ICELAND

thursday: jet-lagged eyes make their way into a small café. we fill our plates with salt. we drive forward, dipping our hands into the earth along the way. the land is always in transition here; constantly becoming and unbecoming. a waterfall greets me from afar.

friday: a haven by the lake; half kitschy, mostly home. we watch the glaciers meeting the ocean, introducing one another like a ceremonial song. i count how many ways water can look: 1. falling from above 2. bigger than the horizon 3. floating patiently 4. abandoned on the shore. i lose count.

saturday: after eating scallops on a patio, we go to a place that made me think i was seeing light for the first time. it looks like an indoor sunset, the visual version of wind chimes, a mirror for someone’s heart. i take note that nobody here plays music just to fill the silence.

sunday: our skin is caked with the sea. i give up trying to describe the colour “blue,” letting the word rise up in steam for a while. we have butter, croissants, and a latte with our backs against a window.

monday: we try to beat the sun, but it wins 18-6. the world is overexposed.

 

DSC_0033-2DSC_0080-2DSC_0100-2DSC_0099DSC_0201-2DSC_0122DSC_0141DSC_0190DSC_0260DSC_0051DSC_0055DSC_0187DSC_0221DSC_0225DSC_0004DSC_0041DSC_0061

Amsterdam

DSC_0291

1. I took my first real solo trip to Amsterdam over the weekend, and it was frustrating, but I also think it was a necessary and important experience for me to have. My luggage didn’t make it with me on the plane, so I had to go a few days with only the things I had in my backpack. I could only buy the bare necessities, because my credit card wasn’t working and I left a majority of my cash in my luggage (super smart, I know), so it was a very minimalistic weekend. Regardless, it was good for me to be alone for a few days. I could take everything in at my own pace. I could process everything on my own time. I’m a lot more emotional when I’m on my own, and I think everyone needs to have the space to feel what they need to feel and stop when they feel overwhelmed. It was annoying dealing with the luggage situation without any help and scary taking on a completely new city without someone by my side, but at the same time, it was also nice to adventure without the pressure of filling time or going to the “must-see” things.

DSC_0295

2. The main reason I chose to come to Amsterdam this particular weekend was so I could see one of my favourite artists, Owen Pallett, perform live. He’s been on the top of my list for the past 4 years, and the show was definitely the highlight of my trip. I couldn’t believe how incredible the venue was. The concert was in a small lounge area at the top of the Muziekgebouw aan’t IJ, which is a glass contemporary music space that overlooks the canals of Amsterdam. It was intimate, with couches and hanging lights in the background, and it was probably one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever been in. I was blown away by how Owen Pallett live loops, swooned by the gentleness and dissonance of his violin fingers, and surprised by his dry sarcasm. The night was cosmic and ethereal, and I’ve never cried at a concert before this, but it happened (like I said, I am much more emotional when I am alone, haha).

DSC_0325  DSC_0342 DSC_0357 DSC_0378DSC_0405

3. I was really impressed by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, not because there were a bunch of famous paintings, but because it gave a really a visceral perspective on his life. I love the way he paints as if people were made of earth, the way he compared himself to a monk or a nun in his dedication to art, and the way he believed that hands were the most expressive part of the body. My favourite part of the museum was where you could listen to letters that were written between Vincent and his brother Theo, who was his most trusted confidant. You could tell how much he loved his brother, because he spent time picking his words the same way he mixes his paint colours until they are just right.

DSC_0413

4. The Amsterdam floating flower market is one of the dreamiest places I’ve ever been to. The first thing I saw were these huge pink floral clouds hanging from the ceilings and I couldn’t believe it was real. Everything smells so fresh, and you can buy just about everything flower- and plant-related… including a Grow-Your-Own-Weed starter kit, ha.

DSC_0421 DSC_0429 DSC_0430 DSC_0435

5. I spent most of my time wandering aimlessly through the streets, bridges and canals of the city. Amsterdam is really just a great place to walk through, because every building is so unique, but somehow they all fit together. There are plenty of cafes around to duck into if you’re tired or cold, and I think it’s been the best city I’ve been too aesthetically. You literally can’t go 30 seconds without seeing a bike or something on a bike, which makes everything even cuter, but also more dangerous as a pedestrian, because instead of watching for 2 lanes of car traffic, you have to watch for 4 and sometimes 6, because of the bike lanes and tram lines.

DSC_0441 DSC_0442

6. The last thing I did in the city was go to the Anne Frank House. It was an incredibly sombering experience, and there was one video of her best friend talking about her experiences with Anne at Auschwitz that really broke my heart. I liked that at the end of it all, there was hope for better things to come – for healing and for things to be different. My favourite quote I heard was this:

“Her would-haves can be our reality. Her would-haves are our opportunities.”

DSC_0443 DSC_0447

7. The first thing the receptionist said to me when I arrived was, “Be careful of the stairs! They’re dutch!” All the stairs were very steep and narrow, and for the most part, they’re like that in all the buildings in Amsterdam. It makes sense, because all the houses are also very tall and narrow. And when I thought about it a bit more, maybe that’s why the Netherlands have the tallest people in the world (the average for a man is 6 ft!). It’s like how fish grow bigger when they are put in bigger bowls, so I guess this might be true for humans too (but don’t ask me to back up my theory with scientific facts, haha). Maybe if I stayed there a little longer, I would grow taller as well.

DSC_0456 DSC_0468

Becoming Home

DSC_0468

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.”

DSC_0498

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

DSC_0124

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.

DSC_0154

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.

DSC_0466

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.

DSC_0490

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:

DSC_0022  DSC_0159

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.

DSC_0198DSC_0211

JORDAN KLASSEN

DSC_0131DSC_0152

BOREAL SONS

DSC_0301 DSC_0297

WE ARE THE CITY

DSC_0194DSC_0257 DSC_0005 DSC_0252

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.

DSC_0365

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.

DSC_0313DSC_0322DSC_0409DSC_0402

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.

DSC_0386DSC_0337DSC_0353DSC_0400

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.”

DSC_0439WASSERSCHLOSS

DSC_0423 DSC_0462

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.

Moments in Bordeaux

DSC_0021

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

DSC_0016

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.

DSC_0030 DSC_0034 DSC_0037

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.”

DSC_0049 DSC_0054

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.

DSC_0008 DSC_0009 DSC_0010 DSC_0012DSC_0015

Meet My Room Mates!

DSC_0375

DSC_0383

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!