Monday, October 31, 2011


Inside Notre Dame cathedral, covered in dust and years of grime and oil, is a small tin box set into a pillar that reads, "For the Poor". It is very easy to miss as it is far out of sight of any glory to behold within the church itself and certainly out of view from the arrays of candles that tourists can pay 2 euros for to light and say a prayer. 

I'll be honest, I definitely took advantage of the copious amounts of tourists taking photos and joined their ranks inside the church. And I also took this photograph outside.

As the woman sat down by the pillar, I watched the line immediately begin to shift away from her. So greatly did they move away that she moved to the next pillar and they again began to move away. 

I didn't even notice the little boy until I was going through the photos later. What will his parents explain away about the woman? That she's probably just going to use it for drugs or alcohol. She isn't that poor. Someone else will stop and help her. 


Men sleeping on benches in the church garden, clutching newspaper to their face in subways. Young women with imploring signs, old women outside the church gates. 

The poor you will always have with you... If that is the case, does that mean nothing can or should done to try and alleviate the problem? Though my parents brought me up to believe many good things and instilled quality morals and values in me, I remember the day I first saw a homeless person. At the time, I was about five and we were going up into the "dangerous part of the big city" (three blocks from my house last year) and there was a man with a typical sign. The impression I recall receiving when I asked about helping him was that we didn't do that sort of thing because he would likely buy alcohol or drugs with the money. Though I was often in trouble as a kid and usually thought my parents were wrong, I remember that as the first time I thought they really weren't right and that someday, I would do something different.

And the day before I left, only a few streets away from that very corner, a friend and I were asked by two men if we had any change. We didn't give them anything but the young guy truly thanked us anyway. One of the men appeared to have something wrong with one of his eyes- a trait I had often searched for in the homeless men of Rochester as he and my dad were once friends. We turned them away when we had enough money in our pockets for some dinner for those guys. If he was the man my dad knew, that man also has a daughter around my age. We forget the homeless have families, had friends and a life before homelessness. If they are on the streets, we blame them. We are unforgiving and unkind towards broken hearts and trampled lives. We are unkind, impatient, rude, selfish, seeking wrong in their lives to validate our lack of generosity and we have no hope for them. Few love the homeless. Many of them bled in wars for us as sons today now bleed overseas. 

I read Radical, by David Platt and have begun The Hole in Our Gospel, by Richard Stearns and found the quote below within its pages.

Maybe some people do deserve the life they have, but after several years of beginning to search out the answer, "what if we're wrong?" I've found this is not often the case and when it isn't, it's in a terrible way.

 Even attending church my whole life, I feel in many ways the true teachings of Jesus were taught out of me in one way or another. So in my heart, for years I've always felt in the deep spots of my heart that the untouchables in our societies should not be kept at arms length and in our blindspots. I ignored those thoughts.

To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.
- Confucius


The Winged Victory of Samothrace

Notre Dame

outside Notre Dame

Shakespeare & Company

Today as our train pulled away from Paris we breathed a sigh of...relief. Neither Ian nor myself enjoyed Paris. It was brimming with tourists, laid to waste with garbage, and so much like every other city we've been to it wasn't worth it. 

Okay, the Louvre was worth it. We had the chance to see paintings by Monet, Degas, Delacroix, DaVinci, Poucher, Duhrer, Zubraran, Caravaggio, and sculptures by Michaelangelo.

Now, we're in Toulouse and Ian's teasing me I can't enjoy the red lava lamp in our red and white room because we have our own room over a week (discounting the one night return to London) and separate sleeping areas within. The door to our private porch, that houses mini-golf grass and a little red table set, is open wide in November. Hello delight! Everyone at home in New York is trying to evade the snow.

The downside to France is everything closes early so there's no food available. We haven't eaten in about twelve hours and are really missing Wegmans right now. For those of you who know, this goes without saying when you travel. Travel = missing Wegmans. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Spilled Yogurt, Hanky-Panky in the Hostel, & Soup for Dinner

If I go running will the girl in our dorm at the hostel, who we saw half-naked with her boyfriend in bed last night (and glared at me this morning), steal my stuff?

Is eating spilled yogurt off a table clothe and your clothes kosher anywhere?

Would the Italian tough guy who sings along with the song "Jar of Hearts" think I'm hitting on him if I ask him to teach me to roll cigarrettes?

Is there anything to do in Bristol besides listen to police sirens and a French girl named Bernadette talk in her sleep?

Does Starbucks have a club I can join? How long until they find me in the corner soaking up their electricity and wifi?

Why do so many people ask me for directions?

When will sneakers and jeans be in? I've been ready my whole life.

Will I slowly freeze to death as I sleep in an old VW van on a French farm only accessibly by a walking bridge?

Why is it that only men have nose piercings here?

What am I doing on this trip? 
An image of the soup display at M&S yesterday comes into my mind.
Soup. Can I afford soup for dinner? Can I find soup? Will grilled cheese with soup really be that fattening? Nah. Why do I always starting thinking about food? Grilled cheese is totally not conducive for weight loss. If only that girl wouldn't steal my stuff if I went running to counter-act the fat in the cheese. Why is everything creamier here? Haven't I anything better to do than think about this? I need to go do something. 

All that and more.

Sometimes I wonder what happened to the multitude of different mentalities I had when I was sixteen or seventeen. Spending cash was a big deal. Having a credit card was unfathomable. Talking to strangers caused severe anxiety. Tripping, bumping into things, and thinking a place was closed because I pulled a push door all caused great embarrassment. Disney, the Spice Girls, and others were shameful to even be known to listen to. Children were an abomination. Cute, but like men, better kept at a distance.

Now, shoot, I need to learn the art of budgeting. Talking to strangers is a regular occurrence. Even though I trip and bump into things more than ever, I'm learning lots of people make the door mistake. (So many at this Starbucks in fact, that every three people give me great entertainment and comfort.) Ian gets annoyed by how regularly I break into what I consider to be more than moment-appropriate songs such as, "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" and "You Take the High Road, and I'll Take the Low Road". I actually engage kids if they stare at me long enough and am tempted to borrow them from their parents. Men, are still better at a distance. Most of them anyway.

Supposedly, travelling and navigating new places and cultures is supposed to be a plastic, neuron- increasing exercise for our brains. I suppose that's what Millay meant when she said she'd come back taller. One can only hope I'd get taller!

Travel plans update: After we leave Bristol next Thursday, we're heading to South France to begin WWOOFing. Through an entirely coincidental series of circumstances, the family we're staying with has a 22 year old daughter named Jesse who's living in Africa. Not Jessie, but Jesse. They named her that for the same reason my parents named me: simplicity. Boy or girl, they were set.

 But hey, if you don't believe God's interested in us as individuals... I'm always down for a little debating.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

British Museum

All of the large museums in London are free so I went to the Natural History Museum and the British Museum. Today (or maybe every day) was school tour day at both museums. I wish we'd had the Rosetta Stone included in our school tours- when they actually took us on them.

- If I ever live in South America, I hope a maned wolf decides to live with me.
- Cleopatra was shockingly short, judging by her cover.

Tower of London

Monday, October 17, 2011

Fateful Skirt Day & Other Adventures

Someday, I hope to grow up and be successful. By successful I mean skirting a desk job. Ideally, in the skinny ring of 30 latitudinal degrees around the equator.

I also will be rich. Really rich. Mangos for breakfast, PB&J for lunch, liche for a snack, spaghetti or fresh thai vegetable rolls for dinner, and mango and sticky rice for dessert every night kind of rich.

All of my clothes will fit into a suitcase (as I will own no cold weather clothes), have mastered the art of international calls (as well as the art of conveniently misplacing my phone as an act of deviance), and accept that my hair will be very dirty quite often. Showers will fall under the definition of indulgence in my personal dictionary (oh wait, they already are!).

Things on my bucket list will be crossed off such as:
    - own a dirt bike
    - see U2 live
    - sneak up on a fainting goat
    - ride a camel
    - get a prison tattoo (fear not relatives, this does not necessarily entail getting arrested)
    - ride something across Africa
    - read Brothers Karamazov
    - learn to play the violin, djembe, piano, and cello
    - learn the tango
    - see Christ the Redeemer statue
    - go to the Amazon River
    - climb Kilimanjaro

I used to think lists like this were dumb because the actual event could be so anticlimactic and disappointing but then as I lived life in between checking a few things off, I realized it just gives you a goal along the journey. Plus, if your expectations are low, you'll probably be tickled pink to get to check something off your list. These things are always best with other people.

Today, however, my indulgence was peanut butter on a baby spoon. We have one jar of Wegmans Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter and I will lick it clean after it's been carefully scraped. Ian is a total food nazi and vehemently glares around my hostage Nook every time I sheepishly return the jar to his area of the room. Actually, Ian left this morning and so in a moment of weakness, I ate the Cadbury bar I bought for him. Fear not, I intend to brave the grocery store again to buy more food. We have half a refrigerator full of eggs (not all are ours), half an onion, some spinach, mushrooms, Wheatabix, and garlic powder. I'm thinking omlets for dinner.

Last grocery trip was unnerving. Usually I thrive in nightlife and culturally diverse environments. That time, I was already on edge from arguing with Ian and walking all day but became flustered when coconut yoghurt and garlic were no where to be found. To make matters worse, it appeared that everything on the shelves had been opened and raided.

We've only been gone about three weeks.

I'm ready to be done sightseeing which Ian doesn't understand either. This is his big trip to explore which I can be a total buzz kill about. As he's dwarfed by the doors of these ancient buildings and contemplating how men could make such an edifice, I'll be sitting in on the traffic wall testing fate and watching the old couple make out while their kids take a picture. Sweet memories.

Yesterday Ian opted to stay home so I returned to the Camden Town markets in search of the hoodie Ian despised and talked me out of buying. Shopping is so objectionable to me in most cases that I avoid doing it with other people for all of our sakes. But on this day I was quickly reminded how handy men can be for a couple instances where having a boyfriend to grab would have had immense advantages and provided some entertainment. All due to the skirt Michelle gave me...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cheapside Protest

Favourite; the die-hards who were paying no attention to the bus. 

Ian and I got off in Bank today and found ourselves wandering around the ghostly quiet business district for a couple of hours before we toddled into the Museum of London. We also found this rather boring (except there was a UK photo editors' choice awards which was the best part). 

Then we turned the corner in Cheapside and saw all of these people piled into the corner with picket signs. Naturally, I gravitated into the throng of people and Ian patiently followed. 

The protest was really lame and ill planned for the most part. Everyone not involved in actually protesting was either unable to escape the police blockade, taking pictures, or just along for the ride and commenting on how pointless it seemed. It got a little more interesting when the protestors milled into the street and sat down shouting. The only serious talk that was going on was people being interviewed by individual journalists. "Job cuts as a result of the recession," says Ian, is what the demonstration was about. However, the only excitement was when the buses were stopped because of the protestors and back-up police slipped in to shoo everyone off of the street. 

All but a core group of approximately six guys seemed relatively impassioned and uncommitted to the whole thing. There were a lot of legit cameras. After the police moved everyone onto the sidewalk and got the buses moving again the crowd dispersed almost immediately. The police officer in front of Ian seemed chill enough so I asked him directions to South Bankside. He very nicely gave these to us as if he were a traffic guard and not a man with a nightstick and helmet strapped to his belt.

For your entertainment, here's Ian in the fray:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Flight from Belfast to London 

Victoria Tower Gardens, London

Twice now I've re-written our day's expedition. It's not in me to do it again. 

Fare Thee Well Ireland

our cousin Heather at Portrush Golf course, 11 October 2011

Ian in Glenariff Park, N. Ireland, 12 October 2011

While I'm waiting for Ian to wake up from his beauty sleep, I thought I'd take a break from planning our attack on London to post. 

We left Belfast yesterday afternoon and arrived in London last night. Miraculously, we did not get lost with the help of the friendly ticket counter workers and my friend's marvelous directions.

 Personally, I'd rather hit London in a couple of days and move on but Ian goes at a slower pace than I do. We're both having to make a lot of compromises on this trip- not negative ones, but compromises nonetheless. 

In other news, to my inexhaustible delight, there's wifi at the place we're staying which means my Nook downloaded Katie Davis' book! 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Heart to Heart

Sokoya, I said looking through
the net of wrinkles into
wise black pools
of her eyes.
What do you say in Athabascan
when you leave each other?
What is the word
for goodbye?
A shade of feeling rippled
the wind- tanned skin,
Ah, nothing, she said,
watching the river flash.
She looked at me close.
We just say Tlaa. That means,
See you.
We never leave each other.
When does your mouth
say goodbye to your heart?
She touched me light
as a bluebell.
You forget when you leave us;
you're so small then.
We don't use that word.
We always think you're coming back,
but if you don't 
we'll see you someplace else.
You understand.
There is no word for goodbye.
- Mary TallMountain

Rain taps the windows and splashes onto worn concrete on the other side of the door. Heat puurs from the ancient kitchen stove. 

Thousands of miles away and a mere two hours ahead of N. Ireland time, Katie's family is asleep. Friends closer than family are hours behind with a group of Tanzanian Maasai touring Canada and the US to raise money for schooling that will save their culture. 

Even in the cold, I can feel the gold of the heat. The sun I haven't seen in weeks, it can beat down on my face in the darkest of rainy nights.  This winter will be three years since I stepped into the heady, black enveloping heat with half a plane full of strangers my age. None of us knew what we would encounter, how we could make each other laugh. I don't think any of us expected how those three months by the Little Ruaha River would weave our lives together and cause some of us to surrender our hearts to the depths of the "dark continent". It is one year, two months, and ten days since I flew above the purple-fuschia clouds bathing in at the morning gold at feet of Kilimanjaro- tears spilling freely. 

I think there are some people in this world whom you may never meet in this life because we all have our own work to do and it wouldn't be practical for the same hearts and purposes to be fulfilled in the same place so God spreads us out. Like the crunchy spots in crunchy peanut butter (which is far superior to smooth, by the way), it's better for the crunch to be all over for a great PB&J.

 Though I may never meet Katie, my own heart sings for the life lived by example. Whether or not you believe in God (or do but don't know Him), you have to admit, she's living what the Bible says and what she believes. She might seem arrogant, but certainty is often mistaken for arrogance. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dublin: An Unexpected Tale

The only quiet baby and a sweet dad loving on him or her. Not a fan of the picture but the moment was nice. 

boom, baby!

Ian never thought we'd find one and I'd do it. "One" being a tattoo and piercing parlor and "it" being getting my nose pierced.

We were gone almost fifteen hours for 2.5 hours spent in Dublin. First, the ticket man did not open the counter until four minutes before our first train left. Then in Belfast, we assumed that when the train time says 10:35AM, that meant the train comes in at that time and you get on. So we waited for this train to leave so ours could come in but unfortunately moments after that one pulled away we were told that had been our train. So we waited for the next train. Then the train in front of us broke down so we didn't get into Dublin until 4PM, just in time for us to catch the train we'd planned to take back to Ballymena. We decided to run around Dublin for a few hours, find food, and make frantic phone calls to tell our relatives we'd be back later. 

It really was a smashing success. We even stumbled into Trinity College where something like an Irish version of High School Musical was being filmed on some steps. As we walked ourselves around in search of a great Irish marvel (and a tattoo & piercing parlor) Ian tried to choose whether he'd get his ears pierced or his lip pierced while directing us after none other than, (as I quickly discerned when he said, "she's getting away!") a pretty lady. Typical. 

Like I said, Ian didn't expect I'd find a place but a very handsomely tattooed Irishman informed us Connected Ink's other parlor had the piercing man for day so we trotted down the lane, over the white bridge that crossed a river, and through a tunnel to find their other location. Ironically enough, the guy who pierced it was from California. 

Everyone said it wasn't painful, and the actual piercing wasn't too terrible I thought, but my eyes watered and ran on their own today and then he pulled the needle through and I gasped how much worse it was than my tattoo before launching into questioning him about his life to distract myself and maintain any dignity I had left. He was nonplussed but very nice. A blood vessel in my nose broke. Ian encouraged me by telling me it looked mangled and awful and asking if it hurt as we walked down the street. Needless to say, I was the only one to get a piercing today. 

On the way back, we barely caught the train to Belfast and when we did it got held up again for a wee while. Every train trip I've been on (which now amounts to three) has been stopped. I'm not a fan. Not a fan. 

Loving my nose ring though! Still on the prowl for a decent pair of black boots. I've been searching for five years. It's high time I found some. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The 11 Days... and a Cattle Market

This is the best I got with a cow in it. I was going for the deep scar behind the man's ear and the long hair I assume is his wife's that is on his jacket. 

A majority of the farmers are older men. Fewer young men are working on the farms so this little man stuck out to represent the percentage of the next farming generation. 

I'm going to go in order of what we've done without explaining days to catch you up to speed. 

After the flight to Philly, the plane ride went down hill. I felt woozy for the flight to London so was asleep most of the time except when Ian was waking me up because he couldn't sleep. This is understandable because there was a baby in the row behind us shrieking for several hours. What little travel I've done has allowed me to adapt to sleeping most anywhere at any time. Ian's on a crash course to learn this skill. 

When we arrived, we began milking cows with Bertie. It was on my summer bucket list to learn. However, there is no hay, clean cows, red bucket, or 101 dalmatian puppies involved. The next day we left with our third cousin Heather to go to a church youth retreat in Portadowns where we went to a social (a non-raunchy dance in town we should adopt in the States), rode a banana boat in the freezing rain, went "snow tubing" on plastic and wire mesh instead of snow, tried Irish stew, found out no one in N. Ireland listens to Irish music like Flogging Molly (Ian can't find anyone who's heard of them), and I was asked if I was South African again. I would also like to mention that in the freezing temperatures we had to wear wetsuits, a jacket, life-vest, sneakers/water shoes, and a helmet. Then the man in charge asked if we'd like to jump off the pier to get wet. I vehemently shook my head and even though he was looking right at me he said, "All right everybody, off you go!" And everyone ran off the end to their extinction like dodo birds. They said it wasn't that cold. They were not being honest. 

Other highlights include the Giant's Causeway and rope bridge. It was beautiful and we were on the coast! I hadn't seen the sea since Zanzibar in 2010. 

Somewhere in here we also spend half a day helping with the sheep (Ian was helping more than I who was taking the photos you saw in a previous post). Our relatives have four sheep dogs; Lucy, Barney, Zack and Ned. Poor Ned is a mix from the dog next door and apparently can't herd sheep. 

I went running one day and it was worth mentioning. 14:52 minutes of miserable running worth mentioning solely because no one goes jogging. I'm guessing this is because most people have farms and work all day so they don't need the exercise like us in the gray, windowless rooms of RIT.

Wednesday we went to Glenarm on the coast to meet our grandma's cousins Jeanne and William. They ran the Glenarm post office for fifty years or so and there was even photos of when Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles came recently to visit the post office before it closed. We got a small tour of the village our great-great grandparents emigrated from in the late 1800's as well as the grounds of Glenarm Castle. The nice groundskeeper who now lives in our ancestor's house let us walk around the grounds inside the gate even though it's closed to the public! It was pretty cool. Apparently one of our ancestors worked as a butler for Queen Victoria who used to go to the castle. They moved over from England with them which makes us more English than we've told everyone all our lives. We're Irish, German, English, and Scottish. But somehow I've never been asked if I am any of those- only South African. I do not understand. To be honest, I'm secretly pleased though I'm sure South Africans wouldn't agree. 

We went to Belfast a few days ago with our cousin and her friend Jenny. All my life I've searched for the clothes this part of the world has to offer. Usually, I abhor shopping. Last time I went, it took me three hours and one return of the same pair of sweatpants I ended up buying anyways to escape the mall. I actually wanted to shop! 

Yesterday, we went to a cattle market with Bertie early in the afternoon. I don't think it's too different than the ones in New York. By the way, everyone assumes we're from the city when we say New York. I'd forgotten the rest of the state doesn't exist to the rest of the world. 

We also went to Belfast again with our other cousin and her husband to attend our first rugby game. Ulster lost so we woke up at 6AM to watch Ireland get creamed by Wales. Fail. We had a lot of fun with Emma and Philip though. Ian was elated beyond explaining that they both had not only heard of the movie Anchorman but loved it and Will Ferrell. They took us out after the game for coffee and buns. I tried "banoffee" which is a thin pie with a layer of crust, caramel, banana, and toffee. It's all soft though and wicked tasty with coffee. 

It rains here. Off and on. Everyday. Today I actually barely noticed when we were out with the sheep. It's not as depressing as it was when we got here and I actually am enjoying how green everything is. It's like swimming under water where everything has a thin layer of algae on it except you're walking around and breathing. The sun comes out about once a day. We've seen a rainbow everyday for the last four days straight. 

Ian is tired all the time. He doesn't travel very well since he can't sleep en-route and doesn't adjust to change easily. He also came with a wicked case of poison ivy so it's really good the nasty UK immigration woman didn't pull us aside for a close look. She just berated us.

Food. I just couldn't stop thinking about it. (If you don't instantly think of a dog, YouTube "ultimate dog teaser"). Everyone always asks what travelers have eaten. We've had pizza, casserole, potatoes, more fish & chips than we've ever had (so, so good), cereal, the "Ulster full fry" which consists of sausage, bacon, eggs, half a pancake, soda bread, potato bread, tomato, and mushrooms. No syrup. Tonight, to my great delight, we're having spaghetti and meatballs! 

For those of you who've waded through all of this, congratulations. A little glimpse into the woes of traveling: constipation. Ian has only been drinking boiled water because the man at Passport Health told him he could get travelers diarrhea. I've had glasses and glasses everyday and have no such issues. I even tried a beet dipped in vinegar one night hoping it was fibrous but I barely made it through. It was the most awful thing I've ever eaten. Friends and family, you know it's bad when I want to spit it out. Licking the cucumber in Maasailand is now second. 

Our family has been so hospitable to us! Ian and I are talking about how nice they've been showing us around, making sure we have food and clean clothes. They've also been patient when we really struggled to understand their accents the first few days. It would be impossible for us to repay them for their hospitality and generosity.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sheep Wrangling

A few days ago we went out with Bertie Kidd, a relative of ours, to help him vaccinate his sheep. The morning light was like Rochester's- shadowless and gray. However, the sun broke out as we climbed a mountain to retrieve more sheep (with real sheep dogs) to vaccinate. I helped at first with weighing them but my brother Ian helped catch the sheep and separate them while I took pictures. 

Bertie has lived on this farm all of his life. He has over seventy sheep that we've seen and twenty or so dairy cows. Some of the sheep are lambs and are too young for the rams to mate with so Bertie separated the rams out to a different pasture. 

I have to be honest, I'm completely overwhelmed at the thought of trying to catch up on everything we've been doing so I'm just going to post here and there to explain. 

We also milked cows on our first day which was far messier than I'd imagined. For some reason I had hay, a red bucket and 101 dalmatian puppies running around in a milking scenario. Not so. Vaccinating sheep wasn't much cleaner but riding in the trailer back and forth to the farm was fun. I don't think the sheep appreciated our company though!

I apologize for the lack of verbal variety! If I get a chance tomorrow I'll whip up something a little more explanatory and pleasant to read than this. 

The Irish

Glenarm, Ballymena, N. Ireland

Giants Causeway, N. Ireland

First night in Killycarn, 29 September, 2011

Look at all the little people! I'm not sure what's gotten into me.