An expat in blue jello

But what, oh what, is a little old-ish expat to do on a rainy Sunday morning? After a breakfast of colomba and tea and strawberries from yesterday’s market…it is hours and hours before we can listen to the news we like on the internet.

I apologize in advance…this post is a bit disordinato.

Traditional food of Pasqua…a bread shaped like a dove…a colomba. But look…I can eat this one! Senza glutine!

And podcasts, yes, we listened to them most of yesterday, after going early to the mercato — another rainy day. But early at the mercato there were fewer people, hurrah, as well as strawberries, later-season artichokes (but I bought twenty of them anyway), onions, cabbage, garlic, mint, parsley, lemons, tomatoes and eggplant (our purchases)…yes, most of them brought up from the South and Centro. Although it was still cold there were spring scarves, budget spring dresses as well as the usual wool socks, dishes and phone-charging cables.

From yesterday’s mercato. As sweet as candy.

We carried all those vegetables home, began Carciofi alla Romana for lunch, sliced, salted, stacked and pressed the eggplant for that night’s dinner and collapsed.

Carciofi at the mercato.

When we binge-watched a thing, I requested Italian subtitles…but this idea bit me later when it became my job to translate everything said by the Klingons, in real time, to English.

After four months now, life is life. We do all the normal stuff that people do. Laundry. Food prep. We make our bed in the morning, still.

I have bought more toothpaste.

I have had two haircuts. I have learned that “sempre”…always….goes at the end of the sentence, right before the punctuation (quasi sempre…almost always).

I have done my American taxes.

Last week when I brought some cleaning to the Lavanderia across the street the proprietaria asked me…tell me, where do you live again? I pointed and showed her. She said, tell me again…what brought you to Milano? I told her R has a job here. She said, what do you do?

Although I wanted to answer “about what?” — I told her that I go to school every day, 3-5 hours a day, for language immersion. She responded, “oh, then you do nothing. Ok. Bye!”  Nothing??!

Faccio niente?

It does not feel like I do nothing.
I feel like I am working really hard.

This woman at the Lavanderia has no idea how many days it takes me to work up the courage to walk into her place with my blouse, two business shirts and two sweaters…to speak to her with relative facility in her native language.

She has no idea how many hours I sit at the kitchen table and review my notes, outline new grammatical constructs and underline vocabulary words…part of which I will no doubt forget again by next Thursday.

Or that I wake in the middle of the night because I cannot remember a word that I need to complete the sentence in my dream…or I cannot translate a sentence that I have just heard in my dream. (This, by the way, makes absolutely no sense. My brain knows the language well enough to construct dream sentences but my half-conscious mind cannot translate them completely??). Per esempio…this morning I woke up gnawing on the word “guadagna”.

Why g-u-a-d-a-g-n-a?

Non lo so.  It was in my dream. It was part of a conversation I was having in my dream and it was not until maybe 7:40 this morning that I realized it translates to “earn”.

My mind is constructing immaginary dialogues and narratives twenty-four hours a day now.

This month we also, finally, received our residency cards, our Permesso Soggiorno, from the Questura (the police station). After months of preparing documents, four months of additional appointments and waiting, we have these! It felt amazing and decadent to receive them. Somehow proceeding past the point of ‘tourist’, but still with expiration dates on remaining.

Last Sunday was Election Day. A day in which, on a Sunday, people voted for their House and Senate as well as their new leader…although the actual leader will not be chosen until March 25 by the House — the Camera dei deputati (the Chamber of Deputies) and the Senato (the Senate). The voter turnout for this election, this year, was a stunning 70%. The citizens really, really cared about this election. And the results, well, I am not going to discuss them here but let’s just say it’s a mess. Siamo incasinati.

I have been thinking a lot about what happens to a person when you take them out of their country…out of their language, their social support structure, their past actions, their culture and cultural expectations…and they try to construct a life. My answer: a lot happens inside of them, actually.
A bit of a storm, an earthquake, a terremoto…shaking up everything.

These daily activities that we do…cooking, eating, showering…laundry…going to work and to school…these things provide structure to what is otherwise basically living all day long as a candy fish floating in blue jello: suspended, disoriented, surreal.

I am an expat in blue jello. Suspended. Disoriented. Surreal.

Making the bed, stopping for un caffè on the way to school….moors me.

Popping in for a quick something and a ‘buongiorno’ makes me feel like a person. It is a relief to be recognized.

Adjusting to this surreal life requires energy — and perhaps discipline. It seems from the outside that I am applying discipline, that I am working hard (except to the laundry lady, who thinks I do nothing at all) but I wish I could learn more, be more.

Luckily, and happily, R has been pleased and relieved with his work productivity here…which is the whole point.

In the past couple of weeks we have had a wave of cold and snow from Siberia…yes, actually Siberia. The most snow Italy has had in like 20 years…especially here in Milano. And then, suddenly, while walking to school on Thursday, along the Naviglio Pavese, I noticed that the moss along the canal has turned to bright green. Bright green moss = Primavera/Spring. And my heart jumped. But you know, I asked my teacher and he told me that in Italian culture there is no such thing as the “spring fever” I grew up knowing about.

Nonostante, nevertheless, eighty percent of the students in our class did not show up for that day or the next.

I have started to read. First it was Fabio Volo’s Il Giorno in Più but now, also, I am reading Harry Potter e La Pietra Filosofale with two of my classmates, on our own.

I have a new favorite word: “innanzitutto” — it means “first of all…”.

We have worn out our shoes from walking. Actually, actually, worn them out.

Finding new ones has been…an adventure.

So now…it is still pretty wet outside. I suppose the moss by the Naviglio Pavese is getting greener.

On a Sunday morning, when it is pouring rain…with tea and colomba and strawberries…I also suppose that an expat in blue jello — suspended, disoriented and surreal — writes about it all.

And then does the laundry…again.

Light…Milano.

1 Comment

  1. Reading! This adventure is tough but you are doing it! I’m so proud of your efforts and immersion!

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