Everything, and nothing.

The supple raindrops on car windshields parked in nameless towns

are made of the same matter as the ice crystals

forming at the peak of Mount Everest.

The words you yell in hate,560585_10100764466614829_680102236_n

and confess in love,

invoke the same emotions in every language.

You are breathing the same air as your worst enemy.

You are entangled in a complex pattern, of the living

and the departed.

Your potential is infinite yet bounded

by the enslavement that exists in your mind

and nowhere else.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/ice-water-steam/

The 12 Adventures of Christmas

12) On the 12th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a delicious carbonara in the heart of Bologna, Italy.

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11) On the 11th adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me – an evening walk through the twinkling streets of Mantova, Italy.

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10) On the 10th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – handmade gnocchi from a bustling Christmas market.

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9) On the 9th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – crowds of Christmas shoppers in Madrid’s main square.

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8) On the 8th adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me, a sunset above the clouds.

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7) On the 7th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a Spanish dessert on an empty stomach.

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6) On the 6th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a late night conversation in an open cafe.

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5) On the 6th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a fuzzy kind of feeling.

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4) On the 4th adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – improv decorations.

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3) On the 3rd adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – a mouth-watering lunch in Valladolid, Spain.

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2) On the 2nd adventure of Christmas, my true love gave to me – flying Christmas presents.

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1) On the first adventure of Christmas my true love gave to me, an accidentally heart-shaped walnut.

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The one where you accidentally meet.

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We took the same bus on that humid Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t supposed to be on it, but I got distracted by a phone call and hopped on, didn’t think twice. I’d seen you around before, you’re what’s-his-name’s friend, right? The one from Naples? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter.

Our eyes met for a second. I gave you a hesitant closed-lipped smile, the “I-know-you-but-not-really” kind. You didn’t return it. You continued staring. I got painfully awkward and ran my tongue across my lips. Do I have lipstick on my teeth? Is there something on my face? It’s my hair, isn’t it? I can’t get it to look normal in this heat.

I’m sure if I looked in your bathroom, I’d find lipstick in the cabinet. Red lipstick, belonging to “her” of course. I can’t pull off red lipstick, it always ends up looking a bit out of place on my face. I don’t know who “she” is, but she must melt every time you look at her like that. Little pangs of jealousy found there way into my insides, hugging them without wanting to let go.

You weren’t particularly tall, or muscular, or any other quality that’s usually on a woman’s checklist, but you were..captivating. Your eyes were dark, almost black – with a lighter brown in the middle. It was as if two countries had a battle over your eyes, and neither really won.

I didn’t think about you after that.

I’m looking at you right now, sitting across from me, and mouthing the words to a cheesy 80s song that’s on the radio. We’re waiting for my train to come, (late as usual) inside a typical Italian cafe. The old man at the bar has a warm smile on his face, and an oil stain on his t-shirt. You slide my half of the pizza towards me, the one you divided unevenly – giving me the bigger half. You look up at me, smirk, and continue singing.

I melt.

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Pizza, cappuccinos, and calcio!

I haven’t blogged in a few days because I had a 9 hour flight to Rome, plus a four hour train ride. Add some jet-lag to that and you’ve got a lost-in-translation mindset for a few days. Once I’m cured of my temporary insomnia I’ll be able to write real paragraphs again.

First impressions of Bologna, Italy: Although I always go through a “sad” phase in my first few days in a new city, trying to adjust to my surroundings…Bologna is beautiful. It’s a photographer’s dream. However, for the artistically challenged like me, it’ll be hard to give it justice using my iPhone.

As for the blog, I can’t believe someone other than my mother reads it. I’ve even received a lot of questions about my travels, so I figured I’d answer them here.

Why did you leave Canada? – Canada is a fantastic country where you are guaranteed financial stability if you’ve graduated or have any form of educational training. You will get a job, and even if it’s waitressing at a local Italian eatery, you’ll be making double the wages offered in a real Italian restaurant in Italy. I originally moved to Spain, I loved it and I’m hoping to return. I was tired of being comfortable. I was born in Canada, raised in Canada, and if I hadn’t lived abroad- I wouldn’t have any stories to tell. You learn a lot about yourself when you’re stuck in sticky situations.

How can you afford this? – I live in a shared flat with another person (several people in the past). I work as an ESL teacher, and I make enough money to pay my rent, eat, travel using low cost airlines (yay Ryanair and Easyjet), and go out once in a while. An ESL teacher in Spain or Italy will make 1,100-1,300 euros for 25-30 hours a week. Private lessons (at home tutoring) pay about 25 euros an hour. This is a good option for some extra cash on the side.

Any advice for people who want to move abroad?- If you’re ok with making enough to live on, do it. You will learn a new language, meet new people, and grow in ways you never believed possible. These are experiences you cannot have living at home. Do it while you’re in your 20s and haven’t got a family or children to worry about. Just don’t fall in love here, it’s a bad idea 😉image

The one where you feel grateful.

Prompt: Life just isn’t the same without your trusty sidekick. For this week’s writing challenge, tell us about your partner in crime.

The first words I ever said to my partner in crime were “get the f*ck out of here! you’re annoying.”
About a month later I fell in love with him though, how’s that for a paradox?

We were studying abroad in the same Spanish city. We were both football(soccer) fans. Unfortunately, our teams were playing one another, so we were both cursing each other’s team.
We met again later at a football match where the local city team was playing at home. I was “oh hell, you guys know that assh*ole from the bar?”
We sat next to one another and I was really mean and he asked me out

See: The one where you fall in love.

We compliment each other in the right way, just like any crime fighting team should (I’m definitely Batman by the way, he’s Robin – let’s make that clear).

We were born and raised on two different continents. When I get angry I cry, and he makes a series of hand gestures that probably have some sort of meaning.
He’s rational, I’m emotional. I exaggerate everything and he tells me to relax. He can cook better than I can, but that’s not saying much – besides if you’re from Italy it kind of runs in your gene pool, doesn’t it?

The reason he’s my sidekick is because he’s always there. When you reach your mid-twenties, finish school, and get a job, your social circle shrinks quite a bit. You begin to value people you can have a great conversation with, and those who listen to your hopes and worries rather than a good night out on the town.

Living abroad really sent the message home. When you’re living a million miles away and constantly saying hello and goodbye, fewer people stay in your life. Your heart becomes a home for those who count, and my Italian version of Robin has the master bedroom.
Maybe I should have gone with the Mario and Luigi combo?
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Countdown to A New Adventure

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My visit to Canada has come to an end, and on Thursday I’ll be heading back to Italy, and moving to a new city: Bologna. I moved from Spain to Italy this past February. The problem is, I chose Milan, and I haaated Milan. Seven months of arrogant wealthy people and snobby fashionistas in a concrete jungle left me feeling like I’d been living in a world where I would never belong.
So Bologna it is! It’s considered a student city (having one of the first universities in modern history) and more of a low-key alternative atmosphere.
A new city means a new job as well, although I don’t start until mid-September. I wanted a few weeks to adjust and get to know my surroundings without getting lost on the way to work. Moreover, it’s a condensed city so a car is unnecessary, I might get a bike at most.
There’s was famous Italian singer, called Lucio Dalla, who dedicated a song to Bologna. I figured, if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.
First stop, however, is Rome!
P.S – one of my posts is on Thought Catalog, check it out here.
Ciao.

I “get myself off” in Spain.

Mastering a language is always a difficult thing, especially when you suddenly find yourself in a foreign country and nobody speaks English.

My first few days in Valladolid, Spain, were filled with hand gestures and online translators in the fall of 2011. I was about to begin university, and I didn’t know anyone yet, so obviously I had to embarrass myself in someway or we wouldn’t be talking about me.

Once you get into the higher level classes (year 3-4) at the university, the classroom sizes are greatly reduced. So obviously, the first thing they do to welcome international students is to have them present themselves.

On the verge of peeing my pants, I kept going over the few sentences I memorized. “I’m from Canada, I love football (soccer), and running. Running is my favourite thing to do, and I do it every day.”

Now, reflexive verbs are a tricky thing for English speakers. In Spanish you would say “me ducho” o “¿te afeitas?” literally meaning “I shower myself” and “do you shave yourself?” In English, we don’t have this distinction between the regular and reflexive verbs. We say, “I shave” and not “I shave myself”.

So the professor says, “next” and I’m up. “Hola me llamo Aleks, soy canadiense, me encanta el fútbol y me corro todos los días. Me corro porque es mi cosa preferida y lo hago todos los días.”

The problem lies in the “me corro”. If I wanted to say “I run everyday” it would be “Yo corro todos los días” or “corro todos los días”. If you say “me corro” it means “I get myself off everyday” meaning…I masturbate.

I told the class I get myself off everyday and it’s my favourite thing to do. I’d say it could be worse, but no, it really couldn’t be.

The real problem was that NO ONE corrected me, so I repeated this in ALL of my classes. THANK YOU FELLOW PEERS. Finally, a guy who spoke English fluently leaned over and stated, “you told everyone you like to orgasm.”
Surprisingly, except for a few smirks, no one really reacted to my bold statement. The Spanish are pretty liberal so, maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing, right?

**if you want to share your athletic abilities with the Spanish, it’s always YO corro, never ME corro, unless of course, you do want to share that part of your day with your new foreign friends.

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Five Things You Should Know Before Moving To Italy

In my previous posts, I talked about moving to Spain. But maybe you’ve chosen the land of well dressed and attractive men as your next destination. Since you’ve chosen Italy as your next nesting place, you should be aware of the following before you make your big move! (Don’t worry I’ll talk about pizza too).

1. Visas/permits
Once again, if you want to overstay the three month time limit and you do not belong to a Schengen country, particularly if you are Canadian or American – you must apply for a visa or permit in your country of origin. If you are studying abroad, you should probably be accepted within 4-8 weeks if the paperwork is done correctly. However, there’s a huge work crisis in Italy, so if you’re not going over to teach English, or transferring from a multinational, stay away (unless you’re aiming for a waitressing job).

When you arrive, you must go to the police station and show them your visa, and they will give you a little card called permesso di soggiorno, which you should keep on you, especially when travelling.

2) Avoid big cities
The rent in Milan or Rome will be twice as high as a smaller city, and you’ll probably be earning the same amount – give or take a hundred euros. Before opting for the overpriced obvious choices, why not try smaller, but beautiful cities like Bologna, Verona, or Lecce. The south of Italy operates like a third world country in terms of organization, but the towns are smaller, the food and weather are better, and the people are nicer.

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3) Lots of things are done illegally
Make sure that your boss and your company are offering you a real position with guaranteed pay. Many places offer work in cash without a contract, and I don’t think I need to specify why this is a bad idea. Also, ask for your contract in English, so you can take a better look at what you’re getting yourself into. Research the place beforehand to see if anyone has anything negative to say on the internet. If you’re teaching, look for big name franchises, not small, private schools.

4) Beauty, and damn good food
I don’t have to tell you that Italy is a beautiful country, because that’s what it’s famous for. If you have the opportunity to travel around Italy for an extensive period of time, or you’ve decided to move here, there are a ton of beautiful and unique towns to check out, and they may not be the obvious big city gems. My personal favourites are Porto Venere (picture above) Sirmione – Lago di Garda, Lecce, and Otranto (see below)

imageSpeaking about the food would be redundant because it’s food you’ve already dreamt about. Fun fact: fettuccine Alfredo doesn’t exist. It’s an American invention. If you mention Alfredo, people will think you are referring to their uncle/brother/friend with the same name.

5. Level of patience required = Buddhism
You will have to accept things that would be considered unacceptable in North America or other parts of the world. Yes, your train was scheduled for 5pm, and no, it won’t arrive before 5:45, or later. TrenItalia is the real mafia of Italy (yes, sue me). They offer horrible customer service (see my post: Is This Train on Fire?!). Moreover, if they are over 50min late, sometimes they just cancel the train so they won’t have to exercise their refund policy.

If you need paperwork done for any reason, make room for a 6 hour block in your day, as you will be greeted with long lines, and unhappy people waiting to serve you. Better yet, take two days off – just in case.

Honestly I would suggest getting into some type of hypnotic meditation when you arrive in order to avoid pulling out your own hair. Or you could drown your frustrations with some great wine and pizza. Fun fact: pepperoni means pepper. If you ask for a pepperoni pizza, you will get a pizza with peppers on it. Another American invention. Our version of pepperoni is simply called salami.

The Pursuit of Happiness

Finding a sense of contentment has become difficult in a society that advocates sadness. We focus so much energy on the pursuit of happiness that we risk losing it during the journey.

If I ask you, what was the happiest moment of your life?
You won’t tell me about the time you bought a new car, or your new phone, some may say a job promotion, but hardly that either.

The moment you most felt alive was with another human being – your children, your partner, your friends, your pets. This is what gives everything meaning and makes you feel alive.

What good is it to watch the world from your new television, when you can’t be there – to smell it, to hear it, to live it! The following year will be devoted to being grateful, rather than searching for something missing.

– I vow to make my time meaningful. I want to be scared. I want my beliefs and ideas to be tested. I will do something each day that will help me grow, even in the mundane tasks of daily life.

– I will not look at my small apartment and wish for more space. I’ve got a bed! Yes, a wonderful bed that waits for me every night. How lucky I am to have a bed when so many people do not.

– I’ve got so many books hugging the shelves around my bedroom. Yes, books! Wonderful books that will teach me new things and fuel my imagination. I can read a new chapter everyday – a gift that must be appreciated, as many don’t have the ability to read, or a place to curl up with the pages of a fantasy world.

– I can’t buy a new computer, or a new phone – but let me take a look at the one I have. Filled with photos of my favorite people. How wonderful it is to be able to have pictures with so many wonderful people who love me. My friends, and my family, and the love of my life! Many people in this world have been torn away from their loved ones – yet I’ve got loved ones in different countries around the world! What a beautiful thing.

-I will learn another language so I can speak to new people. What a privilege it has been to study and continue to learn after so many years. Some individuals don’t have access to education, yet I was in school until I turned 22! What a wonderful opportunity.

-I’ll save for a trip to somewhere new. It’s amazing to be able to discover so many new places, and see the beauty the world has to offer. These are the memories that will be mine forever.

Most importantly, I will be present. Present to those around me and grateful for every opportunity that has been presented to me. I will not lament for having less than others, for I am already so rich, in so many ways.

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