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Posts Tagged ‘italy’

Packing

So many things, moments, snapshots I want to pack in my suitcase, burrow deep in my pockets, drill into memory, which seems to become a hazy mist the older I get, and try as I might reach for it, the present pushes me forward with such vehemence that any clinging behind only tends to sever me into pieces. Perhaps this is life with children. There is nothing but now, nothing but this minute, until the day collides hard with your pillow and you fall into something deeper than sleep until you are pulled, yanked, ripped awake again.

But I want to catch something, hook some things. That is what this blog is, has been. A place to record this crazy adventure; a different kind of album to flip through when the years turn grey.

Italy.

Rome.

Bella.

I have learned that you must not drink espresso too slowly.

I have learned that it is never too early to inhale chocolate.

I have learned how to cook the perfect pasta and how blue cheese is sometimes all you need.

I have learned that no matter how many times I try the shops will not be open at siesta.

I have learned that life can be perfect with just enough and needing more is not essential.

I have learned that clothes on the line come with a freshness that no dryer can ever give.

I have learned that eating is an art and wine a simple brushstroke.

I have learned that potato pizza is just about the best you can get.

I have learned that you don’t need to speak a language well if you just pretend you are in a silent movie and act everything out.

But most importantly, I  have learned that you only have one passion and you must take it with you, always.

 

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I keep thinking of Hilary Mantel, winner of the Booker Prize, twice. The New Yorker did a wonderful article on her in which she referenced an old belief that one must return to one’s own country within 10 years of leaving or risk never fitting in again (she lived abroad for 9 years before returning to England). We’ve been out five years now but I already feel that old adage wrapping me up in string. I feel a part of Rome; I am becoming etched in its stone. Perhaps it is in my blood, my grandmother being Sicilian, or perhaps I have simply fallen in love with the Italian way of life; I have.

Halloween just passed. I think of the holiday back home, the costumes, candy, fright. To what end? Halloween is All Saints Day here in Italy. It is a day to remember those who have passed, to be with family, feast in honor of the dead. Everything has weight here; everything rests here.

When I returned to the States earlier this year it was like walking into an old closet and putting on your favorite sweater. I felt warm, at ease, comfortable. But then I started to notice how some buttons were missing, a tear where I had not known there to be one, fabric scratching my skin. When I caught my reflection in a mirror I realized the sweater no longer fit me.

I’ve met many ex-pats here, there, around who move like currents over the earth or find new shells to grow old in far away from where they were born and raised. When you no longer see through your culture’s eyes can it still be called home?

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Roman purgatory

It’s hot. Really hot. 98 (37) in the shade hot. Pure skin to liquid in the sun hot. It’s been this way for weeks, will be this way for weeks. On either end of the weather graph that I stare at endlessly the number refuses to move, as if they’ve fallen there with glue on their ends, forever fastening us to burn.

I am from Florida. We moved here from Uganda. And I have never seen anything like it. No rain, no breeze, each day bleeding into the next with such exact precision that if you laid each day on top of the other you would see not even the slightest variation, so exact in fact that I no longer believe anymore time is passing.

Rome is empty in this August heat. Either away on holiday or locked up in their homes until September brings relief, the Italians shut down this month. In my entire neighborhood there is one restaurant open for lunch. I see tourists, the few who did not read that this was perhaps the very worst time you could visit this city, walking past gated, boarded up shops, maps in hand, circling a maze of nothingness.

Perhaps some young American boys said it best. Passing my husband after an early jog, looking for something to drink in their desperate fight against quick-coming dehydration, and of course coming up empty, one turned to the other and said, “This is where you come to die.”

Or you can just let the mosquitoes eat you piece by piece, which believe me, they try.

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As my sojourn in the states comes to an end and Italy looms closer every day, I find myself reflecting on all I will miss and the things I most certainly won’t.

_____

Things I will miss:

The diversity.

Brunch.

Endless hot showers in wintertime.

Heated cafés and restaurants in wintertime.

Considerate drivers (at least here in LA).

Enormous playgrounds in which to watch your child run free and have a ball.

Progressive education options.

Jon Stewart.

Opening night movies.

Barnes and Noble, where I happily can spend an entire afternoon.

Mexican food.

The ability to see a doctor in August.

Avocados.

Internet plans that let you just keep having internet without it running out at random times.

Stores that stay open all day.

New York. New York. New York.

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The things I can do without:

Pundits. I watched someone on the news the other day speculating on a speculation made by someone speculating on an original speculation.

The continuing, embarrassing war on women.

Ketchup.

Outrageous school fees and a failing public system for those who cannot afford it.

Campaign spending.

GMO foods.

Youth obsession.

Oversized meals. (Unless of course it’s Mexican food.)

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I love how Italians eat lunch. The middle of the day is not just a stop to refuel, to grab something on the go, to get to the next point, it is literally in the Italian language a “pause.” You must pause, stop completely, rest.
It was the same in Uganda. Day after day I would marvel at the locals around me, no matter what their job: government official, housekeeper, garbage man; when it was lunch time it was lunch time. Everything stopped. Meals were lingered over in restaurants with those who could afford, or laps with packed meals from home. Each bite tasted and savored and always, ALWAYS followed with tea. Here in Rome it’s coffee, but the lingering is the same. I’ve watched many foreigners become impatient at the end of the meal because the check was not dropped off at the table. In Rome, as well as in Uganda, the meal is not done when the food has been finished, even the tea or coffee consumed, for there is always more pause. To drop a check in either of these places so quickly after a meal is culturally rude. You would never rush someone like that.
I think of back home where even in line at a check-out counter I felt like I was in a race to the end, what end I do not know, but stumbling with my wallet and trying to get bags together, I could feel the breath of frustration on my neck hurrying me along because the person behind me had to hurry along. Now every day I  get to sit for lunch with pieces of Uganda in my heart, Italy holding me up and I say to myself when I start to feel those old feelings of unnecessary motion, “Sabrina, just pause.”

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Naples

I am in love. Italy is now mine. It took a dark, edgy city to pull me in, and sink me. Naples is deep. It’s dirty. It’s sexy. It’s everything you think of when you think of Pacino, Deniro, men in dark suits whispering in corners. Sure, there is the Corso lined with expensive boutiques and monuments of stunning beauty, all perched upon hills that fall into an endless sea, but like an alley cat I staked the streets I was warned not to go. I leaned into the whispers and studied the faces distorted from not towing the line. I watched eyes watching mine and tried to catch the passion leaking from the sewers. My heart beat faster there. Even back in Rome it all looks new. I think we might be here for a while, caught, trapped.  It runs in my blood. My heritage. I have come home.

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For the ladies

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