Well, today was rather uneventful. But then, I don’t expect every day to be filled with tinsel and dancing. Whenever I come to Italy, I am happy to just “be”. To be with my family. To be in my father’s neighborhood. To be in Ascoli Piceno and wander.
I was thrown off a bit today by some unexpected issues from my latest surgery. I found myself experiencing quite a bit of pain resulting in some needed bed rest. Eventually, I remembered that I needed to do more walking to help with any pain and to move along the healing process.
So I walked around Villa Pigna. I visited a small commercial area that held a family-owned bakery I had frequented a couple of times. Unfortunately, it was closed. It was 2:30 p.m. and would not open for another ninety minutes. This is something that I will have to consider if I get the opportunity to move to Italy. This is not a nation of convenience. It is very much a laissez faire nation of la dolce vita. Living life seems to be the priority with work a distant second. If I’m wrong, I hope someone will tell me, but after ten visits, that is my observation and it continues to be verified.
Anyway, I was able to go back later and purchase a feast of pastries—a large apricot tart and two dozen handmade pastries of all stripes—fruit, cream, chocolate, sugar. These will be added to the mountain of food and desserts that we will be indulging in during the next few days as we celebrate Christmas.
Tomorrow, the celebration starts around 7:00 p.m. when my aunt’s relatives begin arriving en masse. My cousin Maurizio’s wife, Daniela, is already cooking and baking as I write. I can smell the aromas of Italian cooking wafting upstairs to my room. Ah, sweet ecstasy! We will each take turns distributing our gifts to everyone tonight. Then we will dive in and eat like the Whos in Whoville.
It’s been kinda strange so far, though. My cousin, Maurizio, is out of town and arrives tomorrow. On the 27th he and his family leave for Barcelona so I will not have much time with them. His older brother, Sergio, will arrive from Turin on the 26th and return to Turin on the 27th with me in tow. I will get to see him a little more and we will have private time together which I treasure.
In considering this, I have realized that, if I were to move to Italy, this is the way things will be. I will not see my cousins too much. They have very hectic lives with careers, children, spouses and other responsibilities. The same holds true for my aunt and uncle. While I’ve always known that, seeing it in black and white during this visit drills the point home.
It tells me that I would truly be on my own. Certainly my family would help in any way they could. But I would be left to my own devices in many ways. I do think that my aunt and uncle would work to pave the way somewhat because that’s the way they are. Just yesterday Uncle Luciano insisted on paying for my bus ticket from Ascoli back to Villa Pigna. Both he and my aunt seemed concerned that I might not be able to finagle my way back.
However, I did. And that is another story which is also relevant to my desire to relocate to Italy.
I had spent the day in Ascoli. It was Sunday and hundreds of vendors were out hawking everything imaginable—clothing, toys, kitchen items, shoes, etc. Everything made in China, mind you. I walked my normal circuit, making sure to have lunch in my favorite restaurant and espresso in my favorite café. Maurizio’s daughter was to perform in a live re-creation of the Nativity at their church so I wanted to make sure I got back in time for that.
Eventually, I decided it was time to high tail it to the bus stop. I found the stop I ordinarily use and waited. According to my calculations on the schedule, I had some time so I naturally had another espresso. I casually asked the proprietor if the bus would be on time. He then proceeded to tell me that the bus didn’t stop at this site on Sunday. I would need to go to the next site a mile away!
Well, carrying my laptop satchel, I ran down the street, praying feverishly that I wouldn’t miss the bus. I arrived, drenched in sweat and noticed that the electronic sign said the bus would arrive in thirty-six minutes. OK, gotta wait; no problem. But at least I made it.
After FORTY minutes, the sign said it would still be another TWENTY-FIVE minutes before the bus arrived. Frustrated beyond measure I ran into a café and asked the owner if taxis were available in the area on Sunday. Turning around, I saw my bus pass the café. I ran outside yelling, jumping up and down and shaking my fists, but to no avail. The proprietor, feeling sorry for me, pulled me into his car and chased after the bus. At a stoplight I jumped out and ran up to the bus, pounding on the door. I had made it. And I made it to the live Nativity scene with time to spare.
Whew!! It’s a long, convoluted story, but it belies some of the many frustrations about Italy. It’s not a terribly efficient society. It’s not a society that thrives on convenience. For a fast-paced American, accustomed to getting what I want when I want it in a society obsessed with squeezing out that extra dollar, will this ethic drive me nuts?
I know that it can be a lesson in futility to hire someone to do manual labor such as installing a new roof or putting in new windows. The work ethic follows the line of: hammer a nail, drink a bottle of wine. Hammer another nail, drink another bottle of wine, whistle at a beautiful woman. Move a window, go to lunch. What would it be like if I needed help on my MacBook Pro?
And then there’s the language barrier. I’m finding myself learning more words with every visit and I think total immersion would benefit me fine. However, I find myself trying too hard. Too often, the obvious escapes me. (Of course, that happens in my own language.) The trick for me would be to relax and quit getting so worked up because I’m not immediately fluent.
I also still have to talk to my uncle about a DNA test. A move to Italy could take as long as a year considering the notoriously glacial pace of an inefficient Italian government. Having a DNA test to prove my lineage would grease the skids immensely. According to Maurizio’s wife, there are several places in Ascoli where a DNA test could be done. I want to at least try while I’m here. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait until I hook up with my brother in B.C. next March.
But you know something? There’s another factor in all of this. And it frightens me. What if I get here and I’m unhappy? I know, I know, I can always return to Oregon. (The flip side is “What if I get here and I’m happy?”) I just have this fear that I’m searching for something that is unattainable—a sense of belonging. Or perhaps I’m searching for something I already have–like I said in my book, This is My Lemonade–An Adoption Story (<–shameless promotion). I suppose this is something that I have to develop within myself, be it in Oregon or Italy. I want to be a part of something. I miss my mom and dad and I’m tired of being lonely. When I’m in Oregon I miss my family in Italy. Would moving here fill the void?
I’ve been more and more encouraged by the possibility of staying short term. A year, I think, would be optimum. It would give me a feel for what I could expect life to be like and give me a chance to see how I would do outside my comfort zone, away from my friends and from my familiar daily routine.
I’ve done some checking on apartments and have been pleasantly surprised at the rents. The biggest challenge I’m facing is finances. I’ve been blowing through money faster than I could have imagined. Things have settled down, but I’m finding that I won’t have the luxury of taking two years out of the normal world of work. Unless I can get some writing work, or my book starts to sell substantially, or I can find something here in Italy, this plan is not going to take off the way I had hoped.
If anything, this trip is going to be a starting point. I’m coming back in June with my best friend, Barry, so I hope to have more of my ducks in a row to help with any decision.
Until then, I’m going to do whatever I can while I’m here while enjoying the holidays.