I’m not a city person but I had a good time in one once.

I am not good at operating in New York. Or Boston. Or most cities. I act like I am- I am merely very skilled at covering up the fact that I am very, very lost. Mostly because once I reach a place with any significant population (i.e. over 50,000) I seem to be consistently bad at figuring out where the hell I am.

My lovely aunts hosted me in Connecticut over spring break this last year and I was able to head into the city several times. Each time was it’s own unique perilous journey. One morning I met Exa at the train station, and I wanted to cry seeing her! Another time I successfully got into the city but was supposed to meet an old friend from high school at a vegan Japanese restaurant.

I was given an address but since at that point I owned no smart phone I merely had to guess. I was almost late, I was confused, and I had spent 90 minutes circling blocks, trying to gauge where I was. Finally, I hailed a taxi and got in. Giving him the address, I expected to feel relief. Upon repeating it though, he says, “Listen, it’s literally two blocks from here dahlin’. I can take you there but you’re pretty much already there.” I refused to walk any further and rode the taxi two blocks.

Another time I went into the city and rode the subway to the Met. However, I was so relieved to finally be on the right line I fell alseep in my giant black rain slicker and woke up in the Bronx some time later after having passed the Met long long ago. Oops. I simply stayed on the train, and waited until I got back down to the Central Park ish area.

New York was lovely. I ate fantastically well- noodles, mimosas, whoopie pies, Italian food, French breakfasts, sushi, you name it! However, my appetite was fueled by the pure ridiculousness and stress of being in New York. I love cities for a jaunt or for a bit but I think I’ve slowly come to realize that heavily populated areas deprive me of the greenery and forests I take for granted. I feel claustrophobic and yet lonelier than ever. I love being able to go into one for a bit to visit museums and hear the multiple languages and see the culturally different but for me there is nothing like getting up and hearing the trees scrape against my window and be surrounded by mountains, or driving for only an hour before I hit pristine streams and campsites rarely visited. I like it when my traffic jam is caused by deer in the road.

 

Quiet musings.

best.jpg002_22

004_20 007_17 010_14 018_6 022_2Finally got some more film developed! A few posts coming, hopefully. These were taken on my Olympus OM-20 SLR which has become monopolized by photo class. Julia finally got a picture of me that appropriately demonstrates the ridiculousness that is my hair. Part of it straight, part curly. It can’t make up its mind.

I once again fell into devoting frames to hands, but this time they were my own. Manually focusing and not moving was difficult. I have always found my hands odd looking- my fingers are slightly crooked, my hands are not dainty things, but they are beautifully weird because they are my own.

I also photographed random things around my room. The mink and red nail lacquer screamed some sort of noir film.

Basel in the snow

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMontana right now is snowy, slick, and miserable. Grey clouds, colorless landscape. Almost three years ago in February, Lexi and I took the SBB from Lugano –> Zurich –> Basel, the whole way gazing out the window at the snowy landscape.

After leaving the flughafen (train station), Lexi and I made our way in the wrong direction from downtown. Past a few sex shops, theatres, and eventually finding ourselves in Swiss suburbia (apartment buildings and parks- something like 70% of the Swiss live in apartments). Eventually we found the Rhine and the more busy areas, and wandered around- it was freezing cold, but luckily it wasn’t snowing any longer. The city was pretty empty, as Carnivale had occurred and many people were probably sleeping off some wicked partying.

A quiet source of inspiration.

I forget that there’s a mountain in the middle of my home town. It sits in a corner of the city, rather rotund, not ominous in the least- just there. Mount Helena is an omnipresent part of the landscape, a token rise in elevation, a constant in my view of the city. Apparently, it has so much presence I take it for granted and forget to reconnect.

While I spent a good deal of the summer running on the lower trails, many of them unmarked social trails, I had not actually made it to the top of Mount Helena in years. Literally. I can count the number of times I’ve made it to the top on one of my hands. Feel free to send me mental waves of shame.

Well, it just increased by one more. After a casual suggestion that I didn’t take seriously enough, AK and I set off walking towards the mountain, through downtown, past locked doors and dark stores. While he was wearing entirely appropriate clothing- Goretex shoes with treads, waterproof gloves, two layers of practical jackets, and pants- I wore leather boots with no treads, a red wool pea coat (another possible post- why is it called a pea coat?!), cashmere/wool gloves with a few holes and no waterproofing capabilities, and a leather bag to hold my camera. I looked, quite frankly, like a moron. Or somebody from out of town. (To be fair, I hadn’t packed boots, actual pants, gloves, or any sort of practical coat for the weekend.)

I went first. It was probably best- I didn’t have to match a pace, but was rather able to set it. A hobbled pace, to be sure- the boots were very good at keeping away water, but terrible at making me feel like I could stand up and stay on the trail. I slipped, slid, and had to engage in all manner of balancing moves that made me feel more like an amateur trapeze artist than a walker of mountain trails. (Note to self: Toss hiking boots in the car, you may need them in the future). I led us down a trail that was entirely erroneous (my apologies!) for a bit, too, to add to the utter ridiculousness.

The top was rocky and icy. A 360 degree vista of trees, valleys, faraway hills and mountains made my breath catch in my throat for a few moments. I have resented this landscape, felt violated by the isolation, and have loathed Helena as a backwater town of little to offer. Little by little I forgive this town, realizing that these feelings of hate are ill-placed. When I can see for miles on the top of a long-neglected mountain with a worthwhile human being and breath the crisp air and feel more vital than I have in a long time, things are clarified, life is simplified, and my caustic feelings turn less acidic.

As we descended, AK led us through drifts where the wind erased the trail for some yards, led us back down the mountain, and occasionally turned around to wait for me when my shrieks and curses for fear of falling grew too common. In the end, we hopped a fence and got hot food, a good afternoon spent outside in my own little-traveled backyard.

Here’s the path we walked, courtesy of AK’s smart phone:  https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=208866538666354606641.0004ce418d59a12300060

A walk in the woods (ish)

Going for a cool afternoon walk in some “woods” nearby, with muted colors, hushed noise, and cottonwood leaves littering the ground might be one of the best things ever. Waking up from a lovely nap and then doing that is even better.

Fall returned for an afternoon. The  cool breeze was enough to make my skin feel slightly flushed. The oranges and yellows against the grays and browns, the murmur of water, and the whispers of trees gave way to a feeling of contentedness. Winter released its vice-like grip for a short while, and we walked, savoring the last shreds of a too-short season here in Montana.

University starts tomorrow, CHE?!

I’m trying to be cool like this cavalier about school.

I’ll be a senior in college, I’m taking wicked courses, my apartment and the lovely people in it seem pretty swell, and although I have yet to get my shit together enough to pump up my bike tires, I think everything is going pretty swell.

Plus, I’m taking a class ALL ABOUT medieval art. We’re talking warped perspective, amazing use of color, really crazy creativity mixed with amazing uses of repetition. I love medieval art because it seems to be so bland but then BOOM you find a manuscript with illustrations of a tree with penises in it in gold leaf.  Yes, you read correctly. The medieval period is honestly of the most unique and awesome times in all of history. I love it.

I hope all you cool cats are going to have a lovely fall! I hear thunder, and I hope the coming storm is marvelous. Challenges are going to abound in many ways but I think that if I can get myself organized and prioritized I can handle whatever comes.

Image source: Wikimedia

γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Know thyself)

Alright, so I haven’t posted in quite awhile. My access to a computer and sanity has been limited at best- my job has taken a turn for the hectic, and my schedule is now devoted to working, running, and sleeping. There is not a lot of time for other things, besides occasionally being social (rarity) and perhaps procrastinating by blogging.

I think that as somebody who takes thousands of photographs, I find myself often missing pictures of myself. I either don’t ask others to take pictures of me or they never offer. Of the thousands of photographs I post, I am in hardly any. Unfortunatly, I fear that later in life I will be able to see my world but not be able to see me. How am I aging? How am I transforming? I want to know both the world around me through my images but I also in a strange way desperately want to be able to capture something in photographs of myself that I haven’t quite gotten.

The point of the title is that in Greek it translates to meaning “know thyself” but within that it means “pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude” (source here). Although I probably looked ridiculous pointing the lens to myself, or I possibly looked self centered, it is vital that I know not just the world I photograph with such voracity but also myself and how I am in this world.

Ho pensato che sarebbe meglio ormai.

Ah, heart pangs. Wanderlust. Debilitating moments where instead of being productive, I skim through the thousands and thousands of pictures I have of my two years studying and being a part of Switzerland.

A lot of people treat my two years abroad as a sort of vacation. In that I first went to travel and have fun and second study. That is very very false. Being at a small school you learn how it works, and you want to learn how to get involved. Even though my photographs rarely show the blandness of the cafeterias or the classrooms, that’s because I take them for granted and appreciate my time spent in il centro and fuori scuola (downtown and outside school).

My school had a rigorous course schedule and unrelenting amounts of papers and homework. German, British, and Italian professors  with heavy accents teach you about gender roles, the history of Italy, and how to do algebraic equations. If I earned an A, it was something I had worked my ass of for. My B’s were also hard won…a particularly brilliant and quick witted professor named Professor Pyka would give us obscure readings and ask us to make connections. His insatiable appetite for academic progress made us all cower in fear, awe, and mostly confusion.

It’s strange, because now that I’ve transferred elsewhere, I still wake up and consciously have to adjust myself to what is to being a new world. I’ve been here for seven weeks and I still think I’ll see my professors in the local bar. I see students here who look like friends back in Switzerland. I hear people speak German and I smell cigarette smoke and I am brought back to nights huddling at the tables outside the Irish pub or making my way to Club 1 in the dark alleys of Lugano. I think my professors are accessible by email at 3 am.

Honestly, Franklin is not an Ivy League institution, but I’ve been here for seven weeks and have seamlessly gotten into the level of academic rigor as befits a junior in college. My money that I have paid for an international education has paid off; in fact, I’ve been acing all my exams, and feel totally competant to face any challenges the world  holds for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve slept in train stations, been lost in foreign countries, have made friends who don’t speak English on train rides, and have ordered food in multiple languages, but something about living in Switzerland for two years has bolstered my confidence in myself and my ability to do whatever I want to.

Franklin, do not forget me. I shall never forget you!

Palermo: The Past Posts

It’s rather rainy and cold today, which means a blog post! WOO! I haven’t done one in a while…er, less than week, but in a young person’s life that can feel like forever!

Anyway…

Palermo is largest city in Sicily- the island off the coast of Italy, essentially being kicked by the boot. Sicily has a long history of being taken over as a vital trading/geographic place on the Mediterranean, and so the Arabs, Spanish, Greeks, English and Sicilians (and many other cultures) have been dominating the island for thousands of years.

Palermo is amazing in that it reflects all of those things in once place! On one corner of a street will be a Fascist style building, and down three blocks will be a Baroque church, cornered by a Greek-temple like building. Arab influence in the patterns on the windows and the language are still very much there. Sicilian itself is a mix of Arabic, Greek and Italian- a weird, hybrid language baby that nobody can understand except the 5 million Sicilians that speak it (A fair few, eh?)

Exa and I were in her dorm room one cold January evening messing around on the internet, when we decided to see what the cheapest place to go was on EasyJet. For less than 50 euros, we got round trip tickets to Palermo! Naturally, without thinking about it, we bought them. We knew Palermo was in Sicily, but we didn’t even think about the fact that we were going to Sicily, or how to prepare for such a random adventure.

The day comes when we get on the plane. Sicily is not known for it’s safety, so Exa boldly attempted to bring a Swiss army knife onto the EasyJet flight. Unsuccessful, it was taken from her- yet, somehow, I got pepper spray onto the flight. (It was in the bottom of my bag accidentally, I swear!) We had our hostel name, address, and we had the information we needed- I had scribbled it all down on a couple of useful notecards.

It wasn’t until we landed in Palermo (which is a very interesting landing situation), that we realized I had left the notecards on my desk. Noooooo! Shit happens when you travel, and so we merely embraced this small hurdle, determined to not let it interfere with our adventure.

Unfortunately, the directions to our hostel were on the notecards. We boarded a dark, smelly shuttlebus which went past deserted, decaying buildings in the pitch black for about 30 minutes…Exa and I were both nervous, clutching our bags and wondering how the hell to get to our hostel at night in Palermo. Italian cities are not know for their orderly and easy to find streets. Luckily, I had programmed our hostel’s phone number into my cheap pay-as-you-go Swiss cell. I called a number, and a heavily accented voice answered, “Pronto! A Casa di Amici!” (The name of our hostel). I got vague, fuzzy directions, and decided it was alright- we could get there!

We hopped off at a random shuttle bus stop…and realized we had no clue where we were. We were in a big, fancy square, and it was lit up. Some nice fellow on the street gave us directions on GoogleMaps on his iPhone, and we set off- surely the taste of victory was sweet in our mouths! Alas, we set off in the opposite direction- meandering senselessly into the labyrinth of Palermo at night- dimly lit streets, no sidewalks, and general chaos. We finally gave in and found a hotel and got a map, where a very sympathetic hotel employee highlighted our way.

We arrived at the Casa di Amici 2 hours later. The hostess, who I had spoken to on the phone, was livid in the way an Italian mother would be- mostly with worry.

“You girls! I thought you would never show up! You were supposed to be here hours ago!”

Regardless of the fact that we had never met, she treated us like her daughters, and ushered us in, relieved that we had survived and gotten to the hostel.

“It’s not safe at night, especially for you American girls, all pale and with your packs.” We agreed with her, got our keys, dropped our packs, and walked to the restaurant around the corner to celebrate our victory. We ordered pizza and wine, and then collapsed into a food coma.

The rest of Palermo was a blur- a delicious, complex, confusing, and scary blur. We wandered around to the ocean, got confused as German girls for most of the trip (our Italian has a German accent to it, apparently) and ate like kings- arincini, hot chocolate, pizza, lots of red wine (we would split a liter each night before bed) and tiramisu galore! We walked through Communist rallies after shopping at H&M (Palermo was having a mad sale on something), we went and saw The King’s Speech in Sicilian at a local theater, and mostly just took in the sights while trying not to be conspicuous (pick pockets are rampant in Palermo).

The Vucciria truly was the highlight of the trip, though. If you are ever in Sicily, you must go to the Vucciria- a mile long street bordered with food stalls and shops on either side. Sicilians hawk their goods and food loudly, shouting at you, and the streets are wet with sea water. The air smells like fruit, meat, cheese, and the freshest seafood I’ve ever seen. Octopus jostled for space with a stall of fragole (strawberries), and a cheese shop was entirely layered in giant wheels of cheese, shelf upon shelf of it. The Vucciria is one of the oldest food markets in the world. Vespas laden with new produce beep past customers and patrons through the cobblestone walkways, and the senses are delighted in everyway- it looks amazing, smells even better, and the spaces are so packed with food you image you taste it!

We bought fragole and ciliegi (strawberries and cherries) from an enthusiastic vendor- we bought so much he winked at us and give us each a DVD of him playing guitar and singing traditional Sicilian folk songs.

The next day we got on our plane home to clean, safe, and almost lifeless Lugano- at least compared to Palermo. It’s dirty streets, extreme noise level, beautiful architecture, and constantly busy atmosphere was amazing to spend three days in. I have days where I’m craving something really delicious and I think back to Palermo…a gourmance if there ever was one!

A dopo, ciao!

Nächster halt: Bozeman!

And life continues in this idyllic college town. Going to eat at Garage, hiking the “M”, admiring the patterns and buildings around town. I hope everybody’s fall has been beautiful!

It’s starting to get cold, so I’ve invested in a few men’s sweaters and have been wearing them as dresses with tights and leather loafers. The locals seemed confused but to wear boring clothes is to live a boring life; I think that by stretching the normal limits of a wardrobe you keep sharp and stay creative. Thrifting enormous soft sweaters for $2.00 a piece also is much easier on my wallet than trying to find something in any of the stores in the mall for less than $40.00, ja?