France-Enamored Americans: Love or Lust?

I have finally arrived in France after a long time traveling across Asia and Eastern/Central Europe. The last bits of my trip brought me through Venice and some other extremely touristy cities in Europe. As I sat back in some cafes, I observed the behavior of many tourists. The ones who stand out the most are always the photogenic Asians, the loud Brits, and ignorant Americans.

This isn’t my first time in France, but I am again dumbfounded by the cults of young women who flood the south of France, Paris, and fashion capitols across Europe, dying to “experience the culture” and indulge…but in what? In clothes, food, and boys. I’m not saying that my student group in IES is full of people like this; in fact, I’ve been quite impressed by the mix of people genuinely exploring the area for diligent work and culture experience. No, I’m referring to past experiences and current observations outside of my group.

Did you know there are H&M stores all across Europe? That many European youth in fact strive to be American-dressed, American-fed, and American-serenaded? Yes, while young women and other adults across America are dying to “experience France”, the youth over here are having quite the opposite desire. But what is the draw to France? Why do so many young women I know at home take French lessons, study journalism and fashion, read silly magazines, and eat at fancy restaurants so they can show off how to pronounce the names of foreign foods? It’s NOT a LOVE of FRANCE. They don’t care about the culture, about the politics, about the dirty facts about poverty and immigration and daily life in the not-so-fancy corners of the country. Not at all.

These are today’s youth who LUST over the IDEA of France, the images you see in those glossy magazines, the zombie-like models totting clothes that look absolutely ridiculous but that we are TOLD looks “fashionable” (ha!), the wine and the cheese… They want to lay in the sun and bask in what THEY view to be life in France. They turn their noses up at the most pungent of the cheeses and instead settle for things within their comfort zones. They avoid foie gras or pieds de cochons, or anything mildly ambitious that goes outside of their comfort zone.

These people, my friends, are the future generations and the people who spoil the image of American tourists for the rest of us. This ignorance plagues me and the vanity makes me nauseous as I sit at a cafe and juxtapose life here to my days passed at Luna Cafe at school. I dress to fit in, to respect, to not stand out. I don’t dress to make a scene, to become the new “It Girl”, or whatever it is these silly girls lust over these days. I have had quite enough of friends who come here for the boys, for shopping, for not speaking the language, and for picking through McDonald’s and other American treats. For shouting and being obnoxious and getting attention. For staring at themselves in the mirrors and taking photos of themselves to plaster online so everyone can tell them how adorable and “French” they are.

Please, indulge in the Love of France and not the Lust.

Bonnaroo Music Festival

I love music, but I tend to feel the same way about music as I do with hockey: I would rather play it than watch someone else play it!  My tastes are broad, too, ranging from classic rock to screamo, rap to country, and even the occasional orchestral piece or foreign vibes.  I do afterall play the banjo, bagpipes, and fiddle, to name a few of the dozens of instruments I play with strong personality.  I tend to dislike live music though, preferring the perfect studio sound over what is actually played.  Hearing all the hype about the Bonnaroo Music Fest therefore had me weary, especially as I pictured mellow bands with absurd drunks and druggies running all over the place and failing to respect my space.  That was until I read the line-up for the 2013.  Most of them I didn´t know, but I got excited at the sight of Paul McCartney, Daniel Tosh in the comedy section, and then… Mumford and Sons!!!  Immediate daydreams of flying from Slovakia to Tennessee for the weekend ensued.

I had never realized that Bonnaroo is such a mix of genres, including media.  There is music, comedy, and even a film section.  The venue refuses to change dramatically between the years and has been that way since its founding in 2002.  Additionally, did you know that Bonnaroo has won awards for being a green festival?  From recycling, to carpooling, to even offering a ticket donation towards improving the sustainability of its farm venue, Bonnaroo is making efforts to keep it classy.

In my experiences with concerts, it is the perfect time for people to dress in their elements and not have to impress anyone.  Usually this means some relaxed bohemian attire, sunglasses, and flipflops.  Of course, some people like to go over the top…but here are some images of the past fesitvals and of some Free People outfits that aren´t too sumptuous!






High School Reunions? Uhh…

Lately I’ve seen a lot of posts and pictures about high school reunions.  Many of my friends have reached the five-year mark (’08).  My parents, like all of my family, graduated early and would have celebrated their 37-year (‘78) and 35-year (‘80) reunions.  I can guarantee you they will never hold an interest in any Pennsylvania State University reunion, let alone any reunion with people they don’t care about from their high school who obviously had nothing better to do than stick around.  And I feel exactly the same.

I’m baffled by how many people seem to attend high school reunions.  I attended so many different schools, I don’t even have a loyalty.  Neither does my brother, who attended the Valley School of Ligonier (Pennsylvania), Kiski Preparatory School for Boys (Pennsylvania), and Andrews Osborne Academy (Ohio).  I’ll admit, I still go back every once in awhile to visit Valley.  I’m good friends with many of the teachers there.  But no one my age goes to any of these reunions.  Are you kidding me?  First of all, most Valley kids were from different areas and transferred to boarding schools even farther away as they set themselves up for college.  So who would be left?

I went to a reunion shortly after I graduated high school.  It was winter break, and my private school was just over a few mountains from my home.  I made the drive and was disappointed to find that most of my college-aged friends were away for school still, on vacation in attractive places, or simply disinterested.  I asked my friends how a reunion had gone recently and they told me “no one came”, a completely ordinary response.  Maybe a few recent grads, but everyone else have careers and homes and live far away.  Most boarding school kids don’t even come from America, so why would they come back for a reunion?

Maybe it’s different for public school people who see the same people day in and day out, who keep in touch, and who don’t move away.  But I feel like that kind of person is harder and harder to find these days, what with college and careers leading us to bigger and better things.  All I know is I don’t really keep any friends from high school; I’ve, well, grown out of it.

So here’s to all the people who are sick of sappy get-together photos, who don’t understand reunions or sucking up to people who think they´re something they aren´t, and who would like to think we have moved on to much greater events in our lives than catching up with people who don’t even remember our names and who obviously haven’t had a move on with their small-town lives.



I’m in Europe.  I came here after two weeks in India and I’m not going back to the US until mid-August.  I was lucky enough to find the job I wanted in a company that was willing to wait for me to start after my return this summer.  I’ve been able to see so many incredible things, thanks to the inside resources I have in each country I’ve gone to so far.  For example, in India I had several professors who are well-known in their country and who got us VIP entrances into temples where we were blessed by holy water and, in Slovakia, I had a friend whose wife’s aunt knows the wife to a long-lost cousin of mine who managed to answer age-old questions about my family history.  What are the chances that such great things could happen?  My summer is full of amazing things and I should be happy.  But I’m not.

I’ve felt alarmingly depressed.  Why?  Well I can’t help thinking about home.  No, I’m not homesick.  I’m just stressed about the people at home, back in the States.  I’m stressed about guys, about a guy who I thought was something special and who is now not replying to any message I send, about guys who don’t matter but whom I wonder about anyway, etc.  Yada yada yada… all this stupid stuff that you would hear from a rambling teenager.  Stupid just in its own essence, but here, comparing it to where I am and what should matter to me… it’s ESPECIALLY stupid.

And that’s why I decided to write a little quip about perspective.  Although I might think a relationship or an individual is crucial to my life right now, the truth is it’s trivial.  It’s especially trivial if someone doesn’t have the decency to acknowledge me.  And maybe I’m nothing special, but I’m nothing ordinary either.  So have fun missing out.  The whole thing is even more trivial considering I’m in Europe, I’m traveling the world, I’m doing what so many people my age or older wish they were doing.  I don’t need anyone’s sympathy or lack of attention.  My problems might seem big on a local scale, but step back and it’s nothing compared to the world and everything there is to see and do in it.

I have guys asking to Skype me while I’m away, guys messaging me and reading my blogs to keep in touch as I travel, guys planning to meet me in various cities along my way.  I have friends who have kept in touch for years and who have never changed.  It’s people like these who matter, not the ones who flicker and fade.  So, while I’m sitting here watching a movie that is set in his city, all I have to do is PITY that city for having him and his ignorance and PRAISE mine for showing me that the world is my oyster.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important; I’ll always preach that here.