new craze

my friend mike asked me today on facebook:

so what’s the new craze in that baquette eating, fag smoking, rude @!* country you’ve been hiding out in?

my response:

seems to me they’re finding new and innovative ways to make me realize how crappy my situation is. my friend benj moved out of residence to an apartment in town today, and suddenly i hate living here because his apartment, though nothing incredibly special, is just so much better than where i live. also, i got a letter from immigration informing me of a medical exam i necessarily have to go to in marseille for my residency permit, plus a 55€ tax ticket i have to pay and bring with me to the consular office. also, new low today: the class room for my french civilization course changed for today… there was a tiny notice pinned on the int’l student board. the room is apparently on the other side of town. i wouldn’t know, as after asking where it was at reception, i still couldn’t find it and ended up getting lost and missing class entirely.

so, pardon the sarcasm and seeming dissatisfaction. it’s just been a rough couple weeks. in general things are fine, and i’ve got some really fun tentative trips planned with friends for the coming weeks which i’m really looking forward to. plus, spring is on the way!

i’ll post more soon, worry not.


a long-winded update full of run-on sentences, unnecessary details, and parentheses of information i think you care to know but probably don’t

i just finished a cup of extremely good, freshly ground, freshly roasted coffee from my favourite roaster in town (potentially the only roaster in town, but i digress), and a delicious raspberry tartelette from the patisserie. my fridge is so full of groceries that i couldn’t fit my leftover pasta (vegetables! amazing!) that i made for myself tonight in it, and instead gave it away to a very grateful neighbour. my shelves have edible food on them, my heater works, i’ve got a supply of movies, and i have next to no responsibilities for at least the next week. commence: “robyn’s quiet-time week of seclusion”, also known as: “robyn’s lonely, moping, hide-out week”.

after moving around so much over my holidays, i am glad for the time to settle back down and stay in one place. i love travelling, i hate packing. travelling necessitates packing which is unfortunate, to say the least, since i won’t give up travelling and thus must deal with packing. but enough of that. having alex around to carry the heavy bags was a treat, although having him around at all i guess was much better 🙂 i’ve decided that i quite like travelling with someone, rather than alone. not only did it appear as though my travel partner acted as somewhat of a good luck travel charm, but it’s much less stressful to have someone else around to give a confidence vote on, for example, the direction you think you should be heading in but are not quite sure. or, for another example, what you think a sign says in swedish, but cannot be sure of since you speak only about three swedish words, none of which are what is printed on said sign (and one of which is IKEA, which actually isn’t even a real word in swedish).

in related news, i am slowly learning how to pack light. it’s amazing the difference in my mood when i can carry my own luggage without feeling my heart palpitate! although luggage weight bears apparently no influence on heart palpitations when one hasn’t had enough to eat or drink all day and has just run through the paris train station in order to not miss one’s train home…

in other related news, my mood was still pretty low last night as i sat in the aix-en-provence tgv station around 11pm waiting for the shuttle bus to take me in to town. this was mostly due to the departure earlier that morning of a certain someone, compounded by the fact that some girl was standing right outside the automatic doors smoking, and not realizing a very obvious fact that her every slight movement was what was causing the door to open-op-open-close-open-clos-ope-clo-op-open-etc. and the cold draught mingled with smoke had nowhere to go but right in my face. sigh.

since my last update, alex and i travelled by tgv train down to my little town of aix, spent three nights there (here?), did what most people do in aix – wander, eat, drink coffee, window shop (since i’m convinced only a tiny minority of people can actually afford anything in these stores!), watch movies inside to escape the “cold” – then we went back up to paris, again by train, for one night and day to clean stu’s apartment and finally see the eiffel tower up close and personal (and briefly since it was actually “cold” there, compared to aix), and then we travelled up to sweden, where we were introduced to the word “cold” for what felt like the first time.

sweden was so much fun. my really good friends, tapio and maria, picked us up from the little airport in nyköping (pronounced sort of like “nee-show-ping”), and drove us to their apartment in the town of västerås. this is normally a two hour trip, but it was quite a bit longer considering the conditions were blizzardy. it was incredible to see tap and maria after nearly four years. they were on my team, when we were in ywam together. we went to fiji and vanuatu together, slept in tents, ate laplap, snorkelled around black-sand beaches, knew each other’s bowel movements, hiked through the jungle, commiserated, laughed, prayed, climbed trees, analyzed indigenous islander behaviour, and did various other amazingly cool and adventurous things together for two months. poor alex had to sit through an hour+ of us going through our photos and reminiscing about the good ol’ days, where people are, who we still keep in contact with, etc. etc., topics which were frequently revisited the entire trip. alex’s patience was compensated by the time he got to spend playing nhl on playstation3 with tapio. there were some heated games (canada vs finland?) and lots of trash-talk, but in the end the canadian showed the swede where hockey obviously originated and was perfected in.

julia arrived up from her town of alingsös on friday, which was so great (the reminiscing continued, the fika (like our version of fesber) abounded), and we visited an ikea (!! where we browsed furniture, kitchens, bedrooms, living rooms, and ate meatballs – just a standard day at ikea, only the furniture names made sense to the vast majority of customers and it’s not necessary to qualify the meatballs with the word ‘swedish’) and a few other places, and on saturday we drove in to stockholm.

stockholm is beautiful. it is old, and new, and full of character. and it’s on the water, which i imagine looks quite nice when not completely frozen and snow-covered. sweden still has a king and queen, though they hold little actual ‘power’ per se, and are more figureheads and diplomats. but it was cool to see the palace, the guards, the church where the princess(es) are due to get married this year… it was, however, really, really cold. this was a problem for the enjoyment factor, though we battled through it by popping in to stores and kafes frequently to warm our toes and feed our tummies. the thing that suffered the most was probably the photography. i had to weigh the pros and cons of taking my hands out of my pockets and mittens to actually take photos. plus, by the evening when the temperature fell closer to -20, the camera just did not like that enough to focus anymore. so, we did our best, and they’re already up on flickr for your enjoyment (money pending, i fully intend to find another 2€ flight with ryanair to visit again when the weather is warmer!). it’s a mix of photos taken by me and alex, using alex’s camera and my lense (blast ryanair and their stingy luggage policies!).

our flight back to paris left nyköping sunday evening, but tapio and maria weren’t able to drive us this time so we booked a train, which was actually half a train trip, half a bus trip. please bear with me as i detail the travelling it took alex and me, and then just me, to get all the way from västerås to paris to aix-en-provence. all times are approximations.

car ride from apartment to train station in västerås (5min).
train ride (delayed) from there to stockholm (1hr).
bus ride from stockholm to nyköping (2hr?).
bus ride from station there to the airport (20min).
flight (delayed) from there to paris beauvais airport (2hr).
bus ride from there to downtown paris (1.5hr).
metro from one end of city to other end of city (45min).
walk from metro stop to apartment in paris.

next morning:
walk to metro (5min).
metro to gare du nord (30min).
train from there to charles de gaulle airport (40min).
shuttle from train drop-off point (which is terminal 2) to terminal 1 (8min).
(insert time of walking to check-in, coffee, security, etc., and alex’s flight to toronto through frankfurt and then home to NOTL).
repeat in reverse order with only me on the way back, including an hour delay of the train because of emergency maintenance work.

in the evening:
run to metro (3min).
metro to gare de lyon (30min).
tgv train to aix-en-provence (normally 3hrs, this time 4hrs due to weather).
shuttle bus from aix tgv station to bus station in aix (25min).
taxi from there to residence here at cuques (5min).

(for those of you who prefer concise stories: car-train-bus-bus-flight-bus-metro-walk-walk-metro-train-shuttle-flight-shuttle-train-metro-walk-run-metro-train-bus-taxi.)

phew there you have it. or, in the poignant words of dr. bill nye the science guy, “now you know!” even if you never cared an iota.

so a new semester begins. my friends are still travelling (london, vienna, italy, etc.), and i haven’t even picked classes i want to try out through the next few weeks. ah well. ce qui est vrai d’ailleurs, n’est pas vrai en france! this time around at least i know what to expect!

missing you all. love and bisous (kisses) from the cold, rainy, south of france!

bonne année!

sometimes a change in plans results in a better time than you planned. unexpected can be good!

i haven’t done half of the things i planned to do here in paris, but it doesn’t matter. and it has been great. one of the nicest things has been having this apartment here, and being able to just ‘be’, to live here in paris and relax, not rush around doing all the touristy things, and to walk down the stairs in the morning to the bakery on the corner (“c’est la meilleure boulangerie au quartier!” said a man to me in there the other day – ‘the best bakery in the quarter!’) to get some “pain au tradition” and pain au chocolats… they also have fabulous sandwiches.

on tuesday, alex and i made the trek to versailles. we didn’t arrive until closer to 3, so there wasn’t a tonne of time to see everything but we did make it through the main part of the chateau, and after walking through just one room i would have felt the trip was worth it. man was it ever gorgeous. i was trying to imagine what it would have been like to have lived there… so much space, so much splendour. i really want to go back in the spring when the gardens are green and can have a picnic, see marie antoinette’s “cottage” at the far end of the property… it was pretty surreal to be there, aside from the throngs of people, which i expected.

on wednesday, alex, claire and i spent a solid 6+ hours at the louvre. we managed to walk (albeit quickly) through two entire wings. i saw the mona lisa (from a distance, through its bullet-proof glass casing, and over the heads of a giant crowd of people), the venus de milo (aka aphrodite), the winged victory of samothrace, phsyche and cupid, the wedding feast at cana painting (it’s GIANT), the seated statue of ramses II and much, much more. it was quite incredible. the croque monsieur i had for lunch was less than incredible, but our waiter was great and gave claire a free beer! after the louvre we went to find a place to pick up our daily bottle of champagne, and then we all found this lovely little french restaurant where we enjoyed a very generous portion of foie gras, a delicious red wine, steak and frites and veal, and coffee. the three of us decided it had been a pretty successful day, only bettered by g+ts and a movie in our apartment afterwards, and claire missing the last metro and staying over with us. and yes, we all fell asleep watching beauty and the beast (what ever happened to disney making actually good animated movies??).

last night being new years eve did not go at all how i had envisioned it months ago when plans were being made… i thought we would have dinner in the evening, and slowly make it over to the eiffel tower (which i have yet to see up close, by the way) with friends, watch the light show, maybe go to a club with everyone after… instead, claire, caitlin, naz, and two of cait’s siblings, adam and sally, came over to our apartment where we shared some champagne etc., and at 11pm we hopped on the (free!) metro to go up to monmartre/sacré coeur to get a view of the entire city of paris while midnight hit. we were still on the metro about five minutes before midnight – and not at our destination stop. so we ran off and started walking. alex popped the veuve cliquot at midnight and we drank it amongst us whilst walking through the rowdy streets of paris. in the end, we didn’t actually make it all the way up the hill, and i think i saw one firework… (shouldn’t have worn heels, i knew it!). all in all though, incredible new years!

a lot of people are really happy to see 2009 leave. we said that about 2008 though. i wonder, maybe (and not to lessen the struggles people have gone through), whether our attitude is wrong. sure, a lot of unexpected things have happened, and not the good kind. but through struggle comes new outlooks, new understandings, and even good. our character can be strengthened, we become new versions of ourselves. if handled positively, challenges make us better and stronger, and help us to treat others with love and kindness as a new empathy transforms our understanding of humanity.

i think it is dangerous to go into a new year with the attitude of “whew am i ever glad THAT is over! this next year is going to be the best ever!” … not that optimism is a bad thing! but to place that kind of expectation threatens to lead to disappointment and a repeat of the end-of-year-good-riddance attitude. i think it is a matter of expecting both challenges and great times, and always remaining open to the changes they will bring for you. a whole decade of 2000’s have gone by, what have you done in the past 10 years? who were you at the turn of the millennium? what do you remember most from the decade and what did those events mean to you? retrospect is always the clearest view…

anyways, after all that, happy new year! enjoy a new years cookie for me (i don’t get any this year 😦 and i could practically smell the ones grandma thiessen was making in florida while skyping with mom and dad earlier…) and good luck remembering to write 2010 when you date things for the next couple months!