Today marks one month since we arrived in Sicily! It’s an odd milestone – I can believe it, but it is weird because it has been such a blur. In that time we’ve fit in three day trips, house hunting, miles of paperwork and a lot of pizza and pasta eating.
But to be honest, it is hard for me to be nostalgic today as I might have intended. I’m on very little sleep right now because I stayed up watching the end of the toxic garbage fire that was the 2016 election cycle until after 3 a.m., and when I woke up with a crying kid a couple hours later it was pretty apparent that the county had lost its fucking mind and I couldn’t go back to bed. But as it is now after 10 p.m., I honestly don’t have any more emoting left in me right now to be able to talk about all that.
So, instead I’d like to mark our one-month anniversary with a post that I actually meant to write before I left. And then decided to write on the plane (let’s all pause for a nice long laugh at the idea that I’d have to time or enthusiasm to do that while wrestling with the kids). And then meant to do every week since.
Anyway. We are here for three to five years, and I want to make the most out of our time. So, without further ado, here are some of my goals for our Sicilian adventure. Some are serious, others are less so.
1) Learn to speak Italian. Ok, I’d say this is a pretty obvious one, right? Honestly, since we’ve gotten here I’ve been very much regretting not starting to study it more before we left, but we were insanely busy then. I underestimated just how important it would be to learn at least a little Italian before we got here, possibly because I’ve been quite a few places in my travels and truly never had that much of a problem. It took me getting here to realize – DUH – that I’ve almost exclusively been to cities, where people are much more likely to speak English than in rural areas. For example, I had an easier time ordering food in Mumbai that I have had in a couple places here, honestly! Major miscalculation on my part, so I’ll own it. Anyway, we are planning to get a tutor as soon as we are a little more settled. And the kids will be attending Italian preschool (with a little group of other Americans so they aren’t totally overwhelmed). I look forward to them picking up the language quickly and easily so I can use them as my translators.
1a) Learn how to roll my Rs. Why can’t I make my mouth make that sound???
2) Make the most of our time here. At home, we’ve had a tendency to talk about things we want to do or places we want to go and then just put it off endlessly because you figure there’s always another day. I’m not saying that we aren’t allowed a restful weekend here and there, but Chris and I want to make sure we don’t let time and opportunities to slip away. I don’t want to look back on our years here and wish we’d done more. And to me, this also means just making a conscious effort to say ‘yes’ to things, even if it is outside our comfort zone.
But not so far outside our comfort zone that I think these Stairs of Death are a good idea. True story: I have now met two other people who went to see this house and knew exactly which one they were talking about when they started a sentence something like, “we saw this beautiful one but it had these STAIRS …”
3) Appreciate the culture here. To me, this means trying not to constantly make comparisons. Yeah, that can be hard. But we can’t come here expecting it to be more or less the same as the United States, but with different scenery. Some things are going to be difficult, or seem nonsensical, or just drive us crazy. Too damn bad – it is part of it all and it is my goal to try to keep myself from constantly thinking, “OUR WAY makes so much more sense.” That said, I don’t subscribe to the belief that you can’t criticize anything at all when you are an ex-pat. Sorry, but I whine about stuff at home too, LOL. And I will never not judge the guy with his small child on his motorcycle with no helmet, weaving in and out of traffic wildly while simultaneously smoking a cigarette — regardless of what country that happens in.
4) Learn to enjoy red wine, fish and espresso. Red wine because it is so beautiful to look at and supposedly ensures you live to be like 150 years old. I am actually already hard at work on this goal and it is going well. Fish because I feel like I need to get over my aversion to the texture, and an island seems like the place to give it a real try if I’m ever going to do it. And espresso because it seems like the thing to do here. I may need some new heartburn medication before I can put that one into practice though.
5) Send postcards to people back home. This may sound like a bit of a silly one, given I have a bunch of ways I can be in touch with our friends and family back in the States. However, there is just something special about picking out a specific postcard for someone, something more personal than a text or an e-mail. I also see it as a way of reminding the kids to be thinking of others even while we are far away.
6) Improve my photography skills. A couple birthdays ago, Chris surprised me with an awesome camera. I always meant to take a class or something to learn how to use it properly, but it just never happened. Well. In the next three to five years, we are going to have a lot of opportunities to see some incredible places and it seems like now would be the time to figure out how to take decent pictures.
7) Continue to update and grow this blog so that I can share my experiences with family, friends and anyone else who is considering traveling in Europe with small children. Along that same note, I want to reach out to and connect with other bloggers who are doing something similar.
8) Figure out how on earth to make pizza in our new house’s wood-fired pizza oven at least a couple of times. Why? Because it is there and that sounds awesome.
9) Go on this slide at least once. Because it looks really freaking cool.
10) Cultivate in the kids an interest in the people around them – and gratitude for the opportunities they are given. I’m honestly struggling to articulate this one right now. But basically it comes down to this: I understand that right now we are coming from a place of immense privilege by being here with the U.S. government. Being here, we have very few expenses and obviously quick access to so many places in Europe and elsewhere for weekend trips. We expect to be able to do a lot of traveling, and we know that isn’t something that many people — adults or small children — have the opportunity to do. Moreover, this island that we will be calling home for the next few years is itself not a wealthy place; according to an Oct. 29 article in The Economist, “about a quarter of Sicilians are ‘severely materially deprived,’ meaning that they cannot afford things like a car or to heat their home sufficiently.” I want our kids to grow up here understanding what an incredible opportunity they are being given and how lucky they are to have it – though how to implement this, exactly, is still a question that we’ll work to answer over time. I also want them to really be thinking about and talking to the people we meet along the way, here in Sicily and on our travels, and seeing them as individuals and not just part of the scenery in a cool place we are checking out. I want them to learn about what is happening in the world outside their own bubble, and to be in the habit of putting themselves into others’ shoes. In short, I want to raise socially-conscious, empathetic children who aren’t spoiled brats.
To be honest, typing that out makes me feel a little stressed out because it is a big responsibility. But these two are already so naturally sweet and empathetic, I think I don’t need to obsess too much. Except about spoiling them because man, are they good at getting what they want out of us!