Although, I have lived in Vienna for more than 20 years, I would hardly consider myself Austrian. No, not even Viennese. Many friends are astounded that I have chosen not to accept Austrian citizenship. They are surprised that after having lived here nearly half my life, I still choose to remain an expat. An expat? But an expat from where? From Mexico? From the U.S.A? Perhaps, maybe from Slovenia? Well, maybe not Slovenia. It’s an interesting question. Which leads me to the next question. Where do I actually come from?
My birth certificate says that I am Mexican. My Passport is proof of my U.S. citizenship. My Austrian Immigrant Card and Marriage Certificate entitle me to Austrian citizenship, should I choose to accept. I speak and dream in a kaleidoscope of languages. English flows into German, while Italian interferes with Slovene. Spanish does manage to hold its ground. And French, ah yes French, well that’s a story of its own. Perhaps you could call me local, local to wherever I happen to be that is. I prefer to label myself as a global citizen with a Gypsy soul and a cosmopolitan spirit.
In truth, it is rather challenging to pinpoint exactly where I come from. My mother is from Mexico and my father is from Slovenia. I have still to meet anyone else of this mix, apart from my brother that is. I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and spent my earliest years in a tiny town called Tonaya. I was raised and schooled in Pasadena in Southern California. I spent many summers living a rare and rural life in little Mala Nedelja, near Ptuji in far off Eastern Slovenia. in 1983 after graduating from High School, most of my school mates were heading off to College. My parents made it possible for me to head off for Europe and once again immerse myself in new cultures and gather more languages. I spent a year in Salzburg, Austria and later, time in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Yes, defining who I am and where I come from is no easy task. I hold a U.S. Passport but I live in Europe. Wherever I go, I am perceived as being both local and yet somehow foreign. I blend in and stick out all at once. I fit in but remain a source of curiosity, which used to madden me. Sometimes, it even wore out my self-confidence a tad. Other times, it inflamed my pride. Today, I’ve come to enjoy the questioning looks and confused curiosity that my ethnicity causes. But it’s not just my ethnicity. It’s more than that. It’s my whole view of life, of how we fit together as people, of the world, of borders or better said my complete lack of acceptance for borders and boundaries. I would say this global attitude has more to do with my parents than with technology creating a global village. Long before there was social media, there was Gus and Maria.
When I was seven, my parents were suddenly overcome with an incurable bout of Wanderlust. They began packing innumerable pieces of luggage in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They waited for my second grade graduation to pass and then they sold everything. Shortly thereafter, my parents, my brother Vincent, myself and our two Siamese cats, Leica and Elmar, embarked upon an adventure that would last almost two years. We crossed the U.S.A. with Amtrak, the Atlantic on the SS Raffaello (one of the last true ocean liners), experienced rail travel in the albeit tattered but yet original Orient Express, cruised the Mediterranean, lived in Yugoslavia and what is now known as Slovenia. Along the way, we picked up new languages, spoken and unspoken, were touched by art, molded by different cultures and seduced by a unique and Bohemian way of life. The world was our classroom and it’s people our teachers. We were blessed in many ways but two have influenced me the most. Firstly, we were granted the opportunity to experience a rural way of life that was rare back then but has now long since disappeared. Secondly, we learned to perceive the world as a global village long before the phrase was coined.
After those years, I was forever more corrupted, infected with the desire to travel and learn. I longed to experience new cultures close up and first of hand. I craved to unabashedly savor all the scents and tastes that the world has to offer. I tried to get inside people’s heads and find out what makes us different and in the end what makes us the same. I learned to constantly maintain an open mind, to view everything through the filter of curiosity, and to live with a passion for life.
Fast forward 20 years…
One day in the dead of winter, after having given in to a bout of wanderlust myself, I arrived in Vienna. I only had the intention of spending a few weeks here and then moving on to warmer climates. Spain and Southern France (read Peter Mayle) were on my mind, not the dreary greyness that was Vienna in the winter of 1992. But Vienna had other plans for me. This city, this capital, this once central power house of Europe, has a way of holding on to you. It weaves magic. It seduces. It cajoles. And sometimes, It even deceives. In the end, there is nothing else you can do but to give in. Now, more than two decades later, I call Vienna home. We have grown on each other. Stripped each others masks away and become friends. We have influenced one another and become inseparable. Vienna has opened up, receiving more and more guests from abroad and growing more and more international in the process. It has once again begun to resemble the colorful capital it once was. It is headed towards becoming a global city designed for global citizens. And I in turn, have started to learn to grow roots. I have come to understand that you can settle down without feeling tied down and that a place to call home is not necessarily limiting but on the contrary enriching.
This blog is dedicated to that story. But also to the everyday moments that touch my heart, to the memories created and the stories that have unfolded along the way. This is my self-indulgent platform, a place fo me to share my unique journey with you.