Let it wash over me- the Nostalgia post.

kic-image-0002kic-image-0003kic-image-0004kic-image-0005

How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?

I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.

I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.

In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)

Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.

And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?

I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.

Advertisements

The final days

My dog was dead. My beautiful, black and white Springer, Maggie, was dead 3 days before I left Switzerland. Leaving would validate her death. Upon returning to my home, she wouldn’t be there to smell all my clothes and jump on me like she had 5 months earlier. If I returned she would really be dead. As long as I was 6,000 miles away, she wouldn’t really not be there.

Returning was necessary. It was financially unfeasible for me to remain there. My family didn’t have the money to keep me at the school, and I was unwilling to perch precariously on a mountain of debt. In late May, I got on a little plane with whirring propellers to Zurich and headed “home”.

“Home” at this point wasn’t real. I was leaving my new family- my beautiful, vivacious friends. I was leaving my new home- my messy studio apartment with lentils on the ceiling due to a bad canned lentils accident and a tiny shower in a black granite bathroom. I slept in my house with the door open to the balcony, hearing rain pound endlessly just outside my door, letting the cool air waft in. I wore rain boots and ate horribly and drank sugar-laced apfelsaft. I walked downtown to get Thai food with my beautiful friends, and Hannah and I shared gelato and meandered around, buying gummy candy for no reason. We walked through the park or made food at ridiculous hours.

To me, leaving was the worst. I was in mourning about 2 months before I had to leave. I desperately photographed everything- even playing Uno on the floor drinking heady wine and bier. I took videos on bad and good days. I tried to piece together what it was like, even though I knew I’d glaze it over to only the good moments.

Packing up my room was the weirdest. At that point I was numb. I simply got rid of things without understanding their significance. How proud I was to put together the Ikea shelf I bought, how much I loved my little duck-shaped laundry hamper meant for children. How heavy it was so get my books back to America and how I refused to leave almost any of them. How taking photographs off my walls made them echo more.

Taking the taxi to the airport was surreal. I’d done it quite a few times before. I knew the drill. The overdressed Switalian man would load my luggage in his trunk and not be able to fit both enormous suitcases in. He’d drive the same beautiful Jaguar and listen to bad ’90’s pop on the radio. He’d make minimal conversation and I’d go over in my mind if I had my passport and boarding pass. Getting to the airport I didn’t want to cry. Nobody I knew was on my flight. I felt so alone. I checked in, using some of the last Italian I’d use ever. I stumbled over the words, making a mess of the language I’d hated and loved and messed up for two years.

I got onto the plane, and looked out the window. It was clean and white. I saw classmates faces but they didn’t know who I was. No flicker of recognition. I sat silently, looking to see how long of a layover I had in Zurich. I looked around and saw the hills in green, covered in the lush trees.

Crying finally caught me as the plane took off. Planes out of the Lugano airport take off at a very steep angle because of the surrounding terrain and I remember loving how I knew that and how I would hopefully fly back in fast and hard in a year or two. I took pictures out the window and saw San Salvatore underneath me. I could spot the park and Gandria and all the places I’d marched all over that beautiful city.

I haven’t been back. I don’t know if I ever will be.

What spring elsewhere looks like.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s raining outside my window. I didn’t sleep the night before- wine, Moonrise Kingdom, chess, backgammon, and a walk in the dark ended up being valuable ways to spend time.

Lugano, my city (citta in Italiano) welcomes spring with such fanfare, by now the flowers have been planted in the Parco Civico (the Swiss bring in pre-bloomed flowers to maximize visual pleasure- who wants to watch buds?), the swans are hungrily attacking whatever people toss at them, and the gelato stands might even be up. (Oh, man- I could really use some good nocciolo gelato!)

One morning in spring Hannah and I took the FLP train to the nearby town of Ponte Tresa, me using only Swiss change I had accrued in a bag. That was a good day.

Now to collapse dramatically in my lovely bed.

Miei amici

08440019 08520012 08980011 09080016 09140018 09180003 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA luganofun 08240007 09040009 sansalvatoreandzurich 023

 

These lovely souls I haven’t seen for almost two years, but they’re all beloved friends that are being badasses outside of my world but nonetheless still being pretty wicked wenches.

From drinking Thai beer on wood floors to riding late night trains, eating Kinder Buenos and Chinese food in Zurich, to exploring such amazing places as Palermo, Krakow, Madrid, Istanbul, and Paris, these are the people that made it possible to do so with as much adventure as possible.

Many of these dears are graduating undergrad this semester, and although I’ve got another winter semester to go, I’m really hoping that sometime in the next year or two we can reunite through some weird force in the universe. The thing about going to a tiny little English speaking school in the weird Italian speaking part of German-speaking Switzerland is that you realize how minuscule the world is. You meet people, spend time, part, then reunite, find each other again, and the lapse in time in between becomes almost instantaneously erased.

I think in general remarkable people find fellow remarkable people and keep them in their minds until they can make it possible to see one another again. Although I am so bad at missing people, and so bad at coping, the fact that I know, that I have almost no doubt, that someday I’ll see the wondrous people I love and care about sooner or later…well, it’s very comforting, to say the least.

While I am bed ridden

09060007 09060024 09120008 09120015 09140020 09180013I think I was too young to appreciate the fairytale setting of Lugano. I was only 18 when I went to live there and I think if I went now I would treat it better- I would explore more, try my Italian with a little more zest, and push my limits.

Regardless, I am bedridden right now, and when I make these images full-screen I can almost transport myself back to the lakeside, where coots and ducks co-existed with the Swiss fisherman, where I would run laps when I felt up to it, where nocciolo gelato provided comfort on those humid, hot Lugano days. When I would wake up earlier than anybody else and almost sneak down to the edge of the water, having the vast body of water almost entirely to myself to relish and selfishly view. I wanted to eat it all up with my eyes and leave nothing for anybody else.

 

Escapism

The time to delve into my own archives is now.

Montana feels once again bleak, stripped of things that make me feel excited. My mind aches for inspiration, and though I go through the galleries and outside spaces that normally spark something, no flame comes into being.

Now, my mind goes to snow-dusted hiking trails, warm and crowded Zurich cafes, ribbed vaulting of Gothic cathedrals, and quiet walks downtown. I remember the humidity soaking me in sweat in August, trekking up the high hill with a bag of expensive groceries. Rain soaking my shoes all the way through, getting into the rickety-feeling but fun funicular, and constantly being bombarded by new things.

All of these images were taken between 2009 and 2011 on varying, and usually inferior, little digital cameras. I do not pretend to think of these images as anything but a small aid to my memories of these locales. Enjoy.

I miss this city.

 

Lugano, Switzerland. A paradiso among the Svizzera landscape, a gem among the glinting, often snow-capped mountains.

Placed on the Italian border, this gorgeous city has broken my heart time and time again. It is almost a year since I left, and thinking about this place makes me so happy and yet so sad.

Leaving a place so beautiful, so multi-faceted, and so full of life is not an easy thing to do. When this place has the best friends you’ve ever known, it gets harder. I have cried so many times over missing Switzerland, and my heart still bears bruises somewhere, but they’ve backed off to become a dull thud. They’ll always be there.

Now, Bozeman is blooming. Montana has the same crisp feeling as Switzerland, and a similiar landscape close to the Rockies. I look at the peaks nearby and if I don’t look at the landscape below I leave this English speaking place for a bit and return to a place that felt pretty damn amazing.

I took these photographs almost exactly a year ago for a project to document the streets and the people. The results were gorgeous- and still are.

Once Upon a Time

Right now, it is cold and windy. I spent the evening in a bar having conversations with amazing, intelligent people, but the wind was fierce walking home, and I found myself naturally going to a rainy, warm place that I used to know.

This was November- snow was on the outer mountains that ring Lugano, but it hadn’t touched it. Instead, we got rain and sunshine, and cloud formations like you wouldn’t believe. It was marvelous, and I miss the days when the clouds were like cotton balls.

For some reason, the clouds here spread out and form beautiful patterns, but never get the cotton-y texture that the Swiss clouds did. And yes, I did just romanticize clouds.

 

Crippling nostalgia and irrepressible wanderlust

Right now, I am sitting in a Starbucks in Montana with Chelsea, surrounded by people in military issued camo and young people, and completely engulfed in memories. The trees outside are bare, and the people speak in English, a langauge I am fluent in, and strangely I do not feel at home.

Even though I was only there for two years, living in Switzerland has essentially warped my ideas about “home”. Home is more people than place to many people, but I have become defined by a foreign location that I am not a native of. I do not speak fluent Italian, but I can get around, order food, ask for things, and have basic conversations. I can travel with my Binario-7 (After-7) pass to Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, etc.- all without problems. I can order food in German and French and I know how the Swiss work, because it eventually became the way I worked.  I became absorbed in a place that was so unfamiliar- expect for the landscape, which Montana possesses also. Right now all my energy is monopolized by the past, which I so painfully wish could be my present.

Please excuse my nostalgia. It surfaces with such vigor there is no point in trying to battle it. If you get sucked into a rip tide at the beach, you ride it out and then eventually swim out of it, and my nostalgia is much the same. Unexpected, but powerful.

Sunday Poem: Lugano and New Shoes

And here do I sit, with bandaged feet,

For as I walked did trouble I meet.

I set off with my camera early one morn’:

Indeed I set off for the rising sun.

The sky was pink, the water still black,

And soon I knew I couldn’t turn back.

Except in my mind, surely I thought,

That this is something that I rather ought,

Not do today, in brand new shoes.

But at the time, if you snooze, you lose.

So I kept on stepping farther away,

In brand new shoes on a brand new day.

My camera was clicking, my eyes were dazzled.

Surely by now, my feet would feel frazzled.

Sadly, my nerves didn’t react,

Quickly enough for me to turn back.

I walked another mile, perhaps even more,

I kept on stepping further towards,

Total destruction of my heels and toes,

An idiot I was, and this I now know.

Eventually, my feet did start to bleed.

And this warning did I finally heed,

And retreat like Napoleon in Russia’s winter,

But my bleeding feet did my progress hinder.

So as I pathetically limped back, as sad as could be,

I knew I was screwed for my entirety.

Alright, that’s dramatic, but you understand,

By being spontaneous and forming last minute plans,

And going on walks when one shouldn’t be walking,

Well, obviously, danger I was stalking.

So my feet are sadly covered in bandages now,

Hopefully gangrene doesn’t show up to say, “Wow!

I’ll gnaw on some dead flesh! Mmm looks so good!”

I think my feet are out of Infection Neighborhood.

They’re just ripe with blisters and painful as hell.

It’s my own silly fault, I must shrug oh well.

But I wish to bid adieu to my foolish ways,

And next time I go on a hike, perhaps I’ll be fazed,

By this tragedy of epic proportion,

And don proper footwear, a wonderful notion!

So, people, do not follow my lead.

Unless you desire for your feet to bleed,

Please, dear readers, really do heed,

My creed of begging your feet not to bleed,

So wear shoes that are comfy with cushion and bounce,

So that you can hike, step high, perhaps even flounce.

I wish you good luck in all of your fun!

Please wear good shoes next time, everyone!

I composed this poem after an almost successful attempt to walk to Gandria, a little Swiss village about 5 km away from Lugano’s downtown. I walked with my Olympus OM-20 and a couple rolls of film, in some new oxfords, without breaking them in one bit.

My feet were ripped to shreds, and I eventually took a bus back to Lugano after walking about 8 km with my feet raw and bleeding. Luckily, I think these photographs, all tinged with early morning blues and pinks, are worth it.

Pretty living things post. (Look away!)

Everything here is dead. (I mean flower/pretty plant wise).

I mean, dead. It won’t re-appear or re-animate until maybe March…but that’s a stretch. To cope with this bout of lifelessness here in Montana, I periodically post sappy photographs of pretty naturalia (natural things). Today, it’s flowers. If you can’t handle the cheesiness of them, I suggest you go play Tetris or make some hot chocolate or do something – anything- else. This is going to be pretty, it’s going to be sappy, and it’s going to be repetitive.

Also, I sadly do not know the names of a lot of these flowers. If you want to get all horticultural on me and spread your knowledge, let me know so that I can properly identify the flora! Thanks!

Lugano on the brain.

Sometimes one needs a little nostalgia. I seem to constantly relive these moments- cooking in Girasole (which means sunflower in Italian), hitting up a discoteca and dancing until 5 am, shaving Hannah’s head and making her look super convict like, roaming around little Swiss villages and drinking wine on wood floors, all while absorbing the Neo-Renaissance architecture and classic piazzas scattered around the town.

Mystery Vintage Postcards (can anybody decipher?)

Lugano has a tiny shop where vecchie cartoline are sold (antique post cards). For about 1 CHF (Swiss franc), I bought about 25 of them when I first moved. I sent them off to various friends and families, but kept a few with beautiful images and lovely script- before fountain pens became a thing of the past!

These postcards are from 1938 and…I don’t know when, perhaps a decade or two before? If anybody can speak pre-WWII German or Swiss-German, and you want to spend some quality time deciphering these, well- go ahead! Let me know if you do!

Tschüß!

Ho pensato che sarebbe meglio ormai.

Ah, heart pangs. Wanderlust. Debilitating moments where instead of being productive, I skim through the thousands and thousands of pictures I have of my two years studying and being a part of Switzerland.

A lot of people treat my two years abroad as a sort of vacation. In that I first went to travel and have fun and second study. That is very very false. Being at a small school you learn how it works, and you want to learn how to get involved. Even though my photographs rarely show the blandness of the cafeterias or the classrooms, that’s because I take them for granted and appreciate my time spent in il centro and fuori scuola (downtown and outside school).

My school had a rigorous course schedule and unrelenting amounts of papers and homework. German, British, and Italian professors  with heavy accents teach you about gender roles, the history of Italy, and how to do algebraic equations. If I earned an A, it was something I had worked my ass of for. My B’s were also hard won…a particularly brilliant and quick witted professor named Professor Pyka would give us obscure readings and ask us to make connections. His insatiable appetite for academic progress made us all cower in fear, awe, and mostly confusion.

It’s strange, because now that I’ve transferred elsewhere, I still wake up and consciously have to adjust myself to what is to being a new world. I’ve been here for seven weeks and I still think I’ll see my professors in the local bar. I see students here who look like friends back in Switzerland. I hear people speak German and I smell cigarette smoke and I am brought back to nights huddling at the tables outside the Irish pub or making my way to Club 1 in the dark alleys of Lugano. I think my professors are accessible by email at 3 am.

Honestly, Franklin is not an Ivy League institution, but I’ve been here for seven weeks and have seamlessly gotten into the level of academic rigor as befits a junior in college. My money that I have paid for an international education has paid off; in fact, I’ve been acing all my exams, and feel totally competant to face any challenges the world  holds for me. Maybe it’s because I’ve slept in train stations, been lost in foreign countries, have made friends who don’t speak English on train rides, and have ordered food in multiple languages, but something about living in Switzerland for two years has bolstered my confidence in myself and my ability to do whatever I want to.

Franklin, do not forget me. I shall never forget you!