Thinking about the trip

•March 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

So I’ve had some time now to think about and reflect on my trip last year. I was in Santiago, which is getting a lot of press at present, at this time last year. Also, I’ve been in full insomniac mode for the last 3 weeks and counting, so I’ve had lots of bored moments when all I do is lie in bed thinking about that weird hitchike in Turkey or the Hindu monk I met in Gangotri. The one clear sign of growth from my trip, I’ve concluded, is realizing my values. Not fully, but getting on the path toward them. And I feel like I’m on the right path. I will get there. That feels good. Some people resort to religion, some people resort to drugs, we all resort to something in hope of “getting there”. And I guess “getting there” = enlightenment.

My friend Anna came over today to take pictures of some random jewelry I have been assembling with her LIFE books and Canon G11. We talked about enlightenment being 1. ignorance is bliss vs. pursuit of full awareness. Obviously it’s the latter. We talked about Seinfeld vs. the Wire…all the while drinking White Russians, eating Bacon Popcorn and listening to The Band and Nina Simone. The recipe for creation. Well anyway, it’s empowering to figure things out, or at least feel like you are no longer stuck wherever you are or whatever you are in and can achieve everything you ever dreamed, even if it’s not what you thought your life would be like when you were 5, or 15, or just a few years ago. I get on tangents a lot but I like to come full circle. So in conclusion, I may be back blogging soon as I think, 3 months back in America, what this whole  Out on a limb, on a whim thing was about.

In the meantime, I am back in my Brooklyn nest taking apart things I own from the past and recreating them into things I need now- a means of using creativity as sustainability. I’m gonna have a website soon, too.

Signing off from Paris: This is the end, Beautiful friend, The end.

•November 19, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The last night of my journey is tonight!!! Throughout my blog postings, I sometimes wondered what this “last blog” would be like. And I had a million ideas of stuff I would want to say and conclusions I have drawn and where I am headed after this. But I have been going to so many places through the past year that going home just sort of feels like another place I am headed to for the time being, until I move on. We’ll see. I definitely don’t think I will be a nomad for the rest of my life but at the same time I am far from ready to settle anywhere or on anything.

All I did on my last day was stop at every street musician I saw, whether a trumpet band, solo cello-ist, or Bob Dylan cover artist (like this one), and sit and listen and breathe and give whatever leftover Euro change I had in my pocket.

I reminisced a bit with my Parisian friend Alex tonight, who I have not seen in 4 years. It was great. And reminded me that nothing is ever the end. I get sad about potentially never seeing a lot of the people who meant so much to me on this trip ever again. But you never know. That’s the beauty of life!

It's been 4 years and it was just like old times. Cheers to all the wonderful, beautiful, amazing, talented people I have met on this trip...whether traveling together for a month or if I just met you at a bus station for an hour, you meant the world to me and I will never forget any of you.

 So I made it. Alive. I never got malaria, never got attacked, never shot or run over or even mugged! Sure I had 2 near-deathers (almost drowning in New Zealand and the head on collision in Phnom Penh) that made me rethink life, and I had that terror in Tangier, but I am returning home the same, my hair a lot longer and my feet a little bit bigger, my backpack now patched with duct tape and my clothes stained with various liquids. That’s it, I think. Catch ya on the flip side.

Love,

Cecilia

Behold: All the findings that somehow remained in my wallet through the year

•November 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

-Ticket stub for the Buenos Aires futbol match San Lorenzo vs. San Luis, truly an experience watching the fans as much as the game.

-Ticket to the Taj Mahal along with the phone number of the guy from Bangalore who helped me communicate to the bus driver that I was about to miss my flight to Turkey if he didn’t step on it.

-Beer Lao beer label

-The business card for the bar in Phnom Penh I was at the night of the accident

-Business card from a club in Kars, Turkey, on the Armenian border

-Business card from the first hostel I stayed at on my entire trip in Lima, Peru: Barranco Backpacker’s

-Moroccan gum wrapper

-2000 Vietnamese dong currency (about 13 cents)

-Train ticket from Saigon to DaNang in Vietnam

-Ticket stub for Mt. Nemrut Dagi in Mesopotamia

-Ticket stub for Angkor Wat

-Ticket stub for Kuang Xi waterfalls outside Luang Prabang, where I biked through the countryside 30 km each way

-Ticket stub for Beng Melea; I rode on the back of a motorbike more than 60 km each way to reach this abandoned, unvisited jewel.

-Ticket stub for Pamukkale, Turkey

-Ticket stub for the worst journey I have ever taken by plane from Buenos Aires to Auckland, New Zealand. This was the only problem I had on any of the flights I took (and here’s hoping my flight home goes smoothly!) We sat in the plane on the runway for 4 hours before they finally told us to get off: our flight was being delayed 12 hours.

-1000 Lao Kip currency (about 25 cents)

-a 1 Turkish Lira bill: a true souvenir that got passed to me- they don’t make 1 Lira bills anymore. 1 Lira comes in coin form.

-Business card for my Auberge in the Mauritanian sahara

-Ticket for Camera Obscura, a Glasgow pop band I saw last week in Barcelona

-An archaic looking cardboard ticket for a train ride in India from Darjeeling to Varanasi

-The business card of the French guy whose chauffeur drove me 4 hours to Dakar from Saint-Louis

-The business card of the Moroccan architect who gave me the keys to his apartment in Essaouira (and told me to keep them so I always have a home there whenever I want to come back).

-Magnet from my favorite steakhouse in Argentina

-Hostel club card from New Zealand

-Various coins from every country

A note from Paris

•November 18, 2009 • Leave a Comment

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” -Ernest Hemingway

In 2005, upon college graduation, I moved to Paris the following fall for some months and lived at the Cite des Arts. It was my first time truly alone; far from the comforts of friends and community in the college environment, and no longer under the shelter of my parents’ home. All responsibility and choice was mine. My first step (or leap) into the Real World. It was the first time I had to make my way on my own. It was the first time I really hurled myself into the unknown, into a city where I did not know anyone and hardly spoke the language. And I loved every moment of it. Paris was like a giant feast for me. Making new discoveries of how to get by in this tremendous city, making friends, making some money to survive.

Now after having lived in New York City for 2.5 years, and after traveling around the world for one year, I wondered if Paris would be any different for me. I’ve been feeling pretty jaded recently and part of me feared that the magic of Paris that I had once experienced would be gone. Nope. Returning to Paris 4 years later, at the end of an incredible journey, is the most perfect dessert. I am such a sucker for nostalgia and happening upon certain cafes and street corners, I am able to recall memories, both trivial and epic, that I had forgotten until now. Good things and bad things happened while I was in Paris, and at the time, I thought it was life or death. And now when I remember those times, I love every experience I had because of what I learned and because of where I am today. If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.

I find myself falling back into my same indulgent routine here. Slow morning with espressos and cigarettes. And then an entire afternoon to take in the city, going with the flow of the moody weather; Paris is beautiful in sunlight and maybe even more beautiful under a thick gray sky. Then my requisite Kir Royal or Cote du Rhone (whichever is cheaper) at a cafe in one of my favorite neighborhoods. A stroll along the Seine at night. The perfect setting to reflect on the past year.

Except that I am not really reflecting. Not there yet. Have I grown up? I think my feet have gotten bigger (a result of wearing open-toed shoes for most of the year), but has my outlook on life changed at all? I can’t really bring myself to think about all this already. And unlike what many people think, I did not go on this trip to “find myself”. Everything, for me, is simply an addition to the list of life experiences; trivial or epic, and from that point on, life continues in whatever form it takes. A lot of people have asked me. “Are you ready to get back to reality?” I don’t know how to answer this. Traveling for one year was a reality. I didn’t feel like I was in some paradise away from the Real World and that now I have to return to the harsh realities that Real Life demands. I am excited to continue on with this beautiful life and excited to see what my future will bring. Anything is possible.

bar·THAY·LO·nah

•November 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment
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I wanted to take a picture of myself biking, I don´t know why...I guess just to document the first time I´ve been back on a bike since Phnom Penh and because I was having a great time. So there I am in the bottom right hand corner taking a picture in a mirror.

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Barcelona and I had a beautiful day. I borrowed my friend, Rosa´s, bike, and suddenly the city was my oyster; freedom and mobility to explore the far flung reaches of the city edges (but not really that far flung…Barcelona is quite compact), but far enough from the tourists on Las Ramblas. Like many Western European cities, Barcelona is extremely bike-friendly, and even though there aren´t bike lanes on every street, the avenues are wide and there are plenty of car-less barrios and plazas where you can have a ball pedaling around, people watching, character observing. One of the coolest things about traveling around the world for a year is learning the nuances of certain cultures in the places I have been, and then witnessing how they play out in big cities where major diaspora has occured. My broski did a year of traveling around the world documenting Chinese diaspora (www.cedricbien.blogspot.com) and perhaps his project has made me more aware of diaspora as well. Heading into the hidden neighborhoods of Barcelona yesterday, I discovered pockets of Pakistanis in the familiar garb I witnessed in Punjab, North African neighborhoods with signs written in Arabic script and people greeting each other with Salaam Alaykums and men wearing jellabas, Sikhs wandering around together, and of course, the hardworking Chinese laborers in another ubiquitous Chinatown. I loved passing by a hole-in-the-wall Turkish restaurant and understanding the subtle references in the decor and in the naming, reminders of home imported by the immigrants who have come here in search of opportunity. I didn´t realize Barcelona, with its relatively small 1.6 million people, was home to so many cultures. And I saw some freaks, too, which made me happy: A man riding a bike naked with pierced balls, and two old women wearing exactly the same hot pink and gold outfit, with hair dyed silver, walking arm-in-arm. I couldn´t whip out my camera in time because I was too busy staring.

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Barcelona BikeCity

 

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Catalan tapas

 

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Gaudi architecture takes over the city

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I went to the World Press photo exhibit at the Centre Culturel Contemporaria Barcelona and liked this photo of an Angolan fashion designer

The day culminated with my friend Willy, a born-and-raised Barcelonian whom I had met in Essaouira, Moroccoo. Willy refers to himself as Catalan as opposed to Spanish. Indeed, the people of Barcelona, who speak Catalan instead of Spanish, pride themselves in their own language, cuisine, and even customs. It´s similar to the distinctive pride I saw with the Kurdish people in East Turkey, or the Berbers of North Africa. Countries are just borderlines created by governments, after all, and have little to do with the people. Catalan sounds like a mixture of French and Spanish, and at first it´s really weird to hear (at least for me) because it sort of sounds like French with a Spanish accent, or vice-versa, No ho entec. I can´t tell which language it is closer to…but go out into the countryside and you´ll be surprised that many people speak only Catalan and not Spanish. Willy speaks both. And English. And he is a rockstar and we went to his friend´s rock-and-roll show, which was cool since I haven´t ¨gone out¨, Western style, in a long long time. It was kind of funny to see a bunch of Catalan guys singing in English to a totally Catalan audience minus one (me). A real Barcelona experience, if you ask me.

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The Midnight Travelers at Rocksound in Barcelona. I´ve noticed a lot of the "Indie" rock bands here have names starting with "the" and then some kind of adjective paired with an obscure noun. A takeoff of The Rolling Stones I guess.

Today I also finally remembered that I could flush the toilet paper down the toilet. Wow, forgot about that one, home smells close!

I miss the freaks of New York

•November 11, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Barcelona is incredibly beautiful. More beautiful than how I remember it. Almost too perfect and there are no freaks. There are “freaks” but in a very conventional way. No mindblowing freaks like in New York, where you can´t help but be your self. I have a feeling that here, to truly be a true freak, people will stare at you and think you are weird. Speaking with locals, I think this sentiment is not only my own. Sorry if my English is weird, it´s been a while since I´ve spoken like a normal human. I´ve been speaking like I have an accent and that English isn´t my first language…The “alternative” scene here is typical and expected. There´s no where like New York.

Today in Barcelona I saw a taxi driver that looked like Ralph Lauren…

•November 9, 2009 • Leave a Comment

…and I wondered, has the first world gone flipped-turned-upside-down while I have been gone? Well, no. Turns out everything seems to be the same, if high street fashion is any indication. Today I wandered into some H&Ms and Zaras and it was all the same crap I saw in the windows last year, except in different colors. I should have known from New York´s latest fashion week disappointment. I hope Paris can surprise me next week. After the fantastic color and pattern combinations I´ve witnessed in West Africa this past months, seeing all the same gentrified trickle-down effect fashion here is a major let down. On the streets here, all the guys my age are sporting thick rectangle-rimmed glasses, pierced ears, and designer sneakers. At least I haven´t seen the Taliban-inspired scarf that was all the rage in Brooklyn when I left. Fashion aside, I haven´t seemed to have too hard a time adjusting back to hot showers, toilet seats, and all my favorite things about first world cities…like gourmet food shops and being able to walk! Wow! I swear I walked all of Barcelona today, excited that I could do my merry city speed walk down the organized streets with no one harassing me! So yeah, it all feels familiar and the same. Like I could be in New York except I am in Spain. And now it feels like all white people look the same to the untrained eye. Well, hopefully when I return to America, things will NOT be the same, and the Senate will pass the health care reform bill! Here comes America, going commie! If this trip has taught me anything, ¨going commie¨ is the way to go!