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.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Road to Italy

...does not run smoothly.

One of our favorite things to do in lovely Italia is to explore the secrets and surprises along the "white" roads--those byways where sheep and tractors still cross the rocky, unpaved lanes that lead between villages, vineyards, farms and history.

But--it isn't charming or fun to traverse white roads in planning our future--particularly for a type A person who likes the ball to roll straight and fast--of course, this character flaw is in direct contradiction to the "Italian Way" as friend Nico delights in reminding me. Maybe that's why I love Italy so much--it is my diametrical opposite! Maybe I believe that "go slow" will become my nature and patience my virtue.

After finding the incredible airfare--which by the way may have been one of those computer glitches we hear about-more on that later--and being euphoric over the opportunity to meet the school and location questions head-on, there came a slight bulge in the bubble. And it was one that I should have foreseen.

November 1 is All Saints Day, a major holiday in Italy. Having been in Italy last year at this time, I know this. The country shuts down, cemeteries are groomed, graves are bedecked and great honor is bestowed on ancestors. We took great pleasure in observing this in Sicily when we wandered a cemetary outside of Sircusa the day before, when mausolems were been scrubbed, vases were being arranged, treasured pictures were being displayed. The next day, we found ourselves absolutely trapped in spiderwebs of traffic around the cemetery until an observant poliziotto came to our rescue and somehow threaded us through. Traffic was backed for miles. Now--I do think that Sicilians are much more into this observance than mainlanders are, but, like we in the United States, a holiday is never turned down.

The upshot of this is that schools are closed and people don't work--voila--a dead day (aptly put) for me. But--it gets worse. Since November 1 is on a Tuesday, a perfectly wonderful long weekend comes by shutting everything down on Monday. Now, I lose 2 days of accomplishing what I came for--leaving only 4 days to see schools.

But--having recently had conversations with Casey about half full glasses and that old cliche about making lemonade, I have listened to myself and adapted expectations and am fully convinced that all that needs to happen will.

The wonderfully encouraging and warming situation is that several friends in various parts of Tuscany and Umbria are stepping forward, going out of their way to help--offering property hunting assistance, checking with schools, locating B and B's/hotels, and so much more. So--in the long run, what orginally seemed disastrous has brought something better and valuable--the sense of becoming part of a new community of friends--a reminder of just why we are wanting the year for which we plan.

A week from today I will be somewhere between here and there--before then, the plans will change daily as we reevaluate the where's to look. Tonight it is the Montepulciano area, the "suburbs" of Siena, the Chianti and the area around Perugia, Umbria. Today Cortona was dropped and by tomorrow maybe the Siena suburbs. The remaining three all draw us and have definitive potential.

So--November 4, I hope to return triumphant--a location chosen, potential rental properties and an agent with whom to work and, most special, more people to call good friends.

Now--plane fare story. Today, having decided that I really could use 2 more days there, I called UAL to see how costly it would be to change the reservation. The person I spoke with put me on hold while checking with "the fare" department. When she came back, her comment was "you have a deeply discounted fare (this was quite emphasized). The fare department says it will cost $2000 to change the date." Somehow, that seems like an exhorbitant change even for the weird rate rules of airlines. I believe that somehow I checked the website at a magic moment and won the prize--a nice feeling!

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