The first week of January I took a trip to the Aosta Valley, in the north of Italy, located near the French border. The region is famous for one of the largest national parks, skiing resorts, and, of course, Italy=good food.
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.
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.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll have a billion photos after a weekend trip. In addition to 50 awkward yet identical selfies behind a famous landmark, I’ll also have pictures of the landmarks themselves, and trees, flowers, dogs – you name it.
When I moved into my apartment recently, I planned on buying the standard wall painting from Ikea – flowers blowing in the wind, contemporary art that makes no sense, or a wall rug.
Instead, I developed those miscellaneous pictures from my travel collections, and created a travel collage.
Maybe it’s not up to National Geographic’s standards, but it’s a personal memory that creates a story, a sense of nostalgia, and most of all, it generates a way more interesting answer than, “I bought this at a generic furniture store”.
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.
In a previous post, I included a photograph of a poem that was painted onto a wall here in Bologna. The city is full of these short poems that can be spotted on signs, stone walls, and street corners. I’ve been collecting and translating them for the past few weeks, but I’ve edited this post to include a few. The poems are still a mystery to me, but they seem to have been placed around the city by the Movement for the Emancipation of Poetry.
The MVP (Movimento Emancipazione Poesia) has stated the following about their work in Bologna, Italy
“To this day, in the vulgar contemporary society, poetry does not hold the role that, for cultural and historical reasons, it is entitled to. This is not because it no longer carries the ability to communicate and elicit emotions, feelings and fantasies, but rather because although poetry continues to be written, it is no longer read, the preference being for cheap empty entertainment over the noble and difficult exercise of spirited thought. […]”
These photos and translations (done by me) will be edition number one of a series of posts I’d like to do. It seems that I’ve still got over 100 poems to discover in this city.
I swear on my own heart
I’ve never wanted it!
Can you hear it beating?
How do we surrender to the certainty of possessing one another?
It’s the fear
We’ll go in search of
from which we can
Finally, my personal favourite
I hate you.
I hate you because you came into my life way too early.
I’m nothing yet. I’m mud between the fingers of destiny.
An insane compass driving me.
I’m afraid that what I will be will destroy what we were, removing your eyes that watch me every morning, hanging on the ceiling of my bedroom.
I’m just like everyone else. After a long day at work, my favorite thing to do on a weeknight was to pass out in front of the television. Most of the time, it didn’t even matter what I was watching, I just needed something to lull me into my zombie-like sleep.
This past summer, I decided to move to a different city here in Italy. After having lived in Milan for several months, I decided that I hated the city. It was too grey, too expensive, the people are always pissed off, and most importantly, it was full of litter with few green spaces (a big deal for a Canadian). So I headed off in search for a new apartment in my new city of residence, Bologna, Italy.
After having found a temporary apartment, I met with the landlord.
“You know there’s no television at the moment, right? We can look into getting one though, if you’d like?”
WHAT?! You mean no re-run marathons of my love-to-hate reality shows?!
“Nope, it’s no problem for me, I don’t want one.”
Now don’t get my wrong. I love films and t.v series (Big Bang Theory and How I met Your Mother in particular), but I felt that the 2-3 hours of “couch potato time” per night was taking away from self-improvement and productivity.
So what did I do with the free time I was suddenly given?
1. I started my blog. I forgot how much I loved to write. It would be a waste not to write something down in my situation. I’m living abroad and moving from place to place, yet I didn’t even have a journal! Even if nobody reads what I write, I’ll have something to look back on after my 20s are over.
2. I started taking classes at the gym – I love the gym, but it’s hard to commit to going regularly, especially during the winter months when you want to curl up in front of the television. Since I didn’t have the t.v option, I forced myself to look at the classes offered at my local gym in the evenings. I signed up for body pump, among others, and made this a regular habit before bedtime.
3. I started reading regularly – I’ve loved reading since I was a child. It’s a habit I’ve carried with me throughout high school and university, but it died down a bit once I began working full time. I replaced the t.v stand with a bookshelf, and I choose something to read before I curl up on the couch and fall asleep. Reading makes me feel positive. Each time you read a new book, you open yourself to a new world of imagination, something that’s obviously missing from many television shows.
4. I made things – A travel box (see post), scrapbooks, photo albums, etc. making things makes you feel better, especially when you feel down. It’s really great to see a finished project that you designed yourself. The feeling of fulfillment that used to come from coloring books and crafts as a child has followed me into adulthood.
5. I stayed informed on my own – The news programs we see are biased. If you don’t make an effort to look for a second opinion, you don’t see both sides of the story. The internet has a mass amount of information from different countries with different political and social opinions. It was great to see how Italian television, BBC news, and CNN, all morphed the same news stories for their own benefit.
6. I had a drink with friends – When you’re exhausted on a Monday evening, the last thing you want to do is get dressed and go out. Actually, don’t even need to get dressed, just go out. Having a drink with friends after work was surprisingly therapeutic. Laughing about my current frustrations allowed me to sleep better, and I found myself walking home smiling after catching up with some friends.
The purpose of this post is to remind you that you’re full of ideas and creativity. Routine has a way of draining us of our imagination, but we don’t have to let this happen. Staying informed is easy with the internet, so you won’t be missing out on anything, but discovering a new sense of self that you thought disappeared a long time ago.
Maybe you’ve stumbled across a beautiful destination in a magazine, or read one of those “Places You Must Visit Before You Die” lists, and thought, “Wow! I have to go there!”
But the same old always happens. You get caught up in paying the bills, student loans, or whatever, and your ideas get tossed on the back burner.
It’s hard to save for a romantic escape to Venice or a bike tour in Amsterdam, but it’s very do-able.
My advice? Visual stimulation. Many people will tell you to open up a travel savings account. That didn’t work for me. When I was running low on cash, I took it out of my savings fund. However, last year (and this month) I’ve made a travel box. Since it’s both my boyfriend and I who are planning on travelling together, we are going to add the same amount of money to the box each month. If someone does something unproductive (ie. starting a fight about which movie to watch) we add 2 euros to the box.
What makes the difference for me are the pictures. Last year, I had a visual board of Spanish beaches that were on my desk next to my bed. I would see these every morning and was reminded that it was something I really wanted to do.
This year, the pictures of my s.o and I will do the trick. It’s much more personal than a savings account and a daily reminder. We decided to put around 50€/person a month in the box. That’s 1000€ by next summer. It will give us more than enough for a trip to Santorini, Greece. Even if you’re traveling alone and put less in your own box, you will still have a substantial amount by the time you reach the intended travel dates.
For those of you that think saving a little cash is impossible, it’s really not. Cook dinner at home once in a while instead of going out. Have 1 beer rather than 2 or 3. Make a coffee at home rather than spending money at a Starbucks or cafe. Don’t buy another pair of shoes. After all, a dream vacation is worth suppressing temporary temptations.
So you’ve met the love of your life! Or maybe, the love of the moment? Regardless of the situation, if they are from a different country or a background completely diverse from your own, you’re setting yourself up for a series of events that can be insanely enjoyable and full of unrestrained suffering at the exact same time!
1. I have no idea what she just said.
So it’s time to meet the parents of your significant other. The problem is, you don’t share a common language, not yet anyway. There are going to be a lot of smiles, and even more nodding. You are going to feel like a toddler at the dinner table because questions will not be asked to you, but about you.
You won’t be able to form an instant relationship with his or her loved ones. There will be a moment where you feel a bit inadequate in comparison to their ex – because you can’t even say “hey, thanks for this great food!” without a ridiculous thumbs-up gesture. When you’re out with their friends, the conversation gets even more complicated, so you just sit there, smiling. Everyone thinks you’re a psychopath because that’s all you do. You become extra grateful for the one friend that speaks English. Eventually, it gets better, believe me.
2. Jetlag is my middle name
Travel is automatically included when you’re dating someone from a different country. If the two of you aren’t living in the same country, and doing the long distance thing – you better like spending what is leftover of your paycheck on planes, buses, or trains. If you eventually find yourself in the same place as your significant other, there will always be family visits from one homeland to another. If you like traveling, this will be a pleasant surprise. (I think you almost HAVE to love traveling in order for this kind of relationship to work).
3. Pass the pasta, please.
If you love eating as much as I do, you’ll be thankful for the world of new cuisine presented before your eyes.There’s no better way to get to know people than to see how they eat. Meal times are often reflections of a specific culture, and eating with loved ones may be the most important part of the day. What people eat, how, and what time, say a lot about the specific country at hand. Unfortunately, I’m Canadian, so I can’t offer much in exchange to my Italian counterpart (other than poutine, but I’ll pretend that doesn’t exist).
4. Are you yelling at me with your hands?
When it comes to arguments, people fight differently. You might mean one thing, and your significant other hears something else. Words and actions may be misunderstood due to cultural norms. Not many Canadians can express “you’re acting like an idiot and I can’t believe you would say that to me, are you crazy?!?!” with 3 hand gestures. I find this part more interesting than infuriating. Regularly, I come across a response to a situation that would be considered weird, offensive, or surprising in Canada, yet here, its completely normal. It’s fun to discover the ins and outs of a relationship based on the cultural differences that each person brings to the table.
5. The Future
Eventually, this topic will come up. It’s the elephant in the room. If you and your s.o are from different countries or continents, one of you will have to make the move in order for it to continue. This is probably the most difficult part of any long distance relationship, let alone, a relationship where you’ve got a body of water called the Atlantic Ocean between the two of you. Whether it’s job security or personal preference, making the decision change your home for another person is a big deal, and can bring both positive and negative issues into the relationship. I’m a believer in the concept of always being able to find a way, as long as both individuals are on the same boat.
I would love to hear about other experiences similar to mine, please comment or message me and tell me your story!