Archive for the 'American' Category

No Place Like It

Oh Home.

Nothing like that feeling that washes over you when you go back to where you came from, it’s like a sigh of relief with a tinge of regret.  While I was in DC I had a chat with a fellow Islander that’s also moved around and done a lot of traveling, we exchanged the knowing head nod about Whidbey.  We talked about how there’s always a bit of an urge to go back there especially since we both have a bit of uneasiness about where we are now, which changes pretty frequently.

“If a place was like something you wore, Whidbey would be sweat pants.  It’s so comfortable and it’s nice to wear them every once and a while but you know I just can’t wear them all the time.”

Visiting is so different, you already know a few months down the road you’ll find yourself with longing for this place again.  I try to soak it up, especially in the summer which is the best time for visits.  I try to go night swmming at least once, hang out with my family as much as I can, and spend a little quality time with the place I never remember not knowing.

This visit was short, too short, but I got a chance to do a hike with my Mom, take Liam to swim class, pet the dogs, help with a Brunch my Mom put together to celebrate Annexea graduating from 8th grade/my parents anniversary, get ridiculously sun burned with Katya and Ashley on Double Bluff, and spend a night in Seattle with Miss Jessica.

After swapping out some clothes and sighing at all my things in boxes I packed my bag again and headed for New York.

Never in the Same Place

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Ok, so by now I’ve done this a few times.  No big deal.  You live abroad in another culture for a while and coming back to your own is a little less comfortable than you thought it would be.  It’s like the senses are heightened for a bit; all of a sudden you can understand the conversations going on around you, there’s no need for the just checking that we understand one another pause after talking, and the magazines and books well they are everywhere and it feels like someone has put them there just for you. But then you’re back and you remember what it’s like and your old habits come quickly, pretty soon you’re talking fast and not paying much attention to things unless they’re in front of you.

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After my first four months abroad in Florence I flew out to Amsterdam then Detroit then Seattle.  I remember being so confused when I went to grab a cart in Detroit customs and realized you had to pay.  What?! No that’s not right, how am I supposed to have American money let alone four quarters? They’d been free in Amsterdam and Florence, pfft, America.  Then I went out into the domestic flights terminal and wondered if there was some sort of bacon convention going on.  It smelled awful and it seemed like the majority of people around me were terribly overweight.  Friends laughed when I told them and then we’d be back in comfortable conversations like; listing all that’s wrong with the US and how Bush made us want to move abroad.

The next time I wasn’t very phased at all.  I cursed the carts and patted myself on the back for checking all my luggage (this was the time that all my luggage was lost from Dec 17th until Christmas).  I over eagerly eavesdropped and accidentally said ‘grazie’ instead of thanks which recieved skeptical glares.  Right.  Then I raced home to be with my family, cook in a kitchen I knew, and watch Law and Order reruns at my leisure. But that was short and sweet, I savored what American things I could then headed right back overseas.

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This time is different. Maybe it’s because I assumed I knew how to handle it and it caught me off guard or the that I didn’t go back to my hometown first, or that I was coming from Germany instead of Italy, or that this is the first time I didn’t feel conflicted about leaving, or everything, maybe it’s everything.

First I forgot my own currency for a minute and had to remind myself that we no longer use fifty cent pieces, I mean it’s been a while but come on, then days later I find myself at a mall where I feel like some sort of alien sent to observe; I touch everything and have to stop myself from gawking at mother and daughter shopping teams, and awkward groups of teenagers.  The strange thing was a lot of people looked just as confused as me, searching for answers or comfort by buying something from the sale section. I used to love to hunt for things while shopping but even later on my visit in New York of all places I find myself overwhelmed and kind of repulsed by it.  It even hit me on Whidbey, I started pulling out my camera in those touristy places I’ve seen people take the same pictures in all my life, suddenly I had a great need for my own.

I’ve always felt I was pretty quick to adapt.  I don’t get grossed out that easily, I can convince myself that things are going to be alright long enough to stay calm through the things that aren’t, and when I can’t handle things on my own I can be open to trusting the compassion of strangers.  However, I’m starting to feel this lost feeling that doesn’t go away.  I suppose when you feel like you can acclimate to anywhere it’s most difficult to realize there’s nowhere you don’t have to adjust.

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Before America

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Lunch with Sister at the festival.

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Moving out

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Indecisive weather for weeks

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The Icing on the Cake

It’s always nice to see someone who knows you from a different part of your life in a completely new place. Erin and I met in college, shared many bottles of wine together, a couple trips to New York, and those long conversations that never quite feel finished.

After school she moved to London to get her Masters in Photography at Sotheby’s.  This was the same time that I moved to New York, around January we were both feeling a bit lost.  So I went to London for a visit.

This visit was like coming full circle, last time it had been cold and unsettled with lots of wondering.  This time there were answers and specific destinations, favorite things to do, and people to meet, plus the sun shined the whole time.  Plus, something I always love to be around, everyone was just so grateful to be having the experience.  Pure happy.

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Word.

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Leibovitz Lecture

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Last week I had some amazing luck and ended up with a ticket to the sold out Annie Leibovitz lecture at the C|O Berlin where her retrospective is up, “A Photographer’s Life.”  The space was beautiful and walking past the giant line felt pretty great, turns out Germans love her; I saw a “Willkommen Annie” cover story on at least 3 big newspapers the day she arrived.

I know a lot of photographers don’t feel this way.  My room mate, for one, who was her first assistant for many years back in the 90’s.  Fortunately for me he didn’t really feel like going (apparently she can be more than rude on set) and thus I ended up with his ticket.  A lot of other photographers who have never actually worked with her, like me, kind of cringe about her because she’s become one of those names.  You know, like Ansel Adams or (more full on cringe here) Anne Geddes.   The type people who don’t know much about Photography mention whilst in awkward getting to know you conversations with a photographer.  I know I’ve had to surpress an eye roll on more than one occasion when people mention those names, it’s happened to the best of us.

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All that said when Leibovitz walked in, I stood on my tippy toes to see her and later on found myself taking as many photos as I could while she was nearby.  She’s a household name for a reason and although I still don’t get Anne Geddes I had a similar experience with Ansel Adams in which I went to a retrospective show and was floored by the beauty of his prints.  Sometimes there’s reason for the hype.

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Also, I just finished reading the late Susan Sontag’s journals “Reborn” and since Leibovitz and Sontag were partners I was interested to hear her talk about her.  When she did the audience went completely silent, more so as we watched this very powerful seemingly guarded woman grow a bit emotional as she referred to ‘loosing Susan.’

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“when we met she knew I could be better, I could’ve been a jerk or the work could’ve gotten better.  I never really could be the person she wanted me to be.  She had a high set of values.  I never felt like I could totally please her”

Apparently the “Women” book was Sontags idea, interesting fact.  I found the photos in the show of Sontag to be really beautiful.  I think it’s always telling to see the portraits the portrait photographer takes of their loved ones.  Leibovitz said that was the motivation for the show, after Sontag died she was looking through photographs of her believing in all their years together she’d failed to get any really great ones.

She went on to talk about the photograph of her Mother, from the Women book and how it has become so much more to her over the years.  Just before taking it her Mother had asked her not to make her look old and after when she showed her parents neither one liked it.

“We always had to smile for photos when I was younger, in the best and worst of times.  And my Mother always smiled in photos.  But, I began to distrust the smile, in my protraits you rarely see people smiling….later at the show someone came up to me and said ‘she looks as if she loves you in that picture'”

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It was nice to hear some of the anecdotes behind the photos I’ve referenced since I was 16.  And yes I have to admit I was a bit star struck; it’s hard not to be when you walk through the rooms of people she’s photographed.  I mean just to have met all those people is a pretty amazing feat.  I know I know, you can roll your eyes if you must.

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“as a photographer, my achilles heal: I like people to look good.”

Annie Leibovitz

The whole story of my new home

I’ve found an apartment that I really love.

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At first I looked for studios and one bedroom apartments, they were still cheaper than any rent I’d seen anywhere decent to live in New York and lately I’ve really been craving my own place.  A kitchen that I want to sit and sip coffee in, a hallway with artwork, and a bathroom that is not relatable to a dorm bathroom in any way.

Then I realized I’m moving to a new city where I don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone and I kind of freaked out.  The appointment I had with a realtor about an apartment that required a year lease and proof of income from the last six months, it didn’t help.  Plus most of the places just came with a bed or in some cases just a mattress, and sometimes a desk. So I started looking at the rooms/sublets page of Craigslist and after a week of not so great appointments I was about to buy a plane ticket back to the states.

It was raining and I had taken the wrong train and the directions I could’ve sworn I’d put in my day planner were missing.  How did I get here? What the fuck am I doing here? Argh. I missed my friends and knowing what street signs said and overhearing conversations.

So after six appointments that ranged from really nice to quite scary looking I ended up at what would be my final meeting.  It was in Prenzlaur Berg, lots of coffee shops, cozy restaurants, and a park.  The building was 17/18 and the bamboo plant near the door leaned a bit as if it was waiting to see who was coming out.  When K answered the door I realized how funny I must look.  I was soaked with flakes of snow and my glasses were so fogged I could barely see.  He offered me a cappucino. He was much older than I’d thought and in the hallway I noticed a bunch of kids drawings proudly displayed.

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view of the kitchen from the window

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kitchen from the other side

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living room

K is American; he moved here about 9 years ago and has 2 kids, Lucy (pronounced Lootzy) and Leon and his girl friend N runs a company that rents rooms and apartments to students and travelers.  The kids are here with him every other week.  I would be taking the room across from the bathroom towards the front of the house, currently Ross was living there, another American who’s doing his masters here in German History. He was set to move to another place at the end of February, I would stay in K’s room until then, and K who was going to Italy in two days with N would be gone for a week anyways.

When I told my Sister and my friends, I kind of sort of didn’t mention the kids.

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book shelf in the living room

So I’m 24, I consider myself an independent lady, I’ve lived away from home in a number of places and situations.  When I imagined my life in Berlin, it was very chic and sophisticated, going to the great parties and dating and being in the know about all those things I’m supposed to be in the know about.  I’d throw dinner parties and have minimalist art work on my walls and start wearing heels more often.  I’ve met the realization that I’m not this person many times, and I honestly don’t even want to be that person.  I like my disheveled collection of post cards and my to do lists and big unflattering sweaters.  And even though it is a bit difficult for me to admit to myself and my independent friends: I really like the idea of living in a home that reminds me that there are things bigger than my take on the world.

dsc_0005my room (for now) the one I will be in is bigger and white.  I’ll post photos at a later date

For right now, that is seeing kids (although not being responsible for their care) and living with someone who will ask me how my day was and being reminded that not only am I not only a hot 20 something artist but that the rest of the world isn’t either.

So there you have it, my new home, feel free to send me letters and postcards!  (just email me and I’ll be happy to give you my address).

You’ll Make Yourself Sick

At 11:36 I looked at the time on my cell phone.  I had already ignored the two alarms I’d set and by the looks of it my Sister had as well.  She was rolled up in the comforter next to me, her mouth a little open and sending out a shushing noise every other second or so. “Wha time issit?” Always surprises me the ease with which she can go from sleeping to functioning.

The previous night I surprised myself by getting into an argument in Italian, this has been a goal of mine since I decided to learn the language, this argument was about racism in Italy.  The two Sardinians were sitting across from me in the living room of a friend; M was just sitting back watching me with a slight grin but the other was laying out sentences that begged to be interrupted.  We switched between Italian and English and took sips of cheap wine between overly dramatic scoffs.

I jump in the shower not giving the day ahead of me much thought; I’d given it enough these past few weeks.  I felt like I was betraying someone by moving to Berlin.  Myself I suppose, I’d been answering questions for years with far off glances and sighs ending in smiles, and the answer had always been Italy. I had learned Italian, after all, I was finally being invited in to stay, and now I was going.

My head and my stomach ached; all I wanted to do was curl into a ball on the floor in the spot of sun from the window.  My Sister convinced me to eat, which was helpful later on the train when I was vomiting every half hour.  I think seeing it hit the tracks as we sped along made it worse.  I’m beginning to loath Trenitalia bathrooms.  I still love riding the trains though, listening in on conversations and simultaneously wondering about destinations with strangers.  I’m sure I gave the people sitting next to me plenty to wonder about.

When I arrived at the Milan Train Station I paced back and forth three times before making up my mind.  I would buy some bread, make myself eat it, and it will make me feel better.  I could only get two bites down.  My forehead had a layer of cold sweat and I’d never seen my hands shake like this.  The fresh air felt nice and I started to think the worst was over; I walked with a bit more confidence towards the bus.

Oh the bus.  It was like the fung wah or lucky star, except this bus had no bathroom and instead of Chinese food it smelled like bad cologne and olive oil.  I swallowed hard as I paid for my ticket.  If I wasn’t better and I was going to get sick again…NO I was all better, I would just sleep the whole ride and be fine.

Nope, I wasn’t fine.

While sitting amongst some of the most attractive men I’d ever seen on public transportation I, Lucy Huffman, while wishing as hard as I could to not puke, puked all over myself.  It was about a half hour into the ride.   The worst part was I was looking up when it happened, using some of my worst logic ever I had thought with my head up the puke would stay down.  Wrong.  Thankfully because I couldn’t eat it was only water and two bites of bread but, it was still puke and it had gotten on my face, on my coat, and a little in my lap.  Everyone was trying really hard not to stare at me.  Especially the really attractive guy sitting in front of me who I think, I shudder as I say this, may have gotten some on his sweater.

There is a moment just after something that embarrassing happens where everyone swallows the initial reaction to react.  I teared up and felt my face get hot, then stared at the ground to not think for a second.  Someone placed something on my knee.  All the men around me had gotten out their tissues; some people were passing them forward from the back.  I didn’t dare look up but I felt myself instinctively mumble ‘grazie.’

It wasn’t that bad, things like that rarely are for more than a few minutes.  I changed into an extra shirt I had in my bag and using a big bottle of water with the tissues I cleaned myself up.  Later, the guy in front of me turned around and asked if I was ok, my head tilted and nodded trying to say, ‘ok as a girl who just puked on herself can be.’  He seemed to regret asking and slumped back in his seat, I felt like telling him I was sorry but that just seemed silly.

Once we got to the airport, two and a half hours before my flight, I went to the bathroom and spent the next half hour changing, cleaning myself up, and making a long list of reasons why it wasn’t that bad.  I drank another liter of water and found some food that didn’t gross me out as well as a plastic bag for the flight, just in case. I was still pretty shaky but I felt better.

As I arranged my coat and bag in the plane I noticed a familiar face four rows back.  It was the guy that was sitting in front of me on the bus, the first to give me his tissues and ask me if I was ok.  He looked at me for a second and I feel like we both tried really hard to not have the bus experience be the reason we knew each other, but it was.  I winced.  He smiled a huge grin, then I smiled and we took our seats as the only two people on the plane laughing about the absurdity of the same moment.

15 Hours and 4 Trains Later

I left Wurzburg early on the morning after the inauguration of President Obama.  Every newspaper had my President on the front page and even though I had been feeling a bit disconnected watching everything from Germany I also felt so proud of my country.  You see that guy; you see that, yea I voted for him, that’s my President!
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The train was lovely, as all the German trains have been.  Automatic doors everywhere, signs in German, French, and English, and some of the nicest bathrooms I’ve ever seen on a train.  I settled in and read my book and a coffee, once we arrived in Munich I would switch to a train to Bologna and then another train for the short ride to Parma.
We stopped rather abruptly at a small town I don’t recall the name of; a woman got on and sat next to me.  Instead of starting again we stayed.  Twenty minutes passed.  They made a few announcements in German.  The nice woman next to me told me there was a problem with the “thing” and they were fixing it.  I’m pretty sure she meant the engine.  Forty minutes passed, another announcement, everyone grew still and no one made a sound.  I followed their lead and stared out my window wondering what the hell had just happened.
After a while the woman informed me a man had committed suicide by jumping in front of the train.  Oh.
We arrived at 11 instead of 9:30 and left the silent mourning for a stranger we all shared and tried not to think too much about it.  I had missed my connection so I went to get a new ticket and another coffee.
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They gave me new tickets and a voucher for 25 Euro off my next trip with them as an apology for the delay.  It felt weird to receive money because I was ‘inconvenienced’ by a man killing himself.
Verona to Milano
We were late arriving in Milan, I missed my connection but just took the next train heading there.  I had been feeling strange about going back to Italy while wanting to be in Berlin.  Would I get there and get sucked back into my love of everything Italian and not be able to leave? At that moment it didn’t seem so.  Compared to Germany the station was a mess, everyone seemed a bit more disheveled albeit in a very fashionable Italian way.  I knew I could just get on the next train to Milano without getting a new ticket, Italy didn’t care as much about that sort of thing.
The train was gross.  At one time this type of train was so exciting and new for me but now I just wondered what had ever appealed to me about it.  None of the three bathrooms I tried had toilet paper and instead of flushing there was just a giant hole where you could see the tracks whizzing by below.  And all the windows were smudged or had names carved into them.
Milano to Parma
I had been thinking and talking all about how great Italy was but once we were reunited it felt like an awkward car ride home from the airport where you start talking about the weather to someone who used to know everything about you.  Eavesdropping on conversations had lost it’s thrill and it was great to understand everyone again but something felt off.
Parma was warm compared to Germany.  I walked from the train station to my Sisters, with no need for directions.  Once I arrived it was hugs and stories, a plate of dinner ready for me, and a glass of wine before collapsing into bed with thoughts of what could come next flowing through my head.  Then I realized I hadn’t taken any photos today.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby.

When I first arrived in Wurzburg one of the things I noticed was these condom ads everywhere.  When I asked Barbara about them she said new ones are up all the time, no big deal, just a reminder to be safe with some statistics about the spread of AIDS.

I am trying not to be one of those people that travels to Europe and then comes back to the states and is so disgusted by all that is American and can’t stop talking about how much better everything is in Europe.  I know there are great differences in every place and I try to appreciate them rather than constantly compare them.  Having said that; America sucks at Sex Education and most European countries are much better.

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Condom machines are in front of most pharmacies; instead of in a sleazy bar bathroom (usually only the mens!?) or inside the planned parenthood.  These machines are not just in big cities either, this one below is in San Giovanni and it was one of many in the tiny town.

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I know I’m mosty just ranting here, but I wanted to share my thoughts.  Below I’ve listed some statistics and links to great articles I’ve stumbled across concerning sex, sex education, etc.  They are far more eloquent in their rants.

http://www.npr.org/

http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/

http://nymag.com/

http://www.unesco.org/

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On the Dutch Model, which teaches children at a young age to openly dicuss and ask questions (SO THEY KNOW) about sex:

To some critics who argue that “talking about sex gives children the wrong idea,” Jos Poelman of the Foundation for STD control has one answer. “Face the facts. We have the lowest number of teenage mothers [in Europe], and Dutch students do not start having sex at a younger age than their foreign counterparts.”

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Also Dan Savage is pretty much amazing and his podcast is free so if you don’t already listen to it you should start!

http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/SavageLove


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