Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chicken Burger?

I don't smoke weed. I don't. It makes me uncomfortable and anxious and altogether miserable.

Most people can't understand this. When I try to tell people that weed makes me paranoid, they have a variety of responses:

"You're just not smoking the right kind," or "You're not smoking with the right people," or "You're not smoking in the right setting." They always blame outside sources and never the weed itself and the fact that THC mixed with my particular brain chemistry often spells out disaster. I always refuse marijuana. And then, I went to Amsterdam...

Amsterdam is a place where nothing  matters. You have a job? Not here. You're a student? Not right now. You don't smoke weed? Oh yes you do.

I had been sitting in a park for hours with my roommate, two Australians we had met at our hostel, and a bunch of pub crawl promoters who bought crate after crate of beer and kept offering them to us. I was also completely deprived of sleep and coming down from a mushroom high. This whole park ordeal was a blissful, relaxing experience. I was enjoying the zing of the bright green grass, the rainbows in my eyelashes, and on the whole just in awe of life, wondering how I could be so lucky.

And then... someone whipped out a joint. It looked harmless enough. Just a plant rolled up in smooth white paper. I eyed it, looking for the terror lurking within. I saw nothing.

My roommate, who I had explained to a thousand times that I never smoked weed, casually offered me a puff, as if it wasn't a momentous decision. The Australians also agreed that I should have some. After all, we were in Amsterdam.

Fuck it I thought. I am at peace with the world, nothing can get me down now. After all, I am in Amsterdam.

Moments later I was in a spiraling downward avalanche of terrible thoughts and feelings, which is what usually happens after I smoke.

I couldn't speak. And even if I could, I didn't want to for fear that I would freak the other three out. Too late. Apparently my facial gestures were enough to tip my roommate off.

"She's freaking out," she said. Not the best thing in the world to say to someone who actually is freaking out.

The three started talking about chicken burgers, which for some reason was the strangest concept to me.

"CHICKEN BURGER?" I asked, astounded.

In my mind a chicken burger suddenly became a burger with a real live chicken on it, feathers and all. The two merged in my mind becoming a fusion of chicken-cow-feathers-aaand beaks. The chicken did not look happy about being merged with a burger.

"Chicken burger," I repeated and shook my head while the three gawked at my never having heard of a chicken burger.

My roommate changed the subject.

"I want a sucker," she said.

"What?" said the Australian girl.

I turned to her and discreetly whispered with a sly smile on my face

"She wants... a sucker..." as if I had just let out the world's biggest secret.

"You're right," said the Australian girl, "She's freaking out."

A few days later, while talking about the experience, my roommate told me she never wanted to smoke weed with me again. Well, I don't really blame her. I don't want to smoke weed with me ever again either.


A couple of days ago I flew to Villadossola in the Italian Alps to visit the love of my life. I had met him in Dublin on St. Patrick's Day and decided he was the love of my life that night. I think he had decided something similar as he often referred to me as "Ariana my love" in his texts. So of course I had to go see him.

On the second day of my visit in Villadossola with Marco, we were on our way out of his apartment to go to Switzerland (you can literally see Switzerland from his balcony). On the way down the hill, we were passed by another car that flagged him down. He told me to hold on, got out of the car and ran to talk to the person in the other car. When he came back he was apologizing profusely and told me that his grandfather was having heart problems and needed to be taken to the hospital. Of course I understood, and told him it was not even necessary to apologize.

He dropped me back off at his apartment, told me his home was my home, and that he would be back within the hour.

While I waited, I listened to his CD's: The Offspring, The Sex Pistols, Eric Clapton etc etc., and read my Chelsea Handler book. It had been longer than an hour and I figured we would not make it to Switzerland that day. But I would be damned if I didn't go out and explore the mountain. After all, the view was spectacular and the surrounding forest was extremely inviting. I decided to go for a walk.

I gathered my things, bundled up and headed for the door. It wouldn't open. "Am I locked in?" I thought. "Shit, I am."

I went back out to the deck and looked for a way down. I didn't find one. I briefly thought about climbing down the balcony but it was a treacherous climb and visions of me breaking my back filled my mind.

What to do, what to do? The guy had no food in his apartment so I couldn't do my usual idle activity, which was to eat. I then noticed a stack of beers in his fridge. Should I? Would he be mad? Hmm well, he did say his home was my home. I proceeded to open one beer, then two, then three. I made friends with his cat, Dobby, and took pictures with him. I also had a one person dance in his kitchen.

I was sitting on his balcony, drinking the last of my third beer and feeling sorry for myself. I felt like a fairy tale princess, the kind that's trapped up in a tower waiting to be rescued by prince charming. I breifly thought of Rapunzel and how she was able to get help out of the tower by throwing down her long hair. I had visions of me doing the same until I realized my hair was about as long as a boy's.

Mid Rapunzle fantasizing, I saw an adorable little old woman. She was trying to speak to me, but my knowledge of Italian is very limited and it quickly became clear to me that she didn't speak a word of English.
I figured this was Marco's grandmother as I knew his grandparents lived on the floor beneath him and also she kept saying his name. Besides that, the only thing I understood was caffe. I assumed she was offering me coffee so I said "Si." I then tried to explain that I couldn't get out. "Non posso... umm... uscire," I explained.

She then disappeared, which made me sad because I liked her and wanted to be her friend.

Moments later I heard a key in the lock and practically skipped to the door and followed her down the stairs to her apartment. She then proceeded to pour me cup after cup of coffee that was half sugar and feed me cookie after cookie. That, combined with my three beers made me feel a little delirious, but she was so sweet I just couldn't say no. Plus she kept gesturing for me to have more coffee and cookies any time it looked like I might stop. I liked her, and she reminded me of my late Sicilian grandmother, which I tried to tell her but I'm pretty sure she didn't understand. After a while, sick of attempting to communicate with me I'm sure, she sent me on my way with the entire bag of cookies and a newspaper.

I sat on the couch in Marco's kitchen, slightly buzzed and very hopped up on caffeine and sugar. What to do, what to do? Have another beer, naturally!

I popped open my fourth beer and danced around to Eric Clapton. Finally, Marco returned. He glanced at me drinking a beer, looked in the trash can and saw three empty beer bottles. He started laughing hysterically.

"You drank four beers?" he asked in his sexy Italian accent.

"Yes," I replied sheepishly.

"Good choice," he said.

Monday, April 4, 2011

And in that moment I swear we were infinite...

Do you ever have those moments that feel infinite? Not in the sense that time drags on, but that the moment will always be alive in your mind.The colors will never fade, the smells will always be strong, the scenery will always be vivid, but most of all, the feelings will never diminish. These moments become a part of you and shape you through experience.

That is what study abroad has been like.

To commemorate this incredible experience, I got a tattoo with two friends I met in Rome.

We didn't know what we would get to remind ourselves of this experience, but my friend wisely said "We'll know when we see it."

Near the end of spring break, these two friends and I were in Prague where we soon found our way to the John Lennon wall. It was a psychedelic mass of paintings, bright with color, quotes, names of fans scrawled in reverence to the great John Lennon. Among this mass, something jumped out at us, a quote: And in that moment I swear we were infinite...

It was perfect. It encapsulated everything we felt about the study abroad experience. In only nine words I saw myself singing in the streets of Dublin, sneaking into a hostel bathroom in Venice, getting ready on a bus and singing karaoke in Berlin, drinking beer in a piazza in Rome and so many more moments that are pieces of perfection and adventure in my life.

We immediately found a tattoo parlor and had it etched into us permanently. I could not think of a better way to remember this semester.