Sunday, September 03, 2006

'La vache est un idiot' is the only thing I remember from French class.

As I was driving home this evening I happened to get caught at a downtown red light, one that afforded me an unobstructed view of the early evening sky. In the distance I could see a plane, obviously in it’s beginning efforts of climbing to a respectable altitude, and I was struck by the obscene angle by which it was traveling. It seemed impossible that the passengers inside weren’t being thrown upwards and over their uncomfortably close seats and I immediately envisioned the warning printed on bags of chips, proclaiming that Contents May Settle During Shipping.

For whatever reason I thought about the first time I’d ever been on a plane. The destination was Maastricht, a small university town about an hour’s train ride outside of Amersterdam. My friend Kasi and I had spent a weekend early in the spring semester writing grant proposals for our trip, researching plane fares and in general attempting to contain our excitement at embarking on our first-ever across the pond excursion. When our grants came through we immediately sat down to book our flights, an adventure in and of itself as Kasi had spent the entirety of her previous college career laboriously typing upon a word processor, eschewing The Internet as a thing of demonic possession. She was determined to make her reservations on her own, however, and knowing Kasi as I did, I finally slipped out of my room, leaving Kasi to her own devices and praying my computer would be in one piece by the time I got back.

Our tickets came a week later and both of us slipped them between the pages of our crisp passports, complaining of the hideousness of our passport photos. We’d scheduled the trip around spring break, choosing to miss three days of classes on either end of the vacation to allow for more travel time and recuperation from jet lag, which strangely I never felt. Probably because the entire time overseas I stuck almost religiously to my own local time, not caring that I woke up in early afternoon because the museums were open until five and the hash bars were open all night.

When it came time for us to leave, Kasi and I packed our suitcases full of everything imaginable. We would be staying with friends in the international dorms so they’d prepared us for the weather but it’s amazing how the words ‘Spring’ and ‘Break’ can infiltrate your head so that you still pack a few tank tops and shorts, just in case the weather should warm up. In March. In The Netherlands. Right-o.

We were scheduled to fly out of Little Rock at 4pm on a Wednesday but due to weather or plane malfunction or just some newbie with an affection for the delete key, our flight was canceled for the evening and we were given meal vouchers as compensation. So Kasi and I ate dinner and then drove the thirty miles back to Conway to wait out yet another day before our trip could begin. The next day we showed up in the airport again, still wearing our polar fleece ‘traveling clothes’ which looked nothing so much like actual clothing as soft and cuddly pajamas.

The first flight from Little Rock to Memphis was horrendous, and I remember thinking that if I had to survive this turmoil and tossing about I would surely never make it through the upcoming flights from Memphis to JFK, JFK to Amsterdam and Amsterdam to Maastricht. But the flight to New York was more subdued and the flight across the ocean was much like sitting on a cloud with a constantly rumbly tummy. The only parts I truly hated were the take off and landing, feeling myself either pushed back against my seat by some invisible and unkind hand or pitched forward against the paltry restraint of my seat belt.

The trip itself was fabulous. We spent hours each day roaming the streets of Maastricht and passing ourselves off as students in the dorm cafeteria, feasting on bread with butter and delectable chocolate sprinkles, avoiding the strange meats in the spaghetti and the other meats just in general. We made trips into Amsterdam and found a bar that was actually a boat permanently moored to the side of a canal. We took a four day trip to Paris where we climbed the steps of Sacre Coeur, amusing ourselves to no end with our ridiculous French accents, relying on my two years of high school French to count out bits of change and say things like ‘Laisssez moi tranquille!’ (leave me alone!) when shabbily dressed gypsy women tried to con the shoes off our feet.

Before the trip I’d convinced a new professor to let me take one of the media department’s new digital camcorders and I spent the majority of my time filming our bus rides and train rides and various museum excursions, one of them being a tour of the famous Amsterdam Sex Museum. The museum itself was worth far more than the paltry two dollars we paid to get in because inside were six, seven and eight foot tall penile replicas, along with various artifacts ranging from carved jade depicting rather amusing acts by extremely flexible individuals to short films detailing the evolution of sex (and our reactions to it) throughout the ages.

In my tv cabinet reside two small tapes that hold footage of Kasi and I inside this museum and one day I will befriend someone with access to a converter and the willingness to transfer these to DVD. Because one Christmas many years from now, I’m going to present to Kasi the footage of her standing directly under the curved overhang of an eight foot tall penis, lovingly throwing her leg around the base and ungracefully falling on her ass. And then I’m going to throw in the part where we ran across a shopkeeper who was quite enthralled with our Americaness and insisted on showing us his American Dollars, which happened to be very realistic looking dollars except for the fact that on the front, where George Washington’s stoic and immobile face usually resides, was Monica Lewinsky paying special attention to something that was most definitely not a cigar.


Carl from L.A. said...

Eight foot penile replicas?! Are they exciting or intimidating?

Rachel said...

Oh my gosh, this was great fun to read (and hilarious).