Sunday, July 19, 2009


today i wandered around exarchia for awhile.

athens, like many big cities, is divided up into smaller districts. really they're just big neighborhoods. it's the same kind of thing as in seattle, eugene, tucson, and other cities in the states. so exarchia is the anarchist stronghold. it goes beyond eugene's whitaker and tucson's dunbar springs. in exarchia- the cops don't even go in. there are certain understood boundaries around the area and cops aren't welcome within these boundaries. cops adhere to this because it's understood that, should they enter, revolt will follow. it's interesting because in other areas- cops have a really large and overtly dominating presence. near the parliment building (where apparently prostests are held on average twice a week) there is always a bus full of riot gear ready to go. serious riot gear- i could see helmets and shields and imagine there's a lot more that they don't leave hanging in the window. then as you walk along- there are cops stationed at nearly every block, in twos or threes. sometimes with little pistols in holsters like they have in the states- sometimes with full on machine guns ready to go.

but here's the thing- it's really all for show. before the riots of last winter, when a 15 year old anarchist boy was shot and killed by police, it had been since the 1980s since anything of that severity happened. here's a little bbc piece about the situation overall. the cops here are trained to be really threatening but not actually kill anyone. same as in the states, i guess. but still- the presence is different. i passed two riot gear busses today, totally ready to go. and the guys walking around with their machine guns out- how can you not hate that and want to fight back? i'll be unpacking it all for a long time, mentally speaking. these are just first impressions for now.

i asked a bit about it all and was told that the police presence hasn't increased since the riots last winter- it's always been this heavy and is nothing new. but i think exarchia has increased its notoriety, anyway.

the grafitti is insane there. the ground floor of every single building there is literally covered in grafitti. stencils, posters, tags, messages in greek, english, and spanish. covered. i took tons of pictures and i promise i'll post them when i'm back home.

the best thing all day- really all week since i've been here- the most beautiful thing i saw in this place was a lovely little guerilla park, built on the site of an old parking lot. d.i.y. guerilla gardening at it's finest- the folks in exarchia got together, decided to make a garden, cleared out most of the concerte- dumpstered wood and the things they needed and planted a wonderful park full of benches, tables, interesting bits of artwork, trees, flowers, and edible things... i saw many tomatos. i was moved to tears, sitting there, actually. after walking block after block of dirty streets and grafitti everywhere that says "fuck the police" and other similar messages of anger, frustration and hate- this little park was a testament to people coming together to create something beautiful. and honestly- this tiny park in the middle of anarchist exarchia was the cleanest place i'd been in all of athens- even the touristy areas where my hostel is located. and there was a big sign at one corner that said, "love is possible." maybe it doesn't make sense how i've explained it here- why it was so moving and emotional. it just meant a lot to me that here, in athens, on the other side of the planet from my little world in tucson- there are some other anarchists out there who are trying to build something positive and loving in the midst of so much anger and frustration. this little park really inspired me and made me understand that i have like minded people all over the world- people who are sick of the status quo and sick of the way our world priveleges the rich and institutionally powerful- and who are trying to build something good in spite of it all and not succomb to hate. it's too easy to succomb to hate and really, love is the stronger force.

and so tomorrow i set off into the sunrise. i'm looking forward to being home. it's been a good trip. i saw many things and learned a lot. but now i'm out of money and feeling increasingly guilty about borrowing from my mommy, who doesn't have so much to lend out. anyway, i'm back to work in a couple weeks and things will even out again. all the same- i'm surrounded by these rich american kids in this hostel- kids who've been everywhere without batting an eye and who are just here to drink and get laid. grrr... but i must not succomb to hate.

i hope that whoever you are, wherever you are, you are happy and enjoying yourself. if you're not- go take a walk and smell some flowers or something.



Friday, July 17, 2009

athens love

when i first arrived in athens- i was scared. so much noise- cars, buses, motorcyles, taxis all honking. people yelling greek over the general chaos of the streets. there aren't really traffic lights like we have in the states and the way the streets are ordered at all mystifies me. i wanted to curl up away from it all and i wondered if coming here was a mistake.

but now- i kinda get it. and i'm starting to love it. it's rough and gritty. it's passionate and emotional like the way greek is spoken. there's grafitti everywhere- anarchist and other kinds. but lots and lots of anarchist grafitti. and really- it's everywhere i've been. and i've walked a lot in every direction. it's a huge city and by the time i leave i will have only covered a fraction of it- but still, i walk hours every day in new directions. and the grafitti is everywhere i go.

there are stray dogs and cats all over the place. the kitties come up to me when i talk to them. the dogs laze about in the sun.

the anarchist scene here centers on athens polytechnic university- located in the district of athens called exarchia. i went there today and walked around. tomorrow i'll go back for more.

also today i walked up to the acropolis. it's right in the middle of the city at the center of athens and it's the highest point in the city. i could see all the way to the sea, with boats winking in the distance.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

nevers-> paris-> dublin -> athens

whew. it's been a whirlwind of places and things lately.

i left nevers on saturday. goodbye tiny nevers!

then i went to paris. stayed saturday to tuesday in a little hostel with my friend from nevers (via the oregon days) and had a great time seeing things and walking al over the city. paris is really an incredible place. i see now why it gets talked about so much. i saw some wonderful things. two hightlights were the catedral notre dame of paris and the louvre. both buildings were insanely huge and beautiful. there is nothing like either of them in the states- nothing that even comes close. i took tons of pictures but i think i'll wait to post them when i'm back in the states and not on a public computer in athens.

and of course i got my picture taken in front of the eiffel tower.

then on tuesday i flew to dublin for a layover on the way (although totally out of the way) to athens. it was green and raining. after the days of walking long hours all over paris, i was happy just to sit and eat airport food and watch the people going by. i got on the plane and was seated next to this really nice older irish couple. before long- he was buying round after round of beers and i was pretty drunk by the time we got to athens. it was great fun.

i got to athens on tuesday night. the hostel is in a good location- literally right behind the acropolis and there are lots of interesting things all around. i figured out where the riots of last winter happened and i think i'll set out to explore that area tomorrow morning.

some unexpected financial trouble hit. or maybe i should say- "doh! i messed up!" and so after a call to mommy- i've changed my ticket to go back to tucson 10 days early. i'm happy about it. now that the new ticket has been procured and i'm done figuring things out and sitting on the phone on hold with various airline related folk- its all good and i can set out and enjoy my last four days in athens. i miss tucson- friends, cats, cozy little apartment in the sun. and my bed. i really miss my bed.

so that's it for now i guess.



Friday, July 10, 2009

on being free

long ago, a wise man called yusuf islam said, "if you want to sing out, sing out! if you want to be free be free."

this has been my theme song since before i ever heard it. i don't care what anyone thinks about my hairy legs, the way i dress, whether or not i speak proper english (or french!), or any other external aspect of me. the only thing i've ever cared about is being completely myself and being a good person. that's really the only thing i care about. moving through life the way i need to, spending time with the good folk of the world, and being happy on my own so that i can be of some use to the world and bring some good into it without dwelling on all the ways i am superficially inadequate in the eyes of others. i've never considered social convention a valid reason to change oneself. in fact- social convention generally originates in some ridiculous primitive human urge anyway. who cares what everyone else thinks? everyone else is why we've had wars and plastic surgery and razor burn.

i think the secret to happiness is that, well, first of all- you'll never stop having times of stress and difficulty. there is no state of perpetual "happiness" where we'll never be sad or lonely or depressed again. but beyond that- i think the secret is in figuring out what you need as an individual and setting about getting those needs met so that when difficulties arise, we are strong and able to meet whatever challenges life throws at us. no one else can do it for you. we all have needs. basic physical ones- like food, water, shelter, clothing. anyone who has spent time with children knows that we can help one another meet our physical needs and anticipate those of the folks around us. but the harder to define needs- like occasions of solitude and compansionship, mental stimuation, moments of spiritual communion and contemplation- those needs we can only define for ourselves. if we are unhappy because we need solitude but don't set about finding time to be alone, our unhappiness is our own and no one else is to blame. if the unhappiness lies in the company one keeps- there are 6 billion other folks out there in the world waiting to meet you.

just some things rattling around my brain lately, i guess.

we are responsible for our own happiness. only the individual knows their own soul and the things that it needs to be free.

so if you wanna sing out- sing out!

and if you wanna be free be free. (cuz there's a million ways to be, you know that there are).

i go to paris tomorrow and on to greece on tuesday. the french leg of the trip has been quite the experience. i'm ready to move on.

and i miss tucson. friends, monsoons, cats, and my quiet little apartment. soon... about three weeks to go.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

tales of a french wedding

my nearly non-existant french was sorely tested over the weekend, as i attended festivities in honor of my host's sister's wedding. the french are insane drinkers and serioulsy- everyone, old women, young children, bride and groom, and the majority of the guests- were up dancing and drinking until the sun came up.

and i ate duck. fatty duck, i guess it's known in english. it was okay.

the highlight was a 13 year old kid i met who has learned english from watching american rappers on youtube. initially he walked up to me and said, in heavily accented english, "what's up, man? i'm a mother f*cker." he then continued on, as i laughed hysterically, doubled over because it was so funny. his french family members who were nearby stared at us and seemed unable to understand why i was so hysterical. he spoke pretty good english, but really the only things he knew how to say were horribly offensive and rude. and he had a really thick french accent. it was one of the funnier things that i have encountered of late.

another funny thing that happened- well, at the time it wasn't funny at all, but now it is- we stayed the night at the bride's house, only she and her husband weren't there because they'd stayed someplace else. so at about 6 am- really we'd only just fallen asleep, there came several knocks on the door and shouts from outside. i was on the couch in the living room and couldn't hope to talk with them in french so i just sat there, figuring the noise, which by this point also included repeated sounding of a doorbell that sounded like a fire alarm, would rouse my french speaking friends. it didn't. i sensed that, inevitably, whoever was outside was going to find their way in and i began to plot my escape. before i could move, however, a drunk frenchman began crawling through the open kitchen window. i sat up on the couch and watched, horrified, as he was followed by more drunk frenchmen, a couple children, and a pregnant french women. someone opened the door and more drunk french people streamed into the house. seriously- there were about 20 drunk french people who just appeared out of nowhere, as if from a clown car. i just stared at them. one of them asked me if i slept well and i said no. they were there to attack the newly married couple and when they discovered that the couple had slept elsewhere, they began to leave. for me, however, the damage was already done- i couldn't get back to sleep on the couch for fear that drunk frenchmen might stream through the kitchen window again at any moment. i cursed the french to myself- their insanely difficult language, their drinking habits, and their reluctance to speak the english that i know all of them speak. i knew later the event would be funny and would make a good story- but at the moment- i hated france.

my french has progressed exponentially since my arrival, but i still talk like a 2 year old and if it wasn't for kindly middle-aged women who take pity on my and my ineptitude, i would get nowhere around here.

other highlights- my host's grandmother was an eighty something year old english woman who moved to france in her late teens and had 11 children. she told me one of the things she had yet to do in her life was to eat a real american hamburger. she was pretty amazing and was among the dancers up at 5 am still drinking and dancing after the wedding.

speaking of dancing- the band at the wedding specialized in covering ameican music. it was pretty ridiculous and highly amusing.

i leave france a week from today. saturday i'll go up to paris and spend a few days before i fly out to athens. it's been a good run overall. lots of lessons about life and being happy and being me. i miss my house and friends and cats in tucson. but time away has been good for me. what i needed? i guess. i expected to feel completely relaxed the entire time i've been gone and to have none stop epiphanies and adventures. there have been adventures and epiphanies- but also a lot of fatigue and frustration.

life is full of the drama of human beings. it's just the way we are. we are emotional creatures sending out our wierd vibes and mixed messages and confusing the people around us, who in turn do their thing and confuse us. it's just the way it is with human beings and the only way to escape it all is to isolate oneself and hole up in a cabin in the woods with no contact. but i don't want that. maybe for a few days or something, but along with other people's drama comes other people's beauty and joy and passion. and i like beauty and joy and passion. along with shared glances at just the right moment and the peace of friendly silences among people who know eachother well. i like all those things and i like friends.

when i left i felt like i was escaping other people, escaping my own emotions, feelings of inadequacy stress. big suprise- france has people in it, too, and drama between them. and i still have my own turbulent emotions and stress and inadequcy. so it must be that these things exist everywhere and my job it to deal with it inside myself. and so my growth as a human being continues.

mostly i just want a giant cup of coffee with soy milk in it and 50 cent refills. that's what i miss most about america.


Friday, July 3, 2009


random shot of a street in geneva

and another one, from near the catedral saint-pierre

the coolest carosel i've ever seen in my life- in the botanical gardens in geneve

lake leman. it's a massive lake in the center of geneva and reminded me of where the columbia meets the ocean or puget sound or some other giant ocean-like body of water in the middle of a city. the lake was very helpful because-since i like to wander off following my whims and not pay attention to where i'm going- it was easy to get my bearings. it was sort of like seattle- the water is at the bottom of town and everything is up hill from there.

sweet anti-fascist stencil art from geneva. this nice lady is throwing her swastica in the trash. good idea!

i got back to nevers yesterday from a few days in geneva. i had planned on just being there a night and then cruising south from there- but once i got there i quickly realized that if i didn't spend at least a few days there wandering the city, i'd regret it for the rest of my life. it was an amazing place.

there was anarchist grafitti all over the place and i found a really cool infoshop/bike coop/housing space that was covered in all sorts of interesting grafitti and posters. also generally there were lots of socially aware stickers and spray painted things all around and i was very happy about it. geneva is a unique place and very different from anywhere i've ever been. to begin with- switwerland is a pretty diverse place. there is no "swiss" language- people speak italian, german, or french depending on where they are. and most folks have some english proficiency as well- fortunately for me. beyond the international nature of switzerland itself- geneva is home to the world hq of the united nations, unicef, the wto, and a bunch of other international agencies. so there are all these international diplomatic types wandering around everywhere. and students. i stayed in this great hostel that was next door to a grad school for international relations. dude who ran the hostel told me that the place had 130 rooms and there were people there from 55 different countries. seriously- it was like nothing i've ever encountered.

then there are the rich folks. geneva is a popular tourist destination for rich people and initially i hated it there because the rich people were everywhere, in their fancy clothes and shopping at all those crazy expensive places- louis vitton, chritian dior, crap like that. ugh. who cares? oh yeah, rich people. i took pride in my traveler's stench, beat up tennis shoes, and the fact that i'd only brought one change of clothes with me. there were tons of super-fake, magazine beautiful people everywhere and i hated them. but i made myself get over it because geneva is a big place and there was a lot to do and see without getting caught up in that. and just for the record- it is an expensive city to be in, but if you ever make it there, cheap hostels abound. it just takes a bit of research to find them. i had a really sweet set up- a decently priced room all to myself with a little kitchen in it. so i just got groceries most of the time and that saved me a lot of money. plus the hostel had this cafeteria-cafe thing in it that was very reasonable. but it was really wierd to be travling in my style and walking where all these disgustingly rich people were.

um... moving on from bashing the wealthy...

hightlights of the trip-

the botanical gardens. seriously one of the most beautiful things i've ever seen in my entire life. i wandered for hours, smelling flowers, getting lost in greenhouses full of the most exotic plants, and walking barefoot in the grass.

by chance, i got there the year of jean calvin's 500th birthday so there was all this stuff around about the reformation. i learned a lot about it all and hung out in the catedral saint pierre, where calvin preached. i guess he lived in that part of town as well, so i was walking the same streets that he did. geneva was a refuge during the reformation- people were getting burned at the stake and drawn and quartered all over the place in france, germany, and england- but geneva was much more accepting. it was all very interesting- but i was struck again by the total absense of any women in the history of the whole thing. i went to this museum of the reformation that had room after room of historical information- but only about poeple with penises. perhaps i'm beating a dead horse here- but it still annoys me that 500 years ago- "progress" for me would have been being able to read because my husband decided that i should be able to teach the kids about the bible. i mean- it's great that someone decided the bible should be translated so that folks didn't have to rely on the priests to know latin and greek and everything. i just get tired of knowing that i wouldn't have been anything just cuz i don't have a penis. and i was already annoyed about that sort of thing because all the rich people epitomized everything i hate about traditional gender roles- all the women were super dressed up and showing a lot of skin while the men were fully clothed and got to walk around in sensible shoes. pretty disgusting.

all in all, the disgustingly wealty aside, geneva was a great place and i really loved it. i hope some day i can be there awhile longer to really dig into it, but i got a good start. immediately after arriving there, the strange justaposition of anarchist grafitti and rich people told me there was a lot more to the city than the private banks and super expensive hotels for the wealthy. indeed, every direction i went, i found myself surrounded by interesting people and beautiful architecture. there are random fountains, statues, and parks all over the place and ordinary genevans seem to do a lot of kicking it outdoors. the lake was beautiful and there were many grassy park type areas all along the lake. every time i left my hostel, i tried to set off in a new direction and see as much as i could. but in the end, it was time to go and i had to say au revior to unexplored sections of the city.

that's it for now. i had written more but the internet crapped out on me and i lost it, so this will have to do.