Reasons to Embrace Being Single

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Whenever cocktails and girlfriends (or even just the latter) are in the same room, the conversation almost invariable makes a stop on the subject of men, or more accurately, boys.  Specifically, bemoaning the fact that we can’t find any good ones, causing us to be subjected to singledom for eternity (or so it feels).

Couples holding hands seem to pop up everywhere we go.  Pictures of engagement rings fill our Facebook feeds.  Movies like “The Notebook” and shows like “The Bachelor” get shoved in our face.  Everything couple-related becomes glaring reminders of the missing piece in our lives.

Being in a relationship, the right relationship, is an amazing thing.  However, as amazing as a relationship is, we have to remember that there are some damn good things about being single, too.

You can do whatever you want.  This is the most obvious and most touted perk of singles everywhere.  But I feel like very rarely do people actually take advantage of this freedom.  Think about it.  There are truly no limits.

Take travel, for instance.  Do you want to go overseas and experience the exoticism of Asia?  You can!  You have no one else’s schedule to worry about, no one else’s budget, no one else’s preferences for the trip.  If you want to have a super high-end luxury week with spa pampering and endless cocktails by the pool, you can make that happen.  If you want a three week trek through the jungle sleeping in a tent with the native people, you can do that too without worrying about what someone else would want to choose.

Even on a smaller, daily scale, this luxury shouldn’t be taken lightly.  You can eat takeout for dinner if you want.  You can make a four course meal every night.  You can meet up with an old friend at a moment’s notice.  You can stay in bed all day or go out and socialize all night.  It’s truly 100% up to you.

Being single in your 20’s and 30’s is really the only time that you can actually take advantage of this fully.  There are no academic obligations of high school and college.  There are no work obligations that you didn’t fully choose if you have a career you love.  There are no stigmas attached to anything that you might enjoy, because you are now surrounded by adults and not asshole teenagers.

So many people waste singlehood on Netflix and sweatpants on the couch.  There is SO MUCH LIFE to live, and it’s ridiculous to skip out on it because you don’t have someone to experience it with yet.

You can discover yourself.  This is another cliched mantra of the single ones, but it is so true.  In the past, I have been guilty of taking on my boyfriend’s interests and letting my own slide.  However, this really was because I hadn’t solidified my own interests before I got into a serious relationship.

Now that I’ve been on my own for a while, I’ve tried tons of different things and discovered what I love and what I can do without.  Just because something hasn’t been a part of your life up until this point does not mean that it can’t become a part of your life now.  For example, I played no sports in high school (sadly).  Now, I play beach football, turf football, and kickball.  I absolutely love it, and while I am not at the level of athleticism I would prefer to be at, I am getting better with each game that I play.  Had I not ventured out of my comfort zone, I would have never discovered that I actually like to play sports.

So many people don’t try things because they either ‘think’ they won’t like it or because they are simply too snobby to give something new a try because, surprise surprise, they are going to suck at it at first.  We have to stop getting so caught up in being perfect at things all the time.  It is only when we allow ourselves to embrace the possibility of falling that we will be able fly.

You can build yourself.  When you don’t have someone else constantly in your space, you tend to have a lot of time to think–if you don’t crowd out these valuable hours with mindless TV and/or social media and/or other various wastes of time.  If you spend some quiet moments alone reflecting on yourself as a person, both in and out of a relationship, you may come across some things that you don’t like.

This is hard to take.  We all like to think that we are just a little bit more perfect than those around us and if anybody needs to change, it’s the other guy.  But admitting that you have things to work on is arguably more admirable than swimming in self-denial and staying the same, even if you are a decent person to start out with.

In my reflections lately, I’ve noticed that I am a pretty selfish conversation participant.  Whenever someone has something to say, I immediately try to relate to to something similar that has happened in my life.  Not that trying to relate and find common ground is necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes letting that person have their moment in the conversational sun is the more kind and less egotistical choice.  While this is just a small example of something that I feel I need to change personally, there are many other things that we could allow ourselves to get better at if we just acknowledged that some maintenance needs to take place.

Beyond making  cosmetic adjustments to our temple, we can also build on whole new sections.  I have always admired my sisters for being able to play guitar, and a couple months ago I drug out my old acoustic and vowed to spend more time playing.   That lasted for a little while, but it has since faded away as it is not a fully solidified part of me yet.  However, I know that if I really put my mind to it, I can achieve success in that arena, and I plan to make a more concerted effort to make it happen since this is something that I do actually want to add into my life.

Overall, being single is a chance to mold yourself into the person that your future partner will jump at the chance to be with.  So often we admire qualities in other people and desire them in our relationships, but forget we cannot expect roses if we are offering dandelions.

Embrace the freedom.  Embrace the challenge.  Embrace the endless opportunities.  Our years of singlehood will be far less than our years of partnership, so squeeze every last drop out of awesomeness from your solo ventures, and don’t be sad if it takes you a while to find The One.  In fact, take some time to be thankful that they haven’t materialized yet, because you just get a little longer to date yourself.  And lucky for you, you’ll always get the rose.

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)