Sunday, June 26, 2005

 

Travel memes

I'm still waiting for someone to tell me authoritatively what a "meme" is. Meanwhile, these:

Five things I can go without for five weeks
without missing at all


1. Ice. Actually, on my last day in Amsterdam, I closed my finger in a big heavy door, and badly needed to ice it down. I went to the stoner grocery looking for a bag of frozen peas to use as an ice pack – didn’t find any, but discovered that frozen green beans work just as well.

2. TV (including videos and DVDs). We had a TV in practically every place we stayed, but never watched. Just in the last few days of our trip, B and I did get a TV hankering. It was in Brussels, we were tired, so we did dinner and a movie in the room. It was the best room service meal I’ve ever had in my life (fois gras and bouillabaise), and we got DVDs from the reception desk. But we ended up watching European TV, which is fascinating, even if you don’t understand the language.

3. My cell phone. Yeah, they're super convenient at times, but -- just as I've suspected -- you really don't need them.

4. SUVs.
Okay this one’s a cheat. I hate SUVs. They’re aren’t many in Europe, which almost, but not quite, makes up for the cigarette smoke.

5. Driving everywhere.
We had a rental car for a good part of the trip, but not always, and not in Poland or Berlin. In Europe, you just walk more – it’s a combination of not having a car, or wanting to deal with having one in a city, not wanting to spring for cabs, and not wanting to figure out the public transportation system every time you need to move. Walking is great. I’m going to try it here.


Five things I didn’t miss at the time,
but really liked getting back to


1. Iced coffee. Does this contradict number 1 above? Not exactly.

2. My bed. Firm yet yielding. High off the floor. Mmmm.

3. Summer mornings in familiar surroundings.

4. American humor. That night in Brussels, after five weeks abroad, when we broke down and watched TV, we finally surfed onto a BBC broadcast of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, International Edition. It was so unbelievably funny that I was emitting my rare, helpless, laugh-til-I-cry high-pitched laugh. Jon, I love you, man! I missed you!

5. Time to read. This was weird. Between sightseeing and travelblogging, I just didn’t have much down time for reading. I didn’t really notice, since there was so much mental stimulation from travel, but still...


Five things I’ve learned about myself as a world traveler

1. I can pick fights over the stupidest sh*t. Example: B and I took slightly diverging paths crossing the street, in which she reached the sidewalk by threading between two tightly parked cars, whereas I walked through a large vacant parking space. I said: “Why the hell did you cross over there?”

2. The travelers' perception paradox. Even as I bumbled around not knowing the language or how to get from point A to point B, my sense perceptions seemed sharpened. So I’m not entirely stupid when abroad. Also, little things fascinate me, and I want to comment on everything. Duh, right? What am I going to blog about now that I’m home?

3. Peasant food. I really like mittel-European“peasant” food. I guess it’s in my genes. Potatoes, cabbage, root vegetables, soup from root vegetables, thick bread and meat. Every kind of meat they can throw at me. Well, maybe not blood sausage.

4. Travel style. My favorite way to experience other countries is to form some sort of a routine as a base, and tour around off of that. I think that’s why I made such a big deal over the daily coffee-getting ritual. (That and the fact that I’m really not nice to be with if I haven’t had my coffee.) Having a work-related reason to be in a place – the U of Boogie gig, for instance – and touring around off of that, rather than travel purely as a tourist, was ideal. Sightseeing is cool, but my favorite times, e.g., in Berlin, were when we had pretty much covered the obligatory amount of sightseeing and I was just doing my version of hanging out: wandering in and out of shops, finding my way on public transportation, spending unconscionable amounts of time in coffee houses and cafes, taking pictures of people on bicycles.

5. Getting lost. I'm usually capable of regarding getting lost as an inevitable part of travel, and often even part of the adventure. Though apparently I can get so badly lost in a city that I will come to hate it.

***

Comments:
It's my understanding (and this through memory and not using google at all) that the work meme was coined by some sociologist type to describe how small mental formations are distributed within a population's "group consciousness", and was derived from the word "gene". Meme being a "shortened" version of "memory-gene". I think there was a virus/bacteria/disease vector analogy the person was trying to make.
 
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