Car and community

This is my new little zippy European (actually it’s Korean, but it’s small and manual transmission so it fits right in here) car.  It has a tortoise-shell steering wheel and I just think it feels ever so very European. If it was convertible, I’d wear silly scarves and look like I was out of an early 1060s movie. Note the mountain in the background (and Mufasa in the back seat).

As for where I am with this whole moving to Europe alone thing… I am ready for friends. For community. To create a life here. I’m not sure how to find people who have a boat so I can waterski and who can accompany me on the piano and who are single and around 40 and hot, single and kind. I don’t want all of that from the same person. The hot, kind, around 40 and single part, yes. I can find a waterski boat and a jazz pianist elsewhere, though.

It’s strange to live in a culture that so values communities (especially on Sunday — nothing is open and there’s nothing to do and it’s clear most people are at gatherings of some sort) and be so alone. It’s good I’m busy unpacking and working, but I am able now to look ahead to a time when I will want friends and family and community here. Something new to create. Adventure abounds.

Cleaning, Unpacking and Neighbors… Oh My!

Spent most of the weekend trying to restore order to my little universe. That, and I called my Mom because I hadn’t spoken to anyone who really knows me in about a month.

It’s strange to be this far away all by myself for an indefinite period of time. I really have no idea how life will go from day-to-day or in the long run and that’s just how it is right now. All I have to do is take care of Mufasa, do my job well and take care of myself… oh and make sure my neighbors aren’t upset with me — which proves to be a bit challenging with the Swiss. If cultures are organized for something, this culture is organized for perfection. I’ve heard so many stories about people receiving registered letters with complaints about their front steps not being adequately swept or the police showing up because the dog barked and the neighbors called the police. This could get interesting!

So I am in my new house and soon will be hosting my first American guest.

Complete Chaos

I can’t take a picture of the way I feel. I’m juggling four classes I’ve never taught, creating the student newspaper, committee meetings beyond anything I could ever imagine, sleeping on a mattress on a floor (with dusty sheets that arrived from Idaho — even Mufasa was happy to see them — he curled right up on a comforter he knows he’s not allowed to sleep on). I can’t get my cell phone to receive calls. I don’t know how to get a phone in my house.

I returned the rental car today and bought another car last night. They’re delivering it today — only it’s a stick, so I’m going to have to get someone else to move it from in front of the school and teach me how to drive it. Hopefully tonight.

Life is going way too fast. I am more flustered than I’ve ever been. Soon, I know, this will all settle… my phones will work, I’ll drive my cute car around… I look good in my clothes that arrived, so at least there’s that!

Mufasa is totally fed up with me. Today I went out to clean the rental car, leaving him in the apartment for about five minutes. When I got back, he’d been up on the kitchen counter, gotten a long, intact baguette and carried the whole lovely loaf down to the downstairs entryway. He laid it, without leaving any marks in it, in the middle of the front hallway floor. I think he was about to eat it when I walked in.

This weekend I will take Sunday off and take him hiking up a mountain. I will cultivate calm and peace and papers graded ready to return.

Back at the Carlton Villa Moritz

My apartment still isn’t ready but I had to leave the temporary place, so after several weeks away, I am back at the hotel my Mom and I first stayed in when we arrived in Lugano August 9. We stayed for three weeks, so these people are like family. Mufasa is very confused when we don’t go into room #53. He thinks it’s home.

The neighborhood, I think, is my favorite in Lugano. It’s called Castagnola and is smack dab on the lake. It’s tropical and feels far away from the hustle of the city, even though it’s only about two minutes by car into the center of town. I tried to get an apartment here, but took the one up nearer to school instead. One day maybe I’ll try to live here…

Resilience and Keith Richards

Yesterday my friend Andrew wrote a comment on my blog:
“After the apololypse, there will be cockroaches, Keith Richards, and Becky saying, ‘Ok, that sucked; let’s get on with life.'”

You know, I was just thinking about that. Things happen periodically here (like realizing that this little card is a notice that I have a package at the post office… and it’s been there for a week but I can’t read the card! HA!) that illustrate how crazy it is that I moved to this foreign country, not speaking the language, because it matched a collage on my wall and I couldn’t really think of any reason not to.

“A collage?” you ask. Yes. In January this year, when I’d returned from the lovely holiday in Park City, I was clear that the life I wanted to create with this post-Colorado, post-marriage re-do wasn’t going to happen in Moscow, Idaho. But where did I want to go and what did I want to do? I wasn’t sure. So I started cutting out images, pictures, colors, anything that appealed to me. I arranged them on a poster board and stepped back. It looked like the life I wanted. There were sea kayaks and happy families and European travel destinations, snow excursions, kitchens clearly cooked in, comfy reading nooks, books… I was looking at the life I wanted. This job, this place fit the collage.
I threw the collage away on my way out of Moscow. It was getting crunched and in the way in the car. I wish I hadn’t done that, but I also know that every time I take a major turn in the road it’s time to redo the collage, so I am gathering my materials for now… soon I’ll be ready to make a new one.

I read an article the other day (I can’t find it again now) about resilience. It was something like that resilience is the key to happiness or sucess. I used to have the idea that I couldn’t let go, I didn’t move on… and maybe with some things that was the case. I kept reading the article, though, and I realized I am resilient, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. I still have guilt about moving, think that there’s something wrong with me that I don’t settle down. (Secretly, though, I love this gallavanting. It is challenging and lonely sometimes, but it suits me. I just wish I had a gallavnting partner I could trust.)

Finally, I am still periodically reminded of something a former friend said to me in Colorado. My marriage was violent and frightening, but I didn’t want to just leave. That never seemed right to me. I desperately needed ideas, somebody to talk to, help managing and surviving, and love… and a girlfriend said of others in our circle, “They’re just sick and tired of hearing about it.” Besides making clear that those people weren’t my friends, her comment threw into relief for me the difference between talking and action. It was one of things that prompted me to leave.

And though I always thought life would one day be steadier and static and settled, I will be there at the end saying, “What’s next?!”

Like art.

What I’m about to write really needs the photos that could accompany it, but for logistical reasons that will soon become clear I don’t have them.

There’s a man outside my office door. He’s digging a giant hole — some sort of phys plant improvement going on here. He’s waist-deep in the ground, just a navy blue t-shirt and the rest of his magnificent self sticking out of this giant hole, and I keep thinking about something my Mom and I would say when she was here. We decided the men here are beautiful… like art is beautiful. Not even like you really need to know them or talk to them or anything, but you can just appreciate them walking by or sitting in a cafe or eating breakfast… or digging a big hole outside your office.

We’d nudge and say to one another, “Like art…”

When I walked in just now with my hands full he said, “Buon giorno.” I was being my American self and was just going to walk into my office without saying anything even though I’d seen him over there. When I said, “Buon giorno” back, he smiled. It was a Patrick Dempsey, bankable, oh-my-goodness-look-at-the-miracle-of-that-mouth, made me weak in the knees and happy all over smile.

Then I walked into my office and here we are. Like art, I tell you. He’s absolutely beautiful. Black hair, blue eyes, Roman god gorgeous.

I couldn’t figure out how taking his photo to accompany this story would be in any way appropriate.

Things are looking up. I’m going to a fondue party tonight; I had lunch with a great group of women; my things will all arrive Tuesday afternoon. This is progress.

I can’t believe I live here.

It’s been raining and I’ve been so overwhelmed with school and life that partly it’s just been head-above-water time. Mufasa got his first tick and had an allergic reaction. We’ve been at the vet an awful lot in the last few weeks.

…Then the clouds parted yesterday and the sun shone and it was Saturday and I suddenly had a series of, “I can’t believe I live here” moments. Mufasa and I walked along the lido this afternoon. I love that the clouds do this thing they’re doing here… the little wisps half-way down the mountainside. If you click on the image you can see it larger. It was actually sunnier than it looks.

I’m designing a travel course for Spring semester (on the culture and history of the Deep South) that involves going to the National Civil Rights Museum, the Grand Ole Opry, and Dreamland Barbeque.

And so this is my life now. I love the students.

Chocolate and coffee are their own food groups. Here are three varieties of chocolate from my last shopping trip: a dark choclate bar that was on sale (It had over 70% cocoa and crushed cocoa beans inside, too. I ate the whole thing already. I still fit in my size 4 jeans, so it’s okay…), ever-present Nutella and crazy-yummy Swiss dark chocolate hot cocoa mix (YUM!).

I still can’t move in yet, but I’m loading furniture into the garage. Having a key is real progress. I go over just to walk around and imagine what it will look like in a couple of weeks. I’m buying furniture and test drove a funny, little bitty car yesterday.

There’s an old woman who lives in the building. She doesn’t speak any English, but I’ve understood that she wants to help with my laundry when I move in. I hope she can cook. I’d like for her to teach me how to make new Italian dishes…

What a mess!

I’d like for this blog to be all intellect and poetry… but what comes out these days is logistics, simple observation and, sometimes, complaint. I’m in this temporary apartment. It’s in a gated community called Parco Maraini. It’s part vacation condo, part apartments, part rehab and assisted living… all with tropical hiking paths and an unbelievable view of the lake.

I haven’t received any mail in weeks, but this apartment gets CNN and the BBC, so I am watching footage from New Orleans and feeling so far away from it all. What can be done?

Instead, my days are now filled with cultural adventures in grocery and furniture shopping. I got these gnocchi at a department/ grocery store in downtown Lugano. It’s called Manor and is huge and fabulous… cheese, chocolate, bread, alarm clock, computer, souvenirs, clothes — all can be had under one roof accessed via cobblestone square. Anyway, there’s nothing in these gnocchi except potato, water and salt and they are the lightest, fluffiest, tastiest little balls of goodness I’ve ever had. I’ve actually been snacking on them (raw) instead of chocolate. If you know me, you get how good these little gems really are. Few things in life trump chocolate.

School is chaos, but fun. I’m going to take pictures of my students this week. Classes are great — students are from 55 countries all over the world, so we get a Jordanian perspective on ethics in the ethics class, and a German student explained to the Americans the other day that there’s public discourse in her culture about the exportation of Hollywood films as a form of imperialism. One young kid went to a Quaker high school and shares how disagreements were handled there, and an African-American woman from Washington, D.C. was laughing with a young Saudi Arabian woman about how differently they’d get treated if their families didn’t approve of their dating behavior.

On the other hand, logistics are a problem. I was just informed that the ethics textbook isn’t going to arrive for a month and another textbook arrived with a 100% markup over US prices, making it virtually impossible for the students to buy. Now I have to figure out what to do without my texts and we’re starting the second week of school tomorro

One day this week we didn’t have power. No book, no computer, no lights… the cute Italian guy who helped me translate at my rental agreement signing said, “Wanna come play cards in my office?” If you know how tricky joking is with people who don’t speak the same native language, you get what a breakthrough this was. He and I had been joking for a while, but we’d have to explain the joke, sometimes repeatedly. This one I got right away. “How are we supposed to work like this?” he was saying, with that sweet Italian grin that hides the notorious Latin lover thing lurking underneath.

I keep reminding myself to use my training, to not engage in the culture of complaint here. I haven’t succeeded very well at that — but tomorrow is another day. Adventures abound!