Sunday, June 10, 2012

On Graduation. And the last few months.

Today was my graduation day. Instead of going to school and sitting in an insufferably long ceremony with my classmates, I lead a Mountaineers trip to one of my favorite alpine lakes. The five of us chatted about many things along the way -- adventures in online dating, the fact that I finally finished graduate school, hikes, and other things. When we got to the lake itself, we ate our lunch quietly, just awe-struck by the beauty around us.

Lake 22 sits at the base of Mt. Pilchuck. I like to describe it as looking "almost primeval." There are large boulders on the far shore -- likely placed there by some long-ago avalanche. Pockets of snow were scattered on the boardwalk around the lake. Waterfalls tumbled from melting snow on high. Even though clouds filled the basin, blocking the view of the mountain, the view was still lovely.

I sat there, thinking about everything that happened in the past few months. Within the last nine months, I've gone from the lowest I ever felt to feeling like well, things are going pretty great. Back in November, I made one of those life-changing decisions I never thought I'd have to make. It's a long story, and probably one I shouldn't share here, but I got a nasty introduction to the dark side of teaching. It shook my faith in who I was as a person, in how I always believed one should treat other people, and make me realize that teaching's not the right career path for me. I made the decision to take the teaching certificate out of my program and just go for a straight Masters in Education. It meant leaving my cohort -- the people who I'd had every class with -- and striking out on my own.

One of the things that I know about myself is that sometimes you have to strike out on your own to get what you want. I read all sorts of job search books, and discovered several things that probably won't surprise any of my readers. First, I'm the kind of person who wants a job where I can be an advocate. I'm one of those bleeding heart liberal types that wants to make the world around me a better place. I believe I can do that by advocating for others. Second, I discovered that I desperately wanted and needed more balance in my life. I don't mind putting in long hours when the occasion calls for it, but student teaching was more draining than I thought it would be. My cohort mates were saying things like "this is so much fun" and all I could think about was "this is so much work."

Through research (and the wonderful website Idealist), I found a job that Dave Niehaus would have said was "in my wheelhouse." The position involved working with 30 different school districts, talking about financial aid with students, parents, and staff in each. I'd have to build strong relationships with the people with whom I was working. Well, as my mom would tell you, I'm the queen of networking. I'm good at building both relationships and community. And seven years of graduate school prepares one quite well for talking about college and financial aid.

I cast my hat in the ring. And I got the job. I'm doing meaningful, fulfilling work. I feel like I'm actually making a difference in kids' lives. Some days, what the kids tell me makes me want to cry. Poverty sucks. That might be the understatement of the year. Many days make me want to laugh. My job brings me a lot of joy -- joy like I've never had before. I feel like I've finally found what it is I'm supposed to be doing with my life. I often think "Of course. This makes total sense. Helping kids get into college and get financial aid for it? Yup. This feels right." It only took me seven years. But hey -- I've become the student loan expert in the office, and that means something.

So the other big thing that happened is this -- with me feeling settled and having a direction, I realized that it was time to evaluate the state of my relationship. Andy* (name changed) was a great person -- is a great person -- but I took a step back and realized that we just weren't right for each other. I'm what some friends call an "introverted extrovert." I love hanging out with my silly, amazing, one-of-a-kind friends. When it comes to meeting people, I can be pretty fearless. Especially after I've had a beer. Remember, this is the woman who walked up to Mariners pitching coach John Wetteland and told him she hoped his team started pitching better. This is the woman who saw her favorite Sounder in a bar and took it upon herself to make an introduction. And Andy? Well, several friends didn't even meet him in the little over a year we were together. And every time he needed to write his fiction, I couldn't even be in the same house. The same room I get -- I'm a writer, and used to cover my computer screen with my hands so Mom couldn't see what I was writing. But the same house? Seriously? If we were going to get married, where was going to go when he needed to write?

I felt lonely in my own relationship at times. I realized that if I kept going down the road I was going down, Andy and I would end up in the loneliest marriage on the planet. I knew he believes that marriage is forever. And I'd like to think I have a forever person out there somewhere. But realistically, marriages don't work out for many, many reasons. Just because someone gets divorced doesn't mean that this person failed at being married. Honestly, if two people have fallen out of love with each other, it's better for all involved to get divorced. This I strongly believe.

After a trip to Portland in which we bickered over little things, I'd had it. We went to Fred Meyer to get some food, and I was standing in line for the self checkout, just staring at the Fred Meyer Jewelers. I had this visceral reaction. I knew, first, that Andy was never going to get me a ring. Ever. And second, I knew that I had to end the relationship right then. Everything happens for a reason. I listen to my gut. I follow my heart over my head every single time. So we broke up in the car. I walked away. And I haven't looked back.

I turned thirty about six months ago. It seemed so old when my good friend David and I were in high school. We were walking through the mall once, and I stopped and turned to him and said, "Oh my God, David. We're halfway to thirty." Well guess what? Thirty's here. And the woman I am at thirty is the woman I've always wanted to be. Always. Strong, smart, able to think (or talk) her way out of almost any situation. Funny, friendly, and happy. Has a strong, strong sense of direction. It took me a while. It took me a good long while. But I'm here. And you know what? I kick ass!

In the last eight months, I have found a direction, written a second master's thesis, gotten my first real job, and had the presence of mind to leave a relationship that wasn't going anywhere. As of today, I am no longer a graduate student. My university bus pass doesn't work anymore! It's so weird!

In the words of the Indigo Girls, "it's remarkable the mess we make and what we can survive." In the words of Kelly Clarkson:

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger

Stand a little taller

Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone

Maybe I will get that tattoo of a compass I've always wanted. :)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A sandwich for a homeless vet

I bought a homeless guy a sandwich on Friday night. He was standing in front of the QFC in my neighborhood, bearing a sign that read "Homeless Veteran. Anything Helps." I gave him one of those sheepish smiles -- the kind that says "well, I'd like to help you, but I'm a graduate student, and I have no money..."

"You have a beautiful smile," he said. That did it. So I asked him if he wanted a sandwich.

"Yes, please. Roast beef. That would be the first meal I've had all day."

I grabbed a four dollar roast beef sandwich and gave it to him on my way out the door.

"Where did you serve?" I asked.

"Iraq. Desert Storm. The worst part was when they lit the oil fields on fire, and it smelled like constant burning. All the time. I'm surprised my nose recovered. And man, was it ever dusty. I was glad when I got out and came home."

"Thank you for serving our country, sir," I said.

There were tears in his eyes as I walked away.

I never used to buy sandwiches for homeless vets. Occasionally I would buy food for the guy outside of the grocery store, particularly if it was around the holidays. But I find myself frequently adding a sandwich to my grocery store bill and giving it to the guy out front with a homeless vet sign. See, the man I'm dating served in Afghanistan and is in the Army Reserves. If he were ever in need of a sandwich, I'd want a kind stranger to buy one for him, too.

I've changed my mind about certain things since beginning to date a guy in the military. I think I'm more critical of the way our troops are being used. I mean, did we really have to go into Libya? Couldn't somebody else have taken up the mantle of "defender of human rights and enemy of abusive dictators?" C'mon, we weren't the only ones upset about Ghadaffi. What about bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq like you promised, Mr. President?

When they found Osama bin Laden and were discussing whether or not to release the photos, I found myself 100 percent against the idea. Before, I likely would have been all for it under the principle of freedom of information. Now, I see it as a national security threat. The appearance of gloating over the death of an enemy could lead to more problems for our troops down the road. And really, I'd rather not put our soldiers in any more danger than they're already in.

I told Noah that, if he had been over there when they found bin Laden, I would have been on the phone with my senators faster than you could say "jackrabbit," telling them on no uncertain terms that they would absolutely not agree to releasing those photos. Hell no.

I'm going to continue to buy sandwiches for homeless vets. They put themselves in harm's way for us, and a sandwich is the least I can do. And I'll probably continue to get upset by TV episodes (like Law and Order or Bones) that use fictionalized events involving dead soldiers.

I guess it hits a little too close to home for me these days.

Monday, May 2, 2011

On the Death of Osama bin Laden

(Note: I wrote this in response to something my pastor posted on our church blog, "The Comma.")

My first reaction was one of disbelief. They got him? They actually got him? The boogie man the government has been warning us about for 20 years? The one who caused so much heartache and grief on 9/11? Wow.

I never felt any joy at his death.

And then I suddenly felt empty. It was like the wind got knocked out of me. As the president came on television, I found myself starting to cry. Maybe there was a little bit of closure with this news, but I'd much rather they'd caught him, brought him back alive, and put him through the American justice system. Let him be judged by a jury of his peers before he is judged by God. Because I want to know why. Why did Osama bin Laden direct terrorists to fly planes into the Twin Towers? What have we done to deserve this? And how do we make it right?

And the ideal sentence? Not death, but life in prison in a cell with a television where the pictures and stories of the ones he's killed flash over and over again. The families of the 3000 killed on September 11th are awaiting their own reconciliation.

How do we even begin to talk about reconciliation with people who don't listen? How do we begin to reach out to those whose hearts are filled with such hate?

I remember quite vividly where I was on September 11th. That event was nothing like anything I had ever experienced. I had just begun my sophomore year of college. Never had I felt that the world was so off balance. We gathered together on a big field at Whitman, holding hands in a circle and singing "Amazing Grace." We sang and sang until it grew late, and the circle grew smaller, and one by one we trickled back to our dorms. We left the candles burning.

That event, more than anything, has defined the conditions in which I have lived my adult life. It led to restrictions at the airport, a heightened sense of fear, surveillance, the persecution of Muslims, the persecution of anyone who dared to question the Bush administration's actions, the Patriot Act, and war. In a way, the terrorists won. We altered how we live our lives. The death of Osama bin Laden doesn't change the last nine years. We can't go back to our normal lives. I wish that we could. I don't like living my life feeling like I'm supposed to look over my shoulder, in fear those around me. I don't like it that it's socially acceptable for an American woman at the Dublin airport to get my attention, point at a man in a turban, and whisper "I hope and pray he's not on our flight." My own stunned reaction was to tell her (in my normal speaking voice) that I didn't see anything wrong with a man wearing a turban.

I wish we, as a nation, could take time to reflect. I wanted to be with others last night -- not to rejoice, but to have a conversation. What do we do now? How do we move forward? How do we address the conditions that fuel terrorism in the first place? There is deep disparity in this world. And I believe that there will always be people who hate Americans for what we represent. How do we meet that hate with reconciling love? How do we change our country and our policies back to something we can be more proud of?

Because I'm tired of constant vigilance. I'm tired of surveillance. I'm tired of the culture of fear that has sprung up all around me. That was not the culture I thought I'd exit into after graduating from college.

Most of all, though, I'm tired of being told that I'm supposed to be afraid.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Two Thousand Women

So, I know I haven't finished my travel blog yet, but I am hopping mad by this story out of France. And also really upset by peoples' intolerance.

France's ban on the burqa went into effect today. The Guardian has a summary of what happened:

Why did Sarkozy choose to do this? Because he sees these women as a threat. They could hide explosives under their burqas and become suicide bombers.

But couldn't kids with baggy pants do the same thing?

And how many people does this law effect? 2000 out of an estimated 5 million Muslims in France.

You read that right. Two thousand women.

Now, I don't like the burqa. I see it as a symbol of Islam's oppression of women. And yes, it's absolutely unsettling to talk to someone when you can't see their face. But a quote from this woman who chooses NOT to wear a burqa, and wore a niqab (similar full-body covering) to protest the ban sums up how I feel "This is the first time I've ever protested over anything. I'm not in favour of the niqab, I don't wear it myself. But it's wrong for the government to ban women from dressing how they want. Islamophobia is on the rise in France. First it's the niqab, then they'll ban the jilbab, then it will be plain headscarves outlawed."

Two thousand women. Why should the decision about what they wear be in the hands of the French government or the police? And, according to an editorial from the Toronto Star, these are private citizens, not those in public positions.

France's attack on Islam isn't going to do anything to promote favorable Western relations with Islam. If the West really wanted to do something about suicide bombers and extremists, it would attack the underlying conditions that give rise to extremism. It would mitigate the conditions of world poverty, stop invading places where we really have no business, and send food, not bombs, to the Third World. Do this, and I betcha extremism would die down.

Make two thousand women into scapegoats for a larger problem, and extremism rises.

I got in a Facebook debate with someone who didn't see it this way. She passionately argued that Muslims should follow the customs of the countries in which they lived. She said that France was doing this in order to combat terrorism. She thought that the US should force conservative Islam to change by banning the burqa.

Nowhere have I been more thankful for the First Amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

We can't ban the burqa. Thankfully.

I've been thinking a lot about the kind of teacher I want to be -- and about my teaching philosophy. I want to be a teacher who is committed to social justice. And when my students see women wearing burqas, I don't want their first reaction to be "what if she's hiding explosives underneath?" I want my students to be ethical and passionate and recognize an injustice when they see one.

Two thousand women. Seriously, France?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

From Belgrade to London

NOTE: This was written on Sunday. Haven't had a chance to post until now!

I’m in the Atlanta airport, waiting for my next flight. The WiFi here doesn’t work, so I’m typing this up on my computer, hoping to be on a flight with free WiFi. Cross your fingers folks!

We had about a half day in Belgrade before making our way to the airport
and boarding a flight to London. We decided to go to the House of Flowers – the Museum of Yugoslavia and the complex where Josip Broz Tito is buried. When I’d visited before with my parents, we were basically the only people in there, save for a few Japanese tourists. This time, I was in for a surprise.

Our city bus pulled up right before a bus full of people on a tour of the complex. At least three buses full of pilgrims unloaded at the complex while we were there. While in the museum, I spotted one man wearing his Pioneer scarf and hat – basically declaring his allegiance to the former socialist regime. The Pioneers were kind of like socialist Boy Scouts. Many boys and girls joined the Pioneer associations all over the former Yugoslavia. I found it really interesting that he chose to wear his uniform to the House of Flowers. Old allegiances die hard, I guess.

The new museum, where previously they’d had an exhibit about Tito’s staterooms, was closed this time. The old museum and the House of Flowers were both open, although they were doing some renovation work on the latter. I still got a sense of how loved Tito was by Yugoslavs, but I think the effect was stronger when the new museum was open.

The way the complex is laid out, you walk past many statues of Tito or other statues in the style of “socialist realism.” Socialist realism is not the most imaginative of styles. It might be easiest to look it up on Wikipedia, rather than have me try to describe it. Think big, blocky people with large muscles in plain, simple clothes in poses venerating work and you’ve pretty much got the idea. Anyway, after walking past the statues, you go into this little house, and there’s the grave. It’s in a large, open room surrounded by smaller rooms full of stuff. Tito’s grave is marked by a large marble stone that reads “Josip Broz Tito” with his birth and death dates. It’s simple and tasteful.

In one of the rooms at the House of Flowers was a display of race batons. On Tito’s birthday, May 25th, a large relay race was run all over Yugoslavia. People made batons and gave them to Tito when they finished the race. Representatives of different social groups and nationalities all ran. The museum collected the batons and they are now on display. It was really interesting, seeing what people made to honor Tito.

After purchasing some swag for my now-famous Commie shelf, we made our way back into the city to catch our shuttle to the airport. I’d never flown through Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla airport before – and honestly, after this experience, I might never do so again. The security guards all had submachine guns out. Seriously. It was rather intimidating just to see serious-looking soldiers with large weapons casually walking around the airport.

We went through security not once, but twice – entering the airport and again at our gate. Smiley and I had made the decision to fly Wizz Air, lured by the promise of a $100 flight from Belgrade to London. Well, we learned that you get what you pay for. In a big way. They announced “priority boarding” while we were all crowded into one tiny gate. In order to separate those who paid for priority boarding from those who didn’t, they checked us in, sending some people to the left and others to the right to be held at the gate. We went to the left. This meant that we went downstairs and boarded a little bus. We thought that the bus would take us to our plane – like it did when we were in the Prague airport. Instead, we sat there. For a good fifteen minutes. When the driver got the signal, he drove us under the plane’s wing to the back of the plane. This was the same plane that was sitting at our gate.

We boarded from the back while other folks boarded from the front. Smiley and I found two seats together. I surmised that the flight wasn’t full, and asked him to move over and claim an aisle seat. Now, I’m about 5’11” with long legs. I usually fit in most planes, and have a bearable amount of legroom. My knees hit the back of the seat in front of me. That’s never happened before. They had crammed a ton of seats into the plane. I felt bad for the Serbs on the plane – Serbs are generally pretty tall, and I don’t know how guys who were 6’7” fit in that small space. It was worse than the SkyEurope flight my family and I took from Prague to Dubrovnik, where my hips touched the arm bars the entire time – and I should note here that my jean size is below that of the American average. I’m a tall person, but I wouldn’t call myself a large person. My hips shouldn’t touch the arm bars on a flight.

Making matters worse was the fact that the woman sitting directly in front of me didn’t have any deodorant on. And she slept with her arm raised during the whole flight. Honestly, every time she moved, I felt like I was going to throw up. Also, the seats didn’t recline.

I could go on and on. I’m never flying Wizz Air again! We did, eventually, make it to London. Three hours later, I was touching down at the Luton airport, getting ready to see a city I’d only flown through and never experienced for myself.
More on that later. We’re boarding in 15 minutes!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Belgrade, my old friend

Fair warning for blog fans -- this may be my last post for a bit. I brought a Netbook with me with which to blog, but do not have the right kind of cable, plug, or converter for Europe. If I have the opportunity, I will take it to the Samsung store in London to see if I can pick up a converter or adapter there. If it's prohibitively expensive, however, I won't buy a European adapter. We don't have free Internet at the hostel in London (although it is supposedly inexpensive).

We've been in Belgrade since Wednesday afternoon. Flew on the smallest plane I have ever been on between Prague and Belgrade. It was an ATR-42 -- a turbo-prop plane. And we sat right next to the engine. It felt fitting, flying between two formerly Communist countries on such a small plane.

There were another pair of Americans on the plane. I wanted to talk to them to ask them what they did, and I should have. As we got off the plane in Belgrade, we saw a man holding a sign for "Ambassador Stephen Rapp." Turns out the ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues was on our flight. It would have been really interesting for me to talk with him. Too bad. Next time.

Belgrade is as gritty as ever. It was amazing to me how familiar the city felt after three years. Our driver, Severim, picked us up at the airport. He explained that there has been a lot of renovation work over the past few years. They are doing much needed work on one of the bridges over the Sava. As a result, there was a lot of traffic coming into the city, with Serbian drivers making their own lanes on the shoulder. Some pretty crazy driving!

The big Partizan-Crvena Zvezda soccer match was on Wednesday night. We thought about getting tickets to the match, but then I remembered that anti-American violence can break out after these games. Smiley and I watched it on TV instead. When we were out walking, every cafe in Belgrade had it on. The whole city was watching.

Spent the first night wandering around a bit. I had decided I wanted to eat my way through Belgrade, so we found čevapi and burek. Yum! I had really missed real čevapi.

We spent most of our time in Belgrade just walking around. On the way to Trg Republike, I stopped at a trafika stand to purchase the mobile number I'd promised everyone I would get. While in line, a man asked me in English if I liked Tito and proceeded to explain that Tito was a fascist bastard who lost Kosovo for Serbia and that NATO is also full of fascists. Wow. I kept repeating "I'm sorry" in English, and eventually he gave up trying to get a rise out of me and moved on. The woman at the trafika stand and I exchanged a funny look, and I proceeded to get my mobile number.

Belgrade felt like a familiar old friend I had not seen for years. Some things have changed, but much of it is the same. There is definitely a lot of construction, particularly in the center and in the city parks. St. Mark's Church and the Federal Parliament building are both undergoing renovations. These are likely much-needed, as many of the buildings are covered in a layer of grime, likely from pollution. The facades of others are cracked and falling down. Restoration is needed.

After our encounter with the Tito-hater, we began walking around Belgrade in earnest. Our walk took us down Skadarska street. Somebody had put in a sign showing the distance between Belgrade and other destinations, including the moon. Ha!

Stopped at Trattoria Košava for lunch. The pizza was so tasty. But the waiter spoke Serbian so quickly that I had to keep asking him to repeat himself. I did okay when people spoke to me slowly, but had a tough time when people talked so fast. After the meal, I thanked him for speaking Serbian with me, as I am trying to learn the language. He told me he could tell that I speak some Serbian, and spoke it so I would learn. He said that many Japanese people can speak Serbian well after just 3 months here, but for Americans it is more difficult. Nice conversation.

We followed the walk listed in the guidebook to Kalmegdan. We walked out to the terrace and took pictures of the view. I ended up taking off my little cardigan because I was warm. Back inside the fortress, an older man asked me in Serbian where my jacket was because it was not super warm out. I showed him my sweater and asked him the word for it...and we got into a 30 minute conversation. He asked me how we were enjoying Belgrade, what we thought of Serbia, etc. We then started talking about the global economic crisis, the catastrophe in Japan, and how more American investment is needed in Serbia. He said that Serbia has so much opportunity for agriculture and I agreed. We kept switching between Serbian and English for Smiley's sake. He mentioned that he had had a conversation with Milošević about seeking help from the U.S. instead of from Israel. It sounded like he was in the know. He gave me his name and address and told me to write next time I come to Serbia. He said he'd show me some important cultural sites. I swear I'd read his name in one of my textbooks about Serbia. I think he may have been in the govt or something.

The chat with the guy in the park made Smiley's trip, I think. He got to experience some of that amazing Serbian friendliness I am always raving about. It was cool.

From there, we walked to the Tesla museum. They were about to close, but generously let us join the last tour to see the demonstrations. On the way, we mailed our postcards from the giant Pošta by the Parliament Building. The post office worker complimented my Serbian and was surprised when I said I was really enjoying Belgrade.

Ended our very full day with drinks at the Federal Association of World Travelers, a bar that kind of looks like a grandmother's basement. It's awesome. Between drinks there and eating my way through Belgrade (made sure to find palačinke and potato burek today), it's been a good, albeit short, trip. Looking forward to coming back sometime soon.

What has changed in Belgrade besides construction? Well, there are way more hostels now than there were in 2008. I knew of just a couple back then, and now they are everywhere. Also, many of the cafes have wifi now. That is new! And Tašmajdan Park is being restored with funds from the government of Azerbaijan. I never would have expected that!

Today, we figured out how to get from Luton airport to our hostel in London, and took the tram out to Tito's grave. There were some nice, new signs in English at the House of Flowers. The main museum was closed, but you could still see the room with all the batons and the grave itself. Neat stuff. I managed to pick up more buttons for my Commie shelf back home! Yay!

Ate more čevapi in town, and wandered back to our hostel. I would definitely stay here again. It's clean and reasonably quiet -- and small. I like small hostels better than large industrial ones. Unfortunately, I think we may be staying in a large hostel in London.

Hopefully I'll be back in Belgrade again within a couple of years. I miss this city when I'm not here!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Isn't there a rhyme about the rain in Spain?

Zdravo iz Beograda! Smiley and I made it here this afternoon and are chilling in the hostel tonight, trying to find the Chelsea champions league match against FC Copenhagen. We may have to stream this on my computer, so I'll likely only have enough time to write about our last day in Barcelona.

It poured yesterday morning. The rain was unlike anything I'd ever seen. We counted lightning every 5-10 seconds. Even Barca residents were taking shelter. We huddled under the big overhang of the Liceu to wait it out, along with about 50 other people. Residents were peering out from their balconies and taking pictures of the rain -- it was that wild. I thought for sure there was going to be a flash flood in the streets.

I'm from Seattle. I thought I knew rain. I'd never seen it rain that hard for so long. The streets were just covered in water. People kept walking by peddling black market umbrellas. We bought ours at a news stand for 6.50 euros. It was so worth it.

We stayed under the overhang for a good 45 minutes. The temp dropped at least 2-3 degrees while we were standing there. There was some crazy hail, too.

When it finally stopped raining, we got some amazing hot chocolate in the Barri Gothic and then walked around. The narrow, wet streets made for some neat pictures. We tried to go to La Seu, the big cathedral, but had just missed the free hours. So we wandered around a little more and tried to go to the Barca history museum. It was closing in an hour, so we decided to come back after the afternoon siesta. All the museums close between 2-5 during the winter months for siesta time.

The rain had stopped, so we went up to Parc Guell to see more Gaudi. It was really cool. The modernist architecture was just fantastic. We wandered inside a blue house that had beautiful lines of architecture. The houses were decorated with lovely ceramic tiles in imaginative colors and shapes. Thankfully the weather held long enough for us to wander around the park. I took a bunch of pictures of kids playing tag in the large entryway columns.

Back to the history museum once it reopened. The real draw here for us were the Roman ruins. They were incredibly well-preserved. There was a laundry room, wine pressing room, and fish sauce making room. There were sewage lines and drainage areas. Even some wheel ruts.

Afterwards, we walked through the Gothic cathedral at La Seu. It's got beautiful art inside. It's a pretty standard large Catholic cathedral, with many chapels and a rather large nave. Instead of candle votives, though, they had these little lights. I thought the lights were kinda lame.

Finished the day in a tea house, drinking choco chai, writing, and talking about where to get food. Our flight this morning was at 8 AM, so it was a rather early night for us. Woke up and wandered into a conversation that we thought sounded like a couple breaking up...whoops.

OK -- I gotta go stream the Chelsea game now. Low-key night tonight. More about coming "back home" to Belgrade later.