Playlists are Important

Because every single playlist I've created chronicled a somewhat important moment in my life and every song I chose to go into a playlist was there for a reason. So I regret every playlist I've ever deleted because I thought I didn't need it anymore. I want to know the context in which I listened to that Andy Grammer song I remembered yesterday. But I can't. Because that playlist doesn't exist anymore. Why did I remember that Andy Grammer song after so many years? Because I felt an emotion that I felt some years ago when I first added it to a playlist that now no longer exists. Why was Tracy Chapman's Fast Car the first song on a playlist I once made and what made me choose the songs that followed? Why was José González's Heartbeats so important to me and why do I know every single word of Dj Sbu and Zahara's Lengoma even though it's in Xhosa? Why did I listen to Mi Casa's These Streets almost every morning on my way to classes in 2012/2013 and why did it make me so happy?

I don't know the answers to these questions because I no longer have evidence of the context in which I listened to them. I don't even know the point of this rant. Perhaps I just rediscovered my love for listening to music and I realized how much it means to me. Or I just overthink silly things like why I really liked certain songs.

Crossing
Crossing

Hum

Thinking things can get really annoying. Especially if you're like me and you replay every cringeworthy situation in your head until you feel like crawling into a hole and burying yourself with dirt with hopes of one day blossoming into a flower...maybe. It's like needing to scratch your head but you can't because you need both hands to carry really heavy bags. And so you must suffer that discomfort until you can drop the bags and scratch your head. The point is, it sucks.

Sounds
Sounds

And so I hum. I hum until my thoughts get drowned by the sound of my humming. But then you get tired of humming and the thoughts come up again and so you hum louder and I guess you repeat until you pass out from exhaustion or something.

Puccini and Mendelssohn: A Night’s Tale

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I am listening to Puccini's La Bohème because I am getting myself in the mood for a concert I my attending with my friend. We are going to see a choir perform Puccini and Mendelssohn. It is my first time going to this sort of event and I want to know what to expect.

I like Puccini. I feel transported. This is perhaps why I end up going to the venue an hour early. I only realize my mistake when I call my friend and she tells me she is at home and hungry.

'Mais, c'est pas grave', I say to myself. First, because I can't find a satisfying translation of this phrase in English and second, because it really was fine. I would just go to Uni Dufour and work on some French sentences. And so I do, listening to La Bohème as I make my way there. 

Uni Dufour

I had finally found a place to sit and had started to work on my sentences when a woman I now know to be homeless and her dog approached me.

“Do you know how to use these to access the Internet?” she asked, pointing to the stationed computers.

“No, I’m sorry. I don’t.”

“Do you know where I can access the Internet here?”

I shook my head. I didn’t.

“Do you think you could do a search for me on your computer?”

“Yes, sure.”

“Please check if the showers at the station are still open… and the prices.”

“Gare Cornavin?”

“Yes.”

After what seemed like an eternity on the train station’s website, we established that the showers were open and we didn’t know the prices. She offered her thanks, asked for the time and we said our goodbyes. I didn't know the station had showers.

It was finally time for the concert. Puccini in my ears, I made my way to the venue. I happen to come across the shower lady and her dog and so I did the smile you do to acknowledge someone you have previously had a brief encounter with.

Perhaps this was a mistake because she called out to me. I had my earphones in and could barely make out her words. I thought she had another question.

“Linda?” she asked.

I shook my head. “No, sorry.”

“Ah I’m sorry, I thought you were my old friend Linda.”

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Victoria Hall

I waited outside for my friend but she was already inside. We talked for a while. I showed her my illustrations.

During the concert, I spent most of my time looking at the nervous trumpet player anxiously waiting for his turn. He wore a jacket that was a bit too tight. I felt bad for him because of how anxious he was.

The music was okay. I didn’t feel transported or anything. When I thought I was going to fall asleep, there was a noise. I thought nothing of it at first. Maybe something had fallen. Then the music stopped. What I thought was a thing was a human being. I was now fully awake.

No matter how far I strained my neck, our free student seats would not let me see what had happened.

So with my friend, I begin to speculate: she thinks it was a heart attack or a stroke but I choose to be optimistic and continue to believe that he has fallen. I don’t know why we both continue to imagine it was a ‘he’ as we never saw the person.

The music continues. We think the man (or woman) has finally received some medical attention. We are not sure.

I start to feel guilty as my thoughts flow with the rhythm of the music. I had spent the whole concert imagining something dramatic happening (like someone falling from the top just as the music reached a crescendo) but not someone having a heart attack or a stroke.

My thoughts end just as the music does. I clap with the others.

 

Prague

After spending the coldest day of my life in Bratislava, it was a relief to be welcomed into a moderately cold rainy evening in Prague. I was 17 the first time I identified the Czech Republic on a map. Before I had started learning French and found myself in Geneva, Prague was where I had wanted to spend my compulsory year abroad. Why Prague? There was no real reason. Well, none that I can think of now. I probably liked the name just like I liked the way Manchester sounded and decided to spend a year there.

Making decisions is not one of my strong suits but on this rainy evening in Prague, I knew that it was where I wanted to be. Not only because of my penchant for nostalgia but also because I was glad to be away from cold Slovakia.

Prague was exactly what I imagined it to be. Its beauty did not surprise me because I had once spent hours looking at pictures of the city, planning my life as an exchange student there. I felt some regret as I passed by Charles University with my friend. I mentioned how prettier it was than our university building back in Geneva and that perhaps I should have come here instead. She replied that we would never have met if I had chosen Prague. I tried to find some solace in that reply, keeping it at the back of my mind anytime I saw something that made me regret my decision not to choose Prague.

When I wasn’t full of longing, I took pictures. I took pictures of this place that I like so much for reasons I can’t fully explain.

Buda+Pest

I am fatigued and I have a slight headache. Beside me, there are two women talking in a language that I don't know. I fear that they are going to talk for the whole 1 hour and 40 minutes we have to fly. As we take off, I am grateful for the familiar noise which drowns out their voices. I sleep.

*

There are a lot of things that I did not know about Budapest and about Hungary. I did not know that the Hungarian Forint was the monetary means of exchange and that you could spend your Forints in a Tesco or Costa because I did not know that these brands existed outside the UK. I did not know that before Budapest, there was Buda and Pest; still separated by the Danube River.

I did not know that I would fall in love with a Donut shop at Pozsonyi út 22 where I would daydream about my imaginary life as an artist in Pest, spending some of my evenings in ruin bars with my artist friends debating why everyone dislikes tourists. Perhaps, just like my Airbnb host, we would all never have bothered to learn Hungarian even though we would have lived in Budapest for 10 years.

I did not know that after a shot of mistakenly served Palinka, all I would remember the next day was 50% and why apple cider remains my best friend. That I would find my favourite bar. My favourite because of the plants that will serve as inspiration for my future home. Even though I expected to be inspired, I did not know it would come in my new favourite bar under the drunken haze of Palinka, as I frantically searched for a pen to write down an illustration idea on the receipt of my apple cider.

This is the Budapest I saw and also did not see because of the fog.

Berlin

I missed two lectures on a Friday to go to Berlin and this was a big deal. Months later, as I revised for my exams, I would think back to this trip and the lectures I missed and feel some regret. But for now, I was going to Berlin with my friends and it was going to be fun. Berlin in late November was cold and the cold froze my toes. It was not a pretty city and coming from Geneva, that was a bit of a shock. A part of me wanted to dislike it for being too cold and not very nice to look at but a part of me thought about the words of my Comparative Human Rights professor: some people travel so they can complain about how bad everything is compared to home and others travel to see how things are done differently and in turn, gain a better understanding of home. I was going to keep an open mind. I hoped that some of friends’ enthusiasm would rub off on me.

Times have shown that I must be averse to travel adapters because I always forget to bring then along with me. This happened for the third time in Berlin and I was unable to charge my camera battery. After I had used my camera to take its last shot before its reckless death, I turned to my trusty iPhone to document the rest of my trip.

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I started to like Berlin the evening of my first day there and it wasn't just because I had the best donut I had ever had in my life. Following the recommendations of my Berlin friends back in Geneva, I visited the Martkhalle Neun in Eisenbahnstraße for dinner, the best donut ever, an unexpected Christmas carol and a fizzy rhubarb drink the bartender convinced me was more interesting than the 'boring' apple version. It was basically everything under one roof.

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I did touristy things for the rest of my trip. I took walks. Lots of cold, freezing walks.

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It was mostly foggy.

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And there were many Christmas markets and mulled wine.

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I saw some free art.

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And went to monumental places.

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And historical ones like the Spandauer Vorsradt.

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After making it out of the understaffed airport on a busy Sunday morning and running unnecessarily to avoid missing my flight, I listened to Ry X's Berlin  (because I'm corny) and wondered what his own experience was like.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFXN20bpWtY

 

Birmingham in Pictures

Sometime last month, I packed a hipstery vintage suitcase and grabbed my camera (when I still had one) and headed to Birmingham. I was going to visit my friend. I had been to Birmingham once before. It was with my mum but I was young and I remember nothing. Being an unrepentant cynic, I expected not to like Birmingham. And so, I was happy with my cynical self when it looked like what I can only describe as one big construction site when I arrived.I started to miss Sheffield when I had to wait an inordinate amount of time (well, by Sheffield’s standards) at the taxi rank. Prior to that, I wandered around the train station taking pictures like an annoying tourist. I probably became annoying at some point because a nice construction worker offered to show me where the taxi rank was. He walked me all the way there…probably so that I wouldn’t return. Anyway, while I was waiting for a taxi, feeling bold and anonymous in this big city, I started a conversation with a woman waiting beside me. (This is a big deal. I never do things like this. I actually think I deserve an award) I smiled and said hello. Luckily she smiled back and I wasn’t left looking like some creep. Feeling reassured, I asked if she was waiting for a taxi but she wasn’t. She was waiting for her boyfriend who soon came and whisked her away. We said our goodbyes and finally, a taxi came. This is the rest of my Birmingham story in some pictures. Click to enlarge.

I ended up liking Birmingham. I was jealous of how cycle friendly it was and the cool tunnels.