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Adventuring, Europe

Finding Katie Fleeman: The Journey Begins

Bonjour readers!

Here starts the travel edition of Fleemanator Blog i.e. the “Finding Katie Fleeman” project. (Alternate title courtesy of Aaron Murphy.) I’m writing from the common area of the Oops! Hostel in Paris, and I do not understand this weather.

I started my journey Tuesday night, when I spent my last night in LA at Hotel de Ziff (aka Maddie’s house) where I received 5-star dinner and went on an adventure at Target (new socks, oh lala). I then fretted all night about whether or not I left the rice cooker on at home. Perhaps I was nervous about the trip and was projecting it onto a kitchen appliance, but those images of perpetually warming empty rice cooker were real man.

The fear was so real that I proceeded to negate every benefit of staying at Maddie’s (ie her proximity to LAX) by getting up extra early and having Uber take me back home so I could check on that stupid rice cooker. The appliance was unplugged – as I knew – but the cats were super confused as to why I was walking in at 5:30 AM. Bowie proceeded to ensnare my leggings with one of his claws, but potentially disastrous consequences were avoided and I was on my way.

Mohammed, my Uber driver, was very nice, and I arrived at LAX for my 7:55 flight with plenty of time to spare. I got through security by 6:15, and I noticed there were already people at the terminal bar. Hey, it’ 5 o’clock somewhere.

I went to the café with the shorter line and was delighted to find that it was a Homeboy Bakery. Homeboy Bakery is a wing of Homeboy Industries, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit that addresses recidivism by providing jobs and training to former gang members and the formerly incarcerated. Knowing that the company actually had a positive impact justified the fact that my croissant, banana and water bottle breakfast cost over $8.

Well, almost justified at least

Well, almost justified at least

The first leg of the flight was LA to Reagan Airport in Washington DC. I made a friend on the plane: a Masters student and union organizer for adjunct professors on his way to a training. As this is supposed to be the trip where I find myself – and consider whether that “self” should go to graduate school – chatting on the plane with someone who works to improve the livelihoods of PhD recipients seems like an omen of some sort.

During the one hour layover in DC, I sat at the Dunkin’ Donuts food court eating some of the awesome sack lunch Maddie and her mom made for me. Veggie pasta, chocolate and raisins? Hellz yes. (Ziffs are the best!)

The cover may or may not have fallen off mid-flightt

The cover may or may not have fallen off mid-flightt

Then it was a quick hop up to JFK in New York During that time, I finished reading the abridged translation of The Hunchback of Notre Dame I’d picked up in the Book Labyrinth at the Last Bookstore in downtown LA. (If you’ve never been to The Last Bookstore,you really should. It is amazing. And dangerous. Miles and miles of $1 books plus my lack of self-restraint when it comes to buying them and well, you can guess what happens.) It will probably significantly curtail my nerd cred, but I actually preferred this slightly abridged translation to the more comprehensive version I attempted to read over the summer. Victor Hugo was way into describing medieval French buildings and lamenting how they were destroyed in some revolution or another for often 20 pages on end. I am way into exciting and romanticized plots, which basically makes me the plebeian audience Hugo feared his book would garner. Oh well.

There was another quick layover at JFK, where, I discovered with dismay, they charge you to use the WiFi. I grabbed one last American meal – a pretty crappy order of “Fried Chicken and Waffle” (singular sic) and prepared myself for the transatlantic flight.

I had planned on sleeping the whole flight but my Circadian rhythms refused to cooperate, so I got an hour an a half nap at the beginning, several hours of restlessness and then an hour or so nap at the end that was ended with the arrival of a “continental” breakfast. I will say that the sleep mask and earplugs – purchased during the great Target field trip 24 hours earlier – turned out to be a godsend: I was sitting next to a chatty pair of friends, and I think the sleep mask at least tricked my body into thinking it was asleep for the majority of the trip.

We arrived at Charles de Gaulle at approximately 10:40 AM Parisian time. I said “Merci” to a workman who held open the elevator door for me, the French lady said some offhand comment in French, I pretended to understand it and I think she bought it. Considered that one a win! Then I tried to change in an airport bathroom stall, kept accidentally setting of the auto-flush – which made my California sensibility feel very very guilty – and realized I didn’t actually lock it properly when a French woman opened the door on me. So we’ll call my first few minutes in Paris a draw.

L’adventure, c’est afoot!

Stay tuned to learn more about Katie’s adventures on Parisian public transportation, awkward first impressions at hostels, and more!

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