Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

After flying over snow-capped mountains just north of Tuscany, we landed in Florence this afternoon where the skies were clear and the sun was shining high above. The second I got off the plane, I took in a deep breath and felt my body relax a little bit. It was a joy to sense the warm air brush against my face. Iím finally home, I thought to myself.

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A strange thing happens when Iím a few days from my return to Florence: I suddenly begin inserting Italian words into my vocabulary and my beloved city begins to surface more in my mind. Itís almost as if my brain is preparing itself for the switch. Tomorrow Iím returning to Florence after a six-week stay in France. While Iíve been in France, I havenít longed much for my beloved city, but I admit that I have missed it dearly.

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What I have found interesting about speaking a foreign language is how sensitive I have become to everything around the words that a person says. A person can say something to me and I find myself processing the conversation on multiple levels: the actual words, the personís tone of voice, his/her facial expressions and my own emotional reaction to the conversation. I think this sensitivity came about when I initially didnít understand the words in a foreign language: I had to expand my ability to understand a conversation while I caught up with learning the language.

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When I was coming to France for work and living full-time in Florence, I could easily accept the darker days and gloomier weather because it was like having more variety in my life. Now that Iím settling into my life a little more in France while maintaining my life in Florence, I notice the differences even more. During the winter months, the sun rises late in the morning after Iíve already woken up. The skies have lately been a dark grey that lightens up by 9 am. I find that I try not to focus too much on the lack of light and focus on what I do like.

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What a difference a year makes. I read the post I wrote last year when I was in Florence. When the year began, I had no idea what changes were in store for me. Looking back now, itís as if my entire life changed in the blink of an eye even though it felt strenuous at times. This year I stayed in with my beau after having spent a few days in Saint-Malo (Brittany). I loved seeing the water, running along the beach, enjoying the local delicacies, taking in the fresh air, and recharging my batteries before 2013 began.

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