Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy—“We’re movin’ on up”—thank you, Jeffersons

I can report that my back is much better. The physical therapist that I’ve been seeing has done wonders for me in only three sessions. Nevertheless, I still plan to visit a chiropractor that I found in San Benedetto del Tronto. I just happened to find this office online as I was cruising around. Don’t know how I found it, but I’m glad I did. It is a 22 mile trip via bus ($2 ticket) so if I get on the wrong bus, my budget will survive.

I’m so thankful that my back is feeling so much better. I have to admit that I was sinking deep into a depression from the chronic pain. It’s difficult to motivate oneself when the pain is constant and intense and when a sneeze results in body convulsions. I was having difficulty even writing. I would go every night to my favorite bistro for a glass of wine to enhance the effects of the pain meds. Not a good habit to pursue. But still kinda fun…

So I’m here in a café in Grottamare, a town just north of San Benedetto. Apparently, I’ve taken the bus a bit farther north than I realized. But it’s no problem. One of my goals in Italy has been to do more walking. Missing my stop only forces me to backtrack—via foot. In speaking with the proprietor of this cafe, who knows no English, I’ve found it’s only a fifteen-minute walk back south.

As an aside, I have to admit that we passed a McDonald’s on the bus. I was crestfallen. I know that McMucus (my pseudonym) exists in Italy. I was just hoping it would be awhile before I came across one. I was bummed to see quite a few people there choking down a Brillo burger.

I’ve been quite proud of myself these past few days. As I’ve been out and about talking with people, getting acquainted, I’ve been able to understand more easily what they are telling me. People in the grocery store, the café, the cell phone company, the bus terminal, the restaurant and just generally people on the street have all been understandable. I’m not suggesting that I got every word they said, but I was able to get the gist and that was encouraging. It follows what I’ve been saying that total immersion, in my humble opinion, is the best way to learn a language.

I’m even having an easier time reading documents. Last night someone came by to discuss the electric company that I use. They wanted me to change to their company where I can apparently save 78%. I did not sign up because, while I am understanding Italian better and I am able to understand some of the verbiage, I’m not yet fluent and I won’t sign a contract unless I understand all the details. I don’t want to end up paying a 500 euro connection fee.

From living here, as I continue along each day, I find myself noticing little things about Italian (and, by default) European society. I notice that, when approaching someone on the sidewalk, Europeans immediately move to the left to pass as opposed to Americans who tend to move to the right. I have to constantly remind myself of this so I don’t look like I’m doing the dance of the dork.

And in the cafes, one is always served in a ceramic cup on a saucer. Pastries also arrive on a small plate with a small napkin. Oftentimes, in the more upscale cafes, the proprietors include a small token pastry—even if you’ve already ordered a larger one.

This to me is a great idea–the ceramic cup, not the extra pastry although the latter is something I also embrace. This behavior is the exact opposite of the American habit of disposability, filling our landfills and polluting the environment. But, one of the main reasons, I think, that coffee and pastries are served on a dish is due to the Italian manner of sitting and enjoying an espresso, chatting with strangers or the owner. Or just enjoying a quite moment alone. I would be interested to know that the heart attack rate is in this nation. Suppose I could Google it.

I’ve also noticed something unique In changing my phone number, I found that I can only buy 2 gigabytes of data at a time. Once it’s used up, I have to go back to the store and buy two more. I cannot do so over the Internet. And those gigabytes seem to get used up quite quickly. They’re half the price of a gig of data in America, though. Perhaps I’m doing something wrong. Internet on my phone seems to be fine, but accessing it via my phone on the computer is difficult. Are all those Carol Burnett reruns must sucking up the data?

I have to back pedal a bit and talk about how down I’ve been. I’ve been reluctant to state so because I don’t want people to feel sorry for me or worry. And I guess I don’t want anyone to think that Italy is anything but spectacular beyond imagination.

But the fact is that, no matter where you live, no matter where you move and no matter how fabulous that place is, problems crop up. And your problems follow you.

And at the risk of playing the same sad old tune I have found myself thinking a lot about my ex. I’m not ashamed to say that our break-up was one of the main things sending me to Italy. Prior to that, my decisions were made based on our relationship. I never wanted to be far from him and I wanted to be available. And vice versa.

Without that relationship, I felt I had nothing holding me back. Perhaps that was a good thing. If this pursuit is truly my destiny, whether one considers it a God thing or just fate, then our break-up was necessary.

I wish, though, that I could share with him the experiences I’m experiencing. The simplicities of the Italian culture. The daily cappuccinos and the walks along the promenade. Shopping for cheeses and meats. Even the daily “grind” of figuring out my new mobile phone number. But it’s not to be. As with everything in my life, this must be experienced alone. Why? I don’t know. Probably it’s me.

It’s important for me to reiterate at this point that my friendships are not looked upon lightly. I don’t want to suggest that leaving my friends was easy or that those relationships are not important. Quite the opposite. However, everyone has their own lives and, while I do not deny the closeness I have with everyone, I understand that everyone’s life is their own.

No, your problems follow you. They just have a different hue. Whatever issues I had in Oregon are now framed with palm trees and pasta. Perhaps that will make them more palatable and less monumental.

Prior to my departure I had grandiose images of myself sitting in cafes in a turtleneck (black, of course), drinking espresso and tapping out images and ideas that would thrill the world. The reality is quite different and I knew that would be the case. So kill me for being a romantic.

Maybe it was the chronic pain that caused me to fall into despair. Maybe it was because I had totally forgotten to take my depression meds. Maybe I just expect too much from myself. Maybe it’s all three.

I even had fleeting thoughts of just chucking it all, admitting this whole experience was a charade and that I was kidding myself. Pack my bags and either head back to Oregon or perhaps be a vagabond for a while, hop on a train and go where the wind sends me. This from only one week in Italy. Spare me.

But I’m going to stick it out. I told my buddy, Barry, that I would stay for a year. My visa is good for a year. I’ve paid for it and I sweated bullets to get it in time for my flight. I’m not going to piss on it and leave early. Besides, any type of transition like this takes time. Things won’t happen overnight.

And through that realization I’ve decided that I will probably lay low through the end of the year. I will continue to blog. Write whatever pops into my sieve-like brain. But not attempt to do anything major because the holidays are basically here and things are closing down for the winter.

I will take this time to really get settled in. As I mentioned before I’ve already found MY pizzeria, MY café, and MY bistro. I’ve found a health club and through that will have entre to an expatriate community. For me it’s about nesting. If I’m not feeling connected, I won’t be motivated to become a part of the community, a part of society. I already find my Italian improving and I continue to get compliments for it. Little things like that encourage me and remind me that I’m already acclimating so I’ll keep going.

I have to quit putting so much pressure on myself like I always do. My life is very simple now and I’m quite enjoying it. It’s liberating. My apartment is small, but it has enough room as well as TWO patios. One of which is secluded and allows me to sunbathe in the nude. THERE’S a visual for ya. I hope I don’t lose any readers from that statement.

No, seriously, I can sit in the sun and enjoy a coffee or a yogurt in the morning. I hear the exotic fall of various languages in my apartment building, as Alba has become a mecca for immigrants of which I am one. There are unique and mouth-watering scents that turn my head.

And that begets yet another interesting realization. I am an immigrant. Perhaps I belong in this area, along with immigrants from Somalia, Pakistan and China. Should I be in a more upscale area? If so, why? Because I’m white? Because I speak English? Because I’m “wealthy” according to third world standards?

I don’t think so. Why shouldn’t I be here? Why should I be in a more upscale area like Grottamare or San Benedetto? Why, indeed, especially considering that I am content here?

Perhaps I will be moving on up as life progresses. Perhaps I will stay here to save money. Until that time, I will continue to learn, to absorb, and to savor.

The good and the bad and the ugly.




2 thoughts on “Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy—“We’re movin’ on up”—thank you, Jeffersons

  1. I so so LOVE your blogs, keep them coming. You are a “word-smith” and I enjoy it!!

    Remember, time not only heals but will help the future. Hang in there Bob, and ENJOY life, such as it is !! mp

  2. You are really fun to read, and I am not saying that lightly either. I also enjoyed Marilyn’s observation that Time “help[s] the future”–and in fact, you are still so jet lagged that you’ve just got to take a breath, just look around a bit, walk in the daylight, and get some rest. So excited that you are there! love you–Deb

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