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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, December 12, 2005

Small Town Girl in the Big City

I think almost everyone that reads my blog knows I am from Guam. Everyone asks me where I grew up and why I don’t seem so American, especially my mother-in-law. She once said when she compares me to other Europeans, I seem very Italian (a big compliment, I think). I tell her it’s just that our families, one Chinese and one Italian have similar values. Another reason I might not fit the typical Italians’ idea of an American is I grew up on Guam. This tiny little island in the middle of the Pacific, near the Marianas Trench-the deepest point in the ocean, was a haven for my family. It protected us from many things, mostly drugs, AIDS, and violence. I think I lived a carefree childhood, one I wish for my children; one many people that grew up in small towns and safe neighborhoods have had the advantage to experience.

I can’t deny there were also disadvantages as well; Guam was a closed and cloistered from the rest of the world. I never traveled as a child because everything was just too far. Being a minority and “of color” on Guam put you in the majority, along with Filipinos, Guamanians, Chamorros (the indigenous people of Guam), Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese but left me with the idea that being “white or Anglo” was not a good thing. The children from military families were somewhat shunned if they were white and totally shunned if they were black. I think I only saw one or two African Americans in my entire life as a child on Guam. With TV programs from California, we accessed the outside world but never fully experienced it. When I left Guam at 18 to go to college, I was filled with anxiousness about living in the U.S. but also filled with naivety, prejudices and generalizations.

Fast forward to 14 years later; I am living in Torino but am in Rome for the holiday of the Immaculate Conception. Rome is a vast city of about 4 million, filled with antiquated buildings, tourists, lines and lines of traffic and crowds of people everywhere. Before I arrived in Italy, I had never crossed the Atlantic. I enjoyed visiting Manila, Bangkok, and Tokyo but have never aspired to live in a large city. So I’ve been asking myself; can I be happy in a large city? I have a new family now in Rome but still I daydream about life away from the the traffic, the crowding and the people.

Seattle was more like a big town than a large city, the traffic wasn’t great and neither was the weather but I liked living in the suburbs. I was close enough to downtown to have the convenience of the city center yet far enough away to have parking spaces, a garden and a block watch. I liked Seattle very much. You could not get a pizza at 1 a.m. like you can here in Rome, you did not arrive at a restaurant at 9-10 p.m. for dinner, you definitely did not have fresh markets in every neighborhood but still I enjoyed life in Seattle.

After I left Guam I realized how big her world was. Guam was a pinpoint on the map not even a speck. I ate canned asparagus since fresh was not available as most cold weather fruits and vegetables were rare. There was no theatre, no opera, not many museums, I hate to say this about my home but there was not much culture at all. Nevertheless all the things that bored me about Guam when I was a curious teenager suddenly have a new appeal: the air is fresh, unlike Torino, the water is warm and aqua, unlike Puget Sound, apartments are less common than homes, unlike Rome. The people are simple and genuine, they are warm and gracious. Because the weather is tropical, we had to deal with blazing heat, high humidity and typhoons during the rainy season. No matter where I live I know I’ll have to deal with the positives and the negatives of each place since no place is perfect. After our time in Torino is over, possibly as early as next summer, we hope to finally settle down in a place that both of us are keen on. But in reality I think we may settle in Rome even if I am not that keen on it.

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At 1:33 AM, Anonymous J.Doe said...

Even though I grew up in the suburbs in the US, and I am not really a small town girl (even though there were many farms around me when I was younger), the population density here makes me nervous. Especially during the summer with all the tourists.
I've never been to Guam but all the pictures show a lovely place that I would love to visit one day.

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous julienini said...

Gia gina...I too have the asme thoughts I guess about small town versus big town. What I have come to realize is not that the grass is necessarily greener in one, but that because you have experienced both, you now appreicate different things about different places. You COULD adapt to Rome easily, and then holiday in the country, or vice versa. Nonetheless, I like your blog! Good luck wherever you decide to land!

At 5:18 PM, Anonymous Lorna said...

Gina -- Your parents must be super rich to send you to school in the US. I am not offending you but the Guam's environment you described may be suitable for well off persons not for middle class families. Why are you not working in Italy? Is your degree worth nothing here?

At 10:59 PM, Anonymous Laurie said...

To respond to Lorna -- sadly, many of our degrees are worth exactly nothing here!

From what I've heard, Gina's family WAS super rich....IN LOVE!

At 1:24 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

My family was not super rich, my mom was a housewife and my dad was a car mechanic. When they came to Guam he had about 100 dollars in his pocket, right away, the minute he landed he began to look for work and 30 years later my dad who is 68, is still working. He does not spend, he takes no vacations, he buys nothing for himself. He spent all his money on his family. Now his business is not doing well since the Jap. economy is not that great, so we have opened up 4 restaurants that sell Vietnamese food. As you know mom and pop restautrants are hard work. This is how my family made it. My step mom runs the restaurants and my dad still mans his business.

Lorna, I can't even get my work permit after 9 months and my degree is not worth much. Most ladies who move to Italy are either housewives, freelancers, teachers of English or have work with ties to the U.S.

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Santos said...

four restaurants? hoa mai, perchance?

At 4:10 PM, Anonymous Lorna said...

I salute your Dad and Moms. You are blessed with hardworking family.

It means Guam is a great place to get rich in few years, still your folks able to send you off for studies to the USA. Which most people who live outside western countries unable to do. BTW what did you major in? What kind of job did you have in the uS. Usually the ladies who leave their jobs for marriage have not a great career prospects to begin. Hope everything work out for you. GoodLuck !!

At 12:46 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

I went the other way Gina.... from a city to a small town. I wasn't sure that I would like a small town, but I really love it here!

Great seeing you this past weekend. Hope we can do it again soon!
PS. How is the cat doing?

At 12:56 AM, Anonymous Laurie said...

Once again to respond to Lorna, I think it is hard and unfair to generalize about women who transition from job/career to marriage. I for example am happily and willingly transitioning from a 25 year long, rather significant career in the entertainment industry - to a life at home as a wife and homemaker.

At 1:54 AM, Blogger Gia-Gina said...

"It means Guam is a great place to get rich in few years."

Lorna I am respond to your comments and questions. From the story of our family I would not generalize that Guam is a great place to get rich. We have a 19% unemployment rate and a very bad economy. The success of our family I think, has nothing to do with where we live but who we are.

"BTW what did you major in? What kind of job did you have in the US."

Lorna I recevied my B.S. in Cell and Molucular Biology, I have worked in labs, as a mentor and as a Biology tutor. My main job in Seattle for 13 years was that of a nanny/household manager and personal assistant. I stayed with and continued to work for the families I met when I first arrived in Seattle, until I left.

Santos, Yes your are right the restaurants are Ho Mai 1, 2, 3, and 4. My dad's shop is Auto Air in the Harmon Industrial Park.

At 2:24 AM, Anonymous trench said...

Guam is one of the best places in the world to raise kids. I just wish our educational system was better and UOG provided more majors and opportunities for the locals.

I dont think I would ever relocate. I'll go on vacations but Guam will forever be my home..

At 8:44 AM, Blogger melusina said...

Very interesting perspective on all three of your "lives". I am not very familiar with many Asian cultures, but I love the stories people have to tell about their lives. It is especially nice to hear about the contrasts, and since you lived in three very different places, it is all the more interesting.

I went from a mid-sized American city (Nashville) to a HUGE European city (Athens) and HATED it. We lived on an island after that and another small village after that. I LOVED life in the village. We are in Thessaloniki now, which is perhaps a bit bigger than Nashville, but fairly similar. Yet, I find I miss that village life. Very weird, because I always fancied myself a city girl.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger L said...

I realize I know so little about Guam. It was nice to read about your perspective of living there. It must be tough to have to adjust to so many different places but you sound like you are doing a wonderful job.

I agree, I do not like the weather in Seattle, esp today! While it is rather mild and we do have four seasons, right now it is too cold for my liking! Brrr.. I would like to be on a warm, sandy beach right now :)


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