From Pages of Brothers Grimm

November 15, 2010 § 3 Comments


Today I awoke late with terrible headache – still sick. Damn, I thought, here goes another day. I should stay inside an rest, but how tired I am of doing just that. I’m finally getting to this place where I just want to be out… even if I’m just studying, let me do it in a place other than the one I’ve been cooped up in for the past two months. As much as I adore my flat… i want to come home to it every day, not be locked up in it like a prisoner.

Still on Paris time and quite relaxed, studying far far from my mind. The girls and I (the russian mafia as they call us here… affectionately of course, and mostly due to an absurd data set about Mafia profits that we were working with in SQL)  were originally going to go to a sauna, but most of us being sick and all.. and lazy… we decided to postpone this venture until later in the week. So instead, I texted Katja and suggested we meet for tea.

Beforehand I had some time to get ready, put on my sexy boot-boots which I’ve been wearing now for two days and run to the mall to get some inserts. The brown boots are a tad large, so I wanted to get something soft and filling for the bottom… In the US this would be miserable task… I know cause I’ve tried to do this before – getting inserts for shoes that is. But here, a total breeze… 10 minute walk to the shoe stand… yes, that’s right, you heard me… a stand where a guy repairs, fixes and polishes shoes… and the inserts he sells aren’t those retarded flimsy sticky things you have to cut yourself cause they’re a one size fits all… no, no… these are real boot inserts… no sticky goo required, lamb wool laced, precisely sized to my needs – oooh and they feel good. Lamb wool, I kid you not.

Afterward I spotted Katja on her bike outside and came out to greet her. The next few hours we spent walking around Ghent, in the beautiful sun which finally decided to peek out today ….and together we marveled at our indescribable luck. …Can you friggin believe we’re here? …I know, Can you?

Maria had mentioned to us a good cafe not too far from where we were, so we set out to go there. Katja immediately assessed it to be a hippie place…  Maybe it was the dreadlocks and tattoos that gave it away, but c’mon this place had nothing on Berkeley. Actually, it was very nice… we sat outside in the sun… overlooking wonderful Ghent buildings, with their quirky rooftops and historic cobblestones… not to mention of course the canal and adorable bridge. Yeah, you could say I’m living in a tiny world of paradise, straight from the pages of a brothers grimm fairy tale. Who needs Paris.

Well actually, Paris had its own charm… the canals are much wider, the streets massive and of course is just a lot grander on every level. But honestly, my favorite part about Paris was the numerous fall oakleaves pasted across the wet side walk… in every color imaginable, but washed away with puddles of rain – not just romantic I would say, simply introspective. One look around and it’s as if you’ve suddenly stumbled upon the meaning of life, even if only for a brief moment.

But anyway, while I was at the restroom Katja looked over the menu and made her selection first… mint tea and something with the world apple. I thought, ok… I’m not really hungry, but when do I ever say no to a turnover… I’ll have one too please. Then a few minutes go by and our waiter arrives with two mint teas, a bowl of cheese we had ordered to share and two shot glasses of liquor. EHhh.? I say.  Katja doesn’t look surpsied. Did you order a drink I asked her? Yes, she replies with a tad of confusion – so did you! I did?  The waiter looks unsure – I tell him, I thought it was dessert. He laughs, not dessert at all – much better. now you have to drink. And what a good drink it was.

On our way back, we stopped by the lab to pick up some books – having not studied much all weekend I was starting to a) enjoy myself and b) forget what I’m really here for. Until of course we stumbled onto a room full of classmates – studying away. And we’re back – to crazy town.  When I got home, I had a wonderful email from Kat about how nice it was to get out… and how for just a brief second she felt happy again… unlike the insane studying madness she felt before.  Me too.


Mission: Parisian Fuck-Me-Boots

November 13, 2010 § 1 Comment

omg. I’m back… talk about a hiatus.  That was the longest that I had gone without writing  since I got to Ghent. Won’t happen again.

First of all I have to say thank you to everyone for being so amazingly thoughtful… the messages, the emails, the everything… were just what I needed to put life in perspective. …although I must admit, I was starting to lose my bearings there for a bit… No worries though – with a little help from you, my new friends, a few nights of a heavy drinking – not to mention,  a spontaneous sprint across the borders for a bit of Parisian soul searching in the form of fuck-me-boots, just the boots so far, and I’m back on track.

But in order to tell you how I got here, I suppose I should start from the very beginning…  that is, the day I wrote my last post. It was the day of our SQL exam, and lets just say a lot of people, not excluding myself, were in a bit of a shock. So much so, that we couldn’t bare the thought of studying for anything else… let alone our SAS exam which was swiftly approaching. So, instead we took our dazed minds out for a drink.

As I was walking over to our agreed upon meeting place, in the rain, in the dark… after having failed and then proceeded to not study all day for the next thing. I thought to myself, what on EARTH am I doing…  I don’t even like drinking. And how relived I was to hear my friend say the same thing… only she says it more hilariously, in Russian, always pushing my vocabulary to its limits – “Kat’, Shto za chush – kuda yedish?’ she says. Seriously, shto za chush.

But, as anyone could have predicted, a few beers in (Roomer to be exact – a special Ghent drink made out of flowers that float magically at the bottom of the glass)  and a few hours later…  a much needed break and new, albeit temporary, leash on life.

The next few days after that were spent locked up in our computer lab trying to absorb as much SAS nonsense as possible. By Monday, a day before the test, I was on the verge of getting sick and knew that pushing myself even a bit more would only lead me to having to take the test lying down, brain off. So I spent the entire day and night sleeping, in hope of awakening with at least the slightest ability to concentrate and even half the information absorbed –  i did lose 12 hours of studying time though, so that sucks. By Tuesday morning, I seemed to have slept it off and came to the test at least with my brain in tact. Four hours later, we handed in our exams and sighed deeply as we passed one another in the halls. No words required. Well, actually it went better than SQL… but that’s like saying death by hanging is preferable to the electric chair.

That day was also Amador’s birthday, so we all went out to celebrate and shake off the stooper. I didn’t get home until after 4, but managed to get myself up for class at 9.

Then we went out for chinese food and as I was sitting there thinking about what to do over the weekend… the first chunk of time I can remember having where there doesn’t seem to be an urgency to study… yes there’s a test in less than 2 weeks and hundreds of pages of reading… but no reason I thought, I couldn’t be doing this reading on a train, …or in coffee shop in Paris, eating a croissant perhaps … or tart?.. or french salad…? ( no worries, I had all three! 🙂


That night I had company at my place for the first time… tea and waffles, to be precise, so I didn’t get to sleep until very very late (or early depending on how you look at it), on top of which i woke up and realized… ah, I AM getting sick … but I wasn’t about to waste this precious weekend, being sick at home. Heck no. I packed nothing… just my backpack and a book, and headed to Paris on a one way ticket. Indefinitely.

Of course, I knew I was coming back.. i just didn’t know if waking up to a croissant would do it, or if I would want to stick around for a french dinner, or another morning – a walk to the eiffel tower perhaps, or a french haircut? Maybe a tattoo… I was keeping my options open. I needed this trip to cure everything and I just wasn’t sure what it would take… only that I needed to feel alive again, with a purpose… moving…  thinking… feeling.

How long did it take you ask? It took 3 days and two nights… after-which I arrived back at St. Pieter’s station in Gent (after a few train mishaps) welcomed by none other than hundreds and hundreds of rowdy drunk college students standing in line for the city organized I<3TECHNO Tram 21 (I guess I won’t be taking that one home…)  and dozens and dozens of police officers and their dogs guarding this howling mayhem…  the slight but constant drizzle of Belgian rain, my feet tired from three days of non-stop trekking, the air warm but dark… buses re-scheduled again (where is the one I need??? i’m tired.), drunk drivers everywhere, there isn’t a weekend where this doesn’t happen – almost got knocked over  within 5 minutes of getting back… when I finally made it onto a bus, safe and sound, I peeked outside the window and there it was… Saturday night, in my precious Ghent. I just wanted to give it a big big hug. I am home.

Oh, and I needed boots and an Umbrella. Having not ventured out of my apartment for a few weeks now, and never at night – it all of a sudden dawned on me on my way to our Chinese dinner that it’s almost friggin winter!!… like BRRR cold… and like… holy cow, wet and slippery. And how these Belgians and Russians love to make fun of Miss California girl who only owns sandals. So at least, I left for Paris with a mission… go to Paris, clear my head, buy boots – come back when you know what you’re coming back for.

I will probably write more about this later, as surly it will be on my mind for many days to come. But here’s a quick few things of what I learned in Paris.

Standing in front of the Eiffel is a good reminder of this…

The best lesson you can learn in life – one that came to me much too late, but which I welcomed open-arms on this trip – is that there’s only one thing, and one thing only, that you can be 100% sure of in this life – you exist ALWAYS.  …regardless of where or how or what you’re doing. YOU, are the constant.

I know that seems like a silly thing to even mention, especially since most people mention this as a negative – as in, you can’t get away from yourself. But the truth is, it’s the best and most positive thing there is about our lives – the one thing that takes fear out of anything and defuses all pressure of any what-ifs. What if… you say? The answer is simple… you’re still there.

A lot of the time, when fear holds us back… from opportunities, from whatever… we find ourselves fearful of change, of not being able to ‘do it’ of having a hard time imagining our lives without something… or imaging our lives with something, or somewhere… like Paris … and then it happens, and we realize that in fact nothing is that big of a change… we are in both scenarios. we are the one constant – the one thing that doesn’t change – the one thing we can rely on and the one thing we won’t get away from. And what does this mean? It means, you need find yourself –  understand yourself, love yourself and realize, in all seriousness, there is no life without you – so get that right, and everything else will follow… So whether you’re in Paris, or Belgium, or San Francisco, or Pakistan or someday- Africa. You, are still you – albeit with a two pairs of amazing Parisian fuck me boots and a parapluie from an ACTUAL umbrella store and a french hat… but of course.

And, what did this mean for me? It made me realize I don’t need to go all that far, to find something that’s actually inside me. Next time I go anywhere, it will be to find someone or something else. But I dearly thank Paris, for reminding me that what I love about traveling should never be confused with what I love about getting away. More on this another time.

Also –  French men in black trench coats are scrumptiously dangerous and a VERY good reason not to live Paris. Serioulsly, it maybe confusing here to know where you need to speak which language… ( i spent the first few hours in Paris, kicking myself for speaking Dutch, then finally switching to Bounjours and Mercis … then back to Dutch, only to realize I was still in Wallonia.. f7ck, I mean Merci – Dank u… shit. Whatever, I’m American, it’s true.. HI.) But, French/Belgian border can be defined much more simply if you just look at the men.. just a quick glance and you’ll know what country you’re in. And if you’re me and staring a frechman in a black p-coat, no words come anyway…   so no worries about the language barrier.

Ok, so mabye they’re not all so scrumptious… at least not the few I had the pleasure of being chatted up by – I am not that lucky. But this morning, I watched the most entertaining pick-up I’d ever seen in my entire life… here’s how it went down. I noticed the woman first… she was walking in front of me… her jacket bright blue, her sweater peeking from underneath it’s rim… yes, I was studying it closely as there was something about the way she walked that captured my attention. I didn’t see her face – her hood was on – only because I was watching her did I realize what was about to happen. An absoltely gorgeous young guy starts walking along side her – tilted towards her – and extends his hand… he is smiley, cheerful and charming… he asks her if she knows french and keeps up the pace… something about the weather and possibly where she’s going… I was right behind them and waiting for her to give him the boot – certainly I would have.

Of course, he was cute,  but I wouldn’t have wanted him until I’d seen him from this angle… she wanted him. She took off her hood – she’s asian –  and they walked giggling for about a minute, then he took her hand in his and clutched it warmly. Surly, I thought, she will tell him to go to hell now. But instead, she played along. If i didn’t know better, I would have thought they surly knew eachother…. they walked, hand in hand, rubbing shoulders… smiling… fast-paced – oh how I wanted to know how this story ends. But then they turned down a strange alley, and I thought maybe I don’t…  But here’s the funny part. If it had happened to me, I surly would have been uninterested… I point blank declined an invitation just a day before that, and the one before that as well… But watching this girl enjoy his company (ok.. and also lets be honest, he was HAWT… but I really don’t know if that would have made a difference for me)… and not shooting him down off the bat, gave me something to think about… something to strive for, perhaps… assuming of course she wasn’t an asian hooker (shame on me!)  I think it maybe time I soften around the edges a bit. Yes, Paris taught me that.

Paris taught me a lot more, but I think it’s time for bed…  I will say this though, I really really loved it… it is everything that everyone says it is… beautiful, grand, so french… just gorgeous on every level … and damn, those men in black p-coats. Oy.

But who would have thought that I missed school and studying and my precious Ghent… dorky Belgian boys and all.

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