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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). 


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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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