Becoming Home

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1. Some places become home without you noticing. It starts with the first time you get a good night’s sleep. And then one day, you find yourself saying, “I’ll be home soon,” or “I come home next Wednesday.” Sometime home looks like a thief in the night stealing away all the things that made you feel unsafe. When you wake in the morning, it smells like hot coffee and tastes like fresh bread, and you realize that when you weren’t looking, everything that kept rest from smelling and tasting like that has been taken away. Home comes when you start to trust instead of recite, and you are welcomed with arms of empathy instead of fear. It sneaks up behind you and you catch yourself thinking: “This is what it’s supposed to be like.”

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2. No matter how many times I order coffee here, I’m always surprised that it comes in tiny cups.

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3. Have you ever noticed that vintage stores smell the same no matter where you are? A lot of people hate it, but I’d like to think that it’s what stories and history smell like – like old books or a musk that can only be created by time.

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4. I almost deleted this photo because there was an out-of-place body, but I kept it because I liked how the surfers look like birds on a wire, but out in the ocean instead of the sky. We were watching a group of surf students warm up on the beach, and somebody pointed out how you could tell how eager they all were to get into the water. They reminded me of toy cars all wound up to be released, and when their teacher finally said, “Go,” they were let go like cannonballs into the sea.

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5. This is the garden of our house that we’re not allowed to go in. I often stand on our balcony and dream about having breakfast in the garden or having a candle-lit party there like we sometimes do at Anna’s. There are grape vines that crawl all the way up to the second floor, and I think about whether the world’s greatest love story would have changed if Juliette had been brave enough to climb down the branches instead of waiting for Romeo to come up to her. Today while I looked down, I wondered why we are so fixated on forbidden fruit and why the heart longs for the things it cannot have. But in this case, the grass is literally greener on the other side.

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6. It’s been nice unravelling Bordeaux bit-by-bit. I’m so used to shotgunning cities like freshman beers – trying to drink it all as quickly as possibly, but usually half of it slips past sloppy lips and ends up on the concrete. But here, we live in a paradox of having all the time in the world and having only 4 short months, but it is a good paradox to be in. We meander through newly discovered streets, and make “next time” lists, knowing that “next time” could be tomorrow or next week or maybe even never, but at least the possibility of sooner than later keeps the list ever-growing. This is often what hope is: a list that knows it will probably never be completed, but keeps growing anyways.

HAMBURG

Even though I was in Europe for less than 2 weeks, I decided to go out on a limb and take a solo trip to the beautiful city of Hamburg! Unfortunately, my trip had to be cut short, because Air France went on strike during my time there, so my 5-day stay pretty much turned into a 3-day one, which was not enough to see all that the city has to offer. I still tried to make the best of it, and here are some stories and photos:

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1. The Reeperbahn Festival – I was missing Canada a little bit, and oddly enough, flying to Germany brought me close to some west coast sounds. I saw some of my favourite Vancouver and Calgary bands play, and was super stoked to see Brian work his magic on the cello! There is something about seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar place that makes a city feel both brand new and like a place that’s recognizable.

The Reeperbahn is a street filled with bars, strip clubs, and other questionable things, and it’s famous for having Hamburg’s Red Light District. It was super cool to see the whole area turned into a festival for concerts, film, art, spoken word and other creative ventures. I should have made better use of my ticket, but the time that I spent wandering in and out of venues seeing artists from all over the world was incredible. The air was electric, and in every corner (and even underground), there were bands playing from every genre. It’s crazy that all these people come to see artists they’ve never heard of and are completely receptive to it. A lot of the bars were jam-packed, and for one of Jordan Klassen’s shows, there were listeners lined up outside the window just to catch a few hints of melody. Not to mention, it was so great that even in a foreign city, there was a group of Canadians belting out the lyrics to all of We Are The City’s songs, and it all felt like an extended deja vu – the kind of “I’ve seen this before” that is good and familiar.

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JORDAN KLASSEN

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BOREAL SONS

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WE ARE THE CITY

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2. One of my favourite areas that I explored was Sternschanze. My friend Anna wrote me a guide to Hamburg before I left, and she described it as, “the place where all the hipsters live,” haha. There’s a dreamy coffee shop there called Kaffee Elbgold, and tons of cute little boutiques and unique stores that specialize in things like cabinet knobs and buttons.

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3. If you ever want to meet one of the most genuine human beings in the world, you should meet Max! He and his family hosted me for the weekend, and I was blown away by what Germany hospitality looks like. I was so well taken care of this week, and my heart is full of gratitude. There were so many mishaps like empty bike racks, broken elevators, and endless ways fate was being unkind to us, but we kept telling ourselves to look at the bright side, and it still ended up being the best day with the best beer and the best food. It was not enough time to look at everything in depth, but if you only have a short glance at a city, it’s always good to have someone by your side who looks at his home through rose coloured glasses (meant in the best way possible!) and used to study some history. We went through HafenCity using every means of transportation possible – we biked, we drove, we walked, we bussed, we trained, and we took a boat, and I think a day in Hamburg with someone so positive, sacrificial, and has a heart of gold is better than a week there alone.

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4. It’s hard not to fall in love with a city with so much water in it. All of Hamburg is laced with rivers and revolves around the Alster Lake, and Max told me that it’s the city that has the most bridges in the world (this still needs to be fact checked). I really believe that cities like this aren’t built; they’re grown from the bottom up.

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5. “If you had a boat, what would you name it?”

“Fernweh.”

“What does that mean?”

“You know the feeling of being homesick? It’s the opposite of that.”

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6. I ask to stop while we are riding to try to snap the red brick walls and glowing waters of Speicherstadt, but my hands are too shaky to capture the light. A passing by photographer lends me his tripod, and I try over and over again, but it still doesn’t look right. We walk away and Max says to me, “It’s okay, we’ll just save a photograph in our minds.” And I think about how it feels like a well-kept secret that only we know what this place looked like at this specific time. Sometimes there are better places to store images than memory cards, and sometimes our hands are too clumsy to catch the light, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to do it.

#HOPARKCOLLAB 1

In an effort to practice our photography and graphic design skills and do something collective while we are far apart, Esther and I have decided to start a series called Ho Park Collab. We have a hope that every week, I’ll send her a photo from my travels, and she’ll overlay typography with quotes/words or hand-drawn graphics that are line with things we are walking through, even if we are walking through them on opposite sides of the world.

A question that people always ask me is why I chose Bordeaux, and I tell them it’s because it’s by the ocean. It’s a different kind of west coast and a different kind of ocean, but it’s a cure for homesickness. My roommate describes the ocean as “infinite,” but I know that somewhere my eyes can’t reach, Vancouver is on the other side of it.

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Moments in Bordeaux

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1. I had my first day of orientation yesterday, and I felt incredibly lucky that I already had friends going into it. It was an exciting and tiring day, and here is a photo of some of my favourite people that I’ve met so far! They seriously look like they came straight out of a magazine

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2. If you Google a picture of Bordeaux, you’ll probably see the quintessential photo of the Miroir D’eau, which is a reflecting pool that mirrors the Place De La Bourse. Last night, a bunch of us exchange students gathered by the pool and soaked in the full moon over the river. It was an occasion to drink straight from the bottle, wander the city centre, and wonder how September can still feel like summer nights.

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3. Since school hasn’t started yet, we are taking every opportunity we can to hit the beach. Today we went to Lacanau Ocean, which is a surfer beach with higher waves, so we swam out until our bodies were just bobbing heads against the horizon and let the tide carry us back to the beach.

“What is the English work for ‘it never ends’?”

Infinite.”

Yeah, I think the ocean is infinite.”

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4. My lovely German friends have a garden in front of their flat, so they hosted us this evening with plenty of drinks and snacks to go around. The conversation was so warm that we missed the last bus home (whoops) and all the candles melted. We kept going around the table talking about how things are like in our home countries and translating words in English, Swedish, and German, and I kept thinking about what Isabelle said to me before:

“If there is one thing that is beautiful in this entire world, it is that everyone is different.” 

Wine Party

Natasha, Isabelle, and I are blessed to have such a huge place to ourselves (seriously, who the heck needs two living rooms?), so we decided to open it up and host a wine tasting party for our new friends. Our home was warm (with red, with white, and with chattering bodies), so we moved onto the balcony and wished for more summer nights. It’s hard to believe that orientation starts tomorrow, and there will be more things that are full – full houses, full glasses, and full hearts.

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Beach Day

Today was 30 degrees, so 3 Germans, 2 Swedes, an Austrian, a Russian, and a Canadian drove along the French shoreline and explored the beaches of the coastal towns. The first place we went was the Dune De Pyla, which had mountains of sand as far as our eyes could see. On one side was a forest, and the other was the sea. We were disappointed when some locals told us that the dune was too steep to go down to the water, so drove on the countryside to some of the other beaches in Arcachon, which had the cutest old buildings and way overpriced food (haha).

We dove into the Atlantic Ocean, tip-toeing at first because of the cold, but then after – headfirst, with eyes closed, because it’s painless that way. When we sunbathed, the water kept crawling closer and closer to us, until it tickled our toes.

“Look,” Osker said, “The ocean is inviting us to come back for a swim.”

We talked about the way water is where we’re from, and I thought about how home often feels like sand in between our toes and salt in our hair.

“I’m used to the cold ocean, because the water is always freezing in Swedan.”

In Munich, there is no ocean, but there is a huge river where people can surf.”

At the beginning, we were strangers, but at the end of the day, we parted ways like the French do: cheek-to-cheek on summer skin and kisses that smell like saltwater and ice cream.

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Meet My Room Mates!

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Meet my roomies (aka, my new Russian baby sister and German mother)! Here are 3 facts about each of them:

NATASHA

1) Loves the opera and classical music (and also American music, haha).

2) Has never seen the ocean before (which we will change tomorrow)!

3) Is afraid of any creature that flies.

ISABELLE

1) Loves to go surfing.

2) Has an Australian accent when she speaks English.

3) Drove here all the way from Germany, which means we have a car and our lives are 10x easier!!!

As of today, we can officially call our flat a home, because as Natasha says, “A home is not a home until it has food in it.” We made our first meal together, and they have been the best for flipping my homesickness around. Tomorrow, we go to the beach!