Saturday, December 11, 2010

Where did November go?

I told you I would be bad at this! Look how long it’s been since I wrote anything. And so much has happened.

I turned 50 here and to celebrate I visited a vineyard for a private tour and lovely lunch complete with a candle in my tiramisu and fellow diners singing happy birthday for me. Not a celebration I am used to, but it was a lovely day and I got to share it with a lovely person.

I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, at least not in the traditional sense. Since it isn’t a holiday here, I had school and work but I did have pumpkin soup for lunch. I don’t feel that I missed too much because I spent almost 2 hours on Skype with my family doing those things that we always do on Thanksgiving. Eating, talking, drinking, talking, playing a few Christmas carols, and oh yeah, talking. The only thing missing from my Thanksgiving was that stuffed feeling I get after eating “just a little bit” of everything on the table. That, and the day off after Thanksgiving. Luckily Italy provided me with a replacement holiday on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. And another miracle occurred that day…the rain stopped and the sun was shining. Truly a beautiful day to be here.

Now I am getting ready to leave for Sweden, where I will spend the holidays with Leif’s family and friends. I will have snow for Christmas! It should be interesting though, after two months of living here in Italy. Here people look at me and automatically switch to English because I don’t look Italian. In Sweden I will look pretty much like everyone else. So they will naturally speak to me in Swedish and expect a (semi)intelligent answer. I am brushing up on my one useful Swedish phrase, “I don’t speak Swedish” to avoid the uncomfortable assumption that I am either mute or stupid.

Wish me luck in any language, I think I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Time has flown by, hasn’t it? I have been here in Italy now for a month and I suppose now is the time to…yes, fellow Augsburg alum…reflect.

I have experienced some extreme highs here. I have also experienced some extreme lows, and those who know me well understand just how hard it is for me to admit that. At the beginning it seemed that the experience changed hourly. I could cry, celebrate tiny victories, hide my head under the covers, be amazed by my courage and marvel at my stupidity all before lunch. As the days have gone by this rollercoaster has slowed down and now I am back to good days and bad days, not minute to minute changes. Let me amend that statement to say that I have good days and not so good days. I haven’t had a bad day yet.

I am adjusting to life here in some very unusual ways. I have always been a morning person and I thought that this was something that I was, not something that I had learned. I may have been wrong. In Minnesota I would wake up early every single day without needing to use an alarm because I had work, or sometimes just things to do that I didn‘t want to waste time on later in the day. Here I actually use an alarm to get up by 7:30 so I can get to class by 9:10.

I drink coffee anytime during the day. I drink Italian coffee, which is actually espresso. It is hot and dark and strong and served in tiny cups. There is no lingering over this coffee, Italians drink standing at the counter on their way to somewhere else. What I find most strange is that even with all the coffee I am drinking I fall asleep almost immediately and sleep through the night. I haven’t done this in years. And when I say years I mean 10 or more years. Combine that with my new found ability to sleep in and it is safe to say that I feel rested and renewed here.

Another pleasant surprise has been that I can eat here. What I mean is I can eat, and eat, and eat without gaining weight. Actually I am losing weight. I’m not sure what to attribute this to. Part of it is certainly the fact that I walk everywhere, everyday. Part of it may be stress from living in a country where I still don’t understand the language and customs. Maybe it’s the food? We eat so much pasta prepared with fresh vegetables and olive oil, bread, fruit and wine. Last night may have the heaviest meal we have made at home…garlic, eggs, cream and provolone cheese with angel hair pasta. Note to my sister, this will be my comfort food here.

I started Italian lesson this last week, and now I can understand much of what is being said to me and given enough time I can formulate a response. It might not be right, but I am in there trying. I hear from my Italian friends is that trying is the most important part. I really didn’t want to sit in a classroom again after 7 years of college, but (and if you are in the college system, please don’t take this the wrong way) this feels relevant to my life. I will use this language every day, unlike some of the classes I took that fulfilled mysterious requirements from my college.

When I left the US for Italy four weeks ago I don’t think that I had really thought enough about what my expectations were for myself or for the experience of living here. After these four weeks I have a better idea about what I can expect from myself. I can expect great things. I can fail with great gusto. I can succeed beyond my wildest dreams. And between those two extremes I can enjoy a life filled with rich experiences.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

Through this experience I started to wonder about the meaning of “home”. What does it really mean? Is it something inside of each of us that we carry to each new place, like those posters that say “Home is where the heart is?“ Is it a place of familiar sounds and tastes and experiences that calm the mind, and the knowledge that those things will be there for you at the end of a busy day? Is it the people around you who make a home? People who love you and understand not just your language but also the things that you find important? Maybe some of you have the answer, I only have more questions at this point.

Now, here in Italy with my love, we are making a new home for ourselves. This apartment is new to both of us…what a great way to start! Neither of us feels territorial about closet space and there is no question whose chairs to we keep and whose do we throw because none of it belongs to us. We have clothes and books and he has sooo much wine. He has a few kitchen things but not enough to make a whole kitchen.
Our apartment has the basics; bedroom, living room, kitchen and bathroom. It has been fun learning my new home. The front door is solid, but it isn’t a standard American door with a knob. There’s a box mounted on the inside of the door with a button on it. I spent a little while trying to get out, because you don’t push the button, you slide it. And the deadbolt has five pins on the box and a rod that sinks into the floor. I feel that I am as safe as I would be in a bank vault with this door.

The first night I spent alone in the apartment I discovered (at 10:30 pm) that the toilet wouldn’t stop running and the tank and shutoff valve are mounted 9 feet off the floor. I had 2 choices: I could stand on the bar stool whose top is a puffy mound of naugahyde about 10” in diameter or stand there and cry. I have emergency phone numbers, but no phone…and was this an emergency if no water was leaving the bowl? So I scrambled up the stool and teetered on the top…I could just reach the shut off if I balanced on my toes…and then it quit running. I no longer sweat every time I flush, but I do say a little prayer each time, just in case.

Our water heater is mounted in a kitchen cabinet. Do you know the sound effect you hear in movies and TV when something spontaneously combusts?? I think they recorded our water heater when is comes on…mmmm phuwump! You do get used to it, but the first couple of nights I had dreams about fires…wonder why?

I like this apartment. The ceilings are high, the refrigerator is new, the bathtub is clean and big and oh so lovely, The kitchen has a loveseat and a balcony. It’s a little sparse but with time and patience it will be a warm home for us to be in. I have slowly been adding little things here and there as I find them. Towels, sheets, dishes, cleaning supplies. Every day I find something to arrange or clean or move, and in doing this I am finding the way to make this a place to call home. Oh, just be careful when you move things, every time I do I find out why it was placed there to begin with…like the blue paint on the floor in the living room that was covered by the bar…

Monday, October 18, 2010

I have arrived...

Hello friends, welcome to the blog you all asked for. It feels weird to write about myself and my experiences, but I understand that this connection to each other will keep us closer than any other method available to us. I have listened to your suggestions for content and promise to try and include my own unique perspective (a friend’s word, not mine) and I will only tell you what I had for breakfast if it is indeed worth writing about.

Some of you are looking for a peek into what it is like to pick up in the middle of life and move to another country. You probably want to hear about the food, the wine, the art and architecture and the culture. I’m pretty sure you also want to know how I handle living here…what’s different, what’s the same, and how I manage the day to day problems of life. I can’t promise to share everything I think and feel, and you should probably be grateful…the reality is certain to be less exciting than the fantasy.

Some of you want to hear about the romance that is sure to unfold as my love and I get to know each other better. I’ll share what I can…the rest is up to your imagination. Which, knowing some of you, is very fertile ground! What will be different is that here in Italy I am experiencing love without a lot of outside influence. I can love with abandon and passion.

I have been in Florence almost two weeks now. Each day I wake up, take out my map of Florence and try to decide where to go for the day. Some days I go to the historic part of town, mingle with the tourists and window shop. Other days I stick to my neighborhood and the surrounding areas. Those are the days I spend trying to find my way around the places tourists don’t go. The shops, the parks and the residential neighborhoods. Just this week I found a lovely park that feels like being out in the countryside with a wonderful winding path that climbs up a small foothill. The people who go to this park make me feel like part of the neighborhood. They say “buon giorno” and really smile at me. I almost cried the first time I went there, it was such a comforting experience after so much time feeling like a stranger in a strange place. I think that I will visit this park regularly. I will admit that part of the reason I have been walking so much is that I have been very lonely. Far better to spend 8 hours walking outside than sit in the apartment hiding from the experience out of fear

So I can hear the question…what about the guy? He’s here too, but his job as a tour guide has kept him out of town for most of the two weeks that I have been here. But when he is here he is the essence of loving care. Those who know me well will understand the importance of this: He keeps me close without smothering me. He holds my hand, puts his arm around me, he holds me close to him whenever possible. Yeah... He is anxious to introduce me to his friends, who by the way all seem to know that I was coming. He has been talking about this for a bit I think. Soon November will be here and the tourist season is essentially over. He will not be as busy and I expect that there will be many weeks spent getting to know each other better as he shows me around Tuscany.

I know this was long, but I had to catch us all up on what has happened. I promise to keep it short if you promise to be patient as I get comfortable writing all these things down. It has been an interesting couple of weeks…I can hardly wait for tomorrow!