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If you can't go back, where the hell do you go?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

So, it's been kind of/almost/nearly/vaguely-ish a year since I've written in this dusty little blog spot. I feel sort of obliged to address what's been going on in my life since I last wrote, since I left a lot of promises hanging, tossed a lot of half-baked ideas out there, and because, of course, nothing went according to my meek lil plans and I think it might be fun to tell you guys about what I've been up to.

The last summer of high school did not send me out of those four years with a youthful bang: for the most part, it was full of minimum-wage slavery at McDonald's. Blah blah blah, I got to bypass airport security every day in order to contribute to factory farming, global over-excess, the general ill-health of Idaho's soon-to-be-departed (from the state, at least). But that's okay because I don't work there anymore, and also because working so much, making those dolla billz, meant I got to go to Europe!

(I also had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. with the best humans in the world doing my favorite thing, learning and growing as an AFS'er! But I already wrote that part out to perfection so I will publish it right after this.)

I wrote a blog post addressing all of this before I left for Europe in November, actually, but in typical fashion I decided to "let it sit" for a bit so I could edit and then publish it. Said editing and publication never happened, and my once-loved blogging habit has fallen so far by the wayside that "blogger.com" doesn't even autofill in my browser anymore.

From Versailles back to Paris

So... Europe? Yeah, Europe. A month of my life spent hanging out in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Lisbon, Seville. A month spent wandering around cobblestoned cities, joining the human rivers through foreign metro systems turned ever-so-slightly familiar, rubbing fallen orange leaves in Seville to dab the citrus on my neck. A month of becoming more myself: that little speck of effervescent weirdness, with those bangs, those glasses, those dusty Dr. Martens, carrying around her fat Moleskine notebook full of receipts and business cards and doodles.

I couldn't sufficiently sum it up for you guys even if I really tried. There's just too much. So much of life, crammed into such a little space. I haven't actually sat down and written about my trip, come to think of it, and all that comes to me are these little snippets, these snapshots of people, snatches of warm and odd feelings I still keep close to my heart.

Bubbles in Barcelona
Take Keith, for example. I met Keith at my hostel in Barcelona. He wore a Star of David over his muscle tank and spoke pretty fluent Hebrew, though he fit every other idea of "American white boy on vacation from his study abroad" to a T. Keith opened a bottle for me, since I hadn't quite gotten the whole corkscrew thing down yet, did a backflip off the wall in the Metro station without breaking his neck, and kept talking about how drunk he was about to get. But, for all his douchebaggery, he also held my hand after I made room for him next to me on the train, in a way that felt profoundly innocent, despite how much he'd been trying to tell me about his kissing prowess (I never did find out if said promises were empty or not).

"You know, it's nice to just sit here, and just, like, hold hands. Makes you feel a little less adrift in the world."

La Rambla, Barcelona
"Adrift" is an incredibly accurate way to describe how I'd felt in the days since Paris, those ten days I spent as a part of the AFS Centennial Prep Team. The Centennial was actually my whole reason for going to Europe. Spain and Portugal happened as a side note, a "well, I'm already there, why not just wander around a little?".

During those ten days, we thirty-some multinational AFSers pulled off events of seismic proportions: a World Congress, a youth symposium, a gala with a cocktail reception. We became a family, bonding over cold sandwich boxes, late nights at the enormous Palais de Congres, our collective lack of sleep and near-manic desire to help whoever we could, however we could. I have never experienced such warmth and positivity, heard "I love you" from so many new people, been so useful and so pleasantly busy in my life.

The Alcazar in Seville
I felt the emotional numbness that had built up over my six months of working at McDonald's wash away during that week-and-then-some. No matter how close you can get to another human being, nothing quite replicates the immediate intimacy between two AFSers - the fact that, if nothing else, you've both had the same indescribably life-changing experience. Combine that innate bond with the fact that the Prep Team just happened to be composed of the coolest, sweetest people on planet Earth, in one of the aforementioned planet's most extravagantly beautiful cities, and you can fill in the rest.

John Green would be shitting himself over all these potential metaphors.
Leaving broke my heart, duh. I sat on the floor of my new hostel, waiting for my room to be ready, crying and writing in my journal while an Italian girl fried some ham. Deciding that I needed to do something more Romantic (with a definite, Bronte-esque capital R, because I don't play with any kind of romanticism that doesn't involve the supernatural and hyper-meaningful weather patterns), I wandered out to cry in the Louvre, a cemetery, the biggest mall in Paris. Listening to my favorite break-up band, The Vaccines, and watching old couples walk hand-in-hand through the graves, I felt a kind of wonderfully gothic inner peace.

Barcelona, a few days later, was playing with bubbles and watching tropical parrots in the trees of Parc Guell, taking walking tours and journaling on the very steps that saw Christopher Columbus. Madrid, a lot of coffee and misadventures with my Australian friend. After Madrid, I hopped on a night train to Lisbon and met with Maria, the Portuguese lovely I met during the Centennial. We ate a lot of cereal and made bad jokes about salted cod. We explored a castle, took hella pictures of a sunset, took naps, and ate even more cereal. Cities are made not by the quality of their gastronomy or their picturesque vistas, I think, but by the people you experience them with, and though Lisbon could quite easily stand on her own I think begin there with Maria made it perfect. I can't wait to go back.

(Seville? Seville was a noisy hostel and keeping mostly to myself, reading a cheap book and stumbling upon a men's kazoo choir while lost and looking for a flamenco show. Lovely and storybook-pretty, but more of a denouement than anything.)

Now I'm back in Boise! Huh-zzzzzah. I stayed awake through my entire flight from Reykjavik to Seattle, saw the Northern Lights through my frosted plastic plane window and watched a lot of Icelandic travel shows.

The castle in Lisbon

I've felt, in equal amounts, incredibly motivated by my travel, and bogged down by the reality that I have to sell my labor and the precious hours of my youth in order to survive, because, y'know. Capitalism. It's not bad, though: I get to sell makeup, I make slightly above minimum wage, I'm saving my money for when I leave for college in the fall. I'm going to the University of Montana to study something or other (French, International Development, Cultural Anthropology, Drawing), because I want to. Because I can. I am floating in this sea of possibility and it is warm and good and I cannot wait. Drifting ain't such a bad thing, once you've got a handle on who you are, once you know you've got hands to hold, people to bring you back to the surface, back to the shore. It is, really, even though it might not feel like it all the time, so good.

“I can never be who I was. I can simply watch her with sympathy, understanding, and some measure of awe. There she goes, backpack on, headed for the subway or the airport. She did her best with her eyeliner. She learned a new word she wants to try out on you. She is ambling along. She is looking for it.” - Lena Dunham (I got her book in Paris, and I so am that kind of girl). 


And it goes on

Saturday, May 31, 2014

The difference between American adventures and Indonesian adventures is so striking. Indonesian adventures were nearly always urban and always kinda spontaneous; half the fun was walking around being pelted with 'hello mister's, trying mystery street foods, interacting with intimidated young children. I miss being able to board a bemo not knowing where it was going, even though that nearly always ended very, very badly.

American adventures involve a lot more trees, a lot more quiet, and a lot more climbing over fences (without being caught by ever-present security guards). Now, I can drive and I even have my own car, which is nice but much less conductive to spontaneity. It's a bright teal Dodge Neon that sputters when I try to start it up, that rides so low to the ground that driving my mom's Jeep feels like I'm taking the wheel of a tank. I haven't named him/her yet. It'll take a while. Maybe I'll go with something chunky and respectable, like Agung or Putri or Wedyawati.

Speaking of adventures, I decided not to go out of state for school next year. Really, if it was up to me I wouldn't be going to school at all next year, but if I'm not in school I have to pay rent to live at home, which I'd rather not do! So I'm going to take a few classes at the local community college and spend the rest of my time working, saving up the dolla bills to go WWOOFing or volunteering through HelpX. I already found a farm in Sicily that makes organic makeup, but who knows where I'm going. Partly because I'm really bad at saving my money.

I'm just really excited to not be in high school anymore, to be graduating despite some enormous struggles (with chemistry especially). We finished the senior edition of the newspaper and it looks really, really, really good - I designed the biggest, most info-heavy pages of the issue and I am SO EXCITED to see them in print.

In general, my life feels a lot less constipated now that I'm about to get my diploma. Later in June I'll be off to DC for some YES Abroad/AFS-related events, which will be career-building and epically cool; I even have some free time in DC which I plan on spending hanging out with other alumni, and wandering the Smithsonians at will. The only time I even got to set foot near the museums was during WJMC last summer, and having limited time meant that some friends and I just ran in, bought dinosaur pens, ate, and had to run out again without really seeing anything. I'm excited to spend some time with dinosaur bones and old documents. We're gonna have a grand old time.

Hello again?

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Rebounding is weird. Have I mentioned that? It's true. It's weird. The inside of my brain constantly feels like the abrasive white noise of an indie rock intro where there's drums and guitar and the lead singer wailing and everything is just like AAAHHHHH WHAT IS HAPPENING!

Rebounding is... coming home and suddenly the State Department doesn't pay for your flights anymore, and you're responsible for more than just getting to school at least a couple of times a week so your visa stays valid and your program stays off your back, and your friends aren't the multicultural band of nitwits you used to bitch about everything with, but they're the people you know and love but who get tired of the dumb stories that, like inside jokes, they can't understand.

That isn't to say that my friends at home are any less than my exchange buddies, because they absolutely aren't, but being home and having to stifle this huge thing that happened in my life is difficult and deeply isolating. There are plenty of exchange students and rebounds in Boise, and I'm even involved with AFS here, but through a bunch of weird circumstances I've landed in this position where I'm not actually friends with any of them. Lame, I know.

It's been a while since I've last blogged, and I both missed it and haven't. On one hand, there's SO much left that I can, and want to write about, but the venn diagram of what I want to say and things people probably don't want to hear about anymore is a circle. It feels absolutely pathetic to recount stories that I neglected to tell while they were actually happening to me - like my experiences aren't authentic anymore, because I've had time to brush a heavy layer of nostalgia all over them.

And it's true. My memories have become distorted, by my brain which heroically ignores the pain and heightens everything else. I miss bemo, and the constant conversations with random people, and the malls, and nearly everything else I hated so much about Indonesia while I was there. I can still whinge about Asia with the best of them, but it'd be half-hearted now.

Sometimes I'm just sitting there minding my own business, and then the INDONESIAAAAA pangs hit like a sudden kick to the gut. I'll want more than anything to be back on the busy streets waiting for the bus, or to be lying with Avery watching Skins on her laptop - just to be in the middle of my exchange again.

I'm always grappling with the feeling that I want more than anything to just re-live my exchange as I am now, a happier and brighter version of myself, at the same time knowing that exchange was what led me to this point. A lot of memories of how my depressed self acted are cringe-worthy now, and I've been beating myself up about things that I excused so easily while I was an inbound. There are a lot of regrets involved in being a rebound, and a lot of them are really stupid, like my intense desire to go shopping in Surabaya again.

(Sometimes I remember things that happened, and see pictures, and I think. Holy shit, I LIVED IN INDONESIA FOR A YEAR. Like did that even happen? Whaaat? And that's jarring too. Feeling things is weird. Nachos are better.)

On the other hand, I have some pretty ambitious plans for the future that involve blogging. Like majorly ambitious. I don't want to reveal too much now, because said plans are in their infancy, but I'm looking forward to taking my penchant for blogging and sharing things with people and turning it into something of actual consequence. Rest assured you guys will hear about it when things become clearer.

Otherwise: life. Astagfirulllaaaaaahhhhh is all I have to say. It's been real. Being thrown back into American life, and high school, and the inexorable process of rebounding with no safety net and no convenient handbook has been crazy. Applying to college and financial aid? There have been so many points where I was like, ALRIGHT, WHO DECIDED TO PUT MY ENTIRE FUTURE IN MY HIGHLY IRRESPONSIBLE 18-YEAR-OLD HANDS?

I've gotten into a couple of colleges already, despite some hiccups in the process, but I'm holding out for Lewis & Clark College in Portland. Not only because I've fallen in love with the show Portlandia, but liberal arts college just sounds right for me and Portland is my forever girl, so why not put both together? Just don't ask me what I'm going to major in, cause I don't know myself. Maybe hopefully International Relations or English.

I'm also editor-in-chief of my school's newspaper, despite only spelling chief properly about 20% of the time. Putting it all together is such a rush and I love holding the finished product in my hands, getting to see the ultimate result of so much effort from so many different people. I do love me some journalism; it's absolutely in my future. Watch out, TIME. I'm comin' for ya.

We have excellent taste in covers

This post didn't have a particular point, other than I've missed blogging and rebounding has been kicking me in the ass. I'm sorry to those who looked forward to reading my writing, and such, if there's any of you left. Here's a rebounding/my current favorite songs playlist because procrastination is the word of the day, and I really don't want to read any more of Huckleberry Finn. 

To all of those with the November blues

Friday, November 1, 2013

I had this post all planned out in my head. I was going to write my heart out, make fancy allusions to the struggles I had while abroad, and most of all pump encouragement into all current and future exchange students. It's that magical time of year, as we head into the holiday season, when even the most hardy exchangers are beginning to slump.

Then I sat down to write said post, and all I could think was Jesus Crispies, not this s#!t again. If I have to write one more motivational post, (basically regurgitating things that have been said thousands of times,) I will barf all over everything. 

The logic here goes something like, 'if I don't want to write it, then nobody in the world could ever want to read it.'

So instead of rambling on and on, here's something so much better. Amy Poehler is my newest personal hero, and the heroine of my current drug of choice: Parks and Recreation, the show about a dysfunctional local government in the charming town of Pawnee, Indiana.

I saw this gifset while on Tumblr and it just so happens that every single one bears relevance to exchange. And life. I might have been a little misty-eyed while reading them, because who doesn't want Amy Poehler being their own personal cheerleader in life? Besides, so many of these are things I've needed to hear. I hope they help some of you, too.


About me

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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.


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