Air Force, Italy

Moving to Italy/ Moverme a Italia

Long time no read. I took an – unplanned – break from blogging when the Fall semester began back in August, and a lot has happened in this interim time.

For starters, I spent what ended up being the entirety of the semester doing school online from my dad’s house in Ocala, and about once a week I drove up to Gainesville to work in person at the UF International Center for my internship. Usually, I would also stay a couple days to spend time with my friends and frequent my favorite restaurants – I’m looking at you, Mi Apá and Coffee Culture. Really, I was doing everything I could to hold on to the remaining vestiges of my life in Gainesville. There, I had a community and a purpose, and although I was continuously devastated and uprooted by my slow Italian visa acquisition process, the familiarity of my church family and campus brought me brief respites of peace.

The respites, though, were punctuated by boughs of anxiety, hopelessness and nausea. It seemed like no matter what I did, no amount of activities or things that brought me comfort before would bring me peace about living out of suitcases anymore, of living an ocean away from almost all of my possessions and, most of all, living six time zones away from my husband.

If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I do not do well in transitory phases.

But when I was at my most hopeless, Micah called to say that he was granted special leave to come home, even though all COVID-19 restrictions said he should’t be allowed to leave Italy. He got to plead his case, and his leadership gave him a travel waiver.

Because of this, our Christmas season and our one year anniversary were joyful.

He left again in January, and I was faced with the possibility of another four months living out of suitcases and without Micah; however, this is exactly when my visa arrived.

Within a week, I drove up to Panama City to pick it up, I shipped any of my belongings that wouldn’t fit in the two suitcases I had, I bought a plane ticket, and I said goodbye to all of my family and friends to come join Micah here in Italy.

And while I was no longer nauseous and anxiety-ridden with uncertainty, I was met with the new anxiety of culture shock and homesickness.

I arrived in Italy to a two-week self-quarantine as mandated by country-wide COVID-19 precautions for international travelers, and when I was able to leave my own quarantine, the entirety of Italy closed again for months.

In this time, I also had to apply for all the legal documents I need to stay here legally, I had to get my Italian driver’s license, I had to learn how to drive a manual car, I had to learn how to grocery shop on base and off base, I had to learn at least a little Italian to get around and so much more. I became painfully aware of the fact that the only person I knew here was Micah, and I stared ahead at the endless isolation of a COVID-19 lockdown in which we couldn’t even leave our apartment without declaration papers stating our reason. It all just felt like a little too much for me to bare.

Learning to drive our 2010 Alpha Romeo!

I was constantly problem-solving every time I left our apartment, and I felt like a stranger – an outsider – in every single place I went. There was no comfort in belonging outside our home, and there were days I just cried out of the frustration of feeling so lost and confused every single day with nowhere to go except home, and none of my friends to talk to.

In this time, Micah was – and always is – the constant, steadying force that reminds me that even in my anxiety, there will be peace in the end. The lost and confused feeling has not persisted.

Last week, we returned from a trip back to the states to attend my college graduation and to celebrate one of my sisters-in-law at her bridal shower. I can honestly say that I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. While I still get nervous in unfamiliar situations, I feel brave enough to dive into them. I am less and less ashamed of my broken Italian, and I am increasingly willing to speak, to get it wrong, and to try again.

Now that Italy is easing its COVID-19 restrictions because its deaths are decreasing, Micah and I are planning a trip to Venice, I am planning to visit antique markets and we are exploring more than Micah has been able to in the one and a half years he has lived here.

While I would not trade this life for anything, I wanted to give a clear and real picture of what it is like to move abroad. Even though we have the support of the U.S. military, and even though there are built-in expat communities around the base, this transition was still difficult, lonely and scary.

Everyone says that they want to have adventure, or that they want to move away from their home town or country, but I think very few people talk about how hard that actually is. I feel great now, but I also live thousands of miles away with the knowledge that my relationships back home will never be the same. I will miss late night talks over wine, impromptu apartment visits, afternoon coffee runs, birthdays, baptisms, weddings, funerals and every other big life event you can imagine. No matter how hard we try, I know that we cannot be as present as we want to be in the lives of those we love most. And that is always going to hurt a little bit.

I think the main lessons I will take away from living overseas will be how to love people from far away, and I can only hope that our relationships – though different – will be stronger for it.

Thank you for reading, and I cannot wait to share Italy with all of you.

Benvenuti nella mia vita italiana.

~ Tori



Moverme a Italia

Hace mucho tiempo desde mi última publicación. Tomé un descanso no planificado cuando empezó el semestre del otoño en agosto, ¡y mucho ha ocurrido en este tiempo!

Primero, yo pasaba el entero del semestre del otoño en la casa de mi padre en Ocala, y casi uno o dos veces cada semana fui a Gainesville para trabajar en el Centre Internacional de UF. Usualmente, me quedaba allí dos o tres días para pasar un rato con mis amigos. De verdad, yo había hecho todo lo que podía para proteger las memorias restantes de mi vida en Gainesville. Allí, tenía comunidad y propósito, aunque había continuadamente devastación en relación con mi visa italiano y su proceso lento, la familiaridad de mi familia en la iglesia y el campus de UF me trajeron paz. 

Esta paz sufría entre tiempos de ansiedad, desesperación y náusea. Me parecía que ni importa que hiciera, nada me traje comodidad sobre vivir afuera de maletas, de vivir un océano de distancia de mis cosas y, sobre todo, de vivir sin mi marido. 

Si hay alguna cosa que debas saber de mi, es que a mi no suena bien la transición. 

Pero cuando yo tenía desesperación tan grande, Micah me llamó para decir que él podía viajar a Florida durante la Navidad, aunque la situación de COVID-19 debería hacer que esto no ocurriera. 

A causa de este evento, nuestra navidad y aniversario era llena de alegría. 

Él salió de Florida otra vez en enero, y me confronté otra vez la posibilidad de múltiples meses vividas sola. Sin embargo, mi visa en este momento estuvo aprobada. 

En el curso de una semana, obtuve la visa, envié cualquiera de mis cosas que no cabían en mis maletas, compré un billete de avión y dije adiós a toda mi familia y todos mis amigos para viajar a Italia para estar con Micah. 

Y aunque yo no tenía nausea y incertidumbre nada más, yo desarrollé una nueva ansiedad en choque cultural y nostalgia. 

Llegué en Italia y pasaba un tiempo de dos semanas en cuarentena, y después de esto, el entero del país cerró a causa de COVID-19. 

Durante este tiempo, asimismo yo necesitaba aplicar por documentos legales de inmigración, conseguir mi licencia de manejar italiana, aprender como manejar un carro manual, dominar como hacer compras en y afuera del base, aprender un poco de italiano y mucho más. Me di cuenta de que no me conoce a nadie aquí, y miré adelante a la aislamiento que viene COVID-19 cuando no podíamos salir de nuestro departamento sin papeles de declaración. Todo sentía como más que yo podía aguantar. 

Siempre yo necesitaba resolver problemas pequeñas y grandes cada vez que salí de nuestro departamento, y yo sentía como una desconocida en todos los lugares. No había comodidad en pertenecer, y algunos días lloré a causa de la frustración de sentir perdida y confusa con ningún lugar para ir excepto la casa, y nadie para hablar. 

En este tiempo, Micah era – y siempre es – la fuerza constante que me recuerda que después de la ansiedad viene paz de alguna forma. El sentimiento de perdido y confusión no ha persistido. 

La semana pasada, volvemos a Italia otra vez de un viaje a los Estados Unidos por mi graduación universitaria y una celebración de mi cuñada en anticipación de su casamiento en octubre. Puedo decir que no creo que yo había estado tan feliz que en este momento. Mientras todavía siento nerviosa en situaciones desconocidas, siento más valiente para enfrentarlas. Soy menos y menos avergonzada de mi italiano roto, y más lista para ser equivocado, hablar, y tratar de nuevo. 

Ahora, Italia está aliviando muchas de las restricciones de viajar, y planeamos un viaje a Venecia, finalmente. 

Yo no intercambiaría esta vida para nada, pero quiero presentar un imagen claro y real de como es mover a otro país. Aunque tenemos el suporto del militar del E.E.U.U., y incluso que hay comunidades de expatriadas aquí, esta transición ha sido dificulto, aislando y de miedo. 

Todas las personas dicen que desean aventura, o que quieren moverse de su ciudad o país natal, pero creo que pocas personas hablen sobre la dificultad que viene de estas decisiones de verdad. Siento bien, ahora, pero todavía vivo a una distancia de miles de millas con el conocimiento que mis relaciones nunca van a ser la misma. Yo no estará allí por conversaciones importantes de la noche con vino, visitas como sorpresas a departamentos, café en la tarde, cumpleaños, bautismos, casamientos, funerales y otros eventos grandes de la vida. No importa que hacemos, yo sé que no podemos estar parte de todo en las vidas de las personas que amamos más a causa de distancia. Y siempre va a herir un poco.

Creo que la moraleja principal que voy a aprender durante nuestro tiempo en Europa es cómo amar a las personas a una distancia. Y ojalá que nuestras relaciones sean más fuerte. 

Gracias por leer, y estoy emocionada para compartir Italia consigo. 

Benvenuti nella mia vita italiana. 

  • Tori 

2 thoughts on “Moving to Italy/ Moverme a Italia”

  1. Tori, I’m so glad you picked up the blog again, and this was a beautiful re-start. Anxiety seems to be a fact of life for most folk these days, and you capture it well without that navel-gazing so common to the post-isolation world. Great balance,

    Like

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