being happy and twenty-two in davis in spring feels like forever ago. never going to get over you.
Got the Vivitar’s first roll of film developed last weekend. I was excited to see how the snaps turned out, but also knew that it would be the last tie-up of the Davis experience. It stings a little to know that these views through the lens are the last ones I’ll have for a long time, until I make it back to travel on the west coast. Besides being my favourites out of the batch of photographs, the places pictured here anchored me to life in Davis, always made me breathe a little harder, a little faster, smile from pure disbelief, and say — this is it, I am finally living here.
Coming back home was surreal, as long-distance plane rides always are, as all post-exchange kids say. Having a yong tau foo & teh ping lunch mere hours after successfully wrangling my overweight luggage through San Francisco International Airport was strange and out-of-body, but felt real enough. Now that I’ve been home for a couple of months, and have Hong Kong and China taking up geographical memory, Davis is increasingly feeling unreal, like a slice out of another life. Constructing a mental map of Davis as seen from my bicycle feels like a well-rehearsed dream, or a clip from an old, loved movie. Memory is strange that way. Remembering still frames, journeys, sounds and smells is never quite perfect, and treads the blurred line between reality and imagination. The only part of me exempt from this ambiguity is muscle memory: I feel the familiarity in my gut when I look at the google map of Davis, and my fingers still reach for my gold davis apartment key even if I’m standing on the dark red carpet outside my front door. I still try to flip light switches up and down with the lengths of my fingers, instead of pressing them with the tip of my index. When I get on the stationary bike at the gym, I can tell you exactly how the width, angle, and height differ from straddling the bike frame of my little blue beauty. These are the moments that make my heart skip a beat now, that make me smile with the surety of having lived and loved in another place where the breeze felt like butterfly kisses, where the sun shone just as brightly and beautifully.
Daytime jaunts to Sacramento from Davis were one of the best things ever, just like this lovely little French cafe in downtown Sacramento on 8th street. Late night supper pangs made me think of the simple, but superb lunch I had here with Anna – warm brie and prosciutto, and french garlic sausage sandwiches, with a creme brulee each. Yes, each. We’re talking pure calorie luxury here, people!
In an attempt to bring back some taste memories, I googled it, but found that La Bonne Soupe Cafe has closed its doors!! The owner and only chef, Daniel Pont, cited health reasons. That day, he kindly let us stay on past closing time, and we are so lucky to have have been able to sample his famous sandwiches! To me, they were the exact definition of what good food should be: gentle flavours that melded together for a real taste symphony, a wholesome bite, perfectly warm and completely humble. I’m also a firm believer that the best food is also eaten with the hands, crumbs and all!
When I have a spare moment, I close my eyes and trace the bicycle route from my apartment to campus. Coming back to this last photograph scares me because my mental pictures will resemble this one day and clamour for clarity. I want to finish unpacking, to do research for my formless thesis, to keep writing but my heart’s not here. It’s flying solo on the plane to Boston, being kissed by the breeze on Drew Avenue, beating furiously in the Gershwin Theater.
Today: after a quick crepe lunch with Jesse, Anna and I went to North Davis to look at her new apartment and pay a visit to CVS. Standing in the beauty aisles and sighing at our indecisiveness is a ritual I will sorely miss. I also finally went to the Dollar Tree, perhaps four months too late? We hauled bottles of tea and dollar candy anyway – Junior Mints, Ring Pops for me, Boston Baked Beans and Sixlets for her – and had a little tea party outside the store.
Last night I was telling my mother that life seems more circular than ever. Before I left four months ago, I was freaking out about writing an email from Singapore that said “I’ll be moving into the apartment later this week”. Now I’m making Singapore Foodie plans for next week and it gives me the same discomfort, body and heart separated across continents and time zones. And so what came next was the hardest — selling my bicycle back to the second hand store. Time didn’t seem to have passed in there. Same two grumpy men in tattered denim and grease, same chunks of steel and bicycle bells lying in a glass cabinet. Only this time I left empty handed, and walked all the way home.
Over the next two days my room will be stripped of furniture, my clothes pressed into my suitcases. From the beginning I’ve had goodbyes and ends in sight, but you can’t help but become attached to a world that welcomes your presence and nourishes your soul. It feels like the Davis-me has grown old, and it’s time to pass on my possessions and go.
In the car, on the train. Oregon and nameless views.
It’s so many miles and so long since I’ve left you
Don’t even know what I’ll find when I get to you
But suddenly now, I know where I belong
It’s many hundred miles and it won’t be long
– Train Song, Vashti Bunyan/Feist & Ben Gibbard
1. The view at lunch today, Burgers & Brew. There are flowers and leaves all over Davis now. Too beautiful to leave behind. My flight is in exactly one week and I’m not sure I know how to feel about going home. Right now I mostly feel alive but tired, young but very old. Being on exchange gives you a lot of things: autonomy, bravery and the space to be the person you want to be, and these have been the greatest gifts of all in these four months. Going home makes me fear losing them though, because it’s all too easy to settle back into familiar patterns. But there hasn’t been a moment where I haven’t wanted my family and boyfriend with me, to share the happiness and make it real.
2. Finally tracked Fjallraven Kankens down at the Ace Hotel in Portland! Pretty convinced I now need them in other colours – a blue that pops, warm yellow, and rust red. To be honest, these don’t feel like much to the touch, but the bag is so lightweight that carrying my camera gear feels like carrying a pack full of spring scarves. Also loving the thin straps, dual top handles, and the main zip that goes all the way round like a shoe bag.
3. Took a little walk while waiting for a froyo date to begin, and had to come by this deliciously old school theatre. The little wooden brown sign in front of it declares it a Davis landmark.
4. So much love! In about two days I have to sell my bike back to the second-hand-shop man, and I think I might cry.
5. These girls + late night kitchen supper rendezvous = the way we work.
6. Song from the title/earworm of the moment: Home, by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Two hours ago we were still flying down the I-5, 15 miles over the speed limit, my hands clammy at the thought of missing my train ride home. When we finally get to the station, the Coast Starlight superliner is waiting and we run like fury to the coach car. By the time the effects of adrenaline wear off on my heart rate and I’ve let the goodbyes wash over me, I find myself where I am now — surrounded by darkness, burrowing through tunnels in snow-capped mountains. When the train emerges, it will be washed in the orange light of the Oregon sunset reflected off the beds of snow. To my right are two pretty college girls, and also a kind-looking old man in a black cowboy hat; will I be the only one staring intently, committing the spindly trees and still waters to memory?
Getting packed and ready to fly out to Boston to meet two of my favourite people! Here are some pictures from the week..
This past week, I’ve:
#1 Fallen in love with this magical device. I miss the feel of paper, but the convenience of this can’t be beat. As someone who likes to read on plane rides, I’m really feeling the difference in the amount of space I have left in my carry-on backpack.
#2. Made delicate little morse code necklaces with secret words
#3. Got surprised by my wonderful housemates when I woke up this afternoon (yes, afternoon :x) with an early birthday peanut butter cream pie, made in the wee hours of the morning by Amazing Anna — she waited for me to go to bed before making this! Sorry I’m such an insomniac!!
#5. Admired my new dress, a birthday present from Anna. Can’t wait for the sun to come out again so I can wear it!
When these trees started to bloom, I rushed out and took a bajillion pictures of their delicate little buds. California doesn’t have much of a winter by any standard, but it’s been nice to see the trees of this town erupt into sprays of white, yellow, purple and pink blooms. It definitely makes the (increasingly warm) ride to school so much more scenic. White flowers are my favourite though, and so this tree by my apartment is the best one of all:
Convinced that this is a magic tree. When I arrived it was completely dead and barren, but over the last week it’s grown up into a real beauty. These photos were taken 10 days apart but it’s been in full bloom for a few days already. Spring has arrived, and it greets me outside the front door daily!