This year, May 1st fell on a Saturday. Why should I care, you might ask? Well, you shouldn't, unless you live in Germany. Because if you didn't realize that the upcoming Saturday was May 1st and you lived in Germany, you would have ended up like me (and Dani) who didn't realize until we were standing in front of the closed doors of our local grocery store that the reason the doors weren't opening (despite the horrific dance moves we were performing to try to get the motion sensors to recognize our presence) was because the whole city was closed… because May 1st is a public holiday. And when I say public holiday, I mean everything, except the occasional falafel cart and pizza joint is fully closed. Want an apple? A fresh salad? Too bad. You can have takeout food and overpriced alcohol from a kiosk. The worst thing about this though was not that Saturday was a public holiday we forgot about. No, no. The worst part is the fact that for those of you who know how the days of the week work, Sunday comes after Saturday. You know what day of the week all German things except takeout joints and kiosks are inherently closed? You guessed it. Sunday. So, we spent the weekend spending way too much money on takeout we didn't want, and I can't even handle the thought of another falafel döner or slice of ricotta pizza.
In this, and in all things, I am a work in progress.
Three months ago, I started a job as a PR Manager at a German university. I have no formal PR training or education, and I’m working and writing in a foreign language most of the time. As a natural-born academic, being an “adult” and “contributing to society” is still pretty daunting, but I can feel myself growing more confident in my work and more aware of what I still need to learn. I'm still blown away that I've been given the title of "Manager" as if I come across as someone who can "manage" to do anything other than convert oxygen into CO2 and it won’t be my forever job, but it really is the perfect stop between academics and the kind of work I really want to be doing. In my professional life, I am a work in progress.
What feels like a million years ago (but is really only like 9), I started learning German. Before that, Spanish. Now? Working (slowly) on my French. My German is fluent, but I still learn something new every day, bc this language is ridiculous and I am a sadist for making the conscious choice to learn it. My Spanish is rusty from lack of use, but I watch my Spanish shows and listen to Spanish music and eat loooots of Spanish tortilla to keep the muscle moving when I can. French is a slow process, but Dani is a patient teacher and I’m really hoping to be able to hold an actual conversation in French sometime sooner rather than later – not about anything important, maybe just about the weather, but still. In languages, I am a work in progress.
I am in the happiest, most wonderful relationship I have ever been in. I am loved, supported, challenged to be a better person, and constantly surprised that this kind of love is real. I am learning the importance of balancing your needs with those of your partner, setting healthy boundaries, and recognizing the fact that I deserve to be happy, and to be so much of the reason someone I love is happy. I am learning how much someones' happiness can bring you joy by proxy, and how it is so much more fun to give than to receive. In relationships, I am a work in progress.
When it comes to family, I like to think I have (some) things pretty well figured out. Not everything, bc that would be a laughable thought bc families are complicated as all hell, but a lot of things. I have a family which, while fully insane and delightfully dysfunctional at times, is made up of people who love me deeply. Dad is far away but never fails to remind me how proud he is of me. I see pieces of me mirrored in the incredible womxn that are my mom and grandma, and I see my sisters growing into the world’s most amazing womxn. My mom is constantly ready to learn and grow and find new ways to show us that she loves us, and the girls are very my best friends. My grandma knows more about my life than any grandma should probably know about her granddaughter, and I’m okay with that. But there is always something I could do better. Something I could do more of, or perhaps less. Something I should try to understand better before speaking out about it or developing an opinion on it. In family matters, I am a work in progress.
As a friend, I am ridiculously lucky. I have the most incredible people in my life who have helped me become the person I am and have loved me through it all. I have been able to surround myself (mostly metaphorically or figuratively or whatever bc my people are all over the damn world) with the most incredible humans who actively make me a better person. I can only hope to bring as much joy to their lives as they do to mine. As a friend, I am a work in progress.
As a feminist, I am becoming more comfortable expressing my beliefs and more knowledgeable about the reasons behind them. I am constantly starting dialogues with people who share my perspectives, and people who don’t. I am reading books, asking questions, having new realizations, and building new thought processes on a daily basis. I recognize the importance of intersectionality in feminism and realize that we cannot allow sexism to be a taboo topic, or else it will never be forced to change. I am growing more comfortable speaking out in situations where I recognize something has been said that undermines womxn in society. I talk to the people I love about this incredibly important topic, and their open-mindedness is unbelievably encouraging. I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go, though. As a feminist, I am a work in progress.
As a proponent of body positivity, I think it’s safe to say I have a long way to go. I am a huge proponent of the importance of loving your body, but it will probably be a while before I can say with conviction that I practice what I preach. I’ll get there. In this, I am a work in progress.
As an anti-racist person (because it is not enough to simply not be racist – truly, we need to speak out against racism and be actively anti-racist), the list of things I still need to learn is infinite. There is clear, systemic, structural racism in the United States spanning from legislature to the criminal justice system to the pay gap to unemployment rates to police brutality to barriers in education to representation in the media and executive positions in corporations, the list goes on. I learn something new every day, and it’s all I can do to try and keep up with the bullshit people of color are faced with on a daily basis. That does not mean, however, that you can act as though this new culture of awareness is a bad thing. Having to re-learn what is acceptable and unacceptable is hard, but it’s not impossible. And just because certain behaviors used to be “the norm” that doesn’t mean that they were ever even remotely acceptable. And if you found out your behavior was affecting someone, or an entire demographic, negatively, why would you want to continue with such behavior? And if a person of color tells you that what you said was racist or a microaggression or WHATEVER, do not immediately start telling them all the reasons you were not trying to be racist. Listen to them, apologize, and don’t make the comment or carry out the behavior again. It’s not about the intent behind what you said, it’s about how whatever you said is received. If I punch you and it hurts, it is not my place to tell you that it does not, in fact hurt. However, if you’re spewing racist commentary in front of me, I might punch you anyway.
The other day, I was talking to one of my oldest friends about the issue of structural racism in America. We discussed everything from a memo sent out by the Trump administration to the US military in September of 2020 regarding budget cuts in diversity training within the DoD, to the standards people (especially white people) are held to within society within the realm of racist behavior. She commented on how she was grateful to have known my family in high school, as we “set the standard” for the rest of her relationships with white people in her life. We met when we were 17. She is a beautiful black woman in a blended family. What struck me was her comment that “if your mom, who grew up in a totally different generation, and your sisters, so young at the time, can be so open-minded and willing to learn about the problems facing people of color in America, even 10 years ago, then any white person I interact with nowadays should be just as aware, if not more so.” Important to remember here is that this kind of “open-mindedness” should not be unusual. It should be the norm, but I digress. To be entirely honest, I don’t think it has anything to do with the simple fact of open-mindedness. I think what we were taught as kids, which allowed for us to be so willing to see how broken the system truly is in America, was that sometimes, you’re wrong. Sometimes, everything you thought you knew is just wrong. I think that’s what a lot of people (i.e., white people who actively benefit from white privilege) have such a hard time with - the simple fact that everything they thought they knew is based on a biased belief that life has been no less difficult for them than it has been for anyone else. I think it’s a matter of pride. And this is not easily unlearned, but it has to be. There are so many components and levels to racism (both globally and within the US) that I have yet to even encounter. I can read all the books and do all the research and speak out and donate and try to understand as much as possible, but my ability to be an ally will always have room for improvement. In this too, I am a work in progress.
I think this willing-to-learn attitude can be extended to life in general though. Being able to accept that maybe you just really don’t have it all figured out. Recognizing that maybe, just maybe, you could stand to learn a thing or two about a thing or two. In your personal life, in your personal development, in any aspect of your life really, it’s okay to have been wrong, as long as you start doing things right once you learn what the right thing to do is. Put your pride aside, and listen. That’s all we can do. And that’s what I will keep trying to do. I am a work in progress, after all.
One year since my last post and I honestly don’t even know where to begin.
So, ya know, hi. If you’re reading this and you know me, then you know this is a travel blog and ya girl hasn’t been on the travel game recently what with the casual global pandemic ruining everyone’s lives (except for mother Earth, she is THRIVING and we love to see it). I guess a general and all-encompassing update is in order, no? Very long story very short, it’s been one hell of a year. I was back in Greece this summer when we had a Corona-lull here in Europe (bc unlike in America people actually behave like we’re experiencing a global pandemic JUST SAYIN’) and it was incredible bc essentially it was Santorini with none of the tourists or the insane prices and boy oh boy am I lucky to have gone. What else? I got a new job. I’m a PR Manager at a nonprofit university here in Germany which is an impressive title considering it implies I might be able to manage anything other than myself (as if) and basically means I get paid to write a bunch of words about whatever topic I’m told seems significant and then translate those words into German and send them off into the world in the form of a press release or online article or casual tweet (idk) andddddd it’s pretty awesome. I haven’t felt this adulty since ever, folx. I live in Koblenz for now, which is a smaller city sitting right on top of the crossroads between the Mosel and Rhein rivers known for its hiking trails and wineries, so clearly I was destined to spend at least some part of my life here. I have 3 roommates who make sure to keep my life exciting, and I spend most of my time settling into the new job and the new home and my general new life seeing as how I’ve only been here three weeks so far. My lease here is only for six months and then I’ll be on the hunt for my own place, but I’ll save that for another post bc otherwise I’ll never shut up, as is my way. At this stage I feel like I’ve been running a marathon trying my best to keep up with my life and all the changes whether they be in my private or work life and now everything is settling down, but no one has told my brain yet and it refuses to accept that everything is fine and there are (currently) no new fires to put out. I’m working on it. But we know me, sitting still is a foreign concept to me and as much as I love my new job, I’m already thinking about the next move, the next (big) trip (so far 2022 is looking like a week in Egypt diving in the Red Sea and maybe a few months backpacking Central America, if you’re interested), or whatever else. I am simply incapable of chilling tf out.
Speaking of which, I spent my one single, beautiful week of vacation (the last week of January between quitting my hellish hotel job and starting my awesome new PR job) in a camper van with no heating in 12*F weather. Why? Bc I hate myself, idk. So for those of you who don’t know of Dani’s existence in my life, we met about 9 years ago in the same high school language exchange program that brought me the joy that is Saskia and the distinctly less joy that is constantly learning new rules of the German language. We fell out of contact for the better part of the last decade, but both landed in Cologne this past year and reconnected and here we are bc life is cool like that.
So anyway, Dani and I decided to go camping. In the middle of winter. In Germany. Did I mention Karsten (the camper had a name, obviously) didn’t have a heater? Or a toilet? Yup. Do with that information what you will. We woke up the next morning at some ridiculous hour before the sun was up bc we needed to pack Karsten and head out to see whatever wonders we might stumble upon. We headed out in a general Northeast direction (according to Dani, idk, what are Cardinal directions??) and made our way, relatively slowly mind you bc Karsten is huge and we were in no rush, to the Externsteine, a super cool rock formation close to Paderborn.We then headed to Aldi bc we had everything for sandwiches except mayonnaise and mustard and I refused to eat a dry sandwich bc I’m picky like that, so we parked in the back of the Aldi parking lot and chef’d it up in the back of Karsten while I attempted to field all of the delightfully sweet birthday posts and calls and whatever else that come with incredibly close-knit family and friends and Facebook’s worst feature of sharing your birthday with all of your “Friends” as a general notification.
We then made our way to some sort of national park situation whose name my brain refuses to remember or pronounce and somehow ended up driving through the forest in the snow in the dark while Dani stayed calm as we basically drove onto the set of a gruesome murder mystery movie and I did my best to keep my freakout at a casual simmer as I thought of all the super fun ways we might get this van stuck in the middle of the fckn forest and DIE until we finally decided to turn around and find a campsite closer to civilization. We did no such thing. All of them were closed bc of Corona, which like, I understand, but also, how you gonna deprive me of heating in this metal box in the middle of winter? We set up camp in some random national park parking lot and I enjoyed a happy birthday skype session with the fam, including my grandma, who upon hearing my complaints about the cold and our lack of heating, shared flippantly that she and my grandfather used to have a heated mattress in their camper when they used to camp in Colorado and Alaska, AS IF THAT WAS THE KIND OF THING I NEEDED TO HEAR IN THAT MOMENT. Dani made dinner while mom and I skyped and she essentially shared with Dani all the reasons he should stop hanging out with me (it didn’t work, we still hang out) before we enjoyed some apple cake for dessert and I somehow lost at Phase 10 while drinking way too much wine bc we had to make up for the lack of an external heater with a more improvised internal version.
Waking up was a slow process considering we first had to thaw out and get the camper ready to move again (basically pack all the things that might fall over or spill, so we had to drink up any open wine at 11am bc god forbid it spill, you know, and buckle the rest of the unopened wine into its car seat bc precious cargo). Dani suggested we stop in Marburg on our way to the Geierlay hanging bridge which was a fantastic life choice as it resulted in the purchasing of falafel döner and several coffees in a super cute new city before we stopped at the world’s smallest gas station in the world’s largest camper van and spent several minutes looking for the tank-opening-thingy so that we could actually put the gas INTO THE CAR before a nice man with a similar vehicle came over and pointed to what we’d basically been blatantly looking right past for way too long and walked away laughing at us under his mask, which like… fair. By then the sun was already going down bc winter does that, but we’d planned to see Burg Eltz that day, which is this gorgeous castle I took my sisters and Becks and Chrissy to see when they visited me back in the day when people were allowed to visit people, but Dani had never seen it. So we went to check it out, despite the creepy darkness in the middle of the forest late at night, which meant I essentially spent the 20 minute footpath stretch explaining to Dani all the ways someone could kill us right now and no one would hear our screams, until we turned a corner and out popped the world’s most picturesque little castle, beautifully lit despite the late hour and the fact that it probably hadn’t seen many visitors lately due to Corona. It was gorgeous. Photos were captured. Moments were taken in. Joy was experienced. 10/10 would recommend.
We then headed to a camping site which, according to online reviews that were semi-recent, seemed to be open, in the hopes that we might have heating for the night. We did not. It was closed. That review was posted the last day we were open. Fab. So we drove back towards Burg Eltz bc we’d planned to go to the very closely located hanging bridge the next morning and there was no point in being far away from it when we could just not bc Dani had the ridiculous idea that we should see the bridge at sunrise. We parked overnight in a grocery store parking garage bc the tiny town we were in had signs posted like every 3 meters that prohibited non-residents from parking anywhere ever (bc the bridge is a pretty popular destination when it isn’t freaking freezing outside). Soup was on the menu for dinner bc it required the least effort and ass-kicking was for dessert as I wiped the floor with Dani in several rounds of SkipBo while we enjoyed some wine which would ensure that we decidedly did not wake up with the sun.
The next morning we made our way to the closest parking lot to the bridge (which was in the middle of the woods) and my feet were numb before we stepped out of the van bc ya girl really needs to invest in some hiking shoes bc these 5yr old Nikes with holes in the soles are really not going to cut it. We did make it to the bridge and back without a. my feet falling off and b. Dani losing his mind (he has a serious fear of heights). Once my feet defrosted, we made our way back to Cologne to unpack and clean Karsten and get ready for my life to turn itself upside down again, this time in the way of a new job and a new city and the ability to take a breath (still working on that) for the first time in a long time.
So this is where I leave you for now, beautiful people. The coming year is still so up in the air for so many reasons and my dream is to see Becks and Saskia (both living in the UK where no one is allowed anywhere rn), go to Chrissy’s wedding in August in Virginia, maybe hit a few new Baltic countries sometime (Latvia always looked like a good idea), and then head home for Christmas. Will any of this happen? Not a damn clue. However, I will do my best to keep you much more effectively updated than I did this year, deal?
Until next time, folx
PS. Today’s post title comes from dad referencing the type of camping we were doing as “amping” bc it wasn’t quite “glamping” seeing as how there were no toilets or heating, but it also wasn’t regular camping bc we weren’t stuck in tents, so he coined the term “amping” or “average-camping” to describe our situation, and I’m running with it.
Alright folks, listen up. It’s been quite awhile since I last posted, but some things are worth coming out of my unintentionally self-imposed blog hiatus for.
I would like to preface this post by saying that I do not know everything – in fact, some days I wonder if I know anything at all. To my friends and family and peers who may know more than me (likely) or think I missed an important point or maybe didn’t portray something correctly, I am here to listen. I am constantly trying to maintain a state of openness and awareness, and this whole self-evolution thing is only possible if people are willing to come out and tell me when my thought process or general opinion could use some tweaking. I am always open to constructive criticism.* Additionally: this is not a history lesson or an “I hate cops” rant or a guide to why racism is bad and specific references to prove why that’s the case (bc if you can’t figure that one out on your own, we have bigger issues). If that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll have to look somewhere else. Lastly, here I will provide a link to a sort of Black Lives Matter-based reading list bc while I enjoy using my own voice to support for the cause, there are a whole bunch of other voices who know firsthand a hell of a lot more about what’s going on. Maybe we can all learn a thing or two about a thing or two. Please also look into consuming Black art and history in all forms as it aids in decentering whiteness.
*Note: I said constructive criticism. If you come in here saying All Lives Matter then I will be happy to have a conversation with you about why the focus here is on Black lives, as it should be.
This is such an unbelievably important issue. And while it doesn’t permeate European society in the same way it does in the US, racism is still such a painfully serious problem all over the world. There are 400 years of oppression of people of color in America, specifically Black people. This issue has been talked about seven ways to Sunday in modern society and yet no real change has happened.
The abolition of slavery with Lincoln was followed by the establishment of the horrific Jim Crow laws in the 1800’s and 1900’s preaching ‚separate but equal‘ while promoting anything but equality. The abolition of Jim Crow was a never-ending process as segregation was such a deeply ingrained part of society well into the 1900’s. Our grandparents and parents were born in a time when, after having fought for their country in World War II, Black people were still horribly discriminated against. There wasn’t even integration in schools until 1954, and even when it was legally mandated, it was not enforced in the South. My grandmother went to a segregated school for the for the entirety of her academic life, and at that point Jim Crow laws and racism were still so deeply ingrained in the South that Black people were killed by civilians without repercussions simply for having looked ‚wrong‘ at a white woman or for refusing to sit in the back of the bus. MLK and the civil rights movement were in full force in the 1960’s - just before my mom was born, to give you some context - at a time when Black people were still fighting for the most basic of rights promised to them in a constitution written when they were valued as lesser-than in contrast to their white counterparts. They had the legal right to vote, but it was obstructed one way or another in most states. The law was against them, and in so many ways it continues to be. Black people were restricted from property ownership in certain neighborhoods before the late 20th century – essentially being given low quality property in poor locations – which means that all of us white people in the US who benefited from our grandparents having savings and homes to sell when they pass are privileged. When I get pulled over on the side of the road, I don’t have to fear for my life because I am not Black. Black people are targeted for arrests, get worse punishments than their white counterparts with the same charges, and are – often despite their innocence – so often blatantly and publicly mistreated at the hands of our law enforcement system. Black people in America are constantly experiencing economic, political and social oppression at the hands of the American government and society.
Talking about it hasn’t worked. Peaceful protests are one of the only methods available to people fighting for their rights. And while the looting is not ideal, a lot of it is opportunistic and being done by greedy people taking advantage of the protests. To be honest the worst looting to happen recently was a few weeks ago when corporations collected over 500 billion dollars in stimulus money while individual citizens (some, but decidedly not all) were given a one-time $1200 to do their best to exist with and provide for their families. I do not encourage violence or theft but A. well-organized protests specifically leave local establishments alone and instead target major corporations receiving corporate bailouts and B. the loss of (black) American lives is by far more important than the damage done to well-insured, mass-produced products.
Willful ignorance has allowed so much of America to ignore the problem at hand bc they have had the privilege to do so. I am not Black, but I’ve spent my entire life hearing about and watching unfold the hardships that the Black community has faced in the US and, whether I wanted to or not, benefiting from white privilege. While I understand that Corona-time is not the most responsible time in the world to be protesting, enough is enough. When footage is released of a man dying at the hands of a police officer kneeling on his neck and actively suffocating him while the dying man repeatedly says that he cannot breathe, action must be taken. Something must change. And it may be a small change, it may be slow at first, but nothing ever changed bc people did nothing.
The protests need to happen. Every day that policemen and policewomen can kill Black men, women and children and get away with it, every day that white people maintain and enjoy a political, economic, and social advantage in America (and I can send you countless articles which statistically and thoroughly prove that we do) is another day that systemic oppression continues and an entire demographic continues to be fucked over by their own country. George Floyd was arrested and died when Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck, ignoring his numerous declarations that he couldn’t breathe. Ahmaud Arbery went for a run and was chased down and shot by a father and son who said they thought he was a burglar. He was on a run. Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old killed by a trigger-happy civilian neighborhood-watch member. 18-year-old Michael Brown allegedly stole some cigars and was shot while his hands were in the air. These men, and so many other unnamed men and women, have died at the hands of a systemically racist and corrupt system.
I hope that you recognize that racism is a problem everywhere in today’s world – especially and on another level in the US. But it’s really, really important that you understand the root of the problem. I don’t care about issues like this to the extent that I do just bc I have nothing better to do. This is a matter of life and death for the Black community in the US, and it matters. It may not impact me personally on a daily basis, but that doesn’t make it any less important, and at no stage is this an exclusively US problem. For example, the massive and potentially fatal rubber bullets being fired at so many protesters right now were invented by the British Army and engineered to maim and kill after a generation of Civil Rights protestors in England were inspired by the Civil Rights movement in the States.
The protests need to happen. No, nothing will change tomorrow, and yes, money and power and lack thereof will play a major role in this fight, but public opinion and peaceful demonstrations are one of the few ways with which we as citizens have been equipped to fight injustices and promote change ever since the country was established, starting with the Boston Tea Party. The Seneca Falls Convention paved the way to women’s right to vote with the 19th Amendment – a right which Black women were still fighting for even after the Amendment passed. Rosa Parks initiated the Montgomery Bus Boycott which eventually led to the integration of public transport – which only happened in 1955, a mere 65 years ago. In the 60’s, the March on Washington paved the way towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964. After MLK was assassinated, 110 US cities started rioting, causing $47 million in damages. Six days in, the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was passed. The legalization of gay marriage and the development and progression of LGBTQ+ rights were only made possible by public protests and demonstrations and pressure like from that of Stonewall. So the protests are necessary, as is outspoken support for the demonstrations and the cause. No, a Facebook post-share or an Instagram story won’t change the world, but the spreading of awareness is an irrevocably vital piece of any movement, which is why it’s so important to talk about these difficult topics, bc the only people who can ignore them are those unaffected, and that is a dangerous precedent with which to continue. And every voice, whether it feels like it or not, makes a difference. I’m not naive, and I’m not stupid – I know how the world works as much as any 25-year-old can. But if we do nothing, nothing will change.
I hope these words help to clarify why I care so much about this issue and why I fully support the protests happening in the States and even here in Europe right now. I wrote this with my only goal being further comprehension and perhaps a collectively better understanding of the matters at hand, and hopefully further productive chats about this and other topics. It’s very important to be able to have these conversations. Do not rely on Black acquaintances or friends to tell you what you’re doing wrong, they are tired. They are exhausted from constantly having to defend their existence. Keep an open mind, recognize that there’s no way in hell you could ever know everything there is to know and that your opinions can and should continue to evolve with the progression of time. Angela Davis famously stated, “It is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist,” and she could not be more right. Speak up, speak out, keep an open mind, recognize that every day is a new learning opportunity. Buy from Black-owned businesses, take the time to learn about contemporary civil rights and social justice issues and their dark histories, be conscious of the effects your actions have on others, and just try to not suck overall.
PS. Please take a look at this link which will direct you to petitions that need signing, organizations you may be able to donate to, and several other resources, bc while talking about the issue and spreading awareness is vital, so too is taking action.
Today has been quite a day. And when I say today, I mean the last full 24 hours. And when I say quite a day, I mean WOW I could use a drink. For those of you who aren’t already aware, I’m headed home for the holidays for a whole month and could not be more excited if I tried – especially bc I’m bringing my v handsome boyfriend human home with me for the first 10 days, which is a pretty big deal considering A. when was the last time I had an actual boyfriend and B. he’s meeting the family for the first time. Well, sort of – he already met the girls when they came out for a visit in July but this is the real deal. So let me catch you up real quick: after graduation in September I decided to book a ticket home for the holidays for a long trip bc my current job (which I worked part time during my masters) is now a full time job and will allow me to leave for a long Christmas with the fam which is soooo worth putting off the search for a big kid job bc I haven’t been in California since last Christmas season and haven’t seen most of my family (and second family i.e. the Bearce family) since March. Seeing as how they’re my favorite people on the planet, this trip has been a long time coming. I booked my tickets while I was out in Greece this past September after Stijn booked his bc the brat found cheap tickets and decided that he was coming to California whether I was going along or not (a very cute yet terrifyingly spontaneous gesture considering we’d just started dating) and it honestly turned out to be the best possible thing he could have done. So as it stood, he found unbelievably cheap tickets direct from Paris to LAX and booked himself a flight from the 16th to the 25th of December, so I texted my boss for approval of vacation dates and booked myself a ticket from the 16th of December to the 19th of January. See? I could never have gotten that much time off if I had a real big kid job (this is my justification for not finding one yet but like also it’s true so whatever). As we were flying out of Paris and bc Stijn is, as previously mentioned, a spontaneous (and very romantic) human, he booked us a hotel for the night before bc he’d never been to Paris and it was the perfect opportunity to explore the city of love together.
Oh Paris. The city of love, as they say. A city of breathtaking architecture, mouthwatering food, and the undeniable feeling of love in the air. But Paris is not all sunshine and rainbows people. In fact, sometimes it’s cloudy with a chance of pick pocketers.
Yup. I’ve been to Paris twice in the last few years and apparently the third time’s the charm, bc 15 minutes after my arrival at the train station to meet up with Stijn, I fell victim to the pick pocket capitol of Europe. 15 minutes. It wasn’t even long enough to actually mentally arrive in the country (bc as we all know I lag about 15 minutes like an old school dial up computer in any given situation) and just like that, I was phone-less. Well, not “just like that” so much as “just after an elaborately planned and probably well-used strategy to distract me while pulling my phone out of my jacket pocket” but you catch my drift. Ya girl was phone-less in yet another foreign country. I say another, bc for those of you that have been following my idiotic adventures for a while, you know that my phone has been stolen before (significantly more violently bc it was from a super jerk on a motorbike who also took my passport and wallet with him in Malaysia) and ironically enough, it’s the same exact type of phone that got stolen last time. I’m getting the distinct impression that the universe does not want me to have a Samsung Galaxy S8, so if anyone has any other phone recommendations, I’m ready to hear them. I prefer cheap.
So after a few moments of reflection which mostly involved me laughing hysterically and repeating “holy shit holy shit holy shit” while Stijn did his best to handle me and remind me that it would all work out, I was commandeering Stijn’s phone texting my mom and dad (whose numbers he was amazed I remembered but that’s only bc they got those numbers in the years before I had a phone and so I had to actually remember them myself) and letting them know that I’d be off the grid for the next few days. Luckily I’m not actually that far off the grid though, bc I have officially taken partial custody of Stijn’s phone which has gone off more in the last 24h than it has in his entire life (not bc he has no friends just bc my friends and I talk with a lot more frequency – he has at least one friend).
Anyway aside from the casual loss of belongings, there was another super fun factor at play which I haven’t yet mentioned: the entirety of Paris public transportation systems are currently on strike. This is not new. French people and Spaniards alike go on strike like it’s their job (like, literally) so the super fun task of getting from one end of Paris to another without any actual consistent train possibilities fell to us. The joys. So we waited for a train for way too damn long only to shove ourselves onto a packed one like a couple of sardines bc when no other trains are running, the ones that do are full to the brim. We finally made it to our hotel, which is right about when Stijn decided it was appropriate to start playing a bunch of songs having to do with telephone use like Carly Jepson’s “Call Me Maybe” and Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” which was suuuuuper fun. Hilarious, even. We regrouped and emotionally rallied (me anyway) before heading out to see as many sights as we could see – without the use of public transport. Mind you, Paris is massive. And there was no public transport. We walked a half marathon yesterday from our hotel to the Arc to the Eiffel Tower and everything in between – with a stop for crepes in between, bc like, obviously??
It wasn’t long before we were heading home to set alarms and make plans for transport to the airport (bc I am consistently stressed about catching flights bc I’ve missed a few in my time and this whole public transport strike thing really wasn’t helping). We thought we’d found a train that would run and planned several hours of leeway time just in case, only to walk over to the freaking metro station and see a totally and completely closed down train system. Alright, fine, so we’ll call an Uber, right? Wrong. An Uber would cost us a casual 100 euros, bc supply and demand is the enemy. So now what? Cry? Well I won’t lie, our next stop was to a French boulangerie for macarons and a very disappointing spinach quiche which happened to have freaking SALMON in it and nobody told me so I almost threw up into the airplane doggy bag but I digress) but after that Stijn was on his phone working his magic trying to find us a way to get to the airport that wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg, which is when he found ONE SINGLE BUS heading out in HALF AN HOUR which was about a 20 minute walk. Fine, so we walk. We get to the station and find a bus that is almost completely full, and cross our fingers that we will be allowed on it bc if we missed it we would have basically been down for the count bc they only come every half an hour and all these public transport issues were screwing us over. We made it – freaking barely – and spent the next hour thanking the universe for letting us get this far… but we spoke too soon, folks. Much too soon.
We arrived at the airport a solid 2.5h before our flight, which is pretty respectable in any normal freaking situation, but at this point what in my life should actually be normal, right? So we walk up to Air France (bc we’re flying a Delta flight operated by Air France) and they send us to some line which we eventually find out was not the line we should have been in in the first place bc there was a whole other check in area for our flight which no one mentioned to us bc everyone kept walking away when we tried to walk up and ask a question. Fabulous, we love the French. At this stage, we were starting to worry, bc Stijn is not a US citizen and has to get his visa checked before and after our flight. We run up to the correct desk, and think we’re good to go, until the woman started shaking her head and looking confused. We asked her if everything was alright, and what was her answer? No. Literally, that’s all she said. The word “no.” Awesome. Fantastic. COME ON.
So apparently, something was wrong with Stijn’s passport, as in the machine couldn’t read it, so she walked away to another counter to try and put it in manually. She was gone for what felt like forever. Did it work? No. What was wrong? Don’t know. She asked for Stijn’s visa and starts saying that something was wrong with it, which was literally impossible bc he was approved for it months ago, and spent the next half hour trying to call people from different departments trying to figure out what the hell was wrong. At this stage our flight literally LEAVING THE GATE in an hour and the likelihood of us making it through security and to our gate before they close boarding is slim to none. So like, obviously I’m crying, bc what the hell else am I going to do. Stijn was trying to stay positive but I’m not going to lie to you I’m pretty sure we were both trying to figure out when the best time to say goodbye would be bc there was no way we were both going to make it on this flight. A solid 20 minutes later, at which point I had not left to go through security on my own and the front desk had made no progress with his visa, somebody higher up made some sort of executive decision to let us fly. So… now I was still crying, but it was one part happy tears and one part there’s-still-no-way-we’ll-make-it tears. We ran to the passport control area, where my line was way longer than Stijn’s what with my lack of EU citizenship (ugh) and it was all I could do not to explode standing there waiting to get through. Next up was security, where we met another couple hoping to catch the same flight. Fortunately one of them spoke fluent French and got us to the front of the security line – much to the chagrin of the man in charge of organizing the security line. I should probably mention at this point that Stijn can speak pretty decent basic French – like he got us through everything we needed to get through and it was very impressive, but we were at a point past his level of French (to be honest it was past any level of anything, I was losing my damn mind), so it was lucky that we made friends. After the rush through security, it was an all-out race to gate K51, which just so happened to be as far as any gate could possibly be from the security check point, bc of course it was. I won’t lie to you, folks. I am out of shape. A one-year intensive masters and a love of alcohol has not fed into the physical ability to make a break for it. Like, if I was running for my life, I would just give up. It’s not going to happen. But apparently that’s not the case for Stijn, who weaved in and out of airport-goers like a damn gazelle on his way to the gate. He looked back and started to wait for me, at which point I shouted (through the heavy breathing) to go on without me and just let ‘em know I was coming. In my defense, the other couple was even further behind me, but they didn’t seem like the gym-going type, so my defense here is pretty weak. Anyway, Stijn the gazelle made it to the gate just in time and they let us on no problem (the front desk had told them there would be a couple of idiots running late) and we heavily breathed our way down the gangway to our plane, in total disbelief that not only was he allowed to fly with me, but that we’d even made our flight period.
And that left us with one last battle: the seating. We had to check in separately bc Stijn couldn’t check in online what with not being a US citizen, so we got seats in different areas, which was super not the dream bc the flight is 11h and what was I going to do without a phone AND without a boyfriend to annoy for that long? Just sit there? No. So we headed to the back of the plane (where people who buy insanely cheap round trip tickets belong) to see what we could make happen. Luckily there was an adorable older couple of which one of whom had taken my seat in the hopes that we could switch so that they could sit together, which was obviously fine with me, so we just had to wait until the person in the seat next to me walked our way to kindly beg them to let us sit next to each other and it freaking WORKED. So what that means now is that we are halfway through this flight and I have annoyed Stijn more than anyone ever should be able to annoy another human being in such a short period of time and such a concentrated (inescapable) place. Whatever, he brought this on himself, and he’s about to spend the next 10 days with 3 women who are just as annoying and wonderful as yours truly, so he may as well get used to it.
But for now, I’m going to sip my poor quality free airplane wine and appreciate the fact that I have my boyfriend beside me and am about to see a whole bunch of my favorite people in the whole wide world. Sometimes life can punch you in the face, but it seems to work out alright in the end… phone or no phone.
After a long week of part time work as a hotel receptionist in between vacations now that I'm done with my masters (yeah that sentence was a roller coaster, I'm aware), Thursday morning rolled around and found me on another bus to the Netherlands - a relatively frequent occurrence ever since I started dating a very handsome Dutch man a few months ago.
My bus got me into town early which will probably never happen again and I headed to wait for Stijn at the nearby train station before we snuck through the personnel area of the Dutch train system in Eindhoven to use the bathroom (snuck bc he works for the company but doesn’t belong in this particular area and by extension neither does his American girlfriend whose ability to speak Dutch begins with “Hello” and ends with “thank you” – seriously that’s all I got). We made our way to Helmond, the small suburb of Eindhoven where Stijn grew up, and it was all of 5 minutes into the conversation with his parents before his father (who is absolutely adorable and has so many random fun facts and gets his English practice from BBC so is pretty much more competent than me) asked the fateful “So, what are your plans now that you’ve graduated?” question. Now listen. I haven’t had to deal with this question since I finished my bachelors three freaking years ago and it’s like a traumatic experience hearing it all over again these last few months, so for those of you who want the answer: I don’t have a damn clue. I’m headed home for a month at Christmas which means I can’t apply for real big kid jobs quite yet as I couldn’t start till February which means ya girl is working as a part time hotel receptionist until further notice. Impressive, I know.
Side note: My masters program had a meet and greet for the students of the incoming year and invited the alums and I seriously considered going just so that I could tell the poor bastards that now that I’ve finished my degree I work as a part time hotel receptionist, juuuust to watch the light go out of their eyes.
Anyway that’s not the point, I gave Stijn’s dad (Frans) the answer I’ve been giving anyone who asks recently: I’m pretty much down for whatever comes my way. I still want to work in conflict management or development aid for a nonprofit organization or something in that vein, but I am keeping my options pretty open. And before you ask: no, I don’t want to come back to the States. I am v v happy here. Plus Trump sucks.
Once we’d established that I am basically still not a truly productive member of society, we moved on to less depressing topics like the fact that Stijn surprised me with FREAKING WICKED TICKETS IN LONDON OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD I may or may not have teared up and internally questioned whether 2 months into a relationship is too early to propose (Stijn says yes but who asked him anyway). As if the joys of having Wicked on the London version of Broadway on my horizon wasn’t enough, he proceeded to make me his signature fried eggs seasoned to perfection before turning on Zootopia (a quality movie btw) which for those of you who don’t know equates to like my dream situation (food and children’s movies). And then, to top it all off, he downloaded the Disney app which Disney is testing ONLY in the Netherlands to see if people want an app full of Disney and Pixar movies available at all times (uh, obviously) to my phone and logged me into his account. Suffice it to say I was a very happy human and if we break up he is not allowed to log me out of this account.
Dinner was an amalgamation of the Dutch classics with his family ranging from French fries to kipcorn to some sort of massive sausage that should not be edible by one single human and is titled something-something XXL before we headed to the airport with Frans for a quick tea (I say quick bc I was rushing us bc I was mad paranoid about missing our flight WHICH WE ALMOST DID ON THE WAY TO SPAIN DESPITE ALREADY BEING SAFELY THROUGH SECURITY AND IN THE AIRPORT FOR AN HOUR BEFORE BOARDING). We headed through the duty free shop as is our custom and found ourselves yummy smelling perfumes and colognes and tried on ridiculous sunglasses before Jess called to talk about life and her super cool college classes for awhile (initially with me but at some point the phone was passed to Stijn who was reluctant to give it back). Our flight was, unsurprisingly bc I was involved, delayed. We arrived at London Stanstead around 10pm and Stijn had already researched and booked and checked everything we could possibly need, so we hopped on a bus to Stratford (about 40 minutes outside the city center bc anything in the city center is so excruciatingly expensive) and eventually arrived at the world’s worst accommodation – and that’s coming from someone who has slept in a whooooole lot of different and uh, interesting, places. Stijn had booked through Booking and as the apartment was essentially, pardon my language, a shithole (no exaggeration whatsoever here people you know my standards are like on the floor), Stijn immediately made a call to start getting the situation handled. An hour on the phone with Booking later, we had a new hotel close by and escaped the apartment from hell with a story that was even pretty funny while it was happening considering the ridiculousness of the situation (and the contact high from the weed smoke in the apartment probably helped the situation).
The next morning we took the metro 40 minutes into the city center (btw the metro here is super cool and advanced, Stijn has his credit cards in his Apple Wallet and all he has to do is tap his phone on the scanner and it immediately takes the fee from your card without making you buy a ticket THIS IS THE FUTURE, PEOPLE) to spend the day seeing the major sites of London. Ironically, half those sites were under construction, but it’s still super cool to have been able to see them. Stijn hadn’t been to London since he was 12 and while he remembered quite a bit, it was neat to be able to experience it while he kind of re-experienced it. As we know, my sense of direction is questionable at best so Stijn took the lead and I just rolled with it, which was a pretty cool thing to be able to do considering I am usually the trip planner not the tag-a-long-er. Would recommend, Stijn plans great trips.
I did, however, have a mission on arrival, which was to obtain some delicious Tesco or Sainsbury’s cookie bite things which are essentially just chocolate, caramel and shortbread and taste like what joy feels like. Amazing. We kept lunch cheap (breakfast was free the entirety of our time in England bc we collectively suck at mornings and never made it into town before noon oops) with grocery store snacks bc the rumors are true – London is expensive as hell. Mid-walk around I realized I had made poor life choices and worn socks that were slipping down my shoe as I walked, and after a few (or several) instances of me stopping to fix them, Stijn made the executive decision that I needed less shitty socks, so to TKMaxx we went. Yes, it’s TKMaxx. No, that is not a typo. Europe is weird, man, I dunno. We bought a pack that Stijn would wear too bc he steals my socks without fail so I figured this would be a good way for him to be able to steal his own socks from me… see what I did there? And he found himself some sort of bougie branded wool scarf with which he was VERY pleased and was v necessary bc the rumors about London being cold and windy aaaaaaaaaaare (surprise) also true. We stopped everywhere from tea shops to Nando’s (very necessary and fairly reasonably priced chain chicken restaurant particularly well known in the UK bc the British are obsessed with chicken – specifically fried chicken) before heading back to the hotel and binge watching everything on BBC from comedy to most luxurious hotels features to the actual (depressing) news.
The next morning (who am I kidding it was afternoon) we headed to Camden Lock Market, a super alternative area of London with the coolest food market I’ve seen in awhile which simultaneously impressed me and stressed me out bc there were way too many choices. I’m fairly certain we made like seven rounds before settling on some Jamaican jerk chicken to split and walking through more of the market as I drooled over delicious desserts and old school record shops for a few hours. Eventually we made our way to the Apollo Victoria Theatre where my life improved drastically as I experienced the most amazing musical live and almost accidentally left during the intermission bc I was too busy freaking out being joyful and riding the Wicked-high to realize it was the intermission not the freaking end (leave me alone I was on cloud 9). Plus Stijn had gotten us a bottle of wine with which to enjoy the show and of course that wasn’t aiding my already questionable ability to form cohesive thoughts, whatever, leave me alone, I saw Wicked live in London so HA.
We spent our last day hitting up the sights we hadn’t had the time to get to yet like the Tower Bridge and Picadilly Circus and most importantly PLATFORM 9 ¾ FROM HARRY POTTER in what I would describe effectively as a chill day considering we had nowhere to be and all day to get there. We headed home early with to-go fried chicken in hand (I told you, the Brits love this stuff) ready to settle in early for the night as we had to be up at 2.30 to catch our bus to the airport for our 6am flight. I would like to take this time to note that Stijn always gives me shit for buying tickets at inconvenient times but I do it bc they’re so much cheaper which was exactly his reasoning for doing it this time around (our round trip tickets to London from the Netherlands were 35 euros total respectively). Anyway, we did not go to bed early. Not even a little. After we finished eating, I had my (now relatively normal) minor wave of travel anxiety which derives from having missed a flight in the recent past – I swear being poor makes it worse bc you know you cannot afford to have things go wrong bc your bank account won’t let you – and my brain decided that right then and there was when I had to pack my bag and clean up the room. Luckily Stijn’s response (rather than judging me) was to pack his bags right alongside me until my brain chilled out and I could be a person again. No I take that back… First I made him run me through how we would be making it to the airport about 27x with visuals and GoogleMaps proof that his plan would work – not bc he is a bad planner (he is, in fact, a pretty great one) but bc I am a crazy person who believes all forms of public transportation are out to get me personally. We spent the next few hours watching BBC’s comedy channel before I introduced Stijn to the terrible beauty that is Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (quite a novelty show for a European who likes to cook and is simply flabbergasted by what small-town eateries combine to make what appear to be delicious and popular dishes). It wasn’t until Stijn realized I was avoiding sleep bc I was worried we wouldn’t wake up to our alarms in the morning that he made me turn off the TV and catch a few hours of sleep before we had to head out. Spoiler alert: we did make our bus to our plane and there were no issues bc of course there weren’t, and all of my worrying was for naught. Whatever. The trip ended just how it started – back in the duty-free area trying out perfumes and trying on ridiculous sunglasses before we hopped on a plane to get back to real life.
Basically, it was an incredible weekend made all the more incredible by the fact that this was my freaking graduation gift from Stijn. Yup, you read that right. A trip to London, as my grad gift. If this is the kind of thing I get for finishing my masters, I may just have to get another one. Just kidding, that’s a terrible idea, learning is hard.
But for now, this is where I leave you. This fall weather has me wishing for something warm to eat and I see hot chili in my very near future. So until next time folks – xoxox.
PS. Stijn is pronounced (well the closest approximation of it I can make of it as a non-Dutch speaker) “Stein” like with a long “I” sound. I was going to write it out with the international phonetic alphabet, but I figured A. I would be judged and B. Who the hell would understand it anyway?
PPS. Stijn has taken to tapping me on the shoulder and simply saying “attention” until I stop doing whatever it is I’m doing and focus on him instead. Crude but effective, what can I say.
PPPS. If I keep dating my Dutch boyfriend, I’ll have to freaking learn Dutch which goes against everything I’ve said for the last several years about how the Dutch language sounds like someone is simultaneously having a coughing fit, choking on sandpaper, and jumpstarting a car. Stijn already gave me my first informal lesson and boy oh boy do I sound like a German girl trying to speak Dutch… I gotta work on that.
And last but not least, the title. This week's post title stems from the incessant and unbelievably annoying announcement that comes every time any time a London metro opens or closes its doors and practically screams at you to "mind the gap" as apparently no British architect thought to make either wider trains or less wide (also known as "narrower" to people who speak better English than myself) tunnels to avoid the situation which now plagues their public transport (a gap, obviously, between the metro and the platform itself) and now threatens the lives of its passengers apparently to such an extent that people will literally die if the announcement is not made every 7 seconds. It's fine. I took it in stride and was totally not annoyed by it at all, clearly. I'm fine.
Alright, listen. I have been chastised on multiple occasions in the recent past for having been traveling and not keeping up with the blog, and to those people I say: shut up, I’m tired. For those of you who don’t know, after my baby sister flew back to the States at the end of July and - sprinkled between a few more vacations to Bavaria and Greece which will be written about later leave me alone – over the course of three weeks total, I researched, wrote and submitted my masters thesis. This means that assuming my supervisors don’t see through my bullshit and let me pass, YA GIRL HAS A MASTERS DEGREE. Insanity, no? Essentially, this marks the transition from me being a shitty masters student, to just being shitty. HOW NEAT IS THAT?! I don’t know when I got so old, but shout out to my waiter last night at the tapas bar out with my girls who assumed we were older than his 25 year old daughter and when we said that wasn’t the case he remarked “this is not good lighting for you ladies.” Considering all of us just finished this masters together, it was great to see that not only has this program taken a mental and emotional toll, but it appears to have physically aged us as well. Fab.
Anyway, the point of this particular post is to immortalize the joys Jess and I experienced in the last two weeks of her trip after our sweet little middle sister left us to go be productive and like work and go to college??? Can’t relate. So Jess and I spent the first two days after smol left pretty much chillin’ while I tried to get my life together a little bit. Jess and I cooked and crafted everything from creamy spinach pasta to spring rolls and charcuterie boards, all of which of course paired with several bottles of wine. Three days later we were supposed to head to Croatia at 5.45am but due to my recent trauma (missing my flight to England a few weeks before) I was absolutely incapable of sleep and seriously contemplated leaving the night before and sleeping at the airport bc if our morning train was delayed we would miss our flight until I told Stijn about that potential plan and he told me to take a moment and be a person again (which was valid considering I was acting like a crazy person – thankfully Jess was more than willing to head out whenever I felt was necessary and eventually convinced me it would all work out. Of course she was the first one up in the morning and made sure we had everything bc Jess has her shit together on a level that I will truly never even remotely reach, but whatever. Anyway of course my concerns were for naught bc we made it to the airport with zero delays and ended up wiping the floor with Jess at Go Fish before our connection in Vienna made us absolutely BOOK IT through ANOTHER ROUND OF SECURITY AND PASSPORT CONTROL even though we had like SEVEN AND A HALF SECONDS TO GET TO OUR NEXT FLIGHT and we had to pee so bad we were pretty sure Jess was going to die and her bladder was going to explode but it didn’t so the adventure continued.
We flew into Zadar, an airport who makes the one in Waco, Texas where my grandma lives look massive (which it isn’t) and I sent Jess to figure out our bus situation to get into the city center bc A. I am lazy and B. I think traveling to a country where you know nothing about the language and have zero idea how to get where you need to go is a humbling experience, and I wanted her to have that. Mind you, I never let her out of my sight bc despite the complete lack of maternal instinct in me, my protective sister instinct works like you wouldn’t believe. Jess did wonderfully bc of course she did – and I’m pretty sure she made the poor small-town Croation bus coordinator guy fall in love with her in 5 seconds flat – and we headed into town to find our hostel. We grabbed money at the ATM where Jess was absolutely mind blown about the currency exchange from Euros to Kuna (one euro is several hundred kuna so when you pull out a few hundred euros in kuna you feel like your net worth is extensively higher than it actually is) and took the walk to our hostel in the 100* heat from the bus stop. This was Jesse’s first real hostel bc we’d been staying at my place or with my friends over the course of the trip (yes life is hard) so it was neat to watch her learn how to hostel what with the mixed dorms and bunk beds and fight for outlets and inconsiderate drunk people coming in and turning the lights on in the middle of the night and inconsiderate sober people turning the lights on and packing way too early in the morning etc. and she took no time making herself comfortable. It took us all of 10 minutes to check in, get changed, and head to the beach which was about a 10 minute walk away. The water was about as beautiful as we expected but the beach itself was very forest-like (pine trees and all) and lined with big boulders from which people were jumping. That’s all cool unless you’re me and your shoulder doesn’t work so essentially while I had no trouble getting in, getting out is quite a process. We eventually made our way back to the hostel very loudly as Jess was suffering from an apparently life threatening splinter, and changed to get ready to make the 30 minute walk into the city center (which Jess was able to handle despite the apparently immobilizing pain she was experiencing bc nature attacked her). We walked around gorgeous old town for awhile looking for something a little less touristy and thought we’d done it until we were served the most bland meal of all time and charged out the nose for it, at which point Jess and I agreed to eat exclusively grocery store and street food (my usual method anyway) or potentially never eat again due to the exorbitant amount we’d spent on this terrible dinner.
Btw and as a side note: there are Germans EVERYWHERE in Croatia. If I closed my eyes and just listened, I wasn’t sure if I’d ever even left Germany. Ridiculous. They are everywhere.
The next morning we rolled out early to catch our long bus to Plitvice Lakes (where we got those gorgeous food-coloring-looking blue water photos) and hiked through some of the most beautiful terrain we’ve ever seen way too quickly (the hike was supposed to take us 6h and took us like 4h) so we headed down to the national park entry area to enjoy a beer and shoot the breeze because we were way too early for our bus back to Zadar and they wouldn’t let us on an earlier one bc they obviously hate us.
As it had been a particularly strenuous day in terms of several hours of bussing and hiking and bussing again, we’d planned for a chill night involving a bottle of wine and a hostel cooked meal and maybe a walk to the beach, but as a chill night was what we were aiming for, exactly the opposite happened. We were verbally attacked by hostel-workers on arrival encouraging us to join for trivia night, to which we nonchalantly agreed thinking we could just not go if we didn’t feel like it, which we were super wrong about bc they subsequently wrote our names on the team lists and waited for us to finish cooking dinner before starting the damn game. I would like it to be stated for the record that my team kicked every other team’s ass (including Jesse’s team) at the actual TRIVIA part of trivia night. We had the knowledge. We finessed the hell out of it. But *apparently* that’s simply not enough as stupid Jesse and her stupid team wiped the floor with us when it came to the paper airplane throw and the coin toss and the heads or tails game WHICH SHOULD BE IRRELEVANT BC IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ACTUAL TRIVIA AND YET WAS WEIGHTED AS MORE VALUABLE THAN THE FREAKING QUESTIONS and so her stupid team beat my awesome team about which I am obviously not bitter and keeps in line with me being the consistent family disappointment so whatever. We made friends with an Aussie named Brock at some point we ended up switching bars to our hostel’s sister hostel whose bar was open later than ours bc when everyone wanted to go (and I wanted to go to bed) Jess and Brock looked at me like “We’re going too, right?” and I have never felt more like an old lady than I did in that moment, but how could I say no to those faces? So to the next bar we went. Mind you, we were in like beach cover ups and flip flops and had no ID’s and had brought only enough money for one beer bc we were just going to have ONE BEER at the other hostel bar before coming back, so when we and our hostelmates somehow ended up walking the 30 minutes into the city center to get to a CLUB in the middle of the night after playing a few rounds of some terrible math-based drinking game called 21, you can imagine my confusion. I had planned to be in bed by like 10, and instead here I was with my baby sister and this group of hostel people on the way to the biggest outdoor club in Zadar with no ID in the middle of the night. Bc this is what happens when you plan a chill night, people. I needn’t have worried about getting into the club as they literally didn’t ask us for ID’s or anything of that nature – though I’m pretty sure they questioned our outfit choices pretty hard core as we were a stark juxtaposition with the girls in heels and the guys in button downs, but whatever, they let us in.
A few donated beers from those who’d brought money and a wholeeeee bunch of dancing later, we decided 4am was as good a time as any to head home for the night, but once again the universe had other plans for us. As we began our eternally-long walk back to the hostel from town, we came upon a painfully drunk British man (that’s their natural state) who was quite a prick (also their natural state – save for my best friend’s British boyfriend who is actually great) but also apparently in quite a pickle as he could hardly walk and without help would have ended up on the news for drowning in the Adriatic the next day. Jess and I knew we couldn’t leave the poor bastard on his own so we asked where he was headed, googled it (he was going in the totally wrong direction btw) and turned him around to start walking him the 40 minutes it would take to get him home (which would mean a 70 minute walk back to our hostel from there but srsly this guy was not a human anymore he was so drunk) so the walking began. He spent the entirety of his time using colorful language to describe Americans in general, which was super fun (though we did agree with some of it to be fair) so it was quite a relief when we happened to run into his group of friends who was remotely less drunk and upon seeing us with him immediately apologized for anything he may or may not have said – clearly they knew him well – before thanking us profusely for not letting him casually die in Croatia. Our mission accomplished, we finally made our long way home, which would have taken twice as long but Jess was essentially tug boating me all the way back bc I was apparently incapable of walking at a normal pace and she was aggressively motivated to get us home. The next morning Jess woke up hangoverless and I woke up suffering (how I miss my youth) and we headed to the beach for the morning to soak up the sun and – for some of us – sweat out the hangover. The rest of the day consisted of hammock naps and beach bars and ice cream on the dock and brilliant comments from Jess such as “Look at all those lights…. And by lights, I mean stars.” The brilliance of my baby sister knows no bounds, people.
Our chill day was followed by an early morning involving a historic tour of Zadar, a city Jess and I totally recommend as it’s nowhere near as touristy as Dubrovnik but still totally gorgeous. However, might we recommend it a little bit later in the summer than July as it was literally scorching and we were fairly certain death was coming for us in the form of heat stroke. We enjoyed the most delicious pastry that was absolutely impossible to eat sitting on the boardwalk and took a moment to appreciate the fact that we got to experience a new country together before making the long and winding trek back to the hostel to enjoy one last beachy afternoon before getting our lives together (including transferring our extra kuna back to euros bc we overestimated our expenses AND WOULD HAVE SAVED EVEN MORE IF NOT FOR THAT DISGUSTING AND EXPENSIVE DINNER THE FIRST NIGHT but like it’s fine I don’t even care.
Euros back in our wallets and delicious hostel smoothies in our bellies, we made our way to the bus station to catch our bus to the airport (for which we were not excited bc leaving Croatia is not an easy thing to do). We’d asked about 37x about the bus schedule and the hostel workers had given us a schedule for it just to be sure, so despite the paranoia, we felt reasonably confident that we were leaving (way) early enough to catch our flight without any issues. Naturally, the bus schedule we were given was wrong. The airport bus had already left and wouldn’t be back until we should already have been at the airport bc of course it had. So we took a moment to freak out, gathered our thoughts, and agreed that it was worth it to get a taxi (pretty cheap bc Croatia and a fairly short distance) just to be sure we didn’t miss our flight. Here’s where it gets fun. Our taxi driver, after having been informed of our need for speed, decided now was as good a time as any to fill up his tank with gas, even though it wasn’t empty. And while we’re at it, why not get our windows washed? Fantastic. And then we make it to the airport to find out that we could have just waited for the stupid bus bc it would have gotten us there only 15 minutes later and OUR FREAKING FLIGHT WAS DELAYED. To treat ourselves in the face of all this unnecessary stress, we decided to grab some coffees at the tiny airport with no signs that dictate where to go or from which (of like 5) gates your flight is leaving or if it’s leaving at all. Apparently the coffees weren’t our best idea, however. So here’s how it went down: we’d budgeted very carefully with what kuna we’d had left to get a cappuccino and a small black coffee to share thinking that the cappuccino would be yummier but not having enough money for two of them and the donut Jess was considering getting. These coffees come out, and we just start laughing, as the “small coffee” looks absolutely miniscule and might constitute two full sips before being empty. Laughable and ridiculous, so we finish it and grab another cappuccino (Jess sacrificed her donut money) so as to have an actually sustainable amount of caffeine in our systems. The irony here is that apparently the coffee that looked like an espresso size-wise and tasted like black coffee was ACTUALLY a cappuccino, and the other decent-sized and decent-tasting coffee had been our “small black coffee” meaning that WHEN THEY BROUGHT OUT OUR CAPPUCCINO IT WAS ANOTHER ONE OF THOSE STUPID LITTLE HALF COFFEE THINGS. We were not amused. I know it doesn’t souuuund particularly strenuous, but with all the flight stress and tiredness going on, it was all we could do just to laugh and accept that this was a battle we decidedly not won.
Luckily, we did eventually catch our flight and the night went smoothly from there getting back to my apartment in Bonn. Just kidding, the train we were supposed to take was cancelled and we literally took all day to get home from a place that should have taken a few hours. Public transport is fab. Yay.
The next few days were spent enjoying rainy day picnics, home cooked meals (mostly by Jess as my shoulder and I were still not on good terms) and two very happy sisters. Jess left for home a few days later to go unpack from her trip and repack for COLLEGE bc she’s officially a college FRESHMAN now and I don’t know where the time goes but I couldn’t be prouder of my big mini me.
For now, I believe this is where I’ll leave you, as I’m headed to Spain today and I still have to write about my trip to Greece and ugh life is just so hard sometimes, you know?
Until next time, beautiful readers.
PS. Grocery shopping in countries where the language is incomprehensible and unrelated to ANY of the languages you speak means (once again) staring at a product that looks like it *might* be what you’re looking for and then ends up absolutely not being that and you have to figure out how to cook with it anyway bc you bought it already and you don’t want to waste it.
PPS. High knees moments are what we call it when something happens where you have a momentary (often physical and involuntary) reaction to something that surprises you, which is what Jess had when a bike almost ran her and literally hopped up like a frog in a way that totally wouldn’t have saved her had she been in any real danger but looked incredibly entertaining anyway. This is where I got the post title… clearly.
Hello and welcome back to the blog of the least consistent blogger on the planet! Before we get started, let me go ahead and clarify a few things for those of you who haven't had a recent life update:
Apropo: my sisters are here. For the very few of you who don't already know, I have two little sisters (Sam, 20 & Jess, 18) who - in addition to my mama, obviously - are my very best friends. Sami is a junior at San Jose State University kicking ass at graphic design, and Jess will be an incoming freshman this year at Humboldt State studying Environmental Studies and saving the world. The three of us couldn't be more different, but our weirdness works well together and we sure are entertaining for anyone in earshot. As it was, I was supposed to fly into Manchester, England on the 7th to meet up with my friend Saskia (who lives there) and the girls were to fly in on the 8th to meet me. Instead, Saskia had to fly home for a family emergency so she wasn't there (while we stayed in her apartment), and my phone decided to update in the middle of the night so I missed my 4am wake up call and thus my flight, so I experienced the joy of buying an entirely new ticket to get me into England early the next morning just in time to meet Sam (who was flying in a few hours before Jess bc they got different tickets bc they booked a few months apart). Mind you, my new ticket involved me heading into an airport farther away in the middle of the night and camping out there bc there were no trains at the right time for me to get there at a reasonable hour and I was terrified to miss another flight so I was up for 30h for a trip that should have taken me like 4h total. Sometimes life is hard.
Sami (aka Smol) met me just outside of customs at the airport bc our flights landed within 20 minutes of each other and we headed back to Saskia's apartment, where we met up with one of her roommates - Joe - who gave us her keys before heading to work and left us to pass out for a 4h nap bc neither of us had gotten any sleep in way too many hours. We picked up Jess after our much needed nap and somehow it was just like we were back at home taking a walk through town and chatting about life, but now in a totally new country (for them at least). It was such a wonderful feeling to have my girls by my side (despite the sling that was also attached to my side). We headed to Pie & Ale to share a few classic British meat pies and beers for lunch (where we got one for only a pound bc it was the deal of the day and it was awesome bc we are poor) before heading to check out the focal points of Manchester like the John Ryland Library and then wandering into the more modern and hip part of town (the Northern Quarter) to hit up some thrift shops and record stores for Jess. We enjoyed a relaxed evening with wine and a homemade meal while we scared the crap out of Joe with the way we interact after not having seen each other in months and missed the hell out of Sassy.
I couldn't get the girls to wake up for anything the next morning bc the jet lag was beating them up a bit, so I decided to make breakfast (one-handed, mind you) instead, until the smell of eggs woke Sam up and we finally convinced Jesse to get her butt out of bed. We headed into town once again and Jess somehow managed to trip on every single surface in Manchester, including her own two feet, and accidentally hit my broken shoulder about 100x. I have a slight concern that I'll get back to my doctor and she'll ask me how my shoulder is somehow more broken than before, and I'll have to point her in Jesse's direction. We wandered over to Castlefield, a gorgeous canal-adorned area of Manchester, when the sky opened up and we decided that instead of swimming through the city, we'd stop at The Wharf for a coffee and to enjoy the caramel-chocolate-shortbread cookies native only to England. After waiting out the worst of the rain (bc despite bringing along rain jackets to England, none of our dumbasses had worn them out that day) we stopped at a fish and chips shop that's been around longer than our home country has existed before heading to the Manchester Art Gallery where we left Sam to wander the art we knew she'd love while Jess and I looked for some interactive kids exhibits that were more our speed. Showing the girls around Manchester would have been much tougher had I not been there so many times to visit Saskia this year, but I did realize how dependent I am on her to get us where we're going when we're there bc I had to pull out my GoogleMaps a little more frequently than I'd like to admit. We enjoyed a salad dinner at home where the girls complained about my (in their absolutely incorrect opinion) excessive dressing use - Joe liked it so I prefer his opinion but whatever - before heading out for drinks with Joe and Rhys, where Jess got to order our drinks and feel a little badass (a feeling Sam and I both experienced on our first trips to Europe). We headed home fairly early as we had to be up at 5.30 the next morning for our flight back to Bonn and I had some serious trouble sleeping considering my recent early morning flight experiences, but we woke up without any issues until I asked the girls to double check for their passports... which Sam could not find. Anywhere. Not in her backpack, her duffel bag, the bedroom, nowhere. I could have killed her, considering I had asked her to check for it the night before just to be safe and she had clearly super not done that, and it was all I could do as we scrambled to find the damn thing at 6am not to start forming contingency plans for if we couldn't find it and missed our flights and had to go to the embassy and get an emergency passport and... my brain works a little too quick for its own good sometimes, bc we eventually found the stupid passport and - after missing the train we'd booked to get us to the airport - caught the next one and made it no problem back to my place by the early afternoon.
After some much needed showers, we headed to the local market to grab some delicious Greek food (shoutout to Stijn for finding the food truck) and wandered over to the Rhein with beer in hand (Jesse's fav part about Germany is that you can walk around with your alcohol) to enjoy the view. Wiebke, as the sweetest roommate ever, brought us some delicious German breads for breakfast, including but not limited to a mouthwatering chocolate croissant which Sam melted in the microwave bc she didn't realize how much chocolate there was inside (she's not so great with food prep but we love her a whole bunch). I headed to physical therapy and my orthopedic doctor the next day to find out I DIDN'T HAVE TO WEAR MY SLING DURING THE DAY ANYMORE which was potentially the best news anyone has ever given me bc it is hot as hell in Germany and that sling was the most irritating thing on the face of the planet and I literally could have kissed my doctor (but I restrained bc she probs wouldn't be into that). It was a rainy day so we headed to a beer garden close by to celebrate with some traditional German delicacies before picking up our bags and walking back to the train station (for the second time in 36h) to board a train for Utrecht to visit the boys (and by the boys I mean Joël and the rest of the crew who I've known since they studied for a semester abroad in California over three years ago + Stijn who is new for me but not new to the boys bc they've known him forever and now he lives with Joël). Jess was - understandably - amazed that we didn't need passports to go to another country (for those of you who don't know, most countries within the EU share free movement of people across borders) and that all it took was a 3.5h train ride to get there, and I am loving watching someone experience Europe for the first time all over again.
Stijn and Joël picked us up at the train station and we grabbed some beer on the way home to enjoy on the roof before heading to bed bc everyone but us had to be what apparently is called an "adult" and go to work in the morning?? I don't get it but I guess it's a thing. The rest of us (and our German friend Luke who came to stay the same weekend so we could all have a reunion) headed to a delicious Dutch pancake joint on one of the many canals of Utrecht (where by the way I would recommend 100% over going to Amsterdam - it's way more beautiful and way less touristy, what more could you want?). It was raining so hard by the time we were done eating that we thought we may have to move in and start paying rent there by the time the rain would let up, but eventually it did just that and we decided to go on a free (bc of Stijn's job where he somehow gets tons of random perks bc his company works in conjunction with a bunch of other Dutch companies) tour of the massive and historic bell tower in the middle of Utrecht. To put it simply, this whole climb-the-bell-tower idea was a good one in theory, but in practice... maybe less so? 465 steps up the steepest, narrowest, most winding staircase later, I was losing my will to live and hoping against all hope that I wouldn't slip on the steps, re-break my shoulder, and take a whole bunch of tourists down in the process. We made it out alive, but our legs were decidedly unhappy with us by the end of the afternoon. We spent the night nursing our pride and cooking a family dinner (aka Stijn and Jess and I cooked bc Joël was happy to hold down the couch, Sam is essentially useless in the kitchen - but she's cute so we keep her - and Luke made sure he diced some veggies so he could be considered a helper and wouldn't have to clean up later (smart man).
We took our chance to sleep in the next day before Thijs and Leon came over and we all headed to Amsterdam for the day so that Jess could see the sights and eat the foods and do the things. The boys were great about making sure the girls got to see everything they were there to see, even going so far as to walk with us all the way across town to visit the Van Gogh Museum for Sami (which we later realized she had already been to and also that she couldn't get in bc she didn't have an appointment - oops). We eventually made our way home and headed out to hit like the only club we ever go to when we're together in Utrecht (which is conveniently 5 minutes away from the boys' place). I'll admit I was worried about going clubbing with my sisters in Europe in terms of just keeping them safe, but then I had 8 Dutch men that I've known for 3 years watching over them like they were their own sisters, so I guess it really does take a village and the girls have never been safer.
We woke up particularly late the next day (some of us later than others) and decided we needed food. We set out to get pizza, but couldn't find anything affordable. We walked all over town mind you, and somehow ended up half an hour later at a Vietnamese restaurant right next to the boys' apartment which had - you guessed it - a pizza place right across the street. We were not exactly running on all cylinders, leave us alone.
Traveling home the next day was... well, it didn't go according to plan. Our journey home should have taken about 3h45min from Utrecht to Bonn. Instead, we enjoyed a 7.5h journey filled with several cancelled trains and delays and whatever else you can think of bc the German train system is everything Germans are not known to be: untimely and ineffective. Many long hours and expletives later, we arrived at home and grabbed döner from my favorite döner place in town (which conveniently just opened a new shop right under my apartment bc the universe doesn't want me to ever be a skinny person) and watched our favorite movie (Mulan, obviously) before rolling into bed.
The next few days were spent enjoying gelato in town, grabbing tapas at my favorite Spanish restaurant with the crew (aka the Study Buddies aka my group of friends from my masters program), hiking up a mountain to a castle (which btw you should not do in converse) and enjoying more train delays on the way back home from said hike bc that's how life works when you travel with me. Our last night together was spent in Cologne, a neighboring city with much more tourism and a whole lot more going on (which is why I prefer Bonn but I guess I'm just not a big city girl). We enjoyed some sightseeing before grabbing dinner at a super traditional German place where they refill your beers without asking if you want another one bc they just assume that if you're still sitting there and you haven't passed out yet, you want more beer. We sat on the steps next to the Rhine and had chats over wine and ice cream about everything from life to ducks until we made our way to a glow in the dark mini golf joint nearby (once again thanks to Stijn for the discovery). I played better with a broken shoulder than I did with two fully functioning ones last month against Stijn - when I still won the game anyway - and I'm pretty sure I've peaked.
The next morning we woke up ridiculously early to get Smol to the bus station so that she could hang out at several airports for way too many hours bc her flights were delayed heading home bc she apparently spent too much time with yours truly and now all forms of transportation know that they should simply not function correctly for her either. My bad, kid. So now it's just the two tol Janecek idiots left to take on Germany and Croatia together. We miss our sweet Sami already - she's such an incredible human - but we know we'll see her soon and in the meantime I'll be calling and texting her so often she'll want to change phone numbers (but she won't bc I'm her sister and it's in the rule book that I'm allowed to annoy her until she wants to throw things at me). We had an incredible 11 days together and I wouldn't trade a single moment of it for the world - I sure do love these humans.
So for now this is where I leave you - my brain hurts and my shoulder hurts and I think it's time for lunch (it's important to keep Jess fed regularly so she doesn't beat you up).
Until next time folx - I promise not to make you wait so long this time around.
For the third time in my short 24 years of life, I’m reaching the end of my studies. My Masters program is over in 105 days (but who’s counting) and barring the (high) likelihood of my head exploding in the next 6 weeks of classes/exams/papers and the subsequent 10 weeks of thesis-writing, it will soon be time to figure out wtf I’m doing with my life. Again. To put it into perspective for you, I graduated with my BA exactly three years ago today. A year of work, a year of travel, and almost a year of Masters later, here I am back in the same holy-shit-what-now situation, only with a whole new perspective.
Anyone who knows me is familiar with the fact that I used to be a pretty high-strung high schooler. I got a B once in Geometry and my dad came home thinking someone had died bc that’s how hard I was crying. Yup. Then came college and then graduation, with the months leading up to it being unbelievably stressful for me bc I had zero idea what to do or how to do it and ended up stressing myself out over nothing bc I went home and traveled a bit and found a job and life went on. Now in 3.5 months I graduate with my MA in European Studies – Governance and Regulation, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m feelin’ pretty chill. I mean chill is a strong word considering at this point I’m trying to make plans with friends like, “What are you doing June 29th bc I am definitely free that exact day and not a single day before that day." Like, my day to day life is decidedly not chill. Between work and school and (sometimes) the gym and the occasional very necessary social breaks that sometimes involve alcohol and often regrets, I don’t have a lot of breathing room at the moment. But I am about 1000x less freaked out about the future than I ever have been.
Now don’t get me wrong, part of that lack of inherent anxiety is bc I’m so busy trying to handle the day to day stuff that the long-term stuff isn’t even kind of on my radar. And it’s not like I’m all zen bc I feel like I am finally qualified for literally any job at all – in fact I find the more I learn the less I know and the distinctly less qualified I feel – but rather, I have a part time job that pays the bills (barely), I have a beautiful apartment with an amazing roommate and incredible friends, and I have all kinds of time to figure out my next step. It’s not that I’m unmotivated, in fact I’ve recently been experiencing what you might call a reawakening of my professional motivation and I’m super psyched to hopefully be working towards my goals in a professional setting again soon - I know I sound like a loser just leave me alone. But I’ve finally realized that worrying about where and when and why and how the future is going to work is simply not going to get you anywhere. So here I sit (not paying attention in class) with a to-do list as long as I am tall, a strong cup of coffee, and a serious lack of sleep. I’ve got lists of future goals ranging from like, getting out of bed tomorrow morning to you know, working for a badass organization that focuses on peacekeeping in areas of conflict. I have lists of where I’ll be traveling in the next few months, grocery lists, lists about other lists… you get the idea. But I’m not losing my mind so much (potentially bc there’s not much less to lose). Bc it’s going to be just fine, dammit.
You see, no matter how much you think you know – and I don’t pretend to know much – you probably know less. And no matter how well or poorly things are going one day, the next day will be a brand new start full of all kinds of potential screw ups and joyous occasions. Take me the other day for example (bc this blog is about me so that’s what you get). I was on my way home from work on Thursday (I work as a hotel receptionist for a big hotel chain in town) when I noticed my keys weren’t jingling as I road over the cobblestone sidewalks, which meant that my keys were no longer on me. And if my keys were no longer on me, that meant that they’d fallen somewhere along the 20 minute bike ride home into the street or onto the sidewalk just waiting to be run over or picked up by some curious squirrel and lost forever. Naturally, I lost my marbles a little bit. In the exact moment I was making the realization that I was missing everything from my work keys to my apartment keys to my bike keys, this 200-year-old (ish) sweet little German lady asked for my help finding the closest McDonald’s. Obviously I could not blow her off (despite my distress) bc A. sweet little old people are my favorite and B. there was already clearly something clearly off with my karma so I figured ignoring the nice lady was probably not the move. A full 2 minute conversation later about how difficult it is to find a damn McDonald's without a GPS, I was biking back in the direction of work in the dark with no light on my bike bc I’m currently using my backup bike – which doesn’t have a light - bc my primary bike is broken bc of course it is. Fab.
So I called Des, who just so happens to live between me and my work. Being one of my favorite people on the planet and amazing in every possible way, she immediately said she’d put on some pants (bc who wears pants at home, duh) and come help me look. Mind you this is 11pm on a Thursday and we had class early the next morning. So out she came, and we walked my bike for a good hour back down the path I had just come, using our flashlights for light and keeping ourselves entertained by our own general idiocy – the irony here being that we had just been talking about how we should hang out… this was not the way we’d meant but I guess quality time is quality time.
Anyway, we found my damn keys. It took an hour of searching and some slight hysteria before we finally found them LITERALLY RIGHT OUTSIDE THE PARKING GARAGE OF MY HOTEL and jumped around shouting for joy as some of the hotel guests looked on (and probably assumed we were a couple of drunk idiots based on our behavior). It was such a hallmark moment. We walked home with a much more enthusiastic bounce in our step, and it wasn’t until we reached Des’ apartment and I hopped back on my bike to ride home that life decided to sucker punch me again real quick – two pedal strokes in, my chain broke. 12am on a school night, I’m a 45 minute walk from home, and my chain (on my freaking back-up bike breaks. Fab. So I tried to fix it, but it was stuck and I was not awake or savvy enough to fix it in the moment. With greasy hands and a tired brain, I decided it was time to accept my fate and walk home. Because of how my life works and bc of how this night was going, it started to rain within about 2 minutes of me starting my trek. So I called Joël to keep me company on the way (and obviously laugh at the massive joke that is my life) and made it into bed around 1.30am. Suffice it to say that when my alarm went off for class the next morning, I absolutely ignored it.
The point is folks, you’re never going to know it all or have your whole life together. Sometimes it feels like I’m never going to know anything at all or have any of my life together. But in 3.5 months my thesis will have been turned in and I will have a MA after my name (I will also have a BA, and according to my mother sometimes an additional DA – for dumbass). I’m not sure how I’ll make it through these 3.5 months (probably with the help of the 5 upcoming trips I have planned - yes, my bank account is literally empty and all I can afford to eat is rice) but I have a feeling this is going to be one of those times in my life where I look back and wonder how the HELL I got through it. But hey, at least that means I’ll have gotten through it, right?
So this is where I leave you. Class is almost over so I have just enough time to run to the grocery store and eat a quick dinner before heading to work till 11 and then coming home to pack for our program’s coordinated 3 day trip to Berlin for which I have to be up at 6am tomorrow. Have I mentioned how unbelievably busy I am? Sleep is a distant memory and sanity was lost a long time ago, but life goes on (or so I’ve heard).
In closing, please enjoy these random thoughts that have passed through my head and are probably not relevant to anyone at all but you’ve read this far so why not finish it off:
PS. To explain the title: Evolutionsbremse literally translates to “evolutionary break.” The definition is as follows: an “evolutionary brake” is an unintelligent person whose very existence on Earth hinders the advancement of the human species, so to speak. It felt like a relevant word in a time when people and governments in Alabama and Georgia and so many other states are proving to be the embodiment of this exact concept.
I’ve known Becks and Chrissy since we were all 13 and ugly (some of us – me – more than others). For those of you who don’t know my age or maybe do know but suck at math (like me), I’ve known these ladies for 11 long years, and thankfully puberty has done us a few favors in the meantime. 11 years of life and school and boys and screw ups and successes and adventures and idiocy. If you’d told 13-year-old way-too-much-eye-makeup-wearing us that we’d be together again 11 years later in Germany, I doubt we’d have believed you to be honest. But here we are with two weeks of new adventures under our belts and plans in the works to do it all again soon. My time with the girls was incredible – it was a blur of classes and castles and work and streets lined with cherry trees in bloom and adventures to neighboring Cologne (where we ran across the landmark bridge you see in all the pictures to get to the bathrooms on the other side bc Chrissy and Becks have tiny bladders and our bridge-beers went right through ‘em) and casual alcohol-induced escapades. Becks left us for her home back in England about a week in and it was around then that Chrissy and I decided to make the 4h train trek to visit one of my closest friends, Joël, (you’ve heard about him before – the sarcastic Dutchman). And this, my friends, was the beginning of quite an adventure.
We spent the morning of the 24th making the trip from Bonn to Utrecht which mostly involved me reading over a friend’s doctorate thesis and taking pictures of a sleeping Chrissy who passed out while reading (she never makes it on a train without a nap – consistency is key). We made our very roundabout way - which took like 20 minutes more than it should have bc we have literally zero sense of direction and are apparently too dim for even Google Maps to be helpful - to get to Joël’s roommate - whose actual name is Stijn which translates to Stone in English and therefore will hereby be referenced as such – to pick up his keys. He was nice enough to walk us all the way to their apartment (which after seeing the route, we definitely would have gotten ourselves lost without his guidance). Upon arrival we were given a cold beer and a fantastic view from their picturesque roof while we waited for Joël to get home from work.
We’d planned to visit the tulip fields at the Keukenhof the next morning, so we woke up (according to Chrissy, way too early, aka like 8.30am) and got our butts out the door, only to be met with the literal barrage of tourists that had the same idea we did on a casual Thursday when they should all have been at work or school or literally anywhere else at all but WHATEVER. Anyway it turns out the Keukenhof itself (which literally translates from Dutch to “kitchen courtyard” in case anyone was curious) is basically just a massive botanical garden. And don’t get me wrong, botanical gardens are super neat – just ask Becks, our resident nature nerd – but that was not what we’d been searching for. We wanted flower fields. Hundreds of thousands of brilliantly colored tulips to bring our souls joy and our social media followers jealousy (just kidding we were really only in it for the joy). Feeling slightly gipped and particularly motivated to find the flower fields of our dreams, we decided to rent bikes and check out what the surrounding area had to offer. Such. A good. Decision.
We were off to a strong start when Chrissy got made fun of by both me and the bike rental guy for being a tiny human who almost had to take a children’s bike bc Dutch people are large – imagine a dwarf living among giants and you have a visual of this interaction. Anyway once Chrissy finally mounted the bike in some fashion, we made moves – slowly, bc she bikes at a similarly glacial pace to that which she walks – and also haphazardly, in a way that meant when she wanted me to stop so we could take a picture she would shout at me to “Break, break break!” and then realize that she herself forgot to break as she rolled right by me. Cycling is a work in progress, you know? We’ll get there… or we’ll die trying. Our bike-based frustration was briefly alleviated as we bore witness to the most beautiful fields of flowers we’d ever seen in our lives, and the look of joy on Chrissy’s face when she found out she could pick them (no she is not a nature-killer they were planning on plucking them all that day anyway to sell the bulbs) was absolutely priceless. That being said, the look on her face when she shouted “I hate bikes” in desperation on our way back to the Keukenhof and the look on the face of the old Dutch bike-loving lady who couldn’t help but to hear her were equally priceless. And then the look on my face when the woman’s husband rolled down his window as they drove past us on their way out shouting “Great bikes!” …. You guessed it, priceless.
We spent our evening cooking – and by that I mean Chrissy cut things up with speeds rivaled only by snails and tortoises, and Joël literally stood behind the bar-stool-less kitchen bar drinking a beer and asking whether he could do anything to help and then totally not doing those things, and I cooked. We watched Game of Thrones to the most recent episode so we were all caught up and despite the casual chill-ness of the night somehow ended up working our way through a case of beer sitting side by side and upside down on the couch eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and talking about everything and nothing at all. It was pretty wonderful.
We woke up the next morning later than intended and headed to the market and the grocery store with Stone to grab supplies for the three-course meal he planned on cooking after work that night. This would have been a much quicker shopping trip if the boys had literally any cooking materials or spices or any other useful kitchen item (other than a coffee machine which they do have thank goodness). Seriously in our time there we literally tripled their number of spices. Not hard to do when the initial number was three (including salt and pepper and some weird spice intended for chicken) but I digress. We spent the afternoon helping Stone cook his totally veggie-less (don’t worry mom, I made veggies and was the only one who ate them) three-course meal which started with homemade meatballs and ended with crème brulee and a very fat and happy group of idiots. Very important side note: Stone cooks like he is actively trying to make a mess. I’m fairly certain he throws food on the floor for fun. It was like watching a toddler cook in a play-kitchen except with the result being real food that was really enjoyable, so I can’t really complain too much. While the boys were at work, Chrissy and I picked up some candles and printed some photos of the four of us to hang on the mantle (it’s a long story – the boys wanted to hang something up there and we had officially voted to become collective roommates so we felt it was only right that pictures of the crew were on the wall – naturally the one of Chrissy and I was the biggest bc we bring the most joy – see photo below). Chrissy being her creative and resourceful self combined empty beer bottles – of which there were many bc Joël wouldn’t know what it meant to take out the trash if his life depended on it – with some of the tulips she’d picked the day before for a gorgeous centerpiece with a vibrant “broke bitch/beer-lover chic” look to it. Basically now all we need are the essentials like I don’t know a coffee table or chairs but you know what, baby steps right?
We met up with Joël after he got off work to grab some orange spirit-wear (this past weekend was King’s Day in the Netherlands for those of you who don’t know, which means you wear a ridiculous amount of orange, which is sooooo not my color) which mostly involved Joël finding the ugliest possible things someone could wear for the holiday and putting them on my body whether it be penis-hats, tutus, or sequined dresses. We walked out of the store without the tutus but with two orange headscarves, 4 orange ties, a gigantic orange blowup hand (which got us into a lot of trouble later so thank god we only found one), some orange glitter, and significantly less dignity than we’d walked in with. We headed home to meet up with the group – a bunch of Dutchies who’ve known each other since we met when they were doing their exchange semester in California – and the night really began. It started on the deck where we’d recently moved the couch earlier that day. There were first-time beer shotguns, kickass rounds of CatchPhrase (Chrissy and Tiemen and I kicked ass), jokes about spider love (even weirder than it sounds tbh), spatula shaming (not as bad as it sounds), and juuuuust a few beers. And then magically, several hours later, we all woke up totally sober and not at all hungover or confused about the chronology of the night. Some of us woke up a little more banged up than others with wounds that can only be the result of a cross-bow bearing gnome who hates kneecaps, but a heaping order of KFC (with no mashed potatoes bc the Netherlands hates mashed potatoes like wtf??) and a nice nap helped liven us up enough to make moves end attempt to enjoy the King’s Day festivities.
We decided to take a later train home bc Stone checked our tickets and said we could and he works for the Dutch train system so we trusted him – and it wasn’t long before we were booking it back to the apartment to throw our things together and hurry (painfully for those of us with mystery injuries) to make our train home. Spoiler alert: despite Stone’s assurances that we totally could take the later train, the Germans begged to differ. We made it most of the way home before someone noticed our incorrect tickets and apparently out of the kindness of his heart (his heart was not kind) decided to validate them for us. However, he only had time to validate mine before our train arrived at the station – which btw was NOT our train and the bastard sent us on the wrong one – and we somehow arrived in Cologne instead of where I freaking live in Bonn. So let me paint you a picture. It’s late. We’ve been traveling all day. We are toooootally not hungover at all. We are confused about how the hell we ended up in the wrong city. We’re close to home, but not close enough that we can risk getting on a train without a new ticket. There are several UNBELIEVABLY annoying soccer fans chanting throughout the station. We are essentially delirious. We have to buy new tickets despite being poor as all hell, all because some dipstick train person decided we should get on the wrong train and then THOSE TICKETS DIDN’T EVEN GET CHECKED SO WE COULD HAVE JUST NOT FREAKING BOUGHT THEM. At this point, the only thing fueling us is our collective self-hatred and burning desire for doener from the place down the street from my apartment. We finally actually arrived in Bonn way too many hours after our departure from Utrecht only to be met with confusion as we realized that in the few short days we were gone, they’d expanded the train station (aka Hauptbahnhof which all my American visitors have decided to call “Hoppenhoff” due to an inability to pronounce it correctly) to such a degree that it was unrecognizable, so we spent several minutes trying to figure out if in our delirium we had traveled to the wrong Bonn (which is impossible bc there is only one). We were basically zombies. Everything was hilarious and nothing we said made sense, but it was somehow a beautiful (painful) evening.
But the adventure didn’t end there. You see, Chrissy had been having some transportation trouble since before she even got here. She bought her initial ticket to visit me a few months back with an airline called WOW Air. Weeks after she bought it, the airline went bankrupt and failed to mention that fun fact to its clients, so it’s lucky Des sent me a link to the BBC News article talking about it so that I could tell Chrissy to check out her ticket situation. The situation? She had no ticket. She contested the purchase with her bank and set out finding herself a new way to get to me (and holy shit am I grateful she didn’t just decide not to come) and it wasn’t long before she had a new ticket with a fully functioning airline that got her to me with no issues. But appaaaarently, the universe was as opposed to her going back as it was to her coming to me in the first place, because her airline was on strike the day she was supposed to fly home. So she got a new ticket (the old one should be refunded) and a train ticket to the Frankfurt Airport to go with it. Cool, problem solved, right? Wrong. The morning she was supposed to roll out, she checked her train ticket one last time to verify her departure time. Her train had been cancelled. Of course it was. So we made our way to the train station to find her a new route which should’ve gotten her there about an hour before her flight – which for a transcontinental flight is cutting it pretty close, even for me. But the alternative route she was given was delayed, so we spent the morning stressing out on the train and in my apartment respectively hoping for the best and putting our faith in Chrissy’s ability to physically run through the airport to make it to her gate. It would appear that our faith was well placed seeing as how I am now alone in my apartment (Wiebke is gone on vacation) thinking about what a wonderful two weeks I’ve just had and wishing with all my heart that I didn’t have to go back to work today and school tomorrow.
In closing, please enjoy these fun facts and final comments:
Things the apartment still needs: some sort of orb, a coffee table, kitchen bar stools, a reading corner, string lights, plants (I am actively sending the boys photos of potential things to buy and add to our place)
Things the apartment does not need but has anyway: a vibrating mattress, a gumball machine, way too many empty beer bottles
- Some trains have “silent cars” where passengers can go to - as the title would suggest - be silent. Chrissy and I sat in one of those cars and started reminiscing on the events of our trip before being aggressively informed of the existence of such train cars and essentially asked to shut up or leave. We left. Silence isn’t really our thing.
- On our way to the tulip fields (at the Schipol Airport) a bird flew into the back of my head effectively dive bombing me and leaving me feeling particularly violated. It was not ideal, and I am fairy certain I have bird flu.
- Chrissy has decided she is incapable of saying the word “poffertjes” which is like a Dutch mini pancake covered in powdered sugar and instead consistently resorted to saying “puh puh puh” while moving her hands like an upside-down jellyfish. Also, the human body is apparently capable of intaking an unlimited number of stroopwaffles (another Dutch dessert-snack-thing).
- We love a good squirrel.
Overall it was an incredible couple of weeks. I got to have some of my favorite people meet and re-meet each other, and there was basically non-stop laughter and happiness from beginning to end. I miss the girls like hell already and am fairly certain I’m experiencing withdrawals. The Netherlands was honestly painful to leave, and I’m compensating for that by already making plans to see the boys several times in the next few months (aka invading *our* home) and texting Joël to come visit me on a daily basis. All in all it was the perfect vacation from real life and I wouldn’t change a minute of it for the world. Now I just have to make it through the next 4 months of this damn program without losing what little sanity I struggle to maintain and it’ll be time to figure out my life all over again, which is something that has had to happen way too many times in the last few years if you ask me.
Last but not least, to explain the title: adventure residue is a thing that sounds a lot worse than it really is and stems from the fact that Chrissy and I were wearing white shoes over the course of the trip which by the end of it were covered in any number of questionable substances and instead of referring to them as dirty (which they were) we just called it… adventure residue. Probably funnier for us than it is for you but that’s okay with me tbh.
I got the call from my mom on Friday, February 16th that my grandpa was being put on hospice care. As many of you know, I’m currently halfway through a one-year master’s program out in Germany, so I couldn’t be physically father away from Texas. But that didn’t stop me from booking a flight for the following weekend to see him. There were 12 days between when I got the call and when I landed in Texas. 12. Despite the quick turnaround, grandpa deteriorated faster than any of us thought possible, and I spent those 12 days using my study breaks to send recordings for grandma to play for him reminding him that I loved and I missed him and that I would be there soon to see him if he could just hold on. And you know what? He did. He knew I was coming. He listened to me – though to be honest I think he was listening to grandma, he never could say no to her. Regardless of who he was listening to, he loved me enough to wait until I got to see him one last time and say goodbye. He passed away one hour after I arrived in Texas. Nothing I ever could have said would have been enough, but I did my best to tell him how much I loved him and how much he meant to me, and I like to think he understood.
Now listen, if you knew Wayne Stout, you know he was kind of an ass. He was as sarcastic as they come, couldn’t pronounce the Spanish highway exit he lived off of (Bosque) to save his life – and had zero interest in learning how -, and had a temper shorter than most. But he was also one of the most extraordinary men I’ve ever been lucky enough to know, let alone be raised by. He gave me my first beer when I was two. He taught me how to shoot when I was three – luckily not while I was drinking one of those beers he’d given me -, and how to fish by the time I was four. He made me watch my first scary movie when I was maybe seven after I flew out to see him from California and mom wasn’t there to tell him no. Granted, it was Jurassic Park, so maybe not all that scary, but 7-year-old me begs to differ. When I was a kid, he would chase us around the house with “The Claw” – which was almost as scary as those movies –, take me on lawn mower rides that rivaled the best roller coasters around, and make me watch more old Western films than I even knew existed at volumes that probably caused serious damage to my eardrums. He called me his “best girl forever,” a title that has grown in significance for me with age as I realize that he truly meant it.
As I got older the scary movies got scarier, the sarcasm got quicker and wittier, and the love he showed my mom, sisters, grandmother and I only became more abundantly clear. This man was smart, let me tell ya. You wouldn’t know it to look at him maybe (though you wouldn’t know it by lookin’ at me either) but he was quick with a joke and even quicker to make you smile. And boy did he have a beautiful smile himself. It was the kind of smile that made you want to smile back, even if you didn’t have a reason to. “Best girl forever” was often replaced by my new moniker “mighty cake lady” due to his love for the Texas sheath cake grandma and I made him when I came back for visits, but it was equally endearing.
In fact, me getting my masters was one of the things grandpa was proudest of me for. He was there for my college graduation, and the money I received from selling the truck he and grandma gave me after that graduation was what I used to finance this masters program. He didn’t even want me to get a job while I studied (but I did) because he wanted me to focus solely on my studies. And he was so excited that I was studying in Germany, somewhere he’d spent time during his years in the service and whose culture and people he’d fallen in love with in his short time there. We would have chats about the delicious bread and beer, the kind and hospitable people, and the breathtaking castles and cathedrals. His clear love for a country so foreign to his own inspired me to fall in love with my new home even more every time we spoke, and I must have invited him to come visit me about a hundred times. His pride in my academic career will be what carries me through to the end of this program, and I know that he’ll be cheering me on for every exam and every paper, the voice in my head telling me to quit procrastinating and get my life together – which I won’t, probably mostly just to spite him.
As many of you know, and even more of you probably feel the same, grandpa loved his guns. And boy oh boy did he have loads of ‘em. I once made the mistake of asking grandpa what he was so afraid of that he needed so many damn guns. His response? "Well, not a damn thing now." Terrifying, sure, but I always knew whose house I'd run to in the event of an apocalypse.
I loved that man with all my heart. He helped raise me. He taught me what it meant to stand up for what you believe in, the importance and value of education, and the absolute necessity to show the people you love that you love them. Not just with your words, but with your actions. My grandparents were married for fifty years and not a day went by that grandpa didn’t tell grandma how much he loved her or how beautiful she was or what he meant to her. She’d say (mostly jokingly, I think) that she was leaving him and he’d say "Alright well then let’s go, I’m comin’ with you." And I think that is what I take most from my grandfather’s life. If I carry nothing else with me of the myriad of lessons he taught me, it is the importance of making your loved ones abundantly clear on the fact that you think they’re the best damn thing since sliced bread. He loved with such an unconditional fierceness, and if I ever meet someone who loves me even half as much as he loved my grandma, I think I'll be doin' pretty well.
My grandfather was proud of a lot of things in his life, but I truly believe he was most proud of being a good husband to his wife, a good father to his daughter, and – in my completely unbiased opinion – he was proudest of being our grandpa.
PSA: He wouldn't have cared so much whether I posted about him on here, he was never big into social media and never gave a damn what anyone thought of him - a trait I'm proud to have inherited - but I wanted to memorialize him the best way I know how: with my words. This doesn't do him justice, but at least it's a start.
About the Author
Mouth like a sailor, great lacker of empathy, paper cut survivor, avid arguer, harsh critic of people who put clothes on their pets, easily distracte
USA, Mexico, Iceland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Malta, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Poland, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Croatia, Greece
(in August in the US)