Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Hezekiah Tunnel Incident

My sister is visiting us in Paris for Christmas and tomorrow is her last full day here. We've been cramming in as many fun sight-seeing events as possible in the time we're here and tomorrow is supposed to be proceeding in much the same fashion.

First on the agenda is the catacombs. Now I've heard little tidbits about the place before, but we haven't been yet. It's basically these underground caverns full of arranged bones. They were cleared out a cemetery and put on display down there years ago. Now it's a huge site for tourism. I even found out they have a sign that says, "Stop! This is the empire of death!" (That's what it says in the picture.)

Sounds awesome, right?

Wrong. It's not awesome because I can't go and I'm super pissed about that. Okay, it'll probably still be awesome for my brother, sister, and dad-- but it sucks for me. You see, I'm claustrophobic. Like, I have panic attacks from claustrophobia. Panic attacks including tears, snot, and plenty of hyperventilating. Turns out the caverns are pretty narrow, which means it's definitely a no-go.

We don't need another Hezekiah Tunnel Incident.

"What's that?" you ask. Well, the Hezekiah Tunnel Incident is basically the story of what happens when I underestimate my level of claustrophobia. When I was told my tour group in Israel this May was going to walk through the Hezekiah tunnel, the tunnel Hezekiah travelled when he and his army were attacking Jerusalem in the Old Testament, I thought, "Sounds like fun."

I should have known better.

My first red flag was when we watched the informational video at the beginning. I saw a clip of some guy having to crouch to get through part of the tunnel. I quickly asked about the narrowness of the tunnels, but was assured that it wouldn't be bad. I'm thinking, "Oh, they must've just been exaggerating. The tunnels are probably pretty big. I mean, if an army is going through them, it's probably, like, five people wide."

Oh, how terribly mistaken was I.

It only took about five minutes of walking through the tunnels before it was narrow enough that I only had to move my shoulder about three inches to the right or left to hit the walls. Then the roof lowered to only a foot above me. I tried to stay strong, I really did; but it wasn't long before I was reduced to tears.

I cried for twenty out of twenty-five or thirty minutes of the journey. God, it was terrible. The only thing that kept me from hyperventilating the entire time was knowing that if I managed to make myself pass out, I was going to just get trampled as I drowned in the calf-high water. By the end, I was practically pushing the others out.

That was probably THE most terrifying ordeal of my life. I was shaking at the end of it. Then some of the adults on the trip had the nerve to go laughing about how I was probably over my claustrophobia now. Yeah? Far from it. If anything it's probably worse.

So that's why I'm not going to bother trying to "tough it out" in the catacombs. It was a bad idea the first time and the sign of insanity is to do the same thing multiple times and still expect a different result. No thank you.

I think I'll just meet up with them at the Napoleon Museum.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Le Louvre

Well, I currently have a jacked up right wrist that may or may not be broken and a swollen and scraped up left knee. In case you're wondering, I'm typing with my left hand right now.

These injuries are the result of a bike ride around Paris with my siblings and dad which culminated in three near death experiences on my part along with the aforementioned injuries. The last one was when I acquired the injuries. I'm still not entirely sure what happened-- one moment I was riding my bike skirting around some heavy traffic and the next, the bike was flying out from under me. I hit the pavement, looked up to see headlights, and scrambled to my feet and off the road before I could become roadkill.

Anyway, the injuries made wandering through the Louvre, packed to the brim with tourists and art fanatics alike, a tad less enjoyable than usual. Still, I enjoyed it immensely.

I spent most of our time there wandering through the Italian paintings, gathering as much information as I possibly could on each new beauty I chanced upon. Dad is always sure to get the audio guides where you type in the numbers by exhibits and the narrator fills you in on all the history, details, and quirks. God, I love wandering through there. There's something about those paintings that just reaches out and takes me captive.

Art museums like the Louvre appeal to me for two major reasons.

The first is my love of beauty and my love of art. I don't know how to describe it as thoroughly as I would like. Everyone appreciates beauty, of course, it evokes an emotional response in the viewer that few other mediums can. It's something about the colors, the lines, the lighting. It's quite similar to music in that way. Some pieces inspire one person and leave another impression less, yet the power and force of that beauty remains.

The second is probably the geek in me talking, but I love to learn. I love amassing knowledge and museums make me feel like a dry sponge plunged into a bucket of water, ready to soak up as much information as my brain can manage to process. I suppose that's another of the many reasons I enjoy reading. I love to learn.

Overall, it was a good day, even with my arm in a brace and pressed so close to my body that I could nearly absorb it in order to keep it from being jostled about by the crowd. I had the privilege to witness a ton of awesome all together. One word of advice, though? Go somewhere else for lunch. The food there is terrible.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Throwing Rocks at Rats

My sister's in town for Christmas, which means my entire family has deemed this week visit-anything-worth-visiting-in-Paris week.

As such, we went to the Arc de Triomphe as our first stop of the morning. It's a cool monument, I suppose, but the stairway is a spiral all the way up to the top. Mitchell decided to walk up it backward because, "How many people can say they climb up the Arc de Triomphe backwards?"

The top has a spectacular view, though. It's really neat to be able to see the Eiffel tower on one side, La Defense and Champs Elysees on another side, and the rest of Paris filling in everything else. It's just gorgeous.

Our next stop was Notre Dame. That one was Miranda's (my older sister) idea. I'm not a huge fan of cathedrals-- they give me the creeps and they're pretty boring-- so mom went with me to Shakespeare & Co., a gorgeous English bookstore just down the street while Miranda, Mitchell, and Dad went inside Notre Dame.

I enjoyed myself. I can never get enough of old bookstores. I'm absolutely convinced that books are one of the greatest devices known to man. I wandered the store for a good twenty minutes, dodging customers that seemed to crowd every inch of the place. It wasn't until after we left that I learned the owner had died just recently, thus the influx of people.

I walked out with Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, inspiration for the new movie "Hugo") as well as another book entitled Stop What You're Doing And Read This Book.

Mom was complaining about needing to use the restroom, so we sat down for a drink hoping the little pub would have a restroom, but finding that it came up short. Instead, we had to walk back over to Notre Dame and use the restroom allotted to the tourists gathered around it.

I waited nearby and read while she relieved herself. Or, at least, I tried to read. However, I ended up being approached by a man in his mid-thirties carried a nearly empty bottle of Heineken, the rest of the six-pack located securely in a grocery sack on his arm.

He spoke to me in French at first, to which I responded, "Je ne parle pas Francais." (Aka. I don't speak French.) So he switched to English in saying, "You are very beautiful." It was sweet, but still a tad creepy. He asked to sit beside me and I, not wanting to be rude, said sure. He ended up talking to me for about five minutes, asking where I was from and telling me that he drinks too much on his days off. Needless to say, I breathed a little sigh of relief when he left.

We went to dinner at a creperie near our church that is a favorite of mine and we had gelato afterward before going home. I thought the night was going to end there, but my siblings had other plans. Instead, they dragged me out of the house and midnight to go find a party to crash.

That didn't work out as planned, either. We rode the Roue de Paris, the huge ferris wheel at the end of Champs Elysees, and then ended up wandering around until the Metro was closed. We couldn't find a bus, so we ended up walking along the Sein all the way home, making what would have been a twenty minute ride home an hour and a half long walk.

The one break in our walk was when we discovered a buttload of rats climbing all over some dumpsters by the river. I noticed them, we all freaked out, and Miranda had the lovely idea to start throwing rocks at them. We probably spent half an hour being entertained and disgusted by about 200 rats scurrying back and forth through the trash. I'm sure the 3 people who came by are convinced that all Americans throw rocks at vermin for fun.

It was quite an eventful day. . .

Friday, December 23, 2011

Not for Those with Weak Constitutions

Well, it's 4:30 in the afternoon here in Paris and I've only been awake for maybe an hour.

Oh, the wonders of jet lag!

My plane ride over here was probably the worst travel experience of my life. How so? Well my original flight was meant to be DFW>HIA>DFW>CDG. That means I was supposed to take a plane from the Dallas-Fort Worth airport to the Houston International Airport, then board a plane there for DFW which made a pitstop there (where my brother was going to get onboard) then take us to Charles de Gaulle.

What ended up happening was that I made it to HIA and had to collect my luggage and recheck it because that's what the American Airlines guy at DFW had told me I needed to do. That was fine and dandy except for the face that when I made it to the American Airlines baggage check, they told me I was too late to make the flight and I would have to make other arrangements-- that was the last flight to Paris today.

I got out of line and found a seat nearby, promptly bursting into tears as I called my dad. Now, I'm not the type to cry in public if I can help it. However, this is an exception for a number of reasons:
1) I had pulled an all-nighter the day before and I was over-exhausted.
2) My brother was sick and cell phone-less. I had no way to reach him so he would know what was happening.
3) I just wanted to go home and see my family.
4) I didn't know what to do or where to go.

When Dad picked up the phone, I explained the situation to him and he handed the phone over to Mom while he figured out my flight with the airline people. In the meantime, a sweet older woman saw me crying and dabbing at my eyes with my sweatshirt, so she came over and handed me a pack of tissues. It was rather sweet of her and it helped me calm down a tad. I don't know why. It's just the little things like that that really make your day just a bit brighter.

Finally, Dad came back on the phone and informed me that he found another flight for me with British Airways. It took me another half hour just to get the the terminal where their airlines were located and then I had to grapple with a pissy baggage check lady who seemed to be irritated by everything and kept trying to hurry me along as if I could help the fact American Airlines was taking so long in getting my ticket to come through on the computer system.

Finally, she got it and I made it through the security line after having to go through the metal detector about four times. It was only when I realized my iPod was still in my pocket that I finally got through.

My flight was delayed when I made it to the gate, so I found an outlet and checked my phone, only to find a voicemail from my brother, who had called from the DFW airport to let me know that the gate had changed in case I needed to know. I tried calling back, but it was a pay phone call and therefore pointless. I then called my dad, trying my hardest not to panic. He was still working with American Airlines to get a message to my brother. I hung up and tried not to worry.

Let me give some context here in explaining that all of the previous night during which I had pulled an all-nighter, my brother had been throwing up from some stomach virus that had him feeling miserable. Dad had given him the option of staying behind a day or two in order to recover before his flight, but he didn't want to get left behind in Texas when his family was in France. He didn't want to be sick by himself. Let's face it- who does?

So I sat there, worrying about him until my dad called back and told me he had gotten the message through and my brother wouldn't be worried. With that burden off my shoulders, I managed to relax long enough to eat some chocolate and do some reading until it was time to get on the plane.

My trip lasted about eight hours before we landed at the London-Heathrow airport. I had enough time to use the restroom, brush my teeth, and spruce up my makeup before I had to jump on the plane. I spent about an hour and a half on that plane and slept through most of it. I declined breakfast, as I had on the other plane. Airplane food makes me nauseous and the dinner I had eaten hours before had been enough for me.

I reached the airport with barely suppressed glee. I had my passport stamped and hurriedly grappled with my bags before heading out to where everyones' families were waiting. . . only to find mine missing. I stood there awkwardly, then moved off to the side to where I wasn't in the way. My phone had died before I made it to Heathrow and I started to panic wondering how I would reach my family. Sure, I knew how to take the metro home, but that would take hours and I didn't know the address for a taxi to take me. I knew Mom had told me to call them when I was in London. What if they were still waiting for that call and assuming my trip over the Atlantic had just taken longer than expected?

I moved off to the side and waited for twenty minutes, scanning the crowd for my dad's face before I finally saw him walking over with my brother. I jumped up and wheeled my bags toward them as quickly as possible. Turns out, they hadn't expected my flight to be in so soon and had gone to sit down where there were more open seats.

Exhausted and ready to finally be home, I let them pile my things in the car for me. My brother claimed shotgun because he was still feeling nauseous after the flight and such. I settled into the back, complaining about wanting to sit next to dad.

The car ride took about forty-five minutes, but the worst bit wasn't until the end. It's a well-known fact that I suffer from motion sickness. Thus the reason I generally get shotgun when we go on family road trips and such. I can't even swing on a swing set for more than a minute or two.

So near the end of this car trip home, I was feeling intensely nauseated. I kept asking how long it was until we got there and complaining that my stomach hurt. I didn't start gagging, though, until we made it onto our street. Dry-heaving is never pleasant, but a panicking father who's driving the car can always make it worse. Not only was he freaking out in the front seat, but he pulled over IN FRONT OF A CROWDED BUS STOP. And that was about the time my stomach decided to release its contents. Talk about embarrassing.

My brother and I were both yelling at him to move the car while my head was still sticking out the door and he finally moved further down the road, still throwing up out the door. I rinsed my mouth out with Dad's sweet tea he offered and jumped out of the car over the emptied contents of my stomach, keeping my head low since we weren't far from the bus stop at all.

Mom was leaning out the window with the cat calling down about how excited she was that we were home. I ignored her and hurried into the building, dying to brush my teeth and praying I wouldn't vomit all over the floor on my way up.

Finally, I made it upstairs and after changing and thoroughly brushing my teeth, I got plenty of water and promptly passed out for the equivalent of nearly twenty hours.
And that, my friends, was the worst travel experience in my life. I hope I never top it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Air

Well I'm writing today's blog post from my brand new Macbook Air!
My other laptop died a few days ago and I was able to buy the new one with a combination of my Christmas money and my Savings. I love it!
The only downside is that with the crashing of my previous computer meant I lost all of my files-- which means that book I was five chapters into writing and the FanFiction Newsies story that I was 9 chapters into. Thank the Lord, though, for uncles who are technologically savvy! I gave my laptop to my uncle and he promised to extract my files and photos (and possibly some of my music, though most of that survived via my iPod. Still I lost some good albums like Coldplay and the Killers.)

In other news, one of my very best friends got married yesterday. It was a beautiful ceremony and I cried through most of it. I never thought I would be that bridesmaid, but it was more than I could handle. Then, of course, I nearly lost it when the Maid of Honor (another of my best friends and also the bride's identical twin sister) choked up while giving her speed. In fact, I'm pretty sure half the gymnasium choked back a sob at that one.
Everything about the wedding was wonderful. The bride was able to have a friend of hers sing "All I Ask of You", her favorite song from Phantom of the Opera (her favorite movie) and the song she's been telling us since Junior High was going to be in her wedding.
I love her to death and am so excited to see her starting the rest of her life with a man who loves both she and God so deeply. I pray they have many long, joyful years together.

Only two more days until it's time for my brother and I to head back to France and there's plenty I need to get done in the meantime. Just today I need to dye my hair, have lunch with my grandparents, go to Northpark, hit up my LCS (local comic bookstore), and start packing. Let's not mention how many people I need to visit and say my goodbyes to ASAP.
Arg, I'm getting stressed just thinking about it!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Condom Vase

Well, I just pulled a Charlie.
For those of you who aren't big YouTube watchers, that means I just spent eight minutes recording a vlog only to find upon playing it back that the microphone wasn't working. Am I going to bother re-recording? Of course not. Now I know what everyone I Skype with has been talking about for the past few months. It's one of those times that I seriously wish I had a Mac. . .
Well, I'm currently exhausted. Today has consisted of throwing a lingerie shower and all that entails. Let me tell you, that's a much harder feat than I thought it would be. I feel accomplished, though. Even if only five other people showed up besides myself and only I and one other weren't related to the bride. We can probably chalk that up to poor planning and major procrastination on the part of the Maid of Honor and myself (mostly the latter, since it was mostly my responsibility).
It was a fun ordeal, though. We played pin-the-sticky-rhinestone-on-the-bride's-finger using one of their engagement pictures, guess how many condoms are in the jar, design panties for the butt-shaped cookies, and a game with bangle bracelets where if you said "sex", "honeymoon", "wedding", or "marriage" whoever caught it got to steal one of your bangles.
The Maid of Honor won the condoms but refused to take them home, so now I'm stuck with a vase full of condoms in my room. Guess it's the new decor? Wow, that would be interesting. No, I'm thinking of either using it to pull pranks on unsuspecting friends or giving it to the Best Man so he can litter it in the bride & groom's getaway car.
In anticipation of the wedding, the Maid of Honor and I went to get our nails done yesterday. We got tips at a place her mother suggested. It wasn't until afterward that we found out she only got her eyebrows done. Great. My mutilated fingers are overjoyed to know they do eyebrows well.
The guy who did mine even had the gall to say, "You bleed a lot." Oh, thanks. Pretty sure that's your fault-- not mine! They don't hurt as much today, but that salon is never seeing my face again. . . or my aching cuticles.
T minus 6 days until the wedding and I'm stoked. It's going to be a busy week, but I'm excited. This time next week, one of my best friends will be married to the love of her life. There's nothing more beautiful than that!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

5 Things I'm Thankful For Today

Yeah, I know it's way past Thanksgiving, but is it ever a bad time to count your blessings. Today just seems to be one of those days where I notice all the little things I'm thankful for and I thought it was worthwhile to share those things with you!

1) Glasses/ Contacts
-I mean, seriously, what if I had to go around running into walls and being unable to see anything just because glasses and contacts hadn't been created. Life would be incredibly less awesome if I couldn't tell who you were when you were more than five feet away from me. Yes, my eyesight is honestly THAT bad.

2)Warm chocolate chip cookies
-Since Kerri & Aaron's house doesn't have Internet connection, I have to drive to either Starbucks or McDonald's in order to get online. I know I could probably get away with just plunking down and opening my laptop, but I find that extremely rude, so I generally at least order a Dr. Pepper so I don't feel like a complete bum. Today I added chocolate chip cookies to that order and they were too good to not brag about.

3) Getting to see my brother tomorrow
-For those of you who aren't aware, my brother is my best friend in the entire world. He's pretty much the coolest person you'll ever meet and I'm of the personal opinion that we should have been twins. Anyway, I've been in Waxahachie for these two months that he has been in Paris. This is probably the longest we've ever been apart and I miss him. I get to pick him up from the airport tomorrow and I can't wait!

4) Internet Connection
-Living without internet connection is the weirdest thing ever. Honestly, I've probably gotten a lot more done since I've been without it, but I will definitely be super happy when I can get it in my apartment when we get back to France. At least I'll get to catch up on all the vlogs I haven't had time to watch since I moved here.

5) Cell Phones (smart phones in particular)
-They're just the best. There's really no need to point out why. I think you're well aware.

What are you thankful for?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Neglect

I've decided that it's high time I stopped neglecting this blog and use it for what it was intended to be-- an outpouring of my quirky and strange personality into print.
So here's what's going on in my life right now:
1) I'm currently living in a town called Waxahachie with my soon-to-be-married best friend, Kerri. I work at a daycare that she found me a job at and I love it. The kids can be terrors sometimes, but I adore them (most of the time). I spend most of my time with Kerri and her fiance (who spends every waking moment of his free time at the house), except when I go visit my hometown on some weekends.
2) My family (aka. My parents and younger brother) is currently living in Paris, France. No, we're not French-- which is very obvious if you've ever met my very Texan self. No, we have only been living there since August (as well as the three months spent thee in 2009). I go back on December 20th and will be staying there until roughly April.
3) For the few of you who read my post at the beginning of the year concerning my wanting to read fifty books this year-- I'm currently a fourth of the way through book fifty now! Maybe I can hit sixty by the New Year?
4) I participated in NaNoWriMo this year. (Google it.) Sadly, I failed, seeing as I kept rewriting because I didn't like the first few chapters. However, the program did give me enough of a push to actually start writing the story that's been bouncing around in my head for months now. I'm 7,849 words into it and it's titled, "Loyalties". So let that jump-start your imaginations.
5)Lastly, for those of y'all who follow me on FanFiction, I'm still working on the "We Run the Papes" sequel. I haven't scrapped it or anything, so you can stop holding your breaths. Oh, and I've titled it, "How the World Turns". It might change, but I like the sound of it. So, then again, it might not.
So there's your five point update on the life and times of Kirsten Erin. Hope things are interesting enough for your tastes.