We’ve been back for a while now

Hello!

Look, I have found my way back to the bloggersphere and things have changed a little in the few months I have been away. That kind of sums up the whole reason for me poking my head back in for a visit. Now that we have been back in Sydney for a few months, and are settling into the Australian way of life (which is a lot faster), seeing old friends and adjusting to living in a big city again, my attention has been drawn to a few things I really miss about our year in Italy.

Of course this is to be expected. However, what surprises me most is the feeling you get when you arrive home and for about a month you feel a little off kilter then someone says, ‘Does it feel like you were ever away?’ If I am honest, I really do have to stop and think about it…’did I really just spend a year in Florence?’

I know I did because I am finding things quite a bit different here, for example…

I learned to appreciate the beautiful flavour of the Negroni while living in Florence and I used to drink them at the bar they originated from. In Italy there is no measuring out exact quantities of alcohol and here in lies my problem. Nic and I went out for a drink to our local watering hole the other week and I decided I wanted a Negroni. In my head I was thinking I was getting one of these…

Italian Negroni

Italian Negroni

When in fact what I got was a glass full to the brim of ice with just a hint of red colour floating around. I really missed Italian bar culture on that occasion.

We went to the shops to buy ingredients for a pizza a few weeks ago, we had everything covered until we thought about the cheese. Gone are the days of buying three fresh, soft, delicious mozzarella balls for a couple of bucks. Instead you have the choice of one large (not really that large to be honest) rubber-looking ball pretending to be mozzarella that will set you back about $7.50 or a bag of pre-grated yellow cheese…pizza Aussie style, I dreamed of PizzaMan that night.

Anyway, it isn’t all bad. As I was heading out the door for an early morning run last week I did remember the rolling hills of Tuscany, passing by the odd vineyard on my run and thinking life didn’t get better than this…

Rolling hills of Tuscany

Rolling hills of Tuscany

However, I must have forgotten how beautiful Sydney is. As I was coming up over the second hill on my run, turning right to go under the beginning of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and then trotting down the steps next to Luna Park, I pulled my head up to take in the beautiful Harbour view and thought to myself…not bad at all!

My morning view in Sydney

My morning view in Sydney

Italy the Baker family does miss you; however, I think you’d love it here… Just b.y.o cheese and booze! 

Advertisements

Boys, school and Italian life

Image

March sky, 2014

The rain has stopped, the sun is out and life is pretty sweet in Italy this March. I read in the papers and in friends’ emails that the snow is still dumping down in America and the sun is beating hot in Australia, while I look out my window and see a cool breeze blowing and the sun in the sky. We have a good life here, there is no doubt about it.

Our time is slowly dwindling down, we have a mere 4 months to go before returning to the real world of work (well for me anyway), houses, high schools, primary schools and day-to-day life back in Sydney with the friends and family we said goodbye to some 8 months ago. A lot of great things have been happening this month, however, I haven’t had time to sit down and jot it all down as I thought I would. Max turns 12 this Friday, WOW I find it hard to believe I have a 12-year-old under my wings.

We promised Alex for his birthday last year (it was the day after we arrived in Rome) that we would take him to gladiator school, alas, the night before I got struck down with food poisoning and was up all night trying to keep myself alive, therefore, gladiator school was delayed. Seeing how Max will be 12 on Friday and we have nothing else better to do, we decided we would go down to Rome for the weekend with friends and finally keep our promise to the boys re gladiator school! The tickets are booked and I’m staying away from seafood so we are set. It was an easy decision really, with 4 months left we are trying to do and see as much as we can. It’s not everyday you can say ‘Oh let’s pop down to Rome for the weekend’. I know it doesn’t mean as much to the boys as it does us, however, in years to come I think they will appreciate the flitting around more than they do at present.

The boys got their Italian school reports back at the end of last month which is quite a process compared to Australia. Back in Sydney the kids get a sealed envelope at the end of the day to give to parents. In our school here, there is a note sent out a week before with information telling you when you can come and pick the reports up and as usual I totally forgot. I was walking Max to basketball practice on a Thursday evening when a mum who is never at the school unless it is pick-up time, walks past me, says ciao and then asks me if I have the reports already? At this point I was trying to figure out why this mum was at school at 5pm, then trying to understand what she was saying to me (she always speaks super fast) and then when the penny dropped I looked like a complete idoit but had to keep walking in the other direction to get Max to basket…I left her standing there very confused, especially when I told her, NO not yet…see you soon!

I finally dropped Max at basketball (which is a 20 minute walk one-way), then Alex and I high-tailed it back to school to make the 6.30pm deadline to pick up these bloody reports…It was about this time I was preferring the Aussie system. We made it in time to be then told we must wait in line to speak to the teacher. ‘WHAT!??’ I was not expecting teachers to be there at 6.30pm! Anyway, after about 40 minutes standing in line it was my turn to go in (and it was at this point I told Alex to help me out with the Italian, to which he says ‘I doubt I’ll be any good mum’ and then proceeds to abandon me to look at pictures!). Thank god Max’s teacher is a lovely lady, she handed me his report, and said she was sorry she could only give him a 7 for Italian; however, it was working towards an 8.

SEVEN? He got a seven?? OMG!! I looked at her and said BELISSIMA!!! FANTASTICO, REALLY…7? Of course, she was super confused and then started talking at me in lightening speed which I only caught about 5 words in total before leaving the classroom with our first Italian report cards. Nic and I were so gobsmacked that the boys didn’t get any 3s or 4s on their reports (it’s out of 10) and to see the lowest mark was a 6 for science, well we were so overjoyed. It was actually quite funny when Max was reading his report, he laughed and said he wasn’t sure how he got that mark because he never does anything in science.

And truth be told, the boys constantly come home and tell us they understand nothing, they do nothing all day at school and really, why bother. Well, after seeing the reports I now believe they have been playing down their Italian with us (especially me) and in fact they are rocking along very nicely in school. The funniest report however, was the English mark…both boys scored an 8! Seriously, an 8 in their native language?? When I asked about this they both shrugged their shoulders and said “She (teacher) really doesn’t know very much English and we have to correct her” Note, HAVE to correct her, so I figure giving them eight is just her way of saying, “Get out of my class already!!”

So eight months into a twelve-month stay in a foreign country, I can honestly say as a family unit we are happy, involved in the community and eat like kings. We still feel like foreigners but also feel excepted by our neighbourhood, Nic and I are so happy we took the scary step of immersing the boys into Italian school cold-turkey-style because it has really paid off. Although the talk of being back in Australia is coming up more and more these days (especially from the boys), we are loving our life here. However, some home comforts are seeming a little closer (like having my car to do the grocery shopping!). I have a feeling the next 4 months are going to be action packed.

40 years and counting

Nesli and I at my 40th B'day dinner, 2013

Nesli and I at my 40th B’day dinner, 2013

I have been a bit laxed in my blogging this week as I have hit a milestone. I turned 40 on Sunday and I have been celebrating my 40 years of existence all week…..because I can. It’s funny I have been going through old photos and looking back at my life (as I am sure we all do when we hit a milestone?) and there are two things that stand out clearer than day.

1. I have filled my 40 years with a lot of stuff, I could almost say some years have been jam-packed!

2. I have met an outstanding amount of people and have the great pleasure of saying I have an awesome, eclectic assortment of friends all over the world.

Roisin my running partner in the World race, Chicago

Roisin my running partner in the World race, Chicago

I have always loved doing things, anything as long as I am doing something and having fun. Travelling has always been a huge part of my life, even before I realised how much I love going to different countries and exploring how other people live. Mum and dad installed the travelling bug into my sister and I at a very young age and I haven’t really stopped, nor have they!

Mum sitting in the departure lounge at Tokyo airport a few years ago

Mum sitting in the departure lounge at Tokyo airport a few years ago

The fact that I am lucky enough to have timed my 40th while we are spending a year in Italy is quite brilliant. If I am being totally honest, I wouldn’t have thought it even possible 10 years ago and yet here I am feeling the love from all my wonderful friends and family from all over the planet sending me warm wishes on my birthday. I truly believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having so many supportive, positive and truly wonderful people in my life. I made a decision a long time ago to leave behind people who have negative and sole sucking vibes….this was an excellent move!

I love the fact that I am still in contact with friends from High school, and I want to be in touch with them. My old bosses are some of my oldest and dearest friends. I love that the Mexican guys I use to work with 5 days a week in Chicago still keep in touch, even though I was nicknamed ‘hard nose bitch’ (well you can’t be a shrinking violet when you work the grill in a kitchen!) and constantly asked when I was leaving!.

Friends I travelled the world with when we were young, silly and quite stupid (considering some of the situations we got ourselves into!). These ladies have a very special place in my heart. As we discovered the world around us, we also discovered who were as individuals and what  made us the strong, independent women we are today.

Nic and Max, Chicago 2002

Nic and Max, Chicago 2002

When I finally grew up a little more, fell in love and met my life travelling partner I was so excited to see what we were going to get up to with our life together and I have to say it has been better than anything I dreamed up.

8 months pregnant with Alex, Chicago

8 months pregnant with Alex, Chicago

The kids came and that made me grow even more and placed me in a community of extremely talented women I call my very dear friends. A new country and a new baby really throws a spanner in the works but I wouldn’t change it for quids, I just wish the world wasn’t so far apart. I have a brilliant family (ok we may be a little mad, batty and talk to much) but a family I cherish and love and who have excepted this crazy path Nic and I have chosen and offered nothing but support and love. With all this I was not expecting to meet a whole new group of people I would open my heart to  and welcome them in with open arms.

Shelly and Nesli at my 40th, Italy 2013

Shelly and Nesli at my 40th, Italy 2013

This trip to Italy was looked at as an adventure and an experience. I am so blown away at the beautiful community I have here. I love the fact it is possible to still make wonderful friendships because there really isn’t a ‘cap’ on how many great people you meet in your life (must have been a random thought when I had too much prosecco!?

Elena

Elena

 

Ross

Ross

 

Sue

Sue

Anyway, what I am trying to say is in 40 years I have managed to do, see, meet and love some truly wonderful people and places and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me get this far. Life is about living it to the fullest and meeting people from whatever situation you are in and making the most of it. I will never be a millionaire (airfares are a killer), however, I will be enjoying a lot more countries, people and revisiting old and dear friends for the next forty years, this much I know.