Sunday, November 22, 2009

Learning to live with habits…

I have now lived in Lucca for almost 15 months! What a year it has been. Things are back to semi-normal now. Summer has come and gone and fall is in the air. The leaves are absolutely beautiful this time of year and there is a crispness in the air that you can almost taste. The sun has been shining brightly and everyone is out and about enjoying the break in the rain. I feel like I’m finally getting a fresh start on my life here.

The fortress walls are filled with strollers, people on bikes and rollerbladers. There’s something invigorating about walking in the brisk air and having leaves fall all around you. The walls are lined on both sides of much of the wall with beautiful trees that are so old that they create a bower over your head. I’ve seen unique leaves that are native to this area that are non-existent in the States (or at least I’m not aware of them). They almost resemble a large acorn with the end cut off.

The leaves are some of the most vivid colors imaginable. They are the same colors that are painted on the homes in Tuscany, so I am sure they have been the inspiration throughout the years for these gorgeous colors. Of course, autumn is my favorite time of year so it makes it extra special for me to be able to finally enjoy an actual change in seasons.

Things seem to be going very smoothly with my paperwork to stay here. My new company is very pleased with my work and has been great at helping me deal with the bureaucracy of getting to stay in the country. The company attorney went with me personally to meet with the head of Immigration and I was told I just need to renew my permesso (permit) to stay here. Hopefully, everything will continue to go smoothly and I can return to the States to visit for fun instead of dealing with the stress of bureaucracy for a while.

I plan to stay in Italy for the holidays this year so I can experience Christmas and New Year’s with the locals. Lucca is already getting prepared for Christmas and the streets are lined with lights and the store windows are filled with decorations.

My health is pretty much back to normal and I am once again eating more things than rice, potatoes and carrots. After a visit to a very well-respected doctor who is the father-in-law of a friend of mine, I was diagnosed with colitis and after a three-week period of drugs and a very bland diet, my problems seem to be gone. Yeah!

Now, I want to focus more on an actual social life. I know I’ve said that before but it seems a lack of work, then working at a new job, and then dealing with being sick for over four months had left me with no time or the desire for one.

The Italians seem to be people who develop and stick to life-long habits. I have habits that haven’t been that healthy such as holing myself up in the house after work. I plan to go for more walks around the walls now that I and the weather are better. I want to run into people I see on a daily basis and stop for chats. I also plan to get up a little earlier so I can stop by a local coffee shop for a cappuccino every morning. And, go out in the crowds for the afternoon passegiata through the streets. After all, how am I supposed to meet more of the locals if I don’t get out and about? They have seen their parents and grandparents do this and now are doing it themselves. It’s so nice to see people with routines that are more sociable.

I’ve resumed weekly conversational Italian lessons with a wonderful group of people, several of whom I already knew and was delighted to see in the class. I also go to a monthly English book club meeting where I’ve met lots of expats and several Lucchese.

I began a Meetup group last year for expats and locals who want to meet new friends. After a slow start, we now have lots of members and have had some very successful turnouts. I have met friends from all over the States, Great Britain and Europe. One of our most recent and favorite outings was to Il Desco. It is a mercato that is held indoors in the college behind San Frediano church. All the vendors are from the province of Lucca and sell the fruits of their long year of labor.

On the first floor you can find wonderful local wines, olive oils that are so green they bite when you taste them, breads, fagioli (beans) and legumes, polenta, formaggi, meats, pepperoncini, jams and many things made from chestnuts. On the top floor are beautiful works of art, including handcrafted items, paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and much more. In the afternoons you can listen to live music played by musicians from all over the world.

On Thanksgiving, I and several of the Meetup members will be attending an official Thanksgiving dinner put on for Americans and people who want to experience the holiday. I hope to meet many new friends there.

Hopefully, my blogs will become more interesting when I have more fun experiences to share. I’ll keep you posted…