Saga of the Condo or My First Year in Italy

turkey day at the AIA, selfie by Gabrielle

turkey day at the AIA, selfie by Gabrielle

Saturday the 13th is the first anniversary of my arrival in Italy. It’s been a busy, exciting year and, while I haven’t made nearly the progress with language that I wanted to, pretty much everything else has been going very well for me. That includes finally, this week, closing on the sale of my condo in Everett.

my old place in Everett

my old place in Everett

Here is the saga. You can sing it to any ballad tune you like. I rather fancy Thomas the Rhymer at the moment, or perhaps The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry.

The condo got listed back in late June of 2013, so it’s been over a year and a half in the doing, and it has not been easy. The basics of cleaning, preparation, and actual moving are things anyone would have to do. Photos were taken, a sales agent contracted, applications for a short sale made.

Short sales, for those who don’t know, are sales where the value of the property falls short of the amount of the mortgage. Because of my inability to drive, I couldn’t stay, so for me it wasn’t the usual “I can’t afford this property anymore” issue but a medical necessity that I move to a location with more accessible transportation. It was a Veterans Administration loan. And there was a small second mortgage on the property, which is where a lot of the problems arose.

In August of 2013 I had an offer from a potential buyer, but the second mortgage company kept putting things off for so long that she had to back out, and we had to start the process all over again, after nearly a year. Once again, applications had to be made. “Hardship” letters had to be drafted. Now that I was in Italy, even more problems seemed to arise. And part of the problem had been that I had tried to pay the second mortgage off early, so I was nearly a year ahead on my payments, and the company insisted that I had to be in arrears before they would approve a short sale. So I had, essentially, screwed myself over by trying to do the right thing.

Anyway, we got a second buyer, who is apparently being a miserable arse to my neighbors. I was informed (rather than asked) that they would be renting the place until the sale went through, so I was getting some rent, but ended up paying over half the amount I got in that three months to the homeowner association for back HOA fees and special assessment, so I didn’t end up with much of anything extra. The mortgage company wanted me to pay four months worth of rent because, obviously, I had all this extra money sitting around. As though I can’t add.

At the point of the sale, I was feeling rather like Arlo Guthrie in Alice’s Restaurant. “What’d you get?” people want to know. “I didn’t get nothin’. I had to pay $50 and pick up the garbage.” I had to pay $300 before they would let me sign the sale agreement. So, no, selling my condo doesn’t mean I got rich, it means I got rid of a huge debt that I may still have to pay taxes on. I’m hoping it won’t come to that, because I’m uncertain where I would get a lump sum to send to the IRS.

But enough about that. Confetti has been thrown, cheers have been cheered, and I close a door on a chapter of my life.

Triestino graffitti

Triestino street art

My first year here in Italy has been filled with lovely people, fantastic places, and great food. I’m making new friends, slowly learning how to speak to people, and carefully trying to navigate a new culture without creating too much offense due to ignorance. I’ve been fortunate enough to have friends and family come visit, and this month I’ve got a friend from Prague coming down over the Christmas holiday for a few days, as well. Saturday, I’m having a little party here with friends I’ve made and people I’ve met, to celebrate my first year anniversary. Moving to Italy is a decision that has suited me very well and, despite some frustrations on both sides of the ocean, I don’t regret it at all.

the balcony, summer

the balcony, summer

I don’t know what the coming year will bring. I hope it will be more new friends and visits from old ones, more opportunities to travel lightly and inexpensively, and many more photos taken. It should bring a new book, as I’m close to ready to submit the manuscript to my publisher. And I know it will bring more facility with Italian as I spend more time in class working on it. My brother will be bringing his tv up from storage later this week so I can watch the Italian news and get more exposure to the language that way. Actually having and turning on a tv will be strange, as I didn’t really use one for years back in Everett.

A new year. A new phase of my life.

A new page.

Write on.

la mula, summer

la mula, summer

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On buying ferry tickets

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I lost all my photos from the past couple of days, so have a consolation photo of Molo Audace at dusk

I spent Monday and Tuesday afternoons at the Italian civics class. It was at a school closer to me than the one I’d originally been assigned when I had the trip back to Seattle, with no big hill in the middle. The class is a series of videos available in 20 languages. There were three of us in the English session.

The videos had a lot of necessary information but they were so badly done. The narrators, an American woman and a British man, were obviously and awkwardly reading from a teleprompter. They would talk about informational slides that occasionally were duplicates of each other, not showing the information they were referring to, or not appearing at all. Still, now I’m done with that bit and have retained the 15 points toward my eventual permanent residence.

The school also does free classes in Italian for foreigners. The A1 level is 100 hours of instruction and the A2 is 80 hours. They will give an Italian language test at the beginning of the school year, in September, to place the students appropriately. I have to be able to pass an Italian test at the A2 level within two years to remain in Italy.

Wednesday, my brother was here to help me with the Tessera Sanitaria for signing up for a doctor. The videos were rather confusing about the health service and didn’t cover my situation at all, which was unsurprising. Most of the people going through this are here as students or for work, while others come to join a working spouse. Elective residence visas were mentioned very briefly but were not discussed in any detail.

Anyway, when we got to the Tessera, we asked about joining the Italian health service. Since I don’t work and have not contributed to the Italian system, they would want a percentage of my annual income to go to the system (a reasonable request, actually), but that percentage equaled about $1,000 more than I’m paying in insurance right now, so I elected to remain on my insurance. I was, however, given an assignment to a woman doctor who does speak English – I think for dealing with medical issues, it’s pretty important to have as few barriers to communication as possible. She has an office down by the Barcola, so it’s not that far away, but it’s a long walk. Buses go by there regularly, though.

I picked up a 10-trip bus pass at a Tabacchi. It was about €11. I haven’t used the bus yet, but am feeling a bit more confident and will probably do so soon.

Thursday I went back to the school with a Croatian woman I met at the American Corner. We spent a fair amount of the day together. She speaks English, Dutch, and French. She said that she left Croatia before the war that split Serbia and Croatia and that the language changed after that, with the Croatians wanting to remove words and influences from Serbian and other languages. When she goes back to Croatia, as she has been living in other countries for a long time, people say, “you haven’t been here in a while, have you?” We both signed up for the Italian class, and she signed up for an art class.

On the way back to my place, she took me by Prunk Carni, which is a Slovenian butcher and grocery store on Largo della Barriera Vecchia, across from the Coop, giving me a tour and explaining what some of the things there were. They have game meat in regularly – venison, squirrel, bear, and other things. They have wine in barrels, sold by the liter, and you bring your own bottles. She showed me which of the dairy case things was sour cream, and talked about some of her favorite things, like nettle syrup and various sweets. I was really happy to have a guided tour, as I would have been completely lost without her explanations.

Friday night I went to visit my Italian teacher, Luisella, and her husband and father in law. She lives at the top of the Scala Dublino, right above the Trieste observatory, which was built in 1753. Gino said something about the building having been sold by the University last year and converted into a hotel, but I couldn’t find anything online confirming that. Gino’s father, Aldo D’Eliso, was a translator for the American army during and after the second world war; he wrote an autobiography that talks about his origins in Bari, in the south, and his move to Trieste with the British and Americans between 1929 and 1954. He was very kind and gave me a copy of the book. I haven’t read it yet, but talking to him was quite interesting. I spoke some Italian over the evening, but a fair bit of English as well. Since Giulia had donated a copy of my poetry book to the American library recently, Luisella had borrowed it and both Aldo and Gino have read it and very much liked my work. Luisella said she is reading it next.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Piazza Unità for a caffe latte and a brioche. The heat here has been pretty intense for my tender northwest sensibilities lately (up in the 90s and humid), so breakfast al fresco was just the thing. There were a lot of fire engines on the waterfront, and a stage set up across the piazza. On the way home along the Riva, I saw a long line of firefighters – the Vigili di Fuoco – carrying what seemed like an endless Italian tricolor over the bridge at Ponterosso toward Piazza Unità. It was quite a sight, but I was feeling a little under the weather so didn’t follow them down to the piazza to watch whatever was happening. I took some photos with my phone, but lost all the photos I’d taken over the past couple of days in a tragic iPhoto accident when a software update did me in while I was transferring them. When I got home, I did a little web searching and found out that the Vigili were having their annual conference here in Trieste this weekend, and this was part of their ceremonies.

Today I’ve been finalizing plans for the end of June and early July. My friend Dan has a lecture in Torino on June 30th, so I’ll be taking the train there on the 29th, then back here to Trieste on the 1st of July. On July 2nd, I’ll hop on a ferry to Greece to visit with my friend Stephen Green, a ceramics artist I met on Twitter in 2012. I was couch-surfing across Europe after my Brigid pilgrimage to Ireland and made a stop in Penrith, staying at a B&B to meet him and his partner at a ceramics festival where he was vending. We hit it off quite well and hoped to meet again at some point. Now that I’m in Italy, they have invited me to stay a couple of days with them on the island of Ithaki while they’re there on holiday. I’ve spent gods know how many hours this past several weeks trying to figure out how to get there for the least expense. Flying would be extremely expensive, and there’d still be the issue of getting from whatever airport I landed at, out to the island.

Almost all the ferry websites I encountered are difficult to navigate, often with outdated information about routes and prices. I’ve got myself a ferry ticket from Trieste to Patras, an overnight trip out and a two-night trip back with Minoan Lines. From what I can tell there are local ferries to the islands from Patras on Strintzis Ferries and I should be able to get to Vathi on Ithaki without too much trouble, as there are daily trips. I have an email in to Strintzis, as they had an actual 2014 schedule and rate sheet posted, but the website they link to for online purchase of tickets is pretty much non-functional and doesn’t give me the right options.

My brother agreed to take care of my dog for me while I’m traveling. I’ll be taking my laptop along, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to post anything while I’m traveling. There will definitely be photos gu leòr when I return!

Improvements

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The sewing women on the Trieste waterfront

I’ve been a little overwhelmed in the last couple of weeks with getting things organized here and dealing with the unexpected.

I now have a bed and a computer desk and actual internet that I’m not paying by the gig for.  I have a printer set up beside my desk. My external hard drive is plugged in and all my systems are updated and safely backed up. My landlady has loaned me a couple of storage cabinets and a china hutch from her attic that were delivered by her brother and a nephew.  She’s been incredibly kind. The storage cabinets needed new locks, as the key had been lost sometime over the years, so a locksmith has the old mechanisms and will get them back here and install them sometime over the next week or two. It’s not a priority, as I haven’t actually got anything to store in the cabinets yet.

The internet was expected, but the furniture wasn’t. I’d been waiting (am still waiting) for my Permesso to arrive so that I could get my Carta d’Identita, which would allow me to actually apply for store credit for the stuff I’d put a deposit on. Someone in a dank office somewhere decided that I actually wanted the things cash on delivery and had them sent to me. I had no idea what was going on. When the delivery guys arrived, my brother talked to someone in the office. The desk was paid for already, the bed had only a deposit on it. The person at the office was apparently treating my brother like it was his fault that the delivery had been made before the credit was granted. Thankfully, he had some room on his credit card to pay for it, because I didn’t have enough for everything. At any rate, I’m no longer sleeping on the floor, and I will be paying my brother a couple of hundred euro a month until I’ve paid him back for it. It isn’t what either of us would have chosen, but so it goes.

The delivery of my library and other things is scheduled for sometime between March 11 and 13, and the delivery company said we have to get a parking permit for their truck, which will need to be done when my brother is here early next week.

It will be good to have everything here, as my brain is going into writing space again and I really want to get started on the next book. I need my reference library to deal with that. I’ve done about 5,500 words on another project, and written a poem for the anthology my friend Slippery Elm is doing, so progress is being made despite not having the library here yet. Last week I also received the PDF galley of a book I was interviewed for, so I’ve been going over that and feeling good about having another project I’ll be able to put on my list of books I’ve contributed to when it comes out in May.

I’ve had my third Italian lesson and feel like I’m making at least a little progress, though I’m still having a hard time actually talking to people.  There’s another student in the class now, a young man about 18 who is here for a few months with his parents before he returns to the US to go back to college. I have a phone number for a doctor who speaks English but haven’t called the office yet.

I have the desk and my computer set up in the window of my office, overlooking Piazza della Libertà. The amount of light is fantastic. Even with my reading glasses on, I have a pretty clear view of the treetops and the buildings in the square. It’s a bit blurry but recognizable, which is all I can ask for, given the wonderful sunlight that makes up for damned near anything else.

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Desk!

After spending almost ten years in what amounted to a cave with a north exposure and no real natural light, this is like a miracle. Even on rainy days, I don’t need to turn lights on until nearly dusk. My little sound system is set up in the window behind the computer, and I am feeling much more like myself. I’d been working from the kitchen, which is on the north side of the apartment and very dim. I had to have lights on in there constantly, just like I had back in Everett. It’s hard to express just how much of a difference this relocation to the office (I have an office!) has made for me emotionally.

I did a little volunteer work this week for the American Library in Piazza Sant’Antonio Nuovo. They needed someone to pull a stack of books from the database and enter another stack, so I spent a couple of hours there on Tuesday poking at their computer system. It was nice to have something to do outside of the house that didn’t involve walking for a change. The center also had their TGIF last Friday, with food from Senegal in honor of African-American History Month. I met a really nice Italian woman there who is going to be presenting at WorldCon in London this year on Italian translations of Fantasy and SF literature. She was very excited by it, and I was thrilled for her. I’m sure it’ll be a fantastic time and a wonderful adventure.

Carnivale is supposed to be happening this weekend in Trieste and Muggia. I’m going to see if I can find someone to go with me to Muggia, as I’m not sure where the ferries are or how to deal with the buses here yet. It’ll be nice to have someone along, if I can get company.

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Sarasvati and Seshat, Goddesses of writing and the arts, preside over my desk.

Moving day

Things that seem slightly unreal:

Gilded murals on buildings
Everywhere I walk, statues
Floating in a sea of barely-intelligible conversations
Vast pedestrian spaces
Good restaurants in tiny alleys
Roman ruins in the city
Café life, outside, in February
Being able to drink the coffee
Light in my rooms on a rainy day

I’ve spent the last couple of days moving into the new flat, with my brother’s help. We drove up from Montereale on Thursday so that we could meet my landlady a little after noon on Friday without having to come in early. His little car was packed with my things and we parked (illegally) just down the block where there was a little space and hauled things up to my place as quickly as we could. There was no rain, thankfully. In this huge space, my few things rattle and echo. My desktop computer sits on the floor beneath the office window, awaiting a desk, a wireless connection that doesn’t come from a USB drive, and a chair for me to sit on.

Insurance was procured. The registered copy of my rental contract was acquired. All the keys to the place were handed over. My brother installed wall lights in the dining room and hallway. The landlady likes the lights. We still have to deal with lights for the ceiling in each room, and with a desk lamp or three, but they can be handled later. I do want one for the bedroom soon, though.

This past week I got a clothes washer on a deep discount sale (it had a scrape on one corner) that will be delivered on Tuesday. They’re pretty simple to install, and I can do that myself once the driver brings it up here and hauls it into the bathroom. All I need is a screwdriver, and I’m competent to handle one of those, unlike lighting installation.

I got myself a little sound system for the iPod. On the base, it was less than half the cost of anything I’d seen in Italian shops, though I had been looking. I’m glad to have music again. My brother’s taste in music and mine are quite different, so I didn’t have mine playing if he was home, and he didn’t usually have music on or, if he did, he was wearing his headphones at his computer. It tended to be quiet, when the roosters weren’t crowing.

Most of my life at the moment is taking place in the kitchen, where I have chairs, or in my bedroom, where I can lie down and sleep, but there’s nothing in the other rooms yet. In two to three weeks, I should have my library and other things arrive, but there is no furniture aside from a few folding bookshelves. I’m having to acquire things slowly, a little at a time. That said, I’m just as glad I didn’t ship everything with me, as it would have been expensive, and I don’t think most of it would really have gone well in this space. Buildings have personalities, and this one is entirely different than my condo back in Everett.

Nothing moves in straight lines here. The streets might look straight but they are all moving at angles, along the coast or up into the hills, or around the piazzi. Walking in a “straight” line won’t get you to a place you though you were going, and the gps system on my phone gets confused by things. Locations are not where they appear on a map. My brother and I were searching for a Greek restaurant on Thursday night and both our gps maps had it at different locations, neither of which were the right one, even though we had both entered the same address. Sometimes a paper map is still the best answer, even for the wired.

I’m spending time getting lost, and it’s okay. Lost is an all right place to be at the moment, both in metaphor and in the physical space of Trieste. Being in a different country, surrounded by a different language, it is a natural state of being. Wandering aimlessly leads to familiarity and opens up the potential for serendipity. A comics and games shop across from a church whose door is surmounted by the all-seeing eye in a pyramid; the Lupa nursing Romulus and Remus on a building façade; people laughing and talking at tables outside a bar in a tiny alley.

Last night there were fireworks over the water. Neither my brother nor I have any idea what was going on. I only knew there were some loud bangs. I thought someone was hauling something really heavy up the stairs, as the sound was echoing in the building. My brother saw the bursts from his window above the piazza but he thought I was asleep, so he didn’t call me to watch. He asked the barista at the place we had breakfast this morning, but she hadn’t any idea either.

The clouds have rolled in thickly and it’s drizzling. I am inside wishing for a soft, comfortable chair and a lamp for reading. There is tea. Life is good.

In which there is a thought-provoking film, and trains are not what they seem

I’m back in Montereale. We’re having some sunshine and my brother is off on his motorcycle for a little bit while it lasts. It apparently poured here all weekend, where Trieste had a little bit of a break and occasional sunshine.

I spent most of Sunday wandering a little further afield. Rather than heading down to the waterfront, I walked inland a bit to the Giardano Pubblico Muzio Tommasini.

triestegardenIt’s a roughly triangular public park and botanical garden founded by its namesake, a botanist born in Trieste, who later became the city’s mayor. There’s a pond and a playground for the kids, some chessboards (including a large one paved in an alcove between some seats amid the trees), and busts of cultural figures lining the paths. Artists, musicians, scientists, and intellectuals of varying sorts who have some connection with Trieste are found all along the park paths. James Joyce and Italo Svevo are found next to one another with statues erected at the centennials of their birth.

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James Joyce at the Public Garden

I sat for a while on a park bench next to the pond, under the watchful eye of Joyce and Svevo, scribbling in my notebook while the sun edged in through the clouds. The weather was relatively warm and pleasant, particularly after the previous day’s pouring rain. I enjoyed the respite as I let myself get a feel for this part of the city.

Because it was Sunday, and around lunchtime, most of the city’s businesses were closed, but people were out walking and taking advantage of the nice weather. I passed by Cafè San Marco (free wi-fi advertised in the window), which looked large and inviting, though I passed it by instead of going in. Wandering randomly, I eventually stopped for lunch myself at a little kebab place on a small side street before heading back to the apartment.

At the film festival, I watched La Mia Classe, which was much more about immigration issues than learning language, per se. It was fascinating, hilarious, and heartbreaking by turns. Part of the film was fictional, though some of it seemed to be entirely too real to be scripted, and the person associated with the film who spoke at the festival said that it had started out as fiction but mutated into something else as filming went along. It reminded me of how very fortunate I am in my own circumstances. I’ve never thought of myself as a wealthy person, though I know I am a lot better off than some of my friends. In Seattle I am just under the income cutoff for public housing assistance. I could have qualified for a very small, subsidized apartment. Over here, by comparison, I have a lot of money, and that isn’t a circumstance I ever thought I’d be in.

It’s sobering to think about. In my life, I have spent time homeless. I’ve slept on people’s couches and floors and in their spare rooms for a couple of days, or a few months at a time for a total of probably three years of my life, though, thankfully, I’ve never had to sleep under a bridge or in a doorway anywhere, or try to deal with a homeless shelter. I’ve had to go to food banks because I didn’t have money for food, but I’ve never gone more than two days with nothing at all to eat. By the standards of some of the people in the film, even those circumstances were better than what they left when they came to Italy. I have always been thankful when I have enough – a roof over my head, a warm place to sleep, something hot to eat that tastes good. I can only say that I am moreso now.

When the film ended, I grabbed a sandwich and went to find the train my brother had referred me to for the trip back to Pordenone. He gave me the information for the last train of the night, not realizing that it wasn’t the train to Venice via Udine, but the overnight to Rome. There is a price differential of €5, and I didn’t have that much cash in my pocket. They didn’t take credit cards on the train. There wasn’t enough time for me to run to the Bancomat for a little cash. I’d already stamped the ticket, as you’re supposed to, so I couldn’t use it the next day; it was now essentially just a piece of paper that had cost me €13 and change. Thankfully, my apartment was just across the street, so I hauled my backpack up the stairs again and stayed on the air mattress for another night, and caught a morning train down to Pordenone, happy that I had a place to stay and more than enough money to buy a new ticket.

Today my brother took me out to look at furniture and mattresses. I found one that will do nicely and shuffled funds around so that I have the cash in my bank account to buy it, but I will have to find out how much delivery will cost and when they will be able to get one to Trieste. It was at one of the chain department stores, so they can probably talk to a more local branch for less distance, but I’ll have to be in the apartment to take delivery. It’ll be a while before I can get a bed to put under the mattress, but it’s a pretty good start. A warm, comfortable place to sleep, even if it’s temporarily on the floor, is worth so very much.

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Giardano Pubblico Muzio Tommasini

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A view from the garden

San Daniele di Friuli

The mist came down this morning, light at first, then obscuring everything, rendering the world into vague shapes and bulk and hints of motion. My brother says it’s like this a lot in the winter here. The fog rolls in and sometimes stays for days, or a week or more. It’s cold, but not freezing.

San Daniele in the mist

San Daniele in the mist

It’s as much metaphorical for me at the moment as physical. Without language, the world around me is obscured, with occasional moments taking familiar shapes, or becoming a suggestion of recognizable movement. As a writer, that obscurity is challenging. I’m used to understanding what’s going on around me, and being able to participate in conversations; right now my ability to do that is almost nil.  Asking for a glass for my water is a triumph. Recognizing the name of the fruit in a jar of jam is a trickle of warmth in the cold of my great ignorance.

I’m not afraid of the mist. There’s a great beauty in it and, so far at least, I am able to float in this and sense a spark of something when I hear a word I recognize. It isn’t enough to get by, but I am feeling my way through the obscurity.

I spent the early part of this morning wrangling with Comcast over the partial refund of this month’s bill. It’ll be several weeks before I see the check, but they now have an address to send it, and it won’t be postage due when it arrives. I may well be living in my own place by then, but my brother will be sure to get it to me.

Face at San Daniele

Face at San Daniele

Once we were up and about, we drove to San Daniele di Friuli. San Daniele is famous for its prosciutto and the road into the town is flanked by a number of curing factories. We went to lunch at a restaurant associated with a consortium of prosciutto producers as the fog thickened outside.

It has been a long time since I’ve eaten beef or pork outside of special occasions, but I have started doing so again upon moving here, in part because I don’t want to miss out on some of the wonderful food, but also because a life change as drastic as moving to a different continent seems to call for a shaking loose of some of my prior strictures.

I’d never had prosciutto before. The plate I ordered was their “summer” plate, with cantaloupe, slightly prepared fresh tomato on crostini, and fresh mozzarella. The prosciutto was cool and paper-thin on the plate, beautifully arranged, and the flavors of the melon’s sweetness and the meat’s slight saltiness were a perfect complement. I had been fighting off an incipient headache, so I skipped the wine with lunch and had some pear juice and mineral water instead.

The waitress brought me a glass and a little bottle of pear juice, but didn’t bring one for the water, so I used my tentative, halting Italian to ask for one. Later, I ordered tea with milk. It isn’t much, but I am using the little bit I know, and I have to keep stretching that every chance I get.

After lunch, we walked through the shop attached to the restaurant and I did my best to read labels – sunflower oil, apricot jam, rhodededron honey, capers in vinegar. It’s not stringing sentences together, but it’s a survival skill nonetheless.

On the hill above the restaurant was the town of San Daniele, dim and white. We parked at the edge of the piazza and walked up toward the castle. On the top of the hill there, on the castle grounds, was a church whose foundations were laid in the 8th century; a renovation or rebuilding took place in the 16th century.  On the back of the church was what must have been a piece of the original building: three wise men bringing gifts to Mary and the infant Christ.

Three wise men

Three wise men

We walked along the edge of the hill. On a clear day, it must be an incredible view, but when I looked down, all I could see were layers of landscape falling away into the mist. Looking at it, my dizziness intensified, so I had to back away. Without a point of reference, my brain isn’t processing it quite properly and I lose my internal orientation. This is why I’m walking with hiking poles. I might well have stumbled and fallen if I didn’t have one in hand, even though I wasn’t moving.

I saw a few familiar friends on the drive today. A great blue heron, with the tight bend of its neck, and its legs trailing behind it in flight, and a still, white egret standing in a field were welcome sights. I’m also seeing less familiar creatures: chestnut brown pheasants, the black and white flash of a magpie, and black and grey hoodie crows. I want to know the non-human inhabitants of the land here as much as the people.

Like language, all these things come in time.

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Selling my previous life

Tomorrow I’m selling off all my remaining things in a moving sale. If you’re local to Everett, Washington, please feel free to come by between noon and 3pm to have a look!

I’ve spent the last week hauling my things out to the garage, and the last two days sorting and pricing things; I’ve arranged for Northwest Center to come and pick up what they want of what’s left a few days later. Arrangements have been made for taking the last few boxes of my things to my storage unit in Seattle, my desktop computer will be shipped to my brother via priority mail, and I should be out of the condo by the morning of December 7th, latest.

There’s still a little left to do here as far as getting things out to the garage, but I’ve been saving the last few cooking things, flatware, and kitchen utensils until the morning, so that I can use them today and tomorrow morning. After it goes out to the garage, it’s restaurants for me until I leave. It isn’t the cheapest option, but it’s certainly the most practical, and there are a couple of restaurants right next door. I suspect I will be living on teriyaki and sushi rolls for a few days until this is over, as it’s inexpensive and filling. I’m giving the rest of the food I would have to cook to one of my neighbors, and tomorrow evening it’ll be time to clean out the fridge. I’ve already given things to my girlfriend that she can eat, but there’s a lot left that she couldn’t take from me, so it goes to the next person on the list.

Yesterday, I hadn’t planned on participating in any turkey day festivities. I didn’t have the time or the energy to deal with it, but seven of my friends brought the holiday to me, with folding tables and chairs, food, a log for the fire, and their good company. Despite having a migraine, I had a really lovely time with them. One is a couple of weeks out from his annual winter in Mexico. Another stopped in with his partner on the way home to Bellingham from their own festivities in Seattle.

My neighbors have been talking with me out in the parking lot when I take the dog for a walk or get my mail or haul things up to the garage for the sale. They have all said they’ll miss me and are very sad to see me go. It’s nice to know my presence has been appreciated despite my unusual hours. One neighbor dropped by while I was sticking price tags on things and bought a few things from me already, so that’s a couple fewer items to worry about! I’ve been overwhelmed by the sea of my possessions and am glad to be getting rid of everything that’s left.

I am at the point in this process where I just want to be done. I want to be on the plane and not have to deal with the intervening 11 days. Beam me up, Scotty! I’m feeling restless and at loose ends in this empty space. I’ve got accounts to close, addresses to change, and last minute details to attend. I’ve got myself a Skype US phone/text number so my family and friends here can stay in touch with me and not have to make international calls, but it’ll be strange not to have the same number I’ve been using for about 15 years now. I couldn’t get a Skype number with a 206 area code, like the one I’ve had for so long. Even my displacement is displaced.

Earlier this week, I went with one of my friends down to Seattle to walk around Green Lake for the last time. The weather has been clear, if cold, and I’ve had some lovely views of Tahoma to file away in my memory. The rosy orange glow of sunset on its snowy peak from the south entrance of the Veterans Hospital was particularly beautiful last week, with that slight touch of unreality that follows when things are in flux. The mountain seized me emotionally when I first got to Seattle many years ago, and it is hard to imagine not seeing it regularly. I have been looking at things with the eyes of one who will not see them again for a very long time and it steeps sadness into me even as I am letting go and looking forward to my trip with excitement. Every time I am down in Seattle, I realize how much I will miss the place, and how much of a home it has been to me for most of my life. Seattle’s mountains and water, and its green spaces have become a part of my soul. I hope that I can find that same sense of connection in Italy.

My brother’s last day with the Air Force was this week. This means that we won’t have to worry about him leaving me alone at his place out in the countryside with no way to get around while he’s at work. He’s driving down to Venice to pick me up, rather than taking the train; it’ll be easier on both of us when I first arrive, as I’m going to be exhausted. I’ll have been in transit for about 18 hours, not including the time it takes for me to get to Seatac and get through security, then wait for the plane. I’m guessing closer to 24 hours will be my total transit door to door. I will be fried when I arrive that morning; there will be lunch and then sleep. The next day, we’ll arrange for me to go to the Questura to apply for my Permesso di Soggiorno before my eight days are up. He says that the office in Pordenone has become much more efficient in recent years, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble. Then again, I have no idea what to measure that against. It could be downright Dantean, even by Veterans Administration standards.

I’ll be sure to bring a book. And a sense of humor.