Archive for the ‘Living abroad’ Category
Posted in Americans Abroad, Expat in Italy, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Travel, tagged duration calculator, Italian time, orvieto italy, space time continuum, travel, When Harry Met Sally on September 2, 2012 | 13 Comments »
There is a mind-set you adopt when you are about to move far, far away. You become a short-timer; drawing an arbitrary line in the sand – a sort of invisible cut-off date after which you won’t be forming any new relationships. Now when I meet someone I’m tempted to say, “Hi, my name is Toni and you can’t get attached to me.” I’ve put into place a “friend moratorium” because I just can’t like any more people – it hurts too much to leave them.
A perfect example is Reggie. I met her just under the wire at a Starbucks on Union Street about a month ago. She is hysterically funny, super-smart and very cool. Now I am going to miss her, damn it!
When it Rains, it Pours…
Wouldn’t you know it? The other day on the ferry a handsome man smiled at me PAST THE DEADLINE!
I was thinking…perhaps some rules are meant to be broken?
Posted in Expat in Italy, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Travel, tagged dawn of a dream, England, Lambretta 150 LD Scooter, Lire, Malmo, Modena, Piaggio Ape, Rotherham, Sweden, travel on April 6, 2012 | 11 Comments »
I don’t know why, but the sight of my friend Brian “putting” about Orvieto in his 2000 forest green Piaggio Ape makes me smile. Perhaps it’s because he’s such a distinguished and elegant Englishman that the visual of him in that little Italian pickup truck (“ape” means “bee”) creates a contrasting effect – as if one is looking at an enigma. But once you get to know Brian you’ll discover the many facets of his personality: father, grandfather, friend, soul mate to the lovely Antonella, and an adventuresome, rugged, country-boy-at-heart hobby farmer.
I got to wondering about how Brian happened to land in Italy, so on one of our morning jaunts around the Rupe I asked him and he graciously agreed to spin his wonderful tale of two teenage boys, a yellow and grey 150 LD Lambretta scooter, 4,000 kilometers and the dawn of a dream to someday live in Italy.
Just sixteen and eighteen years of age respectively, he and his friend Michael Williams set out from Rotherham, England for Italian parts unknown. It was 1957 (a very good year) – a decade post-World War II when Italy was a much different country than it is today. He remembers it as a simple and innocent time.
The exchange rate to lire was good, the girls were pretty and exotic and the boys’ youthful exuberance and open hearts bought them life lessons you couldn’t pay a million euros for today. Per esempio, a collision with the back of a tractor ended amicably with a “wine” summit on the tractor owner’s portico. Both parties agreed to assume equal fault in the matter with just a gentleman’s handshake, a “grazie” and a “ciao”.
As with most journeys, this one came to an end and Brian dutifully returned to England to join the family’s tile business. When it came time for a trade course, his father sent him off to Malmö, Sweden, knowing full well the risk of sending him to the training in Modena, Italy – Brian might never have returned!
Brian worked hard and raised his family, venturing back to Italy whenever he could. With his children grown and his tile business sold, he retired at the young age of 51 and made a “bee” line straight for Italy where he has now lived for 21 years…and counting.
Although today he drives around on three wheels instead of two, I think it would be safe to say that life in Italy is very sweet for Brian and his little Ape.
Posted in Expat in Italy, Italian Culture, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Travel, Umbria, tagged art, Florence, Fountain in Orvieto, Galleria degli Uffizi, Italian Art, Michelangelo's David, Stendhal syndrome, travel, Uffizi Gallery on March 18, 2012 | 18 Comments »
You’ve probably heard of the Stendhal syndrome, named for the famous French author who detailed his experience of being overcome with emotion by the immense beauty of Florentine art. In 1979 an Italian psychiatrist finally gave the syndrome its official name after reporting nearly 100 tourists at the Galleria degli Uffizi had fainted – some sent to hospital when their heads hit the hard marble floor. Personally I have never actually swooned from viewing a painting, but I do get a bit light-headed at the sight of Michelangelo’s David.
Unfortunately there won’t be any swooning happening here. You see, at the base of the rock that I live on, in front of the town’s train station sits a sculpture in a fountain. This “work of art” makes a very strong first impression to visitors arriving by rail on their way up to town. It is my understanding (I did some asking around) that the artist is internationally renowned and important enough that the City commissioned not one, but two of his works for installation. I don’t get it. I can’t even describe the fountain to you without using terms that would make a 9 year old boy collapse in a heap of laughter at my “potty” humor. Fortunately no one really cares what I think about the fountain, and why should they? Who the hell am I to judge the merits of a piece of art? What I know about art couldn’t fill an espresso cup. Art, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. Enough said.
Posted in Expat in Italy, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Travel, tagged Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Irving, Ray Bradbury, Scrivere, Truman Capote, What is a writer, writing on March 12, 2012 | 10 Comments »
writ·er [rahy-ter] noun. a person engaged in writing
The words scribbler, dabbler, pencil pusher and hack all come to mind as a description of the activity in which I am now engaged. But the term “writer” – that particular word sticks in my throat. For me the title has always been reserved for those who actually deserve it, such as the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Capote, Irving and Bradbury.
So what makes someone a “real” writer? Are you a writer when you are paid to write? If so, how much money buys you this status? Is a writer someone who gets published? Today’s publishing landscape has changed to include self-published websites, bloggers, contributors, ghostwriters, editors, etc. Which of these capacities qualifies you as a writer and which do not? How many people in the world must agree that you are a writer in order for you to call yourself one? Do people fill out a ballot designating you as such? What is the litmus test one must pass to become a member of this elite club?
Even if I had answers to the above questions perhaps they might not amount to a hill of beans? Could it be that the name you give yourself isn’t really that important? Perhaps it isn’t what you say you do that matters, but that what you do brings about fulfillment. Every day I sit down at my computer and put words onto a page. Maybe that’s all I really need to know. I write.
“You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed by sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafés.”
– Ernest Hemmingway
Ahhh…the adventure and discovery of learning about my newly-adopted nation and how it functions – from the everyday (taking a number at the post office) and mundane (small town news and gossip travels like wildfire), to the intricacies of governmental bureaucracy (it took me an entire afternoon and ten forms to deposit money in a bank account). Mastery of a new system takes an adjustment period. How long my learning curve will be is entirely in my hands. My passport may say I am Italian now, but I know this is a legal technicality. I am a stranger learning to live the way people live here and it isn’t always straightforward.
A rosy outlook, tongue-biting and an almost Pollyannaish mind set is how I roll these days. Like muttering about the August sun shining bright and hot – complain if you will, but the sun will continue to beat down on you. My days are about sink or swim, and being educated one mistake at a time. You live, you learn.
One Day – Day 9 of 30 Days of Indie Travel Project
During this entire month of November Bootsnall is inviting bloggers from around the world to participate in 30 Days of Indie Travel : a daily blogging effort to look back on our past travel experiences. I am a bit behind in my efforts but Bootsnall invites everyone to participate in any amount they can. Here is my belated contribution…
If your tour guide totes a long stick with streamers in the colors of the French flag and speaks at you through a microphone transmitted to a speaker in your ear: it’s going to be a run of- the- mill travel day. On the other hand, if Christophe, a former pharmaceutical executive-turned fine art dealer (who knows Paris like the back of his hand), invites you for a spin around the City of Lights on the back of his motorbike: you’re about to have one of the best travel days of your life!
For the record let me say that weaving in and out of traffic on the streets of Paris is definitely not for the faint of heart. Caught off-guard by the unfathomable opportunity presented to me, I jumped at this once-in-a-lifetime offer before really thinking it through. Throwing caution to the wind, I chose to worry about the implications of my decision later. Hey, if things go badly, it would be a chance for me to experience the renowned French healthcare system firsthand.
I gripped the back handles of the bike tightly and attempted to relax as we zigzagged around gridlocked cars and stylishly-dressed pedestrians, ricocheting precariously into the roundabout encircling the Arc de Triomphe (which Christophe claims is the most dangerous place in Paris). We reached the Champs-Élysées alive and cruised down this legendary boulevard towards a day I will never forget. October 6, 2011: My best travel day ever!.
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Posted in Americans Abroad, Expat in Italy, France, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Travel, tagged Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, French lessons, How to be French, How to Become Parisan in One Hour, Montmartre, Notre Dame de Paris, Paris on October 22, 2011 | 15 Comments »
It has been nearly eight months since I’ve last set foot in Orvieto – a really, really, really long time in my book. Each and every visit back to Italy has developed its own particular flavor and personality. This trip took on a special “French twist” because it included a 4-day stopover in Paris.
Paris: The City of Lights.
The Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame de Paris, Montmartre, Foie gras, French wine and the pièce de résistance, French pastries. I loved this city from the moment I arrived. Parisians are so sophisticated, elegant, romantic, chic, and very COOL. I wanted to be cool just like them so I decided to become French.
Becoming French is not something you can do overnight — it takes a lot of time and effort. I was fortunate enough to be traveling with my French friend Manuela, staying in the apartment of her friends Christophe and Tiphaine and spending time with JC and Stephanie. I had round-the-clock exposure to daily life in France and I am happy to share with you some of the secrets I have learned.
Introduction: Fake it ‘Till you Make It
The first and most important thing you must do in order to become French is to stop being American immediately! You must hide all the characteristics that would tip people off to the fact that you are from the United States. (You know you’re making progress when someone accidentally mistakes you for a Canadian). It can be challenging, but if you put your mind to it I believe it can be achieved. By reading and following my step-by-step instructions, you too can be well on your way to becoming French, just like me!
5 Easy Steps to “Frenchdom”
Step #1: Shut up about it
If you don’t speak French fluently then don’t talk at all. (For those of you who know me personally, you understand that NOT talking was my biggest challenge). If you want to buy something, just point at it and grunt. Even a simple “Merci” will give you away. Believe me, your rudimentary high-school French isn’t going to help you here – you might as well write “Ugly American” across your forehead in Chanel lipstick, for God’s sake.
Step #2: Enchante`
Greet properly. Never hug anyone! Hugging is a dead give-away that you are American. Give two or three kisses on the cheek. Never shake hands when introduced to a person unless you are in a business setting or you’re meeting President Sarkozy. (I was severely admonished for extending my hand when presented to someone for the first time. Apparently I’d insulted him and had to give him extra kisses to make up for it).
Step #3: Look the part
Wear scarves, dress in all black and be short.
Step #4: Smoke
I know smoking is detrimental to your health and makes your clothes and hair smell bad, but if you don’t, you will be left alone at tables in restaurants while everyone else is outside smoking their cigarettes and having fun. You don’t want that! I am proud to say that before coming to Paris I didn’t smoke at all and now I am up to half a pack a day.
Step #5: Eat, Pray, Gag
In order to survive one must eat. To be French means you will be consuming large amounts of animal organs and garden pests on a regular basis. If you can’t read a French menu you are in serious trouble because you are likely to be served a dish that is made from a lamb’s brain or its intestinal tract. Pouring ketchup over them to mask the flavor will only draw attention to your “Americanism” (See Introduction above). Thank God the cheese and bread in France are second to none. Bon Appetite.
Being the good friend that she is, Manuela could see I was struggling with my “Frenchness” so she enrolled me in an intensive, crash-course entitled “How to Become a Parisian in One Hour?” (Some say this is actually a one-man comedy show, but whatever). It is presented entirely in English because if you speak the French language you don’t need this course — you are probably already Parisian. The teacher/comedian Olivier Giraud, teaches you how to be Parisian in a shop, restaurant, taxi, metro and even in bed! Just as Olivier promised, after the one-hour class/show I was hardly recognizable to my family and friends! I had actually become Parisian in just one hour!
I still love my Italy and will continue to live there. I have to admit that it can be very problematic being French and Italian at the same time. When I returned to Italy, I was quite confused and disoriented. I forgot that I needed to speak louder in order to be heard over the yelling and I’ve caught myself more than once complaining about the perfect Italian weather. Fortunately, I never seem to have trouble adjusting to the sea of devastatingly handsome Italian men. I am so torn, conflicted, and split over these two beautiful countries, but I think I’ve come up with a solution to my dilemma. I will be “married” to one (Italy) and have a “love affair” with the other (France). Isn’t that so French of me?
*”How to Become a Parisian in One Hour?” By Olivier Giraud is playing every Tuesday & Wednesday-8:30pm, Saturday-7pm, Sunday-5:30pm at Theatre De La Main D’Or, 15 passage de la main d’or-75011 Paris-Metro Ledru Rollin L8. Reservations: 06 98 57 45 96 www.oliviergiraud.com
by Toni DeBella
Posted in Americans Abroad, Culture, Expat in Italy, Italians, Italy, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Rome, Travel, tagged Federico Moccia, Fiume di Tevere, Love in Rome, Ponte Milvio, Tiber River on October 13, 2011 | 2 Comments »
For years young lovers have come to Il Ponte Milvio (Mulvian Bridge) in the north of Rome to declare their undying affection by writing their names on a lock, attaching it to a lamppost on the bridge and then throwing the key into the Fiume di Tevere (Tiber River) below. It’s a iron-clad promise to love each other until the end of time. Eternity ain’t what it used to be!
The bridge started attracting sweethearts to it after the publishing of Federico Moccia‘s popular book and film ““Ho Voglia di Te” (“I Want You”) in 2006. Unfortunately the barrage of locks started to bend the lampposts and the practice had to be limited to steel posts added by the Mayor. When the posts become filled, the locks must be removed to make room for newly-passionate visitors.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times? Along with the City’s reasonable attempt to keep its infrastructure from crumbling under the weight of thousands of metal locks, the solution perhaps mirrors the devotion and commitment of modern couples these days. Happily ever after is hard to come by and having your declaration to the one you adore chopped-off by an orange suited city worker with a wire cutter seems to underscore the changing landscape of amore a Roma.
But being the hopeless romantic that I am, I like to imagine that someday an old couple will walk arm-and-arm across the Ponte Milvio and recall when they too placed a lock on this bridge to commemorate the beginning of their love story. They’ll smile because they’ll know that love can last even when the symbol of that love has long gone.
Posted in Americans Abroad, Culture, Expat in Italy, Italian Culture, Italian-Americans, Italians, italo americano, Living abroad, Living in Europe, Living in Italy, Orvieto, Travel, Umbria, tagged Commissario Montablano, Enrico Papi, Gerry Scotti, Groucho Marx, La Routa della Futura, Learn Italian, Millionario, Pat Sajak, Ryan Seacrest, Television, Tower of Babel, Victoria Silvstedt, Wheel of Fortune, Who wants to be a Millionare on September 24, 2011 | 12 Comments »
“I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.” -Groucho Marx
Television as a way to learn a foreign language is by no means a new concept. Since its inception in the late 1940s, newcomers have been using TV as a means to help them absorb their new language, and more importantly, to assimilate into their new culture. The conventional wisdom of linguists is there is no relationship between watching television and mastering a language. I beg to differ. Based on only nonscientific anecdotal evidence (me), I assert that TV watching is a super supplement to other means of learning because it gives the viewer verbal as well as visual cues. You can look at it as a “workbook” in a box. With respect to colloquialisms that are spoken in daily life, what better place to soak up the slang than from a reality show or afternoon soap opera? After all, if it’s your intention to fit-in and become part of your community, you’ll want to become familiar with the common vernacular.
Pantofolaio (Couch Potato) Beware!
Of course, it’s important to take an interactive role in your “boob tubing”. Passively sitting back and letting the information wash over you isn’t going to cut it. Obviously television alone cannot replace formal training in grammar, vocabulary and mechanics. However, if used deliberately and thoughtfully to its optimum potential, TV can be an effective way to enhance your proficiency in three particular areas: pronunciation, commonly used expressions/vocabulary, and popular culture/trends.
Italian All day, Everyday
Wake up and turn on your television set. You don’t necessarily have to be watching it to get the benefit – the background noise of Italians in conversation is seeping in. By bombarding your brain with the spoken word, you can train your “ear” to the musical rhythm/cadence of this beautiful language. Repetitive listening and repeating out loud helps with pronunciation. It’s like gymnastics for your tongue while reminding you the importance of enunciating each and every letter to avoid changing a word’s meaning entirely as in penne (a kind of pasta) and pene (penis). Otherwise, dialogue at the supermarket could get interesting.
Are you Listening to Me?
Eavesdropping in public places – awkward. Watching a talk show in your living room – a much more relaxing way to pick up idioms in context (and with the accompanying hand gestures). Once I’d heard a phase used over and over, I would ask a friend its meaning and how to use it. For example, “Secondo me” came up a lot on political talk shows. I learned it meant “in my opinion/in my view”. Once it made sense to me in its proper context, I could begin using it with confidence in my own conversations.
Around the Water Cooler
You get a pretty good idea of the political climate of the country, its mores, values and attitudes with a healthy diet of current affairs programming. Who and what are in fashion can easily be gleaned from entertainment news and nighttime talk shows.
CATEGORICALLY SPEAKING…Types of Shows that give you the most “bang for your buck”:
#1 – Trivial Pursuit (Trivia Shows)
Millionario is one of my favorites. Gerry Scotti, (the Ryan Seacrest of Italy) hosts this country’s version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. The beauty of this show is that along with the questions posed to the contestant, you can read the question and possible answers on the screen. Are you a genius in English and Italian?
La Routa della Fortuna is the Italian “Wheel of Fortune”. Enrico Papi is clever and better looking than Pat Sajak, but the real fun is kooky Victoria Silvstedt, a former Swedish Playboy Playmate ( “Vanna White‘s” counterpart). It turns out crossword puzzles are a lot easier in your native tongue. This show is a surprising mixture of trash TV and educational programming rolled into one crazy format. A wacky way to learn vocabulary!
There is a plethora of serial dramas and sitcoms, many imported from America, that are broadcast weekly (Commissario Montablano, CSI, Law and Order, House, Friends, etc.). I discovered that you can set most televisions to the closed captioning mode which allows you to watch and read the programs in Italian at the same time. It really works!
Television Tower of Babel
It all comes down to one thing: communicating. It seems television has become our modern-day Tower of Babel — promoting understanding by uniting people while acting as a sort of cultural equalizer, making the world not just smaller, but downright miniscule. So, stay tuned!
by Toni DeBella