I posted my spring break memories in April so they are in the appropriate timeline. However, I’m posting the links here so you can read the journey if you are interested:
After Christmas in 2009, through the New Year, I went to one of my favorite places, Bruges – as mentioned in previous posts such as My Magic Bruges. On that trip, I was relaxing and warming up in the hostel common area when a friendly fellow backpacker wandered in. His name was Joseph, and he spoke briefly with my friend and me. I had plans to see my Belgian friends, and then we left the hostel the next day. But just in that short time, it was clear this person would become a nice friend. Thanks to facebook, it was easy for that to happen.
We chatted online over the years. Joseph is even more of a Europhile than I am, and with his duel French citizenship, he has lived in France and now Ferrara, Italy since he departed his hometown in Midwestern, Iowa. When I was in Italy in the summer of 2011, Joseph gave me some great advice as my mother and great aunt prepared to visit the hometowns of my great grandparents in Emilia Romagna, his local region. With our tight travel schedule, we didn’t get to meet up, although I appreciated his super helpful advice.
Last January, when I received the job offer in Italy, Joseph was one of my biggest proponents. “Come to Italy,” he said. “I’ll visit Genoa and we’ll paint the town red.” I knew how happy he was teaching English language at the University of Ferrara, and I knew it was time to live my dream as an expat abroad. It was extra encouraging to know I’d have a friend in country.
When I arrived in Italy, Joseph was there to chat on Skype, counsel me through the many translation or bureaucratic issues, and we shared many laughs and good times, becoming even closer friends. Due to our busy schedules, most of the year went by before either of us had a chance to visit each other. Finally, with my summer flight home booked, and the last of my visitors had departed, I set a date for the weekend of May 25th. I was going to Ferrara, finally! And I would see Joseph in person for the first time in 3 years. Wow.
Over the years, I have been following Joseph’s facebook posts: stories and pretty pictures from the flat, charming, peaceful medieval city. A month ago, I boarded a 9am train, departing soggy Genoa and arrived in sunny Ferrara.
Joseph met me at the train station, and we walked to have yummy piadine — I chose speck and cheese with a creamy mayo sauce. Yum. We chatted over a beer, then I wandered through the center with a little bit of history from Joseph, explaining the Jewish ghettos and information about the various buildings we passed. He had some things to do in the apartment, so I went for a nice wander. I deliberately did not consult a guidebook or too much on the Internet so things would be a surprise. A wandering adventure. I snapped many photos on my walk, then returned to prepare for our evening.
Joseph’s friend, a woman who owns the cafe down the street, invited him to an outdoor concert that night, featuring her husband’s band. It got unseasonably cold, so we bundled up and Federica picked us up.
While we waited for the show, wandered in search of food, and ended up in a tent that was a fundraiser for a local church. I tried the local treat cappellacci, made with squash and filled with yum. Our servers were parishoner children — it was just a really super special, super local night. We chatted and ended up enjoying the show very much. When Fedi noticed that I was into the music, she returned later with a surprise — an Inspiral album for me, which she then had all the band members sign. 🙂 What a special treat. It was also fun hanging out with her because she helped me practice my Italian.
The next morning, we had lazy Sunday. Joseph had delicious pastries and made fresh coffee, then we went out for a stroll around town, followed by another coffee.Before departure for my train, we stopped for pizza at a place he never tried before. With so much good pizza in Italy and so many great places in Ferrara . . .Joseph was diasppointed that his 4 Formaggio was made with a premixed spread and that my pizza featured canned olives with pitts and awkward tomatos. Not as good as expected. He said, “We just got fu*cked. They could at least kiss me next time.”
That aside, it was still a lovely day. We took a peek at some Palio-related events (this Palio is older than the famous Siena one). It was a nice atmosphere, but I didn’t see too much. Before long, it was time to board my train and head home. I was lucky that I had business class for the stretch from Bologna to Milan on the high speed train, for a little spoiled comfort. It was the same price as the 2nd class ticket because they still had some super economy fares left. Woo!
Here are some photos from my adventure in Ferrara. I’ll certainly be returning:
Today’s a special post. Live from my office at my school on the last day of work. 10 months to the day since I boarded the plane in a whirlwind of emotions, leaving for my new life in Italy. The amazing, challenging, fun and incredible year has come to a close. My 9th year as a teacher. 6th year as a high school teacher. 2nd year teaching middle school. And my first year in Italy! It was a huge and exciting decision, and I can’t imagine if I had not accepted this amazing offer which has changed my life so positively. So much joy, beauty, adventure, some loss and lots of reflection. I spent much time thinking about NYC and my family, missing home and the familiar comforts. I spent much time getting excited about my travels and exploring the gorgeous landscape and culture of Liguria, but I was also always counting back hours to see what time it was in NY, looking at the weather, and messaging friends at home. Yet over all that time, Liguria became home. Tomorrow, I have a ticket to fly home. Where is home?
When I purchased this ticket — Thanks Dad! — my father then said, “You should have stayed a week or so to enjoy Italy and your scooter . . . or even to travel.” To be honest, I’m low on my travel budget, everyone’s heading off, and I just was really looking forward to a long, relaxing, extended time in NYC and Jersey with family and friends I have missed so much. And my cats! But now the weather is absolutely stunning, day after day. The turquoise blue waters call, and I dive in after work, then bask in the warm glow of sunshine sprawled on warm, smooth rocks and pebbles. I head to my friend’s house for vino on her balcony, which faces a castle, as we watch the sky turn pink then an inky indigo, long after 9:30pm before walking home under the stars. I stroll uphill to my apartment, past balconies strewn with beach towels, couples walking dogs (everyone has a dog here in Genoa), and smell the flowers in full, lush bloom. Genoa is at her finest right now, and I have chosen to leave her. And that hurts.
Genoa will be stunning when I return in August, as I have learned from last year’s arrival. I was able to swim well into October. It was sunny almost every day in those months, and it will still be lovely. I have so many adventures, good times, wonderful conversations, beaches, lakes, mountains, hikes, fire pits, great food and smiles waiting for me at home. I guess I’m just really realizing the huge effect of a transatlantic move. My heart belongs here as well as there. I’m very grateful that I have another year to return and enjoy, and now that I am settled, the lessons are planned, the books read, and the details sorted — I can enjoy it all even more!
I’m overwhelmed with emotions. Last night, I just said goodbye to a choir friend who is moving back to Lithuania. (A great excuse to travel one weekend in the fall!). We had an excellent sushi meal followed by Neopolitan pastries, and then stood in the parking lot, lingering, delaying the inevitable. Now, my classrooms are cleaned, posters torn off the wall, drawers emptied, my office tidied, papers purged . . . and it was all a crazy trip down memory lane with flashes from the past school year. It really was wonderful and joyful. This is a special school.
At graduation, we said farewell to our seniors. Administration prepared a special slide show, showing pictures of the kids through the years. 3 of them started at age 3! I managed to hold back the tears until that rolled across the screen to one of my favorite songs “Send Me on my Way.” A few days later, the seniors returned to our farewell ceremony, to give some more speeches, lots of hugs, and then . . . on to their lives. It was an honor to be their teacher, to get to know them, and to be part of their lives. They have touched my heart, and while we had so much work to do, I always looked forward to class.
It is my last day of work with my colleagues, friendly faces I met on an August day before sharing focaccia formaggio by the sea, sharing aperitivi in Piazza del Erbe, dancing till early morning, laughing in the office during stressful times, and over time, becoming cherished friends. Off to lunch, one final meal for the school year.
Send me on my way now, but just for the summer.