Lola Bites Back: And Other Inspirational Tidbits

Location: Bissingen an der Teck, Baden Wuerttemberg, Germany

Laughing all the way...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Let it snow(rain), let it snow(rain), let it snow(rain)!

We finally enjoyed our first snow of the season last night! Steady flurries of light snow over the course of the evening covered everything in a soft white blanket of peace and quiet. It was not too cold (minimum -1 C) to sit on the terrasse and appreciate the magic in relative warmth.

I had an new learning experience with the cold last Saturday. Looking back on it now, it was perhaps unwise to ride my bicycle to meet La Bande du Boudoir for our third and final evening of unbridled hilarity. We converged for supper at an apartment located about 30 bicycle minutes away. At -6 C, getting there was rough but I managed it without incident.

It was after three in the morning when I finally hit the wall and decided to head home. During the seemingly endless ride, I became so frozen that when I finally did re-enter a warm environment, my fingers and other extremities turned red and began to burn. I was uncertain how to proceed, but as the problem got progressively worse I decided to take quick action. I got in the shower (hot). The skin of my hands and feet burned bright red but the tender middles were still frozen and numb. I would call it an unpleasant experience overall.

Practical tip for future: cold water is the better choice in cases of pre-frostbite. Yes, of course! Cold water makes much more sense. Why should I force something when I can ease myself in shantih-shantih style?

Last night I was contented to lounge on the terrasse in zero degrees. But I think zero degrees is cold enough...

Why was I motivated to attempt such a risky ride?
It all started when a funky group of people, mostly from my French class, came together for a goodbye happy hour last Saturday (witness the revelry in recently posted photos below). We are a random bunch, but one thing clearly unites us: we all laugh.

The wide diversity of cultures represented in our group - French, American, Latino and Russian - results in frequent and frequently hilarious cultural barbs. We mock our own cultural stereotypes, recognizing instinctively that they are meaningless caricatures; clearly we are one and the same. After laughing for six consecutive hours, we collectively decided to say goodbye again the following Friday. So we met for another happy hour and laughed the night away a second time.

I've had this experience a few times now and it's one of the things I cherish about my chosen lifestyle. There are certain fleeting moments when a group of travellers converges on the same place at the same time and sparks fly. One example that comes to mind is the two weeks I spent with friends in that adorable mountain village in Nepal the summer before last. We cooked and laughed together for nearly ten days.

I have forged a number of close connections with people from all over the world this way. Vastly different on the outside, our spirits are mutually inspired. Like a red bull for the soul, their inspiring presence remains with me long after we have separated. These people may not be a part of my daily life, but they are with me forever.

sleep well everyone, tomorrow is another day,


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

2009: Looking Mighty Fine

The morning after the election, I stopped at a local depanneur on my way to school. When I walked in, several members of the Iranian family who owns it were chatting away with some customers in French. When I realized they were discussing the American election, I felt compelled to add my two cents:

"Pour la première fois de ma vie, je suis fière de mon suis fière d'être Americaine."

It was a moment I will savour always; Not only did I voluntarily identify myself as a proud American for the first time in my life, but I did it in French! Oh, the delicious ironies of life!!

I believe it was 2003 when the United States first invaded Iraq. I was in Kathmandu at the time with several Québéquois and Israeli friends. When we heard the news, I remember a general feeling of disgust and disappointment.

Later that year, I was working illegally in an Italian restaurant in London when a drunken customer became hostile and spat aggressive insults at me. Apparently he was disgusted with "Americans," too. Aware that the unpopularity of the Iraq war correlated directly to the unpopularity of Americans, I duly adopted a strategy of Zero Admission. Call me Canadian, Mexican, Indian, Moroccan...whatever you like if it means I can fly under the radar.

Time and again I was queried by perplexed travellers who mostly wanted to know just one thing: Why? Why did Americans re-elect George Bush? The first election was somehow forgivable, but it was the re-election that really pushed everyone over the edge. The only conclusion was that Americans were somehow really stupid.

From my perspective on the inside, I was stunned by the Supreme Court's power - and eagerness - to callously override the people's will by awarding the presidency to George Bush. In retrospect, that ruling set the tone for the coming domination of the Bush Administration's interests.

Soon after, media outlets seemed to change their collective tone. What seemed at first a careless failure to properly investigate official "news" eventually became a full-blown media malaise in which journalists accepted anything and everything without question. The White House Press Corps itself became as docile and mindless as a herd of Indian cows happily swallowing up plastic bags and cardboard boxes.

It was an experience worthy of the Twilight Zone and I often hoped Rod Serling would step out of the shadows, calmly and matter-of-factly explain what was happening, and reassure me that I wasn't crazy. But Rod never came.

Now, after six years of a pointless war, a collapsed economy and a squandered reputation, Americans have shown the world, once again, that there is hope for us all. It's the one thing in perilously short supply these days.

Without hope, we have nothing. Without hope, an individual will commit suicide, a civilization will wither away. Hope literally keeps us alive, and on November 4th, 2008, Americans served up a super-sized helping of good old-fashioned Hope to each other and to peoples all over the world. That's right, world, we still got it!

And I can't wait to launch myself into my next round of adventures abroad to relish this renewed faith in my country. It's a great moment to be American and I for one plan to take full advantage!

And that, my friends, is enough musing for tonight. I am tired and must prepare for sleep. But before I sign off, I leave you with a few other random observations:

On Money: Easy come, easy go; the sharp drop in the value of the Canadian dollar against the US dollar in October means I lost a crapload of money last month. Now I understand why it's not necessarily a good idea to store money in your closet.

On Love: Love is not looking into each other's eyes. Love is looking in the same direction.

On Future: The train I'm on has many destinations but no stops. Next up on the itinerary: Southwest California, USA, 3-16 December, 2008. Be there or be square.

On refining my Indian-style, single-finger nose-blowing technique while riding my bicycle in minus 7 degrees and dressed like a furry linebacker: inadvisable

Until next time,
with affection,

Another Saturday night at Le Boudoir with the gang; Left to Right: Julie and Denis (French), moi (American mutt), Alvarito and Elena (Latin mutts), and Jean-Baptiste (Definitely French)

We laughed for six hours without stopping! The big talk of the night was a road trip to Mexico in January...

more later...


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Despite All My Rage I'm Still Just a Rat in a Cage

Vermont, USA, September 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It’s Four O’Clock...Do You Know Where Your Priorities Are?

Seems I’m leading quite the charmed existence these days. Nearly one month ago I had the great fortune to begin taking a French course at a language school downtown. In barter fashion, I teach for 15 hours a week and take French class for 15 hours a week. This easygoing combination of work and study makes it the ‘’daycare’’ I always longed for.

Add to that the fact that it takes me less than ten minutes to ride my bicycle to school and it looks like I may have finally carved out the perfect little niche for myself in this strange land called North America. And the best part? After one month of my first proper French studies, I am finally beginning to speak and understand French! Eureka!

I guess it only took four months of floating around for something great to finally come together, but it certainly seemed longer than that. I guess the lesson here is - are you ready for this? - patience! Ha ha!

As much as I love the fine city of Montréal, its colorful diversity and amicable peoples, I cannot abide its frigid temperatures. And besides, I’ve got family on my mind. On the 3rd of December, I will head back to Sunny Southern California to spend some time with those very important people, to thank them in person for my great fortune.

After my family has been properly acknowledged, I will make my way back to Mother India for round two of my ongoing education. This time around, I plan to add Yoga Teacher to my repertoire of skills. Only God knows for sure how long I will be back ’’home’’ in India, but I guess I’ll stay there as long as it takes. And one other thing is sure: the next time I try to settle down it will be in a warmer place!

hug-deprived but not for long,

PS I would be incredibly remiss if I didn't say ''Bonne Fête'' to my ex-partner in crime, Mateo. Did you get the package I sent?? ;)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Une Victoire Historique: President Obama Goes Global

Not content to simply call the election result, I got a little bit cocky last night and predicted 350 electoral votes for President Obama...

What a thrill to wake up this morning and see 349 electoral votes in his column! We were told it was a ''mandate'' when George skimped by the first time around, but what we have here today is a real mandate folks, a global mandate.

The most significant and electrifying part of President Obama's victory speech was that he not only spoke to and for the American people, he showed the world that he is aware of his role as a global leader by addressing them, too;

''And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world – our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.

To those who would tear this world down – we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security – we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright – tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America – that America can change.''

Congratulations, everyone! Last night was a huge step in the right direction and we have all earned that deep sigh of relief. The worst may be yet to come, but now we at least have a shining light to guide us through it. Has there ever been a better time to be a proud American?