Places Where Two Ends Meet

Corners are a spectrum of dichotomies. They exist in the crossroads and the pull of two places; forming the transitional space where decisions are made.

Kayaking between two countries, counting the bridges that connect them, 2019

As physical markers for navigation, corners represent the end and the beginning. Like chapters with sharp edges, filled with folded creases, bookmarking pivotal passages. Corners have two sides - life achievements and tragic disappointments.

Corners converge in physical and metaphorical space. Manipulated in everyday language, they become nouns, adjectives and verbs that turn phrases into different meanings. Backed into a corner, you can find yourself confronting your worst fears, trapped, with no way out.

But around the corner, you might find a safe space or a secret in the corner of your eye; a quiet nook built with dreams. Turning corners is the possibility of confronting either, while cutting corners are the risks we take to get there.

For me, my studio corner exemplifies the creative struggle, a place where every type of corner is possible.

The Creative Struggle is a Maze of Corners, 2019

Neighborhood Finds

On November 6th, 2018, I moved from Seattle, Washington to Gonderange, Luxembourg. Even after six months that statement still feels strange to me. Maybe it’s the differences in living in a village in a country with a population less than the city of Seattle or maybe it just the fact that it takes time to feel like you live somewhere.

The life I had in Seattle feels like it was years ago.

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It all happened quickly. We sold our house on a Saturday, packed everything else we didn’t sell on a Monday and left the country the very next day. I never thought I would live in either Seattle or Gonderange. I certainly never imagined myself in a village in Central Europe with a barn behind my house. Life is funny that way.

I’ve found that most of the villages here in Luxembourg are all centered around a church. Mine is orange.

I’ve found that most of the villages here in Luxembourg are all centered around a church. Mine is orange.

Gonderange (Gonnereng in Luxembourgish) is a small village in the commune of Junglinster. When I tell people, where I live (this also includes some locals), I usually have to say Junglinster in order for people to recognize the area. Which makes sense, because the population of my village is less than 2k.

Ok so I made this house super yellow even though in reality it is not. I promise there are houses that are this yellow, I just liked this building more.

Ok so I made this house super yellow even though in reality it is not. I promise there are houses that are this yellow, I just liked this building more.

Strangely enough, living in the countryside of Luxembourg makes me think of my hometown in certain ways. I grew up in a suburban neighborhood in the south of Charlotte, North Carolina. Similarly, everything is clean, too clean, suspiciously clean.

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Like other suburbs I have encountered, there are your standard big houses, fancy cars, and well tended bike paths. I have found all of those things here; the details are just different - the shape of the windows, the patterns of the rooftops, the sculptures in the yard. Similar, yet different.

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What I love most about walking through my neighborhood, are the bold colors of people’s houses. Blinding reds to juicy oranges (especially midday, shining in the sun). Then there are the plethora of the pale faded pinks - the whole spectrum is there. All the colors I always thought you weren’t supposed to paint a house are there and I’m glad that they are.

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There is so much history here. In the old buildings, the renovated barns with tracings of past lives. To give you some context, the commune of Junglinster was first recorded in 867, during the construction of Bourglinster Castle.

More creative license with color…

More creative license with color…

I’m fascinated by all those things that aren’t quite right or slightly askew, just as much as I am fascinated with circular cobblestone patterns that form a seamless design.

Truthfully, I like having access to the quiet beauty of the countryside and it’s endless rolling green fields. The city is a short distance away by bus or car. Not to mention Germany, Belgium and France are close by when Luxembourg begins to feel too small.

For now i’m pretty content taking in my new surroundings in places like the balcony overlooking the Alzette river at Liquid Café in the Grund neighborhood of Luxembourg City. A cold beverage and new friends like designer, Irina Moons (check out her work) are also a plus!

A neighborhood is a collection of dwellings

A neighborhood is a collection of dwellings

Since I have lived here, I have also become aware that even if the beach isn’t nearby, Junglinster has surfing and salt cave options for you. If you want to workout by practicing surfing skills in someone’s garage, Challenge Your Balance is an option. Or if you want to sit in a man-made salt cave for self care, curiosity or other healing processes, Salzgrotte promotes itself as a treatment center that “feels like a day at the ocean.” So who wants to go with me?

What kinds of things have you found in your neighborhood?

Expat Living

Let me just start by stating the obvious, living in a country with three main languages, non of which you speak, means that you are predictably going to make many mistakes. I frequently have to remind myself that failure is the best way to learn. In an effort to make the most of my circumstances, I have illustrated a collection of humiliating expat experiences for you to visualize and share in my laughter.

My neighbor (who primarily speaks Luxembourgish) was very concerned that I was using the bushes that divide our backyards as a backdrop. Let’s just say, I have very attentive neighbors.

*Disclosure: Not all of these are my own experiences & for the benefit of others they will remain anonymous. Also, don’t drink any liquids and read these.

Visiting the Eye Doctor

From my recent experience of visiting doctor’s offices (from general practitioner’s, to medical clinic’s or veterinarian’s offices), the doors aren’t always labeled and it’s not always clear where you need to go. I’ll admit, I’ve sat in the wrong room or opened the wrong door. However, I’ve never gone to the wrong building or entered someone else’s private residence.

Although, I think it’s safe to say if you are going to see an ophthalmologist, you most likely don’t have the best eye sight. So it might be a common mistake to walk into and up the stairs of the poor stranger’s home that is inconveniently located next to the eye doctor’s office. Well, that’s what happened to a person I’m going to call Stuart. Let’s just say doors were locked after Stuart left.

Mange une pomme

I recently signed up to take a French class. People have asked me how do you decide which of the three main languages to learn. To me, it makes the most sense to begin with French, because it is used most frequently in official documents and in restaurants and grocery stores. One of the requirements to register for a class at the Institut National Des Langues is to take a test and make an appointment.

I took the test online, which proved I am a beginner. It didn’t occur to me that the appointment would also require me to speak French. When I was asked to describe myself, I froze. I get nervous and embarrassed attempting to pronounce French in public or to a fluent speaker. All that came to mind was, “Je mange une pomme,” (I eat an apple).

I’ll explain. While I have been waiting to enroll in a class, I’ve been trying to teach myself French with a free language app called Duolingo. The first few lessons on the app only talk about f@#*ing apples and oranges. I guess it works, because in a panic - it was apples that came to my mind.

Paying Bills

Getting my mail makes me anxious. I get nervous when I see envelopes that are addressed from Le Government Du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg. Trying to decipher my bills from French to English is my least favorite.

I also have to pay more attention to dates. When you initially make the mistake of reading 2/1/19 as February 1st instead of January 2nd then you have to translate more documents that begin with "rappel de paiement."

Mystery Meat

By the way, majority of these stories have to deal with food. I thought that if I went to Ikea, a familiar place, I would be able to order and receive the food I actually wanted.

Well, think again. What I thought were the standard Swedish meat balls were in fact, fish balls.

Do you have any idea what you want?

In another attempt at ordering food, this time at the the local butcher, I worked up the courage to memorize a phrase in French. I had just received some of my old recipe books and wanted to make a stew.

When I got up to the counter, I asked, “Une coupe de lampe s'il vous plait.” She looked at me strangely and repeated what I said in a surprised voice. I looked up to see what she was pointing to and realized, I had misspelled lamb as lamp in my google translate app.


Un chapeau s'il vous plaît

Then there are times when you just have to get creative. You realize ahead of time that “a top” is “un haut” in French. You know that you are incapable of producing the correct sounds to audibly pronounce the word you need, so you try something different.

For example, you try “ un chapeau pour mon café s'il vous plait.” Tops are really just hats for coffees, right? In hindsight maybe trying to translate the word “lid,” might have been another good solution.

What is the French version of Campbell’s Soup?

Trying to cook the same meals I used to make in the USA can be challenging. You can’t find ground turkey. You also cannot find cream of chicken.

I didn’t expect to find Campbell’s Soup at the grocery store, but I thought I might find a substitute. Google translate told me to ask for “créme de poulet.”

I don’t think I will ever be able to get the sound of the man’s voice out of my head…"créme de poulet?” “Tu veux de la crème de poulet, crème de POULET??”

The first attempt at making my own version of cream of chicken for my husband’s favorite casserole, went horribly. I am going to attempt to try it again for Valentine’s Day. This can only go one of two ways.