Sweet Home New York City

I love my life in Italy; it’s a magical adventure filled with wonder, many discoveries, and lots of beauty.  School is a full and fantastic busy, and I have fabulous colleagues.  Yet . . . my home will always be NYC.

Getting here was quite an adventure.  I departed on the morning of December 20th, eager for an evening arrival home.  Mamma’s cooking, cuddling with my cats, and seeing friends — a cozy, chill welcome.  Instead, my flight from Genoa was cancelled.  I was at the airport with several colleagues who were taking the same connecting flight to Munich before departing for our various destinations across the US.  As we waited, we saw one of my students, his sister and father.  They were on their way to LA.

DELAYED.  We stared at the board and I grew more and more nervous as my connection in Munich was just over an hour.  First a half hour delay, then an hour delay.  Then it disappeared off the monitor.  This was how they informed us that our flight was cancelled. We followed my students’ father outside security as he explained that this happened last week with the same flight.  Mechanical difficulties.  My student said, ‘They were spinning the propellar for an hour, then gave up.”

After an hour online to rebook our tickets, wondering if they could find us seats during the Christmas rush, we finally had our new connections.  I was going to Munich at 5, then to Frankfurt where I’d sleep in a hotel and fly out the next morning.  17 hour delay.  During this process, several other coworkers popped into the airport for Ryan Air flights to England.  When Ryan Air is the reliable flight, you know you’re in trouble.

I was sad because I was supposed to land in NYC at 6pm that night, and possibly go out to meet some friends.  But instead, I passed out exhausted in a really nice hotel room with light snow outside in Munich.  It looked like the bed was comfortable until I went onto it and almost bounced off a la Clark Griswold in European Vacation.

To the airport early in the AM.  Lufthansa was full so they rebooked me on United and the woman was kind and upgraded me to premium economy extra legroom seat.  I didn’t realize until I boarded the plane and learned that these seats usually cost an extra $179 each way.  Finally a break.  I slept most of the flight, read a bit, and then flew over Brookside Swim Club, my old summer hangout where I worked, taught swim lessons, and was head lifeguard for many years.  Now I go as a patron.  My parents live very close, so I tried to spot the house, but couldn’t find it.  I did see my high school, then the NYC skyline.  Oh, how could I ever leave this great city?  Only for a place as magnificent as Italy. I swear, New Yorkers have to be darned choosy when we take a post overseas.  And there’s no where else I’d rather live in the states.

Groggy and sleepy, I showered for a tea party with family friends, then showered again to go to a dinner party.  Halfway through the appetizers, it was 3:45am on my clock.  I didn’t make it to dinner and was in bed soon after.  On my way out of the city, I met up with a friend for quick drink and a fun reunion.  I mentioned something about going home on January 5th, and he said, “This is home.  You are going to Italy on January 5th.”  Ahh, yes.

The following day, I chilled, went for a haircut and enjoyed my cats.  On the 23rd, my parents and I took a train into Manhattan to see the decorations, the windows, and go to the Bryan Park Christmas Markets, a tradition my mom and I have done since 2007.  This year, Dad joined.  It was a beautiful sunny day, and it hurt my heart to see places that were so everday to me, so splendid . . .and knowing that soon I have to leave again until the summer.

Christmas Eve, I met up with two great friends for lunch in Ho-Ho-Kus.  Turkey and Brie.  mmm.  Turkey!  My brother joined the fam for dinner that night, and then it began snowing! Soon after, I drove to Fordham to sing with choir alumni in the beautiful Midnight Mass, a tradition that I have been doing since 2002 after I graduated.

Christmas Day, I woke up to a sunny, cozy morning, nursed a big coffee (can’t do that in Italy, although the flavor is much better) and opened a handful of gifts.  It was a modest Christmas, but that is good because how much can I carry back anyway?  And I got some nice things, including a Chi flat iron to play with.  Also, I have a nice check which I decided to use for Spring Break.  I’m taking suggestions.  Where shall I go? So exciting.

It was so wonderful to be with the family, with everyone I love.  It is very strange to live abroad, with people who are fast acquaintances and buddies, but you are away from your true friends and family.  Your coworkers become your surrogate family — but it’s just not the same.  Permanent expat life is so tempting, but this is the hard side.  Being away.  I don’t think I can stay forever.  But the reunion was so nice and filled me with a warm glow.  Content.  I am blessed.

Merry Christmas.  Buon Natale a tutti!

Here is a slideshow of my pictures in America so far.


Flying over Brookside. By the time I got my camera out, a cloud was in the way, but it’s the oval below with the docks. Cute.


My high school


NYC skyline


1 World Trade Center with the newly added spire


Macy’s Herald Square



Bryant Park

IMG_5176 IMG_5175 IMG_5197 IMG_5199 IMG_5200 IMG_5201 IMG_5202 IMG_5203 IMG_5204 IMG_5205 IMG_5206 IMG_5207 IMG_5208 IMG_5209 IMG_5225 IMG_5227 IMG_5235 IMG_5236 IMG_5237

Buon Natale!

My heart is officially melted into a puddle. The grandpa upstairs just knocked on my door to invite me to dinner tomorrow night to “mangiare con amici per Natale.” (to eat with friends for Christmas). He first tried asking me in English bc he knows I’m American but it was hard for him. I said I can understand a bit of Italian. So sweet!  I explained in a mix of Italian and English that I’m leaving tomorrow morning and I’ll be back 6 Gennaio.   So he said after I return. We will eat with friends.  Awwww. Grazie Mille!  🙂


My heart is already overflowing from the wonderful winter program today, the adorable children, and an impromptu fun gathering in the staff room with great coworkers.  

Thoughts and Prayers with Newtown, CT

I work in a school that houses kids ages 3-18. One of the best parts of my day is when I get to see the little ones, walking by with their sweet faces and innocent joy — it just warms my heart. How can you do anything but smile and love them? Today, the memorial page for Sandy Hook Elementary features photos and collages of their sweet cherubs. Beyond heartbreaking. 

Before I left for our staff party up on a hill in gorgeous, seaside Bogliasco, I saw a “breaking news” post about a shooting in CT. It said that the gunman was dead and at least 3 people were injured. I thought to myself, “I’m so glad nobody died except the gunman” and was slightly disturbed at yet another school shooting. When I came back from the party, bubbly and happy after a great evening of live music, great friends /colleagues, and wonderful food — I wrote a couple of carefree emails, oblivious to the horrible news and grieving everyone was going through. I then read an email from my father who said he was “sick over the news in CT.” On my Twitter feed, I saw he had posted this story from CBS Local in NYC. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/12/14/police-respond-to-report-of-school-shooting-in-conn/

Instantly, I was sick to my stomach and began the never-ending tears as I saw that at least 27 people were killed . . . 20 of them children aged 6 and 7. How do you shoot an innocent child? How do you do it 20 times? We are all wondering the same things. I began to get responses back to my emails regarding the weekend. One friend wrote that he was “mostly drinking away the horrible news day.” He works for a news website, and they have TVs in the office playing the news all day . . .so when it’s a bad news day, it’s overload. I felt like an idiot for being so bubbly and happy, but I didn’t know. The news is now global news as the world mourns and wonders why. Here is an article on my yahoo.it homepage. http://it.notizie.yahoo.com/strage-di-bambini-usa-sotto-choc-obama-mai-155000716.html. My students will definitely want to talk about it in class tomorrow. These things just don’t happen here in Italy, especially in safe Genoa. But as we learned from the horrific summer 2011 shooting in peaceful Norway, nowhere is safe anymore.

I felt so buffered here in Italy, without a TV and so far from everything. Yet news travels quickly with modern technology, and the grief is palpable thousands of miles away. CT, part of the NYC metro area, the tri-state area, is close to home in many ways. I am familiar with the location of the wooded town in Western, CT — always feeling safe and at peace when I drive through that part of the state. I can’t comprehend the shock, the parents with Christmas gifts waiting in their hiding spots, the parents with dreams for their little cherubs’ futures.

While it was mentally good to be detached from the media, I did need more information so read as much as I could, followed statuses on facebook and twitter, and watched clips of news reports from home, learning about the teachers’ amazing bravery as they thought quickly to save their children’s lives. Some of those teachers, including 27-year-old Victoria Soto, did not make it although her students did. She sacrificed her life for her kids. What an amazing, brave and heroic woman.

My friend posted this amazing quote from Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers


As I said in the heartbreaking aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, we get through tragedy through the triumph of the human spirit — by connecting and reaching out to each other. And that is definitely what I see now. And while it is no consolation and there are no words that can ever make sense of this unthinkable act, I wish everyone as much peace as is possible at this difficult time.


I never got to know you, but I will remember you. Rest in peace.