Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Waiting is over.....

My 6 months back in the US and back to school are over. I now have a bachelors degree in Political Science from Saint Louis University.... wooot. You know what that means, it's time to adventuring and to use this mind that bubbles away in my skull. I plan to post here in over the next few months much more then I did during my stint in the midwest. The good news is I put together several polished non-fiction pieces during the 6 months I ignored this blog and will be posting them as I see fit.

I'm driving from Indiana to Florida on January 6th with my dad, two of my dads friends/handymen, and my dog in our Eurovan. The 18 hours in themselves should be an adventure. Then I'm flying to Abaco for the spring. I plan to stay their until the first week in April. I've set lots of goals for myself. I have this need to learn all the practical knowledge I missed while partying or being consumed by academia. To keep myself accountable and you informed my short term goals are.....

Become a much more comfortable free diver
Learn various times of fishing (spear, surf, bottom....) how to clean and prepare all types of fish
Learn how to operate and fix solar, wind, electrical systems, and water systems at CasaMar
Lean how to operate and fix typical electrical, water, and engine problems on Casique
Haul and anchor by myself
Plant and maintain a small garden
Free write everyday
Produce one new piece of non-fiction every week
Read every day
Learn ins and outs of outboard engine
Attempt to surf/ find a teacher

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Extrodinary Routine

**** I wrote this piece for my non-fiction creative writing class. I thought you all might enjoy reading it.

I am up and out the door. My keys are in my hands. Three locks twist shut and I jerk the giant brass knob once for insurance. My boots hit the cobblestone and I head through our sixteenth century two-story wooden gate. The bitter wind makes my hair fly, and my eyes squint in the mist of gray Brussels morning. My headphones wake my brain with the melodic sounds of The Weepies. Two blocks down I slide though the automatic doors of the GB-Express. The same young clerk greets me with Bonjour. I smile, and jet to the back of the store. My Friday morning essentials include: two Coca Colas, two warm croissants, and a tall liter bottle of water. My body punishes me for Thursday nights drinking heavy Belgian beer. The quick stop is all that can prepare me for three hours of Art History. The Cokes are a poor substitute in a country that does not believe in to-go coffee. My sluggish feet bump against raised cobblestones as I walk another block and cross the street. By the time I reach the escalator I’ve nibbled half the croissant and gulped down a pint of water. I routinely walk to the East end of Saint Kateline metro tunnel. The first car will put me a few steps closer to the ascending escalator when I reach Pévillion. My Friday morning timing becomes an art, and my hung over body acts like a dependable robot on her way to school.

I watch the blinking lights on the over head sign that indicate how much time until the next train. When it comes I can hear the train arrive over the music in my headphones. The sliding doors open, I enter, and push my body tight against the opposite door. Fridays are my only peak hour commute. The metro fills with school children, parents, students, Eurocrats, and businesspeople. I essentially hold my breath until we pass the next two stops in the center of the city. De Brouckére and Gare Centrale release and accept hordes of bustling people. Each Friday my Ipod and sleepy eyes give me the autonomy to observe my fellow groggy commuters. I cannot help but sympathize with nodding five year olds clinging to consciousness on their way to kindergarten. Often I see the same African women surrounded by her five beautiful children. The youngest one sits on the orange pleather seat, thumb in mouth, next to his mother. The head wrapped mother whispers, what I hope are sweet nothings, to the child sitting on her lap. She appears so foreign to me. We come from different worlds, but find ourselves whiling underneath Brussels at 7:30 in the morning. I can only assume she is an immigrant- voluntary or forced. Her children consumer her in this moment, but I am alone and grasping my bag while listening to American indy rock. Despite our alternative realities the love as she eyes her children is universal. When they reach their stop the only girl, who is about ten, acts as a second mother by corralling everyone off the train. The commute is routine, but each time it feels extraordinary.

My Friday morning commute becomes normal during my five months in Brussels. I travel half sleeping, but each time I enter the metro car I am shaken by how much I have to learn from the people who surround me. I greet a group of new and familiar passengers knowing that each has a destination and routine. I am present and part of this daily scene. My twenty-minute commute gives me a small privileged window into the humanity. We all grow a little closer through the collective burden of commuting. Each pair of feet will hit the cobblestone at the top of the platform. Their hands will stuff in wool coat pockets, their eyes will squint in the cold mist of morning, and they will begin their Fridays somewhere in this thriving city. By the time I reach the Pévillion platform the car is nearly empty. Most of the passengers are university students standing like fellow robots on their way to torturous eight o’clock classes. I exit and walk the four blocks to class, sit down, and hand Ashley her coke, croissant, and water. She greets these staples with a smile. We spend a few precious moments giggling about crazy Thursday night antics in the streets and clubs of Brussels. This week’s agonizing lecture on ancient Iranian art begins.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Milwaukee, WI

Mom and a I took a little trip up to Milwaukee to visit Bubby on Sunday. Every time I visit Milwaukee I fall in love with it's midwest charm a little more. However, I have yet to be there in the depths of January so I'll have to see winter before I can truly understand it's charms and faults. Never less the urban center is clean with manicured green spaces along the lake and hip neighborhood bars and boutiques within walking distance from Bubby's 14th floor apartment looking over the lake. She lives in the perfect location to show off how beautiful the city is.

It was so good to see, learn, and get to know my Grandmother. The city and her endless stream of surprises makes me want to go back soon. Here are some pictures of mom, Bubby, and I (the 3 ring circus) doing a little urban GeoCaching and a few of the views from her place.
Me and Mom on Bubby's Balcony

Stalking the Cach

Found it!

Mom and Bubby with our treasure

Me and Bubby in our glamor glasses

Summer Recap, Where I've been

Hello Hello,

I kind of fell off the blog sphere for a few months. My last few weeks in Europe were packed with parties, good byes, and an adventures. My mom came at the end of school and we went to the South of Spain for a week. Beautiful. Spain makes it so easy to fall in love with her. The sun, colors, and life style are slow and accommodating. The beauty makes it easy to fall into the Mediterranean pace. I turned 21 in Spain and had the perfect birthday dinner with my mom in a restaurant right on the Mediterranean. A full moon welcomed in my twenty first year and created one of those ingrained memories that sticks with you.

Lauren came to Belgium for a few days before I left and went on a few little adventures to DeHann and Brugges. I wish we could have spent the whole summer together. Instead it was back to the U.S. and two months of working at the BBC serving beer and cheeseburgers. The work was hard, and you never feel like you get paid enough. But as always made me respect money and look forward to doing fulfilling work that pays me with results and progress instead of a few dollars on the table.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Car free Sunday. Brilliant!

So last weekend was yet another random holiday. The Belgians truly know how to celebrate the good life and Spring. Friday night was spent at all the usal places down town. I’ll take the time to finally and conclusively name my favorite beer, Delirum Tremens. That’s right the 9% beverage of choice. Plus at Delirum (the bar with the most beers in the entire world) it’s the house drink and only 3 euros. Don’t think about how many dollars that is. After Dellirum there was some unsuccessful bar hopping that ended was it always should, Fritland! My official favorite fritery. If you are ever in Brussels go to Fritland (only after a few beers or your stomach can’t take it) and order the Special. Frits+Maynase+Ketchup+Grilled Onions = HEAVEN. Sitting in Grand Place taking in the buildings, eating frits, and reliving the last 4 months with the best people I could have asked for made for an excellent Friday night.

Me in Delirium with an (empty) Tremens Glass

Papas frits in Grand Place

Saturday evening was a massive free concert. The city set up a huge stage in the square outside the Palace of Justice. I met up with a group of friends and danced like mad to electronic piano bliss. Okay, he kind of sounded like Cold Play. That didn’t stop it from being awesome or me from rocking my face off. I had such a good time dancing. Every five minutes I would look around and realize that I’m standing in front of a massive palace in Belgium. Perfection. After the concert we did some more bar hoping and sipped beers until early morning at a indoor/outdoor café.

Garret, Me, and Stephanie waiting for the concert to start

Freaking out during the 4th encore

Here is where Belgian brilliance for the weekend really kicks in. Sunday was officially Car-Free. From 7am-7pm no car are allowed on the streets downtown. Just buses and police. People ride their bikes and wonder through the streets undaunted by the normally whizzing traffic. The city also sponsors djs and music all day. We met a group around 3 to wonder and see what we could find. We eventually came upon a giant dj set up outside a palace (I forget which one). They laid grass over the cobblestone so you could sit down or dance barefoot. it was bout 75 degrees and we all danced and worshiped the sun to techno and cold beer. Around 6 we went back to my place to regroup and grab some food. Then we were off to what we thought was a Beetles cover band on the main stage. Unfortunately, the Beetles set was just ending. Next was an Abba tribute band….. I couldn’t take the sounds. We retreated back to the DJ and danced some more palace side. Basically it was the perfect weekend in the sun, in a city that has come to life. Finally.

No cars!
DJ Lady Jane
Elena and I chillin in the sun on fake/real grass
The Crazy (awesome) guys dancing next to us
Litwinka jamin to Lady Jane

More photos

Now it's exam and good bye Belgium time. A few more days and then Mom and I are off to Spain. I'll do a sappy good bye recap later. This post should just be a tribute to a beautiful weekend in the sun.

Monday, May 5, 2008


The last five days have been some of my best in Belgium, and maybe even the best since I’ve been in Europe. Last Thursday and Friday were public holidays so we had no class, and the whole city finally relaxed a little to stop, smile, and take in the sun. Honestly the city looks completely different in the sun. After months of gray and rain the green, flowers, and sun was the exact remedy for the Belgium gloom.

I had three term papers due last week so for a week solid I was writing and cursing VECO for their lame education. However, all three papers taught me something and now I realize they weren’t the worst topics in the world. My last paper was turned in by Wednesday afternoon so that left me time to nap and prepare for a celebratory night out. My housmates and I decided to get all dress up, as opposed to our normal slobby college student garb, and go out. We meet up at a friends house and then we went downtown to Mappas, a really chill Cuban bar. After a round we were off to a Irish bar/ disco for happy hour. My friends host moms (awesome lesbian couple Elsa and Iria) met up with us to dance. Then they took us off to another disco and we twirled the night away. By 4:30am I was ready for food and home, but Elsa and Iria wanted to keep going. I just couldn’t keep up haha. I went off for a Kabab snack and then home.

Thursday was May 1st which is labour day. The socialist party was out in full force and threw a party just down the street from my house. Lauren, Elena, and I joined in and danced to awesome jam bands with horn sections. I wore my bright red hat and enjoyed just people watching. I stood and took in this scene that could never happen in the United States. It felt like I was breathing in freedom, and thoughts of the US felt claustrophobic.

Party in front of St. Catherine's

The Internationals (I danced so hard)

Friday I woke up early and caught a train to Amsterdam. I was suppose to spend the weekend there with Keziah, but it didn’t work out. Now I think it was for the best because I had such a good time on my own and in Brussels. I hit the streets by noon and wondered. The city is completely different in the sun. People everywhere just basking and taking in the day and all the sights. After finding the perfect coffee shop I went to a sidewalk café and ate a beautiful lunch in the sun as I watched the spectacles of Amsterdam street traffic. Then I was off to wonder some more. Sat in squares, along canals to write and just breath in this city. By 8pm I was on the train back to Brussels completely contented with life.

Amsterdam in the Sun

Saturday I woke up early to catch a train to southern Belgium. 12 of us went kayaking. At first it felt like any other float trip I’d ever been on. But when we turned a bend and there was a vertical rock face with a castle on top I had a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” moment. Just gorgeous. It was a moment that I will never forget. It was perfect and I felt like I was in a fairy tale. It was mostly locals and boy scouts on the river. We seemed to be the only ones so impressed with this sight. After all, the castle was there before them and will outlive them. Americans don’t realize what old is. By the end of the trip we were exhausted but so happy to have this once in a life time.

Me in Kayaking gear


Sunday gave us yet another perfect day. I went to the open air market to pick up some gifts to take home. Then we were off to our favorite park for some lounging. The park was full of families and couples. Spring was in the air and so was romance and beauty. I was contented to simply sit and take in yet another unforgettable moment in Brussels.



De park

My head want to explode this weekend was so much fun. My days in Belgium are on a count down now, but I’m going to get the most out of each one of them.

Love from Brussels,
Amanda Mar

Friday, April 18, 2008


On Friday I flew to Sevillia and caught a train to Cordoba to visit Keziah, one of my closest friends form the Academy. She’s been living in Cordoba, Spain since last September. I experienced her life for three days. She lives close to the center of town and as you walk though the maze like streets you can feel Spain start to crawl on your skin. The yellow and white buildings, the palm trees, the smells, the shopkeepers outside their stalls, and the sun hitting your face at all the right moments. It was nice simply to enjoy being with Keziah and her friends for a few days. Most of the women she hangs out with are from Smith and Wellesley. It was empowering to hang out with a group of ten powerful, confident, and strong women. I rarely interact with women like her friends do. It was a nice change and I can understand her dynamic at Smith a little better. It also made me realize how much we’ve grown up and created our own paths since May of 2005. Living and growing into what we will become……

Cordoba itself has a lengthy history between Islam and Christian conquerors. The massive Mosque still exists in the middle of the city but odd Christian influences have changed it’s integrity. A giant cathedral was built flat in the middle of the arches and red and white simplicity of the Islamic place of worship. It made me realize that globalization is not a new phenomenon and we live with a legacy of clashing civilizations.

Over all Cordoba was relaxing and filled with cooking, sipping wine, clubbing, going to the market, eating, laughing, smiling, contemplating, and reconnecting with a friend I’ve been separated from for far too long.

We've grown up some, but still love to make ridiculous self portraits

Christopher Columbus asking the queen to explore what would later become the Americas.

Friday, April 11, 2008


What can I say about Barcelona?

This city is good for your soul. For three days I wondered the streets, parks, harbors, and hills of Barcelona. Two friends met me on the fourth day and two more on the fifth. Beauty, every minute was filled with some kind of beauty. I even found beauty in my hostel bunk as I laid down for 5pm siestas. I got a needed dose of the sun. Had a relaxing three hour lunch on the beach. People watched on Easter Sunday as Spainish and tourists walked along the streets.Took my friends to Guell Par, one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, for a day long picnic. I fell asleep in botanical gardens and city parks. I talked politics with rowdy Australians over breakfast. I danced with Swiss boys to throbbing house music until 5 in the morning. I made friends with Elizabeth, a funk artist from Norway. Watched tango and sipped sangria. I climbed hills and sat in taking in the Mediterranean. I sat on Las Ramblas sipping Café con leche. I ate tappas too beautiful to eat and drank ice cold beer. Was dorphed by the massive Olympic tourch. Sat in the middle square eating bre and bread. Watched 50 African men with everything they owned on their backs be round up by the police like sheep. I climbed around a castle. Put the sand between my toes and wrote for an hour. I explored Guadi and got lost in the twists and turns of his buildings. I dared walk North away from the tourists and was memorized by every little street and secret. Memorized by school children flooding into the streets eating sandwiches. Memorized by mopeds, gorgeous women with flowing hair, skateboarders, and street musicians. I enjoyed being alone and loved meeting new and random people. At times I thought my head would explode from so much beauty, but it survived and now returns to memories of Barcelona.

The beach, someone told be it's man made, but still made me feel whole.

One of the Gaudi houses down the street from my Hostle.
Napping in the sun in the massive city park

Dancing in the sun ( brought to you by my ipod, the greatest invention ever)

My house mates, Garreet, James, and I on top of Par Guell. You could see every part of the city from the top of this hill.
The enterance to Guell Parc

My first day in Barcelona, I fell in love with this spot.
A very impressive Olympic torch and some more views.

LinkMore Barcelona Photos

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Spring Break Recap

I'm back in Brussels. Completely relaxed and in love with Spain. I went on so many adventures on during the past 2 weeks. I'll slowly share some of them here........

Saturday, March 22, 2008

London: Day 4


I woke up after everyone had left Johns apartment for class. I packed and showered, then I was off. After spending 3 days in London I was completely comfortable on the Tube and in the city. I grabbed a guidebook and spent the morning touring alone. I saw Buckingham palace, some of the royal gardens, the changing of the guard, and spent and hour gawking at greatness in the National Gallery. Everything is so immaculate. The palace itself didn’t impress me from the outside, but the gardens and the guard ritual seems so very regal. Around one I met my friend Erin in front of the National Gallery for lunch and more sight seeing. I haven’t seen Erin since my first semester at SLU. She was a Katrina displacement from Loyola New Orleans. It was great catching up with her and swapping travel stories.

After lunch we walked to Westminster Abby and took the tour. At first I was weirded out by all the church/state mixture, and oh yeah all the tombs. I can still appreciate the beauty of the architecture and ritual, even if the Church of England seems strange. The building itself seems to stretch towards infinity. When you think you’re finished there are more tombs and memorials and estrange religious artifacts. After the Abby we went and gawked outside St. Paul’s cathedral and went back into the Tate-Modern for my final view of the city. I saw so much and had such a good time visiting. London truly feels like the center of western civilization. Everywhere you look there is some testimony to capitalism and greatness. It was hard to take them all in because my mind went wild with history and symbolism.

After I left Erin it was only a quick trip back to Brussels on the Eurostar. Modern transportation technology is amazing. I got back in time to meet up with some friends for a St. Patrick's day pint.

Buckingham palace

Calling of the Guard


One of many beautiful gardens around the palace

Changing of the Guard

butts :-)

Erin and in a London Phone Box
Millennium bridge with London Bridge in the Background