27 March 2010

a story of love and pollution

Earlier this week, I wrote this post, and it caused a rather strong reaction by KC.  I've never met KC, but after following her blog a while, I've come to respect her and look forward to her posts.  I do, however, feel the need to explain. Here is part one of that explanation:

My life in Italy began in August 2001.  I came to Italy as a military dependent spouse and was fortunate to secure a position teaching in a school for the dependents stationed in the Naples area.  Within a few months, the short-lived marriage to the sailor ended, and I immersed myself into teaching and the activities associated with the school.  The school became my life.  My real life was in an upheaval with complications that defy comprehension of people outside of military circles.   During this period of conflict and confusion,  there was a small cadre of people who supported me.   One of the girls remains a best friend today. I later married one of the men.

So there I was in a foreign country. . . ending a disastrous union, loving my new job, feeling financial freedom, hoping to find a way to stay in the country, and freaking falling apart each day because of the uncertainty.

And then I met Richard.  Richard had lived in the Naples area for nearly 17 years when I met him.  This man adores the people, the culture, the city, the life, the chaos, the food.  He had an undeniable authentic passion for the place.   He woke up each day in as much awe and adoration of it as he had the upon his first arrival.  As a military brat, this is the city that he had lived the longest in his life, this was his home.  He began to share his passion with me.   I saw the city, the surrounding villages through his eyes, often on the back of his motorino.  He knew all the most beautiful vistas, the best restaurants, the coolest alleys; he knew the history and was full of stories and wit.  The man even knew the dialect. His passion was infectious, and I, too, soon began to adore my newly adopted city.

How does this relate to the trash? You ask.

It was easy, you see, for me to fall in love with this man.  It was even easier to remain blissfully unaware of the problems -- problems much further reaching than piled up rubbage --  that obviously surrounded me. "Trash, smash.  What trash?  What's the problem? Life is beautiful.  All is good."  He knew.  He knew about many of the problems and would even become infuriated with people about them.  One family of friends lived in a house that was routinely raided by Carabinieri officers in search of illegal activity, just because of who owned it.  There was always a search for a secret tunnel or passage way in the home.  An absolutely beautiful home.  A lovely family.  They joked about the "protection" this "connection" offered them in their village.  It drove Richard mad.  I was in love. . .what did I care?  Also, I could not speak a lick of Italian and my interests in Italian culture and politics were limited to the same experience of tourists:  food, wine, villas, farm houses, yadda, yadda yadda, tuscany, capri, olive oil,  ceramics, art. . . .yadda, yadda, yadda.  He tried to explain.  I wan't interested.

At the same time, though, I also experienced the naysayers. You know, not everyone views the chance to live in Italy as a blessing.  Working with the students in the school afforded me the opportunity to get to know all sorts of people, people with varying feelings about their "opportunity" to live abroad.  Many hated it, absolutely hated it, and although there were many reasons, the one that absolutely everyone held in common was the trash. They could never, ever get past the trash to see the beauty of the place.  They lived miserably for their time there.   They had no inkling of the larger problems at work. . . trash, trash, trash was all they could speak of at times.   (Of course it's a bit more complicated. . . but, for now, enough.)

So. That's the basis of my comment, but the story of pollution and love continues.

He fell for me; we moved into together; we watched an episode of 60 Minutes about the myth of conceiving after 30; we decided that a baby would be great; the Young One was conceived.  New love will do that to you.  For several reasons we chose to take the opportunity to make a move to Northern Italy, and we did so a couple of months after her birth.  It was mainly my idea and was not easy for him, but love will do that to you, too.  (To this day, when we meet a transplanted Southerner on the streets of the North, he always prompts her to tell him where she was born. "Napoli." Funny.  He leaves out the part that it was at a US Navy Hospital. He is known at the local pizzeria as the Neapolitan American -- he loves that.)

Since moving here nearly six years ago, my mindset has changed from tourist to resident (at least for a bit).  I'm learning the language, reading the papers, asking the questions, finding the books.  We even purchased a home and have committed to educating our daughter (at least for now) with the Italians.   I'll never be Italian, don't want to, but at least I can live life beyond the level of a tourist.  This is my life, after all, not an extended stay.

And then I read Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano.  Some days I wish I hadn't.  Damn him.

Part 2 to follow some other time . . . . .  it's Saturday and the weather is beautiful and things are going on at the school and I want to get my hands in the dirt and I want to do a bit of Easter shopping. . . ciao.

1 comment:

  1. Dana, thank you for writing this.
    And thank you for sharing the mixture of feelings that come with life, especially with life abroad.
    It's the first time I read something so deep about Richard, and ... well, what a wonderful love story.
    PS Yes, there's a lot of trash in Italy, and it's not the garbage, it's what Saviano writes about.
    PPS you know, I hate Naples, but only because I've known the city on (awful) trips to the American Consulate.