touristic ignorance?

July 31, 2005

Advisory to future visitors to Paris:Do not attempt to run in a cemetary.
Out for my morning run, I decided today to see if I could locate the cemetary that I heard was not too far from where we were staying. Seeing as how I am incessantly on the prowl for a scenic new route, and had already completed approximately 15 circlings of the small park I had found the previous morning, I was more than up to the quest. Besides, I hqve a particular fondness-inexplicably-for meandering through cemetaries. So off I went.
Sure enough, a few busy Parisian intersections later, I saw a gate behind which promising glimpses of greenery appeared. I did not expect quite so ,qny paved paths, imposingly gated tombstones, and crowds of tourists, but the entrance was large and open, so in I went. Only a few yards in, however, I thought I heard shouting, so pulled my earphones off and looked around. There I saw a uniformed guard running towards me.
“Arrete! Arrete!” I stopped–without hesitation. “Pardon, monsieur–il faut payer?” (I’m sorry, sir–do I need to pay to enter?) . . . A few interqctions later, I discovered that the problem was not my lack of an entrance fee. In fact, he informed me, it is forbidden to run in the cemetary.
Frankly, I immediately realized that it was silly of me to not have foreseen the possibility of such a cultural rule, and so I berated myself for the remainder of my run (in the park) for such ignorant insensitivity on my part.
Interestingly, though, is that I discovered another aspect to my ignorance after speaking later in the day with a French friend about my experience. See, not only was I attempting to run in a cemetary. I was running in the resting place of Voltaire . . . and Jim Morrison. Oy ve.


July 27, 2005

In exquisite indulgence, I floated in the steaming Icelandic hot springs yesterday, slathering my body in its touted mud masque and showering under its waterfalls. The air here is mild–without humidity and with 60° F temperatures, and the sun shines high, brilliant but gentle. And this morning´s pampering was rendered all the more luxurious by the fact that we came directly from the airport, after a full day and night of travel.
But what left me the most blissfully whole-feeling was the shedding of my inhibitions. Showering before and after entering the springs, I began as a good, modest American, staying suited in the large shower room. But the spa was equipped with specialty salt spring gels, shampoos, and conditioners, engendering an environment of soothing relaxation rather than one of careful self-consciousness.
And so, returning to the showers afterwards, I took my cue from the calmly confident Europeans slowly bathing around me, and I shed my coverings. In doing so, I found I simultaneously shed my self-consciousness. That simple choice–in a sense, I think, a decision to accept this culture I am partaking of as a traveler–left me with an exhilarating sense of liberation. I felt pure, and lovely, as if I was soaking into my own naked skin a small part of the beauty of the women around me. It is good, to be woman.

green land of ice

July 22, 2005

This morning I awoke with a hint of that lifting of the spirits that accompanies the beginning of a journey. Not too much, mind you—I consciously shoved aside most of it, knowing that there was yet too much to do in preparation to fully lose myself in happy-traveling-mindset. But, I can see the nearing date now, just 4 days away. One more work day and 2 more packing and studying days. What with the month of catch-up work for this class that was already in session before I joined and the class that I was already attending, there is a fair bit of studies on my list, to say the least. But I know, from all my years as a traveler, that if I persist diligently enough in the preparations, I will be more than rewarded by that glorious moment of the journey’s commencement.
One interesting thing about it all is that it was only after my going was certain that I discovered that Iceland was the first stop—only 2 days there, but it will be our recoup time, with freedom for reading, sightseeing, and such. Now the reason this was such a surprising discovery to me is that I have had an intense fascination with Iceland since my elementary years, at boarding school. In the play area there, we had a large flat map of the world, in relief. It was about the size of a sandbox, with each country painted a different colour and labeled. From the first time I examined it, I was inexplicably drawn to the two parallel countries of Iceland and Greenland. What funny names, I thought. Why would they be called that . . . Is Iceland full of ice? . . . And is Greenland all green? . . .
Finally, one day a teacher was nearby and I asked about the two countries. Oh, he said, actually, you know, they are sort of the opposite. Greenland is pretty bleak, while Iceland is quite lush and green.
Well, that clenched it for me. Iceland must be the most lovely country ever. I mean, what else could explain a land that was so beautiful that it could only be named the exact opposite of what it really was. Oh, I did long to see such a place.
And what do you know? As it turns out, I have stumbled upon the chance to not only spent 3 weeks immersed in the world of children’s literature, hobnobbing with all the Greats in the field and studying with other lovers of the genre . . . but also, I am now–20 years after my initial discovery of the country—well, I’m going. Iceland or bust. p.s. I do plan on posting some blog entries during my travels so, if you are inclined to do so, please do stay tuned :-)

my complaint

July 12, 2005

Below is the copy of a slightly altered-for-confidentiality letter I sent today to the doctor’s office–I actually sent 2: 1 to the physician and 1 to the bank. I’m feeling whiney today . . . :-)

Dear Sir or Madam,
If you could please make sure this letter reaches the appropriate manager, I would appreciate it immensely. I am writing in response to my recent experience with overdraft charges for my xxxx Health Savings Account.
Due to the fact that your medical office chose to resend my payment check multiple times rather than contact me about the bill, I discovered yesterday that I had accrued $100.00 in overdraft charges. This, combined with the discovery that the bill itself was still pending, and that the office had not yet billed me for another charge my insurance had not covered led to a stressful day, to say the least.
After many phone calls to all parties involved, I am left with $300.00 in bills plus $100.00 in charges. And I am panicked. You see, this may not seem like a great amount of money to the average, say, physician. But to me—a newly unemployed and uninsured graduate student with bills and tuition to pay—it is huge. This means cutting car trips to save on gas, not buying groceries for the week, and stressing about finances when I need to be focusing my mental energy on term papers and assignments.
In short, I am simply a struggling student who had to voice my frustration to someone in authority. It bothers me that banks must rely on fees to people like me—those who do not have the funds to begin with. It disturbs me that talented and creative people all around are stifled—paralyzed—by basic needs, when they have energies that could be poured into life-giving songs, books, and artwork that would have been able to enrich the lives of others.
Thank you, finally, for your time, and for letting me voice my frustration—or at least, perhaps, imagine that I have done so.

New author discovery: Kathleen Norris. Currently loving _Cloister Walk_: a starkly beautiful meditative collection of musings about her time spent living in monasteries. Perfect for evening reading, as snippets can be read as a way of centering oneself. She also is good for those of us who tend to think in ways outside the bounds of standard religiosity, but decidedly passionate about living a life of faith.

And that, friends, is today’s installment of a recommended read–as I often can go through a book a day, and there are days in which studies/paper writing/work take precedence over blog entrying, I figured the least I could do is share whatever book I am passionate about at the moment :-)

July 2, 2005

my goofy sister–far far away from here, in Germany . . . too far away from me :-) Posted by Picasa