Hanging in the Lost & (Not) Found

17 Jun


When I studied abroad in college, people asked me if I’d “found myself.” The answer was a steadfast no. I definitely hadn’t found myself. In fact, I think I came home less mature than I’d left. More worldly, but less mature. (Not that I’m complaining. There are no regrets.)

Fast-forward two years, and I’m home after nearly a year spent abroad. Did I “find myself” abroad this time around?

(Yes, actually, it was quite scary! One minute, I was at home, sitting on my couch, and the next, I found myself in the middle of a French corn field, with no idea how I’d gotten there!)

One of my strongest beliefs – besides the fact that pedestrians shouldn’t feel rushed while crossing the street – is that the idea of “finding yourself” is a load of bologna. (If you’re reading this and you’re in the middle of cutting a cake that says “Congratulations on Finding Yourself!” then I’m sorry.)

My thinking is this: if, after this year, I am a “found woman,” then that means that I’ve got nothing left to look for – nothing about myself or my life that confuses me, or worries me, or leaves me thinking. If all it takes to be “found” is one year in a different place, then how complex a person could I have been? Isn’t part of life remaining your own greatest mystery??

Sure, I learned a lot abroad. I met great people. I met weird people. I tried good food. I tried gross food. I felt happy and I felt lonely and I felt excited and I felt bored and I felt content and I felt anxious and I was hungry and I was full to the point of explosion and then I was hungry again and I was American but I felt French but I also felt American.

I didn’t find “Sophie” because, honestly, that bitch runs and hides better than a kindergartener on a sugar high, and I’m not sure I’ll ever know where she is at any one time. But, I did find a lot of other cool things and had some awesome experiences that I’d like to recap now – mostly for my own benefit, so I have online documentation. (You know, I hear this thing called “the Internet” is the future). But also because I haven’t typed in a long time, and I’m starting a job next week that will require typing skills.

Here are some highlights and shout-outs from a year spent overseas, in no particular order:

  1. That time I ate intestines. And that time I ate brains. (Intestines and brains do not taste like chicken. They just don’t. They taste like intestines and brains, and thinking that you’re going to come up with a big juicy bite of chicken is a form of torture, masquerading in self-delusion. Which makes it doubly awful.)
  2. To the person who told me that, if elected, Hillary Clinton would “show us the aliens,” my question is, will Donald Trump show us merpeople? Because that could sway my vote.
  3. That time I sat down to dinner with a 45 year-old Irish man who talked with his eyes closed and who “thought he was coming down with a cold” and thought we’d all like to hear about it 45 times; a blonde Bulgarian man who only ate potatoes and thought no one noticed when he poured scotch under the table; a bald Australian dude whose idea of dinnertime conversation was recounting all of the shark attacks he’d witnessed; and a young Frenchman, who told me that “working in an olive oil field is the best way to lose your virginity,” but neglected to elaborate on this statement.
  4. That time I went topless on a beach because I thought I was alone, only to be surprise-attacked by a dozen goats and two dogs. Pervs.
  5. To the Greek donkey that decided he’d rather shove me into a stone wall than carry me up a hill: dude, I don’t blame you. I’d come from a VERY full lunch, and I’m sure it had been a long day for you. Thanks for making an ordinary, 15 minute ride into an hour-long ordeal, during which I had the good fortune to be laughed at by several donkey herders, as well as a pack of attractive Brazilian tourists.
  6. To the young hall monitor, at whose house-warming party I belted Adele and then acted put-off when he told me to “quiet down” because it was “3am”: leave your work at the office. You can monitor the halls, but you can’t monitor me!
  7. To the French man who sold bread at the Friday market and who held aside free samples of cake for me every Friday, rain or shine: thank you for letting me blatantly rob you of free samples without ever buying anything.
  8. That time I tried to flirt with my Moldovan-Italian waiter by saying, “Thanks for the bread, it was delicious!”
    1. That time my Moldovan-Italian waiter sent the chef to our table, so he could receive my bread compliments.
  9. That time my Portuguese waiter tried to flirt with me by asking if I was interested in his “broiled sausage”…
    1. That time I was interested in my Portuguese waiter’s broiled sausage.
  10. To the flight attendant who asked me if I was 21, and then looked at my skeptically when I said yes. THANK YOU, MA’AM! My morale is forever boosted.
  11. That time my sister and I spent actual money to go into the Amsterdam Museum of Sex, where an electronic mannequin flashed us, and where I made a joke about a phallic stone statue looking like an avocado pounder that one uses to make guacamole, and the two American women next to us burst out laughing, and I felt like a million bucks and wouldn’t stop talking about it for days.
  12. That time my grandparents took me on a driving trip through western France, and my grandfather named the GPS “Agnes,” and we started talking to her so much that I was convinced we had a real Joaquin Phoenix in Her situation on our hands…
  13. All the times my friends and I went out for coffee and then came home with receipts for multiple beers.
  14. That time some new friends and I went searching through Porto for a restaurant “owned by some guy named Anthony” that a couple of random dudes in a wine shop had recommended, and then found it. And Anthony. (I will write a movie about this experience and call it Finding Anthony.)
  15. That time in London that I ate SO much Indian food and then drank a PB&J martini and then promptly threw up.
  16. The Italian Bed and Breakfast where I stayed in Verona, which looked like how I imagine Liberace’s garden, and over whose toilet was this sign:IMG_0714(Please note Mr. Hankey’s festive Christmas cap!)
  17. That time I asked if my hotel’s free drink coupon could be cashed in for a mimosa, and the French waiter didn’t know what a “mimosa” was, and I found myself miming and explaining how to mix champagne and juice, and the dude thought I was already drunk and told me I could have “some plain juice.”
  18. The following exchange between my seatmate on a flight and our steward:

Steward: “Sir, can I offer you a snack and a beverage?”

Sir: “Do you have sparkling water?”

Steward: “No, sir, only still water or juice.”

Sir: “Alright, gimme a gin and tonic!”

Steward: “Sorry, sir, only still water or juice.”

Sir: “Just give me the cookie.”

  1. That time my student formed the sentence, “Her eyebrows are on fleek,” without being prompted, and claimed she didn’t know how to say “eyebrows” in English.
  2. That time my student thought it was hilarious to call me by the name of “Susie.”
  3. When my roommate and I asked if we could take a picture with our old lady landlord because we wanted to remember her, and she said “No.”
  4. That time there was a wind storm and our shutters were making a racket, so I went into the living room, wearing my underwear, only to find my male landlord on the outside of the window, on a ladder, fastening our shutters to the wall…
  5. All of the times the trainer at the gym accidentally spit in my face.
  6. That time a grown man, whom I’d tutored in English ONE TIME, read my blog post about doing squats at the gym, and then texted me something highly inappropriate about my ass.
    1. That time I blocked his ass from my contacts and drafted a scathing blog post about him, which I might post at some point in the near future.
  7. That time a friend and I missed the last train to his Parisian apartment to get Speculoos Mcflurries from McDonalds, and had to walk home in the pouring rain.
  8. That time I woke up to find my bed covered in candy wrappers, and then promptly said (to myself), “The only rappers I wake up with are candy rappers”: a one-liner which has kept me laughing to this day.
  9. That time my dad unknowingly ordered cow balls.
  10. That time I took “improv theater,” and was made to growl non-stop for four minutes, as a warm-up exercise.
  11. All of the times I lied and said I’d “recently acquired a new phone number,” because I couldn’t remember the French phone number that I’d acquired in September.
  12. That time my friend entered a bar with an ENTIRE bottle of Tequila and then dropped it and it shattered all over the place, and we stepped aside and pretended to be horrified by “whoever just dropped that bottle!”
  13. Realizing that no one speaks French like four years of studying French literature had taught me to speak it.
  14. That time I cooked three courses of a Thanksgiving dinner and was convinced that Julia Child’s ghost had chosen to inhabit my body. (The exorcism that ensued was a lot of me yelling, “3/4s of a cup of flour! Ten sticks of butter! DON’T OVERCOOK THE SPINACH!!!)
  15. That time my grandmother told our bald barkeep that “Sophie is a wonderful singer and was in a chorus!” and he politely acted interested.
  16. All of the mounds of dog shit that I managed to avoid stepping in (except for that one time).
  17. All of the people who looked at me like I was the Little Match Girl when I would eat alone at restaurants and write in my journal.
  18. The regional shortage of chocolate tarts that I caused in the South of France. I am sorry.
  19. All of the Netflix I watched because I was “learning how to live on my own.”
  20. All of the people I met while traveling and staying in hostels, about whom my mom wondered if “their friends thought it was weird that some random girl from Boston was appearing in their travel photos.”
  21. That time a few of us had a sing-along at my hostel in Venice, and the cleaning lady walked in on me belting “Defying Gravity” from Wicked into my hairbrush, and I had no idea she was there until she started clapping and I opened my eyes.
  22. That time the Cheese Man at dinner *jokingly* offered me “all” of the twelve cheese samples as my cheese course, but I said “yes” before I realized he was joking…and so I had a plate of twelve cheeses.
  23. All of the times I ate cheese.
  24. That time I was hugely disappointed because the U.S. customs officer neglected to say, “Welcome home, ma’am,” while stamping my passport, and thus ruined the scene I’d envisioned (which involved that line, and then me putting on sunglasses and walking out into my blinding future, Elle Woods style).

Of course, there are many more experiences that I could recount, but, like I said, my typing is rusty, and also, I’m sure you all have better things to do than read about that time I started a flash mob in Vienna and then got arrested for “party rocking.” (Direct message me if you want to find out if this story really happened or not.)

Did I find myself? No. But I had a hell of a good time looking.


Photo: http://sites.msdwt.k12.in.us/jfeeney/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2014/07/worldwide-travel-nurse-advantages.jpg



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