18.12.2010 - 10.01.2011 0 °C
So my aunt asked me a question the other day: Why are you keeping a blog?, in her distinct Middle Eastern accent when she speaks English. And I just looked at her at shrugged. And again: No really, I dont understand; Why are you sharing your life with the world, with people who dont even know you? Vot eez deh point? Isn't it just like reading anything else; a book, an article, whatever. To me tho, this blog has turned into more than just a trip, it's also a metamorphosis. And sometimes we need a push to metamorphose into something else.
And again, two days ago, in the middle of a sushi dinner at a friend's place by Luxembourg Gardens, someone asked "Why keep a blog and why should I read it? Is there a point?" Note though, he is a kind of genius, literally and it is known that geniuses do not know how to communicate with people - should explain it. Still I did see his point. After all, it's just people entering in the middle of your life without ever knowing the beginning and probably never knowing how it all ends up, ultimately. But maybe the ending doesn't matter.
The last week of 2010 did some tying up of ends for me. Financially; no more debt! Professionally; I received a recommendation from my last employer without even asking for one but was warmly accepted. Things continuing to develop with my current work and that's making me happy. Romantically: mostly new adventures and a couple of hard-core realizations. The last year has been nothing short of amazing. Just last year I was sitting in my office, hours on end, no break, no lunch, and an inexplicable desire to get as much work done as possible, knowing that the moment I would leave and pursue this trip, things would happen. And I couldnt wait to get on the plane and fly away. Something would shift. I just knew it.
So back to France...one spontaenous, snowy morning in Paris, we decided to head to Gare du Nord and hop a train to Lille to see the Christmas village. It was 5 of us; 3 arrived on time; 2 missed it. Next train "one hour" which in France means "3 hours". We headed over to a little brasserie for hot chocolate and a croissant until then. We board the train, no ticket in hand but prepared to buy one on-the-go. That didnt happen. The train was so late, so packed, I dont think anyone bothered to think of checking. So we landed a free ride, albeit very late in the day. We arrive and behold; before us, a Christmas village. It's something you can't capture anywhere else in the world. After meeting up with friends, we headed over to the little wooden houses and lingered at each, buying pumpkin soup, then sipped hot wine, then came waffles and cookies. We were like kids at a carnival. We visited city hall, the beautiful Opera house and went on a scavenger hunt to find the beautiful people of Lille, the best places for beer, hidden restaurants and decadent boulangeries. I loved it. We fell in love with Bar Parallel. 2 beers, 2 cokes and 5 snacks later, it was time to go home. Little did we know that as we headed back to the station, TGV just decided to pass by the city and not actually wait a minute or two for passengers to board. I mean, luckily, I've learned not to get pissed off as I would've before this whole entire year... we got reimbursed for a free return whenever we wanted and checked out of there. It must have been -4 degrees and the only way to stay warm (in our case) was to eat - AGAIN. We headed back to the Bar Parallel and hooked up with some nice locals who showed us how to party until sunrise. Needless to say, we made it to the next day's train, only to be stuck 4 hours because a Thaly's in front of us broke down. No water, no cafeteria on-board open, no paper in the loos. Did I ever mention how the French also dont have the word 'service' in their cultural lexicon? Nothing. We just sat. And we laughed.
Last week, just in time for year's end, I got a special visit from Milan before continuing to a week-long vacation in South America. We had a wonderful night, driving around Paris, last ones out a Parisian brasserie, drinks at a piano bar and a walk back to the hotel through the glorious Place Vendome. It was so beautiful. Inexplicably nice and with that, I had marked off another life-long fantasy of walking the streets of Paris with my hand laced around another and my lips locked approximately every 45 seconds while the art nouveau street lamps glared above us and the rain fell very slowly overhead, sprinkles slowly settling on the ground. Like the movies. The next morning, post 2.5 hours of sleep, he headed to the airport. I admit, it was hard for me and I didnt expect that. As soon as the door shut behind me, I felt that tug again. That difficulty in saying goodbye. I know exactly why - this isnt the place to share - but at least I know.
Thankfully the friend I ventured to Lille with called the same day, with yet another plan - Geneva. With the guys from Lille. I wasnt sure it was what I needed but I knew it'd be interesting and would keep my mind off things. We had a place to stay, plans to ski and a ride home. What else would I need? I packed a dress, some extra clothes and I hopped on a train with a friend. We arrived and yet again, an adventure. They were late - one hour late. Forgot to tell us they're actually that far from the center. There was no place to change. No normal place to eat. No place to shower. Nothing. And somehow I found myself in the middle of a mid East market and nowhere close to 'classic' Geneva. How did this happen? We hung out at a chinese restaurant until they arrived and when they did, I couldnt put a smile on my face as hard as I tried. But in an attempt to change things I headed over to a nice hotel and asked to use their 'water closets' and came out a different person by choice. We partied, we danced, we kissed, we sang and had a great time. Really. Was definitely one for the books. We didnt sleep until 7:30am and when we did, I was almost vertical, sleep-stting on a sofa in a 40 sq meter studio that had already housed a couple with two kids plus 3 single ladies. Yes - she forgot to mention that to us. Every single train the next day was completely full - I was obliged to buy a ticket for 19h41, 3.5 times the price of the outbound ticket. And whether it was immaturity, lack of sleep or simple disappointment I punished Geneva and myself and we didnt see anything of one another in broad daylight - I sat at Starbucks sipping on hot cocoa and noshing on muffins for 3.5 hours.
And back in Paris, 11 days now into the new year, I am on a serious search for a room, studio or 'studette' (something in between a room and a studio, whatever that means...). Far more challenging than I thought it'd be, but it is part of the journey. Bathrooms that consist of a free-standing shower alongside the "kitchen" cabinets, torn, filthy sofabeds known as "double beds", maid's room chambers from 1810 - dark, dreary, gloomy and dangerous to walk the planks on for fear one might fall right into the neighbor's lap downstairs, "8th floor - sans ascenseur" ads, scammers on Craigslist that go unattended and other such experiences. Something good will come out of this. It is time to move on and make a life.
The next trip to Milan might be soon - nothing confirmed yet. But I cant put a single egg in that basket right now. It still doesnt feel safe enough. I'm still trying to find out whether its better to a) be elephant-skinned, self-sufficient at all costs, roaming the world no matter what-who-when-where, OR b) trash the first approach, merely appear to be strong and open the blinds to vulnerability.
Every day you grow up a bit more, as much as you feel you've experienced in your life, and when you think you've seen a lot, heard all the lines, ate all the shit and told all the stories, you realize that you haven't yet. There's always something new. You're smart but not the smartest, you're experienced but not a pro, you have the mouth but dont always say things the right way, you're kind but many a time, a real sucker, you've got some dream or plan but but you left out a small piece of reality. That's just how it works!