Thursday, September 15, 2011

FIVE YEARS, FIVE CONTINENTS: DESIGN OF A HALF-DECADE

Exactly five years ago today, I did something that would come to define my entire life for the next half-decade. I boarded a flight at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City with a round-trip ticket to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and back again.

I never did get on that return flight six months later. In fact, it would be nearly two years before I'd once again step foot on U.S. soil for the wedding of my friend Amy G. By then, Buenos Aires was home. I'd made good friends there; I'd bought a great apartment in Palermo; and I was finally speaking the language. But it wasn't until the bus from JFK dropped me off at Madison Square Garden near the apartment of my friend Dave that I knew for sure I wouldn't be coming back to NYC permanently. That part of my life was over.

All of the things I used to love about New York -- the hustle, the bustle, the in your face -- no longer appealed to me. Tellingly, my favorite moments of the entire trip was the weekend that Lori and I spent in her friend Moby's Central Park West apartment. When you have a penthouse view far above the maddening crowd, pretty much any city becomes tolerable. (I returned to New York City once again at the beginning of 2010, after I'd sold my apartment there, making NYC and I official exes and closing that chapter of my life for good. To celebrate, I had stopovers in Rio, Washington D.C., London and Istanbul.)

Although BA and I wouldn't be exclusive for long -- this year alone, I've two-timed with Melbourne, Australia, and Bangkok, Thailand -- my friend Karen is convinced that we two are one. She recently drew an interesting parallel between my connection to certain great cities and the love lives of Sex and the City characters.

Manila and I, she said, are Steve and Miranda. Our connection wasn't a given, and it's not all glamour, but sometimes it's those unexpected bonds without all of the emotional bells and whistles of great loves that are worth giving in to.

Melbourne is Berger to my Carrie. Despite my valiant attempt to win it over, Melbourne has never really let me in. And according to Karen, I may have been holding back as well without even realizing it. If and when I leave, I'm pretty certain I will do it with all the fanfare of a Post-It note. Though I've met some great people there, I'm not sure how many of them will even notice when I'm gone for good.

Buenos Aires is Mr. Big. Our romance has been difficult and stormy at times, but we belong to together, and to borrow the title of Diana Ross and the Supremes' final hit, someday we'll be together again. Karen is sure of it, and I must admit that I concur -- somewhat.

I guess that would make my time in Bangkok an episode devoted fully to Samantha.

But who do I love? For the last three months, Southeast Asia with an emphasis on Bangkok has been the object of my affection. For the first half of 2011, it was Melbourne, a city I still adore and I am scheduled to return to on 27 of September. I have a return ticket to Buenos Aires on 5 of October. Right now the million-dollar question is this: Will I be on either flight?

I'm not sure if my work in Australia is done, but it's getting hard to keep the faith since my leap of faith has thus far led to no great reward. After months of trying, my job search has been disappointingly unsuccessful, and as gregarious as Aussies are, they don't invite you into their lives the way they invite you over to their table to join them for a beer. If there's anything I miss about Argentines (besides their great beauty), it's their passion. They make you feel like it really matters to them that you're there, that of all the cities in the world, you picked theirs. For four and a half years, it was home.

Australia, on the other hand, is not, and I fear it never will be. I'm toying with the idea of spending more time in Bangkok and seeing more of Southeast Asia. For right now, there's nothing in Melbourne for me to run back to, and I can't shake the feeling that somewhere in Southeast Asia, maybe in Thailand, maybe in Manila, maybe somewhere I've yet to even visit, there's something -- or someone -- waiting for me.

Where will I be on 28 September? On 6 October? Keep reading. You'll be the first to know.
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