Taking Back the Spirit of Halloween

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Tonight is, for the majority of ‘of-age’ America, the night where the Halloween celebrations go down.  Parties, bar crawls, shenanigans, pranks, all performed with the extra spice of some creative, hilarious, and/or slutty costume.

From the outside, Halloween is simply another excuse for adults to get drunk and for kids to get hyper.  Let’s be honest, pretty much every American holiday looks that way from the outside.  But for me as an adult, growing up in a family that didn’t celebrate Halloween, it has always been about getting to show off my creative side both in ideas and in manifestation.

While most of my friends are quite content to be sexy cops, sexy maids, or the infamous sexy cat, I refuse to touch such cliches with a ten-foot pole.  Not that there is anything wrong with sexy cat, I just have thus far fiercely clung to my ideals of originality and home-made ensembles, and I don’t see myself changing that anytime soon.

Last year, I was quite proud of my American Beauty idea, and made a costume that was simple yet pretty awesome in my humble opinion (pictured above).

This year, I sit with 12 hours between me and the time when I step out into the world to display my creation, and I have nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Zilch.

Considering that I was always ready for Halloween pretty early in the past, I find myself wondering what the change is.  Why am I not ready for this?

Part of it is the fact that I don’t feel like my body is something to show off right now, and sexy female costumes are the bread and butter of this holiday, which certainly puts a damper on things.  But mostly, as I look back on the past weeks and months, I have simply not been putting a priority on creativity.

Instead, I’ve been focusing on work, working out, sloooowwwwly reading my real estate books along with other self-improvement literature, and running around like a chicken with my head cut off to this appointment or that scheduled event.  Creating a Halloween costume has not been on the top list of my priorities.

All of this focus on productivity has been good, but it also has taken a toll.  My face has decided to sprout some ‘friends’, my extra lbs are stubbornly clinging to the areas I most certainly do not want them to cling, and to top everything off I caught a cold last week (getting sick is a rare, sad occasion for me).

What would happen, I wonder, if I simply embraced the spirit of Halloween more in everyday life?  What if, instead of worrying about spending ALL of my time in productive mode, I allowed myself a bit of creative time, just because?

Maybe taking some time to stop and paint the roses wouldn’t actually be holding me back.  Maybe, just maybe, it might actually spur more of the productivity that I want to see.

Let me give you some examples.

I have been wanting to make a vision board for quite a while, but because it’s not immediately productive, I keep putting it off.  Yet, whenever I hear successful people talk, they always refer to their vision board and how it keeps them on track.

What if I allowed myself an afternoon of unfettered cutting and gluing, of humming along to some Lana Del Rey or Angels and Airwaves, and really thinking about what I want to put on my vision board and how I want the final product to look.  How powerful would it be to have my dreams be on display in color every single day?

When you look at it that way, it seems incredibly silly to have waited this long.

Or how about the fact that I want to write several different books and perhaps even some screenplays, yet I never allow myself to indulge in a good fiction book binge-sesh, opting instead for more non-fiction reading that encourages self-reflection and hopefully spurs mental growth.  All great reads, by the way.

Yet, what if I picked up a book at the bookstore, gave myself an evening to dig in, and discovered that the way that author writes is amazing, and it turbo-charges my desire to create my own kick-ass protagonist?  AKA, actually push my ideas into fruition. Why the hell haven’t I been doing this on a regular basis?

Creativity is literally the fountain of life.  We as humans are created out of two people’s love for one another (or should be in an ideal world).  We are born of creation, and therefore we are born to create.

Why, then, do I and so many others inadvertently spurn the soft fields of creativity and hail the cold concrete of production?  We are in essence cutting off our nose to spite our face.

When it comes to Christmas time, everyone agrees that we should have more of the spirit of Christmas in our hearts year round—giving, loving, caring about our fellow man.  And I agree.  But I also vote that we should have the spirit of Halloween year-round, too—fun and creativity.

If we embraced those traits in our daily lives, all of us would be happier.  And just think of everything cool that would come from those hours embodying fun and creativity!  All things amazing and awe-inspiring and and epic originally came from an idea-an idea that was given the space and light to germinate, unfurl, and finally blossom.

So, if you’ll excuse me, I now have 11 hours left to put together the perfect blend of innovation and sex appeal…and I now know just what I’m going to do.

I’m putting creativity back on the priority list.  I suggest you do the same.

Happy innovating!

Mistakes=Knowledge

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Last night, my friend and I were discussing the disease of perfection that permeates how women feel they need to be perceived.  As a gender, especially with social media, we are made to feel that we should have the perfect ass, perfect hair, perfect face; be able to have an amazing career while being amazing mothers/partners; be sexy but not slutty; be feminine but not too girly; the list goes on.

As a man, the pressure is no less intense.  You need to be a perfectly suave career man, steadily climbing the ladder; casually show off the abs that come from a little light sweat in the gym; be tough but not too tough; embrace sports; simultaneously be able to kill a spider and fix a faucet while tearing through a giant steak.  Anything a woman could want all in one chiseled package.

This portrayal of superiority  in every way possible is completely unrealistic and completely unhealthy.

Yet so many people have bought into this representation completely and live lives fraught with miserable comparison after miserable comparison.  There is no room for widely deviating personalities.  There is seemingly no forgiveness for error.  In short, there is no relaxation into or even celebration of the fact that we are freakin’ human.

I cannot tell you how many times I have beaten myself up for making a mistake.  I slipped up and ate something while dieting?  I restrict even more out of frustration.  I said something wrong to a friend?  I flush with shame at every remembrance.  I handled a situation wrong at work?  I replay the scene over and over again.  If I want to become the person that I hold up in my mind as the gold standard, there is simply no room for error.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as it is, and with the added vision of becoming a woman that has it all, I find myself shying away from things that might lead to error.  Yet I have come to realize that this is the complete opposite of what I should be doing.  If I really want to strive towards greatness, I need to embrace mistakes.

Love your mistakes.

How cringy does that sound?  Love my mistakes?  Hell no!  Mistakes are what keep me from awesomeness!

Yet what we need to realize is, mistakes are what make UP our awesomeness.

I made a mistake when I was 19 years old and got married.  This wasn’t a little “oops, I spilled a little Pinot Noir on the couch” mistake.  No, this was a “shit, I just murdered 5 years of my life and I can never get them back” mistake.  Talk about something you don’t want to blast all over social media.

And yet, that mistake has shaped me to be a better person.  I am more empathetic.  I can relate to people in their poisonous comfort zone.  I have extremely high standards for who I even allow to take me on a second date.  That fuck-up has given me invaluable knowledge.

Overall, the problem does not come when we make the mistake.  The problem comes when we refuse to acknowledge that mistake and therefore deny ourselves the opportunity to ruminate on it, examine it, dissect it for the valuable information that it holds.

If you analyze the big, juicy, terrible mistakes that you have made over the years, you will undoubtedly find that you are now the proud possessor of subsequent clumps of education directly stemming from your deepest pools of shame IF you have taken the time to work through everything.  If you have simply ignored the error and moved on, you are highly likely to make that same blunder again.

Sweeping the mistake under the rug will not cause the snafu to be unsnaffed.  Everyone wants to be smarter, to have a broader base of knowledge, to know what to do in every situation.  The irony of it is, you almost always have to do the wrong things before you figure out the right things.

Of course, one of the greatest tools we have as human beings is to learn from other people’s examples (and we don’t even have to actually know the person to do so!).  Books, podcasts, articles—they all offer valuable information that will cut our learning time down in droves if we actually take advantage of them.

There is no escaping making miscalculations of our own, sometimes with catastrophic results (yet with a silver lining of incomparable knowledge if we choose to take advantage of it).  But if we can glean the knowledge that other people have gained and graciously decided to share with us, we will be so much further ahead.

Holding back from living your life in order to minimize your mistakes is the shittiest way to live that I can think of.  Our one life that we get to live deserves to be fiercely embraced, relentlessly experienced, and openly analyzed.

And lets be honest, mistakes are where the good stories come from.  If nothing else, that moment that sends you sobbing into your pillow every night for a year will end up being the time that you eagerly share the most often IF you take the time to glean the wisdom that such an event presents.

Go out and be gloriously flawed.  Strive for perfection whenever you can, but take advantage of the times that you fall.  Seize every opportunity life sees fit to offer you, and continuously utilize every opportunity to improve in one way or another.

No one, and I mean no one, is perfect.  We all have fuck ups.  If you really want to be be a cut above, though, actually glean the knowledge from yours.

What I Learned From Three Weeks Abroad

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This summer I went on my first ever trip abroad; a travesty, really, because I’m almost thirty (*sob*).  Not only did this trip show me a wide variety of awesomeness in regards to architecture and planetary beauty, it also taught me several valuable lessons of which all persons should be aware.

People are awesome.

The whole reason for the trip to begin with was the fact that (long and windy story short), my student’s mother offered me her place to stay in Grenoble, France whenever I wanted.  That, in and of itself, is a testament that there are still amazing people left in the world even if everyone likes to focus on the assholes.  She also took the time to put me in contact with several different people that she knew both in Paris and in Grenoble so that I wouldn’t be thrust into the thick of things alone.  As much as I like to think that I am high and mighty and could have done just as well on my own, the truth is she saved me valuable time and money and went above and beyond what I even imagined when she first offered up her place.

In addition to being hooked up right from the start, I did not meet one person that was not awesome in one way or another throughout the trip (Minus the person who stole my phone, of course.  They belong in the asshole category).  My hosts took the time to show me around to all the hotspots of Grenoble and Paris, and the people that I met in my hostel in Barcelona were full of amazing stories and immediately made me feel like one of them.  Overall, this trip has shown me that the best face of humanity is still alive and well in the world, and it is all we can do to strive to be one of them.

 The world is huge.

In just the three short weeks that I was traveling, I met people from over 15 different countries: Turkey, Australia, France, Denmark, Czech Republic…the list goes on.  All of those people represented corners of the world that I have not yet explored, and it was made fully real to me the sheer expanse of our planet and how many things we are privileged to be able to experience.  You could spend three lifetimes traveling the world, and still be in need of a fourth and fifth to fully take it in.

The fact that the world is so incredibly expansive made me ashamed that I have experienced such a tiny portion thus far.  There are SO MANY different ways of doing things and SO MANY areas that take your breath away with their beauty.  I think it should be mandatory to have a semester abroad in every high school—extreme, yes, but think of how many relationships would be built, how many minds would be expanded, and how many soon-to-be adults would come back and make a positive impact on our society.

No, you do NOT need that thing.

XL Airways, my carrier of price, er, choice for the trip, gave me the standard two carryons AND a free checked bag.  Because I was given so much space, I merrily stuffed each of the three bags with pretty much my entire wardrobe—and spent the entire trip regretting it.  I wore probably ¼ of the things that I brought, and it was nothing short of torture hauling my ginormous and h.e.a.v.y bags around the metro and from place to place.  Next time, I will definitely be packing much, MUCH lighter.

Traveling really prompts you to embrace a minimalist mentality.  Do you need a cute outfit in case you do something where you need to look nice?  Absolutely.  Do you need 10 of them?  Hell to the no.  Most of your time traveling (unless you specifically book a party trip for whatever reason) is spent walking, which is most comfortably done in a good pair of tennis shoes and yoga pants.  Travel is amazing because of the experiences you will have, and you will have those same experiences if you are wearing a new combination every day or re-wearing an outfit for the 10th time.

Travel is necessary.

When I was in France, I didn’t speak a lick of French.  Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by a sea of words foreign to my ears and an array of indecipherable colorful signs.  While that obviously sucked, it gave me a new appreciation for how it feels to be surrounded by the unknown.  It was a terrifying yet exhilarating feeling.  It also opened my eyes to how important and cool it is to know several languages.  I have had zero desire to learn any other languages in the past, and my trip has definitely sparked an interest to develop the rudimentary Spanish that I possess into full-fledged fluency.

Aside from the whole language thing, travel is a catalyst for mind expansion in its fullest capacity.  You become aware of your priorities, take time to soak up the beauty of the physical universe, and come into contact with so many people who either cause you to solidify your values or mull them over in your mind to possibly be reshaped.  Without travel, we have no contact with something different, so we always remain the same.  And an unchanged life, to me, is the saddest life of all.

Overall, I’m actually grateful that I took the initiative to travel alone.  Traveling puts you in some hairy situations, and you learn how much you can actually rely on yourself.  Getting to know yourself and having the opportunity again and again to authentically be yourself with each new person that you meet is a gift, and one that should be fully taken advantage of.  As much as I would prefer to share the experiences with someone, there were actually relatively few things that I did completely alone-the rest of the time I was with the connections that I had made just a few hours before, which is a beautiful thing in and of itself.

So, friends, where have you traveled lately?  If the answer is to the kitchen and back, I strongly encourage you to book a trip somewhere you’ve never been before.  If there is no one who will accompany you, who cares?  Go alone.  Either way, it will definitely give you amazing memories to look back on and awesome connections to cherish.  And what is life if not a colorful collection of shared and solo moments?

Paris Day 4-5: I Dance With a Hot Fireman, See a Terrible Show, and Eat More Amazing Food

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Friday I woke up in the outskirts of Paris and ate yet another awesome breakfast with my Turkish host, Peter*.  We had decided the day before that we were going to go on a run and explore several different areas in the countryside that were Peter’s personal favorites, so we changed into our running gear and headed out to the bus.

The bus dropped us a mile or so away from our first stop, and we took up a light jog to reach a gorgeous and tranquil house in the middle of a generously lush and densely green plot of land.  There was a pond in the front lawn, and although the house itself (formerly a place for artists, I was told) was abandoned and hence run-down, the area around it was well-maintained and had a beautiful vegetable and flower garden complete with vined arches.  It was a perfectly picturesque scene.IMG_7086

After wandering the whole of the property, we set off in a light jog yet again to reach Parc de Sceaux, a huge park looked over by a big (BIG), old country house.  The grounds were massive, and have been turned into an awesome community space with expanses of green grass, fountains and ponds, and wide walking paths meandering the impressive view.  After jogging around the park to take it all in, we stopped and rested for a bit in the grass (pleasantly surprised by a group of Bollywood dancers filming a short dance segment in front of the house-an impressive backdrop!)

After sufficient rest, we walked back to the bus stop and caught a ride back to Peter’s* apartment, where we took turns showering and getting ready for the night’s activities.

Since it was Bastille day in Paris, the only logical course of action was to find a spot near the Eiffel tower and wait for the spectacular fireworks show later that night.  We met up with his friends outside of the tower area, and after being checked by security were able to make our way closer to the Iron Lady.   I was super excited about the whole experience, and I tried to ignore the heavy police presence that permeated the entire night.

After settling on a spot with a decent view of the tower, we enjoyed the live classical and opera music that filled the air-which was a striking difference from the Jay-Z or Beyonce that would have been blasting over the loudspeaker in the USA.  Finally, at around 11:00pm, it was deemed dark enough to start, and the sky was set ablaze for the next 45 minutes with round after round of rainbow color highlighting the Eiffel.  It was truly an amazing scene.IMG_7198

After the fireworks ended, we joined the massive thong of people walking to the nearest metro station.  Our goal?  Get to the nearest Fireman’s party!  The Bal des Pompiers, or Fireman’s ball, is a traditional event held in the fire stations around Paris; men in uniform await to set your heart aflutter, and DJ’s and makeshift bars get the party pumping.

When we arrived at our party of choice, we were confronted by a huge line.  One of the girls and I decided to walk to the front to see how long the wait was (i.e. see if we could get in).  After chit-chatting with the fireman at the front of the line, we were told that we had to wait–but then he asked where we were from.  When I told him I lived in California, he immediately perked up and told us all about his upcoming trip to San Diego and Los Angeles.  After giving him a few suggestions for his visit, he motioned us to come inside.  Success!

The rest of the night went off without a hitch.  It was my goal to dance with a fireman because, come on now, you can’t be at a Bastille Day Bal des Pompiers and not dance with a pompier.  I spotted one who immediately perked my interest, and I made my way over to him.  Pointing at his hat, I motioned that I wanted to wear it, and he immediately handed it over and we started grooving.  Pictures were taken, dancing was done, and fun was had by all!  All in all, it was a good night.

The next morning was my last morning in Paris, and I packed up my giant bag (note to future self-YOU DO NOT NEED THAT THING, PACK LESS) and headed into the city.  Peter’s friend had an extra ticket to a modern dance show (a 80 euro ticket for 10 euros-wahoo!) so I happily went along with her since all of her other friends were busy.

I absolutely love dancing, so I was super pumped for the show.  Five minutes in, I was racking my brains to see in what universe the dance moves they were doing would be considered dancing.  One torturous hour later, it finally ended and I made a promise tsqo myself to never, ever subjugate myself that experience again.  I don’t know about you, but modern dance does NOT float my boat.

After the dance show, I said goodbye to my friend and wandered around the Bastille square area.  A cheese crepe and ice cream were a must, obviously, and the crepe had so much cheese on it I had to squeeze some into the garbage (I know–normally sacrilege, but a necessity in this case).  Both were delicious.IMG_7229

Hopping on the metro yet again with my ridiculously huge suitcase-sweating profusely as I hauled it up and down the flights of stairs-I arrived at the train station where the TGV (France’s fast train) was waiting to take me to Grenoble.  Settling into my seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find to nice French women as my seat partners, and we chatted merrily for the duration of the trip, thus ending my sojourn in Paris on a highly pleasant note.

Lessons Learned?  A) Don’t ever accept an invitation to a modern dance show.  Ever. B) There IS such a thing as too much cheese.  C)  Fireworks aren’t really fireworks unless they are set off with a backdrop of the Tour Eiffel.

 

Paris Days 2-3: I Befriend an Irishman, See Amazing Art, and Have my Faith in Humanity Restored

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Wednesday had me feeling like a giant blob of carbs, so after I woke up I decided to go on a run.  What better way to acquaint myself with the streets of Paris, right?  After a quick bite of almond butter (the last of my airport snacks), I laced up my Nikes and hit the streets.

I chose one of the few roads in Paris that seemed to go in a straight line for more than two blocks, and proceeded with an easy jog that allowed me to take in the sights while still covering quite a bit of ground.  It was amazing to me how many of the same stores there were: bakeries, hairdressers, pharmacies…it seemed like the streets would repeat themselves over and over, which made me wonder how they all managed to stay in business!

After turning around (I opted against venturing down any side streets so I wouldn’t get lost), I stopped at a park to do some lunges, squats, and tricep pushups.  I’m pretty sure that the other park patrons were slightly mystified by the tall blonde who was sweating all over the bench, but I felt amazing when it was all done.  If you are used to working out on a regular basis, going without for a while is torture.

After returning back to my hostel and showering (thank god for dry shampoo, as the hostel had no more toiletries to sell me), I ventured out on the metro to a random station to do some more exploring.  Wandering the streets of Paris may not seem like the most productive use of touristic time, but for me it was one of my favorite parts: everything was so similar yet so different than the US.  The romantic cobblestones of the side streets didn’t hurt either.

It was in the midst of my wanderings that I received a message from the Irish bartender from my hostel wondering if I wanted to stop by Montemartre and indulge in an adult beverage or two.  Even though I’d already been, I always enjoy hanging out with new people, so I hopped on the metro once again and proceeded to wile away the afternoon with glasses of Leffe and hilarious conversation.

Drinks of the amber variety tend to awaken the appetite, and that day was no exception.  Barney* knew of a great restaurant close to my hostel, and introduced me to the host before leaving to run some errands.  Several baguettes and forkfuls of salad later, I happily waddled back to my hostel to pack up my things and head to my next destination.

The student I had met on Tuesday through Caroline* (my student’s mother) had offered to host me for a couple more days in Paris so I could stay and experience Bastille day.  This is a true testament to the amazing hospitality of Turkish folk, as I was a complete stranger to him before our meeting on Tuesday.  I arrived at Peter’s* place around 10:30 at night after several metro and bus changes, and immediately felt welcomed in his tiny studio apartment.  The makeshift bed on the floor was sufficient, and I immediately passed out after showering the day away, thus ending my second full day in Paris.

20170712_084344.jpgI woke up the next morning fairly early by vacation standards, and was greeted by a delicious Mediterranean style homemade breakfast consisting of cheese, lettuce, and various veggies (and a croissant per request since it WAS still France, after all).  I savored every bite.

 

 

 

 

 

Sated, we packed up for the day and headed into the city to meet up with one of his friends at the Musee de Lourve.  This was one of the places I was really looking forward to seeing, and it did not disappoint!

The first thing I had to get over was seeing everything.  It would realistically take a 20170712_110841month to see every piece the museum had to offer, so we selected only a few spots to visit.  My favorite part was all of the sculptures; I cannot fathom hand carving such intricate details with such spectacular results.  Another highlight was, of course, the Mona Lisa, which was surprisingly smaller than I had imagined it.  Overall, I absolutely loved soaking in the history and artistry that permeated the entire building.

After several hours wandering the giant halls, I parted with my companions so they could get some work done, and took off to visit several different places including Notre Dame, the famous Arc de Triumphe and its accompanying street of swanky stores, and Luxembourg Garden.  And it was then I heard some welcome news-my phone, previously thought to have been lost to the seedy underbelly of Paris where the Parisian pickpockets ruled the roost, had been found!  The girl had picked it up in her courtyard, texted my friend (who was one of the contacts on my medical card accessible without the passcode), and within hours we had arranged to meet at 8pm that night so I could get it back.  Talk about serendipitous!

That amazing news prompting an even better mood, I proceeded on to my stops for the 20170712_160131day.  Notre Dame lived up to its reputation from the outside, but I voted against standing for three hours in the lines that snaked up and around the courtyard in front of the doors.  The Arc was great to see, and it was even greater to see the different people walking the street.  The highlight of the three, however, was Luxembourg.  It was HUGE, and it had an amazing chateau that was the main focal point behind a small pond where children floated small boats for a couple euros.  It was awesomely calm and peaceful, and I sat there for almost two hours just drinking in the nature in the middle of the giant City of Love.

Seeing that I still had some time to kill, I hopped on the metro after my peaceful reverie ended and headed to the Red Light district to see the famous Moulin Rouge.  Even though it was daytime and therefore not really the experience one would get if visiting at night, it was still fun to see the seedy streets and the different bars and sex shops that lined up one after another, enticing street travelers into their dark world.

20170712_192924After having a beer at one of the bars to while away even more time, I ran into a bachelor party where the garishly dressed participants enticed me with French candy and then (after I took the obviously required picture of them and then myself with the groom), they asked me to ring the bachelor’s bell-an apparatus made to look like a cock and balls pinned to the outside of his underwear.  Carefully grabbing nothing but the rope, I obliged while laughing hysterically, and they happily made their way down the street.

After this interesting encounter, I eagerly made my way by metro yet again to the Montmartre area for the 3rd time in three days.  Peter* met me at the station, and we went to the address we had been given.  The exchange went off without a hitch, and the Parisian girl refused my offer of compensation, insisting that “it’s the karma”.  All in all, it restored my faith in humanity and was a great experience to add to my memories of Paris!

Still with all the excitement, our night was not yet done.  Peter and I stopped by a sandwich stop and grabbed some beer along the way to the canal.  Here, we sat and enjoyed the food along with several other Parisian natives, as this is apparently quite a popular pastime.  A nearby bar was playing music loud enough to reach us, and the people watching was quite delightful.

After the beer and sandwiches, we decided to check out a nearby fireman’s ball (which I will explain in more detail in my next post).  Since it wasn’t that exciting, and we were both tired, AND it started raining, we decided to call it a night and headed home, thus ending my most packed yet most fulfilling day in Paris.

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Rainy selfie

Whew.  That was a lot!

Lessons learned? A) There are bad people in the world, but there are also some AMAZING ones!  Focus on the good ones-they will pop up when you need them.  B) Turkish people are amazing hosts, and I mean above and beyond.  Such a small act of opening up your home, no matter how humble, is an amazing gesture that speaks volumes.  C) Take time to appreciate beauty, in all of its forms.  People can create amazing works, and nature is beautiful simply by being nature.  It’s all enriching if you take the time to really soak it in!

Paris Day 1: Wherein My Phone Disappears

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After a forced bedtime of 2:30AM, I awoke on Tuesday around 9:30am (Apparently France makes me super lazy).  I googled my metro map to the area of Montemarte, and proceeded to take the (at the time) harrowing trek down into the bowels of the earth where the majority of Parisian public transportation lies.

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My love

I had yet to eat breakfast, so I stopped at a café with a gorgeous view of the church up on top of the mountain (which was the main attraction, I was to learn later).  I had a cheese crepe and a croissant, which was the BOMB.COM.  I think if I could marry French carbs, I would.  After consuming the culinary delight way too fast, I made my way up the 1,245,693,000 stairs and took in the view from the top.

 

 

Amazing.  The entire city of Paris was spread out before me.  Rooftops spread out as far as the eye could see, and you could feel both your immense insignificance and an expansive sense of wonder.  I took several long moments to soak in the view.  It was well worth the extra cardio.IMG_7072

After the requisite pictures and an attempted selfie, I headed into the church, but not before being denied entrance because of my spaghetti strap dress.  They gave me a piece of cloth to wrap around my shoulders, and I wore the cape of shame as I strolled through the grandiose hall.  The air was ripe with ancient respect and hallowed thoughts, and the ceilings were incredibly detailed and rich.  It was very cool to see, but quite honestly I’d probably skip the tour next time-if you’ve seen one old church, you’ve seen them all.

What interested me more was the streets.  Obviously, because that’s where all the delicious food was (I mean, that’s a given), but I also wanted to just soak in the wonder of a different culture.  I proceeded to wander around the streets aimlessly, looking at all of the different stores and building architectures and people.  It was a great way to acquaint myself with the real Paris.

The real Paris, it turns out, can be kind of a bitch sometimes.  After several attempts to find a restroom that I could use (turns out some restaurants are quite possessive of their toilettes), I got lucky with a nice, albeit reluctant, bartender.  The bathroom situation in and of itself was quite annoying, especially if you’re someone like me who enjoys copious amounts of water and therefore needs readily accessible facilities for the side effects of such hydration.

But wait, it gets better.  Twenty minutes and several blocks of wandering later, bladder deflated, I reached into my purse to grab my phone to check the time.  My hand grabbed air.  I paused, then opened the side pocket where the pink-clad mobile should have been resting to see if I had somehow managed to miss it.  Nothing but black cloth.  I unzipped the main compartment, feeling silly that I had misplaced such an important item.  Wallet, metro pass….no phone.  I checked both pockets again about 5 more times before accepting the fact that my phone was indeed not in my possession.

Thus began the frantic retracing of steps through the slanted streets of Montmarte.  The cobblestones that had led me so whimsically just 1 hour before now offered nothing but challenge and confusion.  No pink Iphone greeted me in the streets, and the only two spots I had stopped at both shook their heads.  My phone had vanished into thin air.

The acceptance of this fact led to the hunt for and purchase of a fancy (aka the cheapest) smart phone from the nearest mobile store.  Thankfully, you have the option just purchase network and load it on a sim card rather than have to commit to a contract, which was great for being able to get online right away.  One hour and 155 Euro’s later (4 E off for patience, whoot!), I was the proud owner of a cheapo Samsung and a new French number.

The afternoon of Day 1 therefore consisted of ordering a new phone for home (I have insurance, apparently, which was awesome!) and cancelling all service to the lost/stolen device.  Needless to say, I did not feel like exploring much more at all, but I did have an appointment with my contact in Paris to meet up later that night, so I was forced to shake it off and keep moving.

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FALAFEL!

My contact, Peter*, was a former Turkish renter of my student’s mother (who was kind enough to set up

 

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Wine ❤

communication between myself and several people over here in France).  We met at a Starbucks close to one of the Metro stations, and he proceeded to show me several different hot spots in Paris, including a DELICIOUS falafel stand on a random street, a cute garden enclosed in a courtyard where we enjoyed said falafel, the riverside where we started a bottle of wine, and finally ending the night in the Lourve garden with an amazing view of the Eiffel tower.  It was magical.

 

For someone who just up and flew across the Atlantic Ocean with little to no planning (which is 100% not my usual style), I got SO lucky to be put into contact with people who knew the city and were kind enough to show me around.  Looking back, I wouldn’t have had half the amazing experiences that I did if I didn’t have that advantage.

Lessons learned? A) Be aware of what is going on around you, and KEEP AN EYE AND HAND AND LOCK on your stuff at all times!  You may think you’re being vigilant…but trust me, you can be even more careful. B) Patience and being nice pays off.  I could have easily shown my frustration at the lady selling me my phone since it took FOREVER to figure out and set up, but I chose to smile and wait, and it paid off with a discount and good relations.  It’s so tempting to get frustrated when you’re traveling, especially when something happens that SUCKS and is expensive, but being kind is ALWAYS the right choice. C) Always, always, bring more money than you think you’ll need.  I thought I had more than enough Euros, but then I had to pay for my hostel AND new phone in cash, which took a giant chunk out of my stash.  You can always bring back money, but if you spend your last cent and you need more, it’s harder AND more expensive to get money when you are in a different country.

Paris Day 0.5: I Play Beer Pong with Children

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I had a student this year who was born in France.  She is an amazingly talented and hardworking girl, and she happened to invite me to several of her dance competitions outside of school.  I took her up a couple of her offers, and met her mother, Caroline*.  During several of our conversations, Caroline informed me that Sharyl* loved me and that I was doing an awesome job as her teacher (which is always great to hear, and one of the main reasons for why I love my job so much).

In the midst of conversation after hearing that I was considering teaching overseas, she immediately perked up and started extolling the virtues of France.  In the end, she offered her place for my use whenever I wanted, which was completely unexpected and completely amazing.  After a couple weeks went by, I took her up on the offer, booked a ticket for the next week, and am currently writing this sitting on the train headed to Grenoble after 5 days in Paris.  What is my life!?

I experienced SO much and packed so many things into the 5 days-It was AWESOME.  I’m sure that I’m going to forget so many things, but I’ll try my best to relay all the juiciest details.

So, let me start from the beginning.

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My first view of France!

I arrived in Paris at 7 at night after a 10+ hour flight that felt like nothing because I slept the entire time.  Great for time travel, terrible for 9 hour time changes.  After disembarking, we waited for over an hour to get our passports checked and stamped, which was terrible and made me thankful I had peed on the plane right before (if you don’t know me, I have the bladder of a mouse).  I did make some cool friends in line though, and I hope they are having fun on their own European adventures!

After figuring out the whole metro pass system (which consisted of losing money to a broken photo machine and promptly using the next one to take probably the WORST picture of me in my entire life to proudly display on my card all week), I went below ground to take my first of many metro rides in the direction of my hostel.  Thankfully, this ride did not require a train change, and I arrived safely, albeit slightly more dirty than when I arrived.

I hauled my 60 lbs of lugguage across the way (note to self: PACK LIGHTER NEXT TIME) and checked into my hostel located near Gare du Nord Metro station.  The hostel was actually super nice as far as what I was imagining sharing a room with 7 other strangers would be, and the girls in my room kept to themselves but in a friendly sort of way.

All settled, I set out to explore the small chunk of Paris that I had landed in, and went out in search of food.  Since it was going to be my first real meal in the city, I wanted it to be a good one, so I checked out several different menus

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before settling on one that I deemed worthy.  Trying to be good, I ordered a salad and water (after an appetizer of cheese, obviously), but was sabotaged with my first of many (and I mean MANY) baskets of oh-so-delicious French baguettes.  I gleefully stuffed my face with doughy delicious carbs, and had to force myself to finish my salad when it came (which looked ‘off’ since it was topped with cooked green beans and carrots, but which turned out to be surprisingly delicious).

 

 

 

 

Full and still not being tired even though it was almost 11:30pm (thanks to my ‘morning’ wakeup of 6pm Paris time), I decided to check out the bar below the rooms to try to conjure up a beer-induced sleepiness.

 

I had been sitting with my beer for maybe 5 minutes when I was approached by a fellow male traveler from Mexico.  We sat and chatted for quite a while, and eventually made friends with the (literal) children sitting across the table from us.  They challenged us to a game of beer pong, and I squelched my teacher instincts to lecture them on the dangers of alcohol to take them up on it.  Being bested by a pair of Canadian 18 years olds (albeit by one cup) is not my proudest moment, but it definitely made my first night in Paris memorable.

At 2am in the morning, I decided that 5pm California time be damned, I needed to wake up at a decent hour the next morning.  So, I forced myself up into the top bunk bed I had been assigned, and eventually fell asleep, thus ending my first half-day in a foreign country.

Lessons learned? 1)  If you’re going to sleep on your flight, anticipate the consequences and take advantage of the messed up sleep schedule to check out different cool places (not just your sad hostel bar).  2) 18 year olds are surprisingly good at beer pong (or I’m just unsurprisingly terrible).  3) Even the most random vegetables, when mixed together, make a pretty great salad. 4) Everyone has a story; if you ask, they will tell you, and it’s almost always interesting.

PS-this is my first attempt at travel blogging, so please don’t hesitate to give feedback!  I have sporadic internet access and zero time, so my updates will be slow but they WILL come. :o)