1st (and definitely the last 😳) time deer hunting for a city girl (the NorthWest USA) 

OK, so let me say this up front…I have never killed anything in my life, nor seen something killed. So, with that confession over (phew I feel better for getting that out) let me describe the first ‘hunt’ I went on, this week.

It all started with a young woman mentioning that she hadnt yet shot her first deer.  My friend has a farm which has many deer visit it each night, so he suggested that she might like to come and hunt there. Welllll hunting really isnt what I would call it lol. The bucks come down the driveway at the same time slot every night, so in essence it was like shooting fish in a barrel. So, the young lady turned up and we sat around on garden chairs for the allocated time slot. And, exactly on time, the bucks made their entrance.  She was using her grandfather’s rifle and when she shot wow did it make a loud sound. So, this far I am doing ok, I was excited for her.

Deer was killed, with a shot through it’s stomach, so took the standard pictures (that all hunters seem to take) you know the ones…hunter kneeling next to his/her kill with gun in one hand and holding up the animal’s head in the other. Then they said we needed to drag the deer over to the barn for the girl to gut it (yep she had not gut a deer before). What! Here? What!?!? You want to gut it and …here?!?!? Yep I was horrified, ok so in my ‘always lived in a city’ innocence I hadnt thought about what happens in hunts. Turns out you have to gut them soon after killing the animal or it ruins the meat…who knew?!? So next task is putting the deer in the back of the truck to drive to the barn.  This light footed deer they moved soo quickly and stealthily when alive became like a dead weight elephant when dead, it took 4 of us to lift it, and even then it was a struggle (can I just point out that no one had mentioned this BEFORE the hunting). So now with our backs thrown out we heading for the barn. At this stage I was thinking, ok…seen enough and time for me to head back to my place…but noooooo, they needed me to go to the house and get some knives while they dragged the deer off of the truck. OK, I can do that, THEN I am going back to my place, and getting out of here (this city girl had seen enough for today).

So, I get the knives, take them to the others and was just about to leave when they asked me to hold a leg. If anyone asks you to do that after a hunt, just say no unless you want to be in the middle of the gutting. Turns out they needed the leg held so they could cut the stomach open…way too much visual for this little vegetarian. So, I turn away until they ask me to hold the torch…why me? because the others are up to their elbows in guts.  It was like being in a butchers: stomach, heart, liver…guts everywhere and we are standing in a pool of blood…ohhh lovely!  (The gutting was a mess because the shot had been to the stomach). Once they have the guts out they then washed the insides of the deer with a hose, which meant more blood (and any lose remains) going everywhere. By this stage I am smiling like a maniac, not because I was happy but because I was in shock and didn’t know what other expression to wear on my face.

Would I do it again, no. Do I have a problem with hunting, no, not when it is done for meat (as this one was) and not just for a trophy.  It was an experience, and it that left this city girl traumatised for the rest of the day, but I am glad the young woman got her deer (just wished I had gone in and had a cup of tea right after it was shot and hid inside till everything had been done lol)

Back in America

I have been in the USA for a few months now, and yet haven’t written a blog :-/ so time for me to do a bit of catch up.  I still have a few blogs to write on places I visited in Europe, yep I promise to write them. But for now, let me share my walk here.

I am staying in a small town (pop below 500 people…hahaha I DID tell you it was small) in Washington State (NorthWest America). Life in the NorthWest is different to the rest of the USA, or so I am told. It is the most Atheist part of the USA, and so I shouldn’t have ben surprised that most churches I have visited were not that full. Yet, it still surprises me that signs about God and Jesus are on the road side (you don’t see that in my home countries of UK and Australia) but even here it is only permitted if the sign is on private land. I had always been under the allusion that America was so Christian (as a lot of my friends thought also), so you can understand my shock and sadness to see that in fact it looks like America has lost it’s first love…God is on the sidelines here, no longer central to American’s life. It seems that fast food and sport has become their central interest (and thus their god). God has been reassigned to the basement, with last years Christmas gifts and other unwanted and forgotten things. What happened to this country? This place that use to love God so much? Yes, the politicians still talk about God and use his name in their speeches…like a password to get elected, but yet the churches aren’t full, people aren’t seeking God and even their Supreme court has approved same sex marriage. 

I have gone through the period, in a new country, of seeing through rose coloured glasses, then the culture shock (more on that later) then reality…and so I ask myself ‘what happened here?’ And is this just a symptom of the loss of faith we are seeing in many western cultures?

Holland: Haarlem

On day 3 i visited a town called Haarlem, this is another pretty town (ok, you are getting the idea lol…Holland is a beautiful place to go and visit). The history of Holland is worth reading up on. This town was occupied by the Germans during World War II, and so has a story to tell. To learn a bit of it’s history we visited a house /museum at Barteljorisstraat 19, 2011 RA Haarlem called the Corrie Ten Boom House. This was originally a watch shop and home (the home is attached behind and above the shop) that was lived in by Corrie Ten Boom and her family. She was a Dutch Christian who, along with other family members, helped Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. Her family  acted as a ‘safe house’ and refuge for Jews during the occupation. A secret room was built in Corrie’s bedroom to hide the Jews in.  It was small (no wider than a young man’s shoulders and long enough to hold 6 people (cramped). A buzzer was also installed to alert everyone of danger.  Hundreds of Jewish people were saved by this family.  Ultimately, Corrie and her family were arrested after being betrayed by a fellow Dutch countryman.  The day they were arrested Corrie had been ill and was in bed.  The man who betrayed them came to the house seeking help from her family to get his wife released (whom he said had been arrested). He said he needed money and knew that they helped Jews, so could they help him.  He was sent upstairs to see Corrie.  Though she said there was something odd about the man’s eyes, she offered to help. He left the house and later the Nazis came to the house.  Fortunately Corrie and her family had enough time to hide the Jews who were in the house, in the secret room.  The Nazis came, arrested Corrie and her family and searched the house for the Jews, but didn’t find the hiding place (which was behind a solid wall with access via a linen closet). The family were taken to concentration camps and all died except for Corrie. (The 6 Jews, who were hiding in the house, were later rescued by the Resistance 3 days later).  Corrie was released unexpectedly soon after her sister died (10 months after they were arrested) and just before the Nazis made a new rule of sending all women over 45 years to the gas chamber (Corrie was 50 years old). As a Christian Corrie could see God’s hand in all that happened and, while her sister was alive, was continually reminded by her sister that Jesus is Victor (they had a plaque on the wall in their house that reminded them of this as they grew up) and that one day they would tell the world their story and what God had done for them during this time. As i mentioned, only Corrie survived but she spent the rest of her life travelling around the world and sharing her story of Jesus’ victory. This is a great place to visit, you will see the small space the Jews hid in and also have a tour of the home.  Entry and tour is free and the tour lasts about an hour.  You will find the entry to the house behind the watch shop, be there early as they only let in 20 people at a time for a tour.
   

     The plaque translated as ‘Jesus is Victor’

The rest of my time in Haarlem was spent looking at shops etc.  went into my first Lush store (lol ok this information is probably only for you female readers), great place and the prices are considerably cheaper than in America.

Holland

Holland
I spent 5 days in Holland with some friends and was very impressed by it.  I got there, from Germany, by train which took me approx 6hrs. The journey was an easy one and took me past bulb fields full of flowers, which was stunning
The first thing you notice about Holland is how flat it is and the many canals, this is due to a lot of the land being reclaimed from the sea. Holland is a very beautiful place and I am so glad I got to visit it and one of my old students who lives there now. I stayed in Hoofddorp, a town outside of Amsterdam, this is a great town to use as a base…easy access into Amsterdam and near the Keukenhof garden – a must see place in Spring.  This is a garden surrounded by bulb fields, that comes to life in Spring with masses of flower beds. It has more than 7 million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths that fill over 32 hectares. You will also see a windmill and exhibitions here. My advice is set aside at least half a day to go around this garden.  It cost 16€ to get in and was well worth it.  We cycled from Hoofddorp to the gardens (quite a feat for someone who hasn’t cycled in a few years lol) but, it was definitely the best way to get there. You cycle past the canals, bulb fields, through pretty towns with places to stop and eat or buy cheese (at a much lower price than the main cities). Kinda got me back into wanting to cycle more lol.
   

  Talking about cycling; well you will probably be stunned at how many bikes are used here, but then again who wouldn’t cycle in a flat country 😉 It’s great to see the kids going to school on their bikes, or parents using the special child carrying bikes (see below). And not surprisingly, I didn’t see many people who were obese here. It’s a good, healthy lifestyle.

  

On my first day in Holland I went into Amsterdam, a city with a lot of character and many old buildings.  I went to the Rijksmuseum, a great museum to visit and one that would take about 2 or more hours to walk around. It has a heap of paintings, statues, furniture etc to see. I didn’t go to the Van Gogh museum because all lines were too long and in honesty I didn’t have the patience to wait in a queue for up to an hour lol, I wanted to explore. So, off i walked into the city centre. It only took me about 35 mins and was a really nice walk along the canals, past the bulb market (well worth walking around), past the cheese shops (SOOO many of these, and all with free sampling…yum) down the main street with a heap of shops to explore.
   

      Museum

 This is the bulb market

Safety while travelling alone: being followed

Today I was followed by a man, when I walked from the city centre to Montmartre, in broad daylight. Though this was disconcerting, I automatically slipped into ‘alert’ mode.  For those that I have taught self defence to, what I am about to say will just be a reminder.  When out walking, don’t walk with your ear buds in (it means you can’t hear what or who is approaching you), keep to busy areas, be aware of your surroundings, if followed either slow down and look in a shop window (to let them pass), or try to outwalk the person or run. Head to a shop or busy restaurant/coffee shop and above all try to keep calm.  I did all these things; I tried to outwalk him, then slowed down to let him overtake me (but after overtaking he would slow down until I had passed him), I crossed the road and he followed (did this numerous times) I also kept a ‘proximity awareness’ of where he was at all times (eventually he was walking so close to me I could hear his breathing). At this stage I headed to a supermarket where they have security guards (here in Paris). My plan was to approach the security guards, if he followed me into the shop, and tell them about him. Fortunately for him (after following me for 25mins) he wasnt game to enter the shop and literally disappeared.  Before leaving the shop I looked around and checked he couldnt be seen before heading back to the studio. 

Some additional advice: if he produces a weapon, scream and run towards people, and don’t stop screaming. If he threatens to shoot you, still run, it’s harder to hit a moving object and if you don’t know him then he is less likely to start shooting at you but instead will head off for an easier target. If he grabs you then fight, scratch, kick and continue to scream. Try to get away to a busy area, shop/home etc and seek help.  And ultimately my advice is: learn self defence…it empowers you, helps to protect yourself and may one day save your life.



Basilique du Sacre-Coeur and the bracelet guys

Before, in a previous post, I mentioned about the guys who stand on the steps of the Sacre-Coeur and try to give you tread bracelets. I have had them approach me two times, the second time one of them grabbed my arm. Both times I said very sternly ‘Non’ and kept walking.  Well, I have been doing some further research on them, turns out this IS a scam, as i thought. They target single women or couples and thread the cotton around your hand then demand payment.  They may seem frindly at first but that changes when they demand money.  Here is a link written a few years ago, but still very relevant http://www.outandaboutinparis.com/2011/06/bracelet-guys-near-sacre-coeur.html My advice is the same as appears in this article…walk with purpose and don’t stop, ignore them and they will leave you alone. Don’t let them put a damper on your Paris trip, Paris is a beautiful place and I believe safe (I will test that next Tuesday when I need to get a flight to the UK to see my sick dad, so will need to walk to Gare de Nord at 5:15am then back to my studio, when I return to Paris, at night).