My favourite day in San Juan was the first one, when I landed, took the local white taxi, arrived at the hostel, unpacked my stuff, and walked from Santurce to Condado.
Santurce is the neighborhood where I stayed. Casa Santurce is the name of the hostel I was hosted by. Casa Santurce located in Calle Mariana 1050, San Juan, Puerto Rico (PR) was the place I needed to be this time of my life.
San Juan is the capital of Puerto Rico, one of the hispanic islands in the Caribbean. It is a relatively small island, way smaller than Sicily and closer to Sardinia’s dimensions. Puerto Ricans speak Spanish, a sweet and warm Spanish if you know what I mean. It doesn’t sound harsh or imperative, like the one I’ve heard in Valencia two years ago. It doesn’t give you a hard time, even when the words are delivered at such a high speed. They have a melodic rhythm, an engaging audible comfort… wait, maybe this was the Spring Break effect already affecting me.
Exactly, there’s this thing called “Spring Break”, a period of time that usually lasts a week when college students take a pause from their academic activities and enjoy life a bit. I say a bit, because it really is a bit. Spending time in San Juan signified a big bit of much needed relaxation to me.
When I arrived at Luis Munon Marin International airport I was wearing a light-blue jeans overall with long sleeves, my personalized Italian-Brazilian Nikes, and my iconic dark-blue secular Italian backpack – which has imprinted and sewed a Norwegian flag, but that’s the brand of the backpack itself. I was afraid to be super hot, but the heat was not that aggressive. First thought: YES, not on campus anymore – including some joyful swears that we don’t need to emphasize much. Second thought: OH, I’m alone. Third thought: UHM, I’m in the Caribbean mami, ajaja!
Excited, indeed. Grateful, very much. The mere fact that I was in line waiting for the taxi to bring me to my hostel put me in such a joyful mood. I didn’t want to hear any single word related to college, internships, money, corporation, capitalism… right, I’m technically still in United States of America and if I can afford this trip with my little money is because of all the systems I’m trapped into, but… leave me alone… at least for one week…
Casa Santurce is not paradise.
The reason why I’ve loved the hostel I stayed at is because it looked like everything but pure paradise. If I wanted to stay in paradise I would’ve booked a single room at the most luxurious hotel in Condado or Isla Verde, close to all the beaches and the most glamorous restaurants. No, though. I chose to sleep and eat at a hostel where its location is in the middle of the urban town and not so far way from the seaside. The pink building in Calle Mariana 1050 was the perfect call. The just amount of utilities, the less the better. Light, minimal. That was my version of paradise, still is.
My temporary crib was a female dorm of six, with one tiny but efficient bathroom, with shower, toilet, mirror, sink, and cabinet. My bed was next to the bathroom door, on the lower level of a bunk bed structure. After being checked in and provided with blankets and other basic facilities, I was free to spend my late afternoon in San Juan in the best way that I could.
First thought: WOW, I still got free time and I’m not tired! Second thought: BUT, what should I do? Third thought: OH, I’ll do me.
So I was on the streets.
It is a dream of mine to have goddess faux locs on my hair. I believe is a cool hairstyle that not many people can pull off, but since I cut my hair and I can experiment whatever I want now that I got no jobs at my agency… why not trying to treat myself and have them done?
I strolled around Calle Mariana and no hairdresser a was open or able to do the hairdo I was so passionately looking for. So I took the opposite direction I was going for and minutes later i found myself at crossing a bridge. Later I came to know that this was the bridge that connects Santurce with Condado, the part of the island where Old San Juan is located.
First thought: WHY do I still have my phone with me? Second thought: I don’t want any more contacts with people, NO MORE, I ain’t shit and nobody really wants to connect with me anyways. Look at that person who left me to just sleep with another girl, look at my friends who hang out with famous or clout chaser individuals… Third thought: no thoughts, just a message.
I looked at my phone.
I was taking a couple of pictures, even though I wasn’t feeling the need to take out my phone and hold it. But that’s where I had my map, my music… unfortunately, despite my desire to feel disconnected from the world, I had to hold and look at the last thing that I really wanted to be connected with: my telephone. While thinking all of this, I got a message from Emma, an Italian girl who lives and works in New York City. It’s funny: Emma and I didn’t know each other at that time, we only had met online through Jetzy, a start up mobile app that looks like Couchsurfing.
So I read the message in which Emma was saying that she was in San Juan (I knew that) and she wanted to meet me (I wasn’t expecting that, not for real).
I could’ve simply refused her invitation to come over Old San Juan and see her and her Couchsurfing friends, because I wanted to be alone. I was feeling okay to be alone. After three years of college and of New York City, the city full of glamorous and so-called-perfect-cool-on-fleek people, I didn’t want to stick to any group at all. I wanted to meet them so badly because i’m naturally always opened to meet new people, but I was scared. I didn’t want to make new friends, I didn’t see the point all of a sudden. They would leave me too, right? I would never be enough.
There was a voice inside of me that pushed my introvert soul into being more available and positive, though. I got all the reasons to be so defensive and not wanting to be close to anybody, at least there in San Juan. I had the chance to recreate and find myself: how could I do that if I’m surrounded by people? People only bring disappointments. I was being that kind of millennial who just wants to be connected with Nature, the new hippie, prone to avoid the whole-generational-fun, which usually involves binge eating, drinking massive load of alcohol, and hook up random people who will not remember you the very next few hours.
Somehow I managed to listen to that voice and I give it a shot. It was the end of the day and the beginning of a vacation. The start button had to be pushed and it was also getting breezy, aka cold for my Mediterranean body. For this reason I walked til Old San Juan. I had crossed the second bridge, I’d passed the San Cristobal fortress and walked other 10 minutes before I finally met Emma. And Aenoi.
Emma is from Emilia-Romagna, a region in the Northern-Centre part of Italy, close to Florence, in Tuscany. She currently lives in New York City, where she works as a babysitter. Emma travels a lot.
Aenoi is an American man in his early 30s, originally from Laos, who has spent the last two years in Japan. He has lived in all over the places – from San Diego where he served the Army to Orlando, FL – but he has also visited many countries, including Thailand, Laos, and Australia.
Sitting with us there was also this Spanish girl who spoke little English, but she didn’t get the chance to stay with us for long. I ended up spending the whole evening with Emma and Aenoi, with whom I shared my a fraction of my stories. At first I didn’t even mention about what a hard time I had the last semester or how much I’m still heartbroken for people who seemed to have left me for… a cooler lifestyle. For the first time after months I didn’t thought of my sadness and I just lived the moment, offering my ears and compassion to these two souls I was starting to know more and more.
I listened a lot that evening and got absorbed by Emma’s and Aenoi’s stories. I talked too, but I was focused and genuinely willing to discuss over topics that we were talking about. From sociology to philosophy, from how much drinks are in New York to how it is like to live with New Yorkers in their city, we had a lot to talk about over two mofongos, two beers and one sangrias.
“So why did you come to Puerto Rico?”
I let them talk, then I simply said that I wanted to have a break from the frenetic environment. But all I was thinking was more in the lines of:
“I thought I had found a home in New York, but I hadn’t. By home I mean solid friendships, solid and crazy love, a rewarding and passionate career. It seems impossible right now. Nobody cares about feelings or love. I don’t know what to think about New York anymore. I’m an outsider. I want to find a new home. I want to build a reason to live, even if I know what I want to do: write and share inner happiness. I want a safe space. I want a home. And I want to be loved, because as a human being I have a lot to give and that’s what I want to do. Genuinely.”
After dinner we strolled around the squares. Emma bought an ice cream and Aenoi took some pictures of us – Emma enjoying her ice cream and me hanging my blue backpack.
In that moment, I forgot college, the people on campus, the cold in Long Island. I was enjoying the warmth and I felt all the llove of this world, coming from Mother Nature and God. I was blessed to be there, to have met such interesting and open-minded individuals, who were curious, had a lot of stories like me to share, and the love for life, like me.
We all met for a reason a and maybe that was my place. Maybe being with people that have no apparent reason to interact with me is my ultimate reason. It was destiny to meet Emma and going to El Yunque and Luquillo with her the very next morning. It was fate to hang out with Aenoi at the fort of San Cristobal the next week, and learn more about Japan, Asian culture, and some stuff about the army.
At the end of the night I went back to Calle Mariana 1050. I was happy and before getting there I’d said to my new friends “I’m gonna go home”. I used the word “home”.
You know when they say “home is a feeling not a place”?
Well, I was at home then. It was more of a feeling than an actual personal house, but I don’t care.
Casa Santurce in Calle Mariana was my home, at least it felt like it.
And if I had stopped my true self, the curious, happy, and outgoing Giulia… I wouldn’t have felt my heart warm again.This is real life at its fullest, long-term-beneficial experiences and stories to share. Those will be the actions I’ll be proud of, the fruits whose seeds I planted and cultivated.
And that was the day I also said whispering to myself:
“I love you, but I don’t like you anymore. Not like this. Because I love me and I’m attracted to this, first and foremost.”
Lesson learned: my life can be art, but it can’t be still. I keep loving and evolving, can’t be brought down, and I’ moving. Still lives belong to art museums only. And dear readers, I’m everything but still in my life. It’s a curly flower’s nature.
Gracias San Juan!