Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Back In America (Goodbye)

2:00PM June 11

As I left the aircraft, I met up with Evan Crane, the bassist from Origin Blue, who happened to be on the same flight a few rows back on the opposite side. Approaching customs, there was a woman who seemed to be directing which way to go, so I proceeded towards her. She then poured a large gob of sanitizer on my hands, but after it became clear that I was an American citizen, she directed me to the other line. Apparently I had gotten in the international customs line. There was no hand sanitizer on the American side though. To combat swine flu they must have felt it necessary for people to have clean hands, but it boggles my mind as to why that wasn't also implemented in the American line. Do we ooze penicillin from our pores? Are we immune to swine flu? Is it not just as likely that we could contract it during our time abroad as any other foreigner?

It was pretty quick getting through customs, and I got the least appealing stamp in my passport—both in appearance and destination—from re-entering in Newark. I waited around at baggage claim for about twenty minutes before they called mine and Evan's names. I was not surprised that he was called because he had to deal with getting his double bass back overseas. He told me that in Italy they found that they couldn't get it on the plane, so the baggage check attendants came up with a thoroughly Italian solution. They still marked it for his flight, but made sure it didn't get on the plane, forcing Lufthansa by their own policy to be obligated to send it back to America as a lost bag. He would then file a lost and found report in America, and they would have to ship it to his house in upstate New York. As for me, it had seemed that during my forty minute layover in Munich they were unable to transfer my baggage, so I had to fill out my address and phone number so they could deliver my baggage when it arrived.

If anything, having lost baggage made it easier to get through the second line of customs, as I didn't have to declare anything I was bringing back, and riding home on the train. My dad was there to meet me, and we made for the station to catch the next Amtrak train. I was a bit flustered when my dad asked the train attendant something in English, as I've become so accustomed to speaking to any authority figures in a foreign language. It had just become natural to view English as the language I speak with friends and family, while superiors always spoke something foreign. This language barrier, or lack thereof, would continue to stump me over the next week or two. I regularly had to catch myself saying "scusi" or "prego" to strangers.

It was interesting to encounter the train schedule boards back at the American stations because they looked exactly the same as those in Italy. When I checked up close, I noted that they were made in Udine, a bigger town in the east of Fruili-Venezia Giulia, near Slovenia, and the terminal stop on the train line I took to Fontanafredda.

That night we got Chinese food from Sang Kee, as it had been several months since I'd eaten any Asian cuisine. Sang Kee is usually great, and I got some of my usual favorites, pan-fried noodles and string beans in bean curd sauce. Unfortunately it was a weak batch for both. I stayed awake that whole day-plus (considering the six hour time change), but by 10:00 I was ready to sleep. In fact, I've consistently slept much more at home than I did in Italy, giving my body a chance to recuperate.

I called Lufthansa the following afternoon to check in on my bags, and they let me know they were just arriving in Newark and had to take several hours to go through customs. Around 11:30PM, after I'd already gone to bed, their delivery service called me to let me know that my bags were on their way. They had seven stops to make, but they didn't tell me where I was on that list, or how long it might take. To ensure that there was somebody at the door to pick up the bags, I went down and napped on the couch. I woke up around 1:30 and 4:30 to check outside to see that they hadn't just left the bags at the door. That didn't happen though, and I tried to get what sleep I could while I waiting. Finally, at 5:30AM, a man showed up with both of my bags, and by that point, I was ready to get up.

It was a pretty miserable night of sleep, not only because I never really got to sleep, but more than once I woke up feeling very disoriented. It was a very surreal feeling, as part of me knew that my parents were around, but I still felt mostly like I was back in Florence with my roommates Adam, John, Sean, and Dallas. It took a little bit of looking around and realizing that the ceilings were not fifteen feet tall and the floors were not tiled till I refigured that I was indeed back in America.

There hasn't been anything quite as strange as that, but coming back has definitely been a bit of a readjustment. I like being American and living in America, but I'm so attached to Europe now, and I can't stand the way that certain things are here. It has taken me time to at least come to grips with dressing more casual again and in fewer layers, driving cars and seeing big trucks, bigger people, meals that only last a half-hour, relatively expensive public transportation, cities with tall buildings, and the general concept of suburbia.

On the positive side, I have had the opportunity to get out and play sports again, something I've neglected to do since last summer. The first few times out were definitely difficult, as I could tell I was out of shape to an extent I've never felt before. I could feel myself getting tired and cramped quickly, but I keep pushing myself, and I've already noticed a vast improvement.

Catching up with my friends has been interesting. Those of them who have at least browsed my blog have had an advantage in re-connecting with me, as they got a taste of the experience I just had. They know I am mentally in a different place than before. Sometimes they ask for stories, or I run into new people who want to know how my experience was, and it's hard to pinpoint just what to say because my time in Italy was an all-encompassing life experience that had an impact on me in so many ways, from culture, to school, to music, to fashion, to travel, to food, and even to writing. I wouldn't say that I'm a different person at all, but Italy allowed me to connect with myself more thoroughly. I am more attune to my own personality than ever before.

One new thing I did take with me though is a passion for photography. I now find flaws to many of the shots I took at the beginning of the semester, even ones which I thought were great at the time and showed my improvement. I will continue to look for opportunities to take pictures, as I did one day at a local park with friends (below), and on my way to New York (top and far below), where I played a gig earlier this month.

The Willows (Radnor)

Skunk Hollow Community Farm

My friend Becca, sitting by the creek at the Willows.

My friend Aaron, walking along the creek.

Aaron and Becca's dog Roxy

Aaron and Becca candid

Aaron and Becca posing

When I went over to Italy, I was not intending to write a blog, but just on the plane ride over I found so much that I wanted to share with people, and no way to communicate it. Writing became my outlet, and I soon realized that beyond sending emails to a few people, publishing a journal on my adventures in Italy would give me a chance to reach a larger audience, while forcing myself to be creative and poignant in my retelling of the stories. I had no idea that this blog would be as successful as it has become. I figured that, if nothing else, my parents would read it, but knowing that there is a larger interested public out there has motivated me to take the time and devote myself to making this blog all it could be. I want to thank anyone and everyone who has taken the time to read and keep up with every entry of this blog or just skimmed one or two posts. It has been my great pleasure to write for you all.

Trenton Station

Princeton Junction

Coming into Newark

Newark Penn Station

The stage on the Bateaux, where I played.

Motoring by the Statue of Liberty

Ed. Note: At this point, I am going to focus my writing attention on music and two screenplays I have in the works with a close friend of mine. You can continue to check my music out at www.myspace.com/adriantune and www.myspace.com/afterthoughtquartet. If you are interested in a CD including performances from the various places I've played this semester, you can contact me at adriantune@verizon.net, and I will try to get it to you whenever possible. I am currently still waiting on a few recordings from Antonio, so it may be a while till that is completely together. I am also working on a book chronicling the places I went this semester through my photography with substantial excerpts from the blog. If you are interested in that, please contact me at the same address, and I will let you know when it is ready. Again, thanks for reading, and best of luck in all of your own adventures.

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