We just returned from a 2-year post in Italy where I worked assisting Dr. Fabrizio Guarducci (Founder and President of Lorenzo de Medici International Institute) on a variety of independent projects, including his books and screenplays. We lived next door to he and his wife on their beautiful Chianti estate. Fabrizio and I met with important authors, cinematographers, producers, film makers, and mayors; attended meetings with Rai national television; visited small cities (Tuscania, Pontremoli, Rocca Imperiale) to discuss development ideas and empowerment strategies with local leaders; escorted renown cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and his family around during his honorary degree presentation (2015); participated in meetings to develop a peace-promoting Mediterranean university in Southern Italy; worked on his business plan for a creativity center in Badia a Passignano; and so much more.

renzi

Yes, that’s Renzi—the Italian prime minister, president of Italy.

Before we moved to Italy, I had met several Italians who were working in the United States. When I proudly told them about our upcoming plans, they’d raise an eyebrow and wish me luck, warning me that Italy was great for vacation but not for everyday life. Of course, I didn’t believe them, but seeing is believing and now I know. There was good and bad about the experience and about our particular circumstances. The food, olive oil, wine, views, the people and social atmosphere were so captivating and exotic. I truly loved “the good life” which I had experienced traveling back and forth for many years, but the new daily grind wasn’t even close. There were so many problems to solve that we couldn’t enjoy Italy, or relax. It’s hard to explain, but one expat put it this way; “If you can learn to live in the eye of the tornado, you can have great success here. Otherwise, move on.”

Leo in the vineyards outside our home in Badia a Passignano.

Now, we’re in Saint Joseph, Michigan, and Gabriel is gearing up for a dancing role in his forth grade Easter program. Leo is excited to get back to clubs and sports and no more school on Saturdays. The family is peaceful (except for a flu bug that has taken its toll on us one by one). It seems like Italy came and went in a blink, and we’ve been in transition for a long time since I left my study abroad directorship to do it all. Barbara Kingslover said, “Every one of us is called upon, probably many times, to start a new life. A frightening diagnosis, a marriage, a move, loss of a job. And onward full tilt we go, pitched and wrecked and absurdly resolute, driven in spite of everything to make good on a new shore. To be hopeful, to embrace one possibility after another – that is surely the basic instinct . . . Crying out: High tide! Time to move out into the glorious debris. Time to take this life for what it is.”

The San Galgano Abbey is one of my favorite places, an architectural gem

The San Galgano Abbey is one of my favorite sites, an architectural gem.

I will miss living in Italy but can visit any time. Now, I have a lot to do. It’s exciting to look around and ahead. The world is big and full of surprises. There’s so much to see and do, to discover and explore. Saint Joseph is a comfortable little community, too, and we live about four miles from the downtown area and Lake Michigan beaches. You know where I’ll be writing this summer (in between remodeling jobs of course)! We bought a fixer-upper that needs a lot of love and care. Surprisingly, we found an old friend in Saint Joseph, too. My colleague from the Peace Corps in Ecuador, Dr. Miguel Bermeo, works here as an OB/GYN. He was my counterpart in Zuleta. He married one of my friends from college and moved to the USA before Francisco and I made it back in 1996. We look forward to reconnecting with him and his family.