Final Functions in Foreign Fields (ie Europe)

Taken, along with my breath, from the hostel patio in Gryon, Switzerland. To have fluffy bolster pillow clouds both below and above you is completely wonderful. To have that sight in a hostel surrounded by new found friends with inspiring stories is purely magical.

I just want to write. I’m on the train to Obertraun, next to Hallstatt. I went there a while back, in the early spring – it was magical. Nice place to relax before the flight home. My headphones broke. I can listen to music at about 1/4th normal volume and from only the left earbud. Cool. Thanks apple. I was pretty hard on them, though, as I am with most of my things. I think I’ll start buying things that advertise a product’s durability. Yea, that’d be a good idea.

So – what the heck am I going to do when I get home? My goodness, I imagine it will be so different from the life I’ve been living here. So much less exciting. I’ve been staying up at night just lying in bed thinking. Thinking about what I want to do with my life, where I want to be. Really, Louisiana isn’t so bad; nearly all of my family is there. Things just feel better here. Especially the weather.

I’ve heard a lot of stories from people I’ve met during my travels. Most have met someone either riding a bike or walking literally across Europe either north to south or west to east. I want to do that. Traveling and being here has made me want to travel and travel and travel, but in adventurous ways like walking or riding everywhere. I want to learn to ride a motorcycle, go to South America and ride my bike from one end to the other.

I did some work in Switzerland. Construction work. 15 francs an hour, the first day for 10 hours, went to Chamonix, and the next 2 days for 6 and 7 hours. The boss, also the owner of the hostel said he would put me to work full time if I stayed. Not at all what I want to do with my life, but it was pretty good money. It supported the idea that I could travel with a little money and get a job when I could. I think it would be cool to work on a farm for a little while, too. The food can’t be bad there. It would be incredible to see a cow, what it eats and how it lives, and drink its milk. Why does that seem so primal now? It’s absurd. I mean, everyone goes to the  supermarket and buys a bunch of junk having no idea of its origin. Maybe I’ll be poor, but I want to have quality food that I know is not full of unnatural things. Maybe I’ll just go live on a farm. That way I’ll be both poor and have good food. But then not all farms are organic, either, so that doesn’t exactly solve the problem.

There was an animal rights festival in Munich. I don’t know if I should really call it a festival… An informational gathering that also sold food and shirts to the general public? I feel like everyone knows what’s right and wrong with animals, though. Not so true with food.

Cory didn’t like Munich. It was too big for him, he said. That’s interesting to me considering he said he was “too city” to climb/hike up to a waterfall in Chamonix. This trip has been a lesson in acceptance. I can accept that people have fun in different ways and that everyone is different. I love being in the mountains just as much as the next tree-hugging naturalist, but I like Munich. Once you get past the amount of people that inhabit the city, accept and embrace that, you can walk through the city like you are alone on a stroll through an incredibly old cobble-stoned city with markets, great architecture, an abundance of events, parks, and millions of people.

I think I’ll be much more willing to accept opportunity. The only thing will be choosing an opportunity out of many. An old boss once told me after I quickly declined an offer to mow his 20-acre plot of 4-foot high grass, “When I was a kid, if someone asked me if I wanted a job I wouldn’t have asked what the job was, I would’ve said yes before they had the chance to tell me.” He was right. Every question is an opportunity. I should’ve said yes then. I said yes in Switzerland.

“Do either of you guys want to make some money?”

“Yep. When?”

“Tomorrow.”

“Okay.”

Great experience. Getting to work in a foreign country on a house next to a beautiful stream in the mountains. I helped pour rocks, lay a water barrier, cut and tie rebar, and pour concrete out of a gigantic hose for the foundation of a house. I moved rocks, wood, radiators, more wood, and brushed old wood to give it a polished, antique look for the ceilings of a home. I think it would be an incredible feat to be able to build my own home. I doubt seriously that I’ll ever actually do it, but maybe if I end going to live in the woods and start my farm, I’ll have to build my house, too.

Yesterday I looked at a website offering an internship (one where you pay to do it, which isn’t cool by the way) in Kenya. Mombasa, Kenya. It was a medical internship. I’d really like to do something like that as well. It said French was good to know, too, so I guess it isn’t a waste to continue with Rosetta Stone. Level 1, Unit 3, Lesson 4. Knowing just a bit of language has helped a lot over here. And it makes me feel good.

In some ways this trip has made me unsure about my life though. That is good in a way, a challenge is always good for someone, but not knowing for sure what I want to do with my life, where I want it to go, after having thought I knew more than most of it, is a little distressing.

There was always a guy around NSU that just walked. The guy walked everywhere. I’d see him 100 meters away walking through a patch of trees, walking down the road toward nowhere a mile or two from campus, and in downtown Natchitoches along the river. I thought he was crazy. He did always talk to himself… Now I think he just wanted to think about what to do and where he wanted to be. That’s not crazy at all.

Having time constraints makes me not like something, I think. Is it ever too late for medical school? Not technically I suppose, but then I pretty much need to already have my MCAT taken, applications practically in the mail, schools picked, nearly the whole works. I’m sure if I wait around I’ll miss out on plenty and I don’t plan to miss many good opportunities, but I don’t plan to rush into something or somewhere without being around 95% sure it’s what I want to do. Life isn’t hard, living is easy, but when you are restricted from doing something between a certain time or a certain age, it just losses a certain quality of…something. I don’t know. Freshness, maybe?

I can’t wait to eat a bowl of cereal. I think I have had one this entire month. NOT cool. I’ll miss dearly the bread here, though. My mouth is watering.

Why can’t I just go live out of a tent? I wonder if being poor, having nothing, makes theft almost a necessity. Say I lived out of a tent. I’d eventually go broke unless I found a job. Then eventually I would likely not live out of a tent. If I didn’t find a job I’d go hungry unless I learned to farm. I’d have to learn early while I had any money for seeds. If nothing grew I’d be starving and end up begging, stealing, or looking for a job. This is sounding like I just don’t want a job at all, isn’t it? What if it’s not a job I don’t want but a career I don’t want. I feel like I could spend my life helping people as a doctor, but I don’t want to do the same thing every day. Then every day would turn into every damned day. Having money usually makes people materialistic and unconnected with themselves, though, and that’s one of the last things I want to become.

Hah, ohhhh Life, you tricky shaman.

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The City of Love

La célèbre Tour Eiffel.

Paris is gigantic. The first day and a half were kind of hectic. I really enjoyed myself, but it was the whole, too many people around here kind of feeling. Today was different. I accepted the size of the city I guess and went searching around looking for nothing really, only starting with the Louvre. I’m pretty sure I’m not in the mood to tell you, “ I went here, saw this, it was big, it was nice, then I went here…” Let me just start over.

I have a balcony. It’s incredible. I’m writing from it now, looking at the Pantheon in the distance. The street of Les Gobelins is under me and although not one the busiest streets, it has many people and cars frequenting it. The building are beautiful. Tall and proud architecture shows true in them and the sun, now going down, gives a light orange glow on both their windows and stones. Small birds fly constantly above landing on thin cylindrical and clay looking outlets that fill each chimney, 10 or more per building.  Trees are planted on rooftop gardens with other small plants. Today I realized how tranquil the inner city can be. I found a park on the top of a train station, another filled only with people reading the paper, relaxing in the sun or the shade, and watching their children play tag or soccer. I reached a cemetery and strolled through it, reading some of the names. I wonder what I’ll want to happen to my remains. I’ve been thinking I want to be buried with some seeds in my pockets in a bag or something that degrades with my body. It doesn’t really matter what kind of seeds. Not roses – not a bush. Okay, it matters a little. I wonder if we think about death more than life.

Anyway, I discovered that knowing another language, even if you’re in France and it isn’t French, is awesome. I got this ID card in Linz that says I’m a foreign exchange student studying in Austria. Well, it’s gotten me into 3 places for free. That’s nearly 30 euro. Okay, it’s supposed to only be for EU citizens, but when you show someone that card and say, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Ich komme aus Österreich”, it’s kind of hard for them to say you aren’t an EU citizen. Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, Invalides – FREE. I got an apple for free at a creperie – they weren’t for sale and I asked to buy one. I’m not sure I understand the phrase “On a shoestring [budget]”…

It’s crazy how much I’ve seen in the two and a half days I’ve been here. All of my legs are sore. I’m convinced it’s not from my run yesterday. Also, 25 euro for one day or working out, are you joking me, I’m used to free stuff. I left. Tomorrow I meet a guy named Paul Faresse (pretty sure that last name is right) who is putting me up for 2 nights. Couchsurfing. Hope that goes well. I think I’ll do it again if it does. Barcelona? Mallorca maybe. Tomorrow I meet Chloé here. That starts the point where I will be with friends from Linz for 11 days straight. Different friends along the way, but not alone like I have been in Munich and Paris. That will be nice. I’m excited both about being with them and about being alone on my hikes through some of the Lake District. Sometimes being alone is great. Other times not so much. I’m certain, though, that experiences are best when shared. It will be nice to travel with people.

Pictures from Paris will be up when I get to Belgium.

München, Germany

Play in a fountain. It's good for your inner child. (Boy in Munich, Germany)

Okay, I’m on the train to Paris. 2 hours left. 2 hours and 1 minute actually. Another actually – you’re supposed to write out numbers one to ten. Like that. That’s okay, I’m no good at English anymore so I can do what I want.

It’s interesting how sometimes I feel more creative on the computer than when writing on paper and then other times the opposite is true. At least I think it is interesting. You don’t have to. Yes you do, you’re reading my blog, you must be.

On to the subject: Munich. Awesome. It was awesome. One of the coolest cities I’ve been to in terms of things to do, things to see, things to drink (kidding, I actually only had one beer there, a good Hofbräu Weisse (white) beer, unless you count the alkoholfrei beer after the race…) A Brazilian guy I met in Linz who plays pro basketball in Spain told me that there is research indicating beer is actually better post-workout than sports drink! I couldn’t make that sentence up. Writing it makes me feel good actually, more because of the Brazilian Spanish pro basketball player I met than the beer vs. sports drink thing.

Right, back to Munich. My goodness there are beautiful women on this train. Oh, umm, yea, I saw most of Munich on foot the first day I was there. Which was cool considering I got there at noon. Yep, I missed my train at 6:53. I was able to use the same special priced 19 euro ticket, though, thanks to… my impeccable German, maybe? Doubtful… Found a great market. Ate a dish with olives and sheep cheese. Ate a lychee that Grace, a friend from Linz, said she loved. It was good. Ate another fruit that was really weird from Thailand. Then I had possibly the best bread I’ve ever had. It had pumpkin seeds in it. It was some bio/natural/something healthy bakery at the market. Wandered around a lot and found the USA vs. Ghana game at a vegetarian restaurant/bar called Ogawe or something similarly weird. This is were I had my beer with some kind of eggplant enchilada like dish that was extremely good. La Ola it was called. That matters. Slept 10 hours. Thank God, too, because the two nights previous were so packed of farewell partying I couldn’t take it anymore.

Woke up 2 hours (I mean two, don’t I?) before the 32nd München Stadtlauf (city run) which was at 11:00. AKA – it was hot. I’m not going to say it was Louisiana, but I was really used to not having much heat, and this wasn’t like that usual feeling at all. I heard the numbers 6,000 and 10,000. For sure on the 10,000, but I’m pretty sure that was either for the half-marathon or the entire event. That’s the number of people registered if you didn’t gather it from my simply throwing numbers at you. I told myself I was shooting for something between 40 and 45’. I ran a 42:38. That’s the kind of shape I thought I was in. It wasn’t the best of days, but wasn’t the worst. I told myself I was going to try not to race too much. I needed to run 70 minutes total that day, so I couldn’t completely kill myself of the extra 20-30 minutes following the race would be hell. Don’t worry, they were still hell. Ten minutes before the race a sentence popped into my head that sounded a little like, “I’m going to kill this thing [the race]”. Genuine thought. So the whole, don’t race too hard kind of went out the window at some points. No one passed me. I was happy about that. I love the feeling of seeing someone in front of you and knowing you are going to beat them. You’re going to catch them, pass them, and be happy about it. How could that not be satisfying? No there were no handicapped people in the race for those of you who answered the question. Another thing that was cool about the race was that we ran though the city some into the famous Englisch Garten. There is a small river that runs through it and people can surf on a wave at one point. It’s the biggest inner-city park in the world. I was pretty beat after the race. I only know this because when I was on my extra 28 minutes I started seeing those really bright spots in your eyes you see before you pass out from heat exhaustion/stupidity. Excellent workout indicator.

I didn’t get recovered really until around 14:00, you know, after my free massage and all. On I went to “BMW Welt” (World). It was free to get in because it’s actually a dealership, but the place was seriously incredible. I didn’t go to the museum because it was 8 euro, but the facilities around there concerning BMW are bigger than large (see photo album). Up the Olympia Tower. 187 meters up (613 feet) gives a pretty good view of everything. On a clear day you’re supposed to be able to see the Alps, but it wasn’t clear enough. Still, good views. Now the best. The Germany (I’m in Munich, remember?) vs. England game. Wow. Watch this video of people celebrating the 2nd goal.

Then I found the 25th München Film Festival. Went to buy a ticket, it was sold out. Asked for another. Sold out. “I’ve got an offer for you. A lady said she didn’t need this ticket anymore so I can give it to you for free if you…” “I’ll take it.” The movie wasn’t bad either besides the fact that it was serious and was about an adopted boy who finds his mother, leaves his family and also adopted brother to move in with her and her new child, then spontaneously stabs her to, what he thought was, death. She survives and tells him in court that she is sorry for ruining his life. He responds, “I’m glad my mother is alive”, which gives the movie’s title. 3 years in prison…

Bed time. I went back to the hostel only to be woken up at 04:00 by two drunk people, both of which decided it was a good idea to have sex while 5 other people were in the room. Thanks dorm room style hostel. I had to laugh though, after the girl asked the guy what was wrong and why he wasn’t “ready”.

Anyway… I worked out this morning at a really nice gym for free and boarded the train to Paris. Lots planned to see in Paris. More than excited. Rosetta Stone French, Unit 2, Lesson 1, Grammar.

Au revoir,
Mathieu (I had to – it’s French)

Croatia Here I Come!

Croatian sunset from the tiny, secluded fishing village of Sveta Nedjelja on the island of Hvar, Croatia.

I feel like I always start my blogs with, “So I’m on my way to _____”. How awesome is that?

So I’m on my way to Split, Croatia. It, like getting to Orvieto, has been an adventure. I was thinking earlier, hoping the entire trip wouldn’t later be deemed, like the beginning has, the trip of close calls. I got to the Linz train station 10 minutes before my train left. I got to the Salzburg train station 10 minutes before my train left. From there, I was supposed to have a 7 hour trip straight to Zagreb, Croatia, the capital and take a bus to Split. Plot twist – the train from Salzburg only went to Zagreb. There was a part of the train track closed. We got off at a stop (Villach) and all got on busses. All. 3 busses of people. Okay, so we then bus to a different train station where we are supposed to catch the same train as if we never got off. Yep, they teleported it there. We get to that station. We take our bags off. We put our bags on. We leave the station. We drive to another station, drop off a few people, and drive finally to our station, where there is a 4 or 5 car train waiting for the now 2 busses of people. It was the only train in the station and looked like it was the only one that had stopped there in weeks. Actually, it kind of looked like it had been there for weeks…. like hundreds of weeks. This thing was old. Somehow I made it to Zagreb only 8 minutes late. So I have 22 minutes to find out where the bus station is, get there by a tram that has zero english words on it, get in line to buy my bus ticket, realize I don’t have Croatian money, hear the lady tell me to hurry because my bus leave in 3 minutes, exchange money and hope to God I don’t get ripped off with the rate, think I got ripped off by the rate, run (literally) back to the ticket office, run to the bus, knock on the window and stare at the bus driver blankly with sad eyes as I hand him my ticket, then calculate that I didn’t really get ripped off by the exchange rate. Now you’re caught up.

To make things better, I wasn’t even planning on taking this bus. I looked yesterday for the available busses and this one was newly posted. Now I get to Split about 10 hours early, which means I’ll spend the night, hopefully, in the hostel I was planning on only staying one night. I say hopefully because I didn’t actually book the place, just emailed them when I realized I’d be getting to Split at 22:30 tonight and not 09:00 tomorrow.

Oh yea, I destroyed my Biochem test. Destroyed is a good thing. It was easy. I know I missed 4 questions and feel about 100% sure on the others. Hope Analytical Chem. goes that easily, but I really don’t think it will.

Got my passport stamped for the 2nd and 3rd times, too. Slovenia and Croatia. Funny how little things make you happy. I saw the man next to me flip through his passport and noticed the abundance of stamps he had. I was jealous. It made me thing of Dad’s passports.

I’ve decided that traveling is one of the greatest things a person can do for themselves. I feel like a new person. I feel so independent. I know, truly, that I wouldn’t be here without my family and in this sense I’m not independent at all, but that’s a different independence. I feel more attentive, better prepared to see the world, to take everything. I feel like when I was home 4 months ago I must have let incredible things pass me by as I went to buy groceries or gasoline. I feel now that everything I see is in some way amazing. I feel full of curiosity.

Speaking of good words that start with the letter ‘c’ – I need to get creative. Creative with my workouts. I can’t just keep doing pushups and various forms of ab work. I want to do something like throw boulders, pull a boat by rope with my teeth, pull a car by rope…with my hands, climb a tree, swim to Italy, or you know, something fun like that. Climbing has helped me feel like I’m being active in an adventurous way, but I want more. When don’t we. Speaking of that, there are a lot of places to climb in Split so maybe I’ll be able to find one that is climbable without a harness. I didn’t bring it. I did bring my shoes and chalk bag, though, and here’s why. In Hvar, or “on Hvar” rather since it’s an island, there is a place near where we are staying called “Cliffbase”. It’s some kind of recreational area that has trails, boating, and climbing nearby. Specifically, since we are next to the sea, there are places where you can do what is called “deep water soloing”. This is where you swim or are boated to a rock that has below it deep water and thus, are able to climb without a harness or spotter, simply falling into the sea if you do fall or jumping into the sea when you reach the top. I AM SO EXCITED.

50 minute run tomorrow by the Adriatic. One hour bus ride left and then I get to see if I’ve got a bed. Wish me luck even though I’m so independent and resourceful and will be able to find a place to stay. Thanks.

Cam

Florencian Procrastination

A beautiful, architectural masterpiece. The Duomo.

Florence has impressed me. I’m not done yet, I leave tomorrow night at 21:34 or something around there. Makes sense – say an exact time and then negate it with a statement of approximation. I hope it’s not late like Katlyn’s train was to Paris. 55 minutes. Yikes. There was a French children’s rugby team waiting. I want to learn French. It sounds pleasant.

Back on topic, I saw and did a great deal today. Seeing Michelangelo’s David probably topped the list, though the queues for Uffizi and the Duomo were impressive as well. Seriously though, patience may now be one of my strong points. I’m quite surprised I just wrote that, for patience has never, in all of my abundant years, been close to a strong point of mine. I got up this morning around 09:30. I considered rushing to get in line for a museum or gallery. I quickly decided to go run instead. 10 minutes later I was out of the door for a run. 40 minutes later I had seen all but 3 or 4 (that I knew/know of) main sites in Florence. I saw the replica of David near the Uffizi. I saw the Ponte Vecchio where houses come out of the wall they are supposed to be in and appear as though they will soon fall into the Fiume Arno. Yes, I have a map in front of me. I saw a big trailor market with junk for sale after going through a fence that I wasn’t supposed to and running along the river. That was super. Got back to the hostel, had my included breakfast (cereal, big surprise), and went out. I walked and walked and walked some more. The queues were ridiculous. I skipped them. I saw some nice sunglasses that seemed to have the ability to replace the Ray Bans I magically made disappear from my face in my parent’s Venice hotel. I bought those very nice sunglasses and wore them the entire rest of the day. Did I say that they are nice – and italian – so thanks phrase ‘two birds with one stone’. I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had at a place called The Oil Shoppe. Don’t worry, I’ll go again tomorrow. Feeling like I was missing something, being in Florence and all, I went to the Bargello Museum. Some incredible ivory carvings/sculptures and works by Donatello. Not the Ninja Turtle. After acquiring some much needed sandals (Italian as well) and a couple of summer items, one of which included a microfiber bath towel (one of those swimmer ones that dries extremely fast (it actually does, I tried it just now)) and is also an Italian production I went back to the hostel, put the bag down and went to the Duomo where the end of the line could see the front door. It took 5 minutes. I wore shorts – I shouldn’t have – but they either didn’t see or didn’t care and I got in anyway. 414 steps of the Campanile for a nice panoramic view of Florence. I got to the top. It wasn’t high. It was windy and I was unimpressed. Then I saw someone disappear into a wall and realized that I was dumb. I climbed the 4 other flights and realized that I had been barely a fourth of the way up. The climb made me happy. I saw indentions in the stairs, holes where it seemed like water had set for years and left an indention in the step, and rub marks on the walls and railings that made me think of how many people had been there. Nice view. I think the Duomo was higher, maybe by 10 or 15 meters, but I got to take pictures of it while on the Campanile. I then went to the Galleria dell’ Accademia, the house of David, not Legan, although that would be really cool, too. The statue was presented better than I imagined, and it made the work spectacular. I was beyond impressed. I stood against a pillar for a while. Artists drew him nearby, school groups took notes, I met two people from Denver, two from Florida, and one who studies at Rice. They were of some interest. Ouch… I hope I don’t come back pretentious. I’m not too worried about that. Wonder if that approaches pretentious itself…

Realizing The Oil Shoppe was now closed as I read the sign “Open from 10:30 – Until the bread runs out” and feeling disappointed, I couldn’t help but smile. I went to a supermarket, a mini version that didn’t even have orange juice for God’s sake, got 1.5L Aqua Naturale, a greek yogurt, and some grapes the size of a giant’s eyeball. I spent 15 euro total in food today. That’s legit. Too bad I spent a bundle on those sunglasses, towel, etc.

Isn’t it weird how people will say anything to convince themselves something is okay? Spending 100 euro on sunglasses instead of 20 is okay, right? Because they’re better quality and you pay for quality and I’m only in Florence once. I may not be able to get them on the internet. Yea, and my eyes hurt – it’s so bright outside. I can’t go back to the hostel to get the hat I brought with me, then my head will be hot and I’ll be sweaty.

“Okay, I’ll take them.”

Time to study. It’s 22:00 and I feel like I just ran 15 miles. The Brazilians in my room are leaving for dinner I think. I don’t want to study. That’s why I wrote this. Oh, and because I want to inform the world and friends of my travels. Yea.

Tomorrow I see Uffizi, dangit. I’m waking up to be there before it opens at 08:15. I’m getting too into this whole writing military time thing I’ve got going on here. Once I realize how quickly I want to leave a crowd I’ll go to the Giardino di Boboli (Garden of Boboli?) and maybe the Palazzo (Palace) Pitti near the garden. Maybe that should be the garden is near the Palace. Nature is better, so says my subconscious. Then I could go see Michelangelo’s tomb, my Oil Shoppe, and maybe sit around somewhere studying for this Biochemistry test.

Ciao

Italy!

Civita di Bagnoregio. One of the coolest places I have ever been.

I’m on a train to Orvieto. Orvieto, Italy. We, Katlyn and I, left my dorm at 17:00 yesterday. We arrive at 14:12. It’s been a journey. Turns out, not all train tickets have all connections listed on the ticket. Also turns out – that sucks. We got to the Linz train station at, I don’t know, 20:00 because I realize that our ticket says Linz to Orvieto departing at any time. Then below, in about half as large font size, I see “Leoben Hbf to Orvieto” at 21:40. So, we were supposed to look up the connection to Leoben and get on it. Great. At least we have the helpful people at the counter, right?

-I don’t understand this ticket. How do I get to Leoben from here? When am I to leave Linz?

-You missed your train. The last train to Leoben left at 6:40. You can’t use this ticket………… So what do you do now?

-Exactly, what do we do now?

-Hmmmm, well, the next train to Orvieto leaves in 2 and a half hours and goes through Venezia (Venice), but it’s completely sold out – there are no reservations. Here is the timetable for that train to Orvieto. You’ll have to talk to the conductor to see if you can get on.

-Okay. Well, I need a ticket to Zagreb on the 29th on May.

-That’ll be 29 Euro.

-Thanks. Bye.

Yikes…..

The conductor says, “yes, you can use this ticket even though you aren’t supposed to. There are no places, though and only these two cars go to Venice. Please hurry.”

Katlyn’s… 70, maybe 80 lbs of luggage was making me extremely happy at this point. 🙂

We get on the train. People are standing in the halls. A lot of people. They tell me “Das Zug is voll”. After shuffling around, the train starts moving. I stand there for a second, and leave to see for myself. I go down to the end of the car and ask to a Venezuelan lady if “Hier ist Frei”, to which she answers yes, and her son answers, “but we aren’t supposed to do that”, as I immediately and joyfully put my jacket on the bed and go get Katlyn. Talk about cramped space. “I feel like we are going to be traded as slaves”, says Kate.

It actually wasn’t as bad as I expected considering we missed our initial train and had no reservations. Turns out, kids are small and can sleep with their nice, generous mothers. Thanks to all nice mothers.

We arrived, though, completely rested as you can imagine, in Venezia at 8:20, got breakfast at a Best Western (probably one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had), eating it as fast as possible and completing it in approximately 13 minutes, with 10 left to catch the train to Orvieto.

The Trenitalia people are psychotic, by the way. We were laying down in a sitting only cabin – one which had 6 beds in it that folded either up into a bed or down into the setback of the bed below it. There were adamant about us only sitting because that’s all we paid for.

One hour to go. It will have been 18 hours. It should have been about 12.5. I’ve got to say, though, I love entirely the train system. I love the crowded spaces, the psychotic controllers, the reservation requirements, the fact that you can stand for 5 hours or sit on your jacket in the corridor and still arrive to your vacation destination ready to see the world, and I love the gigantic windows that allow you to see the world in a way that few get to see it. It gives me chills nearly every time I look out of the window.

I thought of something I wanted to say while running the other day. It’s that I keep waiting for someone to snap there fingers and wake me from a dream. I’ve never had so  many good feelings compacted into such a short time period. This trip has changed me. My worldview is different. I feel as though I must have been in many ways completely ignorant or simply unaware of what the world really is and what is in it.

I’ve been climbing for about a month and a half now. Thursday I climbed the big rock wall near my dorm which is actually about 4 octagonal-ish towers that connect  in the middle so that, if desired, you can climb upside down once reaching the top. I’m not there yet, but it was awesome. Loved every minute and now I love that I’m so sore.

I’ve also been running. 50 minutes last sunday and about 30-45 on other runs. 4 times per week. That’s conservative, right? Please, running gods, no injuries. Bitte bitte bitte!!!

I’m more than ready to see Italy and Croatia in the next two weeks. I’ll be in Florence for a couple of nights and few days before going back to Linz, where I’ll take a Biochemistry exam on Friday and go, the next morning at 08:35 to Zagreb. I’ll take an overnight bus to Dubrovnik, see Korcula, Hvar, and Split, and be back in Linz on the 7th.

What a life!

I’m considering getting a tattoo in German that translates, “My talent is being a masochist”. Good idea, right?

Yours,
Possible Happiest Person in the World

Spring Break Begins

As I sit in class, smelling someone’s fingernail polish, forcing myself to stay my eyes in a struggled open position, sometimes looking around at the other POW’s, I slowly come to the realization that this is helping me. The class, I mean, not the fingernail polish. As I listen to Prof. G. Blaschek, with an incredible amount of excitement in his voice considering what he’s talking about, I know that in some way, this class must be helping. I might be kidding myself. Boolean conditions, loops, and branches consist of information I am nearly positive I won’t use later in life. But maybe I can think of this like an education in thought process. If I can think in many different ways.

Prof. Blaschek: “This difference could be due to the way Americans think. For example, in America they first throw bombs at Iraq and then ask if that was the right thing to do. In Europe, we first check to see if it is safe to cross the street, and then we cross.”

See…

I’m tired. I’ve been planning my spring break a great deal and still am unsure of my plans for the final week. I have not booked anything after the 2nd, when I’ll leave my parents to maybe go to Slovenia for 2 days to meet up with a group of friends. The places they will see look very nice, but will probably be nicer later in the year. I think I’ll stay in Venice another day (or two?) and then go to Rome for a week. I’ve read it’s a great time to go to Rome or Spain. There is also a group going to Alicante in Spain for a beach spring break. A plane ticket costs 120 Euro roundtrip… from Venice. A one way train ticket to Rome from Venice costs 75. I could also go to Slovenia, up to Linz to see my parents again as they make their way back to Frankfurt, and then go west in Germany. But it’s April, and it’s spring break, and western Germany is not exactly an ideal location for great weather in early April. The opportunities I have here never cease to amaze me when I think about them for a second or two. Ideas?

Continuing my entry on another day, I begin:

Dad left this morning. I can’t put into words how great it was to see him and have him here with me in Europe. We went to Vienna and around Linz. Our first stop, the most important place in Linz, was Xocolat, the best local chocolate store. I’m pretty sure there is a bigger one in Vienna, but I didn’t search for it. We got some great health food there. As Dad would say, “I can feel my arteries opening up”. While I’m not sure that’s the truth, the chocolate was better when shared with him. I loved his time here and am grateful for it.

I’m sitting. On my down jacket. Thanks geese. I’m sitting on the floor of a train to Nuremberg. I was in a seat, but once I got to Passau, I had to move because the seat was reserved. I hardly got that seat, too, if it were for Silvia, who studies medicine in Graz. She’s from a small city/town above Hamburg. Once we got to Passau, speaking German, she quickly secured a different seat that was not reserved. It was the only free seat on the car. I didn’t search for another one. Although this isn’t comfortable, I get to stretch my legs and look directly out of a large window. Crops, trees, castles, rivers pass by and make me think. It makes me happy to look out and see this land. I’ve come a long way. I’ve worked hard to get here and with determination. I look forward everyday to continuing my journey. Mountains to my right, greenest of grass and freshly plowed dirt to my left, I can think about a great number of things. My mind wonders and then realizes it’s wondering. Once I realize my situation and where I am I always smile. Looking out of the window and coming to the realization of where I am gives me chills. It’s overwhelming.

Security is tight here. I’ve been checked three times. Twice by the train people out of Linz and after Passau, and once just after the Passau stop by the German police of some kind. Everyone is traveling for the holidays. Large bags fill the overhead and I hear 3 or 4 different languages.

Very excited to see Mom and Pat tomorrow.

I hope Nuremberg is cool. I also hope I have enough time to see most of the city and what I want to. I need to leave tomorrow at 10 in order to get to Frankfurt in enough time to get to the hotel to meet the parents. Wish I hadn’t missed my train to Nuremberg at 8:16 and waited 2 hours for the next one. Oh well.

My travel plans are as follows:
Nuremberg for the night
Frankfurt for 2
Würzburg into Füssen for a night
Through Innsbruck to Verona for a night
Venice for 2
Rome for 4
To Orvieto for the night and a day trip to Civita di Bagnoregio
Sienna and San Gimignano for the night
Florence for 2
Linz
I’ll spend two nights on the train – once to Rome and then once to Linz. I think I’ll reserve a seat for those trains.

Not sure how much I’ll be able to get online or how much I’ll want to, but now you know my plans, so you can guess where I’ll be.

To tackle Jules Verne.

Tschuss,
Cam

Rambling Man

I think I eat bread every day. I wonder, maybe if I were Catholic, or abided by Lent in any way, if I’d give up bread. Probably not. It’s like a restaurant here in room 345. I eat some bread with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and a little cracked pepper. Do they put the oil and vinegar in a specific type of plate? The vinegar should always be in a sort of bubbly state above the oil, no? Mine usually, somehow sinks to the bottom of the plate/bowl. Not that I’ll buy a plate/bowl specific to this oil and vinegar with bread deal. The bread is incredible. I go to the market once, maybe twice a week, and buy some fresh bread. Not only that, but the walk there goes behind the dormitory on a thin walkway through a somewhat forested area. It’s ridiculous how good I have it here. Often is snows a light, calm snow while I walk there. Like feathers – frozen water feathers – falling in the sky.

Actually, my diet is pretty much cereal and pasta. Usually at separate times. Not all that different from home, really. Meat is too expensive, especially at restaurants, so I eat it pretty much only if someone else is cooking it. Which reminds me of my desire to say that I’ve begun nearly always accepting food when offered. “Oh, you’re making chicken (or spaghetti, or spaghetti with meat) and you’d like me to join you? How kind of you to offer. I’ll be there in 10 seconds with a fork and plate.” I eat plenty of fruit, too. That being dried figs from Turkey – very good – banana, strawberries, apples, and oranges. Alright, great blog Cameron, talking about fruits I eat. Wonderful story. Ha!

It hasn’t been sunny many days here, but snow is something I haven’t experienced enough of in my life. Snow is beautiful. The flakes are the size of my fingertip. They taste good. Actually, today it was quite sunny. 13 degrees Celsius. I wore only a T-shirt for the first time here. I had pants on, too. And socks.

Can someone increase the number of hours in the day already? I mean, geez, come on. There is so much to learn and see here. I practice German, piano, write, travel, read, study chemistry, be bored by chemistry, do chemistry exercises, practice more German, and on and on and on. And obviously, judging by the amount I’ve blogged, I write little. I feel like mostly, for the first time in my life, I’ve spent more time with people just talking and “hanging out” than working. That’s saying a lot considering the amount of work I feel like I’m doing. It’s probably not that much, really, but I’ve been away from school for a while longer than I’m used to. I’m not sure if this should count as real school. I mean, I’m definitely studying and working like school, but it feels like a dream. I’ll wake up in August. Then I’ll be in a nightmare. Only kidding.

I’m not kidding though, about being bored with chemistry. Analytical chemistry, really. It’s horrible. I wish I could type with an accent. The French speak English with such a cool accent. Even the word horrible makes me smile when spoken by the French. We learned, for 4, maybe 6 straight classes of an hour and half each, about acid base reactions and titrations. Titrations determine the pH and amount (volume) of a constituent in a solution. I did this in general chem. and organic chem. and now I have to hear lectures about doing it instead of actually doing it. I draw titration curves until I’m cross eyed. If I need this as a doctor I’ll fly back to Austria and shake the hand of my professor. Maybe I’ll even make a donation. As I went to Prague last Friday, I missed the biochemistry class I’ll go to tomorrow. Hopefully the material is a little better, although the Czech professor is a little… different I guess you’d say. He um, knows how to um, speak English, um…. sort of.

Should I talk about Prague? Yes. Yes, I think I should. As you could see by the untitled pictures (I’ll get to it someday), the architecture was “unreal” (common Irish saying). “Savage” is another. The architecture was savage. I wonder how Louisiana will feel about that one. The weather wasn’t all that spectacular for our trip, but the city could definitely be seen well, and we saw nearly all of the sites on our 4 hours guided tour. The guide was cool, gave us his business card afterward, saying if we go anywhere in the Czech Republic to call him for a beer. I just can’t get over how much beauty can be in a building. There seemed to be, though, a suspicious person every 50 meters. Seriously. I’d walk down the sidewalk and see one dark man standing alone, waiting, trying to catch my eyes. As we passed one, he asked us to follow him to a club where all the girls would get in free and guys would get 5 free beers each. Sure, guy, sure we will. My dad would be proud of my alertness during my stay in Prague. He would not however be proud of my naivety when dealing with the currency exchange people of a seemingly reputable Western Union marked currency exchange location. The rate is 24.9-25.1 Czech Republic Koruna to 1 Euro. I, on Sunday, went to change a final 10 Euro in order to have money enough for breakfast and lunch – and dinner. Knowing the rate, I handed the woman, dressed in a woman’s business suit, seated next to an English-looking man with suit and tie a 20 Euro bill and said I’d like to change 10 Euro. She told me I should change 20 Euro, saying I’d get a better rate if I did. I skeptically asked the rate and why her statement was true. After giving me the quote, I attempted to take back my money, suspecting she was scamming me like most of the street stops in Prague attempt to do. She and the man next to her said the Euro “had gone down” today. Reluctantly, I gave in. She gave me a 17.5 Koruna to Euro rate. As I walked away with my signed and stamped receipt of this transaction, I felt somewhat robbed and stupid. It wasn’t a great deal of money I’d lost (5 Euro), but I knew it couldn’t have been right. Live and learn. And then question everything… twice.

My goodness I’ve been busy this week. I can’t believe it’s already Friday. I’m writing at 1 AM. Why – I don’t know – I’ve got my favorite class, Analytical Chem., in seven and one half hours. I’m going to Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, tomorrow night. I’m honestly not sure I should go. The people I’m going with said they will have a good time because they’ll party and drink. I don’t want to do that. There are parties everywhere. I know I’ll have a good time, though, and do want to see as much as I can, so I’ll go. I’ll just go off on my own if I want. I read the countryside around Bratislava is nice. We are renting 2 cars for 7 people. Actually, this writing made me look more at pictures of Bratislava. It looks nice. I hope we have good weather, because of course that will help my enjoyment of the trip. I’ll make it a good time if I have to, dang it. I know this won’t be needed.

Yann Tiersen is great music. I’m pretty sure he’s a man, and therefore can’t be great music, but I like the way it reads. Sue me. No, don’t, I need money to travel. Just click play. I’ve been trying my best to play this song. I can play the left hand alone and the right hand alone. The combination of the two – not so much. I will succeed.
And the clock hits 1:30. I depart.

Auf Wiedersehen

PS – I finished Rosetta Stone German Level 1! I know, I know, I rock. Don’t worry, there are 2 other levels, each with 4 units. Each unit has 4 lessons of about 20 different exercises. Each exercise lasts from 5-30 minutes depending on the exercise…. Yep. I think I’ll also start French. Many of my friends, including my roommate, speak French. I’m going to Belgium in July to stay with him!

Why is the phone ringing!? Peer pressure is stupid. I’m gong to sleep.