Peak Weekend! It’s a thing! Technically, it’s a thing where TMC gets members to the top of all 48 4000+ peaks in New Hampshire in one weekend. I participated freshman year (Moosilauke) and went again just a week ago for take #2. It’s been over two years since I last went to the Loj, but this weekend’s trip was absolutely worth the wait. The Loj, for anyone who hasn’t been there, or who hasn’t heard of it, is the Tufts Mountain Club’s home away from home. It’s the embodiment of every stereotype regarding mountain lodges. It’s wooden and homey and has a wood burning stove and is filled with comfy couches and lots of people reading books.
Peak Weekend is particularly fabulous because it happens at that perfect time between green leaves and red leaves, between leaves on trees and leaves on the ground. When literally every way you turn, you see these colors:
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to peak both Lincoln and Lafayette, which are 5089′ and 5260′ respectively. Unluckily, both peaks were literally in the clouds, with the temperature hitting a grand old 24°, with 15-30 mph winds creating a wind chill of 15°. Needless to say, the hike was long (8.8 miles and almost 4000′ of elevation gain), and cold.
But every so often, the clouds separated a bit, the sun peeked out, and it was so beautiful that everything was absolutely worth it.
AKA, My Trip to Malta
I just got back from Malta, where I experienced culture shock and reverse culture shock at the same time. But how is that possible, I hear you ask? Well…
For one, the island of Malta is a relatively recent British baby. By that, I mean, it only gained independence in 1964. As such, they drive on the wrong side of the road, and a lot of the Maltese speak British English. So that was weird. But the bigger culture shock was a result of the way Maltese treat women.
Or, I should say, stare at women.
Because I spent the better part of my weekend feeling slightly uncomfortable because of the stares I was getting in the streets. I wasn’t wearing anything particularly provocative. (This shouldn’t need to be a part of the consideration or a part of this post, but it is anyways…) There was only one point over the weekend where I felt truly nervous, when a guy literally started following me down the street. When you’re traveling alone as a young woman, you expect stuff like this, but it is still a bit scary. Especially when you travel the way I do and enjoy wandering down side streets and abandoned alleys. But I stayed alert, walked quickly, used my highly reflective sunglasses as a mirror of sorts to keep an eye on the guy, and struck up a conversation with the first people I passed so he had to move on.
In other ways, Maltese people are pretty nice. They are always willing to help if you’re asking for directions, or which bus you should be taking. But the constant staring was unnerving, and the first time all year I’ve really and truly felt like I was in a significantly different culture. (It takes a lot for me to feel out of place, because of my experiences in the completely different culture that is Japan’s.)
Reverse Culture Shock
I spent the weekend in Malta, where everyone speaks both Maltese (a strange hybrid of Arabic and Italian) and English. Let me tell you, the fact that everyone spoke English threw me off my game. I would walk up to someone to ask for help, and not know what to say. Or I would walk into a store and not know how to greet the clerks. Or sit down in a restaurant and be unsure if I should just order or also point.
In each of these situations, about two seconds later I realized I could just speak English like a normal person, but it was always a strange realization to have. I haven’t been in an English-first country for almost nine months. Technically, Malta isn’t an English-first country, but it is one of the official languages, and everyone I met spoke at least reasonable English. In fact, the two adorable old people I met were the only ones that didn’t speak perfect English. And so I realized that I went to Malta and experience pre-reverse culture shock.
Is this, I wonder, what going back to the States is going to be like? Am I going to get home and not be sure how to address people in the airport, or wonder how to tell the cab driver from the airport where to go? Am I going to think Dobry Den when I walk into a store before I think Hello? It is an interesting thought that I can’t do much about at this point, but it is also a slightly frightening thought that makes me just a bit nervous about going home.
Other Highlights from Malta
They really like this kind of window. I like them too! More significantly, though, all the buildings in Malta were made of giant bricks that reminded me a bit of the adobe bricks we made back in elementary school. Although I think they were actually limestone. Even though the buildings are all made of these bricks and often showing significant weathering, they all have pops of color – usually in the form of brightly painted doors or bay windows like these.
I liked this window too! Called the Azure Window, it can be found on the island of Gozo (the northernmost of the three islands that make up the small nation of Malta) and is gorgeous. As you can see from the photo above, the day that I went was beautiful, the sky was clear, and the hiking was fun (and easy!).
The Dingli Cliffs, on the South West side of the island, are beautiful. Just another drop-dead gorgeous natural feature on the island, the cliffs also seem to be really dangerous. If you look carefully at the center of the picture above, you can see an old white car that clearly went off the side of the cliff. This was one of about a half dozen cars I saw that had gone over the edge, probably with deadly consequences for the drivers.
I also went scuba diving, which was my first dive since I completed my PADI Open Water certification. I got certified in Monterey Bay, CA, where a good day in terms of visibility is 20 to 30 feet. In Malta (we left from the beach above) our visibility was more than 20 meters. I dove to about 15 meters for about 40 minutes. Not a particularly long or deep dive, but absolutely gorgeous. The name of the dive was Cirkewwa Arch, and it was awesome. I saw jellyfish, poisonous scorpion fish, and all sorts of really brightly colored fish weaving in and out of the grass. All told, best experience of the weekend.
So yeah, Malta is gorgeous.
S Ashten letíme z Milano do Prahy. Byli jsme od 24.4 v Italii. Na tři dny a dve noci, jsme byli v Činke Tére. A na náš poslední den a noc, jsme byli v Janov. V Činke Tére, můžete vidět krásné modré moře. Fotografovala jsme moc, ale neplavala jsem protože moře bylo moc studené. Ale, jsme obě byly ve vodě. V Pátek, jsme jely na túru mezi Monterosso a Vernazza a v Sobotu jsme ležely 4 hodiny na pláži. Počasí v Neděli bylo špatně, ale to nevadí protože jsme cestovaly z Janov do Milano a potom z Milano do Prahy. My jsme jedli opravdu nejlepší jidlo. Měli jsme mnoho mořských poldů a moje nejoblíbené jidlo byl rak. Měla jsem taky dobrý salát a píly jsme vino každy den. S každé večeři, jsme píly láhev vína.
With Ashten, I am flying from Milan to Prague. We were in Italy from the 24th of April. For three days and two nights, we were in Cinque Terre. And for our last day and night, we were in Genoa. In the Cinque Terre, you can see the beautiful blue ocean. I took lots of photos, but I didn’t swim because the ocean was very cold. But, we both walked in the water. On Friday, we hiked between Monterosso and Vernazza and on Saturday we lounged for 4 hours on the beach. The weather on Sunday was bad, but it didn’t matter because we traveled from Genoa to Milan and then from Milan to Prague. We ate truly the best food. We had a lot of seafood and my favorite thing I had was crab. I also had a really good salad and we had wine every day. With each dinner, we had a bottle of wine.
I’ve got a really long list of places I want to go, but some of the smaller nations around Europe are high up on that list. I’ve been fascinated by these little countries since I first learned they existed back in sixth grade. Perhaps it has something to do with coming from a giant state in a giant country, but the idea of an entire country that you could feasibly walk across in a day, or even a few hours (depending on the country), really intrigues me.
I remember our trip to Italy, back in 2007 (?), when my mom and I took an afternoon to see the Vatican City. Literally an afternoon, because that’s all the time you need to see the teeny tiny country that is only 0.2 square miles. As I’ve been thinking about trips to take this semester, I’ve been thinking about Malta. How cool would that be, to take a trip to a beautiful island in the Mediterranean that is its own country? And just this morning, I took the Buzzfeed quiz: What European Country Do You Actually Belong In? (Side note: even I am not immune to these stupid things. For example, I have recently learned that my hidden talent is science, complete with a description of myself as “half perfectionist, half spaz.”) Apparently, I should be in Monaco, the second-smallest country in Europe and in the world. And I’ve often thought about taking a trip to Andorra. Not quite as small as the others, it would still make for an awesome trip – hiking, anyone? Or I could go hiking in and around San Marino, equally fascinating and also squished inside a giant neighbor.
I think my fascination with these micro-nations is that I have short vacations while I’m here. When you’ve only got a three-day weekend to go on vacation, you can’t pretend to see the entire country of Germany or France. Hell, you can’t even pretend to see their entire capital cities. But a tiny city-state, one which is smaller than the city I live in back in the bay, could be reasonably explored in a single weekend. My favorite thing to do while on vacation is just to wander. I love taking my keys and my camera and a little bit of money, tucking my map in my back pocket, and getting lost. Only when you put the map away and wander without a purpose that you can find the best adventures. You wander into truly residential areas, passing kids playing on the porch (Istanbul) and random but gorgeous doors (Krakow).
You can get coffee where the locals get coffee and you get to see a more “normal,” less “touristy” part of the city. The problem with this is that it is hard to both wander the city and see what you’re “supposed” to see. This happened to me in Berlin, when I spent every day wondering what I should do – what I “should” do, or what I wanted to do (wander).
I’ve got a list of potential destinations for the rest of this semester that stretches from here to Timbuktu. Not literally, since all my potential destinations are in Europe, but it could happen, right?
I want to visit Ostrava and Plzen.
Leaving the Czech Republic, I want to visit Vienna, Austria and Bratislava, Slovakia.
All of these are potentially day trips, or two day trips. Obviously, I can’t really get to know the culture of any of these cities in a day or two, but I really wanted to get to know Czech culture, hence I live in Prague.
And I want to go further! See more! Travel all around Europe and see as much of the continent as I possibly can!
I want to visit “traditional” European places I haven’t seen yet – Paris or Barcelona.
But I also want to see smaller, less obvious destinations, like a weekend to Florence with a day trip to Siena to visit a friend.
I want to see the glory of spring time in the Tunnel of Love in Ukraine and the Tulip Fields in Amsterdam.
I really want to go to Croatia, to Plitvice National Park, and spent a night outdoors.
I want to visit Andorra and Malta and Monaco and San Marino.
But there’s that pesky little thing called a calendar. And those frustrating things called classes. And all those realities that limit me. I’ve got slightly less than three months left (let’s not talk about that…). Three weekends for my class in Prague, one weekend already booked with a ski trip to Slovakia. That leaves me with six weekends that could potentially be used for travel, and my last weekend to stay for sure in the city.
This is where you come in. I’d be happy with literally any destination on this list, and any combination thereof. So I need you to help me out. I think I want to travel for four of the six weekends left, so you have four votes. No promises I follow your suggestions (for example, I will not go to Paris, Barcelona, AND Florence – I will probably only go to one. Similarly, I won’t travel to Amsterdam if it costs ten times as much as Croatia, nor visa versa.) But I do promise to take the final poll suggestions into account. You have three days; I’ll publish the results of the poll and start planning my trip(s) on Friday, but you’ll have to keep checking back to find out where I end up.
The results are in: By popular demand, my four trips should be Malta, Florence, Vienna, and Paris. No promises that those are the places I actually end up, but if you want to find out, you’ll have to come back, I suppose. I will admit, however, to three of these places being at the top of my personal list, so I think it is safe to say that these are probable destinations!
Sometimes we need a teacher to tell us what matters.
Sometimes we need an adventure to reveal us to ourselves.
But sometimes we just need a child to remind us what’s most important.
All kids know a bit of well-timed silliness never hurt anyone.
I only spent 36 hours with these guys, but the camping trip with the Feelosopher’s Path “Best Summer Camp Ever Camp” was absolutely phenomenal. A single night and a five mile hike, a few hours in the car, a bedtime story in the tent, two roaring campfires and (of course!) s’mores. Not a huge trip, but one with huge hearts, positive connections, and lots of fun.
So thanks, Erin and Hiroshi, for letting me accompany.
For making me lead some activities and be a ten-year-old’s safety net. For teaching kids the value of working together and of working alone.
For letting me remember the loudness of the silence when you wake up before everyone else to build a campfire. For showing the first-time campers the beauty of the world around us.
For teaching me selflessness a decade ago (!) and for reminding me how great it feels now. For allowing kids to grow at their own pace, but pushing them when they can handle it.
For giving me permission to go on my own adventures. For setting adventure in front of the kids, and holding out a hand that we all know they won’t need.