Final Countdown, Minor Meltdown

Ciao Readers!

As recently as 2 days ago, my final day at the law school, I was still remarkably calm and collected – as if I move to a foreign country everyday.  Despite a crazy-busy week filled with more cat-moving drama, the sale of my car, and possibly my last-ever court appearance, I ended the week on a mellow note.  I walked around the building, said my goodbyes, and drove off into the sunset.  I was pretty proud of myself.  People were commenting how they’d be much more stressed in my position.  But not me – I’m cool as a cucumber.  Well, until now….

Okay, NOW it is really dawning on me.  It’s gone from being exciting, to surreal, to ever-so-real.  We are moving to Italy a week from Thursday!!!  Seriously!

I am writing this post to try and help process my thoughts and feelings, but I think they are too jumbled and intense and varied to make much sense of.  Overall, there is a powerful sense of impending displacement – of time and place and people and comfort and familiarity.  (And the more concrete dread of the actual obstacle-course trip itself)

While there’s still a little stuff left here and there, most of our household has been sold or given away or packed.  We’ve lived in this house for 18 years.  It doesn’t look right this empty – as if the “home” part has been packed up.   I wonder if we will ever live in this house again…

I continue to have lunches with friends and stubbornly continue to refuse to say “goodbye.”  After all, in this day of Skype and e-mail, there really is no such thing as “goodbye” – is there?  And, if I’m being honest, I am just no good at the mushy stuff.  But know I’ll miss the spontaneous deep conversations in the hallway at law school, Saturdays at meditation, and long lunches to catch up and vent and just be.  The open-ended guest-floor invitation is my solace.

It’s the first weekend of the Olympics; Italy is doing well in the medal count and was featured as having the most stylish opening ceremony uniforms; I feel a weird sense of pride…

Italy Update

Ciao Readers!  I have missed you!  There’s been a gelato-sized empty space since I have had to put this blog on hold.  But, I think enough has happened over the past few weeks to warrant an update…

When we left our story, we were getting us and our cats and our pared-down stuff ready for our adventure.  We spoke a bit about red-tape and the challenges of moving to a foreign country.  Even then, with all my stories about airline debacles and forbidden mail, I didn’t know the half of it!  So, let me sum up…

Getting our cats “Italy approved” turned out to be even more of a project than we expected.  AND, a MUCH more expensive prospect than we could have ever guessed.  When I wrote to one fellow expat/blogger about the ordeal and the cost ($1,300+ so far) she was in shock – believing that MUST be a type-o!  Alas, I wish I could say it was, but it was not.  I am still not certain what all was involved as Steve took on the tasks of two days of vet visits, but basically both cats got tested for any disease any cat could ever get, got updated shots and (unfortunately) some dental work one of the cats needed.  To add insult to injury, Sebastian (our larger, furrier cat) needed a haircut so he won’t swelter in his little carrier and instead of bringing him to a proper groomer we had the vet take care of that as well.  As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Now, if you think getting the cats to Italy is the biggest hurdle, you would sadly not be correct.  To make a VERY long story short, last Wednesday and Thursday we fully believed some visa issues we are having could not possibly be worked out in time for our departure.  We already came up with a “plan B” (moving to Hawaii).  When I last left off writing, I had NO idea how many more hoops we had to jump through and how much sooner we should have snapped.  To put it in the words of the brusk woman on the other end of the phone at the Italian consulate in L.A. “What were you thinking?!?!?!”   In any case, I feel a certain amount of superstition about saying too much as this story is still in progress.  When Steve returns from his one-day round-trip flight to L.A. to go to the consulate in person next week, I’ll write more…

Other than that, our house continues to be a clown car of never-ending stuff.  Some of it is pretty humorous (like the notebook I kept in high school in which I wrote all of the inappropriate things my teachers said in class), and some of it is pretty age-revealing (college papers typed on old-fashioned typewriters, white-out spots and all).  I have enjoyed giving away and selling more stuff than I ever knew we had, except my bike which kinda made me sad.  On a positive note, I met a college student who just spent a semester in Rome and thus got to converse in Italian for the first time in quite a while.  (My last Skype class is 4th of July, but haven’t had one since Memorial day).

I suppose the final thing of note that has happened since you last joined me are my “last” lunches with folks.  I have been going to lunch with old friends and colleagues on Thursdays (only day I can manage to get out of the law school long enough) and they are majorly bittersweet.  I seriously hope everyone will take us up on our offer of our very cool “guest floor” and thus prove none of those lunches to actually be “final.”  And, yes, I am sure we will eventually make our way back here to our house in Albuquerque….

A presto!

Thank You (and taking a short hiatus)

Greetings Readers!  Thank you SO very much for checking out my blog and for your comments these last couple of months – especially your comments and e-mails about what I should be when I grow up! (I think a “do Florence with a local” tour business is starting to formulate in my head….I’ve already registered “atasteofflorence.com”….stay tuned!)

I can’t believe how much I am enjoying writing this blog, but realized that at this point I don’t have many new stories to tell about moving to Italy (and I doubt you want to hear about “what I did at work today”), AND I have to work full-time while finishing getting ready for this big move, so here’s the plan….

I am going to take a brief hiatus until shortly before our move.  I’ll post occasionally if I get inspired and at the end of July before we leave for Italy. When I come back on in full in Italy in August, I promise to fill this site with many amusing (“divertente”) stories and LOTS more pictures (I wish I would have known I was starting a blog earlier, I would have carried my camera everywhere in Italy!).  So you don’t need to keep checking back, if you are not already “following” this blog, click on the box to the right to do so (and look for the confirmation e-mail) and you will get a notification when I start posting again.

THANK YOU for reading and I look forward to posting again soon.  Ciao for now!

Packing for Italy

I suppose this is “Part II” of my earlier “Moving Sale” post…

Now that I have started packing in earnest I am at a complete loss.  I swear our house has become a clown car – every time I think I’ve emptied out some closet, room, cabinet, etc., more stuff appears!  And I keep going back and forth about what to ship – one day I feel strongly about having our wood block print from Kyoto hanging in our new home, the next day I think staring at the granny-flower-paintings already there might be an interesting change of pace.  Then, the next day, I think we may get a bit homesick if we have nothing from our past with us.  But then, the day after that I think as long as we have each other and Skype (okay, and thedailyshow.com), we have everything we need…

Honestly, at this point, I have only ventured to seal two small boxes of books – the rest of our stuff keeps playing musical chairs in and out of boxes.  I have a few pictures/paintings wrapped up all fancy in this picture kit I got at U-Haul, but can’t seem to get up the ambition to go the rest of the way and put them in the matching box.  What if they don’t make it to Italy?  What purpose would they serve stored here in our attic?  Arg!   I have a friend who, along with his wife and 3 kids, up and moved to New Zealand last year – he advised me that it’s nice to have some pictures, etc. from home – and he usually has good advice… but those pictures are so big and heavy…

I am ordinarily “the decider,”  but really can’t seem to make a decision here.  What do you think?  In the immortal words of the Clash – Should [our stuff] stay or should [it] go???

Back to the Beginning

As Vizzini directed in “Princess Bride,”  I shall go back to the beginning…

As most of you know, I came to Italy the beginning of March with two main tasks at hand – learn some Italian and find us a new home in Florence.   For the first two weeks I did not know which way was up, and both of those tasks looked insurmountable.  Everyday was a test to see if I would stay or take the first plane back.   But just when things looked bleak, someone or something would come to my rescue.

For the first two weeks in Bologna I was sleeping on the dirty floor of an American woman who shall remain nameless.  I could write for a day just about that experience, but will suffice with a photo of my quarters, below.  In sum, I learned many valuable lessons (I usually don’t fly by the seat of my pants for good reasons, you get what you pay for, never pay in full upfront, being a Buddhist about stuff is hard work, everything happens for a reason, yada yada).  During the first week I was actively searching for new accomodations and secured (sprung for) a solo apartment 2 minutes’ walk from the school starting after the second week.

Also during this time I kept hitting walls – I had sent some personal items and books priority mail several weeks before my arrival…when I got to school on Monday the box had still not arrived.  About a week later, the owner of the school told me my box was being held by customs and I had to fill out forms (this is the first time a nice young man from Texas A&M came to my aid – to fill out customs forms in Italian and say the right things).  After submitting the forms, my box arrived later that week, though I had to pay a [tax? fee? bribe?] for the Italian post to release my box.  I was feeling rather sorry for myself, but soon realized what a great learning experience this was – we were looking at sending boxes and boxes of stuff when we move – now I know the system, how to fill out the forms, budget for the fee (still don’t understand what that was for), and that we don’t need most of the stuff I planned to send.

The nice young man from Texas A&M (who has lived in Italy for 8 months with his wife and speaks near perfect Italian) came to my aid yet again when my new little laptop got a horrific virus (all that convorting with unknown Italian sites).  I was trying to Skype with Steve one night in the kitchen of the horrible first apartment (it was the only place the internet worked, so I could only skpe when the woman was not home, which wasn’t often), and all of a sudden a gazillion virus warning boxes started popping up – needless to say, this was not the first nor last time I would find myself in tears  (Skype has pretty much been my lifeline and connection to Steve throughout this process).  The next day at school the Aggie took  my computer home, wiped the hard-drive and re–installed everything – sooooooo nice and sooooo lucky for me.  I was happy at that point that one of the things in my box was a jar of green chile – a fitting, if inadequate gift for my twice-saviour.

I could tell many more stories of funny errors I made and how in the end it all worked out.  The many people I met at the school (Madrelingua)- both students and teachers – really made all the difference – people took me under their wing, took me to dinner, gave me advice, etc.  It truly made a world of difference.  Suffice to say almost 5 weeks later I am feeling much differently and am totally ready for this adventure.  I can now “speak” Italian – I can actually sorta talk in 5 different verb tenses and have enough words that if I don’t have the right one I can describe what I mean. I have an Italian cell phone, and Steve and I got our “codice fiscales” (like SS#’s).   And…finally, after 3 trips to Florence and learning to navigate the complicated real estate system (you have to pay an agent to find you an apartment!), we have finally secured our new home!  It is in an old building in an authentic(i.e. not swarming with tourists)  part of town, and other than the 4 flights of stairs, pretty cool.  It has a very old/Italian style to it – figure it will be funky/cool with some of our own things, and the best part is the roof terrace and Jacuzzi tub on the attic floor (also the guest bedroom).   Apartments in Italy come furnished – I mean everything from actual furniture to plates and pots and pans to pictures on the walls – so you actually don’t need anything, but it’s nice to make a place a little like home.

I am sure I have forgotten some interesting tidbits, so will add as they come back to me.  Will definitely be writing more on the food (i.e. gelato and cheese) in days to come.  Thanks for reading!!!

NOT our new home:

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