God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Catching Up

Top of the train ride--Ecuador Andes--Great Fun Posted by Hello

We, Ken and I, have decided to implement a dream we have nurtured for a long, long time--an extended visit to Italy where we can settle in, settle down, see what life is really like in this country we have come to love.

The dream began when we were foot-loose and fancy free; when we thought that by retiring, we could freely do what we wanted, when we wanted, how we wanted. You know, those foolish thoughts we have when we think we really are in charge of life. Then--that life brought one of its unexpected twists and we became guardians of our 4 year old grandson--whom we adore, love, treasure and who rules our life more completely than our children ever did.

At first we thought that our traveling days were over--except for the occasional trip to Disneyland, Magic Mountain, Sea World and campgrounds--all things we enjoyed when younger and at the proper age for parenting but not high on our agenda in retirement. In our current top 100 list of favorite things to do, you won’t find these meccas of high-energy and youthful exuberance. (Although, for Casey we have already learned to love Legoland and I know, without doubt, that we will revisit the others--unless we can talk Uncle Jeff into them.) Already we are regulars at the Little League field,the soccer field and the local rec center's basketball court--places we willingly left behind 25 years ago. Now our new peer group is the same group we watched play years ago.Like I said--life has strange twists and turns--somewhat like driving the beautiful Almafi Coast. You don't know what comes next, but you better be prepared to handle it in a hurry!
But, I digress....

Back on track--We soon realized that there was no reason that we could not travel, taking Casey with us--what a great opportunity for him to become a “child of the world” with appreciations and knowledge far beyond that of most young people---and what joy we could find in seeing familiar and new sights through the eyes of an awestruck child. So, in 2003--when he was 4, we set off for 6 weeks in Europe--3 in Spain which was new to us and 3 in Italy, where we go to relax, regroup and feel at home. I’ve written about that trip and the experiences on Travel Memories--complete with lots and lots of photos and tips on traveling with a child.

Casey loved the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Everyone loved him. Posted by Hello

Since then, Casey has traveled with us to the Galapapos Islands, the Amazon Rain Forest, the high Andes of Ecuador, Amsterdam, France, Hawaii, several of the 48, a second trip to Italy,including Sicily and other shorter, closer to home trips. In August we will spend 3 weeks in Alaska--flying into bear viewing wilderness, landing on glaciers, riding dogsleds, etc.

After all of this, it is not surprising that he already has a love of travel and after a few weeks home begins to ask about our next trip. He can find his way around airports like a pro, his first question is always “where is the Red Carpet Club?”; he thinks that everyone gets to ride in the big seats and have white linen tableclothes; he has a well-used passport; he is amazed if we are ever on a one-plane trip and he has been in almost as many different cockpits as there are planes. He has friends all over, including budding romances in Guyaquil, Ecuador and Montepulciano. He believes that gelato is meant to be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner; he knows how to say bruschetta correctly and knows that a margherita is a pizza. And--he is still just 6 years old. What a life!

Now we are preparing for his biggest adventure yet--the opportunity to, for a short time, truly live in another country, another culture; the opportunity to establish a core appreciation for human differences; a chance to learn to be comfortable in and relish the new and different; a chance to define whom he will become in a manner differently than growing up with his only experience being the fast pace, new world mentality of the United States.

As we do this, his schooling becomes the primary factor in determining where to go, when to go and for how long. When we first began the brainstorming, we wanted him to attend an Italian school; however, several people have convinced us that unless we move for long term, the language barrier will be very difficult. And, since we are considering just one school term for this first experiment, we clearly won't be there long enough for him to learn the language and enjoy the classroom. Thus, reluctantly, we have decided to settle near an international school, a decision which severely limits our location options.

Our dreams have focused on the Tuscany/Umbria area--maybe because we now have good friends in Montepulciano and having friends is important, maybe because we love the landscape and the sunrises and the mystical light, maybe because our "new world" framework longs for a sense of the old, maybe...maybe...maybe. Whatever it is that draws us has resulted in the selection of the International School of Florence with the primary school campus housed in Bagno a Ripoli. So--with that decision made, we are now ready to begin the journey to fulfillment.

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