Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bursting the Bubble

I know…many of you might not like this blog, but living in Italy isn’t always “la dolce vita” (the sweet life). It isn’t for the faint-hearted or anyone who isn’t willing to work hard and be tough. Unless, of course, you are independently wealthy and live your life in a bubble.

For those of you who know me well, you know that I am a pretty tough cookie and have been able to get through the hardest of times. In the past year, I’ve moved to a foreign country, learned a new language (or at least I’m doing my best), started renting an apartment again, looked for and finally found a job, left my beloved pets in Italy while I went through a bureaucratic nightmare in the States, had a stint in the hospital, and left the warmth of my family and friends back home. I’ve made it through all that but this month, even I feel as if I’ve had my butt kicked.

On a health note, I am getting better although I still have days that aren’t so great. I just finished my first full-time week since March 2008 to try and make up for all the time I missed while I was in the hospital and recovering. It felt good to get back on a regular schedule.

The first horrifying experience I had was a few weeks ago when I had a medical procedure which involves a very long tube with a camera on the end that is inserted into a very private area and pushed and shoved to the end of your intestines. Sound familiar? Well, try it without the benefit of sedatives or medication!

I have to tell you that it was the worst experience I have ever had in my life. I was screaming in pain and hitting and grabbing everything I could to try and get off that table, only to be told to calm down so I wouldn’t scare the people waiting in the hall. It was truly agonizing and very distressing. I kept asking for sedatives in my broken Italian, to no avail. I was in tears and hysterical by the time I left the hospital.

When my boss picked me up to take me home, his little girl was in the car and still hugs and kisses me every time she sees me. It was her first experience seeing an adult in distress and I will restate for the record that I can’t remember having been in that much distress for years.

It has been really hot and humid here. Lucca, being inside those beautiful fortress walls, has very little air that circulates during the hot months. I feel like I’m living in a sauna. Very few stores and homes have air-conditioning and I have three circulating fans going pretty much 24 hours a day. My poor girls just lay around like beached whales all day.

All the tourists are out en masse and it’s very difficult weaving in and out of them to take the girls for their 4-time-per-day walks. That’s right…now that it’s hot, they drink more water which equals more bathroom breaks. They absolutely hate the heat and Ruby stops in her tracks every five seconds because she’s too hot to walk. I am too hot to walk, too, but it’s a necessary evil when you have pets.

I ride my bicycle to and from work. I ride home for lunch and to take the girls out, then get back on the bike to ride back to work. This is during the hottest time of the day, of course. By the time I get inside the office I feel as if I’ve just been through a sweat shower. It was so hot on Friday that my key broke off inside my bike lock when I tried to unlock it.

I thought I had been safe from those pesky mosquitoes that just love the humidity here in Lucca, but about a dozen of them decided to have a party on my back a few days ago. I usually sleep with the Vape thing plugged in but forgot one night. I won’t forget again. I have bites in places where it’s impossible to scratch.

The toughest time I’ve had, though, has been with friends - or those who I thought were my friends here in Italy. My Italian friends have been very concerned about my health. Some of my ex-pat friends who I felt closest to didn’t end up being there when I needed them most and others went out of their way to help me get through this month.

It has been a very enlightening and disheartening experience. Two of my "friends" have completely distanced themselves from me because of jealousies and hurt feelings because I relied on another friend more than them. What is this? Kindergarten? I was and am grateful that my new friend came through for me. Without her help, it would have been an even rougher experience for me than it was. Very strange…I’ve learned a lot about ex-pats during the past few weeks…and, it has made me very grateful to have the truly good and dear family and friends that I do have.

This past month has also made me realize that I have to stay tough to make it here. Nothing goes as smoothly as you think it will and there always seem to be glitches at every turn. As I’ve said before, “It’s a simpler way of living, but it definitely isn’t easy.”

I've spent the past month "nesting" with some lovely new things that were given to me or sold at a great bargain by a friend who had to leave her home in Italy. I have had time to think a lot about what I need to do or change in my life to keep things moving forward. And, I know that I have to keep faith that things will work out. And, if they don't...everything happens for a reason.

This past month has also made me realize how alone I am here. I plan to work on that...I know that will make many of my family members and friends very happy. I've spent the past year trying to find a job and getting settled and now it's time to focus more on my personal life.

I hope I haven't burst too many of your bubbles. I don’t regret for a moment my decision to move here. I love Lucca, the people who live here, my walks on the walls, the wonderful food (although my bland diet doesn't allow me to eat many of these wondrous morsels), the incredible history, the delicious coffee and wine, and so many other things. All of these things get me through the tough times. So for now, I will continue to live “La Dolce Vita.”


Jill said...

it's called living in reality... life is not perfect, even in a seemingly perfect place. keep the faith. you are doing something that most people only dream about and that takes courage. sorry you have had such a hard time of it recently, but you are there for a reason and there is beauty in every day, you just have to find it.
take care, jill

Toscana Marlene said...

I know it's just a part of reality. I wanted people to know that it isn't like flitting around all day looking at beautiful things :-). Many people have expressed a desire to do this and I'm just so glad that I've been given the chance. As in all areas of life, there are good times, great times and not so sweet times. Next month will be better...

Valerie said...

You're just tired of us being jealous and trying to make us feel better LOL Watched the international real estate show with Frances & feel in love with Lucca! Amazing! But I certainly don't have the guts to move to a new country. You are a true pioneer! Keep your chin up - it will be worth it :D

Miss Expatria said...

Thank you for writing this. I sometimes have tried to write about the realities of living abroad, and no one wants to hear it.

I'm sorry your expat friends were not there for you. I did not have any expat friends in Italy - but I can only imagine the marked difference in their behaviors when comparing them to my Italian friends, who are angels sent to me directly from heaven.

Living in France is the first time I've had expat friends - and while we do tend to look out for each other, there is a kind of laissez-faire attitude among them when it comes to all but the most extreme circumstances.

That being said, they have come through for me many times, and I can't imagine how much more I would hate living in France if they were not around.

I never thought I'd say this, but don't give up on expats as a whole. Look for people you can connect with, no matter their nationality, and you'll be fine. It's when you have friendships solely based on circumstances that you have the experiences you had. I've been there.

Toscana Marlene said...

I know that after I wrote the blog it sounded as if I was slamming ex-pats. I didn't mean to...I was just slamming a few. And, I agree that SOME of them have the laissez-faire attitude you mentioned Miss Expat. However, some of them really came through for me. I couldn't have done it without them.

Toscana Marlene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wallacejl26 said...

Dear Aunt Marlene,
I get what you are saying and I am so sorry to hear the ache in your blog. Just a question, would a mosquito net help at all? We used them in Honduras and some seasons in Costa Rica and Mexico. As for no Anastasia, I can relate (not to the extent you had to deal with..) I had dental work done in Mexico without Anastasia. ouch! I do hope you take time out for yourself! I would love to hear good news on that end... Love you and know that you are in my prayers!!


Rob said...

I just got this blog note. You know, these are the times that try our souls! I know you made the right decision and it will all be good soon. From your video I can see you are nesting just right! It is to be 100 degrees plus today...dry as a bone...yuck! You are a tough cookie as you put it and this dream will come off, I know it.
Since I retired in June it has been one fun thing after another, but I would still love to come visit. I will send an e-mail privately after I have the same procedure you did this afternoon...only with strong sedatives!!
Stay strong. You are still my hero!

Martha said...

So glad to read that you are up and about. Recently I was also let down by friends, but not expats, but Italians who have been so kind and helpful in the past. For over a year they had agreed to provide a place for our dog to be buried but backed out at the last minute! Fortunately, a casual accquaintence stepped in at the last minute and saved the day. Their backing out was totally unexpected.
Sorry we are so far from you. Now I can invite you and the girls to come play in the country for a weekend if you would like.

Chip said...

Hi, Marlene --

We are so sorry you have had such a rough time of it lately. But you can tell from all of the wonderful comments here how much all of your friends and family support you and know you will make it through.

Mike and I saw the HGTV "International House Hunters" that was shot in Lucca and we have saved it on our DVR. We will watch it every now and again when we are thinking of you!


Chip & Mike

Toscana Marlene said...

Yes, Chip and Mike, I know that I have truly wonderful friends all over the world. That's why it came as such a big surprise when the people who I thought were my friends acted the way they did.

Thanks to all my family and friends for your ongoing support and love. You keep me motivated and help me get through the rough patches no matter where I am living! Love you all!

Scintilla @ Bell'Avventura said...

Sounds very familiar to me too. I blog about the good with the bad (more about the latter) but I still love the place.

giacomo ferrucci said...

I was reading my "La Nazione" italian news on internet, and of course about the article from Forbes and link by link I arrived to your blog.
I notice that we are in the same industry but I moved from Lucca to Chicago... well all my family still in Lucca and if you need some network I will be more then help you.
have a great time in Lucca.
you can contact me direct from my website.