A Thousand (and More) Miles Away

I am sitting on the carpeted floor with my sole piece of luggage open before me in a room I cannot call mine. It was given to me upon my arrival, and it has provided so much more than a shelter I can at least call familiar. It is the place where I can be alone (as if 6,418 miles isn’t enough a span between the country I’m in and the country I love), the place where I am more or less who I am, and the place where I can dream of home.

Yet, this is the room that can never belong to me. You see, the view I’m used to seeing is of two kinds: one, a sea of green leaves from the tree in the garden shooting up to greet me– as I see the streets lined with the rush of cars and the protection of barbed wire; and two, the buildings soaring to the heavens and the flash of city lights. When I look at the window outside, I see bikes, the Theaterkasse, and a swarm of strangers walking past.

‘Who are you?’ is a question I have to ask each day as I walk by people with blonde hair saying “Danke,” “Bitte,” or “Tschüss!” ‘Who are you?’ is a question I hate to ask everyday, and sometimes I wish I’d wake up and see my parents getting ready for the daily grind, my sister rushing into the bathroom. Instead I wake up periodically to go to the bathroom — and finally to get out of bed, eat my oatmeal, and dash for the Carl-Schürz Haus for work. Instead of finding solace in the language I have learned to love, I am swallowed in a whole new other understanding where kids struggle to learn English and instead find comfort in their own gritty native tongue.

I remember the first night I arrived, physically and emotionally tired from the sleepless transit and the endless amount of tears I shed (some I secretly let loose in the confines of the airplane bathroom). I called my dad up and I cried, wanting to come home and at the same time realizing immediately that it was something shameful for me to do for the two people who were kind enough to welcome me into the place they called their own. I could hear him break down too, but he tried harder to put up a brave front knowing that coming home would thrust me into the shadows of my namesake and was, in the long run, not good for building up who I will become for the world to see. After all, I always believed that the human being is a spectacle among many things, and I knew I needed to be on my own to realize the talents I could bring to fruition.

As I wept and wept, I knew that I was heartbroken for the right reason. The pain of separation is always the worst, because you have to forcefully pull yourself away from the comfort of something you’ve held dear all your life, but it gives you the right reasons to yearn to be whole with it again. I no longer weep for the boy who broke my heart because he may have been a part of the reason why I needed to leave, but I know he’s not the reason why I want to come home.

Despite the hardships of not holding my family at arm’s length, I know I’m no longer confused and broken as I was months ago. I know I’m okay because I’m missing the people who are still relevant in my life, the people who have chosen to stay instead of go, and the reasons why I yearn for the 90th day.

(And so far, it’s been a great stay. I’m learning to love myself more. It’s so refreshing to be able to connect with other people in the world, and as I walk the path to Eschholzpark with the kids I’m teaching, I know that I’m slowly forgiving the one person who has beaten me down and has become impatient with the flaws I have built up in time: me.)

The Perils of Unknowing

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The worst thing anyone has to go through is to unknow — to somehow unfamiliarize, to unlearn what has been remembered for a time. It’s the tearing of moments, the throwing away of memories, and the not-so blank slate that follows. And sometimes, I wish I never knew you.

I wish I could have kept to my word that separation from you would have been so much better, that living our own lives without crossing paths was a period I would have cherished. It would have spared me the pain of knowing you and having to unknow you soon after. It was good while it lasted, but we all know some endings aren’t happily made.

What good is it when your fibers spill onto every insignificant, manmade thing? Your thread tangles through the collared shirts I see in the mall, the songs that play on shuffle, and in my head — the only place where you seem to still make sense after the world said otherwise? Where I still yearn to know what made you no longer familiar to me? Is that why I still hang on to the last strings, hoping you would piece back together into the person I once knew? The person whom I thought I could be equal with?

It’s both beautiful and torrid the complications of the human person. One minute he or she is x, and somehow a minute later, she’s x plus another thing. It’s because we learn something or to be something, and sometimes the difficulty comes in keeping track. And in our struggles to keep track, we don’ t realize that we are so caught up in the hope of finding x, that he or she is x + an infinity of many other somethings. The terrible thing there is if we are no longer part of the equation, and that’s where everything goes downhill. Where do we go after we are shunned by the people we thought we knew? Where does it begin, this new uncertainty? We wonder with hesitation, as we wobble on our two feet, after we were held tightly in the arms of the other.

So, as I watch your fibers untangle themselves from the world I’m in, I still see them hanging on too, tying themselves on the veins of a heart that is so tired of unlearning, of forgetting what I wanted to remember for a lifetime. It’s not that I knew you would hold my heart in your hands forever, but I thought your significance would last, not ghost by.

Atlas

Sometimes, I wish I could tell you that the world does not hold the right for you to carry it, as if carrying the burdens you go through isn’t enough.

Is that why you loathe the world so much, because it asks you to sacrifice your shoulders for its foundation? I’m telling you now that the world owes you nothing, just like you don’t owe the world. And I wish you knew that, instead of cursing thin air, prodding for questions as to why you live this way.

We all want answers. But it’s about time you go through the questions too.

Much, Much Later

We sat in silence as you drank your tea, the leaves no longer visible in the swirl of foam and color.

“I’m sorry,” you said, seething slightly, reeking of regret.  The smoke billowed from the paper cup as you set it down.

It had been a while since we sat together in the cafe where we knew more of each other, where we knew our own selves with each other.  And here we were, you a slightly different version of yourself, what with the hair and ID strap tied tightly around the belt loops of your jeans.  Other than that, your lips still danced along the lines of mischief,  your arms still capable of carrying the weight of your world, and your shirt clinging tightly to your body.

Your eyes, however, told a different story.

“You handled it terribly,” I said, surprised to find calm instead of anger laced in the hollow of my voice.

“I’m a mess,” you admitted, tapping nervously on the sides of your cup.  “A twisted, mad kind of mess.”

“Yeah, you were.”

It was the first time we agreed in months.

“Perhaps you know the question coming after that.”

You nodded slowly.  “I do.”

“So,” I asked, feeling nervous too.  “What made you do it?”

“What made me run away?” you answered.  It was always questions with you, questions that I would have loved to answer in a heartbeat.  But it was your turn now.

You breathed out, the air from your lungs giving way to the next inhale you take in.  You weren’t good with words, you told me one night as we sat together on a bench, our knees knocking.  Instead, you held me in your arms and spelled it out.  Or at least that was what I thought.

“I was afraid.”

“Afraid?” I repeated.  “What could have frightened you more than beginnings?”

“Endings.” You stated.

“My life never began and ended with you,” I said.  And suddenly, I realized, that while your hand was inches away from mine, the distance felt miles and miles longer — as if I never wanted to admit that we were both strangers.  A different kind, the one where you know everything and yet you have to pretend like you don’t.  How can you spell that kind of complicated out to someone who can’t seem to tear herself away from people in general?

“I know, I–” you stammered, your words staccato.  “I just can’t seem to wrap around the idea in my head that someone like you could care about me so much.  Like it’s impossible.”

“And yet you became a possibility.” I offered a small smile, and you offered one in return.

“But why me?” You asked, meeting my eyes for the first time in a long time.  “What made you possibly think that I am capable of being loved?”

“I like the mess more than clean,” I said.  “Because the clean would never admit the smidges of dirt, of variety on their white slate.  And you are so much more than you claim to be.  I only wished for you to know that.”

“But I can never be the superhero you expect me to be,” you said.  “I’m not the ideal one for you.”

“You loathe the world, I know,” I replied.  “And I never asked you to be an idea.  I just wanted you to be you, and you were enough.”

Santorini (Summer in Europe 2014)

(Sorry for the late, late post!)

Unlike my previous post on the city of Athens, I won’t do much talking for Santorini.  It’s because (1) the photos speak for themselves, and (2) Santorini is meant for visual entertainment and not so much for its history (same as Mykonos).

We took a 10am plane to the island and headed straight to Pantelia Suites, our hotel.  The good thing about the place is everything’s just super near to each other.

Pantelia Suites is perched on a hill in the city of Fira/Thira, the center part of Santorini.  Our view is in front of the volcano that caused the split of the island (if I’m correct?).

(Still looking for a dish quite like you, triple mushroom risotto. 😦 )

We decided to eat lunch first at Sphinx, this awesome awesome fusion restaurant that had such a killer triple mushroom risotto (pictured above).  We then had their chocolate souffle.

OIA

After lunch (and a bit of roaming around in Thira), we took a bus to Oia.  It’s the place where the famous Santorini sunset is (although aren’t sunsets the same everywhere…), and also where most of the postcard-worthy photos come from.  The city (town?) is located at the northern tip of the island and it takes twenty minutes to get there.

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Obviously shooting for their wedding photos.  The view was spectacular, by the way, when we climbed up that hill.  And I had to credit the photographers, too!

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The Aegean Sea’s color is described as sapphire blue, and when you look down, you don’t have a murky view of what’s under the sea.  The water is crystal clear and has no trash in it.

We then had a splendid dinner at the famed Kastro’s.  The place is usually overbooked because it’s the best place to watch the Santorini sunset from.  But sadly, the weather conditions proved cloudy and we only got like a dot of the sun sinking down.  So no photos from Oia re: the sunset.

The guys at Kastro’s were super, super, super nice especially since we met their relatives who owned shops in the town.  They gave us a free chocolate souffle to enjoy!

Coming from the bathroom (lol wow), the Santorini evening was also pretty great.  While the island basked in the glory of the sunlight, the evening is surrounded by moderately bright porch lights and the moonlight.  It can also get pretty cold (and windy!).

AKROTIRI & (more of)THIRA

After a fabulous breakfast by the sea (aka enjoying the view from our room terrace), we ate lunch at Naoussa, a great seafood place.

We rented a car to drive to Akrotiri, the southern tip of the island.  We first drove to the Akrotiri Prehistoric Museum to check out the ruins of the old city of Santorini then we proceeded to drive up to the hill with the lighthouse.  It’s also the highest point of the island, and from there you could see the other two cities/towns.

Unlike the white sandy beaches we’re used to, Santorini had “black beaches.” They were called that because the sand is not white, but “black” due to the volcanic ash.  The water was pretty cold too, so we decided not to swim.

After driving back to the city (and having some awesome Greek frozen yogurt at Chillbox!), we had ice cream at Haagen Dazs to catch the sunset.  Mind you, this was what we expected over at Oia so Fira/Thira wins this one.

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Fira/Thira is pretty beautiful on its own, and what I love about the island as a whole is it proves its “overratedness.” What I mean is initially, I didn’t want to go to the island because of how overrated it was.  But after seeing the place, it is visually stunning and so full of color.  It’s saturation overload.

Taken from Naoussa.

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So the Greek adventure ends for now.  One more place to go.

Closure (or a sense of it)

Today was it. The ghost of your past has finally returned from three months of pain, suffering, and hurt. My friend summarized you to me: “a man who willingly cut off ties with an amazing young woman who, even with all his faults, she accepted because she loved him for who he was.”

I don’t care if I was what you needed, I never claimed that. I never said you were a superhero, because I wanted to save you from your distress. I thought I could, but now, the strength that came from bearing your cross with you has gone away, like dust.

You had a choice to be the person that could wholly accept who I was, to be the person that proved everyone else wrong when I wanted to. You had the choice to be the difference in the eyes of the people who thought you were crass, insensitive, and obnoxious. Of course you were, but how was it that you were so kind to me? That is a question I will never know, and for once, it’s okay.

I saw you out of the corner of your eye and for a while, I thought that I would fall apart like I did the first time you cut off the bridge between your world and mine, that I would break down and force you to give me the reasons why you did.

But instead, I looked straight down the road where you weren’t at the end of it and I realized that I was happier than when we met again for the first time in years. You had a look of pure shock that I choose not to ponder on, except to assume that you were surprised to see me there.

Tough luck, like you could get rid of me that easily.

The point of it was: we go through several deaths, but that doesn’t mean the ghosts of them are gone.

Athens (Summer in Europe 2014)

“Nothing shall part us in our love till Thanatos (Death) at his appointed hour removed us from the light of day.”
– Apollonius Rhodius

The quote above pretty much sums up my love for this country.  I felt it when the plane took off in Budapest and my heart was beating excitedly when we landed in the city of Athens.  But I have to admit that Athens was not as beautiful as Prague and Budapest.  It was just like any other major city: it had terrible traffic, it was full of graffiti, and it was a bit sketchy (lol).  When I took all that in, I had a lot of doubt about forcing my family to go into Greece, knowing that they had high expectations, especially after seeing the showcase of sights the previous cities have given us.

But that doubt lasted only a short while as the city grew on me, not because of its buildings, but because of the stories.  I always knew that I loved Athens for a reason.  Maybe it’s not the modern infrastructure,  but the stories behind the old ones.  Since I loved Athens (and Santorini, which is upcoming!), I’m going to give more narrative, yay. Continue reading “Athens (Summer in Europe 2014)”