Jun 11, 2014

American Indulgences

So, if I haven't mentioned it yet, we're going back to the states for the summer to visit family, go to a wedding, and hit up an epic trip to D-land...because my little family doesn't travel enough.

I'm currently at the hesitantly excited phase.  Like staring at the sun, I can't let my mind focus for too long on the American'ness coming our way.  If you've lived abroad, possibly you are nodding your head right now thinking, yep.  I know exactly what she's talking about.

However, if you've never lived outside the red, white and blue, then you might not fully grasp what I'm implying.  The best metaphor I can pull together to describe my feeling is like this.  You know in books (or movies or real life) when people go a long time without eating, then when they see a bowl of chowder or a big pizza and they scarf it down only to heave it all up ten seconds later.

Well, not to compare America to barf, but that's basically what I'm afraid of.  It took me the better part of ten months to acclimate to this Target-less life, and I'm at that point where I'm cool with it.  In fact, I'd say I'm thriving.  The nearest Starbucks is 45 minutes away, which has made me appreciate and enjoy a good European cappuccino.  We don't do drive-thrus, we eat sandwiches at home.  We watch classic movies from the library because we don't have a Redbox or Netflix.

Struggles for sure, I know.

But the point I'm making is: luxuries are just that, luxuries.  They only fog the view.  Now, we sit in traditional German garb and drink local brews with our neighbors.  We spend more time together, just doing nothing but being together.  When we want to eat out, we find a local family-owned restaurant and pray their kitchen is open so we can eat.  We don't have a lot of choices in our lifestyle, so we make due with what we have and remember to be thankful for it.  Our one tiny gym, our little library, our one-screen movie theater, our beautiful little apartment.

We see our good fortune so much more clearly now.

For the record, wording this post without sounding like a spoiled American was really difficult and I hope I succeeded, at least partially.

And now...I can't close this out without pointing out a few things that I am crazy excited about.
- Going to Barnes and Noble and staying there until 11pm at night.
- The ambient sound of conversation in English
- Taking a yoga class not taught by myself
- Having more than one tiny shelf in the bookstore (again, I'm still thankful for that one tiny shelf in the German bookstore)
- Grandparent/Grandchild bonding time (read: Mommy free time)
- High-speed internet (I just drooled)
- Seeing any movie, whenever I want (basically)
- A/C (drooled again)

To be honest, I could live without  Target and Starbucks and 24 hour gas stations and things open on Sunday...because I have.  And my biggest hesitation is that I'm going to indulge like crazy on this trip and only shoot myself in the foot when it's time to return home.  I don't want to feel European resentment again.  I didn't enjoy that transition; it was painful.  An American detox...not fun.

So, I'm only taking little nibbles.  At first.

Jun 10, 2014

the beauty in the view

There's something about a beautiful piece of the earth that thirty year old me appreciates more than twenty year old me ever did.  Whether it be in the Alps, coastal Italy, or from my own balcony, I get a twinge of something I can't put my finger on when I gaze out at a slice of pure, breathtaking world.
At one point in our trip, exhausted and hauling whiny kids through the hills of Cinque Terre, we saw a path that wound even higher up promising a view beyond compare.  As sore as our feet were, we attempted the trek anyway.  As we walked, painful step after painful step, I kept asking myself, 'why are we doing this?  For a pretty view?' And the answer was undoubtedly, persistently, 'yes.'
Because there is something about a great view that feeds the soul.  That little saying about 'feasting the eyes' is legit.  Photos are essential of course, but they don't do it justice.  Postcards can't compete with standing at the top of a brutal hike, sweaty and smiling, with rocky beaches and mountain side villages to gaze upon.
And it makes me ask myself, what would my life be like if I didn't appreciate this?  What would I be like if I didn't see how beautiful this world can be?  And then I think that seeing all of these beautiful places has inspired me to see the beauty in the unending desert, or a line of picket fences in America or graffiti in the city.  Now, I see it everywhere.

Jun 7, 2014

Wine, Pesto, and Rocky Beaches. oh my.

Sorry I've been a little MIA lately.  It's that end-of-school-year, vacation time, everything at once, time of year.

Also, I'm still in Italy…in spirit.

Over the Memorial Day weekend we jetted off to Pisa and Cinque Terre for five days of the dolce vita. All in all, it was a blast and half.  Trains, planes and rickety city busses finally brought us to coastal Italy and a little area called Cinque Terre, or Five Villages.  There are literally five little villages all in a row built into the rocky coast of Italy.  It's incredible and impossible to describe.

So, of course we saw the Leaning Tower, and it's true, that thing is really freaking leaning.  And it's a crime punishable by the carbonari if you do not take a cheesy "hold up the tower" photo.  

Then, after a day in Pisa, we took the train to the coast.  Rather than stay in Cinque Terre itself, we stayed in a little village about four villages farther down the coast called Deiva Marina.  It was affordable and gorgeous and we even had access to a private beach.  The best part was that it was less touristy than CT, so when I went to the market in town for food, they called me 'madam' and they taught up a little Italian and I begged them to adopt me.  

Let's take a second and talk about the food.  No, actually I take that back.  I can't talk about the food because there are no words.  Every single thing I ate was crazy good.  Even the bad stuff was good.  The pasta, the bread, cheese, wine, gelato and even the fruit was amazing.  

We spent the next few days wandering around Cinque Terre and sitting around the beach.  We saw all five villages and some of them twice.  At times, I just pretended I lived there and for three whole days I felt like I did.   We spent much of the weekend hopping from cafe to cafe, sipping on wine and cappuccinos until sundown, then doing it all over again the next day.  There was a lot of walking, but there was equally as much kicking our feet up.  

So, yeah, I'm still a little bit there.  And I think in a way, I'll always be a little bit there.