Reclaiming Experience

This blog is a tool for recording my experiences as well as evaluating my day-to-day life. With my camera in hand, I will make meaning out of my life.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Day 274: Perfect Fall Sunday

Today was the kind of day that beckons you to come outside.  I love this kind of weather.  I decided to hang out with my dad today.  We went to the farmers market in Frankfurt.  The dogs were so spunky and full of life.  We decided to go back home and get Kendra to walk her along the river.  I'm back inside now and I'm considering going back out.  It is just too nice.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Day 273: Diving the Sky (Again)

 My dad loved skydiving so much earlier this year, that he decided he was going to go again.  This time he brought along Crystal's friend, Lori.  It was another awesome day at the hanger.  The weather was beautiful, so waiting for them to jump was nice.  My dad was paired with an Australian man that all of us ladies were swooning over.  What a cool life these people have.  Who knows, maybe next time I'll be jumping...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Day 272: Describe an Experience

I went to my class tonight to further my ability to write about my life's adventures.  This week's homework is to select an experience and write about it.  We have to include dialogue, detail, and reader appeal.  I think I am going to select a moment from the trip that truly began my infatuation with traveling (especially abroad).  It was the summer after 8th grade and I was so lucky to be able to travel with my aunts, grandmother, and mom.  I can't wait to reminisce about some of those moments that started it all for me.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Day 271: Knowledge Through Reading

I selected some materials from my library to enhance my story-telling abilities.  I have been watching a lot of foreign films lately and reading travel writing.  One of my new favorite actors is Romain Duris.  T.S. Eliot has said that "we read to know that we are not alone."  It is comforting to read about the adventures and misadventures of others.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Day 270: Homework

The rules of my blog have changed a bit since its original creation, but I'm the rule maker here, so who cares.  Right?  Today's pictures was actually taken this summer, but it relates to my activities today.  My first homework assignment for my writing class is due tomorrow.  We had to select a picture with ourselves and others to write about in under two pages.  We could select any perspective.  I wrote from three perspectives because I'm not really happy with any of them.  I thought I'd share for growth's sake.  A friend asked if I had to stick to a certain mode of writing, but that was not really mentioned.  For fun, I am also working on a poem.  I haven't written poetry since high school.  Yikes.  

The first picture shows the one I selected for my class.  The second picture shows the one I actually like better.  

POV 1-Older Couple Nearby*
*Imagine this being said in German.
We had the place to ourselves until they came.  The only noise we heard was the clank of our plates, silverware, and glasses mingling together.  We come here early to avoid the noise and people.  Visiting the Eisenhut Restaurant after five in the evening reveals a different atmosphere.  Just below the main dining terrace you will find a biergarten usually only visited by locals.  Somehow these Americans stumbled upon our secret lunch location. 
The group is loud considering the absence of other diners.  Klaudia and I watch them for a few minutes and try to grasp some of their English sentences.  Neither of us was very familiar with the language, so the information we did collect was fairly vague.  There appears to be two couples, two sisters, and one young woman on her own from what we can understand. 
Klaudia wondered how they knew each other.  She figured they must be long time acquaintances because of the ease of their interactions.  They drank rosé wine and shared plates.  The young woman on her own had a huge camera and kept taking pictures of the dishes and her tablemates.
            Watching them interact with the waiter showed that they knew little of our language.  One of the men in the group took the lead with describing what the dishes were.  He must have had some high school German.  Beyond “prost,” the rest were clueless.
            I was amazed at their confidence and comfort in this new place, despite the language barrier.  The young woman was even brazen enough to grab plates from the waiter’s station when they realized they were short the correct number of plates.
            Towards the end of their meal, they scattered about trying to get a group photo.  One of the men had a tiny tripod that he tried to attach to the oversized camera.  They positioned the camera, and then they positioned themselves, bumping shoulders and leaning in to fit in the shot.
            The friends lingered for almost two hours before leaving.  Once again, the place was quiet and all we could hear was the fountain in the lower terrace.

 POV 2-My Digital SLR Camera
            She relied on me like a pillar for over a year now.  I am her crutch.  I am her excuse to get out and possibly talk to people.  There was one before me, but I am a better model with improved features.  She rarely leaves me at home for fear of missing a moment.  The moments happen regardless of my presence, but she doesn’t seem to understand that.  I appreciate my status, but at some point she has to realize that living the moment is more powerful than capturing it on a little SD card.  Perhaps it is her nostalgic nature that relies on me.
            Although our time together has not been that long, I’ve seen a change in her.  The fact that I will soon be taking a group photo of her with people she has only known five days is representative of her change.  The change actually began before today.  Day one, she brought me out immediately to photograph the group at dinner.  Day two, she bought wine, meat, cheese, and crackers to share with people she had just met hours before.  I can see a comfort level in her that she doesn’t usually show this early on.  She drinks wine when she wants, and shares meals and sips with her new friends.  Conversation comes naturally rather than her desperately searching for something to discuss.  Even when there is silence, it is okay because her purpose is not to entertain; they seem to like her regardless.
            I worry for her because I see her growing dependent on others.  I find her using me to snap shots of the other group members.  It appears she is trying to hold onto every moment with each person.  She never needed that before; other than a few very close individuals.  Although I see positive changes, I’m worried she will have difficulty recovering when her new friends are no longer around.  What will happen when she is not around people that need this like she does?  I hope she can find comfort, even when this group is separated. 

 POV 3-Mine
            We searched the inner and outer city of Rothenburg for a biergarten, but found ourselves unsuccessful.  Apparently Germans don’t let the festivities begin until five pm.  Settling is not in our nature as travelers, but what are you to do when hunger drives you?  Listening to the trusty voice in our Rick Steves’s guidebook, we made our way inside a hotel restaurant.  They also have a biergarten, but of course we had not reached the hours of operation just yet. 
            Walking onto the terrace made me question whether the dining experience would be in our budgets.  It was an elegant hotel with empty tables perfectly set, waiting for the rush to arrive.  The outdoor seating was even more stunning.  Our level was equipped for eating while the terrace below was sectioned off as the biergarten.  When I create a mental image of a biergarten, I visualize picnic tables lined up for optimal seating.  Instead, you find a fountain, gardens, and a view above the town. 
            As we approached our assigned table, we only saw one older couple ordering their lunch.  They appeared to be locals, so at least that was a positive sign.  Our first gaze at the menu confirmed Rick’s recommendation.  Several dishes appealed to us, so a few of us decided to share some samples with each other. 
            While we munched on our “crisply green salad,” meat plate, and stuffed mushrooms, I felt content from the ease of the interactions with these people.  Some may argue that it was the wine that distracted my typical worries, but I know that even wine is not that potent.  I was sharing plates, sipping from other drinks, and simply taking in the pleasure of sharing this meal with company.  I’ve never felt so much joy from eating with people I’ve only known five days.  Perhaps it is the special circumstances that create this atmosphere.  Would I have connected with these people outside of this experience?  It is hard to answer the “what ifs” of life, but I found myself not really analyzing the situation.  I was just living.
            Apparently I wasn’t the only one taking in the moment because we decided a group photo was in order.  As I took a friend’s mini tripod and attached it to my gigantic camera, I hoped that for once, time would slow down.  Even though it was only day five of twenty-one, I knew time was going to pass too quickly.  I couldn’t begin to think of the day we would have to say goodbye.  At least I would have this photograph to immortalize this moment in my life.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Day 268: Think Like a Winner

I selected a different kind of picture today.  I decided to use a print screen to show you what I'm working on.  Rick Steves has a contest for his tour alum of 2012.  The goal is to create the best scrapbook website.  I am going to create the winning website for 2012.  Guess what the grand prize is....  A free tour.  

I am going to put everything into this website.  I was telling my dad that maybe this is the closure I need for my trip.  Coming home is almost like going through a death.  I found a quotation by Jefferson that I really like: "...[they] return to their home as to a place of exile and condemnation. Their eyes are forever turned back to the object they have lost, and its recollection poisons the residue of their lives."  He discusses how traveling brings wisdom and not happiness.  I can't help but agree.  It brings happiness while you are in the moment, but then when you return to the day-to-day, it seems blandHe is a smart man.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 267: Reading Machine

I read four books this weekend so I could start guided reading on Monday.  Believe it or not, this time crunch was not due to my procrastination.  Having to read all weekend was not so bad.  The only bummer is the restraint it has on going out or doing other things.  It involves a lot of sitting or laying down.  I tried to break up the sedentary time with walking Kendra and working on my writing in public.  I needed some human interaction. 

On one of my little breaks I did find another possible apartment for Paris.  It is under $1300 for a month.  It is a studio, but I don't really need much space, I need a prime location that is safe and affordable.  The more money I save on the accommodations, the more places I can visit on day trips.  I really would like to go to Bruges (in Belgium), the Normandy beaches, revisit Giverny, maybe see the trianon in Versailles, and who knows where else.

Tonight my plans include eating and watching a French movie.  Perhaps I'll even read...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 266: 99 Days Left

I am now under 100 days until I have successfully completed my mission with this blog.  I don't know what I will do afterwards.  I originally thought I'd stick with this because I find it valuable, but I my thoughts have changed.  I want to keep writing everyday, but I think it is time to apply that writing time towards my project.  The blog is beneficial because it holds me accountable.  I will have to find a way to stay accountable with my book.  I won't be able to post all of my writings because that will give my book away...  We will have to see.  I guess I have 99 days to figure it out.

Tonight I fixed duck confit with mushroom risotto and roasted vegetables.  It was delicious.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Day 265: Free Wisdom

This cute face was watching me this morning as I was getting ready for the day.  It makes it hard to leave in the morning when she looks so sweet.

I wanted to share a link with my readers that I thought was interesting.  On this site you can find 530 classes for free, and many of them offered by very reputable schools.  I think I will have to check it out and you should too. Click me so you can become a wiser human being.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Day 264: I Like Learning

Tonight was my first class of "Write your Life Adventures."  It is funny that I still get a little nervous about starting something new.  I feel no different than I did in kindergarten.  I remember putting on my new backpack, getting my back to school picture, and walking into the school full of opportunities.  In the end, each year I hoped I would make new friends.  I hope for tonight, as a student that has a masters and is perusing her personal interests, I make new friends.  Some things are a constant in our lives. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Day 263: Art Day

I don't know that I have much to write about today.  I did what I normally do.  It was an art day at school which means I get 40 extra minutes of planning.  These days are something special.  That was probably the highlight.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Day 262: Lofty Thoughts

I was just getting ready to go to bed tonight as I had a trailing thought about my trip this summer.  I remember going to the Neuwachstein Castle and being really disappointed because it was covered in scaffolding.  I think this castle is so picturesque and I really wanted to capture how fantastic it was.  Well, so much for that idea.  We also visited the Hohenschwangau Castle which is the neighboring castle (came before Neuwachstein).  For some reason, I was thinking about my favorite room in this castle.  It was the king's bedroom (I think).  Anyway, above his bed, you could find little slits in the ceiling and each night, his servants would light candles so the stars would glow.  This is way better than glow in the dark stars on your ceiling.  A lot of people thought that King Ludwig was mad, but maybe he was just really imaginative.  I'd love to go lay down now under man-made stars.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 260: 6 Day Work Week

I had my free time on Saturday, so that means Sunday is work day.  I planned, graded, read, e-mailed, and did everything else that I could think of.  I doubt that my work is done.  I always find when I go in Monday morning that I have about 20 more things that I need to do.  Busy, busy, busy.

Today's picture shows my inspiration board.  You can see my mosaic picture, "Europe Through the Back Door" philosophy, Paris map marked by our bus driver for site recommendations, poem shared by a friend, and my metro map.  I took the idea of an inspiration board from Flow by Daniel Pink. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Day 259: Beouf Bourguignon

I love Saturdays.  I wrote on Facebook the other day that I wish every day could be celebrated like a Saturday.  I like myself better on Saturdays.  This Saturday I ran a couple errands, but mostly just stuck around home.  I made my famous Beouf Bourguignon.  In my pictures today you can see a couple steps in the process.  The first is the braising of the beef.  You can't see the beef, but instead all of the tasty morsels that the beef leaves behind after being braised.  These are crazy flavor pockets that will infuse the rest later.  Then you see the beginning stewing phase.  Let's just say it turned out wonderfully.  I'm excited to have a bunch of leftovers.

I also did some Paris apartment searching.  Right now, this is my number one choice.  It is small, but it is in the kind of neighborhood I want to stay in.  I'm including a link to the apartment and the street view so you can see what I'm talking about.

Street View

I finished my night with some French movies.  I am a fan of Romain Duris, so I watched Heartbreaker and Russian Dolls.  I loved them both.  The first is pretty cliche chic flick, but I still liked it. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Day 258: The Zoo and School Famliy Get Together

I love going to the zoo, but I still feel it is not a sufficient home for the animals.  Gorillas are my favorite animals and every time I visit them, I think you can feel what they are thinking.  Their facial expressions and body language are so similar to ours.  I wonder what this poor girl is thinking.

After the field trip at the zoo, the staff went out to celebrate Friday and working with each other.  It was nice to socialize for awhile after a good day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Day 257: Curriculum Night

 I finally made it through this day.  It was much longer than I anticipated, especially after that wine dinner last night.  Overall I have to say that it went very well and parents seemed to be pleased.  I hope I can keep it that way.  Today's pictures show my eyes lately.  How sad.  I know I am getting older, but really?  Say no to baggy eyes and crow's feet.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Day 256: Wine Dinner

Although I don't feel like I have the time to go to a wine dinner, I am greatly looking forward to relaxing and enjoying an amazing meal paired with fine wine.  

While we were waiting to be seated, I browsed their wine selection.  I was amazed to find they had wine from the winery I visited in Burgundy this summer.  I love coming across those little connections that remind you of great times.  How funny that they have wine from that winery.

The menu for tonight includes:

Dinner paired by
Executive Chef Eddie Sweeney


Sous Chef Jesus Pasindo
French Onion Gougere
Caramelized onion cream
Filet Mignon Tartare
Capers, onions, dill pickle, sweet potato chip
Justin, Justification, 2009
1st Course
Smoked Salmon Chowder
Pumpernickel and dill croutons
Justin, Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010
2nd Course
Georges Bank Scallops
Butternut squash risotto, bacon vinaigrette
Justin, Chardonnay, 2010
3rd Course
Filet Mignon
Cauliflower puree, pommes frites, shallot sherry au jus
Justin, Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, 2009
4th Course
Foie Gras and Mushroom Hash
Honey gastrique, fried egg, ciabatta crostini
Justin, Obtuse, 2009
5th Course
Black Cherry and Chocolate Cake Crème Brulee
Justin, Isosceles, 2008

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Day 255: Tired Tuesday

It is only Tuesday.  Ugh.  I spent my night working on some things for school.  Nothing to exciting to write about.  I wonder if people spread their work out on the floor like I do.  Sometimes I just need to see it all before me so I can make a plan of attack.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Day 254: Another Manic Monday

I wish it was Sunday.  You could say that I had a case of the Mondays today.  The weekend was consumed with what felt like a lot of work.  I had some fun, but I feel that the fun/not fun balance was not equal.  I tried to do so much this weekend, and then I get to work today feeling that I have twice as much to do still.  It might be because I'm a little nervous about this week.  We have curriculum night and I'm trying to be as prepared as possible.  We also have a field trip, so that always puts on a little pressure.  It didn't help that I forgot my jump drive this morning and had to come back home to get it.

I think one of the reasons I am a little nervous about curriculum night has to do with my insufficient communication.  I just realized that parents can't access the students' grades yet, so they are probably wondering how their child is doing.  I am just now sending out the website, but it took me some time to figure out how I wanted to set it up and what I should share.  I'm a newbie, and I am trying to make sure I know what I am doing before I get ahead of myself.  I hope my parents are pleased with what I am doing...  I think I will feel better when I have made it through the week.

At least I have my Spanish to help distract me from being too overwhelmed.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Day 253: Eiffel Tower

I thought I'd share a little writing with you today.  I was hoping to accomplish much more, but my workload is too full.  In the piece below you can see my intro to my chapter on the Eiffel Tower neighborhood.  It is in the roughest draft form because I haven't even read back through it to see if it makes sense or to enhance my word choice.  I thought it might be interesting for you to see where I start and then how it transforms into something much better (hopefully).  Later I will post a revised version.

Chapter 5: Eiffel Tower
            The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower, I was not as wowed as many others are.  Comparing the images from books and videos to what I saw in front of me was unsatisfying.  The area seemed dirty and filled with cheap souvenirs.  I remember seeing lush greens on the Champ de Mars sprinkled with couples picnicking and taking in the icon.  When I was there I saw littered grass, ugly temporary fences keeping people off the grass, and smog from buses clouded my view.  My second return to the tower was about the same.  It was just not what I had imagined.   Perhaps my expectations were too high.
            It wasn’t till my third trip that I found appreciation for the INSERT STATISTICAL FACT Eiffel Tower.  I was in Paris for one day and I was ridiculous in my attempt to see all of my favorites of Paris.  I purchased a carnet and used it all in one day.  My hotel was on Rue Cler which is a great neighborhood if you are interested in staying near the Eiffel Tower.  Towards the end of my evening, I put my metro tickets away and prepared for my Paris stroll.  I could see the Eiffel Tower from the end of the block, so I started walking in that direction.  My walk took me through a new area that felt more residential and genuine.  As I reached the end of a new block, the Eiffel Tower peaked through, growing in size as I approached it.  The contrast of the picturesque sky, pale yellow homes, full green leaves, and vintage metal created a palate of beautiful colors.  Soon the buildings came to an end as I approached a park.  I had only seen the tower from the front and back, but never the sides.  I think that everyone’s first view should be from the east side.  This wonderful garden masks the roar from the tourists on the other side.  The trees frame the Eiffel Tower as you get closer and closer.  It felt as though this view was much more intimate.  It was this moment that made me realize how beautiful the architecture is.
            Entering the city on my most recent trip was enhanced by the symbol of Paris.  Now as I see it in the distance, I know that I am in Paris. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Day 252: Que es esto?

Crystal and I celebrated the summer coming to an end by going to the Festival of the Vine in Geneva.  Although leaves will soon be falling and bare stems will be left, it is wine season!  Well, I guess that I think every season is wine season, but this is the time for harvesting and making wine.  We had fun into the late evening hours.  

We thought this picture was kind of funny because the girl is kind of photo bombing us.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Day 251: Wedding Day

No, I didn't get married today, but my friend did.  Her ceremony was so beautiful.  It was nice because the judge seemed to know them on a more personal level, so the speech felt very genuine.  We were worried the weather was not going to hold out, but it ended up being just perfect.  Here you can see the bride and her dad.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Day 250: Scrubbing Day

I wonder if anyone else out there appreciates vacuum lines as much as I do.  I see those streaks and I think: clean.  Tonight was cleaning night at mi casa.  Every time I attack my place, Pippi Longstocking comes to mind.  I used to LOVE the song "Scrubbing Day."  I didn't find cleaning as fun as Pippi does, but I do feel productive.  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Day 249: Heavy Bones

I don't have too much to say about today.  I think that today's picture of Kendra represents how I feel right now.  I'm tired.  Worn out.  I want to work on writing, but I just don't feel the physical or mental motivation to do so.  I did work on my Spanish.  I think I may go lay down so I can look at the cielo. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Day 248: Hola. Me llamo Melissa.

Rosetta Stone arrived today in case you can't tell.  I like how it is set up so far.  I am worried about retaining the information.  I think I will be good at remembering how to say nouns in Spanish, but it is putting everything together that is the challenge.  So far, I can tell you:

Ella come.
El bebe.
Que es esta?
El hombre lee.
La mujer corre.  (Which I can't actually say corre).

and more...

I think the program approaches language in an interesting way. Rather than being el hombre=man, they never actually translate anything for you.  You learn by context and pictures.  Maybe this prevents your brain from constantly translating Spanish to English.  Instead, you just see it and know it.  I like how it combines vocabulary, listening, pronunciation, and a lot of practice.  I really hope this works.  Quiero hablar espanol.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Day 247: Paris Mosaic

I found free software today that allows you to create a mosaic with your own photos.  Here is the one I made for Paris.  This gives you an idea of what I want my book cover to look like.  The software is very easy to use.  Here is the link if you are interested: Mosaic Software.

I'm realizing today how much work will go into my book.  There is so much research I need to do.  Yes I know about Saint Denis, famous cabarets that artists flocked to, and the reasoning behind the name of the Latin Quarter, but I only hold little segments of what has happened.  When my reader is done with my book, I want them to understand the progression of events throughout Paris history.  I want them to understand the how and why of a place.  I guess that I must first understand the how and why.  I know a lot of whats, but not enough to string it all together.  I think this quotation by David McCullough describes what I will be doing, "You've got to marinate your head, in that time and culture.  You've got to become them."  You could also say I want them to share experiences with me.

I did a little revision today.  It will probably take 100 more till it sounds right.  Here is the updated ending paragraph to my introduction:
Neighborhood Mosaic is a combination of a guidebook and personal anecdotes.  The neighborhoods I have selected are only a few of the many that can be found in Paris.  These sites have come alive in my visits.  The abundance of history, art, and culture that exists in these places is always developing.  Although I attempt to bring air to the lungs of the city, you are the one that must breathe.  This book serves the intention of providing enough information to get you started so that you can inhale everything else that goes into making a journey memorable.  As you read through the anecdotes and historical references, I hope that you find yourself unable to resist the urge to buy a plane ticket so that you can stand in the footsteps of the city that has made an impact on many lives and is waiting to impact yours.