Thursday, April 15, 2010

One Year in Italy

What's in this jar? Gelato spoons. 220 gelato spoons to be exact. Approximately one year of gelato consumption for a family of three, not counting the occasional cone we ate or spoon we accidentally threw away. This is a visual representation of our first year here, but there is so much more that has filled this year than can fit this jar.

One year ago today, I stumbled off the plane bleary eyed with two suitcases and a disoriented cat in tow to begin this adventure. I was a few days ahead of Patrick and Brandon, to get into the apartment and get things a little bit set up for when they arrived, while Patrick was finishing up with the movers and getting our house in Corvallis ready for rental.

I had no idea what I was in for.

In this year, I have learned:

- There is nothing like moving to another country, with a different culture and language, to humble you. You go from being a confident, independent, contributing member of society to a person who literally doesn't know how to pay the bills or find an item in the grocery store. Everything is different, and you have no frame of reference. No experience to pull from. No language skills to work through new situations. You have to learn to laugh at your ignorance, accept where you are, because otherwise you will have a nervous breakdown.

- To throw out assumptions of "how things are done" because you will encounter, over and over again, that they are done differently here. It opens your eyes to how much we really do assume or take for granted by growing up in one culture. It doesn't matter if it doesn't make sense to you, you have to accept it and move on because doing it differently doesn't mean doing it "wrong." You will never be able to change the culture you are in to fit your own comfort zone.

- There will be things you love and things you hate about living here. You have to try it all and then revel in the things you love while accepting the things you hate. I have discovered I love the Italian pizza, real parmesan cheese freshly grated, visiting new places, creative store window displays, art exhibits, hanging out in the piazza of a city to feel the energy, to name just a few things. I have learned to accept the convoluted, confusing beaurocracy you run into, stores closed on Sundays, the passionate responses you get from Italians that quickly blow over, cigarette smoking everywhere, the non-standardization of electrical outlets and plugs.

- Travel is expansive. Travel changes your horizons. Travel gives you an insight into new places and people. Travel is nothing like living in the place you visit. Nothing.

- Many of the things we fill our lives with are not needed. I'm talking about things and activities and people altogether with this statement. By completely changing your environment, you can start to see the essential pieces of your life that are important and which you can easily live without. For example, we lived for two months without our household goods shipment, buying only the essential things we needed. We have a whole lot more in storage in Corvallis, too. But in those two months, there wasn't much of all of that "stuff" we couldn't live without. (Except maybe a wine bottle opener. That was at the top of the list of items we bought right away.)

So many ideas are popping into my head to share that I know I can't share them all today. It's like they each need their own little essay, maybe I should write them all down and put it in a book someday with some of my photographs.

I think I can sum up the learning from this first year in Italy with one word: Acceptance. Of who I am, of where I am, of the people around me, of the situations I find myself in, of ideas other than mine, of my own ideas. I can't think of a better thing for me to learn at this time of my life.

I can only wonder, with a smile on my face, what the next year will bring.

I've mentioned previously that I'm participating the the Creative Every Day 2010 challenge through I've written a guest blog post that will be posted there today. If you have time, stop by there and read it and answer the questions I've posed. I'd love to see your answers!


  1. I really enjoyed the post on Creative Every Day as well as this "anniversary" post. Thanks for such great insight of some things that we may take for granted!

  2. Thank you for your post on CED2010! I had my coffee in hand and read and thought how could I live in Italy for two years...humm! Thanks for the beautiful visuals and the inspiration!

  3. I've just come from reading your Creative Every Day post & had to come read of some of your adventures in Italy. Oh how I LOVE Italy! I spent 2 summers there studying art & art history in Montone, Umbria. If you have a chance you should go there. It's a little mountain town & it's very charming. I miss sitting in the piazza at night. One of the girls on our trip actually lives there & married a guy from there. She has some stories! lol I encourage you to absolutely write down your stories w your pictures, for yourself & your child someday. While there is so much I will never forget, there is a lot that grows fuzzy or started out fuzzy from all the lovely wine. lol I will say that I hope I never have to deal w the Italian legal system but that is another story & not my own. I hope to have the opportunity to live over there someday. Enjoy your experience! I'm going to answer your questions in a blog post later today.

  4. Like the others, I have come over from Leah's website and I am really glad I did! Beautiful blog. I've often wanted to move to Italy but never knew how to do it. I think I have to have a viable work skill or speak the language before I could live there - right? :o)

  5. loved your post, loved the way you see my country through your eyes.. I do think you can breathe art and history in every corner :) I couldn't live anywhere else. I'm in Cesena, close to the adriatic sea. Hope your 'adventure' here will continue in the best way and will leave you beautiful memories.


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