Saturday, January 28, 2017

BACK TO MY ROOTS




Here is what I know about home: it is sporadic and inconsistent. The only thing I remember about growing up is all the different places I had to grow up in. Leaving Peru and having to adapt to a new culture entirely and feeling torn between forcing myself unto this new identity and guilt for destroying the one I was used to. I went back, maybe because I wanted to find some missing pieces of myself that I might have left there, along with my name, before my name turned into a simplified, Americanized version of the name that was actually given to me. Maybe I thought it would clear some things up, as if looking at my childhood home after eighteen years since leaving it abruptly would bring back a memory as a streamline for where my life is now.

But it didn't because I have been shaped by a million things since then.

I went back to my roots and I found remnants of my life since before I could speak the language that now warps around my tongue. I went back to my roots and I found that I felt like a foreigner in the midst of all my people, where I once felt like I belonged.  The more I surround myself with the unfamiliar and delve into the ghosts of my past, the more I find that I might not belong anywhere, and the more I want to keep running.

And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

Maybe that's what we are meant to do. Maybe we are allowed to be a thousand different versions of ourselves before we find one that we really like. I am still being shaped, still growing amid all this life experience and changing environments. Still finding pieces of myself in every place and every heartbeat I encounter, sometimes feeling like I could have known them forever. I am still learning about survival and letting go and how to forgive myself for all the things that I haven't yet been, and the ones that I have been.

And now, getting ready to take another plunge, to try and find some peace of mind in a new city entirely, to try and find some more of those pieces, I am overwhelmed with anxiety of the unknown. But I hope that it's worth it.





Wednesday, October 26, 2016

HOMETOWNS, OLD MEMORIES



Some streets are paved with memories. It is always strange going back to a familiar place. For a while, that word meant very little to me. I was exploring the unfamiliar. I was drenched in foreign landscapes, stifled by their newness. It has been a long time since I have been able to call somewhere home. I have called many different places home in the last few years. I have called many different people home. I have lived in homes that had no doors, felt trapped by home, been involuntarily forced out of home. The thing about home is its way of making you feel like it will always be there to return to. But even home isn't permanent.

Things change even when we don't want them to. People move in different directions. Leaves fall from trees and lose their color. It is nice to feel the change, sometimes. It is nice to romanticize these places: their antiquity, the sense of nostalgia, the feelings that come back to you as if time persisted and never left. It is nice to feel like there is always something out there, waiting on you, calling out to you without you even knowing. Lurking in the different corners of your life as you make your way in and out of homes that aren't meant for you. That there is a place out there, a feeling, a person. One thing that doesn't change in the midst of all of this chaos, and that you can return to them. Here is permanence. Here is home. Here is something that you can hold onto when you can't seem to hold onto anything else.

These streets are paved with memories, but the memories are lifeless now. These corners of the earth are losing color and I am finding myself walking in between all the different seasons of my life. I am changing, too. I am just a memory here. I am just a ghost. I am holding on to things that I no longer know and forcing myself into a house that I left years ago. I will find my place. One day, without even expecting it, I will plant roots and it will feel right. But right now I have to move forward.



Friday, September 2, 2016

WEST COAST TRIP



August came and went like a quick rush of wind.

Just like this entire year. These days, I am feeling melancholy and have a strange sense of nostalgia for a lot of things. My mind is constantly shifting. One moment, I am completely engulfed in everything around me and the next I am wistful for another time, another life. Sometimes I feel as though I have become an expert at letting go, though I know this is not the case. Maybe I am moving backwards in life. Instead of binding myself to something, I am detaching myself from everything. Maybe like this I will have less to lose.

I am tired of losing.

August was full of rain, full of impetuous trips, full of learning how to let go, gracefully. I don't know what this month will bring. I don't know where I am destined to be or what lies ahead, beneath the predesigned route I am allowing myself to take this year. I don't know how you're supposed to know if it's the right one. I just know that if it's not, it's okay to turn around and choose a different one.



Thursday, June 2, 2016

MOVING BACK HOME AFTER LIVING ABROAD: REFLECTIONS

It is June and the air is humid and I am writing from the other side of the world, on a muggy smoke-filled street in Orlando. Recently I said farewell to Europe for a while. The reason is financial, mostly. The reason is I need to figure out my direction. The reason is I need to reconnect my head and my heart and my body. The transition is hard, even if I was only gone five months.

Maybe it's easier for some than others.

But, just like every other transition in life, I have a hard time adjusting. And maybe it's not so much the fact that I hate change, because clearly I do just fine with change. I left everything behind and moved to the other side of the world, I plunged myself into other cultures and felt as if I could stay there forever, immersing myself into them completely. I made connections with strangers and created long-lasting relationships with them and some fleeting ones with people I'll never see again.



Maybe it's not so much change as it is coming back to what I used to know. Maybe it's coming back to a place I was trying to leave in the first place. Or a feeling I tried to escape. Or a lifestyle. Or reality.

I am not one of those millennials that abruptly decides that travel is the only answer to an escape from reality and an office job you aren't really getting anything out of, in the midst of a quarter-life crisis. In my defense, I never really had an office job I was trying to break free from. I wasn't really trying to break free from anything. My choice, and my experiences, were for a very different reason.

I wanted to live a life without constraints. I wanted to live a life without judgement. I don't know if I found myself overseas, but I found something, and it was probably something that I could've easily found here or anywhere else for that matter.

A lot of it was personal and something that probably doesn't apply to everyone. And a lot of it was, yes, a temporary escape from inevitable obligations.

When I was young, I had very simple goals for myself. I told myself I would see the world, write about it, and find something that makes me happy. As I got older, everything started to look more complicated. It felt as if I had been watching the future unfold with rose-colored glasses but it swiftly started to clear up. Conflict occurred in my life and my self-esteem and aspirations started to dwindle.

I started questioning myself and my surroundings. I started having doubts about nearly everything. I started wondering what it was that made humans feel complete. I wondered if there was some underlying reason I did not.

And yes, there was something about those small, cobblestone streets and the slow-paced lifestyle that gave me some peace of mind. I tutored, babysat, sometimes freelanced, and still had enough time to be engulfed in the entire afternoon soaking up the sunshine on the beach or drinking wine until 3 in the morning.

I also acknowledged that this wasn't what I wanted to do career-wise, and that it wasn't really leading me in the direction of it, but never felt inclined to think about that because I was experiencing too many wonderful things and learning more about myself and other people that it didn't seem to matter, at the time. But everything I learned about myself there I have carried with me on that 11-hour melancholy plane ride back.

The experiences and the people and the places are stitched into my memory. And not just from Europe, or from Africa, or from the UK, but from everywhere I have ever traveled to. From every journey and every conversation and every person I've ever loved. From every fleeting relationship so far in my 23 years of life. And all the lasting ones.

Some things I'll never forget, even when I do go back. Like meditating on an empty field in Lake Como, Italy. Or trekking barefoot across the sand dunes in the Sahara desert. Or filling my heart and my lungs with endless admiration for the city and the people around me.




Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CROSSING THE FRENCH BORDER


Somewhere on the road

Puerto De La Selva


Collioure, France

It is about 1 in the afternoon and I am sitting in a rental car and we are driving through mountains that envelop the South of France. The windows are down and my arms are swaying in the wind, the air clean, brisk. It was supposed to rain but instead the sun is beaming over us.

This is our last stop on this rather impetuous road trip. So far, we have explored three other places in Northern Spain. The first place was a very small pebble-covered beach in Costa Brava called Sa Tuna. After driving up hilly roads and across very sharp curves early on Friday morning, we finally stumbled upon this cozy little village tucked inside the hills of Costa Brava. It is quiet except for the waves softly rifting against the rocks in the background and there is outdoor seating at a small restaurant that overlooks the Spanish architecture-designed houses that sit on a hill near the water. I order a glass of wine. I heard about this place from a friend and I decided to take my mom since she is in town visiting. She is only in Europe for the weekend and that is enough time for a road trip, I thought.

During lunch, our Spanish waiter brought us blankets because the cold afternoon wind was a little too strong, and after our meal he offered us complimentary "chupitos" which we happily took. Normally I don't take shots, but these were the type you could willingly sip on.

After having lunch, wine, chupitos, and exploring the mountainous area further up from the village, it was time to go to our next destination: Cadaqués, the artist district. Several artists had lived in and visited this small town, including surrealist Salvador Dalí, so we walked up to the small village next to the town where Dalí' kept a home. Later in the afternoon, I sat and had a coffee across from the shoreline. Cadaqués felt more Mediterranean than all the other places I've visited with its smell and the architecture and the harbor. As I walked through the narrow streets passing vine-covered houses with bright colored doors I understood why so many artists gained inspiration from their stay here.

After Cadaqués, we drove a little further up to Port De La Selva, where we would spend the night. It was a town about 20 minutes away on the northern coast of Cap de Creus. A fishing port, mostly, but in the morning we woke up for the sunrise and we walked up the village and came across a more remote part of the town. We walked across rocks that enveloped crystal clear waters. We watched the sun come up on a hill draped by pink flowers.

We had breakfast shortly after, at an outdoor café that overlooked the water. I had toast and a coffee and freshly squeezed zumo de naranja and then we were back on the road toward our next destination: France.

We drove to France on a very winding road tucked inside the mountains that towered over us. It was only about a 45 minute drive from where we were staying, and we pulled over once we were on the border. The town we found was Collioure, which is in Southern France but also a part of the Catalan culture. I fell in love with it the moment I stepped out of the car. The bright-colored architecture, pebble covered streets and clear, blue waters. As I walked around and heard people speaking, I heard no english and that comforted me. There was no tourism. Still, everybody was so friendly even if it was difficult to communicate.

We stayed in this town for most of the day doing nothing in particular. We walked through narrow streets past creperies and shops and cafés, we took a nap on the sand facing the water underneath the sun, we walked across the bell tower overlooking the entire city, we ate dinner outside, and we explored the entire town stopping regularly to take it all in.


Puerto De La Selva


Collioure, France

Since this part of France is a part of the Catalan culture, they were celebrating Sant Jordi as they were in Spain, so we got a little preview of the holiday. Sant Jordi is the most romantic day of the year in this culture, particularly Barcelona. It is a day of roses and books similar to our Valentine's Day. Books and flower stands are set up throughout the city and traditionally couples exchange gifts: a book for the man and a rose for the woman. I walked across a small street that was framed by different stands and people surrounding them, and I could smell the scent of roses as I watched people pick up books in French and give them to their loved one. I felt a strange kind of happiness.

I have a certain attachment to Europe that might never go away. Right now I am back in the city and I am writing from my favorite café and I am thinking of the way everything is so alive here, of how we are constantly celebrating life, and I am thinking of how loneliness doesn't really exist. I have a certain attachment to this way of life. It's going to be hard to say good-bye, but now I know how easily I am able to adapt to new environments.

Collioure, France
Puerto De La Selva

Sunday, April 17, 2016

DAY TRIP TO MONTGAT

Montgat, Barcelona

Montgat, Barcelona

In Barcelona, it feels like summer. I have spent the week sitting cross-legged on the sand, listening to the ocean, drinking red wine outside with friends, taking day trips, dancing to Spanish music under flickering neon lights, and taking in as much of the city as I can.

I used to be afraid.

Afraid of crowds, of cities, of people. The bustling, scuttling rush of bodies heaving and panting and roaming the streets, darting past you. I used to try to find some solace and pause to the chaos in small, empty cafés or in my own home. Yesterday I roamed the streets with two other girls - like we do every Saturday afternoon - and close to the beach in Barceloneta we stumbled upon a large group of skateboarders. In the middle of that street, surrounded by a swarm of people, we watched skaters compete, passerby's rooting them on, it almost felt as if the entire city collided together to join in on this arbitrary event.

I felt light. I thought about how the city is like this: spontaneous, free-spirited, frivolous but in a good way. Everywhere we go, we watch all of the people. There is always something happening. On the beach, the women are topless. Bodies aren't sexualized. Routine is non-existent. Everything is acceptable. You, in all your quirks and scars and flaws, are admired. I looked around and thought about how different and the same we all are.

Today when I met up with my friend for drinks, we ended up with a group of people from all over the world. We all joked about how you can never plan anything in Barcelona - something that you didn't expect to happen always does. We talked about languages, countries, people, and our relentless admiration for the city.

I don't know if I want to live in a city forever; sometimes I like the mountains, the ocean, the quiet. It feels good to feel like a part of something, but sometimes it feels good to get away from it, too.

On Friday we took a day trip to Montgat, a different beach that is only a train ride away. It was recommended to me by a student I tutor because there is less tourism there. When we got there it was like a small village. We wanted to have a picnic but as we looked around at the vacant, tiny streets we thought there might not even be a market around here. Then we finally saw someone walking around with grocery bags so we asked them where the nearest market was and he walked us to a small shop. They didn't have much, but they had baguette and beer and that was perfect. We spent the entire day eating sandwiches on a clear, vacant beach.

Lately I have been afraid of feeling like I am missing out. All of my experiences so far have made me crave even more of them, discern in more self-discovery, and I wonder if I will feel this full after my journey is over, or if I will constantly want to seek out new things. The thought of that scares me.




Tuesday, April 5, 2016

LETTING GO


"Happiness, most of the time, is just moments. Only a few moments. And most of the time, we lose them."

It has been a few days since I've written; it has been a few, strange days. It has been warm and the sun has lit up the city and we have woken up for the sunrise. It has been rainy and dreary and we have had to say some good-byes. I have met some new people. I have welcomed Spring. And right now, sitting glassy-eyed under brick ceilings, I have accepted change.

A few days ago, I hugged two roommates good-bye before one of them got on a plane back to the states and the other set off on a two week long traveling journey before going back to the states. It's bittersweet for them, I guess. Parting with this side of the world but also returning to their roots, to familiarity, to where they find themselves at home. One of them, I think, will stay home for a while and then find herself traveling again in the future. The other will marry the love of her life in just a few short months. I don't know where I'll be.

Yesterday on the metro, I thought about what is familiar to me. I thought about happiness and comfort. I didn't think of just one thing. I thought of my old apartment in Florida, drinking wine and dancing around alone in my room. I imagined myself there, not remembering all the details, not knowing what was happening in my life at the time - whether I had worked that day, if I was dating someone, if I had enough food in the fridge for the week. I only remember the way the afternoon sunlight flickered in my room and the way the music reverberated across the hall and me, dancing. In that moment, I didn't know. I didn't think of all the details.

A few days ago I sat with friends outside in the heart of the city at Barcelona's biggest market fest, Palo Alto. There was food, art, music, drinks, dancing, and there were people everywhere. As I sat and listened to a Spanish woman sing covers of familiar songs and watched everyone surrounding her, sitting in groups or alone, singing along, dancing, engulfed in the moment and laughing with everybody around them, and the sunlight beaming on all their faces, I thought about it again. Maybe this is happy. Maybe it's about moments; feeling alive in different parts of the world. Maybe these moments don't last, and life resumes, and the weight of expectation finds you - but at least you have this.

I have learned a lot about myself while I've been here, and I want to continue learning and growing, no matter where I am or where I end up. I think that the weight of the world and our burdens is an inevitable force that ultimately becomes a routine we don't even see coming. That's okay, too. This is the journey.


Monday, March 14, 2016

NOSTALGIC FEELINGS

Rome, Italy

I miss driving. Not on the highway on the way home from work. Not passing palm trees or lamborghinis or buildings or shopping malls. I miss the back roads and the green grass, the barren fields, the music blaring from my stereo. I miss the colors changing in my old town in Frederick; the way the leaves painted the sidewalks orange. I miss the hills in the road and reaching my arm out my window, swaying back and forth with the wind.

A short moment of tranquility.

I even miss the hill-less Florida streets and the warm air that enveloped me in my favorite hideaway in the mornings. Home is a strange thing, especially when all you want to do is leave it. Missing it is strange after you've been away. But I know that I'm going to miss it here when I'm gone. There is something about the familiar and the unfamiliar resonating inside of you all at once that creates a kind of nostalgia that you can't really shake. I am torn between wanting to be lost and wanting to be found.

But you can't find someone who is constantly running.

The past couple of weeks have been spent meandering around Barcelona because I haven't had any money to travel. Even in my relentless adventure-craving state, I love where I live and there's a lot I hadn't yet explored. Me and the other girls spent the entire day on the search for different bars and cafés for craft beer and attractive atmospheres. We ate cheap steak and potatoes and shared a bottle of wine in our favorite restaurant.

Sometimes my favorite part of traveling is simply this. Exploring the different areas of the city. Trying different food and beer and coffee. Striking up a conversation with the barista or waiter. Learning how people live here, or how they got here, or how much you actually share in common.

Sometimes it's just walking around by yourself, not necessarily towards a specific destination, but just for the sake of walking. And saying "yes" to everything because you don't really have anything else to lose.

Because you never really did, anyway.

In a way, it has taught me to live more simply. The Europeans don't let their entire lives revolve around their career or the conventional way of doing things. Sometimes we are so harsh with ourselves for not having enough "accomplished" or not being in a place we thought we'd be by now. Our friends, they must have it all figured out with their endless promotions and their newborn babies, but there really is no right way of doing things.

Last night, I remember saying to someone how I have no idea what I'm going to do or where I'm going to be a month, three months from now.

Their response: Yeah, isn't that kind of awesome though?

London Streets

Saturday, March 12, 2016

CIAO, ROME!

Rome, Italy

Rome was as beautiful as I expected it to be: the small, architectural crowded streets that enveloped the city as I walked past the different restaurants and museums and monuments that made me want to stop in awe surrounded me. I am in love with the Italian language and it is something I now want to become fluent in. My roommates were very good at navigating. Our itinerary was so thought out that the weekend felt as if we had been there for so much longer than we were. We saw everything (as tourists, that is) like throwing coins into the notorious wishing fountain and touring the colosseum and palatine hill where the view from the top exposed almost the entire city. It was our first and probably last trip together. Most of the girls are getting ready to go back home which makes me kind of sad because we have gotten so close since I came out here. I didn't expect to meet people as wonderful as these girls I now call my roommates and friends, and it's kind of bittersweet. We are all so different in so many ways but we share a passion for travel and adventure and independence. 

A few days before I left for Rome, I traveled to London to meet up with a friend that I've been in "online" contact with for almost four years now. When I stepped outside of the airport and into the train that took me into the city, it was just as I imagined it would be. I listened closely for English accents. I watched intently from the train window, noticing the buildings, the streets, the people. There was an instant bond with the girl I met up with as we went from pub to pub. It's surreal to think that a year ago I imagined myself here and looking at my surroundings now, I almost don't believe it. I have seen and experienced so many things that I have only dreamed of in the past and all I want is to continue to experience more. I have learned that you can make connections with people everywhere, that everything is temporary, and the world isn't as scary as it is big-- and yes, I plan to see it all.






Rome, Italy

In many places like these, it is easy to get caught up in all the "touristy" areas so when it's time to try some local, authentic food it's easy to stumble upon the attractive and touristy restaurants: don't do this. Luckily, while walking in Rome we happened upon a local little restaurant and decided to give it a shot - mostly because we were so hungry and tired from walking. Relentlessly craving pasta and wine, we got whatever looked more delicious and a pitcher of red wine. We ended up staying 2-3 hours there eating and drinking. The pasta (and the wine) were probably the best we ever had and our Italian waiter became our friend and offered us dessert which we gobbled up after our meal. Then our waiter invited us to a club that night (the best "club" in Rome). I am not a clubber, but of course we went for the experience and he brought along some of his Italian friends. The next day it was an early awakening for more adventures. This trip definitely seemed like more than just a weekend.

I am slowly letting go of a lot of things I once thought I couldn't live without. There are a number of things that I am experiencing right now in this moment that aren't going to last forever; like this apartment and the people I am sharing it with. The brick walls. The café next door. The metro ride to work. Cheap, fresh baguette in the morning. The laid-back lifestyle. Weekend traveling. Right now, on this large, suede couch enveloped by tall french-themed doors and the girls in the other rooms, in the heart of the city, I feel at ease and at home. Even if it is just temporary.



Tuesday, February 23, 2016

THE CITY IS ALIVE, AND SO AM I

Parc de Ciutadella

Yesterday we watched the sun get swallowed up by the Barcelona orange sky at Parc de Ciutadella, a park that is home of a zoo, museums, a small lake, the Parliament of Catalonia, and endless green space where all the free spirits gather to sing, dance, smoke, eat, paint.

Yesterday we sat in a cafe and drank wine in the middle of the afternoon, took pictures, and walked across the always lively city. I felt my first wave of melancholic homesickness, but it didn't last very long. I am beginning to fall in love with the crowded streets. I am beginning to fall in love with the train rides. I am beginning to fall in love with the idea of being permanently lost.

I have met the most kind-hearted human beings here and have forgotten what it felt like to feel trapped. I feel free and independent in my surroundings and within myself.

This morning, I woke up for yoga. I forgave.

At times it feels so surreal that I have to keep reminding myself to be awake and present and embrace it. No matter where I am or what I'm doing. However, there are moments where I start to feel and start to miss things from my past and memories I can't erase but it comes and goes in passing waves and heaves around me.

I am learning to embrace the "now" and realize that it's okay to yearn for something that I cannot have in this very moment but can live without. I am living for myself this year. Someone said I needed to leave to find myself, and they were right. I needed to experience the captivating and extraordinary way of life in a different place. I needed to surround myself with people who appreciate the same things that I do and to escape somewhere I felt I didn't belong. I needed to adjust myself to a new way of life and mold myself to fit into my surroundings, to do things differently, to wake up early in the morning for yoga rather than in the middle of the afternoon to sulk. To allow myself to get lost in a big city that I am not used to and not be afraid of it.

And yes, I can adjust my mind to think like this anywhere. But the experiences are not the same. I am not finished with seeing the world or discovering myself in every single part of it.

Tomorrow, I head to London!