Welcome to the Eat, Shop, Play, Love blog. This is a writing experiment that aims to lend a voice to the millions of Asians around the world who have left their native countries to live their lives in a different place, for whatever the reasons may be. Read the authors' profiles here.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Una Ragazza on Love: 10 Years

On the recent 10th anniversary of the September 11 events, I was up late at night in the old town of Bucharest, catching glimpses of the newly inaugurated twin fountains on TV and hearing the reading of names in the background. Outside the hotel room, in the town square, revelers were drinking tuica (a local brandy made from plums), smoking and dancing to loud music from a Euro band playing on a makeshift stage.

Ten years.

Has it already been that long? In that period, I’ve lived one-third of my life to date and it’s been an amazing one-third of my life. The experiences I’ve had -- from the places I’ve lived in and the trips I’ve taken, to the people (and animals) I’ve met, the friends I’ve made and the things I’ve learnt -- so much had happened in this last third of my life that it would have been unnerving if it all never happened.

A local Bucharest policeman watches over the fun

I loved the last ten years. It is still a while to Thanksgiving but I was in a thankful mood today.

As I lounged on my couch while making myself go on a 60-second photographic flashback of the last 10 years, I decided I’d write down one memorable thing that happened to me from each of the last 10 years that left the deepest impression. Something to love even if it's just because I got to live it.



First time living abroad, and I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful country. 2002 was my eye-opening year. It showed me how little I knew about the world, how it’s never too late to learn a new language, and surely there’s more to life than earning a keep in a cube.

You know how it is with first loves? Perugia will always be that.


New friends.

They say you make your best friends in high school and college. I made some really good ones in grad school, in a snowy town in the Swiss Alps. In fact, the Californian, Swiss and I skyped last night about a possible reunion trip to Africa next year. I don’t know which of these is making me more excited: seeing Madagascar or seeing these guys. And Romania would not have been the same without my dear friend M, whose hospitality and friendship almost calls for another trip to Transylvania.

Friendships sealed in cold, cold Switzerland



The feeling of having to leave a place unwillingly is not a good one I wish upon anyone. For reasons that will take too long to explain, I left Europe reluctantly and moved to the U.S. I had really thought that Europe would be a long-term feature in my books but after about three years, I packed everything I could bring with me in my two suitcases and boarded a Swissair flight to JFK.


So many girls.

My first job in New York, like the subsequent ones that follow, had many women. Lots and lots of women. Being in public relations, we are everywhere. Girls straight out of college; girls who had moved from other big cities of San Francisco, Chicago and London; and girls who had followed their banker husbands to Manhattan. It took a while for me to get used to having Page Six and Us Weekly chatter a regular feature in team meetings, and for low-calorie Tasti D (in the pre-Pinkberry era) to become a highlight on slow afternoons.

Before Pinkberry, there was Tasti D


Never too old to backpack.

When friends learned that I’d be on the Trans-Siberian train for five days without shower facilities, the look on their faces was often one of horror. That’s when I introduced my best travel companion, the wet wipes. A month in Russia and Mongolia taught me that backpacking can be fun even when I no longer needed to backpack because it had been the only way I could afford to travel. It taught me to be resourceful and I met some of the most interesting people on this planet.

Not so bad: Cabins were clean, thanks to the provodnitsa


Newly single in the big city.

I moved into Manhattan and rented a tiny one-bedroom on my own. Although I’d been in the area for more than two years by then, I was now single for the first time. In the big, big world of New York. It was a mix bag of fear and fascination.


Undesirable men.

I didn’t know a reasonably small island like Manhattan can hold so many of them. Ladies -- what you see on Sex and the City holds water. And then some.


The ancient technique of bonesetting.

Spurred by a desire to have my chronic hives cured, I visited a Chinese physician while visiting family in Shanghai. I had my knee “reset” -- without anesthesia -- and nearly passed out. The good that came out of it was that I could squat with my two feet firmly on the ground (I’m sure there is something good about that) and that I drastically reduced the frequency of my allergy medication intake.


A place to call my own.

I bought my first apartment in the wonderful Upper West Side neighborhood. Everything in it is now mine to decorate, own and love. It’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever felt in my life.

From this...

... to this


The jury is still out on this one, but if I have to pick something now, it’d be my precious little niece, Mini Ragazza. This first grandchild and little bundle of joy has changed the lives of many people in the family, but most of all, that of my mom who is watching her grow up in Hong Kong. The whole gang of five -- moms, sis and family -- is taking over my apartment during Christmas. Perhaps that would be a worthy rival for the highlight of the year.

Mini Ragazza posing with her first pets

(Some pictures taken from the Internet)

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