31 Oct 2007

Today is the greatest day I've ever known...

I figured when I returned from Switzerland I'd discover life is the same. No changes. No wins. No losses. I figured I'd stop writing in this blog because I don't need to. No one cares what I am doing back in America. "Been there, done that, bud. Now Europe, that's excitement." Well, you're right. You don't care what I'm doing here. I haven't taken a picture since August. Maybe before. I haven't ventured anywhere worth mentioning. And I sure haven't done a damned thing that's been exciting.

But I'm here. And I've written a few posts. Why did I pick this back up? Well, I've come close to running out of room in my journal, for starters (go ahead, poke and prod--I keep a journal). I've lived more now than I did in all my time abroad. I know there were so many experiences over there that I will never forget--and I never want to. I wont forget those people (I do, however, wish I could forget some of them ::ahem, ahem::), those places, or those events. But I've learned so much more about life. What happens when dreams disappear and reality slaps you in the face, be it positive or negative? What happens when you realize that you don't actually know everything? Or when people get sick of hearing what you have to say about gay Paris?

So I come here and write. I write what I want, when I want to. I think of something that makes my day seem better and remember that people only care about misery. So I don't write that down. On the other hand, say, if something were to be a bummer, you'd love it. But you don't have to read it. In fact, I'm not asking you to. But people have been checking up on me, nonetheless. How do I know? Because I have this nifty little gadget that is coded into my blog that tells me who is reading my blog. State. County. House. Ok, not house. But close enough that I can figure it out if I really care (which I don't, lucky for you). I even know your internet service provider (ISP for short).

So I will impart this wisdom upon thee. For free, mind you. So if you don't like it, I don't want to hear it. If you do, I suppose I wouldn't reject a donation (or a headrub [males need not apply]). Oh, and I'm sorry for all of you _____ (insert your book of faith there) thumpers out there who disagree with me. I don't care.

Here goes nothing--or everything.

You live your life because you want to. If you didn't want to, you'd end it. You make every decision conscious of the two possible outcomes: failure and success. You know the ramifications of that decision and the possible outcomes before you do it. But you make those decisions anyway. You will fail. I once had a teacher that told me two things in life are inevitable: failure and death. He also said you need to make sure that you don't look at your life as the former while doing the latter.

But you will fail. And that's ok. You will survive and look back on it as a 'learning experience'. The pain will never really go away, though. It just subdues itself naturally until some memory rehashes it. And it's not about the failure. It's about the success you achieve after overcoming the failure. After you pick yourself back up, you brush yourself off, and laugh at those who scoffed you for trying in the first place. Yes, they were right this time--but there's always the next.

On the sweeter side sits the worse of the two outcomes. Success. Yes, we all wish and hope that we will be successful; hopefully, some of us actually are. But what if every decision you made was the right one? You'd be on top of the world--with nothing to live for. But success in small doses is an amazing thing. Amazingly scary, but amazing.

And so with each decision we make we plug our nose and leap from the bridge knowing we will either sink or swim (or hold our breath for a long damned time). We pray to find our way to the surface, yet secretly wish to sink like a brick knowing that it will be easier to fail than to succeed. We hope to find our way with the least resistance as possible; search blindly for the hand to grab in the darkness. Yet we do not realize that the hand is not there. The resistance is self-induced. And we, we my friends, must do it ourselves.

8 May 2007

You gave me a reason to keep my face in the fire

Hello again, and perchance for the last time. As I sit here at Katie’s house watching the Bachelor (wonder why I’m writing it now, no?), life seems to be back to normal. I have spent the last two days relaxing around the L-ville, playing a bit of guitar, and overall doing nothing.

Side note: I’m watching this show sporadically, so if I seem to jump subjects (as I’m about to do), please forgive me. But this show, this Lt. Suave guy, he’s kissing all these different women. Why would a woman want to sign up to fall for Lt. Suave and watch him, even if he does fall reciprocally for said woman, kiss all these other women? I wouldn’t stand for it—I don’t stand for it.

So there it was. And interesting enough, this accurately represents what I think about this whole return. I have done absolutely zero tv watching while in Geneva (minus about one hour of Virginia Tech coverage), and now, back at home, here I am watching the Bachelor. Many other idiosyncrasies have also shown their face since I’ve arrived. I will never be able to recount them all, so I shall not even attempt it.

As I departed the Knox Centre in Geneva, Suisse, I felt a mixture of sadness and joy—mostly sadness. I was sad to leave my friends, my new home, my favorite city in Europe. I was excited to leave the damned Knox Centre, but other than that, not much was dragging me homeward.

In the airport I said my goodbyes to Kate who, luckily, was staying for a few more weeks to travel. It was the most difficult one (sans un) to say because I have no doubt that she is a new found best friend, yet she goes to school in Texas and her parents live in Jakarta (who lives there? I mean, seriously). It was difficult, but my lovely Kate gave me a goodbye chocolate bar—for that I will always love her.

I ditched out and soon boarded my last European plane. Bound for Newark, I sat idly by and watched Europe disappear. As I said, I was quite saddened by my imminent departure from my lifelong experiences. I was also saddened to leave a few certain people. The flight was long, boring, and, until Gin offered me her shoulder, quite restless.

After arriving in Newark and being welcomed “home”, I walked through the final customs check and allowed myself one last feeling of nostalgia (okay, maybe one last for those few minutes). The shock of arriving in America was not left at the wayside. The first commercial enterprise I ran across after walking onto American soil was a Starbucks. Welcome home, Kevin.

After saying goodbye to Virginia Bain and countless others (actually, I could probably count them on one hand), I quickly left to check my bags for my next flight. I hung out with Amy and Abby and Molly for a while, and then the order narrowed down further to just Amy and I. We sat a bit, talked a bit, and ate a bit. I said goodbye to her, and headed through security.

Homeward bound—home home, you know? Well, push it back a few more hours—my flight was delayed about 90 minutes. Oh well. A little more reading, and I was home. Not much changed.

I wont lie, I’m feeling nostalgic as I write this. But I’ve also realized a lot of things that I missed. First, let me tell you what I miss from yonder, over the pond. I miss the language. I miss the foreignness yet closeness of Geneva. I miss people. Y’all know who you are, and if you don’t, you probably shouldn’t. I miss the traveling, the laziness, and the overall excitement of doing nothing yet being so damned content.

And now that I’ve spoken on the various things that I long for that I’ve left behind, I am not quite sure what it was that I felt urged to divulge about America. And now that I’ve been trapped into a conversation about greater things than Geneva with a friend online, I’ve fallen off the track of where to go with this. So I suppose here is as proper of a place to end as any. I am glad to be home, but at the same time I’d give just about anything to be back there with those people. In closing, it’s nice to be back, but I’m leaving again in 2 weeks, so see me now if the time is appropriate.

A Bientôt

-Kevin Joseph Creighton

22 Apr 2007

I can't eat, I can't sleep, I can't even manage to work out a smile

I'm not really sure where to start, and I suppose the beginning is looking more promising than ever, so I'll give her a shot. This has been a long time planning (about 2 weeks now) and it turned out better than I'd ever expect.

Since I came to Europe, my main goal has been to see northern France--specifically Omaha Beach and the like (D-day). This last weekend I have accomplished this goal and done more than ever thought. In anticipation, I found two willing travel companions and a cheap(er) rental car.

I picked up the car early Friday morning with my Hungarian counterpart Tomas--it was a black VW Polo. We both were able to drive manual cars and this paid off. Who would think it's a long drive from Geneva to Normandy? Only 8.5 hours (or so they say). At any rate, we picked up Virginia Bain and within about...oh....a day we made it to Bayeux. This was to be our home base for the weekend.

We ventured immediately to Omaha beach. We had very poor directions, so I took back roads and asked people walking on the street which way to the beach. For once, the French weren't bad. It must be the Scandinavian influence from the 11th century left over. Within about an hour, we were standing on Nazi bunkers, gun emplacements, and, most likely, shells. It was an incredible experience and I was glad to share it with my amis. We soon found the American Cemetery. I have never seen a more immaculately kept place in my life. It is honestly my firm belief that the White House garden is not kept up as avidly as this place. We also saw the American monument erected in honor of "The Big Red".

It is, in my opinion, impossible to reflect in words the feelings one experiences while at Omaha beach. The beach itself is very serene and beautiful. If not for my former knowledge of the massacres that occurred there, I would find it a lovely place to spend a Sunday afternoon laying out. Yet at the same time, the serenity is eerie. Why would such a beautiful place not be more populous? I think you might understand where I'm heading with this.

The next day (that would be Saturday), we headed to Mont St. Michel. It's an old abbey on an island just off the coast of France. It is pretty spectacular, but we didn't feel the urge to enter the abbey, just simply see the town and the castle from afar. Instead of seeing the abbey, we chose to drive to two local towns that came highly recommended from a teacher and a set of parents. The first--Cancale--was very small and quaint. We put on swim suits and spent the next 3 hours laying out on rocky beaches. I have been informed that I have a permanent white T-Shirt.

The second town--which unfortunately had nicer beaches than the first--was St. Malo. It was a larger town with a full casino located there, but all we did was walk the beach and then head out of town. With a quick dinner, we headed back to our hotel room.

Oh! The hotel! It really was a highlight. I was fortunate enough to end up with the middle spot on a double bed. That's right. The middle spot. Most people would assume a double bed would be for a single person (I know, counterintuitive, but true). We, however, are cheap college students and piled 2 half naked guys and one uncomfortable girl into one bed. Before you go saying "poor girl", just remember I was stuck in the middle!

This morning was a lovely morning downtown Bayeux. It's a larger town in the area, and if there's two things the French do well, they are pastries and cathedrals. This held true. We also saw a very long, unfortunately artistic tapestry. We had to appease each person in their own way. This one was for my Hungarian pal.

The drive home was long. I enjoyed it though, for I drove most of the 10 hour drive through winding hills and curvy roads. At any rate, I haven't eaten in a good 12-14 hour span and I have a presentation tomorrow morning that I have yet to work on. (It's 1:30 AM here). So for now I bid adieu.

A Bientôt.

14 Apr 2007

And when you wake up, I'll be by your side

It's been a long week, that's for sure. For starters, I left last Friday morning and did not arrive home until just today, spending time in four countries and at least five cities. It's been fun, but exhausting, exasperating, and even a bit obnoxious at times.

In an effort to conserve my energies--and my stories--I will not depict everything I have done in the past week, for if I were to attempt that, it might take my entire night and the following day. So I beg forgiveness in a brief summary of the week (with certain moments dissected for your enlightenment).

Friday was spent traveling from Geneva to Brussels. It was a long ride since we were unable to secure seats on the high speed train running through Paris. Instead, we took my roundabout way and in a short 10 hours found ourself in Brussels. I will leave the city by saying that Brussels is a city for three things. First and foremost, Beer. Secondly, fries. Thirdly, mussels. To officially close the short description, I will end with a quote--after all, my english teachers always told me to open and close with a hook (usually a quote). "First God invented Brussels...then beer."

From there, we took an overnight train to Hamburg, DE. The train was hot and uncomfortable. I slept almost naked, with no covers, on a bed that was maybe large enough for my five year old brother. And when I said slept, I meant to say tossed restlessly all night. But that is not the point. The point is I ended up in Hamburg, hopping on the next train to Copenhagen. I will not delve into the details about Scandinavia. Leave it to knowing that the women really are blond, and the cities are picturesque...similar to the rest of Europe.

The part of this journey that I find most attractive or appealing is not the what, but the why. As we sat around planning the weekend--anticipating a full 3 days in Brussels--Ginn came around and said, and I quote, "Do ya'll wanna stop by Copenhagen? It's only like a 2 hour train ride from Brussels." As all her ducks lined up, she made the final kill-shot with a "Please..." and a southern accent. How could anyone resist? We were in.

As we rested our dogs after a long day in Copenhagen, we pondered how to spend our evening. It was predetermined that we would throw a fete in our hotel room, but that was for later. Once again, Ginnie pulled through for us. "Ya'll wanna head to Sweden for the night? It's only a 5 minute boat ride or so." (Again, I vow to tell my stories as my mind remembers them, for my keys are incapable of creating such falsifications.) Again, we all lined up and she delivered a perfect shot.

The next few days were spent in Berlin doing the things that normal jelly donuts do--you know, memorials for WWI, WWII, GDR, what-have-you. We saw prisons, torture chambers, concentration camps, and all sorts of exciting sites in Berlin. East Berlin is definitely the more beautiful side of the two--who would've thought? But in all honesty, it amazes me that one single solitary country (well, for a while, two) could commit so many atrocities in such short time. I am no historian, so I will not attempt to depict them to you, but suffice it to say they did. Besides the multiple nights of hanging in the hostel playing card games, I will highlight a few minor points of the trip.

First off, we visited the check point Charlie museum. This was the major check point between East and West Berlin. My tour guide happened to be a West Berliner that risked life and limb over 120 times to evacuate Easterners. Eventually he was captured and jailed in a Secret jail for 9 years. Quite a compelling story.

Secondly, I find it ironic that for the 4 days I spent in Berlin, I was able to pass freely through the Brandenburg gate at will. Each morning I would run through it (my hostel was in East Berlin) with my arm raised celebrating the downfall of communism and the victory of western democracy.

Thirdly, I spent about an hour trouncing through the holocaust memorial downtown. At first glance, it looks to be a large park in the middle of Berlin. It is a full block square with hundreds, if not thousands, of coffin sized blocks raising from the ground at varying heights in very straight lines. The ground was more disorienting than the varying size of the blocks; the ground twisted and turned with each step--at some points it would drop 4 feet in about two steps. As I walked through it I could not help but to think to myself that the ultimate movie ending to a cold war thriller would be a cat and mouse espionage game through this memorial. That notwithstanding, the most interesting thing about the memorial is that the architect does not discourage people from playing on the memorial since in all honesty, it does seem to be more a park than a memorial. Out of respect, however, I abstained and we ventured off.

Dresden, for a brief history, was a city fire-bombed by the Allied Air Forces at the end of WWII. There is a lot of heavy criticism for the bombings--they killed nearly 40,000 civilians. Many say that it was vindication for the Battle of Britain, or even D-Day. At any rate, a majority of the cultural sites were hit, many of which are still damaged today. As I sat across from the city on the bank of the Elbe while my lady friends sunned themselves in the 70 degree weather, I took in the irony that the old city across from me was actually more recent than the new city directly behind me. And off to my left was a 40 year old german man--and when I say german I mean it--in a Sean Connery-esque square cut speedo copying my friends. The city was beautiful and fun. It was nice to have good weather for a change--even if it did mean Molly fried out in the sun.

We chose to skip out on this weekend in Prague. I'm not sure why, but I was not up for more traveling. So in its stead, we hopped on a train for home and 10 hours later, we arrived. Overall, it was an excellent, contemplative week.

A Bientôt

Post Script: I have added two new albums of photos to the left hand side. They are labeled Amsterdam and Lisbon. I will add the ones from this last week sometime soon.

2 Apr 2007

Your thoughts are like the ocean

Goede Morgen, or so they say.

Barcelona here I come. ALAS—the trains aren’t working? What will I ever do? I suppose the beaches in the Netherlands could take the stead of the beach in Barcelona, no? Well, Ginnie and Kate were able to convince me of that, at any rate, so I packed my bag (no swim suit, just clothes for warm weather) and caught the next train out to Strasbourg. The winding path we chose was actually an interesting one, starting in Strasbourg, continuing on to Luxembourg City—just two hours, thanks to Ginnie’s lovely idea—and ending up in Den Haag with two day trips to Amsterdam.

Strasbourg was a charming little city full of life and college students. The city center is a bit reminiscent of every other French/Swiss/Austrian city that I’ve seen, only this one claims France’s tallest Church Tower. Whew, what a site. Anyway, we never really developed a Plan of Action for the city besides a few notes I had previously prepared, so the day was mostly spent wandering. Did you know the Council of Europe is headquartered in Strasbourg? Now Ginnie does. At any rate, we worked our way through the city center—which is situated on an island on the Danube—multiple times and even ventured to the outskirts of town to see the International buildings. Dinner was a cinch with the obvious tarte flambée, and dessert is implicit.

The hotel we stayed in was a cozy little Best Western—so cozy, in fact, that we only managed to finagle one queen bed for the three of us. Either way, sleep is sleep and the next day was another adventure in the waiting.

Early mornings are the norm here, at least for me. I woke and showered, followed snail-like by the other two. We managed to get some croissants and coffee before our train departed, and then it was off to Luxembourg. I suppose you might ask yourself—if not versed in the geography of Europe—where exactly is Luxembourg. And say, perchance, you are schooled in that subject, why Luxembourg? Well I suppose that due to my recent time spent in Europe, I fall into the second category; why would I spend a day there? I suppose it is because I am a sucker for sweet-talking, and that is one thing these girls do well. So off to Luxembourg.

The city itself, at first sight, is not a sight to behold. It’s like any other city, just less impressive. But in short time, we found signs towards the city center—low and behold, the city is a real city, old town and all. In fact, they even have a park-esque area that they used in the Middle Ages as a defensive barrier from accessing the old town. We walked about a bit, indulged in pizza and gelato, and caught the next train two hours after arrival.

I am always one to say that to experience a city, you need more than a day. Really, I believe at least two are necessary, but it was a pleasant stop. On to Den Haag (the Hague).

We made quick time on the train—and everything else is not important enough, in my opinion, to be noted; but Den Haag, after arriving at our hostel, is where the fun began. Ginnie was in search of a 24-hour store, so we took a right, a left, and another left. Much to our surprise, we note a reddish hue coming from around the next corner. Well ladies and gents, I feel privileged to tell you that Amsterdam is not the only city in the Netherlands where a red light district prevails. We made good time out of there, but due to mans innate curiosity, we found ourselves venturing back through it yet again on the way to the bar—the bar at which we would drink away our shock.

Amsterdam was more shocking than previously thought, but that is most likely due to us renting bikes and making our first experience there (unbeknownst to us) in the Red Light district as well. Whew. At least I’ve seen it now. We rode away at an accelerated pace, stopping and swerving between cars as if it were our job—at least Kate and I could be responsibly employed in such a fashion, Ginnie, on the other hand, nearly hit everything from signs to people to cars. The Anne Frank house was an interesting stop—it’s actually much bigger than one would assume after reading the book. There’s also some other interesting things to do in that ‘museum’, but as I politely reminded the girls, there’s more to do in Amsterdam than sit inside Anne Frank’s house.

We rode on for two more hours and, as if she were a toddler asking for a candy, Ginnie constantly requested a break from the bustling streets for a substitution with the Dutch countryside. Unfortunately for her, we did not succumb to her unabated requests, but instead replaced the countryside with a large park and some riding along the harbor. We soon retired the bikes and ventured off on foot—it was actually welcomed since it is hard to grasp a intimate picture of one’s surroundings when that person is constantly aware of all other things (usually deadly) going on about them.

After all was said and done, we ended up in a large park with a sign that says “I Amsterdam” and I, in my infinite wisdom, decided it would be a splendid idea to place myself atop each letter in of the sign and get a photograph. With a bit of acrobatic work, I finagled myself on each one and in no time had the whole progression completed. In succession, the girls opted to repeat my success—yet to no avail. After minutes of painful looking body contortion and manipulation, neither of them were able to mount the ‘I’, and Ginnie even ended up on her rear end ten-to-twelve feet below where she had her hands on. Maybe another time.

I must also add, of course, that I was the absolute gentleman and offered my help occasion upon occasion. But Ginnie and Kate are a bit ‘bullheaded’ and could not be convinced to accept my kind gestures. Serves them right.

We ate some pancakes, since that is the thing to do in Amsterdam (besides smoking weed). And that brings me to my most interesting story of all. Pancakes, cappuccinos, and sidewalk cafes sounded great to me. “I’ll have the number 10 (pancake with Bacon and Cheddar) and a large cappuccino, please.” Seems like a normal order, no? I thought so.

Within a few minutes, the gentleman server brought us our orders and placed our pancakes in the proper place. “A cappuccino for the lady, and a special cappuccino for you (me).” Hmm. I don’t do drugs. I didn’t order drugs. And I definitely cannot have drugs in my system come this summer. What to do? I smelled it a bit, and even poked around to see if it was ‘special’, but eventually decided that it was not worth wasting 3 euros on perfectly good cappuccino, so I gulped it down quickly. An hour later, I felt just fine. What an asshole of a waiter.

We soon retired to our ‘stayeasy hostel’ and caught a few hours of rest before we took off Sunday. We wandered a while through Den Haag, seeing nothing but run down buildings and poop on the paths. As it turns out, a young British fellow offered us a bit of assistance in finding our way to the International Criminal Tribunals and even the beach! Who would know that Den Haag would have a beach, let alone one worth visiting? To make a long story short, we caught the next tram straight to the seashore.

The sea was a beautiful, lovely, brown, with the rocky bottom visible for at least a full 2 feet. In all honesty, it was great. The sand was lovely, though a bit shell infested—apparently the ‘thing to do’ when along a beach is to collect a few shells here and there—and overall it made for an impressive sight, considering I expected no beaches to begin with. We drank more cappuccinos; these were credibly not laced, and lounged around in general for about three hours. Eventually we wore out our welcome and traveled onwards back towards the International Criminal Tribunals, or Peace Palace. The building was large and overdone, but it made for a spectacle.

Once back in Amsterdam, planless and hungry, we found some quick food and, of course, more ice cream. I suppose that is why traveling with Ginnie is so fun, she doesn’t criticize my constant indulgence in ice cream. With nothing better to do than sit around a park—or maybe just no motivation to tour—we played truth or dare and in general bonded.

I must diverge and tell another entertaining story now, for we found ourselves back in the “I Amsterdam park” and the ladies, again, with stout resolution to conquer the ‘I’, found themselves stacked one on top of the other. With a bit of luck, a deal of strength, and a healthy dose of will power, Ginnie found herself atop the ‘I’. We were all beaming with laughter, even though I had voiced my opinion that it was a futile effort. Congrats to the ladies.

The ride back is worth little of note, and, beyond a restless neighbor who found every possible excuse to wake me up, I slept quite well all the way home.

See you in one month—give or take a few days.

A Bientôt

27 Mar 2007

Last Chance, you're never gonna get away

Alas, I have been, as you frequenters well know, a bit behind in updating my blog with my latest exploits. I realize this and do sincerely apologize. Business has been as usual here. At least for the most part. It is a rare occasion that I fall sick, but I must say, as is the norm with me, I fell hard. These past two days have been miserable. Anyways, I recognize that my writing on here has been of poor quality and therefore feel compelled to share with you my most personal and intimate thoughts that I have diligently recorded in my journal--with a few removals. This is the closest you'll ever come to delving into my personal thoughts, so enjoy this glimmer while you can. (Side note, please excuse the errors in tense and days, for this was written on my way home from Lisbon.)

In short order, I will return to the Knox from a delightfun weekend spent in Lisboa, PT. Unfortunately, that requires a return to 'reality'--at least my current reality as I have known it for the past 9 weeks. In reading Twain's The Innocents Abroad, I have come to appreciate those often overlooked ways of modern travel.

I do love water. And boats as well. But I do believe that 11 days on a boat to cross the pond would grow tedious to even the most ardent sailor. I have become accustomed to quick, painless, efficient and even enjoyable train rides. When he took on the 'polite' french (quite a reversal of roles), it took 12 hours by train from Marseilles to Paris. It now takes just more than 4.

I will also attest that my recent affinity to indulge in writing of more than just day to day actions has also stemmed from Twain's immaculate journal and his claim that it would be worth $1,000 (his era, which I would roughly translate to circa six zeros). So please, immerse yourself with me.

Portugal is a pleasantly picturesque country. I will remark that I have only experienced two cities, but I would place the country as silver winner, as of yet. The large, green, palm tree scattered parks adorn the city and truly maintain the Mediterranean climate, even though the city is situated upon the Atlantic.

Surprisingly, and contrary to popular notion, the city is immaculately maintained. The language was unique, and in similar gait with Spanish, even though it was not of much help. But to a certain extent, I find a uniqueness and a bit of enjoyment in the unknown.

Back now to my ill-attempt to paint a portrait that will never be finished, I must comment on the food. First off, regardless of locale, the country smells of fantastic food. I honestly believe that they make a valid attempt to crop-dust the country with food scented perfumes. I will attest to this fact b y saying that yesterday, while wandering aimlessly through Eden on Earth (Sintra), I could, in fact, smell fresh food being prepared--in a garden.

Last night we ate a spectacularly cheap meal of 9 euros per person. I had trout, cooked and served whole. I must say, if deemed proper, that I did quite an excellent job fileting the damned thing, for not having done that dirty job in multiple years. After dinner, we travelled a few blocks to a renowned Fado house. At least the man standing outside inviting us in claimed it was. At any rate, it was an enjoyable ending to an equally enjoyable trip. The fado music, consisting of guitar (nylon stringer), mandolin, and an upright bass, was exactly what I needed. At first, it was wailing and melancholy and, accompanied by a large woman with a large voice, made for a perfect setting. However, after another round of rusty nails by a not so prompt server, the music picked up in liveliness with quicker mandolin riffs and a booming male bass. We all enjoyed ourselves and our mandatory 16 euro drink minimum. We then left and visited Ben and Jerry's so Ashley could indulge.

With a quick breakfast, I caught the first cab to the airport and, alas, here I am.

So there you have it. It actually included no real thoughts, and therefore was deemed appropriate to share. I just simply know that I could not write that whole thing again in a different way, so why not copy it? I hope you are all doing well.

A Bientôt.

Post Script: I have included links to my photo albums on the left hand side of this blog for those of you not enrolled in facebook.

22 Mar 2007

Today for me, tomorrow for you

So where did I leave off? I actually do need to check...ah, Gruyeres.

So the last fortnight went quickly. I spent the week doing what I've always done. A little bit of wandering, a little bit of climbing, some guitar--you know the routine. Friday morning, Amy, Zach and I woke early to catch a train to Padova, Italy. Where? Well, for you literary folks, someone important happened to be sent there for a short period of time. For the rest of you, my good friend Bart from home is studying there. It's a lovely little city with some lovely people. The general population is younger, considering it's a university town.

We spent Friday evening wandering the streets with Bart and two lovely ladies. The food was great, and the 'spritz' (the drink of choice there) was on par with the Shark. Saturday morning we rose early to catch another train--this time to Venice. With Bart in tow as our tour guide, we rowed through the city with little effort and saw the sights. It was quite a blast. With a simple hop, skip, and a jump, we landed in Murano. It's a world-renowned glass-blowing island. Stellar. We later returned to Padova and spent another crazy night with crazy students. The next morning was a quick stroll through the city with one last stop at a gelato place called "Grom". Best. Gelato. Ever.

Back home now. For 8 more hours. Then it's off to Lisbon, Portugal for me. I hear the fish is decent alli.

OH. BIG NEWS. This last Wednesday, I spent the day with Ginnie, my lovely Southern girl, and Eric, my New Yohka skiing Chamonix, in France. The skiing was amazing, the powder was fresh, and all was well. Until I fell off a small cliff and half-broke my iPod and my back. But all is well now. No worries.

Sorry this is short, but I must still prepare for my weekend adventure. By the way, I will post links on here to my facebook.com photo albums. Apparently someone wised up and made them available to non-users--non crack users, that is.

A Beintôt.

12 Mar 2007

Horse is popular here

Strange post name. Did you notice? Anyhoo, the past few weeks have flown by and this post will as well. Please forgive the bullet-point-like sentences.

After leaving Paris on spring break with my dad and Kathy, we went to Interlaken. It was a trip of a trip. We spent some good time watch shopping over and over. We spent more time shopping. And let me tell you, I now understand better than ever how women work. The more you shop, the more exhausted you get. After thoroughly exhausting oneself shopping, what better way to relax than spend a relaxing two hours in the hotel spa receiving a hot stone massage? Let me tell you, I have yet to come up with a more relaxing thing to do. (Quick thanks to Kathy for that lovely treat). Oh yeah, my dad got a pedicure while we were there. What a weirdo. The following day we went up the mountains to Kleine Sheddig to see the ski towns and what not. Good times. Up top was near white out conditions, but the cafe au lait was worth it.

Geneva the next day. We walked around a bit and I gave them the tour of the JKC (John Knox Centre, for you foreigners). They loved it and thought it was equal to--4.5 star accommodations. They saw old town and then we ate at an awesome restaurant where a few people missed out on an AWESOME meal. Oh well.

Lausanne the next day. Funky hotel, but a beautiful city. We saw the sunset over the lake and the Jura mountains. Doesn't get much prettier. Following day we spent shopping around 'old' town. We went home then dad and Kathy left for Paris and eventually Chicago. Thanks again for everything that week.

School flew by. Wait, did I say school? Mistype. The week flew by. Friday I went to Basel and walked around a bit with Zach, Amy, and Molly. Zach and I drank a few liters of beer at the oldest brauhaus in Switzerland. Decent beer, but not as good as Seven Star in Vienna. We jumped on a train--literally, jumped on the roof, Bourne style--and jumped back off in Neuchatel. It's a pretty little Swiss French town on a lake. We watched sunset there then hit up a creperie for dinner. Came home and had a good night.

Oh, big news. I forgot to put this in my week that flew by and am currently too lazy to scroll up and insert it. I spent my Wednesday walking through Geneva burning off calories. On my adventure, I stopped by Cash Converters and bought two guns and a guitar. Ok, really, just one gun and one guitar, but a guy can lie. So I've been playing my guitar all weekend.

Saturday I woke up nice and early and hit the train to Gruyeres with Zach, Amy, and Mee-gan. Good fondue and alien sex. Go ahead, ask yourself...I'll wait...yes, alien sex. I'll post pictures later. We also saw a chateau and walked around a bit. It was really flat and green in those mountains. On the way home, we stopped at Lausanne and watched the sunset from the lake again, but this time with friends. Good day, ended better.

Oh, more big news to insert in after Friday. I had an afro Friday evening when I got home from Neuchatel. Now, I'm a skin head. Not a straight up, I'll kill you with my shiv type, but buzzed--like I used to be. Welcome back, scalp.

Sunday I woke up and headed to the rock wall. We had horrible luck with buses so we ended up sitting around for a while, but once we hit the wall it was a great day. The climbing was good and Stewart and I taught Mee-gan how to lead climb. All in all, good day ending with yet another sunset. Now I'm on here typing the following day. How are you doing today?

Now to the good stuff. Scroll to the top of the page. I'll give you a minute.

Ok, now did you read the title? I know you've been dying to know what it means. I'll take the liberty and inform you. Horse is popular here. You see them often, but more often, you see cheval on a menu in a restaurant. The same runs true in the JKC. Tonight we ate spaghetti with cheval in the meat sauce. It doesn't taste much different than good ol' beouf.

I think my river might have run dry, but don't tell boys 2 men.

A Beintôt.

P.S. I will post pictures soon. My time in Suisse has forced me to become complacent, like the Swiss. But they will be up.

1 Mar 2007

Spectacular, Spectacular

As I sit here on the train from Paris to Basel listening religiously to my new favorite musician (a Stemo artist some of you might know), I can think of nothing real to write about. Sure, I guess I could describe my past few days in Paris with my dad and Kathy, our experiences at varying restaurants, bars, and tourist sites. I could also detail my Tuesday night spent staring at the half naked women, some of which swam with snakes, of the Moulin Rouge or the mediocre dinner that they happen to serve when you pay Zero Class (cha-ching) prices. But I suppose all that seems pretty petty to me at the moment. I’m not really a pensive guy, at least not at the moment, but I found the inspiration to write. I spent the last hour writing two pages in my journal—two pages about nothing important. Two pages, not about the time spent watching Kathy do what she does best (she does a lot well, but I don’t think she can trump herself in shopping), not about the complaints heard when my dad ordered his ‘martini de pomme’ in Paris and discovered that Parisians don’t know how to make a damned apple martini, but simply writing about nothing.

Right now I’m listening to my Favorite Everything. I’d recommend that you go out and download it, but I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find it anywhere. So instead of telling you all about my time here in Paris or my expectations of the rest of the week in Interlaken and Geneva (which, trust me, will be well documented on here as time rolls on), I’m going to tell you about my favorite everything(s).

Forgive me if this turns into a list, but I will make a futile attempt at a proper explanation of all things, and I will also try to relate all things to my travels somehow, since a lot of my favorite things have, alas, long since been enjoyed.

To start, I enjoy language. It’s amazing here how many people speak more than one, and it’s also pretty amazing that a lot of them don’t speak English. After all, it’s the langua franca, so why don’t they speak it? There are multiple reasons. First and foremost, refusal to accept world domination of the American culture. That being said, I’d like to ask for their Polo shirts, Gant sweaters, Adidas shoes, Tommy Hilfiger pants, Ford cars, and McDonalds (commonly, MacDo’s) to be returned. No complaints. But I do enjoy the opportunity to expose myself to different languages. Unfortunately, when you spend exorbitant time in Paris, you come to realize that while on the surface, it appears to be a welcoming place, they really can be a bunch of self righteous, pretentious assholes. But the city is fun.

Moving on. I like the coffee here. A espresso from Starbucks does more than lack in comparison to a café au lait. My French teacher likens American coffee and, most notably, Starbucks, to brown water. I set myself out on a pedestal with him and agree, America, in all its glory, has horrible coffee.

The history here is pretty stellar. Imagine yourself, for a moment, in…Philly. Ah, good old Ben Franklin, Liberty Bell, and the constitutional convention. Beyond that, you can trace it back just under two hundred years when the Quakers risked life and limb to come to America to start a utopian colony. Now, place yourself, conversely, in Austria (I almost said Paris, but I really have little affinity for the place, so work with me). Austria goes back over 1500 years. The Romans controlled Vienna. Then the Holy Roman Empire. It pushed back the Turks in the 1400’s a few times, and culminated in WWI with the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. A little more interesting, eh?

It’s been just under two months since I left America for the unknown (hey, it was unknown to me). The changes have been subtle. For example, life is the same, but now I write in a blog. I also write in my journal routinely. I speak about the same amount of foreign languages daily as I did at home, but I do it in a less formal, more important environments. I’ve come to appreciate good cheese. (Note: not cutting good cheese, but eating it.) I’ve become accustomed to ordering alcoholic drinks, no questions asked. When I come back across the pond, I’ll have to wait a while before I can order one again. I’ve gotten used to the pants tucked into boots, but ladies, pay attention: they do it with style. Not Uggs. Grow up (some things will never change in me). I’ve made friends with people I would have made fun of or ignored under other circumstances. I’m sure there are many other things, butttttttttttt for now I must bi you farewell and return to my newest challenge—a rubicks cube with a pattern on it. You have to line up each individual cube correctly or it is incorrect.

A bientôt, mes amis.

24 Feb 2007

Vices and Wiesses

Sorry that it's been so long since I last posted, but it has been a pretty hectic week here. It started with a trip to Austria (details forthcoming) and followed up with a test in International Business (me?) and ended with a final paper about Swiss Direct Democracy, so please excuse my sloth-like posting time.

Last Thursday I hopped on a train to Salzburg, Austria, with 4 other friends. It was an overnight train, so I booked this sweet little bed (they call it a couchette just to be difficult). When we arrived at 4:45 AM, it was obvious that the hills were alive. The city was absolutely stunning. The morning quickly turned into day as the the fraus ventured off for their musical tour of Salzburg and Zach and I went searching for a beer brewing monastery atop one of the bluffs overlooking the city. Our success in discovering it quickly melted into disappointment. What kind of brewery is not open at 1000 hours?

Alas, we rejoined with the girls and continued our journey through the city and actually gained access to the brewery and drank a few liters and split. That's right, we saw the whole city in 14 hours--at least I enjoyed what little we did see. We hopped the next train to Vienna and crashed as soon as we hit the pillows in our hostel.

The next day, we woke up and hit a large flea market on our way into town. Few people bought anything, but it was a good time. Immediately after, we walked to a restaurant that serves a bit of local cuisine and we ate some wiener schnitzel (for those of you who don't know, it derives from Wien, which is Vienna in German, thus making it schnitzel from Vienna). I hijacked a mug on our way out. Ginnie guilt tripped me a bit, but I would soon get her back.

We ventured about the city, saw the Opera house and the Habsburg palace. They ruled. After returning to the hostel, Molly didn't feel so well and Abby, Ginnie, Zach and I sat around waiting for her to feel better. Abby left us that night to return to Geneva while Zach and Molly serenaded Ginnie and I with the Elephant Love Song Medley.

The next day, we saw just about everything. We went to a excavated temple that was ruined in the 16th century, saw inside the St. Stephen's cathedral, and walked the streets. We also ate gelato--two times.

We left for home that night and caught the train back to Geneva from Zurich with about 1 minute to spare. We also barely made it home in time for Monday morning class, again about 1 minute to spare.

In addition to the past, I will post you on the future. I am heading to Paris Monday morning to meet up with my dad his his girlfriend, Kathy. I am excited. We will stay there a few days and then head to Interlaken, Switzerland, and finally back to Geneva before seeing them off Tuesday and 7.

A Bientôt

FYI--You can view more pictures (many more) by going to www.facebook.com and signing up and then friending me. If you do that, you will see pictures from my entire time over here-100's of them. Enjoy.

13 Feb 2007

Day to Day

Life here in Geneva really isn't all the different than in Indiana or Illinois. You make friends. You go to class. You do inappropriate things at night. I guess the difference is I don't go to a different state every weekend in America, although I probably could if I had the type of money I do now here all the time. My biggest problem in the next two weeks is to figure out how to get a hair cut explaining what I want in French.

Last weekend I took a much needed break from the weekend routine and went to Paris to visit my mom. She was there for work; I needed something new. I bought my ticket and headed up. It was one of my favorite things so far. The city is nicer than I imagined--and I've come to slowly realize that my anti-France edge is dulling. Although I will admit that my favorite thing in all of Paris was a Lebanese restaurant and an obelisk from Ancient Egypt. We spent time together and it was exhilarating. Thanks, mom. I love you.

The weekend before that I spent in Madrid. I never finished my weekend summary, but trust me, it was a excellent time. I really think this is the most exciting thing I've done with my life, but I hope it wont be the most exciting for the duration.

Food is expensive here. So is booze. And cigarettes (I don't smoke, but I know people that do). Cigarettes also say "Warning: You will die younger because of smoking" or "Warning: Your child will be deformed from your smoking" or "Warning: You will die painfully because of smoking". I think you get the point. Why doesn't everyone else? It's a smoke infested environment over here. It's come to the point where you stick out if you DON'T smell like smoke.

Being here has brought out both the best and the worst in me. I've realized all my faults and all of other peoples. I wont name them, but I'm guessing a specific few of you could guess pretty easily. On the other hand, I've always told myself I am independent--moreso than the average joe I know. I've now realized that this really is true. I'm still offering an open invitation to come visit me.

This coming weekend I'm showing the girl in me. Myself and 3 friends are traveling to Austria (girly, I know). We will start our journey in Salzburg with the "Sound of Music" tour and end it in Vienna.

I know I've been pretty poor about keeping contact with most of you. Please forgive me as it has been one new experience after another and I hope that this will suffice in keeping contact with you. If not, please send me an email. Beyond that, I've also been pretty bad at posting on here regularly (once a week isn't the best record) and my pictures have lagged behind recently as well. I will do my best to avenge my wrongdoings, but please be patient.

I'm sure I have more to say, but instead of rambling, I would like to depart with a simple piece of advice. Some may call it a Nugget of Wisdom.

We're not all that different from them. Religion is a bunch of dividing factors. Race as well. But in the end, we all have the same goals, ideas, and aspirations: subsist, protect our family and interests, and to be the best. The latter is the most dangerous.

A bientôt.

4 Feb 2007

Estaba en España

In search for a real adventure, I opted to spend my latest weekend in España's capital, Madrid. It sure was an adventure.

The plane ride was quick and short--a mere 90 minutes from gate to gate. Customs was a breeze and I received my first stamp in my passport (although one of my fellow travelers apparently got yelled at while proceeding through customs). After advancing through the aeropuerto to the metro, I diligently asked the information desk where my hotel was--she gave us excellent directions.

After precisely following said directions to Hotel Villagarcia and failing to find it, I realized I asked her for directions to Hotel Villagarcia, not Hostal Villagarcia. The adventure began.

The starting point was the North East side of the city. The end point was a long walk aways--notwithstanding the lack of directions. One hour later, success. Hostal Villagarcia was within grasp. We rang the bell and I politely told the owner (in Spanish) that I made a reservation. In response, he politely told me "Full occupancy".

"Where can I find another Hostal? Can you, perchance, suggest one?"

"Right down the street is another one, try there. If not, I have no clue. Everyone is booked."

"Gracias." We left and ventured on. Luckily, the second Hostal (Hostal Palacios) did have a room for 60E per night. We thought it was a good deal so we say sure.

We ventured through the city for the day--drinking sangria (for those sangria-virgins, find out how to make it and do it), eating paella (same for this) and snacking on Tapas. We saw the sights (including Puerto del Sol, Plaza Mayor [with dancing horses], Palacio Real, and Museo del Prado). Siesta came early then it was out to the bars.

We went to bed late, but for Madrileños, it was quite early. We woke up around 11 and got some coffee from Starbucks. Yes, that's right, I'm American. We hopped on the Metro towards some tourism fair--it sucked.

For now I feel neither the motivation, inspiration, or dedication to continue on. It's been a pretty rough week. Enjoy my first half of Madrid. The rest is yet to come.

Hasta Luego

28 Jan 2007

Skiing the Alps

Woke up early Friday (actually, an hour earlier than necessary) to go to the Train Station. Train to Gryon was quick and quiet. Once in Bex, we traveled to Gryon via Cog Train--it was exciting.

We checked into our Hostel around 10. They call it Chalet Martin. It was an enjoyable place that was packed with Australians (did anyone know that Friday was Australia Day?). We took the Cog Rail even further up to Villars and rented skis and hopped on a Gondola to the top of the mountain.

Skiing was decent enough. We were able to drink some Vin Chaud at the top of the mountain (hot wine). Shortly after, one of our group tore up her knee pretty bad and needed a bit of assistance from the SOS. That put a dent in our day. We left shortly after that and returned to the Hostel.

Dinner was Tuna, Nutella, and Bread. We hung out with the Aussies a bit and took an Australia Quiz (apparently Eliane Bettis was not the first person to say "Maybe the dingo ate your baby").

Next morning started with a train ride back to Bex and then to St. Maurice. We were searching for some Thermal Pools but the bus schedule was so screwy (very different than the normal, punctual buses of Switzerland) that we decided to hike up to a little Church on top of a cliff called Chapelle du Scex. Supposedly it was 1600 steps up to the Chapel on the edge of a cliff. Quite intimidating but very beautiful once we got to the top.

The climb back down was very scary. Ice was melting and crumbling down on top of us. Oh well.

After returning to the Hostel, we went out to dinner with a few chaps from Boston University (who are staying in Geneva as well). I had some Escargot with Zach and then a Thai Beef salad. Fun times. The rest is history--only providence can judge us from here.

A Beintôt

23 Jan 2007

First excursion

Friday came and went downtown Geneve.

Saturday morning we went to the Train Station at 0600 to hop on a 0700 train to Luzern. Exciting ride.

Once in Luzern, we traveled to our Hotel on foot. Small, quaint, family place called Hotel Garni Spatz. We ripped them off (we put 4 people in a 2 person Room).

We took a Bus to Mt. Pilatus and paid 30 CHF to go to the Summit. The view was worth it (and the Gondola ride up was fun).

Once back in Town, we saw the sights. We went to the Bridge (you know, that famous one), the Lion (the dying one...who knows what he represents? Really, do you know?), and the Casino. We ate dinner in the best vegetarian Restaurant in town (how was I supposed to know, the menu was in Suisse German) and drank some good beer.

After dinner we went to Mr. Pickwicks Hotel and Pub (where people sleep) and got invited to a table by some Suisse Germans. They immediately began to whistle Hail to the Chief--maybe they can see the future? We left them alone after they asked us to buy the next round.

Our pub crawl began in "Cheers" (they didn't know my name--or English) and went on to a Spanish Tapas Bar, then another Pub and back to Pickwicks. Fun night in all.

The next morning we left for Bern. Pretty city, but Sundays are always dead in European Cities so we just walked around and went to the top of the Church there (I think it was Munster Cathedral) and got more panoramic pictures. I ate some awesome Rösti there (it's a half pancake half hash brown plate full of onions and sausage and butter).

On the way Home I solved the Rubicks cube for the first time. I also saw da Bears win da Game and now they're going to da Superbowl. Too bad I wont be in da Chicago or da Indiana. Ok, enough of da da's and enough of this post.

A Bientôt.

21 Jan 2007

Caged and Abused

19.1.07 2213
Disclaimer: All words written here are entertainment and might have happened, but each event did.

Today is worth writing about. Today, not even a picture could describe my stories, so a thousand words (or so) will have to cut it.

Normal day today (if by normal I mean walking a marathon in Km in the AM then nearly dying after being locked up).

I’m going to save you the pain of reading the habitual activities of my normal day in the morning and early afternoon and skip right to the good—nay, great—stories.

Zach and I (remember my fellow IU-ian?) took a chance and walked to the Airport with somewhat poor directions. But really, it was a simple hop-skip-and a jump away. The walk there was uneventful and of little evidence of what was to come. Zach, who initiated this trip in order to cash out an undisclosed amount of cashiers checks, was heading towards the AmEx counter when I spotted a Duty Free store. We had little to do tonight besides pack, so we figured we’d stop by the Store after the AmEx to pick up some entertainment, duty free of course.

In order to get into this Store, there was a set of automated doors that one has to walk through (they actually are the doorway into France—I’ve walked there twice). So we walk in and stop at the Store. Zach, in his facil français, asks the woman if we need tickets to buy items Duty Free. She says yes, so we leave. We leave…

The door in had a “Do Not Enter” sign and above that, in French, it said “Pas Sortie”. The only place to go was into line for customs to cross into France. Up to the Counter we go.

“Parlez-vous français?”

“Non, mais tu parles le français bien.”

Zach turns to me, “Kevin, your French is better than mine, tell him we don’t want to be here.”

“Ok, nous na voulons pas être ici.”

“Ah, desolée.”

“Est-ce que nous pouvons sortir”

“Ah, you made mistake.” (this is my non-English speaking French compadre. Very funny ass).


“You can leave ::presses button and hidden door opens::, bye.”

We made it to Suisse. We left the airport defeated. One might think we were done, but never doubt my fortitude.

Once back onto fresh Suisse soil and breathing fresh Suisse air (ever breathed French air?), we continued our journey back. We joked a bit about our excursion and temporary imprisonment on French soil, and vowed revolution. In the middle of our vows, a 18-22 year old ‘boy’ walked by us. He wore a blue puffy jacket, baggy jeans, and was listening to his iPod. He was a bit on the stout side, and would also be considered short. Oh, he also wore a genuine leather belt. He looked at me; I looked at him. It was a consensual look. I continued on nonchalantly.

.276 seconds later, I heard “blah blah blah quoi?” (That’s what French sounds like when you don’t listen carefully.) Zach and I both turn around in symphony and look at this foreigner on our soil.

I respond in American, “What?” and even act un peu bedazzled.

In response, he begins to remove his belt. Yes, his genuine leather belt was beginning to be removed from his pants while looking, with his angriest face, like he could take two on one.

My first thought: “This punk wants my recently withdrawn money…we’ll see who wins this one.”

My second though: “Maybe he is looking to trade sexual favors…”

Thirdly: “He likes my belt—maybe I should take mine off and trade with him.”

In reply, Zach says, “Not now, thanks,” and we both walk off quickly. Way to avert a sexual/violent disaster. It is possible that my superior size scared him off, or that he was so confused by our refusal at his attempt at malicious behavior.

A Bientôt

18 Jan 2007

Top to bottom: Herny Dunant and myself; Zach, Nicole and I riding horses in Geneva; Myself at Chateau Chillon; Amy, Kyle, Zach and I after Antonio's

First post

18-1-07 1622 Hours.

This post will be of shortened length due to its nature of being a first. I have been all about Geneva for the past 9 days. It really is a new world. Different languages (even though 43% of the city is foreign, I feel like no one speaks English). The people dress differently, act differently, speak quickly like chirping squirrels, and the best of all is they think we are the strange ones.

The people are great--the chocolate, I suppose, deserves the superlative form. In essence, I have not run into something I dislike besides the exorbitant prices on everything from Coffee at Starbucks to Booze at Antonio's.

My French has been used a bit, but luckily I've made friends with a Canadian lady who speaks wonderful French. My Spanish is utilized in few locations (such as Antonio's [the local bar] and with Jose in the Kitchen at the JKC). One would assume that my Arabic would go rusty while here, but Fatima works in the Kitchen with Jose and is from al-Maghreb so we converse slowly in rotten Arabic.

I suppose that will be about all for now. This weekend I am traveling to Luzern with my fellow IU-ian Count Slovin and Shirin (my Canadian friend) and Ashley, who hails from the town of Harrisburg, PA. I have other trips planned, but will keep you updated as the time comes closer.

A bientôt