One week ago, Trenton and I, along with our cat, Kahlúa, stepped off the plane and into the bright afternoon sun of Sicily.
One week. Seven days. One hundred and sixty-eight mostly sleepless hours.
Allow me to explain our environment for a moment.
We are living on Sicily, an island that is part of Italy but not connected to the mainland. Trenton goes to school on Naval Air Station (NAS) Sigonella I. I work on NAS II. That little thing that looks like a volcano? It is! Mount Etna sits to the north and is a beautiful spectacle.
While we begin looking for a house, we’re staying at a little bed and breakfast called the Magnolia (locals call it the Mag). Sal, the owner, is animated and kind. The staff has been incredibly helpful and the views are absolutely stunning.
Trenton seems to get along okay. He started his first day of school Friday just to get a quick taste before having a rest this weekend. He had a great first day of school and was happily surprised at how nice people are here. He said, “There’s no top dog and all the kids are really nice.” He has a buddy named Jack who is a volunteer who takes him around the first couple of days. So far he’s signed up for paintball, baseball, Lego Club, and Robotics Club. He’s playing clarinet in band and we’re still trying to find a violin teacher.
As for me, I checked into work Monday and am energized by the intentionality of our leadership triad. I’m amazed at how the command understands that public affairs is a strategic line of effort and not an afterthought. To be honest, I’ve come to be a bit defensive of my profession and what we bring to the fight. But here, I’ve not had to ask for anything (inclusion in meetings, equipment, access, etc.) It’s a great feeling knowing that you’re both respected and welcomed. I’m embracing the opportunity to make real changes from the deckplate up.
In typical Tia-fashion, I’ve already decided I miss my students too much and that I should make every effort to continue teaching here in Sicily. So, Tuesday, I checked into the Navy College and applied to teach a few college courses at University of Maryland University College (UMUC). We’ll see where that leads over the next month or so…
A few observations: Italian beds are hard and box springs don’t exist. I forget this little fact every day until I dive into bed in the evening…Driving still causes me great anxiety, mostly because I haven’t gotten fuel in my car yet and I don’t know exactly what to do. It’s funny which little things will throw you off of your normal routine. I’m also incredibly frustrated attempting to order online (Ulta, Sephora, Gap, Target) since a lot of U.S.-based stores don’t like the Italian IP address–honestly, I don’t really know what this means other than no clay foundation for me or new basketball shorts for Trenton yet. In other news, Vodaphone (think Italian Verizon) has a monthly 9€ phone plan for folks under 30! But switching to an Italian line means I no longer have my American phone number and the best way to reach me is on Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp. Oh! You know that scene in “101 Dalmatians” where Pongo and Perdita use the “Twilight Bark” to summon help from dogs all around London? The dogs here never stop barking and then they bark back and forth to each other. All day and all night. No thank you, dogs.
Trenton and I spend most of our time outside, adventuring. The weather is beautiful, although I have a feeling I’ll really miss the mossy sweet smell of rain, and I’ll miss the worms popping their heads out of the ground immediately thereafter. The air smells like a highly frustrated volcano, but it kinda reminds me of afternoons riding and chasing cattle on our farm, so it doesn’t bother me so much. The flowers are stately and boast crisp colors; produce grows larger without modifications and pesticides; and the trees seem to whisper stories as they gently toss and turn into the wind.
You guys, the food. The $25 specialty cheeses you splurge on at home? Six euros here. I also drink water here–eight bottles since arriving! I miss my large black iced coffees. It’s not a thing here, but I am embracing cappuccino mornings and espresso afternoons. Produce (especially from local markets) is remarkably less expensive–think 3lbs of lemons for a euro. Likewise, it’s much easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle here. You can always find fresh lemons, garlic, and onions in our home. Olive oil, balsamic vinegars, and red wine are plentiful, clean, and unlike anything you’ve tasted.
Emotionally speaking, I’m not as brave as I thought I was. I am nervous ordering or asking questions. I stayed in this weekend because my fuel tank is on empty and I’m not quite sure how to use gas coupons yet. Honestly? I’m scared that I won’t say the right thing or know liters from gallons and I’ll be all lost in the mix. But that’s the point of moving overseas, right? Getting lost in the mix…
It’s a new adventure, being here…exploring…adventuring…staying stuck inside because I’m too scared to figure out our fuel situation… 😉
Thank you for all the notes, texts, calls, cards, emails, and letters. Every piece of home is appreciated and embraced. Thank you.
Until next week…