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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Longing and Determination

Warning: An “Italy is Not the Paradise you Expected, Not-so-Cheery” post is to follow.

I’ve had a very unproductive weekend. Early on Saturday morning, I drove Deme to Malpensa, the airport in Milan, 1.5 hours away, for his flight to Seattle. The drive was frustrating because after a 30-45 minute stretch of highway, we had to divert ourselves onto two lane roads, straight through 4 small towns before finally reaching the airport. Needless to say this route was quite indirect, a true commuting hassle. On the way back home I missed a turn, and ended up on my way back to the airport. I’ve always been “direction deficient”. After arriving in Seattle, my main challenge was figuring out north vs. south and east vs. west. (During my first year in Seattle, any direction that was in front of me was north.) A lowly 45 minutes after my mix-up I realized my mistake.

The rest of the weekend was spent distracting I; trying to forget the fact I was alone. I wrote letters, listened to music, cleaned the entire house, backwards and forwards. The whines of the dog by the door every time he heard elevator moving between floors did not help. While cleaning Deme’s office of dust, old receipts and loose tobacco, I found a box I had been looking for. It contained all our cookbooks. I took my favorite cookbook out “Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet-A Journey Through Southeast Asia” and began to rifle through the recipes. I was flooded with two emotions at the same time: longing and determination.

Often I think of my parents, all their struggles and all they have taught me. This is a very Chinese thing to say but then I am Chinese aren’t I. All my years in American have softened me a bit but will never erase:

-Chinese New Year with all the good omens it brings, the vibrant red envelopes, the moon cakes, the visits with cherished family and friends.
-My mom’s Pho, one of my favorite foods, the most fragrant broth I’ve ever tasted, enhanced by my favorite herb in the world, (I have no idea how to spell it in English) I only know how to pronounce it in Vietnamese.
-My dad’s wonton, they would give Piemontese angolotti del plin a run for its money.

We have promised my parents that our first major vacation will be to Guam. I’ve had a generous offer from the Daudon Family, whom I used to work for, to come back to Seattle with their frequent flyer miles but I won’t break my promise to my parents. I just hope we can make it before our first wedding anniversary in December.

Southeastern Asian food is fantastic, as a child I ate curries, fragrant soups with tamarind, wild limes, things I can no longer readily get my hands on. I miss these foods; I want to be able to re-create them. Adriana, an old friend of Deme’s, who lives in London, gave a wonderful gift the last time I was in Rome. It melted my heart since I knew my husband had told her how much I missed home, how hard it has been for me to find Asian ingredients. Since I have not spoken to her in over 6 months I knew her gift was my husbands doing. When we went to pick her up she handed me a bag of the most pungent, “I can smell it through a plastic bag and an unopened jar” authentic fermented Thai shrimp paste!!!! I almost leapt with joy. I am determined to turn my longing into something material, namely food. Maybe then I will feel less culturally impoverished. Maybe then I will feel less lonely.


At 4:58 AM, Blogger dario said...

Gina: probably this comment is useless because maybe you have already tried it. In via Po, in the centertown of Turin, there are two "equo-solidale" shops, where one can find several products coming from the poor part of the world (especially south America, Africa and south Asia). I also tried sometime to ask for something that they didn't have in the shop, and they provided it.
Moreover, at Porta Palazzo there is a big market where you can find a lot of "ethnic" product (mainly from north africa, but also other parts of the world).
Maybe you can find what you are looking for also in Turin...

At 5:35 AM, Anonymous island girl said...

It's funny how much Asians connect food and family. I am the same way. When I moved to be with the hubby in North Carolina, I packed a box with my recipe books to send. Unfortunately out of all the boxes I sent to him, it was the only one to get lost! So I was determined to re-assemble some sort of cookbook library that I had before. That included asking my mom to give me some of her old cookbooks that she never used and to get some through ebay. While I have a decent lot of books, I miss the ones I had because I know where all my favorite recipes were in those ones. I haven't yet cooked much of the recipes my mom cooked for me when I was younger because my husband is not one to try new things though he tries to be good about it and because I am not the cook I wish I could be though no one has ever suffered on my duty.

Keep your chin up and hope the food helps. I've also got a friendly ear to bend.

At 7:22 AM, Blogger Judith in Umbria said...

Milano! I hear you can get anything there.
Meantime, you don't have to feel lonely because there are innumerable folks who know you from this blog and of all of us, there will always be one who needs a visit, a phone call. Just ask.
I've been here 5 years almost, but that first year or so was so tough.

At 7:47 AM, Blogger PoeticaL said...

I found your blog on Saturday. I’ve read the entire thing. You are so engaging and entertaining and more so you are so respectful. I love the way you refer to your husband as “my darling husband”. That is breathtaking to me. I wanted to de-lurk to say hello. I also have a great suggestion. It is the small details of your new life in Italy that I find so interesting and sweet, why don’t you write a book? There are so many books out there that talk about life in Italy for those of us that may never experience it. But so many of them are not nearly as interesting as your blog. Just my thoughts. Have a great day…your darling husband will be back soon. Perhaps find a project that will allow you to pass the time and surprise him as well? Paint something for the house…..or…bake some cookies….*shrugs* just my thoughts. :-) (http://trulypoetic.diaryland.com)

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Ping said...

Hey Gina....
I feel for you when you are missing family and PHO! I was hoping that you wouldn't mentioned anything about Pho...hehehee..jk...
Man, I was thinking about my family....and Island girl is right...asians connect food and family togther.
I really felt for you that you got your first shrimp paste...I know how you feel....cause here in India....you don't get any either.
But then when we go to Thailand I got as much shrimp paste, crab paste, fish sauce, soya sauce and other ingredients that I can't get for a whole year. That always means we have to pay for an extra luggage..worth it when it comes to food items :)
You asked how's life in India on my last comment. Well, when you have those things that I mentioned above, somehow it makes it a lot better.
It's very busy and noisy here. They honk everywhere and every time. Can't wait to visit quiet Laos in November! Then I can eat all the Pho, spring rolls, you name it! Am I rubbing it on you? Sorry.

If you need any ingredients, please I can send some to you. Even if you know it in Vietnamese, I can ask my friends ok.

O...I was looking for L'oreal shampoo and I need one for my fine hair...then the guy brings on out and I somehow know it's not writing in French..like I know French..but anyways...he said it's for fine hair...it read like this" capelli piatti, fini, senza volume"...I assume that "fini" was fine hair...then I read at the bottom of the bottle that it was made in Torino!!! I was like....I know that place, that's where Gina lives......out of all places that I can get L'oreal shampoo is in Siliguri(where we are living in India). Don't you love it?

Sorry so long. Well I have "commented" enough, huh.

At 9:21 PM, Anonymous Deborah said...

Heartfelt and revealing post. Thanks so much for writing your stories.

At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How impressive that you're driving there.

Keep looking for your ingredients and keep cooking.


At 11:49 PM, Blogger Gia said...

Hey sis,

As a married woman, you no longer get the red envelopes (nah nah nah nah nah.

You may was well make a wish list of food stuffs you want from Guam. Once the Christmas rush sets in, it will be your birtday before any of it arrives.


At 1:00 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

Dear Everyone,

Thank you for all your comments.
I never thought I would feel this way. Everyone has wished me well and been glad that I was able to travel, to have this experience. I was glad for myself until the reality set in. Change can be hard. The support I've been feeling via the internet really helps.

Ping, send me your e-mail address again.
Dario, I have taken your suggestions and need to look harder.
Sis, you have offered more than one to send me stuff, I will e-mail you with a short list. Thanks for youf offer.

Take care everyone and keep commenting, I read all of them.

At 2:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A channel changer for the Bloglines river of news
Blog readers offer two basic navigational styles. There's the two- or three-pane format that's also commonly used in mail clients, and then there's what Dave Winer has called the river of news format, where ...
I have a jobs for moms site/blog. It pretty much covers jobs for moms related stuff.

At 11:38 AM, Blogger H. (aka. NC_State_Gal) said...

Hey, if push comes to shove, have friends and family send you items via post. My family in Japan does that for me, even though I can buy 99% of the stuff here in San Francisco *chuckle*. ah...since you love to photograph, go out and shoot some photos :). Then you'll have quite a portfolio to share with your hubby when he returns!! Keep your spirits high.

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

Gina, I am so proud of you! I can not believe that you are driving in Italy!!!!! After living here for 10 months, I have still avoided doing this (it would be different if I had an automatic). Good for you!

At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed reading your blog. And this may seem inappropriate but you are a very beautiful woman!

At 10:45 PM, Blogger deviousdiva said...

It can be very hard living far from family and friends. Sounds like you're doing well though. I enoyed your blog and I've added you to my blogroll. There are some other great "expat" links there.
Take care

At 2:25 AM, Anonymous candi said...

i came across your blog via expattalk and had to smile as i was eating my moon cake. :) your longing for pho hit a nerve and i thought i'd share with you my desperate adventures in finding pho in italy. -candi

p.s. - i make homemade wontons and homemade chicken soup here so maybe one day we can meet up and share wontons. i don't know about you but my family loves to talk about food and the next meal while we are pigging out. (candichen@hotmail.com)


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