Six months, now.
We have our favorite curry cashews. We now have fresh basil growing on our windowsill.
And teeny red roses.
I am now saving my new soap for our return.
The weather is warmer, yet I am still in wool some days.
Our world of black and grey is giving way to color.
The black and cashmere and down has been replaced by black and grey t-shirts…yellow bags, red skirts, rose-gold shoes, orange scarves and white sneakers.
And also for the women.
Except for when it rains. When it rains everyone goes back to black and grey.
Gelato shops, many closed midwinter, are now open and thriving, even late into the night, even on weeknights. With lines out the door.
Cafes and bars have opened their windows, their doors, their glass walls —to bring the outside in.
Everything is open, aperto.
Even us. We are more open. Life has opened up for us. We feel less like strangers, like outsiders.
Of course language advances have made culture and people more accessible. Being a part of life here is a bit like a dance. Stiamo ballando. We are dancing. There is a dance of movements, meeting another’s glance, a gesture — the secret language of this country — a nod of approval — a joke said, something slang or informal — then another nod.
We are consciously aware of this shift.
On the kitchen wall we have post-it notes listing our schedule — our countdown.
My favorite green pens are almost out of ink. Allora, soon it will be time to go.
(Sure, I know you are going to say that I should have brought more pens. Yes, I should have.)
I have purchased a few tazze for caffè. A scrabble game. Here it is called “scarabeo”.
(And I am good at it.)
We prefer the streetcar to the underground metro. Because it is lovely to watch the city as we move through it. Of course, some would say — the metro gets you there fast.
But from where we stand — our attitude is “who needs to get there faster”?
With the arrival of the turisti, we are feeling a teeny bit of the normal superiority an expat feels over tourists. That same superiority that long-term expats feel over us.
That superiority of knowing what it is like to stand in government offfices — often for a long time — of carrying groceries on the streetcar, of enduring (or avoiding) heavily mineralized water, of government drama (not that I have any position from which to judge….obviously I don’t).
I met W for caffè yesterday. We met in centro, near the Duomo. There, she said, caffè would be expensive…possibly as much as three or four euros. Normally, for a macchiato, we would pay 1,60. But ha, I told her — how we have become così chic, così snob about our caffè. At home we pay much, much more.
Instead of the other way around, it seems to be me who is beginning conversations with the older folks on the streetcar.
My favorite thing to do is to try to make locals laugh — in Italian. Per esempio…
When we are al ristorante, al bar, and the cameriere comes up to ask if I am ready, I say “sono nata pronta” — and they burst out laughing…maybe because they do not expect it from me.
I was walking home yesterday from school and I realized I was walking a little slow — so I thought to myself “sono un po’ lenta” (I am a little slow) — and then I thought to myself “sono una polenta” (I am a polenta) — at which point I burst out laughing, on the street, all on my own.
And total strangers turned to look at me.
Yep, I am one of those. Laughing at myself…and now in another language.
We are warmly greeted at the café, at the grocery.
Six months — life is open. We were born ready for this…
And apparently, I am a polenta.
When I returned to Madison after being in Vegas for 15 years I felt like I had returned to the most wonder place in the world. Perhaps I need 6 months in Italy.
I recommend it — but please note — so many challenges being an “immigrant” — gives us a really important window into compassion for those who are involuntary immigrants/permanent immigrants.