I started to write this entry quite a while ago—so much to tell—but instead I spent the minutes mesmerized by the blue skies, green hills, amber roofs and golden light right outside the window. The Tuscan scene that remains indelibly in the vision of any visitor is now our daily existence. The dream has for a short while become the reality. I would love to have words to truly share it with you.
We have been busy and yet at a slow pace since our arrival. Greve is a little village where basic needs can be met—groceries at a small COOP (name of a large market chain), several macelleria (butcher stores), farmacia, ristoranti, hardware, cinema, limited clothing etc—but for major shopping both groceries and other kinds we need to travel into either Firenze or Figline (a neighboring town).
In order to do this we need to plan our days as most businesses close for several hours during the afternoon and then reopen between 4 and 5 PM. Of course, once we are in a store, we are there for an extended period as we try to read the labels and signs which at this point are all in the proverbial "Greek to me" format. And then many of the products that we are so used to either don't exist here or come in a different form. (Example: For sour cream the best alternative is a Greek yogurt.) Fortunately there are other expats here who can share this type of wisdom with us newbies. Some of the shop owners are very friendly and work with our very limited vocabulary while others become quite brusque and not very helpful. I suspect that this is exactly what the foreigner in the U.S. experiences--maybe more so as we are such an nonbiligual country. In Europe a good portion of people have, minimally, some English skills. I know that I will try to be a friendly native when we return.
Casey and Camilla continue to build their friendship but they are each hesitant to make forays into the other's language and so now it is mostly playing UNO, being in the pool or other non-verbal activity. Then there are two children here from France who speak fluent English and so they and Casey spend a lot of time together. Right now Casey and Jack have walked to the little park nearby to play some calcio (soccer)--hopefully with some local boys.
Sunday night our families went to dinner at a lovely place in the San Michele Nature Park. The view from there is spectacular as the restaurant sits on top of the hills overlooking the luscious Tuscan countryside. The property was orginally a monastery with peasants working the surrounding land as they lived in great poverty and deprivation. There was not much livelihood to be earned from the land and then fifty percent of all they harvested and the wood they chopped went to the church. Now the property is owned by the state and is a park to be enjoyed by all.
We had a great time together--our landlord and his family of 5, the family of 4 from France and our little family of 3. As you can see, the children were having great fun playing UNO and hamming it up for the camera. Camilla is the little girl in front with the pink shirt.
Monday morning we needed to get up very early to catch a 7 AM bus to Firenze in order to go to the questura (police station) to apply for our Permisso di Soggiorno--the document that allows us to live in Italy. Without going into the details, let me just say that this is a rather trying experience as there are several hundred people in line for the same thing. Most of the people are from eastern Europe, Africa or other countries where people are leaving for better lives. Once the doors opened, numbers were handed out much like at a deli. Fortunately, we had a low number and so we were out of there in an hour. Without question, many would be there all day waiting their turns.
All of our documents were in order--a feat that no one ahead of us in line had mastered--and so it was just a matter of having them reviewed, stamped, being given our receipt and told to come back September 5 for the final document. Now we need to go the comune in Greve to apply for residency so that we can get our Carta d'Identità and be eligible for the health care system and other stuff. With all this we should stay for 5 years just to take full advantage of the efforts expended!
Ken just came in from the pasticceria with some wonderful aroma seeping from the bag he is carrying--so guess I will close this now and indulge in some dulce italiano.
Next: Pictures of our cozy, little apartment--which seems to be plenty roomy enough after all.
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.