Tag Archives: travel

My Search for the Temple of Love

One day in June of 2015, I found myself in Paris, after having spent two days in London and a week in Helsinki. This was my first trip to Europe and I was both excited and exhausted since I was nearing the end of my trip. The flight to Paris was uneventful and I was surprised to not have to pass through customs upon entry. My funds were low so I had to figure out how to take the subway to my hotel. On the train, a young woman is speaking to her boyfriend in English, then turns to me and asks me a question in French. I respond in English, and they get on the train. I watch them briefly, wondering if they are on their honeymoon, they seem so into each other. We get off at the same stop and take the elevator together.
“Where are you from” she asks.
“I live in California right now” I said.
“Oh wow, I’m from Seattle, but I’ve been here for about a month. I met him here,” she says, referring to the the man she was with. “Where are you staying, maybe we could meet for coffee sometime,” she says.
I tell her that I will only be there for two days.
“Well it was nice to meet you, enjoy your trip.”
When I finally arrive at my stop

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it is close to midnight in the city of light, and I struggle to carry my heavy suitcase up and down the dozens of staircases that make up the Paris subway. A stranger helps me carry it up the final staircase, “Merci beaucoup” I say.
I was supposed to stay at a Hotel Excelsior, but when I arrived I found out they had cancelled my reservation, because they had tried to charge my credit card a couple days before and I was low on funds. They had given away my room and had none left. The concierge was very nice and found me a room in the same price range at a hotel down the street. This concierge was very nice as well and gave me a larger room at no extra charge.
I could finally relax. In theory. But with only one full day in Paris, I needed to have a plan.
Salvador Dali Museum
Bois de Vincennes
Chateau de Vincennes
Louvre
Eiffel Tower

300px-Bois_de_Vincennes_20060816_16I came across this picture when researching my trip. It was used in an Airbnb ad that said it was close to the Bois de Vincennes. My French is not the best, but for some reason I never thought to look up the meaning of bois… it means woods. I thought it referred to the structure itself. I wanted to go there.

So the following day, when I woke and got dressed I headed towards Monmartre to find the Salvador Dali museum. The closest subway stop was Sacre Coeur. I hadn’t intended to go there but I had to stop and take a few pictures. I rode the lift to the top and ended up going inside; bought a book from the gift shop. Afterwards, I found the Salvador Dali museum and admired his portrayal of Alice in Wonderland, as well as his series of melting clocks. I explored Monmartre and passed the artists doing portraits. I did not have the time or money to sit for one.

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Next on my list was the Louvre. On exiting the subway, I found myself in a very modern shopping mall attached to the museum. I bought a ticket and entered, searching for a few pieces in the short time I had before they closed. I wanted to see the Mona Lisa, of course, and the Nike of Samothrace as well as the Venus de Milo. I wandered around in awe, still in disbelief that I was in Paris in the Louvre. The Mona Lisa is so much smaller than I had imagined. I had thought it would be much larger due to its fame. People were crowded up next to the rope preventing us from getting too close. Everyone was taking selfies. Myself included :-).

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In the Louvre shopping center, I ordered from a McDonald’s machine, since I had not taken the time to eat. A man came up to me and asked me if I knew where he could get halal food. He asked if I wanted to help him find some. Seemed like it would have been an interesting adventure, but I still had places to see and not much time, so I politely declined.

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I took the train again, this time to Vincennes and saw the castle, the château de Vincennes. I walked around briefly and studied my map because now I needed to find the Bois de Vincennes, and that structure I had seen from the picture. Back to the subway and even though my feet were killing me from walking all day (I wasn’t wearing the right shoes, as usual) I continued on my quest because I had somehow gotten it into my head that I had to find it.

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I get off of the train again and am now at an entrance to the Bois de Vincennes. There is a map, but no picture of what I am searching for. I begin to walk. And walk. Until I feel like I can’t walk anymore so I stop and sit on a bench. And then walk some more. I come across a lake, which I walk around.10649695_10153429476596468_7108053272051725308_n 11214161_10153429475496468_6965881254747377735_n 11059399_10153429475446468_7861102299742160233_o 11148394_10153429475536468_5395456302352892279_n 11023886_10153429476176468_7443010433097942035_o 10697226_10153429475596468_2875909797987623995_o 1978389_10153429476831468_3233204900807404668_o I see signs for a Buddhist temple and I continue to walk. Still no signs of the structure. There are families, people on bikes, people walking. It is still light out, by now it is about 7 or 8 pm. I continue to walk, watching, observing, searching, for something. For this piece of architecture that reminds me of a castle, that I have come all this way to find. That I am not even sure how to find. There are swans in the lake. I decide to call it swan lake. It’s real name is Lac Daumesnil. 11050114_10153429476076468_4488579393472060302_o11222660_10153429475806468_6348178945818265324_o 11393347_10153429475606468_1739619876451423740_o 11406695_10153429476056468_2073484379929849129_o 11537887_10153429476046468_2384708909635221514_o 11429957_10153429475881468_5381022177799691094_oI continue on, now exhausted. I decide to go down a street, leaving the park and the woods behind. I pass theVincennes Zoo, and sit down again.905829_10153429476346468_7344084611674106473_o 1549483_10153429476531468_7222081015445665775_n 10440666_10153429476476468_6241963458453712599_n 10629566_10153429476466468_8680297295170606745_n 11042684_10153429476646468_353770605686121526_n 11227638_10153429476326468_6731253519406310307_n

It is definitely close to 9:00 by now, and still no sign of the structure, and I am almost completely lost. All I can do is continue walking, so I do, slowly because it is all I can manage with my aching feet. A little later I come across a bus stop which has a map, it seems that if I keep going straight I will eventually run into a subway stop. Now, with a plan, I keep going, deciding to give up on my quest and just try to find my way home (back to the hotel). A bus passes, but I am nowhere near the stop anymore and it passes me by. I continue my journey now just to find my way out of this maze, this labyrinth. Just a little farther, I keep telling my feet, don’t let me down now. And soon I see the lake again, and suddenly there, in the distance, I see it, what I now know is the Temple of Love. I had finally found it at the end of my journey. It was beautiful, and definitely worth the hours I spent looking for it. I took a few pictures and finally continued on. It was time to find my way home because I still had one more place on my list.

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Back at the hotel, I searched for the best place to go to see the Eiffel Tower. Turned out I just had to take the subway to Trocadero. I left around 11:30 pm. The directions had said to walk straight upon exiting the subway, so I did. As the building ended, I looked to the left and there is was, as if it had just appeared out of thin air. Much larger than I had expected. I follow the sounds of the crowd of tourists taking pictures and make my way to the front so I can join them. A few minutes later, the lights begin to flash. I had come just in time for the light show. I stayed after most people had gone, somehow unable to bring myself to leave quite yet. I had to go closer, though the courtyard, past the Seine because I couldn’t believe this was real, that I was actually in Paris, standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. I found myself wishing my mom could have been there with me, felt the tears begin to form behind my eyes as I tried not to let them fall. I don’t know how long I was there, an hour maybe. I finally said goodbye, not wanting to miss the last train and be forced to take a cab like I had in London. (I stayed out late in Picadilly Circus and people kept trying to lure me into unmarked taxis…)

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The next day, I made my way to the Charles de Gaulle and boarded the 13 hour flight to San Francisco. My vacation was over, time to re-enter the life I once knew.


My Story So Far

So, I want to tell you a story…

Actually sort of a recap of my life for the past year and a half since moving to California.

I remember how when I told people I was moving, they were always more excited than I was. I had no interest in moving here, it wasn’t really something I even wanted at all, it was something I felt I had to do, some unknown force. (Especially since I avoided California when applying to schools as an undergrad due to fear of earthquakes.) But this graduate program felt like something I needed to do. What I was excited about was going back to school (too bad it’s not quite what I had expected). And in hindsight, I realize I should have done a little (a lot) more research, and a little (a lot) more preparation. It’s hard to know what to expect when moving across the country on your own without family/ friends (although for me, it’s not the first time…I was seventeen then, an undergrad-with very few things…but I digress) to one of the most expensive areas (SF Bay area) in the country when you’re broke and dependent on an unknown (at the time) amount of student loan income, in a recession with unrealistic expectations of the length of time it will take to find a job in your field…

After two months, I put all of my things in storage and left my ridiculously expensive shared apartment and my jerk of a roommate whom I found on craigslist and chose as being the better of two unappealing living situations (the other having been less expensive but with four other people who didn’t seem to get along very well), having had only 1 week to find a place to live for me and my cat… (not to mention how pet-unfriendly most places in the area are…) and went back home (Chicago) for a month, where I subsequently lost, and found said cat, and decided to give California another try. This time with a little more insight (still nowhere near enough). But at least I was able to find a slightly better living situation (month-to-month lease, my own bedroom/bathroom/yard, but still shared, and still way too expensive for a struggling unemployed grad student with too many bills.) While I was home, I had told myself I would find my cat, find an apartment, and find a job. And within 2 months I had done all three. Although in hindsight, I should have been a little more specific…

I got a job tutoring high school students in math and science part time, which was cool for the most part…the kids were great….but it would have been nice if they paid me on a regular basis…

So at this point, I was ready to leave, move back to Chicago, Philadelphia, anywhere at all. And if I hadn’t gotten my current job, I would have…but apparently it seems to be in the cards that I stay, at least for now. And even though my grad program isn’t quite what I thought it would be, I have learned a lot (mostly about myself, which I guess is why they call it Consciousness and Transformative Studies). I’m still not sure if I will finish it, but I’m taking it one quarter at a time…

Even with my job, I couldn’t sustain life in the Bay area, so I moved to Sacramento and am definitely much happier there, even with the commute. I really don’ t mind the drive, but for me an hour commute isn’t terrible…(in Chicago, it usually takes about a half hour to get anywhere anyway so I’m used to that). I’ve noticed that most people seem to love San Francisco and the Bay area. I am not one of them. They’re definitely great places to visit, but not places I want to live…(SF = expensive tiny apartments, multiple roommates…I like my privacy too much, even Oakland and Berkeley are not much better); so now I have my own studio apartment in Sacramento and I feel much more at home :). It’s more suburban than I’m used to, and I may move to midtown when my lease ends, but my rent is affordable and no roommates (Yay!)

So I made another vow; to stop focusing on the problems in my life and know that everything will be okay. I have food to eat, a place to live, a job…that’s all I really need. Every problem, I think, has a solution and life is about finding them. The solution may not be obvious and you may have to be creative, but it’s there.

A couple of months ago, I started a full time temporary day job thinking it could be a solution. Because, although my rent is now affordable, my total expenses have not decreased much (the law of conservation of expenses has converted it into gas for my commute). Well it definitely helped, but not in the way I had hoped. I worked there for a week and a half before I quit. I found that I could not work a full time day job, part time (30 hour/week) night job and go to school. The work was boring, tedious, and I was so exhausted I could barely function. But in that week and a half, I learned something. It was because I hated it so much, that it made me realize everything I love about my current job (never having to set alarms and wake up early, not having supervisors monitoring my every move,  having free time during the day…)  It made the negatives mere annoyances (non-compete clause, ten hour shifts (as opposed to twelve), etc.). It helped me truly understand that I am lucky to have a job, especially one that I enjoy and that allows me to go to school. And I am definitely grateful, because a lot of the people I worked with there don’t have the luxury to quit.

So now I look forward to going to work (I work as a sleep tech). And I started taking math classes at another school as well during my free time during the day. I’m currently taking a Linear Algebra class (which is where I quit math as an undergrad) here’s to hoping I can get through it this time around…first math class I have ever had difficulty with and I took Calculus through Differential Equations…conceptually I love it (vector spaces, etc.) but I can’t seem to finish the exams… This summer, I’m taking Discrete Structures and a few courses in my other grad program probably on psychology of consciousness and starting my research project. I’m also working on writing a sort of fictional memoir as well as  starting a science literary project and preparing to apply for PhD programs… I think I have finally figured out that I am a philosopher after all and am looking into programs in Philosophy of Science (neuroscience, physics, cognitive science, etc.) because I love to think about this stuff… (and if I got to do that all day, it wouldn’t be work).

A few weeks ago, I attended a conference on consciousness in Tucson, which was very interesting…I will post my thoughts on that very soon… So until next time…

Latasha Monique