Thursday, April 26, 2012

My Life Story: Rainbow Tour


When I was sixteen years old I went to Europe for the first time.

First Finland to pick up my missionary brother Topher--who walked me about the gorgeous green streets of Helsinki with his arm on my elbow protecting me from lusty drunk men who yelled out as we passed them by. While our parents (and grandmother) slept away their jet lag between heavy sheets of soft duvets, we wandered about in the rain. It rained and rained and rained. The whole city seemed like it was under the ocean and we were somehow walking about in it.

Sleep walking.

My jet lag was like a millstone about my neck. Anytime I'd stop motion I'd feel my neck start to bob and bounce. Then my eyes would slack and my head would snap. At one point we were eating at the home of a Mormon family when this happened to me. My body went limp and my chest landed directly in the nest of mashed potatoes on my plate.

"Uh," mumbled my dad seated next to me.

"You've got gravy on your boobs."

I snapped back into upright with one breast completely circled in brown, Finnish gravy.

The embarrassment! I will die telling this story as the most embarrassing ever. Especially because directly across from me was a sixteen year old boy, who looked at me with shy eyes as I tried in vain to wipe the gravy off of my chest with a useless napkin.

*
On that trip we were also treated--all five of us--by a Chinese herbalist who looked at our ears and told us our ailments.

"You are angry," she told me, taping two minuscule beans into the innards of my ear with the hope to relax my soul. This feedback only mildly surprised my mother,

"I thought she'd tell you about your ear problems," she said to me later, "but you are angry."

*
We boarded a beautiful cruise liner in Finland on our way to Sweden. Topher had taught us the culture of saunas and my mother and I decided to try one out on the ship that had a view of the Scandinavian coastline as we floated by.

"You must go naked in saunas, if you don't, you miss the point," he told us before we left.

At first my mother and I were the only ones in the wooden room with the heat and the steam. We clung to our towels out of habit, but when other women joined us, not bound by the same cultural modesty, we decided to follow. My mother was less self-conscious about it, she didn't seem to feel the awkwardness I felt, but taking her lead I found the entire experience surprisingly liberating. There were no comparisons of bodies in that small heated space, just relaxed skin beaded by cleansing sweat.

*
Norway, the land of my fathers met us with fjords and friendliness. Oslo was celebrating for the summer and we joined them drinking Orange Fanta and dancing in the streets. I had packed plenty of party dresses with bright florals and flippy movement. I felt gorgeous in Oslo, I liked catching the eyes of men as I paraded about. So did my grandmother, I noticed.

*
We stayed in a grand hotel at the top of a windy hill in Bergen for a couple nights. My mom and I would tease my father, asking all the natives to speak to him in Norwegian even though he had forgotten most of his skills from thirty years earlier when he was a church missionary there. I loved to see him stutter his way through, watching panic flash in his eyes as he'd try to keep up. He was always so confident my dad, this was unusual behavior for him, it amused me.

*
In the locker rooms of the swimming pool the ladies would walk around unabashedly nude, I could not understand how they didn't cower or buzz about apologizing for their bodies. I decided to try the same, wondering if they weren't noticing my body, maybe they weren't noticing my timidity either.

*
In the pool one day I asked Topher what he talked about with the people he taught on his mission.

"We talked a lot about the Book of Mormon, we had them read the part about Jesus Christ coming to the people in the New World," he told me.

"What? Jesus is in the Book of Mormon?" I asked never having actually read it myself.

"You didn't know that Courtney?" he asked back, surprised.

"No, I've never read it," I admitted.

"You should. It's a cool book," he said back.

Every time my brother talked about his mission on that trip I always felt a little jealous that for two years his missionary friends got to hang out with him and laugh at his jokes and I didn't. But to ease my pain I remembered the poems he wrote me--on tissue-like paper--comparing Finnish towns to glass snowglobes in the dark of winter.

*
Then we sailed to England, caught a train in Newcastle that shipped us straight to the heart of London.

Oh London.

Hot fish and chips in Leicester Square, views of Thames from our double-decker bus (oh yes we did)(but not Topher, he headed to Stratford-upon-Avon in hopes to find the ghost of his hero-Shakespeare), shows in the West End, Hyde Park in the summer sun.

Oh London!

The home that I thought I'd feel in Norway was actually waiting for me in the Britain. Here I discovered the smells, the sights the hopes of everything I wanted the world outside of Provo, Utah to be. The punks in Trafalgar, the statues in Piccadilly, the zooming black taxis with right-side drivers. It excited me and thrilled me and devoured my general dissatisfaction with my life. Here I wasn't angry--my senses were too satisfied to be angry--here I felt so much more like the me I wanted to be. So I made a promise to myself I'd come back some day to solve this mystery.

And I did, Oh London. Did I ever come back.





You might like: Nothing to Hyde, a Story About Love in London.



 ***************************************************************************************************
Allow me to introduce you to JUNIEblake clothes created by women who wanted better choices for our bodies. Some call their line modest, others would consider it trendy, I myself would say it's appealing for all body types. In fact, I immediately responded, SEND ME THE LEXI DO NOT DELAY THANK YOU.  Check out JUNIEblake here.
****************************************************************************************************