Thursday, March 19, 2009

A week in the UK

This week husband had to go to the UK for a week of work. Me being his loyal wife insisted he needed someone to iron his shirts/wake him up/provide daily foot massages whilst in the hotel. Just in case the hotel didn’t provide any of these services.

Husband’s office is in Reading which is about a 40 minute train ride from London. I love going back because I get to stock up on food that I can’t buy easily in Florence like curry pastes and good porridge. Even my English doctor gave me a request for some Horlics (some strange malt drink that I’d never heard of). Every time we come to the UK, I promise husband I’ll buy just a couple of things but in the end my suitcase looks like we are going back to a country that clearly has just had a war and is not stocking food on shelves anytime soon. If the plane coming home crashes aka Lost style, I will be an instant millionaire selling food on the island.

I know it is a sin to say this, but I don’t like Italian coffee. It’s too strong even when I ask them to make it weak. And here’s another confession: Hi my name is Monika and I’m an I mean a STARBUCKS-aholic. I love the milky flavoured coffee topped with cream. And I love that I can ask for a skinny de-caff weak latte with extra chocolate on top without hearing a mamma mia under the barista’s breath.

Whilst I was sitting at my favourite Starbucks (there are four within a block of each other in the centre, who says they are taking over the world?), I saw a group of young girls giggling over their coffees. I had an overwhelming feeling of sadness. I remembered to just over a year ago when I had first arrived in Reading. I flew in on a Monday and husband left for a work trip to the US the very next day. I remember I sat at that very Starbucks every day to have my breakfast and felt the loneliest I had ever felt in my life. I didn’t know anyone, my husband was away constantly and the days were so slow. Then once I got used to Reading, four months later I had to do it all over again in a new city and country – Florence, Italy.

I also remember that one of the reasons I felt so lonely was that I couldn’t tell anyone (apart from a couple of my close friends, you know who you are) how I was feeling. I tried, but was soon met with the usual responses ‘what are you complaining about? You live in Europe, I would love to go to Europe, you don’t have to work, you have a perfect life’. Sheesh these people probably also think I wake up in the morning with perfectly styled hair and a flawless face of make-up...

The truth of the matter is, I don’t blame people for thinking it’s a perfect life because until you’ve made such a big change in your life, you really don’t know what culture shock is and how much adjusting you need to do. I certainly didn’t think that I, a strong woman and extremely extroverted, would feel lonely.

And that is not to say that we were ungrateful for the opportunity we were given (we thank God every day for what we have) but it still can be a hard time in your life. Yes, you can visit Buckingham Palace or go see the Statue of David but those things were not important to me. My friends and family is what I missed. I would rather have had a good coffee with a friend anyday. Preferrably at Starbucks, but I would have taken whatever was going.

Now our time overseas is drawing to an end and we should be back home in Australia by mid- year. This experience has been the best thing that has ever happened to us. We have seen more countries than I thought I would see in a lifetime. We have made lots of friends and acquaintances and a couple of close friends that will be dear to us for a very long time. Jason has enjoyed his work so much albeit being a lot of hard work. I have had a chance to catch up with my family who live scattered throughout Europe. We could not have hoped for a better time in our lives.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Anniversary in Florence

Today is our six year anniversary.
Six years seems like such a long time in some ways, but for me our time together has literally flown by. I guess I am with the right person. Actually I KNOW I am with the right person. I can't imagine my life without my amazing husband, Jason. Happy Anniversary husband!

In our six years of marriage, I also didn't imagine that we would also spend over a year living in Florence or four years living in the desert in Australia.

It is also exactly a year since we arrived in Florence. A time of excitement, new experiences and happiness. Mixed in with some stress while we were adjusting and trying to start a new life in a country that really has very complex bureacracy.

Last year for our anniversary we attended a pasta making and wine appreciation course in Tuscany. For our anniversary this year, we drove to Genoa yesterday. We had a wonderful day walking around the port which is gorgeous.

One thing I love about Italians is that they are huge dog lovers. But this was really taken up a notch in Genoa. I think we were the only people not to be walking a dog yesterday. Doggies, big and small, everywhere!

It's very common to walk into a cafe or clothes store in Florence and see a very well behaved doggie patiently waiting for its owner to finish their lunch. I remember back to Australia where we would occassionally take our golden retriever to lunch (back home, there is really only a very small handful of places that allow dogs on their property and you have to sit outside). As well behaved as she was, she would NEVER sit patiently waiting for us. She did every trick under the sun to remind us she too was hungry and inevitably half my lunch was given to 'hungry eyes' under the table.

Please don't report me. It was water in the cup, not Coke.

Unlike Australia, in Italy doggies are welcome almost anywhere. Apart from the Genoa Acquarium (the largest acquarium in Europe). However, look at what service they offer:

There is a lot of shady and dodgy goings on in Italy. At any time you can walk onto the street and buy a fake Louis Vuitton or some new sneakers. However, this perhaps takes the McCake?

Tonight it's our anniversary dinner at our favourite Florence restaurant, Osteria di Giovanni's. I have been dreaming of their specialty pigeon dish for the last week.

Here's wishing happiness and love to all my blog readers today! Hope your week is as blessed as I am feeling right now!