"For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways." - Psalm 91:11
"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." - Psalm 121:8
For too many Americans abroad, the experience of living in a foreign county is seriously diluted by their attempts to replicate the life they left behind.
Consequently, rather than embrace the nation they're visiting they stick to the military base, band together in ex-patriot huddles, watch American television, grill hamburgers rather than expose themselves to local cuisine, refuse to learn the language, and complain about the amenities they no longer enjoy.
However, and I am so proud of him in this regard, our son Andrew made the determination to enjoy the complete international experience from his very first day in Italy.
Consequently, he found a house in the small village of Tremoleto, he uses his Italian whenever he can, and he lives on the local economy to the extent that it is possible. It's obvious that the people he encounters very much appreciate his efforts.
It's also no surprise that the friends Andrew introduced me to (and who speak so enthusiastically about him) have names like Fabio, Roberto, Antonio, Gino, and Fabiano. It's amazing what happens when you offer respect to the people who's country you're working in: they respect you back. It is unfortunate that many Americans see every engagement with the world at large as the projection of U.S. power, modern day imperialism, or "Just say 'thank you' and get out of our way,"... when what we really need to be doing is presenting ourselves as a humble partner in the emerging world economy and members of a multi-faceted community of nations.
Casa di Drew: So anyway, the opening picture is Andrew's village. It feels like a place from another time. And, really, it is. The house is a small villa with tile floors, brick archways, shutters, a fireplace that runs through from the kitchen to the living room and etched glass in the interior doors. It drips with the right kind of ambiance.
In the mornings, Andrew makes cappuccino before driving to work through the classic Tuscan countryside. Everything about this place is exactly how you'd imagine - even if your only research has been watching movies like "Under the Tuscan Sun," enjoying cooking shows by Anthony Bourdain, and reading books such as "Tea with Mussolini."
TUSCAN CHARM: Andrew told me to be sure and also take photographs of the busy autostrada, the industrial areas, and the dense urban landscapes.
His point, of course, as that real people live here and that they live the same kind of busy, messy lives that people do anywhere. But that is precisely what makes this part of Italy what it is. Tuscany as we experience it is the interaction of thousands of years of civilization with this remarkable landscape. Italy is the cultural overlay as much as it is the scenery. And, somehow, it has emerged as this vibrant, beautiful, slightly offbeat and confusing place of simple charm and sophisticated, fashionable, Mediterranean elan.
Andrew's home may be gated, but he is not. Our son is a charming host, generous and gracious in sharing this amazing opportunity he has to live in such an environment. He has been a citizen of the world since he first started watching airplanes fly overhead from his car-seat as an infant. He'd point at them and trace their progress across the sky.
Tomorrow morning we have to leave this lovely place at 4:00 to make our flight out of Pisa. He's coming home for Thanksgiving. But then, early December, it's off to Kiev, Odessa and who knows where else....
All I can do is echo the words of the Psalmist: "Andrew, may the Lord keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore. Amen."