Hello lovely Italian Fix family,
Bianca here. This isn’t a “Letter from the CEO” or “Motivational Help List.”
It’s not an overly optimistic feel-good piece — we just don’t have the stomach for that at the moment.
Keep reading for something way more personal: A day in the life of someone living in Italy right now.
A “real” day in a small Italian village in April 2020 would be rather boring, though. Unless you want to hear about waking up in a 525-square-foot apartment and wrangling two children under 6 within that tiny space for the next 12 hours. So we’re not doing that.
Instead, today you’ll hear from someone on our team who lives in the Cinque Terre. Her name is Kiiri.
When I first moved to Italy, I became friends with a group of expat girls. We all arrived there roughly around the same time, and we were all in our 20s and navigating life with Italian boyfriends and Italian mother-in-laws (we need to write a book on that), and trying to learn the language and get our documents and find jobs and all the things you have to do when you first move to a new country and you’re rather clueless about how to go about it.
Kiiri was one of these girls and was also from Canada. She lived in the village of Riomaggiore, where I met my then-boyfriend-now-husband, so I spent a lot of time there and we had a good friend-circle made up of Italians and expats.
Since we were young and didn’t have kids yet, we burned spare time like we burned calories (easily). We spent a good amount of time doing what you do in Italy — sitting around over endless outdoor aperitivo sessions in people’s homes, gardens, restaurants and bars.
Fast forward about a decade and things had changed a bit. I had moved from Italy to Canada with husband in tow, had had a baby, built a business called Italian Fix, and was rather very busy, so much so that I just couldn’t (no matter how many late nights I worked) keep on top of everything. So I reached out to Kiiri and said, “Hey, would you be interested in answering emails a few hours a day?”
That was five years ago and now she pretty much runs the whole show. Her official title is Operations Manager and unless you’re one of our clients, you don’t really meet Kiiri or know she is such a driving force around here. She’s the behind-the-scenes ying to my yang.
Kiiri is the glue that sticks all the parts together back here. Running a travel company has an unbelievable amount of moving parts — from client needs and reservations to managing guides and timetables and a content marketing team to making sure my big hairy ideas (‘cause I’m the big dreamer and ideas person) can actually be done and won’t kill us.
So … I’ll let Kiiri take this away!
I’m writing this — and you’re likely reading it — tucked in at home, getting used to the whole social distancing thing.
I live in Italy with my husband and small children, so we’ve been under quarantine for more than three weeks now. The lockdown has been extended beyond its original end date (as we knew it would be) and there’s talk of these measures remaining in place for longer, although we have not been officially told how long. Lockdown here means you have to stay at home, and can only leave your house for essentials like groceries, medical reasons, and work.
It’s pretty surreal, as many of you know now firsthand. A third of the world’s population is also under coronavirus restrictions, and so I imagine you might be feeling many of the things I have since this all began.
Here’s the range of emotions that I (and most of the Italians I know) have experienced in varying degrees.
Fear, of course. This is a scary time. Just before the national lockdown, I got spooked and considered hopping with my kids on the next plane out of here, leaving my husband (who is not a Canadian citizen) behind. In the end we decided it was safer to stay put, but in that moment my fear was pushing me to act impulsively, to get on top of it, to regain some control. It wasn’t until later that I realized that the Cinque Terre is actually a pretty sweet crash pad for waiting out the apocalypse, and I’m glad we didn’t make a mad run for it. (I think my husband is too 😉 )
Brain fog — this has been a big one, especially right after things got really serious. We’ve been inundated with so much alarming and rapidly evolving information and massive changes every day, it can be enough to keep your head in a perpetual spin. There are days when it’s difficult to think clearly and to focus, and I know there are a lot of us going through this. Taking big social media and news breaks can go a long way to helping me feel more grounded. It’s not easy to stay away these days though!
Grief. Grief, really? Even if you haven’t personally lost anyone to the virus? Yes, really. Many are saying that our lives will never be the same again after this, but even if you don’t believe that, we’re experiencing loss right now. We’ve lost our freedom of movement, our regular social lives, our work environments, our enjoyment of spring, in some cases our incomes, and our sense of security and normalcy as we know it. Since we don’t know how long this will last and what the world will look like on the other side of it, we might be legitimately mourning what once was.
Exhilaration. Sounds like a weird one, maybe. The world has been put on hold indefinitely. And there is so much that I have been putting on hold, things that I can finally use this time to do. Get rid of all the clutter. Sew up the knees in my 3-year-old’s pants (this kid cannot make it through a day without ripping holes in his clothes). Polish up my languages (or learn a new one!). Learn some cool dance choreography (late at night, when everyone is asleep, with earphones in). Sketch out an idea for a children’s book. I have a feeling I’m going to come out of this quarantine more accomplished, more fulfilled, and BETTER than I was going in.
Joy. In Italy, this forced quarantine has removed so many activities from our day-to-day lives, we have zero choice but to get back to basics, and appreciate those basic things. Like learning. I’ve been listening to every Eckhart Tolle talk I can find and trying to really work on the art of presence. I’m taking the time to teach my daughter to play the piano and make friendship bracelets. I spend my mornings sleepily snuggling with my son instead of racing to get everyone out of the house. I hope to start reading some of the books I’ve bought over the years and never cracked. We are being gifted a chunk of time and because many businesses are closed, many of us are not working. We are being asked to be less busy, and that feels joyful to me.
Laughter. A friend of mine in Toronto was very vocal on social media a couple of weeks ago about people not taking the situation seriously enough. She was seeing footage of crowded beaches over Spring Break and packed bars on St. Patrick’s Day and was furious. I agreed with her. From Italy, it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion. But there was one post of hers I didn’t agree with. She scolded those posting funny memes about the virus, saying that they were inappropriate, and that there was nothing amusing about what was going on. Certainly this is a very somber time. People are dying. More will die. But even in times of utter devastation, we need laughter to diffuse a bit of the pressure, to alleviate some of the horror.
In Italy, WhatsApp’ing each other funny memes and jokes is practically everybody’s full-time job right now. Italians love to take the piss at the best of times, so imagine the material that government-mandated quarantine and endless hours of ruminating on the absurdity of our lives right now is creating.
Here are a few memes that are making the rounds on Italian social media right now (I’ve translated them for you):
What is the first thing you’ll do when the quarantine ends?
At the end of all this all I want to do is hug my parents again and whisper to them: “I’m leaving the kids with you for 24 hours.”
[After it was announced that certain Italian fashion houses would be reconverting production to make medical gear.]
“We Italians might be broke as hell, but tell me, where are you going to find another country where the lab coats are made by Armani, the ventilators by Ferrari, the medical masks by Gucci, and the disinfectant by Bulgari? We’re going to hell but we’re going in style!”
AHEAD OF THEIR TIME.
Me preparing my room for the quarantine.
Here in Milan, we’re going overboard.
And here is one of my faves:
Oh, and I also wanted to share some links with you:
1) The famous opera house in Venice called La Fenice is streaming near daily videos on their Youtube Channel. I love this one. They dedicate it to all of the medical personnel fighting coronavirus on the front lines.
3) You may have seen the singing fests in Italy from balconies.
Here is another. My favorite quote from one of the Youtube commenters is: “people in the world are divided into two categories: Italians, and those who would like to be”
Well, there you have it! Some of the good, bad and the ugly about this situation from my couch to yours.
We’ll make sure to keep our Italian Fix family updated on what’s actually happening in Italy.
We’re here to stay united. Sending good thoughts to wherever in the world you’re reading this.
Kiiri, April 3, 2020. Riomaggiore, Italy.