Awoke today feeling quite emotional after a restless night’s sleep.
One year ago today 22nd February 2011 at 1251 life changed forever for the city of Christchurch.
I was an hour north when the violent earthquake rocked much of the South Island of New Zealand and devastated the 500 000 inhabitants of the city of Christchurch.
I sat with my parents glued to the TV freaking out internally as aftershocks came and went. Waiting for a number of hours to hear news from our family members who we knew were in the middle of Christchurch at the time.
For many the wait was much longer family and friends waited days even weeks to find out the fate of those they had lost; Grandparents, Parents, Sons, Daughters, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Nieces, Husbands and Wives as well as good friends. 185 people died on or as a result of that day.
It’s difficult not to shed tears today for those who have lost loved ones and for those who are struggling to rebuild their lives. Earthquakes and aftershocks continue to strike on a daily basis. Hospitals are still devastated by damage but the staff continue to work in very tough conditions & workers risk their lives to tear down the city piece by piece to make it safe again.
I am amazed at the strength of those who have remained in the city – it is more than you or I can imagine. If you have the time today take a few minutes and think of Christchurch, say a prayer, remember them.
Italy Where For Art Thou
Since the 1st January 2012 I have been almost desperate to be in Abruzzo to see my house, collect the deed of purchase and to find workmen to start the restoration process. So many temporary barriers have stood in my way;
- Work commitments
- A Terrible Bout of a Cold/Flu
- Strikes Across Italy
- Winter Blizzards Over The Last 2 weeks
But at last the wait is almost over as I have finally been able to commit to spending 11 days in Italy some time will be spent catching up with friends, some becoming familiar with my local environment and the rest meeting with potential contractors and managers for the restoration.
So, how much needs to be done? In 3 words QUITE A LOT! But first things first the old roof needs replacing, so too does the terrace over the bathroom. Once completed and protected from the elements I can then concentrate on the interior.
The recent bad weather in Italy has in some ways been a blessing for me. I now realize I need to think about alternative heating and power to ensure I am not stranded in a snow storm. I also need to think about insulation not only of the structure but also water pipes to and from the house to guard against freezing in the extreme cold which can strike.
So let’s take a wander through and see what I’ll be organizing in the next two weeks;
Well wish me luck!! I look forward to keeping you updated with progress!!
What is it about Abruzzo?
Is it the fact that one third of the land is mass dedicated to National Parks or the amazing wildlife?
- Abruzzo National Park
- Gran Sasso e Monti Della Laga National Park
- Serenti Velino National Park
- Lago di Barrea
- Brown Bear
Is it the kilometers of coastline it shares with the Adriatic Sea or the unique fishing structures along it called Trabocchi?
Is it because you can be hiking in the mountains in the morning and swimming in the sea in the afternoon heat?
Is it the rich colours of red and gold in the Autumn or the delicate whites and pinks of Spring?
Is it the rich history the landscape littered with Castles & Ancient Villages or the Churches & Monasteries?
Is it the traditions and cuisine or the amazing feste and sagre unique to each town or village?
So much to enjoy and take pleasure from in this region of breathtaking beauty and wonderfully friendly and approachable people!
THE DARK SIDE
Unfortunately there is a move at the moment to destroy one of the Natural and Beautiful areas of Abruzzo the habitat and area connected to the AVENTINO RIVER. The local Commune is seeking to utilize this amazing river for the production of hydro-electric power which will be a disaster for locals as well as eco-tourism in the area. To learn more about this join the Facebook Group:
http://www.facebook.com/groups/347471051931105/ Amici Dell’Aventino (Friends of the Aventino)
Abruzzo continues to be one of the worst hit regions of Italy with the recent arrival of Strong Winds, Persistent Snowfalls which may continue for another 10 days or more – looking forward to returning soon when I no longer have to worry about driving in snow or blizzard conditions. Hoping all my friends in Italy are able to stay warm and well fed until this weather passes.
This week has been another week of disappointment as I had hoped I would be off to Italy as life has returned to normal with the subsidence of the strikes that threatened my trip last weekend. However, the bad weather that was forecast did hit and indeed much of Italy including Abruzzo is lying under a very thick blanket of snow!
Pictures have been posted of cars ‘buried alive’ by the heavy snowfalls that have struck much of Europe. Where I am in France just north of Nice we have still been blessed with sunshine and beautiful clear blue skies – with the exception of Monday. Monday and indeed most of last weekend was wet and windy but where I am no snow – although I did spot the odd car being driven locally with a few inches of snow on their rooftop.
As I head down to Avignon in Provence to look after a friend of mine I am surprised and delighted to see the hills and mountains around Nice with a good covering of snow! The skiers will be pleased they can finally head to the slopes for some quality skiing and snowboarding!
I suppose you are all wondering what this has to do with this week’s topic of the expat lifestyle – well I must ask myself the same question too and come up with the answer ‘not a lot’! I have managed to distract myself and you for a few moments! But for those in Italy that are inundated with snow perhaps it is really a metaphor for the isolation that is sometimes with us at various stages of our journey as expats.
In recent months I have had the pleasure of joining a group of expats living all over Italy connected geographically but also most easily and readily via the ‘world wide web’. It is a very different life that we have from our family and friends at home whether they’re in the UK, USA, Antipodes or anywhere else on this planet. In some ways it’s just the day to day living that we all do everywhere else but in other ways it’s very different learning a new language, a different cultural perspective and different things to be aware and cautious of. And then, there’s distance from family and friends and despite the allure of visiting Italy it is often the case that it is us who must go home to visit our friends and our families. It can also be very difficult when illnesses, deaths or other life hurdles affect those we love and care about especially as we realize that people we love are not getting younger.
The group I belong to has had more than their fair share of deaths of loved ones over the last 12 months and it is often very difficult to express one’s own feelings at these times. Often guilt is a very real emotion a belief that if we could be there or had been there things would be different, we could have said our goodbyes, we could have made sure they had better care. But the reality is that we were not able to be. Yes we are living our dreams, not to be selfish but to fulfill the lives we were given. To live a life that is not true to oneself would be to live a lie amongst family and friends leading to strained relationships and creating a greater distance between us which cannot be closed by distance.
Away from our place of birth and/or family/friends we appreciate the small things;
- a kindness from a stranger or a neighbour when we’re feeling isolated
- the helpful advice of another expat who has ‘been there done that’
- a few gestures to understand a local without understanding the language of another
- a knowing look, a smile or a laugh between strangers when communication fails
- finally understanding a phrase we’ve heard often but been uncertain of its meaning
- having a birthday in the summer when before it was always in the middle of winter
Sometimes we need to have time out for ourselves too in order to cope with things happening at home that we cannot be a part of. And while I embarked on this post to tell you a little bit about life on the other side I am aware of many expats that visit here and feel the need to impart some simple advice;
- take time out to be aware of your own emotions and wellbeing
- if there’s a funeral of someone close you cannot attend make a time for your own goodbye – go to a church, a park, a pub, wherever you feel comfortable and see them off in your own way
- realize you don’t have to climb the mountain in one day – what frustrates you today might fall in place tomorrow so why let it ruin your experience
- remember there’s always domani (tomorrow) yes I know you want it today but appreciate what brought you here – what is gained without difficulty is often taken for granted and you’ve made an extraordinary leap to get here
So if you are an expat, know an expat or are thinking of becoming an expat these are perhaps worth thinking about on occasion.
Life is an adventure wherever you live it and when living in a foreign country some days are a big adventure and other days are just as they would be in our country of origin.