Biking

Taking a break

I didn’t grow up regularly riding bikes.  Yes, I knew how but it simply wasn’t
something that we did regularly.  Much of
this had to do with how hilly our neighborhood was but beyond that I’m not
really sure why biking wasn’t part of our days. 

Aside from one wobbly attempt in Guam in 1999, my bike-riding career ended when
I was 9.  I liked the idea of riding
around town but couldn’t get past the wobbly, somewhat out of control
part.  I even had a great, European
looking cruiser that Jeff bought me when we found out we was moving to Italy. 

And yet it sat.  It
got to the point that the kids thought I didn’t actually know how to ride
because when they would head out on bike rides with Jeff, I would stay home.

One day last year Jeff convinced me to go for a ride while
the kids were at school.  It wasn’t
pretty.  There was a lot of wobbling and
I was scared to death every time a car drove by but deep down, I liked it.  

Then winter came and my bike retreated to the attic.   You know where all bikes spend the cold
months. 

Yet, I still couldn’t escape the images of how riding a bike, as silly as it
sounds, is so much a part of European life. 

There are the local grandmas riding around town as they check errands off their
list.

Our butcher’s wife as she loads up her cooler full of meat,
places it in her bike basket and hits the road to make deliveries.

The moms and grandpas who put a small pillow on the little luggage
rack on the back of their bike, have their (grand)child hop on and ride
home.  

My family and I on our bikes getting some exercise and enjoying the sun.

All summer my bike sat, save for the few times Jeff used
it. 

As the summer came to a close and the heat subsided a bit, I
was finally convinced (read: pressured) by my family to join them on a Sunday
afternoon ride.  I told Jeff that he had
to be responsible for watching the kids because I couldn’t focus on them and be
safe myself and we were off.  


We rode down to the bike path, passed the train station and onto some back
roads.  We stopped a long the way to pick
figs and wild berries. 

We commented on the sunflowers and unending rows of
corn. 

At one point I was so into the ride that I just took off…leaving
my family in the dust (those big wheels on the cruiser helps!).  The feel of the wind blowing through my hair the
sun beating down on my face was just what I needed.   

Six miles later, we were home and I was hooked. 

These days you can find me riding bikes to school with the kids and a few weeks
ago rather than walk or drive to the next town over for a quick stop at the
produce stand, I grabbed a backpack and jumped on my bike. 

Just like the locals.

 

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Ring the Bells

February 2

There are many aspects of our life that are exactly the same
as they were when we lived in the states. 
We have the same furniture, I cook mainly the same things, our habits
are essentially as they were two years ago.

The one thing that is sure to remind me that we are in fact living
in Italy is the sound of the church bells. 

While the ringing of the church bells is traditionally done
as a call to prayer, we also view it as a very practical way to know what time
it is. 

I don’t notice them each time they ring, nor are we home all
the time.  But we almost  always hear the first bells of the morning ring
at 7:00 am.  Time to get up and start
your day.   (My personal rule for the
weekends is that I don’t get out of bed until I’ve heard the bells.)

Typically I hear them around noon.  Yes, this is a reminder to pray but I also
often think of it as a way to remind the community to wrap up what you are
doing and prepare for lunch.

The final bells we hear are around 7:00 (time for dinner!) and 9:00 which
signals the end of the day.

I love the tradition and the rhythm.  

There are some days when the bells ring at unusual times.  Today was one.  When I heard the bells ring at 2:45 I knew
that there must be a funeral taking place in town.  And just as I sat to write, the bells rang
again signaling the end of the mass and the beginning of the procession to the cemetery. 

While the gentle nudges to shift focus during the day are
nice, I think learning more about the specific types of prayer, Praying the
Hours or Liturgy of the Hours, would be really interesting.  It seems like it would be an amazing practice
to begin.

 

On Laundry

So, there goes the 31 days thing.  I came down with a nasty head cold late last
week and just couldn’t put together a decent thought.  Seeing as I have never been one to write posts
in advance, there just was no way I was going to get a post up.  Throw in a few technical glitches and well
here we are.  I’m giving myself grace and
moving on.

To get back on track today I’ll share about one of the less glamorous aspects
of living in Italy. 

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Laundry.

One would think that the process of making sure your family
has clean clothes would be the same all over the world.  Or at least throughout the first world. 

You would be wrong. 

We were given a washer and dryer to borrow during our time
here. However, they aren’t the massive, efficient machines of America.   Both are much smaller than those that we are
used to and the dryer doesn’t really dry it just takes most of the water
away.  Plus, because of the way the electricity
is wired, we can only run one at a time. 
Which is a challenge when you have laundry for five. 

Thankfully, we had gotten used to almost always hang drying
our clothes while we were still in Colorado so the transition to that was
easy. 

Making it all even better is that we not only have a huge laundry room which
makes it easy to have three drying racks up and in use at all times but we have
a balcony off the laundry room.  Which
means we have the view above whenever we move the racks outside (which is
almost always). 
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There is nothing like catching a glimpse of the sunrise over Austria (yes, we
can see the mountains of Austria from there) as you hang laundry at 6:00 on a
Monday morning.

My sister said it best when she told me, “I’ve never enjoyed doing laundry as
much as I did on your balcony.”

Slow Living

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One of my most favorite things about life in Italy is how
Italians value relationship and living out the moments of life in community with those they care about most. 

It can easily be said that everything happens
very slowly here in Italy.  Projects that
we as Americans would think of as one-day jobs take three or more (and that’s
typically after several weeks of permit approval and coordination). 

Whiles it's true that some of this is  due to beauracracy.   I truly believe that much of is simply because of
the Italian pace of life.

Here, we don’t rush. 
It doesn’t matter if you’re headed to school, work or a vacation.  It will always be there.   It is safe to say that punctuality is a bit
different in Italian life.  I’m used to a
“15 minutes early is one time culture” as a military wife where here it can
easily be said that 15 minutes late is right on time.

Not only do Italians not rush for much but a high premium is placed on down
time and relationships.  I absolutely
adore that every business establishment (save some of the major grocery stores)
close for vacation, usually two weeks at a time.  Is it an inconvenience to find your regular
gas station closed when you’re running on fumes?  Yes. 
But it’s your own damn fault for not filling up sooner.  The same can be said for the fact that most
businesses are closed on Sundays.  The
world absolutely keeps turning while these businesses are closed and in the
meantime the owners and their families get to rest and rejuvenate. 

This is my ideal. 

Rather than spending Sundays pumping gas, selling groceries
or running in to the office, our neighbors are found relishing leisurely
afternoons with several generations of their family over pasta, sausage and
wine. 

The same can be said for riposo.  Each day between 1 and 3 (or so) most of our
community closes down.  This is similar
to siesta in that it gives families a time to enjoy the mid-day meal and
rest.  Again, can it be frustrating?  Yes but only when the perspective and value
in such a practice is lost. 

To me, these simple practices can change the world.  This blog post also shares a similar
perspective on the priorities we choose in life. 

While much of the impact is found in these routine, daily
practices (so true in all of our days!) after living here for two years I get
the sense that even without these default pauses in the day, relationship is
still number one.  

I see in how each person is greeted as you pass on the sidewalk whether you
know them or not. 

It’s in the ease of which a neighbor offers to make café
when someone stops by their house. 

And I see it when our community comes together on the first
day of school, at the summer camp program and at the movies in the piazza. 

It’s relationship. Slow and steady.  One minute at a time.

**I came across this blog post today and it resonated with me so much.**

Two Worlds Collide

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Our experience living overseas is a bit different from most expats who pack up and move abroad.  For those families, once they board that plane and leave the US, their life shifts to that of the country they are moving to.  Because Jeff is Active Duty Air Force there are parts of our life that will always be tied to the "American Life" simply because he puts on his uniform every day and drives to base.  

Clearly, there is nothing wrong with having an American influence.  We are proud of Jeff's service and our home country but we also know there is no one "right" way to live.

No one best country.

Many people assigned to our base go the entire three years (or so) of their assignment without shopping on the economy or eating in a restaurant where only Italian is spoken.  I respect that choice but if I'm honest, I think it's sad because there is just so much out there to experience.     

So, for our family, our mindset has been that if we are going to live here for four years, we want to truly live here.  

Sure, we shop on base for some things (peanut butter and oatmeal are hard to come by in Italy) but we also go to our local corner store almost daily for fresh bread, cheese and milk. It's great that we're able to take advantage of our town's library (awesome for the kids to practice their Italian reading) but I'm so thankful for the library on base where I can borrow many of those books on my every growing to-read list.  Similarly, being able to gather with friends for burgers and fireworks on the 4th of July is great when you're far from "home" but you can bet we're just as likely to hit the festival in the town down the road.  

And so, we live in middle.  

The collision, really, of two worlds.  

The result is more than I could imagine.  

The best of both.