Wednesday, January 19, 2005

We are Going to Live in Italy!!

(In an effort to provide you with a sense of what it felt like to plan for this adventure, with everything we did to prepare ourselves, we have pulled excerpts from Rosemary's hand-written journals from 2004 and 2005, leading up to our departure in 2005. Thanks for reading!)

January 31, 2005

There is still so much to do. Saturday is our "Arrivederci Phoenix" party and we are hoping for a big turnout. The house closes on the 14th and there is still much to do to get ready. We have to pack for Italy and I need more art supplies.

Partly I think we really are crazy! But to be able to be with this man I adore on this incredible journey is such a gift and I stand ready to embark, to set sail from this safe harbor, to dream, discover, explore; to see new things, make new friends and have exciting adventures with open hearts and open minds.

We long to accept what comes next without fear. To be brave and look forward, knowing we have each other and our future spread before us. We want to relax more, take each day as it comes and not worry so much. We want to simplify our lives and focus on the here and now. We want to let go of THINGS and just BE. And hope when we return we will be wiser and have a whole new perspective on life. We want to pursue our art and embrace it, go where it takes us. Life will be full and every day an adventure.

We’re ready to jump.

January 30, 2005

I am a mess. Yesterday was so hard. The new owners came by and we chatted about the house. After they left I cried my eyes out again and I know I need to get over it. I keep telling myself we want to do this. That going to Italy is fantastic and wonderful. Imagine going to Rome just for the day! Or Florence! Or wherever we can get to in a day! We are going to Italy!! How wonderful and exciting and brave we are! What an adventure this is! We are really going to live this dream! We can't wait!! Are we insane??

January 20, 2005

Yard Sale Day. All the discards of our life are here. All the things we will not need and no longer want. It has been difficult deciding what we will keep and what we will throw out or give away. I have spent every morning this week going through my things and making piles. It is a slow process because I have to look at and fondle everything.

January 25, 2005 We have Visas!!

Finally!!! The Visas arrived yesterday! We are so excited! Everyone in my design studio stood around me and I could feel myself shaking all through my body as I tore the FedEx envelope open and there it was, inside our passports - a beautiful sticker/label looking thing called a VISTO with a hologram-type seal on it, very beautiful and it is valid from 2 April 2005 to 1 April 2006!! I was so happy and excited the first thing I did was call Bob to give him the good news! When I got home we hugged each other tight and went out to celebrate.

It's so hard to describe this feeling of sadness at leaving and excitement at what comes next, but every now and then it washes over me and out comes a huge sigh followed by "oh my god" and a sick feeling in my stomach.

January 14, 2005

Getting really excited about this Farewell Tour and all the things we'll see along the way. Life is surreal. Bob is doing most of the packing since I'm still working and he finished the fall semester and is now officially retired from firefighting AND teaching. I'm doing most of the crying. I have to keep reminding myself that I really want to do this and how exciting it all is.

January 11, 2005

We have a buyer! They are offering full price and paying cash! There is both a feeling of relief and of deep sadness. Still not knowing if we will be granted our visa, I feel a bit like Alice in Wonderland falling down the rabbit hole. At this moment we stand between our two lives - the one we know now and the one we are moving into. The house is sold - only the inspection is left and the closing. We are packing like mad and planning the route for our "Farewell Tour of America".

January 8, 2005

Bob returned yesterday from his trip to LA. When he arrived there he found a bulletproof window and a cranky Italian woman who insisted we needed to have actual letters from the banks not the bank statements he had brought with him to prove our worthiness. Bob, wearing a suit jacket and tie, decided he would get further by being respectful and friendly and by the end of the conversation she had warmed up to him and written a nice note on our papers saying that he had driven over to LA and that he could now just send the letters by FAX.

When he called later to follow up and make sure everything was received he was told that he could only call that number at a certain time of day and then when we called at the specified time they were too busy to take his call! When he finally got through he spoke to the same woman he had met there who said she had everything she needed and that she would call if they needed anything else.

So now we are waiting for an answer. We plan to leave on the 1st of April and still don't know if we will be granted the Visa! We feel like we are flying by the seat of our pants and worry that we really WON'T be able to afford it all anyway in spite of how much money we have in the bank.

Someone's coming to look at the house tonight at 8:45. Panic! Everyone says the house will sell quickly. The market is good right now and this neighborhood is desirable (the historic Willo neighborhood of central Phoenix, Arizona). Maybe we should have waited a few years, the prices are on the rise. Maybe in a few months we could sell for even more?? But I can't think like that. Life is short. We have to go and live our dreams while we can because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Go for it. Live simply and live well. We want this adventure and leaving the house is my great trade-off. I know I can't have everything. And the truth is we want to go and live this dream. We’re ready.

January 4, 2005

Cried my eyes out yesterday. The realtors put the "For Sale" sign outside, making the selling of the house a reality now and not just a "plan".

Worse! We got a letter in the mail from the Italian Consulate in LA stating that our paperwork was incomplete and that they needed more financial information. So Bob called them and they said that we might not have enough money to get a Long Term Visa! He told them that in addition to our pension, which is what we plan on living on, that we had other resources in the bank, our investments etc., but that still didn't seem to be enough.

We are totally speechless! It never occurred to us that we didn't have enough money! We’ve said all along that we expected to be "living cheap", that we were doing this on a shoestring but to think that they would turn us down because we weren't wealthy enough just did not occur to us.

Bob is going to gather all he can about our resources and go there in person to explain and hope they understand that we mean to live simply - in small cities and that we don't need much. We think that if they turn us down for the long term Visa we will still go and stay as long as we can; stay for 3 months and come home.

Whatever happens we still need to sell our house if we want to stop working. We cannot afford to make our mortgage payments and take care of the garden and the house unless we both have full time jobs. But if we don't get the Visa what do we do then? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it but I am a nervous wreck!!

We probably better have a Plan B if this falls through and decide what comes next in our lives!

January 3, 2005

This morning I woke up with tears in my eyes and a big lump in my throat. We met with the realtor yesterday and signed the papers agreeing to sell our house. I knew this day was coming but still I am so sad to do it. It will really break my heart to walk away from this house - even knowing there is excitement and happiness ahead as well. But giving up this house makes me sadder than I can say.

We are still waiting for our Visas to arrive. It's been almost two months since we applied and we haven't heard a word. We could end up selling the house before we know we have them. The exchange rate is even worse now: 1.35 euros to the dollar and this is not good news for us. Our language skills are not good either! We keep at it and we are optimistic that once we are there it will all work out. I just hope we are right!!

Christmas 2004

Went to Richmond to see Chris and Kyla. Our little granddaughter is now 8 months old. What a cutie she is! We'll see her again in March and then not for two years. That will be the hardest part of this whole adventure. But if we don’t go now, we probably never will and she’s too young now to know the difference.

Thanksgiving 2004

My sister and her girls, Sam and Maddie came to Phoenix to spend Thanksgiving with us. It was so great to have them here! We won't see them again until our "Farewell Tour of America" in March and then, hopefully in Italy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Applying for Visas!

November 2004 Applying for our Visas!

We went to the Office of the Honorary Vice Consulate here in Phoenix and it was kind of crazy. We thought we had all our ducks in a row but when we got there we were told we had filled out the wrong form so we had to sit there and re-do it! There was a problem with our only having one original of our marriage license but ultimately they decided it was OK since we were sending everything together. We had to come home to sort it all out, make copies of everything and write a nice cover letter and we were able to FedEx everything to the Italian Consulate in LA - then we forgot to include the cover letter in the packet! We frantically faxed it over and are hoping they got everything and that we will be granted the Visa!

We feel like we are about to jump off a cliff.

November 2004 Cleared by the FBI

We finally got our papers back from the FBI, stamped "NO CRIMINAL RECORD". Now we have everything on the list to apply for our Visas. We will gather up all these documents and take them to the consulate in Phoenix to look over and make sure we have everything in place. Bob bought a loose-leaf binder so everything is all separated with tabs and in individual sleeves. He’s so organized!

We're worried about the exchange rate, which is around 1.30 euros to the dollar. That means our rent and living expenses are actually a third higher (the rent in dollars is $1000) and we hope it doesn't get worse or we will not be able to afford to stay.

We had a garage sale and got rid of a bunch of stuff. What we didn't sell, we gave away to the Salvation Army. We still have more though and will probably have another one when the house is sold.

I have a hard time imagining not having this little house. It will be so hard to leave it and all the great friends we’ve made through the years. I knew when we bought it that it was temporary and it lasted almost 10 years, a good long time and it has felt so right to be here. I think the fact that I knew it was not forever made it all the more special. We have had more wonderful experiences here than I could have dreamed possible and we will always treasure this time in our lives. It has truly been magical.

September 2004 Still Waiting

In 7 months we will be in Perugia. We have decided to take the larger apartment, in Centro, still only 50 square meters, and to be honest, I'm not sure exactly how large that is! The bedroom has a "matrimonial" bed, which means full size. There are two windows in every room, so it seems bright and sunny with greenery visible outside. There is a garden of sorts - but it all looks green and we see roses in the foreground of the photos and the trunk of a large tree. Everything looks cozy and small but we think it will be OK - at least for starters.

Still waiting for the fingerprints to come back from the FBI and then we will be ready to apply for the Visa. We've asked for a one-year lease on the apartment (with the option to leave sooner if we give them enough notice) so we can apply for a one-year Visa. It all still feels like a dream.

Our Italian language class has started again and we am trying so hard to "get it" to be able to comprehend without translating.

We received a contract from the apartment - all in Italian!! I spent some time translating yesterday morning but then asked them if they could send one in English as well and that was a whole lot less stressful and at least we understood completely what we were signing! Actually, it is more of an "official reservation" than an actual contract. We need to write and ask how we get one from the owner. Time keeps passing - days - weeks - between events.

Everyone thinks we are crazy waiting until January to put our house on the market but that's the advice we are getting from the real estate guy. We hope he's right! It still seems unreal, like a dream, that in a few months time we are really going to wake up in Italy!

September 2004 Photos from Perugia

We finally got photos from the apartment in Monteluce and I am even less excited than before. It looks very stark and dorm-like. We really like the larger of the other two apartments in Centro. The smaller one is more in our budget, the larger would be 800 a month plus utilities. But the smaller one looks just too small to spend a minimum of six months in and the bedroom has twin beds to boot. The larger one has nicer furniture and better windows and just looks more comfortable.

September 2004 An apartment in the City Center (Centro)!

We got more options for two other apartments in Perugia! They are right in the city center, both in the same palazzo. This is a much more desirable location. It is close to the main piazzas, shops and restaurants and where all the action is. Now of course we have sent emails with lots of questions and are once again waiting for responses! I have to keep remembering that they are 9 hours ahead.

The one thing good about the apartment in Monteluce is that the monthly rent of 700 euros includes utilities. We're concerned about putting the utilities in our name and how much extra this could cost us each month.

We will be living entirely on Bob's fire department pension and still need to be able to afford to do everything else! Bob thinks having the utilities included would be better but I'm not convinced I like the Monteluce location. So we are tense and stressing about it. Last night Bob gave me his "this is supposed to be fun" lecture. Pep talk is a better word for it and he's right. This needs to be a fun experience and not stressful and we promised to try to be more positive.

August 2004 Police Headquarters & Requirements

Today we went to Police HQ in Phoenix to get our "Letter of Clearance", which has our fingerprints and which states that we do not have criminal records, just one of the things we need in order to obtain our Visas.

We have airline tickets! We depart New Jersey April 1, 2005 for Rome. Our plan is to drive across the U.S., stopping and visiting along the way with my sister in Denver, our daughter Jessica and her husband Nick in Milwaukee, with our son and granddaughter Chris and Kyla in Richmond and finally, my brother and all the NY family and friends before heading for the airport and Italia!

The Consulate says we have to go to LA in person to apply and file our application and we will need to take a few days off work to do that. Plus, the woman at the Italian Consulate told Bob we have to stay in one place and are not able to move around like we want to do, every six months in a new place - she said "that is tourism and not residency!" He was very upset thinking we could not do what we want to do but then the expats seemed to think it was not really a problem to move after you were there, providing you could show you had a place to live.

The Visa will get us there, but once in Italy, within 8 days of our arrival, we will have to register with the police and get something called a Permesso di Soggiorno – a permit of stay. And I guess we must go to the Police Headquarters, the Questura and stand in line and wait our turn. What if they turn us down???

August 2004 FBI Clearance & Applying for a Visa

We thought we just had to have a letter of clearance from the local police but then found out we actually had to have one from the FBI.

Here are all the things we have to gather and send to the Italian Consulate with our applications for Long Stay Residency Visas:

•Birth certificates (official long form version, translated into Italian)

•Marriage License (official long form version, translated into Italian)

•Proof of a place to live

•Proof of income

•A letter from Bob promising to share his pension with me

•Proof of medical insurance

•Round trip airline tickets

•A letter explaining why we want to live in Italy

•Fingerprint Clearance from the FBI

August 2004 An Apartment Possibility in Perugia

We got another option for an apartment in Monteluce, which we are seriously considering, depending on what the photos show (once we get them!). It's a one-bedroom apartment with a living room, kitchen and bathroom, plus access to a washing machine. It is on the first floor and it is surrounded by a garden. It supposedly has views across the countryside.

It sounds nice and the expats ( we've talked to say Monteluce is "a lovely, quiet, green and pretty neighborhood and convenient as all get out", close to buses and trains that can take us anywhere with plenty of shops and restaurants too. But it is a mile outside Centro and we aren't sure we like that. We'd really rather be right IN Centro. The photos should help us decide.

July 2004 Apartment Hunting

We are still trying to find a place to live in Perugia. The online places we found were not working out so we decided to use the service provided by the University for Foreigners, ( the language school in Perugia. They speak English and they will send us options that are available based on what we want. We hope they provide a lot of detail and hopefully we will get to see photos of the apartments. It will be a leap of faith on our part but I guess that is what this is all about.

We received the first email reply with only one apartment option, not great. They said they are working on finding apartments now for the month of August (next month!) and that is why we haven't received more choices. We really need to get this settled because we cannot apply for our Visa until we find a place to live.

This weekend we are off to Milford to close on our house there. We’re very excited but hope we like it as much as we thought we did when we bought it! I have a lot of butterflies in my stomach. We are really leaving Arizona. Hard to believe it is finally happening.

July 2004 Buying a Townhouse in Delaware

While we were in Richmond we took a drive to Delaware, just a few hours away to see the beach again and look for possible places to live upon our return from Italy. We found a home – a townhouse - in a community in Milford. With the cost of housing on the rise we decided we would be smart to buy one now and rent it out while we are in Italy. It has 3-bedrooms, an enclosed porch and a sun porch, a great room with dining room and lots of light and windows. Its very open and airy and it's an upstairs apartment. They are planting trees and flowers and all the outside maintenance is taken care of. The best part is we will be 10 minutes from the local beach and 30 minutes from the boardwalk beach at Rehoboth. Milford is a little town on the Mispillion River, south of Dover with lots of water everywhere.

Our plans are beginning to fall into place! We feel better knowing we have a home to return to at today's prices, even if we decide to sell it when we get back. And as much as we might miss our house here and all our friends, we also want to live near the ocean in the years to come. And now with Kyla in our lives it will be more important for us to be closer to Richmond. All in all we feel very good about this. It feels like the right thing to do.

July 2004 We are Grandparents!

We have become grandparents! Kyla Marie was born on April 27 and we went to Richmond to see her over Memorial Day weekend. It was amazing to hold that baby and wonderful beyond words to see our son holding his child!

May 2004 Preparing to Sell

The house is painted and with the garden in bloom, it looks lovely. I will have a hard time leaving this house, this neighborhood, the friends we've made. Bob always says everything is a trade-off.

We've been studying Italian for a year and will register for the fall semester. We need to start going through our closets, throwing things away, so there is less to take or pack and store. Leaving Phoenix will be hard, as we have felt so much like part of this community. Here we have birds and butterflies, friendly people, warmth. Here we have drawn and painted, photographed and written. This house has been everything we had hoped it would be and we will always treasure the time we spent here.

But we must move on. Life is short. We want to have this great adventure of living in Italy while we are young enough and healthy enough to do it. Will we see things differently after two years in Europe? What will our dreams be then? Will two years of living simply change us? Will we want more? More luxuries, more comforts? Or will we learn to be satisfied with less? It is all just anticipation now.

We only know Italy as tourists. We want to savor the days, not try to cram in too much. We have so much to do before we go. We will have many goodbyes to make. I will cry a lot. It will be hard to leave, yes. But as one chapter in our lives comes to an end, we can’t wait to see what happens next.

April 2004 We’re going to live in Italy!

We have decided on April of 2005 as our date of departure and I am keeping a journal of the everyday thoughts, feelings and little things that step by step will get us there. For the past year now we have been talking about it and decided that we will stop working, sell our house and live in Italy for two years – To experience life in Europe; to live simply; to seek out my ancestral roots; to slow down and photograph and paint and just enjoy each and every day.

First, we need to find a place to live with at least a six-month residency in order to get a Visa. We spent a lot of time on the internet looking at different cities, but Perugia with its language school, its central location and good transportation system make it a good place to begin. We want to live in four different regions, about 6 months in each during our two-year sojourn. We visited Perugia on our last vacation and liked it very much. It's a medieval city with much to explore. It’s steep, high on an Umbrian Hill, and a good walking city.

It still feels like a dream that we can really go and live in Italy and we can't quite believe it yet.