Happy Mother's Day to all the great mums out there and especially to mine who encouraged me to see the world, your love of travel sure rubbed off! Here's to many more worldy adventures together whether they be in Italy (like in the photo above), or simply people watching from our favourite beach spot under that palm tree in Waikiki.
It's hard to be a non-white expat in Italy. Why you ask? Because very unfortunately, it has become rather commonplace to judge a book by its cover. With all the heart-wrenching news about immigrants dying at sea, there is equally heart-wrenching opposition to immigration here in Italy and generalizations made about immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe. Anyways, it usually doesn't bother me much to not be immediately recognized as Canadian. I suppose I could make it obvious by speaking English when I run my errands, although I'm not even sure native Italians are very good at distinguishing native English accents from non-native ones. Sometimes I wish I could blend in a bit more, have people mistake me for Italian but therein lies the dilemma- if you're a white expat that could pass for Italian, you might risk coming across as simply an Italian with really bad grammar (depending on how good your language skills are). At least when I open my mouth, I get mostly pleasantly surprised reactions, probably because people are expecting to hear something else roll off my lips, or at the very minimum, a not a North American accent. So pleasantly surprised I'll take, what I won't take is the pre-notion that because I'm an immigrant, I'm immediately assumed to be uneducated or poorly mannered. What a terrible assumption to make about people no? It JUST happened to me and that's why I felt compelled to write about it immediately. I was bagging my groceries along with other Italians who had just paid, when an older Italian man said directly to me: "Ma lasci il tuo carrello proprio qui in mezzo così?" (But you're just going to leave your cart right here like this?). I turned to look to see what he was referring to and yes, there was a cart left in front of the till, impeding the line-up...but it wasn't mine. There were other customers had also just been rung through as well, which is why I was particularly annoyed that out of the group of us, this man had coincidentally "accused" me. When a well-dressed Italian lady claimed it was her cart, the fellow then started apologizing profusely. Suspect, very suspect. You could argue that I'm over-reacting and it was an honest mistake but I'm usually fairly good at reading people and the way in which they say things, it's what's made me a successful solo female traveller as well. In my heart of hearts, I was really saddened by this because I know he was thinking it was obviously a "person like me" that would be so rude as to leave a cart in the middle of nowhere. It's an uphill battle we have on our hands here and being an expat has taught me quite a bit about choosing which battles to fight and which to let slip out of my mind, today's experience will be the latter.
P.S. This experience was very minor if I even start to imagine what similar stories you might be able to hear from other immigrants, I'm sure it in no way is comparable to what other more visible and targeted minorities go through each and every day trying to build a life on foreign soil. With that being said, I'm raising my glass of lunchtime wine to all of us "stranieri"...cheers!
This is so off-topic (as in nothing to do with Italy) but as I've mentioned in previous posts like this one and this one, I've kind of been overly-obsessed with my country music because it reminds me of home. Also, the Calgary Stampede is coming up in July. Never heard of it? It's only the best time you'll ever have with your cowboy boots on (refer to above photo) North of the Dixie line. Found this quote by my/pretty much every female's current country love, Sam Hunt. Thought it was cute and the last line really resonates with me.
Hunt says some [songs] were inspired by a woman he dated after moving to Nashville. "She's sort of somewhere in between a city girl and a country girl," he said. "She absolutely fit in when she was hanging out with me in Georgia, and she lived in a liberal, kind of hippie town that had an art school, so she fits in right there too." That woman might represent a significant portion of Hunt's listeners — young people in high school, college, or just beyond it, who can relate to the culture of both small towns and big cities.
If you've ever met me, you'd know I prefer to train my metabolism and alcohol tolerance rather than do wilderness hikes. I'm not against hikes, I'm just saying if I had the choice, you know where to find me. So it was actually great that a fellow expat and California native (being all West Coast healthy and such) found this atypical path through the hills and valleys near my house (but please note, the post-hike dinner was pizza and wine which is what kept me going). Here are some photos of our two hour adventure. Isn't it neat to see the contrast between the views here and those in Canada? One is no more beautiful than the other, just different.
Every summer between third and fourth year pharmacy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, thirty to forty students embark on a study abroad in Italy- specifically, to the picturesque town of Forio on the island of Ischia. And perhaps I am biased, but it is my belief we learnt more about enjoying life (and food) in those three weeks than in our entire university careers. At the helm of the ship was Papà Salvatore, the patriarch of the family that we spent almost every waking hour with, who taught us everything from making gnocchi by hand to what it means to be truly rich. Richness is found around the table and in the laughter of loved ones, it is to be nurtured in the quiet satisfaction of a day spent following your passion. It is with a heavy heart that the Faculty of Pharmacy Class of 2013 offers condolences to the Colella family, may you take comfort in knowing your father, grandfather, husband, and friend touched so many lives and those lives are being lived now a little richer, even an ocean away.
I'm not a full-blown country girl by any means, not like some of my girlfriends who were born and raised in small town Alberta. But I've always felt like a city girl with a country soul which explains my love of country music, cowboys, backroads, and you know, there's always something bout' a truck. In case you don't know Canadian geography so well, Alberta is the second province from the West and it's all prairies and canola fields between its big cities. It's really gorgeous, but the kind of gorgeous that maybe you can't appreciate until you don't get to see it everyday: an endless blue sky kissed by the brightest yellow fields. It's Canada's version of The South in the USA (the photo above was taken by Massi in Texas)- part of the school physical education curriculum is learning how to line-dance and two-step to Fishin' in the Dark. Being in Italy, there's just absolutely nothing reminiscent of the countryside that I knew growing up or the music we would blast from speakers in the summer. I'm going through a kind of withdrawal. It just goes to show that no matter where you are, don't take it for granted. There's an Italian saying that you can't enjoy two paradises. We've chosen Italy as our paradise, but if you're reading this and wishing you were somewhere else, just think that there's someone out there dreaming of driving down a dirt road, wind in her hair. x
On the 2nd of May, I will have been living in Italy for 5 months. FIVE MONTHS. It's slightly more than what could be considered a stint abroad or a semester abroad and what I sometimes ask myself is whether I've been homesick. I realize that if one should need to ask herself this, the answer is probably no. Up to this point, I've not yet had a complete meltdown where I needed to curl up in the fetal position and eat tablespoons of maple syrup. But homesickness doesn't need to be extreme, it can creep up on you in subtle ways and can go unnoticed even, unless you stop to reflect on it. Last night, I had a wee homesick episode that consisted of wine-induced dancing (wait, better be specific since it's Italy...Montepulciano d'Abruzzo-induced dancing) to my favorite country summer songs and there may or may not have been cowboy boots involved. Thank goodness for Puffo who was a spectacular spectator. Truthfully, Puffo the cat has been quite a saving grace in preventing homesickness in my case. He provides endless company and divertimento (fun) so if you're an expat like me and know you'll be somewhere for a long, indefinite period of time, consider adopting an animal! And finally, don't be ashamed of admitting you're having a low moment. Wherever you are, we know it's not always sunshine and skipping through fields picking wildflowers.
Do you know what a bad expat language moment is? You'll empathise immediately if you've ever been in the process of learning a second language and living it out day to day. Yesterday was a bad expat language moment for me. It should have been a breeze. I went to the movies in Bergamo for English Film Night where they show a film in its original language. We were going to watch Julianne Moore's Oscar-winning performance in Still Alice. Being the "most experienced" expat in our group made up of myself, an American, and a German girl, I thought nothing of it to lead the pack into getting our tickets. And it started off well with a "un biglietto per favore" (one ticket please) but then this is when it crashed and burned...The fellow at the ticket counter then said something that I couldn't understand. It went something like this steeeeeeelahhhleeeeez. I was flubbergasted, I was completely caught off my language skill game. What was this mysterious new word I had never heard before? I literally mumbled with utter confusion, after asking him to repeat numerous times, ma cosa vuol dire (what does that word mean)? Thank God, one of the other girls realized I hadn't said which movie I wanted to see and chirped in- Still Alice! Turns out, the man was saying the title of the movie, STILL ALICE, but with THE strongest Italian accent that I thought it was a new word. Talk about embarrassing. But hey, just another one of those funny expat moments eh?
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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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