Wednesday, August 31, 2011


There she lies, Mount Hood, my gleaming goalpost for ten years, peeking through the clouds, waving, "Welcome to Portland, you're home, my little one!" My face smashed against the plane window wasn't enough to see through the white fuzz. Not until we descended below did the greenery of the Northwest appear, squared and peaceful streets and homes. I am from Portland, this I know.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Kathy & Sara test out Chicago's "Fun Pass"

Chicago public transport has a one day (24 hr) "Fun Pass" for only $5.75 each. We each got a pass and quickly headed out to test out the fun!

Riding the Brown Line...
Kathy was a natural. Sara had some trouble with inside voice and maintaining composure while riding. At times the two of them bursting into uncontrollable laughter nearly knocked themselves on the ground with mirth.

One street was bursting with second hand stores. Both Sara and Kathy had trouble breathing they were so excited. But no one fainted. That was a good thing.
In Chicago they pronounce it "day-men" but Sara thinks it should be "da-men," as in German for ladies. She is going to try to teach the Chicagoans the correct pronunciation. But she does not know if this will work since she has heard they are a bit stuck in their ways.
They watched as a wedding photographer destroyed the bride's and bridesmaids' hairdos with their group photos on the 30MPH wind Lake Michigan waterfront. Kathy said, "Weddings make people act like fools." Sara agreed. One bridesmaid's shoes were an inch too big.
Sara was goaded into buying the orange 1970s sweater. But she was secretly happy. She is a child of the 70s after all. Which is demonstrated in this photo.
They went to the top of a building on West Wacker drive. To the 36th floor. And there they discovered the meaning of life. But it is a secret. I am sorry.
Consensus: The "Fun Pass" was indeed fun, and a good value. And despite rumors that Chicago people are assholes, Kathy and Sara found them to be very nice instead. How refreshing. And fun.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Discovery: Job hunting is like trip planning!

In the past few weeks, I've scoured the internet, skimming and diving into websites posting possible future employment. In the beginning I had to get my bearings, discovering which sites held truly viable leads versus those which were only trying to sneak my from my pocket for a glimpse at their listings. It felt overwhelming at times, but I carried on.

Like planning a trip, choosing a job and new locale involves planning and adjustment on a multitude of levels until the details gel into a vision that becomes reality. Of course, it'll be a reality that's different from the one imagined, but nonetheless, the planning gets you there.

I noticed growing excitement and anticipation as I conducted my job search, wondering where I might end up. What type of practice and mixes of personalities and specialties? It felt like I was in university again, perusing my college catalog, figuring which classes were needed for each major, dreaming of the possibilities, which felt endless and breathtaking. To re-evoke those feelings is a gift and a surprise, hopefully again ending in a situation which provides challenges and new experiences.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Cycling Iowa with a 1979er

The last two weeks, I've spent reorienting myself with the U.S. and my family in rural Iowa, which is reminiscent of Germany and North Dakota in its quietude and simple beauty. Riding through the sherbet-lit landscape, I pump and glide and feel alive, yet in an alternate universe. Transitioning is as strange as travel itself- waking up unsure of surroundings and not knowing what's next. Anxiety rears its head, but I calm it down by hopping on my wheels and breathing deeply.

I make lists and check things off. Search the internet for jobs, not finding much out there, expanding my searches to more and more states, at the same time thankful for this time with my family and friends. I've barely written since returning, not for lack of thoughts, but mostly to allow myself some time to settle.

Riding the Bicycle Trail
Location: North Liberty & Coralville, IA (semi-suburbs of Iowa City)

In case you're thinking of cycling like a bat out of hell...
All I can figure is Iowa must have extra 20MPH speed limit signs sitting around, because they don't mark the trails (or roads) properly otherwise (so you lose the bike trail all the time at T-intersections). Iowa is a bit speed camera crazy, so next time out, I'm gonna see if they speed camera cyclists too. I wouldn't be surprised.
The bicycle is at least as old as my sister Carrie. That makes me happy.
I found this on Craig's List and didn't notice until I was riding around that it was a "World Tourist" which makes me like her even better.

I've never owned a Schwinn before. It's kind of fun. And I like recycling by buying used things.
Just off the bicycle trail. Every night here the sky enchants before it blacks for the night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Midwestern Interludes

In a coffee shop in Chicago, I eavesdropped on these ladies. On the left, she told her story of the failed youth, and on the right, the woman was opinionated strongly that things had always been messed up. If only I could have taped the conversation, it would be hours of fun now.
Public train Chicago
Headed deeper into the Midwest, I'm jumping ahead a bit to show you my new license plate.
Hanging out with my nieces in the car.

Downtown Iowa City had a sand sculpture day so we wandered down.
Everyone on the porch of my mom's house. It feels like North Dakota and that is a good thing. Only my sister Carrie (in Portland for now) is missing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crossing the waters- flying home to family

Flying home. First glimpse of North America in six months. Serene, gray-green waterline with a layer of clouds obscuring the landscape like crumble on top of apple crisp, bits of my homeland peeking out between the cotton. I wonder what I’m feeling. This time it’s rather blank. I can’t gather why, but I think it’s because I’ve moved home once before, when I returned from New Zealand. Then it was an event- a breathless return to my old home of Portland. Today I fly into Chicago. I’m entering the city on public transport (the CTA), planning to glide downtown. It feels more like I’m a tourist in my own country. I intend to treat Chicago like any foreign city, and see if I can get a grasp of it, covering the urban sprawl by bicycle, foot and metro.

My first welcome back to the states was in Amsterdam, with the strange coincidence that I was flying through Schipol Airport at the same time as Doug & Phyllis Benson, my mom’s cousins and close family. They were returning to Jamestown, ND via Minneapolis from Olso, and me from Berlin to Chicago. I had a scant sixty minutes between flights, and they had about ninety. We thought perhaps we’d run into each other. On arrival in Amsterdam, I checked the monitors for my departure gate, and our flights were only three gates apart. So it was possible.

After speedwalking the airport halls, zipping through passport control (no questions, even though it would show that I’ve been in Europe for almost two years straight, minus seven days or so), I hurried to my gate, haggard a bit but hopeful that I might see them, watching in case they were walking too.

I neared their gate- passengers were lined up to enter the closed-off secured area. I scoured the line, and just before the gate, spotted Doug and Phyllis! We had less than five minutes, but it was still amazing to see them and take a picture- hard to believe that we managed to meet up. Somehow that made me feel like I really was going home, and I’m glad. Family is important.

Doug and Phyllis first came to visit us in Alexandria, Minnesota after my dad died. They came in a camper with their kids, and brought me along to Doug’s barbershop singing event. I still remember hearing Doug's group sing “Bridge over Troubled Water”… perhaps significant forever. And so, I go home.

(Doug and Phyllis and Sara's Amsterdam Airport Reunion)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The eve of departure

(Location: Cafe Mokofuk in Berlin, contemplating the surreal nature of life)

This morning I awoke in mass confusion to my cell phone alarm at 7.30AM. "Time to wake up!" It speaks. Not quite springing out of bed but moving, I got myself dressed in my travel outfit and headed downstairs for coffee and breakfast.

Matuesz's brother, Mikel, was already in the kitchen, making coffee and arranging bread, cheese, meats and lettuce for breakfast and lunch sandwiches. The bread was freshly made by their father last night (in the bread machine, but still good). We sat at the table and chatted. Their mom came down, snapping photos and generally happy.

The sunlight streamed in the kitchen. My day of departure.

I'd arrived three days prior, and taken part in a family wedding reception, a name-day party and a day of sight-seeing in Poznan. All delightful. Just over two years ago, I'd met Mateusz on a minibus in Malaysia, the first Polish person who I'd interacted with. When I realised I was going to be going through his town, I emailed him. He invited me to stay with them and thoughtfully invited me to really be part of their family for a few days.

I'll have to reflect and write more, but suffice to say, I felt like family, and it was a perfect ending to my time in Europe. Poland reminds me of my roots, with the farmland and lakes, and people who are just regular nice folks. I mean that in the best way possible.

We drove to the train station this morning, Matuesz hopping out to make sure I went to the right track, and I waved him goodbye in his lime-green auto. Until we meet again.

(If you read the link to Mateusz's name, you can see how we ran into each other in Kuala Lumpur accidentally after our first meeting on the bus, something that occurred again yesterday when I was wandering around Poznan. I came up a street, and looked up and there he was saying, "Dr. Schultz!" We are not sure why we keep running into each other. It does not make sense. I am supposed to try to figure this out, but I think the chances of my enlightenment on this topic are slim. And no, my friends don't call me Dr. Schultz, only when they are harassing Polish guys.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sometimes the best places are right under your nose.

For my last day in Gdansk, I'd planned to hang out near to my hostel, in the park and the art museum.

Polish toilet sign. I have never thought of myself as a circle, but I guess I will start now.
In Olwia park. Which also housed the modern art museum, which is free on Fridays. Yay.
Inside the modern art museum.
I love these colors, and I think I would like to paint my doors aqua too.

Sometimes you find beautiful things in the bathroom.

Cafe Delfin. I sat here and got buzzed off my one glass of red wine.

Lunch/dessert. It was caramel-something and really tasty.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Cafe Delfin, Gdansk

Trucks huffing outside. The swish of the swinging door to the bar. Clicking. Unintelligible language. Light wafting from the picture window inscribed CafĂ© Delfin. A moth who can’t find her way out running over and over into the clear barricade. A film projector, cord cut, now decoration- seems perfect design with the moth flitting about. I think of movies in elementary school - the dust in the projector light. Six blush brown-edged roses perched in a clear vase, beckoning romantic dreams. Two waitresses: one young, one old. The clank of a glass. Roughing of chair legs across the tiles. Electronic ambience drops from the corner speaker. A phone song rings, interrupting my reverie.

Old cranberry colored theatre seats lining the wall match my dry red, which is making me dizzy at two in the afternoon. I finish a pen off. Satisfaction. The swinging door again. Paying at the counter, an old man in a vest, greenish khakis, and a plaid shirt, all hanging loosely off him, slides his wallet in his back pocket and shuffles to the bathroom.

No English. I’m alone in my thoughts, alone at my table, alone in my worry for the moth who is resting on the window sill barricaded by glass. I want to move her, but I am scared to touch her. She rests, waiting to garner the energy to bang the glass again.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gdansk: where all the tourists go

I'm having a little trouble finding inspiration in Gdansk and surrounding area. Which is ok. Sometimes places are like that, and it's the contrast that makes other places feel special.
There were so many souvenirs for sale, and the crowds so heavy that it felt like Munich in summer. After the last few months of sparse tourists, I felt claustrophobic navigating the hoards of people moving in slow motion en masse like half-frozen Heinz ketchup. To get away, to breathe, was mostly what I was thinking.

Not that there weren't some pretty sights...

The central train station is one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Yesterday I took a water tram to Hel peninsula. I went an hour early to buy tickets in Sopot but they were already sold out, so I took a train to Gdynia and tried again, and ended up not going to Hel town, but to a neighboring town of Jastarnia. Everyone wanted to go to Hel, and the tickets were again sold out.

The ferry was crowded with screaming and running kids, and I couldn't help but feel happy I didn't have one of my own. I sat and wrote and stared at the sea. Arrival on Hel, I expected it to be tourist central, but I was surprised to find it felt quiet and peaceful. So I continued my pilgrimage to Hel, walking to the tip of the Hel peninsula and then catching a train back to my hostel later in the day. The price to go to Hel and Back: 45zl (approx 11 Euros).

There were multiple bunkers on the Hel peninsula, installed mostly by the Germans. Poland gets the award for most bunkers seen after Albania on this trip.
The Hel peninsula was aptly named, covered in billboards (WTF?) and sun-worshipers.