2012 Wrap Up

This was written a few weeks ago in preparation for my trip to Boston, where I am at this very moment ringing in the new year while being terribly, terribly cold. Enjoy!

In the shower today, I was thinking about this past year. There are some years where you can’t really remember what happened in them–they’re a pretty standard accumulation of the component parts that make up most of your life. This was not one of those.

This time last year, I was preparing to go to Dakar. I spent January through May of 2012 in West Africa, with a stopover in Barcelona and Paris. I had never been out of the country for that long, and I had never been to Africa or to Europe.

While in Dakar, I got used to taking cold showers and malaria pills. I sweated a lot. I drank in parks and was mopey and climbed inside a baobab tree and on a termite mound. I learned how to carry money, ID, and my phone tucked away in my bra after I had my phone stolen on my birthday. I was homesick. My dog died.

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Paris is My Fitzwilliam Darcy

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While I was in Paris I didn’t have access to wifi. I still blogged, though! This entry dates from Tuesday, the second day I was in town.

So I’m pretty sure that I am one of those people who is Supposed to Like Paris. I’m sullen and brunette and like stripes. I am at this moment wearing a boat neck top. La Belle France is the place for me.

I was thinking about this at 2 pm the day that I arrived here, as I stood–feet numb from soaked shoes, being made fun of by some high school student because her very midwestern mother tried to help me with my bag–in the world’s longest taxi line outside of the Gare du Nord.

If Paris is supposed to be my great love, we’re starting out on Darcy and Lizzy Bennett footing. (Barcelona, in contrast, was like a drunken bar fling. I have no idea what anyone was saying, but it was beautiful and fun and full of sangria.*)

The leadup to the world’s worst day was pretty much my fault, sadly. Two things happened: I took the redeye in from Dakar, and I forgot that weather exists. As a result, I was stranded when the woman whose flat I’m staying in got stuck in a meeting, and I was wearing Dakar-appropriate summer clothing when Paris was 50 degrees and pouring rain. I like my $6 Senegalese espadrilles a lot, but they’re basically made of hope and a scrap of fabric–it’s been a day and a half now and they’re still wet from the trip.

Because I got in four hours later and 200% sadder than expected, I gave up on my first day plans of seeing the Pantheon and Saint Chapelle. Instead, I spent the afternoon walking around the neighborhood and taking pictures. I’m in the very heavily West African neighborhood of Paris, which means that I saw eight tailors with wax print in their window and got (charmingly) hit on in the street by two Senegalese men. It was kind of a great bit of weirdness. (Unlike in Dakar, these dudes accepted it when I turned down their invitations for coffee, I wished them a good day, and we parted ways. Yay!) It was nice just to see the neighborhood here, and I stopped in my obligatory paper goods/hipster curio boutique to buy some souvenirs.

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Notes from Barcelona

This is an actual thing that I saw!

So, Barcelona? Was kind of excellent. Both for reasons I expected (it’s Europe), and reasons I didn’t (I really liked not being the translator anymore). Because I’m terrible at keeping track of things in a linear fashion (particularly when on enough Senegalese sudafed to take down a small horse, because—of course—I’m sick again), here is a set of things that I remember from the trip, in no order except for the one my brain tosses them out in.

The last night we got dinner, we went to a tapas sports bar, which combined two of my favorite things—tiny food and cute waiters—into one. The tapas were served in what is apparently a standard fashion there. Partially to make things easier for the bartender and partially to make it so that the drunk people/me eat lots of tiny things, all of the tapas are the same price. You grab as many as you want and when you pay, the waiter counts the number of toothpicks on your plate. Clever! Delicious! One of the tapas available at this particular bar was basically two inches of cream cheese with jam and toast, which is in no way authentic but is in all ways delicious. So that was awesome.

On the cute waiter front, the guy who took our drink orders was a) maybe 19 and b) learning job-specific English in an excellent fashion. He, like everyone in the Barcelonan service industry, as far as I can tell, spoke perfectly good English. However, he had apparently not heard many people order “cider” in English (I’m better at consuming fermented juice than I am at learning Spanish), and so as he wandered away he was muttering “cider” to himself in order to memorize the English pronunciation, as far as I can tell. Adorable? Adorable.

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