The GoGlobal Blog

From Positano to Paris

From Positano to Paris

[This is my attempt at trying to make sense of what’s happening in the world recently. Writing has always given me a good outlet for my thoughts and emotions, so here’s hoping it does the same now- bear with me, my dear readers]


I spent two days in one of the most beautiful places in Italy, arguably the world—and despite that, my mind was hundreds of kilometers away, in a city I have never been to. Positano itself was a place unlike any other I had been to. Built into the cliffs of the Amalfi coast, the colorful houses, endless flights of stairs and the brisk air off the sea were absolutely gorgeous. My travel companions and I were excited, because despite this being Positano’s off-season, it was a place that seemed like paradise. Tranquil, natural, colorful and safe.


We had an amazing AirBnB booked, which was stocked with great amenities, comfy beds, an amazing host with an adorable pug named Willy, and a view that took my breath away. We had a fantastic morning and afternoon, strolling down the winding staircases towards the pebbled beach front. We enjoyed drinks at a bar right on the beach, good conversations, and then proceeded to go back to the beach once it got dark, just laying on our backs and listening to the waves, trying to soak in the fact that we were there. After a struggle of trying to climb the hill all the way back up to our lodgings, we were still in a great mood and going to start a movie, when one of us saw the first scrap of news of what was just beginning to happen in Paris. The mood of the night automatically transformed into a somber one.  Luckily, all of us who had friends in Paris at the time were able to contact them and we found out that they, along with all of our other JFRCers that were abroad, were safe.

Despite the news, we persisted to enjoy ourselves the next day, but personally, I think we were all affected by this. It was impossible not to be. This was most clearly demonstrated to me by two instances. The first is when climbed back down to centro storico to visit one of the little cathedrals. We had been pretty talkative the whole morning, even complaining a bit about all of the stairs and cracking jokes, but the second we stepped into that little cathedral, each of us just sat in our own little separate pew, and took a couple of minutes. I can’t speak for my travel companions, but I felt a deep sense of calm and dare I say inner peace, which I found strange, given the current situation.

_DSC0581-001 _DSC0986

The second was at our late lunch, where we seemed to have calmed down a bit and Paris was somewhere in our subconscious, but it was brought back automatically when we heard a large bomb-like blast coming from somewhere above the town. I swear, my heart skipped a beat. We later found out that they were fireworks, the ones that have a quick spark before letting out a huge, thundering boom and although the spike in our fear seems a little silly in hindsight, at the time, we were definitely on edge. It didn’t help when some lady from Texas who was on our bus back to Sorrento told us that she heard that there were reports that Rome was going to be targeted for the next couple of days. Granted, she said she heard that on Fox news, which I personally have trouble putting stock into, but regardless, to say I wasn’t scared would have been a lie._DSC0048-001

I think what scares me most about the attacks, is the realization that I could have easily been in Paris instead of Positano for the weekend. My friends and I could have decided to travel to France instead of staying in Italy—and I actually had friends and fellow JFRCers that were in Paris. Or even the opposite- what happened in Paris could have easily happened in Rome, or any other city that my friends and I have traveled to. Perhaps realization is the wrong word. Unfortunately, I think we’re all aware, whether consciously or not, that things like this happen, and can happen everywhere and any day. For Americans, I’d say that this realization came to us on a Tuesday morning.

I think I was too young to comprehend that when 9/11 happened, as I was only 7 years old. I remember being scared, but I was only scared of traveling in airplanes. I had never even traveled on a plane, so needless to say, my first flight from Chicago to Warszawa was a nine-hour endeavor of anxiety. Yet, on the way back, despite getting the normal little jitters one can get with the realization that they’re in a big hunk of metal that is somehow defying gravity and thousands of miles up in the air, I grew accustomed to flying. I forgot the fear. Then the terrorist bombings in London made me aware that planes aren’t going to be my only worry, and any time I stepped onto a train or mode of public transportation, I noticed that I unintentionally would size people up. I started thinking of how easily something similar could happen here, as there was nowhere near the security that airports now had. But time passed, Chicago seemed far away from that. I was lulled back into a sense of safety again.

Even the attacks in the offices of Charlie Hebdo this past January did not affect me as much as recent events have. Those, although also sad and tragic, did not scare me. It was an attack on free speech, it was an attack with specific targets.  I am in no way saying that anyone deserves to be the target of that kind of retaliation, but for some reason, I was not as affected as I was when I saw the events in Paris, November 13, 2015, unfold in front of my eyes through my news updates on my phone. I felt sick to my stomach. These were people, innocent people who have most likely NOTHING to do with the politics on a global scale. Some were enjoying a football match with two of the best teams in the world. Others were at a music concert. Some were simply sharing a meal. What on earth could these people have done to deserve such a horrifying nightmare? One could twist my aforementioned argument, that they, like the victims of the Hebdo attacks, were intentional targets paying the price for what France was doing in Syria. I feel like that makes it even worse.

Again, the scariest thing is that my friends and I could have easily been there. We go out to eat and to bars in Trastevere and Monti- popular neighborhoods of Rome. We go to concerts and AS Roma games at Stadio Olimpico. Perhaps that’s egotistical and slightly irrational, turning what’s happening in some place that you’re geographically nowhere near into focusing on what could happen to you, but I think that’s just how we’re wired—at least I am. I don’t even want to try to imagine myself in that kind of terror and I hope I never will have to experience anything like that firsthand- but then I read that among one of the victims was an American student, studying abroad.

_DSC0679-001 _DSC0825

With this fear also comes a sense of anger. I’m angry that the fact that people like this are trying to take away any sense of normalcy and innocence in the world. I’m mad that some people in parts of the world have to live in situations such as this every day. I’m mad that now, when I walk around Rome, or any place really, I’m feeling slightly on edge, because someone decided that the best way to channel their hatred and anger is to do so violently on innocent people. Doesn’t the world see enough sadness without humans trying to kill other humans? Isn’t trying to live out one’s life difficult enough without all of this hate? How is life supposed to go on now? Is this edginess going to pass, just as my fears of planes were lulled back into a sense of security only to be taken away when the next tragedy happens? Is this just the new, unfortunate normal? What are we going to do? How are we supposed to make it better?

The truth is- I don’t have any of the answers, and I’m also not sure if anyone else does. Despite all of this hatred though, there is strength, solidarity, happiness and love. There are accounts from people who survived the hostage situation and massacre at Bataclan, telling stories of their survival because of the complete strangers who shielded them from harm. There have been reports of Parisian locals opening up their doors to shelter victims. Countless videos have become viral of various street musicians playing for crowds in public squares that have come to pay their respects by leaving flowers and lighting candles. The strong and proud people of France will try to pick up the pieces after this tragedy, as they’ve done before, just like we tried and did after 9/11. And I think that’s beautiful.

Obviously, despite being more anxious than usual, life has to and will go on. I can’t just hole up in my room, scared under my blanket, not wanting to venture out into the world. My heart goes out to everyone affected in events such as these, not only in Paris, but all over the world- including in Beirut, in Syria, in the Middle East, in Africa, in places where something like this may happen more often and places that do not receive the same coverage as the Western world. Not to defend the media frenzy that seems to only cover the Western world, but I think we’re so desensitized when we hear about bombings in the Middle East, that when it happens somewhere that you wouldn’t normally see it happen, it sadly becomes sensationalized. Normal is a key word, though. In a perfect world, there shouldn’t be any place where bombing/terrorist attacks/senseless killing is “normal.”


John Lennon was a dreamer, so perhaps I take after him because of my undying love for the Beatles. Maybe I’m naïve, but I really do dream that one day, despite the fact that we won’t agree on a lot of things- or anything for that matter- we will find a different way of dealing with that disagreement. Sure, there will be struggles, as that is what life seems to always include, but senseless hate won’t be one of them. Until then, all we can do is show that we’re stronger than that hate. The love we have for others is stronger than the fear that the people who don’t understand it try to instill within us. The world is filled with too many beautiful people, places and moments for it to be a bad place. I just hope that we’ll realize this sooner rather than later.




Comments are closed.