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This is my friend Nadia. Her with the lavender-colored, sparkly eyeshadow. The photo is a bit of a blur because Nadia thinks she's ugly and won't let anyone ever take her picture, so I had to rush and steal it! I know her well.
Nadia really takes pride in her makeup every day; meanwhile, it's a huge effort for me to even get on a coat of lipstick before going out. I'm sure it was all those years in Hawaii, and then traveling, that I just left all makeup off! (One never wears makeup in Hawaii. It's just not done!) Now that I'm in Italy, it's an entirely different subject. Nadia keeps threatening to come over to my house and do my makeup for me. "Sei bella!" - You're beautiful! - She will tell me as the reason why I should always wear makeup when I go out.
Oh dear. Nadia and I are so different! But guess what. We love each other.
What's so funny to me is that if I were anywhere else in the world, it's unlikely that I would be friends with someone who looked like Nadia. But I love her! I absolutely love her, and she tells me she loves me too.
In fact, it's what's written there in my coffee: "Ti volgio bene." It's a light way for friends to say "I love you" to each other in Italian. I hadn't seen Nadia in 2 months. First I was gone, and then when I got back, she was on vacation. She made me my first cappuccino in a really long time, and we shared a special moment of reunion.
The reason I'm outlining this is two-fold:
When I first got to Assisi, I was so surprised by the loving, nurturing relationships I found here. It seemed like everyone was cut from the same cloth: friendly, full of heart, dedicated to helping you no matter what you needed.
Whereas when I would go back to America...well, it's hard for me to express it here. Let's just say there is a different culture. There are many places in the world where there is always room for one more, whether it's a place to stay or a place at the table, no matter what the circumstance. And then there are some places in the world where that's unthought of, and it's frowned upon to even ask.
I realize now how much I am in the right place for me. I am surrounded by love. I am given love, and I can freely express it too. I have so much freedom in my life here because I'm not caught in any cultural 'acceptabilities,' and the Italians will just perceive that whatever I do, it must be an American way and, therefore, it's accepted. Mostly.
Here's what's not acceptable, and I want to share it with you as I feel I've learned so much from this:
I didn't realize it, but I was hurting my neighbors' feelings.
Why? Because relationships matter to them a great deal. This is a sign of a population with heart.
That picture above is Geo. He inherited this shop from his father. It's been a part of the community for 70 years. His shop's got everything, including its own line of specialty foods.
When I went away for a month to go back to America to get my Visa, Geo and his family looked after my bags. They had a storage room and kept them for me. When their son saw that the storage wasn't so secure, he made sure to bring my bags in the house and put them under lock and key. These people are precious! They really are.
But once I got back, I slipped away for a few weeks and went shopping at a large grocery store to stock up on a lot of basics. Normal, right? Well, after I hadn't seen them for a few weeks, I learned something new. Although he didn't say it, I could tell Geo was a bit disappointed that he hadn't seen me in a while and that I hadn't done much shopping with him. Then I realized the mistake I made. I won't do it anymore. I am loyal now; I stop in almost daily, and we're happy again. So are all the rest of the shop owners I visit as well.
Let's just say I am always open to learning more, and I'm glad I'm in the right place to learn more from this new community of mine.
We are all here on this Earth to share and to give love.
Let's spread it all around.
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Much Love and Many Blessings,