One of my first thoughts on waking up every morning is, “Hmm… what am I gonna blog about today?” It’s hard to find things to write about when I have spent the whole day inside, either working or working out. Hum. A challenge.

Today, I think I’ll write about just that: the tension I feel over spending so much time in our tiny flat while we’re here living in this amazing country. Last night I asked Gabe if he thought I was missing out on the experience of being here, and he said, astonished, “What do you mean?!” He reminded me that that is the whole point of this year: we are living here, so we have the luxury of not having to go out and explore the town all at once. We can take it in a bit at a time, and meanwhile live our normal lives just as we would anywhere else.

In other words, it’s the opposite of our trip to Venice, when we had four days to take in as much as humanly possible. The beauty of living somewhere is that you don’t have to walk til your legs fall off every day, or keep your eyes wide open for fear of missing something if you as much as blink. You can take it in a little bit at a time, get accustomed to the rhythms of life on a different scale, find that bread store around the corner, or the coffee shop that gives you free roast chestnuts, or the fruiteria man who knows you like grapes.

I think Gabe is right. By living here — really living here, working and sleeping and eating and shopping and dreaming here — I am actually experiencing things far more deeply than when we go all out and see a city in less than a week. Yesterday we took a walk when Gabe got home, just a quick circuit up the hill, through the grocery store (yet again), and back up to our flat, which took a total of about 45 minutes.

Even though we’ve done this same walk a hundred times before, still we noticed new things along the way: a cute restaurant or cafe, a new vista point we hadn’t seen before, a balcony overflowing with plants and an old lady watching the world go by. Best of all, we walked by a little bookstore selling ancient, probably priceless books, prints, and manuscripts, housed in what looked like an old wine cellar, with a curved, white-washed ceiling so low I would’ve hit my head on it had we gone in. We’d missed that bookstore the first 100 times we’d walked by, so if we’d just walked it by once, on a day full of walking, we might never have seen it. And what a shame that would’ve been.

Even sitting in my office, as I am now, there is a constantly evolving visual adventure outside my window. Because I see it every day, it is already so mundane to me that I no longer see it as worthy of description. But there is always some drama happening in the open space between our row of buildings and the next: an entire herd of gray and white stray cats that yowl and hiss and jump from roof to roof; a huge, bored Rottweiler pacing in its small back patio, who occasionally barks at the cats for laughs; all kinds of laundry strung out on lines, including pillows, blankets, rugs, and long underwear; bikes, chairs, plants, and yet more cats all jammed onto tiny balconies covered in rusty corrugated iron and plastic sheeting.

Further in the distance, there are the rows of orange tiled roofs stretching on up the next hill, which is topped by a park, its trees suddenly made bare of leaves just in the time we were gone. Just the other day, I noticed the top of a bright yellow chimney poking up above the next layer of roofs, which I’d never noticed before. Finally, there is the sky, the ever-entertaining, beautiful sky, whose clouds and light are somehow slightly different here than at home. I never get tired of looking out our window, but somehow it never has never struck me as being worthy or exciting enough to write about. Until now.

By living here, by going on the same walk a hundred times or looking out the window every day, we establish a base line of experience, a knowledge of what things look like from day to day, that enables us to notice the differences when they occur: the bookstore we hadn’t seen before, the yellow chimney, the sky and its ever-changing moods. As I wrote to a dear family friend yesterday, just stepping out our door provides me with enough adventures to last a lifetime. Or at least a blog post or two.

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