Often you don’t think about a topic until someone asks you a specific question and they expect a reply. For instance, I’ve had people ask if spending half the year in Italy has lived up to my expectations. In trying to come up with an answer, it occurred to me that I really hadn’t had a lot of expectations, and most of the ones I did have somehow got all switched around.
For instance – I thought my Italian would be MUCH better by now. Of course I’m slightly better than I was 5 years ago, but my rate of improvement is at the same pace as a couple of corals getting together and becoming a barrier reef. If I keep going as I am, I’ll be 160 before I can easily hold a real conversation.
The switch to my expectation, however, is that I really enjoy the process of learning Italian. I absolutely adore Eva, my teacher at I Love IT, and learn at least 4 things that are interesting….though not necessarily linguistically useful…. in every class. However, it’s all at the “theory” level. I even enjoy doing the homework and am really disappointed when she says there is none (my classmates hate me). I can see myself taking lessons for years to come. On the other hand, if I truly wanted to learn the language, I’d be out there in the street with Italians, talking to everyone I could, engaging in conversations just for the sake of speaking, listening to practical, real-life Italian. This is what Alan does and the end result is that he’s always given the Italian menu in the restaurant while I’m politely handed the one in English. This doesn’t bother me nearly as much as it should IF my true intention had ever been to speak fluent Italian.
The whole social aspect of being here is something I had never carefully considered. I did not expect just how active the life has turned out to be. Since I thought my Italian would be better, it stands to reason that I probably also thought I’d have more Italian friends than I do. However, there are a lot of English speaking people around Orvieto, and it’s an incredibly warm and welcoming group — probably due to the fact that they’re here because they’ve chosen to be. They weren’t born here, they don’t have family here, they’re not escaping from anything; they’re here because they love Italy and want to spend time absorbing whichever part of the culture they find interesting. As a result, this group is comprised of people with a much broader range of interests and expertise than my friends at home, who tend to fall into a range very much like my own. And perhaps most important, here we make time to enjoy each other’s company. I don’t know what it is about life in the US, but it seems to ALWAYS be much busier, and I don’t see friends nearly as often as I do when I’m in Italy.
We haven’t taken advantage of Orvieto’s central location to travel as much as I thought we would. There are still so many parts of Italy we want to see, and as for European countries — we seem to return to the old standbys: France and Germany. We did hit Slovenia this year (FABULOUS!!!!), but that still leaves about 2 or 3 lifetimes’ worth of other places to try. When my elderly beloved cat Orson was with us, I could blame him for our not traveling more….not wanting to leave him in the care of the only kennel in the area. But now that he’s been dead for 2 years and all we have to show is a couple of trips back to Germany and a few days in Slovenia, I have the feeling it was somewhat unfair to blame him in the first place. I would like to believe that in 2014 we’ll get slightly more serious about branching out a bit more….although I thought the same thing about 2013. I’m not sure if this particular reality of our life in Italy can be labeled “unrealized expectations”; more likely, it’s just plain procrastination.
Of course I expected that I’d like living in Italy for longer periods than just a vacation, or I wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of setting up camp an inconvenient 9-hour flight away from home. I’m happy to report that in this case, my enjoyment is MUCH more than I ever expected it to be. I never dreamed that I would feel as “at home” in Orvieto, nor miss it as much as I do when I’m back in the US.
The only downside to this back and forth is my ever-deteriorating relationship with US Air. My expectations of them were never lofty, and unfortunately, they were right on target: cramped, uncomfortable seats that get more cramped and uncomfortable with each trip, along with inedible food that somehow manages to become more inedible as the years go by. Yet as the plane descends and I catch my first glimpse of the Italian landscape, the pains leave my joints, and I can almost taste the meal I’m planning to eat at my favorite restaurant that night. I’m able to put my abusive USAir relationship behind me and get back to good friends, gorgeous countryside, my lovely town and Eva’s homework.