Whirlwind

Written 7/17/2008

I’m on a train to Switzerland right now and I realized I needed to write.

The last few days have been quite crazy. Leaving Ethiopia, flying into the western world, traveling, etc. I have been meaning to write a post titled, “Last Days”, but I’ve been hesitant to begin too much of my processing while attempting to take in and enjoy all I can in Europe. So…I have decided to hold off. It will be coming though, probably on my way home to the states. It’s just too much right now.

Instead, I will give you some detail about what’s been happening in my life since landing in the land of the Brits and where my time has brought me up to this point.

After leaving Ethiopia at 2:45am on Sunday, we were in flight to London, England. Nine hours, one fuel stop and a lot of emotion later, we landed in good ole London town. Sarah and Maren stayed at the airport while Bethany and I took 140kgs of luggage into the city to a friend of a friend’s house where they will stay until we return through London on our way back to the states. The trip there was about an hour and a half long, took two subway trains, one overground train, six flights of stairs up, two flights of stairs down, and produced a whole lot of sweat. But we made it safe and sound, only to be invited in for a beer and sandwiches from Rachel (new friend) and her parents, Neil and Linda. After toasted ham and cheese and two cold Carlsbergs, we were back on the train to Heathrow. We got back with about an hour and a half until takeoff, but it was no big deal because in the new terminal at Heathrow, they have a new baggage system and check-in process…it’s pretty sweet and saved us a lot of hassle. So we grabbed some food…ham and cheese panini for me…and headed to the gate where we would catch our flight to Paris. A smooth connection if you ask me…smooth as a Greek man’s chest!

Then it was off to Paris. A free gin and tonic, a twist of lime, two extra wraps to eat…compliments of Sandra the flight attendant…and we were on the ground and out the door to our airport hotel. Bedtime for the first time in two days.

Up early on Monday morning, we took the B Train into Paris and hopped out near the famous Luxembourg Gardens. A nice walk from our destination, we headed on our way. We got to the apartment owned by Bethany’s aunt and uncle at about 8:30am, just in time for croissants and jam for breakfast. After what could have been the best croissant I’ve ever eaten in my whole life, it was out to the streets to pick up some food and wine for our picnic in the park. It just happened to be Bastille Day…French equivalent of the 4th of July…so we were planning a picnic dinner to enjoy at the park underneath the Eiffel Tower while we watched fireworks over the Seine…I know…rough life. After getting what we need as far as food went and spent an hour dumbly looking through the vast wine selection, we headed back to the apartment to plan for the day. Monmartre  was first on the list. A hilltop community, it’s the highest point in Paris and is home to the Sacre-Coeur Cathedral. We took in the view of Paris from its tower and toured its massive interior. Part of me felt like I was intruding in such a beautiful place. This home of worship is now merely a tourist attraction. Afterward, we walked around the small square where Monet and other famous impressionists got their first start, then it was off to lunch. Bethany’s aunt and uncle offered to treat the four of us to our first meal outside Ethiopia, so we picked a small brasserie to eat at. Vegetable quiche, Beef Rumpsteak, Salad Vinaigrette, Apple Tarte…need I say more? Yes…I do need to say more. IT WAS THE BEST LUNCH EVER!!!!!!!!! Then we took the metro to the Luxembourg Gardens, to put our feet in the water and rest a bit. It would be a long night. Once home, we packed up our picnic dinner, two bottles of wine, and headed down the street to the Eiffel Tower. STOP! Two large men in S.W.A.T. uniforms asked us to show our bags.

“Vous avez les alcols?”
“Oui.”
“Non, non, non! Tournez vous.”

So we turned around, found a bench on the street and joined the 150 other Parisians in drinking our wine pre-entry. Then we headed in to get a spot on the grass. The park was packed, so we only got a tiny space, but it was enough to see the Tower. We were there by about 8pm, but the fireworks didn’t start until 10:30pm, so we sat and ate our bread, Camembert, Brie and fruit under the shade of a large tree, expectantly waiting. The voice of Christophe Maé…French version of Jason Mraz who was playing the concert in the park that evening…filled the air as we ate and laughed. I will pause to note that James Blunt was also there…better in concert than on cd. Bethany and I took a walk to the base of the Eiffel Tower, but got stopped by the mob of people surrounding us as we went. So we turned back and rejoined the family. As the fireworks began, Bethany’s uncle Steve pulled out two Romeo y Julieta cigars of which we enjoyed every puff all the more given our surroundings and company. As the fireworks came to a close, we walked home and hit the bed hard. We were incredibly tired from a long first day away from what has long been our home.

Over the next two days, we proceeded to take in the sights. I’ll list them along with my impressions.

Notre Dame- A massive cathedral, I was awed by both its size and its beauty. I was struck with an incredibly reverent feeling as we toured the inside and walked the courtyard. It’s better in real life than on the Disney movie.

Saint-Chapelle Cathedral- Filled with dazzling stained glass windows from floor to ceiling, the Bible is told from Genesis to Revelation in beautiful colors and light. Truly incredible to see.

Musée d’Orsée- My first Monet, my first Van Gogh, my first Renoir. So much better in person. I have no words that would do their work any justice.

Rodin Gardens- Lush and green, the gardens are filled with Rodin’s most fmous sculptures. My two favorites were “Le Penseur” (The Thinker) and “La Défense” (The Defense). Le Penseur thinks with every muscle in his body all the way down to his clenching toes and flexing calves. Showing the protection of God’s angels on his people, La Défense was a beautiful picture of Christ’s love.

Le Louvre- Big. Enormous. We clearly didn’t have enough time to see everything. But some of the highlights were of course the “Mona Lisa”, “The Wedding Feast at Cana”, “Venus de Milo”, and many more.

L’Orangerie- Not an orange market. Actually it’s an amazing museum. Small. It houses two rooms of some of the largest Monet works in the world. Potentially my favorite museum I visited.

Champs Elysée- A microcosm of the consumerism of the western world…but very cool to see.

Arc de Triomphe- Tall, amazing, Vive La France!!!

Last night, we had amazing French crêpes for dinner and dessert prepared by Bethany’s amazing Parisian aunt, Maryvonne. It was easy to sleep after a day of walking, an incredible dinner, a couple glasses of wine and good conversation. I went to bed with a feeling of serenity…much needed.

More later.
Joshua

The Unhurried Colors of a Horizon
Written 7/17/2008

Today we took it slow getting ready for the day. We had a wonderful breakfast of fresh fruit, baguettes, croissants and coffee. I took a hot shower and packed up our bags. Then it was off to the fromagerie and the boulangerie for cheese, salami, and bread for lunch. Then we took the metro to the train station, walked aboard car #8 bound for Zurich. We ate as we left the station and now are sitting aboard a fast train, zooming by small villages as we go. The French countryside is a beautiful canvas of greens that seems to go on forever. The colors blur as they whiz by near the train tracks, but off in the distance, they slowly mosey their way across the horizon. For the last year, I have been living my life on the horizon line…slowly moving through life like the hills of the East of France. No rush. Just distance and time. Back in the “civilized” world for only two days, I feel the pull of the world on my body, heart and mind. The train zooming by, I’m sucked closer and closer until I feel like I’m eventually going to go under. I must keep my eyes on the horizon.

Pain. Lover. Feet. Sized. Staid. Raw. Ego. The boy across the aisle is beating his parents in scrabble. Good for him. I’m sure that’s all he’s thinking about right now. That game. Not the next game, or the next hundred games, or what he’s going to be when he grows up, or whether he has a job or not when he goes back home. As a boy, his eyes are on the horizon. Why would he try to pick out all the small details within the blur just feet away from the car when there is more than he could possibly see outside it? Why do I?

And I’m tired because of it. Even after three days.

Sorry for the rant. Just some thoughts.

Hope you all are well.

Yours,
Joshua

Currently listening to: Chris Thile, How to Grow a Woman from the Ground

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