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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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PHOTOS – QUINTANA 2016

PHOTOS – QUINTANA 2016

By on Aug 19, 2016 in PHOTOS - | 13 comments

The Drums and Clarions of Porta Romana Prima Donna Prima Donna Lady in Waiting Prima Donna A drummers enthusiasm Happy anticipation Prima Donna Prima Donna Young ladies The twins The sisters Prima Donna and Court Thoughtful anticipation In conference Relaxed anticipation Knight with cellphone Proud citizens A happy grooms person Man and Owl Proud Sbandietteri dad Knight before the contest with his son. He happened to win this year. The halberd soldier The procession begins Learned man and procession Lady in waiting followed by the Prima Donna Knights on Parade The nobility Nobility on parade Prima Donna with paiges Prima Donna and entourage Young couples on parade Arlene in excellent company At rest before the parade The QUINTANA is a reenactment of a medieval pageant that the people of Ascoli Piceno have been doing for sixty years. The pageant centers around competitions between the six communities that make up the core of Ascoli Piceno called Sestieri. The Sestieri field teams and individuals to compete in medieval-style events such as choreographed flag tossing Sbandietteri, archery, and the highlight event where mounted horsemen, the Cavalierei or knights, engage a target with a lance in a form of joist or giostra. Each sestieri also fields a musical corp consisting of various drums and straight trumpets or clarions. The Quintana begins in mid July and culminates in the first weekend of August. This year, we decided to go to the staging area where the some 1,500 citizens of Ascoli who are participants gather to form up for the grand procession through town. This gave us an opportunity to freely circulate among these spectacularly costumed people and informally photograph them. The proud community spirit and enthusiasm of the wonderful people of Ascoli, I believe, comes through in many of these images. The Quintana is just one of the many reasons we feel that life for us in Ascoli Piceno is so rewarding....

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  THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED BY For those of us who had the good fortune to have our High School English teachers expose us to the poetry of Robert Frost, his words come back to us in later life with so much more meaning.  In 1920, Robert Frost was age 46 when he wrote his poem, The Road Not Taken. His final stanza is perhaps the more familiar:   I shall be telling this with a sigh Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.   In high school, one is not well equipped to relate to explorations based on retrospective reflection.  I recall at the time a sense of ambivalence with Frost’s reference to “. . . telling this with a sigh” combined with his chosen title, The Road Not Taken. Was this perhaps an indication of regret?  In high school a question occurred to me whether Frost was suggesting caution in deviating from the more common norm. That was likely a reflection of the influences that reinforced conformity in the New York City of the 1950’s. But not surprisingly, as I have made the long journey into ages hence, I have a fuller appreciation of what Frost was suggesting. There are sometimes elements of awareness that become apparent in what seems like a moment of epiphany. And then there seem to be others that germinate over time and become more slowly refined and redefined.  In the course of musing over the extent to which I have a distinct sense of calm comfort walking these ancient streets in Ascoli Piceno, I have come to realize I have made an older person’s transition.  Typical of a younger person with so much of life yet to unfold, my focus in youth was on the future and how best to prepare myself for it.  But now, in a much later phase of my life, focus has shifted to one more centered on reflection. The emphasis for me now is to make the most of each present moment. Later in life, contemplations on what the future holds become less enticing.  In many respects,...

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Making a Home

Making a Home

By on May 13, 2016 in Blog | 13 comments

Making a Home: Hello dear readers.  It’s been a long while since I have shared my thoughts with you.  Thank goodness Larry is still feeling inspired to write and keeping the blog going.  I really can’t say why I lost my writing mojo other than we have a very active life here now and writing takes a lot of time and mind space – both of which are in less supply these days. My weeks are now filled with Pilates classes, a Stitch & Bitch group, Italian lessons from my ever-patient teacher and friend, plus Larry and I are in our 5th week of a 9-session cooking class with a chef.  We have also joined a group called Universitá della Terza Etá (University of the Third Age) that hosts very high-quality lectures on art, history and architecture, trips within Italy with qualified experts, and all manner of classes in the arts and crafts for mature adults (through which we are taking our cooking classes).  As with most things here in Ascoli the costs are amazingly low as this is a non-profit enterprise, possibly subsidized.  For example, we are paying the same for our nine four-hour-each cooking classes, taught by a local chef, as I paid for one four-hour cooking class through the Culinary Institute in San Diego – and we get to eat what we cook.. The addition of some more American expats has really enriched our lives as well.  They are all very interesting people and we have much in common – i.e. we love Italy, specifically Ascoli, are curious, independent and crazy enough to pull up roots and live in a foreign country.  We love and enjoy our Italian friends but communication with those who do not speak any English (fortunately many speak or understand some English) remains a challenge for me but Larry’s Italian is progressing rapidly.  Mom always hinted that I could be a bit lazy and stubborn, and the truth is, with the English speakers it is just easier.  “Total immersion language learning” is not as automatic as we are lead to believe, especially since every Italian community has their own dialect. I can write Italian, am pretty good at reading, and am proficient...

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ITALY IS GOOD FOR ME We are grateful to those of you who have kindly offered comments and encouragement on our Blog effort.  It seems the Blog may be stimulating thinking by others on what a post-working life might be for them. Much of what I have attempted to communicate has been reflections on our unfolding lives in Italy. I haven’t set out to explicitly say very much about changes to the person I may be in process of becoming.  That is simply because I have to believe it is something about which there would be little interest.  Additionally, I’m still trying to figure out what is happening while I’m standing right in the middle of the process. And then the other day, a reoccurring awareness came into sharper focus for me. It seemed we might have begun to grasp there had been changes to the process of how we went about decision making. In doing some minor tasks, I realized I was reacting and behaving in a manner that was different than how I might have responded in the past. Yes of course, if we are paying attention to what is going on around us, we probably react by adjusting our response to what we feel is appropriate in that particular situation.  But the point that came to me was the yardstick I now seemed to be using in gauging ‘appropriate,’ had been realigned. A more fundamental change seems to have been going on. In the event what we are now sensing might be helpful, I thought I would pass along a few thoughts and further-ranging speculations. Clearly, retirement brings changes. There are obviously any number of factors involved. In retiring, the daily demands of the job are no longer the driving force behind many of our actions.  For some, contemplating a change that significant can be very intimidating. That is particularly true if the primary criteria you use to define yourself is your job. Starting early to begin thinking those implications through can be a very productive and probably important process. Those of you who have read previous Blog comments of mine have probably picked up on my increasing sensitivity to the idea of being more open...

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 A NEW STATE OF MIND  We made a decision to create a new lifestyle in a different place hoping the process would generate new experiences.  This is just one more admission on our part to having a low threshold for boredom and finding new experiences invigorating.  An interesting aspect of new experiences seems to be, it tends to create a new state of mind. By deliberate choice, we came to live in the historic center of a provincial capital town, ‘off the beaten path’ in central Italy.  We chose to live in the older center of a town that has had the fortunate, good sense to consciously preserve the medieval character of the area. An impression that has grown on us is the level of respect the people of Ascoli have for themselves through respect for their cultural heritage.  The path along which the people of Ascoli have travelled through time is for them an immediate, visceral experience in their daily lives. What greets us on a daily basis here in Ascoli Piceno is very different from the American southern California that had previously been home. There is no question preserving the medieval character of Ascoli is an asset to promote tourism.  But the people of Ascoli have long been committed to preserving their cultural heritage well before mass tourism became a reality. It seems that tourism is drawn to experience Italy because of the respect these people have for their long heritage rather than sites like Ascoli being ‘manufactured’ to promote tourism.  This is not ‘theme-park-kitsch.’ This is the real thing far beyond what promotors could have manufactured and in a lot better taste. But Ascoli is also a place in touch with modern technology.  The already ample street lighting in Ascoli Piceno is in the final stages of being replaced by highly energy-efficient LED elements being installed in the existing, medieval appearing street lighting lanterns. Fiber-optic communication infrastructure is also in process of installation while preserving the historic character of the pavement. Beginning to feel at home in a cultural environment different than your own does not happen overnight. I don’t think either one of us would try and pretend we are at that point just yet. ...

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This year, we celebrated Arlene’s birthday in January by enjoying an extended weekend in Paris. We flew from Rome to Paris-Orly and stayed in a small hotel footsteps off the Rue Cler in the 7th.  The atmosphere was traditional Parisian residential with specialty food shops, cafe’s, small restaurants plus a short walk to the Eiffel Tower.  January in Paris is bound to be ‘seasonal’ but the over riding benefit is being tourist low season.  Paris is an under two hour flight from Rome and budget air connections make the wonderful experience very attractive. Gran Palais and Champs Elyseess Eiffel Tower in the clouds Eiffel Tower from Champs de Mars Eiffel Tower and birthday celebrant Eiffel Tower base Louvre pyramids at damp dusk Louvre pyramid stair Louvre pyramid stair study From Louvre pyramid – old plus the new Louvre pyramid entrance La Gioconda behind bullet proof glass Picasso at the Louvre Venus d’ Milo Diana the huntress Psyche and Cupid Louvre interior Notre Dame Notre Dame Interior Notre Dame Rose Window Notre Dame nativity Notre Dame Nativity Nativity detail Notre Dame exterior nativity Paris restaurant nativity San Sulpice Altar San Sulpice Sunday organ concert San Sulpice organ Rue Cler Cheese vendor Sunday bird market Sunday bird market...

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