up with George Bush, the Iraq War, and the hate that permeates nearly all immigration politics fought so close to home in my border state—I never really got into the whole patriotism thing. The American Dream was always just an ironic punch line. Loving your country was only for people who drove trucks and buried bigoted hearts behind the camouflage print on their t-shirts. I can’t remember the last time I said the Pledge of Allegiance.

Angsty, in-your-face rejection of any and all things American has been an integral part of my identity for as long as I’ve had one, and just getting the fuck out has always been at the core of any plans I’ve made for adulthood. Whether it be Canada, France, Denmark, or Ireland (all of which I went through huge, obsessive phases over at one time or another while growing up bored in the suburbs), I just didn’t want to be a citizen in today’s modern Roman Empire, pillaging the entire world for energy, power, and the spread of its impeccable American-branded morals.

And I have. Gotten out, that is. I studied abroad in Denmark for a year. I just got back from teaching English in France for a year. Next year, I’m getting my masters in Ireland (still looking at you for something, Canada). But, honestly, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned from that getting-out is that non-American doesn’t necessarily equate to good.

In fact, I’m starting to get the impression that everywhere is kind of shitty.

Canada, for as much as we prop it up to be a gleaming tundra of overly-nice, plain people, has some serious xenophobic shit of its own. Denmark, said to be the happiest place on Earth, takes the most anti-depressants in the world and, in my personal experience, has some serious alcoholism issues. Not to mention that their own xenophobic, racist political party is pretty popular. There’s a reason the word “ennui” comes from France. Workers’ rights, while important, seem to be the only thing the French will fight for. When I went to the Montpellier Women’s March (organized by ex-pats by the way), there was hardly anybody there, because, as it was explained to me on several occasions by the French, feminism isn’t important to them. The French have the second most McDonald’s in the world, and, arguably, the same level of Redneck that I find in America, but without the American acknowledgement that it’s there. They are, also, the most open with their racism that I have ever personally experienced, even if Marine LePen only won second place this past election. I’ll get to Ireland after this coming year, I’m sure. Spain seemed nice, but my current supervisor (who is black) said it was horribly discriminatory to him. Italy is terrible about refugees. England has Brexit. Etc. Etc. Etc.  Americans disillusioned with America always seem to look to our European neighbors as some kind of answer because, what? It’s old and beautiful and a nice place to live if you have don’t have to deal with the same discriminations that exist in the US?

I’ve focused on Canada and Europe here just because it seems pretty common for masochistic Americans to think of the other side of the pond as “the answer,” and because it’s what I personally know, but I’m sure I could find similar examples from every continent (those researchers over in Antarctica particularly). Nowhere is perfect. People aren’t perfect. We’re into ourselves and our groups and however we want to draw the maps to reflect our  “us’s”.

I don’t mean to point out all the problems with one continent and juxtapose it with a positive view of America to say that we’re the best and to revert to some weird nationalistic American exceptionalism. But, right now, coming back from Europe to my old American “us”—systemic and political worlds aside—I’m realizing that I’m pretty fucking into this blob on a map despite a lifetime of rejecting any of its positive attributes. I’m part of a community of people dedicated to protecting the environment and building each other up through the process with my current job. It’s funded by the American government which, at least for the moment, protects huge national and state parks that are more beautiful than anything in Europe. I’m working with people who understand and even enjoy working their asses off. Americans work so fucking hard and, yes, probably too much, but this respect for good work is, I think, special and unique and beautiful. Back in France, everything was so fucking white and sexist (teachers commenting on my ass when I walked through doors, for example) and xenophobic and racist and gender normative (there is no non-binary pronoun in the French language, and nobody is even talking about trans-rights in France to my knowledge). In my experience in America, if somebody in privilege does or says something offensive, they are at least going to get called out and made uncomfortable with the normativity that society usually lets them take for granted. America, while controlled by money and the fear of the few in power, is rife with diversity on a personal, daily level, and I, at least, would prefer a world where those in power act out of fear rather than heedless, unchallenged comfort in what affords them that place.

Also, just as a side note, Jesus, Americans are funny. I was genuinely starting to worry this past year that I’d lost my ability to laugh. Like, really laugh, something that has always been a defining characteristic for me. This past weekend, though, I went to my old college town and saw a few old friends; I laughed so much so constantly that I didn’t think my eyes would ever dry or my stomach ever stop hurting. The youth that I work with often ask me if I’ve ever heard jokes before, because I just laugh at all of them.

I love our protest. I love our art. I love our literature. I love our love.

The world is an agglomeration of fucked-up systems and problematic cultures. Everywhere is awful. And, looking at what the US in capital letters is up to these days, all I know is that I have to come back here. I have to love. I have to do everything in my power to rebel against what I’ve always known I hated to make it reflect the America that I’m finding out I do love.

Happy Fourth of July. Who’s up for stealing the Declaration of Independence?

Out of France and into the Fire

I don’t live in France anymore. I spent my last moments in the Pézenas apartment taking a bath—planning to explore that metaphor more later—kissed my lover goodbye, and flew home. Basic communication with strangers isn’t daunting any more. Pastries are a non-event. There are a lot of American flags attached to pickup trucks in my day-to-day. Small towns are no longer constructed of old stone and vine revolving around a central church, but instead large stretches of asphalt from one beige stucco house to the next to the Walmart to the southwestern wilds that are like nothing else in Europe.

That’s where I am. Kind of. Well, I’m in a trailer in a state park named after a dead horse with a beebee gun in the cabinet and blues on the radio. I’ve traded killing time speaking English in front of classrooms of disinterested French high schoolers to dripping sweat over the dry Arizonan soil with a cohort of four American high schoolers who think that a good way to spend their summer is doing hard manual labor under a sweltering desert sun. That’s where I am. With my six-foot-something coleader sleeping in a tent in the front yard amid a screaming chorus of crickets and a night sky that only the dry desert air can display.

This summer, I’m working for the Arizona Conservation Corps as a mentor for the youth program. My location is the Verde Valley (pronounced VUR-dee), a region of Arizona consisting of a few small towns with names like Cottonwood, Camp Verde, Cornville, Clarkdale, Centerville, Jerome (an abandoned mining town turned artsy hippie community). The small towns are deeply American, just as the landscape is deeply southwestern: cactus, red dirt, expansive blue skies, cottonwoods and willows weeping over the Verde River, the longest free-running river in Arizona.  I’m getting battle wounds from the mesquite tree thorns here that may never go away.

Said days usually start with coffee around six in the morning. Cowboy coffee: beans soaked in boiling water which usually end up getting consumed too. Oatmeal. Pick up the youths. Fifteen minutes of physical training and fifteen minutes of stretching. A few hours of pulling invasive weeds or trees, some of which are so volatile that every pore in your body leaks in protest. A few hours of trail building. Maybe mixing up mud for planting seeds. Hiking. Collecting dragon fly larvae. The jobs vary, but the heat is a constant, boiling away my skin and humidifying the sweat under my thick collared uniform. The brilliant sarcasm from my corps members is another constant. Laughing so hard I can’t get my body to keep working. Two fifteen minute breaks and a thirty minute lunch. We finish at 3:30, and I get to hike, bike, fish, paint, write, go to Taco Belle with the rest of my afternoon.  Then dinner, make lunch for the next day. I’m usually in bed by nine.

The days are steady and predictable in a way that only a day constructed around eight hours of hard work can be. Slow days built by slow work whose effects feel dubious from such close proximity (what is five hours of pulling napweed when it will only be back in a matter of months?). But the river here is not a strong one anyway.

It meanders. Sometimes, you wonder if there’s a current in its water at all, sitting idle between its grassy banks with something that looks like rotten peanut butter on top. This is all just a lesson in slowness anyway. This river that gives no heed to here or there has supported life for centuries. Look to the ruins at Montezuma’s Castle or Tuzigoot. Look around and see all the miraculous green for which the Verde is named. Listen to the bugs. Watch out for snakes.

Baths don’t always get you cleaner. Rivers don’t always display obvious force. Time is just a labelled bag.

This is where I am.