MON. JULY 13 – THURS. JULY 16: Day 35-38
I don’t want to go back to the U.S. I mean, I know returning is inevitable, but I don’t want to go back into my comfort zone. I am frightened all of my progress and growth here will vanish. I refuse to go backwards. I don’t want to go back to who I was. I’m comfortable here and have adjusted to the new lifestyle. I like who and I am and who I’m becoming.
Though, I’ve realized that all the stories and all the memories are not going anywhere. As long as they are with me, I won’t be the same person. (Oh goodness! I sound like Nicolas Sparks).
It’s just weird to think I will own stories I cannot ever properly tell. That’s why I take photos, I suppose, so I don’t have to be the one telling all the stories.
Here are two of the most impactful stories I’ve been told thus far (verbatim):
Age 25. Waiter. Florence, Italy.
“I was a bully growing up because I was bullied. I was a fat kid. I started doing judo, but in judo, you are paired not by your belt color or your age, but by your weight, so I was always paired with people bigger than me and I was never picked first. It sucks never being picked first.
During competition, I said, ‘Screw you’ and I quit. Then, I joined a team sport — rugby. My best friend, who would always pick on me, asked me why I never defend myself and slapped me. So I picked him up and did a judo move on him. I ripped his pants.
Why do people pick on people weaker than them? They are already at a disadvantage. Why do you want to be stronger than someone weaker? You should want to be stronger than those stronger than you.
If anyone bullies you, Laurie, I want you to react. I don’t care if they are bigger than you; break their face.”
Age 36. Sculptor. Florence, Italy.
“Many things make me happy. Do the things I like, be with people, and be good. Good…feel healthy. These three things. I like to do my work, go to the seaside, to the river…these are all the physical things. Dance and also visit other places and people.
My work is inspired directly from my life. The moment where I am. For instance, now I am doing this project on me, the relation with my father, and change. My father passed away a few months ago. It’s always like this. From the moment where I am, what I am doing, the relations, especially my feelings. I like to express this. *points to his heart*
Art is important because it’s communication of things like this. It brings new ideas and opens the mind.”
The moment where I am.
The sentence structure doesn’t sound right, but I love how he said it.
For some reason, I could have guessed what he was going to say just by looking at his eyes.
I think people who speak another language other than their native language makes the language so…new. For example, when an Italian speaks English with me, and does it brokenly, it shows me the English language in a way I’ve never heard it.
I think this has to do with the fact that the language is simplified, and most sentences don’t translate exactly. It brings out the child-like quality in people, which makes it easier to connect to them.
I texted a friend from The States tonight, “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”
Whether or not I actually was, it was the kind of happiness that made me cry. I had the most magical time with some of the most beautiful souls I have ever seen in my life.
I met up with my friend Marco and he took me to aperitivo with a group of his friends.
Literally, aperitivo is a pre-meal drink whose purpose is to stimulate appetite, but it has come to signify the ritual of going out for a drink and small plates, giving you a chance to socialize and relax while snacking before dinner.
I think the culture in Europe is so social that they can’t fathom being alone. Everything is a social event; even eating is spread out to hours and hours of socializing. Italy is particularly more friends/family oriented, which I think is amazing, but something I’m not used to.
These are the people I met tonight. I’d like to introduce you to…
Michele di Napoli
(Michele from Naples)
Alice di Firenze
(Alice from Florence)
Deborah di Firenze
(Deborah from Florence)
Elena di Arezzo
(Elena from Arezzo)
Pedro di Portugale
(Pedro from Portugal)
Roberta di Firenze
(Roberta from Florence)
Nicola di Napoli
(Nicola from Naples… who said “I don’t like my face.” How could anyone not love a face like this?)
Lucca di Torino
(Lucca from Torino)
Ilenia di Salerno
(Ilenia from Salerno…who says “Oddio!” frequently, which means “Oh God!)
Stefania di Umbria
(Stefania from Umbria)
Marco di Firenze
(Marco from Firenze)
Alessandro di Napoli
(Alessandro from Naples)
So, why did I cry out of joy? Disregarding the fact that I am sensitive to emotion, it was because nobody assumed I was “just another American.” Everyone at the table welcomed me with loving, out-stretched arms and even though I was the only one who spoke English, I somehow was able to still communicate with everyone. Even without opening my mouth and solely listening to their conversations, I felt such a warm, glowing orb of peace around my body like an overcoat.
I didn’t have to worry about sticking out like a sore thumb. Tonight, I was one of them. I was an Italian. I wasn’t a stranger, but a friend.
I’m so happy that they could be in the galaxy that is my life, even if they’ll only pass through like shooting stars, briefly, but with enough force to make a difference.