Wednesday, April 01, 2009

One Year Ago Today I Moved to Rome, Italy.

My friends Stateside keep asking me, "How do you feel?" or "Has your life changed?" Yes to the latter and I will write about that some other time. Regarding how do I feel? It's hard to put into words but I remembered something someone said to me earlier.

I had been in Rome for a few months when I was talking to E. an American expat who has lived here for 6 or 7 years. As a journalist he travels a lot for work but this is his base. He asked me how things were going and said he couldn't believe I was a recent transplant. To him it seemed like I had lived here forever (despite my shaky language skills back then), and was comfortable here.

I thought about what he said. I lived in Los Angeles for over 10 years. It never felt like home.

I was in cab from the airport during my third trip to Rome as a tourist. I had rented an apartment in a quiet section of Trastevere. As I started recognize certain landmarks the we got closer to Trastevere, I thought, "It's good to be home."

I found the following quote from Andrea Lee and what she says definitely has something to do with how I feel here. Our lives couldn't be more different. I'm a broke screenwriter trying to sell my first spec in Hollywood, living in a tiny apartment. She's a critically acclaimed novelist/short story writer, married to an Italian count living in a villa in Torino. I'm first generation American and she comes from a very prominent American family that has been in the United States since slavery. But we're both black Americans living in Italy.

What does it mean to be an African-American writer in Italy?
“It all comes together. In America, especially if you are a person of color, you feel apart from an ideal “American.” You feel a bit foreign. So it felt quite familiar when I came to Italy. Being African-American made me feel more comfortable as an expatriate. I knew what feeling apart meant. Being a writer also means feeling apart, because you have to take a step back to look. So it all ties together: being African-American, being an expatriate, and being an artist.” Andrea Lee

My former co-worker scanned this photo for me. I took it on the last day of my first trip to Rome, April 2005. I didn't know at the time that three years later (to the month) I would uproot my entire life. Best decision I ever made.

53 comments:

Diana Strinati Baur said...

Ragazza, congratulations on your move, on your astute observations. I appreciate your quick witted humor, your honest, pared-down writing style, your interjection of Friday Flashbacks which always make me lighten up, your thoughtfulness, your comments on my blog, your willingness to take on change, your going about it alone, and your bravery. I wish you many more anniversaries celebrating having found your home, the success of your spec, and a lot of good pasta and wine.

Lilacspecs said...

I'm glad you found a place where you feel like you belong.
Proficiat!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

diana - thank you so much. You're an inspiration. Really. Now if Hollywood would only cooperate I could stay. Ha

Lilacspec - grazie. It is a nice feeling and a relatively new one.

joanne at frutto della passione said...

First of all, congratulations on your 1st year in Italy. What an insightful post. I'm always interested to read what other expats think and feel about the whole experience. I look forward to someday sitting down across a table from you and eating and drinking our way through a conversation!

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

I can't believe it's been a year already!!! We'll have to see each other much more often in year 2 ;)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

joanne - grazie I look forward to that as well. I must get back to Milano sooner than later.

sara - I know! Remember the GTG was this month last year. That was fun. Here's to getting together more often. I'm feeling good about the rest of year. Not sure why .

Jeeves said...

Congratulation (again), I'm new round your blog...
I do hope that you haven't regrets... many years ago I seriously tried to move from Rome to LA: I wanted to attend Frank O. Ghery courses at UCLA, get a house round Manhattan Beach, and so on... I've ended up in the north side of Rome with 3 kids and vague memories of those days..

milanesemasala said...

Auguroni!!! It's been quite the year for you! Very interesting to read Andrea Lee's thoughts about being an expat in Italy. I can relate. Don't let the setbacks get you down. I also feel it's going to be a banner year for you. I mean, you've already won a book. That's gotta be a good sign ;)

Tracey said...

Has it been a year already? Congrats on that & thanks for sharing your new life over there. Sounds like you've found your new home. I admire the way you've settled in. Looking forward to another year of your "adventures" & pix of your beautiful, culture-filled "home." ;-)

LuLu said...

Congratulations! Wow, a year already! It is such a huge decision to do what you did and I am so inspired by what you've done! You remind me everyday that I can make this move, because you are living proof!! :) Auguri, and many more happy years in Italy!!!

City Girl said...

Congratulations - isn't it interesting where we feel at home? I grew up in Switzerland, but only my mother was Swiss at teh time. My father was Hungarian and only became a Swiss citizen when I was a teenager - as a child a week couldnt go by with some sort of cruel reminder at school that I didnt fit in because of that. The only places where I have truly felt at home are Washington, DC and NYC - and much more the later to be honest - and now when I go to Switzerland, I am told that I am not Swiss because I haven't lived there in so long. Enough about me - auguri on finding a place where you belong!!

Ms. Wooden Shoes said...

Congrats! I hope it's everything you hoped it would be.

Anonymous said...

i CAN"T believe it's been a year. I'm so happy that you had the guts to pick up and move because it is clear to me that you were meant to live in Rome. You are happier, stopping to smell the roses, and seem to be just enjoying life. And that is something I wish I could do more more in my life...especially now that i'm in this all-consuming job. I am making a strong effort to reduce the noise in my life and focus on the good stuff. And you've already done that. So congrats sis!

xoxo
gibber

Ms. Violetta said...

Congrats! I admire you for following your gut and making a life change. Not many do this in life.
Nice to be home huh?

Monica said...

You have no idea what an inspiration you are. It might take a while but now I know moving to Europe is possible. Thanks for giving me the road map.

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

Happy first anniversary, nyc/caribbean ragazza! Seems like the year went by on wings, and you survived it! Wishing you all the best for the years to come!

That is a profound quotation. I'm not African American but I can identify with the 'apartness' - even right here 'at home' in the Caribbean, in a 'black' country. The quote focuses something I've always found strange in the extreme - which is the need to always identify Americans of colour as African Americans, whereas white Americans, many of whom arrived after the Africans, are just plain old Americans. From the outside it comes across as: there are 'people', then there are these 'others' (African, Native, whatever) who need a qualifier to be identified. I've always found that disturbing.

It's the nature of writers to stand apart and observe, but be that as it may, finding the place where you feel at home must be a wonderful feeling.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

jeeves - Grazie mille. No regrets. Just stress about making a living. The usual stuff.

milanese - that is true...things are looking up. thank you!

tracey - thanks...I really can't believe a year has gone by. I do feel more settle now. Curious to see what the next year will bring.

lulu - thank you and good luck with your move. It was other expats who helped me a great deal. I came here with eyes wide open so the transition was a lot easier.

city girl - it is interesting. I've been to other cities in Europe and when I was in high school I wanted to move to London. Rome was never on my list and now here am I.

ms. wooden shoes - grazie!

gibber - thank you seestor (ha). You know how bananas I used to be and Rome forced me to slow my ass down. I think if I was back in L.A. trying to write I would have to be on some serious Prozac, or I would have developed a serious drinking problem. Things are very hectic for you know but maybe by the summer you will catch a break.

ms. violetta - thanks and yes it is.

monica - good luck with your move. Any questions feel free to ask. I think being as prepared as possible makes it easier to roll with the punches once you make the move.

wordtryst - It is hard to explain to black people who are not American the whole African-American thing. I understand why it became popular and replaced "black" when used in a business, formal environment. Jesse Jackson and co. pushed for this as the majority of black Americans are descendants of African slaves. That is the definition of an African- American. Therefore Obama, my parents and other black immigrants are not African-American by definition. But wouldn't a black person who moved from Nigeria to America be truly African-American? And Africa is a continent not a country. Maybe in 10 years another term will be the "correct" one. It's most be confusing to the older generations who went from colored, to Negro, to black, to African-American.

Kim B. said...

Congratulations on your first anniversary!!! I love that you have that photo from four years ago, when, as you said, you had no idea that this would now be your home.

I have an article by Andrea Lee that I carry around with me when i go to Turin. It's entitled "My Turin," and describes her coming to be part of the fabric of Turin through family. It appeared in Gourmet in May 2004 -- and I love that that was a few months before I met my Turinese husband, but that the article struck me so that I ripped it out to keep.

I didn't know she was African-American, that adds another layer to the story. My husband's family is not at all like her husband's, but the grand Sunday dinners and trips to Peyrano are the same.

May many more blessings come your way. Glad you've found your 'place' (until you get that country house, that is!).

Just a thought to Liane: we *do* still separate several 'versions' of Americans, white and every color under the sun: Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans, Indian-Americans (i.e. from the sub-continent). Although that's perhaps more self-identifying than categorization. Interesting thought.

Anyhoo congrats nyc/ragazza!!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

kimb - grazie! I am going to see if I can find that Andrea Lee article. Her short stories in the New Yorker were excellent and I loved her book "Sarah Phillips".
Yes I'm still dreaming about that country house despite the fact that I have no idea how I'm going to pay my rent later this year. ha

Right about Italian/Polish American etc. being more self identifying. On college applications, census etc. "white" is not broken down by ethnicity but "black" became African-American which technically leaves out a bunch of black Americans.

Wordtryst - Liane Spicer said...

You're right, nyc. It's a very complex and confusing issue.

To respond to Kim B: Your point is well taken. I was not referring to that kind of self-identification, however, but to the qualifier used in the media where 'white' is the default (and thus not mentioned), but the ethnicity of the non-white subject is almost invariably mentioned. Of course there are times when the context makes this necessary, but most of the time it doesn't. Very strange to someone looking in from the outside, especially someone from a cosmopolitan society like the one I was born into.

Kim B. said...

Gotcha. I understand the distinction. Guess I was kind of thinking out loud before having thought through to the logical end.

Ragazza, send me your snail mail address if you can't find the article online and I'll make a copy and send it to you. I think you'd enjoy it.

Then next time I'm in Torino, you and Diana can come up and we can all go call on Ms. Lee!!

Happy anniversary again bella.

Diana Strinati Baur said...

BTW inspiration works two ways, sister. :)

Lola said...

Congratulazioni, cara A! How's driving school coming along? It's lovely to see all the positive feedback, encouragement and optimism coming your way, your courage alone deserves it.
Whenever you feel the need to celebrate, dish, rant or simply chat over a nice glass of wine, give me a beep. Ciao ragazza romana, everything will be OK.

BigCNYC said...

Bonne anniversaire Ragazza! I can't believe it's been a year. I'm glad you found home.

Rose said...

Happy Anniversary. I enjoyed your posts from LA and now from Rome. I'd like to read about all the hot Italian dates too. ;)

Jessica said...

Auguri! Happy 1 year anniversary....believe me they start to roll by after this. I'm glad we've gotten to meet and I look forward to more aperitivos soon.

Caro said...

Congratulations! Here's hoping you sell that spec.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

wordtyrst and kim b - it's interesting because when writing or reading scripts "white" is the default when describing characters in Hollywood. It's generally not mentioned in description but assumed.

regarding Ms. Lee, a few folks from Rome went to Torino for a fundraiser she had for Obama last year. She also went to Harvard but I don't think they were there at the same time.

diana - sei molto gentile.

lola - Thank you. I think I'm taking the *&%$# test later this month. I'm stressed about it.

bigcnyc - grazie. I can't believe it either. Seems like just yesterday I was talking to you about it.

rose - thanks. Regarding hot Italian dates, uhmm, there would have to be some in order for me to write about it. haha.

jessica - grazie. as soon as I pass my patente exam I will have more time to get my aperitivi on.

caro - thank you. from your comment to God's ears.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

p.s. kimb I found the article on Gourmet's website. Thanks for the info. It must be interesting to living in a house that is over 600 years old.

This Time Now said...

Congratulations and Happy Anniversry!
One of my goals is to live in Italy one year (one week was not enough) and learn how to cook great Italian food.
I enjoy your blog, your writing and your enthusiasm.

Wishing all the best!

Felicia, This Time Now

Ciao Chow Linda said...

Brava to you for hanging in there and good luck with the script. We used to live in Trastevere and I miss it a lot. Stop by my blog. I've got something for you.

Skywalker said...

I think concur with the rest of your readers and say Congrats and you're extremely brave for this.

I love reading your posts about fountains, cafes, customs, traditions, all things Rome and Italy - its a great mental vacation for me (as well as a learning experience).

Keep it up!

erin :: the olive notes said...

I just smiled the whole post...I think it's so great you feel so much at home, and wouldn't change your decision!

Amanda said...

I've been following your blog for about a month now and I thought I'd just say hello. I really enjoyed this post. I feel the same way about Florence. Although I haven't lived there since my semester abroad in college, whenever I go back I feel at home - in a way that I don't have the words to explain...

Moi said...

Congratulations on your first year!! It goes by fast, doesn't it?

LT said...

Hey Ragazza,

You still inspire me. Still trying to figure out how to pick up and move across the pond with two kids and a husband in tow. Will it still feel so romantic?

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

felicia - thank you and good luck with your goal. One year sounds very doable.

ccl - Thanks for the gift. I didn't have a chance to comment yesterday...on my way over.

skywalker - grazie!

erin - I wish I had a trust fund...ha. Other than that can't complain.

amanda - thanks for reading. yes it is hard to put into words. At this age I decided to go for it. I'm single, no kids and can still walk without a walker. If not now, when?

moi - grazie...yes it does.

L.T. - It could still feel romantic, probably not everyday as you know being here on vacation (even an extended on) and living here are two different things.

That said I'm a big believer in take risks (with lots of planning). You can always move back.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

p.s. L.T. your writing and your POV inspire me as well.

BlackWomenInEurope said...

Congrats on your anniversary! I love visiting Rome.

I want to invite you to join the Black Women in Europe Social Network:
http://blackwomenineurope.ning.com

I'd also like to exchange blog links with you. Can you add me to your blogroll?
http://blog.blackwomenineurope.com

Take care!

Tracie B. said...

auguri! so proud of you :) how are you doing with the language these days?

girasoli said...

Congratulations! That year sure flew by. I hope you are able to stay for many more (if that is your wish). I look forward to reading more on your life in Rome.

Kataroma said...

Wow that's great that you feel so 'at home' here. Sounds like you'll be staying!

I'm white so this may be different but I'm a 'third culture kid' (Australian-American-Swedish with weird hybrid Australian-American accent in English) so I've never 'fit in' anywhere. However, when I returned to NYC at age 30 (after not having lived there since I was 14 and moved to Australia) I had that 'this just fits' feeling. Maybe it's because of my childhood memories in NY. So I know what you're talking about.

But in Rome from the very beginning I've felt like a complete fish out of water. Even though I'm getting more and more 'Italian" and my Italian is now more or less fluent - I still feel that I'll never be able to reconcile certain aspects of Italian culture or understand them.

Josie said...

Oh that was so good to read. to know you have found home. to have been able to listen to your inside voice to get there. and the andrea lee quote!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

bwie - thank you, I will stop by your blog. Last year I tried to leave a comment but there was some complicated registration thing (or maybe I'm confusing your with another one).

tracie b - grazie mille. right now I'm all about the the upcoming driving exam so my language exchanges have come to a halt for a minute. My teacher teaches the class in Italian so that helps. I know more about cars then ever before.

girasoli - thank you. I hope I can stay as well. :)

kataroma - I know what you mean. I felt about Los Angeles the way you feel about Rome/Italy. I had to leave L.A.

I thought about moving back to NYC at first but couldn't afford it and the City has changed so much since I moved to L.A. Italian culture is closer to the culture I was raised in versus an Anglo-Saxon culture so I made the plunge.

I wonder if I worked in a different field my POV would be different. Hollywood is so bizarre, frustrating, etc. that Rome seems like a piece of cake. Also I think it's very hard to move to a new country/culture for love as opposed to having an affinity for a place. I look at how my mom sees America versus my dad.

josie - sometimes I think that "voice" is crazy but I'm glad I did listen to it this time.

glamah16 said...

Wow its been a year.Congrats. I love Andrea Lees writings.Hope to continue reading another year of your adventures in Roma.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

glamah16 - thank you! I am big fan of Ms. Lee's writing as well.

Cherrye at My Bella Vita said...

That year flew by. Auguri... can't wait to meet up at the end of the month! I'm so looking forward to it.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

cherrye - it did! I'm looking forward to seeing you too.

Stacy said...

I just came across your blog and enjoy reading about your adventures in Rome. I'm a former expat in Paris and after being back in the States for 6 months, realized my international adventure isn't quite over yet. So I'm on my way back to Paris for a while and after, hope to move to Rome. I fell in love with the city when I visited in Spring 2006 and have dreamt about moving there ever since. I'll be checking in to get inspired to finally take the plunge! :o)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

stacy - thanks for stop by and good luck with your move back to Paris.

Ice Tea For Me said...

NYC ~ It's been a year? Wow, that sure went quickly. I've been a stealth reader of your site but enjoy reading about your move. They say the first years the hardest, what do you think?

I may be in Rome in early June, if so maybe we can meet for a caffe.

Linda

Keri Hacker said...

Ciao - Your blog has been most helpful for me! I am also a Los Angeleno transplant (although originally a San Franciscan) who also left the world of production to struggle as a writer. My husband and I moved to London a few years ago (BAD decision) and are now relocating to Rome in two months. My husband is from L'Aquila and went to University in Rome. It's great to read about another ex-Los Angeles writer living in the Internal City. Thanks for your thoughts.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

linda - grazie. keep me posted on your possible trip.

keri - thank you for stopping by. Good luck with your relocation. Sorry to hear London didn't work out. Hopefully Rome will be a better fit.