Beyond the Garden State

I recently came across a quotation on Tumblr that I thought I would share:

¨If you´re twenty-two, physically fit, hungry to learn and be better, I urge you to travel – as far and as widely as possible. Sleep on the floors if you have to. Find out how other people live and eat and cook. Learn from them – wherever you go.¨ ~Anthony Bourdain

As I sat staring at these words on my computer I thought that for once I was actually doing what a quotation asked of me; even though I am twenty-three and somewhat physically fit (adipose tissue seems infatuated with my mid-section), I am now living in a foreign country and learning a copious amount.

Yes, you read right. I, Lourdes Keochgerien, have left The Garden State and now reside in Uruguay.

Both of my parents are Uruguayan and for years I have heard countless stories and descriptions of places they visited, houses they grew up in, foods they missed, and people they left behind. Now having the chance to see and experience and interact with these proper nouns has left me a bit gobsmacked. It is the equivalent of meeting your favorite YA author without ever seeing a picture, video, or blog of his/hers – your illusions are either confirmed or shattered.

Sometimes the mystery is better than the reality.

This is not the case for me.

A few days ago I visited  where my parents tied the knot, La Gruta de Lourdes (The Grotto of Lourdes). I have seen my parents´ wedding pictures countless times as my mom explained to me that the third gentleman to the left in the fifth row was her least favorite cousin, but actually walking down the same pebble-covered aisle they did more than 25 years ago left me a tad bit emotional. (Aside: My parents are one of a handful of couples who were allowed to marry outside. My dad told the bishop, ¨You either let me marry outside, or I won´t get married at all.¨ Thus the mention of pebbles.) The place is so peaceful and spacious–everywhere you look for a mile or so there are only trees and grass and wind and dirt and horses and life.

None of these transcendental thoughts were lingering in my mind back in December. All I was thinking about was luggage.

Before I left I decided to pack a few (okay about ten or so) books in my carry-on, one of which was Jack Kerouac´s ¨On the Road.¨ I figured since the main character, Sal, travels across America and I was leaving America, it would fit my mental state perfectly. It has. I think one of the reasons I read so much is because I find comfort in words, sentences, paragraphs, pages – they perform some sort of subconscious echolalia (Fitzgerald introduced me to that word.) without my consent. It is wonderful and it is frightening.

Kerouac´s words remind me of the things I left behind and the things I have yet to leave. Sal is in a constant flux between trying to live in the moment and trying to analyze the repercussions of the moment. I am trying to enjoy the beautiful summer air, older buildings, and abundant palm trees, but then I wonder if time sitting outside is not better spent brushing up on my Spanish for when school starts. You cannot be a tourist in your own life.

I hope wherever you reside as you read this is a place where literature of any kind can make you feel at home. I leave you with some words from the aforementioned novel:

¨I was halfway across America, at the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future, and maybe that´s why it happened right there and then, that strange red afternoon.¨


Post Scriptum

The pictures accompanying this blog are things I thought people may find interesting:

The first is from the entrance to a Japanese garden (jardín japonés) in Prado, Montevideo. If anyone can read Japanese and translate this, I would greatly appreciate it.

The second picture is of milk, in bags. Explains itself.

The final picture is of an elevator – the older ones that required one to close the outer door and then the gate within. They are pretty awesome.

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