trust and travel.

I knew I couldn’t leave Italy without a tour through the Italian countryside. So I convinced my sister to take me back to a castle where she did a vinegar tour and tasting when she first arrived in Florence. And to the castle did we go. Hoping to get a more “authentic” experience,  we hopped on a local bus and headed into the Tuscan countryside. After escalating the hustle of the city, the hills started to roll and fill with vines. It felt like a movie.
I was reminded of one of the most important tricks of travel on our way up to the castle: trust. An important trick of life, really. But especially important when traveling. We knew we we’re supposed to ride the bus for about 50 minutes to a stop named Greti. After leaving the city limits, the stops ceased to have names. So to ensure we got off at the right stop, I asked the woman in front of me. “La fermatta Greti?” The driver acknowledged by broken Italian and made a gesture to suggest that the stop wouldn’t be for a while. After another 10 or so minutes, I made eye contact with the driver. He must have seen the concern in my face because again he gestured, “not for a while still”. Five minutes later, he said, “Greti, la prossima”. Add I finally knew all along he was watching out for us, making sure that we got to our destination.
Trust yourself, and trust those who you ask for help- most of the time they will have your back. It is very refreshing when we finally understand that we are all just waking though life, ultimately each of us attempting to arrive at some final destination. Sometimes, we just need a little help getting there.

un cappucino, per favore.

I love the coffee culture of Italy. A cappuccino in the morning alongside a croissant or another pastry. In the afternoon, a simple caffé (espresso). No frills. No complex flavor profiles, no slow pour overs, just espresso. Sure, put sugar in it, if you want. If not, don’t. Drink it fast, drink it slow. Stand at the bar and have a conversation with the barista or move off to the side and read the paper. Pay afterwards. Just enjoy. 

from pisa to rome; the beginning.

(march 16th, 2014)
I sit here on a train at sunset passing through the Italian countryside. I see men smoking in their backyards, women washing clothes and hanging them out the window. For a while I saw the sea. I imagine a place where young Italian men and women jump carefree into the ocean. I hear Nona’s making pasta in the kitchen. I watch Nono’s helping to make sauce for the pasta; Nono’s just like Sergio I met on the plane over here. Sergio is an old Italian man, in his late 79’s I would assume. He is an Italian citizen and a Canadian citizen who has been in Toronto for the last few months with his children. He smelled of afternoon coffee and smoke; he coughed like it too. Although Sergio was a bit chatty, he did teach me a few things on the ride over. They include: 

Life’s not that easy, but it’s not easy for any of us.
When you have problems, leave them where they come from, don’t bring them with you.
One glass of wine with every meal is wonderful (read: necessary), just never get drunk. 
 
It’s Sunday evening and I sit here on this train dreaming that I could speak Italian. I did properly answer the question “En que carrozza siamos?” which I hope translates to “what car are we in?”. “Cinque”. But still, I’m left craving to know more.  I’m dying to know another language that is beaming with emotion, character, and passion. 
 
As I write this we’re passing by mountains. Foothills, a beautiful backdrop for the vineyard, olive trees, and other train cars I see. The little villages nestled in the foothills make me want to spend years here. They make me want to know the people who peer out the shutters, who sing Italian and cook garlic. They make me want to know the stories of the people of Italy. Good thing I’m here for a week to explore a lot of what Italy has to offer; people, language, food, and wine. and everything else i can only dream of.

on stories.

today i came to a simple conclusion. stories are important. 

and we’ll never hear stories if we don’t put aside our busy lives and just listen. i came to this realization today as i was waiting for my sandwich at whole foods. as usual, i asked for a suggestion, took the suggestion, and was looking forward to what today’s sandwich man would come up with. and then i pulled out my phone and started to check my email. 

and then i paused. i felt as though this sandwich man had something important to share. so i put my phone away and asked him a simple question. “how has your day been?.” 

“good, nothing special though,” he said. and then we started chatting. i asked him if he was a father and if he had any special plans for today. he said that he had no big plans, that his kids were far away right now: one in bangkok with her pilot boyfriend and the other somewhere else in the nation. “both of them called and let me know they were thinking about me, and that is what is important.” 

robert, today’s wonderful 60-something sandwich man told me a lot about his life. he grew up in DC and moved out here to denver when him and his wife separated because she had moved out here and he missed his kids too much to stay out east. he worked in restaurants for many years after school and had a graphic design business on the side. after a while, he went full time with his graphic design business and did a lot of work for many of his friends in the restaurant industry. i asked if he was still doing any design work and sadly, he said no. he said that when he started he was on the cutting edge of technology, he was a pioneer in the field and was very successful because of it. he said to go back into that field today would be tough. “i’ve got a lot to learn. but thankfully there is a three year program at metro state that i’ve looked into so, we’ll see.” 

i can only hope he gets back to doing what he is passionate about. there are too many people in this world not doing what makes them happy. [[“don’t ask what the world needs. ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – howard thurman.]] 

so, the moral of the story. put your phone away. ask questions. hear people’s stories. you’ll never know what simple or profound thing they will teach you about life.

craving.

as the year comes to a close, i have a lot of writing to do. academic writing, that is. writing that doesn’t let me express frustrations or excitement. writing that doesn’t let me express any emotions, for that matter. and i haven’t written here in a while, but i’ve been craving to. and so, as a classic method of procrastination, here goes nothing.

frustrations, as of late: i’m feeling lost in an overly competitive world. i’m feeling as though so many people around me are always competing. competing to be faster, better, stronger, and smarter. and i feel like i just can’t win. and it’s not that all i want to do it win, i just want to feel confident. i want to feel strong and i want to feel smart. but the external pressure drags me down. i am a true believer in encouragement and feel as though i spend so much of my time supporting and encouraging others and more often than not, it is not reciprocated. i’m learning to be strong and to continually encourage and support myself. i’m learning how to not get bogged down by the overwhelming amounts of competition around me.

excitement, as of late: i’m curious. i’m looking for passion. i’m looking to do something different. to be creative, to start something, to finish something. and i can’t put words on what this thing is that i’m craving. but it’s something very different than what i’m doing now. i’m excited to do more thinking about what this things is. i’m excited to have support in starting this and finishing it. and i’m excited to see where it will take me.

all i can ask for is a little support. a little encouragement, and lots of love. i know this is just a season of frustration and it will pass. also sometimes, it takes a little frustration for passion to emerge.

so here is to the end of a season of just that; an end to the frustration and the emergence of passion!

the hummingbird.

“legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. the hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.”

this quote was shared with me by a wonderful yoga teacher a few months ago. it has stuck with me ever since.

what a powerful creature, the hummingbird . let us be like hummingbirds; hovering and savoring each moment as it passes. let us remember that life IS rich and beauty truly is EVERYWHERE.

THEN and NOW.

this question from the daily prompt got me thinking today: do parties and crowds fill you with energy, or send you scurrying for peace and quiet?

ask anyone who knew me seven or eight years ago. they will tell you i am somewhat quiet, reserved, even a little shy. people will tell you i don’t like crowds. they will tell you stories of how i avoid public transportation, the mall of america, and concerts. some days, i may even avoid target. they will tell you airports are not my favorite places. they will tell you i am likely to spend weekend evenings at home. they will tell you i don’t like parties or talking to strangers.

well, they are wrong. that was THEN. this is NOW.

ask people who know me today and that is not what you will hear. people (hopefully) will tell you i love to explore. to try new things. to ride the light rail. [insert side note about a full ethnography on the light rail freshman year that entailed spending countless mornings riding the light rail back and forth, taking notes about the people who occupy the light rail during the morning and afternoon rush hours] people will tell you i like talking to strangers, staying in hostels, people watching in airports, and roaming malls, just because. thank the lord for this thing called transformation.

i cannot pinpoint an exact day when this change occurred, but it happened sometime during my two and a half years in the philippines. i am incredibly thankful for that opportunity and what it did to change my life. i now understand the power of people & the energy they can give me. i understand the importance of being able to work a room. the importance of networking, the importance of listening to stories – even if they are those of strangers. i understand my own ability (and need, frankly) to get energy from the people around me. and for that, i am thankful.

this change has been powerful in my life. i would not be where i am today if it were not for that/those moment/moments/years of transformation.

and regardless of this transformation, a part of me still sends me searching for peace and quiet after an evening in a big crowd (the introvert in me will never fully fade). i’m thankful for that, too.