Adventures in teaching English in Italy

I’ve just survived my second week of teaching English at a summer city camp in Italy. The first week, in June, was extremely nerve wracking. I was so nervous and agitated about being prepared that I couldn’t sleep at night after spending the last few hours before bed reviewing what I would be doing the next day. By the end of the week I was shattered.

This time, I was ready for my overactive brain and didn’t prepare late into the night. Sleep came more easily, and a rested mind left me with more energy the next day.

As before, we stayed with a host family whose daughter would be attending the camp. My partner teacher, Giulia, and I were welcomed with open arms and shared an attic room with an en-suite bathroom and a resident cat. Actually, there were two cats, but only Micio came looking for company and slept at the foot of my bed every night. He had the most gorgeous face with an intelligent gaze. While practising the guitar one morning, I looked up to find him watching me intently from the top stair, his unblinking gaze and tilted head taking in everything I was doing. I almost expected him to start talking to me!


So here are a few observations and ideas from my experience.

  • Be prepared, but be flexible. Things can change in a moment and if you see something isn’t working, it’s better to change it. When a game or activity was no longer fun, we moved on to the next idea to keep things fresh and fun.
  • It’s not really necessary to organise every moment of the day. We found that our kids begged us for free time when they would quite happily organise their own games with a ball. If you have enough balls, you can have three or four different games going. Favourites were football for the boys and various versions of tag using a ball. They also loved it if we joined in with their games. Although it was quite exhausting, judicious use of my time and energy helped forge a bond between myself and the children and made class discipline a little easier.
  • I found a lot of good ideas on the Internet. Besides finding examples of English camp songs (for ESL purposes), I found a number of brilliant ideas that worked very well. The first of these was a simple call and answer to get the kids’attention when they were particularly excited and noisy. Most teachers will probably know this one, but I didn’t.  It was a lifesaver! Teacher shouts, “One, two,  three, eyes on me!” Campers must reply, “One, two, eyes on you!” I stressed that they should stop what they were doing, look at me, and listen for instructions. It worked like a charm, and made a very good impression at the final day concert.
  • The second was my “Good English” cards. Most Italian kids of this age can’t string together a sentence in English, although they maye be able to conjugate various verbs correctly. My main aim for this camp was to get them talking and to help them realise that it’s not as hard as they think. So I found this sheet of squares with “Good English”, printed off a large amount and cut them apart to keep in my pocket. I told my kids that if they used good English any time in the day, they could get a card. At the end of the day, each camper counted his or her cards and the camper with the most cards could choose a sticker from a supply i brought with me. I also decided on a second camper to get a sticker every day so that not only the best students got stickers. I was soon surrounded by campers, even during the freeplay period, as they asked me questions and tried to make conversation. Success!

      The final day mini concert was a proud moment for me as campers who hadn’t wanted to speak last time around spoke loudly and proudly in front of their parents. All in all it was exciting, exhausting and very satisfying and I’m looking forward to doing it all again next summer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go and write a reply to a twelve-year-old camper who wants to continue speaking English.

      Soul food


      Take a bite…

      A burst of sweet summer sunshine

      Explodes in my mouth and

      Slides down my throat.

      Another bite…

      Warm, salty sea

      Rolls over my tongue

      Mingles with sweet sun.

      I close my eyes.

      Another bite…

      Sweet summer days fill

      My mouth,

      My stomach,

      My soul.

      Margaret Brizzolari August 2016
      This poem was inspired by my supper: sweet, ripe melon slices and parma ham, a match made in heaven!

      What foods evoke strong emotions for you? Write about it and link to  the comments if you like.

      Happy summer days, everyone.

      Spaghetti Alla Norma a Modo Mio (Spaghetti Alla Norma My Way)

      Yesterday was Cleaning Day and I hate Cleaning Day! Perhaps I should qualify that: I hate the process but I love the result. There is nothing like the smell of a freshly dusted and polished house or the feel of a newly washed floor underfoot. Anyway, since it was a hard day cleaning, it had to be an easy day cooking and nothing is easier than pasta, in my book.

      A quick look in the fridge revealed an aubergine begging to be eaten and a plan began to form. This recipe is based on a recipe from an Italian recipe book, but I tweaked it with the addition of bacon bits. My daughter has the firm belief that there’s nothing that can’t be improved with the addition of bacon, and I tend to agree. If you want the authentic recipe, just leave out the bacon. The ingredients are enough for two hungry people as a main meal. If you serve this as a primo, Italian style, then it would probably serve three or four people.

      Ingredients :

      1 aubergine
      1 onion
      100g bacon bits
      250g spaghetti
      Tomato passata
      A few fresh basil leaves finely chopped
      Salt
      A small mozzarella ball (about 125g)
      Chilli pepper to taste

      Peel and slice the aubergines in thick slices. Salt them and leave them to draw for twenty minutes.
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      In the meantime, peel and dice the onion and the bacon if it isn’t already diced. Prepare the basil leaves and keep them aside.
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      Fry the bacon and onion together. You can add a little oil if needed. I always fry my onion until it is soft as I don’t like it crunchy, but you do it the way you like it. It should be golden and delicious. Mmmmm….can you smell that delicious onion and bacon smell?
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      Now prepare the aubergine. Rinse and dry the slices well. Cut them into squares and fry them in a little hot oil. They will absorb the oil. When they have browned all over, drain them on kitchen paper. Be careful not to let them brown too much!
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      When they are ready, add them to the pan with the bacon and onion. Add the passata, salt and chilli pepper to taste and allow to cook until the brinjal is cooked through and the sauce is rich and glossy.
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      Now prepare the pasta.
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      You need a large pot because pasta needs to cook in lots of water. None of this shoving it in a tiny pot. You need one this size and the water must be boiling with a rolling boil before you put the pasta in. Add lots of salt to the water. According to one italian saying, the pasta water should be as salty a the sea.

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      Add the spaghetti to the pot in one piece. Do not break it or you’ll spoil the chance to eat it like an italian, slowly slurping in those stray strands that wouldn’t twirl on the fork. The strands slowly sink into the water as they soften and you can help them with a fork, turning and mixing them slowly. Put the pot lid on to bring the water back to the boil quickly, but watch the pot as it boils over easily. Once you have a rolling boil again, you can remove the lid. Use a long fork or spaghetti spoon to agitate and turn the pasta now and then while it cooks. This will help prevent the strands from sticking to each other. Cook until the spaghetti is cooked enough for you. It’s a personal thing. Al dente for most Italians means that there must still be a hard bite in the centre of the pasta. I don’t like that and cook until that bite is gone but the pasta is still relatively firm. About 14 minutes for this pasta.

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      While the pasta is cooking, dice the mozzarella into small dices.
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      Drain the pasta in a colander, keeping aside a little of the cooking water to add to your sauce if it’s too thick or too little and needs extra liquid. This is a trick all Italian mammas know and use to make a sauce stretch. It also helps make a sauce creamier. Put the spaghetti back in the pot and slowly add the hot pasta sauce, the diced mozzarella and the chopped basil, mixing gently. Add only enough to give the pasta a generous coating, not to drown it in sauce. I used about half the sauce and froze the rest for another meal.

      Serve with a little grated parmesan. Buon appetito!
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      Spinach like an Italian Mamma

      I love spring! The market suddenly blossoms with all manner of fresh, interesting vegetables and I browse the stalls with intense interest to see who has the biggest, brightest and crunchiest examples of my favourites. Piles of plump red and yellow peppers show off next to luscious purple brinjals. Nonnas and Mammas gently squeeze their flesh to gauge their freshness, exchanging opinions in the weak spring sunshine. No, these are not the best, they are rubbery and soft. Best to try the farmer’s stalls at the end of the piazza.

      My weekly visit to the Friday market this week saw me returning home with 1,5 kilos of fresh young spinach. These are not the large Swiss chard leaves that we ate in South Africa when I was a child, They are small, young, dark green leaves with the most delicious taste. But if you want the best from your veges, you have to treat them right. Here’s what an Italian Mamma does with her spinach.

      The leaves are bound to be dusty, even if they have been washed, so as soon as you get them home, give them a good wash under running water. Then dump them in a deep sink or bowl filled with fresh cold water. Take a large pot or deep pan and trim the roots and any unhealthy leaves from the spinach, dropping the leaves into the pot as you go. Look out for the initial leaves of the plant. They are long and narrow and must be thrown out as they will be starting to deteriorate. When the pot or pan is full, put it on the stove and start cooking the leaves. You can add a little salt to the leaves if you like. Do not add water as they cook in the water left on them. When the leaves are wilted, the spinach is done. It only takes a few minutes. Drain the leaves in a colander. Repeat the process untill all the leaves are cooked. Leave the spinach to cool.

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      This is what it looks like.

      When the spinach is cool, ask a big, hairy husband to squeeze the hell out of that spinach, forming small balls that you can put in the fridge (or do it yourself). The more water you squeeze out, the better the spinach keeps. It will keep in the fridge for between 3 and 5 days.

      This is a common way for an Italian Mamma to store spinach. In fact, you can even buy balls of cooked spinach from the supermarkets here. It can now be chopped and served as a salad with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Delicious! Or if you like, it can be gently fried after chopping. Depressions are made in the spinach and eggs lightly poached in them. A delicious brunch with bacon and toast. A  perrenial favourite at Easter is the “Easter tart”. The filling is a delicious blend of spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan, eggs and nutmeg wrapped in puff pastry – one of my favourites!

      Hmmm… which one shall I make this week? And what’s your favourite spinach dish? Let me know in the comments.

      Questions to ponder

       

      Let me start by saying that the purpose of this post is not to garner sympathy or expressions of solidarity. Rather, it’s a genuine attempt to understand what other people do, and more specifically, other people of a similar age and background.

      In many ways, life has become easier for the majority of middle class westerners in developed countries. We have easy access to food and water, and electricity allows us to be plugged in to entertainment and information 24/7. All of this ease comes at a price however, and the bottom line is that we have to continually earn a dollar to spend a dollar. That’s fine when you’re young, fit and healthy, but what do you do when age, health or circumstances make it difficult or impossible to earn a living in the conventional ways, or make it necessary to supplement your income in order to make ends meet?

      I’ve just started this journey of discovery and wonder if others feel the same as I do. I’m fifty-five this year. Not particularly old if you ask me, but living in a country whose language is not my mother tongue and whose unemployment statistics are high and steadily rising means that I will probably never be able to find employment in the general market. Add to that my age, and I’m out for the count! Although I can earn a little by teaching English, it doesn’t pay very well, and during the summer holidays here, everything stops, including one’s earnings.

      Spurred on by these thoughts, I decided to investigate other means of earning some cash, focusing primarily on Internet-related possibilities. After ruling out a number of ideas for various reasons, I settled on writing and online work and set about investigating these in more depth. After all, I’m an English teacher with a BA degree and I have a blog, so surely I should be able to make it in the world of copy writing and such? That’s what I thought!

      I started my research at Textbroker.com and was surprised to find that they only accept writers living in the USA. Scratch that then! My next step was to investigate Textbroker.co.uk but they only accept people in the UK, Canada, New Zealand or Australia. So much for that idea! I moved on to the next websites on my list, which were eLance and Odesk.

      A quick browse of both websites gives the impression that working online as a freelancer is as quick and easy as the click of a mouse. “Sign up right away and you’ll soon have plenty of work and much more money in the bank,” is what they would have you believe. I then did a quick stroll around some writer profiles to see what kind of background and experience people had, and that’s when my heart sank.

      Seasoned writer with more than 17 years of journalism, public relations and marketing experience. I have a proven ability to produce engaging copy, meet tight deadlines, clarify complicated issues and write about a wide array of topics.

      My background is in journalism and advertising. I ran my own small advertising agency for several years, which helped me hone my ability to put words together in fresh, meaningful ways. Along the way, I also created thousands of graphics for a wide range of marketing purposes. I have over 25 years of professional writing and graphic arts experience…

      These are just two examples of the kind of profile that almost every person had. How could I compete with people like that in what I’m sure is an extremely competitive environment? What can I bring to the table? I don’t have any marketing/advertising/copy writing experience and if I’m honest, very little Internet experience ( I only started really using the Internet about 12 or 13 years ago and there is an awful lot I don’t understand). I’ve always been a mother first and an employee second. I have 9 months of experience teaching English in a high school and some years of freelance ESL teaching experience, but how is that going to help in this situation? My only other working experience has been my seven years as a receptionist and office manager for a dentist. Granted, I wrote quotations and reports and corresponded with the medical aid companies regarding the payment of patients’ accounts, but I don’t know how I could make that relevant.

      So you’ve probably guessed that I’m feeling more than a little discouraged! I would love to know what other people think and what other people do when faced with this kind of situation. If you are my age, you’ve probably resigned yourself to the fact that you will always have to work (unless you have a secret method for winning the lottery, in which case, let me in on the secret, please!) but you realize that the opportunities for work will probably narrow as you get older. What will you do? What do you do? Please let me know in the comments.

      This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt’s weekly writing inspiration.

       

       

       

      Freedom on two wheels

      image Ready to hit the road

      I grew up in a house where there was always at least one motorbike and, at one point, six or seven. Although Dad had given up riding when we were very young, when we reached our teens and money wasn’t as tight anymore, he bought the first of the long line of silver steeds that I remember. Perhaps it was the thought of spending time with my brother, who had graduated from his annoyingly noisy 50cc to his first big bike, or perhaps it was just the desire to do something he loved. And I think I understand why he loved it so.

      When you ride a bike, even as a pillion passenger, you’re out there with the elements. The sun beats down on you and if you’ve fogotten your sunscreen (or a light jacket), your t-shirt sleeves will be scorched onto your arms for weeks to come. I remember one trip here in Italy where the heat was reflecting off the tarmac in visible waves and my feet were cooking when we eventually got to our destination!

      Spring is the best time to ride if you can avoid the rain. The colours are bright and vibrant and your senses are assailed by sights, sounds and smells that you would never notice if you were travelling by car. Travelling down to Cinque Terre in Italy a few years ago, the smells of travelling cemented themselves in my memory. Rice paddies in the Vercelli area smelled damp and fertile. That smell lasted until we left the paddies behind us but our nostrils were soon assaulted by new barnyard smells of fields being fertilised with manure in preparation for a new growing season. Phew! We were happy to leave that smell behind! Further on, I remember the heady fragrance of a grove of flowering trees – a smell so strong, you could almost touch it.

      And the sights! Hilltop towns clinging to their peaks give way to verdant valleys and further towns. I want to stop and explore every one of them, but the chief tends to want to get to where he is heading. Exploration is reserved for specific trips, when there is no other goal than that.

      This year, having scaled down on the size of our silver steed, we’re hoping to do more trips around Italy. They’ll be shorter trips, allowing us to spend a few days at a time in Tuscany first, and in some of the other beautiful areas of this stunning country.

      Life Celebration # 18 An Italian Spring Sunday Afternoon

      That view - food for the soul.
      That view – food for the soul.

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      Italian Sunday afternoon family entertainment - take the children for a walk anywhere public. the more people who see you, the better!
      Italian Sunday afternoon family entertainment – take the children for a walk anywhere public. the more people who see you, the better!
      Time to go home. That breeze was a little nippy!
      Time to go home. That breeze was a little nippy!
      Admiring our new ride
      Admiring our new ride
      Close-up view.
      Close-up view.

      Here’s to spring, warmth, sunshine and blue skies. We in the Northern hemisphere could all do with a little more of those.

      How did you spend your Sunday afternoon? What did you celebrate today?

      Life Celebration #16 Snow!

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      I have to admit that I love snow and the occasional snowy day! It’s true that where I live in the foothills of the alps, we don’t often get deep snow or long snowy periods. For the most part, the snow stays on the nearby peaks, giving them their winter brightness. On Friday, we woke up to a winter wonderland. My heart leapt at the beauty while I was going to market. The tree branches were outlined in snow – there was absolutely no wind to disturb it.

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      From my balcony, the surrounding hill had a glistening icing-sugar dusting.

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      The church spire rose proudly above the snowy roof tops.

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      Sadly, the snow is almost all gone already. Only the coldest corners of the garden harbour a few sad heaps. I’m hoping for a little more in the coming days!
      How do you feel about the snow? Love it, or hate it?

      In Search of Better Health

      Hi there. I’ve been a little AWOL in the last couple of weeks, so I thought I’d let you know the reason why. My life has been turned upside down and time to think and write has been drastically cut. Nevertheless, I’m not too worried about that as I’m focused on this present journey. I need to see it to the end, or rather, to the next stage, where I hope to be able to manage my time better.

      So what am I doing?  Well, after reading a very interesting book over Christmas ( It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig), my husband and I decided to do a Whole30 diet month. At the moment, I’m married to the kitchen and feel like I’m spending all my spare time (and more) cooking, but I know it won’t always be like that.

      What’s the Whole30 diet, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s a month of following a very strict diet of good protein, fats, vegetables and moderate amounts of fruit. Every meal (including breakfast) has the same basic make-up and snacking between meals is to be avoided if at all possible. Here comes the difficult part. You cut out all of the following foods: dairy, cereals (including rice), legumes, seed oils, sugars (of ALL kinds), soy products and all the bad things to be found in processed foods like MSG, nitrites and nitrates and sulfates. The book gives you a list of what to avoid and why it should be avoided. So you’re eating “whole” foods for 30 days.

      At the end of the 30 days, you can slowly add back foods like dairy, cereal etc and you will be able to see exactly what effect they are having on your system. You can then decide if or how much you will eat those foods in the future. This allows you to end up with a personalised diet which should be right for you. The premise is that the foods you cut out may be having a bad effect on your digestive system, and consequently, on the rest of your body. According to the authors of the book, many people have seen dramatic health results from following the diet (lowered cholestrol, lowered fasting blood sugar and lowered blood pressure to name a few) and have consequently changed the way they eat permanently. Although people report losing weight on this diet, my main reason for doing it is to improve our general health and keep us healthy into the future. I like the way the book gives simple explanations of why certain food or additives should be avoided. It makes you feel that you’re making an informed choice.

      If you haven’t come across this diet or read anything about it, you’re probably wondering what it’s like and how we are managing to cut out so many foods. Surprisingly, we’re managing very well, thank you! We’re on day 12 now and although we miss some things, we haven’t really felt hungry at all. It’s definitely not a diet that leaves you feeling lean and mean and craving food all day. During the first week or so I had a low level headache that just didn’t want to budge. I presume it was due to my body going through a detox process, but that has passed and I feel generally ok. I have yet to feel the surge of energy and clear mindedness that many people report, but I’m hoping that will arrive soon. My husband is Italian, so the thought of doing without pasta, pizza and risotto for a month had him quaking at the knees, but now he says he has hardly missed them (ok, he really missed his Friday pizza last week, but he held strong!).

      The interesting thing about this journey is that you learn so much about yourself and your relationship with your food. We’ve realised that most of our between meals snacking is psychologically motivated and not prompted by hunger. “I could have told you that,” you say. But there’s a great difference between being told something and realising something yourself! And I’ve realised that we are stronger than we think we are.

      What’s amazed me perhaps most of all is the way that I’ve been able to embrace cooking for the first time in years. I knew that if we were to succeed, I would have to make meals that were specially tasty to convince my husband to continue with this for a month. I’ve been browsing the paleo cooks’ sites and also bringing my own creativity to the pot. Who knew that a fragrant vegetable curry and fried eggs would make a good breakfast? Or that you can add spicy meatballs to vegetable soup to get some protein? Today’s surprise was a meatloaf made in the slow cooker. It was spicy with cayenne peppers and a natural spice mix and cooked in a delicious tomato gravy made from tomato pulp, salt, pepper , parsley and dried chives. I just mixed the gravy together in a cup and threw it over the meatloaf. The magic cooking process did the rest! We’re saving the recipes we really like and keeping them for the future!

      Have you tried this diet or any other diet with success? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If you are doing a Whole30, what are your secrets to success? What are your thoughts on diets and dieting in general? I’ll update later on as to how it’s going for me. Suffice to say that no sugar has passed these lips for 12 days. Amazing! And if you have any questions, fire away. I’ll answer if I can.

      How to Make a New Life in Italy

      Thinking of pulling up your roots and setting down in La Bella Italia? Well, you’ve popped in at just the right time. Pull up an armchair, make yourself comfortable and let’s get started. I have so many things to tell you.

      Before you leave

      – First, and most importantly, start at the beginning (or even earlier if possible). the best thing you could do now is go back about 15 years or so and marry an Italian. That’s right! Being married to an Italian makes the bureaucracy involved so much easier. If, prompted by your guardian angels, you have done such a thing, you’re home free. If not, you’ll have to follow the bureaucratic route and get a work visa and a “permesso di soggiorno” (literally a “permission to stay”). I can’t help you with details very much, as I didn’t have to do this since I married my Italian an age ago in sunny South Africa. But here’s a site where you can get information.

      – Now that you’ve been bitten by the bug, here’s your most important job. Plan, Plan and Plan some more!  How will you find work? Where will you live? Will you rent a property or buy? Remember that property prices and rentals are high in comparison to average salaries. Do your homework so that you know what your possibilities are. Get on the good old Internet and research every aspect you can think of.

      At this point, an exploratory trip may be useful if you can afford it. If like us, you are selling a house and moving across lock, stock and barrel, think about whether it would be better to sell all your furniture and buy new furniture when you arrive or whether you want to take your furniture with you.  There is very little market in Italy for second-hand goods, so  I suggest you either keep it  or sell it in your country. We moved a container of furniture (at great cost) and we could have left a lot of things behind. Use the opportunity to declutter your life and your home. Remember as well, that most Italian homes are small and anything extra is likely to get in the way. You’re going to want to throw it out when you don’t know where to put it!

      Start learning Italian! This may seem like an obvious point, but I’m amazed at how many people I’ve met who are convinced that the rest of the world will speak their language – English. No. Most Italians do not speak English. In fact, few of them speak it at all, and very few of them speak it well. You’re visiting their country, pay them the respect of at least trying to speak their language.They will love you for it! And to get you started, here is one of the best learning Italian Podcasts I’ve found on the Net. Take a look. Listening is free and in-depth lesson notes are provided to paid subscribers.

      – Bolster your savings. In our experience, the first two or three years were the most difficult. If you don’t have a job immediately, or you’ve decided to work for yourself, those savings are going to disappear at an alarming rate and you’re going to need every penny of them. It takes time to build up work relationships and a customer base in a country where everything revolves around “raccomandazioni”. My husband networked with his initial clients to expand his client base, but it took a long time.

      When you get here

      This is when the most exciting part starts! And this is where the fork meets the pasta. Your success and your happiness depend on what you do now. Speak Italian as much as possible, even if your hair curls and you instinctively cringe to hear your crummy accent or your poor grammar. It doesn’t matter! No one expects perfection. Were you basically understood? Yes? Then you did well. No? Then find out where you went wrong and work on it. It’s tempting to stop talking because you feel so stupid. I know; I’ve been there. But you have to fight that temptation. If you can afford to do an Italian course, find one in your area. If not, many local municipalities (“comune” in Italian) offer free Italian lessons for foreigners. Take advantage of them! Courses have two benefits: they get you talking and they get you out of the house and meeting people. It’s a win-win situation!

      – In conversation, avoid negative comparisons between your country and Italy (unless you’re showing the negative side of your own country). Nobody likes hearing their homeland criticized by another, and even less by a visitor. When I was a child, we called Rhodesian (Zimbabwean) settlers in South Africa “when-wes” because many of their conversations started with, “when we were in Rhodesia…”and ended with some negative comment about South Africa. Don’t be a when-we. Focus on the positive and people will respond to you in a positive way.

      – Accept that your new life will never be the same as the old. La Bella Italia is a seductive force, but she can also be a hard task master. Accept the bad with the good and you’ll have more chance of a fulfilling, ulcer free stay. Getting any official documents can be a slow nightmare and often one department doesn’t know what another department requires and instructions may be conflicting. Take a deep breath and go with the flow. You will get there eventually, along with all the other poor souls in the waiting room with you. Use the time and the camaraderie to practice your Italian.

      In many official places, as well as banks, hospital departments and some shops or market stalls, you will be expected o take a number from a machine standing in the corner and wait your turn. This is a good thing, as it scuppers any inveterate queue jumpers from reverting to their normal bad behaviour! Everyone knows that Italians are incapable of forming and maintaining a single queue. Queues without numbers quickly degenerate into multiple queues or (my personal favourite) a nondescript clump where the jumpers sneakily migrate to the front. Take a number and advise others to do the same. you will enjoy the peace!

      – If you are entitled to do so, use the public health system, but don’t abuse it. Like most national health systems, it is by no means perfect, but it is better than nothing. Accept that there is a waiting list for certain types of treatment, but know that if it were an emergency, you would get the help you need.

      Enjoy the beauty around you. Get out of the house as much as possible. Try new things. Learn to snowboard or ski. Make a list of the places you want to see and start crossing them off. Even if it is only at the rate of one place a year, you will be living your dream. Take pictures and tell friends about the journey.

      – Keep a journal. I have a number of journals, and when I look back, I can see how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown. My journals remind me of the places I’ve been, the beauty I’ve seen and the people I’ve met along the way. Don’t be afraid to write down your sad moments too. Reading them later helps you realize how blessed you have been and how your sadness has been lifted. Talking of sadness, most people battle with depression of some form when making a move such as this. Initially, you feel lost and isolated. All your points of reference have disappeared. It’s okay. Ride it out as much as you can, but don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. In the first years after our move, I often found myself “recognising”  distant friends with a leap of the heart followed by the sinking realisation that this person wasn’t the friend who was far away back home. It happened less and less as time went by and now, twelve years later, it hardly ever happens.

      Nowadays, I’m far more likely to hear my name called when I’m out and about, to be greeted with kisses and to be invited to stop for coffee in a bar. And when it happens, I’m always a little surprised and thrilled. And I think to myself, “This is my life. I really have made a new life here.” And you can too!

      You’ve done the preparation. you’ve done the maths. Now go out and start living your dream!

      Revised Dec 2014