Sono Così Emozionante

You are very clever, youse.

In our recent guessing game of “Where in the World Will Sabbatical Take Them?,” quite a few commenters came very close, or even rightly named, our family’s likely port of call for our upcoming travels.

Here’s the summary of how we got to our current perch:

1)  Jocelyn was born.  Half an hour later, her mom ate a ham sandwich, thus modeling for the infant life-long behaviors in pork ingestion;
2)  Jocelyn grew up and liked reading books and talking.  When she headed off to college, she thought she’d be a lawyer;
3)  Jocelyn took a political science class in college and quickly realized she just wanted to read novels and not about the structure of the Swedish government;
4)  Jocelyn declared an English major.  Several years later, she graduated and contemplated applying that major to driving a taxi;
5)  A couple years later, after working as a temp in tall buildings and, in much shorter buildings, as a nanny, she realized graduate school might help aim her towards a career that didn’t entail filing receipts for bulk flour purchases (as did in her stint temping at Pillsbury) or babysitting a fluffly little marshmallow guy (again, compliments of her stint temping at Pillsbury);
6)  Because she still just wanted to read books but realized that a graduate degree in English literature would still end with her behind the wheel of a taxi–or watching other people’s children, perhaps as she gunned towards them from behind the wheel of a taxi–Jocelyn decided to go for a “practical” graduate degree, based in English.  She earned a Master’s in Teaching English as a Second Language, a course of study which, to her surprise, entailed a host of linguistics classes that made her shriveled brain ache.  She cried softly during weekly quizzes in Phonology, during which the professor articulated made-up words like “Schwizzlegnaufengleut” and required that students transcribe his sounds into the International Phonetic Alphabet.  When not weeping during quizzes, Jocelyn, as part of her fellowship, taught sections of composition;
7)  Which meant that the only things she could put on her CV after finishing graduate school were “weeping,” “transcribing,” and “teaching composition”;
8)  Which then meant that she was hired at several institutions to teach composition, and occasionally–living the dream here!–literature.  This continued for 19 years, during which time she enjoyed the bounties of her job, with students who became personal friends, students whose lives were changed through education, students who were legendary characters.  On the flip side, she also felt her soul suck away sometimes, with students who were high on meth in the classroom, students who treated her with hostility for having the audacity to assign work, students who lodged complaints about her with the dean for receiving non-passing grades after missing 11 out of 16 weeks of class, and students who died prematurely, tragically;
9)  At some point, the idea of taking a breath sounded appealing.  Right about then, her second sabbatical opportunity came around.  She applied.  She got it.  That evening, she choreographed an inspiring interpretive dance and performed it for unsuspecting onlookers (woe to them for not getting out before she locked the doors);
10)  After taking her bows, Jocelyn signed up with a couple of home exchange Web sites and spent hours trying to take photographs of her home that didn’t reveal the dust bunnies, stained counters, and towers of Lego creations.  Doing this required all the limberness she’d warmed up the night before during the interpretive dance, as getting pictures wherein the house looked “clean” and “as though you’d really like to live here!!!” called upon profoundly imaginative camera angles.  Ultimately, she managed to package her home relatively appealingly.  The most difficult challenge of the whole thing was showing the house’s windows without actually snapping anything OUTSIDE the windows…’cause it was January out there, and January ain’t always pretty, Poodles;
11)  Next, Jocelyn spent hours sending out more than 40 inquiry emails to home exchangers around the world, receiving back, in rapid order, approximately 35 “Nope, won’t work for us” responses;
12)  Weeks pass, and Jocelyn’s family began to consider Plan B, in which Jocelyn and her husband would divorce, just for a year, and go on the hunt for new, international spouses.  Whoever would score a new partner first would then send for the rest of the family.  Ideally, there would be a compound involved, a place that could house everybody without conflict.  Jocelyn supposed that she could use her red hair to snare a Moroccan man, so long as he was of poor eyesight and hearing, able to ignore the rest of The Accompanying Jocelyn Package.  Right about when she was contemplating joining ArabMenWhoLikeRedheadsMatch.com, an email hit the Inbox;
13)  From a family in Sicily that has done 10 exchanges in the past and is open to exploring the U.S. this time.  Excited communications took place for five hours…before the Sicilian family went a bit silent.  During their silence, an email of interest came in from a family in Hungary.  Then one flew in from a family in Switzerland.  Jocelyn called upon all of her diplomacy and tact (things she first learned back in her political science class in college; something about “the Swedish model,” and, trust me, there were no photos of Tiger Woods’ wife in that textbook) and kept all the families dangling on the hook, mostly hoping that no option closed before she heard back, with more certainty, from the Sicilians.  Because, honestly, as awesome as Hungary and Switzerland are, they aren’t Italy.  (Plus Jocelyn has been to Hungary before and was pretty certain the manifest orderliness of Switzerland would collapse into chaos the first time she annouced to a native, “Actually, I don’t wear a watch.  I don’t really like to know what time it is.”);
14)  Eventually, after several weeks of limited communication, the Sicilian family emailed that it is INNNNNNNN for an exchange.  The hang-up had been the educational situation for their 15-year-old son (they also have 9-year-old twins, for whom a regimented education is less essential) who, if he missed an entire year of high school in Italy, would have to repeat it upon his return.  As a compromise, he will accompany the family for the first six months and then return to Sicily to live with his aunt (next door to where we’ll be living; Jocelyn hopes to wave at him through the window as she plays Tetris on the computer in his bedroom).  From that point on, depending on how Teen With Auntie does, everyone will play it by ear.  If he hits the skids, his family will return home sooner rather than later.  But, ideally, if he–as teens often do–thrives without his parents around, the rest of his family will remain in Duluth for two or four more months.  Thus, the exchange could run July-December, July-February, or July-April;
15)  Jocelyn’s family is gunning for April;
16)  Because the longer they stay in Sicily, the more of this stuff they’ll actually get to see:

Catania, Sicily
Catania
Mt. Etna
Coliseum Thing, which is the untranslated Greek term for it
A photo of the house they’ll be staying in.
hahahahahahaha.  I often feel fortunate that I enjoy my own humor, as it eludes the masses.
They have beaches there.  It gets hot.  I believe I will do okay with the heat, if I can have gelato and granitas.
Maybe I forgot to mention it, but there are beaches.
Thus, we’re super excited, to the point that I’m listening to Italian language CDs in the car and printing out flashcards of the days of the week.  Girlchild memorized counting to 20 in a few minutes flat, so I have hopes for the kids’ more absorbent brains to adjust enough that they can help us talk our way out of traffic tickets.
Fellow blogger Lucia, over at Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish (http://www.bagelsandcrawfish.blogspot.com/), whom I found through the Magic Google Machine, has already been exceedingly gracious and given us a few insider tips, including “If you want to blend in with the Italians be sure to pack black” and “If you don’t already own a GPS system I would recommend bringing one or buying one.”  Based on these recommendations, I feel certain of my success as a Sicilian, as I’m nothing if not a gloom-ridden Goth who can’t find her way to the rave.
(Not that Goths worth their salt would be found at a rave; I just liked the sound of it, so hesh up, Know-It-All Objector)
As we launch into the logistics of the trip, we’re already experiencing a cultural lesson in dealing with Italians since the exchange family is, er, less actively communcative than our goal-driven American personalities would hope for.  At some point, we’ll get travel dates ironed out, though.  Until then, we’re emailing with the Italian consulate about visas–another cultural lesson in patience, as replies to our questions come back without any of our questions addressed or answered…but with a whole new host of complicating factors laid out before us.  Before we’re done, we may have to get fingerprinted (only $12!) and have FBI background checks.
Imagine, in the photo below, that we are the road, and the Italian bureacracy is the lava from Mt. Etna.
Yup, that’s how emailing with the consulate makes us feel.

At least, as we wait for the charismatic swarthy man to stamp our documents, we’ll have ample time to practice some fundamental phrases:

Dove è il vino?

and

Riempia prego il mio vetro di vino.

and

Riempialo alla parte superiore.  Seriamente.


Comments

Sono Così Emozionante — 27 Comments

  1. I guessed it! (I think. I also think my first guesses included somewhere in the Pacific. Hard to be wronger than that.)

    Wowzers! What a great experience y'all will have. Here's hoping that Mt. Etna does a smallish eruption just for your enjoyment, but saves any really big fireworks for after you leave.

    You WILL blog from Sicily, right?

  2. Oh no, really, I couldn't possibly.. come visit you in Sicily? What a crazy idea. Although, if you insist.. ;)

    Kind of relieved that I was wrong about Krakatoa; spacious- yes, uncrowded- yes, liable to explode without warning- also, regrettably, yes.

    Also? I don't really understand the semicolon but I find that throwing it around occasionally, albeit most likely incorrectly, makes me feel smrt.

  3. I am doing a little superior dance here, for getting the right answer. Thank NY Times crossword puzzles! Thats to Will Short I now own the world's most extensive collection of useless knowledge.

    I am very happy for you. Maybe this will be a trend at the colony! Aaryn is headed for the Amalfi coast, and you are going to Sicily! Me next!

  4. as one who has moved her family overseas and back i can attest to the colossal pain bureaucracy can be but i am excited for you. what a change from the duluthian life, eh?

  5. Yay for you! That thing about your mother eating a ham sandwich soon after birth predisposing you to pork?In the early 1950's,my Mum had to have pethadine before and after birth for gall stone attacks and rumbling appendix."It was only in later years" she vaguely reminisced"that it occurred to me that you being such a DIFFICULT baby and all, you were probably suffering withdrawal symptoms, particularly as I was still feeding you at the time." Derr.What a great excuse that would have been to hit the happy weed big time (predisposed MOM!!) and be let off the hook while mother mia culpa'd her way through the groovin' 60's and 70's….recognize the Italian there?Unfortunately,I was just not interested.Bravo on Sicily…"causare" for "celebrazione" eh?? You'll all have the best time!!

  6. In your spare time while getting ready to head on over to Italy, might I recommend a blogger to you -Michelle Fabio at http://bleedingespresso.com/
    A neat blog and great blogger -writer-type person who is originally from east-central Pennsylvania.
    Loved this post and your descriptions of the "fun" involved in lining up a family to do the house trade-off with. One question though -do these people have a clue about Minnesota in the winter? Going south I would think would be a much easier transition for you, that would going north be for them. I'm thinking Minnesota snow, International Falls and their minus zero temps too. Quite the rude awakening perhaps. No, I won't tell them this though -you need the chance to see those beaches and read those lovely books.

  7. I'm so excited for you! And your home-to-be looks perfect, almost as if Paco already lives there.

    I would have put all this in smart-ass albeit ungrammatical Italian, but my poor brain has already gone to bed, leaving this body with hands that type sitting at my desk all alone.

    The beaches. Ohhhh, the beaches. And gelati. Do you need someone to carry your luggage, or your lunch?

  8. Shazaam! I think this will be the turning point in your life–better than interpretive dance or eating pork. And I cannot wait to read all about it!

  9. Awesome. I'm happy for you to have this experience, although when I did it I felt like I was living in exile. Was that a little down? sorry. I'm excited for you, honest. :)

  10. ok for real, I read so many blogs and only yours do I giggle out loud EVERY TIME I read it.

    Italy … ahhhh that sounds sooooo awesome!

  11. Have you given any thought to my marriage proposal? I did send it didn't I? Oh, that's right. I was waiting to see where you were going first. Since it's Sicily, NOW will you marry me?

    *my word captcha is tripety.

  12. Sicily will be such fun! Quite the adventure. In Switzerland they scrub the sidewalks in front of empty stores and mow lawns in front of vacant houses. That's TOO clean, if you ask me. It's beautiful to look at but ya wouldn't want to live there! (For the record, I knew it wasn't Tonga, but I wanted to be different! Ya, that's it.)

  13. Amazingly fabulous plan! Gunning for April for you, too! Next time you come to Austin we'll do it! Tell me what you did here. What did you see? Where did you eat? You didn't have the greatest of weather, if I remember right. But still warmer than what you are used to.

  14. Ooooooh my!

    How awesome will that be?!?!

    Your initial impressions are right on target based on our experiences when living in Naples.

    Oooh, the agony and the ecstasy that is an American family living in Italy.
    Doing an exchange, you will be spared a bit of the worst, trying to get a phone installed, etc.
    Still, I can't WAIT to read the adventures.
    May I suggest a bit of cross-cultural reading?
    Ciao, America! by Beppe Severgnini.
    He is an Italian journalist who moved to the states for a year.
    Now, he is from northern Italy and lived in the D.C. area, so there will be vast differences, but still, as a Northwesterner who lived in southern Italy I still found it amusing and interesting.
    Congrats, how awesome, and will you have a spare room for guests?

  15. I said Spain, close. WOW, I am so envious. What a wonderful experience for your family. Can't wait to read about it next year.
    Strangely though, in your post the one fact that struck me most was that you don't like to wear a watch. Me neither. I hate the things. My man, however, wears his to bed and in the shower: both places he is naked otherwise. Few people today can stand not knowing the time in an instant. I (and you) are happier not being a slave to the minutes. Plus I hate the binding feeling of watches on my wrist. I wonder if we were twins separated at birth? We are both red heads…
    V.

  16. off course, Sicily, I thought of that actually.. but was sure you'd choose something waaay more strange..:o) didn't know the water don't come out of the taps down there though…

  17. FABULOUS!!! You must (please?) report fully from Sicily, as your blog will be the closest I'll ever get to going there (selfish, selfish).

    Best of luck with the bureaucratic stuff; navigating that can only make La Dolce Vita even sweeter.

    So excited for you all!

  18. That will be so cool! Will you continue to blog? Sicily should provide mucho (?) blog fodder!

  19. How fun and what a crazy drastic change from Minn.! Are you cool with having people living in your house? Well, I guess you must be. I can't wait to read you blog posts from there and see the pictures. Congrats on your great adventure.

  20. I would love to do what you and your family are doing. I fear I will be in the Med before you, if not as long. Heading to Greece and Egypt in May for a long (25-year) delayed honeymoon.

    Color me green with envy on your sabatical. I am expecting this blog to become a travelogue. Ciao.

  21. Oh, too much fun. I am so jealous. No, I'm not. Happy for you and hope the opportunity will be all you hope for and more.

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