Sunday, July 10, 2016

Long walks of a gypsy student

Flowers on my way, Atlanta
I was attending a conference in San Francisco, and one of my peers reminded me that I did not blog much recently. I realized, that is because of the limited time, and also I am getting used to rapid changes. When I came to Portugal in 2012, everything seemed fresh, and moving to a foreign country for the first time made me feel like I was reborn or starting my life afresh. However, after living in 2 other countries (Sweden and Croatia), I came to the US which is in fact my 4th country to live outside Sri Lanka. These international travels, and frequent migrations all has become part of our life.

Since we always have to be ready for our next migration, we also learn to live light-weight. I did not purchase unnecessary large items recently. More like a life of a monk. :) In addition to my past migrations, we are getting back to Portugal in October. Then I have to join my second host institution in Belgium. There have been a discussion on moving to Saudi Arabia for a short term internship, and all so many plans with travels across 4 countries in 3 continents.

Frequent migrations also is like getting fresh blood. Throwing all the old stuff in the country and moving on to a new country to start everything afresh. You have the potential to get new friends and almost make a new identity. However, it comes with a cost. Life gets more expensive. Not just for the flight tickets and other travel costs. Rather, short-term rentals of apartments and phone/internet contracts are more expensive. Moreover, the definition of friends changes. I have been on the move, or my newly made friends are on the move. So it is hard to find friends who stay longer than 6 months with me physically. However, I have made acquaintances spreading across the globe, thanks to my mobility. Should mention however, such a gypsy life comes with an additional cost of lack of stability, which itself is somewhat adventurous.

View from my hotel room in Areeiro, Lisboa - early summer, 2016
Probably I should write a book or something when time permits. "4 countries 3 continents. A year in the life of a modern day gypsy student." I am not even sure which city and country are we going to celebrate the new year this time. Since I moved to Portugal in 2012, it has always been Lisboa.

Some walks are always remarkable and hard to forget. To mention a few: my nightly walks from my office in Colombo to the bus stop through Flower Road (2010 - 2012), my walks to IST from my apartment in Lisboa (2012 - 2013), long forest walks in Stockholm/Farsta Strand (2013), long walks to our apartment in Benfica Lisboa (2015), zig-zag walks in Rijeka since the sidewalks are present only on one side and at intervals (2015), and now my daily walks to the lab from our apartment in Atlanta. I should note that I am good at walking - long distances. :) Since I walk or use public transport almost always, I can be confident that my carbon footprint always remained minimal - unlike those stars who fly in private jets and then plant some trees and go on preaching. :)

I should however note that Atlanta is not pedestrian friendly. There are streets with no pedestrian paths or side walks. You may be walking leisurely in a side walk, which would end abruptly in the street, where you will be forced to walk amid the traffic. Sudden installation of water pumps by the apartments along the side walks that will soak you as you walk along. If you are careful, you will still have to cross the street. Worse, there are not enough crosswalks, with fast moving traffic. Some pedestrian walks are damaged or never was implemented concretely. Apartment owners parking their long vehicles across the pedestrian walks blocking the way. Bus stops in the middle - with no sidewalk in one side with no crosswalk to reach the other side that has the sidewalk. Overall, no one paid attention to the pedestrians in a developed city. No walk - then drive to the gym for a treadmill. Despite all these rants, I still love my daily walk. Running squirrels and chipmunks. Hot and humid summer making you feel that you just reached a sauna. Dense vegetation still could not relieve the hot sunlight. No pollution. All good.

There are some events or time intervals in the past that always remain the best of the memories - such as the 2013 year end in Nordic countries and 2015 summer in Balcans. That reminds me that I miss the summer in Europe.

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