International Cafe

Went to visit a friend in Kansas City yesterday.

It was a beautiful day, sun shining and clouds standing out big against the wide open sky. We started the day off with a blanket in a beautiful park by the plaza. There was a group of men playing African drums under the shade of the trees for the full three hours or so we were there. We drank iced coffee, people watched, and relaxed.

After the park we headed to some tiny little hipster den deep in the city. It was so hipster that no one there was a hipster.

We were served a meal of flavored Basmati rice, cinnamon and apple couscous salad, hummus with spicy/sour sauce, feta cheese and a type of mustard chicken. Great coffee as well, we sat at the cafeteria style table inside the place, sharing it with strangers and coexisting in the tiniest room I’d ever been in public in. Then they pulled out a drumset, a bass and a guy jumped on the piano right next to my back- and they played an improv concert. I was literally close enough to the guy playing piano that I was sure he could feel me breathing on his neck. I was transfixed by his fingers over the keys, and had a strong urge to pick up music again. I have forgotten what a big part of my life it used to be.

Kyle and I got lost in a conversation about literature and ideals and style and relationships after the music stopped, and I did something pretty fucking embarrassing which I will not provide evidence of here. But just know it happened, and Kyle was exactly himself. Exactly the way I would have reacted if it had happened to him. We are pretty good at making one another feel comfortable.

We stepped outside later, and it’s a full blown storm. Walking in the rain down the streets of downtown Kansas City, my favorite. Laughing and moving forward to the next thing.

Had a bit of an anxiety attack coming back to Kansas the other night.

The thing about anxiety is it feels like it sneaks up on you, but really it is the most obvious thing in the world. I just let down my guard and stopped safeguarding against it. Let things slip here and there, thought I was immune to it.

So in a way it was super good it happened.

I’m not immune. And I should never act as thought I can live without being conscious of the fact that this is something that I live with.

It makes me who I am. I get to choose how to use it.

Grandma and Grandpa visited today, was so good to see them. : )

I have cut myself off from coffee and beer for the meantime, and Grandpa held me to my word today. As I watched them drink all the lovely New Mexican beer which made me very, very sick last week.

Realized that I am just not a vacation person. I am a structure person. I need goals daily, just five days of vacation is enough to set me on edge. Especially that 11 hour drive back and forth, free flow of cyclical thoughts that I fight against daily with routine.

So, along with committing to reducing my alcohol and coffee consumption, I resolve to always have a goal. A daily goal as well as a weekly goal, month goal, year goal and life goal.

Always goals, and I will always be free.

Yesterday a soldier came into the cafe.

It was such a hot day, and he got the largest drink possible.

And he started in on a story, telling us how when he was in Iraq, the kids used to bring them hot chai when they were patrolling. And he starts getting teary eyed and emotional.

Talking about how ISIS is moving through where he was in Iraq ten years ago.

He starts saying, “What was it all for? What was it all for?”

Talking about the women, the children, the soldiers he met.

Was really, really sad and raw.

The man in line behind him attempted to neutralize the situation, talking him down. Saying we just had to see what happens.

Made me cry a little.

Last night I was talking to someone for the first time about my life plans of traveling. Hard, concrete achievable plans. Over pickleback shots.

And turns out, this guy is from Granada, Spain.

The fucking terrifying city that I lost my shit in after Barcelona, and have been attempting to recover from since.

And so instead of having that connection trigger bad memories of jamon and sketchy hostels, I let it inspire me to come home later that night and begin applying for life.

He’s leaving in a few days to go backpacking around Eastern Europe for the summer. And I can’t say I’m not jealous.

And Debolina was in Las Vegas this weekend, and my brother followed her there tonight. Then three separate people I know are in New York City, living it up currently.

I am ready to travel. I will always make it worth it wherever I end up in the world, at any point and time, this is promise to myself. But I will never stop moving. Live art. Constant change constant presence.

I absolutely needed this year at home. I needed a year to structure completely for myself. And to realize that I can achieve exactly the life I want when I let it flow and push myself.

I am currently working two jobs I love: serving coffee, and working at the women’s shelter in town. Both of these jobs are great outlets for me to push myself in social situations, and continue to be surprised and inspired daily.

And then I’ll be getting a duffel bag in the mail in the next few months, throw a few books/notebooks and pens in it and head out for a year of travel.

Thank you, family for being here for me all year. You have been wonderful and have helped me build a great foundation I hope to be able to carry with me everywhere in the world.

Fayetteville pretty hippies.

Special Olympics coaches

Politics briefs from Northern Africa.

Molly’s Congo photo anthropology trip.

Anthropology masters network. Look into universities around the world. Network, research and travel. Fully explore and learn.

Going to peace at anytime, mutual understandings.

“Annie, I wish I could trade you jobs today.”

“Scotland?”

Have met two people from Alaska in the past two days.

A third if you count a few weeks ago.

Actually, they were people I already knew, but just found out they all had connections to Alaska– by Anchorage.

I feel a pull to Alaska. Summer Alaska, though.

And got one of the nicest compliments I have ever received out of the blue.

FLOURISH.

My friend dropped off the zines he made recently to sell at the cafe.

Proactive.

Richard just got back from France and was telling me all about his being part of a protest in Paris last week, and how pissed our mutual French friend is at the outcome of the recent polling. 25% are for the far right, most are young people. Because of disenchantment with Hollande.

Spicy politics.

Bari is headed to London in a few weeks.

“I feel like our generation is—”

“Complacent?”

“No– I was going to say reaching.”

“I think it’s who you choose to be around.”

Today a guy walked in that I have not seen in five years. We only had one class together in highschool, and I have no idea what we talked about. But we talked everyday that semester.

Saw him again today, and was so weird to see how much he’s grown up. And I guess I have as well. It’s pretty great.

We still both remembered each other’s first and last names. And caught up on the past five years.

I want to escape to adventure right now.

I know I can have adventure anywhere in the world I am now, including here.

But I honestly am going to take every opportunity for adventure I am ever offered in the future from here on out.

And I’m going to get better at seeking it out.

Tonight I met a guy from Pakistan studying English. And also a guy who enthusiastically jived with me about this new satire writer. I had two seperate elderly women come up to me and agitate for revolution. “We’ve got to take the power back! They make us feel like we don’t deserve it. We all deserve it!” And then after work I sat down and joined a bunch of vet med students debating hormone/antibiotic use in animals.

I love soaking up people’s energy. Decided I will no longer be the hermit writer. I will be the extroverted introvert. Writing in the chaos, in the cafes, and open to life whenever it wants to walk up and talk to me. A vampire writer. Solitude is my steady, but always ready for fresh blood.

That came out a lot more terrifying than I meant it to. But it also came out exactly as I meant it to.

The cool thing about working daily at a cafe is you get to interact with those quiet people that are crazy hard to approach in everyday life.

There is this sweet lady that has been coming in everyday for the past two months, and only today did I ask about her life. Because I had seen her enough that it just all fell into place.

She is here staying with a friend, she is from Taiwan. She’s here for six months to visit. Hanging out in our cafe daily and drinking double Americanos.

Absolutely love quiet people. Especially intriguing quiet people who can tell me all about their home country, and thus the world.

Started off my day with a Canadian woman landing in my lap, fresh off the boat.

I think I might have been one of the first Kansans she had interacted with since she got here. She looked like she had just stepped off the plane, and was in need of a cup of coffee and a muffin.

She opened her purse, and let out a sigh. “This is going to be a challenge…”

She pours out a shitton of Canadian coins, loonies and toonies all over the place.

I, and my fascination with anything from another place, pick up one of the loonies and stare at it.

We talk about how you can use American dollars in Canada, but you cannot use Canadian money in America.

And then she gives me a loonie, and I hand her a dollar.

She’s here for two weeks, and we are set to be good friends.

I am 100% California bound officially starting today!

I went to the other cafe in town for a quiet night of contemplation and solitude.

Within three minutes of arriving this guy I barely know shows up, and walks over and asks me what I’m writing.

He leans over to read it, and I cover my paper and look at him in horror.

I attempt to suture the wound which is the conversation that has opened on my quiet night out.

And, after a little bit, he meanders over to his table across from me.

I return to my work, my frantic writing, and when I look up again, he is walking toward me again.

“I left my laptop at home. Will you watch my stuff?”

And he places his things in the seat next to mine.

I agree.

He arrives back an hour later.

“I didn’t have my keys. Had to meet my roommates a few blocks away to grab the keys. And then I got my stuff. And then on my way here there was a guy who asked for help moving. So I helped him move his stuff into a truck.”

He sits down next to me.

“What does your tattoo mean?”

The first time I met this guy, I immediately decided that I had no time. The second time I saw him I warmed to him a bit, not to the point of friendship, but to the point of nonchalance and shared smiles.

Tonight, however, as I explained my tattoo to him, I drank my tea and he ate his burrito that I had “watched” for him for the past hour, I decided that this was a real conversation. He was initiating a real conversation with me. And I was shocked to realize that people don’t have to have ulterior motives. He just wanted to talk to me.

I’m still thinking though, in my mind, how much more worldly I am than him when I ask what his degree is in. And his response validates my unsavory judgment of him and his life decisions.

Then, out of nowhere, my mind is blown.

I don’t remember where exactly it came up.

But soon we are looking at pictures from his time working in Yemen and Taiwan.

And I am intrigued.

And I am ashamed that I judged him.

And he is much more worldly than I am at this point.

He talks about dialogue. And how he loves to engage in conversations with people of different world views and faiths.

And he is a Christian.

And I have never met such an enthusiastic Christian with such an enthusiasm for understanding other world religions and world views.

And he talks about his “family” in Yemen, and how if he ever goes back, he is getting a one way ticket.

And I realize that tonight two things that I thought impossible have happened.

I have fallen in love with a Christian, and I am ready to fly the world for the rest of my life. Starting now.

……………………………………………………….

(Okay, I haven’t actually fallen in love. But I have fallen in love with the world and its surprises. Falling in love with a Christian just sounds catchier, though. Give me that.

Tuesday night I worked all day at the cafe, and then had a three hour Arabic lesson, and then got called in to my other job for the remainder of the evening.

Monday I took off work, as I went camping Sunday to Monday.

Kyle and I went out to the lake around 3 in the afternoon on Sunday after I got off work. We had a picnic of beer and hummus by our campsite overlooking the lake. With green, hilly mountains surrounding us like the coast in Ireland.

At some point during our picnic, it started to rain. Just a bit, and we laughed and grabbed more beer. Then all of the sudden it started to pour, and there was an immediate storm,  thunder and lightning and dramatic wind.

We tore down the tent, and jumped in the car. After the storm, since we were already drenched, we jumped in the lake. I am usually terrified of lakes, but once I was in, I really enjoyed myself.

We had pizza later, hiked around, had ridiculous conversations, and then fell asleep.

The next morning we went to a diner, and had breakfast burritos and pancakes. With endless coffee. We completely lost ourselves in conversation in the corner of that diner, with the daylight streaming in the windows. The waitresses continued to fill up our coffees for a good two hours (we left good tips) and we finally left sometime mid afternoon.

We then went and got lost in a forest and read the I Ching to each other, calling bullshit on the the not so zen passages. And being amazed at the, from our perspectives, “oh so zen” passages.

That evening, I met Misha for coffee. All the coffeeshops in town were closed that day, so we were forced to converse in a bar. Where we got classy wineglasses full of red box wine on a Monday. We had a great time, and got completely lost in conversation as well. And I thought, how strange it is that you can get lost wherever you are, if you learn how to do it right. And it’s a continual learning. You have to learn how to direct your life in a way that is constantly intriguing to you. And those around you who are doing the same are the ones that are worth sharing life with.

Today I am meeting my friend Jordan for a estrogen infused adventure evening, then meeting a few other girlfriends for whiskey and intrigue, and then bar hopping with another girlfriend.

Last week at some point, I was out with Misha. And we decided we wanted to get a tattoo. An impulse but also a universal meaning for us. And then she told other girls we know, and I did as well. And now about ten of us girls are getting this tattoo together. And it is beautiful. At first I was skeptical, as I have always gotten tattoos unique for me. But then thinking about it the past few days, I realize I have never had so many strong female relationships around me. I have always had one good girlfriend, but never have they seemed so easy to make as they are now. Something has changed in me. Something in me values friendship just as high if not higher than romantic relationships these days. And that toxic girl competition is starting to fade out the window, as we are all coming from the same place, of realizing the value of female friendship together. And it is so fucking beautiful and it is so fast and easy- like it was always meant to be there. We were all just so distracted by pursuing our Disney princess dream up til now that we looked at each other as threatening to a happy life- instead of that absolutely essential ingredient to it.

So. I am getting a tattoo with a bunch of girls to remind me of this pivotal moment in my life. This moment when I realized that girls are just as fucking deep and intriguing as men are. We can be just as rational and critical thinking, and a lot of times, I am learning, we can be a lot more fun.

So this is a tattoo not only for female solidarity, but for female importance. We are realizing how to appreciate each other. And we are realizing that we are better learning from one another and creating life together than we ever were alone.

And also, this is a tattoo for revolutions.

Just got back from a lunch date with a friend from work, Misha. We are strangely similar. Flaky artistic and open to everything under the sun as long as it’s honest. But knowing the directions that appeal to us, and discovering the power to navigate life instead of the feeling that one has to deal with the hand they’re dealt. Empowerment, in a word.

I’m not sure what it is in my life right now, but for so long I felt so different from everyone else. And now I just can’t stop seem to accumulate terrifyingly similar personalities around me.

I think it’s a lot of things that have changed. But #1 I am ready to see the connections and #2 I am open to life and #3 I am more myself than I have ever been and #4 I’m ready to start learning from doing and being more than ever.

We sat eating omletes and drinking lots of coffee this morning as the waitresses continued to refill our mugs. And then we went to work and took off two weeks for a trip to Austin and Albuquerque next month. We are both of the same impulsive and determined mindset, that whatever becomes of it will be an adventure. And will be perfectly life. As we are continuing to discover just what that means for us.

Can I just say.

Today I have had a full realization that it has been a year since I graduated from college.

It has been a year since my graduation day, when, crying in a yellow dress in the park, I tried to break up with my boyfriend of the time.

And we couldn’t do it.

Because I honestly loved him.

And I guess I still do, at times.

Which is a shitty realization to come to a year later.

But the thing is, love is always better than hate.

And someone you shared a part of your life with can never fade in significance or become completely evil.

So I still love him. But it’s a different kind of love than the toxic love that I had inside of me a year ago.

It’s a love that says I don’t do hate, because hate eats you up inside. And hate is closed minded and always missing a few key points.

And we’re all just human.

So here, I guess, is my forgiving myself and him and letting it all go.

Keeping the lessons with me, and realizing that I always know what I’m getting into. And as long as I see it all in the beginning clearly, I will see it clearly again.

Also, the last time I went to Lawrence I ran into my other ex of last year not one, not two, but three times. Haven’t seen him in a year.

The first time we did the awkward wave.

The second time we chatted and covered the expanse of academia and culture and society within ten minutes- infuriating and intriguing the other with our differing ideas. And I realized what a fun person to talk to he is, and also why I don’t like talking to him anymore.

And then the third time did a confident wave.

Felt okay about it all. Felt like real life instead of the surgical way we left the remains of our volcanic relationship last year.

I have no desire to pursue anything with either of these boys from last year. But I am happy to say that neither of them is holding a secure place in thoughts anymore. And seems like things settle with time.

My friend Brandon just got back from camping in Colorado. He claimed he and his friends got stuck in the middle of a freak snowstorm. They were stranded out in the woods overnight, unable to find their way back.

Sometime during the night, a dog runs up to them and wakes them up. The dog is sniffing around, all up in their business. They pet the dog, and the dog begins to run away, looking back for them to follow him.

They do, and the dog leads them a few miles back to his owner– an 80 year old lady in a camper van in the middle of nowhere.

She takes them in, along with her little dog, and they all warm up and drink hot cocoa.

And then in the morning she drives them back to civilization.

Brandon has been reading me Don Quixote all week at the cafe when we are not busy. He’s got a worn out book, trendy dirt worn boots, lumber jack shirt and skinny jeans and a rocking chair tattoo on his forearm. He also has a mysterious ring that seems to melt onto his hand like a second tattoo and a cap decorated with maneating sharks.

“Tung” is hello and goodbye in Albanian.

A man in his mid thirties rolled into the cafe the other day. At first I was a little fearful, in that he was not the smiling, shirt tucked in and credit card ready customers that we usually get.

He starts talking, and I immediately relax though. But I am still chilled by the air that he brought in with him on this sunny summer afternoon.

He asks me my name, says he’s new to town. This I already knew the minute he stepped in the door.

We have a lighthearted conversation, and then I ask him what brings him here. There is a dramatic mood change, and the atmosphere around him seems to shift like tectonic plates.

“You don’t want to know. And I don’t want to get into it.”

“Fair enough.”

Handed him his coffee, and we both went back to smiling.

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