Monday, August 16, 2010

Sleepless Nights

I'm awake at 2:00. Not jet lag. Something else but can't put my finger on it. Just sad I guess. Summer nights in Italy were divine. I listen to Max Gazze'-Mentre Dormi and dream of running away to one of my favorite places in Italy. I should be on the beach. It is August, after all, and I need to fortify my body with the minerals of the Mediterranean to stay healthy through the winter. All sorts of things come to mind that I can't mention to escape the grief I feel. Still not taking the secret stash of prescription drugs my friend Laura sent with me. Tempting though. Sean keeps saying that he is more worried about the non-prescription drugs. Guess I'll settle for melatonin and try to go back to sleep.

It's HOT...and cold.

It's so hot and humid that Sean gasps when he goes outside. Literally gasps. I gasp when we go inside buildings because the air conditioning is turned up so high that it is downright cold. Shae gets angry, "Why do they do that?" he says as he pulls his arms inside his sleeves. Sean keeps trying to borrow the scarf I put around my neck to keep from getting sick. Get your own scarf, I say. He looks around, none of the other male inhabitants are wearing scarves and he is trying to fit in. Shae finally does catch a cold. Stupid air conditioning. I knew it would get us in the end. How are we going to stay healthy with our systems being shocked back and forth?

Week 2-Strange Planet

We are very thankful for our apartment that has been arranged for us during our year here. There are some really amazing things about it like the hole in the bottom of the sink where you can put food in and it disappears. This has to be the best thing about Strange Planet so far. What a brilliant invention. We try all types of food and it just chops it up and disappears. Shad is amazed as he has never seen anything like it before. "Look mom at the eggshells going down!" Shae thinks it is hilarious to put in long spaghetti and see it spin around and fly out and hit the refrigerator.

The strangest thing about the apartment, however, is the soft stuff we walk on. I'm used to cleaning my terracotta flour several times a day from food, dirt, dog hair or dust. I love the way it shines after I put cera on it. Here, however, everything disappears into the soft stuff. It's been 10 days without cleaning (no vacuum cleaner yet) and it looks the same as when we moved in. I'm tempted to think we aren't dropping anything and have morfed into a clean family but then I watch one of my sons eat. I'm suddenly grossed out. How much stuff has accumulated beneath our feet in ten days? What a strange thing to put on the floor.....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 4,5,6

The days blur together now as we plow through our list of things to do to become a Florida resident and get the boys registered for school. I feel off balance. Awkward socially. I can't figure out how to greet people. We pass people outside and they look us in the eyes and say, "Hi, how are you today?" I turn to Sean and ask "Do you know them?" A woman in the elevator downtown tells me half her life story. Very strange. I feel invaded. Yet, when I enter the business room at our apartment complex no one even looks up and acknowledges my presence. So rude. Someone needs to teach these people some manners!! Sean is afraid I think I'm the one to do it. I think I'll just cry instead.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 3-Strange Planet

Day three on strange planet starts off well as we go out for breakfast to a rather hip looking coffee breakfast place.  We have always enjoyed going out to breakfast before in America so we looking forward to taking the boys. Shad is thrilled with his Soy Chai Tea. Our coffee, however, arrives in soup bowls. I look at Sean. "Are you ok with the soup bowl or do you want to ask for a different cup?" He says he is ok so we just go with it. We sip away and after awhile she comes to refill our cups. Sean looks up surprised. Are you kidding? This will last us until next Tuesday!

That night, lying in my bed I feel so disconnected. It definitely doesn't feel like home. I decide to pretend I'm just on vacation and then I feel better. Yes, I think I'll go with denial. 

Day 2-Strange Planet

Day two on strange planet starts off quite well. We have so many choices for lunch, Mexican, Chinese, Janpanese, Thai, BBQ, TGiF, Subway, the list goes on and on. We are not used to these choices but it is kind of fun. We  finally choose Chipotle. Shad orders a small lemonade and is handed a huge cup. He hands it back correcting the mistake. "I said small please." The guy behind the counter says, "That is a small" We all laugh out loud. It is hilarious to us but he has no idea why we are laughing. We will have many of these inside jokes I'm sure.

In the afternoon, despite feeling jet leg coming on, we decide we really need to gather some essential supplies. At this point we make a tactical error and head to super Walmart. In retrospect I see the foolishness of this move but at the time it seemed to make sense.

Sean drops the boys and I off and says he will find me. "Are you sure", I ask, "it looks like a small city in there. We could wander around for days and never see each other". I'll find you he says firmly. I get my huge cart and start going up and down the aisles. I start in the food section as I've heard they have a gluten free section where I could get some things for Shad but I can't find it. I can't find anything.

On our visits to strange planet, I've always enjoyed going to Walmart. Great prices and I can grab the select goodies and out I go. This time it is totally different. This is where I live now. As I wander up and down the isles my cart stays relatively empty. I pass by hundreds of inedible things in 50 different brands. Somewhere between passing the 15 brands of ranch dressing and arriving at the 2 brands of disgusting pasta choices a lump starts to rise in my throut. How am I going to feed my family? I turn down another isle and see Sean wheeling  a cart towards me. He has one thing in his cart and notices I have very little in mine. “There’s nothing to eat here,” he says. “I know” I croak, and then I start to cry and I can’t stop. Sean, seeing this could get really ugly and embarrass the the boys, trys to cheer my up. There are other places these people find food, we just came to the wrong place. Don’t worry, we will find something. Then he pulls out a bag he has been hiding behind his back and says look, they’ve invented risotto chips. Now I’m laughing again. They’ve never eaten true risotto in their life. Otherwise they would know you make arancini out of leftover risotto, not chips.

Day 1-Strange Planet

We arrive in Orlando and I am momentarily confused about what line to get into-visitor or resident? I'm not visiting but I certainly don't live here yet. Sean guides me toward the resident line. We flash our passports and the guy says welcome home. There is no use in correcting him. This doesn't feel like home. Our home is still in Italy.

Thankfully Darin from our new team is there to pick us up. I am so grateful that we have the Lake Hart Stint team to help us settle in to the housing they have set up for us. I can't imagine having to land on this strange planet and figure everything out alone. We walk across the street and eat Sushi for our first meal which is Shae's favorite non Italian cuisine and then fall exhausted into bed.

Can I just stay in Frankfurt?

We arrive in Frankfurt, and make our way slowly to our next gate via Starbucks. The guy at the security checkpoint takes an inordinate amount of time looking through our passports. I glance at the terrorist posters off to my right to see if anyone in our family resembles anyone on the poster and finally ask him if there is a problem. “No” he says, “it is just that you have a lot of stamps and I need to look at each one.” All the years of dragging our boys around flash before my eyes. I picture them when they were knee high with little backpacks on and so excited they don’t sleep for 20 hours, carrying Shad through the airport throwing up all the way from America to Italy, jumping up and down on our bed at four in the morning yelling jet legs! I feel sad for some reason. I’m not sure why.

We finally arrive at our gate and hear an announcement that the plane is overbooked. We’ve been in this situation before and in one glance at each other Sean and I say, “Let’s do it” We sprint to the ticket counter and volunteer to take the 600 euro vouchers for our seats. We wait until the final boarding call and they confirm that the vouchers are ours.

When we get to the hotel they’ve provided and settle in we are exhausted. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we stayed up all night packing. We should be better at this by now. We talk the boys into going to dinner at 6:00 (unheard of in Italy) so we can go to bed early. They reluctantly agree, but when we get to the hotel restaurant Shae has second thoughts. “How embarrassing mom” he says, “they will think we are Americans.” It isn’t the first time I’ve heard this over the years but right now his words hang in the air like water right before a downpour. I bite my lip to keep from pointing out the obvious but useless facts: 1) You have an American passport. 2) In less than 48 hours you will be living among these embarrassing people. 3) You will need to learn to make friends with these strange people or you will be beat up at school.

They should have special passports for third culture kids like ours. Neither an American or Italian passport is sufficient to identify his cultural leanings. I say a silent prayer that he will figure life out as a third culture kid. I pray we haven’t made life too hard on them by our crazy lifestyle. Not feeling like you belong or fit in anywhere isn’t easy at 12 and 14.

In bed that night I decide if the plane is overbooked again I want to stay another night in Germany. I wonder how many times in a row we could do this. I realize it isn’t because of the money, but because I’m apprehensive to enter life on the strange planet. If we did this every night for a year we could earn a million dollars.


We leave Italy at 4:30 in the morning after I have cried for a whole day saying goodbye to friends. Gary took us to the airport which made me want to cry too because it meant so much. We are leaving a community of people we really like, we have a sense of belonging, people know us. I step on the plane and suddenly have this sense of ontological lightness. Like I have been launched into space and am floating around. No home, no car, no community, and heading towards a place I don’t know. Strange planet here I come