Reflection | From up high…

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View from Keisoku Mountain, Japan, March 2018

Many things seem so small, especially problems.

Every couple of months, I find myself standing on top of a mountain somewhere in Japan. Each step upwards feels like torture…and an accomplishment.  I look toward my fellow climbers in awe, at their speed and the seeming ease with which they climb. Of course, I don’t know what their experiences are–they could be suffering as much as I am. The climbing could be a testimony for each one of us that we are alive and still trying.

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the past decade of my life. At this moment in 2008, I was planning a wedding and preparing for a future that certainly isn’t the one I’m living now. By this time in 2009, I was dreaming of living in the house that I would eventually call home before the year’s end. In 2010, I had lost 80 pounds, was trying to save my dying marriage, and by Thanksgiving, was mourning the death of my beloved pet.

The end of March 2011 found me preparing for my third visit to Rome, trying to figure out how to live life as a single and mostly jobless person. I was still dreaming–this time, of living in Rome. By 2012, I was a full-time undergraduate, living, studying and working in Rome. The following 4 years were marked by a series of avoidable and unavoidable events, all of which left me pretty broken but with a good deal of insight.

By the end of March 2016, I had been living in the U.S. full-time for 6 months. I had gained back half the weight that I’d lost, was in the throes of a serious depression, and living in a highly psychologically toxic environment. Something had to give–I had fallen to my lowest point.

When you’re at the bottom, seeing or even imagining the top can be difficult.

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Keisoku Mountain, Japan, March 2018

 

 

I couldn’t see up or even imagine what life could be like beyond what I was experiencing at that time. However, I knew that there had to be some other kind of life for me.

Where I was, how I was, who I was, and what I was doing…was not my final destination.

I didn’t know if I could ever be happy. I didn’t know where I could go or even what I would be capable of doing. I just knew that I no longer wanted to be a participant in prolonging my circumstances.

I had to take a step forward and upward, even the smallest one. And so I did.

On Friday, March 17, 2017, I began a new journey. I boarded a flight to Japan, a country I’d never been to before. I didn’t speak the language and knew very little about the culture. Still, I knew that I had to take the chance, to give myself the opportunity to change, to begin climbing out of the deepest hole that I’d ever stumbled into.

When you’re climbing a mountain, you have to use both your hands and feet. 

Now, it’s Friday, March 30, 2018, and I’m sitting in a Starbucks somewhere north of Tokyo. My partner is working on her laptop, and I’m listening to The War on Drug’s “Pain.”  I haven’t reached the top of my mountain. Still, I am no longer at the very bottom. It’s a start, and that’s always the hardest part when you’re climbing–at least, for me. There are times when it feels like I can’t catch my breath, like my feet won’t take another step, like my hands won’t support me as I reach upwards. Still, I try.

That’s what I’ve learned over the past decade. All you can do is try and never give up. Every problem is a mountain. Tackling each one means getting to the top. Getting there, however, means looking ahead, taking each step carefully, being prepared to use whatever means necessary to secure yourself…and definitely having those who care about you by your side.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

Reconnecting

own-sunshine

Another grey summer day in Japan and life continues on. I wake up to a wall of clouds outside my window, the sounds of money being earned with each passing car, and the hazy whispers of my partner. It’s barely 6 AM.

I consider 24 hours earlier: I was standing in her apartment, face unwashed, clothes disheveled, emergency backpack straddling one shoulder, and wondering if this was our last moment together–North Korea had launched a missile towards the north of Japan.

A few months earlier, I arrived in Japan with a baseline plan of refocusing myself, laying the groundwork for accomplishing future goals, surviving earthquakes, and embracing the unknown.

This morning I am content with waking to a winter-like sky, watching my partner eat leftovers for breakfast while taking pleasurable sips of a Starbucks’ soy green tea (matcha) latte, smelling burning sandalwood incense, listening to passing cars and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell on YouTube, and wondering and planning what else the future holds.

I am moving forward with writing, with loving, with being loved, with enjoying the simplest aspects of life while appreciating how complex life can be. For now, I’ll return to daily blogging, sharing my thoughts about life in Japan, how I’m managing my fibromyalgia, and whatever else that comes my way.

Until Next Time,

D.

 

 

2 Laptops, a Button-less Phone & That Thing About Traveling

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Image found on Rebloggy.com

I don’t know where in the world you are, but where I am

it’s Monday,

14:07,

somewhere around

90 degrees (Fahrenheit),

and boring as all heck.

I’m trying to console myself because my Words with Friends-designated laptop is in the remote hands of some person very far away in some office belonging to Microsoft, who is trying to fix my operating system.

It’s no good, this.

I’ve not had much else but peanut butter and ginger ale today, and I keep thinking I should eat something, but my laptop being remotely controlled is keeping me fixed to one spot.

Life ought not to be this boring:

watching a “Downloading installation file: Feel free to keep using your PC.”

Twirl-twirl-circularly moving dotted thingy…

I’m at 15% complete with an

Estimated time: 2 hr 27 min 12 sec

2 hr 25 min  7 sec

away from being able to move from this spot.

Every now and again, I pretend to be “with it” (do people still use with it?) and “slide” the “buttons” the phone my mom made me get because she was embarrassed by my Verizon flip-phone from 2013. Now, I’m Boost Mobilin’ and tweetin’ (not really).

19% complete and

I’m wondering if using my other laptop means that I’m having an affair.

At 24%, I feel almost a quarter way decent about my position in life,

sitting on a bed,

sweat collecting to drip,

my wanderlust has taken control of my mind and prompting my feet to move.

How far do I want to go in

2 hr 11 min 30 sec?

Maybe Newark International Airport,

but then I wouldn’t come back here for a while.

That’s the thing about being nomadic, you see.

Opening the front door means that there’s another

awaiting you somewhere.

But at 30%,

I’m not even a third way complete.

How fast, I wonder.

How much faster must I travel within

to have the freedom to live without

the burden of time and place.

1 hr 56 min 17 sec.

-db

 

Travel | Rome: Renewing Your Permit to Stay (Where to Go & What You Need)

Immigration

 

Are you studying abroad in Rome and thinking about working there afterwards?  Well, the video below may be useful for you.  Prior to graduating from John Cabot University, I decided that I wanted to give myself the option of remaining in Rome to work, which meant changing my residency permit type, from study to work.

With much help from friends (thank you, Dario and Sylvia), my university, and the Garbatella patronato, I was able to get through the process successfully.  Still, I found the experience quite stressful, especially going to the renewal appointment alone.

In this video, I show you where you need to go to renew/change your Permit to Stay (Permesso di Soggiorno), and explain the basics of what you need to do before you go.

Hope you’ll find it useful!

Have specific questions?  Feel free to ask.

 

Travel | Rome: It’s Like Walking On an Ashtray

Me: Living in Rome means being a permanent second-hand smoker.

Others:  Really? No way…

Me: …

Fibromyalgia | Jet Lag Anyone? Any Expert Ideas to Share?

View from my Delta fllight back to Orlando.

View from my Delta flight back to Orlando.

Today makes one week since I’ve returned to Rome…and I’m still dealing with jet lag. Yes, indeed. My entire system is off, and I’m finding that I am still going to sleep at my usual hour EST (between 1 am and 3 am).  This means that I’ve been going to sleep between 7 am and 9 am.  The heat, humidity and killer mosquitoes aren’t helping matters.  Thus, I decided to consult those in the know (yes, I should have done this on day 2).  So far I’ve found one like of interest: “Melatonin may help to treat jet lag disorder”.

Well, if you have any other ideas, share in the comments or send me a message! 🙂 Thanks!

Until Wednesday,
D.

Travel | Back to Rome on Monday…Why Again?

Found via Google image search.

Found via Google image search.

The other day I wrote a post about being nomadic, and once again I find myself about to board an airplane.  Monday, I return to Rome and will be there for a month.  If you were to ask me why, then I could give you about 5 good reasons (not in any particular order): 1) my stuff is still there, 2) I need to pick up my work permit, 3) I never picked up my university degree, 4) I’ve had a poetry translation published in a book and I will receive a copy there, and 5) it’s a great chance to see my friends.

Still, above all of these reasons, remains the most important:  I will know whether or not I really want to live in Rome.

When you are immersed in a situation, it is difficult to be objective about the reality of it.  This is why it is important to take a distance from it.

As a nomad, it’s incredibly easy for me to adjust to a new environment.  After about 2 weeks, I am often settled into a routine, thoughts about my previous life have eased out of my mind, and I’m excited to focus on what my new environment has to offer.

For some, being able to transition so easily from one environment to another would be a welcomed skill.  For me, I have to remind myself that, although it is great that I acclimate well to new places, it is important for me to understand what I have left behind, both people and things.

So, I’m heading back to Rome. I have no idea what this trip will mean, what it will accomplish in moving me further on my path, but I’m looking forward to it.  I’m packing my almost-finished-novel-in-progress (yes, it’s really almost finished), my camera and laptop, and whole lot of faith in the universe.

Wish me well. 🙂

Until Monday, (I’ll write while I’m in the airport)

D.

 

 

Being Nomadic: 5 Travel Tips to Feeling At Home Anywhere

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I hate travelling.  Okay, I dislike the process of getting to where I need to go. If I could teleport from one place to another, then travelling would be at the top of my Things I Love to Do list. Currently, it’s #1 on my Things I Have to Do list.

Still, arriving to my next destination is one of my greatest pleasures. Seeing a new place, experiencing a different culture, and through it exploring myself–this is my joy in travelling.

And luckily, my parents provided me with my first lessons in seeking a world beyond my own…and being comfortable no matter what.

The PELES Approach

Pele (s): noun,  a small fortified tower for residence or for use during an attack, common in the border counties of England and Scotland in the 16th century.

Here are 5 tips to fortifying yourself while travelling, avoiding homesickness, embracing new realities, and becoming a better nomad:

  • Prepare – Before you purchase that ticket to wherever, research your destination. Watch videos, talk to people who have been there before, read books, and buy a map or use Google Maps to actually see the place where you would like to be.  If the local language is something different from your own, then take an in-person or online course, or check out your local library or bookstore for books/CDs.
  • Explore – What are your expectations of this new destination? Do you have any stereotypes about the culture and its people? What would you do if things don’t go as expected? Trust me, this is one of the most important things you can do. We don’t always realise it, but our fantasies and biases about a place and its people can make or break our travel experience.  You cannot imagine thenumber of times I’ve heard people say “This isn’t what I expected.”
    • Find out what you expect, and then chuck those expectations off to the side…and recognise that you won’t really know until you get there.
  • (Be) Light – Emotionally. Travelling meansadditional stress. Travelling to a new place…well, let’s just say it’s the straw that can break the camel’s back. Over the years, I’veencountered many people who decided to “travel to get away from it all.”  Here’s the deal: you are who you are no matter where you are. Your problems don’t just disappear the moment you step on a plan. Heck, I’d say your problems can become overwhelmingly clear instead. Are you ready for that?
    • Before you go on any trip, I suggest resolving as much as you can, in essence, tie up loose strings.  Try not to carry excess baggage..they will only bring you down.
    • Do pack something that has been helpful for you in managing stress, e.g., stress ball, music, boading balls, etc.
  • Exclude – Anything unnecessary, whether thing or person.  There is nothingquite like travelling with a couple of suitcases, a carry-on, and a purse and arriving at your destination only to find out that there is a problem with transportation, e.g. no taxis available and public transportation strike–It can happen.
    • Do your best to pack lightly because chances are you will be 1) tired when you arrive, and 2) purchase things to take back home.
    • In terms of people, be aware that there may be some people who may be against your travel or have some (unwarranted) worries about the people or the culture. Work on turning the volume down on your ears or, better still, avoid them.
  • (Be) Sensible – In every possible way. There are many people who suspend reality when they go travelling. They do things that they would never do if they were at home. It’s the manifestation of that popular What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas slogan that creeps me outevery time I hear it.  I suggest the following:
    • Plan to arrive in the morning or by early afternoon if possible.
    • Arrange your accommodations beforehand and know how you will get around once you’re there.
    • Take the advice of other travellers who have been and any public notifications, e.g. in Rome, there are tons of signs about taking authorized white taxis with the city emblem.
    • Return to your accommodations by the late evening/early night (if possible) for the first night. Trust me, I’ve yet to find a city where anything good happens after 11PM.
    • Know how to connect with your family and friends once your there and maintain contact. Make a plan with family members for a specific time you will be in contact every day or however often you decide.

I called this the PELES Approach because I believe that being a nomad means carrying a fortified “home” with you, one that provides a solid method of inner and outer retreat should your new environment turn against you (whether literally or figuratively).

Until Next Time,

D.

Travel Tip| Get A Week LinkPass Even If You’re There For 2 Days (Boston)

View from my Delta fllight back to Orlando.

View from my Delta fllight back to Orlando.

Travelling around the outskirts of Boston, I made a mistake (or two), learned the resulting lesson, and am here to share.

I’m frugal, eco-friendly, and patient.  This makes me an ideal candidate for using public transportation anywhere in the world.  I don’t mind being jostled, witnessing vomiting drunk college kids, listening to the latest gossip from conspiring middle-aged minds, and smelling a screaming baby in need of a serious diaper change. I’m good, you see, with just about everything.

So, where did I go wrong on this trip?

Being frugal, I immediately went on the MBTA site to look at passes. There a couple of options for short stays (3 weeks or less): Day LinkPass for $12, and Week LinkPass for $19. (Both provide unlimited subway, bus, ferry and commuter rail Zone 1A travel) 

My dilemma occurred when I understood that I had to take a taxi to my hotel Saturday night/Sunday morning and that I would be unable to leave the area where I stayed until Monday…because public transportation is unavailable in Bedford after 7/8pm on Saturdays. That meant I only needed to travel on Monday and Tuesday.

I thought long and hard about it–apparently, not enough, however.

You see, I only needed to visit four places. I thought, Hmm…well, I can get a CharlieTicket and use bus transfers. That surely will be the best choice. After all, the fare for the bus is $2.10.

First, let’s break down a couple of  prices for the MBTA:

  • CharlieCard $1.60
  • CharlieTicket $2.10

There are, of course, more fares, etc.  For my trip, the above two costs were the important ones.

It is apparent from comparison that travel with the reloadable plastic CharlieCard is far less expensive than travel with the paper CharlieTicket.  They both offer transfers, but users of the CharlieTicket are made to pay a surcharge. What for? I’m quite uncertain.  Still, I get the eco-friendly idea of the plastic CharlieCard versus the paper CharlieTicket.

The problem with the CharlieCard is that you can only purchase it at certain stations between the hours of 7am-7pm or from certain retail stores.  I’m sure this is convenient…if you live in the area.

If you are just visiting and arrive after the sales hour and are not in proximity to one these retail stores, then the CharlieCard fails to be an option. You cannot purchase the CharlieCard from the fare vending machines located inside the stations.

Understanding the above, upon my arrival to the Airport subway station, I purchased a CharlieTicket for $10 (sold in values of $5, $10, $20, etc.) to use on Monday when I needed to leave Bedford for my appointments. I believed that this would be good for a total of 8 trips, i.e. 4 regular fares and 4 transfers.

I miscalculated.

The CharlieTicket does not give transfers from bus to subway. So, you must pay the subway fare separately.

Unfortunately, I had gotten into the habit of the Rome subway system that allots 1 one-way subway transfer alongside unlimited bus transfers within 100 minutes (cost 1.50 Euros).

In Boston, you are allowed 1 bus transfer within 120 minutes (cost $2.10).

In the end, I purchased another $10 CharlieTicket because I hadn’t realized that I would need to use the subway as much as I did.

Total cost of public transportation trip $20 with 2 CharlieTickets for 2 days. Less than 2 Day LinkPasses ($24), but more than the Week LinkPass ($19).

My recommendation? From day one, get the Week LinkPass. You can purchase it from the fare vending machines in the Airport subway station.  If you are going to be in Boston for more than 3 weeks, get the Monthly LinkPass ($75).

Otherwise, get the Week LinkPass.  For $19 you get unlimited bus, subway, ferry and Zone 1A commuter rail travel.

Lesson learned.

Until Friday,

D.

P.S. If you are travelling to Rome, and staying for more than two weeks, then buy a monthly pass (35 Euros). You can purchase them inside major stations or by roadside kiosks! I’ll write a separate post about this soon! 🙂

Fibromyalgia, Travel & Creative Nonfiction | Sometimes You Have to Be Poked & Prodded (Boston Update)

It’s been a long day. Actually. it’s been a long weekend. I arrived in Boston on Saturday night but didn’t arrive at my hotel until early Sunday morning. Slept for 3 hours, contemplated why the universe placed a homemade ice-cream place next to where I’m staying. Bought myself some grapenut ice-cream, slept 3 more hours, woke again, and contemplated some more. Slept 3 more hours. Rushed to catch a bus, and then another. Went to the dentist. Endured 3 novocaine shots. Replaced two fillings. Walked way more than I should have. Felt accomplished. Went to the dermatologist. I don’t have anything cancerous. But my hair is thinning due to PCOS…probably.

Took my time to catch a bus, to catch a subway, to wait for another bus, to take that to my final appointment. Saw my doctor. She made me laugh. Actually, we make each other laugh. I’ve gained too much weight. That may have affected my mood. I need to be on more medications.  That may help my mood. It may help my thinning hair. It may help my weight. I smile and laugh. I get sent down to the lab to pee, to give 4 vials of blood, to get hit on by a random hospital worker.

I remind myself that I still need to pack things, to bring my life into some kind of order. I’m asked what I am doing in Rome. I say I am living. I ask myself that, too. I respond the same way. I poke and I prod myself. I take deep breaths like I’m told to, like I tell myself. My blood pressure isn’t so high. Still I need to get back on my medications. I need to control myself. I need to prod myself. To poke myself into some kind of action.

I speak about overcoming depression, fibromyalgia, being in my late thirties…because 37 is late, it’s not mid anymore. My body is changing. It needs different things than what I’m used to giving it.

It’s 18:11. I need to get home…but where is it?