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  noun 1. The act of immersing oneself in other cultures without crossing national borders. 2. Local cultural diversification. 3. Traveling on a budget. 4. A website that will allow you to accomplish all the above from the very seat in which you sit.


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Renaissance: view of an ideal city

posted by Jamila: composing from Florence

Piero della Francesca's "Ideal City," with its perfected grid, reminded me instantly of New York City. A touch of warmth kindled in my heart at the memory of my City. But this image is a far cry from the New York I know, and I paused in my nostalgia to consider the extent of the ideal...

1. Geometry—the grid
2. Antiquity—the architecture
3. Divine—no humans could possibly live here: where are they?

The third point is what I really want to stress. I absolutely cannot imagine human beings inhabiting this Ideal City. Where is their trash? Their dogs' crap? Or, at least, the owner stooping down to scoop up the dog crap? Even in the days of togas and laurel wreaths, mankind was in many ways a slave to his waste. Divine ideals frighten me for this reason: should we bother aspiring to a level of being that contradicts our own existence? I suppose this aspiration characterizes the so-called "plight of humanity," and the tension we experience as we sway between man, the animal and man, the thinker produces a hefty volume of art and literature. It's a common and inevitable symptom. And it's beautiful.

I cherish my cities, my ideas of cities, more modern than Piero della Francesca's. A common dream of mine involves an automobile-driven descent through the twisting off-ramps that bend into a foray of neon against darkness.

Ages shift; ideals shift; ambitions remain the same...

While I love traveling back in time via ancient structures, I must remind myself: the ideas are embedded in the stone. The ideas are modified. These modified ideas must be built into newer stone...

And the beat goes on.

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Florence: with or without you

posted by Jamila

A dream of mine last night reminded me of the inevitable tradeoff that comes with exploring new territory—via the mind or real-time land. There are always those souls who aren't ready for the journey. And it's fine to hop a few borders whilst maintaining contacts who choose to stay at home. But the greater the mental distance that comes from these disparaging experiences, the greater the possibility that you both will no longer be traveling on the same page.

I'm crossing this border. With or without you...

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Florence: cappuccino

posted by Jamila

photo via benburb.com

...was actually my first taste of coffee. I ordered a cappuccino one beautiful evening in Rome after dinner. Later that night I lay awake in the hotel bed without any clue as to why I couldn't sleep. Little did I know the power of that tasty, frothy concoction, nor the vulnerability of my small, 14 year-old-body and its system otherwise empty of all caffeine traces. I also didn't know it wasn't ever meant to be an evening drink.

I'm not sure when, why, and where the purpose of the cappuccino was lost in translation, but as with most good things Italian in America, "cappuccino" is now something entirely different. It is essentially synonymous with dessert, desired with sweets or in place of sweet food. Occasionally it is ordered in a paper cup from Starbucks when in the mood and on the go. I suppose this is only fitting; Starbucks and most other coffee vendors in the U.S. don't pack the caffeine power equivalent of Italian espresso. A weakened, improperly prepared cappuccino might as well be treated like a piece of food or reduced in status to the paper cup. If one wants to properly complete the murder of the cappuccino. Death by cardboard.

And espresso is at the heart of a cappuccino. What characterizes the cappuccino as a morning drink from the latté, which subsists of espresso and steamed milk, is what makes it so divine: the lovely froth, or foam, of milk (and perhaps the sprinkle of nutmeg) on the top. It's the light and lovely icing on the day, the morning splendor and burst of joy that comes with a fresh start, another opportunity to do something, make something, see someone.

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Florence: o moon

posted by Jamila

Piazza Isidoro del Lungo, Florence, Italy

Open your arms to the lonely shine
Lonesome as gold in a poor man’s smile
See how the moon is full
Follow the push and pull
Follow the ebb and flow in the breathing tide

Come on moonchild, you’re so far away tonight
The door is falling open and we’re flying wild

Chris Cornell, "Moonchild"

Gender classes in universities across the U.S. try to teach young’uns many bizarre notions. Some true, some possibly true, and one that is positively false: that women have indoctrinated themselves into feeling that they must be “put on show.”

True: I am a bath queen, a lover of water, soaps, lotions, sponges, scrubs, and any little fancy doo-dad that can polish or primp my body. And true: my favorite fabrics are undeniably smooth and sexy.

But I do not dress for the male gaze, not the human male gaze. I most often bathe in the evening and emerge from my evening toilette glowing and glittering in my silk chemise. My suitor awaits. To the balcony I tiptoe, eagerly anticipating a glimpse of his resemblance.

Oh Moon, o beautiful, glowing orb! I have loved you all my life, and only for you does my soul sing under the starlight. My true love, my constant love, my love that knows no borders.

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Florence: progress

posted by Jamila

a stray piece of prosciutto
fallen from someone's panini

and of the frenzied ants, only two accept the challenge

from time to time i glance to my side
observe their progress
probably a day's work, transporting this prosciutto
a day measured in meters, in ant sweat

mine measured in ideas, transactions, consumptions, expenses

and yet

who am i?

she who judges progress
drawing inspiration from the prosciutto-dragging ant

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Florence: 10:30 a.m.

posted by Jamila

i'm jumpstarted by a cappuccino and can't focus on my reading
the day divided into a series of tasks and the future opens up before me

is the song on the radio sampling MJ's Thriller?

only the foam is left
a wonderland of morning optimisms

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Florence: on my youth

posted by Jamila

Today I tried to navigate an alternative route back to my apartment from La Piazza del Duomo. I found myself shoved off narrow sidewalks and into the street by men with no manners and women who felt they deserved more space than they needed. A bit disgruntled and lost, I eventually found Via Gina Capponi; a familiar name and a promising direction. As I prepared to pass a woman and her children standing outside a doorway, one of the two—a little girl—began walking in front of me. Where is she going? Why is she walking so far from her mother? I couldn't comprehend why this little girl walked before me, yet I found myself entirely charmed and delighted to follow in her footsteps.

Together, she and I embodied the metaphor for my current state of mind: tracing along narrow roads in foreign lands in pursuit of my inner child—that innocence and idealism that I came quite close to losing.

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