The Beckers Final Blog

Trip Start May 03, 2007
Trip End Aug 22, 2007

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Becker's Final Blog!
Hello to all and Happy New Year! We realize this blog is somewhat delayed in time but since we have returned home to New Jersey, our lives have been consumed with our parent's health issues and our "re entry" into the real world!
We left off at Christmas- where a short 2 week return to New Jersey went by at lightning speed, but gave us that warm feeling (accogliente in Italian) of being with family and friends over the holidays. We returned to Italy with Chiara and drove directly to Cortina D'Ampezzo for six days of skiing. The weather was great, we had the chance to skate ski (cross country) as well as downhill together, and to enjoy some fabulous culinary treats, such as polenta with deer ragout, casunzei (beet stuffed pasta with poppy seeds), and of course, the aperitif for 2008 - Aperol Spritz.
Chiara had  her first attempts at both snowboarding and cross country skiing. She thrilled us when she spent two of the days out in the woods with us for "Sci Fondo" (cross country skiing). Her aerobic training since starting college paid off handsomely and she was able to cross country ski for kilometers and kilometers.
We then went to Bologna, took a day trip to Fragno, Parma where we spent the day with the relatives of the Leporati family and mapped out a more complete family tree for Steve and Chiara.  Although we arrived late, we were still able to visit the graveyard in Fragno (in the dark with flashlights!) and visited with Mariella,  Laura Gennari (the chef at our wedding) and Laura's 85 year old mother.
After taking advantage of the winter sales in Bologna, Chiara returned to Washington DC to start her second semester at American University, hopeful of repeating her Dean's List first semester results.
The next four weeks were pretty intense for Steve as he had to now focus on the exam that was taking place 9 days earlier then originally scheduled on February 6th. Every day was spent studying at least 5 hours, reviewing the 6000 questions that were possibly to be on the exam. 6000 questions in English would have been a bear but in Italian it became daunting.
I was fortunate to get the opportunity to volunteer at the Sala di Rianimazione del Reparto di Trapianto di Fegato (liver transplant intensive care unit) at the University Hospital called St. Orsola. What an experience! I worked for about 3-4 hours each morning, helping to give baths, change linens and simply talk to patients. The nurses were at first a little cool and reserved, but once they realized that I was one of them, we became fast friends! I find it amazing that no matter where in the world I am, good nurses seem to have the same characteristics and are easily drawn to each other. These men and women were a great bunch- competent, knowledgeable and with a great sense of humor! They were a little upset when they realized that nurses in New Jersey make double their salary- and I now have a short list of nurses who want to come here once they learn English!
I also spent a lot of time immersing myself in the history of Bologna. The museums and churches offer a glimpse of history from the Medieval and Renaissance Periods. Our location in the center of the city made walking to everything easy. I also was given a tour of the canals that lie beneath Bologna- an amazing look at the canal system built by the Romans to channel the River Reno. In the 1900's the canals were converted and used to channel the waste from the city. Ten years ago, an engineer by the name of Pierro Bottino began a project that separated the sewage from the fresh water and now the fresh water runs out to the Adriatic Sea with the sewage contained in pipes that run to a purification plant. The amazing part of this tour was that these canals date back to Roman times! (see pictures)
Steve's exam took place on February 6th and as many of you know- he passed and is now licensed to practice medicine in Italy! Who knows if we will return there for employment- but now it is an option for us.
Four hours after his exam, we were back on the road for Cortina! Our first free weekend was spent attending a masquerade party to celebrate Carnivale. Marco,Tea and her friend Erica organized a party at Titti's house and dressing up was mandatory! Ok- so I didn't bring a COSTUME with me on this trip- but of course-who came to my rescue??? RACHEL!!!! She took me into her dressing room and offered me 4 different ideas...I came away from her house with an outfit from Mongolia, China, and though she had alternatives, I decided to be "Mongolian Woman" with some small twists added. (See pictures). We had a memorable time with our friends and enjoyed seeing everyone dressed for the party!
The next morning my sister Laura was visiting for a week so we had to shoot over to Venice to pick her up from the airport. We spent the next four days downhill skiing like real ski bums! The sun was bright, the temperature in the 40's and we had time every day to sit in the sun on top of the highest peaks. I will never forget this time as we covered hundreds of kilometers of trails in these days! Our friend Trilli met us in her hometown of Corvara and spent the day with us skiing, drinking grappa and laughing hysterically at Steve's newfound courage to ski downhill!
On our return to Bologna, we stopped in Venice and spent the morning with our friends Simonetta and Giorgio at their glass factory in Murano. Nika, their sister-in-law took us on a tour of the glass blowing process. We were amazed at the almost ballet precision that these artisans use to waltz around each other with instruments approaching 100 degrees Celsius. They consider themselves manuel laborers but for us they were artists. According to Nika, for them this was just "another day." We had a real workman's lunch in Murano at an amazing fish restaurant- calamari, octopus and white clam sauce were eagerly consumed by all!
We returned to Bologna that night and spent the next day getting ready for the farewell party that Rachel and Matteo were putting together for us.  One additional surprise was that Everard, the traveler we met in May in Sicily at the beginning of this journey, was coming to Bologna! It was fabulous to see him again so we invited him to the farewell party at Rachel's. What a blast! Again, Rachel outdid herself with both table and food. We feasted on polenta with deer ragout, tortellini in brodo and zabaglione with fresh berries. Our old as well as new friends were all there, Tommaso and Riccardo, two physicians from St. Orsola with their wives Maria Teresa and Maria Carla, Pierro  (the engineer) and Lucia (anesthesiologist from St. Orsola), Enrico and Arnaldo (two of my first Italian friends), Christina, Titti and Paolo. What a night! Laura had a great time learning some Italian words as well as hand gestures and Everard charmed everyone with his uncanny ability to fit into any environment.
Sadly, Laura left as quickly as she arrived, and her departure gave way to our realization that in four days, we too would be ending this journey. Steve and I spent the rest of our time packing, visiting Rachel, Matteo and Paola one last time and sitting for the last time in the sun at the café in Piazza Maggiore. We reminisced for a few hours in between packing "discussions", drove my SUV to the Port of Genoa, drove to a small hotel near the Malpensa Airport and headed home from Milano on February 20th. Our time in Italy has been a magical experience- we have achieved our goals beyond expectation and have shared an array of unforgettable experiences. Our thanks go to so many people who helped us along the way- Joe Perrone, Rachel and Matteo, my parents, Marie Becker, Paola, Titti, Marina, Massimo, Tea and Marco. Without our family and friends to encourage and support us this opportunity would never have been possible.
  I want to encourage everyone, if the opportunity arises, to shed your fears of the unknown and to go outside of your "comfort zone", take a chance and enjoy life! Carpe Diem !!!!!!!!!!!!!
From Steve's Point of View
Our adventure was a privilege. The opportunity was thrust upon us. We did not go looking for an end to my relationship with JSUMC and the Trauma Center that I worked so hard to shape into a center of excellence for the people of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, New Jersey. However, once shoved into our face we accepted that things change and that it was time to move on and to grab hold of a gold ring and to see what happened.
We owe so much to Rachel and Matteo, without whom nothing would have been achieved. Thank you; thank you from our soul and innermost feelings.
To the always-irritated yet loveable Corrado Bertini, MD, thank you for your generosity. Carla, Silvia, Katya... thank you for taking time from your new and complicated schedules to see us.
To live again amongst friends of 30-40 years ago was invigorating, frustrating and exhilarating. Some of them have grown old and tired, you know who you are. Some of them have all the life spirit that was there 30 years ago. All of them embraced us and welcomed us as if time had stood still. We all have lived through a variety of life's problems and yet there was real and measurable energy each time we gathered together. I am grateful to you all.
In addition, we have made many new friends on this journey. The mad hatter Australian Everard, the elegant and always straightforward and truthful Paola Jarrach, the positive thinking and uplifting Maria Teresa and Tommaso Bernascone (we will get to Greece soon) and Ricardo & Maria Carla Cipriani. Simonetta & Giorgio Sent have a special place in our journey. We have done so much together in Cortina on bikes, on skis and in Venice you both outdid yourselves. These new friends will be with us from now to eternity.
We hope that this blog has been informative not only about our activities and wanderings but also about life. Like Peter Pan and Wendy, we now must grow up, get a job and return to the normal activities of daily life. But like Peter & Wendy, when we are alone in bed at night and just before going off to sleep there will always be images, thoughts and sensations of this journey that will bring us back for but a moment into its joy.
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