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Friends who leave Florence

Friday, July 18, 2008

One of the sad things about being an expat in Florence is that so many people I meet end up leaving. It probably happens in many places where many expats move to, but I notice it the most here. Every year, I have to say goodbye to more than one person who has become a good friend of mine. It's such a pleasure when I am able to meet someone who becomes a close friend that it can be difficult to say goodbye.

Today, I met up with my friend Julia at Vivoli for a caffè (coffee). It's an unusual place for most people to go for colazione (breakfast) because it's well known for its gelato (ice cream). But Julia and I love it for the wonderful caffè: they use Illy coffee and whole milk that comes from La Maremma, an area in the southern part of Tuscany.

We sat at a back table as we have a few times before and talked. As I ate my brioche (croissant), I thought about the most difficult part about living here is having to say goodbye to friends. I know that there are many ways to keep in touch, but it's not the same as calling up a friend and meeting them for a caffè. There is an intimacy that is lost that can't be easily recreated when my friends move overseas. I email and chat with many of my friends on-line, but something is missing when they move to another country. It's as if we lose our connection.

It is interesting how when I see my friends again, either here or in the US, it feels as if the connection was never lost. But, while we are separated our emails become less often and our phone calls even fewer.

A few of my friends here don't want to meet other expats because of the high turnaround. Some people come for a set amount of time while others come not knowing how long they will stay. I don't want to cut myself off from meeting other people just because they might go away someday. Friends are treasures and when I'm lucky enough to find one, I try to appreciate my good fortune. In Italian, they have a wonderful expression that I cherish, "Chi trova un amico trova un tesoro. (Whoever finds a friend, finds a treasure.)" If they end up leaving, I have to deal with that when the time comes.

As I sat there with my friend Julia, I remembered when we met only a year and a half ago. I was happy to have quickly developed a friendship with her. Julia helped me a great deal at a time when everything in my life changed. She helped me get through each day with her friendship and support.

Some of my friends here protect themselves from these sad departures, but I try to remind myself of all the good times and love we shared. Often times, I think we want things to last forever and to avoid disappointment and heartbreak, we refuse to meet new people. I may be losing a friend now, but I had one for a year and a half and that's what matters most.

 
July 2008
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