Things I Miss About the US: #1-5

One of the most frequent questions I get about living in Italy is, “What do you miss most about the United States?” Obviously, I miss people who are far away the most; that’s an easy one. But I’m always surprised by the other stuff I miss– the little things I took for granted or didn’t expect to crave from afar.

When I lived in France, the country that is sort of famous for its cuisine (in 2010, UNESCO added French gastronomy to a list celebrating the world’s “intangible cultural heritage,” along with Chinese acupuncture and Spanish flamenco… no big deal), I would get insane cravings for foods from back home. I had Brian send me care packages with Cheez-Its, peanut butter and French’s mustard (not actually French, so it should really be called “freedom mustard” to avoid confusion). I smuggled cheddar cheese back in my luggage when I visited a friend in Scotland. I even sought out the French version of tater tots– little frozen fried mashed potato balls — so breakfast for dinner would feel more complete. I swear my eating habits weren’t this bad when I was in the States.

tater tots

Mmm, tots.

In Naples, we do most of our grocery shopping at an Italian supermarket because I think it’s ridiculous to drive to the American Navy base to buy New Jersey olive oil and Kraft mozzarella. However, about once a month, we do hit up the commissary to buy the items we just can’t find in the local market: Tapatio and Sriracha hot sauces, sesame oil, Tony Chachere’s. It feels like we’re cheating by having access to a very American supermarket while living in a foreign country, but I’ll take it. MINE.

What I Miss, Volume 1

1. Food variety

Southern Italian food is really, really delicious. I am obsessed with mozzarella di bufala and real pizza napolitana and risotto alla pescatore. It is all excellent, and you can get a fantastic meal here for a good price at a little trattoria or pizzeria. However. It is very difficult to find any other cuisine besides Italian food in the Naples area. I love food, and I desperately miss having varied restaurant options: Mexican, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Chinese, Spanish. Italy is actually really close to Spain and France and Greece, so why is it so freaking hard to find those types of food here?

2. Coffee shops with free Wi-Fi

This is a big one. I have worked from home for the last four years, and I love it. Really, really love it. I set my own schedule, I have the flexibility to travel and I can write emails in my underwear and no one will ever know (note: not recommended; I try to uphold basic social norms, at least during my workday). I do miss the social contact of working in an office, so when I lived in the US, I would work at least half of every day from a nearby coffee shop to avoid becoming a crazy hermit.

Sadly, coffee shops with Wi-Fi are not a thing in Italy. Yes, they have five coffee bars on every block and their espresso is like crack, but the coffee experience here takes about two minutes. Pay 90 cents for a caffè macchiato, drink it in two sips, down a glass of fizzy water, leave a 20-cent tip and be on your merry way. I haven’t yet seen the equivalent of an American coffee shop, where you can sit at a table for hours, mooching Internet and working away for the cost of a latte. I miss you, Morning Brew hipsters.


Due cappuccini

3. Automatic transmissions

We sold our trusty ’98 automatic Honda Accord when we moved, and I miss that car every single day. It was smart to sell it — Honda parts are hard to come by, cars get super banged up here and driving an automatic makes you stand out as an American with things to steal — but I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of acquiring a “Naples beater” with a manual transmission. I know how to drive stick, but I was really rusty when we moved here, and this is a darn stressful place to relearn driving skills. I have nightmares about stalling out at a busy intersection and incurring the wrath of Fiat drivers. STOP YELLING AT ME!

I actually do like the very beat-up ’93 BMW I now drive, and it’s a lot of fun when I’m cruising down the Autostrada at 130 kilometers per hour. It is considerably less fun when I’m trying to avoid a collision with the two teenagers alternately fighting and making out on a Vespa or when I’m stuck in 40 minutes of stop-and-go traffic with Italians who are trying to make seven lanes out of three.

4. Things being open in August

The better part of Italy shuts down for the month of August. I don’t know where everyone goes, but no one invited me. While I’m happy for people who can take off for five weeks, it’s pretty inconvenient when you want to get anything done, from dry cleaning to car repairs. Plus, I’m jealous.

5. Air conditioning

It’s August. I want businesses and restaurants and hotels to be air-conditioned. I think the phrase, “It’s hot as balls” loses something in the translation.

What do you miss about home when you are traveling or living abroad?

Photo credit

August 12, 2011   8 Comments

Travelogue: Elba

First things first: I kind of hate most travel blogs. OK, “hate” is a strong word, but I have embarrassingly little patience for them, especially considering that I love to travel, I love to read/write and I love blogs in general.

This may make me sound like a bad person, but reading painstakingly detailed accounts of other people’s fabulous travel adventures is just boring. It’s like listening to a play-by-play account of someone else’s dreams or sitting through a painful slideshow (set to music, no doubt) of bunch of pictures you’re not in. Yes, I am selfish and have the attention span of a goldfish. And you totally agree with me; admit it.

I do like hearing about exciting places and travel shenanigans and, especially, delicious food and drink; I just want a bulleted list of the high points — where to stay, what to eat/see/do, how to get around, what to avoid. Think inverted pyramid.

Whew. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’m going to enthrall you with wordy, poetic, self-indulgent tales of all of my travels. Don’t worry; I won’t leave out any details, no matter how insignificant.

Seriously, though, I would like to write a series of short posts that create a snapshot of the places I’m lucky enough to visit while living in Italy. A few photos and some good recommendations (or advisories) — information that I hope might be helpful if you’re planning your own trip. I will do my best to keep the obnoxiousness to a minimum. Tell me if I don’t.

First up…

ELBA: May 28-30, 2011

View Larger Map

Apparently, Elba is an island in the Tuscan Archipelago, an hour ferry ride from mainland Italy. Napoleon got exiled there for a hot minute (less than a year), and now tourists go there to sunbathe and snorkel and do islandy things. I knew nothing about it until my friend Molly told me I had to go there when I moved to Italy. Good work, Molly. It was awesome.

Getting There

Brian and I drove our car from Naples up to Piombino, a city about 3 1/2 hours north of Rome. Then we took a Mobylines ferry with our car to the port city of Portoferraio on the isle of Elba. Mobylines was fantastic: efficient, organized and easy. It cost about 18 euros round-trip per person, plus 26 euros to bring the car.


Portoferraio marina

Where to Stay

We stayed at Hotel Crystal, in Portoferraio, which was very close to the port. We got a decent rate on and it was a really cute, clean hotel with a good breakfast included. The only complaint I had was that the air conditioning either didn’t work or the management wouldn’t turn it on when we asked (the guy at the front desk told me they could only turn it on at certain times… and we never encountered those times). It was pretty toasty in our room so we left the windows open at night, and the mosquitoes were very grateful for the free buffet I provided for them. Ah well. I still liked the hotel.

Portoferraio was adorable. It wasn’t as busy or touristy as other island port cities I’ve seen, and it was a pretty place to walk around, grab a drink at an outdoor cafe and eat at a homey trattoria for dinner. I also enjoyed the other port city, Capoliveri, and the tiny, peaceful town of Marciana Marina.

What to Do

There are a few Napoleon sights/sites, but we didn’t seek them out. We only had a couple days in Elba and were more interested in driving around the island, eating and going scuba diving. I highly recommend renting a car or scooter for a day if you don’t bring a car. It’s a beautiful place, and it was fun just driving around and stopping to take pictures and poke around the little towns.

If you scuba dive, we had a great experience with Bluelba Diving. An awesome German divemaster (also fluent in both English and Italian) took us out on a boat with just one other diver and the boat captain, and we did two dives in clear, beautiful, very cold (by Hawaii standards) water. We saw some eels and an octopus and some other critters, and it was a cool way to check out a different side of the island.

scuba diving elba

Getting the authentic windblown look

We also tried to hike to this crazy castle up on a hill that our German friend told us was a 15-minute walk. We drove all over the place to try to find a trail that didn’t require rock climbing. And failed. So we gave up and drank some wine and watched the sunset on the side of the road. It was not too shabby.


Ooh, look, a castle!


Ooh, look, wine!

Where to Eat

We had an excellent dinner our first night in Portoferraio at Osteria da Libertaria. Delicious fish, cheap house wine and a quiet outdoor terrace.

Overall, Elba was a relaxing, picturesque beach getaway that is very accessible from mainland Italy.

August 3, 2011   2 Comments

The Great High School Reunion Time Capsule Unveiling

I went to my 10-year high school reunion this month (Woohoo, Class of 2001 Dragons! Seniors rule!). Yes, that happened.

svhs 3

Spirit week, 2001

It seems unbelievable that it has been 10 whole years since I moved away from Sonoma, California to join those fabulous lunatics in a little city called New Orleans, but here we are in 2011. Time flew by at warp speed and that small town girl (cue Journey song here) I was at 17 is all growns up. I’m married, I work hard for the money, I’m itchin’ to buy a house and I can throw together a mean dinner party. But to keep things in perspective, I still get carded and hate wearing shoes that aren’t Reef flip-flops, so I’m trying not to get too carried away with this adulthood thing.

svhs 4

Junior prom, 2000

(Note: I’ve been struggling with writing this post for the last couple weeks, and my brilliant friend Sierra inspired me with her post on how she feels about the last 10 years. Fantastic read– I recommend it.)

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Senior ball, 2001 (semi-formal attire was too boring)

svhs 5

Spirit week, 2001

Anyway, the official Sonoma Valley High reunion was a lovely affair at B.R. Cohn Winery because we like to keep it classy here in the wine country. There was good wine, good food and a good crowd of people I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was nothing like “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” which is good because there were no mean girls desperately trying to uphold the high school hierarchy but bad because there was no choreographed dance sequence to “Time After Time.” You can’t have everything, I suppose.

svhs reunion

Classy times at the reunion

The reunion was a lot of fun, but the real event for me was a champagne brunch I hosted earlier that day with some of my close high school girlfriends. Back in the day, during our last week of senior year, we put together a time capsule to open at our 10-year reunion– a cardboard box we filled with photos, newspaper clippings, videotapes, inside joke lists, surveys and letters we wrote to ourselves. The box has been sitting in my childhood bedroom for 10 years, and it was finally time to crack it open.

svhs 1

Putting together the time capsule, 2001

high school reunion time capsule

The great unveiling

Wow. I can’t describe how incredible it was to sit with 10 ladies who have played such an important part in my life and open the magical box. If you think a group of teenage girls is loud and silly and giggly and squealy, you should get a group of 20-something women together and give them a dozen bottles of champagne (ahem, André sparkling wine). It is impressive and terrifying. I laughed until my stomach hurt.

high school reunion time capsule 2

Ridiculousness ensued

high school reunion time capsule 5

Pretty ladies


  • Watching the hilarious compilation of video performances dating all the way back to junior high (if you’ve never had the chance to watch “Spice Deception,” you’re really missing out)
  • Reading our survey responses out loud. Sophie’s response to “If you could date anyone in your class, who would it be?”: “[Redacted]. He makes me weak in the knees.” My response to “Out of your girlfriends, who would you date if you were a guy?”: “Jules, because she is so pretty, funny, laidback and fun to be around.” (Still true!)
  • Breaking out the 2001 yearbook and admiring the ridiculous photo collage we spent way too many class hours putting together
  • Trying to remember the dozens of inside jokes we thought were important enough to write down
  • Going through piles and piles of photos from every high school event imaginable
  • Reading the letters we wrote to ourselves

high school reunion time capsule 3

Watching video works of art

My letter was a five-page manuscript that jumped manically back and forth between being ecstatic to make a fresh start far away from home and being terrified to leave everything familiar behind. OMG, will I make friends as awesome as my Sonoma people? Will I find a job I love? Will I get married and have kids? Will I fail at life and die alone? At 27, I can be overanalytical and obsessive from time to time, but 17-year-old me needed to take it down a notch.

Teenage girlness aside, it is fascinating to read about my fears and dreams and goals and see which ones stayed constant and which changed over the years. Here are a few excerpts:

Am I still in touch with my high school friends? Actually, by this time, my college friends too? I really hope so. I know I will lose contact with people over the years, but I hope not the important ones. If I’m reading this right now, I assume that we’re at least all together again for our 10-year reunion. Who has changed the most? The least? Is Heather famous? Or Katie? Do we look a lot different or older? I hope we aren’t above having dance parties.

You’re so wise, Mini Me. I’m happy to say that I do keep in touch with the wonderful friends I’ve made over the years, and those relationships are incredibly important to me. Really, what could be more important? And we’re never above dance parties.

high school reunion time capsule 4

So grown up, so fabulous

[On my ideal man] Let’s see: hilarious, intelligent, sarcastic, easygoing, romantic, considerate, good with kids, adventurous, beach-loving, handsome, a musician and a dancer. Hmm… is that too much to ask? It’s crazy to think that in 10 years, I could actually be married, with kids even. Do I have kids? I hope they look a little Asian– hapa kids are so cute.

I have to say, I’m pretty good. The musician/dancer piece is the only part that might be a little off, but Brian does play the trumpet, have mad karaoke skills and know how to cut a rug on the dance floor. And though we don’t have any, hapa kids really are so cute.

Where am I living now? Did I travel like I wanted to? I hope I can live on the East Coast for at least a year, and I plan on spending time abroad. My junior year, I want to spend the year or the semester in Paris. I hope I can get my French up to standard. Did I ever get the guts to do the Peace Corps? I love the idea of living in some country completely different from the US, teaching and learning, but it’s two whole years… When it comes to marrying and having kids, I think I’d like to live in Northern California. I really love it… But I think I need to live in Hawaii at least once in my life.

Well, I never made it to live on the East Coast or join the Peace Corps, but I did spend a semester in Paris, teach abroad and live in Hawaii. As for settling in Northern California, plans change. New Orleans won my heart, but I still stay true to my NorCal roots. It’s been a crazy 10 years, and I feel like I should write myself another letter to open in 2021.

SVHS girls, I love you all and hope we can get together again soon, on one continent or another. What should we put in our 20-year reunion time capsule?

All you other beautiful people, did you go to your high school reunion or are you planning on it? Thoughts? Comments? Judgments?

June 19, 2011   10 Comments

Telecom Italia: 10, Gillian: 0

Here’s a little-known fact about me: I need the Internet to survive. Really. I will die without it.

Sure, unplugging for a weekend away or a long vacation is a fabulous idea and I’m happy to indulge when I can, but the day-to-day reality is that I need to be online. I can’t do most of my work without Internet access, plus how else will I be able to find answers to my very important questions, such as “where can you buy hops in Naples?” and “why did Scarlett Johansson trade in Ryan Reynolds for Sean Penn?”

Telecom Italia either doesn’t understand this about me, or it just doesn’t care. I suspect it’s the latter. Our Internet is a fickle wench that will work like a dream for a week straight and then, without warning, simply stop and give me the silent treatment for hours or days or weeks. I beg, I plead, I apologize, I promise to fix whatever it is that I did wrong to make her so mad (to which she replies, “Well, if you don’t know already…”).

telecom italia love

It is infuriating. I hate her, yet I need her. For example, this was my Friday morning last week.

8:45 I’m about to upload some client work and send some emails. The wireless goes out. This is not the first time this has happened, but occasionally the wifi will stop working and the Ethernet will still function. Not this time.

8:46-8:59 Cursing. Tinkering. Cursing.

9:00-9:01 I leave the first of what’s sure to be many irritated messages on the Telecom Italia bilingual helpline (I so wish my Italian were proficient enough to communicate my disdain and rage, but somehow “I am not content” and “I do not like this not function, fix now” doesn’t really cut it).

9:02-9:05 I try 10 more ways to make the Internet work. Willing it to work is one of them.

9:06-9:08 More cursing. I make sure to include some Italian words.

9:09-9:30 I run out of bad words I know in other languages, so I look for something to do offline. I read a few magazine articles and a chapter of a book I’m almost finished with. I check the modem and router every few minutes to see if the lights are on. No dice.

9:31-10:59 I’m booooored.

11:00-11:02 Telecom Italia actually calls me back, which is highly unusual. The nice lady tells me Monday is an Italian holiday and the soonest they can send a technician out is Tuesday morning. FINE.

11:03-1:00 I pay too much for a day of terrible Internet access, via my USB Internet key from Vodafone. I barely get everything done that I need to before it gets tired and stops loading pages.

Update: Our wonderful neighbor kindly gave us the password to his wifi so I could use it as a back-up when ours misbehaves.

Our Internet started working again on Friday evening and continued to do so throughout the weekend. Tuesday morning, around the time the technician was supposed to stop by, a rep from Telecom Italia called and said, “It appears that your Internet is working again. Is this correct?” I said, “Yes, it is working for the moment…” and she said she was canceling my appointment and hung up.

An hour later, the Internet shut down again. You’re dead to me, Telecom Italia.

Photo credit

April 28, 2011   5 Comments

I Love Italy Days

It’s hard to believe, but we have lived in Naples for almost four months. In that time, we have traveled as much as possible, gotten lost countless times despite our best efforts and eaten enough mozzarella di bufala to spoil us for life.

mozzarella di bufala

In short, I like living here. A lot. When I tell other Americans that, some look at me the way you might look at a sweet but naïve five year old who can’t wait to go back for her second day of school.

“Oh, honey, just wait,” they say. “You’ll see in about a year.” Then they usually launch into all the reasons this place will drive you crazy and why they can’t wait to move back to a civilized place like Norfolk.

I get it. This place can drive you crazy if you let it; I can see that already. The trash problem is completely out of control and probably always will be. The streets are dirty, the government is corrupt, it takes forever to get anything done and you have to lock your house up like a fortress to attempt to keep your stuff from getting stolen.

These are all valid complaints. They are also complaints I have heard about New Orleans over the last 10 years. It took time for me to get used to that crazy city and its quirks, but I grew to love it fiercely, even defensively, and I have a feeling Naples will be a similar kind of relationship. It’s that old rule: I can complain about my crazy family, but if anyone else does, them’s fightin’ words.

I have had days (and will probably have many more) where I am frustrated and not enamored with bella Napoli — after the fifth insane driver cuts me off at 100 miles an hour (or whatever that is in kilometers, I still don’t know) or the Telecom Italia technician fails to come by to fix our wireless Internet for the second week in a row. I call these my “I don’t love Italy days.”

But then the next day, I will eat the best pizza I’ve ever had in my entire life. Or I will have a life-changing experience with a cappuccino. Or the little old lady at the butcher shop will call me “una bella ragazza” and compliment me on my toddler Italian. Or we will take a day trip down the Amalfi Coast and visit impossibly beautiful towns. These are my “I love Italy days,” and they are definitely winning.

March 30, 2011   8 Comments

Time Flies

We threw a rockin’ party in New Orleans exactly two years ago today (some of you were there, but your memories might be a little hazy… that New Orleans is a saucy minx).

wedding singer

Ring any bells?

Spoiler alert: turns out, Brian and I also got married somewhere in between the eating and the drinking and the dancing. Fantastic idea.


Then we moved to one side of the world…


… and then to the other.

Yep, it’s been a good two years. Sign me up for a few more.

January 17, 2011   3 Comments

Movin’ On Up

Hey, remember that time we moved to Italy?

pozzuoli town

Pozzuoli town

pozzuoli town 2

Waterfront Pozzuoli

Yeah… that was awesome.

We fell in love with the first place we looked at, signed the lease before Christmas and officially moved in after traveling over the holidays. So this is home now.

We are still figuring out the little things, like how to leave the house without tripping the (very loud) alarm or where to drop our trash or when the phone and Internet services will actually start working, but it has been an easier transition than expected.

We have electricity, heat and running water, and I have a USB Internet key for my laptop that works most of the time (thank the Baby Jesus). Our household goods shipment from Hawaii won’t arrive until the end of January or beginning of February, but we have loaner furniture from the Navy to get us by in the meantime. Of course we still speak next to no Italian, but we’re working on it, and our adorable landlords, Luigi and Eva, and Luigi’s brother who lives next door have been unfailingly kind and patient and helpful in trying to understand us and going out of their way to get us settled.

And when things get rough, I can just go out onto the terrace, drink a glass of wine and gaze at the Mediterranean.

living room

Living room

living room 2

Dining room portion of the living room

living room terrace

Doors onto the living room terrace

living room terrace 2

kitchen 2



kitchen window

View out the kitchen window


Stairs (this is the first time I’ve ever lived in a two-story house)

guest room

There isn’t anything in the guest room at this point, except a dresser, a wardrobe and an air mattress (for guests who arrive before the bed does).

guest room 2

guest room view

View out the guest room window


Our bedroom

bedroom 2

bedroom terrace

Bedroom terrace


Rooftop terrace (you’d better believe we’re putting a huge table up here for dinner parties when the weather gets nice… and when we have friends)

roof 3

Views from rooftop terrace

roof 2

Buon Anno from bella Italia! Come visit soon.

January 6, 2011   8 Comments

Aloha Hawaii, Buon Giorno Italia

After an excruciating, seemingly neverending game of billet roulette, Brian and I have emerged victorious. We’re moving to Italy, baby! We win! (Of course, our back-up plan was to stay here in Hawaii, so there was no real “losing” in this scenario… I do so hate losing.)


Pozzuoli, the gorgeous little town outside Naples where we hope to live

Brian initially got assigned to a sweet shore duty job in Pearl Harbor, which would have allowed him to have a fairly normal schedule– reasonable hours, no more duty days and large blocks of time off. It was a great job in a great location, but we were still a little disappointed. I know, who is disappointed by living in Hawaii for two more years? Call us spoiled and ungrateful, but we really had our hearts set on living abroad.

On to Plan B: Brian threw his hat in the ring for a flag aide position (working for an admiral) in Naples and, after a lot of “oh no, it’s not available anymore,” “oh yes, it is,” he applied, interviewed and got the job. So we’re moving to Naples! For three years! I have been speaking in exclamation points a lot lately because I’m so excited. I can’t wait to learn a new language, live in a new country, travel like crazy and eat and drink everything in sight. Mmm, pizza, gelato, mozzarella, wine, limoncello, gnocchi. Did I mention Naples is a stone’s throw away from Rome, Capri and the Amalfi Coast? Cannot. Wait. It is going to be an incredible experience, and I feel like we just won the lottery.

There are only a couple drawbacks:

1. We move really soon… in a month to be exact. It’s hard to process the fact that we have to leave this amazing place and our awesome friends so soon. Plus, we have a very long list of things we have to do before moving two oceans away, which is a little stressful (we have a “fun” to-do list and a “not fun” to-do list; guess which one is longer). We had hoped to have a few more months to say a proper farewell, but we’ll make the most of our remaining time.

2. It will be sad to be so far away from friends and family for so long. I’m sure I will have bouts of homesickness, and it will be tough not being able to fly home as frequently as I can here. California and Hawaii will be quite a trek from Italy, but on the bright side, we will actually be closer to East Coast and Southern friends and family than we are now. We also expect (demand, really) lots of visitors. We have had more than 25 people visit us in the year and a half we’ve lived in Hawaii, so we hope for even better showing in Naples. Consider that a challenge, folks. This time we’ll make everyone sign a guest book.

My head is still spinning, but it’s finally starting to sink in. I’ll write more as we get closer to the move; in the meantime, please feel free to share any Italy tips or recommendations. Grazie mille!

Photo courtesy of jimmyg‘s Flickr account

October 24, 2010   5 Comments

The 2011 Military Spouse of the Year

The 2010 Military Spouse of the Year has been announced. And… it’s not me. It’s some chick named Lori Bell.

I know. I was shocked and disappointed, too. I really thought this was my year, but Military Spouse magazine had other ideas. Yes, this is a real publication and no, I do not write for it… yet (CALL ME).

I’m sure this Lori character is nice and all, but I want my tiara! It’s my special day!!

2011 military spouse

So it may be a little premature, but I am officially starting my campaign to become the 2011 Military Spouse of the Year. It’s about time I got some recognition for all my dedication and hard work. I probably can’t nominate myself (it would not demonstrate my “servant’s heart”), so I look to you, my fine word jockey friends.

Help me put together the best darn one-sentence nomination those judges have ever seen and show them why I am “equal parts grit and grace.” Bonus points if you mention my tot-baking abilities or if you Photoshop me doing something wholesome. Triple bonus points if you actually have a photo of me doing something wholesome.

You may submit responses in the comments. My favorite gets a mention in my acceptance speech and a bottle of R&R whiskey.

August 5, 2010   8 Comments

Billet Roulette

Well, folks, it’s that time again. Brian and I have lived in Hawaii for a little over a year, which means it’s now time for us to determine where we’ll be living this time next year.

Brian is approaching his fourth year in the Navy and the end of his second sea tour. This February, he will be moving to a shore duty assignment, a two-year gig that actually means what the name implies: he will have a job on shore, not attached to a ship, not deploying, not leaving several times a month to go underway. This means we will get to live together all of the time like normal adult married humans. This is good news.

Now we just have to figure out where we’re going to live.


Photo courtesy of stromo’s Flickr photostream

For the last year or two, we’ve been dreaming of the awesome choices we could have. Anything in Western Europe would be ideal since we are both itchin’ to live abroad again, and there are sometimes opportunities in Italy, France, Germany, Spain… it all depends on what’s available at the time. Hawaii is also amazing, and it would not be a punishment to stay here another two years. We’ve been eagerly waiting for Brian’s slate, the list of possible billets and their locations, for months now, and it finally arrived last week. And… it’s OK.

It’s a pretty sparse selection of places we are excited about. There are only two jobs in Hawaii, and it turns out the odds of getting a good international billet are much higher if you sign a piece of paper vowing to stay in for a ship’s department head tour after shore duty (which Brian is not prepared to do). We can still put a few of those options (in Italy, France, Chile and Germany! WANT.) down on our list of top 10 preferences, but who knows what our chances are.

There are still a few other domestic choices we would be fine with– San Diego, Monterey, Bremerton (near Seattle)– but it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed with the idea of returning to the West Coast when Italy and France have been sneaking into my dreams lately. I feel spoiled and guilty even being picky when we’ve been so lucky with our location so far, but Navy life has been a bumpy ride at times. The Navy could try to make it up to me by buying me some flowers, a nice bottle of cabernet and paying for me to live in Europe for two years. Is that really so much to ask?

I also feel a little insane because, throughout all of this, I get really sad when I think about leaving Hawaii. I’m happy here. I love our friends, I love our town, I love being able to swim in the ocean in the dead of winter. Two more years of this would be incredible. We could settle in more, and we wouldn’t have to start from scratch making new friends in a new place. But… if we had the chance, I couldn’t resist the temptation of moving to another country and potentially learning a new language. That clever north wind is always trying to lure me to the next adventure.

Ultimately, the final decision isn’t up to us anyway. We put in our preferences, roll the dice and see what the Navy decides to give us. It’s crazy to think that this list will determine the next two years of our lives, but maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have to make the tough decision ourselves. Our final list is due at the end of the month, and we should have our answer by the middle of July. Fingers crossed, let the billet roulette begin…

June 22, 2010   7 Comments