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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SDFs in Perpignan

Combat boots stomps toward me.  People begin to look up and stare.  Whispers drift in the air as the street people walk by the table of people seating outside a restaurant. One thing I have observed with the homeless people here in Perpignan is that many of them dress in a punk style.
People who dress punk in the United States tend to have tattoos and piercing. Punks tend to have piercing everywhere-- their mouth, nose, eyebrows, and bridge, which is the area between one’s eyes. They have their ears gaged to a size that says they don’t care what society thinks is appropriate.
Punk’s attire consists of combat boots laced as high and tight as can be. The pants of a punk tend to be cut in random spots or a neon color plaid that screams, “Look at me.” Shirts tend to look dirty, as if they have not been washed for days. And then there is the body odor that often goes along with the look.
Punks tend to be influenced by ‘70s punk style like The Sex Pistols and The Clash People take pride in the fact that they call themselves punks in the United States.
I like to think at times that I dress and feel like a punk. By piercing my nose and upper lip, gaging my ears and displaying my tattoos so everyone can see. I don’t give in to the norms of society. But in Perpignan I feel people stare at me, thinking I belong in the SDF crowd. SDF is a French term that stands for sans domicile fixe, which in English translates to without a fixed home.  
Every city around the world has street people. Some cause a bigger problem then others. But one thing about the SDF crowd in Perpignan is that they travel in packs. They all seem know each other and greet one another with a smile. Their bags unfold across the sidewalks in one big pile. The dogs of the group stretch out across the walkway to rest. When passing these crowds, one has to walk around them, making an arc that outlines the space that belongs to them.  

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My first International Music Festival!!!!!

Since the first day in Perpignan, I knew about a music festival happening on July 12th. A few people in my school group were talking about going no matter what. They are Canadians and are a huge fan of Arcade Fire. Side note, most of the members in Arcade Fire are Canadians expect for the lead singer which is American. I like Arcade Fire and a few other bands on the lineup but I wasn't certain if I was going to go. Just a few days before the concert I was talking with me roommate about this festival. And then a thought came over me. "When will I be able to get another chance to go to a music festival in France?" So the day before the concert I bought a ticket and was planning on taking a train out there but I had no idea how I was going to get back. Just to let my mom know that I was not alone. My roommate came with me.

Looking back on this experience I can only laugh at the fact that everything worked out for us without planning everything out.

The first thing that worked out was buying our train tickets. The kiosk that had English options was not taking our credit cards so we had to use one that was only in French. Lets just say both of us were in the beginner's French class. Lucky my roommate figured out how to buy our tickets however it didn't look like a ticket. So she was worried that it wasn't a ticket and then was worried that we were not on the right train. For some reason I just felt that it will all work out.

Those were the right tickets and we were heading in the right direction. We got to our stop and now it was time to figure out where the festival was and how we were going to get there. Once again luck was on our side because we ran into someone who spoke English and French and was heading to the festival as well.

Once at the festival we got front row because we were there that early.

During the festival I just relaxed and listened to the great music. I met some new friends and danced the festival away. I wasn't even concerned with trying to get back.

Fortunately for us we ran into the Canadians I mentioned earlier and got a ride home.

The festival was amazing. I have never been to a festival with a view that this one had. The rain held out until the last band came on and then it poured. But it was worth every minute and I would do it again in a heart beat.

Till next time,

Friday, July 1, 2011

Look Left, Look Right, Look Left Again

In the classic children film Santa Claus is Coming to Town, Kris Kringle teaches Winter Warlock how to walk with a song stating, “if you put one foot in front of another…” In Perpignan I find myself singing the same song in my head. However it is not all gum drops and sugar plums while walking in a city, especially a foreign one.

When I think of what I have experienced in my short stay in Perpignan so far, walking comes to my mind. I walk everywhere in Perpignan. I’m not complaining. I actually enjoy it. I think walking around an area is the best way to get to know it. However, when I compare walking in Perpignan to walking in the United States, I can see differences. One small thing is where the street signs are placed. In the U.S., the street signs tend to be place on an intersection of two streets to tell someone when to turn or where they are. However, I have observed that the street signs are placed on the buildings, which can be very confusing especially to someone not from the area. Also, the crosswalk at a streetlight is another thing I still need to get use to. Back in the States I can time out to the T when I can start walking across (using the crosswalk signs, not j-walking). While I wait to cross, I mostly look at the streetlights to tell me when to cross not the crosswalk sign. I wait eagerly for the yellow light to turn red and then I’m off. Here in Perpignan the location of the signs makes it difficult for me to count down the “it’s alright to cross.” I want to add one last observation. No matter what crosswalk you want to cross, cars don’t halt for a pedestrian. When I learned how to drive, stopping for a pedestrian was the golden rule. Here I would get frustrated at the cars for not stopping. I need to remember that the golden rule here for driving differs from the States.
My walking will continue around this beautiful city. More stories and observations awaits.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

To start this new post I figured I would give the details on how I arrived in Europe and how I reached my destination.
I left Minneapolis on June 20th at 11am. I had on stop on the way to London and that was in Toronto. I sat in Toronto's airport for 3 hours until my plane for London showed up. A quick side note, I took Air Canada from Minneapolis to London and let me tell you, I ate the best airplane meal plus got a complimentary glass of wine to go with my dinner. I arrived in London, Heathrow Airport, on June 21st at 6 o'clock in the morning. From Heathrow I took a bus to get to Stansted Airport where I took another plane to get to Germany. The bus left Heathrow at 11am and got to Stansted shortly before 1pm/13:00. However my plane for London to Germany didn't leave until 7pm/19:00 so I sat at that airport for 6 hours. Luckily I brought a movie with me to Europe because I bought a movie that can only be played in European countries. I did not read the fine print before purchasing it. I purchased a ticket from London to Duesseldorf from RyanAir which is like AllegiantAir in the states. The problem with RyanAir is that the fly out of airports that are in the middle of nowhere. So when I arrived in "Duesseldorf," I still had to take a bus then a train to get to the city of Dusseldorf. I did not know this until I arrived in "Dusseldorf." I meet some wonderful people while I was trying to figure out how to get to Duesseldorf. We met under similar circumstances, we didn't know exactly how to get to Dusseldorf. It was a bonding experience. Eventually I found someone who knew what they were doing and going. I finally got to the city of Duesseldorf right before midnight. You maybe think is she done with her traveling yet and the answer is no. I still needed to get to Bendorf where I am staying right now. So I sat at the train station for 3 hours to take it to Koblenz. Once again I met some locals. One man put headphones on my head to listen to some music. I quite enjoyed the music. It had a bit of funk to it. I arrive in Koblenz at 5am waited to talk to the train station to find a train to Perpignan, that is another story. I took a taxi to Bendorf and finally arrived to my designation on June 22nd at 7am. Next place on the list in France.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oh How I Love Cruise Control!!!

I was suppose to take a train from Whitefish, Montana, to St. Paul, Minnesota. It would have been a 22 hour train ride and I would get to Minnesota on time for my sister's High School Graduation, however the train got cancelled due to flooding on the tracks. The next train leaving Whitefish would have been on June 4th, but my sister's graduation was on June 3rd. So I decided in less then 24 hours that I would rent a car and drive myself across Montana, North Dakota and most of Minnesota. Here is what I had observed along the way:

  • First off, the car I had reserved did not have cruise control. So I decided to pay $20 extra to get a car that had cruise control and let me tell you that was the best investment I had made in awhile. With changing the cars, I didn't get on the highway until 7am on June 1st.
  • I drunk caffeine to jump start my system, however I only last an hour and a half into the trip before I had to use the restroom. 
  • One game I played was the ABC game. If you don't know what that is let me explain. It is where you spot letters while you are driving but you have to go in alphabetical order. I just want to say I won that game.
  • Within 3 hours of my trip I got flipped off. I was really worried that I was going to get flipped off checked off on my list of "things to do while you are on a road trip." Luckily I did and had 16 hours to spare. P.S. I don't think I deserved it.   
  • I kept track of the different license plates I passed (not including semis) on my travel. Here is the list: New York, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Washington, Oregon, Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa and the most unlikely license plate I saw was Alaska. 
  • The last think I want to mention about my road trip are the pet peeves I have. Pet peeve number one; semi-trucks, they go too slow for me and I hate when there are two semis, one in the left lane and one in the right. Actually, slow cars in the left lane period. People that don't know how to merge onto a highway. And the last thing that is worth mentioning is ROAD CONSTRUCTION where one minute I am cruising along going 80mph and have to drop to 40mph. I don't like it.