March 20, 2008

Cityscape

In just a couple months now, DH and I will be settled in our new place in Washington, D.C., for the summer. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately; feeling the trepidation of impending change. A few nights ago, I watched a show, with the DH, about Russia on the travel channel. They started out in a rural setting and slowly made their way to urban life. They showed the development that has taken place in Moscow: expensive malls and car dealerships, upscale restaurants, and techno-pop dance clubs. Watching them walk around in that cement jungle made me think about how much I love living in/visiting the city and being a part of its electricity and motion. And, I felt better.

My first real contact with a big city was when my parents moved us to Boston, and it has become one of my favorite places to visit. It’s not overwhelming, but not underwhelming either. There’s always something fun to do. But, I have to admit, the thing I really like best about Boston is that you can have your cake and eat it, too. Travel a good 30 or 45 minutes out of the city, and you are surrounded by big, blooming trees and charming little towns. DH and I went back recently, and the memories flooded in—I was in nostalgia heaven. It was a lot of fun to remember what it had been like to get used to a new, somewhat “foreign,” place. To remember some of the wonderful people I met, the great times we had, and how I accomplished adjusting to the culture and eventually took it on as part of my own identity. We visited all the places that I’d been to before: historical sites, parks, the old neighborhood. We walked the freedom trial and stopped to watch a contortionist at Faneuil Hall and then grabbed some tandoori chicken. We rode the T around the city. The beeping doors, the smell of stale cigarette smoke, the people reading books or listening to their iPods. These things took me back to another place.

Cologne, Germany—my first stop on a year and a half journey. The smell, the language, the food . . . everything was so uncomfortable and strange. At first, it made me so homesick that I longed to go back to something familiar. But then, slowly, daily life took over, and things started to get routine. You discover little things in a new place that just don’t exist anywhere else: like Bratwurst and Broetchen and miles of Weihnachtsmarkt booths and Rolladen that keep out the street lights or people who use “wicked” as an adjective and thick, richly colored fall foliage. Then, suddenly, you’ve acclimated. And that joyful nostalgic feeling of living and working in the city with people who have become your friends attaches itself to the smell of dirty streets and curry ketchup. The slamming Bahn doors, the “Tschuss” of the stranger coming out of the elevator, the cold cobblestone and bright lights of the Fussgaengerzone. All these things remind me of the joys of city living.

Cities aren’t all happy times, though. And, as I said, I am a lover of having and eating cake. There’s something to be said about wide open space and a community that lives and works together in a personal way. I wish I could have both all the time. One day, I hope we’ll be able to find a happy median. Maybe we’ll live right outside the city, like my parents did, but still visit as often as time and circumstance permit. These things have a way of working themselves out.

But for my part, I think I’ll go on loving the city, for now. I’ve lived many places since Germany, and I hope to live in (or visit) many more. The idea of embarking on a new city makes my stomach tingle with excitement. I’ll soon have another chance to get used to an unfamiliar place and find out its secrets. New subway maps to figure out and commit to memory, new restaurants to make my favorites, new people to befriend . . . new smells, sights, and sounds. Each of these things will then, slowly, become a part of who I am. And someday, a few years down the road or maybe longer, I’ll be walking around or sitting somewhere and one of those things will trigger a wonderful memory. And I’ll miss Washington, D.C.—I’ll miss it so bad, I’ll want to jump on a plane just so I can see, hear, or smell that thing that just came and went in my mind. And that fear and anxiety I felt in the beginning will be stored away, perfectly preserved, until the next time change lurks on the horizon, ready to pounce.

4 comments:

Michael J. said...

I already miss D.C., before we've even been there, after reading your most recent entry. :)

laurylaro said...

I know just what you mean. For me, its like the 2 year itch! I can't wait to move again. Its more exciting when you don't know where you'll end up. Who wants to be stagnant and boring and stay in one place for their whole life? There's a whole world out there to see and only one life to see it all!

Erin and Chris said...

Its kind of sick how good of a writer you are; I'm never writing on my blog again. I'm a slacker, me and my braces over here, I'm slacking on the job.
However, you did make me feel better about the possibility of moving to Knoxville. (No, its not that big, but 600,000 people is big to me;-)

Erin and Chris said...

I totally just lied to you. Its only 175,000 people. That's all.