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AUTUMN IN ASCOLI After so many years in the very moderate climate of southern California, we have returned to the experiences of our earlier lives when the year was punctuated by pronounced seasonal changes. In our last Blog posting, we remarked on the very hot summer we had experienced this year. We are now in Autumn. Just now, the days are generally sunny and in the lower 60’s (F) and in the 40’s (F) at night. And then, there is the occasional rain. The change in the weather is also visually reinforced by the change of fashion seen on the street. With the equinox, there is a spontaneous, expected change in how one presents oneself.  And just the other day when out doing morning errands, I saw in the higher elevations of the Apennine Mountains to the west of Ascoli, a reflection of a covering of light snow. This Fall also involved a family loss. After a very prolonged history of serious health issues, Arlene’s sister was admitted into an Intensive Care Unit at a San Diego, California Hospital. She had been hospitalized before on multiple occasions but this time, the prognosis was less favorable. Given the short notice and other complexities, we determined to get Arlene to San Diego as fast as we could while I remained here in Ascoli. The decision for Arlene to immediately go to San Diego was the correct one to have made. After a little over a week following Arlene’s arrival, her sister peacefully left this life with Arlene and her sister’s husband holding her hands. The passing of a close member of a family is never easy to process.  Under the circumstances of a protracted and complex health history, the probability had been anticipated there was always a likelihood of her passing away sooner than might otherwise have been hoped for. In some respects, recognizing that probability was a means to try to be prepared for what seemed likely but still did not dull the sense of loss when it took place.  The extended family is now dealing with the complex emotions of grief over the passing of someone loved while also having a sense that a prolonged experience with suffering and...

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SUMMER IN ASCOLI PICENO As predicted, the summer of 2017 has turning out to be a warm one in Italy. It has been beyond ‘warm,’ it is has been hot! Here in Ascoli Piceno, our daytime summer temperature averages have generally been in the upper ninety-degree Fahrenheit range with some U.S. Midwestern-style humidity to match.  But in August, the afternoon temperature in Ascoli has occasionally reached 104 degrees Fahrenheit. This kind of weather is making the Mediterranean tradition of taking a prolonged midday break from activity seem like a sensible idea. Not surprisingly, this community, with a reported population near 50,000, is strangely quiet most afternoons between one to four PM. Added to the town becoming quieter is the long tradition of the August vacation to the beach or the mountains to escape the heat. Tradition has it that the Emperor Augustus made a magnanimous gesture of establishing a break from work which is still known as Ferragosto, the vacation time granted by Augustus in the first century in the Current Era. Our increasing Italianization is in evidence with our accommodations to the summer heat. As we mentioned in the last Blog post, we have rented a portion of an Italian sand beach for the season on the Adriatic Sea at San Benedetto del Tronto, about a half hour drive from our apartment. A small table supporting a sun umbrella, plus two sun lounges all sits about forty feet from the water’s edge.  On most days, the Adriatic is as calm as a very large lake and the water temperature is very pleasant. The air temperature and a gentle breeze at the Adriatic beach is often enough cooler than Ascoli to provide some welcomed relief. On some days, the beach on the Adriatic can be as much as ten degrees’ Fahrenheit cooler than Ascoli. Additionally, being immersed in the Adriatic up to my neck brought even further relief. Arlene is an all-day beach regular at least three days a week. My more restless nature hasn’t quite gotten into the all-day at the beach stage yet, so I usually go down later in the day to enjoy an on-the-water, mid-afternoon onwards with her. Our second accommodation to the heat of...

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ON CONTENTMENT Spring is finally here in Ascoli Piceno.  This area in Central Italy represents a complex, transitional weather zone involving the Apennine Mountain chain to the west and the nearby Adriatic Sea to the east. Against that setting, a continuous interplay between weather systems flowing north out of Africa, moderated by the Mediterranean Sea, interacts over this area with weather systems coming from the north from over the Alps. All that complexity adds a little uncertainty to weather forecasting. But we supplement forecasts by looking out the window before going out anyway. Spring anywhere can have its temperature oscillations between a refreshing sunny warmth one day and a damp, windy, chilly day the next.  Central Italy is no exception to that pattern but it does seem the oscillations here have finally given way to very welcome milder days. However, the long-range forecasts are promising a very warm summer. In response to the promise of a warmer summer we are exercising our developing Italianism. We have just decided to rent a spot with two chairs, a table and an umbrella for the summer on an Adriatic beach probably ten meters from the water’s edge. Better yet, the spot is next to our wonderful friend ‘Jo’. For Arlene, summers spent on a beach on the Atlantic are ingrained in her idea of what the season is about. Having traded the Atlantic for the Adriatic, life now seems in better balance. Some friends recently commented they hadn’t seen much in the way of Posts to this Blog since the first of the year. And I’m afraid that’s true.  But that doesn’t mean the writing compulsion has abated. My writing urge has been exercising itself in some other directions. But our underlying goal for this Blog remains to comment on our fascination with the process of acclimating ourselves into a new life in a very old place that is quite different than our prior experiences in the land of our birth. And so, that is the theme we will try and stick to. However, the absence of Blog commentary doesn’t mean there hasn’t been activity in Ascoli Piceno. The Lunar cycle timing for religious events such as Passover and Easter, changes when...

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NEW YEAR’S PERSPECTIVE – 2017   Since the beginning of this Blog, we have paused after the New Year’s celebrations to reflect on the year just past. Each year as Expatriates has brought new and different experiences.  Thinking back on these events seems to help us better understand this stimulating and different life we are now living. Of course, not all last year’s experiences affected us in positive and reinforcing ways. In reflecting back on 2016, a general refrain we are hearing from others as well is a diminished enthusiasm for some of what the past year brought. The major event in our United States homeland was a presidential election. The overall impression is that process was marked by division, acrimony, and expressions of vitriol largely rooted in fear and exploited anxiety.  What might have been hoped for in reasoned explorations of alternative visions to bring about a better tomorrow was largely drowned out in negativity. The presidential election process projected an overall absence of civilly moderated, reasoned dialog discouraged by the disparaging of ‘political correctness.’ The outcome appears to be we have been forced to confront the reality that just barely beneath the surface of American culture, there lurks coarseness and crude insensitivity. Apparently, a commitment to maintain a cohesive and inclusive American larger sense of common community has been sacrificed in favor of identity politics. This extremely troubling development is a consequence of fomenting division as a political strategy – a classic ‘divide and conquer’ objective. Demagoguery too easily replaces reasoned, civil debate in a society saturated in the stimulating noise of mass media entertainment. A meaningful vision of ‘a larger, We’ somehow gets lost in the process. Americans are now confronted by deep divisions within the fabric of the nation. Reflecting on the words of Abraham Lincoln in the dark days leading up to the American Civil War, we need to consider very seriously the question of ‘whether a house divided against itself can stand?’ America is currently appearing too fractured to promote a cohesive, collaborative community committed to a Common Good. Not all Americans wanted it this way but it seems sufficient numbers of us bought the sound bites probably out of desperation. An opportunity...

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CHRISTMAS 2016

CHRISTMAS 2016

By on Dec 23, 2016 in Blog | 8 comments

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND BEST WISHES FOR THE COMING YEAR   Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and Ascoli Piceno is alive with anticipation.  In Italy, family, food and dear friends are what make the holiday so special.   Our wonderful Italian friends have invited us to a series of festive meals with them. We start with a noontime gathering tomorrow and then a traditional Christmas Eve dinner at the home of another friend. On Christmas Day we join our friend Serafino and his extended family for a Christmas Day feast which will go on for hours. The day after Christmas, Saint Stefano’s Day, we have been invited to the home of our delightful upstairs neighbors for an extended midday meal with their family.   There is a Christmas Market in one of the main piazzas complete with lighted tree, above, and an ice skating rink.  On New Year’s Eve we will host our now traditional party in our home.   This is a season to take the time to reflect on what is most important in life. And that’s why we wanted to say how much we appreciate each of you.   With our warmest best wishes,   Larry and Arlene Ascoli Piceno,...

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EARTHQUAKE SWARM

EARTHQUAKE SWARM

By on Dec 15, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

EARTHQUAKE SWARM As many of you are aware, Central Italy has been experiencing a series of earthquakes which began in late August this year. Clusters of earthquake tremors are not uncommon worldwide and are referred to as ‘swarms.’On 24 August, a very serious level 6.2 earthquake occurred in the Sibillini Mountain range of the Italian Apennines. Close to 300-people lost their lives and over 25,000 people either lost their homes or were required to evacuate. Countless businesses were destroyed and lives disrupted in the mountain villages. A contributing factor to the high initial loss of life was the late August period is traditionally vacation time in much of Europe.  During this period, it is common for Italians to escape the heat of late summer in the cities to vacation in mountain villages. It is also common to have visitors from outside of Italy come into Italy’s mountains for their vacations. As a result, many small towns and villages were filled to capacity with visitors on 24 August. Regrettably, many of these smaller settlements contained structures built in less prosperous times by people who worked the land and were not constructed in accordance with later, updated building codes more sensitive to seismic issues. After a somewhat moderate quieting down, the so-called earthquake swarm re-intensified adding to the property loss. In late October, more intense earthquake activity was felt in a concentrated area in the Sibillini Mountains.  On 24 October, a level 5.5 earthquake occurred followed on 30 October by a 6.6 level event. These tremors intensified property damage in structures already weakened in the previous series of tremors. Fortunately, the Civil Protection authorities had taken prompt and effective action in the aftermath of the initial 24 August seismic shock and had facilitated evacuations in earthquake prone areas where building structural integrity was felt to be compromised. The increase in late October serious seismic activity intensified the evacuation effort and broadened its scope. The evacuees were moved into temporary housing where many still remain. That prompt response has ensured the post-August re-intensification of the earthquake activity has not resulted in the additional loss of life. The issue of how or even whether to rebuild has yet to be addressed. It is...

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LOGISTICS REVISITED

LOGISTICS REVISITED

By on Dec 7, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

LOGISTICS REVISITED Consistency is supposed to be a virtue, except when it no longer is. We are now well into the fourth year of our Expatriate adventure in the Central Italian, provincial capital of Ascoli Piceno. What has remained consistent is our enjoyment of this place, its people and the quality of life we are experiencing. Some decisions make a lot of sense at a given point in time. One of our early decisions was to do without owning a car. We did, on occasion, rent a car or a van but that was largely for IKEA runs or visitor tours. But like the song says, times they are a changing – yes, we just bought a car. A 2005 Fiat Panda diesel powered vehicle is now part of the family. Arlene has decided to name the Panda “The Boss,” derived, or so I understand, from the Fiat Marketing Department’s name for the color in which the car is painted – ‘Bossa Nova Blue.’ I also understand there is no allusion to Bruce Springsteen implied. This change in our life has come on gradually. Our initial concentration had been on becoming more comfortable being part of the life around our home in the historic center of Ascoli Piceno. A factor in choosing this place was because of the many options it presents within easy walking distance of our apartment. The terrain is generally flat and the visuals in this distinctly historic and architecturally stimulating setting still excite us. Other than some excursions into the countryside with friends plus trips by air or rail to more  distant places, we had not  wandered very far out of central Ascoli in the process of daily life. It seems as time has gone on, our circle of Italian friends has widened with the result that not all of them live within central Ascoli. Many of our friends with cars have been more than generous in transporting us to social events outside of Ascoli. But after a while, imposing on friendship not only gets awkward, our self imposed limit in taking advantage of spontaneous possibilities has run it’s natural course. Reinforcing that aspect, over time, we have been exposed to small, picturesque villages and...

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HOME Home is more than a mere geographic reference; the emotional significance of home is much deeper than that. We seem to need a place of sanctuary where we can have a break from the inevitable stresses of interacting in a larger world. For us, home has always been a very special place. A relocation within a native homeland carries stresses enough but relocating to a different country only multiplies the dislocation issues involved. Among the complexities of a major relocation to a far distant place is the disruption to a comfortable feeling of where home now actually exists. It seems accepting a place to be called home does not come instantly. That feeling only seems to grow over time with an overlaying accumulation of events and emotional experiences that provide reassurance. In adapting to Expatriate life, as expected, some additional time has been required for us to reach a level of emotional comfort in a new and different place before it has started to really feel like home. In a recent post, we discussed our plan to return to California this past summer to not only visit family and friends but to sort through items left in storage, dispose of some things and then ship the remainder to Ascoli Piceno. Sorting and deciding what to ship and what was to be disposed of was both physically and emotionally exhausting. But we had reached a stage of comfort with our lives in Ascoli that having items that have been part of our lives for so long around us again would further solidify the feeling of establishing a new home. As expected, the dynamics of accomplishing the shipment were complex. Matters proceeded more comfortably on the U.S. end than in Italy. More on that in a separate commentary of our experience under the heading of ‘Logistics II.’ Bound for the U.S., we left Rome by air in mid-June for New York. We returned to Ascoli during the first week of August – seven weeks on the go and just a couple of weeks before the earthquake experience Arlene recently wrote about. We started with a visit with my brother, the lady in his life plus our nephew and his family....

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LOGISTICS II Sometime back we wrote about a series of logistical considerations we decided upon in the process of becoming Expatriates in Italy. That included where to concentrate our search for a location in which to live, whether to rent or purchase a home and whether or not to buy a car. And now, after a little over three years of living in a Provincial Capital, ‘off the beaten track’ near the Adriatic Coast of Central Italy, our continuing assessment of the decisions reached in each of those areas is that the results have continued to work well for us. When we approached developing the criteria to use in making logistical decisions, the core factors we used were; to aim for more simplicity in our lives, being mindful of cost issues in an economy we were unfamiliar with and attempting to reduce sources of stress and frustration. One of the means of achieving that latter objective was to reduce, as much as possible, the necessity of having to interface with the Italian bureaucracy. As it turns out, that latter objective was even more prescient than we realized at the time. The following example will illustrate the point. The experience we are about to relate involved bringing our remaining personal items from California to our new home in Italy. In the process of the relocation to become Expats, we deferred the decision on bringing furniture and household items with us to Italy until we were more sure of what might better fit into our adopted homeland lifestyle. There were also concerns at the time involving the extended family that made firm, long-term planning difficult. So, we decided to leave some items in storage in California that would also provide a fallback reserve ‘just in case’ we were to return to the U.S. As it turns out, not bringing household items with us in an early stage of becoming Expats in Italy, created an unforeseen complication. Unfortunately, we did not realize at the time there is a finite window of one year once immigrating into Italy within which personal items can be imported from outside the European Union to avoid import duty. We waited over three years. That turned out to...

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Il Terremoto, The Earthquake

Il Terremoto, The Earthquake

By on Aug 27, 2016 in Blog | 6 comments

The Terremoto Many of our very kind readers contacted us to ask if we are okay after the horrific earthquake (terremoto).  Thank you for your concern and yes we are physically just fine.  Our beautiful city of Ascoli Piceno had no major damage and our apartment sustained no damage.  There are reports of cracked or crumbling plaster but nothing major that we know of.   A sincere thanks to Saint Emidio, out patron saint, for protecting us.  That being said, we are stunned to live so close to such a catastrophe and yet we are unscathed.  We are overcome with a feeling of helplessness when so many so close need help.  Lighting a few candles in the Cathedral and donating a bit of relief money feels inadequate. Next we think it is very important to say that, while we are grateful for the extensive national news coverage, for those not familiar with Italy and it’s terrain it sounds like all of central Italy is shut down.  With the exception of the immediate areas affected by the quake Italy is still open for business and in one piece.  The best thing you can do for Italy is not to cancel or delay your plans to visit.  Tourism is a major part of the economy here which is still suffering from the economic crisis of 2008.  If you don’t have plans to visit Italy, we encourage you to make some.  You will be welcomed, as always, by the easygoing, jovial and curious Italians that we love so much. More details on the earthquake.  At 3:36 AM on Wednesday, 24 August, we were awakened by a pretty violent shaking of the 500 year-old palazzo our apartment is in.  The shaking lasted less than 15 seconds, which always seems longer, the power went out and car alarms started going off.  We got up to check the time and looked out our open windows to see a few people coming out in the street and talking.  The power came back on about 15 minutes later, the car alarms were silenced and our neighbor said our building was okay so we went back to bed.  Based on our fine-tuned “California earthquake gauge” it felt like a...

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