Julianne’s Blog

this is my blog. this is the only blog there will be.

Parisian Pachyderms and Shiny Pants 12 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 12:52 AM
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Since my visit last week to Paris, I’ve come down with a sinus infection. The same thing happened the last time I visited Paris, leading Jason to shrug and mutter “Paris syndrom,” as if that’s what I get for leaving the village. That’s basically the opinion of all the villagers (myself included), but luckily it’s not too bad. Gigi happened to have a pile of antibiotics to share, and the old lady Jeanine down the street (by the way, there’s only one street in Le Vignaud) gave me some tablets that she says will make anything feel a little better, and also help me sleep. Self-medication is always more fun when it’s done in a foreign language.

Some family members have been concerned about my future. About how I will Be An Adult. Honestly I’m not too worried about it, but to show that I am at least giving it some thought I have come up with a goal I’d like to accomplish by the time I’m 30. This was inspired by a dream induced by Jeanine’s mysterious meds. And, all my dear aged relatives, by the time I’m 30, in those eight years, I will ride an elephant. Don’t know where, under what circumstances, but that is my goal for adulthood.

The last time I rode an elephant was when I was about 4. I remember we were visiting my mom’s father, probably in New York, and while most of my memories are actually from photographs and I don’t recall what my dress looked like I remember how the dress felt. And I know that on that day I also rode an elephant.

Back to the business at hand, everyone will rejoice in the knowledge that I finally got new pants, and these are good ones. Incidentally, almost the same as Gigi’s pants. They’re fuscia sateen and when I skipped out to the bread truck this morning for my croissants the elderly neighbors didn’t much know what to say, although the various chickens milling about in the street were attracted.  I’m sure they just chalked it up to the eccentricities of Americans. The old man across the street was feeling pretty chatty (or should I say the hue of my pants whipped him into a conversational frenzy), but the morning air’s sociability was thwarted by my utter inability to understand a sigle word he said. I felt like talking, but I didn’t feel like doing it in French. My brain just was not going that way; I guess I was too distracted by the bag of croissants I held and the baguette I’d stuck under my arm.

And speaking of Americans, Izzy just re-arrived in Le Vignaud, so now we are three. Gigi has gone up to England for a few days so I am holding down the Gueret fort, making sure her apartment maintains that nice lived-in atmosphere. It’s been too cold and rainy for bathing in the lake, so I’ve made good use of Gigi’s shower. And her place actually has a roof, so there’s no dirt blowing in or rain dripping down from that giant hole above the attic. So with my new pants and my clean feet, I’m starting to feel like a city girl again, the city of Gueret (which is funny for those who have seen Gueret; it’s like Metairie but it’s my metropolis). We’ll just see how the pants match the backpack.

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Put your backpack on your shoulder 3 June 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 12:34 PM
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One of my favorite souvenirs from traveling is my toiletries bag. The bag itself is stupid, but the contents remind me of so much. There’s the toothpaste I bought in Madrid, my Polish shampoo, the Slovenian mouthwash, the Hungarian dental floss, Austrian lotion, the French sunscreen. My wardrobe has also been collected from around Europe, but all those bottles in foreign languages really make me realize how far I’ve gone.

 

I was in Interlaken, Switzerland about a week ago, talking to some girls in the hostel. One of them said they’d been to Slovenia, and when I asked where she said the capitol city but she couldn’t pronounce the name. I was somewhat disgusted that she had spent 3 days in Ljulbljana and couldn’t even say the name. Way to make an effort to experience the culture. Well, the other girl told her it’s “lube-lee-on-yah.” I rolled my eyes but kept silent, until she elaborated that “J” is pronounced as a “Y” in German. German?! It was hard for me not to shout when I informed her that the 2 million inhabitants of that country speak Slovenian. It doesn’t much surprise me that these two modern day Margaret Meads were both American. If anyone ever wonders why Americans sometimes have bad reputations as ethnocentric ignorant travelers and citizens of the world, I feel like I have found a clue.

 

Americans really are invading Europe… MY Europe! I earned Europe. There were large portions of my time here that were not fun at all. They were cold, dark, and lonely. They were tight budgets and bad food. They were showing up in a new city at night and not knowing where I was going to sleep. But it was never a problem, because the hostels were almost never full. But now, I have to make reservations for weeks in advance! I don’t like knowing where I’m going to be in three weeks. I am not a tourist, I am a traveler, and there is an important distinction.

 

Czech interlude plus practicalities of the road 4 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 9:26 AM
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One difficulty of traveling is laundry. It’s not really a problem to wash socks and underwear in the sink, but it does get annoying to do it daily. Also, if I am traveling the next day I have to pack my damp clothes into my bag, so I try to put out my clothesline when I’m staying somewhere for a couple nights. With my elastic clothesline I carry a drain plug, detergent, and myrrh oil to scent my clothes. But really, sometimes just rinsing the clothes makes them shrink back to their original size and feel clean.

Traveling can be hard on a hygiene routine too. Hostel showers generally suck, so there’s not much incentive to bathe. There’s hair on the floor, the water automatically turns off every 9 seconds, and there are no shelves or hooks to hang your clothes or toiletries. Also, with a 32 L daypack as my bag, I can only carry a few of my most loved familiar products. My mom sends me travel sized bottles filled with my favorite organic lavender lotion. I have a few bottles of essential oils for hygiene purposes, and they also do double-duty as aromatherapy (rosewood oil is anti-infectious, anti-fungal, a local anesthetic, and it smells good). One thing I don’t carry is shampoo, because I can always find or borrow some and it’s not something I’m particular about. It’s fun buying new toothpaste in a different countries, although I could only find unwaxed dental floss in France. I’ve always heard about how wonderful European pharmacies are, and it’s true, but I don’t have enough space to buy all the intriguing lotions and cremes I see on the shelves! Even more so than with my clothing, I make sure that every beauty product I carry is exactly what I want, so I can pretend to pamper myself.

Coming to Izzy’s is great for a lot of reasons. I can relax, let my backpack hang out, and, perhaps most importantly, take a bath. A real honest to goodness bath. Hot water, some lavender oil, and me with a crossword puzzle. It’s easy to loose an hour in there and I’m always glad to do so. Even Buddy the dog comes out of the tub smelling nice and feeling silky (you may remember him as the astro-dog who ate my Dutch brownies).

So now I am back in Prague, having fun with Izzy’s even though I saw her 4 weeks ago in Marseille. When I arrived at her apartment we immediately set out for a friend’s cottage on top of a mountain overlooking the city. We all had a great time drinking beer and grilling sausages around the fire with some Czechs. The dog had a great time rolling around in some dead animal he found in the woods. We didn’t sing, but there was an iPod playing. The rest of the weekend is spent eating, drinking Coke, and watching TV. Just the break I need before heading east to Poland!

 

Viva Bavaria! 1 May 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 11:03 PM
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Well, I was planning on going to Prague today, but an irresistible opportunity came up late last night. After going out to a pub (and blogging) I was sitting in the hostel office with Ian, the friendly British employee, and Jemma, the blonde Australian backpacker. They mentioned this beer festival going on in a town about 1 hour outside of Nuremberg, and it seemed like a quintessential Bavarian experience.

So after changing my plans with dear Izzy, the three of us set out today. On the train we rendez-vous-ed with Ian´s giant German friend Chris (the third Chris I´ve met during my 4 days in Germany). We made a pit stop for some ice cream sundaes, and then continued on to our stop. From the train we could see the festivites under way–on top of a very big hill. A burg even. It was an agonizing 45 minutes up that damn hill, with not nearly enough shade or water, but finally we made it. Hundreds of Bavarians had congregated on top of this hill in the middle of nowhere, and there were tents everywhere selling beer, bratwurst and nearly every other meat product you could want, pretzels, and candy–including one man selling 4 different flavors of cotton candy. I have to say, the erderbeer cotton candy was delicious.

I do love cotton candy

So the four of us laid out on the grassy hill, enjoying the sunshine and cold beers while we watched the frolicking Germans and had no end of fun ridiculing the teenagers. There were giant pretzels, 18″ sausages, steak sandwiches, and any number of things to make you sick. Eventually it was time to go, to catch the last train back to Nuremberg, and we decided to walk to the town next to the one we started from. We happily set off down the hill, further down, further down… Still no train station… Just a few minutes left till the last train left… We started running… Faster… Still no station! I was out of breath and my knee, which had been hurting all day from walking, was really throbbing at this point. But we kept running, although I was in dead last. Eventually, around a corner, we saw the train passing, and then eventually stop, but I was still a ways off. I made the train with about 4 seconds to spare and just about collapsed into a seat. But we made it back to Nuremberg and cooked a yummy pasta dinner all together.

This hostel is actually booked full for tonight, with no space for me or Jemma, but Ian´s taken care of us. He set up 2 cots in a spare basement room, so we actually have complete privacy, and since these aren´t official beds we are both staying tonight for free! We´re using the office bathroom, which has the only shower where the water runs continuously without automatically shutting off after 9 seconds. And the bathroom is stocked with toiletries left behind by other travelers, so I finally got to wash my hair. In a bit we are going to fill up some buckets with warm water and rosewood oil and give ourselves pedicures while drinking some vodka&cokes.

It´s really great to meet someone so generous, and this has really been a perfect experience. Ian has traveled extensively himself, and he is happy to help me and Jemma without expecting anything in return. I liked Nuremberg yesterday, but after today it will always be a very special memory for me.

 

Smarch 27 March 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 4:29 PM
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It was the 13th hour of the 13th day of the 13th month… It’s SMARCH!

Another month, another blog posting. I’m never online for more than a few minutes, just enough to check emails and never long enough to post anything. But today is my birthday so we’ve taken the day off of work (also because it’s raining) so I am able to go to the library in little town Bonnat to use the computer. Also we are doing laundry! I’ve been wearing my hoodie for at least 23 hours a day, every day since the last time it was washed in January. And it’s kinda gross. But I’m cold without it, which is why it hasn’t been cleaned in 2 months.

I’m still in France with Jason working on his house. We’ve been replacing a section of his roof. It involved putting up new beams and all new woodwork, although I didn’t really participate in that project. I was scrubbing the mold off the terracotta tiles that we are now putting back up on the roof. It’s slow and boring, but its almost done. Then there’s just the other 3 sections of roof, and putting in floors, and getting electricity and plumbing, and making walls, and you know, it’s almost done. Uh huh.

This morning (really closer to noon) Jason made crepes with lemon juice and plenty of vanilla sugar, just how I like them. We’re going to make an apple pie this evening, although our official pie maker Clint went back to Chicago after his stint in Le Vignaud. Also there will be a pizza with homemade crust (finally those years working at Papa John’s are paying off) with my new favorite topping: capers. Really quite delicious. At the farmers’ market in the bigger town Gueret there is a vendor who sells olives and sundried tomatoes and capers, and we always make a purchase from him, although these capers were actually bought from the grocery store. Maybe I will even pick up a coke to go with my birthday dinner, but let’s not be too extravagant.

At the farmers’ market last week we wound up meeting a coupe from Minnesota who are living here for a year while the girl Gigi teaches English in the school system, so last night we went to their apartment in Gueret for drinks. Jason and I brought wine and they bought a bottle of champagne for my birthday, and we had a really fun and very late evening. It was good to hang out with some other Americans.

When I was in Paris 3 weeks ago I bought a vintage duvet cover with a really cool flower print on it. Many hours of hand sewing later, I’ve turned it into a great little sundress that I certainly can’t wear in this weather. I bought elastic at the Saturday market in Gueret, 6m for €1,50– a bargain and a great experience buying sewing notions from an open air stall in the middle of the French countryside. But I don’t have any shoes that go with a dress at all, just my hiking boots and my Converse sneakers. Also I wound up getting a new iPod when my old one inexplicably broke after I dropped it on the floor ($180 from ebay UK, 6 Gen and it’s sooooo cool) and I made an awesome case for it out of some vintage French comics Jason found in the attic. He was so jealous of my case that I had to make him one too. My mom sent me an extra pair of glasses I had, which somehow ended up being painted white. The paint’s not dry yet though, so I can’t say how they’ve turned out. I had seen some white frames in an optometrist’s office in Amsterdam, so I consider this a belated souvenir of my first stop in Europe. So even though I’ve got no supplies, workspace, or storage room, I’m still as productive as ever. Lorraine’s dad Will once said I had making disease, and I guess I still haven’t recovered.

So on Monday I am packing my bag again and heading to Marseille for some more girl time with Izzy. This is the best international slumber party ever, and it doesn’t stop. It will be so good to have some warmer weather, and I’m really looking forward to updating my wardrobe! I’ve been wearing the same 2 shirts for about 4 months and it’s getting boring. After that I suppose I’ll backtrack west to Spain, and then make a big loop through Italy, Croatia, Prague again, Krakow, Germany, and then back in Paris at the end of May to meet my dad for a few days. After that some UNO people are going to be in Venice for the Biennale, so why not me? And then it’s just another month until my flight back to good old USA.

And then… I want to buy a car, probably a station wagon, big enough for me to put a mattress in and drive down to NOLA, then west to the Pacific Ocean with whatever drifting friends I can dig up making a pit stop in the middle of the Nevada desert in the beginning of September for Burning Man, and after that I’ve got nothing.

Some other things: I’d bought some underwear in Prague in January, and I just realized the other day that the tag on the inside is in 20 different languages. Also my mom sent me a pack of Peeps (but Jason says since they’re bunnies they should be called Flops) that I roasted for s’mores, made with some delightful French cookies called ecoliers, butter biscuits with slabs of chocolate on them (thanks mom). Also on the subject of biscuits, I finally found a perfect biscuit recipe after many unsuccessful attempts.

Funnily enough, I should have more regular internet access when I’m on the move again, so hopefully the next few weeks will see more postings.

Also happy late birthday to Unkie Rick and happy anniversary to Michael and Kami (4 years, right?), who I love very much and miss all the time, along with everyone else.

 

All of February in under 986 words (not counting the title) 2 March 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 5:17 PM
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So much has happened in the last few weeks. I’ve been too busy and having too much fun to be spending all day online! But mostly, I haven’t had internet access for more than a few minutes. So now where to begin?

Izzy and I convinced Jason to drive to visit us in Prague. One morning I went out to pick something up, and when I turned around the corner onto Izzy’s street there he was. We all spent a week together in Prague, doing a little bit of sightseeing, but mostly hanging out. One night we went to a bar that was actually an old train car, called the Vagon. It was strange, but the cheapest whiskey I found in Prague, and they served fried cheese (a staple of vegetarian dining in the Czech Republic).

Then Jason and I piled into his Renault truck and headed south on the small roads we found on the map. Southern Czech Republic was covered in snow, and at one point the truck skidded off the road and got stuck in a snow bank/ditch. Luckily two cars of Czechs stopped, and with the help of a big van we were able to pull and push the truck back onto the road.

Eventually we got to Vienna. We found a place to park and crawled into the back of the truck, where there was a futon mattress and two down blankets waiting for us. In the morning we went to a gas station to brush our teeth, and then hopped on the tram into the city center. It wasn’t really any colder than Amsterdam, but at least in Amsterdam I was staying in heated places where I could take a hot shower and had lights. Also, our first day in Vienna it was raining, which eventually turned into snow. The weather made the city kind of miserable. Although it was south of Prague, Austria is Alp country, so the elevation is higher. I hadn’t thought of that.

So why did we go to Vienna? Well, Vienna was the center of the Secessionist movement, whose most famous member was Gustav Klimt. I just finished my thesis 3 months ago, so I had to go and stand in front of the paintings I had been researching for months. This was the pinnacle of the 5 years I spent studying art history. I went to the Secessionist building, which was an independent gallery space for the members. Klimt has a long frieze in the basement (it was originally in the main hall, but was meant to be only temporary) and got the see the entire thing at once, not broken up into images. And then… I went into the bathroom and washed my hair. I’m pretty sure I am one of the only people in the world who has washed their hair in the Secessionist building. Of course I froze when I stepped outside, with my wet head, but I feel like I made my mark.

After two very difficult days in Vienna, we started heading west to France. We drove on the small roads and passed through so many little villages. We saw an amazing Baroque monastery in Melk, and were afterwards completely enveloped in a crazy sudden snow storm. We drove through Linz, which was Hitler’s favorite town. We detoured south to St. Gilgen and Halstaat, which was amazingly beautiful, even under 2 feet of snow! In St. Gilgen, where we spent the night, I ate a giant Austrian cinnamon roll that had me singing and skipping for the rest of the morning. We stopped in Salzburg for pizza, home of The Sound of Music, but we couldn’t really stay. Austria was too cold. We took the Autobahn through Germany, and by the next night we rolled into Bonnat, France.

Jason’s house is actually in Le Vignaud, but while he’s working on it he is staying a friend’s second home in the nearby village of Bonnat. This house doesn’t have heating, but it does have plumbing and electricity, which is nice at night. We spend all day in Le Vignaud working, about 7 hours a day. The most work we’ve done is in the yard. There were massive piles of vines, branches, and thorns that needed to be burned. The house had been uninhabited for 50 years before Jason moved in, and the front yard has been used as a dump. We’ve pulled out tons of broken glass, plastic bottles, a wide collection of whole bottles (some match), endless rusted metal, several shoes, and at one point there was a door with wood veneer (which does not decompose) and old metal fixtures. There was a bit of detective work on that one. We also dug up a hibernating toad the other day, with bright red eyes, and watched it wake up to the spring. Despite all the trash in the yard, there are also some beautiful white wildflowers that keep the honey bees busy all day.

A week of hard work and the yard is almost finished. I’ve been using a pick axe to break up the dirt, which also pulls up the rocks and exposes more garbage to be collected. We’ve leveled out the yard, removed some old trees and nasty vines, and have done some extensive building of stone walls. The transformation is really amazing, and in March it will be time to plant the clover and wildflower seeds we got instead of grass.

But for the next week I’m going up to Paris, about 4 hours by train, to meet a friend I met in Amsterdam. I’m excited to get another change, to let my muscles relax for a week, go out at night, to sleep in a heated room, and to be clean. I might even wear mascara! I think somewhere under this dirt and the layers of the same 4 shirts I’ve been wearing for 3 months I’m a girl, but I can’t be sure anymore.

 

girl time with izzy 27 January 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Julianne Dodds @ 11:45 AM
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When I got to wordpress.com and see that they have published over 42,000,000 words just today it makes me reluctant to add any of my own.

I am in Prague now at Izzy’s house. I got here on Saturday at 5 AM after 15 hours on a bus. I’ve taken 2 baths since I got here, which is really super. The first day I was here I finally bought new pants (which were a little expensive and not as sturdy as jeans, but I love them) and Izzy gave me some grey eyeliner which I am very attached to, as something that makes me feel like a girl. The other night we brought home a Spanish man for a cup of coffee who didn’t speak any English, but was still able to tell me that I look like Velma from Scooby Doo. No one had told me that in about 2 years…

Of course I travel with an extra pair of glasses, but while trying to straighten them I snapped them in half. That pair was about 4 years old, so no big loss, but now I only have my teal frames, and if something happens to those then I’m screwed. So I think that I am going to go ahead and get new glasses in Prague, where I have a friend to advise me on the perfect frames. It’s going to cost about $200 I think, which is about the same as in the states, but that kinda sucks.

The other night I got a nice big steak wrapped in bacon and it cost about $10, which is quite the bargain. It was yummy, and I’m really enjoying the hearty Czech food. And fries everywhere! Possibly my favorite food besides mussels, and they usually come together anyway. Also I eat Kinder milk chocolate like it’s nobody’s business since Mare gave me one in France last week.

I’m having a great time hanging out with my friend, drinking coke and watching the Daily Show on iTunes. Also it’s legal to have pot here for “personal use,” which I didn’t know about. Yesterday we went for Thai massages, which lasted for 1 hour and cost about $40. I’m not worrying too much about my budget because I’m having a great time, and that’s more important to me. I’m not sure where to go next; I want to spend about 10-14 days around the Czech area before heading back to France. So that’s the news as I see it. Pictures to come soon.