Paris La Deuxieme Journee!

Good Evening from Paris on day two! While I hear it is cold back in Kansas, I can assure everyone reading that it is cold here as well. Today was another cloudy day but at least it didn’t rain, which was nice.

Originally, I was going to be venturing up to the top of the Eiffel Tower with a girl that I met last night from California and her sister, but communicating with people overseas on text and Facebook is always a little confusing since it’s not as instant as it can be back home with cell service, which I now take for granted.

Anyway, this morning I still decided to venture over to the Eiffel Tower in an attempt to get tickets to the top viewing platform and decided against it since to me looking at it from below is a lot more exciting, not to mention free.

After the Eiffel Tower I continued my journey onto the Arc de Triomphe. I also went to Notre Dame.

I’m going to apologize now for the quick ending but I ended up meeting an Australian girl and we are going
to grab a bite to eat. I started writing and then began talking with her and before I knew it, we had been talking for two hours.

To make up for tonight’s short post, I will have more stuff to talk about tomorrow. But, below are a few pictures and video of today for people to see.

Cheers – ZEZ

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In Paris, Pink Rabbits Ride the Train!

Good evening everyone! It’s just before 6 PM here in Paris and I’ve had a busy day. This morning, I woke up and had some of the free breakfast that the hostel offered and it wasn’t too bad. They are big into Nutella style spread here so I had some of that with bread and juice. Maybe not your typical french meal but not super American either. After I finished breakfast, I actually made my way back up to bed where I ended up sleeping for an additional 5 hours. I came down with a small cold my last day or two in London, so ultimately, it was both easier and more practical for me to go back to bed and get some extra sleep.

After getting up at about 2 PM Paris time, I decided to go and visit the Eiffel Tower. I can’t come to Paris without seeing it, and I figured that the first day in town would be the best day to see it. Below are some photos and videos that I took of the experience. Like yesterday, my ride on the train to the tower was confusing and busy. Very few people spoke English but I was happy that the information officers did, since ultimately they were the ones that directed me to the right trains.

After riding on the Subway, I noticed something, here in France, they think that Pink Rabbits ride the train. See why from the safety sign pictured below.

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I don’t know if they have been inhaling too much stinky cheese here in Paris, but evidently, the French people seem to think that if you are going to get your hand caught in a train door, then you will most likely resemble the rabbit from Winnie The Poo if you were dunked into a can of Pepto Bismol and dressed in a yellow jumpsuit. Like I said, there must be something in the cheese here.

Outside of my quick trip to the Eiffel Tower today, I decided to get a burger here at the hostel. While it was your basic cheeseburger, it was nice to have some food that I was familiar with from back home.

I almost forgot to mention, yesterday I finally met an Irish person. There seem to be many Asians and Spanish people here so finding ones who speak English always tend to be a nice surprise, even though it’s a rarity right now. Either way, meeting new people continues to be an interesting and culturally eye-opening experience.

Tomorrow I am planning on going to Notre Dame and then possibly the famous French Cemetery where Jim Morrison is buried, weather pending.

Since I like to keep you entertained, once again I’ve posted the pictures and video from today at the bottom of today’s entry.
I hope you like them.

Until next time, have a great day.

Best- ZEZ

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Paris, France…Slightly Confusing and Cold!

Bonjour de Paris. Je dois apprendre à parler un peu français. I’ve officially arrived in Paris and am safely at the hostel after having to walk around for over an hour trying to find the place. This trip has become real now since I’ve arrived in my first non-English speaking country. While I am grateful for my translation app, I think the French people will be glad I have it as well. The more they can understand me and I them, the better.

My phone died right before I left London so I am just now getting it charged. Without any phone battery, I had to ask for directions to the hostel the old fashioned way, by pointing at maps and making up words that sounded semi-French but I’m sure made no sense.

The room I have here at the hostel is a 12 person dorm style room and I only have three roommates as of right now. If you’ve read my last blog post, you’ll know that I met a ton of Australians at the hostel in London and already met two here. Well, one of my roommates is probably Australian and then there was a girl on the elevator with me that I’m pretty sure was Australian. For the most part they are all a friendly bunch.

I’m curious about what countries will be represented here during my Paris stay. I’m hoping more english speakers because not having to worry about a language barrier is always a plus.

I’ve come down with a little bit of a cold, which isn’t really surprising due to all of the travel that I’ve been doing so I’m planning on having a low key night tonight and catching up on some rest so I can be good for the next few days here in Napoleon’s backyard.

Until tomorrow, bonne nuit à partir de Paris.

Best-ZEZ

Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Australia Day and More!

Good afternoon from London! I was going to post yesterday but had such a busy evening that I never really found a good time to sit down and write. It was nice here today but it started to rain about an hour ago, but I was headed back to the hostel when it started to rain so I didn’t have to be out in it that long.

So, let’s first go back to Friday afternoon.

After checking in on Friday afternoon, I decided to head out and start exploring the city. My first stop was Westminster Abbey. While it normally costs close to 20 pounds to tour it, you can get in for free if you want to go to Eveningsong which is basically a signing service that is performed by the men’s choir. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures in the Abbey but I’ll try and describe it for you.

When you first walk in to the Abbey, it’s overwhelming to say the least. Here is a building that has been around for centuries and has been home to some of the most famous events in British history and which also happens to be the final resting place of Sir Isaac Newton, among many others. The main sanctuary is divided into a few different parts and when you get seated to watch the Eveningsong, depending on how many people are placed in your group, you either get seated facing the choir or directly behind them in their loft. Since I was by myself I got to sit right behind the choir which was really neat. The choir is completely made up of men and they proceed into the seating area and then they sing for about an hour. The audience is invited to sing too and we also recited a few prayers.

After the service was over, I left the Abbey and took some video of the Abbey bells playing a song.

I then went across the street and admired Big Ben. It was nice lit up at night.

Saturday morning I woke up and took a walk down to Southwark Cathedral, a church that has been around for centuries and is the burial spot for Shakespeare’s brother. That cathedral was nice but like many of the churches here, I had to pay if I wanted to take any pictures, but I didn’t want to spend the money so I just took pictures of the church from the outside.

After going to Southwark, I went to the Tate Modern Art Museum. I’m not a huge fan of art but they had some neat paintings and interesting sculptures. I then made my way to Trafalgar Square to visit the National Portrait Gallery. The portrait gallery is home to paintings of famous British people and the paintings go all the way back to the 1400’s.

Since the portrait gallery was only a few blocks away from Big Ben, I walked back over that and the Houses of Parliament and walked by 10 Downing Street which is where the Prime Minister of Great Britain lives. By this point it was around 4pm and I decided to head back to the hostel to try and blog. It just so happened though that Saturday and Sunday was a celebration of Australia Day, which is basically like Australia’s 4th of July. There were a lot of Australian’s here at the Hostel celebrating and acting silly. I met several of them along with people from about ten other countries as well on Saturday night. I learned that I can’t really speak French and that my Dutch is terrible, although everyone here seems to speak at least a little English which is good.

I only got about five hours of sleep my first night here on Friday but on Saturday I slept for almost 12 hours and woke up at about 2pm on Sunday. Since it was only going to be light for about two more hours, I decided to stay around the hostel and ended up meeting more Australian’s last night.

Today I woke up early and went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the Guard. There were a ton of people there to watch it and it was kind of cool to see the Guards. After Buckingham, I left and made my way to the Wesley House and Chapel to see where Methodism founder John Wesley lived and started my church. Well it was his church but you get the idea. I was given a tour of his house and there was also a small museum that held some of his writings and different Methodist bibles from around the world including a brail bible. Wesley is buried in the back of the church with several of his fellow preachers that helped him start the church.

I leave for Paris tomorrow morning and will post again once I arrive there.

Below are some pictures that I’ve taken over the last few days.

Best – ZEZ

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Not So Foggy London Town

Good afternoon! Well actually, for most of you reading, good morning! It’s now just past 12:30 PM London Time and I am officially on European soil. After an uneventful flight to Dublin, which contained maybe 10 minutes of actual sleep, I arrived in Dublin. My flight out of Dublin to London was supposed to leave at 12:15 PM, but I was able to get bumped up to the 9:15 AM flight, which allowed me to arrive in London just after 11 AM. Once I arrived at Heathrow, I quickly got myself down to the train platform and purchased an Oyster Card. To Londoners, the Oyster Card is essentially a card you load up with money to use on the Underground, or as the locals call it, the Tube.

So, my first official London purchase…an Oyster Card. I’m sure you were expecting me get my first souvenir at Harrods, but that will have to wait for another day.

I could have taken a 15 minute express train into the city, but instead I opted for the cheaper and more scenic route and took the normal train into town. And let me tell you, so far, I believe that the Tube is the cleanest subway system I’ve ridden in my life. I’ve ridden the BART in San Francisco, the ‘EL’ in Chicago and the subway in New York and by far, London has them all beat.

After taking the Tube into town, I walked around for about 30 minutes trying to locate my hostel and I finally found it. Since check in isn’t technically until 2 PM, I decided to leave the hostel and camp out at where else, a Starbucks. I’ve been in Europe for less than 12 hours and I’ve already succumb to finding a Starbucks. So much for exploring European cuisine.

I thought about posting a cliche picture of a double decker bus when I saw one pass by earlier, but I decided to hold off and save my first blog photos for something better than just a hunk of metal and fuel.

Once I officially get possession of my room at the hostel, I plan on staying close to there and figuring out the next three and a half days in London before I head to Paris on Tuesday. As I mentioned at the beginning, I’ve only been running on about 10 minutes of sleep for the last 30-some hours, so I will most likely be going to bed around 8 or 9 tonight. I might end up falling asleep earlier, who knows.

That’s it for until next time.

You stay classy America.

– The ZEZ

Asperger Syndrome – What It Is and How I Live It

I know that I’m probably clogging up your inbox, newsfeed, Twitter feed or whatever other way you might be using to follow me by posting two blog entries in the same day and tonight, I say, tough beans. Rest assured though that this is one of the few days where I will be posting more than one blog entry a day, since most of my multiple-post days will be done through my Facebook page: The ZEZ Connection. Primarily, this blog will be reserved for either a daily recap of each day during my Europe journey, or otherwise, periodic updates on things going on with me related to the world of Asperger syndrome (AS).

Tonight’s post will actually be used to address the second part of that sentence: Asperger syndrome.

Quick show of hands, how many people just read the word Asperger’s and drew a blank on the definition?

Don’t worry, if you don’t know what Asperger’s is, then you are not alone. Many people today aren’t familiar with Asperger’s although according to the CDC, 1 in 88 children are affected with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

But what about a definition? According to Autism Speaks, they define Asperger syndrome in this way:

Asperger syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) considered to be on the “high functioning” end of the spectrum. Affected children and adults have difficulty with social interactions and exhibit a restricted range of interests and/or repetitive behaviors. Motor development may be delayed, leading to clumsiness or uncoordinated motor movements. Compared with those affected by other forms of ASD, however, those with Asperger syndrome do not have significant delays or difficulties in language or cognitive development. Some even demonstrate precocious vocabulary – often in a highly specialized field of interest.

Like any medical condition, there are different things associated with Asperger’s and again, according to Autism Speaks, here are some things associated with AS:

• limited or inappropriate social interactions
• “robotic” or repetitive speech
• challenges with nonverbal communication (gestures, facial expression, etc.) coupled with average to above average verbal skills
• tendency to discuss self rather than others
• inability to understand social/emotional issues or nonliteral phrases
• lack of eye contact or reciprocal conversation
• obsession with specific, often unusual, topics
• one-sided conversations
• awkward movements and/or mannerisms

For those of you that know me, I’m guessing a light-bulb may have just gone on in your head and you had what I like to call an “a-ha” moment. Some of the things that Autism Speaks talks about with the associated behaviors, you have now associated with me. I’m hoping that by knowing both the definition and some of the things that go along with AS, you can now gain a better understanding of why I do some of the things I do, or why I say some of the things that I say.

While a textbook definition for me is great, I’m going to take some of the behaviors that I just mentioned and break them down for you to show how they specifically impact my life, or how they might come up when I’m with you.

1. Inability to Understand Social/Emotional Issues or Nonliteral Phrases

While I’m pretty good with gestures and most of the time I’m good with facial expression, one thing that I’m terrible at, are nonliteral phrases, or what’s commonly referred to as sarcasm. While I have gotten better at sarcasm as I’ve gotten older, I still have a problem recognizing changes in vocal tones when someone is speaking to me. It’s my understanding that when someone is being sarcastic, there is a tone associated with it where the voice changes and that’s a hidden clue that the speaker is saying something sarcastic. Since I have AS, I can’t recognize the change in tone, so I take almost everything people say, literally. So, if you are talking with me and you say something sarcastically, it might be a good idea to tell me immediately after, “You know I’m just kidding right?” or something along those lines. That way I won’t end up in a situation like these M&M’s in the clip below:

2. Lack of Eye Contact or Reciprocal Conversation

My lack of eye contact is one of the first things that people pick up on when they meet me. If you start a conversation with me while we are sitting in your living room, don’t be surprised if my eyes go to the house plant that is sitting behind your head as opposed to your actual eyes. It’s not that I don’t want to look at you, I do. It’s just that with AS, eye contact is something that is especially difficult for me. As is reciprocal conversation.

Reciprocal conversation is pretty simple. Person A says something and then Person B says something. This pattern goes back and forth to complete what the average person calls, “Conversation.” With people that have AS, reciprocal conversations are difficult which means that many times, a conversation that is between Person A and Person B will just consist of Person A taking up all of the talking time. For someone with AS like myself, if that happens to you, say something as direct as, “Hold on a second Zach,” that way, I’ll stop talking and give you, Person B, a chance to talk as well.

This leads to the final thing that I want to address with AS:

3. Obsession with Specific, Often Unusual, Topics

I’m sure everyone has that friend that loves to show you pictures of their cat, or to use a current trend in today’s social media world, that one Mom who posts pictures of her kids every five seconds. While that kind of repetitiveness might be annoying, it’s not the same type of repetitiveness that people with AS exhibit.

To illustrate how people with AS tend to be repetitive, below is a clip (which I don’t own of course, it’s a United Artists picture), from one of my favorite movies, Rainman: 

While I’m not always an excellent driver, nor do I have as nice of a car that Tom Cruise had, like Dustin Hoffman’s character Raymond, I do tend to repeat myself on a few main topics, one of those being cemeteries.

Yes, you read that right, cemeteries, as in the places where we bury people.

While many people might see cemeteries as depressing places associated only with the end of life, I see them as much more. To me, a cemetery is not only a place to lay someone to rest, but also a place of historical and architectural significance. Just look at Arlington National Cemetery. I’ve been to Arlington and they have a driving lane just for tour buses. See, not everyone hates going to cemeteries, some are popular enough for tour buses. Anyway, I really like cemeteries and if you are ever in a car with me and we drive by one, don’t be surprised if I randomly point one out as we pass by. For all of my readers ahead of time, you should know that I plan to visit some of the most famous graves in the world when I’m in Europe, including those of Winston Churchill and Jim Morrison. Yes, Jim Morrison, the rock star. I don’t even like rock music but I’ve been told that in Paris, going to Jim Morrison’s grave is a must-do.

At this point if you are still reading, thank you. Really, I know this is a lot to read and this is probably going to be one of my longest, if not the longest ever blog post that I have on The ZEZ Connection. Since Asperger Syndrome is a big part of who I am though, I thought it might be best to address it in the very beginning of this blog so you will get an insight into what an “Aspie” really is.

If you have any questions about my life with Asperger Syndrome or about AS in general, feel free to contact me on my Facebook page or send me an e-mail at thezezconnection@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading and have a great first weekend of 2014.

Sources:

http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/asperger-syndrome

http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/asperger-syndrome