I Found My Brother Orange

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago (2012 lol), I met a gremlin. She gave me a robe. 


I loved robes. And soon, I started to love this crazy cool gremlin, too. 

I flew to Denver on a whim to hang out with her, I went to a Tim McGraw concert for her, I even ran 7 miles for this broad. 


Soon enough, I began to realize that this lady WAS IT.


I mean, just look at that awkward hand clench. 

Years passed by and we danced through it all. She taught me how to climb, I taught her how to watch Netflix and chill (not like that). She taught me how to backpack, I taught her how to backpack with someone who’s only backpacking to make the other person happy. 


We turned 21 and had parties and studied abroad and saw Europe through each other’s eyes (and one lady’s huge iPad at the Vatican’s Easter service).


Oh, also, she bought me a tattoo for Christmas. So that’s cool. Mainly, what I’ve learned with this kooky, lovely woman, is that as long as I’m with her, life can only be an adventure to be had. 


Needless to say, I’ve found my Brother Orange in you and I’m ecstatically, peacefully, wholly, halfly (cause you’re my other half), joyously, achingly (cause I miss you), heavenly, ghoulishly (cause hell has better company)… completely thankful for your existence in my life. Like seriously, where would I be without you?


So let’s watch movies with pretension, explore the world without it, giggle like maniacs, consider issues with thought, run, climb, lounge, hike, fly, soar, live together (cause life’s much better that way). 

Happy birthday, Kaiti! I guess I love you or something. 

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infinity plus one

LONDON – For three months, I haven’t left the UK. Rooted in my desire to make London my home, I’ve explored the twisty streets and bustling markets of my chosen city during the weekends instead of jet-setting off to new adventures.

Up until last weekend, where I decided to join my friends on a trip to Munich, Germany – a delightful city that I’ve fallen in love with each of the three times I’ve been there.

But this time was different.

At first I thought it was the language barrier – feeling like the stereotypical American as I stuttered through broken phrases and apologetic looks. But I’ve been here before and I have never felt as I did this weekend.

Luckily I had an airplane and two busses in transit from Munich back to London to think it over. After hours of drifting from thought to sleep to thought again, I still couldn’t put my finger on it.

I swiped through my iPhone’s collection of the past weekend’s memories. Traipsing through the Englischer Gartens, drinking litres of bier, eating something called “The Butcher’s Platter”, getting hopelessly and hilariously lost… There was nothing that plainly told me why my time in Munich was a bit hazier than my other visits.

Then I glanced out of my bus window and saw my city. I saw the Eye and the Shard and the Tower of London and I realized – it wasn’t that Munich was lackluster; it was that London is now my home.

Before when I’d visited Munich, it was part of a country-hopping extravaganza where Europe was a thing to be tromped through, places were to be seen briefly then passed on for the next shiny statue and glimmering river. There was never a place for me to call home across the pond and so each different country was treated as a wondrous spectacle, a passing holiday, a shooting star about to disappear.

I had never fully realized that deep knowledge wholly trumps superficial frolicking.

Having now lived and worked and studied deeply immersed in London culture, I have learned something that this weekend in Germany helped me realize – true culture can only be understood and appreciated by living for a substantial amount of time in one place.

It sounds like common sense, but I, as well as many other study abroaders, had fallen into the all-too-easy trap of thinking that we know it all.

When I studied abroad in Florence last summer, I was gone every weekend, each time coming back and telling my friends of what exactly the French do when they dine or precisely how you have to hail a cab in Romania or the authentic pronunciation of köszönöm in Hungary.

In short, I had become a pretentious prick, falling prey to pride instead of accepting that knowing how to pronounce köszönöm does not make me an expert of Hungarian language.

So armed with my new revelation, how does one move forward? How does one humbly encounter different cultures in a short span of time? Can real culture even be experienced on a weekend holiday?

At a work party last Tuesday, I met a woman who had traveled from Austria to live and work in London 12 years ago. She has since spent her weekends traversing Europe and drawing inspiration from its different sects, cultures, areas. She told me that she views her travels in terms of infinity – for everything that she can know, there is an infinite amount that she cannot.

It is with this in mind that I go forward.

Even with 21 years under my belt as an American, there is still an infinite amount of knowledge that I cannot and will not know about American culture. What are three months in London? Three days in Munich? The most I can do is to accept my ignorance and recognize the truth of infinity.

Life, studying abroad has shown me, should be about turning a No into a Yes and a Yes into a question mark.

Friendships abroad.

MARCH 2014

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LONDON — It’s a strange thing, making friends abroad. There is, quite literally, a ticking clock counting down the days until your only contact with these people is via Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. It’s depressing and whenever one of us mulls over the idea, we quickly shush them and go on living in forgotten frenzy.

When I left Spokane, I’ve come to find, I left more than a city. I left familiarity and family. I left friends who knew what I was thinking with just a glance. I left behind hours spent laughing, days spent lounging, months spent trying to find Spokane’s hidden treasures.

And after 10 hours on a plane, it was all gone.

I stood in Heathrow Airport, alone and small, and felt a rush of independence. Fear soon followed. The knowledge that I knew nobody here and that nobody here knew me was enough to make me want to run back onto the plane and beg them to take me back to what I knew.

But border security already let me through. No going back now.

I waited at the baggage carousel and let the prospect of making new friends weigh me down. I mean, truly, it is a very daunting task. Fake laughter, fake questions, worrying about first impressions, then after you bomb those, worrying about how you can redeem yourself the second time around.

It was only until I was thrown into the tourist-tour-extravaganza of an orientation that I realized that I didn’t leave anything behind in Spokane. A plane ride doesn’t make experiences had and laughs laughed disappear. Those are pieces that have added to the whole of me, but surely there’s room for more. Even my old friends had to once be new.

And so, with my new pack of friends, I tromped around London taking pictures, singing songs about Stonehenge, laughing at yaks, complaining about classes, running to Waitrose to get food and drinks for late-night kitchen parties. I was building around me the familiarities of friendship.

But, as I said earlier, friendship abroad is a strange thing. I knew that the days spent getting closer and closer with them was also time inching closer and closer to another 10-hour plane ride leaving behind these new additions to my life.

I tried to think of solutions. So I looked at costs of planes. Strike one. Three-day road trip, anyone? Strike two. How about everyone just transfers to GU! OK, strike three. I felt like that mouse in Cinderella that tries to stuff as much corn into his mouth as possible only to lose it all. Fine, I know that his name is Gus-Gus. I felt like Gus-Gus.

And then I found it – the perfect solution. I was reading “The Screwtape Letters” on my lunch break at work and a piece of it practically jumped out at me: “Gratitude looks to the Past and love to the Present; only fear, avarice, lust and ambition look ahead.”

The way to love my new friends is not to live in the future, trying to solve the unsolvable and worrying about the unchangeable. Love is living with no preoccupations. Love is ignoring the tick-tock of the four-month clock. Love is singing along to ’80s songs in the kitchen oblivious to the existence of anything else in this world but that kitchen, those songs, and these people.

The friendships that I’ve made here won’t disappear after that 10-hour flight home. They’ll come out in stories and memories and pictures. And with gratitude I’ll look back on these moments, with love I’ll bring them into my present life, with love I’ll refuse to look ahead.

To love is to live.