Tag Archives: YAOUNDE
When I was growing up I had a really wonderful grandfather. I spent a lot of my time at my grandparents house and most of my memories from childhood are of him. He made a lot of time for me. I remember playing, learning, and hearing stories about growing up in Jersey City. Technically Albanian his family lived in Italy for generations before migrating to the states. He always said he was Italian and we never thought to disagree.
He passed away when I was seven, so all I remember is how fantastic he was. Its like my brain squeezed out all other unnecessary memories so I could save those.
As I went through childhood, we followed Italian traditions like La Vigilia or Festa dei sette pesci The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas eve. I remember my mother telling me the story of her big trip with poppi back to Italy. I can picture her as a young adult guilting her 6ft 4 father to get into a gondola he was scared of. I remember knowing that I needed to go and see this place, maybe it would help me feel more connected to him.
During my sophomore year of high school I got an opportunity to join a exchange program at my school following a student failing and getting kicked off the trip. I consider this fate taking action. I got to live with a family in Lucca for a week and take day trips with my school. I went to Florence, Rome, and Venice. I saw art and culture mix in a natural way that seemed like it was part of the peoples identity. I think it made me feel very comfortable in my own awkward teenage head. I could identify and appreciate it. I loved paintings and so did they. Soon after that trip I felt a pull to go back, I knew it was a place I needed more time with.
My college offered a study abroad program my third year, and I knew where I wanted to go before I knew there were any options to go there. My Parsons teachers didn’t really approve of these programs, because of the party like reputations they had. I was not interested in hearing negativity and set up plans full steam ahead.
After landing in Florence I got into a taxi by myself and set off to find the office that had a key to my new home. I didn’t know anyone, I was alone and scared shitless. It sounds odd , especially after living in NYC, but you never feel totally alone in the US. Everyone knows your language and its relatively easy to talk to people. When I went to Italy I had never been on a plane alone, and didn’t know any Italian.
After I got my key and arrived at my new studio apartment; I looked out my window, down at the leather market below, and breathed a sigh of relief. I decided to go for a walk, because I was scared to.
I think this was an ‘a ha’ moment. Being able to get over something by getting through it has helped me accomplish a lot. When I got out side I made a left, walked about half a block, and stepped into a bakery. I saw a young girl behind the counter and asked if she spoke english. After asking how to order the correct way in the language, I got huge smile and an enthusiastic short Italian lesson. This was a wonderful introduction to the hospitality that is Italy and how the rest of my time there would be.
Through out the seven month period I traveled all over Europe. I learned how to bargain confidently, see a major city in 2 days, sleep in a hostel with 10 strangers, I learned how to get lost and not freak out, I learned how to enjoy a quiet walk, and among many other things I learned how to oil paint for myself not for a project critique. I spent a lot of my free time in the many Florentine galleries sketching, and started feeling a big connection with the way renaissance and pre-renaissance painters used colors and movement. I was studying illustration at Parsons before I left, and when I came back to the states just wanted to paint. I think a few of my teachers thought I went a bit batty.
Following my study abroad experience I went back a couple times with friends and still couldn’t shake the connection. Each time coming home with feeling that I couldn’t get back soon enough. A few years later, after I decided teaching would be a great way for me to give back to the world, I found out about teaching abroad.
I thought it would be a great route for me to possibly live in Europe and have the opportunity to go to my favorite place more frequently. But after going to the job fairs I soon learned that this was everyone elses idea too and Europe would not be so easy to get to. I took the job in Cameroon on great faith that I needed to experience living abroad. Maybe that was what I was really craving, a new culture. After being here a year I think that might be the case in a lot of the ways because I’m very happy and having a great time. During my time in Yaounde I’ve gotten to think about who and what I find important, and have made big choices, felt the consequences, failed and succeeded. I’ve learned more about myself and what I am able to deal with. But I still feel that original pull towards Europe, how annoying.
In the last two months I’ve been back to Italy twice. The first time a vacation to Florence the second Turin, both ended up having a purpose. I got to visit two international schools and meet the people who run them. The concept of actually reaching my goal is a bit overwhelming and maybe to good to be true. Apparently it is very difficult to get an American an Italian visa so they will be looking more to see IF they can find an equivalent or better candidate from the EU. I won’t know for a few months from now if this is a real possibility, but I am content with any outcome. I feel like what ever happens I am closing a huge chapter and opening a new one. I have tried my best and taken risks. I have never been this close to realizing this ‘dream’. Its all very wishy washy in my mind and I think of my grandpa. Its like he’s taking me on this adventure indirectly. He implanted this seed in my brain as a kid that has helped me find opportunities now.
Ah Bella Italia..
Tags: Albania, Albanian, Art, Cameroon, Feast of the Seven Fishes, Florence, Grandfather, Grandpa, Italy, Jersey City, Michelangelo, Mother, New Jersey, painting, Rome, School, teaching abroad, tradition, Travel, Turin, Venice, YAOUNDE
How lucky am I? The school is paying for my personal items to be shipped abroad! Seriously, if you’ve ever lived in another country you’d know what a big deal this is!
Yaoundé, from what I’ve learned, does not have any art stores or clothing stores. They have seamstresses that make clothing, and their local art scene is all woodcarving.. I am told taxing is 100% on imported items; this includes things like sneakers, certain foods, and cars. It is hard to get items through customs on a timely basis. I read in a 3-year-old teacher’s handbook to bring things you felt needed to be a specific brand. So if a Walmart was built there in the last 3 years, I will feel a little silly. Either way, I am taking advantage of this wonderful offer.
If you were trapped on an island and had 5 boxes you could fill with things to take with you, what would you bring? What couldn’t you live with out? I repeated this to myself, staring at the art supplies and peanut butter I’d artistically wedged between my shampoo, soap, and contact lens solution.
Ha-ha…5 boxes. I think not!
6 personal boxes and 5 boxes (filled only with art supplies) later, my life is packed securely and on its way to Kingwood Texas where it will be placed in a big container and shipped to Yaoundé. Clearly my top priorities are my everyday items, and art supplies. I am hopeful that during this experience, I will be painting every chance I get.
Beyond the things I absolutely can’t live with out, I got to pack stuff that will help me get settled and feel happy. The top items in that mix are:
Art Books: Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings, Lucian Freud, Picasso and Matisse, Tim Burton, Frida Kahlo.
Novels: The Fountainhead, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Human Stain. My NEW Kindle is joining me so I really have no need to bring too many.
Food: Peanut butter, ketchup (it’s very different once you leave the US, probably made more naturally, but I like the stuff with the corn syrup) and Oatmeal. Brownie mix (if anything this will help me make friends), Wheat thins, black liquorice, and ginger snaps. During my stay in Italy, not having certain American food products, (and spending 12 euros on peanut butter) helped bring on a bit of homesickness.
I know when I get there, there will be more things I wish I had, but adapting to my surroundings is part of the experience. I’ll probably find even better substitutes. Who knows? But it will be OK, and I’ll have my ketchup and art supplies to keep me happy!
Lesson of the month: If you forgot to pack something, it probably wasn’t that important.
Tags: ABROAD, Africa, Art, BOOKS, Cameroon, CLOTHING, family, FOOD, Friends, Independence, KETCHUP, life, love, New Jersey, New York, PACKING, painting, PEANUT BUTTER, School, SHOES, Teaching, Travel, WALMART, YAOUNDE