One day, in the not so distant future, you'll find yourself living in Milan/New York City/London/(insert a fabulous city here) and you'll be complacent about your Albertan roots. You'll tire of having to explain where in Canada your city is and pretty soon you won't bother trying to sing its praises. But one day, in a concrete jungle or hazy metropolis with angry Milanese drivers gesturing wildly at one another, amidst intermittent yelling and honking and ambulance sirens...you'll look up at the sky and you'll miss this one here. This big, blue, never-ending expanse of sky over your head. A sky that you would've sworn exists everywhere in the world, I mean, it's just a sky. But you were wrong. You'll miss this Alberta sky and you'll try to describe it in words to people who have never seen it but it's impossible because the feeling it gives you, deep down, it's indescribable- it's the feeling of fast cars and freedom and endless possibility. And you breathe that mountain air, the first few out of the airport like a fish being put back into water: huge gulps as if you haven't been breathing for a hundred days, as if you couldn't remember what oxygen in your lungs feels likes. Your body remembers this air and this sky. You lean back on the park bench and take it all in because one day, you'll be back in Milan/New York City/London/(insert a fabulous city here).
This is my grandma. When I was little I used to call her "Poo-Poo", my Canadian-ized way of pronouncing the Cantonese version of grandma. After having met Massi, we've actually taken to calling her Nonna and my grandparents Nonni. Somehow despite the inconsistency between the Italian language and their ethnic origin, it seems natural. In the photograph, she is wearing her "Nonna" apron- a gift from a soon-to-be Italian grandson-in-law.
My grandparents came to Canada in their youth, the exact age of which I am unsure of. They did not speak any English and my grandma did not know how to boil water (this fact is one that my mom likes to recite often as to illustrate the power of time and necessity- my grandma is arguably one of the greatest cooks I've ever met). They opened a neighbourhood grocery store and the daily demand of speaking English with their customers led to their acquisition of the language. Their family is an excellent example of the Canadian dream, an immigration success story: all their children are university graduates (engineers and a dietician) and their grandchildren as well- so far we have a pharmacist (yours truly), a medical doctor, a biostatistics researcher, a performing arts graduate, and a veterinarian on our team roster. Still to come are an aeronautics engineer and accountant! And while all the accomplishments of their offspring are honourable, I would dare to say that my grandparents are whom we should be the most proud of. Unfortunately this is only a revelation I've come to after having somewhat 'followed in their footsteps' by moving to a country that is not my own and living in a language that I've had to learn. Moving to Italy has taught me the value of my grandparents.
My brother and I never learnt Chinese. We never went to Chinese school on Saturdays like all the other first generation children, nor did we want to. We just wanted to be like everyone else and speak English with a Canadian accent and eat bologna sandwiches at lunch. I'm almost certain there were times growing up when I might have cringed at something my grandparents (or also my dad, for that matter) had said, a small grammatical error that would have made me want to disappear. They were betraying me by giving away the fact that we weren't truly Canadian. It's funny how time and experience changes things. Now, I watch and listen in awe as my grandparents switch effortlessly between their dialect and English. My dad is actually trilingual, he speaks English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. The other day, I went to lunch with my grandma at our favourite noodle house in the city and I watched with glowing pride as she shakily wrote out our order in the Chinese characters, so intricate that they make English look like primitive caveman writing.
The fact that my grandparents and parents are bilingual (and trilingual) never crossed my mind in the past and it was surely not something I looked upon with admiration or pride. Only now can I appreciate what a feat this is. Only now are their accents enduring, sweet little reminders of how far they've come, how far we've come. I will try to remind myself of this every time I feel embarrassed or ashamed of my North American accent in Italian, my inherent inability to roll my Rs will now be my battle scar or better yet, my victory flag dancing in the wind.
Back in the lights of my hometown of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Here's my Italy update: I had to come back to Canada because I was just back in Italy this time as a tourist and that gives you 90 days maximum before you need to return. Today I have just sent off my work visa application to the Consulate of Italy in Vancouver and now the waiting begins which should be around 2 weeks. The end result I'm waiting on is hopefully another shiny new year-long visa in my passport! So cross your finger and toes with me. Always a strange feeling to be back home. Home is always home, no matter how much I love Italy there's nothing quite like driving around your city, the city that grew you and that you grew up in and not have to think about the route. My muscle memory drives my car along all the streets, I subconsciously know what lane I need to be in, when a one-way street pops up. My radio station is still pre-programmed and I am not exaggerating when I say there's few moments comparable to being away and coming home and hearing your favourite country songs blasting from the car speakers, knowing the words to every song, singing aloud like a crazed person. The other thing that makes me smile at home are the Canadians. Listening to their unassuming accents, the clear, crisp English all around me is so indescribable, the feeling is close to having chills up your back. That's what happens when you live in a second language for awhile and go back home. I love that everyone smiles and asks me how my day is going and I ask the same thing and we smile like idiots at each other while I fish out change for my double double. And people hold the door open and move aside to let you walk past them. What trivial things that make Canada so lovely.
I must admit, the title is a bit deceiving, I'm watching "The Best of Me" (Il Meglio di Me) on Rai5 at this very moment so that's the story behind it. I'm not sure I'd call these photos the best of Bergamo as it seems every corner you turn in this city, you stumble upon the next best thing. I took a solo hike last Friday up to San Vigilio when it already felt like summer in the city. The tourists were packed like sardines at the terrace right outside the funicolare, taking in the sun while surrounded by the wisteria blooms creeping on the city's ancient walls. I've always attested to adore summers in Italy, but springtime is having a moment with me this year. It's not hot enough yet to sweat through your cutest outfits and your makeup stays pristine (while in summer, by mid-day, my eyebrows practically slide down to my cheeks)! Anyways, that's it for today, I'm headed back to bawl my eyes out with the film adaptation of basically every Nicholas Sparks book ever written. For some bizarre reason, I tend to tear up even more watching these movies in Italian and I can't figure out why. Italian seems to lend itself to highly emotional scenes, perhaps the expansive lexicon may be to blame?
This past weekend, Massi and I woke up at 4am to board a bus to Assisi in the region of Umbria. This was my first church trip as we went with the other couples from our marriage course and our priest, Don Stefano. After having spent so many hours with these couples, we've slowly been building a relationship with each other that hopefully will endure past the course and continue as we build marriages and families. The region of Umbria is probably my second favorite after Tuscany, it is very similar, perhaps even more lush and green. We spent the Saturday visiting the Church of St. Francis, stopping just for a quick gelato (beer in our case!) in the afternoon and dinner, before heading to see the musical Chiara di Dio which spoke of the life of St. Clare. I have not been "officially" Catholic for long, I went through the RCIA process a few years ago but it's just such a soul-stirring experience to actually be following in the footsteps of the people I had learnt about and read about in books, to look out over the Umbrian hills and know that Francesco (St. Francis in English) once had the same view...To say a prayer in Clare's courtyard where she would have prayed in peace among flowers and under the bright blue sky. All I can say about Assisi is go. Go especially if you're contemplating God, or feeling a void in your heart, I guarantee you will find the former and fill the latter.
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Jasmine is a former pharmacist turned writer and wine drinker from Alberta, Canada living "the sweet life" in Bergamo, Italy.
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