Monday, August 23, 2010

Italy, oh Italy

Pier and me, Rome Italy

Luca at the Pantheon

Pier and Luca, at our favorite hangout Sperlonga
Luca and Vespa
Two weeks into my landing in the states.  Two weeks ago I had finished my eighth year of living in Rome, Italy, with my guy, my six year old son Luca, and 13 year old cat Grace.  I'm originally from New York State, 41 years ago, growing up in the mountainous hills that make up the former Borscht Belt with ghost shells of hotels, most of which have closed.  I landed in Potsdam, near Canada for a few years, honing my flute skills, and then in 1993 moved to Madison, Wisconsin where I finished my Masters, and met Pier Giuseppe, who I literally dropped everything for and said "yes" to when he mentioned his mom's apartment, ready for us to live in, in the beautiful Eternal city of Rome.
I had never traveled much outside of the states, except for one jaunt to Germany when I was 16, for two weeks as a sort of exchange student, and to Canada on a few road trips. I was so covered with prosciutto over my eyes (an Italian expression loosely translated) that I would do anything to be with Pier (let it be known that I still would do anything) so a gigantic leap of faith combined with a desire to explore (and let it be said, not a word of Italian) found me sitting in my mother-in-law's apartment not far from the Vatican (I always thought a good title for a possible book could be "what's a nice, Jewish girl like you doing in a place like this) with nothing changed for 50 years since she lived there as a girl.  The first night we slept there, I begged Pier to please take the cross down that was above our bed, and so this began a long period of diplomatic negotiations between Pier and his mom, who held steadfast to the apartment remaining AS IS and some understandable angst between my new love and me.
I signed up for an Italian class, in which everyone was 20 and spoke 5 other languages, in even the lowest level class.  After the first 20 minutes of my first class, I was so lost I can't begin to tell you.  Now in this way I fit in such an unfortunate way into the american stereotype of not being able to speak anything else except English.  I hate it, because I have always had friends from all around the world, I love seeing new places, hearing different languages, tasting new foods....but I just have never gotten the drift of another language being processed in my brain and coming out of my mouth.  I even have problems in English (ask Pier).  One would think that a musician would have a good ear, but in fact, I don't.  I basically suck.  So....here I am back in Italy, learning a language for love, a language that is love (the most romantic language if you ask me) and I'm ending up in tears, it's much harder than I expected....and I can't summon up the courage to do my day to day things as easily as I was doing them before.  I got incredibly lucky when I started teaching Business English at Proctor and Gamble, and all my students were these awesome young Italians who enjoyed doing conversations in both my broken Italian as well as their broken English, and we had a great time...and I dropped that damn class that gave me such stress.
But the truth is, dealing with banks and taxes and drivers licenses (more on that adventure later) is much different than asking for a pizza with mushrooms.  I ended up being so dependent on Pier, much more than I have ever been on anyone in my life....and this caused some understandable tension.  That combined with the apartment from hell (more to come on that too), the chaos of Roman life (that's to come also)  and my working full-time eventually at an international school run by nuns....well, it just got to be a little out of hand.
But then there was the food and the sea and the sun, and well the Italians who you just have to love.  The avoidance of anything legal, the tasting of foods that bring you to heaven, the smiles that are full of soul and eyes full of wonder.  It's enough to make you crazy enough to continue as I did, for 8 wonderful and difficult years.  More on my Roman experience will come.
As for now, I'm in Pittsburgh, and Pier is taking his turn in culture shock.  But we're living more easily in some ways and I'm returning to myself in some ways that were slipping.  I will write on this blog mostly for myself, but I hope whoever is reading this might find something worthy for themselves too.


Anonymous said...

I caught up on your blog this morning- it is so much fun to read knowing that as you return to the states, I am about to leave for Rome. Hopefully by reading your stories I'll be the slightest bit more prepared! ;) Thanks for sharing!


Laura Lentz said...

Hi kelly! Hope you have a spectacular adventure there, and stay in touch! As inspiration grabs me I'll keep posting on my eight year adventure there. I would love to hear how you are doing there, and let me know if you ever have any questions!! all best!