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.

Olargues and Bédarieux

For my last week in France, my fella decided to show me the village Olargues, a village officially listed as one of les plus beaux villages de France, with a stop by Bédarieux on the way home. I seem to be having some luck with forecasted rain and surprise sunny, perfect days, as was the case when I went to St Guilhem le Désert for my birthday Thursday, and again in this instance. We wandered some streets, explored some castle ruins on a hill, sat on a bridge, had coffee at the most adorable organic marché/café in Bédarieux. Despite my hesitancy, we hitchhiked home in the perfect weather, and it was just magical walking along the road in the sunshine between rides.

Pour ma dernière semaine en France, mon gar a decide de me montrer la village d’Olargues, une village connue officiallement comme une des plus beaux villages de France, avec un arrêt à Bédarieux en route chez-moi. J’ai la chance récement avec les prévisions météorologiques pour la pluie qui résultent en les journées ensoleillées et parfaits, comme quand je suis allée à St. Guilhèm le Désert pour mon anniversaire juedi, et encore dans ce cas. Nous avons balladé quelques rues, exploré quelques ruines d’un château, assis sur un pont, pris du café à la bio-marché/café la plus adorable à Bédarieux. Malgré mon hesitation, nous avons fait l’auto-stop jusqu’à chez-moi en le météo parfait, et c’était simplement la magique en promenant la rue dans le soleil entre les trajets.

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35mm

As a Christmas/New Year’s/Getting-In-To-Grad-School gift to myself back in December, I got a Pentax Spotmatic film camera off of Le Bon Coin and I absolutely adore it. Here are a few pictures from around the region, namely Pezenas (my town), Castelnau-Le-Lez, Mèze, and Montpellier. (These are pictures of the pictures taken by my digital camera woops).

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A Guide to Resting your Tired Dogs whilst doing the Self-Discovery Thing: or, my February Vacation Travels to Stockholm, Amsterdam, and Brussels

[S]leeping can be a form of emotional escape and can with sustained effort be abused…[G]ambling can be an abusable escape, too, and work, shopping, and shoplifting, and sex, and masturbation, and food, and exercise…[A]nonymous generosity, too, can be abused. Having sex with someone you do not care for feels lonelier than not having sex in the first place afterward. It is permissible to want.

Infinite Jest
David Foster Wallace

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Brussels, Belgium

If, at some point, you find yourself in a position where you are Twenty-Two-Years-Old and Fresh-Out-Of-College and, on top of all that, say, an English teaching assistant in Middle of Nowhere, France, you may find yourself perpetually on two-week vacations from the usual grueling Twelve-Hour Work Week you normally have to endure of miming the English language at classrooms of bored French students while pretending you Didn’t Know You Weren’t Supposed to Give Political Standpoints in the French school system because your Académie never actually gave you any formal training anyway. Luckily, in Middle of Nowhere, France, you may also be that One Lucky Bastard in your Académie who lives in a high school without rent, and, since you are Young and wanting to do the whole Self Discovery Thing, you are now afforded to leave said high school in order to Travel Europe for the two week “Winter Break” period in February that is a thinly laïc-veiled disguise for Lent.

Because, I mean, the apartment in the high school in the Middle of Nowhere is great, and probably the best place you’ll get for some time, but you really have to ask yourself sometimes what the history of your current fucking mattress could be. How it could possibly be as lumpy and painfully uncomfortable as it is. Why there’s that one perfect, lipped canyon running right down its middle that, if you accidentally roll into, has you suddenly touching its back side. Why, if you put too much weight on one end, the whole thing completely flips over and throws you out. It smells bad; you know why, but it’s still disconcerting.

You want to escape from this mattress.

You want to escape from this Middle of Nowhere. Even if just for a little.

You start by escaping to Stockholm, Sweden where one of your friends from the aforementioned recently-left college back in the US has recently moved to start an internship. In Sweden, you may sleep on a twin-sized mattress that is more comfortable than a piggy-back ride on God’s fecklessly smooth back-skin. The sun is gone most of the time up there too, and your friend and yours’s version of tourism mostly consists of large consumptions of alcohol over gossip and bitching and, later, when you are both reasonably comfortable being bad tourists, The Bachelor. These factors help foster the deepest cocoon of sleep you’ve had in ages, and help you trudge around Sweden’s dark, snowy cold to look at palaces and fjords and squares that you’re sure must be quite pleasant in the summer. You will try to buy food in Swedish, but spoken with a Danish accent that makes them just give you meat regardless of what you tried to ask for. As a vegetarian, this will make you uncomfortable in an accepting, polite kind of way that rips apart your digestive system. Sweden will make you miss the year you studied abroad in Denmark. Not the country of Denmark itself, but the time itself. Europe is teaching you, this time around, that your obsession with place is a misconstrued projection of experience, and that the two are not necessarily the same.

Afterwards, you will go to Amsterdam, specifically for the Vincent van Gogh Museum, because you bought a book of his letters in London and they really fucking spoke to you, man. In trying to get to your Dutch mattress late the first night, you will realize that you booked a hostel an hour outside of Amsterdam itself and struggle to follow its directions to “go to the lighthouse” in a country whose language sounds like a Sims dialect. You will wander around in the snow for an hour with all your luggage until somebody at the gas station gives you directions. You will find that the tourists in the Netherlands really like their mattresses too: in an All Day Long kind of way that makes it so you don’t really make the normal hostel friends that you might otherwise. The beds, to be fair, are terribly comfortable, if a little smelly and rattled by club music all night long. But you are exhausted from Amsterdam anyway. You will lose your first day in the van Gogh Museum and the Stedelijk Museum in an engrossing, inspiring way that makes you forget that you only have two days there. Van Gogh will be crowded, and you will be more into watching the security guards fight the tourists to stop taking Selfies and try to teach them that Technology is an Affront to Art (actual security guard comments) than perhaps the paintings themselves, even if you cry at the crows (which you clearly remember described in the letters as “vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I didn’t have to put myself out very much in order to try and express sadness and extreme loneliness.”) The second day, you will go on a walking tour in the pouring snow and feel ashamed for not being able to take anything away from it save the memory of being desperately cold and fighting off the advances of an Australian who really wanted to go on a canal tour with you. Afterwards, you will think about buying drugs, but go and read in the library where it is warm for hours and hours instead. In the end, Jean Tinguely from the Stedelijk is This Trip’s Discovery: an artist who focuses on machines, movement, and modernism. His letters, in French, are on display about how love is an act of movement, how life is an act of movement, and they are moving in a way that stays with you, even as you say Goodbye to Another City That Must Be Lovely In The Summer and move on to Brussels.

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Snow on the beach in Noordwijk, The Netherlands

Whose mattress is also quite nice, but whose pillow is of lesser quality than Amsterdam’s or Stockholm’s. You like Brussels immediately for being beautiful in a way you can tell doesn’t take itself too seriously. You will go to a Lenten church service in German for some familiar, High Mass Smells. You will be told “vous êtes belle” by a stranger who seemed sincere– and not drunk– on its steps outside. You will get film developed in what turns out to be a man’s living room. You will drink beer and eat chocolate. You will gawk at the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture everywhere. You will figure out why \it is an Art Nouveau City on a walking tour that teaches you that Belgium earned its wealth by killing half the population of The Congo at the turn of the century, when Art Nouveau was at its height. You will go to a Musical Instrument Museum that is actually not as good as the one in Phoenix. You will go to the Magritte Museum on surrealist painter René Magritte and realize that surrealism makes so much more sense when you read poetry, like you recently started regularly practicing. You will spend Valentine’s Day drinking alone, nostalgically, on the cold, hard cobblestones of Le Grand Place, and make a brief cameo on Brussels News for doing so.

In the Netherlands, you will subsist on Dutch Chocolate when you get hungry.

In Belgium, you will subsist on Belgian Waffles when you get hungry.

You will not feel very well.

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Brussels, Belgium

You will, most importantly, take a wide and varying combination of planes, trains, and God Awful Overnight Buses to traverse Europe, and will fall deeply asleep on every single one of them. You will practice finagling your body into contortions your mattress in Middle of Nowhere, France does not ask of you in order to sleep, and your Morning Body will come to grips with an ache it almost never knows. It will just want to get to a hostel’s bed, or, even, back to the Familiar Discomfort nestled in the Middle of Nowhere’s lumpy mattress.

You will learn, here, what it means to Rest. Learn what it means to live in this Work of Escaping from Work and Adulthood, from the Real World and Home and the USA, you Twenty-Two-Year-Old Self-Discovery Stuffer.  Learn that Escape gives you that ache that only comes with travel, the kind that wants nothing but Arrival.

If, at some point, you find yourself in this position, where you are Twenty-Two-Years-Old and Fresh-Out-Of-College doing the Whole Self-Discovery Thing, remember that life is an Act in Movement. When you are tired from travelling, ask what Rest you really get from your bed at home? The comfort you chose to leave because it was meant for leaving. Go. Travel.  Get Away from it. All of it. When you get tired, lay down. And see where you got.

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Stockholm, Sweden