I do not want to write about the good things I learnt and did during my time in Nottingham. Neither do I write here about the city and about what led me there, for the experience itself, or else, what it seems to be, concerns no one else but me and would not mean much to others if I spoke of it in words I alone would understand. Each one of us experiences things in a different way and, maybe, speaking about the process of living them becomes uncomprehensible to anyone else. Therefore, it is the time after and the consequences of what I(we) lived that make me(us) want to actually share what I(we) changed and what I(we) learnt instead of the steps I(we) took meanwhile.
So, I could tell you of all the banal corners that led me all the way up there where they kept me: the partnership between the universities, the classes, the immigration procedures, the food, the flat. What was the food like? What were classes like? Where did you live? Those are, however, meer details that built the stage on which the scenes to be missed took place. That is why all of that – that, specifically, being how I refer to the set of moments that composed my five months in England – could have been the result of a weekend with the family, of a long talk among friends or of a simple visit to another neighbourhood in our very own city. It could have happened anywhere, anytime but, to me, it happened there with those people. Thereof, already lived, do I dare tell you about.
Saying that, out of everything, people are what I remember the most seems so obvious to me as saying I thrilled at seeing my last wish ever come true. Thus, were it so simple, there would be no reason whatsoever to always shout that they, people, make any experience worthwile. But it is exactly at reckoning them, people, to be the core of life that I cannot – nor should we – ignore the stability of getting to know more persons, for persons are always unlike each other, always unstable, being this the only thing never to change – change itself.
I am asked if I am having trouble with readaptation. To my country, Brazil? To my state, Rio Grande do Sul? To my city, Santa Maria? It could be a geographical matter. To my food? To my everyday? To my family being around? Or it could be more of a personal matter. My answer means to say that I do not feel as if I should readapt to anything because something new will always exist after and along what is always becoming old. I destroyed the myth that an exchange programme ought to divide my life in before and now, merged into a always-to-come after. A day in July in Santa Maria is as likely to cause unfamiliarity, adaptation and readaptation as a day in May in Nottingham or as a Saturday morning anywhere else.
Therefore, my answer to the previous question is no! I am not in process of readaptation because I am used to the shape of that which I returned to. Day after day, when the colours of that shape change, is when I mould myself to what is there, reagardless of where I am.
But, should everything always be changed, should I too forget how things were and be forever stuck with the notions of what it seems to have turned into? We then use a rock, which, in Portuguese, we call ‘saudade’ – a saluting rock – to shatter the past in small bits whose borders can stand out in the midst of a glass window that seems so smooth and transparent. Those are our memories, small bits of the whole, which only become bits if we decide so, which only turn into bits if we do so.
We can say that “every town has its ups and downs”. We can talk about a list of songs that will always remind us of good moments. We can too draw on blank paper the very own faces of those we want to remember. We can even make a list of things we would always say. Nevertheless, the small pieces of memories that we project onto lyrics, drawings and words are just a means for us to salute all the way to where we are, they are a means for us to miss the meanwhile. Every time we remember Nottingham’s landscape and that of other places we have been to, every time we repeat something we have started to say there, every time we sing that song, we make ourselves remember and live again. It is pure ‘saudade’, it is pure salutation, which does not exist in a bad way.
The view from our windows, the stooping nights, the group meals. We can number many moments that come to our minds now and, at the same time, not number all the others which we do not remember at all. Nonetheless, what is remembered along with what is then forgotten are parts of the whole, of the entire glass window. We need small great pieces of memories.
And all is everything and each one of us will remember something different. Should we cross all the pieces of memory, we would have a great stained glass, a porous and opaque window, as every window has always been. Everywhere in between what is not remembered, we see how things could have been different, the chances for them to have been anything else. And what has not been is as meaningful as what has been, as what we remember having been. If each one of us remembers something different, we then remember together, from different corners of the same figure. What has been and what has not been will always be remembered at being awaken. There is no past with no present. To remember is to revive and to see again and, even if again, it will always be what it is now.
This letter, thus, could be written from somewhere we are yet to be, a future close or far, which, for as unfamiliar as we think it will seem, will always have bits of what we already know, for being there is having before been somewhere else. Who we become, who we are is the result of what we have already been and of what we have turned into, lost in the midst of what we remember among us, of what we share. The letter will never truly tell others how we changed, but only where we write the letter from. Through the words before segregated which we unite to write it, the letter will always be a map, drawing the ways and the crossroads by which we will find one another again and by which we will learn to get wherever each one of us shall be.
From Henrike Möller, a goodbye song to Nottingham.
All of Us
LETTER FROM WHEREVER WE SHALL BE, by the viewpoint of Gianlluca Simi from so many other people
I thank everyone who writes this letter with me. Special thanks to Cyellen Nart, Vicky Vleugels and Henrike Möller, who shared their pieces of memory.
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