Of rocky coastlines and nude beaches and beautiful strangers and full moon beaches in Lagos.

“An ocean breeze puts a mind at ease”

Friday, August 11, 2017
Lagos, Portugal

This past summer I did a spur of the moment trip to Portugal…. Before I left, I quickly did a bit of investigating to see where I wanted to go in Portugal, other than Lisbon. I had heard nothing but good things about everything Portugal-related.
I could venture to the hills and stay in Sintra.. which was supposed to be a a day-trip from Lisbon that had a fairy-tale-like palace and old-style medieval streets, forests and castle ruins, lush gardens and fresh air, all atop one of the many hills in and around Lisbon.
I could venture a tad south to Cascais… a little beach town with some alluring beaches and upscale vibes. It was another day-trip option from Lisbon…
I could venture north to Porto and sample some of their famous wine..
OR
I could go south to the magical Algarve Coast.
And that I did.
And tho I nearly missed my flight back due to wildfires preventing the train from going any further and being stuck in the middle of nowhere Portugal with less than 5 hours until my flight left and knowing it was at least an hour or two drive to get to Lisbon and with no idea how long the roads/railways would be up and working again…
But I digress.
I took the bus down south. It took what seemed like forever.. driving through a lot of nothing.. and then we got to the coast.. and my excitement grew as I saw palm trees and the sea just beyond.. the white-washed houses that made me reminisce of my adventures on the various Greek Islands.
Finally I arrived in Lagos. At the bus station. Which was pretty much a garage that held 2-3 buses if that.
I walked out into the scorching sun, not caring about the heaviness of my backpack, my heart soaring. I walked down the boardwalk, an inlet leading to marinas on one side and booths of souvenirs and trinkets and beach blankets and everything you could imagine made out of cork and bathing suits and cover ups with booth after booth of different companies selling kayak trips, boat trips, booze cruises and snorkeling on the other side.
There was a nice seaside breeze that kept the heat from being unbearable. The smell of the air reminded me of California coast. I sighed with happiness.
I made my way to the hostel that I had booked last minute, unable to find a couchsurfer.
I had booked a 4 bedroom dorm, deciding to treat myself to all the luxuries this trip since it was the big trip of the summer.
Of course, when I got there, they had overbooked and put me in a 10 bed room.
I was a tad peeved, but quickly shoved aside the negativity my brain bustled with and headed up to the pool (yes they had a POOL!!)
but unfortunately it was nothing to write home about either. Yes it had a beautiful view. Beach chairs. A vending machine with beer.
But the make up of the people made me feel like I had stepped back in Alabama amongst the frat boys and sorority girls.  The guys shouted some inappropriate things at me, sloshing their beers around. The girls laughed as they lay back on their sun chairs surrounded by the beer guzzling good ol’ boys.
I quickly decided it was time to leave.
Explore.
And mannnnnn I was NOT disappointed!!
The beach started a 5 minute walk from the hostel door. I quickly made my way through a huge plaza with palm trees and a kids bungee jumping set up and along the crumbly white walls of the old town across the street and down the walkway down to the beach.
The sun was on its way to setting and the sand was basking in the last remnants of sunshine, glowing and golden. The waves were gentle and rolling. I was happy to see that it wasn’t too crowded… I could walk on the sand without the obstacle course of veering around towels and people. There were huge rocks popping out of the sand, reminding me vaguely of the Oregon Coast. The tide was up and there were people wading out, thigh high and climbing into a hole in one of the rocks and disappearing. Unfortunately, I had not dressed to get too wet so I had to wait for that adventure….
Due to the high tide, I was not able to walk too far and looped back to the roadway and walked along as it hugged the coast. There were various sketchy-looking stairs carved out of the rocky cliffside that led down to different coves. My breath was taken away. It was positively stunning.
I walked back to the hostel as the sun set, deciding what to do next. I recharged and refueled my phone and my body and debated what to do next.
“Wander the streets.. there are plenty of bars to hop into!”
Was the recommendation by many people.
I wandered the narrow alleys and little streets.  Within 10 minutes I decided that partying at a bar was on the bottom of my list of things to do.
I noticed the moon was full…. Full moon on the beach… sounded magical.
I walked back to the beach. This time the tide was very low and I was able to walk through a series of rocky caves and holes in the wall… No one was on the beach. The full moon shone brightly on the water making it sparkle and shine. It illuminated all of the rocks that peeped out of the water causing an eerie glow about them.
I wandered with my feet in the water, the cold was no bother this night. I was blissful.
As I went through one little hole in the wall, I heard chattering and drumming. There was the faint flicker of a bonfire up ahead. Laughter echoed up and down the cliffside. I was intrigued.
Remembering I had bought some Palinka from the duty-free shop back in Bucharest, I whipped it out of my bag.
I cautiously moved closer, assessing the vibes.
They seemed friendly. Laid back. Dressed in bohemian clothes and loose flowy fabric. A couple were huddled in a sleeping bag and there were two tents pitched nearby. AND they were speaking English.
Perfect.
“Hey ya’ll! Good evening! I see your tents here, does that mean it is possible to sleep down here on the sand?” I asked hesitantly as I got near, “By the way, I have some Palinka from Romania! Would you like some?”
There was a good ten seconds of heavy silence. Then the whole group descended into friendly laughter.
“Yeah sure! Come and have a seat!”
And I was in.
I had booked two nights at the hostel and the last night before I flew out of Lisbon I intentionally didn’t plan anything… wanting to decide in the moment if I wanted to stay down south or head back to Lisbon or Sintra…
So it was a legitimate question..
I had slept on the beach before..
There is nothing like sleepily waking to the sun cresting over the horizon above the sea and the gentle sound of the sea licking the sand. The sky aglow with colors.
So I spent that night chumming it up with this beautiful bunch of nomadic travelers. Each had their own story and journey to that particular beach that particular night. I was fascinated. They were fascinated with the fact that I chose Romania as a place to settle. We swapped stories…. shared drinks… and giggled the night away.
Eventually I made my way back to the hostel to sleep.
The next day I went off the pathways above the cliffs and discovered even more magnificent views and tucked away secret beaches. As I was stumbling around on one half-there path I noticed that there was a pathway through the rocks to the left that led down toward a beach. Then I noticed the cardboard sign that had the words “NUDE BEACH” scrawled in black marker with an arrow pointing down.
I did not hesitate and quickly scrambled down the rocks, half sliding most of the way. HOW EXCITING!!
When I finally hit the sand, I was greeted with another cardboard sign with “NUDE Beach” scrawled across and the most beautiful cove I had ever seen. The rocks extended out on either side so that straight in front there was an opening to the sea only about 4 meters wide. The water was the most beautiful shade of deep emerald. There were a few people laying about, fully embracing the Nude Beach philosophy. A few people were more conservative and kept partially covered.
It was a very hot day and I was quite exhausted and dusty from crawling around in the rocks. It didn’t take long for me to strip down and head on in. The water was just cold enough to send initial shock waves through my body and give me a jolt of energy.
It was a little slice of heaven. There were little shelves along the sides that were just big enough for me to climb up onto and jump off of.
I got back to the sand, hoping to let the sun dry me off a bit before I continued on.
Not too long after I got out, an older, leathery, super tan old man, about 60 years of age, came up to me.
He was naked.
Talking in Portuguese.
He was obviously “excited” if you know what I mean.
I didn’t know where to look.
I didn’t know what to say.
He was very enthusiastically gesturing at the rocky cliffisides, obviously wanting to share with me his keenness of something…
I stood stunned for a few minutes, letting him talk. A fake smile plastered on my face, not sure what else to do or what expression to use.
“I’m sorry… I don’t understand… I don’t speak Portuguese.”
I mumbled in English… then in Spanish…
He threw back his head full of silver hair and laughed as though I was the most hysterical person on earth.
I pointed back towards my clothes and tried to explain to him that I needed to go. I attempted to use hand gestures to explain to him that I needed to get dressed… go back up the cliff… walk to the city… and drink coffee…
I’m not sure how much of it he understood, though he was staring intently at my wild gestures. He let out his loud laugh again and made a hand motion as though to wave me away.
And away I went.
Back to my clothes.
Back up the cliff.
But ohhhhh that day… that wild overgrown maze of pathways above the cliffsides… every time I ventured to the edge of an outcropping, I was gifted with what I thought was the most beautiful view of anything I had seen. Until I got to the next “viewpoint”
The rocky cliffsides were sandy and light tan in some places, grey and solid rock in others. The water ranged from clear to turquoise to emerald green.
Some of the cliffisdes, if you got close to them, they were freckled with fossilized shells. I was fascinated.
I did not want to leave.
I did a kayak tour through different lagoons and caves and secret beaches. I slept on the beach the last night with a friend I had met on the kayak tour and we stayed up with the nomadic travelers and drummed, drank, talked, sang, and laughed the night away. We all fell into a groggy hazy sleep until the sun emerged from under the horizon and we all stood up, wrapped up in our own blankets, our feet at the edge of the sand, the waves kissing the tops of our toes gently as we stayed there in shared awe and silence. All lost in our own thoughts. All of us would be leaving that day. Each to a different place. Each at different times. Each for different reasons.
But that night and the ones previous, our hearts smiled together as we shared the beach in the moonlight together.
I didn’t get any of their contacts. No phone numbers. No facebook friends.
We just left it as that time in Lagos. Those nights where we all shared our stories and made music and danced in the firelight under the full moon.
And it was perfect.
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One of the many beautiful beaches in Lagos. :)) The giant rocks in the water are slightly reminiscent of those on the Oregon Coast… though the vibes and temperature and culture and water are completely different…

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There were so many beautiful shells scattered around in the sand….

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One of the many “Hole in the Wall”‘s that one could walk through (when it isn’t high tide) to get from one beach to another.

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Fossilized shells in the rocks!! I spent a lot of time admiring all the different shells hidden in the rocks…

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One of the most beautiful nude beaches I have ever been too…

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These were down at the nude beach… Made out of some of the clay that rested between the sand and the cliffside. I got the vibes that the creepy (but good intentioned) old dude who tried to talk to me lived here and these were some of his creations.

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One after the other these views literally took my breath away… The Algarve coast is certainly one of a kind. Definitely worth a visit and an adventure. Stunning coastline and briskly cool waters and lagoons and coves and ohhhhhhh I could go on and on and on…

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This was one of the secret beaches we came to on the kayak ride. We stopped here for 10 minutes and I spent the entire time snorkeling along the edges looking for an octopus sleeping in a crevice…. but sadly found none 😦

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The “other” San Francisco

“The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a fucking tourist.” Guillermo del Toro

Monday, August 7, 2017
Lisbon, Portugal

I had a chunk of days break between visiting the far reaches of my beautiful Romania and decided to take a last minute, solo trip to Portugal.
I had been in a bit of a slump and was on the verge of wallowing in self-pity and loneliness.
I felt not quite like myself.
I missed last summer when I was on the go. Meeting new people everyday. No set plans for where to go or what to do the next day. Couchsurfing with beautiful strangers and making the most treasured of memories…
I wanted to prove to myself I still had it in me.
And by golly I did just that.
Portugal had always appealed to me… It seemed always so out of the way in my travels last summer. But I heard tales of it’s coastline… the people.. the culture.. the food.. the wine.. Porto… Lisbon.. Sintra.. the Algarve coast…
I decided to book the cheapest (Yet still considerably expensive considering how Malta was $100 round trip.. and Berlin was $80 round trip) city to fly into from Bucharest and go from there…
Lisbon it was.
I knew next to nothing about Portugal except that everyone who had been there had nothing but wonderful things to say about it.
Why not!?
And why not start in Lisbon…
The San Francisco of Portugal.. it has trams… it has hills… it has their version of the Bay Bridge… its on the West Coast of Europe… plenty of beaches… laid back attitudes…
And it lived up to its name. I was exhilarated coming out of the metro and finding many Palm Trees.. .ohhh how I had missed them living over in Eastern Europe…
And it was warm… but not overly uncomfortable… like Bucharest… When I left Bucharest, it was 39 degrees C and the humidity was sweltering.
Portugal had a lively breeze.. a nice dry heat…
The ground beneath my feet was cobblestone… but unique to other cobblestone walkways of other European countries… They were tiny blocks of stone cut out in a precise shape and size and placed together, more often than not, to create a mosaic-like effect… Rossio Square, my first real introduction to Lisbon had them lined out in a pattern that was reminiscent of waves… If I stared at it too long it had a bit of a trippy effect…  I learned later that each of the little stones were carved by hand and they first started hundreds of years ago.

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The wave effect in Rossio Square hold a deeper meaning too.. Back on November 1st, 1755 the city was ravaged by a series of massive earthquakes, the largest being 8.5. They destroyed the majority of the city. Everything was shattered… crumbled. November 1st was also the Catholic holy All Saints day.  As a result, all of the cathedrals were packed with civilians celebrating this feast. Needless to say, the crumbling of the cathedrals caused a great number of people to perish. In addition, since All Saints day was a holy day, people lit candles and flowers were put up in celebration. The earthquakes caused the buildings to tumble and the candles fell upon the flammable flowers and other religious decor. Fires soon sprung up all over the city. As if that weren’t bad enough, the earthquakes triggered a tsunami that reached 9 meters high by the time it reached the city. The higher parts of the city remained burning for nearly 5 days. It is said that a week after these three events, nearly 90% of the buildings were either crumbled, burned or flooded and nearly 600,000 people had perished.
This was all carefully retold by my tour guide and she ended the awful tale, saying that the wave pattern created by the stones on the ground were to look like a tsunami and to commemorate that fateful day back in 1755.

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I spent the majority of my time in the Alfama district. As soon as I stumbled upon its beautiful narrow streets I knew this was where I needed to be. Other areas of Lisbon are spread out with large streets. The Alfama district actually survived that day in 1755 and still portrays days of the old where everyone knew each other and old ladies would lean out their windows to chat with their friends across the alley (literally if they reached their hands out they would easily be able to hold onto one another). Laundry was often strung out below windows, along with flowers. I spent two days getting lost, wandering in and out of the streets. Going up and down soOoo many staircases. Working my calves on the steep slopes. It was much less touristy and much more quiet than the other areas of Lisbon… It gave you the feel of authenticity… real people went about their daily lives… no commercial shops.. only a small number of cafes… a few local grocery stores.. the smell of sardines flowing through the air (they do love their sardines there, I noticed)… I certainly did not get the feel that I was in a big city while wandering these quiet streets. You can find so many brightly colored buildings and the doors of their houses are quite close to each other, so it is easy to see how narrow the residences are. It hurt my calves to imagine the stairs they have to climb every day to get from the door to the top floor, not to mention walking about their normal day on the steep streets! If you keep an eye out, you can find little black and white portraits painted onto the walls of the local residents…

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It is here that I also found my San Fransisco tram! Tram 28! The most famous tram in all of Lisbon… I never got in the long queue (some people waited up to three hours to ride it).. but people who do get to ride it never regret the long line.. it winds up and down and round the hills and you can easily hop on (after the line of course) and it will take you all around the highlights of the city…

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Another thing I fell in love with was all of the ceramic tiles about the city. Many of the buildings were covered in them on the outside. Some had just a few remaining ones… They are called Azulejos tiles (usually they were a combination of beautiful blue and creamy white) and usually were laid out in some sort of geometric, lacey or flowery pattern. Sometimes they just adorned the facades of buildings, the same repeating tile over and over again. Other times, the tiles were put together to create a mural or a depiction of a historic scene.  Lazily sauntering about the city, as opposed to rushed sightseeing on your way to the next big sight to see, allows you to find all kinds of fun little hidden tiles. You are able to pick one up of your own in any tourist shop…

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My personal favorite was the street art. Discovering the street art is one of my favorite things about wandering through a new city. One particular area that caught my eye and had me going back to time and time again. On one of the steep paths down to the Alfama area from the Barrio do Castelo neighborhood, you pass through a little tunnel of sorts. It has the words “Don’t Be Mean” spelled out with stretched wire. Just beyond it, outside of the tunnel, just to the left is a flat open area. When I first walked back out into the sunshine, I was not expecting such a sight. Instead of more buildings and streetways, there was the wreckage of an abandoned building.  The remains of the Cerca Velha Wall…… and wow… a little outdoor art area looked after by a sweet old man… Take the time to explore and you’ll find some delightful things :))

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Fado music is another Lisbon favorite… I was stumbling around Alfama one night with some couchsurfers just after we witnessed the most beautiful sunset from the highest hill in Lisbon and heard the soulful sounds echoing through the alleyways… Fado… which means “fate” or “destiny” in Portuguese is a type of music that has been heard throughout the streets of Lisbon for centuries. Typically, it involves a lady singing a yearning, soulful, haunting song that comes to life and makes your heart ache to hear. Though they are quite sad songs, causing the people in the cafes nearby to hush to a silence as they are slowly transfixed by the mournful melody Definitely worth a listen… perhaps with a glass of sangria or their vinho verde OR (my personal favorite) Ginjinha (a Portuguese liqueur made of sour cherries (“ginja berries”) with a delightful hint of cinnamon.

PS> Just so you know.. the information about all of the things I have written about was straight from locals, whether it be the Free Tour guide or couchsurfers I met up with that were born and bred in the city or random strangers who happened to be as curious about life as I am

 

Zoo Cafe = Best Cafe in Budapest :))

In other news….
THERE IS A ZOO CAFE HERE IN BUDAPEST!!!
You can eat with cats and lizards and hedgehogs!!
When my friend and I went, they sat us right next to the toucan and gave us some big ol lizard guy…. we had to hold it.. couldn’t set it on the table… which made it difficult to sip the cappuccino… but later on the waiter dude came by and set a gecko on our table…. and the cat came and eyed it hungrily..
But WOW!!!
Other tables had guinea pigs and hedgehogs… when we walked in one dude was wearing a snake.. .there were little logs on the walls and up near the ceiling for the free roaming cats to play around in!!! And they are sooo soft and fluffy and ohhhhhhhh :))))
IF YOU GO TO BUDAPEST, GO TO THE ZOO CAFE!! !
It is guaranteed to be the best coffee experience you’ll ever have!!

Doppelgängers

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The streets of Budapest are beautiful.  I walk the streets everyday, plugged into my headphones, the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel or Band of Horses flowing through my ears….

Every building here has its own character… its own style.. I could wander for hours..

And then I look back down at the street level.. and I keep seeing people from the past.
Old lovers. Old friends. Recent and long ago…
And I am hit full on with flashbacks of those times long ago.
Smells… feelings… sensations… full on..
And I wonder
What am I doing here?
In Budapest?
One year ago I was working at a day care playing with kids and babies at ski resort spending days off snowboarding and nights off roading to hot springs or babysitting.
Two years ago I was working at a Chinese restaurant in Alabama with someone I thought I would spend my life with only to have him confess his love for another and the feeling of betrayal and broken trust.
Four years ago I was working at a Preschool in Hendersonville, NC.. spending weekends going out with my Asheville friends and hula hooping and glittering dogs at bars and inter tubing down rivers..
Six years ago I was still stuck in a haze bad relationship of the worst kind where even sunny days rarely brought smiles for fear of doing something wrong.
And now… I am volunteering at a hostel here in beautiful Budapest… biding my time to go back to Romania… To my job… My babies.. My friends..
But the flashbacks are so intense… I sometimes have to stop right there in the street to catch my breath.

I get transferred back to that one time we were laying in bed listening to music and singing along with the smell of French Onion soup wafting form the kitchen and laughing as we switched turns playing songs that made us happy.
I am transferred back to when all four of us were all stuck in the car at Joshua Tree National Park because it was storming outside and we passed the whiskey around and played Never Have I Ever and how soon the laughter turned to tears because the questions stirred up emotions I had never faced before and we went to the tent while the rain poured and the lightning flashed all around us and you looked in my eyes and told me I was beautiful and would always be there for me. But as time passed and I came back to visit you shattered my heart. My world. How you couldn’t look me in the eyes. Couldn’t have a conversation. And everything was a lie.
I am transferred back to the beach that one night when the moon was full and the waves were crashing down and you were sitting on the rocks watching me play in the waves like a child and the breeze blew the hair in my face and the sneaker waves drenched me from the waist down but you still welcomed me with open arms and the smell of your shampoo filled my nose and I smiled quietly to myself.
I am transferred back to when we were in the pub in Portland after watching a movie at the dollar theater and we laughed most of the way through the movie… I don’t even remember which one.. but we were in the back row sipping bear and sharing a huge plate of nachos.. and we continued on to the pub where there was a machine that you could put money in and it would spit out your spirit animal. Mine was an orca. Yours was a feral cat. The pub smelled of fresh hops and the floor was sticky and we laughed because we had just played a tape of whale calls back at your apartment full of thrift store stuff thrown together to look just perfect.
I am transferred back to when we were little and you and I were stuck in the raft in the bay. Our parents were drunk up at the cabin and happily waving to us. Our oars floated away and we looked down and to our horror the whole bottom of the bay was covered in crabs and we half laughed half cried about how we were going to get back to shore. And I slowly dipped halfway in the water and cried as I kicked as hard as I could to get us to shore because I was a year older and supposed to be responsible and I was terrified the crabs would reach up and snap my toes.
I am transferred back to when I worked at the restaurant with you in Alabama and there was a tornado siren going on. Our manager had bought us a bottle of tequila in exchange for a night off. I was at the table trying to stop my anxiety attack from coming on as I was taking this tables order and the dad grabbed my wrist and said “Listen lady, you can have your anxiety attack later. I want my Sweet and Sour chicken NOW.” and the phones were ringing and the sirens were going and out the window the trees were sideways and I ran to the kitchen and you saw me and we took the bottle of tequila and locked ourselves in the girls bathroom to take a few swigs and a few breaths before we could go back to work and face it all.
I am transferred back to when you and I stayed after school in 9th grade to work backstage at a play and we both had a crush on the older guy working with us and that time we painted the coffee table with our feet and the rush of butterflies as he grabbed my waist before I slipped off.. my feet covered in slick pink paint.. and then we went off in the corner to giggle and play Rummy until our hearts slowed their pitter patter. And we would leave him letters in the newspaper box by our house because we learned he was the newspaper boy.
I am transferred back to when we were at that STS9 show and we were tripping and we lost each other… but it was New Years.. and I was dancing and I barely noticed you were gone.. flowing with the music.. moving with the lights.. and BOOM the confetti came from the sky and everyone was cheering with happy because it was finally the new year… and across the room I saw you and we ran to each other and held each other tight because we felt so close. so together. friends forever. and now you are married and living in your same small town with your husband and two kids.
I am transferred back to the time you picked me up from work late one night and we had to drive all the way to your place but the smell of the chicken wings we were bringing home for dinner was so overwhelming we stopped the car on the side of the road and climbed through the bushes in the moonlight and savagely ate all of them and laughed at how silly we looked with hot sauce all over our moths and hands.
I am transferred back to when I met you at your cabin in the woods in the mountains of North Carolina and your friends were over and we decided that instead of sleeping in the house we would sleep in the woods a bit away from the house… a little clearing… we set up my hammock over the soft grass and off to the side the river had pooled up and we climbed up the side of the cliff and jumped in with the fireflies dancing all around and we built the fire and threw in some corn and ate corn and whiskey and we talked for hours of the moon and the spirits in the woods and the magic of the night.
I am transferred back to when we climbed for nearly 5 hours up the mountains and finally reached the little cabin overlooking the alps. No electricity so you built the fire and we had fondue and wine and watched the sunset over the mountains and we laid out on the grassy knoll by the cabin and passed the whiskey bottle back and forth and watched the stars and you taught me Swiss German and told stories of all your adventures and my heart danced with joy at all the ideas you gave me for future endeavors and the air was so clear and pure.
I am transferred back to our motorcycle rides in the moonlight. Pretending we were riding through Arkham. The warm Alabama air felt amazing as I held you close so I wouldn’t fall and we took those turns like pros. I let go and held my arms out… feeling so free.. wishing I could feel that way forever..
I am transferred back to that time when we were young and a bunch of us were over at our friends house. It was “perfect”… 3 girls, 3 boys. The mom let us drink. I was too scared. Too goody goody, so I had root beer. You gave up a night of booze to drink root beer with me so I wouldn’t feel left out.
I am transferred back to the night we were laying in bed and you got a phone call at 3 am. You excused yourself from the bed and walked outside to take it, explaining you had a bad dream about someone and you needed to talk to her. I waited patiently and listened to music. A half hour later I wandered outside to look for you and as soon as you saw me you quickly said goodbye and gave me a weak smile. We went back inside and as we were laying together you kept getting texts. You had that smile on your face. And I knew everything I thought we had was broken. Over. Gone. And I laid with you as you cried over her. Over your past with her. You chose her over me. You told me even if she came to town and we were together you would still sleep with her. You told me you always had loved her. I wondered if you ever actually loved me or if you always wished I was her. And I moved far away.
I am transferred to that time I was turning over rocks at the Oregon coast to look for crabs and my headphones were blasting the Cure in my ears and I felt a tap on my shoulder and there you were, smiling and asking what I was doing… which lead to the fact that all the campsites were full and I let you set up your tent next to mine… and then the next night I found the perfect campsite.. but there were signs that bears were all over the area… but I was determined to stay there… so I called you, even though you were on a mission to bike down the Oregon coast and begged you to come camp at this beautiful campsite with me. And we melted chocolate on bananas for dinner and passed the whiskey and warmed by the fire and I had the idea to leave some food in the hole in the tree for the bear to come. You never said anything against the idea. I made you sleep in my tent. In your own sleeping bag… just in case the bear did come.. and in the middle of the night we were woken up with heavy, gangly steps and snorts and snarls and the knocking over of pots and pans and the bulky shadow of the bear outside our tent. I started hyperventilating with both excitement and fear. You gently edged closer and put your hand over my lips and softly whispered in my ear, ” don’t worry.. about a thing.. cuz every little thing is gonna be alright…” and the bear lumbered around and nearly sat on our tent… then shuffled back off into the night and we laid there silent and still for nearly ten minutes until we burst into relieved maniacal laughter and cautiously crawled out of the tent to see the damage…
I am transferred one of those first times we were all together for summer camp. Someone brought out a guitar and all the girls gathered around one of the guys and I was playing cards at another table. He paused for a second during his strumming. I suggested he play “Aeroplane Over the Sea” and he did. And I got so filled with emotions from his soft voice. The lyrics. The guitar. I had to walk outside. You followed me and we sat out on the benches and we both cried and talked for the rest of the night.
I am transferred back to the day I first met you and we hiked all throughout the desert and were so tired. You ate a burger. I was having a bad body image day and had an orange. You didn’t say anything. You accepted it. There was a meteor shower that night. We laid on the benches in the middle of the desert in Oregon. You brought out some Crunch and Munch… knowing it was one of my favorites in the world. We both dug in and told stories and laughed at pointed out different shooting stars. And then there was that one. The biggest, longest, slowest shooting star I had ever seen. And you saw it too. And we decided it was a sign that we would be friends forever. And we still talk. Now and then. But you are living your life with your man and your friends over in Oregon.I am transferred back to when you first messaged me. I was pretty much done with meeting people in Bucharest. I was ready to be done with the hostel and move on. But you were patient. You assured me. I met you. You tried to take me a cafe on a rooftop. They were all closed. You looked anxious. Nervous. We went to a different place. I got some random thing on the menu and you got the most delicious apple strudel pie thing and I ended up eating most of it. It started off slow… our talking… but there was something about you I couldn’t quite put my finger on that I needed. That intrigued me. You pursued. I got scared. I wasn’t supposed to fall in love. I didn’t want it. But slowly… ever so slowly I let it happen.. and before I knew it… everything fell into place just as it was meant to be…. and just when things were at their best I had to leave the country due to the visa and I thought I would lose you forever. I cried. You took me to your friends early on. I was surprised. I was happy. You let me stay at your place. I felt at home. I fed your cat. We gorged on Haribo and drank coffee to stay up all night. You were patient when I was hesitant. We bought christmas lights to sparkle up the apartment. You didn’t mind when I put up artwork around your place. You were gentle. You were just what I needed. You gave me hope. You broke down my wall. We went to Bran. You woke up before I did to help me get to work on time. You took me to your Christmas party. You promised you would wait for me… for the longest 3 months of my life.
I am transferred back to that night on prom when I got all dressed up. I spent a lot of money on the dress. I put on the make up. My mom gave me her pearls. and I waited. And I assured my parents you would show. But time went on. My parents eyes felt sorrow and fear. It was a half hour into the prom night and I asked my dad to drop me off anyway. You never showed. I danced with my dad for the father daughter dance and he looked so sad. I could barely look him in the eyes, but I tried to cheer him up saying that it was okay… I wanted to come anyway because there was free jelly beans. And there was. And I ate nearly the whole bowl, I went to the bowl handful after handful then retreat back to the corner, looking for you. One guy did come up to me to invite me to dance. I could see the pity and disgust in his eyes. My dad bought flowers and they were waiting for me on my bed when I got home. He said every girl deserves flowers on her prom night. I talked to you the next day. You laughed. “Did you really think I was serious?”
I am transferred back to that day at the treatment center when I met a new girl. I gave her a hug and all I could feel was bone. A hollow skeleton. And I saw her face. It looked like a skull. Sunken and hollow. It shook me up and I talked to my therapist and she tried to convince me that I, too, looked that way and I got so upset. Because what I saw in the mirror was a blob, disfigured monster.
I am transferred back to when I gave you the book I created for you. I had all your friends write memories and happy things for you. I collected them all and added pictures your friends sent. I laminated the pages. I created a book. I created a Facebook group. I gave it to you your last Christmas. As soon as you unwrapped it you threw it across the room in anger and said that I was just a stupid Ethiopian looking unlovable THING. You died a month later. I still see you here or there.

And everyone else in my life.

Everyone. Everything.

The good. The bad. I do not necessarily regret any of it. I thank those people that made my life hard. I have had my share of struggles. Of near deaths. Of being so depressed my options and future seemed slim to none. Of being so happy that my heart was flying… only to discover that I was being deceived.

Yes, I remember it all. I remember how you made me feel that day. Whether it good or bad. The feelings of uncertainty or love or hope or brokenness or fear or rejected…

But then I remember. I am here. Life has brought me here. I am here for a reason. I am waiting to get back to Romania. To my life there. To my babies. My co-workers. To my friends. To my love.  To new hope. To getting back to trusting people. To accepting love and people into my life again. To throwing myself into the Romanian lifestyle.  To a year of exploring Europe during the weeks off. To pursuing life and love and what comes next.
And I can’t help but smile and turn the music to my favorite channel…. the rockin’ 80’s and sing “I CAN SEEE CLEARLLLY NOW THE RAIN IS GONE!” and get out of bed and take back to the streets.

Back to Budapest

Friday, February 3, 2017
Budapest, Hungary

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert

I have a feeling that there will be many posts about Budapest in the upcoming month and a half.
I have posted myself here until the 180 days are up and I can finally go back to Romania! I could have tried to get a job in the USA (that would be difficult since I would only be there for a short while). I also could have saved money and stayed with my parents (but that would have been boring).
Instead, I am helping out at a hostel here in Budapest. Living the life. Meeting new people. Attending all of the ruin bars in town to find the best ones. Getting lost in the city to find its hidden treasures. And inviting friends to come on down so I can personally show them the best day ever.
I remember on my way to Romania, I spent a short time in this enchanting city and knew I needed to come back… why not see all there is to see and more and stay here for a month and a half!:)
In fact, my first night here, I had a whirlwind night of meeting my fellow helpers and going to the coolest ruin bar in town, Szimpla. There were all kinds of neat things to find on the walls and on the floor and the ceiling. The hallways and stairs were narrow and stone so it had a labyrinth-like feel to it.. there was a toilet on the ground floor right by the dance floor (hopefully no one has actually used it).. there was a fish tank upstairs.. the outside courtyard was overrun with great green leafy trees and a big red sports car… there was writing all over the walls.. ohhh it was my dream bar!!! I never got bored just looking around at the hodgepodge of wonderful things to entertain myself with!  Unique… different.. bizarre.. beautiful… enchanting… so very fresh than a normal bar :))  and they had some pretty hiphoppening music to get down to as well! ;)) I have a feeling I will be back in the near future.
I also did a quick walk through of the city again.  Below are the pictures… I will have a bit of an update on the city and the experiences after I have been here longer… but so far it is a tad overwhelming.. I speak no Hungarian, but I recently learned my favorite phrase in Hungarian, “Why not?” I’d say it is pretty useful for an adventurous traveler to know…  Less people know English here than in Bucharest… But ohh the buildings are so beautiful.. and the bridges… and the random statues all over.. I am so glad I chose this place to chill at.. I think the time will pass quickly
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What a wonderful view… It is so much prettier in real life.. or in a  better camera… But that is the view of the Fisherman’s Bastion from the Chain Bridge..

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I love this little statue.. I saw this guy when I first came here and absolutely adored it,.. Just beyond,.. in the background is the famous Chain Bridge…

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Another fun little statue of a girl playing catch with her puppy :)) Just down the walkway from the Chain Bridge to the White Bridge…

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I love this little portly police guy :))

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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St Stephen’s Basilica… I’ll go inside one day… but I love the coffee shop on the right hand side… mostly because it is called “California Coffee Company” and I adore California..

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The Green Bridge near sunset.. Just behind me is the huge Central Market Hall where you can find a huge assortment of fresh and local cheeses and meats and breads and fish and Hungarian specialties.. It was so overwhelming that the first time all I came out with was a pomegranate.. but I learned that most of the people know enough English for someone to purchase something since it is quite the tourist attraction too..

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The Love Lock Tree :))

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The start of the Chain Bridge.. with the lovely fierce lions protecting on either side.

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Can you tell that I love this bridge>! :))

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And again, the Green Bridge… Ohhhh how I wish I had a better camera to show you guys how beautiful it really is!!

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And here is my favorite Market… soOoOoo much fresh meats and cheeses and breads and fish and vegetables and fruits…. Don’t be afraid to talk up the workers, most of them know at least some English since this place is pretty famous and a lot of tourists pop by for Hungarian specialties. :))