Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Italy Versus Ecuador

I talked to Madelaine, a student at my pilates class today. I learned that she spends the summers in Italy. Her husband teaches art to MICA students in Montegiovi, a small town in the Maremma, not far from Grossetto, and therefore not too far from Montemassi, where my sister Karen had a home for fifteen years. Madeleine was familiar with Castiglione della Pescaia, with the sculpture garden of Niki San Phalle, with the Etruscan villages throughout the valley. It was surprising to encounter someone who is has intimate knowledge of a part of the world that I have visited many many times in my life! It also happens to be one of my absolute favourite parts of the world.

Madeleine is very enthusiastic about my plans to move to Ecuador. I expressed my envy at her yearly two month sojourn in Tuscany. For Madeleine summers in Italy are ordinary, and a year in Ecuador is exotic and a great adventure. I would move to Italy in an instant if it were possible. I suggested to Eric that he take a sabbatical in Italy, but it appeared the opportunities were limited. For Eric, there was really no other choice but Ecuador. The electric fish that he investigates happen to come from the Amazon, he feels comfortable in Quito and in the jungle and after visiting at least once yearly, he knows so many people there, perhaps more than he knows in Baltimore!

I would be excited about a year in Italy, but am equally thrilled with a year in South America. I am not sure I would describe it as exotic. It is certainly new and different and adventuresome and life changing. Our lives will never be the same after this year away. We will have an entirely new perspective on our lives and the world. We will learn another language, adjust to a new culture, experience all sorts of obstacles and perspectives. I wonder if we can come home again. Of course, we will be coming home, Eric has no choice with regard to Johns Hopkins and the rules of the sabbatical. But I do have this fantasy or suspicion that we may fall in love with our lives in Quito and not want to return.

I spoke with a woman who had spent a year with her husband and daughter in Otavalo. She was a patient of a colleague of mine. She was incredibly nostalgic about her year in Ecuador and was worried about her daughter, who wanted desperately to return. She had only good things to say about the people and the culture and the experience.

My excitement is mounting. I feel incredibly lucky. Italy, Ecuador, both beckon.

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