These friends who call to check up on me are people I met when I volunteered at the museum five years ago. One has a house in Italy and another really wants a house in Italy. Both have partners who are not the slightest bit interested in joining them in their "Italy dreams". It seems important to them that I am still happy here, still coping.
Occasionally I might say to a New Zealand friend that I am not sure how long I will be able to stay here, and maybe I should start thinking differently about my future. This is invariably greeted with an emphatic "you have to make it work, you are living our dreams. If you come back, how can we dream of doing what you have done?" Or words to that effect.
Today I woke to a message from Avaaz celebrating that Palestine has finally been recognised as an independent nation. I didn't make that happen. But maybe my one tiny vote, added to so many hundreds of thousands of votes across the world, helped to bring some sense of support to a troubled people.
So why am I here? Perhaps so I can see things differently. When you are living in an unfamiliar world you see things that you might have overlooked before. And despite difficult times, despite negative comments, despite gloom and doom, I feel optimistic that positive change is achievable.
I sit here on a rather bleak day and look at a ray of sunlight that floods a part of the valley in glorious spring yellow, defiantly ignoring the fact that winter has not yet arrived in full force. It's a day to reflect, to wonder. I am ordering my house, and with that comes time to order my thoughts. What am I really doing here? Sometimes I am mopping up the water in the cantina, stretching my budget further and further, dealing with ticks and snakes and thunderstorms, with power cuts and price hikes and wondering why my 20 euros ($NZ 31.70) only buys me 11.3 litres of petrol. I doubt that it sounds particularly romantic to you now, but yes, I will happily stay here and live your dream. That ray of sunshine changes everything. I have Andrea Bocelli singing (third time I have hit replay, sorry neighbours), two little dogs are happy, the house is getting tidier by the hour (with computer breaks) and life is pretty good.
Is living in Italy a wonderful dream? Is the grass always greener over the fence? I read somewhere recently that it is nothing to do with the fence, it is all to do with where the grass is watered. Right now the countryside is well watered, as is my cantina as the water finds its way inside. But as I mop I think how beautiful the restored space is, how wonderful it is to be living on this mountainside, and how green, with shafts of yellow sunlight, my valley really is.
Today I am grateful for optimism.