Blue Mountain Arts
Blue Mountain Arts
Blue Mountain Arts

Poetry Contest Winners :: Sixteenth Contest :: First Place Winner

Studying Abroad

by L. Thomas
I am pretty sure that a desk in New Zealand
is even less exciting than one back home in Chicago
At least a desk in Chicago has no traces
of crushed expectations
of an exciting life abroad

I have no idea what I will tell them once I get back home
They are waiting for stories
The same stories I was anticipating long before I set foot in Aotearoa
I have long since given up on adventures as exotic as the Maori name implies

Maybe I'll tell them…

About the…

What's exciting about being here again?
Oh yes!
The sky
The great beautiful sky
With the great beautiful sun

it's the same exact sun that rises and sets
Back home in Chicago

How can I tell them that the beauty I was expected to behold in the
the picturesque surrounding mountains and
grandeur of the greenest valleys
I had already found in the Sears Tower
in Lake Michigan
in my Granny's smile
in my best friend's laughter

How do I tell them instead of the adventure of my life I was searching for
I found that the greener grass on the other side holds
more unfulfilled promises than I bargained for
I found that what I was searching for
could not be found
in changing locations
Because mostly I found out that I already had what I was searching for

Wish I had figured that out before I spent
One grand on airfare
Two grand on accommodations
And who knows how much on fish and chips
And flat white coffees
in all of those cafes
from here to Christchurch

I guess that's what I could tell them
I found I already had a life worth dreaming about
One with two parents who love me
Even when I never clean my room
and only call when I can finally admit
I need them as much as I did when I was a child

A life with an older brother who cares for me
Even if he only shows it by griping when he has to take me places
Or teasing me about not having a license

A life with a Granny who cooks apple pies so yummy
That the family will literally fight over who gets the last piece

A life with best friends who are wishing me well in New Zealand
But would have preferred that I spent the summer at home with them
Eating Italian Ice
Having sing-alongs to the radio
As we drive the car downtown in night
For hours until
we park the car and
have heart-to-hearts that
last longer than our joyrides

But a life that's full of pain and suffering just the same

Persevering with family as my
Older cousin goes through cancer
As another cousin is killed
As addiction plagues aunts
As we learn to love
And remember

That's what I'll tell them
That I spent five grand
and got back what I already had
How exciting is that?!
I can see the headlines now
“Girl spends 5 grand, gets same life back”
With a byline of
“Tells stories about mundane life experiences”
And further mentioning
“Her life has joy, pain and suffering, like anyone else
Her life is not extremely exciting
Or even enviable
But girl learns to treasure it just the same”

I returned home and waited for the inevitable question


So what did I tell them?

About the long hours spent at a desk in New Zealand
Typing on a computer
Contemplating life?


None of that. I summed up 8 weeks
56 days
1344 hours
Into the easiest 9 words or 3 sentences I could think of

“Life changing
It's hard to put into words”
Luckily, it was enough for them
I was safe to remain in the unbroken code
The traveler's secret, to have
A thirst and desire for life
That no mountain, valley
Or distant land can satisfy

He who does not use
Feet for matters of heart finds
Rest in his travels
Second Place Winner
Blue Mountain Arts