The days have slowed down since Paola Carreras moved to Astoria this year.
It is a very different place from the Caribbean island where she grew up. It is colder, grayer. It is definitely smaller — she feels like a city girl who landed suddenly in the country.
But, like home, Astoria is also a city whose moods and weather are shaped by the presence of water.
“I am an island girl and I always thought to myself wherever I moved it would have to be somewhere close to water,” Carreras said. “I need water.”
She had been planning to move after she graduated from college, and Astoria happened to present itself as an option.
Carreras is a familiar face to anyone who has recently walked through the doors of Carruthers, a restaurant at the corner of Commercial Street and 12th Street. Of the two roles she fills there — serving and bartending — Carreras loves bartending best.
“It’s like an in-between,” she said. “Between serving people and concocting something. You are making something and you’re responsible for that and it’s going out and people are trying it. People are liking it. … You’re there to see them experience it. It’s sort of like theater. It’s live.”
Carreras should know. She majored in foreign languages, but she minored in theater. Even though she was an introverted kid, she always loved live theater. In college, she was drawn to characters with intense emotions, strong women who didn’t take anything away from those around them but who also didn’t let others take them. She learned from the characters.
“For me, (theater) is therapy,” Carreras said, “It’s a reflection of reality. You get to see all these characters on stage and you may find yourself in one of them and you may be going through something similar. You basically see all the options presented.”
Carreras fell in love with the idea of learning other languages during a trip to Italy and Spain in high school. She is fluent in four languages and is interested in tackling French, Greek and Latin.
“(Learning languages), your voice changes,” she said. “There are studies that say even your personality changes a little bit. … There’s always this debate about what came first: language or thought. You talk to yourself, you think to yourself. It’s very interesting how once you learn different languages, and you know a couple, you really get to understand how it really does build the psyche.”
She cannot remember a time when she did not speak English, even though her parents don’t speak the language. She thinks she became so inadvertently proficient because of cartoons and story books, but she honestly isn’t sure. Until English-speaking tourists asked if English was her first language, she didn’t realized she spoke it so well.
Communication threads many of her interests together, that desire to connect and understand and express. She’s figuring out what that means in a small city where she feels visible in a new way. She doesn’t consider the move permanent, but she has fallen in love with Astoria. One day she was walking along the Riverwalk, looking out at the water. She felt fully at peace. Her mind was quiet for the first time in a long time, she said. She felt like time froze.