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I ventured out to Santa Lucia this past weekend to visit a dear Honduran friend and her family. The little town reminded me of some of my favorite places in Italy with steep cobblestone roads, quaint cafes, and breathtaking views. I love the endless forest and mountains; there are so many places to enjoy nature while still being close to the city.

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I received a tour of the whole city by motorcycle, weaving around hills overlooking endless forest and the misty covered city of Tegucigalpa and its surrounding towns.

ImageI got word there was a winery near by which is a rarity in Honduras and was pleasantly surprised by the delicious blackberry wine and the beautiful view from the vineyard.

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Right now is the rainy season, and while wandering around a Tegucigalpa park overlooking the city, my friend’s family and I got caught in a torrential down pour and were soaked in a matter of seconds. Outrunning it was pointless but it didn’t keep us from trying to escape nature’s bath.

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I really enjoyed getting to know my friend’s daughters ,who are beautiful and sweet, while playing Monopoly and Bingo. While my friend was at work, they and their grandmother showed me around the city, and I got to see some great street art.

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Pisco Sour night! We made our own…mmmm muy rico!

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We went into Tegucigalpa for some dancing, and I had a blast. It was nice to dance without feeling like a piece of meat. In general the men of Tegucigalpa and Santa Lucia were more respectful than those of Copan, and it was such a relief not to be harassed. I sometimes forget that Copan Ruinas is not representative of all of Honduras. In Copan, my roommate and I have been contemplating making shirts that say “¡No soy tu bebé!” y “¡No soy tu muñeca!” and wearing them when we go running. In English, that is “I am not your baby!” and “I am not your doll!” Words that are used daily to greet us in the streets.

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Most days in Santa Lucia, I did some reading while relaxing in the hammock. I am currently reading my first novel in Spanish which is a challenge but improving my vocabulary quite a bit.

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My friend and her family were so generous and kind, and it was nice to be pampered for a weekend while exploring other parts of Honduras.

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IMG_20121122_000000Coming to Germany at three o’clock in the morning by car share and desperately tired, I thought it was time to treat myself to a little luxury, so I stayed four days in a hotel with a swimming pool and sauna. The first two days were divine in my private room. I only left the hotel to take a quick peek at the East Berlin Wall Gallery which was conveniently located across the street. The third day I decided to venture from my cozy bed and made up for my lack of tourist activities by visiting three museums in one day. I was impressed by the museum selection in Berlin. They have a whole island dedicated to them here. My last night was spent treating myself to an extravagant meal at the restaurant Gendarmerie, where the largest wood sculpture in the world resides. The warm lighting of the interior drew me in and made it stand out from the rest of the renowned Michelin restaurants lining the street. I made friends with the waiter while swapping observations about the other diners who I found entertaining to watch and ease-drop on while savoring my delicious meal.

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After Berlin, I headed to Bad Soden-Salmünster to meet with a friend from high school I haven’t seen in ten years. I enjoyed this little town with its forest walks and morning snow, but most of all I loved feeling so part of a family. Her mother reminded me of my own making me new gluten-free creations every day. I went for morning runs with the dog, listened to her father’s jazz band, drank hot spiced wine at a Christmas market, cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time, caught up over tea and chocolate, discovered a new favorite author, Kazuo Ishiguro, and went on road trip adventures to Frankfurt, Würzburg, Fulda and Heidelberg. They made me feel loved on my first birthday away from home, and it meant so much to me.

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Dark Romanticism Exhibit at Städel Museum in Frankfurt

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“The death of a beautiful woman is the most poetic topic in the world.”~Edger Allan Poe

“I believe in the future resolution of these two states, dream and reality, which are seemingly so contradictory into a sort of absolute reality, a surreality, so to speak.”~André Breton

“I fear neither witches nor poltergeists, ghosts, braggarts, giants, good-for-nothings, villains, etc. I fear no creature but one: Man.”~Francisco de Goya

IMG_20121120_133156I hurt for Germany and its Berlin Wall, its Holocaust museums and memorials, constant reminders that their past is full of war and cruelty. How can they move on under such scrutiny? The guilt must be like the weight of an elephant on someone’s chest. This mural says it all. Tourists come to Berlin to see the wall that split the country, not necessarily the art and history museums or amazing nightlife and culture that make Berlin so special. Looking back on past evils in history, will people stop making the same mistakes, or are we doomed to repeat history again? Maybe we need to be reminded daily of our cruelties because we so easily forget them. Or does the constant reminder only make us indifferent? Do future generations deserve to be marked with a scarlet letter because of the faults of their ancestors?

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“We are all part of a chain. Puzzle pieces that create a picture. Everyone has a role. You don’t need to be educated to be important. If you do what you love, what does it matter? If you can improve, that is good. If you want to be the best at making soup and have a college degree, make soup.” ~ Words of wisdom from a man at YAAM (Young African Art Market) sitting around a metal barrel of fire, reggae in the background, surrounded by graffiti art…a little Jamaican Berlin Oasis.

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Berlin screams consumerism and postures power.

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Staring at the remains of the Berlin Wall with trees growing up and around it, I again sense that the trees will outlive us humans and our wars. They will make the ugly things we create dissolve and disintegrate as though we never existed.

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In France, I indulged in orgasmic, gastronomical delights. Food here is taken to an entirely different level of enjoyment. I frequented Helmut Newcake where I gained experience ordering desserts in French. Here I could stay cozy and warm reading and people watching from behind glass as I savoured gluten-free pastries and café créme. The éclair vanille was flaky and moist with a light, delightful cream center.

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My Parisian friend, aware of my love for reading, took me to a wine bar decorated by books where we were treated to fine wine, flirtatious conversation, and a kiss or two by some charming men. Greetings and good-byes are full of kisses and smiles in France. Two kisses on either cheek are customary and made me blush every time.

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It is common to see dogs with their noses peeking out of handbags and from under tables, or if small enough, from their companions’ laps saying, “Hello!” Men and women are beautiful in a simple natural way like the style of my favorite Hollywood actress, Audrey Hepburn, who very much defined the French look for Americans during her time. At the Hôtel de Ville there was an exhibit titled Paris Seen by Hollywood, which shed light on Parisian stereotypes. With most stereotypes, there are essences of truth, but none can fully describe a country and its people.

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I found that saying “Bonjour!,” “Parlez-vous anglais?,” and “Merci beaucoup.” helped me make friends quite easily, even if I had no idea what the person said in response. Together we laughed at our poor language skills and mimed most of what we were trying to say to the entertainment of those around us. According to researchers, over half of communication is body language anyways.

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I found the French people incredibly welcoming and the setting awe-inspiring. Buildings here are magnificently built, and one becomes very aware how small we are in comparison to the whole universe.

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Shakespeare and Company was my favorite spot, a book store filled with the comforting smell of written works, old and new. People from all over come to this gem to soak knowledge in whilst curling up in little nooks where walls are covered by notes from fellow lover’s of books. You can leave your own words on the walls by using the little type writer at the top of the stairs located in a small hole in the wall that reminded me of childhood days when “I would set-up office” under my dad’s desk and imagine I was working too.

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I found myself drawn to the churches in Paris, my Catholic roots still tugging at my soul. The Catholic church says baptism and confirmation leave indelible marks, perhaps they are right. I sat through a mass at St. Ambroise Church and felt an ache in my chest. Deep inside resides a longing for the community I once felt being Catholic, but beside that lies an even deeper disgust and anger at how religions can be used to rage wars and control people. “With great power, comes great responsibility” and with it most often comes corruption and lies. Religions contribute to society in many ways, especially in their charity to homeless, but their power scares me. I find the most peace in trying to formulate my own opinions from a variety of sources and to always be open to change. I fear stagnant black and white answers because life, in my experience, is more about the uncomfortable gray. Life undefined means we are all responsible to seek our own truth, and that can be a lonely, uncertain path at times, but I find comfort in knowing it is my path.

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While at the Paris Seen by Hollywood exhibit, there was a magazine opened to a page that was an advert for a movie filmed in Paris. What caught my eye, however, was unrelated to the exhibit. On the other page of the 1921 magazine, was an advert for Palmolive titled, “Would Your Husband Marry You Again?” I began reading out of curiosity and was mortified by the very obvious misogynistic undertones, “Fortunate is the woman who can answer ‘Yes.’ But many a woman, if she is honest with herself, is forced to be in doubt- after that she pays stricter attention to her personal attractions.” It blatantly is saying that to hold on to a man, a woman must have this product, instilling in her an idea she is not worth keeping around unless she stays beautiful by his standards. How nauseating, but even more so when I realized that post-feminist movement women are still allowing these types of media to drive how they interact with men. The anti-female sentiments are still there, just less obvious. I feel lucky to have the opportunities I do as an educated American woman, to be traveling around the world by myself as I am. In 1921, I probably would not have had this opportunity. That being said, we have a long way to go before we reach any kind of equal state. Patriarchy is still happening and keeping women from reaching their full potential, the difference is women in America can do something about it in the twenty-first century by speaking out against the misogyny that still is rampant in society, by working towards a world that respects, not men, women, or race, but human beings.

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Voting was an adventure. My missing ballot was the cause of great panic amongst, not only myself, but several French people I conversed with, but it led to a nice visit to the American Embassy in Paris where they were kind enough to fax my vote for me. It was nice to be greeted the morning after the election with “Hooray Obama!” emails from several of my European friends as I left for the Netherlands. I was a bit ashamed though to realize just how much more up-to-date Europeans are on world politics than most people I know in the USA.

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In my teen years, I found myself walking my dog through the local cemetery and reading under its trees. I enjoyed wandering the pathways and looking at the gravestones, imagining the stories of those buried below. I wondered how they died and if they were still loved, missed or forgotten. I would pick flowers and place them on lonely sites. I remember one in particular because below the stone was a baby whose birthday was the same as mine. I stopped at this one frequently. She reminded me of my own mortality, that it was just luck that I was above the ground and she was below. At Pére Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, I saw lovers holding each other tight on benches, admiring the fall colors of the trees shading dead bodies; a lonely widow hobbling up and down steps with flowers and a bucket of water; families clearing away broken glass; others gathering with tears and laughter in courtyards to wave goodbye to loved ones, a procession of black; and confused tourists holding maps and cameras up in front of their faces while stumbling about seeing everything and nothing at the same time: “Honey, according to this map Van Morrison should be right here.” “Do you know where Oscar Wilde is? I can’t seem to find him.” “Hey everyone, it’s the Adams Family! You be Cousin It; I’ll be….” I found the contrast between the living and dying rather lovely to observe.

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Versailles was incredibly large. The grand halls of the palace, surrounding gardens, pools, farm houses, and estates would take a week to properly wander through. I focused on the retreat of Marie-Antoinette with its quaint little living spaces and cream/lavender tower overlooking a pond of Koi fish. I found the trellises guiding visitors along pathways to be enticing and was one of the last to leave as the sun went down.

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Mont-St. Michel Abbey was my introduction to the French coast. A mirage in the distance, a great spire reaching towards the heavens, it barely looked real, and one doesn’t truly believe it is until you are walking amongst its spiralling walls lined with cafes, restaurants, and souvenir shops. This paradise, an island surrounded by water at high tide and a death trap of quick sand at low tide, has been a great fortress, prison, and sanctuary over the years. A village with an abbey at the center. If I were god, I would want to reside in this heaven of fairy tale dreams.

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Catching up with a fellow couch-surfer and now very dear friend in her own city was the best gift of my travels to France. At the beginning of the year, we met and found ourselves on similar paths and have grown together as travel companions, adventurers, and seekers. The conversations were inspiring and paired with lovely settings, delectable delights, the occasional cigarette with wine, dance workouts, watching movies, meeting her lovely friends, trying not to chop off fingers while making squash soup, giggle fits and other silly antics, and most certainly chocolate!

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After mad posting to make up for the time without my phone, I have finally caught up to current location. With all my resistance to technology, I have to say I have grown to love this little phone with all its various writing apps. I still have my well-loved moleskin with me though; there is something about pen on paper that inspires me in ways a computer cannot.
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After Scunthorpe, I spent a few days in Bristol with a group of artsy, laid-back individuals, one of which surfed on my couch this summer. She showed me around the city by bike, and it felt very much like Portland with its scenic variety, creative energy, and youthful opportunity. I could live in this city with its tea shops, cafes, and pubs, so cozy and ideal for people watching, live music options and street art around every corner. I love the free expression of graffiti art and find it more moving and thought provoking than most gallery exhibits. It is raw and gritty like life. Days were spent in good company sleeping in and catching up on the Harry Potter movies. There was consensus that Ron does indeed become more attractive each film. My last night was spent with friends indulging in a sumptuous Indian spread and drinking at The Old Duke while listening to varying artists perform in an intimate atmosphere.
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The ocean is where I feel most in touch with my true being, and it is here on the fringe of New York I begin to say good-bye to the USA and hello to Ireland across the sea. New York was more amazing than I could have imagined. From the top of the Empire state building, I felt like Thomas and I were saying, “Okay world, we’re ready for you.” I am interested to see where we both end up next year. Life is a big question mark, and embracing that is a lovely thing. By being open to anything, we will both end up on adventures more life-changing than anything we could have planned for. Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” is on the radio as we drive back through Brooklyn and I feel nothing could be more appropriate. I contemplate the week…Comedy Cellar surprise guest Louis CK, Belmont Raceway horse betting, Don’t Tell Mama piano bar spontaneous birthday, transport to China in Flushings, reflections at Far Rockway Beach, best pisco drink at Pegu Club, memorable blues dance with stranger in a speak easy behind a tile shop, thai lunch with old friend, running not away or towards…just running, NY hipster comparison to Portland (I think Portland has NY beat as far as this scene goes), graffiti art inspiration, sleepy car ride dreams of NY lights, karaoke dancing with cop while trying to be gangster…life is good.

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