Ahhh yes… “Home”
Well. I made it through the final leg of my multi-state cross-country road trip with these last 350 miles from El Paso to Tucson. Mexican border within arms’ reach to my left, then into New Mexico, then onto Arizona, a quick rest/gas/pee stop in Willcox, and an hour later back in Tucson and straight to the gym, where I got 2 PRs: a new 3RM high hang snatch of 120# and new 3RM high hang clean&jerk of 150#.
Then straight to a double-double protein style with a side of animal fries.
Now time to unpack! But that can wait until tomorrow.
Tucson really makes me smile. It really does. I’m with my family, I’m surrounded by sunshine and mountains, I have my sturdy 5-speed Honda Fit, I have a great gym I get to lift at, I have meat in my belly, and I have an organized plan for my dissertation writing and have already made progress… it’s smooth sailing in the desert, folks. Enjoying every moment.
Countdown: T minus 8 days. God created the world in 7, so I think I have plenty of time to get things done.
On July 10 I left the US of A on a plane headed across the great pond towards Europe. I arrived July 11 in London, England and took a bus to Oxford. I spent 3 weeks there living at Brasenose, researching in the Ashmolean and Beazley Archive and lifting with the boys at Oxford Powersports. Then I spent 2 weeks in Paris, France. 1 week in Berlin, Germany. A long weekend in Vienna, Austria. 1 week in Florence and another week in Rome, Italy. September 11 I arrived in Athens, Greece, and I’ve been calling this city “home” for almost 3 months now.
I have exactly one week left before I leave again, this time headed back to the US of A, back to Arizona, back to the home I grew up in (and the remodeled backyard).
In one week I will be…
…leaving BEHIND: fresh daily local markets; incredible museums; the metric system and kilograms; ancient ruins everywhere; the great resources and people at the ASCSA; my books in my carrel at the Blegen library; 1 pair of now over-sized jeans (with ratty hems); 1 pair of worn-out running shoes; a love of “espresso freddo schedo to-go”; an incredible assortment of new (hopefully lifelong) friends; my new family at Primal CF Athens; cigarette smoke everywhere; motorcycles/scooters everywhere; fresh feta; streets filled with cats.
…leaving WITH: renewed sense of self; memories galore; refreshed comfort in independence; longer hair; a love of walking; one dead laptop; myself, intact (not the case when I left Greece in 2009); no tattoos; amazing memories; the ability to make Greek coffee in a briki; new vocabulary of foreign words (especially Greek); Athenian leather sandals; pages and pages of notes on the Greek vases I came to Europe to see; a restructured (tighter and more organized) outline of my dissertation.
…heading TOWARDS: family; old friends; my extensive collection of “Xena” DVDs; measuring weight in pounds and height in inches; Cactus, Citrus, Cotton, Copper, and Climate (a.k.a. Arizona); my tango and salsa shoes; home of the rodeo; Mexican food; American coffee shops (which double as a work space); an upcoming roadtrip West across the US from Charlottesville, VA towards Tucson, AZ; a new gym with new lifting partners; familiar mountains to hike; my baby grand Steinway; my car, Paolo; GIANT grocery stores!; juicy grilled steak; months of paper writing and productivity … on a new laptop…
What have I learned? Besides bad words in foreign languages? Well, …that meeting new people is always a wonderful thing; give everyone a chance. Always trust your instincts. I still appear Spanish to the majority of Europeans. The Blegen Library is a wonderful environment for productivity. It is possible to live for 5 months out of one suitcase. The internet really IS magical. Fashion is as fashion does. Being an optimist really does pay off. Being super-organized pays off more.
I finished what I set out to do — my check list of museums and sites to visit is complete. I managed to include my love of fitness by visiting local gyms and making fast friends with the proprietors and athletes at them all — Oxford, London, Berlin, Vienna, and, of course, my quarter-year installment in Athens (all of which I’ve previously discussed in this blog).
I’m a motley of emotions right now: super excited to soon be back in the Old Pueblo, incredibly sad to leave my friends in Athens (these Greeks truly are too sweet, so very generous and funny and open — for a while I seriously contemplated staying in Athens until summer just to be with them that much longer); a litter bittersweet to be so far away from Europe, where it seems your next adventure is just a short plane (or train!) ride away; and at the same time nostalgic for Italy and the Irish countryside and the beaches and rainforests of Central America…. Wandering soul’s gotta wander… My iPod has been shuffling between the “Chieftains” and mariachi music and country music … and in the mornings I sing along to the Greek pop top 40 coming out of the boob tube.
So. One more week to endure the lingering lure of home.
One week left in Athens.
One week to gather any last-minute notes from the books here (or for scanning). One week left to laugh and dance and joke with my Greek friends (in and out of the gym). One week left to wander the streets of Plaka (never gets old). One week left to ride the Metro. One week left to gaze at the Akropolis all lit up at night (also never gets old). One week left to stop moping and live it up!
“Home is where the heart is”, many say. Well, what does that mean? “Home” is where you’re happy? “Home” is where you have people you love and love you? “Home” is a place you love? What is “home”?
In my mere 27 years, I have a few places I’ve been lucky enough to call home: Tucson, AZ; Claremont, CA (Scripps College); Charlottesville, VA (UVA), Rome, Italy (I think I’ve spent enough time there to call it a sort of home… I certainly feel at home when I’m there); and currently: Athens, Greece.
I’ve traveled many places and made footprints in many roads and hopefully made as much of an impression on people and places as they have on me. I’ve felt comfortable in all of them, but here’s the funny thing… whenever I’m in one place, I find that I am longing for another. There’s always the desire to travel, either to familiar sights and people or to explore new places altogether.
Is it natural for us to be grounded to one spot for life? Or is it more natural to travel from place to place, to see things and explore and learn and expand our life experiences?
When people ask me “where would you like to get a job eventually and settle down?” I honestly reply “wherever they hire me” (well, it’s a pretty honest answer). ….and hopefully a place which allows me to travel often.
I’m currently in Athens, Greece, and I’ll be here until December. It’s definitely a city with a city feel, and I could see myself living here. The city center is great for pedestrians, and the metro and bus system makes public transport very easy (when they’re not on strike, that is, as they are now). Being in Europe, other European cities are pretty easy to get to, and so are the Cycladic Islands (and Crete!). The language is different, yes, but language barriers are only as challenging as you make them. I plan to return to the States in December — but there is always the option to remain in Athens. Should I remain? Sure, why not. Should I return to Charlottesville, the place I’ve called home the past 3 years? That is easily done. Should I stay in Tucson for a few months while I write my dissertation? Also a lovely option. I’d be happy in each place. I’d also be happy continuing travels around Europe (anyone want to give me a huge loan so I could do that?).
When I’m on the East Coast I miss the desert, when I’m in Europe I miss the comforts of the States, when I’m in the States I miss the wonders of Europe (among other fabulous places)… it may seem like I’m just a complainer and never satisfied, I realize, but that’s not true. I’m very easily pleased. Maybe too easily pleased. I just don’t know if I’ll ever really feel “grounded” to a spot, to one place to always call “home” forever. But then… should I?