Returning to Italy was, as you would imagine, wonderful. It truly felt like we were coming home after a near three year absence. We had plans of finding a place back in Caldogno since it was the town we’d always lived in and so many people around town were practically family to us. I never fathomed living anywhere else however fate always has a way of intervening. We looked at several places in our old town but couldn’t find anything that matched what we wanted or needed. Eventually Virginia announced that she wanted to live downtown, in “Centro”, the historic center of Vicenza. Her reasoning was simple; she does not drive and so she spends a lot of time taking the bus to places she needs to go, usually either downtown or to the base. She absolutely loves Centro because they have a lot of outdoor markets and such, similar to what she grew up with in the Philippines and Hong Kong. I was inclined to agree with her as I prefer living somewhere where I have everything I need all within walking distance. If we could not find a place in Caldogno, then Centro it was. We had a brief flirtation with a huge villa in a town called Torri that we had agreed to rent but it fell through when the landlord jerked us around and I told him to go pound sand which worked out perfectly for us.
In the end we did end up finding a place right in one of the most historical piazzas in Vicenza, Piazza San Lorenzo. Our windows look right out at the beautiful San Lorenzo church, the oldest Franciscan church in the world (built 1280-1300). Living in Centro turned out to be everything we hoped it would be. I’ve grown fond of exploring the side streets and back alleys of the city which contain some amazing architecture and sights. Virginia spends a lot of her time visiting the shops and stores around the main piazza and buys all our fresh fish, fruits and vegetables at the huge outdoor market that takes over Centro every Thursday. The kids are content to sample every gelateria they can find. They absolutely love it here; Xavier’s best friend from Caldogno, Daniele, moved about 10 minutes away about a year ago so he comes over most weekends. Luca and Max love riding their bikes and playing hide and seek in the piazza while I sit outside Café Terzi enjoying a glass of vino. Life is truly bliss here.
So why leave? That’s what everybody keeps asking me. I don’t really have an answer, at least not one that most people would understand. Taking the job in Korea has nothing to do with wanting to leave Italy. I’ve turned down other opportunities because I could not envision leaving Italy, even though it meant that I’d be forced to go back to Sumter when my 5 years is up. In fact, when the Korea job came up, Virginia and I talked and decided that we wouldn’t do it because the timing was horrible. We’d only been back here a little over a year, how could we think of leaving? It made zero sense. But the more I ruminated over it, the more appealing it became. It was like something just awoke in me. All those years where I’d coveted the chance to go work in the Pacific theater came back to me and I realized that this would probably be my last real chance. Italy is our home and we love it here but it’s time move on and explore new places. It’s time to rekindle our love affair with Hong Kong and the Philippines and find new places to enjoy and discover.
South Korea: the next piece of the puzzle in our adventures
Beyond all that crap, there are practical reasons. This job opportunity is a huge deal for me. When I went through all the BS with the LQA audit I lost all the enjoyment and motivation I once had doing my JOPES job. Sumter did little to help bring it back. But the thought of jumping back in and working at such a challenging level in a place I've always wanted to live has me excited again, it’s exactly what I need. It’s also a major stepping stone to bigger and better things – the guy who just left the job is now working in Hawaii and if I can follow in his footsteps, that would be amazing.
So…am I crazy? Perhaps. It hurts tremendously to leave Italy but after all the crazy twists and turns my life has taken since I left for Europe in 1998, who knows, maybe we’ll end up back here someday. Whatever happens, at least I can say my life is never boring…