Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A year in florence

Last night Leif and I celebrated the anniversary of my arrival here in Italy. A little sparkling wine and pasta, then a bottle of wine from last year with the steak. He gave the bottle to me at the airport when I landed and we just never got around to drinking it. Last night seemed the perfect time to open it and drink to a year of life together here in Florence. We're buying another bottle this weekend to keep for next year's anniversary.

It's been a great year. I've experienced living in another culture, which is completely different from visiting another country and being mildly amused at the differences and the inconveniences caused by those differences. Living here means learning the language beyond ordering a meal and asking where the bathroom is. It's learning bus and train schedules and how to ride my bike through a crowd. I've had the time to spend with myself. Which sounds a little nuts, I suppose. Wherever I go, there I am, as the saying goes. I mean that I took the time to ask myself some tough questions and then took more time and effort to actually try to answer them. I thought about what my life has been in the past and where I think I might like it to go in the future.

It's taken a year for me to make friendships and connections that are strong enough for people to recommend me to others. For people to believe that I'm not here for a little while and then gone. To convince them that I'm tough enough to stick it out here. For people to know me well enough to hear of a need in the community and think of me. I have another babysitting possibility and a chance to tutor a larger group of ten year olds in English. I am at a point where I could make enough money to live. This is a bittersweet victory for me, though.

So here's where I share probably more than I should. And really, I just need to get some of this out of my head. I welcome your ideas. I have been thinking about this for a year and haven't come up with a good answer. My visa expires in December and I have to leave Italy.  For three months. Then I can come back. For three months. (repeat endlessly) I can't split my life into two pieces like that. It's financially impossible and I think the constant moving around would eventually break me down physically and emotionally.

I have to tell the moms of the students that I am leaving in December and don't know when I'll be back. Leave the decision whether or not to hire me in their hands. I would love to tutor these kids. I think (after years of denying it) that I am a good teacher. I enjoy teaching. I have to be sure that the parents of the kids I babysit understand that I won't be here forever. Which is hard, because I really do love watching Mia. And just this week her mom sent me a text saying that they hope I don't stop watching Mia because she loves me and when Mia is with me she knows she's safe.

I also found my love for Leif growing every day. He's an exceptional human being; strong, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent, loving, and tough. I know when my body leaves Florence that my heart is safe with him.

Yes, there are options. If you would like to see them you can go to the Italian Embassy website and read them. You might see something there that I missed. Believe me when I say I have looked at this from as many angles as possible and I see few options. Those are tough words for me to say. I've sacrificed a lot and worked very hard to get here.

So there you go. Like I said, bittersweet. It has been a wonderful year. I have never felt so relaxed and happy. I didn't worry myself to death and yet there was always food on the table and a roof over my head. I didn't work fifty hours a week and I still had clothes to wear and the chance to travel to a few places and see the country.

For a couple of years I have been saying that the universe will provide. But for those years I also worried and worked to give the universe all the help I could give it. This year I said the universe would provide and trusted that it would. And it did. So I suppose I should take my own advice and watch  for the answer the universe provides for me. Kinda hard to do while mentally packing my suitcase, but I'll try my best.


  1. Michele,

    I cannot begin to imagine what you are going through right now. Like you said, there are always options. Have you and Leif considered moving to his homeland? Is that an option? Has he considered moving back to the states? Is marriage in the cards, and would that help solidify permanent residency?

    I'm praying for you, dear lady. And I know that things will work out for the best (or, as you say, the universe will provide).


  2. Katie...we both moved here because we want to live in Italy. I don't think either of us would be happy in Sweden or in the States. Marriage would let me stay with him. I guess we have to see if the universe feels that's the right move. Thanks for your words and prayers. They mean more than you can possibly imagine. Michele