Sunday, June 28, 2009

Chicago, Week 1

Greetings Comrades!

My summer Institute in Chicago is a jolting and often overwhelming experience. 18 hour work days, steaming heat (I've often sweat through my clothes by 7:30 am), high demands, and strained personal relationships have left me in a veritable pile of mush come Friday afternoon. I will refrain from touching too much on these subjects, as they only exhaust me further and talk about the good things that have happened this week.

*I have been slowly making connections and even friendships here. Though my life seems mostly disjointed and fractured, some shining faces are starting to poke through, helping me grasp and remember the things I like about myself. Other relationships are frustrating and overwhelming, but I am constantly forced to assess my own pitfalls and am being challenged to work on the areas of myself which quite honestly need some work.

*I got a sneak-preview of the students I will begin working with on Monday. They are bright, intelligent, and good-humored. I am excited to get to know them over the next four weeks.

*I managed to sneak in a gorgeous graphic novel read this week, which I highly recommend. It's called Portraits of Israelis and Palestinians for my Parents by Seth Tobocman. It felt good to access a higher level thought and empathy and to remind myself of the damaged world which I am slowly taking into my hands as I grow up.

*I found a group of fellow Corps Members to practice Yoga with. This morning we practiced for an hour in the grass outside our dorms at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The combination of the wind and the rushing L-Line helped me remember to hold concentration through adversity.

*I am constantly impressed with David. Our relationship continues to revive and energize me. I am amazed at how even short conversations refresh me from the worst moods and motivate me to keep working.

*My parents have been such an amazing support system. Their constant love and support, as well as their ability to remind and center me on my purpose in these five weeks and beyond.

*I have received the most amazing mail from the west coast!!! Keep it coming! The letters and postcards have been giving me that extra energy to push through every day!



Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tales from the Crypt: Library Vampire

These are the sorts of stories that makes me totally devastated to be leaving the Conservation Department of a large library.

Last week the Conservation Department received a stack of books with a handwritten note

Dear Library Supervisor,

X (a library patron) committed suicide. His body was discovered .
(police report #, coroner's report #)

We Found some books in his apartment which we are returning to you.

*Note: There was a lot of mold in his apartment. The books should be sanitized before being stored so other books aren't damaged.

J (his neighbor)

P.S. He gambled by day-trading on the internet and was penniless when he died.
You may find me morbid for enjoying this letter. I find it fascinating, and disturbing, and sad. I think his neighbor included the day-trader business to excuse his neighbor's estate from responsibility to the library.

The best part of the story is that one of the books, about vampires, had a disturbing reddish/brown stain penetrating the entire volume. Our supervisor declared that it was simply an intense coffee stain, but I'm not so sure. He seems a bit like a vampire himself, so he might be in on the conspiracy.

Here is my theory. I think "J" is a vampire who gorged on his neighbor in the stress of the lengthening daylight hours/the recession. Maybe he saw that "X" was on his case, researching vampires to betray his secret identity. Vampires are usually pretty classy, and respect culture and the arts, so he couldn't not return "X's" books. Prove me wrong.

Friday, May 15, 2009

May Flowers

I've been busy finishing school and saying a long, sweet goodbye to California. David and I have been busy catching all of the things I want to do before leaving, including:

1) A fun-filled day at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, complete with photo booth shots of our undying-cuteness.

2) Oakland A's games complete with beer and hot dogs (for me) and nachos (for him)

3) Nightlife at the California of Sciences. Cool fish and more expensive alcohol than you could shake your leg at. We both liked the albino alligator the best.

4) Free Comic Book Day at Berkeley's Comic Relief.

5) Star Trek opening night in costume. Spock and Bones, together again.

It's been an amazing month and I cringe to think of all the things I will miss next year on my solo-adventure to Chicago. I know in my heart that everything will be okay, better than okay. But it's hard not to feel vaguely devastated when I look at that face of his.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Winding Down

So here we are again...
I know I've been awful about this whole blogging thing, but I've been so lazy about all of my writing these days, and for the most part I've assumed that all the stories I'm accumulating will be even better in person. But the months are slipping by and I've realized that this adventure is finally ending, and before I start out on the next one I want to take some time to do a little literary digesting, and if any of you care to read along, share advice, or just let me know you miss me too, well, that would be just lovely.
These past few months have been a whirlwind - I'm not even sure where to begin. For one, I finally got the internship I've been trying for since I learned it existed. Remember way back in the fall when I went to that incredible five day food festival in Torino? Well, that amazing event is coordinated by an organization called "Slow Food" (look them up at this address: whose mission , according to their website is to "counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world." Bascially, they're all about the things I value most, and I was so excited to discover that every May in Bologna they put on a film festival celebrating films of every genre, length, and nationality that have to do with what we eat. After months of email harrassment and miscommunications, I finally managed to snag an internship doing translation work for the festival catalog, and I've been working my tail off and having a great time with the Slow Food folks here in Bologna (who have promised to hook me up with some contacts back in Berkeley for future career considerations...)
In between work, pretending to study for finals, and scrambling to piece together a few things that just might pass for Berkeley-caliber research papers, I've also played host to quite a few friends who've passed through Bologna - my old friend Connor dropped out of the blue en route to visit his sisters in Spain, the lovely Kelsey found her way to me from Bristol, Jackie and Ben Parker included me on their amazing three week Italian tour, and my German sister, Tabea, and her parents came out for a weekend of pasta, gelato, and the first sunshine Bologna has seen after a very, very long winter. I doubt I did the city justice in my attempts to show off its many charms, but each guest allowed me to experience familiar sights as new and refreshed my sense of wonder at this place that I now call my home.
Of course, it hasn't all been playing host - I've definitely been doing my share of wandering these days, and I'm not slowing down yet! This afternoon I returned from an 8 day journey through Andalucia, Spain, and I have to admit there's been some serious consideration of yet another year(s?) abroad... I travelled with two wonderful Californian girls, Melissa and Florencia, staples of my life in Bologna without whom I will surely be lost in the year to come...
We started out in Granada, and yes, for those of you who are keeping track, it was the second time I've spent one-too-many days in that stunning city this year. The new summer sunlight, blinding on the white roofs and the white peaks of the Sierras, was the inspiration for the first poem I've written in a very long time. There is no denying that the European winter is a brutal thing, and more than once the Californian in me questioned the sanity of people who would choose to live in a country capable of such thermal extremes, but there is something to be said for the coming of Spring in the land of real and varied seasons. There is absolutely such a thing as Spring fever - you feel it in your blood with the first sightings of sunbeams on green grass and the warmth that teases color back into too-pale cheeks. It is contagious and intoxicating, and lying in a hammock on a terrace in Southern Spain it starts your feet to twitching with the urge to dance or run or travel or start something new...
From Granada we moved on to Cordoba, where we spoke Italian with Spaniards and experienced coincidences and mosque-cathedrals, and endless cafe-con-leche, and then Sevilla just in time for the Feria. Stepping onto the fairgrounds was strangely like stepping sideways in time - some odd combination of past and present, saturated with the scents of horses and wine and so much fried food. The women were dressed to the nines in their traditional dresses, flowers perched atop their elaborate hair-dos or dangling precariously to the side of one ear, while men strutted in flat black hats and jackets and pants that seemed to tight to ride the horses that filled the cobbled streets of the fairground, their manes and tails plaited neatly or tangled with sweat in the afternoon heat and wind. Set apart from the standard carnival fare (sickening looking rides and cotton candy stands and stalls advertising "perritos caldos") there were the casettas, elegant little tents in which families held week long parties, drinking, eating, and dancing the Sevillana, a traditional dance whose hand motions were described to us as picking an apple, taking a bite, and casting it aside.
This afternoon I finally made it home, just in time for the rain and a fit of nostalgia that I can only attribute to the ending of an incredible trip. It's strange, but I haven't really felt homesick during my time here in Bologna. As much as I love and think about so many people back home, they belong to another world that has been far from my mind in these months, mostly because it would be impossible to truly make a life here if I was still clinging to the one I'd left beind. But now that I'm closing in on my last few months in Italy I find myself thinking more and more about California. For the first time since Rome, I can feel that familiar ache of missing, and it's bittersweet to think that leaving this time may not be quite as hard - there's a sense of completion to this year, a feeling that nothing truly important can ever be really left behind. And I am so ready to see all of you again. I am thinking of every one of you, probably more than you realize. I am coming home soon.