Saturday, May 31, 2014

A few things I've been doing differently in Italy that I should keep doing (and a few that I shouldn't!)

Coming to Italy for just four months, I knew up-front that this was a temporary arrangement and that I should pack lightly (and certainly not accumulate stuff while here). I am generally a minimalist anyway, so this has not been a problem. Still, I have actually changed a few things about my everyday life to make it even simpler… I'm thinking that maybe some of these habits I should take back with me to the U.S. Here are a few examples.

1. Going low-tech. Case in point: I don't have a cell phone (enter ominous music). How is this even possible? I actually felt liberated when I cancelled my U.S. phone service. I thought about getting an Italian sim card and a pay-as-you-go plan, but realized it just wasn't necessary. I do all my communicating in-person or online. That being said, wifi is scarce and unreliable, so I only go online when I sit down, plug in, and sign on (i.e., on purpose). It's kind of nice not to be controlled by a smartphone.

2. The minimal kitchen. My "spices" include sea salt, pepper, garlic, and sometimes, fresh basil. Condiments are just olive oil and balsamic vinegar. No canned, instant, or frozen food. No dishwasher or oven. I don't peel carrots (there was no vegetable peeler in the apartment and it's pretty hard to use a knife on a carrot). Also, I have never bought ziplock bags, aluminum foil, cling wrap, etc. Reusing grocery produce bags and other empty, food packaging works just as well to store and carry food.

3. No driving! It's so nice not to drive! Walking everywhere is awesome. Wish I could continue this in the U.S., but soon I will be back behind the wheel in drive-o-landia.

There are couple of important things that don't involve simplification, but amplification, in the Italian context:

1. I study Italian. on purpose. If you have read this blog before you know I am crazy about learning Italian and work on it all the time. I should keep it up when I get home.

The Italian verb-tense chart I always wanted to make but didn't… until I took an Italian class in Italy!

2. I listen better. Basically, because I have to! Listing in a second language requires more attention. For example, it's really hard to carry on a conversation while doing anything else. At meals involving a group of people speaking Italian, I am often the last one to finish my food (if I even do finish), because I spend more time concentrating on the conversation than eating. At any rate, listening attentively -without trying to multitask- is a good thing, and I hope I can keep doing it!

Fully engaged and fully present in the Italian-language communicative context

So, you wonder, what have I been doing in Italy that I should stop doing when I leave?

At the moment, only food-related behaviors come to mind: I eat olives at every meal. I eat gelato a few times a week. I (used to) grate a bunch of fresh, grana padano cheese on every pasta dish (but I have already cut down on that!). And darn those delicious, sweet breakfasts consisting of biscotti or brioche…

Gelato, granita… so delicious, but lots of sugar I need to give up! 

Hot chocolate with whipped cream and a brioche (sugary, Italian croissant): On the "give up" list

So, I guess I will go home to the U.S., quit eating so many desserts, get back in my car, and turn on my new cell phone. Hopefully I can keep my Italian language alive… and maybe eat some olives once in a while!


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