Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve in Vienna: Cathedrals, Texas Hold 'Em, and Getting Left at the Altar

Bad renditions of Christmas carols play at the hostel bar as we drink on Christmas Eve.  I meet Francesco, half Italian, half Colombian, with a giving smile and sparkling eyes.  You can tell he is on fire.  I meet Eric, a tall American man who is drunk from chugs of beer and too much time in the war.  He talks about death like it is nothing, the flip of a coin.  His hands move quickly and his mouth is over-exaggerated twists, working overtime to get words out.  I listen with eyes growing watery, listen about Afghanistan and tanks of natural gas and the "bdmm-bdmm-bdmm-bdmm-bdmm" sound he makes to mimic an automatic weapon as he tells stories of death, over and over.  Suddenly I cannot listen anymore, and I excuse myself to the bathroom, needing space from hearing about war I know exists, but I don't want to hear about it tonight, not on Christmas Eve, not in Vienna.  I want to talk to the Brazilian boys, I want to make youtube requests to the bar tender, I want to drink more red wine and sing terrible Christmas carols by the piano.

We go back and forth about whether or not to attend midnight mass.  Barry, an older Irish man who is here because "I knew there would be nothing to do" so he can study for his second major: environmental engineering, leads the crew -- me, Francesco, and the drunken Eric, but the church around the corner is closed.  I am dreading walking into a church with Eric, this drunken obnoxious man who is swearing every three words, and Barry makes an executive decision.  He grabs my hand and we run for a taxi.  I am defeated, not drunk enough or maybe too drunk, past the point of caring -- "I'm over it," I tell him, but he insists.  I'm in Vienna, it's Christmas Eve, and he's taking me to the cathedral.

Side streets in a smooth taxi, we talk.  He pats my head, which I don't appreciate, and somehow, the subject of veganism comes up.  He tells me he is vegan a few months out of each year.  I ask him why.  With a smile he says he can't tell me now, he'll tell me in the morning.  There is something strange about this.  He says it like it is a card he has been saving to use at the right moment.  Is this supposed to be so mysterious that it woos me into sticking around long enough to find out the reasons behind his sometimes-veganism?

We arrive at the cathedral, which is an open vaulted space.  I smell sage and the cool backs of rocks.  It is a cave, and I hear the clicking of shoes, the rubbing of coats against jackets as we humans weave quietly in and out of the mass.  I can't see anything, I can't understand anything, but I am drawn closer, filling up the space other bodies leave for me as they exit.  I am tired and I am wondering how people belonging to a religion that claims to love God and love their brothers and neighbors can take part in the Holocaust.  I think, how many people in this church believe that they are saying?  How many of us are blindly following without knowing or caring where we are going?  How many of us are living that truth of 'when you pray, move your feet.'?  My mind wanders to cynicism, and it doesn't have to travel very far to get there.  People shake one another's hand, saying "Peace be with you" in German I believe, and one man turns to me, pauses a breath of a second as if to register that I do not quite belong but here I am anyway, and shakes mine.

Near the end of the service, they play 'Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming' and I am thinking about my grandfather.  This is the song he, my aunt, my mom, and my grandma always struggled through on Christmas Eve, after too much egg nog, and it seems fitting that it plays.  He is here, in this church, in this instant.  He is the hum of singing, the notes swooping like birds.  The service closes with Silent Night, just as our Christmas Eve always ends, and I sing quietly in English, harmonizing with everything around me -- the cool air and the warm breath, the sage smoking and the sounds of coughing, voices in German, the muddy organ, and the promise of God.  

One by one, the lamps above are turned off, and the purple glow of lights come on in their place.  I wait while families and tourists with cameras file out and take pictures, cameras tilting up to the ceiling.  I walk up to the front of the church.  I don't know what I am looking for, but there is no time to find it.  We are being ushered out of the cathedral.  I dip two fingers in the holy water and cross myself.  It seems right, a blessing of dewy hands over my heart as I head out into the night, which is gray and quiet.

There is more to the story, less poetry and more re-tellings.  Barry is nowhere to be found, I am alone in the middle of the night in the middle of Vienna, waiting outside of the cathedral.  He doesn't come and I curse him under my breath.  I find a metro, the right metro, and I am reminded yet again of what this Christmas trip means for me: my independence.  With leaps of brave independence come small gifts: I see Rafael, the Brazilian music-journalist who writes for Brazil's Rolling Stone, on the metro.  We sit together and walk back to the hostel.

I am disillusioned and ready for bed, but M (the English hostel bartender) and S (the Austrian front desk man) are playing Texas Hold 'Em (in this moment, I am missing Elena), and the invite me to join them.  We are shits and giggles, betting with shelled peanuts and wasabi nuts (these are worth 5 euro).  They give me the bag of peanuts and I lose terribly; my nickname is Greece but the boys bail me out.  The material for jokes about nuts is endless.  "Nuts up!"  "Let me just reach into my nutsack here..."  I drink more wine and learn a few words in German.  We talk about everything, we stay up 'til the morning in the hostel lobby, and I work on my poker face.

I love my life.  I love my life.  I love my life.  Even though I often feel some sort of variation of getting left at a cathedral, I am finding more and more that I know how to get home, and the thing about that is, my home is always changing and I never know what will be waiting for me.

This is my new mantra: I am home.  I am home in every moment, no matter the geographical location, because I am living in my heart, which is full like peals of belly-deep laughter.  When we let go, and when we trust that there will be somewhere soft for us to land, we can just be in that woosh of falling.  Falling deeper into self and out of ego, every moment and every day is a new beginning for us.  And maybe this is a broken record, the same old song and dance of getting lost and getting found, and maybe there is no succinct way for me to end this, to connect all the dots.  I am flushed, and this year, no matter if my hand is winning or losing, I am reaching into my nutsack and going all in.

So on that note, Boldog Karácsonyt! Frohe Weihnachten! Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!  Whatever you celebrate, may you celebrate peace and love.

Es Ist Ein Ros Entsprungen

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Common Denominators in Discoteques

The following songs will always, always, always, no matter where you go, play in sweaty smokey grindy clubs:

For this, I am grateful.  Especially the last one, which makes me dance so hard people get out of the way.


I meet Ákos (Ah-kosh), who speaks as much English as I speak Hungarian.  Our conversation is one long game of charades.  His eyes are slow-drunk, delicate sage-green rings that are glued to his cell phone as he shows me picture of a baby girl (not his), earrings (yeah, I don't know either), and takes down my prized facebook information.  "Nem mobil!  Dancing!" I tell him, and we dance our way to the floor, packed with grinding university students, hands waving as house music plays.  Standing by the bar, while I wait for him to buy me a drink, we talk geography.  I don't know how this began -- it was sometime before we clinked glasses of palinka and said egészségérebut after he showed me the earrings picture.  

In what I feel is a quintessential drunk-guy-thing-to-do, he makes a heart with his hands, says "Hungary," and a smile creeps on his face as he tilts his head slightly to one side.  Then, one hand chopping the air in a downward motion (picture hands scowling and shrugging) and with twisted lips, he spits disdainfully: "Slovakia," (Nem), "Romania," (Nem as well), and just as quickly his hands quit dissing other countries and go back to shape his unsteady heart, "My Hungary.  I love my Hungary."  I love his Hungary too.


And speaking of music, I wish you could hear the hallways between periods at the schools where I teach.  They sound like children shuffling and bassy dub-step, which is pumped at full volume through the speakers.  If you close your eyes, it could be a disco.  So far I have not heard any of the classic club stand-bys, but I have heard "All I Want for Christmas is You" and way more Skrillex than I would care to.  

This is the kind of music that is bumping as the kids hang out in the hallways:


We all know what happened when I was in South America.  Cumbia, the ridiculously boppy and poppy music that I couldn't stand when I arrived, eventually became my jams.  Please, please, kéremsave me from dubstep!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Superheroes and other Characters

Today I taught a lesson about Superheroes.  The kids created their own superheroes.  Although no one drew me, I have come to the conclusion that teaching requires super-powers.

Daniel's superhero's power: "His shoes get very bad smell and he kill lots off people his shoes smell."

Robi's superhero!
Name Mr. Awesome
Powers Shoot fireballs; be awesome
Costume awesome face
Statistics (he meant characteristics or strengths) strong, awesome, brave
Weaknesses (before I told him how to correct it, it said "weaks") Nothing because he is awesome!!  xD

This is the primary school where I teach on Fridays.

My desk.  Notebook, water bottle, and To the Top are mine.

Teacher's lounge.

Waiting for the bus.

Home sweet home.  

Quite possibly the cutest carousel ride ever.  The kids ride in baskets.

Waking down the street to my Wednesday school.

Facing Fear, Facing Failure

December 5th, 2011

Tonight I realized why I have so much resistance about my yoga practice, and life in general.

Yoga puts me up against my edges, it stretches me as far as I will stretch (or as far as I think I can), and then some.  While my body folds, I feel every thread of tension in my muscles, and I am disappointed in my own limitations.  I feel like folding, throwing in the towel, getting off the mat.  I wait for viyasana so I can lay with my body, still, not moving.

I don't want to be reminded of my limitations.  While the toxins slip out, the ghosts slip back in and the screeching, it is haunting.  I compare my pose to the person next to me, I silently try to love my body that is so rigid, and I think about a failed English lesson, errands to run (although, in your first two weeks in a foreign country, I think they are referred to more appropriately as "missions"), all of the grudges I hold against myself.

I feel their weight digging into me, pushing every time I pull, a cruel kind of mental and emotional isometrics.

I just want to be free from it.  And isn't that always my story.

But this is the beauty of yoga, right?  You can bring everything to the mat, and it is accepted.

The hitch is, I bring ME onto the mat, and I am not always accepting.

When it's possible to bring only the shiny perfect bits of me to the mat and to leave all the junk behind, will you let me know?  Can I get on some kind of a waiting list?

The point is, I resist challenges, but I also keep inviting them.

Moving to Hungary to teach English was (and is) a challenge.  My ego can feel good about wanting this, about making it happen (because aren't I so cool/original/brave for being here and doing this?), but it's also fucking hard.

I am facing my own failure every day.  Getting lost, failing to communicate or understand, "bombing" a lesson or "losing" a student  -- this has become my practice.

Up against my own edges, I am ready to throw up my hands, and sometimes I do.  Sometimes I can't hold the pose, I can't do anything but surrender to so-called failure.

Or, I can ask for help.  Sometimes, this means taking my tired body into extended child pose, and sometimes it means calling Peter to pick me up because I got lost on the way to school.

It always involves getting over my own ego and tuning into my own needs.

And it definitely involves letting go.

All we have is this moment, which will ease into the next one, and the next, and the next.

Why hold on to what was never ours to hold?  Why grip what is and will always be passing like the clouds?

Why not let go?

My practice is one of letting go, of sinking deeper into poses, or getting out of them entirely.  I am learning that I have a much larger capacity towards letting go than I thought.

My intention in my life is to keep it light.  The lighter things seem to me, the faster they unsnare themselves from all the booby-traps my ego sets.  The ego sits, ready and waiting to pounce, but I am getting lighter on my feet.  I fall for the traps less and less all the time, and I hold more kindness for myself when I get tangled up in then.

Perhaps this is most important.

Not whether we "fail" or "succeed" but that we don't get stuck.

Let us wash our hands of everything that has come before this moment, and not think about the befores or afters, real or imagined.

Let us, sudsy hands at the sink, just be at the damned sink.

And let us, please, when we are sucked in to befores or afters, to guilt or self-hatred, when we lose our way -- let us remember our own lightness, which will always guide us home.

But if for some reason it doesn't, you can always call Peter.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Small Victories: Lost & Found


Kathryn and I walk past stalls selling scarves and candles, superfluous hats (the Bedazzler has made it to Hungary in a big way.  Rhinestones and sequins sparkle on everything.  Thanks, Globalization!).  Christmas lights twinkle and clouds move quick-quick in the hazy evening light.  Beyond stalls of Palinka and sausages, I spot a familiar rainbow of color.  I don't even say hello.  "Eres de Peru?"

Yes.  Yes!  A Peruvian in Szeged at the Christmas market.  Whaaaat?  Victor and I speak easily in Spanish, reminiscing about Peru.  A little bit of my heart is there; just a chunk.  I feel the piece of it missing when I see chullos and speak Spanish.  It aches like a hole anxious to be filled.  It is a gentle gnawing turned ravenous.


I tell Victor that my Peruvian friend John is living in Vienna and might be visiting me, and I will bring him here to the market, so they can connect the way only paisanos can.  John and Victor are both so far from home, from a place that feels a little bit like my home, my Peru.

I miss Peru in a way that says, Don't worry, I know it aches, but you will go back.  I miss Peru because in Peru you say "Buenas dias" when you pass people on the street in the morning.  Here, the custom is to avoid the other person's gaze, or at the very least, return their gaze sternly.

I walk down the street and smile slightly at a tight-lipped old fat man with ruddy cheeks, who looks like he is thinking "Remain your composure!  Remain your composure!" and I burst into laughter after he passes.

Living in a foreign country feels like never getting the joke, but we all know that even when we don't get the joke, we still laugh.

So here I am, laughing.

Or, crying.

It depends, really.


Week one of teaching is over.  I have taught 13 different classes in three different schools.  I have played more Pictionary this week than I have ever played in my life.  When I tell the students I am from California, the girls squeal.  They seem most interested in my least favorite aspects of America: Justin Beiber, fast food, Twilight.  The girls ask if I have seen Twilight, and I can tell they are about to judge the hell out of me.  I say I have not, and for now, I am safe.  

I teach a lesson about giving advice, and Twilight comes up again.

Me: I have a problem.  My boyfriend is angry with me.  What should I do?
Lacus (pronounced Lohtzi): Maybe he does not want to watch the Twilight.
Lacus, I tell him, I have never even seen Twilight.  Can we just get that straight?
Smiling he puts two hands up, Ok, ok, sorry.
We're good, but I suspect the girls are pissed.

They also give me advice about things to do and see in Szeged.  "Do you like China food?"  ... "Go to Karazs square, there is McDonalds."  ... "I think you like go cinema."


I am determined not be the loud awkward Amerikai, but my life here is a series of fumbles.

I get lost nearly everywhere I go.  When I am being kind to myself, I call it wandering, but after a few hours of "wandering" with frozen carrot fingers and shaking legs, tears from the cold and utter exhaustion and desperation of not knowing how to get home, I can no longer sugarcoat it.  With numb and naked fingers or clumsy gloved hands, I fumble for the keys.  It is a victory when I make it into the apartment.

It is a victory when I make it to the school on time, when I catch a bus (and when it's the right bus!) (and when I get off at the right stop!), when no one in class puts their heads on their desk to feign sleeping.  Do you mind if we consider it a victory that they are pretend-sleeping and not actually taking naps?


Lots of small victories.  It seems fitting, in this small country which has had so much suffering, whose suffering you can see in the blocks of housing and on the faces.

May we all celebrate our victories today, big or small, and may we please, please, please, let go of anything we consider to be a failure.  Including, but not limited to, a particular English lesson.

It is what it is.  It was what it was.  And it will be what it will be.

Blessings come in all forms.  Like this morning, when I was running late to a new school for my first day of classes, I wasn't sure how to get to the school from the bus stop.  I spotted a young boy wearing a backpack at the vegetable stand.  "Luthos? Eskola?"  He gave me directions in Hungarian.  I questioned with gestures.  He ran closer to the cart said something to the guys at the stand, then gestured for me to come with him.  We talked to each other, even though we couldn't understand, and he led the way to school.

He found me later, while I was clearing out of a classroom.  "Jessi!" he said, his smile coy and knowing.  "Tomas!"  I grinned.

And then I found him at the bus stop.

Rubbing my tummy, I asked him how to say "I am hungry" in Hungarian, and he shoved his baguette toward me, his eyes at once growing and pointed with concern.

He gets off the bus, and I wave as he turns around to look at me, on my way to Szeged, to my home.  I am on the right bus.  I am in the right place.

Slowly and suddenly, I look around and know -- I am not so lost.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Our apartment in Szeged

I have been up for so many hours.
Brain body and spirit buzzing too much for much sleep on the plane.
Even my distractions (books, movies, music) couldn't keep me from riding the waves.
I felt like puking, and I felt like crying, and I felt like laughing. I did the second two.
It was glorious.

It feels surreal and too real and eventually, I suspect, it will just feel real.
There is so much to say but I will just leave you with pictures of our apartment for now.

Ready to leave Matt's apartment in Chicago. I can't believe this was just hours ago.

Living room

Breakfast/tea/dinner nook

My room, pre-unpacking.

The toilet part of the bathroom.

The shower/sink/washing machine room.

So cozy, so thankful, so tired.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving and things to come

Part one: Chicago.

Exploring the city, I am a tourist-in-training. I stop to take countless pictures, wander aimlessly, happy to be lost amidst all the architecture.

The library.

Statues that caught my eye.

The city as seen through "the bean."

Color-changing brick and city-scape.

And then, Part two: Thanksgiving with my brothers, Steven and Tommy, and Matt.

the menu:

Apple-tofurkey stuffing with homemade rosemary bread
Garlic mashed potatoes with broccoli coulis
Buffalo Brussel Sprouts (deep fried deliciousness)
Pumpkin Soup
Deep Greens warm salad with cranberries and cumin
Homemade cranberry sauce
Kale chips

And for desert, pumpkin and apple pies and a warm mulled wine.

Pumpkin soup and kale chips in the making.

Homemade cranberry sauce.

Lady Guadalupe watches over our table.

Buffalo Brussel Sprouts and spicy dipping sauce.

Tommy's plate (photo: Tommy Jackson)

And after the extravagance of Thanksgiving, a simpler meal: gluten-free pasta with balsamic-glazed brussell sprouts and basil with a side of braised turnips.

Part three: Hungary.

My plane takes off in a matter of hours.
I have a lot, as always, to be thankful for.
The next time I write I will be 8 hours ahead of myself, in a new apartment, city, and country.

Am I prepared?

I like to think so.

Although, the only Hungarian words I know by heart are apple, berry, and no.
So on the plus side, I can say this: "No apple-berry!"

I bet you can imagine the downside.

But my plane ride is 15 hours long, so baby, I've got time.

Cheers, guys. See you on the other side.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


Number of days until I get on that damned plane: 5

Number of lego figures gifted to me so I "won't forget about" my 8-year-old cousin: 1

Number of times I had to remind my 10-year-old cousin this was the final goodbye so she should really turn off that Nicki Minaj video she and some friends had recorded so I could hug her goodbye because I had to leave now: 4

Number of glasses of wine consumed this evening: 2

Number of things left on my to-do list: 1746.3333333

Number of things completed from my to-do list today: 2.3333333

It does not look good, ladies and gentlemen. It does not look good.

Friday, November 11, 2011

So Many Ghosts

My neck hurts from craning in both directions; forward, back, forward, back. My departure is encroaching and the pressure it is mounting. I am looking with eyes stoned from too much computer time with trip preparations, and I am looking in every direction. I am forward-thinking to me in snowy Szeged, teaching English and stumbling through sentences in Hungarian, to my holiday break in Italy. I am imagining new futures, but I can't stop looking back to the past.

The past is a herd of ghosts, haunting me. They slither out of every box I open and drawer I slide unshut. They wrap around me while I sleep, burrowing into my dreams. I have anxiety dreams about teaching English or catching planes, but I also dreamt up an old boyfriend last night. This one is old-old, from when I was 15. Maybe this is because I found his sweetly punk-rock mixed cd he'd made for me while I was sorting through binders of old discs, but it haunted me. I am chilled to my bones with guilt and nostalgia, coulda-beens, shoulda-beens, never-beens. I think about everything I've ever done that I am not proud of, everything I never did that I wished I had.

When is it time to call the code? My lungs are tired from all this air I'm pumping into something that I already lost, that died to the past, that can't live with me in this time period - my present. How long am I going to press my sorry lips to all these cold mouths? How long am I going to act out of guilt?

And how do I let it go?

How do I let it go?

. . .

I am near-tears in grocery stores, holding Charlie tight to my chest and breathing in his baby scent. This may be is drastic, but I feel like my life is about to end, and everything that happens is happening for the last time. Sentimental in a supermarket, that's me this week.

As I drive on the 126, I breathe in the chipotle processing plant, that sweet smoke rising. I look out at the rows of lemon trees, at the ocean, and I think how far I will be from all of this, from my citrusy home.

This time, leaving feels much harder. Does this say something about my life? That I have more to lose? Or maybe, I shouldn't have scheduled my departure date to close to my menstrual cycle.

When I tell people I have a week and a half left before I leave, they ask how I feel. "Mushy," I say with a small laugh and watery smile, but maybe that adjective isn't quite right. I have a feeling my fire is burning down because I'm about to leave camp - I'm all coals and ashes, disintegrating, a slow burn before the atmosphere swallows me up again.

. . .

If I had to pick one word to describe how I am feeling: grief.

And then the ghosts arrive.

It's such a smooth B&E that I can't call the police. There is no hard evidence of their presence here, just my prickly skin and eyes, the stubble of last night's nightmares, a sinking feeling of guilt.

I don't know how to kick them out. I don't know what to do with them.

Wait, that's not true.

I know what to do, I just don't want to do it.

They come up when I am sifting through old letters; they are old hurt, failed relationships, actions of mine I wish I could erase. I packed them up, boxes sealed tight and labeled, and they sat, waiting for me. As soon as my knife made the incision in cardboard, I felt the bleed.

They had been gathering strength from their hurt, from unresolved tension, from being ignored and abandoned, and now they are here in my life with a vengeance.

I tried with slippery sweaty palms to collect them, to shoo them into a rubbermaid I thought would contain them.

So here I am, kneeling in front of the box, fingers on the edges, trembling.

On the edge, trembling.

"Okay," I say, and just like that, my fingers lift. "Okay," I say, "you are free."

So when will I be free?
. . .

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stickers and Squirrels

Today I purchased 4,984 stickers.

Do you think that perhaps I am over-packing?


The last time I traveled (and coincidentally the first time I traveled), I wasn't very well equipped. I didn't really know how to backpack, how to travel. I learned on the spot, through trial and error. I am embarrassed to say that I thought buying a piece of luggage (and this was a huge, boxy piece of luggage) was a good idea when it became clear to me, three months into my trip, that my 32-liter backpack wasn't cutting it. My Swiss hostel-mate at the time told me it was a horrible idea, but I didn't listen. What do you know, it was a horrible idea. Thanks Suzana, for trying to warn me.

After trying to lug it on and off of buses, hoist it into the trunks of taxis, and bang it up flights of hostel stairs, I ditched it. I decided to buy another backpack. It was taller than my first, and my sleeping bag fit strapped on the top, teetering threateningly. The problem was, my first backpack was shoulder-cut for a woman's body, and I had to wear it on my back. This meant that the taller backpack hugged my front, the top of the bag covering my face, the sleeping bag bonking me ever so often. I had to tilt my head to the left or the right in order to see where I was going. The drunken backpacker, that's what I was, bobbing and weaving in order to avoid injury or accident.

Ginna, Kate, Jess taking off for our hitching adventure through Ecuador and Peru. This pack on my back eventually moved to my front.

This time, though... this time I am prepared.

Maybe over-prepared?

For instance, I bought packing cubes. And 4,984 stickers. I feel like hardcore backpackers, off-the-beaten-path travelers are not allowed to buy packing cubes, or anything from Rick Steves. I have done both. What has become of me?

Is it possible that the fact that I am leaving for Hungary to teach English for six months (and with the intention to stay gone for a long time thereafter) has set in? I have my suspicions that I am part squirrel, gathering nuts, preparing for a bitter winter in a land unknown to me. It seems a natural reaction, to try and control anything you can when you're entering a situation that feels out of your hands. I, like most humans, prefer for my hands to be sticky, so that nothing can slip through their claws and clutches. So my hands are busy scribbling lists and entering my credit card information for countless orders of things I (think I) need.

Maybe I am still a drunken backpacker after all, sedating myself with sharpies, bulk toiletries, and stickers.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ok, Universe. Have it your way.

Did you know I am leaving 2 years to the day to when I came back from my travels in South America?

I did not plan this, at least not consciously. Weird, right?

But this serendipity will all seem normal to you soon. This is how my life works. The ebbs and the flows, while often jarring, start to make sense once my head is above water again and I can see how everything is connected. Someone up in the sky is very clever, showing off with synchronicities and serendipities, sneaking signs into my life that leave me shaking my head and smiling.

I was all set to fly stand-by to Europe (with an unknown arrival, how stressful/adventurous), making my way to Italy to see my friend John from Peru (who might be in love with me, but that's another story), and hang out on farms.

And then . . . I discovered I couldn't stay with John. There went my landing pad. Now I know the only constant in life is change, and I didn't sign up for this adventure in Europe to have a strict itinerary and have "everything figured out"-but come on, I needed something to arrive to, a soft place to land. And I'm not exactly picky. I was happy to land with John, a guy I met at a street fair (the same one who invited me to the chicken fight), a guy I have spent a total of about 15 hours with, a guy who might be in love with me. Does this seem stable or secure? Maybe not, but I'm not picky, and it would have been enough. When he told me I couldn't stay with him (but he was looking for a place for the two of us to rent. Again, another story), I was floored. Or at least tripped up.

There went my small piece of stability, the cord that tied my dreams and visions to a tangible reality.

I freaked out and ate lots of ice cream while watching the Food Network . When Giada De Laurentiss came on Food Network, I had to change the channel. When she made "bru-skett-a" it killed me. I couldn't watch her scooping ricotta and stirring the penne. I couldn't listen to how one bite of this dish would take me back to the rolling hills of Tuscany. So I watched Chopped re-runs, and I ate more ice cream, and the depression [in the couch] grew deeper.

I tried to think of the bigger picture. I tried not to lose hope. Eventually, I put the spoon down and turned the TV off and slowly shuffled over to the butter-yellow piece of posterboard pinned to my wall. I had pinned it there a week or so ago, and it just sat there in all its infantile possibility. Eyes glazed over and ass numb, I began a vision board, gluing photos of sunflowers in Tuscany, writing intentions, and delving deep into the dreamy wildness of my desires for this adventure.

I also e-mailed an Osho meditation farm in Italy. I said, can I come? They said, Yes!

Ok, I was set again. I was back to listening to Italian during my commute to work and watching Giada whip up Italian culinary wonders in minutes. The farm was a go. Processing olive oil and processing? I was in. Trance dance, open communication, and working in the garden sounded a dream. Hey, it was my dream. I've got a vision board to prove it. But then again, nowhere on my vision board was Hungary.

Oh Hungary. You sneak-attacked me.

In the pits of my despair I had an intuition that said "Hey, go look at the job listings on Dave's ESL Cafe." I found a teaching position in Hungary. I e-mailed. The American director lives in Portland, and in my e-mail I mentioned Yachats, asking if she had heard of it. She had, she loved Yachats, it is her favorite place on the coast, and the Hungarian director visited and loved Yachats, too!

Did I want to come teach in Hungary?

Why yes I did.

So the ball got rolling, but it picked up speed faster than I imagined, faster than my brain could keep up with. Oh my tired brain, which has been knotted up in intricate prioritized to-do lists and the frenzy of pre-departure missives and missions. Can I just take a minute to say, Thank you Brain! Also an honorable mention to my guts.

Anyway. I wanted to come. I just didn't want to come so soon. Mary Rose e-mailed and said a position had just opened in Szeged in a university town, I could share an apartment with another teacher, did I want to start right away? It was tempting; a roommate, a beautiful city, teaching positions in the city and in outlying villages . . . But I was going to this Osho farm! Wasn't I? Wasn't I?

Oh, Universe. You clever fox, you. You knew what was happening all along. You lured me with the safety (and let's face it, potential torrid affair) of staying with John, and then when you got worried I was eating so much ice cream I would develop diabetes, you teased me with an Osho farm. You know me too well, don't you? You had me at "trance dance." But it was all a lie! A grand deception! A facade that hid the truth until I was good and ready.

Because guess what?

I said yes. Yes to Hungary.

And then guess what?

I got an e-mail from the Osho farm, who, even though they said Yes before, said No.

Ok, Universe. You win. I'm going to Hungary.

Thanks for everything, I will send you a postcard.

And in conclusion: Holy crap, guys! I am going to Hungary!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


It has been so long since I've updated. With a "fresh new look" (but still the same great product!), I am ready to use this blog again. And you know what that means: I'm going somewhere! Doing something! Something you might care to read about. I hope.

But first, what have I been up to in my absence? Met a boy, got all domestic, graduated with a BA (Education and Spanish), undomesticated myself in order to travel, un-boyfriended, and eventually made my way back to this blog. I was in Oregon for a year soaking in the rain and my small town, and this past year I've been in sunny, citrusy California. Just itching and enjoying life, alternately. Up to the usual activities: camping, brooding, knitting rectangles.

So anyway, off I go. Or, almost. I leave in 6 weeks on November the 22nd. Wanna guess where? I'll reveal the answer soon.

In the meantime, here are a couple of shots that capture this golden California summer:

Sunflowers are such sunny summer creatures.

Welcome to Harmony, pop. 14

We had to pull over to capture this view on the way to Big Sur.

Letting the light shine down in Sequoia.

Hume Lake, King's Canyon