culture shock

Chris and I had a conversation the other day on our own perspective of what the Midwest meant to us. Chris grew up in tiny hamlets (population of several thousand), while I criss-crossed from Port Huron to Toronto. It was with that conversation that I realised that my own perception of the Midwest, and the world in general, was not what I thought it should or could be. Because I had lived and visited extensively to several metro areas while still a child, I understood a better sense of my gypsy-like lifestyle more so than I did ever before. That alone was perhaps one of the greatest realisations of myself that I have had in current history.

I’ve always talked about the fact that there are two Lisas — one that harbors the home and hearth fantasy while the other sees herself as jet setting across the globe. It’s difficult to reconcile the two, finding a place where I fit in without feeling claustrophobic. Someone once said that my own pre-determined destinies would only come true if I let them — as I had often remarked that I was going to end up being the old hag at the end of a bar, wearing my faux fur and jewels while slugging back vodkas and chain smoking, while regaling of all my love affairs with men that got progressively younger. On the other hand, there is the aging Lisa bouncing my grandchildren on my knee while regaling of all my adventures around the world.

At the Caffe Accademica, near the Piazza di Spagna, inside the putrid smelling bathrooms, graffiti was written by women from all over the world. I had wished I had a pen with me, to leave my mark on that bathroom wall, to note that “Lisa was here.” Who we are but memories that we create with others and memories that we create within ourselves.

Life is about ambience and adventure. Even when we got detoured from the metro the other day, our walk to Termini through Chinatown was an adventure. Our getting lost was an adventure. Life is nothing more than a series of getting lost from location to location and hoping to hell you can find your way back. It’s not just about the tourist sites and the souvenirs collected on your travels, but the impressions that you impart and take with you as you go. I wish that I had the photography training to capture the images of the people as we walked, because I wanted to remember the look of the lovers who were snogging besides us the restaurant or the old couple who walked happily down Via ottavio towards the Vatican, hand in hand.

When I had move to the Bay Area in 1997, one of my friends there notated as we walked down Telegraph Rd. in Berkeley — that I seemed to fit in. This chameleon like trait has been a curse, I thought, since high school when I meshed from social group to social group. And I think that is why I don’t feel so intimidated being in a different country. Sure, the culture is different and the people are different but in the end, we really are all just the same. I could see myself living here, just as I could see myself living in Barcelona or in the South of France (I’m not terribly crazy about Paris but perhaps if I had spent more time in the city, that too would have changed). I feel confident that I could go anywhere in the world and blend in, without having too much of a terrible difficulty getting around. Perhaps I should just accept my fate that I am a world citizen, not a citizen of a particular country or city.