Part Four – Back and Forth
Traveling and seeing the world has really helped me find myself.
That may sound a bit corny and cliché, but I feel that for who I am and for what I was sent on this earth to do, my place just had to be somewhere overseas.
And here I am in Italy, soaking up la dolce vita one bite of cheese, one dish of risotto and one glass of wine at a time.
I’ve done things in Italy that I never thought I’d do or even attempt to do, and most importantly, I have learned to go with the flow in life.
My failure in Korea taught me that.
I had planned out a full year of teaching and paying off student loans only to find that the experience was not right for me and my “plan” (if you even want to call it that) had failed miserably.
So during my three month stay in Italy, I decided to just go with the flow and see what happened one Italian day at a time.
This “go with the flow” approach seemed to work out well for me, and it’s not like I had much of a choice since I had no job and no clue where my relationship with Francesco would go.
I’m sure my arrival spurred Francesco into thinking that it was time to take the next big step in life by…
Leaving the nest. Finding his own place. Living on his own…
About a month and a half after arriving in Italy, he found an apartment and we moved in together.
“WHAT?!” you’re thinking.
I know! Even I was hesitant to take such a huge step so quickly. I had doubts. It seemed hasty. I was nervous.
But I decided to go with the flow.
One night, as I was chatting online with a friend, it dawned on me that we hadn’t even made “us” official. While it was implied and very much understood, I still wanted to hear it from him.
So, we’re looking for an apartment where we’ll both live, yet we haven’t even defined our relationship???
No, no, this needs to be settled now!
Francesco had gone out with some friends and I stayed at his parents house since I was tired, but I just had to know.
My question, and the way it was worded, left little room for error.
(Get your pens out, ladies, and take notes!)
This is how you approach the “how do we define our relationship” discussion:
ME: (sending text message) So, if someone asks me if I’m your girlfriend, how should I answer?
FRANCESCO: (replies with text message) … Yes, you’re my girlfriend.
Easy as pie, my friends! Easy as pie.
How would you approach the apartment decor choices, the furniture options and the kitchen utensils if you were moving in with someone and you weren’t even sure if the relationship would last?
I approached it with a lot of smiles and nods. I bit my tongue and didn’t give too many of my opinions because it wasn’t my money to spend and I might not be living there for very long. What else was I supposed to do?
We went shopping with his mom a few times, which was a bit awkward for me, because the choices were…motherly.
Let me tell you that my Italian improved by leaps and bounds with all of the new vocabulary I was learning. At that point I probably could have been hired by the Italian QVC to sell household items on TV!
Left on his own, Francesco chose the typical (hideous) bachelor colors and styles that I hated, but what could I do? It was his place, not mine.
I was able to sew up some curtains (thank goodness) and I even purchased the material for them. I gave my opinion here and there, but in general, I left the decisions to Francesco.
Just recently, I had the pleasure of getting rid of one of those ugly duvet covers that he purchased when we first moved into the apartment.
Ha! Good riddance, ugly duvet cover!
As you can see from this article, my design tastes have developed and I’ve been able to create a cozy comfortable home that we both enjoy.
What fun to reminisce on these memories of how it all began…
Time To Say Goodbye
It seemed that the minute we were settled into the apartment, it was already time for me pack my bags, yet again, and head back to the States.
I decided to leave my things in Italy because, even if we didn’t work out, I could always come back and get it later on.
Honestly, though, I didn’t have any doubts about us at that point.
There was never a sinking feeling that it wouldn’t work out.
I wasn’t afraid of the distance. I wasn’t worried that he would meet someone else or that I would meet someone else.
It was so natural that I never, ever felt that we would fail.
When it was time to head back to the States, I knew that I would be back in a few months, so instead of feeling sad about leaving, I focused on the excitement of seeing my family and friends back home again.
While my family knew that I would be returning, I decided to have a bit of fun with my friends by organizing a surprise for them.
Only one friend knew that I was coming home and the rest were under the impression that I was heading up to Switzerland for a few days with Francesco so that I could exit the EU and then re-enter with a new stamp in my passport.
Well, of course that doesn’t really work any more with all of the laws between the Schengen countries, but my friends didn’t need to know that!
Once I got home, I had the friend who knew I was coming help me gather all of our other friends at one of our favorite local restaurants.
Here is what we did:
- I arrived at the restaurant and hid in the background (the place was big, so it was easy for me to hide and see what was going on)
- The rest of the friends arrived and waited for me to call them on Skype so it would feel like “we were all there together.”
- I called my friend’s phone and pretended to be in Switzerland with Francesco, telling them how beautiful the mountains were, etc. and then… END CALL!
Right in the middle of a sentence, I ended the call to make it seem like it had been dropped due to the bad connection.
- Hiding from behind a wall on the other side of the restaurant, I waited for the signal from my friend (she stretched up her arms) as everyone commented on what a bummer it was that the call had been dropped.
At this exact moment, I walked out from behind the wall and yelled,
“It would be so much better to finish the conversation in person!!!”
Tears, laughter and shouts of joy!
They were all in shock and disbelief and I was on an adrenaline rush from all of the excitement. We hugged and hugged, and drank a few huckleberry beers to calm our nerves.
It was a once-in-a-lifetime surprise – or so I thought.
It’s important for you to remember this little surprise of mine as you follow along with my story, because you will see later on that it resurfaces in a way that I (nor you) would have ever, ever expected…
Now that I was back in the States, I had to find a job for a few months.
Finding a job in the middle of a recession isn’t easy (it was 2010 by then), so I took the first opportunity that came along: parking lot attendant.
It was an easy job, boring at times, but one that allowed me to bring along some books to study Italian or, occasionally, my computer so I could chat with Francesco on Skype.
I worked very part-time and didn’t earn a lot, but it paid the bills and my student loan debt.
I felt bad when I started working because I knew that I would be leaving again in a few months, but I wouldn’t have gotten the job (and I needed it) if I told them that.
My boss was a great guy, so even though I left after a short time, I kept in touch and told him I’d reach out next time I was in town.
Back To Italy
The distance wasn’t a problem for three months because I’d faced longer stints away from family and loved ones. It was just a quick trip home for VISA purposes and then I’d be back in Italy, so it was more like a three-month summer vacation than anything.
I hopped on a plane in May and Francesco and I picked up right where we had left off.
We enjoyed warm, sunny days on the beaches of Lignano and cool, relaxing hikes in the beautiful Dolomite Mountains of Friuli, but I wasn’t working and knew that I couldn’t continue going back and forth between Italy and the U.S. without an income.
Three months seemed to fly by and next thing you know, we were, yet again, saying our goodbyes.
The next trip home would have to be a longer one. I needed to work, and I wanted to test Francesco and our relationship to see if he would be willing to take the big step by coming to meet my family in the U.S.
After a lovely summer in Italy, it was time to head back to the U.S. for an unknown amount of time so I could work and save up some money, and wait for Francesco to come to me…
For now, I pause, but I will continue sharing my story here on the blog.
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Did Francesco come to the States to meet my family after all?
You’ll find out in Part 5…