Small Town Girl in the Big City
I think almost everyone that reads my blog knows I am from Guam. Everyone asks me where I grew up and why I don’t seem so American, especially my mother-in-law. She once said when she compares me to other Europeans, I seem very Italian (a big compliment, I think). I tell her it’s just that our families, one Chinese and one Italian have similar values. Another reason I might not fit the typical Italians’ idea of an American is I grew up on Guam. This tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific, near the Marianas Trench-the deepest point in the ocean, was a haven for my family. It protected us from many things, mostly drugs, AIDS, and violence. I think I lived a carefree childhood, one I wish for my children; one many people that grew up in small towns and safe neighborhoods have had the advantage to experience.
I can’t deny there were also disadvantages as well; Guam was a closed and cloistered from the rest of the world. I never traveled as a child because everything was just too far. Being a minority and “of color” on Guam put you in the majority, along with Filipinos, Guamanians, Chamorros (the indigenous people of Guam), Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese but left me with the idea that being “white or Anglo” was not a good thing. The children from military families were somewhat shunned if they were white and totally shunned if they were black. I think I only saw one or two African Americans in my entire life as a child on Guam. With TV programs from California, we accessed the outside world but never fully experienced it. When I left Guam at 18 to go to college, I was filled with anxiousness about living in the U.S. but also filled with naivety, prejudices and generalizations.
Fast forward to 14 years later; I am living in Torino but am in Rome for the holiday of the Immaculate Conception. Rome is a vast city of about 4 million, filled with antiquated buildings, tourists, lines and lines of traffic and crowds of people everywhere. Before I arrived in Italy, I had never crossed the Atlantic. I enjoyed visiting Manila, Bangkok, and Tokyo but have never aspired to live in a large city. So I’ve been asking myself; can I be happy in a large city? I have a new family now in Rome but still I daydream about life away from the the traffic, the crowding and the people.
Seattle was more like a big town than a large city, the traffic wasn’t great and neither was the weather but I liked living in the suburbs. I was close enough to downtown to have the convenience of the city center yet far enough away to have parking spaces, a garden and a block watch. I liked Seattle very much. You could not get a pizza at 1 a.m. like you can here in Rome, you did not arrive at a restaurant at 9-10 p.m. for dinner, you definitely did not have fresh markets in every neighborhood but still I enjoyed life in Seattle.
After I left Guam I realized how big her world was. Guam was a pinpoint on the map not even a speck. I ate canned asparagus since fresh was not available as most cold weather fruits and vegetables were rare. There was no theatre, no opera, not many museums, I hate to say this about my home but there was not much culture at all. Nevertheless all the things that bored me about Guam when I was a curious teenager suddenly have a new appeal: the air is fresh, unlike Torino, the water is warm and aqua, unlike Puget Sound, apartments are less common than homes, unlike Rome. The people are simple and genuine, they are warm and gracious. Because the weather is tropical, we had to deal with blazing heat, high humidity and typhoons during the rainy season. No matter where I live I know I’ll have to deal with the positives and the negatives of each place since no place is perfect. After our time in Torino is over, possibly as early as next summer, we hope to finally settle down in a place that both of us are keen on. But in reality I think we may settle in Rome even if I am not that keen on it.
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