Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cabinet, cabinet on the wall. Why do you exist?

I was walking around my apartment, thinking about things I don't use. I could very easily get along without cabinet doors. Are those for looks? I've walked through cabins in Rocky Mountain National Park that show visitors "how we used to live" and those cabins don't have cabinet doors. They have shelves.

So, hey, I'm 22. I've always had cabinet doors and never thought much more than, "Nice handles," or "Mm, I would've picked pewter." But I can do without cabinet doors, especially after I got home after class and my kitchen looked like a ghost was messing with me. All my cabinet doors were open due to my rushed morning, and I thought, "Why do I even have these things?" And why do I have a door on my pantry? It's perpetually open anyway, so I'm not sure why it's there.

But with my wonderful human ability to reason, I see how they'd be helpful if you have pets or small kids that like to "get into everything," but I still think it's something we can skip.

My towel closet is essentially a shelf covered by a door. A full wood door, painted white, three hinges, and a handle. That's a lot to cover a shelf.

This pretty reckless assertion (get rid of all the cabinets and doors!) stems from a more modest (and probably more practical) idea from Ted Helm, entrepreneur on the e-commerce frontier, that packaging is so silly! We shrink wrap everything, and it's basically just waste in transit.

If you sell me floss, I'll buy the floss without the paperboard backing and plastic cover. Just pour all the floss dispensers in a bucket, and I'll grab one. No big.

I can also do without these individually wrapped pieces of gum. Remember Chiclets? Just throw em in a box, a cup with a hatch, everwhat and it's okay. Won't we all still like gum?

With this idea that packaging is waste, there's no sense in ripping off my cabinets (they'd exist here or in a landfill at this point), but I will peacefully protest aisle 11 in all its individually-wrapped glory.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"The Imagination of Nature"

I was checking out Mental Floss, one of my favorite sites, and found this sweet video remixing the excitement Bill Nye and Carl Sagan harbor for the interconnectedness in the universe.

It's kind of exciting to listen to the lyrics and watch their faces get so excited about "being made of star stuff," because I too get excited about being connected to everything. By chemicals, by purpose, it's far from belittling to think of all the bonds. What's the difference between my purpose and a black hole's when we look at the universe? How can I even begin to think about something like that?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Are you upset?

I saw "Where The Wild Things Are" tonight with some friends and it basically confirmed that someone else thinks assholes are only assholes because they're people who are scared. I really do think that. How can anyone really just be an asshole? I refuse to believe that can happen. There just MUST be something behind it, and like I've said, fear is behind everything negative.

The kid in this flick was lonely and afraid he wasn't loved so he acted out. Then he went to this beautiful and diverse island where the Wild Things were all scared and lonely and feared they weren't loved and then THEY acted out. Then the all realized they ARE loved and hugged each other and made me want to cry. Because sometimes I'm an asshole. Because sometimes I'm scared.

But I think it's maturity that lets me see that sometimes I'm an asshole. Sometimes I'm scared. Maturity let's me accept it, and attempt to deal with it. Maturity.

Concurrently, there's a mutiny in my World Civ class because our professor is a jerk. I wonder what he's afraid of. I've been getting emails from my peers telling me to join them in sending an email to the Department Head to complain. Now I'm not exactly sure what to do at this point, because all I really want to do is hug him and tell him that it's okay. It's aalll okaaay, like his mom once did, or didn't do, and who the hell knows what the problem is. I sure hope he isn't fired because he knows world history. He just is an ass. And that's really too bad.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Floating thoughts

It was raining yesterday. I was on my way to class, late, standing at the corner waiting for the light to change. I had the umbrella Kelsey left in my apartment before she left for Wales, which is bigger than my little green one that can barely keep a girl dry. I noticed a guy with his shoulders up around his ears, cold and wet, so I did the unimaginable: I invited him under my umbrella. I forgot I was late while we walked and talked and I made a new friend.

Who doesn't love white-noise, like a fan running, when you fall asleep?

And is this the first day of peace? (I really do feel like it might be.)

I've been collecting data to determine whether or not I'm an adult. I have a game closet. That's a very adult thing to have. I have beer in my refrigerator, but I always have trouble spelling refrigerator. Hm. Quandary. I pack snacks for road trips.

But what's more is (yeah, check it out), I can apologize when I've messed up. I can hug people when they're crying. I can tell someone when they have hurt my feelings. Now, that's adult.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

On fear

I love fear. Fear is awesome. Fear runs everything, you know. If you gave me the chance, I would try to link every negative thing you've ever done to some fear you had. Isn't that crazy? I didn't always think this, but once I did, it was certainly hard to shake. I'm glad it's hard to shake though because wouldn't you like to know about something inside you running your life in all sorts of strange ways with not so much as a note to why? Yeah you would.

Regrets are linked to past fears. Wars, even this war going on right now was started by some fear. Why are people mean? Why do people cheat? Why do we fight? Why are there guns? Why is there so much shit going down all over the world, men? Why did I just single out men? Because men are more afraid than women. They, hands down, have the most to lose.


Friday, September 11, 2009

On worry

It all started with Baz Luhrmann. I watched his version of Shakespeare's "Romeo + Juliet," (1996) and subsequently hopped on itunes and bought the soundtrack.

First of all, the album is great, a sweet kick back to the 90's, but that's not really my point.

The song, "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" struck a cord. Maybe it's because I'm nearing the end of college and for some reason the worry and anxiety that is
usually (albeit constant yet) "underlying" is now screaming (more with everyone around me, but a bit for me too).

For days, I was holding onto one of the song's mantras,
"Don't worry about the future, or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum." I was rolling it around and thinking about my friends and all their worries, about how I was worrying about their worries, and about my own worries and the ways all this darn worrying was affecting me. I've concluded that worry is bizarre and fascinating.

But what's more is why do we worry? I was researching social norms, the things we say, the ways we think because of what we are told, the flight or fight response, the idea of inherent self-worth, "earning" and "deserving" and it's so complicated we hardly ever give ourselves over to thinking about it! Worry is crazy! Guilt is crazy! It's self-inflicted anxiety! Masochists. A society made up of masochists. No wonder we're so preoccupied, giving ourselves polyps and ulcers, and dare I say ...cancer to have any time left for happiness.

I looked up "worry" on the internet. That's right. I looked it up and I found a whole website devoted to anxiety. It has articles about combating worry, finding your purpose, and how our society is selling us emotions. Emotions are tight. Every single darn one of 'em. (Please note that Worry is not an emotion.)

I don't claim to have an answer; I don't know how to be save my friends from worrying. But I'm giving myself a shot. I'm going to, like the "Anxiety Culture" website suggests, take my feet off both peddles. No accelerator. No brakes. Hey, no hands!! (I added that last one myself.) Don't get me wrong; I'm not going to throw in the towel on the world, I'm just going to hug and welcome it. You know, I was reminded about a fact of life by the sitcom "Big Bang Theory:" we are born, we consume calories, we expel waste, we die. Neat, huh? And I promise all that will happen, too. Guaranteed. The rest of it cannot, by definition, contain mistakes. Since nothing else is noted in the rules of life, anything goes. Happiness goes. Happiness! We can have it! No one cosmologically important said we can't. We said we can't. WE said we can't? Masochists. Masochists. We can be happy, you know. And we don't even have to feel guilty about it.

So here's to it: thinking about what I'm worrying about, separating the feeling of anxiety from the actual problem and welcoming the problem. Hey, impending graduation, real world, and no path of aspiration! What up? The time that my mind has already given you, that doesn't even exist yet, will happen. For shiznizzle. It will definitely pass, and then what? Will I be happy? No matter what happens in that already donated slot in my life? Guaranteed. Happiness. Guaranteed!


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

At the dinner table, Sarah recited this from memory:

"How could I henceforth be content in any other life
than one that sets the brain in a hot merry fever with its stir?"

-Augusta Webster, "A Castaway"

(This isn't Sarah. This is Katie.)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

I'm glad people are recycling, but what about the two steps before "recycle?" I find them to be arguably more valid, simple, and worthy steps, too, but they don't get near the press time their famous, or perhaps now infamous, sibling Recycle has gotten. (Did you know it's been dubbed a "craze?" Yeah, really.)

Don't get me wrong, it's encouraging to see good things like recycling and organics become in vogue. Finally old fads like large SUVs and super-homes are becoming ugly with the label "excessive," said with upturned noses by those who once yearned to possess. Our country is socially catching up with the rest of the world, which is neat to watch. Hey look guys! Our resources are finite! Hmm.. Let's recycle!

But what about steps one and two? Why so hasty to fix the problem by jumping to three? Reduce your consumption; why not? It's cheaper, like reducing the amount of packaging you contract (makes it sound like a disease, eh?) Like using a cloth shopping bag or buying the two liter bottle of Coke instead of a six pack of plastic bottles you defensively validate by saying, "Well I'll recycle them." My engineer grandfather has created a system of his own, and I have a feeling it's more a personal thing (ie financial) than about our environment. Once upon a time, he bought a six pack of club soda in their lovely uniform glass bottles. He drank them, washed them, and saved them. Now he buys the large bottle of club soda. Since he lives alone and can't finish the large bottle by himself before the contents becomes flat, he pours the soda from the large bottle into the six little bottles and refrigerates them to drink at his leisure. It's practical, efficient, and smart. Well done Papa.

Which brings us straight to the elusive step two: reuse what you already have. Novel, I know. What happened to the Tupperware craze of the fifties? We all remember that handy invention, so why did we switch to plastic ziplock bags? Since we (seemingly) all have dishwashers now, it would be a cinch to clean and reuse those dirty tuppies we all know and love. Can we also lean on nostalgia a little for the lunch box our mom's used to pack for us and stop sending our kids to school one brown paper bag after the other? (Or even use them ourselves?) And it's cheaper! We like cheaper!

Man oh man, what a world! What a great world! We have so much and we're even starting to like each other and look around to see what's goin' on. Sweet. It's a great day to be alive, with ideas and colors and lots of smiles and such. So grab that reusable shopping bag and go buy some local strawberries! Heck, take a bike ride there and high five your next door neighbor on the way. Don't fret about recycling so much, because there are two easy steps that can leave you with very little to recycle in the end anyway! Wahoo! Freedom to make choices! And good ones at that! :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Back in the US of A

I'm back and it's nice. Who knew Tennessee would be so green?

Too many things have happened for me to write, but many good things have passed and some neutral ones. I can't remember if there have been bad things, but I take that as a good sign.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Munich is beautiful and we're having a great time mostly going to parks and walking around. We're staying with friends in a sunny apartment and the mood is chill.

Today we're driving 4 hours through the black forest, by Switzerland, and into Freiburg, Germany for a little holiday, again, staying with friends. Apparently it's called the 'Green City' because it is the only city in Germany run by the Green party, everyone rides bikes, and is just small, quaint and in the woods.

I climbed to the top of a hill yesterday and saw the Alps from a distance --looked like Rocky. :)

Germany has toilets with shit-shelfs, by the way. Something interesting.


Sunday, June 7, 2009


Eiffel Tower
Notre Dame
Sacre Coeur
Moulin Rouge
Chateaux de Versailles

Today, the Louvre.

Tourist? Yes.
Culture shock coming out of the Middle of Nowhere, Indian Ocean? Yes.
Awesome? Yes.

Leaving for Munich on the night train Monday - tomorrow - very soon - so excited.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

pictures impossible

I went to two waterfalls today.

The first one was called Cascade du Chien (Dog Waterfall :) and since there wasn’t a trail down to the base we just took pictures from the road. Gorgeous. Then we drove up the mountain some more to see an overlook that provided a beautiful panoramic view of the east side of the island. The ocean was a blue ribbon under distant white puffies. Everything looked small and clean, like most things do from far away.

The second waterfall, Cascade de la Mer, was a 30 minute walk through sugar cane fields and tropical forest that made me think of dinosaurs. When we got there we ate lunch on the rocks and stripped down to our swimsuits. There was a waterfall in the distance that I watched from the edge of the river flowing from it, watching how heavy the water looked as it plummeted into the basin. After lunch we had the plan to get in and swim out into the basin and around a rock wall to see the sister waterfall that you couldn't see unless you swam: which means no cameras. But when I put my feet in, I nearly decided to bail. It was so cold, it was like ice water. It rained yesterday and the day before, so there was a lot of it, moving fast, and freezing. But everyone plunged in, swimming like robots from cold muscles. I was left there, knee deep and undecided. I started to feel left behind, which gave me the final push into the water. Stepping on a slick rock and losing my balance didn’t hurt either.

I’m not sure if it was an abundance of endorphins or adrenaline cascading through my veins from the cold , but I found myself laughing from joy at how absolutely beautiful, absolutely striking this place was. The rocks, the walls, the moss, the height of the falls, the thunder of water meeting water; everything was huge, precise, and with color.

It was awesome.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Excerpt from an email:

I went on a hike to a waterfall, Cascade de Chaudron yesterday. It’s actually closed to the public because it’s dangerous but everyone that knows about it still hikes it. When we were thirty minutes away from the falls it started raining. The rain soon turned into a torrential downpour and I was really glad I had eyebrows. Even WITH eyebrows there was so much rain flowing into my eyes; I was constantly wiping them while trying not to fall off the narrow path into the dwarfing ravine. Even though it was raining, the place was absolutely lush and beautiful I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.

We got to the last leg of the hike where you have to walk along a narrow foot bridge to some rock stairs and down to the basin and we heard a huge crash in the trees. I immediately thought, “What the hell,” while spinning on my heels just in time to see a boulder the size of a car door crash down the side of the mountain on the other side of the falls. It rolled and bounced like it weighed nothing right into the basin making the water explode like a bomb. All of us stood there speechless for a moment and then the two boys that were going first turned around and Luke said, we’ve got to get out of here. We all started to go back the way we came and my mind was in definite survival mode, staying close to the rock wall, keeping my ears open, aware of all noises, moving quickly, but still being aware of my footing. It was kind of nuts thinking about how random everything is, because I could be dead, just like that. We like to think it’s not “just like that,” but it really is. Kind of cool.

Leaves you, supposedly, in a place where you can’t be pissed off at the world for someone dying. It’s just random. I thought about that on the way back to town on the bus. And it felt really strange getting off the bus downtown, completely drenched, after rushing and rushing and fearing and thinking. Stepping onto a dry street where it hadn’t rained and no one was thinking about death. Everyone was just walking, eating, talking, while I walked in hiking boots, my toes squishing water out onto the pavement leaving footprint footprint footprint wondering what it’s all worth.

Apparently it doesn’t take all that much to get me thinking about the big picture. A boulder in the woods should do the trick, or a spider as big as my hand 2 inches from my head. That freaking spider today, before the rock fell, scared me more than the potential landslide to tell you the truth. I’m usually pretty good about spiders, but this one I didn’t get to see: Luke walked through a spider web, so I stepped back to not get tangled in it myself. When Taiki and Luke turned they both pointed behind me and yelled simultaneously while Luke grabbed my arm and pushed me down. Haha-- writing that makes it seems crazy, but they scared the living daylights out of me. I squatted and put my hands over my head-- I didn’t know what the heck was going on. It was such a rush of adrenaline I was literally about to cry from my “flight” response. Whoo-wee.

But everything is A-okay and I'm alive and well. It's raining again today. I'm not sure why --it's kind of strange for it to rain like this. But for the remaining 3 weeks I'm here I'm going to hike and beach and relax.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I live in a disney movie.

I was a magician's assistant for two different events on Saturday. It was so fun. Now I know secrets of magic and escape artistry. Yes, I was handcuffed; my ankles were shackled; I was put in a locked bag and I escaped. It was pretty bad-a.

After the first magic bit, which was for an outdoor adventure race. We got to just play. Romuald, my magician friend who is currently in Circus School, asked if I could ride a bike. I was like, psssh yeah, and when I got on and started riding he said "WOW!" haha. I wonder if "teaching your kid how to ride a bike" is not that big a deal here. Either way, he got on another bike and we rode away from the water fall our station was under. We weaved down the path through the sugar cane field, the sun blazing. Then I started to peddle faster to pass him, laughing. Then he passed me, and I couldn't pass him again. When we turned around I changed gears and went for it, shouting and laughing between the tall stalks of green, I shot past him. The sky was big and blue and it felt like summertime, for sure.

We made it back to the waterfall, Cascade de Niagara, and took a canoe. It was a two man canoe, so we both carried it to the water at the base of the falls and hopped in. The water was cool and felt so good on my feet. I was a pirate all day and bare-foot in the hot dirt. After shoving off, I realized Romuald was definitely the brawn in the boat and sometimes it felt like we were flying. There was bamboo 20 ft high and vines with yellow flowers all over the shore. Some places were wide and it was like a river; others were tight and quick and we had to use our oars to keep from hitting the shore, which we inevitably did. I had to lay down in the boat to not be hit in the face with roots. All I did was laugh and try to not eat dirt. We came upon a bridge that had a hole only big enough for the boat. We yelled directions, "gauche gauche! non, droit! DROIT!" And then our canoe was lined up perfectly and we pulled our oars in and laid down and slid through the little tunnel. It was awesome.

We thought we had gone too far, and Romuald said if we got to the ocean, we'd be in trouble. Instead of freaking out we talked about how Pocahontas was much more graceful than us at canoeing, and of course we then broke out into song. "Just around the river bend" and "Colors of the Wind" in simultaneous French and English while we drifted closer to the sea.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

An excerpt from an email I wrote

I went surfing today, and as your quick-witted brain can tell you: I'm alive. I live and I breathe and I've surfed. I stood up, albeit half-assed, once. It's rather difficult and I'm not sure who thought to put the new girl on the shit board, but they did and it wasn't waxed and there wasn't a grip in the back, so I was sliding all over the place. Paddling is tiring. Getting thrashed by waves is tiring. But I persevered and got a wave and rode it until the sea pushed me off. (See? not my fault. It PUSHed me.)

After I ate a bangin' sandwich and hitched-hiked back, I only had time enough to jump in the shower and run off to class. (Mental picture of me in soapy, soaking-wet clothes running through campus with my backpack and wide-eyed? Good.) I got my test back and I got a 16.5 in my grammar course! Hell yeah! A 20 is 100% and since it's impossible to get a 20, 16.5 is bad-A. Well, A-. Anyway, I was happy and hot and tired, so I took a nap.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter Monday

We had a day off school yesterday, so of course we went to a volcano.  

My dad told me it's one of the most active volcanoes in the world.  I'd like to believe it, but I haven't looked it up to verify. 

"Most active" or not, it was super tight.  I looked INTO a volcano.  I walked across a field of cooled lava, climbed from base to rim, walked to the edge and looked INTO a volcano.  I felt I needed to throw something profound into the abyss of ash and steam, but as I was all out of rings that would effectively save Middle Earth, I settled for a shiny volcanic rock.  But instead of throwing it into the volcano, I put it in my backpack.  Rocky Mountain National Park would disapprove, as they've taught me to leave everything alone, but it was miniscule, and it seems France employs no one to work in their parks to keep tourists like me in line.  

Standing on the edge of a enormous hole in the earth, seeing rock so hot it was flowing, looking out: only seeing ocean all around me going on and on until it bumped up against the sky, standing above the clouds, above any birds, above any trees, any houses, seeing nothing but rock, hearing absolute silence, I felt incredibly small, and it made me feel so much better about everything.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Instead of doing my homework,

I will blog about toilets.

Public restrooms here generally look like public restrooms of the states, except they aren't as much "stalls" as little rooms with full doors and real locks.  You also have to turn on your very own tiny toilet-room light.  Most of the time, the lights don't work and you find yourself peeing blind.  In my opinion, the personal-sized pee rooms stink more than stalls because there is no air-flow.  What's more is they smell like tuna, which I accredit to the fish-rich diet here.  

Toilets don't have toilet seats, so I assume everyone squats.  I've also been in a public restroom here that was just a hole in the ground like the toilets you hear about in India.  That was a trip.

Also, even though they have rolls of toilet paper, half the time you will find the toilet paper is really tissues.  They dispense like tissues, feel like tissues, ARE, according to me, tissues.  You flush with a button, not a handle, and the water DOES spin the other way.  Thank you for this mild entertainment, Southern Hemisphere.  It's hard to tell though, because there is very little water in the bowl, not like the US that are half-way full and roar when flushed, usually spitting onto your skirt and make you say "Ew."  

It is a genuine and happy surprise when there is soap.  The faucets aren't handles either, but the you push down and slowly raise and turn off automatically.  Reminds me of elementary school, to tell you the truth.  

Everyday is an adventure when you have to pee in public.  And now I will close on a quote;

"Why do you Americans call it a 'restroom?'  I mean, I don't go in there to rest;  if anything, I go in there and struggle."  -anonymous Brit

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Being quiet, stayin' still

I read on that 5.1 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of 2008.  That is an incredible amount of jobs.  I can't even comprehend how many people that's affecting.  On the flip-side, my friend Derek just turned DOWN three jobs because he already accepted a kick ass 'forest fire fighter' position for this summer.  I guess it's nice to be an able-bodied twenty-something male who wants to work a dangerous job. 

But what's neat for everyone is now that the job market is not really the place to be, maybe more people will join Americorps, the Peace Corps, or Green Peace -- organizations that inadvertently instill goodness, humility, and the drive to "help" into their members.  With a new sensitivity and world view, these folks can be fed back into the job market.  Then they, along with the creative innovators of the the next generation, will propel the whole world into a future that is based in humanity and not economy.  Nations will be connected by the humans that inhabit them perhaps more than the money they possess.  Wouldn't that be neat?  So cool to have such an obvious opportunity for change.  It's impossible to Not take advantage.

But here on the other side of the world, it's hard to Feel the hardship.  I'm lucky because I can step back and see the big picture without having to worry about losing my job.  MY job is to teach tiny French five-year-olds English.  I sing and play and I am repetitive as hell to drive in some vocab.  MY job hugs me, begs to hold my hand, literally and figuratively looks up to me, and laughs, like really laughs.  My job description is Simon Says.  I'm a lucky bugger, for shiz-nit.  

It all just makes me feel like it's a good thing to just stand in the dirt and look around at the things that are flying and buzzing and changing around.  I think when you can see what is changing, you can just move, instead of flying up into all the gears that make you feel small and out of control.  Either way, you can only control what's inside you anyway.  No sense in getting stressed out trying to go up flying with the rest of them.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Driving in first gear.

Today is like a Knoxville Sunday. It's raining so I'm not going on the hike to Cascade du chaudron, but instead I get to sit in my room, read, do homework, and relax. There is a lot of pressure to DO things because I'm not here very long. Only two more months and then I board a plane. That fact alone makes me feel bad for sitting in my room, but sometimes that's all I really want to do: just be quiet.

So, today it was wonderful to wake up late, remember my dreams, move slowly, and just do what I want to do at the speed I want to do it. With two of my classes already finished for the semester, I have fewer to worry about. Now all my concentration goes into translating from english to french and french to english. I also have a grammar course that is teaching me the most and helping with the translations. No matter how you slice it, my life is not stressful. My other class is SCUBA diving.

Last week was the first time in the ocean. I was a little freaked out because he had a power point of all the scary things that could go wrong when you're 20 meters under water and then explained how to prevent them in French. I got most of it, but still some was lost in translation. It turned out just fine, because I went down for 15 minutes just with the instructor. He held my hand for the first five and motioned everything that I needed to do, which turned out to not be that much. Then it was easy, and peaceful, and beautiful! After the 15, we went back up to the boat and got two other girls and went down again. We were down 12 meters for 45 minutes. At one point he motioned to me and another girl to sit down on the ocean floor and wait and watch while he worked with the other girl. It was the coolest, most surreal classroom I've ever been in. There were Nemo-like fish swimming all around us and through the giant coral. Every now and then a current would reach through the valley of coral and push me to the side, where I'd start to float out of my seat on the sand and I'd remember I was under-the freaking-ocean. So tight.

Then we swam around and saw eels and a fish that disguised itself as a rock and a school of fish where each fish followed the other and made a line 10 meters long. The water was so clear, you could see all around you. From the boat you could see the bottom, a good 15 meters down.

It was a silent, tranquil world just chillin' under the surface that separates their world from the one that moves quickly, with worry and with purpose of betterment. Under there, everything is content with the way things are, living in the waves, harmonious and free of desire.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


What I miss most:

The dollar. You are cheap, dear dollar.
Stores that are open all night long. You can do anything you want, anytime you want.
Accessible recycling. Go figure.
Internet that works all the time.
Being busy, going to classes, having homework. Yeah, it was a surprise to me too.
Technology in the classroom.

What I don't miss:
How spread out everything is in the states
How everything is a chain-restaurant, grocery store, etc
Lack of efficient mass-transit and the stigma that goes along with taking a bus

To be quite honest, I like both places. But being here makes me appreciate what I never appreciated about the US. You don't think of the privileges until you don't have them. And that seems like a really obvious thing to say, but I just didn't think about it. You can go grocery shopping at 3am! You can get any type of food you want: Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Greek, Japanese, Indian... You can send an email from anywhere. It's becoming a wireless world and Reunion is just a little behind. No big. Expected even. I'm just sayin'. It's nice to see things how they are.

Brief update on travel plans:
Leave Reunion at the end of May. June in Europe. Back in Nashville June 28. Off to Florida on the 30th or 1st of July for a few days. Back to Nashville. Off to Colorado July 22nd for a week. Back to Nashville. Off to Knoxville, for school, August 17.

I love being busy.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


riots have subsided
even so, ISEP will evacuate us if it's gets really bad
so no need to worry

I love you

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

riots in my neighborhood

Our friends went ahead into the crowd toward the yellow-lit intersection where young men shouted and others threw rocks.  Some were on bicycles or walked with shirts tied around their faces holding sticks and bottles.  My stomach was in a knot. The tension in the air was thick on my skin as it mingled with the light film of rain that was settling on everything.  

The riots are for fair prices in Reunion and they seem to be headed by men, mostly young men.  I looked at Richard who had stayed back with me while the rest moved toward the action; his eyes were focused ahead, alert, and waiting.  He turned his head to look behind, away from the riot, and my eyes followed.  We saw people begin to scatter, begin to move, running across the street in masses thirty yards up.  They were hurried and looking behind them in quick flashes, their shoulders up and their bodies staying low.  My stomach got tighter.  I looked back to the right and saw our friends, their backs to us, still watching the riot.  I felt my feet shifting my weight beneath me when Richard put his hand on my shoulder as his mouth opened, “Ivan!”  he yelled as he whipped his head in their direction.

They didn’t hear. I looked behind me and through the bushes I saw armored vehicles jolting over grassy hills, through the playground, toward the riot.   Police.   Police with shields, with tear gas, with guns.  Both hands were on my shoulders now, steadying himself on his tip toes, stretching his neck and back to peer over the bush behind me as my head whipped from left to right deciding which way to go:  away from the police and into the riot or away from the riot and into the police.  He grabbed my hand and pulled me up the street toward the police.  I turned as we ran and yelled “Chaz!”  who was still watching the riot, his back to us.  They were on the edge of the crowd as if watching a festival.  I took one more quick glance as Richard hand propelled me forward and I saw the mass in the intersection begin to move.  My face was forward but I don’t remember seeing anything when I felt the loud blast against my back.  

Richard’s hand kept pulling me forward despite my fear, my shock, my want to close my eyes, my need to look at everything.  Then I heard Becky yell my name from behind, and as I turned my head Richard changed directions and my Keds almost slipped out from under me in the wet grass.  I didn’t even have time to catch myself because his hand pulled me fast, over the curb into a parking lot.  We shot quickly between two parked cars that sat so close I had to shift my hips sideways to slide between the mirrors.  Then I saw them.  I saw Becky again looking frantic and Chelsea running with Ivan and Chaz.  We all moved like darting fish until we saw an apartment building with an open door.  

A mother had her baby in a stroller stopped in front of the entrance stoop.  The child was maybe a year old and was sitting straight up with his little chubby hands holding onto the bar in front of him; his head craning to see in every direction like mine had moments before.  Richard picked up the front of the stroller, speaking quick French, and she pushed her baby inside while we pressed our backs against the glass listening to the quick pops and explosions, watching the clouds and light.  My stomach stayed tight and my eyes wide.  

The claps and booms were getting closer and clouds of tear gas billowed from the street and blew sideways in the breeze.  We decided to move and we made our way back to the street that lead to our university.  Despite the fires that burned in the streets, cars still whipped past.  

A Reunionais called to us in cool French, “Students!  How kind of you!  But why are you leaving?  Did you get scared?”  Richard said it was the girls.  To that, Chelsea and Becky quickly spat that he had stayed behind and that they were brave and went ahead into the riot.  They were arguing as if they had ridden the roller coaster that he was too afraid to approach.   My whole abdomen was still tight from fear, and the tension of just moments before was still thick in my blood.  I meant to keep quiet but the words swelled up into my mouth, “I don’t think it’s brave to put yourself in a riot.”  The conversation ran quiet as Ivan chuckled and said, “That’s a good point.”

Now I have an odd cool scratchiness at the back of my throat as I sit in my room. I watch from my balcony --watch the orange smoke pushing toward the sky, the helicopter spotlighting the chaos for the police--  trying to swallow the cotton in my mouth and reality of what I just witnessed.  The hazy ginger lighting and the misty rain that continues to fall adds just a touch of Hollywood to the whole hot, passionate affair between angry citizen and police.  

The papers are saying this will continue until the French government caves and begin to cut prices and increase pay.  It’s all about money.  Always is. 

Monday, March 2, 2009

The wheels on the bus

Everyone on this island has similar dietary practices and therefore all smell alike.  The bus is the place you smell it the most.  

I was sitting on the bus on a bench seat big enough for me and another small person, so a ten year old boy sat beside me.  We rode along like that until we came to a bus stop and the doors opened. The boy and I simultaneously sat up, scooted to the edge of the bench, waiting and watching for old people.  

It is understood here that youth and able-bodied persons give up their seats for middle-aged women and grandparent types.  When only college and high school aged people got on, the boy and I both sat back.  In that moment I understood I was part of this island, following their customs and social cues, and just like the boy, every bit at home.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I was in a bad mood the other day, so I drew a smiley face on my orange.  He sat on my desk for an hour smiling at me until I ate him.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Laying in the sun on L’Hemitage beach, we remembered tops were optional. I can check another box off my bucket list.

On the long bus ride back to campus, I sat by the open window and let the wind style my salt-laden hair. The seat next to me was left open and the gruff Reunionnaise man across the aisle, that went in and out of dozing, sometimes watched me take pictures like a tourist.

The sea water was pink lemonade massaging the rocks where fishermen stood in sandals. Behind them, giant gullies wrinkled the mountains so lush they looked soft. The sun setting in the west cut shadows across each dip in topography, making each ravine a thick line of black against the lit up greens of palms and vines. The whole island smelled of flowers. A sweet and warm wind with the scent of gardenias swallowed my face and took my mind away from the crowded bus that held waves of body odors from diets full of spice.

I had the eyes of someone who saw what that Reunionnaise man could no longer see; his view of this world was polluted with memories, associations, and distractions of the everyday, while I could still see its raw, pure harmony. Every shadow, every cloud was magnificently textured with the freedom of not knowing it.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Studying abroad

I aim to be full of love for everyone, to also have ample forgiveness and acceptance. I will no longer “try to get people to like me,” but instead just love them, be open to them, and care. By not trusting someone, I make them untrustworthy, so I will trust. And I hope can let go of whatever has already happened. It doesn’t matter what was said or how this moment came to be, because all I may do is change the future. Just change it now and tomorrow and be content. That’s all. That is what I’ve learned so far.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lots of open windows

The portions of food here are tres grande. I have yet to finish a meal in one sitting. Chelsea told me to buck up and expand my stomach.

It was cooler last night and I slept. It was so great. I also ate fish today, which gave me some much-needed protein. I have abandoned the vegetarian ship for fresh fish from the Indian Ocean.

I got my student card today. Now I can buy a discounted bus pass and go anywhere I want without paying any drivers. The buses have their own lanes here in Reunion, which is a wonderful idea.

Skype works. s.d.packham

I was told by my only Reunionnaise friend, Christopher, that out of the Luke, Chelsea, and me, I know the least. I thought GREAT, gotta catch the f up. Then he gave me a little hope when he told me to stop speaking Creole. Hah. Who would have thought.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The first day here I noted the obvious cultural differences:

- Cat-calls are even more regular than in the states
- People walk very slowly
- Everything and everyone runs late. Helene (pronounced: ell’en), my Reunionnaise Mom basically, said to just be patient “C’est tropical.” She warned that even buses run when the drivers get there and classes usually start 15 minutes late.
- Chickens sold on the sidewalk is the worst smell I’ve ever encountered
- People here are very open, notably about their views and histories with sex, religion, and politics
- Everyone who has brought it up hates Bush and loves Obama
- Music can always be heard playing from at least 3 different sources
- Everyone line-dries their laundry on balconies and in windows usually after washing them in the shower (I have taken to this practice, too, since it is 2 euro per load.)
- Surprise! No recycling. What? You’re on a teeny tiny island!
- And everyone loves/is fascinated by Katie’s red hair

C’est tout pour le moment.

I thought about writing about my room in detail, but then I thought you’d get the idea with a mere list:

my own room and bathroom with shower
small, but I don’t need much
no air conditioning
great cross-breeze with open doors
balcony complete with Indian Ocean backdrop

Tonight, I went to a bar downtown with a bunch of students, so I had a crash-course in Reunionnaise culture and French.

The first difference I noticed was that we left for the bar at 7:15pm. In Knoxville, no one goes to bars or clubs until 11pm. The bars here also close at midnight. I like it better this way.

At one point we were all dancing (which is serious cardio; no wonder everyone here is thin) to a local band. Stephan, who was dancing in front of me abruptly stopped and pointed to my flip flops and wagged his finger back and forth. I stepped out of them and standing behind them, I looked up at his face. He kicked them off the dance floor and I found myself dancing in spilled beer among barefoot friends. Culture.

On the way home I saw a snail as big as my fist on the sidewalk and no one was interested but us Americans. Everyone, however, was interested when a naked man walked up next to us. Romuelle, a student in circus school (not kidding) and friend who is not much taller than me but is wider by at least 6 inches and pure muscle, said something that made the naked man literally run away. I asked Sarah (pronounced Zarhah, from Germany) what he said, but she wasn’t listening and just said “Probably something mean.” Then she and I continued our conversation on how marijuana, “zamal” in Reunionnaise Creole, is practically legal here. She said, “Even the policemen smoke. No one cares.” Apparently it’s easy to come by and cheap, a pound for 50 euro. Damn.

Today the last of the American exchange students arrived. His name is Luke and we’ve already taken to calling him Jean-Luke (Une idee brillant de Chelsea). He’s from Georgia which makes us all from the American south, but surprisingly none of us have southern accents (or at least not to my ears).

After going to the pool and struggling to speak French with our new friends all day, the four of us ate dinner and hung out together and spoke english. It was a guilty pleasure, but in my opinion, fine for now. I realized I haven’t laughed since Tuesday, laughed a hard laugh anyway because humor is the last thing you seem to get in a language. I don’t know all the puns or ironies, and can barely hold on to a funny anecdote. So tonight, in english, we talked and talked and laughed and laughed with “That’s what she said”s and cultural quips no one else understands.

Tomorrow, it’s back to french, or bust.

I just woke up from another shitty night’s sleep. All I want is to sleep well and this heat and humidity makes it impossible. I sleep with my balcony and hall doors open in hopes for an ocean breeze that will cut the stagnant heat. No go. One day (the day I said there was a great cross breeze) there was wind. Now it’s hiding.

I haven’t cried since I left my house when I teared up saying goodbye to my mom. I was wondering just now if it was because I’m trying my damnedest not to be dehydrated and can’t afford the tears. I’m not sad, just frustrated with the constant heat with no relief and I’m a person that usually cries upon departures and in frustration.

On monday I have to be in academic buildings and I hope they have air conditioning. I also get my student card on Monday so I can finally go to the cafeteria, library, get internet, and a bus pass. I don’t know why they asked us to be here this week if we can’t really DO anything until Monday. They aren’t even giving us our food stipend until February 2, so we have to put our own money on our meal cards for now. C’est tropical, non?

P.S. I love nutella.

P.P.S. After writing the above entry, I realized the vitamins I had been taking before bed have a warning on the label that I missed: "This product contains about as much caffeine as a cup of coffee." I now take my vitamins in the morning and I'm much happier.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Today I loved a stranger.

After my early morning flight arrived in Chattanooga from St. Pete, FL, I started driving. I drove maybe 10 miles out of Chat toward Nashville when I noticed a Honda C-RV, black, just like my sister's passing me. Then, maybe 2 minutes later I passed it. Then it passed me. And we played this game for a while.

At one point the Honda cut it close and got in front of me to go around a semi, but it was on a curve and she used her brakes. So, I raised my voice to my empty car "IT'S DANGEROUS TO BRAKE ON A CURVE!" Then I passed her. Then she passed me. I was irritated with her insistence on fluctuating her speed, since I was cruising at (a mature-for-my-age) 75mph. I even let out a few exasperated sighs.

Somewhere along the way though, between leap-frogging each other, and tucking ourselves behind the other's car, we became road-buddies. The middle-aged, heavyset, African American lady with curly, short hair in her SUV cruised with me and my hotrod 3000GT. We went like that, me cruising at 75 and her behind me getting close then falling behind, us only leaving the right lane to pass trucks together.

She passed me one final time before she got in front of me to exit the highway. She was riding on the ramp that paralleled the interstate and I threw up a hand to wave at the moment she did the same. I immediately smiled. My windows are practically an impenetrable black from tinting, so there is little chance she waved to me in response; she may not have even seen my wave at all. I looked down at my odometer and we shared 95 miles together. In 95 miles we came to appreciate each other, even to the extent that left us waving calmly, honestly, thankfully, to a total stranger we will never see again.

Monday, January 5, 2009


Since I act, react, and interact with other humans, I have the little-spoken-of power of influence.  We can influence the moods and even the decisions of those around us without even really saying a direct opinion.  It's seems unfair to have so much power.  But, now that I've realized it, I can do good and not evil.  No sarcasm.  No belittlement.  I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, not even if they deserve it. 

I just heard this sweet quote off Six Feet Under:

"The future is just a fucking concept that we use to avoid being alive today."