If you know me at all, you'd know I love books. If wine is my drink, books are my sustenance. My mother famously once had to refuse buying me more books one family vacation in Hawaii because I had devoured five books in seven days and she was absolutely opposed to using up precious luggage space to take these books home. I still bring up this story when making fun of her parenting techniques, nudging her belly and exclaiming 'what kind of parent denies their kid the chance to read? oh wait, that was you.' All in good humour naturally. This isn't a book review as I'm only a quarter through reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, but I was especially struck by a quote from one of the characters, Karla, who says that sometimes you have to surrender before you win. The author reflects on this during an uncomfortable cultural clash when he is asked to pat the tummy of his Indian guide's father who he has just met. He writes: Surrender is at the heart of the Indian experience. I could easily say the same about Italy, that surrender is at the heart of the Italian experience which I think is why I took the extra minute to highlight this quote on my formerly-loathed Kindle. It speaks to the expat experience and the reason why some fail and some succeed- you have to let yourself surrender to the culture of your adopted country and believe me, it's not as easy as it sounds. I have heard my own voice complain over plates of pasta, rejecting the way of doing things as something beyond absurdity, and I have been on the receiving end as well, nodding with earnest understanding while fellow expats in Italy fueled our own crippling fire. I should guess it's taken all this time to learn how to surrender, but trust me, the winning feeling awaiting on the other side is remarkable.
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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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