Sunday, May 17, 2009

Another Year Older, and Un Peu Wiser

How can this be? How can I be 22 already? I actually like getting older, as I feel each year is usually better than the one before it, but I hate not having control over important things in my life, like something as significant as age. My birthday came in the middle of finals week, after one of my hardest semesters of college. It wasn't supposed to be this way, study abroad is supposed to be a breeze, but somehow taking 5 classes so I could graduate a year early in subjects I had no background in turned out to be pretty tough. After an incredibly stressful week--months, really--of papers and more papers and film projects and exams, I finally finished COLLEGE this past Friday. This whole time I've felt like I was going to fail, but as with every semester, I pull through and actually got good grades. It hasn't really sunken in, especially since so many things are changing right now. That Friday, the night of my birthday party, also marked most people's last weekend in Paris (I'm staying an extra two weeks). The night was the culmination of a lot of things--getting older, leaving Paris, the final stress of classes and now the excess energy, being done with school, now trying to figure out the next phase of my life in the midst of a recession--that came to a wonderful, needed drunken explosion. All in all a great way to celebrate the end of one phase of my life and the beginning of another, all in the most glamorous city in the world.

My birthday dinner on Wednesday night with Jess and Soo-Young at Derrière, the Moroccan restaurant from the creators of Andy Wahloo.

Heading to the club, that Friday

Popping my head in with my favorite AUP girls.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ich bin ein Berliner

Checkpoint Charlie

Yes, yes, I know that means I'm a pastry.

This weekend I went by myself to Berlin, but not entirely. It was the first trip that Soo-Young didn't accompany me on--she went to Nice instead. I stayed with a friend-of-a-friend named Lisa who lives in Wedding, a Turkish borough to the northwest of Berlin. Lisa was actually friends with Louise, who you'll remember I visited in Portsmouth a month ago. I had long wanted to go to Berlin, it was at the top of my places to see, but I can't really explain why. It fascinates me that a city can change so quickly, and I wanted to see the conflict of being capitalist today and Communist just a few decades ago. The city has a booming art scene and is actually the cheapest capital in Western Europe. I found Berlin very interesting and modern, but there was a real pervasive sadness. It wasn't a soft, happy, pretty city, like Paris, but I really liked its toughness. WWII was still EVERYWHERE, from monuments to conversation. The first night I got to Berlin, Lisa and I went to a bar that played movies every week, and of course the topic of the Czech film shown was WWII. It's really respectable that Berlin preserves so much of its sordid history where other countries try to sweep it under the rug, like how Spain pretty much pretends Franco never happened.

With Lisa

Blowing bubbles in the park

...and on the U-Bahn.

In all these cities, I try to go on the New Europe Free Tours. They are given by college graduates, usually, who move to these cities and fall in love with them and want to share their love of the cities with you--and they're free! So I of course went in Berlin, and my tour guide happened to be a UGA graduate from Atlanta! He and I bonded over the ATL, and he even recommended a cool club to me that I went to that weekend. In fact, Berlin had a lot of the same qualities as Atlanta, since they are both relatively new cities compared to the Old Europe I've been seeing. While public transportation in Berlin is light-years better than Atlanta, they both are heavily car-using cities with wide streets, and they both have an emphasis on hip-hop streetwear.

Holocaust Memorial

Though definitely an educational trip, Berlin was also so much fun. I essentially did not sleep the entire five days and went out late every night, which I loved. I hate having to rush myself, so it was nice being able to leave at 1 am or 2. And the Germans were of course so nice, saying how excited they were to "practice their English" when talking to me. So far, every German that I've met has been smart, educated, speaks incredibly good English but still tolerant, unpretentious and nice. Lisa was a fantastic host, and it's so nice to be able to make a real friend from a weekend trip.

Behind this overly-ornate church is the East Berlin Radio Tower. The radio tower was supposed to be a sign of East Germany's prosperity, but as you can see in the picture, a cross is reflected everyday in its giant Communist disco ball. Of course Communist Germany did not support religion and many excuses were made at the time for the cross, like it was a giant Communist Plus Sign.

Berlin Wall
Die World! DIE!!!

Lots of graffiti.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Arc de Triomphe

View of La Defense from Arc de Triomphe

When I go on my trips to other cities, I try to balance seeing many of the sights, monuments and museums with getting the general feel of a place in its cafes and bars too. But in Paris, it’s so easy for me and my friends to be lazy, stick to what we like and to each other. There’s so many typically Parisian tourist things that I’ve yet to see, so this Saturday, Jess, Soo-Young and I decided to go to La Defense.

La Defense is the opposite of Paris, but it’s just right outside of city limits. It’s a futuristic business area with a giant mall, modern arch that is aligned with the Arc de Triomphe, and industrial art. There is really very little to do there, but we had the best time snapping away pictures and reveling that this weird, anti-Paris world could be so close.

From there, Jess and I walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe, back to normal Paris, and went to the top. From there we could spot our apartments and see all of Paris sprawled out. Paris is by far the prettiest city I’ve been to, but it’s also the most uniform looking city. All the buildings are (by law) the same height, usually a similar color, with typical shops on every street. All in the Hausssman style that’s been preserved today. It’s taken me a while to be able to pick up on the different neighborhoods, because while some are definitely different, on the whole it’s just all so Paris to me.