As close to perfection... [Atrani plus...]

I am writing from my dream morning nook/expanse. As you by now know, mornings are sacred for me and one of the challenges of this trip has been space. Most often, one of the kids is sleeping in a common room which means that my morning time of coffee, writing, reading, meditation, etc. is compromised. But today I wake up, after an unbelievably long + obstacle-ridden + lucky travel day, in Siracusa overlooking the Sicilian coastline. Check out this view from our terrace.

But that’s besides the point. I wasn’t supposed to write about Sicily yet because I know nothing about it – outside of fishing boats in the distance, sparkling clear ocean, lapping waves, illuminated horizon, and some mysterious hullabaloo at 2am when it seemed like a Sicilian family was down in the water doing something shady (I’m sure they weren’t – my Sicilian skills are worse than my Italian skills).

Rewind to Pompeii + the Amalfi Coast

We had a few more days in Sorrento, where the highlight was a day in Pompeii. We had an incredible guide who was rather taken with our kids’ knowledge of Pompeii and ancient Roman civilization. We had done ‘school’ that week on Pompeii, so they were armed with some contextual understanding of the place, all of that on top of the smaller ones' obsession – I mean, healthy interest – in Greek/Roman mythology. So while our kids and the guide were mutually enamoured around Roman history and mythology, I must admit there were times I kind of trailed off... Favourite kid parts: the 'fast food' soup restaurants, the street fountains, and the syncretic Egyptian gods wearing Roman togas.  After that, another gondola ride up high for the boys (having built sufficient character in this department, I decided to pass and go shopping in Sorrento).

Ok, here is where the perfection comes in. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a place fit so well with us like this seaside town. Recognize it from these Escher drawings?

Atrani is a tiny town next door to the more famous and wealthy Amalfi. There are a few restaurants in the square, a small market and a produce shop and that’s about it. For us, it was a dream. We had a rooftop terrace overlooking the town, the sea in the distance, hanging of laundry on clotheslines, gossip across roofs, church bells ringing, the delicious sfogliatelle, etc. It was perfect for us because we immersed ourselves in the experience of living in a little neighbourhood; by the end of the week, we knew all of the restaurant and shop owners, and the kids could explore Atrani totally on their own – winding up and down passageways, paint peeling, echoes of civilizations and civilizations, beach combing of pottery-encased rocks. 

Beyond this, the perfection lay in the access to hiking paths. Each day, we would walk for miles and miles, up and down – over ancient rocky staircases and under arches, wandering to unexpected vistas and mountaintops, neighbouring towns, encountering virtually no other hikers, returning back home on ferries and buses. It gave us the independence to explore, the comfort of nature, and the proximity to more urban infrastructure if we needed. We dropped in on the gorgeous but overloaded Positano and Amalfi a couple of times, but always sought sanctuary back in the lovely Atrani. At this stage in the trip, this may in fact be our happy place. Long hikes dotted with new restaurants or foods/drinks and friendly shop owners. Then back to the beach with our legs throbbing in all the good ways. Here are a couple of day trips:

Hike on the Path to the Gods
A 5 mile hike from Bomerano (long, winding bus to get there) to Nocelle, on to Montepertuso, and then dropping down 1700 steps into Positano. Very steep, spectacular views. We anticipated a long, four hour hike, but we did the main route in 1.5 hours(!!), ending at a cute little restaurant in Nocelle to refuel. The last couple of pics are waiting shots – for a ferry home that was delayed by an hour (after we had already been waiting for it for two hours!). One plus of this trip is that the kids have become habituated to waiting and figuring out how to pass the time. One shot shows Emmet and Asa having collected a bunch of sea glass and making a game of it at the table; another shows them beach combing while we were all enduring the chaos trying to figure out what happened to our boat.

Hike from Atrani to the Santuario Santa Maria del Bando
Just 750 steps up from our house (at this point, that was nothing!), stood what looked like an ancient church/sanctuary. We had tried to go up there on our first day, but it was closed. We messaged the caretaker and made an appointment to come back in a few days to visit. What an experience. This caretaker of the sanctuary had, during Covid, DISCOVERED ancient ruins in this cave (Grotta del Paradiso) that had been enshrouded in overgrowth - likely a monks' sanctuary from the 10th century. He was still in the process of excavating it himself – archaeologists are scheduled to come in the fall – and we explored the cave and the sanctuary with him.

Hike from Atrani to Pontone to the Torre del Capo di Atrani and back
Chris did this one alone with the kids. Obie and I sat on the beach and read. Winding cobblestone roads through orchards, steep paths, fortress ruins on top of a razor-sharp ridge overlooking Amalfi and Atrani, and a watchtower dating from the Amalfi Republic days. 

Hike from Atrani to Ravello down into Minori
Sweet hike that led us up to the high-up town of Ravello overlooking orchards and the beautiful coast, and then down to the beach town of Minori where we experienced our first lido. Limoncello spritzes underneath a beach umbrella! And then a relaxed ten minute ferry ride home.

A few Amalfi pics (paper making, wandering, lemon sorbetto)

Train to Sicily
Yesterday was a ridiculous day. We knew it would be long. It feels tedious to write about it and I will most definitely forgive you if you bow out on this one (all except for my dad the train buff, who will be salivating at the train mishaps). But if I don’t, it will likely get memory holed into the unconscious reserves of my mind, so here it goes – in bullet points because that is the type of prose worthy of the day.

First, to set the stage. We have A LOT of bags. Like, a lot. Like a large check bag and a backpack per person. I wish we were those carry-on families who boast about everyone shouldering their own pack, but we are not. So take that into account as a I regale you with the last 24 hours.

  • Wake everyone up at 7am. Another move from a place we love. It’s starting to wear on us.
  • Out the door at 8am. Picture the scene: our place is up HIGH overlooking the town. The "streets" are winding narrow stairways and paths. A car cannot come there. So we have to carry a lot of very heavy bags down the many, many flights of stairs. After several round trips, with the kids waiting in the town square with our bags, we are sweaty and done.
  • The driver is late. Miscommunication where to pick us up. Then he comes about 10 minutes late.
  • Long, windy road to Salerno (really, it was only a bit over an hour) where we get the train. It’s beautiful, but we all for some reason feel carsick (despite the fact that only one of us gets carsick), but the lovely driver doesn’t read the room, so he talks endlessly of the sights along the way, the towns that specialize in very pungent anchovies and the distinct smell that only some people enjoy.
  • Haul all the bags into the train station; Chris stays with the kids. I run several blocks away to the Budget car rental in Salerno. You see, we had a car rental in Catania (Sicily) originally booked for noon, which we needed to change to 6pm, but Budget in Catania does not pick up its phone. The man at the counter tells me that even he cannot get in touch with Budget in Catania.
  • Run back to train station, waiting to see which platform our train will be on. ALL trains on the screen have been assigned a platform, except for ours. The clock is ticking. Fifteen minutes before our train, the platform number appears; we have to of course climb a bunch of stairs with our many, many bags. We leave the little ones guarding the remaining luggage, run the first round up to the platform, then back again and again. Finally we do it.
  • Just two minutes after we lug all our bags up to the platform, the train arrives. We rush to find where Coach 2 is. We leap onto the train, lugging bags, Chris going back and forth to fetch the bags at top speed, kids inside. FINALLY ON THE TRAIN.
  • Sweaty, again. Walk to our seats. Someone is in our seats.
  • Guess what, WE GOT ON THE WRONG TRAIN. Ours came three minutes later. This train had been delayed, so it arrived to the same platform as our train at approximately the same time. So we are on the wrong train. Bear in mind, this is not a short train ride. We are embarking on an 8-hour train ride that crosses the sea to Sicily. 
  • The train person who was lovely and had helped me with the bags in the chaos of getting on the train, reassures us. Because we are traveling in the same direction, she says, we can get off the train in an hour at the next stop and re-catch our original train. So we temporarily settle in to our right seats on this wrong train, with all of the Italians around us warmly telling us that it is no problem, just enjoy the ride.
  • We get off the train after an hour. Lug all of our bags off. Which again is like a sprint because we have ten bags and approximately two minutes before the train takes off again. Wait 25 minutes because the train is thankfully delayed.
  • Our original train approaches. We wait on the platform where we anticipate Coach 2 to be, basically where we got off since we were on Coach 2 on our wrong train. The train arrives – we do the chaotic dance of bags and children and multiple trips and hoping the train doesn’t leave without us. We go to our seats. Occupied again?!! We are informed that this is Coach 7. 
  • So we are at the opposite end of the train we need to be on, with a stack of luggage and kids. I wait with all the bags while Chris goes with the kids to find Coach 2 and our seats. He comes back with a look that tells me something is wrong again.
  • Train trivia time! You train buffs out there will know that this is a renowned train because it goes on a ferry (Richard Scarry’s fantasy) to cross the waters over to Sicily. Well, it turns out that before the train is loaded onto the ferry, it is literally divided in two, with one part going south to Siracusa (ours), and one part going west to Palermo. It already has an engine car in the middle of the train ready to go after the split. Unfortunately, coach 7 where we embarked is part of the Palermo-bound section, so all this is to say that we cannot walk through the train to Coach 2 and our seats because there is an engine car in the way.
  • We settle into some seats behind this mid-train engine car, and wait another 50 minutes. At the next stop, we dash off of the train, down the platform two cars with all our bags, and lug every last bag and child back onto the correct half of the train. As we triumphantly and exhaustedly make our way to our correct coach, we find again there is someone sitting in our seats. This time, it is they who are wrong! Invader ousted, we collapse into our chairs. 
  • The next four hours were fine, but a bit confusing. Train boarding the ferry (actually quite cool), stuffy and hot on the train with the AC turned off, no announcements to know what was going on, no food on train, stop in Messina station for a long time. It felt like we were back on some of our train rides in Asia; we just had to abandon our need to know.
  • We finally reach Catania, our station. Now you might be wondering why we are going to Catania if our house is in Siracusa, another hour down the line. Funny you should ask! We got a rental car reservation months and months ago that allowed us to do a one way trip, dropping our car in the town where we take a ferry to Stromboli (our next Sicily destination after Siracusa). We could not for the life of us find another rental car that would allow us to do that. So we decided we would keep our original rental car, but get off the train an hour early, take a taxi to the rental car place at the Catania airport (15 min away), then drive the last hour to Siracusa.
  • From here on out, everything went right. Train to taxi. Taxi to rental car. Rental car Carplay actually works – English language, music, and maps. Rental car to grocery store. Grocery store to Siracusa house overlooking the water and some very tired kids. 10pm to bed.

If you made it this far, here are a couple of train & ferry photos, including the first one when we figured out we were on the wrong train. Now off to our first day in Siracusa. 

The In-Betweens [Tuscany + the Amalfi Coast]

I suppose much of this year has been an exercise in navigating the in-betweens. Perhaps not the majority of Thailand, where we settled in and truly drank of the present. But other phases have had a distinct before and after, eyes looking forwards and backwards, in spite of my renewed morning meditations. Here now, even more so. Looming return to real life, what's-next musings and taxes, weekly place hopping, one of many tourists sometimes on and sometimes off the beaten path.

Several days ago, we left the sweet security of our agriturismo in Tuscany where the kids were able to run free, truffle hunt with dogs (a surprising favourite for all), horseback ride, make pasta, play soccer, foosball, and ping pong, meet some other kids, and generally drink in the Tuscan countryside. 

We day tripped to towns that dotted the rolling hills – Volterra (atmospheric, enshrouded in fog, downpour led us to wander through the eerie Museum of Torture), San Gimignano (epitome of an adorable Tuscan town, climbed a tower, alabaster abounded), Siena (explored the upper recesses of a gothic cathedral, saw lots of relics, bones and a severed head!), and Pecchioli (our fave, juxtaposition of ancient town and modern art, interspersed in the most surprising of places) – and generally appreciated the open countryside, blooms of scarlet and yellow flowers, surprise thunderstorms, and labyrinthian (and sometimes unpassable!) gravel roads. It was pretty dreamy; there were definitely a few tears upon our departure.

We are currently staying in Sorrento, a town on the Amalfi Coast populated with upmarket tourists and freakishly oversized lemons. You can see on their faces (the tourists, not the lemons) a frustration with what has been an uncharacteristically cold and wet Spring. For many in Italy, though, it's been more than inconvenient; disastrous flooding in the Emilia-Romagna region has left tens of thousands homeless. Happily for all, the weather has been slowly turning. Each semi-cloudless day in Sorrento unleashes troves of brightly colored sundresses and strappy sandals, the colorful fruits of months of outfit planning. I don’t blame them – I would if I could! – but the tattered garb of our Southeast Asian travels exposes me as a total fraud. The city is sweet and perfect, expensive, and touristy. We hiked down to some ancient Roman baths which were more off the beaten path, and have generally wandered through the polished kitsch in the little streets, tasting limoncello or granite here and there. Not a huge amount of interesting things for the kids, but they roll with it.  

Yesterday we went to Napoli, a city that - my lord - is ridiculously polarizing in the online traveler world. We fell into the 'loved it' category. And like all travelers who spend such little time in a city, I am aware of how my fragile opinion is simply a concoction of mind, intention and luck. We felt more relaxed in this city – surrounded again by Italians and forced to recall our fading Italian vocabulary, watching people across the socio-economic spectrum living their lives, the place emanating a distinct vivaciousness. We took a shortcut and found ourselves on a narrow cobblestone street off the busy avenues; with all of the safety warnings about this place, we wondered if we should be concerned. But it was the perfect caricature of a city at work on a weekday morning. Uphill cobblestone steps, old women leaning on balconies surveying the scene below, younger women wringing out their laundry, animated conversations between neighbours, a lone man smoking a cigarette, dogs wandering, celebratory banners and streamers of the football team’s victory strewn across every step. It was real life. And of course we ate delicious pizza. When in Napoli...

Here are a few photos/videos from a tour of Napoli's underground tunnels, which have 2400 years of history from the ancient Greeks to the Roman aqueducts to WWII safe havens. Tight passageways 40 meters down into the ground. Our kids of course wanted to lead the pack and regaled the guide with their many global adventures navigating caves, dark passageways, and hundreds of stairs up and down.   

And how are we? I would say we are good, but stretched by these in-betweens. It’s almost like we are not fully here in the way we once were. The kids are more checked out. We wander the streets and they immediately depart into a fantasy world of conversation that only the three of them can inhabit; once in a while, Chris gently nudges them to notice their exquisite surroundings. They are still taking it all in, and we still have moments of growth – like Emmet’s newfound identity of cold water swimmer in the currently frigid Mediterranean waters (anyone missing Sri Lanka about now???) or Asa’s slow emergence as the philosopher in the family or Obie’s adolescent growth spurts – but these moments of pause feel fewer and farther in between.

Also Obie's new favourite thing to do - creepily lurk behind and crouch when we are taking pictures of the two of us. Here are a few winners.

From here on out, we have a few more days in Sorrento, where we will travel to Pompeii and perhaps another nearby town, and then move on to our second and final stop in the Amalfi Coast – Atrani.  

On the Move [Bologna, Leaving Florence, the Marathon, Elba, Pisa]

A Quick Day Trip to Bologna
A few days before leaving Florence, we traveled by train to Bologna. Absolutely loved this city, a bit grittier than Florence, a history of university and revolution, incredible food. Revolution + food. My kind of city. 

Leaving Florence
It was finally time to leave Florence, despite how much we loved the city. I have learned now that there is only so much time we can stay in a place without a grounding set of activities. In Chiang Mai – because the city was full of expats, because some activities were offered in English, and because of the informality of certain classes – it was easy to enrol the kids (and Chris/me!) in activities. This offered the guise of routine and meant that Chris and I did not have to play the role of tour innovator each day, which we did in Florence. I am also finding that while the kids do love cities, they seem more grounded with frequent nature touchpoints. So we left, knowing it was time to go, but also deeply appreciative of the time we spent in this city. Encounters with history and art around every corner, incredible food, connections with friends, and a culture of prioritizing time with loved ones – Aperol Spritzes in hands. Here are a few shots from our last couple of days in Firenze, including leaving our home in a very packed COMPACT-size car. 

The Marathon (Elba)
When Chris had this wild idea of training for a marathon in Vietnam, I only half-listened. Not because I didn’t believe him, but because it all seemed so far away and perhaps even farfetched. I couldn’t imagine being out of Asia. I couldn’t imagine he would figure out how to adhere to an arduous training schedule in places where running just seemed so very out of place. Honestly, I was having a hard time even fathoming our lives four months in the future. But he did it, with a perseverance, discipline, and spirit that impressed us all. Every long run (and sometimes the short ones too) seemed to be an adventure. Never too dangerous, but sometimes just unpredictable enough to keep him guessing about what would show up around the next winding turn.

What was perhaps even more impressive than the discipline of this enterprise was what an incredible vehicle running is for truly seeing places. The villagers in central Sri Lanka who helped him run up a mountain and then invited them into their shack, or the army cadets in northern Sri Lanka who filled his water bottle when the oppressive heat had drained him of water, or the warm smiles and conversations in central Vietnam with villagers in places travellers rarely pass through, detours he had to take around water buffalo, or the many un/wanted animals on his runs – snakes, monkeys, cows, wild dogs, etc.

Anyway, he did it. Trained with discipline, finished strong, and drank in the beauty of the Elba coastline route. Also note the final video in this series in which Chris saw a VIPER during the marathon. He really attracts these animals.  

What a dream that Chris’ marathon took us to an island that we would probably have skipped simply because we are overwhelmed by ‘what to see in Italy.’ 

Our final day after the marathon was for adventuring around the island. Chris planned the day in his Chris way, knowing that our first activity would probably not be on my list if I had indeed known what was in store for us. But he knew that I would have no choice but to go along for the "ride."

All I knew was that we would ascend a mountain on a gondola. Now, some of you may know that heights have never been my thing, but that I have persevered and intentionally pushed through the fear. Chris has been a strong partner in this regard, never pushing me too far beyond my comfort zone, but just far enough to allow me to stretch. His personality is also not one to indulge this fear of mine, so he generally will just move forward when it seems like I’ve gotten the complaining out of my system.

Back to the gondola. I have been on my share of gondolas no problem. Sometimes when I get stuck up high because the machine stops my heart leaps into my throat, and well, that’s not my favorite moment, but really – I don’t consider gondolas a problem. But then we arrived on Monte Capanne.

Obie, my compatriot in not loving heights, looked at me with a somewhat pained/disbelieving expression on his face and we guffawed in unison, “HELL NO.” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen Chris laugh so hard. I think even he did not realize how rickety these gondolas would be.  

Let me describe this gondola to you if it is not crystal clear from the pictures. They are very small yellow jails that can hold two adults at most and swing on a precarious line above you. You stand in it. Like a bird cage that stops at your hips. This structure does not stop as you get on and you run alongside to hop in and hop out. 18 minutes. 18 very long minutes.

At some point I realized that I was not going to be able to bow out of this one. I also wasn’t going to be able to save face. It was decided I would go with Emmet, who had no fear. We ventured in. I told Emmet he would have to distract me with stories throughout the 18 minutes of hell, I mean, glorious beauty. Over the chestnut trees, then the sheer ascent past steep cliffs and boulder fields, views of the island behind us, dots of red roofed villages in the distance, a ring of ocean. It was stunning, though I saw little of it on the way up. 

Emmet did not distract me. He would not go along with my requests for storytelling. But intermittently, between the hundreds of photos and videos he was taking, he would say, “Mom, you will never have this moment again. This is a once in a lifetime experience. Isn’t it amazing?” And I realized he was simply parroting my own words back to me.

After exiting the gondola and hiking up to the top of the mountain, it was then sneakily revealed by Chris that we would in fact have to take the gondola again back down (he had told us at first that we would hike down, but it turned out to be a two-hour hike and we didn’t have the time/food to do it). On the way down, which admittedly was much easier (I actually opened my eyes), Emmet asked, “Would you ever do something like this on your own?” And we talked about how I likely would not do that on my own, and I blessed him to find partners in his life who could complement him, who could challenge him to do the things that scared him.

As my kids get older, it’s harder to hide from them those moments of the real me. At another stage of parenting, I might have been stiff lipped about being freaked out by a rickety gondola. They would probably have sensed it nonetheless, but I figure at this point – be honest about who I am, how those things have served/not served me in my life, and let my kids decide who they want to be as they grow into themselves.

That day in Elba was pretty incredible. The low-lying clouds lifted. We hiked on crystal-strewn rocks around blue-green seas and baked in the sun. We ate lunch in a charming little town with a friendly but possibly rabid cat.  Chris and Emmet jumped into freezing crystal clear waters. The combination of adventure, a little fear, beauty, sun, exploration – everyone was pretty blissed out. A good day.

We left Elba yesterday for a week at an agriturismo in Tuscany. En route, we stopped in Pisa, falling prey to ridiculously posing next to the leaning tower. How could we not?

Florence, Venice: Traveling, Touristing, Saturation

I have a cold, I didn’t sleep well, and my mind is somewhat foggy. It’s sunny outside, but we are all sniffly. We are all battling some lightweight lethargy.

We recently returned from a few days wandering the narrow alleyways and canals of Venice. It was postcard beautiful, heavily touristed, and all of the caricatures one would expect of Venice. We did all of the usual Venice things - visiting museums and the former Jewish ghetto, listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons in a church, riding vaporettos, and making our own glass bracelets/keychains. My favorite part was the perpetual confusion of Google Maps; we were always lost. As a family, we would play the game of rotational navigator – winding our way through the labyrinthian paths, dizzied even a block away from our target destination, our laughter, emboldened echoes in the hollow passageways.

Chris and I have recently felt like the move to Italy transitioned us from travellers into tourists. What does that actually mean? I’m not sure there really is a difference, but perhaps it just means a shallower experience of a place. Though I’m not sure that fully encapsulates it either. I think perhaps in Asia we allowed ourselves to follow an inner magnetic force to experience and transform deeply. And now that we have transformed, we are a bit saturated, like the body and all that it entails can no longer hold being moved quite as deeply. And given that saturation, there is a limit to how stirred we are by what we see around us. 

I spoke yesterday to Obie about this, as we wandered through the Accademia in Florence, beholding David in all of his magnificence. Obie had a rather lacklustre look on his face; “I prefer Buddhas,” he remarked casually. And I understood what he meant. He intellectually thought it was really cool - glorious and rich and marble and gold and impressive. And that's the truth - we are all enjoying ourselves. The kids are talking about coming back to Italy to study or to work. We are having fun. We really are! 

But there is something more superficial about this part of the experience. Is it the place, a country that efficiently serves up polished tourist experiences? Is it simply that we are in the last leg of our trip and everyone is filled to the brim with experience and mind-/heart-bending transformation? 

I’m not sure. But as always, we explore the terrain together, one foot in front of the other, taking down days when we all need a break.

For me, despite the cold, I am appreciating that I have finally allowed in a certain slowness and expansiveness that I was so sorely lacking in Vancouver. I am reading voraciously again – fiction, spiritual memoirs, autobiographies, an intermittent nonfiction piece. Somehow those early parent years drained me of being able to truly read without goal. It was like without a predetermined purpose, my mind could not create the space to be moved by a book, by the release that it required of me, to wander through its passageways, to get lost. The metaphors of one’s outside and inside worlds, different worlds taking leads at different times, an openness to traveling on all of the levels of one’s being.

In any case, here are some shots of us throughout our time in Florence, including our wonderful language classes in the first two weeks of our time here, climbing the Duomo, visiting the nearby town of Fiesole, sweet restaurants, the Accademia, wandering, and more. 

From here on out, we have one more week in Florence, then off to Elba for Chris' marathon, and then to an agriturismo in Tuscany!

Culture Shock

It’s Sunday morning here on a partly cloudy, crisp morning in Florence. We have now been here for over a week, though it feels like forever. Forever since we laughed at the monkeys playing outside of our jungle treehouse in Sri Lanka. Forever since we swam in the bathtub blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Forever since our travel snafu turned luxury in the Dubai swim-up pool.

Florence is wonderful, as they said. Yes, swarmed with tourists. But we live just outside of the city center and it’s teeming with locals seemingly living the good life. Drinking, eating, socializing at all hours of the day, looking chic yet comfortable, confident yet down to earth. I really like this city. I like living here. Winding through labyrinthian markets, slurping up pasta, washing it down with local wines. I like the cramps in my feet after thousands of wandering steps each day. I like the way the language sings and (though we struggle in language class!) how its melody is starting to make sense to me.

And yet, I feel adrift. There were those first few days. Adrenaline and heartbeats on fire and cheese and spritzes and seeing friends and oh I hoped it would never end. And then, the crash. What is this crash?

Is it that I have been holding it together in the unfamiliar, only to now let down my guard in the more familiar?

Is it that the consumption of this place makes me want to dig in more to my body, exercise, and lead a more routinized life?

Is it that the city's flair makes me want – fashion, art, jewelry, s t u f f – desires that I have not had in months, so thirsty all of the time, unquenchable? 

Is it that the wealth and Renaissance and Christian ground feels to me distant, disconnected, and spiritually ungrounding? 

Is it that the reality of return – and all of the unknowns of that re-grounding – is beginning to materialize?

I really do not know. I assume it is fleeting. It is how culture shock catches you off guard. I walked into Italy feeling like I owned this transition, would effortlessly steward my kids through this first time experience. How many times have I moved from Asia back to the familiar West? I was beyond this surprise, wasn’t I? And yet, I guess that’s culture shock. It is always dizzying - throwing you off of your center of gravity.   

So for now, we dig in. One more week of language school, a quick trip to Venice, day trips from Florence, Chris training for his marathon in the Tuscan hills, all of us settling in and finding our groove. 


Also ps – Emmet would now like to become a Florentine mosaic artist, so if anyone knows of any apprenticeships that will accept foreigners in about 10 years, he’s surveying his options :)