by Melinda Gallo

A strange thing happens when Iím a few days from my return to Florence: I suddenly begin inserting Italian words into my vocabulary and my beloved city begins to surface more in my mind. Itís almost as if my brain is preparing itself for the switch. Tomorrow Iím returning to Florence after a six-week stay in France. While Iíve been in France, I havenít longed much for my beloved city, but I admit that I have missed it dearly.

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What I have found interesting about speaking a foreign language is how sensitive I have become to everything around the words that a person says. A person can say something to me and I find myself processing the conversation on multiple levels: the actual words, the personís tone of voice, his/her facial expressions and my own emotional reaction to the conversation. I think this sensitivity came about when I initially didnít understand the words in a foreign language: I had to expand my ability to understand a conversation while I caught up with learning the language.

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What a difference a year makes. I read the post I wrote last year when I was in Florence. When the year began, I had no idea what changes were in store for me. Looking back now, itís as if my entire life changed in the blink of an eye even though it felt strenuous at times. This year I stayed in with my beau after having spent a few days in Saint-Malo (Brittany). I loved seeing the water, running along the beach, enjoying the local delicacies, taking in the fresh air, and recharging my batteries before 2013 began.

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This morning when I woke up, the sky was grey. I felt a strong sense of joy inside of me, but a veil of melancholy was definitely present too. At times, however, I find great comfort in sad songs and grey skies. I like the duality of my emotions. I am fine with feeling love and joy pulsate through me while a sense of sadness washes over me. I know that the sadness is not permanent, but I know that I have to let it run its course and not fight it off.

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For the past few days, Iíve been picking back up my daily abitudini (habits) that I have when Iím here in Florence. I go to Vivoli or Giacosa for colazione (breakfast), shop for food in via dei Neri, and visit my friends who work in centro (downtown) when Iím out walking around. One of the nicest feelings is when Iím walking down the street and someone I know calls out to me, ďCiao bella!Ē I love that in Florence, people I know take notice and have even become closer to me now that they see me less habitually.

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This morning when I went to the rosticceria (rotisserie) to buy something for lunch, one of the guys struck up a conversation about my being in France so much. I told him that I was only away for two weeks, but that for my next trip I might be staying away even longer because of the holidays. He said that it must have something to do with the Frenchman I came in with last October. As soon as I smiled, he winked and said that he was happy for me.

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After my brief stay in Florence at the beginning of the month, Iím now back for two weeks. While I was in Paris the last couple of weeks, I felt a bit unsettled. I didnít do anything special for my eight-year anniversary of when I moved back to Florence. I also didnít do celebrate Thanksgiving although my beau treated me to foie gras for dinner. It wasnít until I was in Paris that I realized just how much my life has changed this year. Itís almost as if the basket containing everything in my life was emptied and left for me to sort out. Iím still letting things exit my life and allowing new things to arrive. And even though everything is amazingly wonderful, I feel a sense of loss. Itís as if nothing yet has settled and Iím unable to move forward.

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After working in Paris for two weeks, a trip to the US, and a weekend stay in Paris, I finally returned to Florence on Monday. When I got off the plane, I took in a deep breath of air. The sweet scent of the Tuscan countryside tickled my nose. The air was warmer than it was in Paris and I felt my body relax. I was finally home after being away almost an entire month. It was the first time that I had been away this long from my beloved city since I moved here in 2004. I missed Florence, but fortunately I didnít long much for it.

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After staying in Paris for two weeks and a few days in Matera, I was happy to arrive back in my beloved city where I could celebrate my birthday. I took Friday off so that I could visit Florence with my beau who came to my beloved city for the first time. I was excited to show him around and visit Florence again because I havenít been able to do so in a long time. I made a mental list of all that I wanted to see in my beloved city and show to my beau.

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At the end of the Ponte Grazie, I decided to head west away from the sun rising above the city and toward the moon that was on its way out of sight. The weather is typical for autumn: cool air and cloudy skies. It is definitely my favorite time of year when so much is happening and changing. Nothing is stagnant and itís evident all around me.

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This morning while I was running on the Ponte alle Grazie, I wasnít sure which way I wanted to go: either through town along the Arno past the Ponte Vecchio and toward Le Cascine or up to Piazzale Michelangiolo. It wasnít until I saw the sun peeking through the clouds above the mountains that I decided to run up to the piazzale. As I ran along the Arno on the sidewalk with cars and motorini (scooters) passing me by, I felt a slight thrill.

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Normally, I return to Florence late Friday evening; however, this week, I returned on Tuesday at 6pm. I was initially going to spend a few more days in Paris even though I had already spent two weeks there, but cut my trip short so that I could see my soccer team play our archrival at the stadio (stadium) in Florence. The soccer season has only begun, but with my work schedule, I realized that the first partita (match) I could attend would be in December.

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Every day this week, I went out shopping for food and other items at the negozi (shops) I go to around town. After living in Florence for the last eight years, I have come to know a few of them quite well. Shopping and chatting with each one is one of my favorite pastimes when Iím in Florence. I a so happy to see them and it brightens my day when they are happy to see me too.

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When I left Paris, I felt a bit melancholy. Itís always difficult for me to leave behind my beau. Living apart isnít easy on me, but right now itís the only solution we have. When I arrived in Florence and the tassista (taxi driver) took me through the streets of my beloved city, I wasnít as happy as usual. I felt even sadder that I was so far away. If I couldíve gotten back on a plane and returned to Paris, I think I wouldíve done so.

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The moment I step foot on the plane, I begin my transition to the city Iím flying to. Yesterday I took off for Paris for a couple of weeks. To the stewardess who greeted me at the entrance of the plane, I immediately spoke French, ďBonjour.Ē Itís one small shift that then puts in motion many others, which tend to occur slowly as I fly over Italy and then France.

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