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I know I can speak for Laura as well when I say that we found it difficult to leave Lanciano.
As I write this, we’re speeding north in a cozy train compartment toward Piacenza, Italy to see our friend Christine. Laura is napping on the seats across from me, lines of sunlight and shadow moving lazily across her face as the train rounds a bend. The view is a blur of green, with olive groves, wineries, and distinctly Italian villas giving way periodically to sleepy towns of squat, graffiti-clad concrete buildings and ancient looking stone houses. Across the aisle I see nothing but blue sky and the slowly lapping waves of the Adriatic Sea. I know I should be excited to be back on the road, but I can’t help but feel like we’re leaving something behind that’s not easily found. Or replaced.
Cris met us this morning at the Mercato, where we enjoyed our last Cappucino in Lanciano. Coffee at the D’Alessandro’s market has been one of our daily rituals here, and the bartender Shamim makes them better than anyone in town. Parting with Cris at the train station was bittersweet, as parting with friends always is. But I think it’s the sense of community, of belonging to a place and a time and a group of people that we’ll miss the most.
Shamim at the Mercato Coperto makes the best cappucino in town.
We’re currently at the end of Month 4 without full-time jobs or a home, and both of us have started feeling tinges of homesickness and a subtle longing for those parts of living that a stable home life, work life, and friends and family provide. Thanks to the D’Alessandros and the cast of characters associated with their life in Lanciano, the past four weeks have been a respite for us from these feelings. We found friends among the teaching staff at CCI, coworkers (of sorts) among the Mercato staff as we did our best to help out as needed, and family among the D’Alessandros, people I have been hearing about since meeting Laura almost six years ago, but whom I only really met over this past month.
We printed some photos from the family portrait session for the D’Alessandros, and had this one framed.
We were really lucky to have visited at a time when the whole family was around, and to have been able to integrate so much with all the people here. We’ll miss Eligio’s and Mrika’s ciaos at the market, Franco’s whistle (indicating he has “a little job” for us), Marissa’s hugs, David’s film tips, Tim and Vittoria’s dance moves, Carla and Cris’s sisterly bickering, Davide’s impassioned speeches, conversations with Nonno and Nanna, Said’s buffets, poker nights, and a dozen other things and people that made daily life so rich for us.
We really enjoyed helping out as well, in the limited way we were able to. It was a pleasure to shoot school yearbook portraits of the students and staff at the school (with Laura as my fashion and hair assistant), and helping out however we could at the market, from unloading produce, wine, pasta, and flowers, to making bouquets (this was firmly Laura’s territory—I was her assistant), running separate and very spaced out cash registers during an influx of hundreds of pilgrims (despite my nonexistant Italian), or setting up (and taking down, and setting up again) chairs and tables each weekend. Laura also typed up some 500 names and addresses for the Mercato mailing list. We were happy to undertake these tasks; these little jobs allowed us to fit in.
Marissa asked me if I could shoot the yearbook pictures this year. I did my best to make them consistent considering I had no flashes or tripod, and that they were taken over the course of several days as people became available.
Laura stocks wine in the Mercato. We unloaded several palettes of the stuff.
Our friend Eligio makes like a true badass.
Eligio has been a friend of the D’Alessandro family since him and Davide used to play together as infants. He’s pretty much Franco’s right-hand man at the market and Allegria (hotel/restaurant). This shot is much more indicative of his warm and cheerful personality.
The chef Said is from Egypt, and is responsible for most of the staff and student meals. We enjoyed his work on pretty much a daily basis. He’s a genius.
We had two poker nights while in town. At this one, Tim’s chip pile eventually included most of his girlfriend Vittoria’s as well. All’s fair in love and poker, I guess.
But by the end of the night, Cris was the big winner, raking in some 15 Euro in profit.
As sad as we are to leave, we couldn’t have chosen a better note to end on. Laura and Cris have been conspiring over the last week or so to throw a joint birthday party for Mrika and I, and we had an absolute blast this past Saturday night. After a delicious meal and a few glasses of red wine in a local restaurant, we moved to the D’Alessandros’ Allegria, where Cris and Laura surprised Mrika and I with a fantastic pastry tart, complete with candles to commemorated our combined age of 61. After Mrika and I made the rounds sharing the leftovers with everyone in the restaurant, we moved downstairs to dance the night away amidst our own private Balloon Battle Dance Party.
Mrika and I blowing out the candles of our joint birthday cake. I don’t want to give away Mrika’s age, but 30 of those candles are mine, so to speak.
Tim and Vittoria at our birthday dinner. Tim teaches math and physics at the school. Vittoria is a don; she oversees the girls dorm.
The gang surprised us with a wall of noisemakers when we finally made it downstairs for the birthday party.
That’s when the wine really kicked in and we had a spontaneous Balloon Battle Dance Party. We acted like children. It was great.
Carla smokes David with a balloon of death. Carla was particularly ruthless.
Speaking of balloons of death, Tim doesn’t just take Vittoria’s poker chips, he also beats her with balloons... Actually, these two are ridiculously affectionate and pretty much a perfect couple.
Lanciano is a place that was formative for my wife while she went to high school, and after meeting some of the people responsible for that and getting to be a part of that life, I can finally understand why. It truly meant a great deal to us for her to be able to share it with me.
I definitely am excited to be back on the road. We’ve got a week in northern Italy ahead, before heading to Morocco, a country I’ve wanted to visit for years, and then Romania, Eastern Turkey and Iran. The next eight to ten weeks may be among the most interesting and exotic of our trip. But I’m also excited to begin thinking about once again having a home, whether it’s a temporary one in Thailand, or a more permanent one back home. We’ve been talking a lot of crazy talk lately about what we plan to do when we do get back to Canada; about the businesses we’ll start, the home we’ll build, eduction, children, and the life we’ll create. We can only hope to find a sense of belonging and community as rich as the one we left behind this morning.
Marissa, Franco, Carla and Cris all asked us when we’ll be coming back, and (separately!) encouraged us to do so when we “run out of money.” While we definitely don’t intend to return under those circumstances, we will be back some day.
The D’Alessandros graciously put us up in a beautiful furnished apartment that happened to be sitting empty at the moment. When we weren’t hanging out or working at the market, we were watching DVDs of the Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Laura gets dolled up at our swanky pad. I noticed this shot while leaning out of the window admiring the view and just had to run and grab my camera.