Sometimes, in my excitement, I often jump right in and pay little attention to the finer details. When I started this blog, a few months ago, I was so eager to share that I didn’t really think about telling readers my story.
Brief is not something that I know how to me.
So, I’ve decided to take this My Monday to tell you how I ended up in Modena. Then, if you want to hear more, let me know, I have stories galore!
6 Years Ago
This week I celebrated my 6 year anniversary in Italy. On December 11th, 2007, I caught a flight from Toronto to London in the middle of a snowstorm. I arrived at the Gatwick airport, took a cab to the Stanstead Airport, took another flight to Forlì (in the mid-North of Italy, near Bologna), rented a car and drove at 3 am for 2 hours to Milan. I had found a room for rent with 3 guys fresh out of high school. They found me asleep in the parking lot of the apartment in the rental car.
10 months earlier, in Toronto, Canada, I had started the paperwork for my Italian citizenship. My parents are Italian, but never taught us how to speak the language, and I was feeling a strong need to reconnect with my “roots”. I didn’t know anything about Italy. All I knew was that I could become a citizen, the food is yummy, a few words in Sicilian dialect and that there is a folk dance called the tarantella.
A few years ago on vacation I had seen one of my dad’s cousins dancing the tarantella and I was mesmerized. At the time I was going through my “clubbing” phase and really needed a break from disco music. I needed something fresh, something pure, something fun.
I found a week-long tarantella course in a very small town in the South of Italy. And so, I booked a flight for a short vacation, and off I went. The accommodation wasn’t exactly what I had planned, 20 people all sleeping together in an abandoned school. No private bathrooms or individual rooms. We all slept in old classrooms on small single beds from the 1920s.
We took dance and tambourine lessons together during the day, ate in the school cafeteria and danced at folk festivals at night. Strangely enough the showers had no hot water and the floor was filled with broken glass, however, the food was amazing! They had a chef who made us breakfast, lunch and dinner. That’s your Italian prioritizing for you.
The atmosphere was magical, it was like nothing I had ever seen before.
Here is our group in one of the classrooms. I’m in a white t-shirt on the floor.
It turns out that I met a guy (the guy in a white polo on the far-right) who was also there to learn the tarantella. He was Italian and didn’t speak much English, and despite my poor Italian and the fact that at first he was pretty rude, we connected. Apparently when you’re dancing language doesn’t really matter.
Our courtship involved; folk dancing in the forest, me missing 3 international flights, camping out in the Milan train station, taking numerous midnight trains, and an impromptu vacation in an old Roman village.
Alas, the vacation ended, I went back to Canada and life went on as usual. Sort of.
4 months later I decided to move to Milan. So I sold my car, most of my possessions, quit my job and said goodbye to everyone I knew.
It was two weeks before Christmas, my Italian boyfriend drove from Bologna to Milan to spend Christmas Eve with me. I had nothing to offer him but a poorly made omelet. On Christmas Day, he left in the morning to be with his family and I stayed in the apartment alone. Strangely enough, I didn’t feel lonely. I remember being out on the balcony on Christmas Day, looking into the windows of all the other apartments at the families celebrating and thinking “this is where I belong”.
In Milan I worked as a waitress by day and took Italian classes at night in the red-light district because they were offered for free. In the class, I was with 40 North African men who didn’t speak a word of English or Italian, but, like me, they all wanted to learn. I became an immigrant. And it was not easy.
I actually thought I would just stay a few months, enough to learn my parents’ language, and then I would go back to Canada. But that’s not how the story goes.
Milan was about 3 hours away from where my Italian boyfriend lived. I only had one day off a week, and so to see me he would drive 3 hours to Milan every Sunday and then 3 hours back for work the next day. After 4 months my rent contract ended and I either had to find a new place to live or go back to Canada. But instead of going back to Canada he asked me to move in with him! And so it began. We got an apartment in the centre of Bologna and I joined his family business. His family makes luxury alligator accessories for the biggest fashion houses in the world and they also have their own brand. At the time they were searching for a client manager that spoke English since that same month the only English speaking client manager had quit, and low and behold I arrived.
All of a sudden I was working in fashion. Together, we wheel and deal with clients that have more money on their backs then most people spend on a car. We’ve worked the fashion fairs to showcase our brand in Paris, Milan, Florence and NY. I love fashion but sometimes I find it hard to deal with egos so inflated you’d think you were at the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.
Dressing to impress when you make as much as a part-time McDonald’s server takes a lot of creativity. I love dressing, but I’m not obsessed with brands, nor do I care about fading trends, unless of course I can get it for dirt cheap, in which case then I’m fine with it.
When I moved to Bologna I joined my boyfriend’s Tarantella folk music band as one of their folk dancers and we performed at local events and went to all of the folk festivals in the South.
Bologna is amazing, and each time I stroll through its red Medieval streets I am impressed with its beauty. But, it isn’t an easy city to live in.
After I year I decided I needed a change, I wanted a bigger apartment with an elevator and eventually convinced my boyfriend to move to Modena. We found an apartment in the centre of the city that is close to everything.
Modena is a hidden jewel in Italy. Modena is where Pavarotti was from. You’ve probably never heard of it, it’s most likely not on your top 100 places to see, unless you’re into The Ferrari, Alpha Romeos, philosophy, Maserati, balsamic vinegar, amaretto cookies and seeing 3 UNESCO World Heritage sites.
There is so much beauty here.
Modena has given to me everything I was missing from Toronto. Bike paths, strolls, aperitivo, friends that meet regularly, a vegetable market 10 minutes form my house by foot. Actually, everything is 10 minutes away.
I slowly stopped longing for Toronto and started to love Italy.
In 2011 we became pregnant and last year we had our little redhead.
He is the cutest little boy I have ever seen in my entire life. It is ridiculous the amount of love that I have for this little person. I just had no idea that life with a kid could be so fun. I didn’t expect it. Sometimes, I live through a day and think “When I am 80 I will remember this as the happiest moment of my life”, and maybe in that instant I am changing a diaper that smells so rank that a normal person would faint, and he’s trying to put his feet in his own dung, and to get him to stay still I have to hold each leg and kiss the bottom of his small, cute, cheese smelling, feet. And while I hold his legs I tickle him in all his tickly places and he giggles the cutest, most sincere, happy giggle and murmurs with joy.
I really love being a mom. I think I was waiting for it my whole life. I never really grew up, so when I was offered a part-time contract so that I could work from home I took it. And now I’m working from home, raising my toddler full-time, living in Modena, and letting our moments last as long as possible because time is flying by.
Last summer I married the only man I’ve ever really danced with. And that’s how I ended up in Italy.
I’ve linked this post up with #MyExpatFamily