Thursday, March 31, 2011

The 30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 7

Day 7: Something I never leave my abode without:


Seriously, I have this chronic addiction. I once emptied my purse in this vlog and found that I had something like four or five tubes/containers of chapstick.

And the thing is, they all serve different chapstick purposes. Pictured here is my personal favorite, Blistex, which is the most intense (and therefore more frequently used). I use Chapstick brand when I want to be on the go; Neosporin overnight before I go to bed; and tubed Blistex for on-the-go-but-its-really-windy-out. 

So, basically, I'm a freak. But you knew that already.

IN OTHER NEWS I have been very, very busy lately (thus the brevity in my blogs). I had several midterms and papers due last week and the flow of homework and reading has not ceased. I am not complaining, though, because I want to soak in every academic moment here at college! And, as it just so happens, I'm going to declare my major pretty soon (expect a blog post later on that).

In other realms of my life, I've been hard at work on my radio show. Last week I had the great pleasure of interviewing my Religion professor, Dr. John Grayson. What a treat! He talked about meeting Bishop Tutu, Winnie Mandela, and Rosa Parks (!!) and was so genial and lovely to chat with. This week I'll be interviewing my friend from NC, Mary Day Saou, a photographer and Worship Leader. While the show itself is only two hours on a Saturday, preparing for it involves actively listening to all of my guest's music at least twice through, researching artists I don't know already, and writing the script. So about five hours of preparation goes into each two-hour slot. 

AND FINALLY, I'm in a play! It's a goofy one-act entitled "The Moustache Guys" which has been quite enjoyable to work on. In high school I did a ton of theatre, especially because I was on the Board of Directors for a student-run company, One Song Productions. I directed, acted, tech'd, costume designed, sang, danced, and produced for something like twenty plays. When I got to college I was pretty burned out on theatre, not out of spite, but just because I had other interests I wanted to pursue. But last semester I auditioned for Project: Theatre's annual production of The Vagina Monologues. It was ideal because of the short time commitment, and because I love the show. From there I was recruited to do "Moustache Guys" and I'm so glad I auditioned! The show itself goes up tomorrow night and will have a matinee on Sunday afternoon. 

I'm so grateful for all theatre taught me in high school. From the stage, and the people involved, I learned so much about self-presentation, speaking in public, and confidence. My radio show is very much a product of what I gleaned dually from running a production company (it's a LOT of work) and from the pressure of performing in front of audiences of  about a 1000 people (yay Arts Schools!). 

So that's what I've been up to. How about you?

OH P.S. Happy Belated Birthday, Vincent Van Gogh! There goes that whole vlog I made for your birthday, because, well, I forgot it was yesterday... (*headdesk*)

current jam: "the king of spain" tallest man on earth
best thing in my life right now: my job interview is this afternoon! and the weekend is nearly nigh!
days until departure: 66

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The 30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 6

Day Six: A Photo of Someone You Miss

I've been INSANELY busy these past few weeks (I really could not have picked a busier time to start blogging every day) and haven't talked to my family as much as I usually do. Love you all!
current jam: "rolling in the deep" adele
best thing in my life right now: sunshine weather
days until departure: 67

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The 30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 5

if you're new around here, welcome! be sure to check out this post to get the original story :)

Day Five: A picture of the abode you live in

This is my hall!

 This picture was taken last fall, because LORD KNOWS THERE ARE NO LEAVES ON THE TREES RIGHT NOW.

Stupid Massachusetts. We're supposed to get snow later this week. 
current jam: "drumming song (8-bit remix)" florence + the machine (courtesy of hattie)
best thing in my life right now: my floral print belt!
days until departure: 68

Monday, March 28, 2011

The 30 Day Photo Challenge: Day Four

Hello! If you're new here, you can check out this post to learn about my 30 Day Photo Challenge!

Day Four: A photo of your shower!

I know this seems a little bizarre, but I have not showered the same way since traveling to Uganda and Rwanda. Having high water pressure and temperature control at one touch is such a luxury- even if I share a bathroom with 20+ women. 

current jam: "don't carry it all" the decemberists
best thing in my life right now: dr. seuss, sociology, and getting the job interview!
days until departure: 69

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The 30 Day Photo Challenge: Day Three

Day Three: A photograph of what you do with your garbage/recycling.

My floor's garbage and recycling bins, used for about twenty women. 

While it perhaps goes without saying, I'd like to point out how empty the recycling bins are compared to the garbage. This could, though, be due to differentiated days for taking out garbage/recycling. 

current jam: "Aida" Verdi (performed by Plácedo Domingo)
best thing in my life right now: nora's house and family!
days until departure: 70

Saturday, March 26, 2011

30 Day Photo Challenge: Day 2

Day Two: A Pictorial Tour of Your Desk

I have to say I absolutely love this day's theme! My inspiration is directly from my friend Hattie, whose blog "Ah, College" is (a) awesome, you should totally check it out, and (b) you guessed it, all about being in college!

And now, here is my desk!

#1: My Van Gogh postcard booklet & blank CDs:
I have always loved Vincent Van Gogh's work, but it was not until I took my AP Art History course in my last year of high school that I fell irrevocably in love with him (sensing a theme? TAKE AP ART HISTORY KIDS!). Subsequently, half the posters (etc) on my wall are re-creations of his work! While originally I purchased this booklet to have postcards for my wall decor (and for my post card collection), I also love to send postcards so I keep a few post card books on hand for just such occasions! And the blank CDs are for my famous mixes I make for people (seriously, I'm a pro. It comes with the DJ trade) and for burning music for my shows.

Clearly, I've got a bit of an addiction to the internet, so this baby is pretty important to me. I use it for radio production, paper-writing, photo/video-editing, and living here int he virtual world. The WMHC sticker is for the radio station I work for!

#3: My Journey Cross:
A gift from my beloved godmother, Krys. Normally I'm not exactly a fan of big "ILOVEJESUSSOMUCH" paraphernalia, but Krys has exquisite taste so I really like this cross! And I love the verse: 

#4: My Shakespeare Love Mug!
A present from me to myself, with love. William Shakespeare is the object of my adoration; I directed Much Ado About Nothing in high school and have performed in several of his shows (Viola in Twelfth Night, the Courtesan in A Comedy of Errors). This mug is super-cute, the perfect size, filled with tea and sugar packets,  and covered in Shakespeare. I mean, what's not to love?!

#5: The wall I see whilst working!
Quotes to bear in mind while writing; a picture of my folks, brothers; a photo of Ian and I; notes from my friends; Van Gogh; Ghanaian paintings; the usual. 

#6: My window sill!
Most of note: the cardboard sunflowers Ian made for me for Christmas two years ago (perhaps my most treasured gift of all time). His favourite medium is cardboard!

#7: Stack-O-Books (on my printer):
Three things I've been ruminating over with my paper: The Bible, my journal, and selections from Mahatma Gandhi's works (with commentary by Thomas Merton):

(no explanation necessary, methinks!)

#9: My Reporter's Notepad!
My friend Candy, who works for the MH News, procured this for me! Now when I'm interviewing people on air I look totally legit. Thanks, dear!

Alright, that's all for me today friends! 
Til tomorrow.
current jam: "over the rainbow" eva cassidy
best thing in my life right now: my interview with professor grayson! it was fabulous!
days until departure: 71

Friday, March 25, 2011

The 30 Day Photo Challenge

A photo album theme that has been circulating around my friends on facebook for a while now is the “30 Day Photo Challenge.” The basic premise is pretty self-explanatory: you post a picture every day for 30 days.

I really liked this idea, and the more I think about it the more apt I feel it is for what I want to do here, with this blog! So I am going to partake in the 30 day photo challenge not once, but twice this year.

For the first round, I’ll be posting pictures here from my life at college. The second round I will be posting (you guessed it!) from my life in Uganda.

There are some guidelines the facebook page outlines to what type of picture you put up on each day, but I am choosing not to follow these specifically and rather use them as inspirational points of reference. The idea is less to tell you about all my likes and loves and such but more to compare “the little things.” It should be fun and enlightening for all of us!

Without any further ado, I present:
Day One: A  picture of yourself with 10 things about yourself

1.     Most people call me Lizzie, but I have a whole slew of other nicknames (the benefits of being named Elizabeth). Some of my favorites include: Liza, Lizzie-Beth, McMizzie, Harry Potter, Lizzie-lou, Luna, Red, and Lovegood.
2.     My glasses are actually prescription. No, really, they are.
3.     I can wiggle my nose.
4.     If I could be anyone in history I’d want to be Anne Bonny, the more fearsome and famous female pirate in the seven seas. (I made a vlog about her here, if you’d like a look).
5.     Don’t ask me about my favorite movie, because you’ll be stuck there for at least ten minutes. (But, to give you a few: Up, V for Vendetta, Sound of Music, Sense & Sensibility, Little Miss Sunshine, The Princess Bride…)
6.     I collect quotes.
7.     I cannot STAND tomato sauce or ketchup. Even the smell makes me want to puke!
8.     When I was little I wanted to be a dolphin trainer who worked as an actress and inventor in Sea World. (My, how the times have changed).
9.     If I could have any superpower, I’d want to be able to apparate/teleport. No air fees and all the world to see!
10.  I will never and have never worn diamonds, because diamond trade, mining, and sales (what I refer to as “The Diamond Machine”) is one of the most corrupt institutions in the world. 

current jam: "blow" ke$ha 
best thing in my life: my radio show! and this week being over!
days until departure: 72


Thursday, March 24, 2011

thoughts in my head: ends and means

Clearly, this Religion paper has been kicking my thoughts into a spirals and circles. Fortunately for me, the paper is due tomorrow, so I'll finally have to put the writing aside and focus on other things. But I doubt I'll ever stop wrangling with the concepts we have confronted in this class- but I am happy to sit in the process for a while.

I actually had said Religion class this morning (Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 in the morning, sunshine!) and we listened to one of Dr. Fr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s early speeches. I'm not sure of the title, but it definitely comes from either 1955 or 1956 because he was discussing the importance of pursuing justice by nonviolent means in relation to the fabulous Ms. Rosa Parks. Listening to his words never fails to give me chills and tears (much like watching the Ben Kingsley Gandhi film never ceases to completely enrapture me for the entire three hours of its duration)! 

In the sermon/speech, he spoke of innumerable profound things, but a quote that most resonated with me was: "Moral ends must be achieved by moral means." He spoke this in reference to the necessity of pursuing justice by nonviolent means. 

In this line of thought, a well-met end is not moral if it was not from a well-intentioned inception/action. This is very like Tolstoy, who believed that our actions are either inherently moral or immoral, not determined by consequence. Bonhoeffer, conversely, said that the consequence was what deemed an action to be right or wrong (thus justification for assassinating Hitler). 

So the end, then, MUST be justified by the means?

If after this awful, bloody battle in Libya ends in a new government and a free people, is it tainted? I think yes. But then again, despite Gandhi's tireless efforts in the liberation of India by nonviolent means, Pakistan was still created as an independent nation rank with tension between the Muslim and Hindu communities. Also tainted, but not inherently by the religions involved or lack of effort from millions of people. 

Arrgh, this food for thought is really starting to fill my brain with more than it can chew!

In other news, I will be starting a new blog series either later this afternoon or tomorrow (probably tomorrow). This series of "thoughts in my head" will not cease, but I think it's going to be an occasional theme when I've got more controversial/pondering-worthy material worth posting. In the meantime, I will have some lighter posts that will provide an interesting framework to compare my life here, in the states now, to my life in Uganda this summer. 

ALSO: my radio show goes back on air this Saturday from 10 AM - 12 PM EST! If you'd like, you can listen by going to this website ( I will actually be interviewing my Religion professor, John Grayson, about his Top 10 Songs. It's going to be very exciting; he's met Rosa Parks, Archbishop Tutu, and a lot of incredible people (while being one of the most humble and kind people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting). 

Okay, off to wonder about if the universe is shaped like the earth (or just whether I want a chai or not, you know. Life of an eighteen-year-old). 

thanks for coming along on this ride with me, friends.

current jam: "sons and daughters" the decemberists (favorite album of all time = the crane wife)
best thing in my life right now: sunshine-y weather and the weekend fast approaching!
days until departure: 73

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

thoughts in my head: can nonviolence exist without violence?

Allow to me begin by thanking all of my new readers/followers for checking out this blog! I know my last post generated a lot of attention from various people (a special thanks to my friend Mary Day Saou whose photography blog you should definitely check out by clicking here!) and consequently, you’re here! So thanks!

 Since my last post I’ve been toiling away on a paper for the aforementioned Religion 238 class. We were asked to critique and explore an ancient text’s approach to violence/non-violence, for which I selected two passages from the Gospel of Matthew from the Christian Testament[1].  While wrestling with a thesis, it occurred to me that the very word nonviolence itself assumes its existence is contingent on violence. The more I thought on this, the more qualms I had with the very word itself; for me, nonviolence is far more pervasive and powerful than violence- so how could this be justified in a word which prefix and composition suggested the very opposite? And then, BAM, I had a thesis. So I’m going to share a chunk of my first draft here:

It would be easy to say that nonviolence is merely the absence of violence, which, considering the prefix of the word nonviolence itself suggests as much, seems to be a logical conclusion. I contend this statement, but in order to explain, we must first define the parameters and meaning of violence itself. Violence is any idea or action that is rooted in hatred; it can be psychological or physical, internal or external. Violence comes from within the individual and therefore can exist within only one person. Since all humanity is capable of violence it exists in all of us, which enables enormous acts of violence like the war in the Gaza Strip to occur.

Nonviolence, conversely, is an idea or action that comes from Love. This Love is powerful, transcendent, and most crucially it cannot exist in the vacuum of one soul. Love comes from the divine, explored in the Christian faith through the embodiment of God in Jesus Christ, and therefore by its very nature must exist between two souls: that of the divine and of the human. Love, like hate, has capacity in every soul and therefore can transform populations and people, toppling governments and creating unity. Love, unlike hatred, however, does this through the method of nonviolence and active resistance that honors and respects the integrity and precious gift that every human being is. Yet Love and hate are not inverses of each other; they are eternally held in tension with one another, for each emotion contains the same amount of power and capacity for change. Each requires the same vested amount of time and energy to commit fully to the depth of the feeling, leaving apathy as the inverse of both Love and hate.

Furthermore, because Love and hate are held in tension with one another we have the ability to dually love and hate, as though there were a magnetic weight strung on a string between two poles, each pulling the magnet towards themselves. We have the choice within this tension, the choice to either act upon Love or to act upon our own bitterness and hatred. What we choose defines who we are and the entire course of our subsequent lives. The Christian texts call upon us to be perfect and to choose Love, just as Christ chose Love for humanity. This command to act and work in the here and now validates our actions here on earth as profoundly consequential. We are, therefore, compelled to choose wisely.

Nonviolence, which ultimately is a path of Love, is not a passive act but rather a way of life that demands of its followers courage, vigilance, and endurance. To live into what Mahatma Gandhi referred to as our ahimsa means we must undergo the path less trod for the rest of our living days…

There is another five pages where I explore the duality of Love and hate, so if you want to read more say so in the comments and I’d be happy to share (once I finish editing, of course!).

While writing, I was still pondering Rachel Corrie and her tragic, complex death. Rachel herself was practicing Gandhian nonviolence tactics, but emails with her mother revealed her fundamental doubts about resisting without retaliation:

“I thought a lot about what you said on the phone about Palestinian violence not helping the situation. Sixty thousand workers from Rafah worked in Israel two years ago. Now only 600 can go to Israel for jobs … The count of homes destroyed in Rafah since the beginning of this intifada is up around 600, by and large people with no connection to the resistance but who happen to live along the border. I think it is maybe official now that Rafah is the poorest place in the world … What is left for people? Tell me if you can think of anything. I can't.
If any of us had our lives and welfare completely strangled, lived with children in a shrinking place where we knew, because of previous experience, that soldiers and tanks and bulldozers could come for us at any moment and destroy all the greenhouses that we had been cultivating for however long, and did this while some of us were beaten and held captive with 149 other people for several hours - do you think we might try to use somewhat violent means to protect whatever fragments remained? I think about this especially when I see orchards and greenhouses and fruit trees destroyed - just years of care and cultivation. I think about you and how long it takes to make things grow and what a labour of love it is. I really think, in a similar situation, most people would defend themselves as best they could. I think Uncle Craig would. I think probably Grandma would. I think I would.” (February 27, 2003)

Clearly, Rachel had legitimate reasons to fundamentally question her actions as useful or justified. But while she had these doubts, her death was ultimately an act of nonviolence and Love for the people whose home was about to be destroyed. In the same Von Klemperer article about Dietrich Bonhoeffer(The Terrible Alternative: Christian Martyrdom in the Twentieth Century), Von Klemperer explains that while the situation Bonhoeffer was in was extreme, his actions were also dire. It’s back to that extremity of choice idea: are martyrs so compelling because they are so extreme? In the same email to her mother, Rachel explained that she did not think she was an extremist any longer:

“Anyway, I'm rambling. Just want to write to my Mom and tell her that I'm witnessing this chronic, insidious genocide and I'm really scared, and questioning my fundamental belief in the goodness of human nature. This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don't think it's an extremist thing to do anymore. I still really want to dance around to Pat Benatar and have boyfriends and make comics for my coworkers. But I also want this to stop. Disbelief and horror is what I feel. Disappointment. I am disappointed that this is the base reality of our world and that we, in fact, participate in it. This is not at all what I asked for when I came into this world. This is not at all what the people here asked for when they came into this world. This is not the world you and Dad wanted me to come into when you decided to have me. This is not what I meant when I looked at Capital Lake and said: "This is the wide world and I'm coming to it." I did not mean that I was coming into a world where I could live a comfortable life and possibly, with no effort at all, exist in complete unawareness of my participation in genocide. More big explosions somewhere in the distance outside.”

Rachel, unlike Bonhoeffer, was not planning an assassination as a means of ending the “chronic genocide.” But the odds she faced and the dire situation the people of the Gaza Strip were/are in is horrific. While writing to her mother there were explosions going off! I think she is completely justified in her absolute belief that the whole world needs to focus on stopping genocide.

But where?

I’ve been reading a great deal on Libya lately.  The horrific rape of a country and people is overwhelming. Where does it stop? 

I think it’s too late for nonviolent resistance in Libya. Does that mean I don’t believe in the power of nonviolence/Love/Christ/universal ahimsa? Is all that thesis-thinking proved false in the midst of a war with a tyrant like Qaddafi?

Or is it merely too late- too many wrong decisions, too many violent acts turning in on themselves creating an imploding reality bent on destruction because the voices of active, nonviolent resistance were not listened to? What then?
current jam: "flume" bon iver
best thing in my life right now: bon iver and my mom.
days until departure: 74

[1] Matthew 5: 38-48 and 10: 16-34

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

thoughts in my head: rachel corrie

 this is an experiment for my blog, which i have (as you can see just up above) entitled “thoughts in my head.” the genreal idea is whenever i have an idea surrounding something controversial, difficult, or weighty and need to explore my thoughts on the issue i will get it all out here and create a forum for you to respond and help me with the thoughts from your head! my thinking is that it will be a bit of a running series. how’s that for eloquence?

This semester I am enrolled in one of the most profound classes I will have taken. You may or may not know this, but I take my education very, very seriously, and as such have taken a wide scope of classes over the years. Each held their own special lessons for me and I treasure everything my wonderful teachers gave me from elementary school right on up to my first-rate women’s college. I know some of you read this, so let this be my public thank-you. Uganda would not have been happening for me without your support.

This particular class, though, is very special to me, because it is a Religion class exploring the dichotomy/tension between violence and non-violence through sacred and secular texts. As someone who advocates for and very much believes in non-violence, this has been a very challenging and powerful class for me. I love everything about the class: my professor, who is brilliant and jumps up and down when he really wants to make a point; the texts we have read so far; the fact that I am in the class with one of me dearest friends, Hattie; and most of all how pertinent I feel the class is to how I think about and perceive the world I live in.

And while I could blog to my heart’s content about the Bhagavad Gita and Thomas Merton, today I want to tell you about the thoughts in my head about one particular case study of non-violence. This is, of course, the story of Rachel Corrie.

For those of you who do not know who Rachel Corrie was, this website goes pretty in-depth about her life. But for the purposes of now, here is a little backstory: Rachel was a 23-year-old senior at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. She had taken a semester off to work for the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to promote peace in Palestine. She was bulldozed alive on March 16 while she stood in front of a house as an act of non-violent protest against the IAF (Israeli Armed Forces) crushing the home that belonged to a family living on the Gaza Strip. She died within the hour.

I have no pretenses here; I know very little about the Israel/Palestine conflict and therefore am not saying anything derogatory towards the people of Israel. I do feel that there is an enormous web of confusion, deceit, and unfulfilled promises surrounding Israel, but that blame cannot be assigned to one singular person. Clearly, this is a hot topic. Rachel’s death has been disputed by the Israeli government as a tragic accident, despite photographic evidence and a number of eyewitness all proclaiming the bulldozer driver had plain view of her and deliberately crushed her alive.  In the interest of fairness, this is a website that serves as a voice counter to pro-ISM organizations, should you care to have a look by clicking here.

Nevertheless, the reason why I want to write about Rachel has very little to do with the politics of the situation under which she was killed. Rachel Corrie strikes a very deep chord with me for a number of reasons, but most importantly because there are quite a number of similarities between her and I. She loved to glue things to her wall (have you seen the background in my vlogs?), she loved Pat Benetar, she went to a small liberal arts college, and most importantly, she forsook almost everything to devote herself to fighting for what she believed to be a just cause.

In my class we read a number of articles on Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a minister involved with the failed attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler). In one article by Klemperer, Bonhoeffer is described as a martyr; neither justified in his hanging nor wholly to be pitied and thought of as a saint. Klemperer goes on to say that “martyrs rarely are easy.” This made me think a great deal about what it means to be a martyr. Why are we so fascinated by them? Is it in the complete and total devotion to a cause that defines you to be an extremist, and therefore completely un-relatable but totally admirable?

To me, Rachel Corrie is a martyr. She was murdered, but the debate surrounding her death rages on. The US government refused to allow her body to be brought back to the states for a funeral and there was very minimal media coverage surrounding her in America.* This harkens a sense of mystery around her; the shushed-up, put-in-a-corner cause becomes far more important because those who know about it are compelled to give their voice to that which has been silenced.

Rachel herself was a voice like that. She did not believe she could speak for the Palestinian people- only they could speak for themselves. In her own words, from an email to her family on February 20, 2003 (about a month before she died):

“Many people want their voices to be heard, and I think we need to use some of our privilege as internationals to get those voices heard directly in the US, rather than through the filter of well-meaning internationals such as myself. I am just beginning to learn, from what I expect to be a very intense tutelage, about the ability of people to organize against all odds, and to resist against all odds.”

Everything about that particular quote resonates with me. While I was having a blast in Canada last week with two of my best friends in the world, the whole time I kept thinking about how different my next international adventure is going to be. Having traveled and done non-profit work in developing African nations previously, I do have a decent idea of what my life will be like, but to be honest, I do not know how living in Uganda is going to impact me. I am so blessed to have some amazing friends in my life who are going to support me in transitioning between the continents (hello, Gann!) but the more I read of Rachel’s emails home from Palestine, the more I am pondering this transition. On February 27th, 2003, she wrote:

“When I come back from Palestine, I probably will have nightmares and constantly feel guilty for not being here, but I can channel that into more work. Coming here is one of the better things I've ever done.”

Of course, she never returned. And furthermore, I will not be in the midst of a “genocide” (her words) like she was. But the sentiment and the idea are practically essential. Living abroad is going to be incredible, difficult, and one of the most important things I can do. Not important because of what I will be doing for the various schools and NGOs, but important to me for my own satygraha and achieving my own ahimsa. But it also is going to be really, really difficult to transition back into college life.

I am up for the challenge, though. Willing and waiting.
What do you think of Rachel/martyrdom/Dietrich Bonhoeffer?

*Conversely, Britain reported on her for nearly two weeks, and Alan Rickman worked with Katherine Viner to produce a one-woman show surrounding Rachel’s written work, entitled My Name is Rachel Corrie. This play is in fact how I came to learn about her and her life story. You can have a look here.

current jam: “like a rolling stone” bob dylan
best thing in my life right now: rehearsal this afternoon for ‘moustache guys’!
days until departure: 75

Monday, March 21, 2011

Montréal & Vermont: The Final Installment

Day Five: Saturday

The three of us were up, packed, and ready to go by 9 (be impressed, parentals) in part because we had to check out by noon, but also because we wanted to hit the road. Another fabulous meal was in order; barely a block down from the hotel was a small place called "Eggspectation" to which we directed by a passerby. It was stylish, affordable, delicious, and (are you really surprised) a wonderful meal.

Maybe I should just give up on college and be a food blogger. Eat, travel, write.
While we originally were planning on going to the biodôme it was going to cost us more money and, to be honest, we were running low on funds and pretty tired. So after a harrowing journey through the one-way cobbled streets of Montréal we finally made it to the highway and headed stateside. The drive, post-getting-lost-in-Montréal, was pretty uneventful. We arrived in Vermont to Brenna's cozy house where she fed us her homemade pizza (yum!) and her mother's brownies (double-yum!) and her sugar cookies (I melted with every bite). Seriously, food blogging. New professional occupation.

The moon that night was HUGE and BEAUTIFUL, so we drove up to Overlook Park to appreciate the view.

Day Six: Sunday

Another early start (7:30AM) wrought monkey bread for breakfast and the Firebolt (my car) packed to the brim. We hit I-89 and were back in South Hadley, at long last.

Campus WAS totally snow-free and beautiful until this morning (Monday) when, as I write, snow is pouring down in buckets outside. I. am. not. amused. But I'm kind of still in the midst of midterms and a play and a job application, so I'll be MIA from the blog for a bit! Stay tuned to my
youtube channel for the Thoughts From Places vlog that will surely go up on Friday or Saturday, post-paper-writing. But thanks for following and reading, and here's to your next adventure?

What did you spend your spring break doing? Leave it in the comments!


current jam: my friend hanna's cover of "teenage dream"
best thing in my life right now: turning in applications!
days until departure: 76

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Montréal & Vermont, Part 3

Day Four: Friday
True to vacation, Austin and I slept in until 11 AM whilst Brenna (ever the early riser) was up and showered and ready by 9. When Austin and I finally hauled our over-slept selves out of bed, the three of us headed down to Rue Saint Paul for breakfast. 

The night before while walking we'd noticed a tiny little restaurant called Chez Suzette which specialized in crêpes and fondue. Having been informed that crêpes were an absolute must to eat in Montréal (like we needed telling) I'd made a mental note to return the next morning. 

And friends, let me tell you. Not only are crêpes a must in my new favorite Canadian city- the crêpes from Chez Suzette are a necessity. The prices were reasonable, the food superb, the service wonderful, and the atmosphere perfect. Having worked in two fine dining restaurants as a hostess/waitress I'm kind of a restaurant snob (but no matter what I always tip 20%. You should too. No, really, you should. Your tips = my college fund). This charming little place in Old Montréal was exceptionally marvelous, passing every standard I have for restaurants. I suppose Europeans and Canadians just got it right when it concerns fine cuisine. 

As I'm writing these post-trip I keep reflecting on how much of the voyage experience centered around food. The fact that our cultures are so often defined by how we sustain ourselves on the most immediate level speaks volumes to what our needs are as human beings, and, more importantly, how important it is that everyone everywhere has enough to eat. I realize this is a deviation far from my delights and little joys in Montréal, but it is something that needs mentioning: I am very, very lucky and blessed and fortunate to not only have enough to eat, but to have the means to sleep in and meander a few blocks over and be fed. That is a luxury. I neither grew the ingredients for my food nor harvested them; I was not up at the crack of dawn to cook my meal nor did I have to worry about my meal. It bodes reminding for me- my trip to Montréal, while lovely and relaxing and full of life lessons, was a trip of luxury. Okay, diatribe over. Back to spring break!

After crêpes, Austin went to the Musée d'Archeologie before we all headed over to the primary shopping district in Montréal: Rue Sainte-Catherine. It was an afternoon of CRAZY busy dressing rooms and colorful fabrics. I had two exclusively French encounters; one, where I bought two über-hipster headbands from a place called Garage, and the other when I tried on my dress from none other than Urban Outfitters. (Figures, really. I rant about world hunger and go on to blog about my new dress!) But! My French apparently wasn't too shabby as I had no problems with either clerk and paid for everything just fine. Merci, Mme Bloom!
Rue Saint-Paul
Our shopping (and walking) rendered us pretty tired so once again we went back to the hotel for a spell before hitting Saint Paul's again for dinner. This time we chose a rather more upscale place called Les Pyrenées which was aptly named after the mountain range than runs along France's southwestern border with Spain.

It was here that I think I had the real French cuisine experience. I'd been told that Montréal is very European but this was as if I'd taken a ship to the continent proper. When our waiter asked me what I cared to drink with my goat cheese crumbled over sautéed vegetables (the cheapest thing on the menu) I replied with "Une rosé s'il-vous-plaît" (a glass of Rosé, please). He promptly told me that rosé was a terrible wine, only to be had in the summer by the pool. Instead, he told me quite insistently, he would select a nice white wine to go with my meal.

Now, I worked in two pretty upscale restaurants this summer. My night job was as a waitress (I hosted at the other place during the day) and as a waiter I had to have a somewhat thorough understanding of wines. The reality of that, though, was that in the US I'm underage and therefore certainly not educated on the language that is drinking fine wine. Our waiter most definitely educated me on the subject as the wine he picked for me was exquisite, if not pricier than the glass of putrid pink I was supposedly going to try to have. It was one of those moments where I was totally thrown in the simplest of situations; a real "when in Rome" time. Quelle chance!

Montréal was beautiful and all lit up as we walked back to the hotel.

The Cathedral (again)
After our stroll we, like the party-crazy (not) students we are, went back to the room. Austin and Brenna tried to go swimming (the pool was closed) and I wrote my first blog post (see below). It had been a lovely, long day, so we decided just to hang out and veg before bed.

Annnnd the last installment to come! I have lines to memorize and a paper to write and a midterm to study for....yikes. Procrastination: over. 

-the wanderer

current jam: "the king of spain" the tallest man on earth (sense a trend?)
best thing in my life right now: waffles!
days until departure: 77

Montréal & Vermont, Part 2

Day Three: Thursday
After a lazy morning once again full of Brenna's fabulous cooking (she made me absolutefavoritefoodever, eggies in a basket!*) we hit I-89 heading North! The drive was thankfully rain-free, navigating was easy, and crossing the border was a total non-issue. It was Austin's first time out of the country so that was a wonderful experience to share in!

After two hours we finally arrived in Montréal itself and, after a little negotiating with the road signs and stopping at the wrong hotel, we made it to our actual destination. The room was, as aforementioned, totally sweet. In some respect I felt like we were missing out on the "real" traveling grit (i.e. we were in the Westin, not a hostel) but both Austin and Brenna haven't traveled much so easing into Montréal was perhaps the best option. And we paid for the room post my Dad's incredible deal-striking abilities, so while we may have felt very spoiled it really meant sacrificing snack food for the rest of the semester. So, you know. We're still young and broke. 

After taking some time to settle in and unpack we hit the streets. Le Westin is in a prime spot on Rue Saint-Antoine in Vieux Montréal, so the streets were all cobbled and winding (and one-way) and the shops quaint and beautiful. Most marvelous for me was the close proximity of the Basilisque Notre-Dame de Montréal, the sprawling and beautiful cathedral just two blocks from the hotel. 
The exterior of La Basilisque Notre-Dame de Montréal

As a former student of Art History (thank you Mr. Watson!) I have nourished a longtime love and passion for Gothic architecture. Most Art History kids find it stuffy and boring (admittedly, cathedrals come right before the Renaissance in Art History survey courses) but I love the sweeping pointed arches and fenestrated rib vaults and flying buttresses (yes, it actually is a technical term, and if you want explanations ask in the comments!). There's something terribly romantic in the desire to ascend to the heavens, to create works of art that are worship in and of themselves. Ever detail of a vraiment Gothic cathedral is ornate and decorative which can be overwhelming but also is really complex and incredible to see- because there is so much to see! The obsession Europe had with upward architecture in the 14th and 15th centuries is neither wholly commendable or not, and these intricacies involving the construction of cathedrals make them all the more intriguing for me. Why do we believe the heavens are above us? Didn't we learn from the Tower of Babylon not to try to build a physical means to God? Why were the people of Amiens and Chartres so willing to pay everything they had to constructing a building they probably did not see finished?
The rose window in the ceiling.
The altar in the main sanctuary.
Whatever you believe, cathedrals are impressive and beautiful and complex buildings to experience. While the Montréal cathedral was no Notre-Dame de Paris it was lovely. The cathedral itself was constructed between 1883 and 1885 under the design of Henri Bouriché. My favorite part of the building surprising was not the main sanctuary, but the chapel behind it. In 1978 there was a fire that consumed the original Chapelle de Sacre Couer, so in 1982 it was rebuilt. The chapel allows for much more natural light (as opposed to the tradition "lux nova" or "sacred light" of the stained glass window variety) and is bathed in a golden hue. At the altar there is this enormous slab of bronze, cast in which are the very post-modern march of humankind towards the Holy Trinity. The 32 panels that comprise it were designed by the Montréal sculptor Charles Daudelin. While this chapel was by no means my preferred stuffy Gothic style it took the best aspects of cathedrals and made it modern and warm and divine. 

Brenna sitting in the Chapel of the Sacred Heart.

After my wanderings inside the building we headed out, walking around Old Montréal for a while longer before heading back to the hotel. We dolled ourselves up for dinner and headed out into the cold in search of a cheap-ish meal. We finally settled on what turned out to be a Canadian chain called "Les 3 Brasseurs" where I had a great beverage but a terrible quesedilla. But, you know. You get what you pay for! 

Being tired and still thinking about the desires of humanity to go upwards into the sky (there it is, my mind in the clouds again) we decided on an early nightcap and went back to the hotel around ten. 

That's all for now, folks! Stay tuned!
-the wandering writer

current jam: "cathedrals" jump, little children (are you really surprised?)
best thing in my life right now: writing this and not my religion essay...oops.
days until departure: 77

*Ty if you're reading this, BE JEALOUS.