27 March 2011

Leaving Italy

Which verb tense do you use when you are suspended in time?  I think in "Leaving Italy" time, but that was 3 1/2 days ago.  On the plane I caught a cold, which leaves me listless and fuori la testa (outside the head).  It feels as though time stands still, but I know better.  Time does not wait for me to catch up.  So even now, I am in the past tense, or so it seems.

Boarding the flight

Here I am back in Los Angeles, an unexpected, unplanned, but necessary trip.

The wonderful 101 Freeway

I try to come to terms with who I am today.  In my adult life I have been a responsible, productive, type-A personality, a small business owner who works hard.  I had control and strove to make a name for myself in my career, which I accomplished successfully.

Nearly two and a half years ago, I had an injury to my back that changed my life.  No longer was I able to work the way I used to. In addition to my injury, there was the economic crisis.  My career changed drastically as a result of the two.  It was then that I decided the time was right to make real my dream to live in Italy.  With my personality type, comes the gotta-have-it-all-figured-out-in-advance mentality.  I went against my usual grain in late '09 when I packed up and relocated to Italy.  I didn't have all the answers.  What I did have was an unwavering faith that, come what may, I would be okay, everything would work itself out, and with a little time, improved Italian language skills, and more contacts, doors would open wide and opportunities would present themselves.  I still have the faith, though, quite honestly, not always unwavering.

Being an expat has its own set of challenges to overcome.  It is no easy path.  In fact, only a small percentage of people who relocate make it beyond the first year.  Studies indicate that something like 5% of the expat population last five years in their new home land and actually assimilate, which means they learn to speak the native language and live like a local instead of in the safe confines of an expat community.

I have made it beyond the first year, and it is important now to assimilate and speak the language and live like a local, if I want to stay beyond the typical five years or fewer.  I try to assimilate and plan to last far more than five years, but...

We often hear of la dolce vita (the sweet life).  La dolce vita, though, is a bit of a myth.  It is not to say that some don't experience it, but for the most part, it is not a reality for the average Italian nor the average expat.  In fact, la dolce vita is more typically for the well-to-do pensioners who can afford extended vacations.  Especially in today's economic climate, when the dollar is $1.42 to the euro, it is a struggle for most expats, especially American expats, to make ends meet. 

I find that I, a once driven, type-A gal, now lack motivation.  I care less about the things that used to matter. Now I struggle with questions such as:  Did I do the right thing?  Have I thrown away my life and the things I worked so hard to achieve?  Will I ever be able to overcome the obstacles and challenges I face in Italy?  Do I dig my own grave just so I can live in Italy? Am I truly an expat, or am I becoming a nomad? (That is, no fixed home, caught in a purgatory of not completely assimilating in Italy and keeping a grubstake in the U.S.)?

During this unplanned visit in Los Angeles, one task is to close up my existing office.  I had previously downsized and effectively closed shop. But I left a physical presence "just in case."  I get emotional comfort in having my desk set up that has my personality all over it.  My desk is glass, which I turned into a vision board. It is one thing to pack up boxes of books and file folders.  But what do I do with the mementos that surround my desk?  They say much about who I am and what I worked for. How do I box up or file away those miscellaneous pieces of paper and trinkets?  I have an Italian phrase sandwiched between the two pieces of glass of my desk that says, "Mi piacerebbe lavorare e vivere a Firenze," (I would like to work and live in Florence). Now done; check. But can I stay?

Also, while in Los Angeles, I will finally free myself of my car and some other personal belongings.  This is all rather scary to me.  The more belongings I slough off in America, the less I straddle the two countries and the more permanent I make myself in Italy.  That spells F-E-A-R in capital letters. Yes, I do want this. But it is not that simple.  (I cannot be entirely forthcoming on this public blog.)  So the questions keep coming at me like tsunami waves.

The car gets towed for maintenance

I struggle with living in the moment, enjoying what I have today, for fear of what could happen tomorrow, next week, next year.  I know it is against the principles we are taught, but I also believe it would be irresponsible of me not to give thought to those very real issues that could happen to any of us, but especially to me, as I straddle two homes, two cultures.  It is not that I want to manifest these negative situations into happening, but I also know it would be denial on my part to ignore their possible reality.  Heavy thoughts weigh on my mind.  The questions I ask myself cause discomfort. I am determined to live a simpler and more basic life in Italy. Some days I do.

I love the home I have made, and make, for myself in Italy.  I strive to create my own form of la dolce vita, and I succeed (to a greater or lesser extent).  I will not give this up, no matter the difficulties that face me or my own thoughts that sometimes punish me. These past few days in Los Angeles tell me that Florence is my home, my destiny.  That said, I also recognize that, when I return to Florence, I must spend more time indoors working. But when I choose to go outside, life awaits.  I live in a place full of history, and I do not take it for granted.  I try to be mindful of the beauty that surrounds me and to notice something new each day and definitely not to allow it to become ordinary.

An extraordinary life in an extraordinary home.  That is the theme of this blog and also my mission in life ... one step at a time.

--Josslyn, Los Angeles, California, USA

17 March 2011

Unità d'Italia / Unification Day

Most people know today is St. Patrick's Day.  Some will eat corned beef and cabbage; others, drink green beer and play darts; and even others, look for an opportunity to pinch someone not wearing green. But do you know that today is yet another holiday in Italy?  

That's right.  Today in Italy is Unification Day, the 150th anniversary of the day Italy became a unified nation, Italy's birthday.  Many people have the day off.  Italians love an excuse to celebrate, and the festivities actually began last night with another holiday in preparation for today, "Tricolore Notte" (three-colored night).  

Don't feel bad if you didn't know today is Unification Day. I didn't know last night was Tricolore Notte until it was happening, and I was already in for the night. Not for long, though, as I got up and joined the sea of people.  Live music was played in various piazze (squares). The queues to get into the museums that stayed open and gratis until 1:00 a.m. were long.  A giant mongolfiera (hot-air balloon) came to rest in Piazza Santa Croce. Fuochi d'artificio (fireworks) went off at mezzanotte (midnight) from atop Palazzo Vecchio.

No photos of my own to share with you in this post, but you can look here as well as here.

Life in Florence, Italy, is an endless festival, a carnival of happiness.

14 March 2011

Ortobello Farmers Market and Fuori di Taste

We went to the farmer's market that is part of a weekend event in Florence known as Fuori di Taste.  
In the rain and with my arms full of farm fresh milk and vegetables, I captured a few photographs of the food I love to eat, in season and locally grown.

13 March 2011

La Festa delle Donne / Women's Day

Since my fascination for Italy began, I have heard about a day in Italy when women are celebrated.  I have been told the men give flowers to the women in their lives -- not only their wives, mothers, daughters, and lovers but also to their bankers, bariste (barmaids), bosses, shopkeepers, and even to women passing on the street in appreciation for all we represent, sometimes even laying a mimosa branch at her feet.  

My thought was Wow!  Italian men are known for their passion for women, and I couldn't wait to experience such an expression of exuberance.  

The day is March 8, just passed. I did receive a number of buona festa greetings and kisses.  No mimosa (sold at 8 Euro a branch) laid at my feet nor in my hand.  

The day of celebration actually began in America back in 1908 when some textile workers protested against their unfair treatment and went on strike.  The bosses locked the gates and trapped the women in the building.  A few days later, the building was lit on fire, and 129 workers died.  As women began demanding rights, politically and socially, the day caught on globally and has been known as International Women's Day.

Over the years much of the historical flavor has been forgotten, and though the day is still celebrated in much of the world, there is the tendency for it to be more commercial, like a Valentine's Day for women.

In Florence, the state museums offered free entrance to women.  A friend and I toured the Medici Chapel. At the canoe club, women-only teams were on the Arno in a dragon canoe.

Three male friends of varying ages told me this is the day to celebrate women, but that tonight all the men stay home with the telecomando (remote control) in hand while the women are out at the pizzeria with their women friends.

Thank you to the women before me that fought, suffered, and died fighting for fairness, equality, and women's rights, paving the way for a much better life for all of us women today.