Cambodia and Thailand are 11 hours ahead of home. I live the whole day before the people I love have even woken up. So I wrote this poem about the way I feel here in the future.
I live in the future
And in the future
I lean out of windows
Gazing into the heat
Letting my hair cascade into the past
For my friends to use
As a ladder into my mind
In the future
I go fast
Kicking up the dust in my lungs
And the tuk tuk drivers
Make me feel safer
Than my last love ever could
In the future
My heart is steady
It doesn’t get dressed
Or put on makeup
It simply is fully loved as herself
Warm and beating
Basking in the sun
In the future
I am so free
And the whole wide world
Will watch the sunrise alongside me
And the sunrise
For all her heat and struggle
Will let me through the clouds of doubt
And she will hold me close
Letting me love her
In my broken way
I woke up this morning with California on my mind, so naturally, I wrote it a letter.
You are magic. I bet all the girls tell you that. But it’s true, and I mean it.
I’ve been thinking about the first time I ever saw your Sequoias. I was only eleven or twelve, and it is one of the only things I remember about being that age. I was a small child and there was so much snow that I thought I would disappear into it. But that was nothing compared to how small I felt standing next to the trees. They were impossible, and yet I was looking right at them.
I think one of my favorite things about you is your transience, or my ability to be transient while I’m with you. I can have my pick of landscapes: desert, city, sandy beach, rocky beach, mountains, forests. You have all of it. You’re dusty and massive, quiet and dreamy, minimal and contrasting. I welcome every change of your landscape. It is an echo of the ever-changing nature of my own heart. We are both fickle in our own ways.
When I was in university, I would sometimes tell people, “I’m from California.” A lie, of course. A nice thing to pretend, at least. At 22, I rented a car and drove up highway 1 in pursuit of clarity and romance. I don’t remember if I got either of those things, but I do remember that I pulled over every fifteen minutes just so I could run to the sea shore and stick my toes in the water.
The last time I was with you, I was heartbroken in my own small way. I stayed with you for a while and let your magic heal me just a little bit. There I was, traveling up highway 1 again, farther this time and not alone. With every turn there was something breathtaking. At times like that you have to be careful and make sure your heart’s still beating. We came to a cold, rocky beach near your northern border and I listened to the ocean flow through me. I explored caves and cliffs. I climbed up and down every rock that I could. And I discovered your redwood forests for the first time. I think you might be hiding fairies in there.
It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen you. I don’t think about you every day, though maybe I should. But I think about you when it matters, like right now, on a cloudy Thursday. And I think about how we are both living lives of movement, and even with all the dust that shakes up, it’s a beautiful thing.
I’m going to start by saying something that will make you roll your eyes so hard and think that you cannot relate to me at all: I have never wanted to go to Paris. The only reason I decided to go was because it was on my way home and I wanted to check it off “the list.”
Let me explain.
“Paris is always a good idea,” said Audrey Hepburn, to which I would respond, “sure if you’re thin, rich, white, and own a lot of black clothing.” The movie Midnight in Paris is wonderful, but I couldn’t help but watch it and think how if Owen Wilson’s character was a woman, it would be a much different movie. Think less quiet strolls among twinkling street lamps, and more like Morroccan dudes yelling at you as you power walk to your destination with your hood on and head down.
I’m also just not a huge Ernest Hemingway fan, and he goes around claiming Paris is a “moveable feast.”
I know that you can apply some version of these anecdotes to any number of cities, but I had fastened them all onto Paris; and honestly, I just wasn’t in the mood.
For all of that, I must apologize.
As I walked out of Nord railway Station at 9 am, I was wonderstruck (to borrow the T Swift term). I spent 24 hours wandering through Paris, and in my short time there I found it to be beautiful and diverse and complex.
It felt like art and life, the intersection of the two.
I stayed in Montmartre at Vintage Hostel, which was totally lovely and perfect. It was just a five minute walk from Sacre Coeur so I walked up there first thing to see the view of Paris.
I walked from there down to the Seine to see the Notre Dame Cathedral and the [outside of] the Louvre. I bought bread and cheese and sat in the sun by the river to eat. Then I walked along to the river till I reached the Eiffel tower.
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life.” Bold claim, Thomas Jefferson, but I get it. Paris is so many things.
I took the metro back up to Montemartre and went back to the Sacre Coeur to see the view of Paris at night. I bought a crepe on my way back to the hostel and ate it under a twinkling street lamp (and a good distance away from the yelling Moroccan men). It felt like life and it felt like fairytales. And I think that’s what made Paris beautiful to me. It’s magic, and it’s real.
“The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.” -T.S. Eliot
A couple of weeks ago, I rented a car and drove with some friends to Matka Canyon in Macedonia and Rugova Gorge in Kosovo. It was glorious. Cars are wonderful things.
(Here are bits of a poem I wrote last week)
We shake too much.
That’s our problem.
The rental car
There’s a canyon just outside the city.
“Let’s go” I said.
You wove the car through narrow roads,
following the Macedonian signs.
There was a mosque
(with double minorets!).
You braked so I could take a picture.
The canyon was cold.
We walked the path along the water’s edge
stopping every few feet to gape at the mountains
“Around one more bend!” we said,
over and over again.
You like to have a destination,
The rental’s tire was shaky
so we turn back too soon
before we reach the valley,
and before we reach the wild fields that slope out of Kosovo
and roll eventually into Montenegro
But the canyon is enough for me,
Because it is just cold enough
to make me shake.
I’m going to be traveling in England and a tiny bit in Paris over the next two weeks! Be sure to follow me on Instagram (@elizabeth_ee) if you want to keep up with my adventures :) Happy holidays and happy travels!
Crystal and I were incredibly sad to leave Ulcinj, but she had a flight out of Podgorica, so we took a beautiful bus ride along the coast and through the mountains to Montenegro’s capital city. I had read before hand that as far as cities go, Podgorica was pretty dull. I get that. There’s nothing much to see there really (except giant transformer-like sculptures everywhere…?), but the river and the surrounding mountains make it beautiful in its own way. We stayed in a great little apartment-turned-hostel with the friendliest and most helpful owner. We found a sushi restaurant which was heaven, and we also found a thrift store which made Podgrocia the most wonderful city in the world to me at that moment. The best thing in Podgorica through, has to be the cafe/bookstore, Karver. It is situated by the river and underneath a bridge, surrounded by green space and beautiful blooming trees. There was cool, colorful graffiti covering a lot of the bridge which reminded me of the Atlanta beltline. The cafe itself is actually an old turkish bathhouse that has been converted into a coffee shop and bookstore. It is the loveliest. I went there three times during my brief stay in Podgorica. One night was their anniversary so they had live jazz and a very young eclectic crowd. It’s a fantastic place. Thanks for being you, Podgorica.
Where I stayed: Hostel Podgorica
Best place I ate at: Wasabi Sushi Bar
Favorite Cafe: Karver
Favorite thing I did: Thrift store shopping (there are several in the city center)
I’m going to make a bold statement: Montenegro might be one of my favorite places I’ve ever been to.
I think it came at the right time for me. I was tired from the cold and the snow and the English teaching. I just wanted to go somewhere. Crystal was flying out of Podgorica on a Friday, and so on a Tuesday we decided to shake the icicles off of our eyelashes and head to the Montenegrin coast.
At 10 pm we went out and waited on a very cold street corner in Prizren for 45 minutes, were mistaken for prostitutes twice, and finally loaded onto a way too crowded bus for a 5 hour bus ride to Ulcinj, Montenegro.
It was about 4 am by the time we got to the bus station. We talked for a minute about getting a hotel room, but the sun was going to come up soon and we didn’t feel like spending the money, so instead we walked in the direction of the sea. After a lengthy stop at a 24 hour bakery and a near miss with a suspicious police officer, we made it to the beach and dropped into the sand. There we laid, shivering, for an hour and half until the sun came up.
Once the sun was up we wandered around looking for a warm place to sit. We felt like hobos. A little old Albanian man welcomed us into his tiny cafe and made us Turkish coffee. He was very proud of his single English phrase: “Good morgan!” He said it over and over to us, but we didn’t have the heart to correct him.
It was still too early to check into the place where we were staying so we stopped at another cafe where a group of old men was sitting around smoking and drinking coffee. They gave us free macchiatos and let us sit there for a long time warming our little hobo-selves.
Finally, we were able to check into the little room in an apartment that we had found online. A sweet old lady who spoke no English welcomed us and gave us juice. We napped most of the morning and after showers and food, we were finally able to appreciate where we were. And by the way, Ulcinj is glorious.
We walked through groves of olive trees, climbed rocky cliffs along the sea side, and got lost in the winding streets of the old city.
It was the dreamiest two days in Ulcinj, Montenegro, a city with the kindest old people and the bluest water I have ever seen.
“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” -Anais Nin
Where I stayed: Apartments Zuto
Best place I ate at: We didn’t really eat out because it was a bit expensive, but you can never go wrong with byrek.
Favorite Cafe: Marinero (the nicest owners who let us overstay our welcome and gave us free coffee)
Favorite thing I did: Walked along the paths by the coast for 4 hours