Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Odds 'n Ends

Illusions of Canada?:

At the Bruge hospital there were nice girls from Canada who were on vacation from there studies in France. Both Frick and I were perpetually assumed to be Canadian. Strangely these girls said they were often confused for Americans. Interesting. Previously, we had thought that since we weren’t being brash, rude Americans we were thought to be Canadian. But these girls didn’t seem like ugly Americans either. Hmmmmm..... We played Euchre with them one night.

The Couple Quandry:

Frick and I were often ignored in hostels when we were together. We were approached quickly when separated, though. I understood this phenomena from when I lived with my brothers. Paired together, we appear to be a couple – and neither dateable nor particularly interesting. Annoying. Most people were surprised that we were brother and sister. “Awwww!” was the most common response, followed by “how sweet.”

I'm Getting Old:

I realized something disturbing on this trip: I am getting old. Frick and I are both too old for the discounts readily available for backpacking youths–nor do we deserve them. We were older than most of the other backpackers in the hostels. This is the first time that I was purely ‘aged out’ of a benefit. Until now, I have reaped more benefits with increased age (age of majority benefits, drinking, car rentals) and the things I lost out of were due to my changed status (student discounts) that correlated with age but wasn’t based on age alone. Very weird. Plus, the snippets of conversation that I heard from many of my young hostel-mates seemed unappealingly silly.

Money Issues:

Several of my friends went to Europe when they were in college for either studies or visits. I couldn’t help but think how completely different our experiences must have been. I was of the opinion that there were very few potential problems that I couldn’t ‘buy my way out of.’ Nor was I at all concerned of the exchange rate or most matters of money. (granted, I was still opting for dormitory-styled hostels – a naturally thrifty person’s lack of concern with money looks very different than a spenders). I didn’t go to swanky bars, restaurants or shops because those don’t interest me, but I did accept that I would hemorrage money when I was there. All told, though, the entire trip – including airfare, pre-trip purchases of my pack, merino items and jackets, and my actual food/transportation/lodging/museum/etc spending was considerably less than what I earned as vacation pay during the trip. I have a pretty sweet life, truth be told. Money issues in my life are basically positive considerations (when will I buy property, will I actually buy all of the cookware that I have lusted for, what will my next bike expense be?) instead of fearful questions. This is truly a luxury that I didn’t use to have and often don’t appreciate – there is also a completely artificial quality to not having to worry about money that concerns me. For basically all of my life I have feared not having enough money – at times this fear was far too real and occupied much of my waking thoughts. Now without this fear, life sometimes feels soft and missing a vital component.

Sleep:

I slept so much in Europe it was appalling (and by appalling, I mean wonderful). All of my boyfriends have been amazed/annoyed at how little sleep I need and my often inability to sleep in late on weekends. I don’t use an alarm clock and haven’t for years. I generally just get up with the sun – I sleep more in the winter than in the summer. Europe is much farther north than Chicago and therefore was dark until later in the morning and earlier in the afternoon. I also didn’t set my ‘internal alarm clock’ because I was on vacation. So I slept a lot more in Europe than in Chicago.

I also consider myself a light sleeper – but this has been proved to be a complete lie. I rarely heard late-comers enter the dorm room (I did wear earplugs most nights, though) and in the morning there were often empty beds whose occupants dressed and left without waking me. Frick was awoken several times in the night. The worst sign that I was sleeping like the dead was told by Frick. Apparently one morning he couldn’t wake me by saying my name, shaking my shoulder or tickling my nose. He went so far as to pinch my nose closed and still I slept until finally rolling over. Somehow I did wake up and groggily lied, “don’t worry – I was awake for quite a while.” Frick started laughing as he told me the events of the last few minutes and I realized that I was definitely not awake for this. Freaky.

Stairways:

Spiral staircases were the norm. To conserve as much floor space as possible the staircases were also as tiny as possible. This somehow caused the steps to be odd compared to what I am used to. The rise/run was not normal. I often couldn’t get into the rhythm of climbing these stairs and had to pay attention as I ascended or descended. Some of the stairs had tiny steps that added to the other weirdness. The Dutch move their furniture by hoisting it up with ropes through windows.

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