What a wonderful past couple of days.
I was not in a good state when I left Paris. Mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted, I had already lost over half the hair on my head due to stress, and felt nothing but a desperate need to return to Alaska and enjoy the beautiful fall colors. The train ride from Geneva to Lugano was absolutely stunning. Lac Leman, surrounded by breathtaking mountains, lush green vegetation and charming towns, glittered in the summery glow of the setting sun as my train rolled past. Even though I’ve lived in Switzerland for a year, I still find myself almost startled by how beautiful it is. After arriving in Lugano around 2 AM, I was delighted to discover Kayla, one of my two former roommates, still awake as I stumbled through their door to crash on their floor for a night. A week of frustrating linguistic barriers and general social solitude melted away in a blur of gossip, Frosted Flakes and the overwhelmingly American atmosphere of the college dorm room. They had even found a mattress on Lugano’s “trash night” for me to use! Comforted by the familiarity of what I refer to as Home #3, I managed to resort my belongings in time for an early-morning flight to Oslo the next day.
Imagine my surprise when I was met at the bus station not only by Natasha, but by Greg as well! (They had never met before, but found each other via an email I sent to everyone I know in Oslo). Overjoyed, we headed home to Natasha’s apartment for dinner and vegan carrot cake. Finally, adequate sleep, clean clothes, and regular, nutritious meals! Natasha is taking a year off of school to travel the world by herself, including a 3-month stay at a Hindu temple in India. Therefore, she has recently become vegan, begun doing yoga on a daily basis and attempting to rid herself of materialistic tendencies. What a healthy influence! We spent a few days visiting her school, Westerdals (which I loved), cooking deliciously healthy meals, hanging out with her Swedish friend Jakob (gjett hva “joggebukser” heter på svensk), and meeting our friend Zlata, who I haven’t seen in over a year! I was amazed how much better food can make you feel when you switch milk products with soy products, sugar with honey, and add a fistful of seeds, whole grains and berries to breads and cakes. It was absolutely delicious! Even vegan “cream cheese”, “cream”, etc was amazing, although more expensive. Having always doubted that what’s good for a baby cow can possibly be good for humans, I was inspired by how good I felt when eating what Natasha did. Spending a few days with a close friend turned out to be just what I needed, lifting my spirits and calming me down. Natasha gave me a necklace with a charm of the Eiffel Tower and a silver heart reading “Je t’aime” on it. “You might not have loved Paris,” she said, “but Paris still loves you.” It made me smile.
Since then, I’ve resumed the seemingly infinite trek back to Alaska, stopping in Rochester, New York to visit Rochester Institute of Technology and check out their photo program. It’s been a couple days of huge hotel rooms all to myself, being the only one eating in gigantic hotel restaurants, sleeping a lot, and not really doing much else. RIT was overwhelmingly large, but offered students access to, basically, every piece of photo equipment that has ever existed, ever. Imagine gigantic, theatre-sized seamless studios, rooms upon rooms of printing machines ($6.95 for a 30” metallic print, at the most expensive), countless darkrooms, rows of every kind of camera you could think of. All this, in a dingy, poorly lit building reminiscent of West High School (sorry, West). The atmosphere wasn’t what I would ever have called inspiring, at all, but it was fairly amazing to see nonetheless. After my visit yesterday, I’ve been feeling rather ill, and have been sitting around since getting 13 hours of sleep last night. Today, I go back to Newark, and tomorrow, home sweet home! I can’t wait for winter.