Old cities are like old paint splatters on your favorite jeans.

A new home every 4 or less months… for 4 years? It definitely gets interesting.

As I move through the world, habits and behaviors and strategies and patterns that develop in one place follow me to the next.

Some of these turn into cultivated skills, like my slowly refining budgeting abilities. I give myself a mental high five when I noticed these popping up.

Others are like permanent paint splatters on your favorite jeans, not really noticeable and artsy enough that even if somebody did notice them they’d think it was intentional. These are the ones that I blink at when they come seemingly from nowhere.

Since August 2016, there have been a lot of moves, and each place has given me something new.

From San Francisco, California (8 months), I keep

  • a reluctance to even look into a restaurant unless I was mentally prepared to drop at least $20. (I never was. I went out to eat 0 times on my own in San Francisco.)
  • the normalization of homeless people on the streets, a mindset I dislike.
  • the assumption that anybody in a grey hoodie is probably working for Twitter, Uber, any other fancy start-up, or owns a million dollars.

From Atlin, British Colombia (1 month), I keep

  • a love for ferries. And lakes. And mountains. And Germans!
  • surprise that night falls elsewhere in the world, and darkly. (I’ve only been in Atlin, which is far north, in the summer––it never gets near full dark.)
  • a sense that no matter what happens, even if everything goes wrong, I can always find a place of belonging and peace. (this is really, really helpful, especially around finals time.)

From Seoul, South Korea (3 months), I keep

  • the habit of bobbing my head respectfully to those doing me a favor and handing my credit card over with my hand on my elbow.
  • an image of public swimming places that makes me surprised to find bathers outside Korea going in swimming suits instead of being naked.
  • a gentle disgust for wearing my shoes past the entry way.
  • a love for heated floors.

From Hyderabad, India (4 months), I keep

  • a reluctance to pay more than $3 for an Uber anywhere and more than $12 for a 10 hour bus ride.
  • a belief in the high potential (in the areas of cheapness, tastiness, and accessibility) for street food.
  • faith that the goodness of humanity can always be found, even if it doesn’t always appear that way on the immediate surface.
  • knowledge that clothing could always be more interesting and colorful.
  • EDIT: a new null hypothesis: people can like me. Before they know me, their impression is neutral, not negative. This is embodied in The Best Hyderabad House 2k18….

From Tucson, Arizona (1+2+2), I keep

  • ….. I’m still figuring out what my upbringing in Tucson left me with. Right now, it still feels like the baseline, and therefore hard to detect.

 

Now I’m in Birmingham, Alabama (2 months). What will I keep from here? Will these old habits ever fade fully away? Will I ever stop feeling homesick for 4 places at once? Will I stop accidentally pulling up mental maps of cities several spots down the list of moves when I’m planning what I want to do in the city that day or go to the library? Moving with Minerva is amazing, don’t get me wrong. If I could live 7 lifetimes and spend each in each city we live in, though… I’d choose that option instead of only 4 months in each home.


Featured image from Minerva’s website, https://www.minerva.kgi.edu/global-experience/

Lisa

Today I met Lisa, who lives on a boat in the San Francisco harbor. They’ve lived there for a year and a half now, sometimes sailing, sometimes coming onto the mainland.

I struck up a conversation when I saw them reading Ender’s Game in the same spot I’d been reading Armada (which mentions Ender’s Game several times) two nights previously. They immediately invited me to sit down, and explained how they were excited that they’d finally found a used copy of the book. Apparently, Orson Scott Card (the author) is a bit of a “burn the gays” type, so Lisa didn’t want to contribute at all to his royalties. A used copy resolves that concern without hindering their pursuit of literature.

I couldn’t stay long, because I was off to the Middle East 10:01 (a presentation about the region by my classmates from that area, followed by delicious food and dancing), and already late.

But I stayed as long as I could. The joy at meeting somebody in the City, at the simplicity of a chance encounter, even the novelty of chatting with somebody who is not from my school, made my heart lift.

(Speaking of hearts lifting – dancing a workout to Beyonce destroys slothfulness in limbs and mind, I found. Not a fan of exercise, but I may have to pursue it more despite that fact for the after effects.)

I’ll see Lisa again on Tuesday for a meet-up. Today is Sunday.

I can’t wait.