19 January 2011

Some Musings on Life in Italy at Our Halfway Point

We have now lived in Gricignano di Aversa (outside of Naples, Italy) for 10 months. We will likely be here for a total of 22 months, so we are approaching half-time, so to speak. My Italian language skills are definitely not where I thought they would be, but I know enough to get by. We have done a bit of traveling, and are looking forward to much more. We added to our family while here, which has been wonderful in so many ways . . . and a great story to tell him when he is older. (I was six weeks pregnant when we moved here, and now our son is 2.5 months old.) Following are a few random thoughts on the last several months.
Living It Up
Some folks really want to feel as though they are truly doing everything they can to experience *living* in Italy. This may include living off-base (which can present some challenges but enables you to have a lot more space), shopping (and bartering) at the local markets for everything from fruit to clothes to household goods, embracing the insanity that is southern Italian driving, and learning/speaking Italian as much as possible. Others enjoy the comforts and convenience of living on base, prefer to socialize and interact with only other military based here, never even bother to purchase a second vehicle, and stay close to “home” where English is the only language spoken. Most people do not sit at one extreme or the other; they can appreciate the security of living on base but delight in the local “flavor” on occasion and take advantage of the travel opportunities living in Europe presents. We fall pretty much in the middle.
When you leave the good old USA for an extended time, there will be things that you really, really miss . . . at first they will seem silly, until you actually go a couple of years without them! Consider them creature comforts, a taste of home, or simply nostalgic. Here are a few of my most-missed American staples:
  • Target (You try not setting foot in one for two years.)
  • Starbucks (Not a single one in all of Italy.)
  • Chinese food (Can be found here, but I’m not sure I’d really want it.)
  • American restaurant hours (Dinner here starts at 7 or 8 p.m. and takes 3 hours.)
  • Acceleration lanes (I am not kidding.)
The Bottom Line
Once you complete a tour of duty here, however, the world really does seem to shrink. Places we only dreamed of visiting or knew from history books become real, and more importantly, accessible. My girls have taken an interest in languages, travel, geography . . . things I’m not sure they would have explored if it weren’t for our time here. I will be sure to revisit our adventures again in a future post.