Saturday, March 10, 2012


My four-hour train ride to St. Moritz took seven, piling off the (express?) train to meet my good friend Phil, I did not have to ask where we going first. Two southern ski bums meet in the mountains to do what they do best- drink beer. Location- Roo Bar. Chill-axin’ with Prada wearing snow bums, one pint quickly turns to two, and two to four. I’m sitting at a table with Australians, Swiss, Dutch, Danish, and English, ranging ages twenty-two to fifty two. I’m not sure if it’s the beer, the snow, or the high altitude, but no matter which mountain I’m on in the world, people always seem in a good mood. I wonder, does high altitude make us high?

A guy rolls by in a wheel chair. With his bottom half intensely bandaged, he’s got two broken legs and hospital IV’s hooked into his arm. He’s sipping pints as cords tangle between his glass and fleece sweatshirt. This is drinking at its finest.

I love mountain life. Perhaps I’ll move to one this year?

I wake Phil at 7 in the morning, explaining my obsession with being first on the lift.

“It won’t make a difference, Lauren. You won’t be able to see anything with these conditions, anyway”

Unconvinced, I nag to get myself to the mountain as it’s opening. I snowboard frequently in America. Harsh conditions are a synch. I think. Up the gondola I go at 8am, realizing three things. 1.) I don’t know this mountain 2.) I don’t know this mountains language and 3.) NO ONE is out here.

I exit the gondola and reach my first lift. I’m the only rider in sight. No one is even working the thing, the lift gate opens and closes automatically, and I choose when to enter. This doesn’t feel like Breckenridge. Where are all the colorful people? On the lift I see only white, and it’s so white I cannot pinpoint where the mountain starts and where the sky begins. Did I take a gondola to PLUTO?

I ride down the run trying to enjoy, but I keep falling. I’m scared because I don’t know where I am, I can’t see, and I don’t know the mountain. Cliffs could be anywhere. I continue up and down the same lift trying to enjoy myself- It’s not working. I’m not comfortable alone, with conditions so horrible I can hardly see my hand in front of my face. This St. Moritz ski pass cost a freaking fortune, but I have to be smart.

Frustrated, I stop for a cappuccino. I want it to be a happy snowboarding day. I wanted (insert douchey snowboarder accent here) fresh powwwww. I didn’t want to suck.

The woman hands me my cappuccino as I sit alone and attempt positive thinking. I look down at my cup, and the coco on top is in shape of a sun. I smile.

Here’s a little sunshine to your cold and snowy morning I hear the universe say, as she slides my happy cup across the counter.

I drink the cup of sunshine and mediate on good things.

Stay positive.
Focus on this moment.
Events do not control your happiness, you do.

I convince myself I will enjoy this day on the mountain, even if I stay inside drinking coffee for half of it. I can’t control the weather or the snow conditions, I can only control my thinking. Looking around, I begin to notice more people coming up the gondola. I decide to give the mountain another try, and ask an instructor the best place to go in my circumstance.

Twenty minutes later I’m in a new area, trying to remember if the instructor told me to go left or right.

I see two groups of people I can ask for directions- snowboarding teens or a large group of guys.

I choose the second.

“Hey! Do you guys speak English?”

There are seven of them, snowboarders and skiers. They have long hair and stylish riding gear- typical, talented snow bums.

“Yeah yeah, Lady! What’s goin’ on?” In perfect English. Yessssss.

“Okay, which is the easiest way to get down? Left or Right?”

“Well left is easier.” They say. “But the right is AWWWEEESOOOMMEEE.”

I laugh and ask where they are from. They are from Amsterdam. I give the common head nod and grin everyone gives when you talk about Amsterdam, and they joke with me about country music and line dancing.

“What are your names?” I ask. “Uhhh…just call us Dutchies.” They say.

“Ha! Works for me! I’m horrible with names.”

I snowboard down the run with my new Dutchie friends, realizing they are not as professional as I originally thought. One even has a rental board.......psh.
Yet, these people are a hoot. Singing country songs and throwing snowballs, we go to areas of the mountain and ride through powder up to my knees. They give me twix bars and tell me it’s laced with weed (It’s not).

Talking with these people in the beginning, I dove a number of stereotypes. Immediately assuming they were weed smoking, party-going, snowboarders from Amsterdam, I proudly tell them I work a nightclub in Italy getting paid to get drunk and socialize. They will think this is cool. I think to myself.

“So Lauren, do you do drugs?” They ask.

“No, I don’t do drugs. I’m not going to lie, I’ve smoked the occasional joint, hit the occasional bong. This, however, is not a frequent activity of mine.”

I shoot the question back at them, wondering how I am going to reject the Amsterdam nugget they are about to offer me from their coat pocket.

“No, I don’t do drugs.” The dude with long red hair says proudly, “I love Jesus.”

I’m caught off guard. I have never heard anyone (especially anyone from Amsterdam) say, I don’t do drugs because I love Jesus. As the day continues, however, I realize how much they really did love Jesus. A Christian group from the Netherlands, they came to St. Moritz with sixty people from their church. Three of these guys once lived in America to work for a Christian organization. They asked me questions about abortion, Obama, gay marriage (great snowboarding conversation, right?), but we spoke about these issues openly, and I tried to give my honest (more liberal) opinion without fear of what they would say. They never judged me.

These people only helped me. There I was, little Lauren lost on the mountain, drinking a cappuccino praying and meditating that something good would happen. Next thing I know, God has sent his Christian snowboarding angels from Amsterdam to guide my way in St. Moritz. Because this is what these people did, they guided me all day, leading me through the snowy conditions like a little sister.

This is what religion should be about- helping people and being friendly. I feel people get so wrapped in which religion is right or wrong, they forget God just wants us to love each other, no matter what. God doesn’t judge anyone. None have the right to say which religion is right or which is wrong. None of us on Earth know. Just believe in something, anything- a tree for all I care. And let’s just be nice to our neighbors, Capito?

The day ended in a little hut on the mountain, over beer and coca cola, I spoke with them about my life. The day before my 23rd birthday, I don’t really know what I want or where I am going. My mind changes everyday from volunteering in Africa to teaching in Asia to working in New York City. As thirty-something's, the Dutchies tell me I have time to figure it out, and I should just keep smiling. Right now I’m traveling, loving the new people I meet, and trying my best to learn a little something everywhere I go. I think this lifestyle is working...but who actually knows?

Friday, March 2, 2012

I'm almost twenty-three. Twenty-three. Isn't that the age of Rachel, Monica, and Phoebe in the beginning Friends episodes? How could I possibly be their age? When did this happen?

Two years ago I was at Play, a drag-show club in Nashville. Watching Carmella, the (beautiful?) tank of a transvestite, sing Beyonce. Her song ends and she starts talking- Mainly dirty jokes I feel uncomfortable repeating. But then she says something. She told us it was her birthday, and she was fifty.

"I love my birthday." She said. "And not because I get laid by a gay asian (she loves asians) in my hotel suite. Because I am thankful to have lived another year. Many don't get this blessing. And we should be happy to get older. Wiser. Smarter. I'm happy to age. I'm happy to get old. It is a blessing."

Mind you, this is coming from a 300 pound he-she in a glittering toga. But I still remember her (him?) saying this. And I liked it.

Next Tuesday is my birthday, and I have been thinking of Carmella. I don't want to be twenty-three. Twenty-two was a good year. Twenty-two is still a kid. Is twenty-three the age I need to start figuring things out? Will I ever figure anything out? I don't have a plan. Can my plan still be to be plan-less? But twenty-three is just a number. And I must love this number. I must love myself and what I am doing. I still have time to figure things out. Right?

Currently I am culturally spoiled. Living off of six different kinds of cheeses a day, making friends with Italians, and still adjusting to the fact that my life is in Italy. I'm happy. It's not cold in Bergamo anymore. And as the sun comes out I realize how beautiful this city is. Sitting outside at a little cafe next to a 10th century, sculpted merman fountain that people still drink water from, I adore how unchanged this city is. I got here with plans to stay only a few months. But I feel like in a few months, I'll finally be adjusted. I can't pick up and leave then. "Will you come visit home?" Dad asked me last night. This I would love. I miss home. I miss America. Nostalgia Di Casa is what they say in Italian. But I fear if I did go home, I would not come back. Italy is my home now. Going back to America to visit would be a teaser.

And so I'm sitting tight. Waiting patiently through the winter for the spring. Waiting patiently through awkward language barriers and misunderstandings. I've somehow scrambled enough money to get myself to Switzerland for some snowboarding this weekend. And next week I'm going to Barcelona. My mom and sisters come at the end of this month. Maybe twenty-three will be a good year?

Friday, February 17, 2012

I want to live in Paris in the 20's in the Rain.

Photo: Lauren Watt

Happy in Your Bowl...

I meet up with Omar’s mom every Wednesday to take Jacopo to judo. We drop Jacopo off and then stroll the city together. Her minimal English and my 12 words of Italian vocabulary, we manage conversations- surprisingly deep conversations of religion, meditation, Buddha. “Breath out black and breathe in white,” she says. So simple. Why didn’t I think of this before? “Make yourself like a fish in a bowl, a fish no anger can reach. All happy in your bowl. When you feel anger come, fight anger, breathe in white, let anger pass.” She teaches me not to force meditation, to allow my bubbling thoughts to rise, because they are. Thoughts stir in my head like a high-speed blender I can’t unplug. “It’s okay.” She says. “No problems. Let thoughts arise, say hello, and let go.” And so I’m slowly letting go, attempting shorter meditations, and breathing in white.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Better than Christmas?

My dear, sweet Nutella,

Justin Timberlake is the only man I'd spoon over you. Happy World Nutella Day. I love you.

Forever Yours,


Friday, February 3, 2012

A Little Preparation...


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Buongiorno Bergamo!

I could not sleep on the plane from New York to Milan. Partly because of nerves, and partly because of the armrest hogging, leg sprawling, talkative (yet somehow sweet) Italian man next to me. What does the word praise mean? He would say, pointing to his American newspaper. What about this word- ridicule? What's arsenal? Are you going to eat the rest of your snack? Hell yes boy those are my pretzels- i wanted to respond. But no...Have them, please. I insist. I said, biting my bottom lip. Ten hours later I was in Milan. Tottering my snowboard on top my two suitcases all balancing on a rolling cart with a broken wheel, I was running into things and causing ruckus. Immediately awkward, I was.

Something I've learned- the first few days living in a new country will always be a blur. It was the same in Paris. Wandering around trying to understand how and why I was going to live in this ridiculously expensive, perfectly paved city was beyond my thinking. Culture shock is real. And it fogged my brain with fear and worry, so much that when my sister left me there (in a janky group hostel before my apartment was ready, I should add) I was so disoriented all I could physically do was sit in a movie theater for seven hours, watching back to back features of One Day (hope the book was better), Horrible Bosses (horrible movie), and Harry Potter ( French). While not to mention, letting myself get ripped off by the chick selling popcorn, who snatched a twenty out of my hand and gave me change for a ten. Too scared and culture shocked to say anything, I just let her have it (Still hate myself for that one). But eventually, my brain cleared and Paris felt right, normal.... wonderful. These things take time. There is no other way around personal adjustment.

Tonight is my sixth night in Bergamo, Italy, and I can slowly feel my new life piecing together here. Although I am still feeling about 6,453 uncertain and new emotions a day- it is all growing to be fantastico.

I wake up every morning to the sounds of the maid, Marietta clinking around the house. Slamming doors and washing dishes, she talks to herself. I walk out of my room and she shuffles in, taking my trash and laundry. She says things to me in Italian and looks at me as if searching for a response. I smile and nod my head a lot. She keeps talking. If I throw my hands up and look confused, she just speaks slower and uses more hand gestures- But it's still Italian. I don't speak Italian. This is how dogs must feel when humans talk to them.

Currently, my days consist of: Hanging out with Jacopo (Ya-Ca-Po) for a few hours. Going on long runs through the countryside. Reading. Writing. Eating gelato, prosciutto, and fresh olive oil made from the olive trees in the backyard. Dipping my fingers in nutella jars (plural). Meditating. And praying. My biggest problem at the moment is too much free time (problem, pshhh right?) But it's not like I can call up the dude across the street to see if he wants to watch TV or go get a beer. My english language and I are a bit solo these days amidst all this Italiano.

While many of my friends are braving law school, engaged to Mr. Right, scaling the job market, or all of the above. The hardest task for me personally is accepting that I am not doing any of those things. Nope, not right now. I'm as close to engaged as a lesbian in Texas, and my "job" description should really read: being spoiled by Italian family. At moments, I find myself in panic. What am I going to do? Who will I be? Shouldn't I have some internship somewhere? I'm not working enough. But then I have to stop my mind from going into I want to live the American dream mode. Life doesn't have to be about internships and careers and mortgages and marriages. It's my life. Can't it just be about living somewhere new and doing something, well, cool?

I have all this free time, but I'm not watching TV or on Facebook. I'm training for a triathlon, signed up for a fun Italian class at the University of Bergamo, and taking an online writing course. I'm reading, praying, writing, eating, and enjoying life. Of course I want a "real" job eventually..I think I want to be a therapist. And a writer. But for now, I'm a musing expat in Italy.