Life in the desert land.

Life in Palm Springs has been getting busier and busier each year. People from all over the world are flocking to the desert more and more, even in the heat of the summer.

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Especially, at the present time, when Springs are in full bloom here (with perfect temperature) and the town has big events one after another which bring huge crowds after crowds. Needless to say, L’olivo and all the businesses around town are in the peak of the high season.

Beside seeing our friends and local residents every weekend, again, we have the opportunities to meet so many more wonderful new friends from every corner of the world too, which make each day a fantastic day for us to come to work. We love to chat and getting to know and learn so many things from people and places we haven’t got a chance to be there, especially, from the many states of the United State.

By talking to them, they inspire us to make plan to travel and see different states this year in summer.

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We, of course, learn some sad news as well about some of our friends who have been going through some major changes and we hope that all will be for the better and good things will be the results at the end. Our hearts and prayers are with you each and everyday my dears.

All of us from L’olivo also want to express our thanks to other new customers as well for your time with us. Each day here, we still strive to make your time with us pleasant moment and each meal a delicious taste of Italy that you can never forget.

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Thank you again to all of you and wish each time you visit the desert, life here will bring you back again every year and embrace you with pleasure and happiness.

Ha-Noi, life after destruction.

April 30th 1975, the day North “Viet-cong” took over the South and planted their flag on the roof of the South President’s residence, I was only 12 years old.

Being born in South before that date, meaning I and that same 60′ generation had no idea what is Ha-noi and who were living in that region. Of course, through propaganda, which both sides of the country used during the ugly war, I had very bad images of people and still can remember how cruel and savaged the way they described Viet-cong. I am sure, those pictures and videos of the old days which I saw are true somehow and the Americans as well as million fallen soldiers from the South will never ever forget. However, just like any war that happens at any time and in any corner of the world, it’s never good for any party and for any reason. No matter what people from different point of view say and do, war is very, very cruel, destructive and deadly for humanity.

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Ha-noi, the capital of Vietnam is one of the longest witness of this human-made tragedy. Declared its Independence by King Tran Hung Dao in 1012 AD after thousand years of fighting for freedom against China invasion, the Hanois  again, fought with French colony, Japan during II world war, and then the long and brutal American Vietnam war which ended April 30th 1975.

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It has been almost 40 years of hard working and rebuilding the country, and they are doing a very good job I must say. But everywhere we went, we could still see the evidences and remnants of war. The destructions were so massive and severe that it probably will take another 10 years to erase all these scars. The Vietnamese people no matter from North or South (or any where in between the two regions) are very, very hard workers and they are very, very patient and sacrificing . With these ingrained values, I have no doubt that very soon, the country will improve and life will be much better for all of them.

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Beside, it’s a pleasure and excitement to see and watch how these people work with their skillful hands. We find magnificent artworks and beautiful hand crafts every where we turned. Beside art and craft, the city is filled with little restaurants and cafes and tailor shops. People can work anywhere and at any time of the day for very little money. But then, that little money will be spent not for a big TV, or car, or travel, or for any luxurious reason. They mostly will be for simple delicious meals for the family, school and clothes for children, and the taking care of their elderly parents. I know because, as a Vietnamese myself, I and my siblings were trained from very young ages that it is a tradition of thousand years old and we all saw for that day that it is still carried on even in the modern day.

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Ruggero was not impressed much with the North due to the different taste of food and the poor transportations. Yes, it is still very limited and difficult to move around here. Even me and my sisters were frustrated and scared of the bumpy roads as we traveled from city to city. But for us, to be able to set our feet on Ha-noi and saw for ourselves after all these years, it was satisfying and concluding at last.

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Sapa, the magical land.

One step on the land of this mountainous region, one can never forget the magic of Sapa.

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It took 10 hours by train to reach this far away land from Hanoi. A very rough, tiring and somewhat dangerous journey for us actually. Though, I heard that the government has spent great efforts to improve transportations for the sake of local and tourism during the last 10 years, but from my point of view, it probably will take another 10 years to bring this roads up to the standards of the modern world. The question is: Should the roads be more opened to these destructive foreigners or should this pure land of magic be conserved the way it has been for thousand years?

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I have heard of these H’ Mong tribal since I was very, very young in Vietnam, and then watched a movie made by Clint Eastwood several years ago in California about the culture of this people. Yet the face to face meeting with them is what brought me to my feet.

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Originally, thousands years ago (the tour guy told me the exact era, but I can’t remember, sorry) this H’Mong tribe is from the far South of China. During the war between the Chinese Emperor and the Lords of tribes, a small group of H’Mong civilians ran down South and reached the border of Vietnam, Sapa. From a small group, hiding among the mountains, years by years, they reclaimed, developed these wild mountains and built their lives.

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Due to the geography and climate, life here is forever unpredictable. Every year, stories of tragedy happen again and again. Like the day we were there, we heard many houses were swept away by floods and heavy rains. People were homeless and devastated. Yet, the next morning, tree trunks, palm leaves, bricks were brought to the rescue and we witnessed locals were gathering together to rebuild again and to help out the ones in-need.

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During two days visiting, we saw mostly women as they are the main bread-makers of the family. Women here do everything, cultivating rice, harvesting, sewing, shopping for food, cooking and of course, raising children. Beautiful and inspiring women I must say. We all were shocked as we were greeted in English while we approached the village of RED  TRIBAL on one of the mountain (the other, BLACK TRIBAL) They are recognized for the way women dresses here. Red Tribal people wears red and black clothe, while the other wearing black and anything else but red.

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I asked how did they speak English so well and was told just by talking with foreigners. Not many citizens in Hanoi (capital of Vietnam) speak fluent English like these women, I noticed. Naturally, they speak their own native language (not Chinese), Vietnamese and now English. That is quite impressive for people who live so far away from the cities and who walking around all day up and down the mountains with children on their backs.

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Well, life is still very, very poor in the villages. Ruggero was shocked to see how they live and how people managed to go around. Step inside one house, we were brought back immediately to centuries ago. The way people sleeps, cooks, entertain and commutes.

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Now and there, we spot couple girls who start to learn the new modern way of life and be able to talk and learn more about their culture which was nice.

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It was exhausting the day we came back home to Saigon from the train, but it’s worthy all the troubles. I pray and hope that soon, stability and comfort will be there in Sapa for all these lovely and beautiful people to enjoy life and to lift the burden off the backs of these magical women. For us, they will forever in our hearts and minds.

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Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Before I start, I just want to let you know that the dates on the right corner of the following pictures are all wrong. I was trying to fix the loadings from the camera the night we traveled to Hanoi and I messed it up. All by myself with this old camera, I had no choice but to keep using it. So please ignore the dates.

The last three days we have been fighting with the cold as the weather here is quite extreme. It rains almost everyday and very humid. The early morning and evening have been nice and cool, however, start from 11am till 6pm, the hot temperature of 91F (around 32′ ) combines with humidity are not pleasant. We sweated a lot no matter how little clothe we put on. Poor Roger, as an European here and his age, he is having a hard time to adjust to the weather and food. The fact that he can’t have seafood (due to Allergy) is quite a problem here. Everywhere we go, people serve seafood and fish. Of course, there are poultry and meat, yet he can’t take the strong flavor and spice. Like I mentioned before, luckily we find ingredients from the super markets which we can prepare food for him at my sister home.

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There are Italian restaurants and Pizza spots almost every where in Saigon (Hanoi a few). I have been encouraged Ruggero to try many time, but all I have are firm head shakings and skeptical looks :”What the hell they (Vietnamese cooks) know about Italian food!…Let me enjoy my own Spaghetti at home.” He said after staring at the menu outside the restaurant and then just walked straight ahead. I gave up after so many attempts.

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Well, after three days of resting, we all recovered and are feeling better after a week of intensive traveling on the roads. There were four popular locations we visited in the North region, Halong Bay, Pagoda in Ninh Binh, Sapa and Hanoi. I will post pictures of each location in each post so you can see. The first is Halong bay, about 4 hours driving West from Hanoi.

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We had heard of the beauty of Ha Long Bay years ago, and finally, we could see for ourselves why it has been approved as one among world wonders on the Unesco list.

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There are total over 1500 little islands around this bay. Most of them look just like little mountains floating on the water as we passed by. Some have caves which existed thousands years ago and are opened to the public now for tourists to see.

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Along our way, you can see fisher men and women approached the boat to sell local food and fishes they catched from the ocean.

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That day, I was so lucky to witness a stream of flying fishes passing by the boat as i was standing by the edge to take pictures. The white shining silver refection from the sun and their bodies combined with the sound of the whistling water as hundreds of them flying and touching down on the surface of the water was unbelievable. It was like a vision of Paradise in just a blink of the eyes and then vanished. I think there were two other men on the boat witnessed as I heard their exclaims same time I did. Like a fairy tale, that’s all I can say.

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On the way back, one of my sister and I saw also two long beautiful jelly fishes swimming along our boat. But again, they were faster than my camera like the other flying fishes disappeared just like a dream in front of our eyes.

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Well, the witnessing of these fantastic creatures alone was worth a million time after all this troubles of traveling half the earth to come to Ha Long Bay that day. The rest of the day was beautiful as well as you can see in the pictures. Wish you all could see what I saw, but I hope these pictures can show a fraction of it.

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The sky is the limit.

In Vietnam, we have a saying: “A day on the road, a bucket of wisdom.” Ruggero and I, each has different kind of passion for life. But when it comes to travel, it doesn’t take long for us to pack and leave. We love so much the far away horizon and are always hungry and thirsty for worldwide knowledge and wisdom.

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I was not very young when I left Vietnam (about 28 years old) But because of the war and all its tragic consequences (I don’t understand why people still want to make war nowaday???) My family as well as many millions of Southern Vietnamese had no idea what is Ha-noi look like? How the people and their culture survive the Bombings and what is the surrounding Northen regions. The last several days, even if it was a short time, but we were amazed of what we found. I would love to write and show more of the images and experience each day if I could. The problem is the tour schedules are so tiring and fast. We are constantly on the go and non-stop which left me exhausted at nights. I try to upload a few for now and will write a report in detail later when we get back to Saigon (in two days).

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I am still upset with myself for losing my camera as each day I am struggling to take pictures and videos of the places we passed. The equipments I borrowed from my family here are quite outdated and complicated. The quality is also not very good sometime which made me more sad. Well at least I have got something to work with, so thanks a lot to them.

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Ruggero as you can see is having a very good time seeing different culture and knowledge. It has been not a very pleasant trip by the way. Some roads are very, very rough and ugly, even dangerous sometime. Especially when we traveled far up North near the border of China. Nevertheless, as soon we reached the destinations, what we discovered and enjoyed are worth all the troubles. The only thing that make me worry is the food around here. For me and my sisters, at least we were born here in Vietnam, so far we are adjusted to the new tastes and environments. Ruggero is another story. He is not crazy for the food here. We have to order separated dishes for him and he has been on kind of a vegetarian diet for the last several days. I think he is missing his usual Spaghetti Pomodoro and Aglio (which I could make for him myself in Saigon at my sister house)

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Well, two more days we will be back to Saigon so he can rest and enjoy his native food. Another rough day ahead on the road, this time with train. Will let you know how it goes.

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A lasting love in a forever-changing world.

So I am back. Standing here at the balcony on the third floor of the house where my mother used to raise us, I and my siblings, with her love and life, and then it is the very troubling house that we all had to desperately run away from it some thirty years ago. For me, it is almost twenty three years, exactly to the date in seven weeks.

My goal was to post the first blog a week ago. Unfortunately, I experienced few troubles the last several days as soon we arrived to the airport in LAX. I don’t know whether it was because of the overwhelming joy of seeing my family after so many years, or because of the jet lag…It has been very hard for me to keep my hazy brain focused. As a result, first I lost my Ipad, then the only camera we brought along.

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Thanks to my intelligent nephew at home who happens to be an engineer in computer, finally, I had some decent tools to get back to my blog and writing. The internet is very slow also, so it takes three time longer and harder to get to each loading. Well, beside from all these set backs, Ruggero and I have had a good and exciting time so far, especially so for him.

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I can see the amazed look in his eyes as soon as we arrived to my sister home in Saigon that very first night. And the astonishing looks just keep on going as each day passing by. As I had mentioned in the previous blog, Saigon (now is called Ho Chi Ming city) is no where pleasant and gorgeous like Milano or Rome, instead life here is still very difficult and unpleasant for some millions Vietnamese around here. Half of the population is still doing any work for any little pay just to survive day by day. The other half, well, not rich but quite a happy and peaceful life I can see. The truth is, people here are not demanding and complaining at all. They are living each day so happy and contented with just hearty healthy meals and surrounding themselves with love and kindness. They are so humble, respectful and caring in every way and to people around them, especially so to their own family and neighbors. Ask Ruggero now and he will tell you right away how he recognizes that just by watching the public in traffic and by crossing the streets himself. In fact, the most thing he enjoys among others so far is siting on the balcony on the second floor every night and morning, observing how the Vietnamese live and behave among each other.

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As I am writing this blog, it is the 8th day of our trip and we are already in a hotel in Ha Noi (Northern Vietnam). Tomorrow, we will set out for a suburban area called Ninh-Binh and then move on to the next after that. As we move along, I hope I will find outlet and time for this blog, so please be patient with me for awhile.

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The last picture I show is where we visited my mother grave yard with my sisters. I still have to figure out how to upload more pictures and videos so you can see more of Vietnam. But for now, it’s time I have to get ready for breakfast so that the trip will begin as the bus is coming at 7:30 am (I have been up since 3am). Hope to get back to you all as soon as I can.

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A moment in time.

Finally, it’s that moment in time when all the noises, the heavy breathing from sweat, the races against time, the dizzy flashing thought rushing through the brain and all other life requirements…come to a complete stop. Even just for a short moment like this morning as I woke up and sat quietly in the swing chair at the back yard with my coffee joining the harmony with my little friends. PEACE, at last!…Ahhhhhh.

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First of all, I’d like to express our gratitude to all of our friends both from here in America (especially, local patrons) and many others from around the globe for your time and time again visits to L’Olivo. We deeply treasure your friendships and supports to us throughout the year. It’s your very happy smiles and the warm embraces that keep us up and running days after days, after all.

It has been a year period personally for me to reach this moment actually. A very hard working and productive year (at L’Olivo) as usual, I can say that to myself without hesitation. Some of our friends and family members criticize sometime that we work too hard and not enjoying life enough. It’s probably true of what they say. But personally for me, to live a fully meaningful life means to be productive and creative in every way and at every moment in time if I can. So then, I can’t help but keep on creating, producing and accomplishing. Even if sometime it’s just a small and simple project like cleaning the entire house the last couple days. I am tired. But at the end of the day, the experience of accomplishment is very pleasant.

Two more days before our trip abroad, obligations are finished (for awhile), invoices are paid in time, commitments fulfilled, I can reward myself sitting here in silence and have a little time for refection on the past year.

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The very first thought that came to my mind this morning was to send an apology to all of our friends and family members around the globe. I am asking you all for forgiveness for the blank blog and the silence over the year. It’s not because I was too busy working even though it’s true. But the main reason was that I realized I had not any important or worthy story to write about. Certainly, if I have chances to spend sometime with some friends and family, I sure will have endless of life subjects to discuss with that someone in person, with great pleasure. However, since I realized that blogging (or Facebook) is not a very good place for me to be personal, I had some doubt and stopped. I still keep L’Olivo Facebook page active and updating news and facts every week. It’s one of my obligations I have to keep. Because that’s how business goes. As for blogging, it has got to have something good to write about. Otherwise, it just a waste of time for the public and mine as well.

Well, this conversation today is not meant to say goodbye or to announce the end of L’olivo Palm Springs blog just yet. Perhaps someday in the future it will end just like life always does. I certainly will let everyone know when that time comes. At the present time, especially during the next few weeks, as we are preparing and start packing for Vietnam. I think I will have something interesting and some stories worth to write about. This will be a very special trip for both of us. As for Ruggero, it will be quite an adventure as this is his first time to Asia. And for me, it is a long over due time to go back to my root to pay respect and to amend the broken hearts which left wounded for over two decades since I left home after the war.

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Well, look forward to carry everyone with us throughout this journey through this blog.

The room where the web was invented cc: @timberners_lee

Originally posted on Matt on Not-WordPress:

Tim Berners-Lee was originally in the office on the right (with the below sign on it) and then moved to the one on the left with the world’s first web server, at CERN in Switzerland / France (technically on the French side).

There’s no marking or anything on the doors, and they’re just used as normal offices by CERN. The people inside looked confused we were so excited to be there and taking pictures. :)

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Flowing with the winds of life.

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The last two month was quite a journey for me, personally and professionally. Back at the end of September, I was still in the midst of some deep depression. I struggled to get out of this moody period by finding an outlet for all that bottomed feeling inside me. Then, I found an ideal goal, PHO!

PHO’s a very popular Vietnamese soup that has become a trend for lunch in America lately. I was surprised to see a pretty enthusiastic reaction from our clients as well as many new comers during the last three weeks. It took a lot of time and efforts to create the menu, the prep line, the trainings and inventories to bring it to life though. There were exhausting days and sleepless nights I had to go through. But as of today, after three weeks of serving PHO at L’Olivo, we are steadily and surely on our way to a brand new future for all of us. We all feel so good about it and most importantly, it benefits everyone (L’olivo workers and customers alike) in the long run. That’s including myself of course. Thanks to the demanding of this new line of lunch menu, I have been so busy that I have no time to think or to be sad any more. And it’s exactly what I needed to move on with my life in a meaningful way. I am glad I did!

Meanwhile, as Ruggero started his new batches of Salami and sausages for the coming seasons, the rhythm of life in Palm Springs has slowly started to come back. First in line was the motor bike weekend to kick off the season (in mid October). Then, the annual Gay Pride Parade (November 4th).

Just three days ago (November 11th) , was the Veteran Parade. We, the workers at L’olivo had our chances to salute and cheer to each and every members of those celebrations. The whole town was coming out to welcome and showed their supports to their loved ones and the causes they hold dear to their hearts, which I could see clearly on the faces, the smiles and the warm-hearted waving. The fireworks in the sky at the end of all this celebrations reminded me so much of the grand and great life that embraces us all and how precious this life on earth is to every human, no matter who we are.

After all said and done, all works, duties, responsibilities fulfilled, in the end though, it is still the emotion, the feeling that give our life meaning to live for. That is when I have to return to my family, my children, my sweet memories of Italy and the loving people in that faraway land, and especially now, to our good friends here in America. We have many, many acquaintances and good friends here, but closed friends! just within the few fingers. We treasure these friendships greatly as if they are our brothers and sisters. I would like to introduce you to two of them, two very special friends of us who recently just came from Seattle and visited us last week. Brook and his wife, Sharron (and Tom and Marcia, two other closed friends as well), walked into L’olivo door some three years ago and we fell in love immediately the very first moment we talked to each other. Beside being a great successful business man in Seattle, Brook is a very passionate, generous and loving father and husband of his family. Above all that, he is the most charming and funny guy I have ever known as well. Just look at the picture and you will see what I mean. Brook was wearing the costume he made for himself at a Halloween party recently near his residence, and Carol was a wild motor-bike lady with (fake) tattoos. Knowing who he really is, I laughed so much the night he emailed me the picture that I had to thank him for that precious pleasure. You’re great Brook!

So, tomorrow will be another busy day for us, and Holidays as you know, are coming fast. If you don’t hear from me for a while, you know, just like you we are busy working and living the beautiful life as much as you do. Mostly, only our friends and family members from both sides of the earth will read L’olivo ‘s blog. But if you happen to find this page through the Google engine, I thank you though for reading this blog and hopefully it gives you some thought and meaningful moments. Goodbye to all of you now, as the winds are waiting outside to carry us up and away for the next gorgeous and busy days. CIAO!…

The Italy we left behind.

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Knowing that it would be difficult to fall back to reality and even though I have been very well prepared to fight back the depression that hit me so bad a year ago. This morning, as we woke up, I am struck again.

Well, at least I found out that I am not the only one who have this problem, really. A close friend of mine, Steve, who not long ago, had a resident in Italy. So he and his wife used to travel back and forth between Rome and Los Angeles. He had exactly the same symptoms. Steve did tell me that after many, many years of overcoming the same feeling and the depression, he finally got over it.  Fortunately, I have Ruggero next to me throughout all the journeys from the start and unlike me, he is dealing with it more easily. Except, he’s sometime mumbling to my ears: “Now, don’t make it worse honey!”

The moment began this morning as I was unpacking our suitcases and walking around the empty rooms to put things away. Each item which we bought or got from different city and region reminding me so much of the day, the time, the moment and the experience we had. The images are so vivid and the feeling  are still so raw inside which make me feel like I were still there, in the past few weeks. I remember the laughing and intimate conversations over the hot coffees in the small cozy kitchen of our friends, Dario and Miriam in Fregene. I still feel the warm embraces, kisses, and the feeling of joy in the eyes as we greeted our family members in the little apartment in Milan. I still can feel the cool wind brushing on my face the days we were racing through from village to village. The sweet taste of the Marocchino (my favorite coffee with just a little of espresso with lots of hot foamed milk) I had each day (sometime twice a day) The lunches and delicious dinners accompanied by passionate and loving chats with friends (both old and some new) in Cava Manara, Pavia…

The romantic rainy day in Milan, the bus tour to Brescia, Crema to watch our “Pavia Ragazzi” playing soccer against the other “Ragazzi di Crema”, the party dinner after to celebrate, the peaceful and leisurely walks at midnight at the square of Stradella, Pavia, the meetings with Claudio, the owner of Antico Roseto in Arena Po at the restaurant supply and the restaurant itself (www.ristoranteanticoroseto.it)…I remember them all.

Well, one thing for sure we both agree this year is that we have learned a lot more bout Italy and its Peoples. Even Ruggero told me that this time, seeing and talking more with his fellow Italians, has helped him to open his eyes and mind about Italy and his root, the birth country he has left over fifty years ago. Back then and even until the last year, he had a very bad opinion about his own country (except all that beautiful cultures which he loves and is proud of) Today, with confidence, he is more in love and at peace with the place where he was born. I am so glad I am the witness of that.

I can see what make him changes. Being all over the places with him the last three weeks in Italy, we have seen for ourselves the beautiful and simple life of Italy. Sure, Everybody knows and talks about “The Crisis”. We have heard about some business closed down, someone we know soon will lose his or her job. Some business sales have been slowed down…Yet, every Saturday and Sunday, people go dancing, shopping, having lunches and dinners at local restaurants with family and friends. Everywhere we go, no matter if it is the magnificent “Il Duomo di Milano” or just a street fair at a small village up on the hills…what struck us is the crowds of Italian and how they enjoy and embrace the moment of everyday’s affair.

They still go fishing and take sun at a river bank near by the village, some go to the sea. The guys still compete at a local stadium for the silver cup award. People still hang out at the coffee bars during the street fair every weekend. I know a man who after so many years still volunteer to offer his time couple days a week at the ambulance service in Milan hospital. Another fine man we met on a train as we were leaving Rome, Paolo D’ Isanto (disanto-paolo / facebook) still acting professionally as a clown to help sick people recover in the hospitals around Rome…Beautiful peoples, beautiful places.

There will be difficult days and very hard working days awaiting us. But we are ready to face the new challenges. I have learned a lot from the Italians this trip that no matter how hard life would be for both of us, all we have to do is to embrace every moment of life, to be happy with just simple pleasure that nature has offered to humankind and most importantly, to treasure the loving bonds of true good friends and family member (both here in America and Italy) that we are so fortunate to have. Yes, deeply and passionately I love them all, just as I love Italy.

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