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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

I don’t think I’ve quite mastered the art of being a tourist. Some people are really good at it: my grandmother, for instance, plans frequent holidays for herself and her friends and always manages to visit dozens of sites and take hundreds of pictures and never fails to bring home a souvenir magnet. While I admire her dedication to the art, I’ve always preferred to take a different approach and – as I mentioned a couple of posts earlier – just pretend that I live in the city and go about my day as though it were just another day living in… Paris, for instance.

There are some major flaws in this plan. Namely, I don’t know the city. So pretending I do just makes my ignorance of my surroundings all the more obvious. Refusing to carry around a map or ask for directions just means I will get horribly, horribly lost. Not having a concrete plan for the day means exhausting myself wandering around aimlessly.

Eiffel and I can't get up

I was listening to this show on BBC Radio about a husband and wife who take separate vacations because they have different styles of ‘vacationing’. While the wife was content to relax on the beach, the husband always wanted to set goals for himself and go on ‘missions’ to keep busy. And I thought: I am just like that guy! Despite my determination not to do touristy things in Paris, I began to seek out the Moulin Rouge, the cafe when the film Amelie is set, Notre Dame, that really delicious Bethillon ice cream… and I found myself surrounded by tourist shops selling J’aime Paris mugs and Eiffel Tower figurines in all sizes. I went to museums in an attempt to ‘learn something’ – because, hey, that’s productive! I practiced speaking French because I knew, in the back of my mind, that it would be ‘good for my career’. What is wrong with me??

Over the last few years, all of my trips have been ‘working vacations’, meaning I was attending a festival and sometimes doing research, which would pretty much keep me occupied twelve hours a day every day. However, this summer’s trip to London was only a ‘working vacation’ for the first week and a half. After my visiting theatre troupe returned to Tunisia, I still had a month left to do whatever I liked – when I wasn’t working on my thesis (just submitted yesterday, by the way!) or writing job applications. So I went to Paris.

I feel like there’s always this expectation while on vacation to ‘have an experience’. Especially in Paris. In all the popular Amercian sitcoms, at least two episodes are dedicated to a visit to Paris. The lead character goes there for love, for work, for family, for a change, and comes back (see, no one actually stays in Paris – it would make America look bad) a new and revitalized person thanks to some life-changing event that occurs in this magical, yet challenging city. Often this life-changing event occurs when you’re just wandering the streets, which, frankly, puts an awful lot of pressure on wanderers like me.

Am I supposed to fall in love in Paris? Have some scandalous affair with some gorgeous person in a beret and striped shirt who will serve me baguettes and brie for breakfast following our hot nights of passion? Would I even want that? Am I actually resorting to insulting cultural stereotypes? Heck, the only people who actively hit on me were street vendors, and I’m pretty sure they were selling something. Ahem.

Marketplace

I’m really fond of the idea of being a word-traveller, a ‘jet-setter’ as some of my friends have put it. Is that like a ‘trend-setter’ – paving the way for new and exciting things, though through travel rather than fashion? It’s not as though I’m going to discover anything terribly new. I mean, the only important thing I learned in Paris is that ‘bistrot’ is actually spelled with a ‘t’ at the end, but they remove that extra letter outside of France because people pronounce it incorrectly so frequently. There you go.

Either way, if I’m going to do a lot more traveling in the near future, I think I’d better learn how to go about it properly. The problem is, I have ridiculously high expectations for myself and for the places I visit. Again, I blame sitcoms. Or maybe I just prefer the familiar: riding around on my bicycle down familiar streets, seeing familiar faces, knowing the best places to buy fruits and vegetables, being able to visit friends right around the corner.

Come to think of it, I might be a little homesick…

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101 items in 1001 days.
To be completed by October 12, 2013 at 27 years of age.

  1. host my own poetry series
  2. host my own radio show
  3. visit Paris
  4. visit my family in Spain
  5. visit another country in Europe (Italy)
  6. visit a country in Asia (Japan)
  7. visit a country in Africa (Morocco)
  8. visit a country in South America
  9. go to New York City with my mum (or somewhere equally cool)
  10. take a good photograph of A.L.bion
  11. take ‘little w’ to a play
  12. write a poem in French
  13. write a poem in Spanish
  14. write a poem about Ottawa
  15. write an out-of-character poem
  16. record my poems properly
  17. perform in a play
  18. direct a play
  19. write a play
  20. work alongside a stage director I admire (Andy McQuade – La Chunga Jan.Feb 2012)
  21. have sex in a tree
  22. buy an awesome girly bicycle
  23. bike in London without killing myself
  24. complete a long distance bike trip
  25. complete and defend my thesis
  26. get a job with a festival (Canadian Festival of Spoken Word cfsw.ca October 12-16, 2010)
  27. attempt some form of busking (played my flute in London and made £1.50!)
  28. practice good posture
  29. practice speaking slowly
  30. pick up an English accent
  31. watch foreign films in 10 different languages
  32. volunteer with a non-arts organization (SASC)
  33. go strawberry picking
  34. get a Brazilian wax
  35. tend a garden without killing anything
  36. go horse riding
  37. take a dance class
  38. take A.L.bion dancing
  39. work in a restaurant
  40. live with roommates  (3 of them, to be exact)
  41. live with a partner on equal terms
  42. take a beach vacation (Portugal with Jess)
  43. get my dad’s play Celestina produced in English
  44. read Don Quixote
  45. read all the works of Shakespeare
  46. memorize a monologue from Women Beware Women
  47. read 10 new books from the BBC list
  48. remember my parents’ 35th anniversary
  49. do my own taxes
  50. clean out my bedroom (my room at my parents’ house is now fit for guests, though a lot of my stuff is now in boxes in the basement)
  51. design my own jewelry
  52. order one of those duck dinners that requires 48 hours notice
  53. check out at least 5 new restaurants in Ottawa
  54. play mini golf (Arizona)
  55. buy an i-pod (Thanks, Dad!)
  56. hem my own jeans
  57. have a yard sale (with Bronwyn!)
  58. get a job with a theatre company in London (Second Skin Theatre)
  59. play tennis with my grandmother
  60. bake a delicious cake
  61. quit Facebook for at least one week
  62. write a blog entry every week
  63. comment on other blogs more frequently
  64. learn to use advanced ‘html’
  65. start up my haiku website again
  66. find my perfect working environment
  67. develop some photos and fill up a photo album
  68. do a political photo shoot
  69. buy a fish eye lens
  70. buy a video camera (my iPod touch has HD film – good enough)
  71. direct a short film
  72. go camping with friends
  73. don’t wear a watch for a day, on purpose
  74. tour the Canadian Fringe circuit
  75. paint something / create something large canvas-based
  76. buy a pair of ridiculously beautiful shoes that I may never wear
  77. walk across a pretty wooden bridge with Julie
  78. buy a yoga pass
  79. learn to do a proper cartwheel
  80. paint an apartment
  81. don’t get cable television
  82. own a pet fish
  83. donate a substantial amount of money to a local charity
  84. invent a holiday and celebrate it
  85. eventually stop wearing daily makeup
  86. try Ikebana
  87. attend a Cirque de Soleil performance
  88. memorize all possible Poker hands
  89. finish that Stratford Festival model
  90. visit Leah in Peterborough
  91. meet Simon Callow
  92. go outside everyday
  93. learn to drive on the left side of the road
  94. learn to fix my own bicycle (Thanks, James!)
  95. learn to jog without getting winded
  96. learn to dive into a pool
  97. give birthday cards to my friends and family
  98. get someone to take a really good headshot of me
  99. take part in a fashion show (Sassoon Academy – Oct 13, 2011)
  100. visit a Synagogue
  101. get caught…

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For perhaps the first time in the history of my poetry, I’m writing about something topical. You might have heard about this volcanic ash that is sweeping Europe right now and forcing airlines to cancel all flights to the surrounding areas. It’s chaos. Don’t expect anything but the busy signal when you try calling Air Canada.

As many of you know, I was supposed to leave for the United Kingdom on Thursday afternoon. Obviously, my flight was canceled. I have been feeling very sorry for myself over the last few days because this trip was important to me, and now everything feels very uncertain. I’ve also been thinking about the hundreds of thousands of people who are stuck in one place or another, who are unable to see their loved ones and have no idea when things will clear up. It’s frustrating because there’s nothing that can be done; there’s no one to blame; and there’s no knowing what will happen next.

That same evening when I should have been on a plane flying across the Atlantic, my friend Paul accompanied me to a poetry show. (You know someone is a good friend when they will spend time with you even when you’re in a destructive mood.) I was so inspired by the evening’s performances — especially some new poems by the incredible Kevin Matthews — that I felt the need to dash home and write something positive, perhaps even uplifting.

The next afternoon, I received a call from CBC Radio 1, asking if I would come in to the studio and talk about my experience on All in a Day with Alan Neal. Guess they had been following my Twitter updates. I had about 15 minutes to get from the Glebe to the top on Bank Street — during rush hour. Amazingly, I made it. On air, Alan and I conversed for a couple of minutes, and then I performed the (rather personal) poem I had written the night before.

And I used this opportunity to promote my upcoming poetry show with Nadine Thornhill with the Dusty Owl Reading Series on May 2. C’mon, I’m only human.

Anyway, here is the poem…

~~~

Dear Volcanic Ash

Dear Icelandic shards that clouded the European airspace

That forced Air Canada to cancel my trip to the UK

That prevented me from seeing that someone I love and adore

More than space never stopped us before

But now the price of distance is this

I’ve missed my chance to see her up close

When I yearned for her the most

And I’m not here to place blame

On any natural disaster

Even though this feels disastrous to me

On this hard-hearted day

I promise not to complain

I only wanted to say

Thank you

For teaching me patience

Because even though this hurts more than words can show

I know that when we finally come face to face

These feelings of hate will dissolve

And I will be so so grateful

That I will kiss her that much more fondly

And it will be as beautiful as a third kiss should be

Our embrace will be so steaming hot

That volcanic streaks will appear as mere brush strokes around us

Splashing blood orange vermillion between us

And I would repeat

Thank you

For teaching me patience

Because now I know what it means to be devoted

Because I have waited this long

And I will wait three thousand weeks longer

To be with you

And whether or not this makes us stronger

It will make us remember that we conquered volcanoes to be together

That we dove into burning hot lava

And reemerged untainted

Save for a splatter of colour

That remains a blush in your cheeks

That sustains a flush in my fingertips out of reach

Reaching toward you

No matter how far you might be

And I see

That this has taught me patience

So that if ever I forget to adore you every day

This foray into the power of staying

Will remind me

That you are worth waiting for

And for you I will wait

Till dawn breaks

Till my heavy heart breaks

Until the intensity of these trials

Breaks my weary back

Back to the beginning

I would start again for you

From the beginning

At the beginning of all things

When there are so many possibilities

And I can choose only one

I will choose to wait

For you

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After my poetry performance on Sunday evening at the Spoken Word Plot, people I didn’t know came up to me and thanked me.

Back in high school, we were assigned personal journals for drama class. I loved writing them because back then, like now, I was very analytical and enjoyed contemplation in isolation. One of my favourite comments from my teacher was: “Very honest. Thank you.” I took that as a compliment.

Those who have attended my poetry performances know that while my writing is undeniably personal and that I occasionally (understatement of the year) talk about my sex life, there is nothing that is written for shock value, nothing that would be considered “over share” or “too much information”, and nothing that is not completely accessible to the majority of adult audiences. Heck, I would be comfortable having my mother in the audience.

I’m just sharing my stories. And some people want to hear them. So that’s why I do it.

It’s impossible to describe exactly what happened Sunday night (though you could see Andrew Snowdon’s review on Ottawa Tonite for a pretty decent description AND video); even I’m not quite sure what happened. All I know is that I was onstage with my dear friend Nadine — who, by the way, was wearing an incredibly sexy purple dress — and it was magnificent. I have never seen her so vibrant, so full of feeling. Her poetry is heartfelt and it is very funny. I think we made a good team. Lauryn, Michelle, and Shu were fantastic on the open mic. And I loved watching people in the audience. I could see Danielle completely engaged in the performance, nodding her head whenever she felt she could relate to what was being said. I watched my new friend Stephanie in the front row, her eyes widening occasionally, and breaking into fits of laughter at the appropriate moments. Paul and Jesse were taking wonderful photos. Nadine’s devoted husband Phil was holding the video camera. Then there was Alix, my drama teacher from when I was only ten years old, smiling encouragingly. And near her were Jan and Jennifer, a couple of professional storytellers that I have adored from a young age.

I guess all I want to say is that I am very grateful. People that I admire actually took the time to come to my show. And then they actually took the time to tell me how it affected them. That means so so much to me, and I hope they know that.

On a related note…

On Thursday I am leaving on a two-week trip for the United Kingdom to figure things out for next year. I expect these next fourteen days to be life-changing, and I have never been so excited. There is the potential for romance, adventure, and new beginnings. I am 23 years old and I have so much more to experience. Let it begin.

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