We are nearly 10 months into this expat adventure.
I’m coming out of my fog, feel like I have found my footing. Of course it helps that it is feeling more and more like spring. And that my best friends from home just came for a visit and filled up my love cup in a HUGE way.
I’ve been thinking about friends a lot lately.
Probably because Kerry, my best friend from high school and college just came to Italy to visit us- and I’ve been reminiscing and feeling all goopy about my friendship with her over the past 30 (!!) years and I’ve also been missing friends from home and making plans for our trip home this summer.
Today I read a hilarious and spot on article from another expat blogger, Kaelene at Unlocking Kiki about making new friends. And today I’m seeing my friends here in Italy in a new light. I’ve always enjoyed being with them, and loved our adventures together- but after reading this article, I am feeling pure gratefulness and joy for them.
Some people would say these are not true friendships, but only acquaintances. That’s fair I suppose, because where I come from, it takes months and even years to build a friendship. I have come to think however, that this is not quite normal life.
People are more welcoming, more friendly here in this expat community. Even if they have moved many times, they remember acutely what it was like to be displaced from home, into a new language, new culture, new rules (or lack thereof) for EVERYTHING.
As humans we crave relationships and in the expat world people are constantly moving in or moving out. If we waited for what’s perceived as “normal” we’d never have any friends. At the same time, I think it would be easy to distance yourself from the revolving door of new faces, because you want to spare yourself the pain of making a good friend and then losing them.
I don’t want to go it alone. I’m part of the “craving relationship” bunch. The kids are at school all day, and Chris is at work. Without friends who are walking the same, or at least similar path as I am- the days would be long and brutal. I am so thankful for the beautiful strong women that I have met here, that have helped me adjust my outlook, my thinking, my mood.
Opening me up to new experiences, encouraging my wanderlust, coaxing me out of the house and my tendency to hunker down and become a hermit over the dark, wet winter. I’m thankful that they were strong and brave enough to reach out and befriend me. I hope to follow their example and do the same as new people arrive.
(Adventures with Kim, Jen and Kim.)
Kim (in the middle) is one of the first friends I made. I don’t think she will ever know how much her kindness and honesty meant to me the day our paths crossed at school orientation. I had been here 3 months and was pretty much hating life in Italy. I was steeling myself for getting through the first weeks of school, and didn’t have any extra energy to make small talk with anyone.
She greeted Chris and I warmly and was so welcoming to us. She shared how she remembers how hard it is, in the beginning. How she cried for months and how having a friend can make all the difference. I remember standing in the school atrium listening to her, with tears in my eyes and thinking- ok, I can do this. She has continually shown me what a true friend is. I love her to pieces! Her daughter was equally as welcoming with Abby, and became Abby’s first friend- introducing her to her gaggle of friends and immediately including her. What a gift!
My good friend, shopping buddy and neighbor, Kim. She has a wonderful giving heart and has let me cry on her shoulder more times than I can count. AND when I first met her, she shared her cheddar cheese from the US with me. I think that bonded us for life! Who else could I have enjoyed an overpriced Spritz on the roof by the Duomo with, or go shopping with a boar head hanging over top of us?
We have had fun shopping adventures and stuffed her tiny car to the gills more times than I can count. Shopping therapy is for REAL, people! I treasure her for so many reasons, and am so thankful to call her my friend.
(What a crazy picture of Trillium and I. We must remedy that. I look like I am about to get assassinated with a laser on my forehead!)
Trillium and I share a passion for many things- food, cooking, fundraising and non-profits being just a few of those things. She has lived all over the world, and has shared many things that have helped me view our life here in a new and positive way.
She introduced me to Chinatown and Eataly- both wonderful discoveries for the new foodie in town! We have had some great discussions, adventures and great meals together and I adore her, and know we will always be friends- no matter where life takes us.
Kerstin (in the middle) is the very first friend to invite us over last June when we first arrived. She has a son the same age as Ben and invited Ben over to swim. We had been here a few weeks by then and I was a bit paralyzed by the culture shock, and being at home with the kids and dogs for days on end with no air conditioning. (honestly, we are so spoiled.)
I felt like a fish out of water, and was dreading the long hot summer ahead. Kerstin welcomed me into her home, gave me a drink and introduced me to her friends. It was just what I needed, even though I still felt like a fish out of water, I felt like a welcome fish. 😉
I met Maggie and Ina (on either side of Kerstin) through her, they also have 6th graders and they have been so kind and friendly as we have gotten settled too.
Peta, who I don’t have a picture of (yet!) gave me this beautiful HUGE lemon from her trip to the Amalfi coast, because she knew I am a lemon lover. How sweet is she? She is so kind to drive Ben home from school every Wednesday and her son and Ben are great buddies.
Claire, who greets me with a smile every day at the bus stop. Maja who helped me out with Murray when he was hurting so bad last fall and takes us on cool tours. Kathy and Debbie who are always up for an adventure and took me to my first Korean restaurant! Jen, who is my newest friend here- is a fellow foodie and so fun to explore around town with.
There are so many others that I am still getting to know. And some that are already making plans to move, before I have gotten to know them better.
And now I am thinking how I must get more pictures with these beautiful friends! So don’t freak out if I drag you in front of a camera every time I see you!
Time’s a tickin’.New Friends
I’m as sentimental as it gets. As I write this, I am grateful for friends new and old. For memories made and new adventures to still be had.
So thankful for new and wonderful friends here, and that we can share life. Share the highs and the lows, the good and the bad.
All the bits and pieces that make up this crazy beautiful expat life. <3
(Check out more from Kaelene, an American expat living in Iceland at her blog Unlocking Kiki Here!)