Any immigrant in Italy can tell you that there is a very fragile patchwork of stitching that is keeping your expatriate baggage together. Every year that passes, you slap on another patch to reinforce the wear and tear that comes with dragging your tattered bag over the ridges of cultural barriers and through the ditches of bureaucratic nightmares.
There is the constant danger that someone could bump into you and rip open a patch, causing you to inappropriately make blatant generalizations and curse an entire country. Or that your bag could bust completely open and you could end up with nothing – a defeated, crumpled up ball by the stufa. To cope, you makes jokes and tell stories on your little “look-at-me-I-live-in-Italy” blog, and you attempt to examine your own sewing technique for these patches that you’re adding to your bag. All the while, you try to keep in mind the reason that you’re lugging this thing around. Perhaps you’re here for work, perhaps for love. Perhaps because you thought you could be like Diane Lane in ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ (which would be really ridiculous, but hey, I won’t judge).
In any case you plod along, hoping that the stitches hold and that you’ll get used to the weight. Well, this past month I think I may have busted at least one of the seams that is holding my raggedy bag together. The only way to accurately express my sentiment over this past month is with the Reggiano dialect phrase:
“Che pèis, ragas!”
(That’s “quanto è pesante, ragazzi” in normal Italian. Literally it translates to, “how heavy, guys”. I would say it’s perhaps akin to “man, that’s intense”, but funnier and more accurate. I’ve come to notice that many expressions of frustration, exhaustion, and defeat can be better expressed in Italian or dialect than in English. Coincidence?)
I’m not even sure how to start explaining my month-long absence from this here dear blog, which usually serves as my self-help, how-to guide for dragging this heavy bag around Italy. I just couldn’t bring myself to try writing out my frustrations without being able to come to a sunny conclusion. I needed to wallow a bit and sob over my torn stitches.
“Oh dear LORD, please stop with the baggage metaphor, M.”
Fine. Be that way.
My unpleasant disposition this past month was, I suppose, a mix of acute homesickness, the 30-something blues, and a generally irrational loathing for my host country, Italy. That was all combined in a nice little package with a particularly heavy load of work, a bunch of poorly timed Italian bureaucratic nonsense, and a steady procession of baby photos on my personal Facebook news feed that made me swing dramatically in mood from “I want to rip out my ovaries” to “I want to hump until I’ve produced a litter of children”. (Side note: Facebook is evil.) Anyway, it had all been building up for a while.
So when it was suggested that the Pazze Ragazze (my name for the group of lady friends responsible for the gingerbread man fiasco at Christmas) take a weekend trip to Barcelona to get away and relax, I jumped on that. It was just what I needed to recharge by batteries… my “expatteries”, if you will. Snort snort.
This past Friday we packed up our bags (this one doesn’t count, it’s not a metaphor, we really had bags), and headed to Barcelona. While the sights were awesome and the company was fantastic, I have to say the best part was remembering that it’s not just foreigners in Italy that have bags.
Italian ladies have them too! Sure, they’re Gucci and a whole lot thinner, but they’re full of a lot of the same crap as ours. Sometimes all it takes is a weekend with friends to sort through the crap, get organized, and sew on some new patches.
So grab a glass of wine, have a seat, and check out my Barcelona weekend trip photos – an affordable and fun weekend destination from Italy for those times when you just need a break. Here’s a toast to the Pazze Ragazze, who ironically help keep me sane. Cin cin!