Archive for the 'Italia' Category

Never Like This

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Hours of work had been getting longer and I’d been sleeping less, but after almost a month of agonizing over whether to go to Morocco with my Sister or Amsterdam with the studio I had finally come to a decision.

I would do both. Plus I would go to Rome.

Two of the other interns had been working on these columns for the Rome show and it was assumed one of them would attend one of the artists to set it up. Once I heard the show was happening in the beginning of April (Morocco and Amsterdam were both set to happen during the second and third week) I offered to go in exchange for missing the first weeks of set up in Amsterdam.

So there I was standing in the shower trying to remember how to conjugate Italian verbs and wondering if I needed to pack anything other than work clothes. As I’ve mentioned before, I have a special relationship with Italy. I studied and lived there, learned Italian, and planned to move there before a weekend trip to Berlin changed things. I knew it would be wonderful to be back in a place where I could understand the language and see a culture I admire but I was a bit nervous, like seeing an ex that knows you better than your current love.

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We ended up working the entire time we were there, no sleeping, and certainly no time for idle chat or reflection. I left Ed behind to continue working and only in the last moments en route to the airport did I start to realize how strange it felt to be returning home to Germany from Italy. While I was chatting with one of the women at the gallery I told her I had once planned on moving to Rome but changed my mind for Berlin. She paused and nodded her head, “you made the choice that was right.”

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I made my way back to Berlin alone, drifting between dream filled sleep and deep reflection.  It seemed so wrong to be returning home on a two hour flight away from Italy but, to be honest, it felt so good to go back home to Berlin.

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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.

La Festa e La Gattina

The Au Pair job was turning shady and I soon realized the offer was indeed to good to be true.  Everything had seemed great, they sent a contract through the agency and when I checked with the agency they said it sounded legit.  But then I started asking more questions, wanted some photos, some back round, etc.  That’s when I stopped getting answers and was urged to fly to London as soon as possible.  We’ll buy you the ticket, just fill out this Visa application.  Shady.  Sketchy. No go. I found some reassuring words here though.

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So it was decided for me in a way, Berlin it would be.  Now I just had to get together the courage to leave my Sisters comfy apartment, jump not knowing if I’d land on my feet.

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While getting together this confidence I distracted myself with more knitting, the gattina (kitten-who I was quickly falling in love with), and a fabulous dinner party for a classmate’s boyfriend.

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Instead of gifts Anthony (above with the fabulous belt buckle) requested everyone bring something they had made that everyone could enjoy.  Being that most of the group is foodies that meant a lot of excellent food, including some wonderful Spring rolls by Jennifer and an delicious Almond cake by my Sister.  I brought my Polaroid and Nikon to document the events and give the Polaroids to Anthony.  Others wrote poems, brought artwork, and one woman performed belly dancing for us.  It was pretty excellent.

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After the dance I stepped outside for a minute, I got to meet Anthony and Rani’s neighbor who works for the Parma Gazette.  He showed me all of his photos and we chatted a bit in Italian.  It was really refreshing to see someone my age working as a photographer in Italy.

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Then, back inside, we all started dancing, even those people who hate dancing, and the apartment seemed to swell with smiles and new friendships (if only for that night).

Now What?

Parma was wonderful but I had nothing to do.  So I rested and tried to catch up on things.  I started emailing people about apartments in Berlin, laying out a map on the floor and reading about ex-Pats advice for getting a German Visa.  I started smoking again and knitting like a maniac.

Some highlights from my Parma trip:

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Snow storm the day after I arrived with huge puffy snowflakes that made my Sister and I say “this snow is crazy” a few more times than necessary.

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The view from my Sisters apartment window, which I know I’ve photographed before and will probably photograph again.  Something about those chimneys and the window that I love but can’t seem to capture quite right.

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This is the beer bar in Parma, Mastiff, where Christiana (the best bar tender ever) jokes with my Sister, Kate, and I.  We went there a few times during my stay and always ended up meeting new people.  I loved it here because I was able to have a beer, get comfortable, and speak Italian.  It was nice to talk to people, tell stories, learn new words, and stop over thinking it long enough to really speak.  We talked about religion, art, love, history, and of course food.

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I took a lot of long walks, catching up on This American Life, and generally going through the cycle of excitement, anxiety, cynicism, astonishment, and butterflies that comes with figuring out my life.dsc_0896 I had an offer from London thrown into the mix, to be an Au Pair for a little girl.  It paid really well, with health insurance, and a place to stay.  I felt like kind of a jerk.  Hadn’t I just felt so wonderful about starting a life in the art world in Berlin? The scent of cash and job security was really making me put all that on hold? Then again it was a great offer, Berlin would still be there in a year.

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In the midst of all this, Jennifer (my Sister’s room mate) found a kitten in the back courtyard of their apartment.  She was limping and cold and even though they aren’t supposed to have animals we took it in for the night.

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!
Wurzburg to Munchen
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.
Munchen to Verona
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.

My Friend Barbara

I’ve arrived in Germany!

After I got to Frankfurt and figured out how to call Barbara from a German pay phone I was on a train to Wurzburg where Barbara met me at the train station.  Wurzburg isn’t a huge city but it has wonderful public transportation, very friendly people, and Barbara was telling me even though there are a lot of young people there’s hardly any crime.  “It’s like a village even though it is larger.”

I met Barbara in Italy when I was studying at Il Sillabo.  She’s fluent in Italian and was working at a school outside Florence for about 5 weeks before returning to Wurzburg to finish school.  Now it is near impossible to explain a person in one blog post so I will use photos and my favorite Barbara story.

Around the time Barbara and I went to Rome, just after meeting each other we came across the inevitable question; “Why Italy?” Well it turns out Barbara is a very Italian name and Barbara’s mother named her after a little Italian girl she used to care for so besides that connection (and loving the culture and language) there was also a room in her house.  “We call the room Italy.  Since I was little, because it is where we keep our things for the beach and we would go to Italy for summer vacation.”  Now the room is still filled with storage things, skis, etc.  But the whole family still calls it Italy.

“I have to go to Italy and grab something real quick”

“I think it’s in Italy”

“I forgot we put our bikes back in Italy, I’ll go get them”

Isn’t that fantastic?  I certainly love it, and to hear Barbara tell of it and see her smile grow. it’s really quite nice.  Not only is she a very sweet person, all of her friends have been kind too.

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The first day I was a bit jet lagged so we just took a walk along the river and stopped at a park to walk across the pond.  The day before I arrived they got snow, Barbara says that Wurzburg usually doesn’t get much but this year it’s been colder than usual.  We went to the Mensa later (more on that in another post) for dinner where I met Ande, Barbara’s boyfriend.  Then I fell sound asleep in my comfy little bed next to the heater and slept soundly for the next 10 or so hours.

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I can’t tell if it’s jet lag or if something really life changing is about to happen

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From Florence to Frankfurt

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Frankfurt Airport

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Seatac Seattle to JFK New York

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Logan Airport Boston (the only airport I’ve ever seen with large rows of white rocking chairs)

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Boston to Dublin

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Dublin to Frankfurt

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Frankfurt Train Station

It Felt Like Years Disguised as Moments

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Saturday Market in SGV

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The best restaurant in SGV, Osteria D’Angelo.  My eyes are all a twinkle cause I was close to tears saying goodbye.

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Oh how much we grew, my fast growing plant friend

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When I got to SGV this was two teeny tiny little streams

Nell’Amore con un Paese

In Love with a Country

I leave for Seattle early Monday morning.  It’s Friday.  Italy and I both know it’s coming but we have our cappucino and cornetto like it’s any other day.

Italy and I have had an ongoing love affair for quite some time.  Sometimes Italy is like the love I know isn’t going to pan out; we keep taking each other back even though we’ve witnessed the long awkward pauses before responding to questions about our future together.  After a weekend in the country side I feel I would be content to give up on my career dreams to have a small house and a job waitressing in a small town just so Italy and I could be together.  Then something reminds me of why that can’t be, like Berlusconi and his suntan comment.  Ugh, sometimes I feel like I don’t even know you Italy.

I go to my parents for a while and hope that Italy wises up while I’m away.  My friends say you can’t change a country but I know deep down it’s such an amazing place, just a little stuck in the past, if only it would stop following every bit of advice from it’s friend Vatican City.

So I await the grand gesture which usually comes in the form of fate or gut instinct.  When all of a sudden everything in my life lines up again for me to go back to Italy; and really wasn’t I happier when we were together?  So what if Italy is a bit conventional, I don’t mind when a guy helps me with my luggage and often times I miss such rituals when I’m back with the states.  And sure England has more money and my Mom likes it more but that’s no reason to love a place.

And what about America, the one I grew up with?  Or France my first love, from when I was younger and wore my heart on my sleeve.  Plus there’s always other places in the sea, I mean I never went on that date with Japan and sure Germany was a bit callous on that first trip but maybe I just need to get to know it better.  Maybe finding love with a place isn’t one of those things you can force, some people say they tried for years then one day they realized it was right in front of them all along.  That place you spend the rest of your life with.

Part of me really thought Italy could be the one though, maybe I was fooling myself.  The other day while I was packing my bags and sipping some Chianti Classico one of our songs came on, Mina “Parole Parole Parole.” Oh Italy, how can I leave you? And sure we say we’ll get back together when the timing is better but everybody says that when they leave a country.

dscn0127Back in 2005, so young, so in love with Italy

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photo-144My first day in San Giovanni Valdarno

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I suppose time will tell but I know I’ll always think back fondly on our time together.  Ciao per adesso il mio Amore.

On the Way Home

The train was crowded, twenty minutes inritardo (late), and near silent.  Everyone seemed to be simultaneously lost in thought. I was half standing half perching on my suitcase facing the profile of a tall man with a gray sweater and legs that stretched out into the aisle.  In his lap a little girl laid limp, her curls slightly matted to her fore head in a way that only happens in deep sleep.  His wife stirred and decided to grab her coat which was tucked between them.  He shifted this way and that to help her while the little girl just flopped a bit revealing the two slightly damp spots she’d left on his sweater.

He looked like the type of man that doesn’t speak much more than when necessary or when it really suits him.  His jeans were dark, fitted, but not too tight and even though the situation seemed comfortable beyond the point of worrying too much about your appearance his collar was starched and his shoes were a combination of dress and casual, black with a purposefully shaped toe.  He seemed very Italian but perhaps with close German cousins.

The little girls curls slipped delicately through his hands and wrapped behind her ear.  He brushed away some crumbs on her cheek, gave a habitual glance to his wife and other daughter, then continued to stare ahead.

Suddenly I was happy to be going home next week.  I stopped thinking of lists and felt my thumb brush over my fingertips.  I want to sit on my couch at home, tuck my feet under my thighs and glance at my family without thinking too much.  It’s those moments that are so comfortable and well worn that you are constantly too close and too far from recreating them.

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