Travel Hangover.

My laundry needs doing, i’ve barely left my bed, and my one meal today consisted of an entire pepperoni pizza from the place up the block. Clearly, i am a class act after waking up at 6 for an early flight, ya’ll.

As much as i love traveling, there is nothing quite so satisfying as coming home to a total veg-out session. The kind of day where i allow myself to let the pile of essay-writing to sit, untouched, for a few more hours. I justify my half-unpacked bags with jet lag, and eat only the easiest-to-acquire food because i really need the downtime to, you know, decompress from all that walking and sightseeing and merriment. I call them my travel hangovers. Days recuperating from over-doing it on the fun.




The most satisfying thing about today, though, is not the devoured pizza or cozy duvet. It’s the real feeling of being home.

When we exited customs and caught the familiar sight of our bus back to town, i had this unmistakable feeling of place. We passed landmarks on the way that are increasingly more familiar to me, and when we caught sight of the castle i caught myself thinking: mmm, at last. Like the way i look for my old cul-de-sac in North Carolina, the castle was a landmark of the almost-there.

Some six weeks into my time here it’s deeply comforting to feel so settled. Being in Amsterdam was very much a “European Holiday.” The kind of trip where i only do the silly tourist-y things and gouge myself on red wine and most excellent cheeses. And yet i’m still in Europe, but without the one-suitcase camera-out-everywhere rules. It’s a small, poignant marker of belonging.

And being 4000 miles away from what has been me home for so long? Yeah, i’ll take the small victories.


of interest: i’ve a few blog posts queued up on the actual amsterdam adventure to be published over the next week, so stay tuned! (and in case you missed it, here’s a blog about biking in amsterdam!)

current jam: gregorian choir of paris, christmas mass on repeat.

best thing: pepperoni pizza.


On Honey and Vinegar.

Traveling is, inherently, stressful. Traveling internationally through airports can be extremely stressful. Amidst the endless queues for security and clamped-tight seats in economy, tension can run high.

Which is why i always try to be as polite, smiley, and generally considerate when in international terminals. It’s a good rule to have in life, but by virtue of being human, i’m not always the most adept at obeying good rules. I do find the extra compassion when in pressurized places, though, makes the extra effort worth the reward.

Abby and i had arrived, at last, in Amsterdam. Waiting in line for customs, i saw what i thought was a spot open up in the line adjacent to us – so i scurried over to snag it and keep people moving. From behind me came a snappish English voice. “We queue in Europe. Apparently, you don’t.”

I turned, bewildered, to see an older man flushed with anger. “Sorry,” i replied, “i thought you were in the other line!” I turned and went to the back of the other line, rolling my eyes at Abby and trying to play it cool. It had been an honest mistake. There’s so much shuffling and lining up in airports, it’s easy to get cut off or unintentionally step on toes (metaphorically and non-metaphorically). And the last thing i needed was some guy to be condescending to me, presumably because i was not European and therefore (apparently) of some lesser status than he.

We got through customs just fine, and our new friend passed through at precisely the same time. After tucking my passport back into my rucksack, i smiled and waved at him. He blushed. “Sorry – i – just was falling behind. I – uh…” I just waved it away, my jaw fixed in a (admittedly somewhat passive-aggressive) smile. “Well, have a good holiday, anyway,” he spluttered as we turned to go. I said thank you, and walked off.

Easily, i could have fallen apart and wept on the spot. I was tired, no one likes being yelled at , and i was really preoccupied with trying to read maps in Dutch. Or, i could have been snappish and rude and dished it right back to him. Maybe i wanted to show him how nasty his remark was by being overly kind. Maybe i was a little peeved at the Euro-elitist attitude and trying to wield my Southern American hospitality to prove a point. Maybe that doesn’t make me any better in my thinking. And maybe he’d been just as confused and wanted to channel his own frustrations at someone else.

But, at the end of the day, he clearly regretted being rude to a confused foreigner. And i felt satisfied that i resisted the urge to snap back. I learned to double-check the line’s mobility, and i hope he learned not to jump to conclusions by being mean. Mostly, though, it just was a lesson in reiterating one of my mother’s favorite phrases: you attract more flies with honey than vinegar.

Being kind, especially under stress, can really can make an enormous difference.

in other news: we’re safe and sound in amsterdam and having a rollicking good time! be sure to stay tuned for more, hopefully more uplifting posts in the next few days!

current jam: the sounds of an amsterdam street.

best thing: cheese!

The Little Green Pig (And Other Adventures There and Back Again)

I can now officially cross #5 off of my list of fifteen things to be accomplished in six months (now totaling to six completed tasks): i went home to see my brother, Thom’s, directorial debut with The Pillowman. In fact, i’d be so bold to say i managed to knock out a double-whammy; i managed to also be home for my other brother, Mike’s, fifteenth birthday. While i may not be in the big sister hall of fame, i’m very pleased to have been there for both of these boys’ milestones!

Last Wednesday, i left Mount Holyoke’s frigid campus behind me for the single terminal of my second most frequented air portal, Bradley International Airport. Packed with a suitcase exploding at the seams (i did that college thing where i don’t do laundry for three weeks and instead bring it all home to do it for free) and armed with a fat stack of reading to accomplish on the plane, i managed to make it home to an ice cold glass of sweet tea and a comfortable, albeit environmentally worrying, seventy degrees.

It was a whirlwind of a glorified forty-eight hours; between 9 pm Wednesday night (touchdown) and 9 am Saturday morning (take-off) i managed to see Thom’s play twice, worship snuggle with my cats, lunch with one grandmother, visit my other grandmother, view in awe the masterpiece that is Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with father and grandmother (review of said film coming soon), eat a fat whopping burrito with a friend, interrupt a band rehearsal to see another friend, wash three loads of clothes, play with my cats, cuddle up next to my dog, spend an afternoon with my mom, pack, unpack, pack again, and mew at my cats like we speak the same language. If that’s not an end-to-end 60 hours of well-used time at home, i’m not sure what is.

Amidst all of this, i fully intended to photograph every minute and, subsequently, present to ya’ll a blog-o-pictures for your visual feasting. However, as i was something of a tornado-generating machine in my to-the-moment time home, i only managed to take the following:

picasso and buddy the beagle.

eli in the sink!

Maybe all that nonsense about plays and Benedict Cumberbatch movies was a ruse to cover up the fact that i only ventured home for the sake of my perfect cats and sweet old dog.

But while such a plan to see nothing but my animal friends would be NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF BECAUSE ALL SOCIALLY-ADJUSTED LADIES OF SOME NORMALITY LIKE THEIR CATS AND DOG AS MUCH AS ME, it was not the primary reason for my sojourn to Chapel Hill.

I was home in my other home for my brothers. And while my visits with them were shamefully brief, i couldn’t be more proud of them. Mike, who is halfway through his first year of high school, has grown up so much into a considerate, thoughtful, sweet, and wrestling-conference-champion darling of a brother. Thom could not have been more in his element as the director of such a sinister, warped, delicious spectacular of a work that is Martin McDonagh’s play. It’s always a weird thing, coming home to find a window into the rest of my family’s life. We live in separate time streams in a multitude of ways – and yet, some things never really change. Being proud of my siblings is something that has never abided.

And i did manage to acquire a picture on the set of The Pillowman with Thom after the curtain. He’s holding (fake) severed toes in front of the cross from “The Little Jesus” (a story within the show). The play, which centers around a barely-published author of horrific short stories (most of which involving the grisly murder of small children) named Katurian, is a warped and wretched portrait of modern life. It explores interpersonal familial relationships in a way akin to John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, but with the added layer of gruesome imagery and lack of mucking out stalls (well, in the literal sense). It’s a show about the loss of innocence, but also about the glimmer of beauty that can be found – if sought- amidst tragedy. It may be a stomach-clenching, eye-shutting nightmare to behold, but Thom and the cast and crew did such a marvelous job at conveying the work in an entrancing, if not hauntingly mesmerizing, capacity. My cringe in the photo below seems to encapsulate how i felt for the entirety of the tale; not from lack of relishing in the talent of the show, but more as a product of the stellar acting and theatrical story-telling.

Thanks for being awesome, boys.

Even with the severed toes.

current jam: “lovecraft in brooklyn” the mountain goats

best thing in my life right now: ian mckellan reading instructions on how to change a tyre. 

in the air again.

The uniformity of American airports can be such a comfort.

I’ve said it once, and i shall say it more: airports are easily some of my favorite places in this world. There’s something terribly exciting about a place of transit, a realm meant for those embarking on a journey. Sure, its plagued with suited up professionals dreading the next conference room, and true, often my times in airports are meant as transit only to the simplest, most mundane of places.

But still. I know i was born to travel when i am at such ease in a place like this.

Despite not having been in the Bradley airport for some time (March, i think?) navigating its (albeit it only one) terminal is reeking of one of the best parts of the trip home: the anticipation. As i awoke at 6 am this morning, grumbling how i’d hardly slept five hours (thank you, Merlin schoolwork) and fumbling around the dark trying to pack the toothbrush and find the glasses, it occurred to me that, while i may detest waking at such hours, i also kind of love it. Waking when most of the world (or at least, the campus) is still to bed to take a trip is kind of a magical time. The in-between place, the time of preparing for the journey and praying all goes well and holding out for a window seat – it’s something i’m getting better and better at. Living with your home spread across the world forces you to do this, i suppose.

This trip isn’t terribly exotic, or going to be rank with whirlwind adventures, or abrim in reality shattering epiphanies (well, i suppose one  should never say never). Should all go well, it shall be full of steaming cups of tea, my cats, sleep, reading, terrible television, my cats, hibernation, writing, and my cats. A retreat from the whir, time to be a zombie and not leave my bed for anything in the world but another cup of tea or to clean out the litter box. Did i mention the cats?

But the “mundane” can be so welcome. Most welcome in a semester like this, wherein i’ve done nothing but write papers and wrangle with endless readings and want nothing more than sleep. The mundane can be even more worthy of my travel-anticipation than the thrilling, in some capacities.

Most of all, though, waiting for me on the other side of this trip are my cats, a time-transcending cowboy, and the simple marvel of home.

Happy travels, friends.

current jam: ‘you’re the voice’ john farnham

best thing in my life right now: tweed jackets and scottish accents.

words written for nanowrimo: 27,828

thoughts from the journey

to begin, i apologize for the abundance in posts! prepare yourself for a dumping ground of four days’ worth of thoughts. this is my first visit to the internet cafe! but i am safe and sound and full to the brim with stories to share!

Thoughts from the Journey: Plane Ride Edition

Plane to Bruxelles, 10:47 PM EST (Wednesday)

May I simply say that all romantic comedies wherein the plot centers around the central character trying to uphold a lie really, really annoy me. Currently playing on the enormous television screen on my airplane is some Adam Sandler masterpiece where, as far as I can tell, he wore a wedding ring (despite being unwed) to attract women but now that he’d found “the one” he’s faking a divorce with his fictional wife, played by a beautiful coworker. Really? I mean, I understand that these movies are not meant to be factual, but nevertheless I find the whole premise completely ridiculous. As someone who prizes honesty above all other virtues, this tale is incredibly foolish to me. If he’d been honest right away, this whole mess need not occur.

Akin to this view is the main character in the Sarah Dessen I brought to keep me company on this flight to Belgium (thank you, Brenna!). This particular high school romance tale is called Just Listen and, while not my normal taste in fiction (where are the dragons?! Or time-travelling paradoxes?! Or dashing Jane Austen men carrying Marriane in from the downpour?) I’m quite taken with it. Owen, the male subject of desire, wears combat boots (win), has his own radio show (double-win), and never lies as a personal policy of highly prizing honesty (triple-win). The storyline, true to Sarah Dessen fashion, takes place in my hometown (she grew up in the house adjacent to my friend’s!) and is abundant in high school melodrama mixed with just enough realism to be compelling.

In any case, the book is far more relatable and interesting than whatever the hell US Air is playing. Now the woman of desire is walking around in a cropped top. Do people actually do that in every day life? With people like Adam Sandler? Whatever. Back to my book.

current jam: “misery” warblers cover (thanks nora! listening to my husband’s voice is ever so soothing)

best thing in my life right now: darren supermegafoxyawesomehot criss. singing in my ear.

Brussels Airport, Gate A/T 68, 3:07 AM EST//9:07AM…Brussels time? (Thursday)

So I’m running on two hours sleep at this point, so I must beg your indulgences as I writes. After a harrowing journey from my last plane, back through security (thank God for my six years of French to get me through that), through the first SIXTY gates of the terminal I came to learn was “B,” I clambered down two flights of unsettlingly unpopulated stairs into a makeshift hanger where, I was informed, I was to wait for the next bus that would take me across the yard to Terminal “T,” which was also known as Terminal “A.”

A and T being one in the same was quite confusing, especially when garbled in my sleep-deprived, coffee-less terrible French state. But, praise all divine things, I made it to yet another surprisingly and somewhat eerily empty staircase. This staircase, though, I was able to brave with the motley crew I’d joined on the bus ride over. There was a family of Mennonites (whom, I have a sneaking suspicion, I might be seeing again as I’m working for the Mennonite Central Committee), a family conversing very loudly in what I inferred to be Thai, two college girls, a boy who (by the name embroidered on his Adidas sweatpants) was named Josh, and my own bedraggled self. We arrived in the large building, shaped like and oval with walls seemingly made entirely of glass. In this glass-walled building I, at long last, found (singing angels chorusing in my head) my gate. But the gate, I confess, then became priority number two.

Priority number one was my rank breath and full bladder, so nonviolent peaceable guns a-blazing I plunged into “la toilette” for “les femmes” with much gratitude. The bathroom, unlike any bathroom in any other airports I have previously encountered, was completely empty when I walked in.

Whatever. My teeth. My gross, slimy, smelly TEETH.

With gusto I started the age-old rite of cleaning my dental arena when, thinking how John Green had recently been in Belgium, I had a fit of inspiration. For those of you who are unaware, John Green is a super-famous YouTuber (search vlogbrothers on YT) and is famous for including himself brushing his teeth in all his thoughts from places/travel vlogs. But John, unlike myself, most likely thinks this through more than I did.

In my eagerness (and, need I remind you, bleary-eyed state) to pay homage to my favorite YouTuber, I rummaged around for my camera in my bag, toothbrush sticking out of my mouth and the automatic-motion-detecting faucet and soap spewing their contents all over the sink. After my digging and subsequent splaying of all my toiletries all over the counter (which in turn prompted sink number two to start gurgling out soap and water everywhere) I found my camera… disassembled. Now with soap and toothpaste all over me, I assemble the damn thing (which takes far longer than it should).

After wrangling with the lens, I proceed to spend five minutes trying to get my picture in focus. Jubilant that, at last, a clear picture is coming through the lens, I start filming myself brushing my teeth in true John Green fashion. Despite the fact that by now my teeth are puh-lenty clean.

Now, John Green has taught me many things; how to aspire to vlog, that the truth resists simplicity, that Warner Chilcott is a captital-A corporate Ass- among other profound giraffe-related things. What I never learned from John Green: that filming yourself brushing your teeth is really, really hard. So after all the drama in getting myself set up, I think I managed ten seconds of filming. Which, in reality, is all I needed, but still.

However, of all ten seconds I spent in the bathroom, the utilities man had to pick these ten to walk in. So there I am, two sinks going nuts trying to be eco-friendly and dually splash water all over me, my toothbrush hanging out of my mouth, and me filming my reflection in the mirror. Needless to say, my garbled- FRENCH- explanation (toothbrush in my mouth) was only covered up by his profuse apologies (and obvious mortification) for intruding on such a scene.

Welcome to Belgium, Lizzie.

So I quickly wrapped up my business and then headed back to the gate where I now sit, writing this and desperately hoping not to be found by said utilities man here. The sweatpants boy and Mennonite family are here two. Kindred spirits. Well, spirits who don’t make complete fools of themselves in Belgium bathrooms.

current jam: “i’m the man who loves you” wilco (thanks again, nora! third time though the mix)

Plane to Entebbe (Thursday) 11:46 AM EST//5:46 PM…Entebbe time?

I am a genius. A loopy, now awake for nearly thirty hours straight (ish) genius.

Would you, dearest reader, care to know why?

Because, in my foresight and wisdom, I did not merely watch Season 5 of Doctor Who on Netlfix like every other poor chap. Ohhhh no, I bought season 5 for my computer. And while recently I’ve had to procure my third hard drive in order to hold the entire season (among other things) this purchase is the gift that keeps on giving. Because here on the plane, which now is playing re-runs of some Belgian show I can’t understand because its in Dutch, I’ve occupied myself by re-watching Vincent and the Doctor. My absolute favorite Doctor Who of all time (despite the fact that Tennant is hands-down the best Doctor, in my humble opinion).

One hour, killed. Now to occupy the remaining FOUR.

La la late December in sixty-three, what a very special time for me, as I remember, what a nighttttttttt. (what a lady, what a nightttt)

I’ve done laps around the plane, finished the aforementioned Sarah Dessen book, mourned over my stupid iPod dying, and now am using what little battery I have left on this old girl to write this.

Oh I’ve got a funny feeling when she walks in the moonlight…as I recall it ended much too soon OH WHAT A NIGHTTTTTT.

What’s a girl to do for the remaining four plus hours? With my book done, computer dying, and iPod apparently not turning on?

Current jam: do i really need to explain? But it just switched toooo… “just what i needed” the cars (seriously nora bond, this mix is keeping me sane in my depraved of rest state) I guess you’re just what I needED!

Peanut M&Ms and Free Wi-Fi

Much sooner than I had initially anticipated I find myself with access to wi-fi and therefore writing twice in one day. I’m currently in Philadelphia, waiting for the duration of my three hour layover in my terminal, looking out the window and at planes taxiing and fueling up. The flight from NC was uneventful, for which I’m very grateful.

Leaving, however, was much harder than I anticipated. Until very recently I did not really realize how long ten weeks is to go without seeing my family. For some reason, this feels vastly different than going ten weeks at school (which I have done). Perhaps because this trip truly is different than going back to school. My life seems like one big transition lately; I never seem to stay anywhere long enough for the dust to settle. This isn’t necessarily bad- I was home long enough to consume enough sweet tea to nourish a small population of people and able to get all my kitty snuggles in. But the wandering must recommence sooner rather than later, otherwise the impossible lethargy becomes too consuming to bear. Sometimes I feel like I’m asleep while awake, completely apathetic to my own inaction and desire to laze about. Maybe that’s healthy, maybe I need those few weeks of deep rest in order to care so much the rest of the time.

As much as I often feel like a cloud of indifference, neither here nor there, I feel so deeply ten times more. Freud would have a field day with me and my lapses.

Enough metaphysical pontification! Time for a story.

Before I went through security, my Dad handed me a few parting gifts, one being a bag of peanut m&ms. If you notice in this video I mentioned that eating peanut m&ms while abroad is something of a blossoming tradition in the M. household, and this tradition, like all such traditions, is rooted in something of a story.

And, conveniently enough for me, this story takes place in Uganda. Four years ago I was fourteen and in the summer after my first year of high school. I’d never left the country but had nurtured a desire to go to Africa since meeting Peace Corps volunteers in the seventh grade (and really, before then too, but that’s the most concrete time I ever remember declaring myself to be a future Peace Corps volunteer (I have since decided to not do Peace Corps in lieu of perhaps working with MCC/ other fabulous smaller NGO(I also rather like this triple paranthetical statement, but where was I?(right, Uganda, 14)))) point being, I was very young and very naive. I don’t dare to say I’m neither of those things now, but I have grown up a little since then.

Everything was magical when I first landed in Entebbe. In part this was the marvel of leaving all you know to enter a new place, but mostly it was because Uganda is truly a magical place. (I do well to remember, when I’m close to panicking on the plane). That first time to Africa was a pilgrimage with Duke Divinity school and, in more ways than I can enumerate, would profoundly impact my life for years to come. Most obviously, I’m going back to Uganda to live with friends I met on said trip.

And this one friend particular friend (one Thera, whom you can check out here) had been living in Uganda for some time. On one of our many long and excruciatingly bumpy rides in the bus, she was telling us about how much she missed salty, crunchy food (of which, as I recall, there is not a lot of in Uganda). Her parents had sent her a care package, and tucked in the box was a bag of nothing other than…you guessed it! Peanut M&Ms. She said she opened the bag and smelled it for an hour before even eating one.

Needless to say, while she was telling us this tale, I wanted nothing more than a peanut m&m at that moment. When none were readily available, I promptly forgot about the tale. Assuredly, I was educating one of the Ugandan priests accompanying us on Led Zeppelin (don’t judge- I was fourteen, after all) which was of equal amusement.

But, come June of 2010, when I was once again breathing deeply African air in Ghana, I was reminded of this tale. And despite the fact that Ghana is the distance from Uganda as California is to North Carolina (have I mentioned that Africa is FIVE TIMES the size of the continental United States?) something universally true about being away from the states made me miss peanut m&ms. When, a week into our voyage, I was complaining about this to my mother, she giggled and pulled out of her suitcase pringles and…a heaven-sent bag of peanut m&ms.

So while many cravings and wishes I might have while in Uganda may be silly, unfulfillable, or really unnecessary I always allow myself now to bring a bag of said divine, crunchy, salty, and sweet candies. In the aforementioned video I was in Canada, and while Montréal is not exactly a vast world away from the USA, international traveling traditions are to be honored! My Dad had bought me the m&ms for that trip, too.

So, thanks Dad for keeping the tradition alive.

Now I’ve got to try and find something mildly healthy and fresh in this airport to eat before my flight. Bruxelles, je viendrai! (Je pense que cette phrase est correcte, mais je ne suis pas sûr…)

current jam: “thistle & weeds” mumford & sons

best thing in my life right now: safe and merciful travelings. and this incredible video the allmadeofawesome girls put together for me!!

i need a new third sign off…suggestions? i don’t want to count down to returning back to the states, so i’m in a puzzle.


Today is the day. In a few hours I’ll be in Philly, then on to Bruxelles, and from thence the final leg to Entebbe, Uganda. I’m part terrified, part exhilarated, part nervous, and mostly grateful. Grateful for my time with all of you, with my family, my kitties, the pooch, my time on this earth.

Well then…ALLONS-Y!

current jam: “redemption song” johnny cash & joe strummer cover

best thing in my life right now: um, uganda?! and waking up to my kitties. and reading letters and emails from friends.

days until departure: 0

quote of the moment: “courage is the price life demands for exacting peace.” amelia earhart