Italy is a lot like the ideal grandmother. It possesses an old, wrinkly kind of beauty that perfectly complements antique jewelry. It is lively and friendly and bursting with conversation topics. The stories it tells inspire generations. And oh, it can cook. Not only can it boast the best food this side of Jupiter, it knows a thing or two about making people feel good about eating. Case in point: Calories are labeled as “energy.” And sugar packets are “important in the daily nourishment to maintain and restore the energy of the mind and of the body.” (Why, I’m a firm believer in energy maintenance and eating sugar by the spoonful! What are the odds?)
Unfortunately, Italy has a creepy side as well, an innocent-looking grandmother who reads her grandchildren’s diaries on the sly. Example? I’ve ordered deli meat exactly twice at our neighborhood grocery store. Thus, I was slightly surprised to hear that the deli worker asked one of our friends from church if my husband’s boss would take a look at her knee. How did she know who our friend was? And how did she know who my husband was? And how did she know who Dan worked for? And how did she get a hold of my diary? Dan tells me that when he was growing up here, neighbors would frequently comment on things his family did or talked about inside their own house. The only intelligent response I have to that is ACK! ACK! Also, oh my ACK!
So the lack of privacy takes some getting used to (my chestal region has already figured that out), but there are many other reasons to love Italy. For example, bonsai trees are readily available at local supermarkets. Conservative old ladies wear bikinis and brew limoncello in their living rooms. People can get downtown via underground escalators through a 500-year-old castle. Public preschool starts at age three, with half-day and full-day options for the same price of nothing. And speaking of nothing, that’s what it costs to visit the doctor, stay in the hospital, and get prescription medicine. Italians know that regular vacations are as necessary as life, breath, and daily naptime. Speed limits are refreshingly high. And possibly the best thing, Italian roosters say “Chicchirichì!” (Pronounced like “KEE-kee-ree-KEE.” Try it! Your head might just explode from the extreme fun of crowing in Italian!)
I can’t believe we’ve already lived here for half a year. This adopted country of ours feels simultaneously new and old, invigorating and relaxing, different and familiar. Any other dichotomous comparisons? Oh yes, friendly spaghetti-cooking grandmother and creepy diary-stalking grandmother. But I’m coming to terms with the new and the invigorating and the different and the creepy, and you can probably tell by now that if given the choice to relive this adventure, I would say “Hell, yeah!” (Also, “ACK!”)