Saturday, May 29, 2004

Talking to Americans

So we run into these two from California...we don't know their names, but Dan and I like to call them Biff and Suzie because, well, they looked like a Biff and a Suzie. First, they were really surprised that we would ever have heard of their hometown - a little place called "Sacramento". Marvel at this little snippet of conversation:

Suzie: What's that word they keep saying? 'Donkey'?
Laura: Do you mean "Danke"?
Suzie: Yeah, that. What's that mean?
Laura: means "Thank you".
Suzie: Oh, that's great! [practicing] Donkey. Donkey!!!

It gets worse...overheard at a train station:

Elderly Couple from the South: Excuse me - is there a McDonalds in this station?
Helpful Eurail Woman: Um...I don't think so. There's one about a 10-min walk away.
ECS: That far? There isn't one in here?
HEW: No - but there is a Burger King.
ECS: Ew...Burger King...

Aw...funny how travelling is supposed to open your mind, but I find that it just perpetuates the stereotypes I always had! Like how the French are rude, Germans are efficient, Italians can't make their goddamn trains run on time so you miss your connection even though you should have had 20 FUCKING MINUTES TO SPARE...etc, etc.

Although I gotta say that my presumptions about the Swiss being orderly and dependable were a little shaken up when we ran across four off-duty soldiers in the Brig train station, semi-automatics in one hand and beer can in the other...

And now for something completely different: Heart & Crown, Ottawa, June 8, 9pm. Be there or be the only kid on the block not to have a vote on the hot topic of "Laura's Degree: Put it on the fridge or make it into a funny hat?"

Monday, May 24, 2004

Squatting: It Does a Body Good

Howdy y'all,

So, it's been awhile...blame it on the expensive internet, the funky keyboards, and my ever-increasing alcoholism. Also, the net here at the easy internet cafe in Rome keeps shutting down, so I can't really organize my thoughts - so enjoy a series of unrelated rants, starting with:


No, I don't mean the kind where you live in an abandoned building. I mean the kind when you get into a washroom and, for a variety of reasons, decide that you'd really rather not put your ass on THAT OMG WHAT IS THAT$"£$"(!!! I've been doing my fair share ever since January since the good people who run Vimy decided that toilet seats are for suckas! We don't need no stinking toilet seats! I tell ya, there's no incentive to squat quite like the cold mid-winter's kiss of porcelain on your delicate cheeks...

Butt...a side benefit of this, along with living on the 3rd floor of a house, is that despite my daily regimen of TV and a wheel of brie for four months, I appear to be in the same shape as always! Which is to say, not very good...still, Dan and I consistently whoop the elderly and people with baby carriages on most hikes and climbs up hills...take that!

Team Discovery Channel!

So, Addie and Dan and I spent the better part of the day in the Deutsches museum, and discovered once and for all why Germans kick ass in a lot of things - sports, science, music, etc. : they make learning fun! There was this chemistry section, and it was all in German, but we still looked at every single freakin' exhibit, because they had these buttons you could push and you would create a chemical reaction!!!! Sooooo radical. And you can just imagine all this little German kids making (and smelling, through the handy whiff-o-matic window) ammonia for the first time, and being all, "One day, I will use my knowledge for the betterment of mankind!" Or possibly, "It smells like burning!" Cause it did.

When in Rome

Watch for pickpockets. That's what everybody says, including this guy who has been our guiding light throughout the trip. So we watched every single person who came within our personal space (approximate size - one city block) and I would shout at them angrily while Dan ran back to the hotel with our bags. Seriously though, I've been pretty paranoid...every old lady, small child and priest is a potential thief, right? But now I'm thinking that maybe I went overboard...I should go apologize to that old lady...maybe she really was just trying to get onto the metro car, not swipe my money belt...

Italy vs. Germany: The Deathmatch

Sorry, I lied - no death or anything...just wanted to keep your attention for another couple of minutes. Just wanted to make a quick observation on the differences between the two cultures (since I am, after a couple of weeks, an expert on such things). Germany? Is very orderly. For example - you know how, in Canada, if you want to be nice, you move over to the right side of an escalator to let other people pass? Well in Germany, this is not a courtesy - this is the way things are done. Standing on the left side is like going a measly 150km/h in the passing lane of the Autobahn - you just don't do it. Because it's not orderly! You must be orderly! And efficient! The whole world must be orderly and efficient, and we'll conquer you all if we must to make you orderly and efficient!!!!! a little carried away there. Actually, I appreciated the order and efficiency of Munich, a big city that was pretty clean and friendly and - can you belive it - had a spotless metro.

So Italy? Was a bit...different. One quick and meaningless example: as Dan and I waited in line the other day to buy groceries (at the bizarrely named "Drugstore"), we noticed that people were just randomly piling their baskets up at the cash, not stacking them. A couple got knocked over, blocking the narrow aisle. Nobody picked them up. People kicked them, stepped over them, edged around them, but - nobody picked them up. Also, some of the subway cars are so graffitied that you can't even see out the windows.

Toto? I don't think we're in Germany anymore.

When in Rome (still)

Aw, but Rome is beautiful. Really, really beautiful. Amazing. It's really moving to walk down the street and come face to face with sights like the Trevi Fountain, the Vittorio Emmanuel monument, the Forum, etc. I think the highlight, though, was definitely our visit to the very first McDonald's in Italy, complete with flower baskets, Roman arches, terrace-style dining areas and a mini-waterfall against a mosaic background...

Kidding, kidding...well, sort of. Actually, what I find most striking is how advanced Rome was, and how far Western civilization fell during the middle ages. I mean, Rome had a 50,000 seat stadium with numbered entrances ("Damn, not LVIII again!"), shade and refreshments...and the middle ages had raw sewage in the streets.

Makes you think.

Makes you want another beer.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

The List, Part the Second

Ah, writing lists are much easier to just rant and throw in some cuss words...but here goes:

Number of haunted house rides gone on in Bruges: 1
Number of times Laura told the man in the scary mask who jumped out at her to "Fuck Off!":1
Number of times she told him to "Go Away!": 2
Number of small children on the same car who were less scared than her: 6
Number of years since 8th grade group project that made Laura want to visit Luxembourg: 9 (fuck! How old am I?)
Grade said project received: A
Percentage of grade that was likely due to the cheesecake that was served with project: 50, and why the hell not, it was damn good cheesecake...
Ratio of minutes spent in Luxembourg to sex shops seen: 5:1
Rank of Germany in terms of favourite countries visited: 1
Rank of "Schweineflesche" (literally "pig flesh", German for "pork") on list of German words that make Laura and Dan giggle: 2
Rank of "Gute Fahrt": 1
Mental age of Laura and Dan, in years: 10 (and dropping like a stone)
Time, in seconds, that it took for Laura to make the scrunchy "I'm going to cry" face after she dropped her cone of Riesling-flavoured gelato: 2
Days left: 19
Brain cells left: slightly less than that

Friday, May 14, 2004

The List

Part 1: Arras, France

Number of days Laura lived in Arras: 118
Number of days before first travel journal reference to impending insanity: 5
Amount of peanut butter, in grams, eaten on average each month by Laura: 800
Number of phone calls received by roommates in the middle of the night asking for Laura: 3
Fraction of these that were from her father: 2/3
At work - ratio of questions asked about where I´m from, what I´m doing here, etc. to questions actually relevant to my training: 20:1
Number of times people asked if the sheep ever explode: 17
Number of couples who had their small child carry an unexploded munition they found on the assumption that she would be less likely to be searched: 1
Number of times said couple should be punched in the face: many, many times

Part the Second: The Trip, Week One

In light of item number one above - rank of Arras in length of time spent locating hotel, one being the longest: 1
Number of times Laura yelled at obnoxious visitors at Vimy when she took Dan there, even though she no longer works there and was just another tourist: 1
Number of times a small child was bit on the face before his idiot parents clued in to the fact that swans are wild animals and pulled him away from the fence where they had placed him: 2
Number of Belgians watching this who looked as though they wanted to punch the parents in their faces many, many times: 5

More to come in a few days...I hope...keep cool, kids!

Monday, May 10, 2004

So Happy... not be in nothern France anymore. Sooooo happy. You can't see me but I'm doing a little happy dance in The Coffee Link, Bruges, Belgium. But it's alright, because Belgians don't stare. Or yell at you when you try to eat lunch in their restaurant, which is what happened to Dan and I on Saturday. And old lady chased us out of her brasserie because we had the audacity to (gasp!) want to eat lunch there. I know! How rude! We were, like, going to exchange currency for the service she advertised on the exterior of her place of business - what were we thinking! It's like when I was at H&M in Paris and the girl at the change room counter bitched at me because I was - get this -waiting in line to try on clothes.

And also it rained so hard when we were trying to find our hotel that my capri pants were see-through - and everybody stared as though it was "Girls Gone Wild - Northern France Edition!"

So Bruges is my new favorite place. Today we got a 24-hour bike rental plus admission to 3 museums and people were really friendly and nobody stared or yelled even though we don't really know the road rules and generally just kinda biked wherever and tried not to get hit by cars or pigeons or whatever.

So, based on months of exhaustive study and meticulous scientific methodology:

Northern France < Everywhere else in the world with the possible exception of countries where there are really nasty wars or diseases or biting animals.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Things that go suck in the night

Oh man. What the hell's wrong with me? I had a whole day to myself in the beautiful, vibrant, culturally-rich city of Paris...and I wasted my time and on this. Anna, you may laugh loudest of all. Seriously, I like cheesy monster movies as much as the next person...actually, much more than the next person, but this was beyond redemption. And the ending was the cheesiest all of France! (rimshot!) But the worst part is, just as you leave the theatre to collect any scrap of taste you left outside, there's a dedication by the director in the credits that reads "To my Dad". So I was all, "Man, Steven Sommersguybob, you are really the worst writer/director ever and I bet you...oh...I, it was...good?"

Overall, Paris is pretty nice. It's good to be in a cosmopolitan city after spending four months in the armpit of France. But the dogshit...oh's pretty incredible that I have yet to step in any...famous last words!

Anyway, I'm off tomorrow to pick up Dan at the airport - hope they let him through - try not to act suspicious or stop...Arras! Motto: "Come on, we're not really the armpit of France...more like the elbow...or maybe the appendix".

Tuesday, May 04, 2004


Hey gang,

Note the changes on the contact info (as in the lack of contact info) - the contract's done and I'm off wandering around. At first I was really sad to be leaving, but then I regained my sanity and ran straight to the train station! I won't bore you with all the gory details of my term - I'll save that for when I'm back!

Damn - I had lots of funny stories and stuff but this stupid keyboard is all weird and I can't handle it. The apostrophe is where the four is and I keep typing ù instead and there's a comma where the m should be - in fact, if I wasn't staring at the keyboard here's what this sentence would look like:

in fqct; if I zqsnùt stqring qt the keyboqrd hereùs zhqt this sentence zould look likeM

Discuss q,ongst yourselves.

Anyway, I'm in Paris for a couple of days with Anna B. Preliminary reports are: the city is beautiful, there's lots to see, but watch where you step...