Inshallah… Italy. Take 2.

Inshallah, this newsletter will post on February 12, 2022. Inshallah, when it does, I will be in Rome.

First, inshallah. Or more precisely, Insh’Allah. I forgot about this expression. Thanks to Abdullah Shihipar’s recent piece in The New York Times Magazine, it is back in my vocabulary.

Shihipar writes, “For Muslims, the term — which translates to “If God wills” — is auspicious: If you want something to happen, you should say inshallah before you say anything else about it. The Quran says as much in its 18th chapter, Surah Al-Kahf. “And never say of anything, ‘Indeed, I will do that tomorrow,’ except [when adding], ‘If Allah wills.’”

It is, I think, very helpful to keep such language in our daily speech. Using it may help minimize our disappointment, or, at the very least, our outrage and sense of entitlement when things do not go as hoped.

Like when I woke last Sunday to discover our reserved lodging in Syracuse—which was already paid for—would not be available due to renovations. Or the next day when I discovered I had a sinus infection. Or the day before departure when I was diagnosed with an ear infection.

All things, Insh’Allah. The antibiotics and ear drops seem to be working and, inshallah, our refund will come through soon.

So, while you are reading this, I am in Italy.

It’s been almost two years exactly since I was in the land of la dolce vita. In 2020, I arrived in Rome on March 4th for a once-in-a-lifetime six-week trip. Instead, five days later, the entire country was in Covid-19 lockdown. By then, and by the grace of God, I had made it to Sicily, where, as it turned out, I stayed in the same apartment for three months. Once-in-a-lifetime indeed. Altogether, I was in Italy for four months. And that, my friends, was a game changer. I’ve been waiting to return ever since.

(If you’re interested in reading about my time in Italy in 2020, you can subscribe here to read my unfinished memoir on Substack at Finding Home or check out An American in Italy During Coronavirus on this blog, JanPepplerHOME.)

Last spring, when it seemed somewhat safe to travel again (before the Delta variant, remember that?) I decided to return ‘home’ to Idaho, where I had lived for 14 years and where two of my dogs still remain. Only, the costs of commercial fights had risen so high that a ticket to Italy cost about the same as a ticket to Boise. And that’s when I convinced Tom we should go to Italy instead. Hah!

That was not Insh’Allah. Our plans were scrapped when Italy dragged its feet about travel restrictions and the airlines canceled part of our itinerary. But we still had credit, so it was only a matter of time before we attempted the trip again.

February is my birthday month, so I like to say that this is Tom’s birthday present to me. Yes, it’s a very generous present. Tom, who has never been to Italy, repeatedly thanks me for all the planning and organizing I’ve done and honestly, it has been a ton of work making arrangements. Plus, I know a littleItalian now, as well as a few friends there, so in a sense, I am partially playing the role of tour guide. Okay, maybe that’s not exactly an equal trade. The point is, I’m extremely grateful to Tom for helping me return to this beautiful country and he is grateful to me for taking him.

Tom and I met in 2005 on a five-night river rafting trip on the Salmon River in Idaho. By Thanksgiving of that year, we were a couple. We never lived together and we never married, but we did share custody of two great dogs even after we broke up. Without this arrangement and his emotional support, I could never have made it through graduate school. And Tom is the one who moved me to Oklahoma, driving the U-Haul the entire four days while I read Killers of the Flower Moon out loud like an audio book. The only thing he asked in return was to allow our two elderly dogs to remain with him, which, let’s face it, was in the best interest of our dogs. They have a good life in Idaho, though that was a hard separation for me. It’s not like they can send me a text. And you can’t scratch a pup behind the ears or rub a belly from a distance. But Tom is pretty good about regularly sending photos, so that’s something.

So, while my dogs and Tom are in Idaho, Idaho is still home. Because home is always where your family is. And, while they say dogs are your best friends, the truth is, they’re family. And Tom is family. Like my pups, Tom loves me unconditionally. He accepts me completely as I am. He is always happy to see me. His friendship provides me both comfort and joy. And, at sixteen years, his companionship has outlasted most four-legged friends.

Now we are in Italy. Inshallah, we will travel to Naples and then Sicily. We will stay in Syracuse, in Sambuca di Sicilia, and Balestrate (where I spent 11 weeks during 2020’s quarantine, staring out at the sea), before returning to Rome and then returning home. To Tulsa, that is.

Inshallah, we will reconnect with old friends and meet new ones. We will indulge with daily gelato and start each morning at a bar. (A coffee bar, silly.) We will explore, we will celebrate, we will learn, and we will laugh. (We always laugh.) We will eat and then eat more. We will make memories.

Of course, I wouldn’t mind if something happened that caused our trip to be extended. But Tom is a Gonzaga alum, and he has tickets for the Vegas preliminary March madness tournament, so…

Inshallah, we will be back in the States for him to watch the Zags win and I will soon be snuggling my dear little dog, Mazie.

Stay posted. Inshallah, I will write to you from Sicily.

I took this photo in Rome on February 7, 2020

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