I have moved from Via del Poeta to Rue de l’Ermitage.  (Both appellations are strangely fitting—consider it coincidence or not, your choice.)  In the past month, I have slept in nine different beds, only three of which I consider (or considered) mine.  I have traveled by plane, train, and automobile.  And bicycle.  I have lost and gained kilos.  I have used three different SIM cards[1].  (I think) I have dreamed in three different languages.  I have learned, forgotten, and remembered words.

Like last week at the station when I missed my train by one minute and had to ask a kind-looking businessman if I could borrow his cellphone to call my new landlady who was waiting to pick me up.  I was doing just fine, coaxing out a half-smile, perhaps by using the ten magic French words[2] I had faithfully memorized in my advanced conversation class four falls ago, when instead of “mon portable”,[3] I could only remember “il mio telefono”.[4]  Then, when I was reading off the phone number, I blanked on how to say 77 in French French and then tried to turn my Italian 77 into a Belgian French 77.  Needless-to-say, that patient businessman had no idea what number I was trying to read.

All of this is new, bright, and exciting.  I love all the different sounds and syntaxes and the puzzle of arranging them in just the right way.  (In the end, I did successfully contact my landlady.)  I love the different pastries.  I love trying on the different rhythms of daily life, and I’m quite pleased with the work visa that I waited months for and the most recent stamps that are filling my passport.  Yet, that ink also makes me uneasy.  It means that I’ve come and gone; that the last few weeks have been a series of scattered moments.

All of this transience has been gnawing at me.  Maybe it’s because, until I left for college, I lived in the same house for eighteen-and-a-half years and am finding myself more of a homebody than I want to admit.  Maybe it’s something to do with people and their roots, as a few of my lovely colleagues have mused on.  (What about nomadic peoples, I wonder?  Although I’ve heard that transience is a characteristic of my generation, it’s not actually something new.)  Who knows.  What I do know, however, is that I found the continual cycle of arrivals and departures in Perugia disturbing.  Every month there’s a wave of newcomers, a turnover of flats, a new session of placement tests.  Initially, it’s crazy cool—you meet people from all over the world.  But the wave that breaks also riptides.  I came, and I went.  I was part of the cycle of people that used the city and then moved on.

While I was in Italy, Lauren’s post, “Stay Gold, Ponyboy” both comforted me and gave me shivers because I was only there for a month, and I could feel the days careening away very Italian-like—manual transmission with no seatbelts.  She’s totally right.  Nothing gold can stay, and I don’t like that.  I wished and wished and wished the moment would not end. / And just like that it vanished, writes Christian Wiman.[5]

Now, my French visa marks me as a “travailleur temporaire”—a temporary worker, and after April, I will at least have to move to a different apartment, if not a different city or country.  In the meantime, I will continue to worry about how to distinguish situational friendships from true ones.  (Or, are all friendships, in the end, situational?)  I will obsess over what to hold onto and what to let go of and how to cling and cleave gracefully.  But I will also have to remind myself, as Lauren’s post did, that I do hope in something beyond an irony of continual effervescence.



[1] To any American going abroad: call your phone company and get your phone unlocked so that you can use it with foreign SIM cards.  And bug them about it.  T-Mobile, at least, had to send me a passcode, which I had to ask for twice.

[2] Excusez-moi de vous déranger Monsieur/Madame, mais j’ai un problème.  (Excuse me for bothering you, Sir/Madam, but I have a problem.)

[3] my cellphone (French)

[4] my phone (Italian)

[5] http://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/antholog/wiman/postolka.htm

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