Arrivederci 2014-Benvenuto 2015

Buon Anno!

This holiday season I decided to follow in my mother-in-law’s footsteps by not coming out with a Christmas message until after Christmas. She said that people don’t have a lot of time before Christmas to sit and read letters anyway, and I agree if for no other reason than the fact that I have been too busy to write my letter.

My husband and I have been very fortunate to spend the holidays in the United States with friends and family. It has been our first trip back since we moved to Italy a year and a half ago, and we have been having a wonderful time. Being back makes us realize some of the things that we have missed since moving to Italy. We have been eating lots of Mexican food, and I have definitely been taking advantage of the fact that I can wash and dry a whole load of laundry in less than two hours. We both also drove cars for the first time in a year and a half. Overall, we are just enjoying spending time with our parents, siblings, niece and nephew. We have had so much fun talking and laughing with family that I have lost my voice.

Soon we will be returning back to our home in Italy. It has been an interesting year living in Italy. It is a simpler lifestyle. The main focuses are family and food not work like in the United States. It is a slower lifestyle where you do actually take time to smell the flowers (and the pastries). Lucca is a walled city that has converted their ancient walls into a park that you can walk on. Sometimes I would walk on the walls and think to myself that no place is more amazing than Lucca. We feel so blessed to have this amazing opportunity living in Italy no matter what struggles we have been faced with.

My husband continues to amaze me. He has embraced living in Italy so much that it almost seems like he was always meant to live there. He speaks and understands Italian far better than I do and has also started dressing more like an Italian. He continues to create new masterpieces in the kitchen which recently included making pasta from scratch. We hosted Thanksgiving for the second year in Lucca, and the turkey came out even better than last year. My husband spent the whole day cooking the turkey and his toil was to our benefit as it was the best turkey I had ever had.

My husband continues to work full time at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca. He has spent the last year continuing work on using complex network methods to understand innovation networks, with about ten people at his institute working with him on linking the patent data he’s worked with to other databases they have access to.  He has about five papers that are partially completed on a wide range of topics right now including geolocation (putting millions of pins on a map based on patent addresses), disambiguation (determining that “MIT” and “Mass. Inst. of Tech.” refer to the same institution), predicting collaboration between scientific authors, detecting structure in correlation networks, and understanding citations within or between firms.  This year has been very productive, and the fruit of all that labor will be seen in multiple publications next year!

While my husband is at work, I have been working from home on a project with a professor from Northeastern University. He is writing an Introduction to Network Science textbook. The online version is available here. The hard copy may or may not be coming out in 2015. It has been an enjoyable project.

At the beginning of 2014, I found a English book club in Lucca. Everyone that knows me knows that I love reading. When I lived in Washington, DC and then in Boston, I enjoyed participating in book clubs. I love having people to discuss books with. I find that I appreciate books more when I can discuss them and be faced with different viewpoints. The book club in Lucca has also helped me meet a few ex-pats that I can spend time with and share experiences beyond books .

We have enjoyed the company of many friends throughout 2014. We have shared Lucca, wine, and our home and loved every minute of it. We find that we explore more of our beautiful town and country when we have visitors. In 2014, we watched fireworks in Pisa for New Years, stood among a million people from all over the world in Rome for the canonization of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII, wore masks through the streets of Venice for Carnivale, threw confetti for Carnivale in Viareggio, ate our way through Bologna, watched fishies at the aquarium in Genova, listened to the bells of the Duomo di Siena, relaxed along the waters of Cinque Terre, ate the worlds best gelato in San Gimignano, visited Saint Francis in Assisi, listened to multiple Puccini concerts in Lucca, and explored the surrounding areas of Lucca. Even with all of these adventures there is still much more of Italy to see. We look forward to seeing a bit more in 2015.

Other than exploring Italy, my husband and I had a few wonderful adventures outside of Italy as well. In January, we visited friends in Berlin, where we wore our heavy winter coats for the only time that season. In the summer, we joined my husband’s family for our annual trip that included a weekend in Istanbul, Turkey followed by a safari in the Serengeti in Tanzania to view the wildebeest migration. At the end of the summer, we visited friends in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, Russia. In October, we traveled to the beaches of Normandy in France. I will continue to write more about all of these individual travel adventures on our Travel Page. As we continue to check off items on our travel bucket list, we also continue to add items. We have definitely learned this year that there is more to see and do in the world than we had ever imagined previously. We hope that 2015 will bring just as many travel adventures as 2014 did.

I hope that everyone had a wonderful 2014! May you all be blessed with love and joy throughout 2015!

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Merry Christmas 2013

Buon Natale da Italia!

Christmas in Lucca 1

Normally we would send Christmas letters to all friends and family around the holidays. However, when you live in Italy, it is a little harder to do that, so hopefully you all receive our love and blessings through this blog post instead.

2013 has been a year of big changes for us. My husband started off the beginning of the year by accepting a new job position. He is now the Assistant Professor of Statistical Physics with the Laboratory for Analysis of Complex Economic Systems at IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca in Italy. This was a big decision that we discussed constantly during long walks along the Boston Harbor until we came to the conclusion that this was a move that we just couldn’t pass up. We spent the first half of the year preparing for this. While we have become accustomed to moving, it is quite different when you are moving to another country. We are both very happy with this decision.

I was very fortunate to be able to visit with lots of family and friends before moving to Italy. My parents came to Boston for a nice visit in the Spring, which was followed by a vacation with my in-laws. Both my husband and I have been very blessed with wonderful families, and we miss them a lot, especially during the holidays.

My husband is thriving in his new job. At Harvard, he was working on understanding biological networks using simple physics models (well simple for him I guess) and is applying these same ideas to economic systems at IMT. He was invited to give a talk at the Signal Image Technology and Internet Based Systems 2013 Conference in Kyoto, Japan on the “Border Sensitive Centralities in Patent Citation Networks Using Asymmetric Random Walks.” He also recently attended meetings in Paris, France.

Since moving to Lucca, Italy, I continue to work part-time but have also kept busy learning Italian. I took a beginner course at the Lucca Italian School. It was quite intensive, but I enjoyed it. It was a great introduction to Italian and my classmates were the absolute best. My husband and I will occasionally list one or two of our extra bedrooms on Airbnb as well, which is a lot more work than originally expected. I was hoping to be able to say by this point that I am now a permanent resident of Italy, but my paperwork is still being processed. That has been quite the ordeal.

One of the huge positives to making this move to Italy was to have more opportunities to travel and explore places we haven’t been. For those that know us well, we love to travel. Since moving to Italy, we have been to Prague, Malta, Paris, and will be going to Barcelona immediately after Christmas. We have also explored a few places in Italy. You can read more about our travel adventures on my Travel Page.  (https://greatmorrisonmigration.wordpress.com/travel-3/)

Being in Lucca, Italy has allowed us to start new traditions. My husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving. We enjoyed it immensely. The food and company was just fantastic, and we hope that we can make this an ongoing tradition during our time here. Christmastime is a bit different here than we are use to. It isn’t as commercialized as it is in the States. There are some outdoor markets, an ice skating rink, and light displays (as shown in the pictures I’ve attached to this blog). The Christmas season really doesn’t begin here until mid-December; whereas in the States, everything is Christmas now before Thanksgiving is over.

As my husband and I look back on 2013, we are very happy with the decisions we have made and look forward to the adventures that we will have in the upcoming years. I think if anyone would have told me 5 years ago that I would be living in Tuscany, I would have laughed and thought that was ridiculous. This seems like a dream, and I am very blessed to be sharing it with my best friend whom I love very much (Yes, husband, I am talking about you). I would like to thank him for being an amazing, patient, and loving husband. Next, I would like to thank a very important individual that I lost this year. My Grandma has been a very important friend and confidante in my life. She supported me and guided me throughout my entire life. I am grateful for every precious moment that we spent together. I think about her all the time and will always love her very much. Last, but not least, a big thank you to our family and friends who have been there for us. We miss you all and wish you a very blessed Christmas and a wonderful New Year!!!

Christmas in Lucca 2