On the road – Conference trip: a blissful experience

Thursday, February 1st, off to a weekend trip. 

I was sitting at the bar table, at the edge of what would mark the perimeter of the “The Wild Flower Bread Co.” restaurant, at the Sky Harbor Phoenix airport. Thank you, babe, for dropping me off.

To my left, there was a Panda Express, and to my right, the rest of the gates A9 – A14. In front of me, other restaurants, more gates, and the hallway in between. The smell of food, the loud sea of voices, of busy restaurants and stores, all converge into a single stimulus, easily tuned out.

As I looked around, I got a display of all sorts of colorful travelers, some walking at a brisker pace than others. Couples, singles, business professionals, young, old, tattooed, pierced, even four-legged travelers.  Most lost in their thoughts or in their phones -not the four-legged ones, obviously. I really think that technology has facilitated the art of people watching; you hardly make eye contact anymore. Not that I complain, I like being invisible to others, they feel safe to be themselves; I’ve noticed that we tend to be the rawest version of ourselves when we are unaware of others watching.

When eye contact does happen, however, people tend to look away rather quickly. Everyone is just used to not acknowledging those around them, despite how close they may be.

I was lucky to get a seat next to an outlet, and only a store down from where my gate was: A7. I had a little over 45 minutes before my flight took off.

Shortly after I sat down to eat my lunch -and review my notes for my presentation – I got a notification on my phone informing me that my flight had been delayed.

1:01 p.m., on the plane.

I got lucky, egotistically I thought I could stay in my comfy seat until a few minutes before the flight. But the ‘delayed’ notification had me a bit distraught -I didn’t want to miss my connecting flight in Charlotte, NC -.  When I opened the notification, it had changed back to ‘on time’.  Confused, I collected my things and headed to the gate, where I found out they were boarding the plane. Alhamdulillah.

The flight attendant informed us that the boarding was complete, and according to the Capitan, we could expect a smooth flight.  Which was true up until the landing.

As I jotted down notes for my blog, I couldn’t believe how fast the time had passed. It seemed it was only yesterday that we arrived in Arizona. And just a few weeks prior to that, I was discussing the conference of “Italy in Transit” at FAU with my professor, where she suggested I consider presenting my essay “Radici perdute: una famiglia in traduzione, translation, traducción”.

At the time, I thought the idea of flying from Sedona to Florida for a weekend seemed a bit crazy and not doable.

Within a week of us being in Sedona, after long adventurous hikes, delicious food, and warm showers, I decided -just for the fun of it – to look for tickets. At first, I was a bit worried I wouldn’t find something affordable. It turns out that flying out from Phoenix is a lot more expensive than flying out from Miami. I settled for a $300 ticket.

Once I booked my flight, I contacted my professor, letting her know that I would be able to attend the conference. She sounded delighted, soon after that, I saw my name in the program.

Time to shut down Nymeria -yes, I am a nerd that names things – the time was 1:04 p.m.

At 1:26 p.m., we were on our way. My layover took me to Charlotte, NC. Our flight was 15 minutes delayed, which set me back a bit for my connecting flight; but I figured it was all part of the adventure.

There were a few tiny humans on the flight. Which is fine with me, until they start crying. Tiny humans can be so loud. Who would think their little lungs could hold and let out so much air. It makes me want to cry too. My ears hurt. Part of me wonders if that is part of their survival instincts, as in bird species, for example. The loudest baby bird gets the most food. Maybe human offspring are wired similarly, the louder they are, the more food and attention they get.

After some tortuously loud 10 minutes of nonstop crying, we finally got some peace and quiet.

I looked at my notes, I was pretty content with how I summarized my presentation. A butterfly-void passed through my body as I realize I was actually doing this. I was on a flight back to Florida for a weekend.  And on that weekend, I would get to speak in Italian in front of a bunch of Italian-speaking-strangers. That made me kind of nervous, but more excited than anything. Knowing that my parents and my siblings would be there, gave me a bit more tranquility.

The lady sitting next to me dropped a pencil sharpener, I offered to pick it up for her and she seemed truly touched. I’m always happy to help, but it made me a bit sad that something so simple seemed to be rare. Especially when it takes no effort to be kind, considerate, and helpful. Or so I think.

I put my things away when my eyelids got heavy, my body was ready for a nap.

Second flight, Charlotte to Fort Lauderdale. 8:28 p.m.

We landed at Charlotte quite ahead of schedule, I got excited for half a second until we were informed that we had to wait another 15-20 minutes to get to the gate. I was lucky enough to have my gate close from where we arrived, and it was right next to a Starbucks.

I reviewed my presentation a few times while timing myself. I was happy to see I finished within less than 20 minutes. I opened my pictures and started going through them. Sedona is such a magical place that it felt like a fantasy dream -if it wasn’t for my ticket back, I’d think I just dreamt the entire trip -. To think that morning, I woke up next to my lover in Sedona, and now I was on a plane to Fort Lauderdale. It was a surreal feeling.

Reviewing notes and going through memories stored in an album can only keep you entertained for so long. The last hours of a trip are the worst. Similar to when you have to pee, and you approach the bathroom, for some reason -as if your gallbladder knew – you feel like you’re about to burst right when you’re walking into the bathroom.

Perhaps I was too excited going back home, seeing my baby -his sweet black eyes, his short red-rock-fur – seeing my parents and my siblings. Though it’s only been over a month, it felt much longer.

The flight seemed shorter than I expected-thank God -, we arrived at 9:55 p.m.

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My brother was waiting for me outside the airport. We had a short 45-minute drive up to Boynton Beach. Thank you ñaño for picking me up.

When we got home, I almost couldn’t recognize my four-legged baby. He was so happy to IMG_2293see me -I actually cried a little when I had him in my arms -but he was so much calmer. I realized that he will be three the 28th of this month. I couldn’t believe it. When, why, how, did he grow up so much?!

After saying hi to Drogo, I spent some time catching up with my brother -my sister worked early in the morning, she went to bed shortly after giving me a bear-crushing-hug -. He’s busy with classes and work, but the coolest thing to me is his personal projects. A variety of sketches, unique in their design. Though he’s way too modest -and too harsh of a self-critic-, he’s advanced so much in his hidden talent.

 

Friday, February 2nd, a blur of a day.

I got up by 7:30 a.m. -I was rather impressed with myself, as a professional sleeper, at times it’s difficult to wake up early – and went for a long walk with Drogo. We walked around the neighborhood, we greeted other dogs, did some exercise, and headed back to the house for some breakfast. I got ready for my hair appointment with my favorite and talented hairdresser Jessica Strange –she actually can ready your hair and know exactly what you need-. After my haircut, I headed to 9Round, my favorite place for a good thorough workout. My baby sister is the head trainer at this gym, it truly suits her. I’m lucky to have her as my very own personal trainer. Though she kicks my ass and pushes me to give everything I have on the matt; but I love it.  And not to brag, but my body has never looked better. Here, here for starting my 30’s in great shape! Thank you ñaña for guiding me on my fitness journey.

After my full body workout, I headed back home for a nice shower. Shortly after that, I took my Drogo to the dog park. He’s such a happy soul. Well, dogs, in general, are happy souls, but my Drogo is quite unique in that he doesn’t growl or react to other dogs that may not be as gentle as he is. He simply walks down or trots away, looking for more playmates. He doesn’t react to aggressive dogs, he simply moves on. I think there’s something to learn in that. Or maybe I’m just a proud canine mom.

After the dog park, we headed back to the house, and I reviewed my presentation -once again -, making sure I had everything ready.

Saturday, February 3rd, presentation day. Breathe, breathe, breathe. 

I meant to wake up by 7:30 a.m., but my siblings and I had stayed up until midnight just fooling around, laughing, and catching up. Every minute of it is a cherished memory, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I ended up waking up an hour later. I took Drogo for a short walk, I took my shower, got dressed, collected my notes, and headed out -I left a treat for Drogo as I headed out, talk about bribing your child-. Luckily, I don’t live that far from FAU, so I arrived just a few minutes into the first talk.

The presentations were so interesting – a pleasant surprise -, usually at a conference some talks tend to be boring, but I felt enraptured by each of the speakers and their IMG_2309stories. They all shared a little piece of history, history about our Italianità. History of Italian culture, language, food, music, art. The history of a vibrant culture with a twist, an American twist, as the previous generations tried to adapt to their new surroundings.

The nerves I had for speaking in public, were longer than my actual presentation -I

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Franco Genovese, the only picture I have of my great grandfather

actually finished with 4 minutes to spare -, and not justified at all. I presented at 11:25 a.m. Once I started speaking I kept my eyes where my family was sitting, and everything just flowed. My mind felt at ease, even when I spoke in Italian, my body apparently was still catching up to my more relaxed mind. I felt shivers going down my body as I told the story of my great-grandfather, a story that had been waiting to be told for many, many years. I was happy to be able to contribute to the history we were all there to share.

 

I had the opportunity to meet other writers, historians, scholars; wonderful people with a piece of Italianness to share.

My favorite part of the conference, however, was to be able to see two of my professors. Dr. Ilaria Serra, and Dr. Myriam Ruthenberg. Two amazingly successful women that -unknowingly – have inspired and influenced me in more ways than I could count. Besides teaching me Italian, they inspired me to push myself harder, to reach further than the sky -there is no limit really, other than the one in your mind -.

 

Through the courses I took with them, beautifully challenging and demanding, they taught

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With Dr. Serra

me that I have much more to give than I would have ever thought myself capable of. With their patience, endless encouragement, high expectations, and the incredible passion with which they share their knowledge, they guided me to discover my potential.

 

Though I have become quite a confident writer, I still can’t find the words to express the love, admiration, and gratitude I have for both of them. I was blessed to have different courses with them, in both undergrad and graduate school. They believed in my potential before I could see it.

Unknowingly, they held a flame of hope for me, while I was going through some tough times, particularly on my last two semesters of graduate school. I met both of them in my

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With Dr. Ruthenberg

early 20’s, needless to say, that they have seen me at my lowest points, but overall, I’d say they have seen me grow. I never really found the time, nor the right words to express how much they impacted my academic career, and myself growth.

 

 

 

 

What I am trying to say, really, is grazie, grazie mille per tutto.

After the conference, I headed home to spend time with my family. We went out to Chili’s for dinner. Nothing like family time full of laughter and bullying. They mean the world to me, again, words just don’t seem enough. They are my biggest teachers, supporters, and guidance. Thank you so much for that and more.

 

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Drogo and I the night before my flight back.

 

Thank you to my Drogo, I’ll be back really soon buddy, please don’t be too sad. I miss you everyday.

Sunday, February 4th, back to Sedona.

The sky was still dark when my parents picked me up -I can’t express enough how blessed I am to have them -, it was 4:15 a.m. Thank you for all the sacrifices, all the patience, all the unconditional love, and support. Without you guys, I wouldn’t have the strong foundation I find myself on. Thank you for allowing me to fly and soar over the skies of my self-discovery.

The security line for American Airlines was packed, I would have never thought so, it was 5:09 a.m.! Half asleep I made my way to the scanning machine -I’m not sure what it’s called – It took a little over 30 minutes for me to cross the security line.  I guess early trips are more common than I had expected. Luckily, my gate was quite close. I made it just when they were calling my group to board. We were quite on schedule. I slept for most of the flight when I woke we were landing at the Charlotte airport. This time my gate wasn’t so close, I got to walk around, passing many stores. It’s incredible how much advertisement and ‘buy me’ things are out there for people. Most fall for it. I was too tired to care. I figured I’d buy something to eat on the plane, so I found a comfy corner and waited around to board the plane. We were scheduled to leave by 9:40 a.m.

10:30, boarded the plane, still at the gate.

The weather delayed our flight, freezing rain, as the Capitan explained over and over. Early flights are common for parents apparently, there were too many tiny humans crying and yelling. They actually expressed how I felt, I didn’t mind them crying this time. I could relate, who wants to stay locked up in a tiny plane, restricted to an uncomfortable seat, with nothing to do?

We finally took off by 11:00 a.m. I fell asleep a few times, the man sitting to my left -I always ask for the aisle seat – was rather bulky, he took up some of my space. So, I was leaning towards to the aisle the entire flight. Not the most comfortable of trips.

We landed in Phoenix by 1:25 p.m.-I traveled back in time -, my boyfriend was waiting for me. I didn’t realize how much I had missed him until I was in his arms again. There is something magical about two hearts meeting in a hug. A sort of click, or a ‘yes, I’m home’ sort of feeling -I’m a romantic, no point in denying it anymore -.

We drove back catching up, laughing, and holding hands. The scenery of the Red Rock, is astounding, no matter how many times you see it, it always feels as if you’re seeing it for the first time.  When we got to Sedona, he took me out for a lunch date. And when we got to the apartment, after greeting and catching up with my favorite tour guide/uncle, I had all the intentions of finishing and posting my blog, but I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Monday, February 5th, early breakfast.

I woke up after a 12-hour sleep. I guess my body truly needed it, I feel a bit responsible for my parents’ rest. I hope they were able to make up for waking up so early yesterday morning.

It’s so surreal, it’s Monday -where does the time go?- and I’m back in Sedona. Less than 24 hours ago I was on the east coast, now I am having breakfast with my lover.

All that is left to say is, thank you for a surreal and sublime experience. I can’t thank everyone enough for being part of this short adventure and sharing it with me.

ded3e044-d6c2-48ed-9693-09961c98704a.jpgTo my family, thank you guys so very much, I’ll see you all in about 10 days.

Long reads On the road

missejjessim View All →

An incurable passion for writing; a poet at heart. I am a writer on the road.

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