(almost) everything you always wanted to know about me (part the second)

Baby grapes on FlickrSo here we are for the second half of my answers to questions that were asked a very long time ago. The first part is here in case you missed it, and remember you can add your own questions for a future edition in the comments.

These questions all have to do with my life here in southern Italy, more or less; throughout the post, I’ve placed (gratuitous) photos that I’ve taken over the past few months that are on my Flickr account–are you my friend over there?

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(1) Beatriz of Suitcase Contents wrote: “I know P does not read your blog, does he really know how smart you are? and Do you feel you are the ‘same’ when speaking, writing in Italian? I guess this makes it two questions, sorry.

No need to apologize for a two-parter when this just might be the most flattering question I’ve ever been asked–thanks Beatriz!

First, does P know how smart I am? Can I answer that without sounding a tad conceited? I’ll try anyway.

I would say that it is difficult for him to understand just what is going on in my head, particularly since I’ve had trouble expressing that in the past. As time goes on, though, I would imagine he’s getting more of the real, true me, though.

There are ways that intelligence transcends language, so I think even from the beginning P knew that I was, for lack of a better word, “smart.” For one, with his friends and family, he often praises the way I’ve picked up Italian and Calabrese without any formal lessons, so that’s always nice to hear from him.

Now that I can communicate my ideas more fully, he can also get a fuller picture of all the crap I’ve stuffed into my head, so there’s that as well. Then there’s emotional intelligence, and he often expresses his, I don’t know, admiration for what I’ve done, i.e., leaving behind certain people and things and adopting a new life and lifestyle.

So I’d say that, just as in any relationship, he’s learning more about me every day, and I would hope that I’m making a good impression regarding my intelligence as well as other positive qualities.

Pomegranate blossoms on FlickrNow, do I feel the same when speaking, writing in Italian? Hmm…not exactly, but the two of us are getting more in sync all the time. I think and dream in Italian, so it’s getting harder to *not* be myself in this once foreign language–which is a good thing!

But how do I feel different? Well, in a lot of ways I’m more direct in Italian. This phenomenon began, I think, because I didn’t have enough Italian words in my vocabulary to sugarcoat–quite ironic since the Italian way is just the opposite! Now even with more words at my disposal, I’ve just kind of kept that up, so I still get to my point rather quickly and prefer to say things only once rather than over and over and over. Not that *all* Italians do that, but . . .

I do seem to find it easier to express anger/frustration/strong emotion in Italian; I think maybe I can almost disassociate myself from the words, which can be a dangerous thing, so I do try to watch that.

For those who don’t speak a second language, the best I can describe this feeling is the difference between saying things in person and writing them over email; there just seems to be a level of security with email, doesn’t there? That’s kind of how I feel in Italian sometimes, if that makes sense.

(2) Romerican of I Heart Rome? asked about shacking up in southern Italy and whether there have been any raised eyebrows or worse.

Surprising even to me, I haven’t had any backlash, negative comments, etc., about living with P and not being married from anyone–including his parents. In fact, there are quite a few young (native) couples around that have children and aren’t married.

Granted I don’t know what they’re saying behind our backs, but hey, what I don’t hear can’t hurt me!

Cactus flower and friend on Flickr(3) Eryn of Eryn Chandler’s Weblog asked how many people live in my village and whether it’s “a community where everybody knows everybody and are all into each other’s business?”

There are about 350 souls up here in the village, Eryn, and, um, yeah, you could safely say that everyone knows everything.

Or as someone once said to me, “Every window has eyes.”

P and I do manage to keep some semblance of privacy, though, as we’re both pretty tight-lipped in general (we don’t talk about us outside of us *at all* not even to his family) so this grapevine stuff doesn’t really affect us very much personally.

(4) And finally, Vivi of Dispatches from France asked: “Do you have distant relatives living in Italy and have you either made contact or keep up with them?”

Great question! I came here knowing that there were some *very* distant relatives who have moved north, but I still haven’t been in contact with them. Right here in my village, though, through a community effort, we believe we’ve nailed down a branch of the family from my great-great-grandfather‘s brother, although we’re still not totally sure.

The actual bloodline doesn’t seem to matter anyone, though, as this lovely family certainly thinks of me as another cugina. And one of my “relatives?” She looks like a perfect cross between my grandmother and great aunt (my grandmother’s sister). Kinda creepy, a lot cool.

Sunning on Flickr

More questions? Bring ’em on in the comments!

26 Beans of Wisdom to “(almost) everything you always wanted to know about me (part the second)”
  1. Joanne at frutto della passione

    I can really relate to what you said about you and P and how you grow closer as your language skills improve. After almost (gulp) 12 years of marriage my husband still has surprise moments. I had a realization once when a few years after we were married, I was getting over the flu and we were having a conversation (don’t remember about what) and he shook his head and said (in Italian – that’s the official language at our house) *You must be feeling better, you sarcasm is back* and I felt like – wow, I’m back! Long comment, sorry, by the by, I’ve added you on Facebook!

    Joanne at frutto della passione’s last blog post..Una faccia, una razza

    I have to say that the sarcasm still gets me in some trouble after only three years…maybe around year six he’ll get it more than half the time 😉

    Thanks for the add 🙂

  2. 07.22.2008

    Could one not stop at irony? My family are all sarcastic and they often hurt people when they are trying to be funny.

    Is that a caper plant up top with sun shining through it? Do you have personal caper plants?

    Is that cat really that happy? I would like to be her.

    Judith in Umbria’s last blog post..Zucchine Bran Bread: it’s what’s for breakfast

    I try not to use sarcasm personally, if that makes sense. More about politics (always a fun topic!) and you know, others not present 😉

    No personal caper plants here, but this year is the first time I’ve had the leaves of the plant…soaked in water (changed daily), then dressed with red wine vinegar, finely chopped onion and salt…YUM!

    Those are tiny grapes in the first photo, and in case anyone is wondering, pomegranate blossoms in the next photo.

    And that cat? Yeah, she must be pretty happy because she didn’t even open her eyes as I returned home with the pooches, went inside to get my camera and snapped photos (this is my side porch that she’s on).

  3. 07.22.2008

    Oh, sarcasm, one does love thee.

    I am very sarcastic. I never try to be mean, but funny instead. Although, sometimes, it doesn’t come over like that.

    Interesting that shackin-up is ok in Italy. That is both surprising and refreshing 😉

    My Mélange’s last blog post..Travel Tip Tuesday- Free Paris Museums

    I know Robin, who knew right? As for sarcasm, well, yes, it’s a fine line we choose to walk, but it’s so hard to stop 😉

  4. 07.22.2008

    You know I was thinking about you the other day. Moving and settling in another country. Now I have moved a lot in my life. My parents moved us three times when I was in school. As an adult I have lived in many cities…and states for that matter.

    I really can live anywhere. I am very adaptable. But I was wondering whether or not I could move to another country. I love the United States so much and truly enjoy living here that I don’t think I would be happy being away from it for long periods of time. I do love to travel and every once in a while I say to my husband, “maybe we should move to Vienna, permanently”. He just looks at me like I am crazy. Although he speaks German very well and we loved Vienna when we visited a few years ago. I said at the time…”I could live here”.

    So, I guess I am trying to ask you…”Do you get lonesome for the good ole USA”. I am sure you get homesick for family and familiarity. But do you ‘deep down’ miss the states?

    So that’s my long winded question.

    thotlady’s last blog post..Sometimes we do!

    Fabulous question, and long is some of the best wind around; thanks for playing along 🙂

  5. This is kind of similar to thotlady’s question, but perhaps more specific: what, if anything, do you REALLY miss about living in the States, having been over there for awhile?

    Anything tangible or intangible – a Philly cheesesteak, pop music that isn’t horrible, or the ability to conduct official business without feeling you’ve fallen into a Kafka play?

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..The passionate journey

    Again, another one I really look forward to answering…oh, and you can bet dollars to doughnuts that “Philly cheesesteak” will be a part of the answer….

  6. Michelle I would like to hear the answer to above questions as well. Not so much about things (like a dryer or cheddar cheese) but after three years do you see yourself moving back at some point?

    I bummed about missing Mad Men on AMC this Sunday but other than friends and family I don’t miss the States at all (even after all my drama last week with the Comune). Not one bit. I’m kinda surprised. I’ve lived there all my life but I feel at home here. Is that normal?

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Dating update

    Well *I* think it’s normal, but I’m not sure I’m a great frame of reference 😉 Great question. Answered in due time. I look forward to really exploring this one.

  7. 07.22.2008

    I can sort of relate to what you said about it being hard not to be yourself in Italian. I am finding more and more that I feel more comfortable and more *me* when I am immersing and embracing my Italian culture/heritage. I have said most of my life that I wasn’t meant to live in the country I was born in….I really hope that one day I can make the move to Italy (more specifically Calabria) because it’s one of the few places where I feel truly happy and content. It helps that my family over there is pretty kick ass cool too!! 🙂

    It’s been fun getting to know you more. Awesome idea and I look forward to future installments!! 🙂

    Ciao for now!

    LuLu’s last blog post..Gelato vs. Ice Cream

    I think we’re all on this search to figure out where (physically, emotionally) we’re the most “us.” The answer is obviously different for everyone, and I’m sure it changes over time, but isn’t the search just so fun?

  8. 07.22.2008

    Only 350 people? How did you end up in that tiny little village when you didn’t have any friends or relatives there? Oh. Wait. Did you say before that it was, specifically, your ancestral village, so you went there instead of some other city because you USED to have relatives there?

    Stefanie’s last blog post..Requisite “How was your weekend?” post

    I’ll count this as a question for the next answers edition 😉

  9. Oh, and LOL.

    you’re welcome.

    paul of crazy like whoa’s last blog post..The passionate journey

    Hee hee…grazie 🙂

  10. 07.22.2008

    Some of the above questions above are ones I too would like to hear answered 🙂

    But another question is:

    I don’t think you have ever been back to the US since the move to Italy. Do you hope to take P in the future so he can see your country and your ‘old’ home?

    I’m going to go and add you on facebook too 🙂

    Leanne’s last blog post..Homeless in Rome

    Great question Leanne! And thanks for the add 🙂 I feel so cool writing that 😉

  11. 07.22.2008

    Hey Michelle, thanks so much for answering my question!!! I loved part II of “all about you!”

    that’s so crazy that even though your native tongue is english that you now think and dream in italian. that must have been quite the eye opener when you first took notice to that phenomenon!

    take care…..and yes please link to my “new” blog 🙂


    Eryn’s last blog post..new find…

    Oh I’m so happy you saw this post Eryn! Will link to you shortly 🙂

  12. 07.22.2008

    Ciao Sognatrice! I really liked reading your answers. I too find speaking in Italian very easy to do especially when I am angry or under the influence of strong emotion. It is a strange phenomenon. I first noticed it in my children, that when they argued with each other it was Always in Italian… Maybe it just sounds better, more real, gritty so to speak… I feel much more satisfied to growl in Italian rather than in English! I think it is so great to hear of other Expats who have this experience too!
    I have a couple questions for you.

    Actually, while living in Italy I was in a large city. I never had the sense of belonging to my community there like I think you have. Do you think that you would feel as settled in a large city, or do you think your small community there (and the fact that you can get to know everyone) has helped you feel welcome there, and that it is really “home”? Do you think your happiness quotient would have changed had you lived in a different part of Italy… Or would Italy have been “home” no matter where you live there? I hope those questions made sense.

    Amber’s last blog post..Boys in the Kitchen

    *Excellent* questions Amber! Looking forward to answering them 🙂

    And isn’t it funny that your boys argue in Italian? Ah, the language of passion 😉

  13. thecoconutdiaries

    I just found your blog so I apologize if you’ve been asked this 100 times, but do the Italians want you to say/do certain things because you’re American (i.e. I imagine people go up to Arnold Swarzenegger all the time and are all “Hey, hey, say ‘I’l be back’!)

    thecoconutdiaries’s last blog post..The Corruptor

    Actually I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that 🙂 Thanks for coming by!

  14. 07.22.2008

    I have a question about this recent Twitter entry of yours:

    ” Back from the dentist. No pain meds offered. Apparently I look like I want to build up pain resistance for childbirth.”

    And my question is: tap tap tap tap … well?

    flurrious’s last blog post..Not All Firsts are Included, But I Can’t Remember Any Others That Are Memorable Anyway, If You Get My Drift

    Ahem. Gulp. Let’s just say that one Novocaine-less trip to the dentist hasn’t prepared me for much of anything. Except having more of a fear of returning.

  15. Sue

    Hey Michelle, in reference to your last comment to me…uh, I wouldn’t exactly call it ‘prowess’…yet. 😉

    I have another question – do you dress more like an American or an Italian?

    As far as looking Italian, I’d say you definitely do! My husband walked by the computer about a week ago when I was reading your page, saw your little picture (the close-up one of your face with your hand) and said, “I didn’t know your cousin R. had a blog!” 🙂

    Don’t worry Sue–you’ll be a pro in no time 😉

    Great question! Love it!

    Too funny about your husband’s comment. Maybe we’re related 😉

  16. 07.22.2008

    This is totally fascinating, Michelle, because we’re also getting some of the deeper questions of life in Italy through this series.

    jen of a2eatwrite’s last blog post..Home… again

    I’m so happy to know you’re enjoying this, Jen; you know, you write these things and after a while you think, do people even *care* about this? Nice to know that at least sometimes the answer is “yes.” 🙂

  17. 07.22.2008

    So you are another one with Italian ancestors! Something about this country that has those of us, including me, with Italian blood coursing through our veins, returning to our roots.

    Having Italian blood seems to be a bit like having a kind of magnet in your body – something inexplicably draws you here – and ensures you never leave! Possibly.

    Nice to know more about the ‘smart’ writer behind the words.

    All the best from Milan,


    PS I’m not married either, and I have a child. This fact has never caused me any problems whatsoever here. It sometimes is a a catholic country 😉

    Alex’s last blog post..The Pirelli and Telecom Italia Mafia Godfather

    I love that Alex–the magnet. What *is* it about this heritage? I don’t know about you, but I have other heritages as well…just not the same pull though….

    I had no idea that you’re living in sin too! Woohoo! I’d like to talk more to you about this at some point. Will be in touch 🙂

  18. 07.22.2008

    There’s so much love in this post, it could almost be a love thursday post!
    Good stuff, all through, and as always, the photos are incredible.

    Grazie Cara!

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

    PS~ I trust that you are saving the dance question for another post?

    Wanderlust Scarlett’s last blog post..Submarine Races

    Yes, the dance question will be part of an “answers” post(s) in the near future. If I don’t write one for Friday, there will certainly be some answers on Monday 🙂

  19. 07.23.2008

    Ok, Michelle. I’m taking questions. Let’s see what you’ve got. 🙂

    Chel’s last blog post..Any questions?

    Have already chimed in my dear 🙂

  20. 07.23.2008

    Great posts Michelle. 🙂

    Dory’s last blog post..Spelling Bee… cracks me up

    Glad you’re enjoying them Dory 🙂

  21. vita

    Michelle, I’m really liking these posts – this is what I read for – insight into others lives, in other countries, nuances . . . really compelling! So I’m wondering much of the same.

    I lived in Italy on and off for a while – perhaps never long enough to really become a part of it. Perhaps if I’d met an Italian, things might have been different, but I always had ex-pat friends and felt like an outsider.

    But your move is really stunning – you left one day and never came back. Your life is clearly there now. And I wonder (okay, this would be my “official” question – do you have some philosophy or view point about that – like that Italians have simpler, happier lives?) I know that’s a very personal question and I know people have asked about what you miss in the States and I’ve read those posts (coffee, etc..) but I’m wondering about more esoteric ideas – like the way Americans are direct. The way things get done more efficiently – or, have you somehow moved through that and found that the way of life in Italy is somehow more satisfying to your soul?

    I’d love love love to hear more of your thoughts on this.

    Thank you! (And added you on FB)

    Ciao! So nice to see you, here and on FB! Great question. All of these are so great; may have to work on them over the weekend 🙂

  22. I haven’t thought of a smart question yet but i wanted to let you know that I’m really enjoying this series of posts and cant wait to read more.

    judy haley (coffeejitters)’s last blog post..Sail Away

    Thanks so much for letting me know Judy 🙂

  23. 07.23.2008

    Hi Michelle – actually I have quite a quantity of Irish blood in me somewhere, but the Italian stuff seems to be more dominant, for some reason. Must be the iron content in the water…

    As for chatting about ‘living in sin’ – look forward to hearing from you:-)



    Alex’s last blog post..The Pirelli and Telecom Italia Mafia Godfather

    You may be onto something with that iron content…. 😉

  24. 07.23.2008

    I have another question!

    “Are you trying to teach or do you want to try and teach P English?”

    I am lucky that my boyfriend speaks fluent english as when we first got together…well… we would not have got together if he didn’t speak English as I spoke hardly any Italian and we would have never been able to chat and see if we liked each other!

    Leanne’s last blog post..Signs everywhere

    Another great question Leanne 🙂

  25. 07.24.2008

    It’s funny that you found you’re more direct in Italian, at first because of a more limited ability to express yourself and then… well, it continues, doesn’t it? It seems that’s the case for many Americans; although I didn’t live in Italy for very long, I had a very similar thing happen- I was fairly blunt in Italian in a way that I am not when I use English. Some of it was because my Italian is very clumsy, but also, I found that since I was considered a crazy American regardless of how properly I behaved that I might as well use the leeway it gave me to speak my mind. Does that make any sense?

    Meg’s last blog post..Insufferably Smug Tiramisu Triumph

    Ooh does it ever Meg! I still play the American card sometimes too–not intentionally, actually, just because that’s the way I am and then later I realize that what I said (probably speaking my mind/speaking up) might not have been very “Italian” of me. Oh well. What you see is what you get with me no matter what country I’m in apparently 😉

  26. 07.27.2008

    Yay, thanks for answering my question. Calabria rocks- wow! I’m truly impressed and surprised because the small town (guess it could be called a village) my mom comes from in Campania is still super severe about living together without being married. They still have a very old-school, catholic mentality so “living in sin” is considered a huge scandal. Calabria-1 Campania- 0!

    Hee hee…guest Christ really *did* stop at Eboli 😉

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake