Saturday, July 26, 2008

Blast From the Past

In the past couple of weeks, I got a few emails from people looking for someone they knew, that I happened to write about in one of my blog posts. One of them was a sailor I knew in Italy, whom I had nearly forgotten about over the years. It's a nice surprise to re-connect and talk about where we were, psychologically speaking. He was someone I had sought to a friendship with because I felt we had enough things in common to be good friends: yeoman, interested in history and ideas, able to have an intelligent conversation on a wide range of topics. However, you can't force a friendship with people and you never know where a person is at mentally. After all these years, I finally get the backstory and what a backstory. It puts so much in perspective.

The hardest thing about living in an isolated place like La Maddalena, Sardinia is the difficulty in finding enlisted sailors who shared the same level of intelligence. I know it shouldn't matter, but over the years, when I looked for the common denominator in my diverse group of friends, I learned that it was the ability to have intelligent conversations over a wide range of issues. And the three college friends I visited in Utah last year, I noticed something else...the three friends I visited and I had a lot of the same books on our shelves. It made me realize that I don't have as diverse a group of friends as I thought. Sure, they might be different races or religions, but we share the same "culture", you might say. A "culture" of a certain intelligence level.

When I lived in Italy, one thing I noticed early on was that I had more in common with officers than fellow enlisted. However, the Navy has a policy against fraternization (enlisted and officers aren't allowed to be friends). At the time, it was like confining me to the kiddie table at Thanksgiving even though I was an adult. The cultural differences between enlisted and officers was huge. In fact, so many enlisted people I knew either had divorces under the belts or their marriage didn't last during the time I knew them. Officers had a lower divorce rate. Officers were less likely to smoke than enlisted people. And it was simply easier for me to have a meaningful conversation with an officer. If I wore civilian clothes when people first met me, quite a few did a doubletake when they saw me in an enlisted man's uniform. So many thought I was an officer by the way I carried myself.

So, after all these years, it's just one more amazing thing about this year that has me shaking my head. I love reconnecting with people and to see what twists their lives have made. I also like discussing our younger selves and know that I wasn't the only one who was insecure (though I was probably more secure about myself than most people were at that age about theirselves). When you learn a fuller picture about someone, it truly is an amazing thing. What doesn't kill you, only makes you stronger.

My dad discovered recently an unopened box I had sent to myself in 1994. I was shocked when he told me because I thought I sorted through everything when I moved back home in 1996 and again in 2000. Now, I get to open it up as though its a time capsule from my 22 year old self. I love surprises like this and look forward to opening it up and discovering what I found important enough to send to myself.

This is the town of La Maddalena, Sardinia where I lived from 1991 through 1994. The population was 13,000 full time residents (70,000 in summertime).

The colour of the water in Sardinia and why I loved it! The most beautiful blue (and green) I've ever seen. La Maddalena was just north of "la costa smeralda" (the Emerald Coast), with the town of Porto Cervo being the ritziest tourist spot in Sardinia.


Margie's Musings said...

It looks beautiful all right. I'm surprised you didn't want to settle there after college, Nicholas.

Sansego said...

When the Navy sent me to Italy as a young man in 1991, I wanted to marry a French or Italian woman...until I found out that most of the women in Sardinia didn't want to leave Italy. There's no way I'd ever want to live the rest of my life in Italy. The three years I was there, they had 6 prime ministers. The government kept getting a vote of no confidence about every six months. And elections are wild. They'll vote for the fascists, then not like what they are doing, so the government collapses and they hold elections and vote the communists or socialists into power and then grow quickly dissatisfied. It's no way to run a government.

Plus the country always had strikes and if you depended on the train system or the bus, you were SOL if you had to get somewhere and didn't own a car.

Sardinia might be beautiful, but I've seen many beautiful places. I'm a loyal American, through and through.