Friday, July 30, 2010

Continued musings

Although we are home from Europe, life continues. We just returned from music camp, where we go each year in the Sierras. I will post some pictures. But now I am truly home for the summer and ready to settle in again, get back to my real life, and reflect on how the past two months have changed me.

I have made some amazing friends from all over the world, and thanks to Facebook I can keep in touch with them, even in French with one!

I may have already said this in previous posts, but I am immensely proud of Cierra for her fortitude and general good attitude in all situations. I am so lucky to have her as a daughter!! When she was thirteen and had her bat mitzvah, I expressed my awe of her strength, self-esteem, and positive outlook on the world. I also mentioned how it is very hard to be depressed when in her presence. She is so ready to laugh, to connect, to see what is good in any situation. And this made her a wonderful travel partner. She really is a trooper and truly a bright light in my life!

When we got back from camp we decided we wanted some new pictures on the walls. I realized that most of the posters and pictures on my walls are either of mothers and children, or of friends and women alone. And this is really the picture of my life and who I am surrounded by. Cierra was so enthusiastic to help make changes in the "feng shui" in our apartment. So we looked for some prints online that show romantic/love images, and then went to BB&B to get some frames. So we shall see what manifests from this! We are strong believers in Law of Attraction :-)

This week Cierra has an intensive five days of Irish Dance Camp. We are in Dublin, (CA) for 5 hours a day. She's gonna be in great shape! I am sitting in a Starbucks typing away, enjoying some self-reflection.

We hope to continue this blog, not just for travel times but mother-daughter stuff in general. Thank you for reading and commenting!


Monday, July 12, 2010

Post travel blues

Good morning,

Wow, Cierra blogged! I think going to London, Paris, New York, Zurich, Madrid, Rome, Barcelona, Dublin, etc.. Would be a great adventure. In Paris we met a young Korean woman who was doing this sort of trip, seeing the big European cities. So go Cierra!! So glad I was able to start you on a life of travel.

Today is Monday, July 11th

I woke up today feeling inexplicably but intensely sad. I think this is probably partly due to the fact that I am still adjusting to being back, and feeling out of sorts and disoriented. Trying to reconnect with friends, and also with myself. Trying to reconcile all the things I went through for the past month, and to process the emotions that were most likely on hold while I was in travel and survival mode.

I think I had tremendous fear about my trip. Mostly related to the financial part of it. I’m just beginning to sift through the layers of this and how it took over my life for at least the past 9 months! But the fear was not only about this trip. It has to do with much older issues about me and survival, and my ability to be successful, a "real" grown-up, etc.. I think I mentioned in a few blogs that during some of the lower points on the trip I felt like a failure. But I wasn’t really failing at anything specific. It was more a sense that when things were hard I blamed myself and was sure that there was something I should have done differently or better in order to have avoided the mistakes or the negative experience. It also seemed to me that if I had more money, I could just hop in a taxi, travel first class, buy an expensive dinner instead of walking a mile to a cheaper place, stay in a four star hotel that was more conveniently located.. When I was not able to stick to the spending plan I had for the trip, this was proof to me that I was failing and that I probably should not have taken my daughter to Europe in the first place. And there were so many little things I had not anticipated. In retrospect, aside from a few emergencies and the food expenses being so high, I did okay. But I ended up using a credit card at the very end and this was not part of my plan. I will be able to pay it all off within 2-3 months, but the point is that the fear I had about the finances in the first place made it harder for me to even go to Europe without having a credit card as a back-up, and using credit cards is not something I do in my life anymore.

Where the fear set in was throughout this past year trying to save for this trip, but really struggling to do so. When I would tell people I was going to Italy and France, I had this sense of them thinking I must have a LOT of money, and therefore I didn’t deserve to complain about my money stress. But the truth is, it WAS too much for me to do financially right now in my life. I see now that I handled the fear and the planning for the trip in what is typical fashion for me. I try to force solutions to all the things I’m afraid of, but in doing so, I don’t have an open mind, and then I get myself into more difficult circumstances. So, for example, when I got advice to possibly shorten the trip, I was stubborn and didn’t want to do this. In the end, I was so exhausted and ready to come home by then end of June, it really would have been fine to come home then. (A week early). We would not have seen Paris, but there could have been other times in life to go to Paris! And I also think in terms of negative absolutes – “this will be the last time in my life I’ll ever get to go to Europe, because I will grow old alone and poor” – is a typical way of thinking for me. Sad, but too often true.

I don’t write this to beat up on myself more, but to try to learn from this and to assess why I am so sad today. Cierra went river rafting with her dad, and I’m alone with my morning, my cats, and my intense emotions. Listening to Jack Johnson, sipping tea. The learning continues, even back here at home.

Last night I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Berkeley. I sat with my little niece and nephew and watched a movie, cuddled up on the couch with them. I think it was the safest and most comforted I have felt in a long time, holding their little bodies and smelling the baby's little head (you know that baby head smell?). I suppose another part of this sadness is just being alone, not having someone to talk to before I go to bed at night or when I wake up in them morning. So for now, my blogging is my way to be less alone, to talk to and connect with you all, and to share some of this soul struggle of a life lesson. I hope my mood will lighten soon, and I will be able to focus on positives and to go through my life lessons with grace.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

Even if it's just for a little while, being at home is the best thing in the world after a long trip. As it just so happens, I'm leaving again tomorrow morning for a rafting trip on the American River with my dad who used to be a river guide. So I'll be there until the Fourteenth which is the day we get home, and then I'll have a day here and then my mom and I leave again on the sixteenth for music camp. I know. I really never stop. And after camp, I have Irish Dance camp for 5 days! Oh, and on top of all that, two of my teachers from my school next year have sent out summer assignments. Yay my favorite. -she says with a disgusted and sarcastic tone- I have to memorise (and understand) two of Shakespeare's sonnets and prepare a song for musical theatre and for honors English, I have to read and annotate 2 books AND read the first nine chapters of yet another book. -sigh- Being smart is NOT all it's cut out to be that's for damn sure!

Wow, reading through this, I just realized how much I complain! I mean here I am, going to this amazing high school and having the time of my life this summer and all I can do is complain about it? Jeez! There must be something seriously wrong with me! Well anyway, on to more important things. I really enjoyed my time in Europe and I just CAN'T wait to go back someday. Speaking of which, I had this thought in the airport in Boston. Basically, when I'm about 19 or maybe 20, I want to travel around the world, visiting the most important and well-known cities, starting and ending with the one nearest to where I live. Now, this is where you come in. I need help making a list of these places that I should go and the number of days in which I'm to see them. Any suggestions? I realize of course that this will not be for another five or six years but hey! Planning a trip takes time and believe me, it's no picnic! I'd LOVE to hear your ideas, so please comment!

Now, back to returning from my trip. I've been getting pretty tired at around 5:00 p.m but trying to stay awake until at least 9:00 so that I'll sleep in in the morning. The time difference has definitely been the one thing that's just totally thrown me off. Don't get me wrong though, I find the whole thing really interesting but it's kinda tripping me out. But oh well it's all part of the fun I suppose. Well, like I said, I'm pretty exhausted so I'm going to say so long and farewell to everyone out there in cyber land!

More soon!
Until next time then

Friday, July 9, 2010

Home Sweet Home

Thursday July 8th, 5:10 pm ay Boston Logan Airport.

Been traveling since 5:00 a.m. France time, which means we have been traveling since 8:00 p.m. yesterday, San Francisco time, and wont get home till about 11:00 p.m. tonight. Basically that’s about 27 hours of traveling straight! Took the metro to a bus to an airport about 1 hour outside of Paris. Then flew to Dublin where we had a BLEH.

I’m so relieved to be back in the US. I can’t wait till this last leg of the journey is done.

But the computer is very low on battery juice, so I’ll just add more tomorrow.

Friday, July 9th

I’m HOME!! Wow. Never have been so happy to see my little apartment before. It actually is a HUGE apartment by European standards! Cierra is still asleep and I’m going to take one of my cats to the vet.

Here are some pictures of Mical And Claudia's Apartment so you can see just how good we have things here:

This is the living room where Cierra, Miraa, and I slept. Cierra is still sleeping in this picture.

These are pictures of the kitchen:

And this is the hallway.


The other room is M&C's bedroom, but it was small too. They said their apartment was actually really big. Many people live in just one room, kitchen, toilet, and all. C'est la vie!

Anyway, there are still several things to post. There were two other places we went to in Italy - Vicenza and Lake Como, and still much more to say about Paris, and the travels in general. I must sleep a bit more. I hope Cierra will do more posting! (HINT HINT).

Happy to be home, looking forward to Thai food, going to the movies, and running at Phoenix Lake :-)


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sleepless in Paris

Tuesday, July 6th

Just back from seeing L’Arc du Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. Had a huge French meal at a restaurant my brother took us to. It was delicious but I’m glad I walked a few miles afterwards. I’ve pretty much given up on being gluten free and today just decided to eat all the bread and pastries I wanted. It is hard to find a grounded place with food when traveling. So much of the time I feel like I have to just be okay with what is. The result of course is that both Cierra and I are having gluten reactions. For me it's a lot about rashes and perpetual itching...

Paris this week has been amazing. So full of experiences I think i could write a whole book just about this week!

Some Paris highlights were spending time with Mical and Claudia, seeing some incredible historical buildings. I'm in love with all the statues and sculptures here. Being in the Louvre for almost 6 hours and only scratching the surface of seeing the art there, using my very very rusty french again which I studied for eight years but haven't used for about 25 years! Pictures will have to wait a few more days because it's too late tonight for me to download. We went to Montmartre today. Saw the Moulin Rouge, the Jewish section, a view of the whole city, some really amazing musicians playing on some stairs, and then tonight Cierra and I went to the Arc Du Triomph AND the Eiffel Tower. When we got there they were sparkling lights on the entire tower, which aparently they do every hour for about 15 minutes. We had perfect timing and got there just around midnight!

July 7th

I'm wide awake at 2:00 a.m. and have to be up at 5:00 to take the metro to a bus to an airport to fly to Dublin, the Boston, then finally SFO. I get incredibly anxious about traveling so it's no surprise I can't sleep. Had a great and intense last day here. Some things I can't post in this blog but suffice to say this has been quite a week in PAris. Our timing was not actually so great for Mical and Claudia because of how long they have had people staying with them and how much they need their apartment to be their own again. But we all had a good talk today and then went to see more of the city and to get hot chocolate at a famous place near the Louvre called Angelina's. It was by far the best, creamiest, richest, bestest hot chocolate I will probably ever have in my life. Claudia also gave me a beautiful gift today. A green necklace that she got in Rome. It's incredibly beautiful and I think it will attract wonderful things and people into my life.

I am so glad to be coming home! Things I miss most about home:

Ice, electric fans, swimming pools, air conditioning, my car, my cats, gluten free eating, cold things to drink when it is hot, knowing what to expect, convenience, my friends and my family (who are not here), taking a bath, uncrowded spaces.

What I will miss about Europe:

Mical and Claudia, speaking French, really really good food, Pain au chocolate, the beautiful things I see at each new turn, great public transportation, learning new things (sometimes the hard way), hearing several languages spoken all around me at once, things that are more than 200 years old.

I have learned a lot these past 26 days. And there are, of course, so many things I would have done differently had I known what I know now. But the mistakes are part of the whole experience. I definitely got to see my own resiliency as well as Cierra's! I'm very proud of her. She was a trooper and put up with me when I was falling apart. She's a good traveler and really has been able to appreciate all of this. We have about 24 hours of travel ahead, so I'll hopefully write more on the plane.

Bon nuit, or bon matin! it's 2:47 a.m. Mon Dieu!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Shabbat Shalom in Venezia!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Still in Paris. It’s rather stormy today. Thunder, lightning, etc.. I’m grateful because it should cool things off. It’s a little after 9:00 am. Cierra is still sound asleep and I’m listening to the storm. We’re staying in D’Alesia, a neighborhood in the left bank in Paris. The apartments in Paris a TINY. This one is supposed to be one of the larger ones. All I can say is that we American’s are so used to SPACE, we have no idea how little space you can live in. We are five here right now, Mical and Claudia, Miraa, Mical’s mom, and Cierra and I. Miraa flies home on July 5th, and Cierra and I on the 8th. It’s a one bedroom, and a small living room. I have always complained about the size of my kitchen at home but this kitchen is half the size of mine! I’m going to take some pics of the apartment to give you some idea of the space, but it takes me a while to upload my pics on this computer because I'm usually fighting over it with Cierra.

Somehow it’s working out fine in the apartment, even having Mical and I being sick, and in the heat and humidity. I think you learn how to move differently in smaller spaces, and to simplify what you do.

Not sure what we will do today. This evening we go for dinner to a home of some of Claudia’s cousins. Her step father, Jacky, is French so this is his side of the family. Maybe we will hit a museum before that.

Anyway, I want to try to catch up and I must write about Venezia. When I booked a hotel for us, I ended up finding a pretty good deal in what I thought was Maestre, the City on the mainland closest to Venice, about 10 minutes by train or bus. But where we actually stayed was in a place called Magheara, a town just south of Maestre. This would have been okay if we had a rental car, or even if there were more busses going in to Venice, but the reality was that we arrived on Thursday evening June 24th and we were told by the people at our hotel there would be a strike of all the busses, boats, and trains on Friday from 10-1:00. I asked her if we could go earlier in the morning on the 9:15 bus, and she said yes, they would be running earlier. So we went up to our room and got ready to head into Venice for the evening, to look around and have some dinner there. We had a nice evening, though we were tired, and were able to make decisions about what we would do there the next day. Our bus back to the hotel left at either 10:20, or not until 12:00 midnight. So we caught the 10:20 p.m. and got back about an hour later. The bus was not so nice. People were drunk, some smelled bad, and it was packed.

The next morning we got up early to have breakfast and catch the 9:15 bus. At this point in the trip, I had started getting sick with a cough, and I was trying to ignore it as best I could because we had to see Venice! So we had breakfast and went across the street to wait for the bus. We got there about 5 minutes early. There was one bus that came, but was going into Maestre not all the was into Venice, so we didn’t get on that bus (1st mistake). We waited with a large group of people, mostly all tourists trying to head into Venice. There was a group of Russian Gymnasts, about 8 little girls, their parents, and a couple of their guides. They began to worry too when I explained what I knew about the strike. We all waited anxiously for almost an hour and eventually many people began to give up and go back to their hotels. Two young women from England said it was about 9 Kilometers to Maestre. I figured we could walk there and see if there was a cab or maybe a train we could get to Venice. 9 Kilometers is not quite six miles, but I was determined and we didn’t want to wait half a day in the room. So we started off (2nd mistake!). The walk went through a kind of industrial area. There was very little shoulder on the side of the road for us to walk, and the cars were whizzing past us. Cierra was mad, I was frustrated, and felt so powerless yet determined to get there somehow. This would have been a good time to practice letting go, trusting, and waiting, but I was stubborn. We walked for about 4 miles. Eventually we saw a place across the street we could get some water and I wanted coffee. So we went there and had a rest. Cierra went to the bathroom and I looked across the street and saw the bus pass!!! I was furious. So we went on walking feeling liked we had been tricked. Somehow I took the stupid strike personally. I began to beat up on myself – the failure that I am and putting Cierra in this situation, and this was the low low point. I started crying and asking God what I should do. About another mile later we saw a hotel across the street and we decided to ask how much it might be to take a taxi to Venice. They told us it would be at least 40 – 50 Euro, in other words, a LOT. But then another bus went past. He told me that the strikes do not include everyone. Individual drivers decide themselves if they will drive. So we went back across the street and waited for the bus and eventually another one came!! We took that into downtown Maestre and then caught another bus, who also was not striking, into Venice. We got there at about 11:30 a.m. If the woman at the hotel had explained that not ALL the busses would strike then I might have avoided the mistakes.

But getting into Venice after the morning we had had was wonderful. We started wandering through the streets, stopping in shops, taking pictures, etc.. The day was great. It was a Friday and we knew from the guide book that there was a Jewish section of Venice, where the original Ghetto was. There are about 5 synagogues there and since we felt in need of some sense of connection, we thought we might even be able to attend Friday night services. I had a small hope that we might get a feeling of belonging, something I knew I was in great need of, but I also had more doubt than hope that we could find this feeling of belonging in Venice Italy, of all places. So we took the boat to the ghetto, and when we arrived, we started to see some kosher food shops and restaurants, shops selling Jewish items – mazzuzahs, posters, manoras, etc.. We came to where the synagogue was and met a man who looked religious, a white shirt, black pants, wearing a yarmulka. We asked him about services and he explained that they started at 7:30. He gave us some candles and told us the women first go to light their candles at the Gam Gam restaurant around the corner from the synagogue, and then they go into services. He also invited us to have dinner with everyone from the congregation at Gam Gam afterwards. I still had doubts that they would really let us eat dinner with them, or I assumed if they did it would cost a fortune, but I was open to what was unfolding. We almost were not allowed to go into the synagogue because we did not have our passports with us, but they just asked me a bunch of questions and sort of “screened” us, and told us not to leave before the services ended. So in we went. The women sat separate from the men, and we had this kind of wooden barrier between us and the men, not without holes carved in it, but enough so that we felt very separate and it would be hard for the men to look at the women. I am assuming this was the point, because the men should not be distracted from their prayer..? The service was, of course, all in Italian or Hebrew. There were other visitors there too, so Cierra and I didn’t feel out of place. But the Hebrew was spoken so quickly, and not very lyrically, which is what we are used to. I was able to recognize a song, and Cierra was able to recognize a little of the Hebrew, but it was a vastly different experience than we are used to at our reform synagogue in Marin!

After services we timidly walked toward Gam Gam, and once there, were welcomed by the rabbi who asked where we were from and then ushered us to a table! He was so warm and friendly, I felt like we were being invited into a friend’s home. We sat with other Americans and some Canadians, and had one of the most delicious meals we have had on this trip, and of course we ate challah. I was very very grateful throughout the meal. Cierra couldn’t get over the experience of having plenty of food to eat.

When it was getting close to 10:00 p.m., the meal wasn’t over but we thought we should catch out bus home and started getting ready to leave. The Rabbi asked us why we were leaving and I explained that we had to catch a bus. He then invited us to stay over because he had an extra room!! I was completely floored. We decided to stay later to catch the later bus and finished the meal. We left very full and happy, and were not charged a dime. So it was as if we had a home away from home for the evening. The Rabbi also invited us back the next day for services and then lunch, but I said we were leaving the next day for Vicenza.

So that is the Venice story. Pretty amazing and wonderful after a rough start!

More soon. Ciao!


Friday, July 2, 2010

Cinque Terre, Trust, and Bathrooms


It's July 2nd, and we are now in Paris, It has been many days since I have been able to write and we have had many ups and downs. But I’ll start with where I left off. The bizarre bathroom experience occurred on our trip from Cinque Terre to Venezia. We had about an hour to wait in a train station, so after our Indian “kebab” lunch, I searched for the loo. I found some people waiting outside of three doors. Beside each door was a machine for you to put .50 Euro. The machine told you what to do, in Italian. So I waited. When a woman came out of one of the doors, I figured I’d just go right in instead of paying the .50 E. Bad idea. Luckily a nice tourist also in line pantomimed to me that the bathrooms are self cleaning and of you go in when the other person emerges, you will be sprayed by the soap and water that basically is like a car wash for the bathroom. So luckily, I waited. The door, like a high tech elevator door, slid closed and I heard the water being sprayed in the little room. I thanked the guy, and waited till the machine told me to put my money in. When I went in, the door closed itself, elevator style, and I noticed a red button you could push in case you got trapped in there!! Then everything in there had a button. The toilet paper, the flush, etc.. really tres bizarre! Before our train came I told Cierra she had to try it, and she was as weirded out as I was. But before that, we were in Cinque Terre:

Tuesday, June 21st

We got to Cinque Terre late on Tuesday afternoon. We stayed in the 2nd of the five towns, Cinque = five, terre = land, so literally it’s the five lands. Our town was called Manarola, and it’s one of the smaller towns. Each town is kind of built on a steep peninsula. I LOVED it there. Manarola is actually built over a stream that runs down the mountain and so parts of the village are built above or around this stream. I can’t quite describe how magical it was to get off the train and find the restaurant of the people who rented us a room. The restaurant was down near the center of town close to the water. We talked with the owner who then told her husband to take us to our room. I first thought we would be in the building above the restaurant, but we were told to follow this nice man, the husband, who began walking us up the road through the town. As we walked he and I tried a little communication in French and Italian. It was very VERY steep, and we kept climbing. Cierra was carrying her backpack, but mine rolls on wheels and the very nice man was pulling it for me, so I had much less to carry, and could begin to take in the things I was seeing. It’s like a dream, the beauty and perfection of this place. We finally got to our room at the tippy-toppest part of the town. Above this the hillside is all filled with gardens and more trails. It was all so breathtakingly, almost shockingly beautiful, and I felt like the luckiest person in the world to be there!

Our room was clean and airy, with a small balcony. Here is the incredible view from our balcony:

After settling in we changed clothes and took our time walking back down into town.

We then bought a two day Cinque Terre pass so we could hike the trails and take the trains. We decided to hike to the third town of the five, Corniglia. By this time it must have been 5:00 pm and the hike was still pretty hot, but gorgeous.

Cierra and I were very tired though, having gotten up at 5:00 a.m. So we stopped for a drink in Vernazza, the fourth town:

then we took the train back to Manarola and had a nice (expensive) dinner. We then went back up to bed. The next day was also breathtakingly beautiful. These pictures don’t even do it justice!

We had to leave the next morning which was sad, but we had a train to Venice to catch. This was when we ended up in the crazy toilet train station. It was another long day of travel north and it took all day and several trains. The trains in Italy are very different then I remember from when I was a teen. They mostly smell bad, are packed, and hopefully you get a train with air conditioning. So when I planned this trip, I had images of being on the trains based on my experiences of 25 years ago, and I was in for a rude awakening! The worst part is that being in Italy, getting information from anyone is like pulling teeth, so most of our train experiences were stressful, frustrating and exhausting. They also warn you in the guide books that on the Italian train system, even if you buy a ticket, and it has the date on the ticket, you still have to validate it in these little yellow boxes before you board the train. The boxes on not on the platform, but are inside the stations. If you are caught on board with an un-validated ticket, you get a large fine from the people who work checking tickets on the train. On one ride I realized I had forgotten to validate our tickets, and I waited anxiously for the duration of that train ride to see if we would get caught. We almost did, but the conductor got involved in some other problem with some passengers tickets, and he never came and checked ours. Phew!!

One thing that has struck me often on this trip, are the differences between me as a teenager, and Cierra. I unfortunately was raised by parents who did not really take care of me. Both emotionally and physically. I grew up struggling with really bad situations that were extremely difficult or painful without having a parent who could help me solve problems or who might take some responsibility off my young shoulders. I have done years of work on myself to try to learn how to trust in the world, to feel that I deserve to ask for help and to receive help, and that I don’t have to do everything on my own. But being a single parent often re-awakens the old experiences of having huge responsibilities that were so overwhelming as a child. So you must guess where this is leading, right? Being alone with my daughter in Italy and traveling on multiple trains trying to get help from people who mostly don’t speak my language and who respond to requests for help in gruff or even hostile ways was a re-triggering for me. I see how I tend to go through life with a worrisome cloud over me, and it shows on my face. I mostly feel I've handled it okay here, but there were several times when I would feel like I wanted to hop on the next plane home and as if I have failed in bringing Cierra to Europe. It doesn't make a lot of logical sense, but that's about as best I can describe it right now. It was emotionally exhausting for me and it is only now, writing from the relative safety of my brother’s flat in Paris that I realize why it was a rough week for me in many ways. Cierra is different when there are problems. She gets worried, but she also knows I will handle and take care of things. She has had the experience since birth of two parents who take care of her needs, and thus she has such a deep sense of trust in just being in the world. She doesn’t mind taking up space or depending on the help of others. She doesn’t have deep shame and feels good about herself most of the time. I see it in her as we wander through Europe. It’s nice to know she has this solid self that I am only getting a grasp on now in my life.

So I will write about Venezia next time. Venice was where we had the best high and the worst low of this trip so far. But I’m hot and have to go out to the store for some vegetables to make a kale salad tonight. It’s 4:00 pm and wont get dark here till about 10:30 tonight. I’m praying for cooler weather tomorrow!

Ciao, Au Revoir, bon nuit!