Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Podcast is Born! The BitterSweet Life: Two Expats in Rome

I was 11 years old, sitting alone on an uncomfortable school bus seat on a cold Northwestern fall morning. After spending my entire elementary school life sheltered in a tiny private school, I was suddenly out in the big, scary world of public middle school. I was, in a word, daunted. And pretty sure I would never make any friends.

About halfway into the commute to school (in my memory this happened on the first day of school, but I can't be certain that was the case), a cute, dark-haired girl named Katy, who was just my size--maybe even an inch shorter (and I was always the shortest in my class)--got on the bus and shyly asked if she could sit with me. This, my friends, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

With Katy, on the stage of Youth Theatre Northwest, Mercer Island, WA, about 13 years old

Fast-forward twenty-some years and I'm living in Rome, far far away from the beautiful, rainy Pacific Northwest and all the old friends I grew up with. Despite seeing Katy once a year or usually less, we've remained as close over the years as we always were. She's one of those people that, despite the distance that separates us, despite how infrequently we see each other or even talk on the phone, I just know will always, always be in my life.

So you can imagine my surprise and elation when she announced that she and her husband were moving to Rome for a year. It was an expat's dream come true. She has been here since September, and it has been one of my best years in Rome so far, because of her.

With Katy on her first full-day as a Rome expat, Gianicolo Hill, September 2013

Since Katy is an NPR radio producer, and I am (among other things) an expat blogger, we decided to put our talents and expertise together to create a weekly (free!) podcast discussing the ups and downs of expat life. Since we both live in Italy, we naturally talk about Italy and Italians a lot, but we also touch on many topics that expats in any country might encounter. Our combined experiences, mine as a long-term expat, Katy's as a short-term one, give us two complementary points of view, which makes for lively and (we hope) interesting discussions.

If you've been following this blog for a while, you'll know I don't write much about my personal life. Yes, every so often I will wax poetic on my Italian ancestors, the fated path that brought me to Italy, or the battle of the sexes Italian-style, but nine times out of ten, my posts are about art, history, music, and curiosities here in Rome or the Vatican. As much as I'd like to post about my personal life, an odd sort of shyness often prevents me.

Well not any more! The podcast, The BitterSweet Life, is frank, spontaneous, and thoroughly personal. It is probably of particular interest to those of you who may be considering taking the plunge and moving abroad yourselves, whether to Italy or any other country. We welcome questions and try to address them all on the air. If you already are an expat, and are currently in Rome, and you think you might have something to add to the conversation, let us know! We also interview other expats from time to time.

There are two ways to listen to The BitterSweet Life. You can visit our website, where you can either stream each podcast, or download them for later listening. Or you can find it on iTunes, where you can stream, download, and also subscribe so that you never miss an episode. We post new episodes every Monday morning, and they are about 20-30 minutes long, (perfect for your morning commute!). In our first episode, we discuss our first impressions on becoming an expat, and in our second episode we discuss language: both living nearly your entire daily life in a foreign language, as well as living in a country in which you do not speak the local language. We can't wait to get more episodes up, and we hope that you will enjoy them! If you do, please share with your like-minded friends, and let us know what you think!
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