All Posts By

Lauren Richardson

Cultural Cafés

By 2016, Europe No Comments

We could not contain excitement during our first night in Paris. The city of love beckoned us to explore Parisian culture and nightlife. Our first thoughts: wine, cheese, and the Eiffel tower. After realizing that we had forgotten a corkscrew, we postponed our venture and instead wandered the streets for a café.

The Europe trip is full of the café lifestyle. Of course it is inevitable to encounter multiple cafés while on the trip as they are a prominent feature of European culture. However, visiting cafés is even more desirable when travelling due to the busy nature of the Europe itinerary. Cafés helped us embrace moments of intrapersonal reflection, and of relaxation.

Our waiter contradicted the French stereotypes of rudeness and of pretending not to understand English. He was very friendly yet blunt in his reactions and opinions. He made our experience completely ludicrous! He made jokes we couldn’t understand and was extremely distracted. After clearing a table for us he said he would be back with some menus. So far everything seemed normal to us. It wasn’t until we waited a verrrry long time for him to return that we started to question our ability to interact within this cultural experience. He came back with salt and pepper shakers, which left us confused. He kept running back and forth between tables continually moving the salt and pepper shakers, and he had still not taken our orders. When we did finally order he scoffed at our selection of wine. He suggested we order a more expensive brand. We laughed and took his suggestion. We felt foreign not knowing what to do at this café. Surely this odd interaction was not our ignorance or inability to engage properly. Perhaps it could have been us, but after experiencing more Parisian cafés later on in the trip, we realized that this night it was simply our quirky waiter.

There was a gentleman next to us smoking a cigar and drinking a beer. He and the waiter kept making jokes throughout the evening. He was an 80 year old widower, whose wife had died of cancer. He was extremely lonely. He spoke to us about his life and his beliefs. His English was fairly good and we learned he was half Quebecois, and half Swiss. He was a bit senile so the conversation was hard to follow at times but we laughed along when we couldn’t understand.

That night we intended to experience Parisian culture which we assumed would be best found by sitting beneath the Eiffel tower with a bottle of wine. Although I must say that venture was also exciting and culturally rewarding in other ways, this night at the café was one to remember.


Perugia Pilgrimage

By 2016, Europe No Comments

Not all travelers are pilgrims but all pilgrims travel. As we herded off the bus in Perugia with our lives on our backs, we began to climb the slow incline of the hill ahead of us. At the halfway point to our destination that was a monastery, we were out of breath and ready to rest. But still we carried on. We did not let our heart rates lessen as we pushed our legs to climb higher despite the burdens that weighed us back down. We laughed when Walter told us that our path would worsen as he pointed ahead to the steep and long hill upwards. But still we carried on. Each of us climbed at our own pace but we made it to the top relatively at the same time. One more step, one more breath, and then we’d find relief.

Although this journey was not the most vigorous physical exertion we have all faced, I could not help but think of it as a pilgrimage. SSU trips enable us to walk in the paths of those before us. We have strength in the certainty that other students have accomplished what we are enduring here. Travelling is often romanticized whether before or after a trip. We anticipate seeing new things and experiences. Afterwards we reflect on the good memories. Yet travel brings us to new places both physically and metaphorically. It is an ongoing journey that challenges our expectations, our beliefs, and our identity.

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