Ask me anything May edition
Sung to the tune of Tom Petty & the Heartbreaker's The Waiting is the Hardest Part + My favorite salad in Rome
As I was editing this introduction about our continued itinerant reality, Samatha Childress’s newsletter arrived in my inbox with the title Definitely, Insha'allah, Or How I Learned to Love Uncertainty.1 It made me remember how when I lived in Niger I used to insist "pas de Insha’allah" when making plans, despite understanding fully the futility of my command. In Zimbabwe when you hear the phrase just now, it can mean anything from 5 minutes from now to never. Here in Italy, you see signs hung in shop windows that say Torno Subito. The shopkeeper might be standing across the street with a cigarette or getting a cup of coffee or they might be back next month. I have a lot of practice with the elusive concept of certainty.
I have lived in limbo before. All of my belongings packed into a container, waiting in a warehouse, a few critical things with me in suitcases, the final destination vaguely uncertain.
My first overseas job was in Niger. I lived in my boss’s house for a few months. With my boss. And his wife. That was not relaxing.
When I was pregnant and then a new mother I was in Washington DC, for administrative reasons technically on a medevac from Niger. I rented the top floor of a Dupont Circle townhouse that was filled with McCoy pottery, original Stickley furniture, and a Winslow Homer over the fireplace. It was supposed to be for six weeks. We stayed for almost two years. Six weeks at a time.
When we moved to Zimbabwe with a not-yet two-year-old we stopped in London for a week. I wanted Designers Guild fabric and a wallpaper border for the room that Noah would finally have. I remember the salesperson’s withering look when I said didn’t know what the window or room measurements were because I hadn’t ever been to Harare before. We spent weeks in a tiny room at the Meikles hotel before we found and moved into a thatched-roof cottage with a garden so large that Noah would stand at the edge of the veranda asking to go to the park. I still have scraps of that fabric and wallpaper that hung in a sunny playroom. Somewhere.
The move from Zimbabwe to Rome included a four-month stop in the US and then three months in temporary apartments in Prati and Celio before our container of belongings arrived from Africa and we moved into an apartment high on a hill in Balduina, a neighborhood just north of the Vatican. There was an extended stay in an apartment with a pretty courtyard near Campo di Fiori when a kitchen renovation stretched for months not the weeks that were promised. That chaos led us to our apartment across the street from the Colosseum where we lived for almost 13 years.
Here we are again. Our belongings are back in a container, in a warehouse, somewhere. We have generous friends in Rome and Ponza and Venice who have given us places to sleep and put our suitcases while we wait for the little house we bought to be ours. No word yet on whether our paperwork has been accepted and we can actually stay in Italy. We might have news tomorrow? Or we might not. I am surrendering to the chaos.
Please distract me with your summer in Italy questions!