Posts Tagged ‘coffee’

Northwestern

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

On the hunt for a new home, seeking graduate school with great coffee, better books, astounding architecture and a cohort of inspiring academics. I am touring graduate schools across the nation while I drive, and had to stop at Northwestern in Evanston, IL. So I took a whole day off by myself to drive up there and tour around the campus. But first, I grabbed coffee at Caffe Streets on Division to prepare myself for the adventure to come. Honestly, it has been really hard on me visiting graduate schools when my heart still belongs in Berkeley. I miss my academic home dearly and all of my friends who are still there. Nothing makes the sting of nostalgia more painful than the constant reminder of what you left behind by where you are going next. Trying to find a new home when I don’t want to give up the last is a brutal conditioning towards the constant change of my future. Despite my deep desire for everything to remain exactly the same, the world is shifting underneath my feet and I can either get off the crumbling rock or let my fear paralyze me.

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The cup of coffee and an hour spent in contemplation of strangers walking down the street brought me back to reality: I had things to accomplish and places to see. I did make one more pit stop at an amazing bakery with zombie head cakes in the window before I left though. These mind-blowingly realistic cakes were courtesy of Alliance Bakery. I grabbed some breakfast and hit the road; this coastal drive was far different from the ones I was used to in California. Normally the ocean is my coastal companion, but this time Lake Michigan lined the road I drove on towards Evanston.

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I toured the entire campus for several hours making some especially long stops at the English Department in University Hall and the main libraries, Deering and University Libraries.

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The views all around campus where beautiful and very nicely accented by the fall leaves and the emerald hues of Lake Michigan. The gardens and greenery all around the campus were stunningly beautiful and the entire trip was exceedingly pleasant all around. I thoroughly enjoyed the school and everything the campus had to offer.

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After walking the entire campus I finally (and begrudgingly) left Northwestern. However, when I got back to Chicago I visited another fantastic coffee shop in Pilsen called Cafe Jumping Bean, which served as the perfect end to a long day.

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A Rainy Day in Madison

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I woke up to the sound of rain against the window. It was the first time in a long time I had heard rain calling me outside. I lay in my bed listening and for the first time it became real. I knew I was very far from home; I knew that I was no longer in California and would not be returning for quite some time. In many ways this whole trip has been so surreal. A strange mixture between road trip and living in a bunch of different states. I bounce from one location to the next, usually with someone I know waiting at the end of my drive so it never feels like I am truly alone. But this morning I woke up and felt alone. I felt far from my friends, family, and all that was familiar to me. I felt it ringing in the rain drops like a vibrating siren and each drop sang out the sound of total strangeness. It was an odd moment, of finally letting it sink in that I wasn’t going home, at least not for a while. I had to make a home wherever I could find it now.

For now home is with my Aunt in Madison but even that is not for long. I pulled my tired body from bed and looked outside at the cardinal on the bird feeder below, unfazed by the rain and even more vibrant in it. The roads ran like rivers and the fall leaves had been glued to my car like some child’s scrapbook of autumn.

On our way to explore Madison we first stopped to get some really great coffee and Colectivo. A roomy coffee shop with huge windows, bright furniture, and great study spaces, Colectivo was definitely instantly on my favorite coffee spot list.

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I took my coffee out into the cold rain to warm my fingers as we explored the state capital building. It was truly a magnificent piece of architecture and I loved escaping from the rain under their marbled ceilings and fancy decor.
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It was quite the place and the square that it sat in was surrounded by adorable shops and fantastic restaurants.

After we had circled the captial building a few times, marveling at the architecture from every angle, we drove through the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. Going through campuses that are closer to the east coast always impress me because they are so thoroughly different from west coast campuses. The buildings are older, crafted from beautiful stone or brick and much more ornate than the average west coast campus building. I love my alma mater but I cannot help comparing the architecture between campuses and I was thoroughly impressed with the Madison campus.

At the far end of campus we stopped at the Allen Centennial Gardens, a small enclosure of nature next to an old historic home. The gardens, though small, were marvelous. Even in the rain, the vibrant crops like kale, colorful swiss chard, and of course corn, were incredibly beautiful.

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There were some really unique looking flowers, like the ones below, that lit up the entire park with vivid colors. IMG_9697

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From boardwalks to koi ponds, gazebos to vegetable gardens the entire garden was surprisingly entertaining. After marveling at the entire complex we continued on our way.

We decided to poke in at the Henry Villa Zoo. It was a fun little zoo but the alligator was by far my favorite. I had been taking pictures of the fall leaf littered pool, not realizing it was an alligator enclosure until afterwards when I looked at my pictures. It surprised me so much that I hadn’t even noticed the alligator lying quietly below the leaves.

There were also some adorable little badgers having a fun time digging around in the mud, which was pretty quintessential for all of Wisconsin. Go Badgers :)

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After the zoo, my aunt and I parted ways for a bit and I went off on my own to the University’s Arboretum for a hike. It was pretty, but also pretty marshy so my hike kept getting cut short by closed pathways. But what I did see was quite nice; the variety of different trail landscapes that I set foot on in just the few short miles I was able to hike was staggering. It was a wonderfully diverse park filled with prairies, lakes, and flowers.

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We finished out day with a sunset mini walk along some overgrown boardwalks next to Lake Monona. Stepping over a natural bubbling spring, we walked along the creaking old wooden planks along the rim of the lake watching the sky turn pink under wispy clouds. IMG_9754 IMG_9755

It was a good first day in Madison (finished with some really great pizza) but I am finding myself growing more and more tired as each day passes. Michigan is only one day away of driving from where I am now and I can feel the closeness in my road wearied bones. I have been traveling now for exactly two weeks and I have been alone for one week; it feels like a lifetime.

A good rest is in order soon and I know it awaits me on the shores of Lake Superior, so close yet so far from where I am now. For now, there is still more work to be done, more things to see, and always another adventure around the corner.

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Leave Me Alone I’m Lonely

Saturday, September 26th, 2015

Even though it has only been three days since I set off on my own to take this journey across the country, I have already started to notice things about myself as a solo traveler as well as how it feels to travel alone.

The main thing I have noticed is how exhausting it is to travel alone. However, it is more than just the obvious answer (since I am alone I do not have anyone to split the burden of effort/work put into travel like driving, purchasing things, making plans, etc) that is behind this exhaustion. It is the feeling of being in the world, but not of it; feeling like people are talking at you and not with you essentially, but it is the city, the places, and the people all figuratively talking at you while you have no in into the conversation to allow you to actually take part. When you have someone to do things with it feels like no matter what happens in the day, at least you have one another for entertainment/enjoyment. However, when you are alone it is just you confronting the world so even normal everyday things like getting a cup of coffee at a cafe becomes a battle to engage with strangers, act friendly, and act as if everything is normal when everything is new, different, and strange. At least for an introvert like myself, it is hard for me to deal with small talk and polite smiles, which results in me wanting to have as little contact with people around me as possible despite the fact that I am lonely and really do want to be around people and make friends. Every day events become exhausting because I no longer have the buffer or the comfort of my friends or family to ease my interactions with the world around me, it is just me and the rest of humanity clamouring towards me with an overload of information and sensory input that I just do not have the current capacity to handle. As a result, I have found that when I travel alone I wind up avoiding people and try to remain alone rather than branch out and make new friends.

In some ways this is hard for a road trip like this because it is hard to go so long without really talking to anyone, but it also results in me seeking out nature instead of humanity, which leads me to some truly amazing places in pursuit of natural solitude. I may be anti-social or maybe just really overly introverted, but either way I have realized my own tendencies towards self isolation, but I have not yet decided whether I like or dislike these tendencies. To be determined…

Today was one of those days where these reflections were extremely apparent because for the first time I didn’t spend my entire day out in the wilderness. Instead, I dedicated today to exploring Boulder and learning the streets as well as the happenings of this bustling town.

… But I had to fit a hike in there somewhere. The iconic backdrop of the city are the Flatirons, a series of giant rock slates slanting towards the sun and rising high above the cityscape of Boulder. I decided to check out these wonderful mountains with a hike in Chautauqua Park.

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I hiked a series of loop trails on the adjacent mesas that provide sweeping views of the mountain range as well as the city of Boulder down below them. I hiked through Ponderosas and up steep hills lined with breezy grasses and rocky trails up to the top of the mesas.

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There was an astonishing array of landscapes on the four miles of trails I traversed which made for an interesting and ever evolving experience of the nature in Boulder.

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I managed to only get lost once and then some how actually helped some other girls who were visiting the park for the first time as well find their way after getting lost. I suppose that is one good thing to say for getting lost, you can advise others not to follow your trail. But when I finally finished my hike I had a firm grasp on the baseline trails around the Flatirons.

After my healthy dose of nature I was ready for some city experiences. Luckily I was in Boulder for one of my favorite things to do in any city that I visit, farmers’ market. Boulder Farmers’ Market was a fantastic way to ease into high density human interaction after having spent so much time alone for three days straight. Everyone was so friendly, talkative, and helpful at the market even though I was slightly lost and aimless amongst the crowds.

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The market was huge so I wandered up and down the stands for quite some time before going in for some conversations, samples, and small purchases. My first stop, naturally, was at a local bakery’s stand where I got an amazing almond croissant to eat as I wandered around with big hungry and fascinated eyes.

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I visited two produce stands where I bought some tomatoes and carrots for the road tomorrow. One had a stunning array of colorful turnips, beats, and carrots while the other had a beautiful selection of green veggies like kale, swiss chard, and many other delectable items. IMG_9539

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The second stand had an incredibly sociable and kind staff, which led to an encounter in which my inner introvert ran away screaming while I was left laughing awkwardly on the outside looking for the nearest and socially acceptable place to go hide. It was a stupidly simple interaction that caught me totally off guard and unsure of how to respond it went like this:

Me: What a beautiful stand!

Farmers’ Market Man: Look at how beautiful you stand.

He didn’t break eye contact, I couldn’t tell if it was a joke or a genuine compliment so I just awkwardly laughed as the rest of his coworkers began to laugh too and then I slunk away into a corner and died a little. Awkward muffin time.

So naturally I went and spent some time smelling flowers at a stand clear on the other side of the market that was full of Dahlias and sunflowers (two of my favorite flowers).

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Finally I rounded out my time at the market with some fresh tamales from the Amaizing Corn Tortilla stand. Get it, aMAIZing. May or may not have been the only reason I decided to try them out, but you will never know. IMG_9530

Then I wandered down the incredibly popular Pearl Street Mall, which is a long expanse of street closed to cars and filled with shops and plenty of street performers. Everything from bango players, clowns with balloons, mimes, and performers balancing on rollers while hold fire could be found on the couple of blocks that make up the Pearl Street Mall.

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For the rest of the day I jumped from coffee shop to coffee shop writing postcards and working over delicious cups of coffee from Boxcar Coffee, Ozo and the Laughing Goat again. The mochas at Ozo are to die for, I may have to go back before I leave early tomorrow morning for one for the road.

I also took a drive around a section of Boulder right next to the university dubbed The Hill where all the college students roam in hordes. I was somewhat appalled by their conduct and quickly left after driving through blocks of street covered in shattered beer bottle glass, red plastic cups covering frat front lawns, and drunk students literally face planting in the middle of the street in front of moving traffic. I got out of there fast when droves of drunk students began wandering the streets, possibly after a football game got out? I hope it was an event, because if this was an every day occurrence, I would be genuinely concerned for this school.

After another long day alone I returned to my hostel for some more alone time because, ironically, after so much time alone, what I really wanted and needed was to be even more alone. So I set up my hammock on the river after slacklining alone for a little bit. That is how I finished my day. That is how I finished my time in Colorado. Tomorrow morning I leave this wonderful state to continue eastward.

I find it funny that in many ways I am doing Jack Kerouac’s journey backwards, moving west to east instead of the other way around. I am so glad that I decided to pick that book up from City Lights back in San Francisco before I left my beloved Bay because never have I read a book more applicable to my current state of being. I too have found myself exclaiming to the wild and dark night

“‘And here I am in Colorado! …Damn! Damn! Damn! I’m making it!'”

And now that I am leaving Colorado, I too am passing the center dividing line both in the continent and in my life, except the reverse of Kerouac’s, where his east is my west.

“I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future.”

Funny how the world works out and the road rolls on, I wonder where my future will find me.

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The Face in the Forest

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

The rain against the window pane sounds like chimes in the wind; a sound I have not heard for quite some time in California where the land is dry as old bones being bleached in the sun. Soothing and persistent the rain falls here in Durango as I sit in a coffee shop called the Steam Bean in the historic downtown of Durango. The crowd has slowly multiplied as the sidewalks become drenched in water and the awnings drip continuously. I have missed this. Rain, no matter where I am, always makes me feel instantly like I am home. Maybe it is the smell of the earth that rises when the rain falls, petrichor, that rattles around in my brain like a phone call from a friend you have talked to in ages. Maybe it is the feeling of being unabashedly alive as the cold water hits your face and stings with the freshness of new life springing from dry soil. I am not sure, I have never known why or how the rain can make any place feel like home, all I know is that it does. So I sit in this cafe full of college students studying, businessmen working, women chatting of chai lattes, a woman in black making jewelry, and a group of weary backpackers joyously reunited after a month on a backcountry trail and feel like I have always been here.

Before the rain there was a cloudy morning out on the trail. We began our day, after Gabe finished class, with a hike up Animas City Mountain. We climbed up the switchbacks in a very different sort of setting than the previous hikes that were enveloped in the branching arms of colorful aspens. This trail was more arid with cacti, bare twisting trees growing out of boulders, and small but colorful wildflowers.

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Amongst the scenery we found a hidden gem that we almost passed by: a face in the low lying forest skillfully carved into a tree stump.

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We then continued on along the trail and made it to the viewpoint that overlooked the entire city of Durango and the Animas River snaking out of town towards the surrounding mountains.

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We sat on the edge of the mountain enjoying the view and reveling in the beauty that this amazing town has to afford.

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This is my brother’s city, his home and I am so grateful that I have been able to see it through his eyes and experience the things he has grown to love about his new home. It has been almost a week since I left California and soon I will be moving on from Durango to continue on my way. I have only been here a short while and I wish it didn’t have to end, but there is still so much to see and do.

But for now, I am here, right here with the rain on the window even though my mind is already a thousand miles away. Being present is something I have always struggled with and now is when it means the most to be in the moment and I won’t let this experience pass me by. Here I am, I am Here.

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York: Hope for Humanity and Hedgehogs

Monday, June 30th, 2014

While in England I took a series of day trips to spread my knowledge’s reach to other parts of England beyond London. Branching out on the train lines I set out to adventure in England beginning with York where I stayed for two glorious days. With just my purse and my camera packed away I trekked across London to the King’s Cross Station, which is a big impressive station, next to the even bigger and more impressive station in my opinion, the St. Pancras Station. I had a bit of a long wait for my train so in the meanwhile I explored the area surrounding the station, and even watched a Lays commercial being made with a blind taste test where people kept burning their mouths on hot food.

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Then I explored the interior of the station and realized that King’s Cross has Harry Potter’s Platform nine and three quarters and in the actual station they have this whole elaborate set up now for tourists looking to follow the Harry Potter things in London. It was a baggage cart cut in half next to wall with even an owl stuffed animal on it, and people had lined up, zigzagging through the station to take a photo with it pretending to be going through the wall. Not being a huge Harry Potter fan and finding the fanaticism funny, I sat on a nearby staircase watching the insane antics knowing if I had been with my friends we would have been one of those groups waiting in line since all of my friends are pretty die hard when it comes to Harry Potter. So I sat back and watched, laughing for almost an hour, watching the line snake its way forward endlessly.IMG_3342

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Finally my train arrived and I was really surprised by how nice the trains where, especially after having used Trenitalia all semester in Italy which is pretty bare bones on the regional trains. The seats where plush and each one either had a chess/checkers table or a monopoly table for playing games. I had a really nice seat all to myself and a nice big window to watch the countryside roll by.IMG_3361

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The two hour ride from London to York was wonderful, we essentially crossed all of England, almost to Scotland and the countryside was beautiful. Rolling hills of mustard grass and buttercups coloring the hills like a sea of yellow. Cows and cute towns speckled the landscape, the occasional river and undulating little hills with the fields of cows or sheep passing by the speeding train. I loved the ride and was almost sad when it ended, but even more excited to see what York had to behold.

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I rather liked the little train station and once outside in the sunny, slightly muggy air I made directly for one of the towns most famous aspects, the ancient walls that still enclose the city. IMG_3377

I have thus far neglected to mention an important part of this little solo adventure to York, the fact that I was couch surfing with a total stranger. My housing for York fell through and I had to last minute find random housing and a 66 year old woman named Heather was kind enough to accommodate me. This was the first time I had ever done this and I was a little worried. But I had a few hours to kill my first day in York before I was supposed to meet her at the house. So I began with the wall.

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 The wall that runs almost entirely around the city of York is an artifact of ancient times, the preservation of the old city’s fortress walls. Almost entirely intact, today you can go around the city on the winding dragon spine of this town to take in its sights. I got onto the wall and could see York Minster in the background and I started making my way along the wall to see what there was to see. At the end of my first section of wall that dipped at a bridge crossing a river leading to what I assume once was an old guard tower tucked away by the riverside. IMG_3385

Much to my surprise I discovered that this little turret tower was in fact an adorable coffee shop. I knew I had to go in and see what a tower coffee shop looked like, but first I made a stop by the river to look at all the baby geese wandering everywhere in the town. IMG_3389

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I climbed the stairs to the tower and looked inside to see wooden beams crossing the ceiling and couches filling every inch of the room that wasn’t taken up by the counter. It was really extremely cute, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my money just yet having just arrived maybe 10 minutes previous to this point in time. However, I wasn’t given much choice by a nice, but bluntly gruff man sitting in the corner whom, upon seeing me standing, gawking in the doorway, hollered at me to step in and get something to drink instead of just staring. He was a hilariously caustic man I came to known was called Shawn. Little did I know that him calling me into the coffee shop against my will and my wallet’s desires would lead to one of my favorite experiences of my entire month of travel after my program. IMG_3403

I shyly shuffled in and still a little cautious of the man who had called me in who was now muttering over his computer, I ordered coffee from the very kind barista. After I ordered I figured I could take a few pictures, so I asked permission first and the man in the corner, Shawn once again pipped in saying he would be very glad to model in the corner. And as I was taking pictures another traveler such as myself wandered in behind me and seeing me taking photos, jumped into my shot just like this. Didn’t have any idea who he was, but I deeply loved the photo. IMG_3404

So laughing I sat down with my delicious coffee and began talking with everyone there, observing the barista and Shawn who obviously where friends ad kept poking fun at each other; Shawn caustically muttering and the barista calling him a grouch and an old man because of his bad behavior. And I got to talking with Ben, the traveler who, like me had just hopped of the train, and we wound up sitting and talking for about 2 or 3 hours. It was a marvelous time, laughing at Shawn bashing every city in England besides York to prove that York was clearly the best city in the UK and the barista teasing him about him just being a silly grumpy person with impossible standards. Ben told me he was traveling from Scotland to meet up with his grandmother whom he loved very much so the two of them could travel together in the UK. I told him all about Italy and the cultural curiosities of the country that most people wouldn’t know. The entire time, any time I would say something he liked he would stop and hunched over his little notebook would write anything he liked that I said in his little journal for later so he could remember the things I said. It was invigorating to have a conversation with a total stranger and realize that my words mean something to him; that even though he would probably forget my name, my words remained in that little black book to be viewed again.

I was very sad when he realized he was late for his train and ran off, neither of us realizing the time that had passed while we were talking. He ran off, and I didn’t even know his last name at the end, it was a saddening end to a wonderful encounter, but my entire time in that coffee shop was so up lifting and had me believing so thoroughly in the goodness of total strangers that when I got back to the wall I was grinning from ear to ear with the possibilities of human interaction, which, coming from an introvert, is not a phrase I say often. I was just so happy and felt so rejuvenated that I wandered down the wall in total awe of people and a new hope for humanity blooming in my heart.

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I walked all the way around the wall, enjoying the views, the flowers, and the warm summer air. IMG_3443

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I got off the wall to go to another ancient site in York, Clifford’s Tower, a lone little circular tower perched high atop a hill overlooking the city. I walked through a field of geese and their little babies just to get to it. IMG_3464

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The tower was very interesting and from there, with more time to wander, I decided to just weave my way through the backstreets of the city to see what there was to discover.IMG_3492

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I found purple doors, with fox door knockers, old churches knee deep in buttercups and dandelions, ancient cemeteries in older churchyards, and crooked streets leading me to crooked buildings.

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Past convents with shining stain glass windows, flowers blooming a deep crimson, old english buildings and back to the river again to hang my feet above the water with a beer in hand.IMG_3602

I took a short break on the water after an interesting encounter over taking pictures of geese that went a little something like this: I was taking pictures of some adorable baby geese, and realized there was an elderly gentleman also taking pictures of them. I thought it was a nice moment to share together, we made eye contact and I opened my mouth to affirm what I thought we both were thinking, how adorable are these baby geese?, when he looked at me, also about to speak but before I could say what I thought he was going to, he just looks at me and whispers, DINNER.  I was so deeply shocked at how wrong I had read the situation that I just started laughing and couldn’t stop until he had left. IMG_3611

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After that encounter, it was time to meet my host for the night, who riding up on a bicycle with bunting covering the straw basket, didn’t even stop before asking me, Do you want to come bird watching in an old Victorian cemetery with me tonight at sunset?

Who says no to that? Easily one of the strangest experiences of my trip, I ran/walked next to her for about thirty minutes outside of York while she rode her bike until we reached the cemetery. IMG_3634

The cemetery was entirely overgrown, a glowing green radiance summoned from the depth of these vine covered graves and deep rooted behemoth trees with branches reaching out like arms to encompass the entire cemetery like a mother raven pulling her children tightly underneath her broad wings. It was beautiful, quiet, peaceful, and despite it being a cemetery was a place full of life and solemn solitude.

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The birdwatching itself was kind of a bust with a majority of the group entirely fine with examining the calls of black birds, desperately craning their necks and squinting their eyes to make out a pigeon in the distance, but the surroundings where astounding and I was very glad I went and got to experience his oddity. IMG_3657

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After leaving the cemetery at dusk and run/walking back into York I broke off again from my kind host and decided to go wander around York at night to maximize my day and time for exploration.

After again sitting on the banks of the river with my feet dangling above the black starry water with a cider in hand, I finally headed home on the crooked cobblestone streets.

While on my journey back to the house, I saw something crossing the street, at first I thought it was a really weird looking rat because I could only see its outline in the dark and its strange waddling stride. I thought it was the strangest looking rat I had ever seen, I mean it didn’t even have a tail, when to my surprise as I wandered closer I realized it was a wild hedgehog. I have always wanted to see one and nearly lost my mind when I realized I had encountered one in the wilderness of York’s streets. IMG_3691

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After doing a little dance of celebration in the street at my luck, I made sure to take a few pictures and then leave the creature to its night wanderings. IMG_3694

I went back to the house grinning once again from ear to ear as I had done when leaving the coffee shop that same morning. My host was gracious enough to give me my own room in the attic of her terrace home. It was adorable, but felt a little haunted or something at night, but still adorable. IMG_3695

So after talking with my host about art, wildlife, her work, my travels, and a huge array of random topics over English tea, we both retired to bed after a long but fulfilling day.

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Final Days in Berlin

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

My last few days in Berlin before I headed off to England where a mixture of wandering the streets, exploring neighborhoods, and trying to get a feel for slow life as it really is in Berlin. Maiya and I explored, she showed me a lot of things she hadn’t done before but also showing me things that were just everday components of life in Berlin.

We got a nice German breakfast at Mokka Bar, which was in an adorable little cafe with beautiful breakfast spreads of fruit, bread, meats, and cheeses. After a lot of luxurious relaxing we wandered about the streets taking in the sights.IMG_2358 IMG_2360 IMG_2361

We also wandered along the canal which had lots of beautiful buildings and green covered walkways below little tree canopies next to the river. IMG_2376 IMG_2371 IMG_2382

We also explored a beautifully green park that had an old bunker up on a hill. But first we enjoyed the outdoors and the wondrous greenery of the place. IMG_2386 IMG_2392 10333319_833581536656691_7993139673201255786_o

Frolicking around under the canopy of a willow tree, climbing hills, and wandering through pond areas with cute little bridges. 10321203_833581489990029_2921933749925878122_o

Awkwardly though, we climbed one hill to be directly faced with a couple very loudly having sex. Embarrassed and shocked at the public display and ran down the hill laughing in surprise. IMG_2401

After that and some cool graffiti we encountered we found a lovely little rose garden without any roses but lots of wisteria. We sat on the railing under the wisteria looking out through its branches onto the beautiful gardens just enjoying a quick moment of sunshine after several days of solid grey.

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Then we scaled upwards to the top of the bunker where we could see most of the city past the green tree tops of the gardens.IMG_2424 IMG_2418 IMG_2417 IMG_2430

The bunker area was very cool and the wind was blowing so strongly we could barely keep ourselves together. Through the mist of rain and the wind we explored the top of the bunker and then returned to where I had gotten coffee the previous day to get a Berlin tradition, curry wurst. 10321127_833581826656662_3951681140522276470_o

This funny tradition of sausage (maybe just a boiled hot dog?) with ketchup mixed with curry powder as well as a generous helping of french fries. IT is a funny dish that most Berliners affectionately say is something you really only get once but we went to one of the best places for it and it wasn’t too bad. Every city has its traditions I suppose, some more well loved than others. IMG_2438 IMG_2435 IMG_2442

The following day I began my day with an outing that was extremely relaxing but possibly  a bit morbid. Maiya told me about a wonderful little cafe, Cafe Strauss that is actually in an old cemetery. It was a lovely brick building with a porch lined with tables right inside of a cemetery. As strange of a setting as it was, it was very peaceful with the silence and stillness of it all only broken by the sound of birds singing. I sat there for a long time wrapped in a blanket, which is something cafes and restaurants in Berlin seems to do is put out blankets for every chair, writing while enjoying the peace.IMG_2445

After a relaxing morning of writing and drinking hot coffee we decided to go out and enjoy a food market extravaganza that was a huge market hall filled with food stands from all over the world. It was truly amazing, there were so many different types of food, so many smells wafting in the smoky air of the market halls high ceilings and after the semester in ITaly with only italian food in sight this was like my carnival. IMG_2448 IMG_2456

It was so hard to choose from all of the different types because everything looked so amazing but I decided to go for Thai food since it is my favorite and it did not disappoint. Also Maiya got some amazing wine mixed with wine saturated strawberries that was divine. I got to meet some of Maiya’s friends from her program and it was really great getting to know them even if it was just for a short little bit.

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This night was my last night in Berlin and it did not disappoint whatsoever. After the food market we went for a walk in the park where we got to see some cool animals, a lot of people enjoying the sunshine and a fair deal of drug dealers trying to sell me some cocaine, besides that and Maiya nearly getting pushed into the street during a sudden street fight near the U-Bahn station our evening was nice.

We then had plans o meet some of Maiya’s other friends who were from California as well at a wine tasting place that was truly wonderful. But before we settled in Maiya and I decided to wait in a little children’s park right next door that was the most amazing park ever. We had so much fun jumping on little trampolines, sitting in swings that were too small for us, and just acting like kids despite both of us being technically seniors in college now. After out dearly beloved trip to the park we went into the wine place that sells you a glass and you can get as many refills of wine as you like and taste as many different types of wine as you please as well. It was quite the concept and I deeply loved it, it reminded me of the Italian aperitivo without the food. So sitting in a luxurious couch in the crowded place we sipped many different kinds of wine and I got to meet Maiya’s friends who were really just wonderful.

It was a great night, full of good conversations and great wine. We took our friends back to the park but this time in the dark and really just had the best time. It was probably my favorite moment in Berlin, sitting under the stars, spinning around on the children’s play ground, singing songs together loudly in the park, and just enjoying life. I deeply loved it, never have I enjoyed a park that much and it made me very sad when I realized it was my final night in Berlin. I wish I had met them sooner because they were so much fun and I was going to miss my Roomie. Six days wasn’t enough. I wanted more but sadly the night had to end and we all piled in a taxi and headed home. I said goodbye to my new friends and went to sleep in Berlin for the last time.

My final morning in Berlin was a blur of packing, panicking, and then some good clean fun in an abandoned airport. Typical travel day.  This old abandoned airport has been transformed into a wonderful free space for everyone to enjoy the sun, the tall grasses, a space to run or bike, or fly kites. It really is a nice space for everyone to share. Maiya and I wandered around enjoying my last morning here and our last morning together for some time to come.IMG_2462 IMG_2464 IMG_2468 IMG_2470

There were even people skateboarding with attached kites and sails to drag them along down the long airport runways.

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It was a good end to my time  in Berlin and I was very pleased overall with the first leg of my journey. I had a new appreciation for Berlin and had enjoyed my time with an old friend. It was a perfect blend of the old and the new, historically and experientially. I was sad to leave but with England next on my list and the Netherlands after that, it was the end of one experience and the beginning of many more.

 

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Berlin Life: Markets and Cafes

Friday, May 16th, 2014

I went to bed to the sound of rain and woke up to the sound of church bells ringing. Sunday morning, Mother’s day, my first full day in Berlin.

The two elderly women that Maiya lives with had their families over when we woke up since it was Mother’s Day. It was pretty sad not being able to be with my family on Mother’s Day and just one more reminder of how much I miss home. We all sat together at the kitchen table eating breakfast rolls and drinking coffee. I sat attentively listening to everyone speak German as I sat back and watched, trying to gleam anything from the conversation to no avail. It was still nice to see everyone interacting so happily even if I was outside of it all. I just missed my own family.

After breakfast Maiya and I decided to go to Mauerpark, which is a huge park that on Sundays has an even bigger flea market. After a somewhat disorienting U-Bahn ride for me we arrived in a new cute neighborhood that we wandered through to get to the Park. Once we reached the outside we saw a young woman performing on the sidewalk. Her name was Alice Phoebe Lou and she was fantastic. We sat and listened to her soulful singing for a long time just marveling at how such an amazing voice came from such a tiny person. We were hypnotized by her music, her originally songs, and her cover of Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang. We bought her CD, which I honestly didn’t like nearly as much as her live singing but still am pretty obsessed with and haven’t stopped listening to yet. After tearing ourselves away form the entrancing voice of Alice Phoebe Lou, we wandered on past other street performers like some really cool break-dancers until we finally entered the market itself. Stall after stall after stall of all sorts of things to mounted antlers, musical instruments, pipes, clothing, antique kitchen wares, to shoes and knick knacks, it was endless. Oh and also some pretty amazing food. IMG_1600 IMG_1603 IMG_1605 IMG_1613IMG_1607IMG_1616IMG_1617IMG_160910321563_829638643717647_7243128432826486201_oIMG_1620

I am a sucker for markets and it instantly made me love Berlin. Between intermittent down pours of rain we dodged through lake like puddles crossed over with planks of wood from stand to stand taking in the sights.

After a brief but horrifying scare in which I thought I had lost my camera only to realize I had just forgotten that I had put it in my bag already, we decided to get some food. We stopped at a food stall that had potatoes that they put through a ringer making one long spiral cut in the potato so it was all one piece still and then skewering it on a stick to then deep fry it. I got one and it was really and truly amazing. It was so nice to eat it on a cold rainy day while wandering through the market. After that little snack we decided to stop for lunch in the market and got Turkish food, which we ate under the smoky awnings of the food tent. It was colorful, full of spices, and delicious. So incredibly different than all of the food I had gotten so accustomed to eating in Italy.

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Our collective purchases at the end of the day: Alice Phoebe Lou’s CD, Maiya’s Ukulele, earrings for me, a ring made from a fork for Maiya, ad lots of yummy food. We left eh market to enter into the park area again where we climbed the hillside to find a huge expanse of the Berlin wall that overlooked the city of Berlin.

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We sat swinging on some swings with the brief moments of sun shining on our faces. Each pump of my legs bringing me one inch closer t the sun, if you close your eyes it feels like you’re flying. I loved those swings dearly. It was quite a contrast, swinging upward my feet stretched out towards the city and the sun, behind with my legs tucked in and going backwards was the Wall shadowed by rainclouds. It felt like swinging between two worlds, one old one new, one bright one dark.. It was an interesting experience and my first time being near the Berlin Wall.

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After sadly leaving behind our swings, ukulele in hand, we wandered out of the park and down the street to a Tea Bar that is known for its Matcha Green Tea where we sat on a balcony above the shop on little Japanese style seating mats overlooking a courtyard full of armchairs. It was a magical little shop and I really enjoyed sitting there watching people come and go.

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After leaving the shop we returned back to the apartment for a quick break and then went to a nearby coffee shop to do some work. I really love all the cafes in Berlin, they are all so cute and hipster and I just love being able to sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee again while working on my laptop. I really dearly missed that. I got a wonderful Chai Latte and a piece of carrot cake and was wonderfully content.

We finished the night by just lying in bed, drinking tea and hot chocolate while watching a movie as it rained outside. It was a good first day, slow, simple, and full of fun discovery of neighborhood life and things that Berliners, like Maiya, get to do every week. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to experience these things, and as different as they are from Rome there is a beauty in the differences that I am so glad I get to experience.

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Window Watching

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

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Sitting in Emporio alla Pace, just a few steps away from Piazza Navona, enjoying a cup of coffee and a pastry, it is easy to take for granted the things around me, to not take note of the truly extraordinary nature of the things going on around me. It is only when I realize I am over half way done with my study abroad experience, half way done with my time in Rome am I able to realize, not without horror, that these average everyday things will no longer be a part of my life in a very short while. Every moment I spend here is an exceptional gift unlike any other I have ever received.

My ordinary world is extraordinary in every sense of the word. Sitting in a flower framed window in a softly lit golden alleyway bustling with Roman life and her ever busy residents coming and going, I feel in the pit of my stomach how much I will miss this.

Two men with accordions strapped to their backs walking arm in arm followed by a man carrying a huge base, casually strolling. Two women happily embracing with a graceful kiss on each cheek and loud exclamations in an excited flow of Italian words rolling effortlessly off a native tongue. A woman in a window above and across the way airing out a comforter along with the rest of her laundry, after throwing open the dark green shutters of her apartments window with the double handed opening of arms of a bird taking flight. Construction workers gruffly laughing as they share a cigar on their lunch break, a slowly shifting cloud of smoke encompassing the space of their laughter and the street they sit on. A man emphatically hitting a newspaper with a questioning flat hand as he regards some article in angry disbelief. Three priests walking with arms held behind their backs smiling slightly but silently progressing down the street. A young man and woman walking together, talking under their breath with faces close and confiding, each holding a portfolio of work that is either art or architecture designs that wave back in forth with their fast walking movements, square compared to their bent over, whispering frames skinny from long nights in the studio.  These are the things I will miss. Italian people leading Italian lives, the ordinary and everyday that goes on without note that in its simplicity lies true beauty.

If I sit here long enough I can witness a thousand worlds rubbing elbows without ever meeting one another. I wonder often how many of these worlds I will be able to hold onto when I leave to return to the United States. How many scraps of memory can I cling to when the reality has escaped me and the ordinary becomes the impossible again? I suppose that is why I have this blog. A collection of scraps of memories frantically and sometimes brokenly woven together to make something of the memories and thoughts bumping around in my mind that I fear I will lose some day unless the memories become something tangible, something real. Something to cling to when I am no longer here, something to look back and to prove to myself that it all really happened, that I did live in Rome for a semester, that I did see all these things because honestly I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t living it at this very moment.

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Coffee Culture

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

The clicking of coffee cups against porcelain plates, and the sound of raining falling on the cobblestone streets outside accompanies the soft chatter of conversations in languages ranging from Italian to German in a small coffee shop full of murals and books just a few winding alley ways away from Piazza Navona. The windows are foggy from the warmth of whispered words inside and the persistent downpour of rain outside on the window pane. Books splayed out before me on a table, a cappuccino in hand and a chocolate croissant waiting to be eaten. Oh how I have missed this.

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Back in Berkeley I essentially lived in coffee shops, spending hours on end either studying, reading or writing in a corner of a caffe with coffee in hand and billion thoughts swirling around in my mind. Never, before I came to Rome, did I think I would not have access to the main aspect of all that is quotidian in my life back in California. All I hear about Italy is how good the coffee is, so never did I think that what I would come to miss the most was the culture of coffee in America.

Yes, there are a ridiculous amount of coffee shops in Rome with endless cups of hard shots of espresso and copious cappuccinos, but what they do not have is a coffee culture where coffee is the objective, not the means for something else. People here do not find a caffe and settle in for hours of studying or just reading a good book, there is hardly ever any sitting for even the smallest of moments.

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The culture of coffee in Rome, what little I have come to understand about it, can be described as such. You enter a crowded caffe with people lined up standing at a bar. You nudge your way to the bar and ask for un caffe (a tiny shot of really strong espresso), un cappuccino, or maybe a caffe latte (a small version of what people in America deem a latte). But even in that simple event it is a very confusing process because from one caffe to another the order of events differs. In some places you must pay first and then go to the bar and show your receipt and then they make it for you. Or the other way, which is you order your coffee and drink it at the bar and when you are done you pay for it. So in every new coffee shop there is a moment of panic and confusion trying to deduce what type of caffe it is and taking the risk of looking stupid and foreign if you get it wrong.

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Regardless of what you order or what order the events progress in, there is one general consensus: you drink your coffee quickly. There is nothing leisurely about this. The coffee is in small portions, and just warm enough to stay that way for maybe five minutes. You are meant to stand at the bar and down your little shot of coffee quickly, and then continue on your way to the rest of your day. Getting coffee is a pit stop, not a destination in Rome. It is done in a hurry between events and not an event in and of itself like it often is in America. Even though it is a hurried event, you never get coffee to go. You never see someone walking around drinking coffee, it is bizarre if you do and almost always an instant indicator of a tourist.

So you stand elbow to elbow at the bar and drink your coffee quickly. Some places do have seating, but you have to pay extra money to sit down and it is a whole different method of ordering. You just sit and they serve you at your seat instead of ordering at the bar and it costs quite a bit more.

So needless to say, for a girl who lives off of being able to go into a caffe and sit for hours on end slowly sipping coffee, this was a nightmarish realization and a long process in understanding how to navigate the coffee culture of Rome. It still is and will continue to be. I have been able to try some amazing cups of different coffee though ranging from chocolately to straight black coffee all over Rome. So far, I think Sant’Eustachio Cafe has been my favorite!

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I have been desperately searching for a caffe where people don’t yell at you if you try to sit down and today I finally succeeded for the first time. I found a place near my university that actually seems to be okay with you sitting down for an extended period of time. Oh how I have missed this.

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Red plush armchairs, books lining the walls covered in murals, and bottles of Italian wine being used as book ends; I like this place a lot, it almost feels like home, almost. I finally may have  found myself a home caffe.

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Sundays in the City: The Mission District

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Every Sunday I go into the city of San Francisco to go to my home church, Reality SF. Located on the border of the Mission and Castro District, my church is central to some pretty cool things in the heart of San Francisco. Because I go weekly into San Francisco, I have decided to explore this giant city that is right across the bridge from Berkeley, yet seems a world away at the same time. Thus Sundays in the City is born as an effort of exploration and discovery outside of my Berkeley bubble.

For my very first Sunday in the City I decided to go on a Mural Walk in the Mission District. I had heard about an alley way called Balmy Alley that was supposed to be full of dazzling murals. However I made a few stops before heading deep into the heart of the Mission District. I visited Taqueria La Cumbre, a taqueria featured on the Food Network Show, Man vs Food for a carne asada burrito. Nothing special there, pretty standard. And of course the next thing on my mind was coffee, coffee, coffee. I soon learned that the original Philz, my all time favorite coffee shop, was only a mile and a half away from my church, so I decided it would be the next leg of my journey.

Located on 24th and Folsom, right near Balmy Alley, my final destination, I found the original Philz!

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This quirky coffee shop never fails to make my heart happy, and this one in particular was full of eccentricities. Every inch of wall painted in muralistic fashion from ballerinas to trees, floor to ceiling was covered in great paintings. I stopped inside for a break from walking and some studying. I was even luck enough to get a free Mocha Tesora due to a mix up in orders.

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After reading some Hemingway, I returned to the task at hand and departed to begin my exploration of the mission district. Wandering from bookstore to record store, Latino grocery stands, and all sorts of other interesting shops I kept an eye out for murals.

Then I found Balmy Alley, an expanse of street that was tiny but entirely covered in beautifully vibrant murals. Ranging from political and social protests in art to silly children’s murals, every inch of wall was covered in the vivid paint of these creative minds. This was my favorite view of the alleyway with the bold proclamation of REJOICE! watching from overhead. Between the dazzling murals and the flowers framing them, it was quite a sight to see.

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I wandered up and down the alley way several times just absorbing the color and the passion behind the brush strokes of each mural. It was astounding to see these works of art all of the place. It wasn’t just in the alley way either, it was all over the Mission District. Tucked away down quiet streets, bounding across the tall buildings’ walls, or on old decrepit wooden fences, they were everywhere.

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I had a lot of fun taking in all of the art but eventually I made the trek back to the bart station and sat exhausted but fulfilled the entire way back home to Berkeley. I found there is a grand difference between going to a place and getting to know it. I have been to San Francisco so many times but never truly dug down deep into the city to learn its outline like I am starting to now. Even though I encountered a couple of creepy, scary things (people being rude and creepy to me, a girl alone, wandering some of the sketchy streets of San Francisco unwittingly), it was still a great adventure and I wouldn’t change a thing.

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I love nothing more than exploring and discovering new things and after my first Sunday in the City I really am just hungry for new and more journeys out into San Francisco. There is so much to be seen, appreciated, and enjoyed that I cannot wait to return again and reclaim the pieces of my heart that I left scattered in the mysterious street corners of San Francisco. This last mural really spoke true to my heart and I cannot wait to go again.

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