Mr A and Ms. V roll off a plane in Milan with two suitcases and two backpacks. It’s evening, noone’s there to meet them at the airport. They only kinda know where they’re going, but eventually get to their new digs: student halls. After a bit of faff, a grumpy porter and some broken Italian, it is established that Mr A and Ms. V are allowed to stay. Phew.
Mr A and Ms. V survey their room. Two single beds. Two metal desks. One cupboard. One bathroom. One shared kitchen with no food, crockery or cooking utensils for them to use. No-one in sight bar a couple of grumpy and lonely-looking Middle Eastern students. Turns out everyone else is still on holiday.
Mr A and Ms. V spend the next three days wandering around Milan in the rain, sheltering in cafés and eating take-away pizza for dinner. At one point Ms. makes the monumental faux-pas of ordering a "café latte" and is served a raised eyebrow and a cup of hot milk. You have a lot to learn, kids.
On 10th January Mr. A start his new job as a PhD student. Ms. V tags along because there’s no internet connection in their room, and she can’t bear to be on her own. Fortunately it’s hard to feel lonely when there are Italians around; everyone at the office immediately says hello and a fair few reveal their life story, complete with romantic woes, within the first 5 seconds.
Fast forward to 7th January 2014.
60 m2 one-bed flat. Cosy in winter, steaming hot in summer. Has ugly brown furniture, but also fibre-optic internet. Is tiny and full to the brim, but has a view. Oh my, does it have a view.
Ooh where to begin.
Mr. A and Ms. V have become Mr. and Mrs. P&P AND made a mini-P&P.
They go on playdates and talk about parenting woes in Italian.
They jump on cheap local trains and explore the lakes at the weekends.
They eat gelato in summer, panettone in winter, and quite fancy brioche + capuccio for breakfast.
They feel like they know what they are doing, what they are talking about, when friends and family visit from abroad.
They decide to stay for another 18 months.
Mr. P&P is about to start a post-doc, once he squeezes out the last couple of chapters of his thesis. Rattles off endless sentences about lasers and pulse pickers in Italian.
Mrs. P&P freelances as a translator. Doesn’t earn anywhere near as much as she used to in her previous life, but then she only works about 8 months out of every 12. Flounces about at conferences, surprised to see she actually knows her stuff and isn’t just a mummy or an expat wife with nothing to do. That, and she knows more kiddie-vocab in Italian than in any other language.
Three years. You’ve come a long way, ragazzi.
Well, it's now been four years since we started our Italian adventure and we've come such a long way that we can't quite imagine going back anymore. So it may well be that, once Mr P&P's contract is up (in a mere 7 months!), we go somewhere totally new. I look forward to wherever this year takes us. But I just hope it won't involve student digs again.