our first month abroad
It’s hard to believe that we have been abroad for about a month now and it’s starting to feel a little more like home as we begin to have a routine and meet more people along the way. We’ve found a coffee shop that we love where the barista knows our “regular”, we leave the apartment without having to pull up google maps…sometimes, and officially have a city metro card that we waited three hours for.
Looking back on our time here, the first couple weeks were harder than I wanted to admit. Taking a vacation to a new place, like Italy, is exciting and interesting as you see beautiful places and learn all the different nuances of the people and country. Any mishap that happens can be written off with ease knowing that home is a few days or a week away. Coming to Italy and trying to see this new place as “home” was difficult because everything that was new or different couldn’t just be written off knowing we would be back in our comfort zone soon.
I have heard many times that a move to a new state will strengthen a marriage. I can only assume that a move to a new country will strengthen a marriage even more. When spending time during my study abroad about five years ago, we had a group of about 30 people who took classes together and would travel with each other on the weekends. We didn’t feel as isolated because we always had our group to confide in and do life with. Coming here a month ago, the only person I knew was D and anyone we came in contact with spoke Italian and typically some broken english. D has been my best friend for the past couple years as our relationship grew and we eventually got married, but I did not realize how much I relied on other people in my life to fulfill different needs. I realized very quickly that this move would challenge us and make us closer than ever as we began to rely on each other for anything and everything. It amazes me how we can still learn something new about one another daily no matter how much time we spend together.
Things that were simple routines that didn’t require much thought before we left became challenging and annoying experiences. Visiting grocery stores left me frustrated every time because I hardly understood any label and knew I didn’t have the cooking supplies in our apartment that I normally would have to cook my go-to meals. Also, every grocery store within walking distance was small and only had a few selections because we are in the city center. I have YET to find a good salad dressing here. You’d think I’d be able to find a good Italian dressing… not the case. Everyone here exclusively uses olive oil and balsamic vinegar which is fine, but not what I would prefer (feel free to comment with some easy salad dressing recipes if you have them).
Not to mention, we do not have jobs that we can go to each day, so we were both learning how to live our days with purpose but still enjoy ourselves. And we were hot, all the time. I’m sure you’ve heard but it is a luxury to have air conditioning in a home here. It was difficult walking everywhere or even trying to work out knowing that we would be coming back to a stuffy, hot apartment. The temperature has cooled quite a bit in the recent week, so we are much happier, less sweaty people.
There was so much change at once that I wasn’t even sure how to describe what I was feeling. And let me be clear in saying that I understand how fortunate we are to even be doing this, that is not lost on me. But I also want to be honest when telling our story so that it doesn’t seem like everything is perfect.
Although we went through a lot of adjustment and change, we have been able to find the humor in things we have experienced. I can’t tell you how many times we have both busted out laughing because we misinterpreted something or the culture just shocked us so much.
We were shocked to find out that most of France eats their meat raw. Thankfully when we were visiting Nice, the waiter was gracious enough to warn us that what D had just ordered was raw meat. When he asked if they could cook it, the waiter’s answer was a short and simple “no.” So D shrugged and asked for the only “cooked” meat on the menu and was served steak that was very rare in the middle. I guess to the chefs, that was cooked haha.
We were trying to find somewhere that we could work on our laptops with wifi and stumbled upon Buster’s Coffee, which is a complete rip off of Starbucks coffee (of which there are none in this region). The logo, the drinks, everything. They even had a rainbow unicorn drink.
After having dinner in a piaza outdoors, we sat there for about 30 minutes until we realized it wasn’t bad service, we were supposed to pay inside.
The only thing I can compare our mattresses to are my freshman year dorm room foam mattress. It’s not completely awful, but it’s nowhere near great either. We have two single mattresses pushed together to make a “queen”, but D’s back will start hurting if he doesn’t have a good mattress, so we took the third spare mattress that would be used for the stow away cot and slid it under his single mattress to give it extra cushion. So now it’s like there is a barrier in-between us with his raised mattress and we get a good laugh at it every time we go to sleep.
Thankfully we both have a good sense of humor and have had fun learning as we go. Once most of the newness had faded, we started to get into a routine and even met some people here that I will touch on below. I feel much more comfortable now and am truly enjoying everyday we have here. I learned so much about myself during those first few weeks here when I didn’t have my usual crutches to fall back on.
If we are not traveling, then our day usually begins with a CrossFit workout around 7:30am. After that, we walk back home and cook breakfast usually consisting of eggs and oatmeal. Once we have eaten and showered we’ll head to a coffee shop to do our quiet time. This is has been one of my favorite parts about our days because I don’t have a time cap to read The Bible, journal, or just read my current book. I already know this is one of the things I’ll miss the most when we start to have a busier schedule. We’ll stay at the coffee shop until lunch time and then come back to the apartment. Usually we take this time to tidy up the apartment, hang clothes out to dry, or fold them. We’re constantly doing laundry because the washing machine is so small and there is no dryer. We do a load every day or every other day, so there is always something to be hung or folded. The afternoon is kind of up for grabs for whatever needs to be done. Most of the time we’ll go to what’s called a “student zone” to apply for jobs, research trips, or work on the blog. The space is mainly used for college students to study, but they have free wifi and air conditioning, so we take advantage. If we don’t go there, it means we probably need to take a trip to the grocery store, which can take awhile because we finally found a store that I like! But, it requires a 20 min metro ride to get there and I typically do all our shopping for the week. Or we might go to the park if it’s a beautiful day or indulge in one of our growing hobbies like water coloring (shoutout to all who voted for my winning painting on instagram). Then, around dinner time (7 or 8pm because that is normal here) we try to cook as much as possible to save money, but have definitely enjoyed finding some cool restaurants around us as well. More often than not, we’ll get gelato at D’s favorite gelato shop and walk around the city at night.
Through one of the wildest connections, we have found a church that we enjoy attending, even if it is in 100% Italian. One of my friends from college recently got married and her husband knew of a couple planting a church in Turin, so we reached out and gave it a shot! The couple planting the church are from California, as well as their team, so as you can imagine, we were thrilled to be in the company of Americans as well as Italians in their congregation. It has been a joy getting to know these people and seeing how they each answered a call on their lives to minister to a previously unknown city.
Finding a Gym
I know this may seem a bit trivial, but if you know my husband at all then you know how how much joy he gets from going to the gym each day. Working out is therapeutic for him and helps use up some of the immense energy he is blessed with each day. I love this about him and am glad he has a healthy outlet for all his energy, so we were determined to find some place we could go each day that would push us both physically.
Before arriving to Turin we did some initial research on gyms and found plenty that were close to our apartment, however after about 15 free trials across the city later, we found it to be much harder than anticipated. I believe that part of the problem is the fact that we are in the city center and there is not much real estate for larger gyms and many of them have not been updated in years. Everything we found was extremely expensive for cramped spaces with out dated equipment or somewhat budget friendly with the only option being a year long contract that does not make sense for us right now.
We finally landed on CrossFit Torino even though it was a little out of the budget we initially lined out. We liked that we would be challenged each day, the equipment was nice, and the location was closer than some. I have really enjoyed getting into the CrossFit world even though I have a lot of learning to do. It feeds my competitive nature and I always have something to work on or get better at. Obviously D was made for this kind of stuff, so he is much more content now that we have a consistent gym and he gets a work out in almost everyday.
The job search is slow and steady, especially since we’ve been traveling quite a bit. We’ve had a few connections and are hopeful about an opportunity in northeast Italy that seems promising. There are so many scenarios that could happen when it comes to finding a job for us. We could find something that would immediately extend our stay, we could return to the states and then come back after hearing about an opportunity, or these three months on our travelers visa could be end of this adventure. Whatever happens, I feel confident saying that I know this time here was meant for us. I can feel God working slowly through both of us and in our relationship. I know we are being prepared for something, I’m just not sure what yet.
We leave tomorrow for a six day trip through the Swiss and Italian alps (I bet you can guess who planned this trip) and when we come back we move into our new apartment! It actually has a bedroom with a door and a designated living room, so we could not be more thrilled about that! We will have a few more trips through the next couple months and my parents will be joining us for about a week and a half in November as we go explore Austria together! I share quite a few daily updates through my instagram if you would like to see more (follow me here), until then I would love to hear what you are curious about! Feel free to leave a comment below.