Home Again

I’ve been reluctant to write ever since I finished the tour du mont blanc and came back to Aix. I am still surprised, when I think about it, that I did and finished the TMB, that I call it the TMB, that I was there at all. These days I’ve been thinking a lot about time and how two dimensional it is starting to feel – things that happened three years ago and six years ago now feel like they live on the same plane, where it’s almost as if 21 years of memories has squished them together onto one flat ground. The tour du mont blanc was tough, it was probably one of the hardest things I have tried, done, and was definitely not as prepared for as I should have been. From rain, to snow, to falling rocks, I had no trekking poles, no crampons, not quite enough clothing, and definitely insufficient sunscreen, but I made it out alive with battle wounds, and a handful of new friends I intend on keeping.

I was often asked when I would reach the summit of Mont Blanc, and in fact the TMB is the tour de mont blanc, where we walk all the alps around it, which takes 170 km around and 10 km up and down through three countries. The Mont Blanc itself has taken a record 4 hours ans 59 minutes to go up and down. So in my week of hiking, where I crampes in 11 days into 6.5, I found my body in a lot of new soreness and also strength. At the end of the hike, I decided instead of busting my knees on 1500 meters of descent to paraglide down with a guy I met and it was an incredible 40 minutes of flying like I have never experienced before, and what a way to end a glorious hike through the alps.

But now I am in Aix. Back home. It feels good, but this morning I spent all my time hiking and lookin for the TMB in this home. And I know when I go home I will try there too, and in New Haven as well. There is something about hiking and walking and travelling by foot, meeting the people on the road, that makes me feel so alive and incredibly invicible and strong. I ate for my body to recover, I slept to gain strength, and I walked with my two legs to take me to higher and newer places. I met Jan, who helped me walk two days’ itineraries in one twice in a row, who helped me with my sunburns and rallied me on, even getting me a new walking stick he found on the trail. I met an entire family of French people who invited me to their home next week, who lent me trekking poles in the snow and fog, and fed me when I had nothing to eat in my backpack. I have never been so grateful for the kindness of strangers.

But I have also been reminded of home in Aix, and who I am as a home body. That I enjoy and love eating at home, spending time with people I love at home, resting, laughing, reading, writing, taking time to not constantly move around or away.

I am happy to be back, and it feels like a good transition to going back home to Hong Kong too. I miss home and the food at home a lot. Sharing food with family is so wonderful and I miss the people at home. The summer is going by so quickly I am a little afraid it will continue to pass, time that is, faster and faster. I don’t ever want it to end.

Home and the Tour du Mont Blanc

I am on the last of three trains to get to Chamonix-Mont-Blanc where I’ll start hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc early tomorrow morning. I’ve managed to fall asleep on all the trains which makes my time at Zaza’s and Uzès seem farther away than it actually was. Just 8 hours ago I was still sitting at the dinner table, wiping sugar off the table, washing Loulou’s food bowl after she refused to eat leftover mi fun, drinking red wine, and getting all my stuff together to leave on this 7 hour journey to hike the TMB. I loved being at Zaza’s. It’s funny how the human body and mind takes time to get used to a place. The first week went by slowly, as I counted everyday how many days and weeks I had left in the hot, fly-ridden countryside, but by the end of it I had stripped my bed off the heavy duvet, was more than comfortable walking downstairs in the middle of the night in my underwear on a bathroom run in the dark, and woke up to the sound of Zaza coughing and my own wondering if I had slept in too long (most of the time the answer was yes, but Zaza was kind and didn’t wake me up except that one occasion with tea).I’m on the train looking out at the mountains peeking out of the fog, and rather than fields of hay and horses there are small villages on hills of dark green forests and white fog in the sky. There are two men on the train with hiking gear and smaller packs than the one on my back which I hope is just evidence that I have spent time elsewhere and that packing light when leaving a place you have loved is hard. We had a wonderful dinner party last time, with food Magalie cooked from the island of the Reunion. We had sausage stew, spicy tomatoes, red kidney beans, and rice!!! It had been a while since I ate rice and I realized that’s probably why I felt bloated eating bread. The body will also always be used to home. We had Tito play the accordion, we drank good wine, we ate my “healtht” banana-chocolate muffins no one liked because the French like their desserts to be real with real sugar and sweetness, and we had discussions about Trump, and Duchamp’s Urinal art piece, and Aix-en-Provence, and my life plans, and South Africa, and Le Pen, and the amazing meal we had.

I still can’t quite believe I’m hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc on my own tomorrow, though it’s obvious there are others doing it. It just proves that as long as you buy a ticket to go somewhere, and you go through with it, it will happen. That’s all it takes for things to happen; just show up. In the next six or seven days I’m not sure if I will be blogging, since I will be walking about and even with internet I may not want to type long posts on my phone, but I will be around and with my map and guidebook in hand making my way from France to Switzerland to Italy! I miss the home I made in Uzès in the past month, but it’s the kind of home I am excited to go back to soon. I hope Mont Blanc brings people of adventure to my life, but even if not, I hope I am enough for the next week. I have been finding that I am enough for myself more and more. It is a wonderful feeling.

Ungrateful Mess

“I do all this for my husband and he says he does not love me.” We were standing at the kitchen sink, and I had the beginning of a few glimpses into how hard it is for Sylvie to live right next to her husband and two sons who are incredibly ungrateful for how wonderful she is. She cooks and cleans for them, and they, in turn, ask her for money to build a wall between their living areas to block her off from them. They come and use the pool that she cleans every year and don’t even say hi to her in the house, and they resent that she has people. They resent that she hosts workers like me even though her psychiatrist told her she needs to have people around to combat her depression, to make sure she eats and sustains herself in that sense. It’s hard not to feel like it is an effect of marriage, or of being a woman, as I observe us cleaning the dishes after dinner while the men stay seated, drinking, wiping their faces with tissues they leave behind on the dinner table that they do not clean. These are things I know are part of a more heteronormative and older culture, but which I wonder when I look at kids like the fifteen year old Russian boy, if it will ever actually go away.

I have nine days left here with Zaza until I leave for the Tour du Mont Blanc, and I have never so strongly feared that if I leave I may not see her again, because of her physical and mental health, and the lack of support she has from her family. Her sons treat me nicely, but never their mother, and anyone who treats their parents and their mother, especially, that way are not worth even talking to.

I’m trying to figure out the play I really want to write, about the purging of culture and home and the abandonment of people and language and the things we are made of because we take them for granted or want to escape from their roots or their home. I miss home a lot and cannot wait to go back soon. I am beginning to feel more and more like myself, regardless of the place that I am in, and it makes me feel more content with leaving places, like college, but also that I want to stay in one place for a long time now, and not leave things or people behind.