Just 6 months ago, my family and I made a big move across the ocean from New York, USA to Bologna, Italy. As we got ready to leave, my friend Christine and I talked about how we would keep up with each other’s lives, and just how different our experiences might be over the next 2 years. Trepidatiously, we agreed to start a blog (I know…that’s exactly what the world needs, another blog!) to catalog and compare our journeys. Although we had intended to start it along with the new school year, time and technology conspired against us, so instead here we are now. A little late but still willing and we hope, able. We’ll aim to post once a day from Monday to Friday in real time, but first, we have a little catching up to do! For our first 2 weeks, we’ll share the highlights of our transition and our first few months apart before getting on to what’s happening now. Thanks for joining us!
September 23, 2013
Pasta and parmigiano, good wine and salame, these are a few of my favorite things… That’s how the Sound of Music tune goes that Julie Andrews sings to the Van Trapp children as the storm rages outside, right? No matter. If my family sung it, those would be the lyrics. We’d probably try to add things like beautiful architecture, majestic nature, history, culture and foreign languages, although those words seem too long and a little pompous. Nevertheless, our love of these things is probably why we started thinking about leaving the good ‘ol US of A for a bit to explore other lands. Like other big life decisions, we sold ourselves the idea over a long span of time, getting used to the concept little by little in our heads, then taking a few steps in real life, then taking a few more, and a few more until momentum carried us straight into the thing that was once just an innocent thought in the recesses of our brains. WHAM!, we’d done it. We moved our family out of a beautiful small town in the Hudson Highlands of New York to Bologna, Italy, right in the middle of the upper part of the boot, near Venice, Milan, Florence, etc, etc…
But I’m getting ahead of myself as I tend to do. A few years earlier, we’d moved our family to the Hudson Valley from Soho, New York City as a test-run, to prove to ourselves that we could indeed survive without the City’s buzz after 20 years of feeding off of it. Right away, we fell in love with the open spaces between the tiny towns hovering over the ‘mighty Hudson River’, and with our mid-century modern home perched on a hill facing a Audubon Center Wildlife Sanctuary. There was unparalleled nature everywhere, and it was so ridiculously close to New York City that we could roll into town whenever we wanted or needed. In fact, we didn’t really want or need to all that much over the 4 years we spent in this lovely place. Instead, we all took to hiking and biking, got used to our weekly farmer’s market across the road, explored all kinds of classes without the waiting lists and exorbitant pricing that we had gotten used to in NYC, visited farms, festivals and historic places, met wonderful people and made great friends. Yet, the pull to explore something other remained, so from a short list of countries, we decided Italy would be a fantastic place to spend some time (see song lyrics above!)
Before we knew it, my husband had a found an incredible farmhouse on a 400-year old vineyard just outside the city limits, the kids were signed up for school, and our stuff had started it’s 6 week voyage across the ocean to our new home. It was time to pronounce, definitively, to family and friends, that we were leaving. My urge to dance around the direct questions of whether we were going or staying was unexpected. I suppose I thought if I didn’t say it out loud then I wouldn’t have to deal with the fact that I wouldn’t regularly see some of my favorite people in the world. Among them were Christine, Ray and Noah, who we had fallen for as soon as we arrived from New York, and with whom we had spent just about every Friday night during our years there, eating fresh foods, drinking good wines, sharing the week’s news, hashing out the world’s problems, and deconstructing our own.
Christine: “So is this move happening?”
Gina: “Uh… Err… It seems so… the movers come in 2 weeks and we have plane tickets.”
As soon as we started filling out immigration and school documents, Christine and I started to notice how different the lives of our two clans were about to become. One look at the next school year’s lunch descriptions for our two 10-year old boys seemed to say it all. Noah, Christine’s son, was excited to be starting 6th grade at our local middle school, but was less than thrilled by a note he received letting his family know that he should be preparing for a quick and early lunch (11am!), with 20 mins to eat either the cafeteria fare or his packed lunch, before moving quickly on to the next period. My son, Zoel, on the other hand, had received a carbo-licious school menu describing the typical Italian 3-course lunch, which includes an a primi (usually a plate of pasta or risotto) and a secondi (usually some kind of meat or fish with veggies, which sometimes includes, unbelievably, french fries or roasted potatoes after the plate of pasta!) and then fruit for dessert, all this to be consumed slowly over a longer lunch period designed for kids to socialize at tables with real silverware!
After building an almost brotherly relationship over 4 years of friendship, would this be the greatest difference in their lives after the move? Or would this be just the beginning? And what would be the impact of the next year on each of them? On our daughter? Us? Our families? Our friendships? Can you really eat pasta every day without gaining 300 pounds? Can 40-year olds learn a new language? Why do Italians know all the words to “Call Me Maybe”?
Curiosity about the answers to these questions and many, many others, (and perhaps the need to assuage an early mid-life crisis,) propelled us forward despite our sadness at leaving loved friends and family behind.
And so, now, we’re excited to see what comes next.
We hope that while we’re away, Livinghereandthere.com will be the place where:
we document our adventure,
we connect to the life we’ve temporarily left behind, and perhaps,
where, like-minded readers – those who have thought/are thinking about living “there” or have already lived “there” or are very happy to stay “here” but curious about “there”, or… maybe just my mom – can get a snapshot of the good, bad and brutto of our family’s little experiment in living.
Welcome and thank you for joining us for the trip!
Have you already been down this road? Please tell us about it in the comments!
Think we’re nuts. Please tell us about it in the comments!
Best of luck…. and tons of love where ever you are! AE
Thank you Alex! And congratulations, you’ve left the very first comment! 🙂
Gina, Congrats on the blog. I think “leaving” is such a great experience. Although I didn’t leave the country, I might as well have. As you may remember (or not), at 18 yrs old I left to Hawaii for 3 yrs. This was back in 1991 when there was no internet (yet). Talking to my family was limited to once/wk because long distance calls were pricey. And we had to time it just so due to the 5 or 6 hr time difference. I actually wrote and mailed letters to my friends. I learned a whole new culture, way of life, cuisine. My family got to visit me and perhaps visit a place they would have never even gone to. It was a life experience that shaped and changed me. I applaud you and your family’s adventure. What a great gift to yourself and your children.
Thanks so much for the support, Evelyn! I don’t think I knew about the Hawaii years, but I can imagine that it must have been amazing, especially at 18. I spent some time in Madrid in 92, and remember receiving and writing long letters, and making fuzzy long distance calls too! It’s definitely easier now. Hey… that’s good post idea. I’m constantly amazed at how connected I am to everything and everyone. xx