A conspicuous absence, perhaps unnoticed, but my last statement stands. Delhi is relentless, and so was everywhere else in India I saw. But too short, too short, ever the time was too short.

I am leaving Kathmandu now, with a bittersweet sadness and a promise to return… a promise I made leaving India as well, but one that I now recognise as being potentially a long time in the keeping. An unforeseen problem of traveling is the increasing number of places I want to return to, but I think that Nepal stole my heart as a child and has not let it go since.

It’s like these are places you have to leave before you can write about them. There is too much in an instant, a barrage of the senses, to ever put into ink. With time to process on my flights to Barcelona, I will see what I can come up with.

February 10th, 2016

Prague’s Old Town is drowning.

When the city was founded it was much lower. The river threatened the streets and so that old Prague is now below the streets of today, rooms and wells, streets and windows. Boarded up, bricked off, roofed by a city.

But the city’s charms are now drowning again beneath tourism’s tsunami. ” Tourism is destroying the city” declaims our Brazilian night walk guide. “And down this you street you will find everywhere that you cannot buy your happiness. There you can get your traditional Starf*s. There traditional American destroyed cow meat. Here is Thai massage, very traditional Czech.” And I couldn’t help but agree. The city’s charms were engulfed by neon, swallowed by advertising. The beauty overshadowed by the endless designer shops. The square flooded by a torrent of tourists in our thousands. The astronomical clock’s tower crammed with people taking photos of the view, selfies, preening in front of their camera phones in the barely one-person-wide path around the top. I could feel the frustration rise, irritation boil, a twisting in my gut like I was ready to push through them all and run away fast, claustrophobia.

Then, across the river, I found a freedom, a revelation. I had cake and coffee for lunch because I’m an adult and I can (in other words, I got anxious as soon as I walked in and sat down and they were cheaper). I put my headphones in and walked across the bridge, made my way towards the castle, ran up every stairway I came across until I grew tired and decided I really didn’t care to go inside of the castle anyways.

But now none of that really matters. The advertising, the endless crowds, the designer stores. I don’t mind any of it, now.

In the Old Town there is a room, in a tower, in an old Jesuit college. It’s longer than it is wide, and very tall, but it isn’t all that big. You can’t go in–a rope holds back visitors at the entrance–you can’t take pictures, and you can’t get there without taking a tour of the tower itself. Since the tower is an old observatory, with the original meridian line and camera obscura, sextants and quadrants, all on display, that was no hardship.

I have heard that a part of traveling is finding what each place has to offer you, that it differs for each person. In a too-short trip to a city that was not what I expected, that was in fact almost disappointing, I think I have still found it. On my last morning, I found my corner of Prague.

I just can’t actually go in it.

February 8th, 2016

Sachsenhausen Memorial.


I walked through the Holocaust Memorial in the middle of Berlin and felt its impact, but I took photos. Here I walked in the footprints of a terrible history, and I did not want to record it.


Most of the buildings are gone. The infirmary remains, site of medical “experiments”. A barracks building, with its three-high bunks that held nine. The foundations of “Station Z”. Administrative buildings. A watchtower. There is a tall pillar in memoriam, erected by the Soviets in 1961. There are rectangles in the ground where the many barracks once stood. It was raining, and the dirt paths filled with puddles reflecting the grey sky, leafless trees.

There was a section of fence, a part only of what once ran around the entire perimeter, electrified, and those with guns were given the order to shoot without warning anyone who approached it. Suicide, it would be called, but those who ran at the wire probably saw it more as an escape.


At the end our guide closed his tour with a statement on the importance of humanising the people involved. The victims, dehumanised for so long before the camps began their slaughter, labeled inferior. The soldiers, dehumanised by the observers of history ever since, labeled monsters.

“People ask how I can come here so much. I’m here at least once a week with tours. I guess I do become a bit desensitised, but not fully. I think it’s important to humanise the people involved… Nowadays everyone knows that you can make ordinary people do terrible things.”

You can make ordinary people do terrible things. It is hard to judge, he says, you cannot judge, these people. He made the point of their world, so different to what we are used to in many places now, though certainly not all. A place of endless and terrible war, of extreme politics, poverty, fear. It is important to remember, he says. This is why these places have so many visitors, tens of thousands here every year, hundreds of thousands, millions, to Auschwitz, every year.

And he made me think of every time I have walked past a beggar in the street and not given money. Of every time I have ungraciously thought to myself that I would never let myself end up there, I would not lower myself, demean myself, to be there in the squalor and filth of the street… These are terrible thoughts. Unkind thoughts. And I questioned them then, standing between the two long buildings of the old infirmary, and wondered: in a way I am no better, if I have dehumanised these people in order to not feel guilt or shame at not helping.

Why do we visit these places? “You can make ordinary people do terrible things.” Not only because these events should be remembered. “Because then we remember that terrible aspect of human nature.”

Because every person involved in these camps, on every side, was human.


February 7th, 2016

“So where do you live?”
“I don’t really have a place.”
“But, like, in the summer when you’re in the states, where do you live?”
“Well, I’ve been renting a room in a house but I can’t do that anymore. And besides, it was their home not mine.”
“So you never stored anything there?”
“Nah. I have a storage unit, and stuff in other places. And there’s my brother’s place, I sleep on the couch there but it’s about as close as I have right now. Or my uncle has a great spare room.”
“But that doesn’t really count.”
“Oh, I don’t know, it kind of feels like home. And I’ve moved a lot over the last six years so I’m pretty used to it.”
“But you’re sleeping on a couch, you don’t have your own space… don’t you get sick of it?”
“I, well, yeah.”

Yeah, I do. But how do you have a place and pay for it, and not be there for most of the year? People laugh at the premise of Doctor Who, but think about it. The ability to travel wherever you want, and take your home with you.


Miss you, baby

February 2nd, 2016

(old one because the site stopped working temporarily)

I am leaving Paris once more, in the morning, from train to bus to plane to Berlin. Right now I’m at the computer downstairs, it’s a relief to stretch my fingers out over real keys instead of this tiny phone screen.

It was my intention all along to stay after she left, to go through the farewells at the airport and then return to the city alone. I wanted this… but I didn’t think about being left behind. I didn’t think about missing her. I fell out of love with this city through the melancholy: there was too much french, I didn’t want to get up in the morning, I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to stay inside. Then, when I moved out of the Luxembourg Gardens area, I didn’t want anything to do with my new location. The hostel wasn’t right, the streets weren’t right, I wasn’t happy. In simple terms that is the truth there, and I wasn’t, but I learned to see the charm again. Now I don’t want to leave. 

Of course. 


Part of what brought me around was taking the time to take care of myself for a second, to put aside concerns of expense and to do what I felt that I needed at the time. So I found myself quite by chance next to the oldest tree in Paris, in the oldest english tea shop in Paris, across the street from the oldest church in Paris, with food and tea and a treat, a book and a chance to write. I felt like a whole new me when I stepped out some hours later–you’d think the walls had been lined with books. I begin to suspect that I am not satisfied with just wandering. Is it that I do not immerse myself? Were I trying to learn French while here perhaps it would be different, I would have something to occupy my mind while walking around the city. As it stands I have developed an entirely new interest in the founding fathers’ story, especially Hamilton. (Thanks Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thanks, friend who made the introduction to this unceasingly addictive music. You know who you are, if you’re reading this).


Parc LaGrange


It's all there, just hard to spot. Church and tree and tea.

Then there was the Egyptology exhibit at the Arab World Institute, a collection of incredible treasures from the Osiris Mysteries, a suite of ceremonies related to Osiris and the Nile Delta. Pieces discovered underwater, some perfectly preserved from marine deterioration, and supplemented with items on loan from other museums. It is a glimpse, so small, of an entirely different world, a different people, that one cannot help but feel something when you walk through. 

I certainly felt something to emerge and discover it was raining, and not just raining, but really raining. Hood up, jacket zipped, umbrella non-existent. 

Today was the Marmottan Monet Museum, a diverse and detailed and oh so rich collection of Impressionist pieces, with a lower floor dedicated to Monet, with a whole section for Morisot, with so many others besides whom if I were more educated in the world of art I would as easily be able to bring forward. Van Gogh makes an appearance, as does Renoir, Cezanne, and there were two others prominent… a B… a V… ahhh but I forget. What struck me most of all was that this museum is not as any museum. It was once a house and as such retains some of the character of being not only a place to view and appreciate art, but to live. I felt I could. I felt comfortable there, surrounded by the beautiful furniture and paintings that brought me peace. 

Dinner with friends tonight, and coffee yesterday afternoon with one. What rare treats, when out in the world, for me. Coffee was not, in fact, coffee, but a trip to another art museum dedicated to Debuffet. It is quite hidden, there is a green door and a small gold plaque, a buzzer, and a narrow courtyard lined with trees. A studio previously, it holds examples from his definitely varied artistic history, a style that is close to the “art brut” my friend informs me–art by those who are not generally considered capable. Children, the mentally insane, but he brought to the world’s attention the importance of this art, she says.

The dinner was a whole other affair. In the company of intelligent, literate, successful people of the world of poetry, painting, writing, theater, sculpture, philosophy. In the company of women who can talk about art, about politics, about the world. Women who are from the world and have lived in it, who speak with authority because they can, in at least three languages and without sounding at all pedantic. In the company of such women one can only feel, if not inferior, a strong desire to better oneself. 

“Parlez-vous français?”
“No, I don’t speak much french anymore, I used to.”
“Oh that is lazy.”

February 5th, 2016

There is a church across the road from the apartment, chiming its bells in exact time with the ticking clock in the kitchen where I sit. At night the arched window facing the street is lit up with a nightclub-neon blue, streaked by yellow and green. Rumour is it’s a convent, attended by women in pale blue, though I haven’t seen signs of life other than the ringing bells and the bright blue nightlight. The bells have stopped now and the clock, freed from competition, tocks all the louder.

Berlin… in any city there is simply too much, and here there is even more. I have a good feeling about you, Berlin, although caution warns me it is far too early to tell.

I walked around after arriving, initially trying to make it to a free walking tour that I was woefully late for and so missed.


While walking to the meeting point at the Brandenburg gate I passed something I didn’t understand at first, though it didn’t take me long to figure it was a memorial. I went back after deciding I’d missed the tour entirely, and walked in. The rising blocks are unsettling, children scampered between the gaps, appearing and gone like waifs in the wood, like faeries, like ghosts. It was cold, and the wind rustled tissues and dead leaves over the cobblestones, but the sky was bright and blue and felt ever further away as I walked in.






There are no signposts, and no emblazoned descriptions of what you should think, feel, or read into the piece. If you find it, there is a guarded staircase leading to an exhibition underneath that I have not yet made it to, but which tells sounds of the stories of the people and families, the lives lost.


I went on, wandering.



Eventually, making it home to the apartment, I was greeted by the cousin I came here to see and we went out, picking up a beer to drink along the way (apparently it is quite legal here), to the East Gallery. I didn’t take any pictures then, in the gathering dark, of the murals and graffiti that cover the remaining wall, but it is not something easily forgotten, I think. There is a strong feeling residing there, a reminder, an uneasiness to think of walking along a wall intended to keep you out, or keep others in.

It was thinner than I expected. Today, without the guards, the floodlights, the second wall behind… ah, but still it stands there so much taller than you, and stretching ahead for as far as light reaches in the evening.