The Expats Club

Before I ever decided to move abroad, I had many friends in my life who were world travelers and lived abroad at different points in their lives and many still do. I always looked at them with such envy for their strength and bravery to just walk into a new life. I never thought of myself as someone with that kind of courage.

The act of travel changes us. It expands our minds to new cultures, new ways of doing things and new ways of thinking. And sometimes if we are really lucky, it exposes our true passion in life, raw and unfiltered, staring you in the face. That is one way I could describe my first trip to Italy. Once I saw what I saw and experienced that first taste, I couldn’t look back. I couldn’t escape my desire to spend more time around this place, so here I am.

It sounds so simple but its really not. It never is. I have made a lot of sacrifices in my life to do this. Yes there are challenges here – a lot! Yes I deeply miss my family, friends and animals – a lot! Life is not always perfect, anywhere! But I wouldn’t change my decision for the world. I am so different and inspired everyday.  That’s always the case in life. No matter where you are or what you do, sometimes you go through shitty experiences and sometimes you have the most amazing life-changing, thought-provoking experiences. It’s always like that. Just like your mom’s chicken noodle soup will always taste like home no matter where you are. Take comfort in it all because all of these experiences make us uniquely us.

Now I get it, traveling is like falling in love. Once you are bitten by the bug, you cannot escape it. It becomes part of you. It changes your mindset, always for the better I do believe and always leaving you craving more. You can’t go back to the comfortable life you once knew before or even who you were. You can’t settle for a normal, mundane existence because you know firsthand of a bigger and better one out there. You don’t know exactly how to keep this new hungry bug fed and happy but you just know that you will figure it out.

If you are anything like me, you learn that sometimes you have to let go of some of your heavily engrained personality defects like being a control freak and perfectionist haha why yes, I am a dark tortured artist at heart, its in our nature! 😉

One day you wake up and you realize you are now part of this secret club of expats all over the world. There are people all over just like me, who leaped (more like face planted in my case) out of their comfort zone and into a foreign country with different languages, styles, processes, everything. They understand the roller coaster of emotion that comes with living abroad. They understand the frustrations of dealing with immigration offices, people who don’t speak English and because you don’t speak their language well enough to understand what the fuck they are trying to tell you; you’re the asshole, and all the shit you just don’t understand because it simply doesn’t make any sense. So why do we deal with all of this? Because its a freakin amazing experience!! And how do I deal with this? I personally usually try to cure it with some humor because what other option is there really? It’s that or tears so I usually shoot for humor. I often joke about Italy being the loveliest third world country I’ve ever been to or about how Steve Jobs unfortunately did not rub off on this place because nothing is intuitive. It still makes me chuckle as I write this, because its all kinda true! Basically, the internet, phone and all customer service in general is pretty much shit here. I even have met some Italians that agree about all of this stuff and yet they love their country, as do I!!

I have lived long enough to experience a successful career, be a homeowner with all of the responsibilities that come with it and continued to make more money every year consecutively for the last 10 years or so. I was by no means rich but I was comfortable to do what I wanted and I did it all on my own. I basically walked away from all of that comfort to live abroad. What I have learned from it all is that yes money is important in life but experiences are priceless. I wholeheartedly believe that if you are doing what you love and are truly where you want to be, you will grow exponentially as a person and the money will come. I’m not sure exactly where I’m going but I know I am on the right path. Although there are many things in a foreign country that make you feel uncomfortable at times, knowing there are so many people out there that are in the same boat as you and “get it” helps, knowing that I inspire people that I look up to helps, and knowing the love and support I receive from all over the world makes me smile. 🙂

Life in Florence

Ok so first let me apologize for not writing sooner. I have been very busy with school and I always intend on writing a post and usually don’t get around to it.

Living in Florence is really cool but being from the states, it is definitely a bit of a culture shock at times. One of the coolest things about my school is that although it is an Italian school, it is specifically geared to foreign students so there are students from all of the world but none of them are Italian. The only bad part is I really need Italian friends to explain some of the stuff I don’t understand…lol but I think that will come with time. Aside from that it’s so awesome that I am literally meeting people from all over the world. Not only do I get to learn all about Italy but I also get to make friends and learn about all different cultures. And although we all come from different places, we are bonded together by the fact that we are all trying to find our way through the Italian confusion and we came here to learn about design. It’s not only comforting but also quite refreshing because it further reinforces for me that although I come from a place that does things one way, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one way is right and the other is wrong, it’s simply different. Of course, I know this but I just find it to be so enlightening because this idea really can be applied to everyone we meet and many ideas we think we know in life.

There is such an amazing level of self exploration into my own mind lately and why it works the way it does. Lately I find myself questioning certain things I do or think and pondering whether I am this way because growing up in America or the way in which I was raised or even simply growing up in Florida – have I been socialized to think certain ways? How much of what we perceive to be our reality as we know it is a socialized way of thinking vs. the idea that this is truly what we believe because it’s our opinion? And even still how do you know you aren’t socialized to think that way? All I really know is that I don’t have the answers but I believe that it just goes to show how important it is to not assume anything about anyone else and keep a friendly open minded approach when meeting people. I notice things like this at school because anyone who knows me knows that I am not shy and I am quite a social extrovert, quite opinionated but always with the best of intentions. I have never really had any trouble making friends but it fascinates me to watch others and how they interact with each other. I feel lucky to be so comfortable in social situations but still sometimes find it hard to connect with people here.  I really just want to leave this country with as many friends from all over the world as I can.

I think that is definitely what is happening but I also think that I am changing in that I am much more self aware and its a beautiful thing. It’s great to learn about different cultures but its also great to learn about yourself and grow your mind in more ways than just mastering a skill like design. I knew going into this experience and I still believe that there is no way that me coming here would be a mistake. No matter what happens throughout my time in Italy, I already feel like I am a more open-minded person and see myself changing, hopefully for the better! 🙂

One of my biggest challenges in Italy so far is…

Finding the right creamer for my coffee!! It sounds silly, like this should be quite simple right? Wrong!

In the states, they pasteurize the heck out of everything. I would buy organic milk and it would stay good for over a month. My friends here think that’s crazy. Here in Italy, the milk and cream you buy in the grocery store is fresh and unpasteurized. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious but I am only one person and it goes bad in 2 days.

Of course, everything is in Italian and my crappy phone service seems to go out everytime I’m in the grocery store and need my trusty google translate.

So the other day I was in the store on a mission for “the right creamer”, the stuff I can keep for at least a week basically. I got the courage to ask a store worker if they spoke English and this nice man who didn’t really speak English attempted to help me. He tried to tell me to buy these things.

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The problem with these things is that they are so small and there’s only about 10 of them. Why can’t I just buy a little box or something? Why is this so difficult? In case you are all wondering, the reason this is so difficult is because it’s Italy…nothing is simple here!!! Haha you have to just laugh at so much of the bureaucracy here because it’s rampant and Italians just accept it. Some rules are randomly complex and in the end no one really cares of these rules are followed so every day you just laugh and go with the flow.

Getting back to my creamer crisis, I want a damn box or bottle or something that is going to satisfy more than one cup of coffee. I don’t want to go to the busy, compact grocery store everyday, nor do I have time. So I pick up this box nearby the little packets the man recommended and I asked about this stuff. I said what is it. Of course he couldn’t tell me but he said the other stuff was better.

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So I end up buying both, afterall I am living in a foreign country and consider myself to be a bit adventurous. I’ve tried both. The little things are wonderful but it’s only about 2 cups of coffee worth. This mysterious box is sweetened and a creamy and I finally was able to use google translate which told me it’s called “to mount with sugar”. Wtf does that mean, right? It’s quite tasty but I have no idea what I’m putting in my coffee. It appears to be a vegetable based substance, yet doesn’t taste like a soy or rice milk type of product. For some reason, I think it may be the base used for making ice cream or something. No clue. The struggle is alive and real for some simple coffee creamer that won’t go bad and last more than 2 days.

Mi Italiano Appartamento

After many hours spent getting this place cleaned and smelling less like someone died in this place before they had a chance to clean, here it is! My little home for the next 4 to 9 months. I only signed a 4 month lease in case I didn’t like this place and want to move to a different neighborhood in Decemeber. So far, I really like the area and now that it’s clean it’s def starting to feel more like home.

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Here’s my futon/couch – perfect for friends to come visit and crash on!!

 

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Here’s a panoramic view of the main living space.

 

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the dining area

 

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Here’s my little tv and bedroom door.

 

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Here’s my bed and that drying rack thing is called a clothes dryer in Europe.

 

This evening, I actually cooked dinner for the first time in the apartment and it was quite delish! The only thing that is going to take some getting adjusted to is the lack of space in the kitchen. Tonight I made chicken and pasta with zucchini, carrots and onion – all with a garlic, lemon and white wine sauce. And some homemade bruschetta for the apertivo of course. It was quite tasty!

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Check out the size of this lemon!

 

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Buon appetito! 🙂

 

Getting the hang of this..

First off, I want to thank everyone who reached out and offered some kind words after my awful move in day. Things are getting better. The other day, my mom and I went on an interesting little bus adventure to Ikea and I bought some things for the apartment to make it feel a little more like home. I am on the spoiled side so I opted for a new sheet set, down blanket and pillows. If I am not sleeping well, I will be a complete bitch and nobody wants that to happen, trust me! lol for me, this is worth the investment and I can ship this stuff home later anyways. 

Yesterday we took all the towels and linens, both new and old to the laundromat and washed and dried everything so all is clean. Then we cleaned the floors, bathroom and about half the kitchen. Part of the problem with the kitchen is all of the kitchenware is dirty so its a process to clean everything. I am by no means a clean freak but other peoples’ filth is way grosser than my own but I feel like in general that’s true for most people.

The landlady came over last night and removed the camera in my bathroom, claiming it is a fake camera to dissuade intruders. I’m not sure how effective that is considering there’s only about 4 or 5 apartments in my building and it’s a walkup. You have to get buzzed into the main door outside by one of the apartments. Half the time I can barely open my apartment door with the key and there’s really nothing of value in here. Plus you can’t easily see the camera from the hall. Anyway it’s gone, that’s what’s important.

I am so grateful to have my mom here to experience all of this with me and help me get everything in order before school starts. She is here until Thursday. We are looking forward to doing a bit more sightseeing and hopefully some traveling in the next few days before she leaves. Thinking of visiting the Uffizi Musuem tomorrow and Cinque Terre in the next few days. I just want to veg on a beach for a few days and do nothing before school starts.

Moving day..missing the comforts of home!

It is only fair that I tell you all the bad with the good as I experience it. That said, today was the suckiest of days thus far on my new adventure. A day that, in my head was going to be great, turned out to be quite shitty. Today I moved into my new apartment, which I didn’t get to move into until 6pm because the landlady told me she needed to have the apartment cleaned. Ok, I will be the first to admit that I may be a little spoiled in America with my laundry dryer, my memory foam bed and my down comforter and pillows. I appreciate good quality sheets with nice and high thread count. My apartment in Florence is filthy!!

When you rent a furnished student apartment, everything is included from silverware and tupperware to bed linens and towels – all of which was not cleaned. Even the fridge, which was nice and cold had a live spider in it. I miss my puppy, but this is not the kind of pet I was looking for! The fridge was dirty, the bathroom was dirty, the tupperware has mold growing on it. I’m pretty sure I am renting Michelangelo’s old apartment because I don’t think the vacuum cleaner has been replaced since he lived here! The toilet is dirty, the shower is dirty, which makes me question the pillows, blankets and linens all which are also probably Michelangelo’s because they literally feel like they are 5000 years old!

I am especially frustrated because i am tired and the jet lag has set in. I spent the day roaming the city anxiously awaiting til 6pm to move in, only to find everything in disarray and by the time I found this out, all of the stores in Florence are closed. Even if i had bought new overpriced sheets and towels, since there is no dryer there is no way they would have been cleaned in time for me to use this evening.

Adding to my frustrations as if this was not enough, there appears to be a surveillance camera in my bathroom that looks out a window at my front door. Who is monitoring who comes to visit me, why is this an issue and most importantly why isn’t this disclosed upfront? Also how do I know if there is sound or not on that thing-super creepy right?! I was told when I signed my lease that contracts are next to impossible to break in Italy so I only signed a 4 month lease here but at this point if I were to try and get out of it, I would be responsible for all 4 months of rent upfront.

As a lay here, exhausted and both physically and mentally drained listening to my bathroom sink make a dripping sound somewhere deep in the drain pipe, even though the faucet isn’t dripping, I can’t help but wonder if all I sacrificed for this was worth it. I miss my friends. I miss hugs from people who care. I miss my clean house and my comfy bed. I miss my pets. I miss hearing people speak English. I really miss doing laundry with a dryer. I miss my comfort zone.

This post is an important one because shit got really real today for the first time yet. Everyone who expressed envy can now bask in your comforts of home. I realize that it is early in my trek and by no means am I running home. I’m just frustrated but tomorrow will include lots of cleaning, cursing and a trip to Ikea and I know this too shall pass.

On a happy note, other students from my school from all of the world are starting to arrive. Next week will hopefully include some amazing travels, meeting of new friends and final preparations for school. The drain has stopped dripping so on that note, I need sleep! Goodnight all. Hope your day was better than mine!

I’m here!!

I am finally living my dream in Florence, Italy. I have been in the city since Sunday and by Tuesday I had found an apartment. It’s a small furnished apartment in the Santa Croce area. Tomorrow, which is Wednesday I will move into my apartment! The next few days will entail picking up some things for the apartment, getting some books for school, doing some shopping and some site-seeing. Pictures are coming soon!

Even though I have been here for a few days already, it still doesn’t feel like my real life yet. I wonder when that feeling will kick in. I wonder how living here will change me, aside from my growing waistline!! I am hopeful and optimistic that I will make great friends and get to travel to all kinds of cool places. I hope that this experience opens my mind to different cultures and ways of life. I also hope to obviously obtain my masters degree, master some Italian cooking skills and become fluent in conversational Italian. I am fully aware that this is an opportunity of a lifetime that most people, including myself, dream about! I will not to waste or take this opportunity for granted.

Although I already miss my friends, my family and my pets back home, I know that physical distance doesn’t change the connections I have with anyone back in the states. I am blessed with amazing, loving and supportive people in my life that we can just pick up where we left off whenever we talk. It is a beautiful thing! Love you all, will update more soon! 🙂