Call Me Lady

One of the perks of living in a little neighborhood away from the center is that you have the opportunity to meet some people, visit them a bunch of times, and then earn the right to call them your own. This post is about some of those delightfully special people.

We’ve got a little pasta shop where you can have a quick lunch of that-morning-made pasta with a sauce of your choice (which change regularly) for 5 euro. We have a cafe friend across the street who waves to you as you stroll by his shop. And helps get in touch with your landlord when you forget your keys. We have an organic grocer that has fresh bread at noon and homemade treats like ricotta pie and orange and chocolate muffins. And, we have a pizzeria.

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pasta fresca

The first time Rich and I went to our pizzeria, the time was 6:30pm. We had arrived in town fairly recently and weren’t yet accustomed to the late hour at which most Europeans eat their last meal of the day. Upon attempting to enter, we were informed that the doors would not be open until 7pm. Since that first fateful visit, La Antica Badia (or, “The Old Abbey” as it translates into English) has become one of our very favorite spots. For one, it has cheap and delicious pizza (5.50 euro for a pizza margherita). For two, it’s right up the street. And for three, we’ve now been there so many times we’re regulars. Regulars! A bar I’ve always wanted to reach with an establishment. Who knew all it would take would be moving to a foreign country?

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La Antica Badia

It’s recently come to our attention that at our pizza spot, where we’re regulars, our favorite pizza man has no idea what my name is. As soon as we walk through the door, we hear, “Ciao Rich!” and then….nothing. Until recently. Recently, I was awarded the name, “Lady.” Now, when we walk through the door, it’s, “Ciao Rich, ciao Lady.”

My title as “Lady” was recently solidified when I was offered a “surprise.” A little tidbit: I LOVE surprises. They’re positive, more frequently than not, and they usually come with the connotation that someone knows you well enough to predict something you might like. Win.

Now you’re all wondering what the surprise was, aren’t you? Or you’re wishing I’d get to the point a bit sooner. Or both. So, the surprise. It was a pizza in the shape of a heart with an “R” made out of crust in the corner surrounded by olives. Now, you remember that

Heart-shaped-pizza
not the actual pizza

post from last week, right? The one about the delights of things often being just a bit lost in translation? Our favorite pizza man came out and said, “You like? Rich’s heart. You eat his heart.” Done. Rich’s heart was delicious.

There’s a second part to all of this business, isn’t there? Are you wondering if I’m a little offended that, after a year and a half of eating at this establishment, our favorite pizza man calls me, “Lady?” You know, the spark of feminism that ignites itself occasionally is slightly perturbed. But the foreign adventurer is charmed with having a nickname at one of our spots.

Con affetto,

Morgan

 

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Lost in Translation

As you can imagine, there are huge chunks of communication that I unintentionally miss out on. One of my new year’s resolutions has been to put more time aside for learning Italian and while so far, I have been keeping up my end of the bargain, the concrete extent to what I can verbally understand is still somewhere around, “Il ragazzo mangia la mela nella piatto.”

Translation: The boy eats the apple on the plate. Not bad, right? I didn’t even use google translate for that one.

Over the past year and a half, I’ve learned a few extra words from my beautiful Italian environment. My food vocabulary is fairly intact as I spend some time roaming the grocery store and checking out all of the strange ingredients I probably would not find at home. Like a whole rooster to roast. Or a nice package of cow intestines to boil. Or maybe just some fresh lychee nuts to crack open.

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I’ve also learned some interesting new vocabulary words from the kiddos I work with after school. Below are some of my favorite and completely random words along with some other witticism because, well, kids are funny. Sometimes. Sometimes they’re crazy.

“Come si dice parabola in Inglese Morgan?” I know what you’re thinking. Because what you’re thinking right now is what I was thinking when asked this question. It’s a math curved based off the formula of slope, right? But why would a second grader be asking me what a parabola is? My go to response: “I don’t know, why don’t you draw me a picture?”

Results: a parabola is a car antenna. Bet you never would have guessed. car-locksmith-greensboro

Now sometimes, instead of directly asking me what a word is called in English, my kiddos will tell me what it’s called in Italian and wait for me to supply them with the English word. One of the magical thing about kiddos is that they think teachers are geniuses. And so, while the rest of Italy has figured out my vocabulary is on par with a four year old, my second graders think I’m fluent in every language.

In a recent conversation with a third grade student, I was inquiring about her weekend. She told me she went out to eat at a restaurant. Cue in the next logical question of what she ate at the restaurant.

“Ah, in Italy we say: pizza.”

Yea? The words that are the same in Italian and English are my absolute favorite. For one, we all get excited for these language bridges that can know be qualified under the “known” list but secondly, it’s just entertaining. I mean, pizza has got to be one of, if not the most widely recognized Italian word across the world. But since some of my students don’t know that, I get to be the lucky educator to deliver the good news.

And, for the sake of fun, here are some other Italian words that are the same in English: zucchini, lasagna, kiwi, lychee nut, banana, mango, avocado and pasta. See? Look at all of the Italian you already know without even studying.

Until the next language bridge,

con affetto,

Morgan

Tips for Travels

Buongiorno Tutti!

We seem to be on an airplane kind of theme this month, don’t we? Not to worry, as people on planes and tips for traveling on planes are pretty much the only two topics I conceive of to put into this category, the next post is bound to have something to do with food or a mistake I’ve made.

But for those who are making an international flight for the first time or for people who like to read lists, this post will hopefully present at least one useful tidbit of information.

As delightful & individual beings, everyone has their own sort of travel routine/”style.” From the people who bring their own dinners on board (genius, economy food leaves something to be desired, mainly nutrients) to those who like their own headphones for the movie/TV/music/game playing to some select individuals I see wearing compression socks (should we all be wearing them?), when making a long flight, thinking small for big comfort is the way to go.

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Tip #1: Dress comfortably. I don’t mean you need to be in sweatpants (although the majority of Americans are traveling this way now) but know you’re going to be in the same clothes for just about a full 24 hours. My personal choices have been dresses with tights, drapey sweaters with leggings, or jeans with layers. Know that on those big planes, you generally do not have the capability to change whatever air is being pushed around the cabin so you need to create your own opportunity for modifying your body temperature.

Tip #2: If you’re not wearing socks, bring a pair with you. Know what’s not comfortable? Hanging out in your shoes while you attempt to find a niche your legs can stretch out in. You might feel self-conscious (or you might now) but I fully recommend taking off your shoes once you’re at cruising altitude. Naked feet are gross though, so put some socks on those things.

Tip #3: Pack an extra set of clothes in your carry-on. My luggage has been lost or put on a later flight 3 times now. The first time it happened was when Rich and I first arrived for our big move. We didn’t think to follow this tip and ended up wearing the same clothes for almost three days. It’s a good thing we love each other. Do yourself a favor and have a back-up outfit, especially if you think your connection is tight. Have you seen these international airports? If you have to take a bus and a tram to get to your next gate in 45 minutes, odds are your bag will be joining you 9-15 hours later than expected.

Tip #4: Pack light. When you’re in a foreign country, nobody knows you. You can wear the same outfit 2-3 times and no one will say a thing. And if they do, it’ll most likely be in a different language and you won’t know they’re talking about you anyways. You’ll want to buy fun things that remind you of your trip and in order to get them back home, you’ll need some space in your luggage. Plus, you know what’s not worth spending money on? Overages on luggage. Save your money for important things, like wine and fancy treats.

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Tip #5: Keep the following items in your carry-on…

  1. An empty and reusable water bottle. Airplanes are known for dehydrating the system anyways but being on one for longer than five hours means your body needs some serious aqua. Once you pass security, drink a bottle before you board and then fill it up again before boarding. Any time the flight attendants come around with water, take it. I know I sound like a crazy Mom but you’ll feel weird and unfortunate if you dehydrate on the plane and then your vacation will be off to a negative beginning and nobody wants that.
  2. A little freshen up kit including these. Halfway through your flight and even once more before you’re due to land, a little face washing and somewhat decent tooth-brushing will make you feel like your quality of life has somehow increased 10 magical points.
  3. Hand sanitizer, travel tissues, aspirin & nasal spray. Alright some of these items are a given. Who doesn’t travel with hand sanitizer any more? But the aspirin people, remember the aspirin. Because if you can’t sleep (and let’s be honest, who can when you’re wedged in a small seat in a constant upright position), you’re going to get a headache. Cue the aspirin. Nasal spray may sound weird but noses get dry up there…I use bacitracin because of a history of nose bleeds and people probably wonder what I’m doing with a q-tip up my nose at varying intervals of the flight but, nose bleeds are unpleasant. And gross. And if we can avoid dangerous bodily fluids in small areas, we most certainly should. So if you get dry nose, bring nasal spray.
  4. A travel umbrella. Small and mighty, the travel umbrella means you don’t have to pack a rain coat (hello space saver) and can easily be squeezed into one of those gaps that are hard to fill around the perimeter of your suitcase.

Tip #6: Some misc. thoughts. Know where you’re going. If you don’t plan on going to a fancy restaurant, leave the fancy clothes at home. Doing a lot of walking? Give up the idea of mNmgzFTqs1naSzK-8dWn8cAcoordinating your shoe choice to your outfit and wear sneakers. You’ll thank me later. Leave the hair dryer, straightener, curling iron, and other hair things at home. Countries outside of the US run on different voltages. Running higher voltages can not only burn through one of your plug converters, but could ruin your hair tool as well. Make sure you have a few plug converters if you’re traveling abroad. This way here, if you lose one, one breaks, or you just need to plug in more than one plug, you’re prepared.

Buonviaggio!

Morgan

 

The People You Meet on Planes

Happy New Year Friends & Family!

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2015 was a tough year to leave behind. It was a year of wedding delights, copious amounts of visits from the best people you can find, and a lot of good adventuring. Despite my consistent aversion to odd numbers, 2015 was spectacular. I was fortunate enough to close out the year with some magical people I get to call my family and this wonderful guy I snagged who is now my husband. And that, my friends, is exactly where this post starts.

So, at this point in time, I’ve successfully made 10 round-trip international flights. You would think Rich and I would have earned some sort of free trip by now but guaranteed the most we’ve managed to qualify for is a scarf and a magazine subscription. Through the course of these journeys back and forth to the US, I’ve had the pleasure, and sometimes misfortune, of meeting some interesting folk in the world. Here are 3 people I’ve recently met on airline excursions:

1. Maria Beatrice: I met Beatrice on my very last leg traveling back from Minneapolis. Beatrice and I initially made contact when I got the last chicken & thyme sandwich of the flight and she got stuck with the egg salad (I know). She looked as hungry as I felt tired so I told her I would trade sandwiches with her. Cue instant bond. Fast forward falling asleep against the window and being jerked awake by turbulence and Beatrice grabbing my arm in fright.

In the past four flights I’ve taken into Florence, there’s been         turbulence. Those green Tuscan hills are beautiful, but they must create some sort of wind tunnel as approaching planes attempt to land on the too short runway in our current home city. As it’s nearly

Boeing, Lufthansa Sign Order for Fuel-Efficient 747-8 Intercontinental

impossible to be actively holding onto someone and not converse with them, converse we did. It turns out Beatrice works for the Chinese consulate and was on her way back from a trip to Shanghai. She’s originally from Italy (Rome, I think) and her husband is the current police chief in Florence. She has a friend who was working at the EUI but was planning on leaving soon. Her son was devastated as this woman’s son had become his best friend. Commence looking at pictures of Beatrice’s son with his best friend and talking about how much English he knows.

2. Friendly Blonde Woman from Poland: Just for kicks, let’s refer to this airline acquaintance as Magdalina. Magdalina and I met traveling from Boston to Montreal. Our flight had been delayed three hours with snow in Montreal and when we finally eased into our seats, she immediately commented how happy she was to be on the plane and starting the journey towards Europe. After a few minutes of pleasantries, she filled me in that she was on her way back to Poland to work a New Year’s Eve shift as a physician. Her husband is working at Harvard but as they’re not sure of the permanence of his job, they’ve kept their life and her job in Poland and she travels back 1-2 times a month to meet her shift requirements.

As soon as she landed in Poland, she would begin her first shift at the hospital followed by office hours followed by a brief break and then a repeat scenario. Holy toledo, this woman was a champion. Our adventure together continued & concluded as we flew off the plane in Montreal, fled through customs, and immediately filed onto our next flight to Frankfurt.

3. Crabby Canadian: As you can see from the above descriptions, the majority of people I meet on planes are friendly, conversational, and respectful. When you’re practically touching a person from elbow toairline-seat_2718479b hip for at least 7 hours, it’s nearly impossible to not become temporary acquaintances. But this woman, who we’re going to call Francina, was not of the affable sort.

My introduction to Francina and the kind of seat buddy she would be was finding her carry-on bag in my seat. When she saw me, she pointed to the bag, pointed to me, and pointed to the overhead bin. Now, if she looked sickly, elderly, or even politely asked me to help her with her bag, I would have been more than happy to. But pointing, really? Our friendship grew as she poked me in the arm after dinner to alert me to the fact that coffee and tea were coming around.

I was asleep.

Francina continued to use me as her poking bag as she couldn’t figure out how the movie touch screen worked or where her headphones connected for sound. The ultimate cherry on top was when, after we had de-boarded and were all lining up to consult an agent as to what to do about our connecting flights, she used her physical size to square off in front of me.

Fortunately for Feisty Francina, I used the experience to grow my patience a little bit more. And as I’ve been fortunate to have some pretty intriguing chair mates, it seems as though I was due for a crusty character.

Con affetto,

Morgan

 

Misc. Musings

As you can all probably tell from the somewhat lengthy gaps between posts, it takes me a bit of time to think of new and exciting things to write about. You see, when I started this blog, its original intent was to introduce our family & friends to our Italian life. I never wanted my blog to be one in which the sentiment came across as, “Look at us and our magical Italian lives,” because not all of life is magical, even when you live in Italy. And I feel as though the original intent has remained intact. Which is good because you know, writers need integrity and stuff.

But now I’ve completely digressed as to the actual intent of this post. In between the “big” posts, there are often lots of little posts I’d like to share. These posts aren’t necessarily of extreme substance or require a lengthy narrative, they’re just little snippets of life. Musings, if you will. And so this post is collection of musings.

[Things Italian Children Eat for Lunch]

Discovering what local kiddos eat for lunch is one of my favorite pastimes. While I’m sure the kids I work with think I’m crazy/irritating/suffer from memory loss for asking this same question every week, food is too entertaining for me to refrain from continuously investigating.

What I’ve discovered: kiddos here seem to have a three course lunch on a smaller scale as their mid-day meal. That is, they have all three courses at once, just in smaller portions. And, because I know you’re all as curious as I am about what it is they’re eating, here are some of the menus that have been shared with me:

  1.  pasta with tomato sauce, chicken & carrots, fruit for dessert
  2. pasta with pesto, meat & potatoes, fruit for dessert
  3. pasta with oil & cheese, chicken & string beans, fruit for dessert
  4. “white” pasta (still not sure what this dish is), chickpeas & peas, fruit for dessert
  5. pasta with butter, chickpeas with salsa verde & carrots, fruit for dessert
  6. rice, lentils & tomatoes, fruit for dessert
  7. pasta with butter, chicken & mashed potatoes & carrots, fruit for dessert
  8. fish & vegetables with fruit for dessert

This culture is the first one I’ve been a part of where a child willingly chooses an orange over a cookie. It’s wonderful. And something I wish I could bring myself to do more often. What’s missing from this list are the hand gestures the kids used when they happened to have one of their favorites for lunch. Read: one of their favorite dishes is chickpeas with salsa verde. And its description includes the closed fingers kiss to the lips to emphasize its excellent-ness.

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[Why Piazzas are Great]

For those who haven’t been to Europe or don’t know, the literal translation of piazza is “square.” Coincidentally, “square” is a really difficult word for Italian kiddos to pronounce. Anyways, piazzas (piazze in proper Italian) are just open spaces that are generally located on corners or in front of churches. The squares are often surrounded by a bit of green space, shops, restaurants, wine bars, fountains, or anything else you might find delightful. Oftentimes, musicians or other street performers will set up shop in a popular piazza and provide some entertainment as you stroll on past.

They also give teenagers a safe place to congregate on a Friday night, tired shoppers a place to sit and rest in between stores, and little kids a place to run. When Rich and I take adventures and are strolling though a sleepy local town, we often find families joined together in piazze with their kiddos running around while the adults catch up over a bottle of wine. Why are Italians so much happier than the rest of us? They can drink wine while their kids safely play nearby. In the afternoon sunshine. Everybody wins.

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Piazza Grande in Arezzo

[What the Heck is a Circolo?]

For our final musing of the day, I introduce you to: the Circolo.

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part of the Circolo in Antella

There is no American equivalent to an Italian Circolo. In an attempt to give you a feel for what this space is, I’ve composed a nice, organized list of facts about Circolos:

  • If the US were to open a Circolo, it would be a cross between a YMCA, an Elks Club, and the local cultural club.
  • Some circolos are owned by the Communists while others are owned by the church- you can tell by which initials are above the outside circolo sign.
  • Inside most circolos you can find: a bar, a restaurant, ping pong tables and spaces for rent. While some circolos are quite small, others are very large. The one pictured above has a restaurant, disco-tech, movie theater, garden, baseball field, and soccer field. That’s right, I said disco-tech.
  • A lot of the people who work there on the weekend are volunteers. So the restaurants, bars, and other service counters are run by people who aren’t getting paid. In order to reduce the cost of the product being delivered to locals.
  • Teenagers can often be found here at night playing ping pong ball, hanging out, or going to one of the above mentioned places inside. It’s a safe space to do all of those things while allowing the young adults to get out of their houses for a bit.
  • It is most definitely a place where everyone knows your name. One of my favorite scenes is sitting in a downstairs circolo, watching a man come in, and seeing the entire bar turn around to greet him.

Until the next post!

con affetto,

Morgan

 

 

 

Italian Introductions

So this one time in the 8th grade, I wrote and typed a paper for class and forgot to include the “g” in my first name. The paper was supposed to be a comical, historical script and so we were warned they were going to be read out loud to the class. When it came time for mine, my history teacher very clearly announced, “Ah yes, here we have a paper from Moran Divona.” And when you say that name out loud, you’ll realize that “Moran” sounds like “moron.” Perfect. Nothing like a paper from Moron Divona.

Why am I telling you this story? To point out how clearly awesome middle school was? To encourage you all to drop consonants from your names to see what happens? Well, mostly just to provide an opening for our next post: introducing yourself to Italians.

Your name is the biggest part of your identity. When someone asks you, “Who are you?” the first response that comes to mind is “I’m Morgan.” One of the interesting things about living in a foreign country is that you’re exposed to a variety of names that are far different from your own or any names you’ve previously heard.

Some of my favorites include, but are most certainly not limited to:

  • Lucrezia
  • Neralia
  • Ettore
  • Filippo
  • Cossimo
  • Guglielmo
  • Gustavo

And then I come in with, “Ciao, io Morgan.” Now, let’s make something perfectly clear here, I very much enjoy my name. You don’t meet a lot of Morgans’ in your every day life. It doesn’t have too many letters and it’s easy to spell. Overall, I think my parents did a wonderful job naming me Morgan. But Italians, as you can see from the list above, don’t have a whole lot of r-controlled vowels in their names. And so when I tell them my name is Morgan, their mouths immediately contort into strange shapes attempting to make that “or” sound (or maybe it’s just my pre-school students).

Rich is lucky because his name has an Italian match-up: Riccardo. He can introduce himself as Riccardo and people automatically know what his name is. It wasn’t until our landlord came along that I learned my name has an Italian match-up as well….Morgana. And when you google the name, “Morgana,” you get scary images like this one:

morganaAnd so, when I introduce myself as “Morgana,” I sometimes get a reaction that says, “Why would someone name their child after a villian?” So, just to recap, if you forget the “g” in my name, it sounds like “moron” and if you Italian-ize it, I’m a villian. Totally winning.

There are some upsides here though people. For one, my personality is nothing like my alternate namesake so we’re working hard to neutralize the Morgana association with sorcery. Secondly, Rich and I have recently learned that “Morgana” is making a comeback here in Florence with a couple of more children carrying the torch. Give me a year and a half and Morgana will not only be everywhere, but her google images will look more like this:

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fino presto,

Morgana

On Cooking without an Oven

Buonasera my people!

So, a lot of things have been happening all around the globe: delightful friends have been getting married, other friends are raising the most adorable of children, and I’ve been all windswept in everything great about life. But I’ve gotten behind on sharing tidbits of our Italian life with you and for that, I’m sorry. Today will compensate for this patch of absence as we delve into matters related to the kitchen.

Our Italian kitchen has many things: gas burners (oh man I LOVE being reunited with gas burners), a copper faucet, and one of the most adorable dish hanging devices to be seen. It’s also missing a few things, namely a full- sized refrigerator, an oven, and a freezer.

our Italian cucina
our Italian cucina

So at first I was wondering, in a very large way, how I was possibly going to live without these things. How am I going to bake? How many days worth of groceries can I fit into a refrigerator the same size as the one I had in college (which was mostly filled with pub cheese and condiments)? Where’s the extra counter space? And then, the answers came, quite clearly:

  1. I’m not going to bake because we live near a zillion bakeries. Why would someone bake when they can buy a treat for 1 euro? Also, can I really bake like an Italian? No. Let’s not try and go out for a pastry instead.
  2. I can actually fit at least five days worth of groceries into our mini fridge with a few liter- sized bottles of water stacked in there on top of it all (well not on top because that would probably crush my eggs but you know what I mean). I shop more frequently because we don’t have a freezer but that means we’re always eating fresh food which is…amazing.
  3. There is no extra counter space. And sometimes this lack of space is a bit frustrating, most especially when I’m cutting anything that can roll (onions, carrots, celery) and it does so, into the sink. But hey, we’re in Italy. And cooking in a tiny kitchen is all part of the adventure.

This question & answer session leads us to my next point: I love to cook. That mama dukes of mine, Denise, is one heck of a chef, and I grew up fairly consistently serving as a sous chef watching the love and chemistry that can go into food. It was only a matter of time before I got antsy to have my role promoted and then…I moved out of my parents house. And now I’m the master chef! Ha, well, sort of. I haven’t managed to inflict any wounds where stitches would be required so we’re still on the winning side of food.

And now we’ve come full circle to our original topic of cooking without an oven and what the heck that’s like. I’ve discovered over the past year and 2 some months that a lot of recipes can be modified to be made on your stove top. And those that can’t, we just go out for. This next comment is going to sound super corny but I also feel way more creative and inspired here with food. It’s probably the lack of full time job, access to interesting ingredients at all times, and a husband who gets just as excited as I do about dinner.

Or maybe a love of food is just in the water.

Either way, I thought it might be interesting to our delightful readers to feature a week’s worth of recipes using only a stove, all typically made in 30 minutes or under unless there’s a lot of chopping involved, or simmering, or if I have to stop to translate some ingredients or instructions. Buon Appetito!

#1: ricotta & spinach stuffed squash blossoms with salad (balsamic drizzle) and pasta pomodoro
#1: ricotta & spinach stuffed squash blossoms with salad (balsamic drizzle) and pasta pomodoro
#2: poached chicken in a white wine broth with spinach, onions, carrots & garlic
#2: poached chicken in a white wine broth with spinach, onions, carrots & garlic
#3: fresh tomato basil soup with ricotta & spinach tortellini
#3: fresh tomato basil soup with ricotta & spinach tortellini
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#4: onion & garlic mushrooms & broccoli over basmati rice with stracchino cheese
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#5: lentils, potatoes & spinach with sauteed tomatoes in a tomato broth
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#6: Green inspired pasta: tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onion in a lemony sauce with radicchio ravioli
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#7: simple browned chicken with lemony string beans & garlic mash

Adapting to Abroad

b02f29e7ac925fced329016e5419ce2eHappy Wednesday friends and fam! I thought I would do a little post today on the difficulties of living abroad. Whenever you move into a new place, the first several months are spent in awe and wonder. Everything is exciting and new and an adventure. But after a bit of time, some of that novelty wears off and you find yourself looking for coat hangers…

Adapting to Abroad & the difficulties you may face, in no particular order:

#1: Buying groceries. I want to make it clear here that I actually enjoy buying groceries on a frequent basis because the grocery store here has lots of interesting things. However, the aisles are big enough for two small Italians side by side. And our grocery store is like a maze- you first wander into produce, come through fish and cereal, and then get into milk, cheese, salami, and your central aisles. Oh, you forgot something in produce and now you’re looking for salt (which is in the freezer section)? Good luck swimming upstream friend, good luck.

Fortunately, I’ve only made two minor mistakes when buying groceries: purchasing turkey instead of beef and buying thistles instead of celery. While the grocery store is great for learning foreign food words because everything is so visual, sometimes one food looks like another. Additionally, where you might anticipate finding things is not always where they’re located. Paper towel? Above the meat (and you’ve got to locate a hook type tool to get it down which can’t always be found). Diapers? Above the produce. Sugar? In the juice, beer, and water aisle. Breadcrumbs? No idea, still haven’t been able to locate those. And sometimes you find things like this, which make your shopping adventures all the more hilarious:

13892799206264One more note about buying groceries before we move on…there are a TON of tiny markets in the area that sell specialty cheese, veggies, and fruits but that is where the language barrier comes into play my friends. Also remember we’re in Europe and while the metric system certainly does make more sense, it was not a primary part of our schooling. My basis for measurements currently centers around the kilo which I know is equivalent to 2.2 pounds (also helpful to know in the gym). How many fagiolini (green beans) would you like? Well, not a kilo for two people. How many grams is enough for two people? How do you say two handfuls? So many questions. And so many questioning looks. Cue the sweating.

#2: Transportation. Ah Italy and it’s public transportation system. While 85% of the time, it is terrific, that 15% it’s not will stand out in your head forever. There’s a delightful little movie that can explain this situation better than I ever could:

#3: Every day items. This situation of needing an every day item and not knowing where or how to locate it is perhaps the most difficult part of being abroad. Target, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Christmas Tree Shop make our lives wonderfully easy. Everything you could possible need in one place. When Rich and I first arrived here, we needed more coat hangers. Challenge 1: figure out how to say coat hangers in Italian. Now repeat it back to yourself 30 times to make it stick in long term memory. Challenge 2: where to buy coat hangers. The little shop down the street? Hm, well, while they do sell solar-run bobble heads, welcome mats, school uniforms, and watering cans, nope, coat hangers are not among the random items in stock. The 99 cent store? Ah yes, sometimes they have them but today is not your lucky day. Can we just google it? Well, we can but as most of the tiny shops do not have their own websites, nothing comes up. Wandering and poking comes into play here friends. When you live abroad, try to observe as much as you can. Because that shop you passed yesterday on the bus that sells fancy recycling cans is also going to sell coat hangers. And new pans. And paint. Because this is Italy.

the shop we found coat hangers (translation: homemade)
the shop we found coat hangers (translation: homemade)

#4: Being far from your people. I love my people. And being around them as much as possible. And while Rich is my people and we both love having the opportunity to spend more time together during the week now, it’s hard being separated by a whole ocean from the other people you love. And airfare is expensive. And it’s really unfortunate someone hasn’t created some sort of teleportation device so we could just get to each other on a more regular basis.

Well friends & fam, there you have it: the short-long list of some of the challenges you face while living abroad. And while all of these challenges are delightful opportunities to activate some great problem solving and critical thinking skills, they also provide one excellent excuse for a glass of wine.

con affetto,

Morgan

And…we’re back!

Ciao Family & Friends!

Well, it has certainly been some time since my last post and as I know you all have been eagerly anticipating more of my entertaining prose, andiamo!

But before we start, a note or two (I’m sorry, did you think my first post would be concise?):

(1) This past summer was the best EVER. Not only did I get to marry this delightful man I now call my husband, we got to share the day with some of the best people in the world. To this day, I am completely blown away by the generosity of our family and friends. Most specifically, my parents, who continue to sacrifice to ensure my happiness, growth, and make sure I know I’m loved. I am the luckiest person in the world.

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(2) Being stateside was wonderful, and for so many reasons. The primary one being that the majority of our people are stateside and I sure do love me all of the opportunities to hang out with our people whenever possible. The second being, that according to all of our Florentine friends, it was the hottest summer ever here and as an incredibly sweaty person, am happy to have missed all of the chances to be dehydrated.

Consider yourselves now caught up on the last four months of our lives. And, now onto Year Two of our Tuscan Adventure.

So, there’s someone very important to our lives here who I have yet to formally introduce you all to. This person has ensured we have a comfortable apartment, enjoys taking us on small trips, and wants to make sure we experience authentic Italian life. Meet: Alberto.

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A few fast facts on our Italian life-guide:

Likes:

  • mushroom hunting (which begins at 5am)
  • roadside fruit & vegetable stands
  • a giant garden where he can watch his own produce grow
  • fixing things
  • his fisherman’s cap

Dislikes:

  • Christmas trees (because cutting down a tree for our own enjoyment is wasteful)
  • a bad olive oil season
  • adventures destroyed by too much rain
  • hefty taxes
  • big egos

Alberto has lived on Via Faentina for all but about 7 years of his life. Apparently it’s customary for Italians to settle in the place they grew up in (and, as is often the case, on the same street they grew up on) and so when I say Alberto knows the neighborhood, he really does. Before Alberto became a retired handy-man, he worked for the post office. He was alive and well during WWII when the Germans invaded Italy and has 1 son who is as delightful as Alberto is.

Upon retiring, Alberto poured himself into renovating the apartments he inherited on Via Faentina. As the house was built in the 1200s, he had an awful lot of work to do. While wearing his fisherman’s cap and listening to classical music, Alberto restored crumbling walls, built galley kitchens where there were none, and recycled as much of the original dwelling as he could. Since we’ve been here, Alberto has taught us about sfuso wine, showed us where the best 5 gelato shops are in Florence, demonstrated the proper way to eat bacelli, and told us to design programs for adventure. While he is not obligated to do any of these things, never mind all of them, Alberto is concerned that we know Italy like he knows Italy. Rich and I are also convinced he likes spending time with us (fortunately Rich’s Italian is coming along wonderfully as Alberto speaks about 3 words in English).

As we move forward through year two, there will undoubtedly be more expeditions, better olive oil, and new gelato flavors in our lives because of Alberto.

con affetto,

Morgan