Müchen and Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day, and I know I’m supposed to be thinking about how grateful I am for my mother. I’m thinking about that, but also in a broader way. I’m thinking also about how grateful I am for all of the people who have helped shape who I am. I’m on the train to Amsterdam at the moment to meet up with my dad, and travel the last legs of my trip. I’m through the part where I visit my friends, and now it’s family time. What I’m struck by, though, is how incredibly generous and open my friends and those around them are. I hadn’t seen several of these friends in 4 years, and it was so good to see them, and amazing to realize how little things change. I am thoroughly convinced that there is something to traveling and staying with friends; and as I say, I’m really just blown away by the power of sharing, even just for a few days, the quotidian things–food, space, conversation. Being in a generation who’s become accustomed to technology, it’s refreshing to realize I can still do this in person thing. And that technology has even enhanced that interaction and those relationships, I think. I really do feel like I live in such an unbelievably interesting time, so full of challenges and possibilities. And for that, I am so grateful. To the people and things that have, over time, impacted me, and uncovered who I am. And for all those to come.

The House of Terror

Just got done visiting the House of Terror in Budapest, the first real touristy, structured thing I’ve done so far on this trip. The past few days have felt very quotidian–I’ve been hanging out with my friend from high school, Cayley, and he’s been having to work on her thesis, so I’ve had some down time by myself, which I’m never good at doing anything very useful with. Budapest is interesting…beautiful city and from what I know, interesting to learn the history. The most striking thing, though, of going through the House of Terror, is how these things that happened in the 50s and 40s are still being perpetuated by Americans to our own enemies, which is extremely disturbing. And I don’t feel like I have a lot of control over it, even though it is my country, which is so frustrating. It does sort of inspire me to try to do more, because it is such a shameful part of a lot of countries’ histories, and now, we’re committing atrocities on human rights that in our future, I feel sure we will look back on with equal shame.

In terms of visiting, hardly anyone here speaks English, and neither Cayley nor I speak Hungarian, so that’s interesting. We are able to get by, but certainly we can’t really go places “real” residents go to. Which makes the experience a little different. But I’ve also gotten to sit in on some of the lectures at her university and we’ve discussed a lot of politics/empowerment stuff, which has been super interesting (since that’s like 90% of what she’s been thinking about over the past 2 years). The weather here has been pretty incredible–perfect spring warmth, which is totally welcome.

Tomorrow, I travel again to Munich. Cannot WAIT to see my 3 friends, none of whom I’ve seen in the past 4 years. That’ll be awesome :-).

Magical, Mystical Graz

Apparently, I’ve only been posting photos of food, so everyone thinks all I’m doing is eating. Which isn’t terribly far from the truth…

The whole Viennese gang drove to a Buschenschank in Styria, where they can only sell things that they make on site. Nikki’s mom, step dad and brother met up with us, and we had a feast of amazing food (highlights included meat, cheese, radish, bread, pâté, salad, massive black beans, and a dessert of fried dough with cinnamon & sugar and whipped cream with raspberry sauce).

Then we went and hung out at Nikki’s parents’ place and just chatted and chilled out. We then went and dropped our stuff off at the place Cayley found us to crash for the night. We took a little tour around Graz and I absolutely fell in love with the funky window shops, cobble stone streets and futuristic design of the city. I really rarely feel so madly in love with a new place. It’s very artsy and lively, with a large student population. Pretty awesome.

This morning we returned to Nikki’s parents’ place and had a really awesome breakfast (again, meat, cheese, bread and fruits), and Cayley & I did some silly yoga photography in the garden. And now we’re on our way back to Vienna, then bussing back to Budapest. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by the awesome people I get to hang out with, and looking forward to hanging out in Budapest!

I Needed This

Sorry it’s been a bit of a break since I’ve written. Been having too much in-the-moment fun!!

I really do need trips like this. To remind myself that I don’t need much at all to be happy. That stuff is really not very important, or at least only a very little bit of it is. I feel so alive and human. It is so refreshing and beautiful to realize I have some incredibly generous friends who are willing to open up their homes to me, and share a few days of life. It’s a reminder of the amazing things in life. Awesome.

I’m currently in the car with my friend Cayley and her friend Nikki & HER friend, going to Graz, Nikki’s home town. Since I last left you, I celebrated Vappu (Labor Day) in the park in Helsinki with Nicole & her friends, which meant drinking champagne and eating lots of food, including doughnuts and potato salad. Then I headed to Budapest to meet up with Cayley and we got pizza and discussed world issues with radler (best drink ever!! Beer with lemonade/sprite/grapefruit juice, etc). Then we got on a bus and came to Vienna, where we wandered around and stayed with a friend of hers last night. And now we’re headed to Graz because that’s where Nikki’s from, and going to a vineyard that Cayley says is beautiful and definitely worth seeing.

And that’s about it! I’m enjoying the warmth and beauty here, and Budapest was interesting and cheap! At least compared to Finland and Sweden. Even Vienna was relatively inexpensive.

Vineyards of Austria, here I come!

Helsinki Holiday

I made it to Helsinki and was greeted at the airport by my friend, Nicole, who I know through improv classes in NYC. We chatted (me, grilling poor Nicole about Finland’s history, culture and politics), walked around central Helsinki, and ate some delicious pizza. I got to call my dad and wish him a happy birthday and sing the Swedish birthday song (yay!) to him, and then I sleeeept. And now I am going for a run to explore the islands here in Helsinki of Kulosaari and Mustikkamaa (yeah…I have pretty little idea how to pronounce those). Then I’ll be heading into the city to meet Nicole after work and go to the labor day festivities–tomorrow is Vappu, which is the Finnish/Swedish holiday to celebrate laborers. Apparently this is what we’re seeing:

So that should be fun. And then tomorrow, we picnic and celebrate. So I will be pretty immersed I think in Finnish culture/celebration, which will probably be overwhelming and fascinating.

I am struck, being here and thinking about past travels, by how many things are similar everywhere else except the US. There’s obvious things, like using different measurement systems (kilometers/kilograms instead of miles and pounds), but also less obvious things, like yogurt/milk combinations that I found also ubiquitous in Mexico (though I didn’t see that in DR; I didn’t even see much of dairy products particularly). Additionally, even credit cards here have PINs, which was the thorn in the side of a help desk lady yesterday at the counter of the bus I took to the airport in Stockholm. “Why doesn’t the US have PINs,” she exasperatedly asked. Uh, I don’t know, lady. Let me just go ask my banker friends who make those decisions….oh, not friends with them? Whoops. Forgot. Anyway, I’m off for run #2 in country #2, which should be about 5km (3.1 miles for all you Americans).

The Lovely Stockholm Adventure

Sweden is awesome. Once again, I’m amazed by the beauty of the place and the pleasant simplicity. I have been particularly struck by the awesome designs. The sofa bed at Hans & Anna’s place is SO COOL! It is a normal looking sofa, and then just does this magical seeming transformation. So sweet.

So yesterday, we did do breakfast, then got some key ingredients for a 5-hour chili, and then Anna went for her 26km run (she’s training for a marathon).

Hans & I got to spend some time exploring Stockholm and discussed US politics (what else??!) and basically how crazy the US political game is, and how insane it is that certain things are issues in the US, when in Sweden, they are decided. We stopped for some fika (snack), so I got to have one of these:


The old town part of Stockholm is so pretty, but seems very touristy. Not that I’m not a tourist…but still. Then we met back up with Anna after her run and made some ahmazing chili. I cooked, you guys!!
5 hour chili in Stockholm

Quite amazing. And the recipe requires that you drink while cooking, so we were quite tipsy once we’d finished, which meant Hans stayed behind and Anna & I went out to a Stockholm bar so I could see Stockholm night life. It was pretty typical…nothing very remarkable, but nice.

Today, we got up, I made some awesome pancakes:

Berry Pancakes

After breakfast, I learned the Swedish song for birthdays, and we called Ali since it’s her birthday to wake her up to some Swedish singing. We took a wonderful nap, and then we went for a 6 mile run/walk (we ran the first almost 2 miles, then walked around the palace, government buildings, etc, then ran a bit more, maybe 1.5 miles). Some photos:

Swedish palace guards
a horse!
Lover's Locks in Stockholm

Now I am so exhausted. But in a good runned out sort of a way. Tonight we’re planning on staying in and getting a movie, then tomorrow, I head to Helsinki!

Made it to Sweden!

So I arrived in Stockholm exactly 19 hours after leaving my apartment, and the lovely Hans and Anna met me at the bus station (cab–>plane–>bus terminal transfer–>plane–>bus to Stockholm City Center). That was a looooong trip.

When we got in, we collected some alcohol from Hans’ work (because, duh!), and then made our way to their apartment to drop off my stuff (got to ride the Stockholm subway, which is quite nice!). I got a refreshing and much-needed shower, some champagne, and then we headed to dinner at a place the translates, roughly, to the meat bar. It was amazing. After an appetizer of a meat plate (meats, baby pickled onions, bread, yuuuuummmms), I got a pulled beef sandwich. Oh my gee so delicious. And chocolate cake to top it off. The place reminded me so much of Williamsburg…except with Swedes. Apparently Wburg is popular or something….but pretty crazy to find that in Stockholm. Even if I’m not terribly surprised.

Today, we’re headed to breakfast, then to maybe a little walk around Stockholm and a run!! One of my goals on this trip is to run at each place I visit. So starting out strong! Tomorrow we’ll be doing either a boat or a bus tour and get to see a bit more. I feel pretty remarkably not tired (I’m always tired in the morning, but apart from that…), so hopefully I got this jet lag thing right this time. Hans and Anna’s sofa bed is super comfy and really creative!! Leave it to the Swedes…

Gotta run for food. Chat soon!

The First Failure of EuroTrip 2013

I managed to have my first fail already, and I’m still on the ground.

A couple days ago, I noticed my computer wasn’t charging. So I made the effort to call Apple, go to a Genius Bar appointment (which was just inconvenient because I was too busy), and get a new chord. So of course I left it at home, and brought only my computer!

Hopefully, this will be less of a problem than I think. I know several of my friends have macs, though I don’t know what kind. And maybe I should just get a second chord??

Anyway. On the plane, ready to go, and I’ll let you know when I land!

The Upcoming Wild Ride

About to leave for Europe. Just want to do a quick hello. Here’s the plan:

Stockholm 4/26/13
Helsinki 4/29/13
Budapest 5/2/13
Munich 5/9/13
Amsterdam 5/12/13
London 5/14/13
Boston 5/17/13
New York 5/22/13

Cannot wait to see all my lovely friends, and get some time away from normal life (though I already feel like that’s happened a bit, thanks to new job).

But look for more frequent posts here! I’ll be aiming to update daily or every other day.

Track Running Happiness

I haven’t written too much about this, I think only one post last year, but I love me some track running. I haven’t been running a lot over the past year, but I’m getting back into it, and it is so refreshing. So. refreshing.

Yesterday, someone bombed the Boston Marathon, and it kind of hit me, but also I feel sort of numb. I just want to double down my insistence that security and safety are somewhat of an illusion. I am feeling fairly over feeling upset about something like this, because I just feel so helpless. And I just want to be happy. I’m exhausted. And I don’t feel bad really, just like this shit is apparently going to keep happening. I don’t really understand why. But I refuse to be terrorized. I feel awful for the people involved, especially those who were also involved in Newtown. But for real, marathon runners are the wrong people to try to terrorize. Runners are people who know that you have to just keep going. And there isn’t really a goal. I mean, there’s an end. But the goal is to keep going. Running taught me to keep going. It taught me that the next mile could be better, and that you get through the one that’s tough. I think that was all exacerbated because I had always seen myself as someone who really couldn’t do those things. I thought I was weak, and probably lazy. And then I trained for and ran a half marathon. So whenever I have those thoughts, I remember that even if in a given moment, I’m particularly lazy, that that isn’t some sort of essential part of who I am. Because I have the ability to not be that way. I can finish a half marathon.

So when I heard what happened in Boston, I immediately thought about my experience running in Nashville, and how incredible that was. What an amazing rush it is, and how spiritual and connected to humanity and nature and the world if feels to run in a race like that. And I think (hopefully?) what made me feel undefeated in this particular instance is that I know that that’s what everyone involved in the Boston marathon feels. That some bullshit like this is seen for what it is–an attempt to terrorize. And hell if runners are gonna let you terrorize them. That will only add fuel to their fire to keep going, to be happy, to push through the pain. From the response I’ve seen, I’m not alone in feeling this way. When Newtown happened, I felt like my spirit was momentarily broken. But this? This made me just want to laugh in the face of anyone who could even think for a moment that they could terrorize runners. Hah!