For Paris, my heart is aching.

IMG_2176Paris is in my heart. It has been there for so long, I hardly remember a time when it wasn’t. I walked off the train in Gare de Lyon, I was 19 years old, carrying a big pack on my back, I felt strong and free. Finally stepping in the world, Paris caught me in its embrace and never let me go.

I went back after a couple of years, planning to stay forever, even though, at 21, forever is never very long. It was a bitter winter but I learned to love the cold. Our one room studio was dark and small, but I can only remember light and space. And then there were the people. New people appearing in my life, turning into friends, becoming important, opening my eyes, while Paris watched and smiled.

Whenever I go back to Europe, I make sure I can step off the train in Gare de Lyon and every time I feel 19 again, excited and full of hope. I am back, happiness in my heart.

On Thursday I’ll be flying To Paris, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport. Sofia will be spending a month in Paris, in “my” Paris and I hope it will take over her heart, become that place where it all started. I want her to have a memorable time and come home with her own Paris’ stories. As the date draws closer, I have been getting very excited.

IMG_2659And then it all changed. It started when I read a friend posting on Facebook, to someone living in Paris, “Are you ok?”. In the past few years I have become suspicious of such harmless enquiry. I immediately think: something has happened. But I don’t like this new way of being, this fear that creeps up and makes me look for bad news. I ignored my uneasiness. It was Sofia who told me and I could not ignore it anymore. It was Paris, again.

I feel heavy and confused. I want to know, but I don’t want to know. I want my girls safe by my side, but I want to let them go. I want to be in Paris, but I don’t want to be there.

My girls are starting their life in the world, they are leaving the nest, spreading their wings. I am cherishing every moment of their new found independence, even the fear in seeing them go. But then this happen and is so real, so close, so ultimate and I am questioning everything.

We have to wait and see. It’s all so raw and there is no need to make a decision quite yet.

I am not worried about terrorist attacks. Since 9/11 I am so used to worry, every time I catch a plane, every time I am in a busy street or at a big event. But the worry doesn’t worry me anymore. It’s just part of me and I accept it a move on. I have decided that I am not stopping what I love doing, I have become quite fatalistic and I know I can’t escape when my time will come.

Arriving in a city in mourning, leaving Sofia surrounded by sorrow and pain and not being there to hold her and guide her through it. These are my concerns. I feel that I should be more concerned about her physical safety, that I shouldn’t impose my fatalistic view of the life on her.

My heart is aching, for Paris and for humanity.

Vientiane: Then and Now

A few months ago Paola offered me and the rest of the Expatclic team the opportunity to take part in one of her travel writing workshop. I like to write and I love to travel so I took her up on her generous offer and started on this exciting journey. The aim of the course was to write a travel article to enter in a writing competition. I have never entered a writing competition and I have to admit that the concept was, and is, a bit scary. In an effort to get out of my comfort zone I took on the challenge I loved every step of the process.

Before starting with the writing we had to do some reading. Although I have always been an avid reader, I never paid much attention to the different styles. Under Paola’s attentive direction I learned how to read critically and started to see the difference between show and tell. 

Then came the second, more challenging part, writing my story!

Having just got back from Thailand and Laos, where I hadn’t been for 25 years, I chose to write about Vientiane, using a “before and after” angle. 

I immediately realised, with Paola’s discreet prompts, that I used too many words. No surprise there, I have been told once or twice that I am a tad verbose! I had to start cutting down and dig in the meander of my mind for interesting a descriptive words, in English of course!

This was just the beginning of learning to write in a new style, putting myself in the reader’s mind, all the while staying true to myself.

Then there was the memory part that, for a nostalgic like me, is always ridden with emotions. I looked at old photos, read old diaries, searched deeply for special moments and wrote about them.

Well, there is a lot more I could write about the process of writing, but this was to be only an introduction to my big announcement and I am already approaching the 400 words!

I am very excited to announce that, with Paola’s wonderful advice and support, I managed to write an article that made it to the top ten in the I Must Be Off! Travel Essay Contest. The winners will be announced on September 30 but for now my story has been published and this is so much more that I expected. 

Here is “Vientiane: Then and Now”.

Please go and have a read and tell me what you think. Any hits and comments on the website will help my story towards the Readers’ Choice award, even negative comments count, so please be honest!

Then...

Then…

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…and now!

A beautiful Sunday in Melbourne/ Una meravigliosa domenica a Melbourne

Today the sun was shining and the air was crisp, perfect day to go and explore Melbourne, I thought! My idea was welcomed by the entire family and within a few minutes we were in the heart of the city. I sometimes forget what a vibrant and beautiful city Melbourne is. “You look like a tourist”, Julia said. I am a european snob and I realise that I don’t appreciate Melbourne as I should. So why not look at it through the eyes of a tourist? We had yum cha in China Town and then walked up Swanston St. I looked up at the buildings, old churches and modern skyscrapers, creating a charming contrast against the blue sky. Flower beds around the town hall added colour and life to the grey of the street. Today is Refugee Day and the city was celebrating. Wonderful to see and be part of it! We headed to Federation Square, so quintessentially australian and buzzing with life. We looked at some pictures of Australian painters in the Ian Potter Gallery and I stopped in front of an image of a pioneer woman. Her face is sad and thoughtful. How hard it must have been for her, in this far away and inhospitable land. I thought of her and of the refugees. I thought of me and how easy it was to get here, how lucky I am.

Oggi era una splendida giornata d’inverno. Il sole splendente e l’aria frizzante, ideale per esplorare Melbourne! La mia idea e’ stata ben accolta da tutta la famiglia e in pochi minuti eravamo nel cuore della città. Tendo a dimenticare che città vivace e meravigliosa e’ Melbourne. “Sembri una turista!” Mi ha detto Julia. Sono una snob europea e mi rendo conto che spesso non apprezzo Melbourne come dovrei. Così decido di guardarmi intorno con gli occhi di una turista. Abbiamo mangiato ad un ristorante in China Town e poi abbiamo risalito Swanston St. Guardavo gli edifici, vecchie chiese e grattacieli moderni, creano un piacevole contrasto contro il blu del cielo. Aiuole fiorite vicino al municipio aggiungono colore al grigio della strada. Oggi e la Giornata del Rifugiato e la città era in festa. Meraviglioso essere parte di questi festeggiamenti. Abbiamo continuato fino a Federation Square, così essenzialmente australiana e piena di vita. Abbiamo guardato qualche quadro nella Galleria Ian Potter e mi sono fermata davanti all’immagine di una donna pioniera, il volto triste e pensieroso. Quanto doveva essere difficile per lei in questa terra lontana e inospitale. Ho pensato a lei e ai rifugiati. Ho pensato a me e a com’e’ stato facile arrivare qui. Ho pensato a quanto sono fortunata. 

Of memories, destiny and special places

In the summer of 1989 I was working in a bar on the beach in Italy, feeling a bit restless and wondering what to do next. The past 4 years had been nomadic and quite bohemian and I had loved every moment. Could I keep it up? Was it time to settle and start my life as an adult? I was 24 years old. My trusted companion G., who had followed me on many adventures, had fallen in love and moved to London and I was on my own. What to do?

A phone call came from an american boy I knew, one of those musicians I had met in my time in Paris, someone I wasn’t very close too but he was nice enough. He told me he was in Nice and was going to Thailand for a while. Did I want to go?

Although travelling to Asia had always appealed to me, thinking back I don’t know what pushed me to accept the offer to travel with an almost stranger to a wild and mysterious country. I had some money saved from my summer job and nowhere else to go. I guess this is how I made my decision and bought the ticket.

While I write and wander back to that time another question comes to my mind: Why did D. ask me to go? He was travelling with other musician friends so he did not need the company. I could think he possibly fancied me, but in the week we spent together, often sharing rooms, he never made a pass. And there was never any sexual tension between us.

Our little group left Rome and after a day in the Karachi’s airport hotel (very cheap flight, I guess!) we landed in Bangkok.

In those days I was an avid journal writer and many treasured memories are thoroughly annotated in my little books. So I know exactly when we arrived in Bangkok, on the 28th October 1989. I loved it: “everything is magic, the smiles of the people, the children’s waves, the smells, the incense sticks on house doors, the flowers. Like in a dream…” I write, with the enthusiasm and innocence of youth 😉

I wasn’t too impressed by the travellers in Khao San Road but I had to conclude that I was one of them, after all.

I certainly did have a very romantic nature and while I keep on reading my diary I spot this line: “Will I find the one that I am looking for?” I do not remember that my trip to Thailand was a quest for “the one”, but there we go…I am putting the pieces together 😉 Luckily I have written everything down!

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Here I am, happy and at home in Thailand!

Things between me and the musicians did not work out. I realised very quickly that we wanted different things from the experience and I decided I had to leave their destructive company. We had been in Thailand for one week and were now in Chang Mai. I considered my options.Was it time to go home?

While wondering the streets of Chang Mai, feeling a little bit lost and possibly looking it, I make a new friend. He is catching the night bus to Nong Khai, on the Laos border. He has an appointment to meet the love of his life, a girl he met for a couple of hours in some airport. He kindly invites me to travel with him there. I have never heard of “Laos” but it sounds exotic and I am a sucker for a good love story. I am off east!

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The mighty Mekong

Nong Khai 05.11.89 “I have arrived in the place I was looking for” I write. I might not have found “the one” but it’s a pretty good start! “The river is running slowly and quietly, I like to sit on one of the big bamboo chairs and watch it. I like the music in the background as I look to the other side. I like to think that life goes on and I have decided to take a break”. I had arrived at Mut Mee Guest House. The river is the mighty Mekong and the other side is Laos, so close and yet so far!

I was now officially a solo traveler. My Dutch friend had caught up with his sicilian beauty and they had gone off to start their life together and I felt ready to begin my own adventure. Mut Mee became my home. I travelled around Thailand and South East Asia, but, in the year I spent there, I always went back. Mut Mee was the place I was looking for. I made life long friends, ate lots of banana pancakes and pad thai, watched the Mekong and swam in it, worked and relaxed, smoked a few joints and drank the local whiskey, fell in love a couple of times and, finally, I met “the one I was looking for”. At the end of April of 1990 Nigel arrived at Mut Mee and the rest is history!

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27 March 1990

Why this trip down memory lane now? Well, tomorrow we are going back to Thailand and on Wednesday we will be in Mut Mee. I was there for my 25th birthday and on Friday I’ll be celebrating my 50th!

My life took a different turn in Mut Mee and it will always be a special place. I look forward to share it with our girls, they exist because of Mut Mee 🙂 I look forward to meet my old friends and have my beautiful neighbours with me on such an occasion. I look forward to create new memories!

 

 

Passeggiate nostalgiche / Nostalgic walks

Gallery

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Una delle cose che amo di più del vivere lontano e’ passeggiare ed osservare tutte quelle cose che se vivessi sul posto probabilmente ignorerei. Così durante il mio soggiorno ho passeggiato, assaporato, fotografato e riscoperto piccoli angoli. Palme, serre, pietre … Continue reading