Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Traveling Turtle

Welp! I'm back state-side, 5 months and three weeks of traveling notched into my belt, and thankfully not insanely jet-laggy. Waking up to a foggy San Francisco morning at my friend's place solidified in my head that I was back.
I hit the ground running in terms of getting back into my research, and after a day of organizing data, my friend Jessica and I went out for burritos, the divine SF Mission burrito. You all may argue over which joint is the best, Taqueria Cancun, La Corneta, Papalote, etc. but I'm just happy with a rotund, warm, guacamole-filled, super vegetarian, aluminum foil-wrapped burrito.

An Ode to Burritos

and guess what I'm having for breakfast? More burrito, two meals in one, helz ya
I <3 burritos ^_^

Re-entry into the US was.....exactly what I anticipated. After a 12-ish hour flight with two little kids behind me screaming and kicking my seat the entire way, I was herded, with the rest of the people on the flight, to customs. I was at customs for no more than 2 minutes, but that was apparently more than enough time to get into a dispute with the customs guy, who looked exactly like Teddy Roosevelt, over whether climate change was real or not. Yup, I was back in the US.

Then I had to collect my bag and re-check it for my LA to SF flight, which I would have had no problem with had they not stopped me for a "random security search". The guy pulled me aside and told me to open up my bag. I would just like to state that packing my bag had been a 3-hour long epic Tetris match, and after I unzipped my bag the security guy started grabbing stuff and dumping it onto the dirt and crumb ridden table. After he was done creating a huge pile on the table with my stuff, he told me to put everything back in....connard.

Delicately replacing my traveling treasures into my unhappily overfilled pack, I headed off to another security check. Pulling off my shoes, removing my belt, emptying my pockets, and placing everything into those standard grey buckets I was then directed into a giant x-ray machine, and afterwards patted down by a rather aggressive, large, black woman.
After all that and my flight to SF, I finally arrived home, weary from many hours of travel. Upon opening my pack discovered a note saying "Baggage security search" .....they had searched my bag again.

So, this is where I would like to ask a question for you all to contemplate. When does "security control" start invading personal privacy? Anal searches?
I agree that precautions need to be taken to ensure security, but living in the US I sometimes feel like Big Brother is taking liberties at this point.

Anyhoo, a week after I landed I was on a plane again to Seattle for my cousin's wedding, visiting family as well as the first farm I worked on when I was 17. I was so big eyed and bushy tailed at 17, now I return old and wise....kind of.

So here I close my final post for The Traveling Turtle with something that my mom always tells me, "you will never regret spending money on traveling," and I can truly attest to the validity of that statement. Another adventure come and gone....so what's next? South America I think, though I've always wanted to see Mongolia....but what about Africa......

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Hello peoples!

So, verging on the end of my travels I am currently meeting the difficult challenge of stuffing all my collected treasures into my backpack.....lots of gifts, some purchases, many many...many books (I have a slight addiction to Jean-Marie Pelt's books and so went out and bought every single one I could find), my clothing, and other items all need to be crammed into my burnt orange colored pack. It's a work in progress...

Anyhoo, Ireland!
Ever since I was little I wanted to go/live in Ireland. "It's green all the time, how magnificent!" I though. Well yes, but what I didn't take into consideration when I was little was that it is green all the time because it is wet all the time. The ground was so innundated with water that no more could be soaked into the soil, and thus just ran off the fields flooding the road and creating little rivers everywhere.
These soggy, wet conditions did not facilitate farm work...

I found myself at the Palmer farm with Rebecca (a seamstress/sewing teacher), Chris (the farmer), and Damelza (their daughter who boarded at her school during the week). The farm had three goats, two for milking, five chickens, a goose, a polytunnel, three cats, and four dogs. I helped milk the goats and prepare the polytunnel for planting.
The goats and the valley

Honey, one of the puppies, is very much a lap dog. You never see her preparing to claim your lap. You'd be sitting there, ever so innocently, and then all of a sudden BAM! you had a pup on your lap. Crafty devil. 

Here my turkish homework is very irritatingly in Athena (aka Beans Beans)'s way. She became extremely fond of me during my stay and I could not sit without her appearing on my lap a few seconds later. My catnip pheromone hypothesis is looking strong

Here is Lily, a golden retriever border collie mix, she had the gentle nature of a goldy and the intelligence of a collie. She was wonderful. You can also see Ralf in the back. Dogs overall are a very needy animal, but Ralf took it to an exreme, essentially trying to climb onto you for affection while you were trying to work.

I also got to do some sewing while I was there which I absolutely adored. Here are the beginning pieces of a bag I made.

This was my first project, a pillow, using a technique called the spider web. I had forgotten how much I liked sewing. Refound hobby!

My bag almost completed. I've since sewed on the strap and put it into use during one of my flights.

Here Beans Beans is rather perturbed by the cold morning and is sitting mere millimeters from the stove. Warmth, give me warmth black, heat-giver box!

On the 29th I left the farm after just two and a half weeks , earlier than planned because I had bought a ticket to Madrid to visit my friend Bea. I also left myself a day to explore Dublin. I couldn't go to Ireland and not see it.

I spend my day in Dublin just walking around lugging my packpack along with me. During my wondering, I found this magnificent restaurant called 101 Talbot. The food was orgasmic and the waiters chill and amiable. Seeing that I was there all alone they asked if I wanted a newspaper or book. The atmosphere and decor of the place was quite agreable as well, clean, lots of light, and welcoming.

I got pan fried plaice fillet, beetroot and pickeled ginger salsa, carmalized onion and parsley squashed potato....I cannot describe the magical melody of flavors that blessed my tongue with each masterfully cooked bite, and it was a reasonable 12€50.
After thouroughly savoring every morsel, I took a cafe and ended up staying there for another hour and a half just reading and milking the drink as long as possible....litterally. In order to get the coffee to last as long as possible I kept refilling the cup with the milk they had provided me. By the end it was so diluted it was more a cup of milk than coffee, but it bought me a good hour there. You might say I was milking the system...ok, I'm done with the puns. 
(Damn you Rat, your punny business is rubbing off on me!)

    I also had the brilliant idea to sleep at the Dublin airport so I could save a little of my pretty, colorful euros. I got to the airport around 10pm, read a little, and around 11:30 I curled up on my backpack, upon some seats, to get a bit of shut-eye...and that is about the same time the construciton work started. Sleeping to the blissful melody of jackhammers is not an easy feat. 
     It continued until around 2 or 3 in the morning during which I was only able to get a few intermittent naps. All throughout the night there is also cleaning and people walking around. When I was finally able to drift off into dream land the loud WHRRRRRRRRR of a giant floor cleaner would pass a foot from my head. Flight activity recommenced around 4:30 5:00am and the seats around me started filling up with people awiting their loved ones. At 7 I finally gave up the attempt to sleep and wondered around the airport to stretch my legs.
      So, at this point you might be asking me what time my flight was....1:30pm but I could check in my bags at 11:30. I just had to make it to 11:30. As the hour drew close I was so relieved it was all almost over. Soon I would be on a flight out of dark, cloudy, rainy, depressing Ireland headed to sunny Spain. I'm never willfully sleeping overnight at an airport again...never....again.
 Dublin to Madrid 13:30 flight 75165 Delayed to 15:25

CURSE YOU FATES! Due to airplane problems my flight was delayed until 3:30 and by the time we actually took off I had spent a total of 17 1/2 hours at the Dublin airport. Though it wasn't the most pleasurable experience I shouldn't be complaining too much as explained by Louis CK
 (WARNING: strong language used)

Oh, but I did find the point of no return at the airport.
The above is written in irish. All signs are in both irish and english, Irish being a mandatory class althroughout schooling in Ireland.

As mentioned before, I flew to spain to visit my frend Bea. We had met in Paris, via Robert (who was there for the roadtrip to Aix en provence), while we were all studying there. She was an absolutely amazing host as we ran around Madrid, drank with her friends, and I experienced spanish culture. 
 Old Madrid

Cool paintings

And of course I had to go to the National Museum of Natural Sciences! Poor Bea had to deal with my nerd spasms of excitment and incoherent babbling of random information about each spcimen.

There are only two mammals who lay eggs; the platypus and the echidna (the little guy above). ScIEnCe!!! ^_^

We also visited an Egyptian temple. Years back they build a damn in Egypt and four temples were going to be flooded in the process. So, they sent the temples off to other countries and Spain got one of them.

 "Adijalamani offers two cups of wine to Amon and to Mut"

 After the museum Bea took me to a really cool japanese restaurant called Kintaro where the plates of food are on a conveyor belt and you just grab what you want. We both gorged ourselves on sushi, seaweed salad, tempura, fried rice, and more. Mmmmmmmmhh delectable edible food substances

 Beautiful Madrid

One day Bea asked me what the house was called that people stayed in illegally. I knew that the people doing that were called squatters, and the verb was squatting, but I didn't believe there was a word for the house. So, Bea made up one: Squatty-house. She was so fond of her new word that she has decided that, that will be her child's first word. During the same time we also decided that if I have a child with red hair it's nickname will be brick....I'm really starting to believe that neither of us should breed....

Then, as quick as I came, I was off in a plane again headed for Paris. Madrid was definitely a place that made a mark on me and left me with warm, fuzzy, kitten-soft memories. I'd love to come back and see more of Spain as well pick up spanish. I'll be back!

I'm now chilling not too far from Paris for my last couple of days. Yesterday Yoan and I made a trip to Paris so I could pick up some more Jean-Marie Pelt books...yes, I might have a problem, Yoan could visit a massive hardware store, and we could go see the Hobbit in VO (version originale, aka in english). We ended up exploring a market in Bellville, an area with a lot of immigrants, so, there were items not normally seen in a typical french market. One being the pitaya, or the red dragon fruit, and the cherimoya. I had tried cherimoyas before, a fruit loved by my mom, but I had never before beheld the pitaya. Sadly, the cherimoya's weren't ripe but the pitaya's were, and so I had to get one so we could try it out.

It wasn't the most flavorful but we assumed that it was probably because it wasn't in season, or the fact that it probably was flown in from columbia or mexico, but it had a texture similar to that of a kiwi and was overall a delightful fruit.

I'll probably have one more post after I get back home. Philosophicolizing (to my non-anglophone friends this is not a real word) and summing up my voyage. If there are any questions you guys have for me let me know and I'll try and answer them. Flying back on the 9th. SFO here I come!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

İnatçı, Têtue, Stubborn

I have a lot of catching up to do. Life has been rather stressful as of late but more on that later.

Soooooo where was I?

Ah yes, Christmas with Yoan and his family was spectacular. The food was to die for and there were a thousand courses. Everyone was extremely warm and welcoming to me, and everyone talked and ate with merriment. Julie, you can appreciate the fact that Yoan's cousins and I talked about Jeff Dunham for the better portion of the night. 
Yoan's spanish grandmother cooked a mountain of paella, in the largest frying pan I have ever seen, for the main course. She's absolutely adorable, a head and a half shorter than me, speaks french with a strong spanish accent, and her main worry is that you haven't eaten enough. The meal also lasted until about 1 or 2 in the morning afterwhich I rolled my fatty girth into bed and hybernated for a couple of days. 

A few days later Yoan, Mikael, Virginie (Mikael's friend), and I did what four mature adults  do....we went to Disneyland Paris

 The castle all light up at night. During the closing ceremony they had a cool light show on the castle and some fireworks. We were there from about 9:30am to 10pm. Disneyland marathon!

Virginie and I got some Cotton Candy!!!! aka barbe à papa (Grandpa's beard)

The faces of four adults reverted to children for a day. Oh ya, and it was bloody fricken cold! But we still had a blast anyways.

Then for new years Yoan, Mikael, my friend from studying abroad in Paris, Robert, and I all skipped down via car to Aix-en-Provence to visit a mutual friend Aymeric, well, we were about a half an hour away from Aix. It was an eight hour drive and the two europeans were forced to drive for the entirety of it due to the handicapped americans being unable to drive a stick....ya, need to learn how to do that one day. 
Gorgeous southern france

Our first day we all went hiking at Cales caves in Lamanon where there were lots of ancient homes carved into the sandstone rock and wonderful places to do some bouldering/rock climbing. I once again released my inner child and let her romp free all over the rocks. She thouroughly enjoyed it though I'm sure I revealed my non-standard manerisms to Aymeric and Mikael. How I act might not always make sense to others, but it's ok, it makes sense in my head.

The second day we went out hiking again but this time we did some bush-wacking. Aymeric forged the way which proved challenging for the rest of us to follow. A path made by a guy who's ~6'6 (2m) doesn't work all that well for people of a more standard height such as 5'5/5'4 (~1.65/1.63m) me. That aside, after a decent hike up a sizable hill through rather prickly bushes (not sure of the name though, there was some rosemary in the mix) we make it up into an old quarry. There were huge vaulted ceilings, graffitti, and carvings dating back to 1909. It was so sick!
Me! If you look closely you can see a huge tear in my jeans near my left knee, another will be created during the descent. Took me bloody forever to repair them. I refuse to throw them out yet, we have a history together. They were one of my first pair of jeans that my mom bought for me right before I worked on my first farm in Washington state when I was 17. *Sniffle* *Sniffle* I'm not ready to part with them yet.

Aymeric, posing stoically

In order to place our mark in time, Aymeric scratched our names into the rock. Here he is at work.

The boys    

For those of whom aren't familiar with the french/european way of writing the date, the day goes first then the month then the year.
A pic of the surrounding area, lots of olive trees!
The rest of our stay in the Aix region was just as wonderful, Aymeric being an excellent host, and we had a great new years roaming the streets. Then we took on the eight hour drive back to the Paris region.
Theme song of our stay:

Back in Ile de France to meet the new year. January is a magical time in france, it is the time of the galette des rois. A galette des rois is a patissery from the gods, filled with gooey frongipan lovingly coddled by flaky puff pastry. I, of course, had to eat at least one while I'm here in France. Hit count of galette consumption is now up to 2.

 Inside the galette hides a little fève, a small figuring, and whoever finds it in their slice of galette gets to wear the crown and is king or queen for the rest of the day.
 Whether it was due to luck, chance, or female comradery between Yoan's mom, who was serving the slices, and I we will never know, the important part is that my slice held the tiny fève. So, the crown was mine! and I proudly sported it for the entirity of the day, litterally, I begrudgingly removed it right before my head hit the pillow.
 The tyrant queen! Yes mom, that's the shirt you sent me, I'm quite fond of it.
 The little fève king is now a member of my traveling party. He accompanied Yoan and I on a 7 hour hike, fiercly leading the way.

Now to explain the title of this post and my stressful situation. I was suppose to go to England with my friend because she wanted to visit a farm she had worked on five years ago. Due to her lower level in english, I would come along and act as translator. I was waiting for her to buy her ticket so I could do my planning...and I waited. I will skip details and just get to the part where she kept telling me "ya I'll do it tonight" and in the end after multiple calls from my part she told me she couldn't go. By the time we got to the "I'm not going part" it was already january 5th and I didn't have a plan B.

Cue stress mode!

After a good while of freaking out, I finally made the plan to fly home. I was tired and I missed family and I was ready to start focusing my attention fully on searching for a job. Yay! plan made, I was going home. Now how much would it cost to change my ticket?...... $2000 to $3000, buy a new ticket at least $1000.... How about plan C! Plan C: fly straight to Cork, Ireland, stay with my mom's friend there, and then wwoof in ireland until my flight early feburary. A flawless plan! I though, and so I bought a ticket to Cork for the 12 of january.
Yet, mom couldn't get in contact with her friend. No problem, I'll just go straight to a farm.
Warning to anyone trying to wwoof in ireland, it is a stupidly popular destination even in winter. I sent out a total of 60 requests to host farms and after 5 days, 18 reponses of 'we already have wwoofers' or 'we dont need anyone now', 40 no responses, plenty of posts stating 'Already booked for the rest of 2013!', I finally got two positive responses, the 45th and 49th farms I contacted. Yay! not going to be a homeless person in Cork, though my friends have cracked jokes that I already have the appearance of a homeless person with my backpack and manner of dress...they're just jealous.

Anyhoo! So, I'm off to Ireland! I'm just excited at this point to be going to a place where everyone know's how to pronounce my last name correctly. Wooooo!!!

Ah yes, the title. For those of you who know me, saying "Lauren is stubborn" is a redundant statement. Since I was born my father has been telling me that I'm 'as stubborn as a mule', in the alpes I was called 'tetue' (stubborn), and in Turkey I was called 'keçi' (goat)....hey, at least I'm consistent right? Well, it's moments like this when my stubborness and persistance comes in handy. Had I given up after contacting only 40 farms, I wouldn't have sent a message to the the 45th and 49th farms. Persitance people, persistance....and a touch of stubbornness

Hopefully the farm in Ireland works out. Only a month left of my voyage, but a month is plenty of time for plenty of adventures! Now off to the land of my peoples!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Honey Farm!

Yay pictures!!!! So, in this post I'll only cover my time on the farm in Ardeche

So, break down: At Api Ferme there is Olivier, who owns the beehives and he lives with his partner Ameline who is the mother of Enora, Maelenn, and Matthieu, and Olivier's father, Michel lives with them as well.

While at the farm I helped make candles, bottle vinigar, make hazelnut spread, and spiced bread, and with my free time I got to hike the gorgious hills surrounding the farm.

Here I am in front of all the honey-based products that Olivier makes on Api Ferme; honey (of course), vinigar, spiced bread, candles, hazelnut spread, and nougat

Here is little Maethieu feeding some apples to the donkeys. 

So, Olivier, Ameline, and Michel sing gospel with a group of 16 people and they had a mini concert which I decided to attended. It was really cool to see them sing and little Matthieu and I got to hang out some more. Yet, at the end of the concert when he ran off to get some candy the woman sitting infront of me turned and told me, "Ton fils est trop mignon!" "Your son is so cute!"........I've now reached a new level of old, I can be mistaken as a six-year-old's mother.  Thankfully though, my uturus has been fetus free for 23 years now, and I have no intent of changing that in the near future possibly never. 

So when I got to go hiking I was usually accompanied by either Matthieu or the old dog (I could never remember his name so I just called him old dog), or sometimes by both. Old dog is an epic pup, aged at about 14 years, deaf, old-person skeletal skinny, and is so excited to be petted he trembles. During the day he also likes to hike the trails by himself.

There were cats too ^_^

Here I'm adding the labels to the vinigar bottles

Marie, another wwoofeuse, filling up the vinigar bottles

Because the recolting season is over Olivier doesn't open the bee boxes anymore, but I was lucky enough to be there at a time when he had to treat the hives for parasites. So, Marie and I got to see some bees while we were there.
Happy bees
the bee boxes

Once again I found myself in an extremely ugly place

With the family I also got to go to a dinner and a show. The show was a band consisting of a quebecois, a new yorker, and a frenchman (sounds like the beginning of a joke) playing traditional new orleans music. Combined with that and the gospel singing I felt like I went to france to experience american culture.
The music was amazing and I had a delicious escargo pizza...I figured I should eat something I couldnt get back in 'merica.

Michel also had a wonderful production of kefir which is a delicious, if not a little odd, drink made from the fermentation of bacteria and yeast. You essentially make the drink by cultivating the yeast/bacteria mix in some water feeding them citricy fruits, filter out the little guys, and leave the liquid ferment for a day. I fully intend to try this out when I get settle somewhere...only problem is I need to find someone with some of the bacteria/yeast mix to start out my own colony.....craigslist maybe?
Here everyone is hard at work. Maylene doing her homework, MIchel filtering out the yeast/bacteria, and Olivier making some spiced bread.

My two weeks at Api Farm passed incredibly quickly but at the same time I feel like I was able to become close with the family. I would love to return someday during the spring or summer during the recolting season to learn how to raise bees because as I mentioned in an earlier post I'm planning to have bee boxes of my own...yes, I have a rather eclectic list of interests, but it keeps life interesting!

After I left Api Farm I went to Lyon with a neighbor, Sylvie, who had generously let me stay at her appartment there. I didn't have much time but I figured I should go for a short stint just to check it out. It was a nice enough city, though the weather was rather bipolar

It was a normal city; churches, streets, rivers

My first day walking around I explored the Vieux Lyon (old Lyon) and after a couple of hours of that I decided to cross over one of the rivers. As I neared the bridge I heard someone shout my name, which took be aback because I didn't know anyone in Lyon. I ended up being Alessandro, Olivier's little brother, who had hung out with us a bit on the farm in Ardeche. He was there for the week for an internship in welding. In such a big city we happened to cross paths at just the right time. The world's a crazy small place right? Since both of us had nothing to do we just wondered around the city doing some of his errands, talked, grabbed a beer, and I bought him a haircut for his birthday (it had been on his list of things to do).

Before Sylvie had offered to let me stay at her place I had already made arrangements to couchsurf in Lyon with a guy names Herve. Even though I didn't end up crashing at his place he offered me dinner tuesday night which I happily accepted. We had a great night talking about traveling (he lived in Vancouver for a while), music, and other randomness. It was an exceptionally agreeable night. I must say that Couchsurfing has really allowed me to meet some really awesome people of whom I would never have been able to meet otherwise. Thank you couchsurfing!

After Lyon I skadoodled up to Paris to meet with an old study abroad friend, Robert, and I spent christmas with my friend Yoan and his family. More details later.

I hope you all had a wonderful chrismast/whichever holiday you celebrate. Yoan, Robert, Mikael (Yoan's friend), and I are going to be heading down to Aix-en-Provence for new years. Should be a great time