Well friends & family, here we are, the end of year 2. It’s times like these where I come to realize 2 things:
(1) Time is a strange form of measurement. It has a feeling, right? Sometimes a day transpires in what feels like seconds while other moments seem to last an eternity. It feels like ages have passed since I’ve seen various family members and friends while simultaneously, so little time has gone by. Very bizarre units, these minutes, hours, months, and years we have to measure periods of life.
(2) Providence College has instilled in me an inherent need to reflect when coming upon any sort of ending.
That being said, you guessed it, this final post for the year is a sentimental, probably corny, and possibly somewhat entertaining reflection of the year past. Living in Italy, hosting beautiful friends & family, and teaching English throughout the course of the last 10 months has led me to several conclusions, thoughts & musings:
(a) Florence is a place to slow down. Whether willingly or involuntarily, my pace of life has significantly slowed down here. Over this past year, I’ve been late to teach classes, skipped going to the grocery store due to monsoons, and spent days taking three hour lunches with friends & family. All of these things are ok. You’re late because of the bus? No stress. You didn’t spend any time on the couch this weekend? Why?
On days I’m not teaching, I have no schedule. On Fridays when I head out with a neighbor friend, there is no plan. My OCD doesn’t flare up, my brain doesn’t search for some sort of structure, the day just goes where it wants. And usually involves snacks & wine.
(b) Italians are wonderfully proud. Granted, we live in a little neighborhood where there are what we might refer to as “real” Italians who have English and make 3 gestures for every 4 spoken words but all of the Italians we’ve met concern themselves with ensuring we have the best experience possible. They want us to know Italy like they know Italy and it’s not only delightful, but incredibly helpful.
(c) The world is a crazily big place. Being abroad for a long period of time makes me very conscious of the differences there are between cultures. I’m no longer in a position of knowledge but observation. There are so many places to see, so many people to learn from, and so many foods to eat. I also realize that when we’re here, Rich and I can explore so much more. Public transit easily connects place to place (even if a large waiting period is typically involved) and each place has its own specialties. We could travel for 2.5 hours and be somewhere that feels very different from Florence (like Lake Como). That’s so cool!
(d) Meals are meant to be shared. One of the reasons why wait staff doesn’t come to the table every 3 minutes in Europe is because they’re respectful of the fact, especially when you’re dining with others, of what your time means. You’ve come out with friends or family to spend time with them, to share food with them, to be together. That time is important and that time is well spent.
(e) Flexibility is essential. Sometimes the bus is 40 minutes late. Sometimes you have to wait 35 more minutes for an appointment that was scheduled 1.5 hours ago. Sometimes there’s no bathroom and you have to go to the next cafe. Sometimes you can’t find the salt in the grocery store. All of these things conjure a phrase I used to repeat to my students on a regular basis, “Now is a good time to practice your patience.” This past year has involved so many opportunities to practice my patience, I’m now an expert.
(f) Americans are really good at several things. When I first got here, all I could think about were all of the things Italians did right and all of the things Americans did wrong. I was in the honeymoon phase with my new country and completely enveloped in the novelty of everything. After two years, I’ve begun my collection of things Americans are really good at which include, but are certainly not limited to:
- salads for meals
- accessibility to delightful ethnic foods
- customer service (in certain settings)
- craft beer
- skyscrapers (really weird item but something Italians frequently mention when they learn I’m from the US)
- special ed (at least on the east coast, I can’t speak for the whole country here)
The answer is yes, I’m completely aware that most of these items are centered around food and/or education. I make no apologies for the topics that frequent my brain space.
So there you have it. My reflections as we come to the end of year 2. I could probably keep writing but as the words move forward, I tend to babble and talk in circles and you all have things to do today.
I’ll leave you with this little Italian phrase to dissect as you will, “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.”
A presto famiglia e amici. E buona estate!