Reality Bites

Yesterday, my entire world shifted as the ground fell from beneath my feet. Suddenly the reality of my decision to move overseas was all too real. Pride would not let me admit that I was petrified. Tears filled my eyes as I sudden saw my friends as irreplaceable. Even more shocking is what can only be described as a moment of insanity; I collapsed into a blubbering mess at the thought of leaving my biologically family behind.  In the moment they seemed for a lack of a better word “perfect”. The fact that for that brief moment I actually consider my overly dramatic family; who can be a source of annoyance to the point that I have questioned my belief in a  higher power, as the most perfect family in the world was trippy. This feeling of familial love was enough for me to realize that my life is changing for real.

Sure growing up I idolized Hemingway. I longed to sit al fresco at a cafe in some foreign country observing life will sipping wine. Naturally, this Brooklyn girl figured that if I could survive a ride on the NYC subway at night how dangerous can any country be? Now on the heel of my next big adventure a nocturnal subway ride seems like a cake walk compared to walking the streets of Europe. At least I know the language of Brooklyn a simple F-word followed by a “one figure salute” is the equivalent of saying, “I love you too buddy!”

How do you curse in Italian? I’m serious. What’s the equivalent of the F-word in Italian? Like most Americans I think everything sounds slightly sexy when said in a foreign language.

I know exactly one person in Italy and well he’s a pain in the ass. So, my current status at the moment is that once I reach Italy I will be homeless, lonely and scared but I am a New Yorker to the heart and that has to count for something.

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Working The Plan

I have been MIA for a few weeks.  Many things have happened since the last time I wrote. My old apartment was sold so I had to make a switch.  I started with a new school which means a new boss which came with new drama.  Working 40 hours a week turned into 50 hours per week.  The reason for all the changes is that I made a commitment to reach certain goals by June 2015.

In theory this all sounds great till reality bites you in the butt.  The long hours along with the fact that my new apartment can fit into the bedroom of old apartment is not the end of the world but change is jarring. Staying the course at times seems like an impossible task. Even as I type this missive I struggle with the weight of my choices.

The words of my grad school professor ring in my ear that “life is not meant for happiness”.  Reflection of what my life was like at that time would have had an arrogant version of myself believing that I had the world all figured out.  The crazy part of the journey now is constant uncertainty.  Each day I start with a laundry list of ‘To Do’s’ at the end of the day the list often grows longer instead shorter.

A friend recently said that part of my problem is that I keep trying to manage my life as if I were still living in the States.  True self evaluation suggest that she is 100% correct.  I live in Italy not the US and my reactions and management of my life should reflect this new reality.  Stubbornness aside change in my approach is needed if I wish to successfully see my plans come to fruition. Change can be a good thing. Viva Italia.

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My Brothers Keeper

I live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.  My parents worked hard so that I would receive a quality education.  As an expat that commitment made by parents has paid off with dividends.  I am fortunate to have a stable employment but there are times when food security is an issue. Food security is the ability of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.  For me it’s a matter of chicken or steak. More expensive or less expensive food.  Around me are people for whom the decision is more severe meaning to eat or not eat.  We are all faced with growing concern over food sustainability.  At the rate that we are over harvesting and wasting food the reality is that we are creating a problem not just for the future but here and now.

Based on a report by the Natural resource Defense Council (NRDG) transporting  food from the farm to the table uses 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, 50 percent of U.S. ( land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States. However, shockingly 40 percent of food in the United States today goes uneaten.  Americans are throwing out the equivalent of $165 billion each year, but also that the uneaten food ends up rotting in landfills as the single largest component of U.S. municipal solid.  In the UK  households waste 6.7 million tonnes of food every year, around one third of the 21.7 million tons are purchase for the home.  The type of avoidable food we waste in the largest quantity is potato; 359,000 tons of potato goes uneaten every year, including 177,400 tonnes of potatoes thrown away whole and untouched (49%). Other commonly wasted types of food are slices of bread (328,000 tons a year), apples (190,000 tons including 178,800 tons thrown away whole and untouched), and meat and fish (161,000 tons). (

The reason for my urgency is that I have teamed up with 20 other people representing seven different countries to raise $2500 USD by September 16th, which will serve as seed money to start addressing these issues.  Through Copenhagen School of Business we are seeking to create a social venture to make positive changes on a global scale.  We ask that anyone with a shared interest please donate $5 dollars at  If you cannot donate then please help us spread the word by reblogging this post to help raise awareness.  Maybe even become active yourself by helping to reduce food waste.  If you think you cannot make a difference please watch the video below and ask yourself how do you want to be remembered.  Thank you.

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Terrible Two’s

I am on the express train heading home to Firenze.  It is a journey that I will make many times during this school year.  In fact I just came from interviewing with a new school.  You promptly learn that one source of income is not enough to follow your dream you need a backup plan to survive.  My mother and father where immigrants to America, each had two or three jobs to achieve their version of the American dream.  Now that I am the immigrant I expect to do no less than they did, conceivably it because I am the child of immigrants that I view my journey in a different way from my fellow expats.  The idea of a full time job being 20-25 hours per week just doesn’t cut it, especially when the cost of living doesn’t support the economics of the situation.


Travel time

Travel time

I work with two different schools always.  On average I work 35-45 hours per week.  I can and have put in 10 hours days with no break.  This is not about martyrdom instead it is about personal expectations.  If I want a house, car, vacation then I must provide the means to make these things a reality.  The emphasis is not on acquiring possessions but creating a full life as define by one person, ‘me’.  Setting goals are the things we often do because we feel that the hard work will lead us to a place of fulfillment.  The second my foot touched Italian soil my goal was and still is to accumulate to my new home and become apart of the country.

Nonetheless my slow learning curve for becoming fluent in Italian is a small part of my commitment to success. If I am going to live here I need to learn to speak the language well. The same is true for building the foundations like a home and other adult stuff.  I read a blog today that speak of reverse culture shock.  My mother asked me again if I was sure I wanted to live here Italy.  There are days when I long for things that are culturally familiar as well as smells, taste and the unique energy of New York.  In moments of pure honesty I having lived outside of NYC for so long it no longer pulls on my heart strings as it once did.  The noise of the city that never sleeps is too loud.  The people are a bit rough.  The food is still great but I long for something different.

Walking home

Walking home

When thinking of home to my little apartment in the tourist packed center on a busy street.  The thought of my humble  home makes me smile.  The everyday struggle to build a life stokes my competitive fire. To venture forth seeking out a new piece to the puzzle of my new life is my reason for living. Viva Firenze!

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Next Steps

Cove in Sicily

Cove in Sicily

Ciao ferragosto. Benvenuto Septembre.  Now is the time to get down to business. After living outside the U.S. for the last two years life as an expat is not easy.  Things that use to be a given such as pension, insurance, investments become increasingly important.  At this moment adulthood is knocking right now increasing my monthly salary while still maintaining a work-life balance is the goal right now.

There is no point living in one of the most stunning cities in the world if I cannot enjoy where I live.  To continue to live in Italy, being an adult and doing what is necessary to be successful is non-negotiable.  The genesis for this epiphany comes from a night out with friends.  We went to a vegetarian restaurant called, “Quinoa”.  Funny enough when I first moved here I couldn’t find quinoa is the supermarket. Finding quinoa is still an issue except at the health food store which means higher cost.  What’s the connection between quinoa, drinks with friends and life as an expat?

Church clock in Palermo

Church clock in Palermo

In a word the correlation is ‘everything’. It has taken this long for me to start becoming more settled here.  Not settled in the sense that there are no more surprises left.  Settled in terms of feeling a sense of belonging.  Streets, people, sounds have a familiarity to them.  I haven’t felt this way since Los Angeles.  Getting use to West Coast took some time so it is no surprise that only now does Florence feels comfortable.  When I move around town I do so with a confidence of belonging. I belong to Florence and Florence belongs to me.  To do this expat life means having to be build a foundation.

Strada di Firenze

Strada di Firenze

 Normally I would be nervous regarding facing such a daunting task. My not be able to say that I am 100% confident is not a problem because I can say that I am 100% excited. Viva Firenze!


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The Accidental Photog



This weekend I traveled to Portovenere a stunning coastal city considered by many to be a part of the Italian Riviera.  This Sunday was the Festivia’della Madonna Bianca (The festival of the White Madonna) in Portovenere.  I started my journey as I always do checking the best ways to get to my destination. Depending on the where this could mean a bus, train, plan or a combination of all the above. Fortunately, my journey only required a train and a bus.  Travel always requires flexibility.   I have a portable charger for my cell phone, my camera, an extra pair of shoes in the event that I go to a restaurant that doesn’t allow sneakers.  I have a make-up zip-lock bag that contain a very little make-up, a tooth brush, toothpaste and mouth wash.  I am ready to go.

The view from Le Bocce resturant

The view from Le Bocce resturant

To be an expat means you have to let go of the idea that life is predictable. Case and point I had arranged to teach a student for two hours before setting off for Portvenere. Upon arrival at the train station I discover no trains are heading to Pisa directly which is the train I need to meet my student.  I take a train that is heading in Pisa’s direction.  As my train zips past the train station where I am supposed to get off, I have to call my student and push my lesson to another day.  So, bonus for me I will arrive at my destination earlier than I thought. A train switch, a bus ride after a quick stop at my hotel, three and half hours later I am in Portovenere.  Portovenere is gorgeous.  The boats, the people  and the festive atmosphere is priceless.  Snapping a few quick picks as I make a straight beeline for lunch.  I am starving but I have a strategy.  Eat a heavier than usual lunch because I am here for the Festivia’della Madonna Bianca and I want to stakeout my spot.  After attending last year’s Palio in Siena I learned my lesson to arrive early sightsee then pick the best spot for taking picture and stay put.

Firori del madonna bianca

Firori del madonna bianca

Walking along the streets of Portvenere is like escaping to another place and time when things where more rustic in the very best way. Camera in hand I start snapping away not sure what story my pictures will tell until I arrive home some 35+ hours later. While sightseeing I discover my spot for snapping pictures of the festivals procession. A full tummy means I won’t be distracted by hunger.  A stop to the restroom speaks for itself. All that is left is to wait. Now Italy in August is like living in a oven with the lights on.  The sun is beating down with afury.  A hat is necessary if I am going to last long enough to get my pictures. I head back downhill which is very steep. May I add that I am terrified of heights. I buy a hat while I pondering if I should get something to eat or drink. Deciding against this idea as a bathroom break is a logistical nightmare as I am somewhat high on a hill and the walk to a bathroom would necessitate navigating a crowd of thousands and losing my precious spot. So I wait.

Bakery in Portovenere

Bakery in Portovenere

As the sun begins to set the crowd begins to gather as do other photogs all with fair more serious cameras than my Fuji camera. Not one for intimidation I side-eye a photog eyeing my spot.  Folding my arms across my chest I give the international symbol for back off buddy this spot’s taken.  Reminiscent of a sentinel I stay glued to my spot not to be swayed by hyper active children and their over indulgent parents.  Impassive I stay put as I am asked to snap a picture of French tourists who complain that I did not do a good enough job. The French. What can you do?

The sun has gone down and I snap away. I play with the setting on my camera.  Flash on then flash off continuing to snap away not know what I will have at the end of the night. This is Italy so nothing starts on time so long stretches of nothing. Tired and wanting a cool glass of wine I am tempted to call it a night and head back to the hotel and get my wine. But like Karl Rove’s election prediction I double down that the best is yet to come. Snapping away I try to look serious while my fellow photogs adjust their light meters and tripods of which I have none. Finally the end has come the festival procession is over.  I can go back and get my wine.  The return to the hotel was nothing short of hysterical.  It involves a human traffic jam to get to the bus stop. Being thrown off the first bus along with everyone else. Joining a human cue that was organized by Elmer Fudd. Jumping on the next  bus and being packed in like a sardine hoping that whatever is touching my bum is something inanimate like a bag and not a dudes crotch. Yes that is a thing here. By means of my GPS I navigate the 2 minute walk back to my hotel only to crash from complete exhaustion.  But, all in all I got my pics. 

Procession by torch light

Procession by torch light

On to the next journey, La dolce vita, “The sweet life”, I am the accidental photog.

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Being A Hustling Expat Gets You Everywhere

Every day I hear horror stories from fellow expats about what wrong with Italy.  If I had a euro for every time someone complained that things here are backwards I could stop working.  To be fair Italy has its problems.  The bureaucracy here is the stuff of legends which most if not every Italian complain on the subject of how nothing is ever clear when it comes to government.  Show me a country that is perfect and I will show you a dictatorship.  Success no matter the geographic location is determined by your perfection of the art of the hustle.

lesson time

Business lesson at Mercedes Benz

Let’s first define “hustle” which means doing what is necessary to make money. If you are a native New Yorker akin to myself then you understand that ‘hustle’ is the very air we breathe and is required for life sustaining purposes.   Having lived in six states in the US and three different countries the most common thread for success has been focused hustle.  Scouting out a new location is a luxury but researching a new location is mandatory.  Before any move I hit up the internet, friends, family and anyone who is willing to share information.

Summer class Ostia

Summer Program Ostia

The next step is making a plan of action.  I plan out as much detail as possible for example, housing cost, transportation options, employment, and food cost etc.  Once the plan is laid out then step is taking action.  Taking action can be tricky in that it may call for learning a new skill or refreshing an old one.  Once I decided to leave the US for Italy my research told me that teaching English was going to be my best bet for steady employment.  What’s more my research said that having a TEFL certification is required.  So I made the best economic investment I could afford at the time. Despite having a B.A. and an M.B. A I paid to get a TEFL certification.  May I say it was the best investment in the long term that I made.  While most school do not have need of or care in relation to this certification my certification still sets me apart from my competition and keeps me increasingly employed.

Castle San Angelo

Castle San Angelo

 Flexibility is the make or break element of the hustle game.  This was something I had to learn by falling on my ass repeatedly.  Nothing in life goes faithfully to the way you plan and if it does then some type of variation of major force majeure is on the way.  When I moved here in August two years ago, I had no idea that the entire country shuts down for entirety of August.   I fully expect to hit the pavement and have a job within two weeks of my arrival.  I had done it in every city I had ever moved to in the past.  Determined I keep sending out my resume only to be told “mi dispiace…chiamata in Septembre” (I’m sorry…call in September).  After my arrhythmia subsided I had to refocus on finding a place to live long term that I could afford on non budget.  Furthermore I had an opportunity to learn my new hood which is how I discovered that August is the best time to explore and learn the environment.

Be bold.  Making any change in your life necessitate the kind of courage that make mice of men and kings of paupers.  Be fearless.  The worst that can happen is that you have a great drink story to tell with reference to that time.  May I offer one humble suggestion which is to have fun.  Laughter and smiles can cure just about everything. Despite the challenges and the constant hustle I have had fun.

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It is officially holiday season in Italy. The entire of Italy has escape to the seaside and only the tourists are running around the cities. For me at present now is the best time of the year for me to explore the city. This is the time of the year I can move around the city and find the best restaurants, shops and neighborhoods. Let me be unambiguous every single one these places are closed but during my hectic work schedule I have zero time to explore.


Tower of Pisa

So for the past two weeks I have been searching, googling, walking and explore Florence. Now I have a laundry list of places to shop, relax, see, eat, enjoy during the normal months when everyone is back and things are back to normal. During this time I am sans schedule. I get up whenever I even manage to get a nap in during the middle of the day. For me this inspiration is what the Italians call living ‘La Vida Dolce’ (‘the sweet life’). Each day is about trips to Pisa, the seaside, wine country and everywhere in between is how I will be spending the rest of ferragosto.



There is something magical about exploring a city such as Firenze (Florence) during this time of year. Gone are the families with the screaming kids. During the day my neighbors are not around playing loud music. The streets are empty beyond the center. Sitting in the park you can enjoy the smell of fresh cut grass. Possibly read a book that has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust.   Time is measured differently. Hell even talking to my mother via skype is a tad less painful. This is a gorgeous time to let my inner adventurer out to play.   In September it back to reality but until then now is my time to live life under the Tuscan sun.

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