“You want to put the needle where?!”

I swear I’ll spare you all of the grimmer details, but this past Friday, at around 8 pm, after becoming very familiar with various bathrooms in Kathmandu, I was rushed to a clinic to find out that I have dysentery. Some of you might be wondering “isn’t that like, a pioneer disease from Oregon trail times?” or “what the hell is dysentery?”. First answer is yes. Second answer is I was basically sh***ing myself to death. I felt so bloated that I described it to the doctor as feeling “pregnant with death” and in my disgusting, hazy, pallid, essentially confused state said the word “bueno” too many times as nurses explained I was severely dehydrated, drew blood, and attached an IV to my arm.

Despite fluids, medications, and even a shot to my left buttcheek (about as fun as it sounds) the ensuing night was quite harrowing, but I was really lucky and grateful to have my friends here that stayed with me/visited me in my little room. 48 hours in one bed gave me a lot of time to think, even if deliriously, and to memorize the view outside. Which i wanted to join desperately. The prime minister’s guest house was the neighboring building, and a couple times I would forget that an armed solider sat in his tower 7 feet from my window which made for some awkard moments getting fresh air. It was quite a lovely house though: the walls were a bright blue with a red roof and below there was a courtyard of plants and children’s toys. It was maybe the first time I’ve registered Kathmandu as quiet since I arrived nearly two months ago. When I began to feel a little better yesterday I attempted to walk down the hall, curious to know what other wayward foreigners had found themselves in the clinic. All I encountered was a man whose face was half covered in an oxygen mask, and he understandably wanted nothing to do with anyone, especially me.

The hardest part about being sick is that my body is wrecked but my head is incredibly restless. I spent another night (last night) there, with the really nice nurses and doctors and bland food. This morning when I showered I could hear music drifting in from another hospital room; there was a small space around a pipe running along the wall that allowed this transaction to occur. This mystery patient played three of my favorite songs in a row, whistling intermittently. The first song was Beirut’s “no no no” in which one of the lyrics is “don’t know the first thing about who you are, my heart is waiting taken in from the start”. Basically I spent all of the shower convincing myself the love of my life was in that next room and that the universe was giving me the ultimate sign: same city, same clinic, same songs. Duh. Science. I was bored. Zoe did some sleuthing and apparently mystery patient was a dashing young man about (?) our age. Just to let you all down now I’ll admit I didnt have the balls to just introduce myself to someone in my current state, partially because I realize what I creep I sound like and saying “hey hot stuff what’s your name like your music by the way I have dysentery” isn’t exactly enticing. If that line ever has worked for you I’d love to hear the story. Instead, weirdly, awkwardly, maybe even nerdily, I tried to sing very quietly along to the music, hoping it would garner some sort of attention.

My attempts were fruitless.

In the end I was hoping the silver lining to this whole hospital experience would present itself in the form of a new National Geographic photographer boyfriend, or maybe even just friend, with kickass taste in tunes. Furthermore I was and am bummed because today is Holi, the festival of color, and I kid you not I have wanted to participate in holi since I was 12 years old; I wanted to throw colored powder and get doused in dyed water in crowds of happy smiling people.
After checking out of the hospital today zoe helped me get to the hotel Utse, where we stay almost every time we need to be in the city. While zoe showered I took to the hallways, groggy but bored, and walked up to three Americans throwing colored balloons from the second floor; they wore baggy clothes, kinda smelled like weed, and were blasting snoop dog. They were incredibly friendly, gave me some good advice for my Annapurna basecamp trek next weekend, and also watched from that same second floor window as I received smushed red powder to the face and a whole bucket of slimy blue water all over my freshly showered still sick body. Not what i had imagined for the past 6.5 years, but my fault for leaving the safety of the hotel to buy digestives, and even if it was gross it still put a smile on my face.

There really isn’t much of a point to this post. Despite this hiccup I’ve been enjoying teaching at the school, taking a one-on-one “Nepali class” with a teacher at said school (I can translate/read now), and meeting more and more people in my wonderful little village. Apologies for the non-existent editing!

Best
Panorsama

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Who knew there’d be stray dalmations?

A lot has happened in the past week, so this is a mishmosh of many thoughts and experiences:

There are few things I can compare to the pleasantness of watching Nepali food be prepared at school; around tiffin time the female teachers in their purple kurtas (similar to a caftan or tunic, with billowy pants underneath) chatter and chirp as they peel, cut, steam, and occasionally pop into their mouths bits of vegetable. Squatting low to the floor with heels on the ground, they somehow remind me of frogs braced to leap. Their wide faces are crinkled with smile lines, and a tikka the color of a setting sun sits low between dark eyes encircled in kohl. I’m offered small handfuls of badhmas, soybeans, that are roasted and crushed in the bottom of a large flat basket. The soybeans are small and hard, with the white bean peaking out as a thin line under the blackened shell. If anyone reading this has ever held a wishing rock (specifically from Maine) in their hand, that is as visually close to a roasted soybean as you can get. Despite how dark the small “kitchen” is, in my memory there is only light. I straddle a low blue bench and try to keep up peeling garlic and onion, but it’s too hard to not get distracted by those purple figures huddled and laughing; it’s even more difficult to focus as I’m mesmerized by the steam twirling up from the tea and the ceremonious way it is poured and brought to me in a small steel cup. One of my favorite times of day, and this even holds true in Susma’s home, is sitting with my cold hands wrapped around a cup of Masala tea, watching bamboo sway, and listening to Nepali, a language like oil cracking and popping in a hot pan: frantic yet entertaining.

I have been fortunate enough to have lived in some truly amazing communities, to name the big three : Middlesex, Williamstown, and MDI. All are abundant with beautiful, supportive, and interesting people. Living in Lamatar, though different from America, is probably the closest community I have ever witnessed (and begun to become a part of): Susma never hesitates to give a neighbor a bag of roti flour or rice, the older kids at school tend to the younger ones as if they were their own siblings (and some are), and not only do the people rely each other, but the environment as well; every vegetable or fruit I have eaten is from this town, and that also holds true for the bread and that one time I ate a cube of chicken. This symbiotic relationship is mostly overshadowed by the irony that the streams and roads are littered with garbage, and that the smog is so thick over Kathmandu and Lubhu that I go days without being able to see the himalayas. That is all profoundly sad and disappointing to me, as it hints at a larger issue threatening our livelihoods, but I’ll write another blog post about that later.
Moving on, I’m really digging the vibrancy of this culture and starting to feel more like a local with my routine and band of village children. Here and there I’m picking up more Nepali, which garners more respect from the adults, and even more excited giggles from the children (“kina haseko?!” =”why are you laughing?!”). I feel more at ease in front of the class, understanding their quirks and impulses, and have even progressed to being able to sing for them, but really can’t stress enough how f***ing tired I am of singing the limited Justin Bieber songs I know (per their request/begging). After my trip with Rajand today to meet his family, I also finally learned what commuting to Kathmandu feels like for a local. Sitting on the back of a motorcycle, which I recognize is a punishable offense in the domain of my parents, we whipped through Lamatar and Lubhu, and down the crowded busy streets of the city. It was possibly the most thrilling experience of my life, as micro and mini busses came within inches of my knee caps. Driving in Nepal should qualify as an extreme adventure sport, and up until today I had only speculated at the difficulty of it from the “safety” of the rickety, packed busses. The journey was a wonderful blur of women bending in their rice paddies, men smoking in short blue doorways, and teens wearing acid wash jeans and leather jackets (with grunge-pop star haircuts that are from the early 2000s, where I personally believe they should remain, never to be seen again). It felt good to have the wind in my hair but not the dust in my moth and eyes. Anyways, Rajand stopped in Patan’s Durban Square, where I marveled at the intricate woodwork on the facades and pillars of various temples; drinking my coffee in a rooftop cafe, I looked out over the whole complex, which at the moment is wrought with framework to repair damaged structures, marveling at how much beauty pokes out from beneath so much destruction.

Finally arriving at the family apartment in Sandepa, I was able to meet a bunch of cheery women and a really friggin cute baby. I was particularly taken by the baby’s mother, Apara, who is not only raising her baby alone while her husband is getting his master’s degree in California, but is attending classes at Tribhuvan University to become a nurse. If anyone is curious, as I was, her husband missed the birth of their baby, but was able to visit four months later. I held back tears rather unsuccessfully as Apara explained that she wants to go with her son, now 8 months old, to America and visit her husband, but she wasn’t very optimistic. The tears were a result of the sinking feeling I too had that she wouldn’t get the visa, because I have met and spoken with three other people who all want tourist visas to America, but have been rejected many times. It breaks my heart. It really honestly truly breaks my heart. This woman has one of the brightest, kindest souls I have ever encountered, and has every right to see where her husband will be living for another 1.5 years. The idea that she wouldn’t be welcomed warmly by most of my country is nauseating. I wasn’t under any illusion that just because I’m not in America I wouldn’t hear about all the political bullshit happening, but I didn’t expect to be meeting so many people effected by our policies (perhaps an ignorant realization).
Even as that sinking feeling came and continues to stick around, I was still able to enjoy a lovely afternoon, eventually riding back home with the setting sun, loving this country and people, but again not embracing the dust in my face.

Samanta (in Nepali means equity)

Tikkas and turnarounds

So I’ve been formulating what I would write for the past 45 minutes, but I think I’ll start with the fact that Nacho Libre just came onto our television, our small, grainy, infrequently used tv, that has a wonderful ability to muddle every color of the spectrum to greens and yellows reminiscent of dhal bhat and curry. Day to day I experience small moments that are potent mixtures of home and here, and each time they are pleasantly odd and equally unexpected, beginning with putting maple syrup that I brought from Maine on my homemade roti. My students and the village children are hung up on Bob Marley and Bill Gates, and are still reeling with confusion after I explained that Bob Marley is not, in fact, a rapper, nor is he from Africa. This morning I walked by a group of class 8 boys singing Buffalo Soldier and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sing along a little bit. These kids are honestly so fun to talk to and I rarely leave a conversation without having laughed at least 100 times. I had a really difficult start to this week mentally/emotionally, but with the advice of two former teachers (mom and mumdee) I am trying to be less hard on myself and enjoy the magic of the classroom. In an even greater effort to more fully assimilate I temporarily got rid of Snapchat and instagram, which has been kind of nice actually. Anyways, the hard truth is that Shree Shringery School is incredibly disorganized and a tad frustrating, with teachers and students erratically absent and both parties at varying levels of English. A great truth is that they are all full of energy and excitement, and make the most they can out of very little; without their attitudes I don’t know how I would stand in front of them everyday. Just that fact that I am here, talking about my home, the world, and the environment, is already making a difference, so I’ve begun to focus on teaching what I’m actually passionate about because in the end if I enjoy it they will too. I was really apprehensive to teach the primary school teachers, but even a slight shift in attitude has made the past two lessons quite fun and challenging. Becoming more comfortable here has created more opportunities for me to get to know the kids outside the role as their teacher, and with Zoe at my side we spend 2nd period with class 7 during their free time, just talking and drawing (this has been especially important following a fight that broke out between two students). I tried to explain blind contour drawing to both my class 5 and class 7, and had a ridiculous amount of fun seeing what they came up with. Using the imagination is something students here struggle with quite a lot, so naturally I often turn to art; they invested themselves in it for the most part and I even had to make some of the students (specifically a boy named Jeevan) stop drawing when class time was over, though I wish I could have let him keep going forever. Not all of the students find drawing as fascinating as Jeevan, but I am working on finding a good balance. Anywho, that is how school is going. Life in Susma and Rajand’s home is quite lovely, and I enjoy my simple activities/chores: getting water from the tap by the temple, doing laundry on our roof with the view of the Himalayas, playing “Chungi” with Shisir and his friends, feeding the stray dog (I named him Cody) butter biscuits after dinner, and begging Susma to teach me how to cook. There are many more silly beautiful details but I’m quite tired and will get to those later. Thank you to all who keep reading this!

Best,
enSamble

(Wondering if you’ve caught on to the puns of my name yet)

first impressions

Whether due to smog or just morning vapor, the mountains were divided horizontally into stripes of grey purple and blue. Their very tips caught the fire of the sun, and I sat quietly on my mat watching the warmth permeate down through night’s cold hazy colors. The view from my window is so striking I hardly believe it’s all mine. Such resolute power and beauty call to me yet simultaneously I fear the sharp white peaks and the dark shadows that settle in their crags. It’s as if those summits were pinched and scarred by a great potters hand. Pinched and twisted and pulled up towards the heavens, the foothills mounds of soft dark clay awaiting their turns. While my eyes watched my ears listened: A morning prayer bell or the bell of a cow shaking its heavy neck? Voices in a language I have yet to learn. neighborhood dogs fighting for scraps or calling to birds that taunt them from a thin black branch. It is nearly impossible to escape the sound of honking and the hum of a motorcycle.I’m embracing and learning to welcome many things. I have made many new friends from the past few days, both from England and from right here in Nepal. The Nepalese people, from the little I have seen, are incredibly beautiful and friendly; the food, the architecture, and the clothes are also quite vibrant and exciting. I would be lying if I said my stomach felt okay, but that’s normal according to my advisor Basant! The Oyster travel team has been so amazing and I can’t stress that enough. Their organization and support definitely make me feel more at ease in a culture that is very very overwhelming to me (in mostly good ways). They helped Zoe and me move into our temporary home in Lubhu, which is a village in the foothills about an hour east of Kathmandu. Our Nepalese mother is “Sushma”, our father “Rajand”, our little brother “Sisir”, and of course there is half a village of family members I have yet to meet. Lubhu is a beautiful, verdant village of paddies, yellow flowers, and mostly tall, colorful cement houses or small adobe-like homes with short blue doors and windows. By short I mean you would have to be 4.5 feet tall to fit through. According to Basant there are many reasons for this, but one is that bad spirits are blind, and if you have a short doorway they will hit their head and not be able to pass into your home. Sounds good to me. the house I live in does not have one of these doors. In fact this house doesn’t really have windows either. Luckily for Zoe and I our rooms have glass on the windows, but the rest of the cement home is completely open to the elements: for example, I can see my own breath starting at 5pm up until around 10am. My room is pink, with a large wooden chair, a small desk, and a bed that is really just a large wooden board with a thin mat on it. As I mentioned in the beginning, a bit more poetically, my view is the best I’ve ever had. The best thing about Lubhu is that I get a panoramic view of Kathmandu, and the FREAKING HIMALAYAS right behind it. Every day. All for me. It’s pretty cool. Im nervous to start teaching at the school, but I think it will be really fun once I get into the swing of things. I also have Zoe here which is such a blessing. I’ll write more soon.

Namaste
Samsel Fly

This many

Spent the past few weeks wondering what I was going to write about, but couldn’t find the words I wanted, and spent more time writing things in my head than finding the energy to type said thoughts out into a coherent blog post. Frustratingly so, I have little strings of thought and observation that seem like they could give way to poetry, short stories, or even songs, but as soon as the period is reached I can’t seem to think up much after that that carries the integrity of the first sentence. Everything becomes blurred together and lukewarm.

After reading Slaughterhouse Five a while ago my sense of time is greatly influenced by Tralfamadorian theory; I feel as if I have achieved a high form of presence: Im pulled towards memories of my youth, I am equally drawn to dreams of my future, and I’m fairly content with where I am now (in fact pretty bummed to be leaving Maine in 8 days). Though Nepal is just on the horizon I’m in no hurry to get there. Though I miss home, I know in time I’ll be there as well. My friend Ali was telling me about her gap year experience, and how in the beginning “time off” seemed to promise the comfort and familiarity of the good old days, delving into old traditions and habits along the lines of apple picking or even remembering what it’s like to regularly sit and eat with your family. As we both discovered and agreed, getting back to that feeling of security and even coziness of youth is close to impossible. There is a [partly self-inflicted] pressure to find internships, go out on your own, push yourself out of the nest. This is of course what I wanted to sign myself up for on this year, but sitting in your dorm room, telling yourself you’re ready to be an adult, ready to grow old, is easier than actually doing it. I’ve been in every moment of my life all at once, sensing the parts of me that are young, the parts of me that feel older than I am, and others in between. Sometimes it feels like twelve year old me is standing behind the register at the Town Hill Market, wondering why I’m not at lacrosse practice and hoping afterwards I can eat mac and cheese then play at Deirdre’s or Maggie’s house before it gets dark. 35 year old me is standing on top of Champlain Mountain, wondering if I like my job, do I want kids, do I embrace gray hairs or dye them? Ten seconds later I’m 64 and its as if  I can’t stop looking behind me wondering how the hell I’m 64. 18 year old me is sitting in bed writing this blog post, still baffled that I’m 18, wondering why 16 wasn’t that sweet, not sure where 17 went, pretty pumped that I got to vote this year. How is an 18 year old supposed to feel? No one really tells you. It’s even harder that I’m not in college because almost no adults have any advice for a teen who isn’t enclosed in the social norms of a college campus. I think most can agree that 18 is an age of philosophizing that feels incredibly significant, on the flip side also a little far fetched and potentially categorized as nihilist. All these big questions!!!! All these fears!!! what do I do with them? Take a philosophy class? Read up on some Freud? Start doing more adventure sports? Drugs? No probably not drugs.

Who really ever knows anything?

 

Sam Pellegrino

 

 

Behind the Counter

The dualities of my life are currently overwhelming; I can say that the past 48 hours have been both the most heartbreaking and the most empowering that I’ve experienced in my adult life: I can say that I’m both proud and embarrassed to be an American, I can say that I have both gained and lost faith. Tears have been shed, phone calls have been made, encouraging articles have been published, yet I still feel a rock in my stomach and a sting in my heart. I have seen the ugliest side of America, but from this hatred and bigotry I see an incredibly strong, resilient group of people who will never stop fighting for what is morally just. Despite feeling unwanted and rejected, we, as the educated people of this country, will use our passion and determination to move only forward, and not allow our own feelings of hate to destroy our morals. Right? Because if I don’t believe these things, if I fail to act, the guilt of being a bystander will consume me. I usually hate the internet as a means for voicing political opinions, because it means there is little conversation to actually be had and usually things just come off as flippant and dismissive, yet this time around my Facebook and Instagram accounts have brought mostly enormous relief and comfort. The biggest challenge I face in the wake of the presidential election is dealing with the real opinions, the real conversations, and real ignorance of many Trump supporters that I encounter at my job, despite the many non-supporters that made my day a little bit cheerier.

Agreeing with my aunt Lilea, who dedicated the better part of her afternoon relating to my intense emotions, I believe that working at the Town Hill Market might be one of the most challenging jobs I will ever have. No, not because sweeping floors and making change is difficult, but because I am the girl behind the counter, often used as the sounding board by customers that come through our doors. I am no longer in my small New England boarding school, where those Trump supporters feel millions of miles away, where my world is clean, controlled, and morally sound, and where I feel physically and emotionally safe to voice my opinions. My environment is not longer one that is always encouraging me to speak my mind confidently and with grace. I am fully in America now, I am among all walks of life, not just the 1%, and I am experiencing the beauty and frustration of democracy. I am learning that not everyone was afforded an education, or learned the basic kindergarten rules of what is right and wrong. Most of all I am learning how to pick, and how to fight, my battles. I have learned that sometimes I am just the hand that takes the cash and delivers the product, that I am sometimes just meant to listen, and that the customer really has no interest in what I have to say. I am not offended by this, for many the market is a safe space to blurt out anything under the assumption that I as a worker won’t lash out at them in protest (and I often dont feel like I have to). But after this election I want to. I want to scream. I want to burst into flames. I want to throw shit everywhere, yet all I could do when I heard “He can grope us all he wants as long as he cuts taxes” ( said by a Mother of two daughters) was run out back, and feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, feel a knot in my gut, feel a bitter taste on my tongue, and feel the hot tears in my eyes. Don’t even get me started on my two coworkers. Just don’t. Im not writing this to re-hash every time I wanted to verbally kick someone in the face, for there have been too many, and patience is wearing quite thin.

I am writing this not with the utmost clarity, but in the pursuit of it: “Have no fear” my Aunt Ellen assures me, “there is a silver lining”, and thank god she is right. I am thankful that most of the people I speak to are just as upset as I am, but also just as passionate. Despite all the uncertainty and fear, I see so much love and support coming from all directions to lift up the spirits of the downtrodden, though I am a little disappointed that our shared passion and determination is being confused with hysteria and melodrama, especially for millennials.  I am still in shock, and the incoherency of this post reflects that for sure, but with all this motivation to be a greater force of change, Today I feel the most beautiful I have ever felt. I still feel a little cheated by the world and everything I was told growing up about the forces of good and evil, but never before have I been so certain that I am proud to be a feminist, so confident that I am intelligent, strong, healthy, and more than capable. I’m still not willing to give Trump “a chance” after a myriad of things, including reading his First 100 Days Action Plan, but I know that I am starting on a long difficult path to learning how to advocate for my beliefs.

 

also everyone join pantsuit nation

give em’ hell

Uncle Sam

Resident Tourist

Driving through downtown Bar Harbor in the summertime closely resembles the chaos of the nine circles of Hell. Sweaty, eager faces, sporting brand new Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park Hoodies, swarm the sidewalks and express blatant disregard for crosswalks or the cars trying get through them. Children dip and dodge around cars parked along the street, keeping every driver on his or her toes. To top it all off, the sparkling white cities spewing human waste, often referred to as “cruise ships”, drop anchor right in the Harbor, obstructing views across Frenchman’s Bay and portending another swarm of visitors.

At some point or another we all find “tourists” annoying. There is something about home pride that wants us to see our towns devoid of people that we deem “outsiders” and strike us as incompetent, but in truth we are all in the position of tourist at one point or another. I prefer the term traveler because that implies curiosity, open-mindedness, and a genuine interest in connecting with people and the world. I love meeting people from all corners of the earth, who each have unique and complicated stories as to why they are where they are and where they plan on going next. This past weekend I went on Precipice trail up Champlain mountain, and while waiting behind a group of young women for a couple to make their way down one of the many iron ladders, one of them turned to me and said “Are you hiking this all by yourself?!” (to which I said yes) “Hike with us! My name is Elizabeth!”. This simultaneously confused me and made me incredibly happy, because how often are people that damn friendly. Anyways, Elizabeth, Cara, and Lauren are three friends from Tennessee, who had remained fast friends since high school and all had spent significant amounts of time traveling the world, meeting people, and understanding cultures different from their own (aka my favorite kinds of people). A hike that would have taken 2 hours ended up taking 4 because we had so much fun talking and enjoying the view. Even when it started to rain they were just happy to be up there, exploring a place they’d never been with a person they’d just met. I was also useful because I could take group photos, but hopefully that wasn’t the sole motivation for keeping me along.

As much as I wanted to hear about them, they too were curious about my life; “Do you live here?” received a quick “yes”, but mulling it over I’m not actually sure where I live. Hamilton, MA is my “home home”, but I consider lots of places home, and I’ve also lived in many places the past four years: I lived at Middlesex, I lived in Alaska, I lived in Williamstown, I lived here Junior year when I worked in Acadia National Park, and here I am again for 3 months. But when does staying somewhere become living? When does tourist become resident? (Quick sidebar if anyone can answer this I’m curious) When does a hill become a mountain? Suddenly I wasn’t sure if I was a tourist too. My cousin Turner sometimes jokes that I’m just a tourist that never leaves.

For Halloween Turner and I donned straw hats, sunscreen, and Hawaiian shirts, having decided that being stereotypical tourists would be a cheap and fun Halloween costume. I was ready for the dose of nostalgia associated with Halloween; I hadn’t been trick or treating in four years, and hanging out with my spunky/often sarcastic cousins promised a night full of candy and fun. Our first and biggest stop was Ledgelawn Ave: We had a whole routine that Turner came up with, involving us walking excitedly up to a stoop, holding out a map of MDI to the candy-giver, and explaining that we were lost tourists whose cruise ship had left them behind. Some people laughed and said we were the scariest costume they had ever seen, one lady even said “Oh my god that’s hilarious both of you get a whole handful”, as Darth Mal, a scarecrow, and a ladybug erupted in laugher behind her on the porch. Others were also amused, but their responses revealed a deeper bitterness and frustration towards those recently departed summer crowds, sentiments I wish they hadn’t inadvertently directed at me and my 12 year old cousin (who is a born-and-raised Mainer).

This island is proud to be a truly special and wonderful community, but I would be lying  if I said I wasn’t sometimes a little embarrassed about my Massachusetts license plate. Like I said in my first post, these are hard working, respectable, and kind people, but their pride is sometimes intended to be alienating, despite the fact that this island’s economy, and the state of ANP, relies quite heavily on tourism and owes many thanks to the Rockefellers. I don’t like to think that if last night people had actually known I was from Massachusetts, they’d still tell me to cross the bridge to Trenton and never come back, because working in the store has definitely given me the opportunity to feel like a local. I know most of the characters of this island, and know almost all of our regulars’ names and orders. Mother Fucker (or for children, just “Mother”), is the kingpin lobsterman of Southwest Harbor. Sledge is a Vietnam Vet who tells me about being stationed in Japan or a new fun fact every Thursday. Judy is sad that we don’t have iced coffee anymore, and doesn’t like holiday themed scrubs  when she goes to work at the hospital. Holly, when they’re in stock, will buy up to 8 Marzipan Ritter chocolate bars. People aside I feel like I know the geography of this island almost like the back of my hand. I’ve worked on Acadia’s trails, even restored/built some of them. So, the question still stands: what am I? Is there a noun for someone who isn’t really a local, a resident, or a tourist, but somehow simultaneously all of those things? Static Nomadic?

 

Signing off to take my third nap of the day,

Samsterdam

 

 

 

 

 

 

Limbo

After catering a wedding late into the night, I let myself sleep in only to wake up wanting to escape. I encountered this feeling a lot in high school: There would be 3 papers to write, 2 paintings to complete, weird/stupid drama, and dissatisfactions of other sorts, that would drive me to create a more distracting (and oddly easier) problem: getting lost.  Taking off into Estabrook woods, sampling different trails, climbing random rocks, and occasionally searching for lady slippers if the season was right, were usually the best ways to alleviate most of the personal trials of living in a very cramped boarding school. My Junior and beginning of Senior years were emotionally very tough; I felt like I was losing a sense of who I was, what I wanted, why I wanted it, and in such a stressful (and pretty judgmental) environment the only way to get a better sense of myself was actually to try and not think about it at all. In other words, have you ever looked up into the night sky only to find that the harder you look at one star the harder it is to see it? Letting things fall into peripheral vision sometimes creates a clearer picture.

today was one of those days when I needed to stop focusing so hard

Though I am glad that nature is such a successful outlet, I was pretty bummed that I felt I needed to use it the way I did. This gap year, with all its craziness, has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, but the 50-60 hour work weeks, with few kids around my age to befriend, has made it sort of hard to see all my friends partying/meeting teens/ etc. I knew this loneliness and diffidence would come at at least one point, but I didn’t feel ready to handle it. Suddenly those little demons of doubt began to pour out of my subconscious and consume any sense of security.  Suddenly there was a heavy stone in my stomach that made me feel to afraid to face myself. Suddenly I had to leave.

Just like last Sunday today was blustery and rainy, but that didn’t deter me from grabbing my keys and whipping down towards the rolling hills and mountains in Acadia National Park. I didn’t have a map but I did have a plan of summiting Bernard mountain, whose whereabouts I had a very vague idea of. Long pond was slate gray and choppy, with Mansell’s granite face slicing straight into its side.Without the distraction of a blue sky I was able to notice how the fiery orange of Fall’s final leaves blended with the periwinkle skeletons of trees and tall black cedars. I noticed the vibrant and minty greens of lichen and moss dotting the trail. I noticed how cold I was already getting but that was another sensation to distract my mind with. At first I took off down the wrong trail, but even upon realizing that I didn’t really mind. Whether it was from dehydration or sleepiness I’ll never know, but if anyone asked me to recount details of that hike I probably wouldn’t be able to. I remember bits and pieces only in a Burroughs’ Cut-Up-Novel kind of way. Nice hipster couple with a map. small icy waterfalls. gunshots. gray view. gray rocks. gray ocean. It felt good to get to the top of the mountain, but my head still wasn’t where I wanted it to be. On my way down I took spontaneous turns onto other trails, jogging up embankments, sliding down rock faces, grabbing roots, breathing hard and clear. Plucking pine needles and inhaling deeply (I swear it’s really really soothing). It felt good to not know where I was going, and I even welcomed that small pang of fear that comes with actively being stupid (keep in mind I had no map and the sun goes down quite early). I was walking so fast I forgot that I was even walking. The beautiful thing was that the deeper I got into the sense of being lost the more I felt myself feeling grounded. With the real problem of not knowing where I was looming over me, I could be more objective in dealing with my insecurities.

I think I speed-walked (sped walked? walked speedily?) almost 8 miles, arriving at my car with my eyes glazed over and a bit of a headache. The universe, or Apple, has synched my iTunes with my emotions or something because on shuffle my phone played songs I forgot I even had or had ever liked. I’m not saying all my problems were solved because I stumbled around the forest, but I certainly have a better grasp on them for the moment. I want to believe that I am the solution to my problems, and the older I get (therefore more problems I face) the more I realize that while I have loving, supporting friends and family, I know myself the best, therefore I know my problems the best, therefore I am the most apt to solve them. So in closing, spending a lot of time alone has been both difficult and incredibly important in shaping who I am.

This post turned out to be a bit more angsty than I intended, but who doesn’t love a good old fashioned story of an irrationally frustrated teen who runs dramatically off into the woods? I sure do!

Signing off,

Samsel no longer in distress. for now. fingers crossed.

Soggy Bills

Here I am, 10:50 on a cloudy sunday morning, beginning this process of regularly sending my thoughts into the void. Historically I am an avid journal writer, but due to astounding laziness I find it easier to type/edit my thoughts quickly. This is an odd time for me to be starting this blog, considering the fact that my gap year started many months ago. Since then I’ve traveled around South Korea and Hong Kong, rented my first apartment in Williamstown, MA, gotten unexpectedly (but politely) kicked out of that apartment by the most attractive man I’ve ever seen, worked for The Artist Book Foundation, worked at Peace Valley Farm, crashed my Design Editor’s home in VT for a few days, and among other trivial details made my way up to Bar Harbor, Maine, where I am babysitting, catering, and working at my family’s general store. I wish I could walk who ever is reading this through all those amazing experiences in deeper detail, not only for their benefit but for my own. I still can’t believe this journey has already started for me, though I will say not going to school, while all my friends have, hasn’t been that weird. Anyways, I digress- expect this as a common occurrence.

I have been living in my aunt and uncle’s house for almost two months, surrounded by many animals and my 12 year old cousin, with the occasional visit from my older cousin and his girlfriend. The dogs are named Quintin and Lutie, the parrot (who’s affections I have been unsuccessfully trying to garner for almost 2 months) is Rasta.  Lutie’s full name is Gluteus Maximus, a name picked by said 12 year old cousin. Last Christmas I clearly remember I was part of the campaign to change this poor creature’s name, but to be honest it suits him really well now. This is not my first time calling MDI my temporary home; the summer before last I worked as trail crew for Acadia National Park, an occupational experience that was as beautiful as it was physically painful.  I’m back because I truly enjoy life up here: I have never worked this many hours in my entire life, but I’m learning how freaking hard it is to make money, even harder to make extra money to travel. On top of rewarding work, I have the entirety of Acadia National Park right at my fingertips, meaning that I can hike/swim/meander as I please in one of the most beautiful places on this earth. I babysit the cutest two year old in this entire world Monday and Tuesday, and I get up at 5:30 am Wed-Sat to work at the Town Hill Market, attempting to live the dream of “cute register girl”, when in reality I show up every morning, eyes red and nose runny from unidentified allergies, wearing my aunt’s clogs and a twenty year old sweatshirt (and of course some form of leggings). I work alongside a very powerful hardworking woman, who is of course a great person at her core, but is quite open about the fact that she “hates newbies”, but because I am the niece of the store owners the hazing has apparently been less severe in my case than others. I think she just means she’s a little impatient. I also work alongside a pretty severe addict, who at 34, has no GED, and finds herself mixed up in a myriad of abusive relationships. This summary of her isn’t meant to sound flippant, but this is how she describes herself, rather openly, to everyone she encounters ( a cry for help I know). Despite her issues, she is truly kind and bubbly, which in the end makes her personal trials even harder to watch. What has made this job much more than stocking shelves, making sandwiches, and working a register, is the people, issues and all. Every day there are about 14 people who’s names, faces, and orders I know, with fresh faces of locals and tourists mixed in. The lobstermen come in right before we close, having spent long days out at sea hauling in traps [hopefully] full of lobster (which i actually happen to strongly dislike but that’s unimportant). Their entire bodies are tensed in one large knot dotted with random tattoos, and their fingers are calloused and swollen. They always smell like bait, and after I ring them up they drop soggy bills and wet coins into my formerly dry, clean hand. The “tree people” as I call them, show up around noon, hands black with pitch. As they pull coins and crumpled bills from their pockets, I am almost guaranteed a few wood shavings along with them. Surprisingly the farmers never drop dirt into my hands, despite having it caked into every crease of their palms and under their fingernails. Though it sounds a tad unpleasant, I love receiving these little tokens of their livelihoods. I love all their hands and their stories. I think I actually like these people the most, not only because I harbor a childhood dream of running away with a fisherman, or because I am incredibly attracted to the “lumber-jack aesthetic”, but because what they do is so incredibly respectable to me: their hands and scars, but also huge smiles, embody the true meaning of hard work. My short time on trail crew taught me that my mind and body are so much more capable than I often give them credit for. Learning how to pass long hours of menial labor by distracting myself and going really really deep into daydreams. Ignoring cuts, bruises and aches. Learning to enjoy the company you’re given, which can be really challenging.

And this is why I am taking this gap year, I think. I’m understanding an exhaustion different from that of late night essay writing and frivolous high school drama. An exhaustion that is less stressful, not necessarily intellectually stimulating, but incredibly important. I’m meeting new and diverse kinds of people, with refreshingly different backgrounds and ideas. The hardest thing I’m learning to do is to trust my decision making. This might be one of the biggest decisions, or just many concentrated decisions, i’ve made. Its hard not to compare my own gap year experience to other’s. I have done some traveling and will do some more (wahoo), but I don’t think that I have to spend time abroad to grow or prove how amazing this year off has been. Living on my own was scary, putting myself out there and applying for jobs was scary, mustering energy to make friends/meet people even more so! Yet I couldn’t be more thankful for those experiences in and around New England, as well as my friends back in Williamstown and up here in Maine. All in all feeling strong, happy, inspired, and wanderlust-y. Just realized that this is the longest I’ve remained in one spot for almost 3 years. Hence, “Static Nomadic”.

Regards,

Prince Samlet