Huh? Wondering what we have been up to? Where we have been? When we might post again?
Me too. Holy smokes it has been a segue wrapped in an adventure, skewered with international errands. Do you want the short version or the long? ... Lets do the nearly short version, since the long one might---with some encouragement---turn into a book.
We cycled all summer. Blissfully scooting by canals and windmills in the Netherlands, climbing hills to see castles in Belgium and rolling into Paris to soak up cathedrals, picnics and great art. We hovered over London and Manchester and flew to Florence. All with bubbles of dreaminess well-formed around our heads; what we didn't know was that while we were busy having fun, Italy was busy cinching its immigration belt. No, we aren't immigrating, but we are 'residing' for a year. And while there was once 26 visas with varying notches and loopholes... it has been buckled down to just 5 or 6---sans loopholes.
Even the short story really is... a bit long. Anyway, thank god James speaks Italian (I don't know how we would have maneuvered, understood or otherwise inquired about all the proper paperwork); we visited countless immigration offices, attorneys, American and Italian consulates, police stations, post offices, political offices, volunteer services, document-piles, daunting-lines and unceremonious buildings... where we sat and stood, read our books, took a number. James read a plethora of websites as we searched and strategized to obtain the right paperwork. Months ago, it wouldn't have been an issue. You can tour for 90 days, leave for a few, return for another 90... no problem. But soon our answer was: 'not possible' and we booked our flight back to the states.
(When and if we write a book about 'how/when/where/why to go abroad for a year' we will have more than enough ammo to fill up the chapters).
So 2 weeks into their school year and 4 weeks into their soccer season, we flew back to Washington state for a 3 week hiatus. Long enough to send our passports off with AN INCH HIGH pile of accessory paperwork and receive it back again. Stamped.
Our 3 week segue in the states: we flew home (Washington state) beginning of October and without realizing it were about to drive and drive and drive---as if to make up for the last 5 months sans automobile. We took a train from Florence to Rome, another hopper train to the Rome airport, flew to London, landed in Seattle, drove to Tacoma, drove to Yakima, drove back down to Portland, Oregon (to the Italian consulate in our region), up to Seattle, then to Bellingham, Washington (all inside four days). Four days later we drove through Idaho to Montana---enjoyed a week of respite with grandparents---drove back to Bellingham... and the next day drove up to Vancouver BC, Canada. One day of rest, then we drove to Seattle (today actually) for a day of errands and back again; we have two more days in Bellingham, then it is back to the airport with a flight from Seattle to London to Milan and finally, we catch a train back to Florence.
No doubt we will be armed with tales of re-entry.
We have our passports back, all approved and at the ready. We have visited more relatives than we thought possible; we knocked out errands ranging from getting international drivers licenses to an orthodontist visit to buying baking soda, Ziploc bags and a Costco size of Taco Seasoning (that alone was worth the flight home, don't you think?). We handled pharmacy matters, bought converse shoes at a fraction of what they would cost in Florence and piled our winter clothes into our bags for our return. Hey, at least we didn't have to pay to send them to Florence, right?
Though we resisted the flight fees and the time away from our lives in Florence, it has been a great 3 weeks of visiting with family. We filled our coffers with loads of adventures, tales and conversations. We helped family stack wood and paint houses, shared wine and photos, played guitar, carved pumpkins and drank root beer (we never found it in Europe?). And the boys had more concentrated time with their cousins than perhaps ever before. It has been an unexpected gift.
And now we return, with our suitcases, bellies and hearts full again. With stories brimming, and paperwork solved. We are thrilled to be returning without the frustration and stresses we incurred trying to finalize our paperwork. Now instead of visiting offices and government officials, we can spend more time in museums, at wineries and along the Arno. We will plan our trips out of town (the boys play soccer games all over Tuscany!!!), and sip our macchiatos with great content. Routine will feel deliberate and comforting, and to think: Italy actually does want us to stay!