We have been living in Italy now for over two full years. For those who have lived outside their own country, their own culture, and amongst another language, they know of what I speak when I say, “Daily stimulation”. Sure there are all the new “To do’s”. Phrases like, “Let’s go to Paris for the weekend”, and “Venice is two hours away, let’s do dinner…” are actually used. But, the stimulation that comes from just living within another culture is where the real excitement and satisfaction comes.
A trip to the doctor, to the auto mechanic, or maybe something as simple as ordering a gelato, can be much more than a ho-hum trivial matter. Simple matters which you take for granted in your own culture can suddenly be intimidating issues because your vocabulary is lacking a word or phrase. David Sedaris, while writing about living in France, commented that he sometimes wished vending machines sold meat so as to prevent having to speak to people and sound the fool. I understand this all too well. Not taking oneself too seriously is key for survival. Each day something occurs which teaches me something new, humiliates me or makes me shine with pride as I learn some new language skill.
Last night we met with a friend who had just returned from visiting with a famous Italian artist in a nearby city. At 82 years old, he is full of energy and still vibrating with enthusiasm for life. Our friend asked how he does it, how he maintains his drive. His response was that he has a life rule, to move to an all new place every ten years. In fact, his time is due and he is packing it up and heading for Boston, at 82.
I thought about this today as I went for my sport medical tests and discovered no one spoke English. My simple visit to the doctor became a struggle of understanding what to do with my urine sample. Then, while sitting at an outdoor cafe my Italian teacher joined me and I shared with her a recent funny story. I scraped along, searching for the right words to make it as amusing as I would have done in English and together we laughed at both the story and the juvenile way in which I told it. Later, as I was walking home I realized how happy I was, how being an adult bombarded with new experiences is truly a necessity to prevent falling into an abyss of boredom that comes with regularity.
Two years down, 8 to go, where next?