NEW YEAR PERSPECTIVE – 2015
About this time a year ago, I sat down and compiled some reflections on what had happened in the previous year. The year of 2013 was a period of some significant changes in our lives. It was a year in which speculations, the “just what if’s” and other assorted wonderings were translated into action – we actually became Expatriates in Italy. And then in 2014, we spent our first entire year in our Italian home.
Last year’s reflection seemed to concentrate on the lingering question of trying to better understand the process that culminated in a substantial change in life-style. A curse of the aging process can involve wanting to be sure you not only did something positive but that you also did it for the right reasons. By the time we have reached a certain age we may have acquired enough bumps and bruises along the way to start to figure out that motive can have a pretty strong influence on outcome.
At this juncture, we have been Elective Residents legally admitted into Italy for now a little over eighteen months. We still have, and will continue to maintain, our citizenship status in the U.S.A. Although we are not Italian Citizens, we have all the protections that the Italian Constitution affords any of its citizens. We also have been permitted to buy into the Italian National Health System (Tessera Sanitaria) by paying an annual premium. At the current U.S. Dollar to Euro exchange rate, that premium in the Provence of Ascoli Piceno works out to something like $465 for both of us for the entire year.
In the process of joining the health system we chose our own primary care physician. We then made an appointment and met with him to establish a relationship and to provide him with the detailed health records we had brought with us from California. The Doctor spent nearly an hour with us and reviewed the records in detail asking questions as regards present status and reviewed our prescriptions. At the end of a very pleasant visit, we shook hands and were not charged a single Euro. And we understand, if immobilized, doctors here will make house calls.
We also now have a relationship with an exceptional local dentist. The equipment in his office would make many dentists in the U.S. green with envy. We have had check-ups and hygienic work done in addition to work I knew was pending when we left California. The Dentist and his staff are very pleasant, the work was excellent and cost quite reasonable compared to experience in the U.S. Dental work is not covered under the National Health plan just as it is not under Medicare in the U.S.
Our apartment in the historic center of Ascoli Piceno has come to feel very much like home. We have now seen the full cycle of the seasons come and go. Time takes on a whole new feeling in a setting like this. Living in surroundings where time has left a very long, indelible mark, continues to be fascinating. Somehow being aware of so much around us that has been standing a very long time and still has very useful utility, carries with it a sense of reassurance. Living immersed in an enhanced perspective for the long flow of time may have become something of a metaphor for us. Perhaps that is an admission by someone who can’t help being aware of having aged but is enjoying the tangible perspective that there is more to life than an emphasis on the young and the new.
We still feel very comfortable with the choice of not buying a car. Public transportation is meeting our needs very well and the additional walking we are doing has been rewarding us in a number of health areas. That includes another aspect of going a piede, going on foot, is you feel more immersed in your surroundings. You not only see more, you hear, you touch and even enjoy the delightful odors that the Italian engagement with food preparation brings into the air. Plus a little, brisk winter evening air on your face is enlivening and brings reality to the fact that seasons do actually change. And we are also still unrepentant voyeurs and can’t get enough of watching Italians interact on a daily basis. I thought I had some idea what gregariousness was about. In that category, Italians are on steroids.
During this past year, we had our lives enriched by having a series of visits by family members and friends. We really enjoy the rediscovery of our surroundings by experiencing it through the eyes and perceptions of others. Everyone who has come here has commented that the time they spent in Ascoli was a highlight of their time in Italy. What that perception says to us is something we repeatedly emphasize. As a tourist, you are a visiting outsider peering in, getting just a brief glimpse and a morsel understanding of Italy and the Italians. Until you have had opportunities to sit down with wonderful groups of Italians around a table sharing a boisterous, protracted, multi-course meal, you have only scratched the surface of Italy. Even after eighteen months, we are still in the early stages of the journey into the real heart and soul of Italy.
Our ever expanding circle of Italian friends and acquaintances have been exceptionally generous not only to us but in extending a welcome to our visitors. After a year and a half, our social circle has expanded to the point that on virtually any excursion through town we will encounter someone that will require a stop to share an embrace and a chat. Not long ago, I was on the way back from a short shopping expedition when I saw someone I knew who was talking to some other people on the opposite side of the street. I had not seen him for a while. When our eyes met, he immediately stopped his conversation and we met and embraced in the middle of the street. This sort of thing happens all the time.
In less than two weeks we will be making a return visit to the U.S. to see family and friends. We will arrive in Florida and then on to Atlanta, San Diego and then to the San Francisco area. We will be gone about a month. We very much are looking forward to being face-to-face and in embraces with family members and very dear friends. We have a feeling that there will be some things that seem different to us. In reality, it is less likely that things back in the U.S. will be all that different but after eighteen months in Italy, it is more than likely that we are a little different.
Eighteen months ago we were not so much leaving the U.S. but actually going to Italy. We are very comfortable in both places. We decided to do this not because we were rejecting the country of our birth and nurturing. We did this primarily to add a new dimension to our lives. In becoming Expatriates, we feel we have added new perspectives and gained opportunities for growth in so many ways.
Occasionally, a family member or acquaintance in the U.S. will ask, “When are you coming back?” Eighteen months ago, we would have likely said, “Probably in about two years.” On the upcoming trip back to the U.S., we are probably going to be asked yet again about when we plan to return. At this point, we are far more inclined to say, “Honestly, we don’t really know. There is a whole lot yet to be seen, enjoyed and learned about. In many ways, we feel as if we have just gotten here.”
We continue to be amazed at the extent to which we feel very comfortable and welcomed here. As long as that continues, or some external circumstance beyond our control doesn’t intervene, I suspect we will simply be remaining Expatriates in Italy for as long as it is still a good thing to be doing. And with the present perspective, we aren’t anticipating much, near term, change in that prospect.
Our retrospective at the beginning of this New Year is that we remain very content that we made a wonderful decision to move to this delightful, unspoiled spot in Central Italy. We are still not entirely sure how we had the good sense to do this. But it is very clear, we are very glad that we did.