Pursuing the expatriate life in Italy–“It’s good to be back home again”–thank you, John Denver

I wasn’t expecting this. My cousin, Sergio and his wife Erika, arrived today to empty out their apartment. They sold the unit they owned in this building and had to vacate the items that remained. I helped pack boxes and fill their truck. They gave me a bunch of things that I needed for my apartment and that will save me a tidy sum of money.

Sergio remarked that it was strange to have me here in Alba Adriatica as opposed to being six thousand miles away. I considered his comment and realized that, for me, this felt perfectly normal.

I had to stop and think. From the moment I got here, I have felt completely at home. Even though everyone is speaking a different language nothing seems foreign, nothing seems out of place. It could be that I’m in a resort town and everything here is very new. Alba is not very old, perhaps sixty years. That makes it a teenager compared to Ascoli Piceno which is three thousand years old. Perhaps if I were living in an older city that reeked of Italian history and culture, I’d feel different.

And tonight when we had dinner with my aunt, uncle and my cousin Maurizio’s two teenagers, everything seemed so normal. Is it because I’ve been here twice in the past year, most recently in June? Is it because I just feel so comfortable here that I believe I belong?

I also had a contrarian experience today. As I put away the items Sergio and Erika gave me, I realized that I was starting to feel more at home. Prior to this, I was never here, always sitting in a bar drinking coffee or having a glass of wine as I wrote. My apartment was Spartan and I didn’t really care.

Now I’m seeing I cared without realizing it. It feels more homey here, less bland. It’s starting to feel like a place where I’d like to be. Cable television and Internet are on their way. I even have a small fake Christmas tree that Erika gave me that will help me get in the holiday spirit.

But what struck me was the realization that I was living as though I would be leaving in a year. I didn’t want to commit. I have a commitment phobia. I’m a man, after all.

I guess I had it seared into my brain that I wouldn’t be here for a year. That type of attitude, whether I’m aware of it or not, pretty much guarantees failure. From the beginning of this journey, I told myself that I would succeed and that failure was not an option—all the while understanding that if I did return to America, it would not be failure.

And maybe there’s another emotional component here. Maybe I didn’t want to get settled and feel comfortable, only to possibly leave in a year. You know, buy all this stuff and then have to discard it. But mostly feel the pain of having to leave.

So I feel like this is home. There is no discomfort. I feel like I belong. Yet, conversely, I was fearful of laying down roots. What a dichotomy. I wonder if that I why I haven’t pursued the expat groups that I was told about? Subconsciously am I looking at this as just an opportunity to live la dolce vita, and hit some European cities along the way?

Sometimes I fear just that. Then I find myself embracing life here and looking forward to the future. Tonight at dinner with my aunt and uncle, Sergio and Erika and my cousin Maurizio’s kids Stefano and Celeste, we ate at La Luna, my favorite restaurant in Villa Pigna, their hometown. (And we had olive al’Ascolana, my obsession). I didn’t feel like I was on vacation. It felt like family and I was very comfortable. Even though I’ve just arrived after living my whole life in America, it feels good to be back home again.

 

An addendum that I had to include:

Everyone in this town seems to have a dog. I’ve lost count as to how many canine friends are in Alba. I happen to love animals, especially dogs, but sometimes their masters drive me not to drink, but to chug. I guess my biggest grips is owners who don’t pick up after their dog’s um, shall we say, deposits.

My chiropractor told me to walk with my ears even with my shoulders because of my bad back. This is difficult to do when I have to keep my head down to avoid the obstacle course that is the sidewalk system in Alba. Fifi poop is all over. Indeed, it can be difficult to walk with aplomb like an Italian as I leap and pirouette among the turd mounds every six inches

I mean, I see lots of dogs, but there has got to be many more because sometimes I find I’m tiptoeing–and it’s not through tulips. Now I should be fair and say that there’s few places for Fido to make his mark on Italian society. But, what about freezer bags? There’s got to be some way to rectify this problem.

I don’t mean to be anal. I’ve been doing a masterful job of maneuvering like a sherpa through my own personal Himalayas. But I have to admit that I do miss the clean sidewalks of Portland.

 

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