Thursday, October 15, 2009

Walking the Line

Most times, coming back is harder than going there. For me, it's always been harder to come back than it has been to go. Leaving to go somewhere new is exciting and fun. It's better than pretty much anything else in the world for me. That excitement, the idea that you never know what is waiting for you, that ANYTHING could happen, is my favorite drug. I will lay in my bed, inventing story after story of what could happen, what would be crazy and fun and wild. I know, in the back of my mind, that it will never be the way I think it's going to be. But I don't really care. Because it is so fun to imagine, to think about the unexpected.

I left Paris on the first of September. I didn't even let myself think about what was waiting for me when I got back here because I couldn't handle the idea that my life would have gaping unfilled holes- that my old friends had graduated and my new friends would be far away. My family... My family has been over 2,000 miles away from me for the last 3 and a half years. But they were in the same country. And I could call my mom anytime I wanted to for the first two years I was in college. Even in Paris, because of my parent's good long distance plan, we would talk every Sunday evening. My family is in Italy. I haven't talked to them on the phone in more than two weeks. I know I'm supposed to be a grown-up. I'm 21 years old, about to report for jury duty. I can drink, smoke, buy porn, enlist, vote and all the other things that you can do when you're an adult. I've had a bank account in two countries. I have a social security number in the US, Spain, France, and Italy. I am supposed to be an adult. But I really just miss my mom.

I also spent the last few months head over heels in love. I have several gaping holes. Parts missing from my life. And everywhere I see signs that say that I should live life to the fullest! Do everything now! You never know when you're going to die... or the world will end! Well. If there's a future, I need to graduate from college and get a good job. If there's not a future, what the fuck am I doing, freezing in Massachusetts isolated from my family and my boyfriend?

It's not really about that. Missing everyone is a huge part of why I am feeling down. It's also about feeling really lame a lot of the time. Feeling like I don't know how to do this whole college thing. Feeling like I'll never really know what it is that I want to do. Feeling like no language is mine, no country is mine, no experience is mine. I cry a lot for no particular reason because I am tired and more than a little isolated. I miss every person I've ever had to leave. I miss my parents and my little brother. I miss Edouard.

I don't feel comfortable here. I feel like a foreigner, I feel judged, and I don't really know how to talk to people here.

Culture Shock blows.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Living in Paris was a dream. I had always wanted to come here, knowing somehow that a capital city in Europe would match all I wanted from life. I didn't really know what would happen, and I didn't really care. I learned a long time ago that planning the future comes to naught. I thought and dreamed and planned how my year abroad in Rouen would be when I was 16. I did the same for my senior year of high school, prom, graduation. Somehow, though those years were nothing like my plans, I did the same for college. This time, though I had planned going to Sciences Po in Paris since before I was ever accepted to Hampshire, I knew better. I came to Paris with no expectations, knowing that it would never be the way I thought it would.

I was right. But I had no idea that this year would give me all that it has: a new view on life, incredible friends, and the most incredible relationship that anyone could ever dream up. But it's no dream- just my reality.

I met him in a bar in February. He said hi. And we talked. I gave him my number, and two days later, he called. Life being life, I was in Italy for two weeks and told him I'd call him back which he did not believe. A day or so after getting back to Paris, I did. And things spiralled out from there. It's an incredible turn of luck. I never dated in high school, didn't really have that much luck in college until now (at least in terms of permanent relationships), and it seems as though all the good things I missed out on were just hanging out, waiting to fall into my lap all at once.

I leave Paris at the very end of August. It has never seemed as soon as it does tonight. I have no idea what my future holds or if this relationship will last. I have no idea about anything. But I do know that I will try my hardest to finish school and get back here as quickly as I can because when love like this happens, one should fight with all they have to make it last.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Roman Holiday

Italy. The hidden half of myself is full of bright colors, frescoes, homemade pasta, kind faces, and family. My homeland considers me a stranger, but I still feel a physical longing for my memories of her hills, the Pianura Padana, the musicality of her language, and my cousins surrounding me. While it is completely possible that I will never belong wholly to the culture that whispers to me in dreams, I feel the need to try to fit myself into the puzzle of Italy’s being. Any glimmer of recognition from the Italian people, the international community, or a personality trait that can be considered Italian, fills me with pride.

I just came back from two weeks in Italy with Michelle. We started in Rome then headed to Bologna, Modena, Parma, and Milano, with a day trip to Verona. It was a great trip… full of old friends and my family. In Rome, we met three guys from Vienna and two guys and a girl from Bilbao. They were all so awesome- we went out together twice, saw the coliseum together, and generally messed around, trying not to get into trouble. We also saw an old friend of mine from my exchange days in Rouen; a really good guy that I’ve kept in contact with on and off since we’ve known each other. Rome is an incredible city, one I might have to live in at some point. It’s chaotic, beautiful, international, and small enough to walk.

I lived in Bologna for a month when I was 18, so I felt the need to show Michelle my old haunts. The food is the main attraction, though the town itself is beautiful and worth seeing on its own. For dinner, we ate at this lovely restaurant where Michelle had pumpkin tortelloni and I had polenta with wild boar. We only spent one night there before going to Modena where a friend of mine from this summer working on the Island of Elba lives. Daniela is a whole person. She knows who she is, but is open to experiencing new things… Her apartment is an expression of herself, filled with her paintings, pagan symbols, wood stove, and two cats. She and her boyfriend (a Moroccan living in Italy) fed us well and we left feeling relaxed and with a bottle of her father’s 15-year-old homemade balsamic vinegar, thick as chocolate sauce and incredibly delicious.

Parma was a whirlwind of family insanity, shopping, and walking. Highlights include spending time with the cousins from my generation and visiting the younger generation’s elementary school to talk about life in the States, education, and Michelle and my life stories. When Manu and Giulia (my cousins, 22 and 18 years old respectively) left the last night when we were together, I nearly cried. The connections I have with my family are the most precious thing I have, and I never feel like there’s enough time to spend with them. Francesco and Alice, the little cousins, were so surprised when we showed up at their school to talk to their classes. I was their nanny for two summers, and they think of me as an older sister/aunt. Michelle dazzled the 10-year-old boys by playing soccer with them and being awesome. Italy is not exactly the most liberal place when it comes to girls playing soccer, so not only were they shocked by her talented playing, but they also had their eyes opened a little to the possibilities of women being independent, strong, and playing sports.

In Milano, Michela and her family were waiting for me. This summer, on Elba, they were my saving graces. I met them around a point when work there was making me really depressed, and they took me into their home as though I were a part of the family. After having dinner there one night, they invited me back again and again. Milan is not my favorite city to say the least, but we saw the cathedral, the galleries, the castle, the Pinacoteca Brera (where my grandmother once studied Belle Arte), Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper, and went to Michela’s littlest cousin’s baptism. Michela’s mother tried unceasingly to interest me in her son or her nephew as possible future husbands. As her son has been dating the same girl for the last three years and as her nephew is 38, these attempts were to come to naught, but I thoroughly enjoyed her trying to make me a member of her family. After the baptism, we ate for three hours. It was awesome. I have cake in my bag.

I got home an hour ago, and I still can’t really believe that I’m back in Paris. I feel like I’ve been gone for months, and I’m decidedly not prepared for school starting up again tomorrow. In the airport in Milan, we ran into my friend Nigel from Ireland, and we traveled back to Paris all together, which helped me from getting too down about leaving Italy. Nigel is hilarious, and we always have a good laugh and our times together are much craic. At the moment, however, I am sitting in my messy apartment, on my bed, contemplating my lack of milk for breakfast tomorrow morning, and feeling quite nostalgic- not just for this time in Italy, but for every time in Italy. For my family, friends, the food, the language, the existence that I have there. It is, after all, a part of me. When I get back from a long stay (or in this case, just a short one), I feel like I have ghost limb syndrome, as if I should be able to walk outside and be there, as if it’s just beyond my grasp, just there, only I can’t touch it or see it.

I wish I could entirely convey how I feel when I think of Italy, but it’s impossible. There’s just too much feeling involved, and emotions have never been easy to describe. I try to ask my other friends who are half and half or even those that are just far from home if they feel the way I do, and most of the time, I just get confused looks or the answer, “no”. Michelle sort of gets it, or at least, even if she doesn’t feel it, she knows how much it means to me. I am a pale, northern-looking, not properly dressed foreigner with an accent in my own country, but I am also a staunch Italian. I know our history, our famous writers, our politics, and I am convinced of the importance of Garibaldi’s legacy and keeping our country whole, despite the Lega Nord, the new divisional parties in the South, the Mafia, racism, xenophobia, and our corrupt political system. We’re a small, imperfect country that is really a gran’ casino more than anything else, but I love it. It is a part of the whole, a piece of my soul, and I cannot deny it.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Awkward Situations

I am a queen of awkward situations. For some reason, I have an incredible knack for saying the wrong thing, or making people feel uncomfortable. Sometimes I wonder if I seek out these situations, bringing the “awkward” to any moment that would otherwise have been completely normal. Is there something in my nature that pushes me to make wildly inappropriate comments in front of people who are proper or who don’t know me? Is there some traitorous part of myself that wants, no, desires to ruin my chances at normal interaction?

Today, in the petit hall at Sciences Po, a friend of mine was studying at the table behind mine with a group. One of the men she was working with was quite attractive and kept making loud interjections in an appealing accent. These utterances were causing me to turn around on occasion and overhear a large part of their conversation. When my friend asked a question about the French “bisous” (the greeting that involves a kiss on each cheek) and whether or not French men sporadically greet each other in this manner, I felt somehow compelled to turn around and state, in a tone that was strange and in a volume that was several decibels too high, “Yes! They so do!” Sara, my friend, is used to me, and just laughed, but all three of the guys she was with stared at me for a second before I explained that my French teacher had just talked about the evolution of bisous etiquette.

This small, in all appearances, casual interaction has given those three guys, one of whom I see constantly in the halls of Sciences Po, a certain impression of me- an impression that says, “Crazy,” or, “Intense,” or the oh-so-feared, “Ditz.” These statements are not false. I am, at times, crazy, intense, and ditzy; it is not unheard of for me to be all these things at once. However, I would prefer to give the immediate impressions of “Bright,” or, “Attractive,” or the ever-so-sought-after, “Cool,” for I am, at times, all of these things as well.

Upon telling Michelle what I was writing about, she proceeded to inform me that I am actually not awkward at all. I’ll leave it for those who know me to decide…

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Home for the Holidays

Moscow, Idaho is a strange place. It’s a place where the snow-covered hills meld into the sky, where geeks are beautiful, and where kids can grow up to be people so different one would think that they have nothing in common. Until they come back to Moscow, Idaho. We come from Bowdoin, Bard, and Barnard, Western Washington, Seattle U, and Lewis and Clark; we come from Paris, New Zealand, and Spain. For one week, or two, we revert back to the relationships and personalities we had when we were in high school.

We’ve all changed, of course we have, but those changes, just for a little while, are secondary to the people we’ve been for most of our lives. When you run into someone who’s known you since you wore diapers, it’s hard to be the sophisticated, nearly-adult, individual you’ve so recently become.

Moscow, Idaho is a great place to grow up. It’s the kind of place one spends one’s whole life trying to leave, but once one actually manages to get out of dodge, it’s an easy place to miss. My bad memories of elementary school bullying, boring high school classes, and the lack of diversity melt away, leaving good memories and the faces of people I never want to forget. And every time I go back, I learn about something cool or re-connect with someone I haven’t seen in ages.
I’m always struck by how at ease I feel when I’m hanging out with my Moscow people. There’s no need to act cool or watch what I say; my friends in Moscow know that I’m slightly crazy and like to hang out with me anyway. And, because we’re used to creating our own amusement, we can have fun playing a board game, wii, or just drinking a couple beers, listening to music (and usually singing along as well).

I went home for Christmas break. Home is a relative term for me. It means where ever my family is, any place I lay my head for more than a few weeks, but it will also mean, maybe forever, a small university town in the middle of the rolling hills of the Palouse. My dad once told me that the Palouse was in my blood. I believe him, too. The rolling hills and woods have worked their way into my veins and heart; a part of me will always be the girl that hiked through wheat fields, sat on giant rocks on a mountain top, and collected salamander eggs in Virgil Phillip’s pond.
This break, I stayed out until 4 in the morning almost every night. My parents realized early on that there wasn’t much trouble I could get into in town, so coming home so late wasn’t a new thing. I played music again and read comic books. I hung out while my guy friends played Dota and felt old at New Year’s when my friend’s little sister’s friends came over. All of them were from the High School, and I didn’t know any of them. Not for the first time, I wished that I could transport Cece, Martin, David, Brendan, Emmett, Ariel, and everyone else to Paris with me. Life would be so perfect if I could live in a big city in Europe with all those people I love around me.

We like to think that Moscow, Idaho never changes, and for those who have stayed, it doesn’t seem to. But I notice that things are changing. I notice the new businesses springing up, the fact that our silos are being dismantled bit by bit and that, ever so slowly, there are more international students, more students of color, more difference of every kind. Some of the change is great, and some really sucks (like the amount of Christ Church goers), and it is happening slowly, so it’s easy to adapt to. But some things will never change, and for that I am very grateful.