July 22, 2009



Traveled 5,006 miles (that's 8,056 km) by plane.
Arrived at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris on April 28, 2009.
Stayed with the La Brosse family in the eighth arrondissement for six weeks.
Attended classes at the Institute building on the Rue Saint Merri, just across the street from the Centre Pompidou.
Walked in and out of the Metro countless times.
Meandered their way through at least 20 churches and cathedrals.
Relaxed in approximately 10 parks and gardens.
Visited more than 25 museums and nearly a dozen castles.
Stood gazing at the endless blue on half a dozen beaches.
Explored a cave.
Attended a ballet at the Opera Garnier.
Watched a performance of Ionesco’s hilarious La Cantatrice Chauve at the Theatre de la Huchette.
Enjoyed one piano performance, a string quartet, and an incredible medieval vocal group.
Dragged their way through the Louvre on four different occasions.
Rode on a boat along the Seine.
Wandered among ancient Roman ruins.
Held faithful through the three hour Ascension Day Parade in Brugge.
Watched an outstanding performance of Les Miserables at the Queen’s Theatre in London.
Stayed overnight at more than 30 different hotels and hostels.
Saw a Jason Mraz concert at Le Zenith in Paris.
Stood still for over 2,000 images and videos on my Nixon CoolPix.
... and probably thousands of other photos on 26 other cameras.
Visited: France, The Netherlands, Belgium, England, Scotland, and Italy (that’s six countries).
And did it all in style.

So when I arrived in Paris that first day and realized that I had not packed any socks and was only equipped with the pair on my feet, I decided it would be a good thing to let these faithful grays have an adventure of a lifetime. And they did.

Sure, it’s gross. My friends told me so time and time again. In every store, they would not-so-discreetly motion towards tempting packages of fresh socks. But I held faithful. I figured no one can say they spent 65 days in Europe with only one pair of socks. Besides me.

(Just don’t tell anyone that 80% of those days were spent wearing sandals.)

July 14, 2009

the love of small things

There are some days that just scream summer.

Luckily for me, today is one of those days. The combination of doing pilates, swimming, hot tubbing, and Dairy Queening with one of my best friends has been unbeatable. Later, we will commence scrapbooking and stocking on candy for a midnight showing of Harry Potter. Aside from exercising my bragging rights for having an altogether too-perfect day, there is a point to all of this. Last night I went to our weekly home evening activity with a bunch of kids from my neighborhood. Sister Madsen gave us a brief lesson about how the stages of our lives should be more than just "getting through it." Even though as college students, we're in what is meant to be a transitory phase of exploration and change, that is no excuse to purposely keep ourselves aloof and unrooted from what we're doing. That really hit home for me. How many times have I reassured myself that life will be better "when this test is over" or "once I finish the semester"? How often do I deny myself the opportunity to create a home wherever I am just because it seems temporary?

I started thinking about the quality of my life
as in, my life right nowas the activity continued. We ate popsicles on the lawn and played water balloon volleyball. I took off my shoes because I felt like being barefoot and licking on a dripping lime flavored chunk of ice would signal to the universe that I'm ready to call this place home. Why? Because I said so.

Just yesterday, I finished re-reading a favorite book of mine. It's called
The Strangeness of Beauty and you all should read it. (Why? Because I said so.) At one point, the old samurai mother makes an observation that just jumped off the page at me. "Generally, people don't want glory. They want small gentle pleasures like baseball. Have you ever observed a baseball game? ... There you are, sitting on a hard surface, in a position of discomfort, participating in a slow-moving ritual. Little happens. Your mind wanders. Gradually, you notice the small moments that make life rich. The sun's heat, the ball's arc." She goes on with her wisdom: "It's this love of small things, by most people everywhere, that just might keep us from war. The most powerful things are small: the taste on our tongues of our favorite childhood foods, the rub of skin against skin."

It seems to me like summer is the perfect time to become "truly engaged in life's essence." So go outside. Take off your shoes and feel the blades of grass between your toes. Lick a popsicle, or your favorite childhood treat. Pack a picnic, grab a blanket, and meander over to the nearest park. Go put on your bathing suit and start your perfect summer day. Or, maybe better yet, head to your public library and pick up a copy of The Strangeness of Beauty. You won't regret it. I spent a good half hour in the library last week, just smelling the books and rifling through them to find some good reads for these long and lazy days that I love so much.

What are you waiting for?

July 9, 2009

there's no place like home

“Ah, the Americans. Here are a people who seize
opportunities, poke cows, and invent a large cartoon mouse who can talk.”

For the past week, the United States has warmly welcomed me back to...

free public restrooms
free water at restaurants
free refills
free laundry at my apartment
(we call it the “Land of the Free” for a reason, folks)
cold milk
readily available drinking fountains
the lovely U.S. dollar
... to say nothing of dollar menus
cheap phone calls
air conditioning
hot showers with good water pressure
toilet handles
a huge wardrobe I’d forgotten about
my warm bed

... among other things.

That’s not to say there is nothing I miss about being in Europe. Looking through my pictures, I am reminded of what an incredible experience I had for those two months. But there is something about coming home. When we were riding the long train from Milan to Paris during one of my last days of adventuring, I listened to an album called The Road Home by the BYU Choirs. The songs echoed messages of travelers, literal and metaphorical, who speak of homecoming. Suddenly, I didn’t feel so achingly alone, just knowing that for centuries, millions of us have wrestled with the same questions about leaving and returning. About home.

Home is...
A mom who comes to the rescue by driving 20 miles to your bank to deposit money into your account when you’ve found that Europe is more expensive than you’d imagined.

Feeling your stomach jump into your heart as the airplane lands and the flight attendant says, “Welcome to Salt Lake City. For those of you who call this home... welcome home.”

A boyfriend who picks you up at the airport with roses in hand.

A sister and brother-in-law who delay their plans to have dinner out with you on your first night back.

Unlocking the door to your apartment and smelling that familiar, sweet smell of hardwood floors and the black leather couches you’ve grown to love so much.

Having a dear friend who is willing to help you unpack and settle in for an entire day.

... and that’s just the Provo version of home. I’m even more excited at the thought of returning to my family in Michigan later this month for a homecoming with a capitol H. I echo the words of an ancient Japanese proverb that warmly wishes: “May all of your journeys lead you home.” Because, let’s admit it. There’s just no better feeling.