I’ve now been a little over three months here in Italy. For someone so stubbornly adamant on sticking to a routine and typically averse to change, there’s been quite a lot of changes in my life over the past twelve weeks.

Some of the changes have been good and much needed, while others not so, but that is how life goes. I’ve had some good times so far, but also some very stressful days where I’ve been emotionally pushed to my limits.

I am still trying to process some of these new aspects of my life. The fact that after six years I can finally start to envision and think of enjoying new things and experiences that just a couple years ago wouldn’t have even been remotely possible to do beyond daydreams is one of those things that are still surreal to me, even as I walk back from getting groceries or find myself enjoying a cup of coffee.

After a rocky first month in Turin, getting sick, paperwork, and some other stuff I’m finally in a “stable” position here in this small town. We’re now staying in a longer-term rental apartment that, while cozy and affordable, is small, but it is our first proper “home” here, and the low rent fees are Godsend to me right now.

I don’t have a bedroom or even a bed, as I gave the apartment’s only bedroom to my brother so he can sleep comfortably and have privacy. As a result, I’ve been “sleeping” on this couch that, while it has a pop-out bed, I can’t make use of it due to space constraints. Then again, I’ve slept in worse conditions during my childhood, so as they say in Venezuela, what’s another stripe to a tiger?

Be that as it may, I now have a new desk and a chair of my own that, together with that couch, constitute my very own first corner in this part of the world. A small base of operations in one side of the living room, which I hope will serve as a foundation for better things in the near future.

As someone who’s never had much in life, and hasn’t been able to partake in many things that others take for granted, I find great value in the small things, those tiny bits and pieces in one’s everyday life that contribute to a greater whole.

So, without further ado, here’s some of the “small” things that I believe represent the bigger changes of my life so far in these past three months.

The ease of mind

Alright, this one isn’t small at all — it’s definitely the biggest change, and also the most complex, both from a personal and overall perspective.

You cannot put a price on being able to be away from the tumultuous situation of Venezuela and the Maduro regime, that goes without saying. Not having to drown in the uncertainty of what’ll happen next, of the next political twist and turn, or some new out of the blue measure or limitation that’ll affect your daily life.

25 years (and counting) of an extremely complex political turmoil wears you down, it’s a death by a thousand cuts that millions of my fellow Venezuelans have been subjected to — case in point, why nearly eight million of us (almost 30 percent of Venezuela’s population) have left the country, some more desperate than others.

No longer do I need to worry about potentially upsetting a regime figurehead and getting a visit from the Regime’s Intelligence Service or police, nor do I have the risk of  being subject to forced disappearance due to dissent, something that has resurfaced in full force these days.

That said, Italy is certainly not without its political discourse diatribes, I just am presently oblivious to it all due to language barriers and because I don’t even have a television yet, but I’m sure none of it compares to the political disaster back in Venezuela.

I am, unfortunately, not able to simply let it all go and forget about the country because, at the end of the day, I still have friends and family over there. It’s where I was born, it’s where my mother is buried, so whatever happens over there still affects me.

I’m a dual citizen, for better or worse, and there are potential things that may affect me in the long run should they happen. Likewise, if I ever need to send some form of legal power of attorney for example, I’d still be subject to Venezuelan law, that means going to the Consulate in Milan, dealing with the regime’s authorities there, and whatnot.

I still gotta be careful in some online manners even though I am not presently in Venezuela because of my family. There’s been quite a few cases of the regime targeting family members in lieu of a main target and all that.

You don’t really get to completely escape Venezuela, I’m afraid. Unless you like, renounce to the citizenship or something.

At a personal level, the fact that after six years of failures I was finally able to fulfill one of the main aspects of the promise I made to my mother (getting my brother out of Venezuela) brings me some relief. 

It is, however, only one half of the promise, as the other half involves me building a good future for him, which is what I still gotta figure out how, as I’m not the most studied nor the most skilled man out there. I’m trying to find the strength to begin doing that.

I still, however, find myself unable to get proper sleep, and I haven’t quite been able to heal from having failed to save my mom, and having lost six years trying to do things the right way and failing over and over until I was finally able to undo my dad’s lack of due diligence and become an Italian citizen.

Presently, there is nothing preventing me from visiting Venezuela again, as I did not commit immigration fraud and claimed “asylum” nor am I a beneficiary of a U.S. Parole program or any of the sorts. I can literally visit almost anywhere in the world, if I had the money, that is.

That said, I don’t expect to be going there anytime soon, I’m sure my remaining family there will understand, as much as I’d like to visit my mom’s grave on this upcoming Mother’s Day…

Water, Power, & Internet

The biggest upgrades for me, honestly.

The ability to open a faucet or flush the toilet at any given time and day of the week is a life changing experience, something I had long forgotten how it felt.

For over a decade, water rations dictated the pace of my life, as I had to schedule my responsibilities and activities around them. Every week, I had to stockpile water, flush toilets with a bucket, and all that.

I’d have to make sure to be awake before the early morning water rations if I needed a morning shower, use the toilet, or do morning dishes. 

Evening water rations at 08:00 pm? I better be on standby beforehand, that means no online gaming, no relaxing to watch something, and no arriving home before that time so I could make use of it.

At any time, at any point, water could be cut, so you had to be on point and make sure you weren’t caught off guard, get your laundry all done and set up (one load as soon as water was back, one during the weekend was my default scheme). Make sure the house is clean on Saturday before water gets cut. It was an invisible shackle for me, and it still is one for everyone over there.

Now, no water rations, no more posting that Dexter’s Laboratory clip, and I can wash my hands at any point during the day without having to grab water from a container or bottle.

The same can be said about power. The power situation in caracas is much better than in the rest of Venezuela, where daily power blackouts have been the norm for over a decade, but I lost so many appliances to sudden power brownouts and surges — hell, my apartment’s main breaker burnt out because of it, and I had to spend quite a few money on repairs, further delaying my departure last year.

My gripes with the NA – EU power plug switches aside, I don’t have to deal with any power woes anymore. Lights have flickered a bit sometimes, yes, but no brownouts, no surges.

Internet too. This small town has better internet connectivity than Caracas, and much cheaper to boot. I could get fiber connected to this apartment, but it involves passing the corresponding cables, so that may be a thing for later.

But for now, the ISP I’m using hooked me up with a VDSL connection that has 4x faster download and 2x faster upload speeds than the private ISP I used on Caracas during my last two years there, almost down to the exact date.

It’s also 1/3 of the price too: 20 Euro versus 65 USD per month.

Services here are, of course, much more expensive than in Venezuela, and by more expensive I mean its actual costs. While they’re drastically cheaper over there, you do get the quality you’re paying for, so to speak. 

Which means once I can build up a new desktop computer I probably shouldn’t keep it on 24/7 lol

I’ll see how hard my first Italian Power and Gas bill will slap my face once they arrive at the end of this month..

The change in pace

Everything here moes at a different, slower pace, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. Compared to the chaos of Caracas, where I’ve lived for most of my life, life in this town goes at a much slower, enjoyable rhythm.

I come from over two decades of hectic chaos, where everything needs to be done, now, quickly (exacerbated by other things like water rations and what have you), where everyone is angry, frustrated, and justifiable tired of all the constant bullshit.

Here? People are chilling, just strolling through the park, walking their dogs, and everyone greets you. Kids and adults alike play football (soccer for you Americans) in the afternoons, the church’s bells go off every hour and every half-hour, and so on.

I’d never seen my brother before greeting people with a smile, the change in pace and setting has done wonders to him, and I’m happy, very happy for that.

Due to my work, and other personal affairs, I have to adjust myself to a dual clock between the timezones of Italy and the United States (three timezones when Venezuela gets out of sync with the U.S. Easter Time for a couple months because Venezuela does not observe Daylight Savings Time).

My life has been a constant duality and finding balance, so that’s not much of an issue. It has its benefits just as it has its drawbacks, but I am essentially six hours out of sync with everyone else here.

Banking & international payment connectivity

I’m not a big fan of this new modern digital banking world, were things can be shutdown and frozen on a whim for political reasons, and considering how I almost got arrested once due to having received 3.1 million bolivars in 2017 (roughly $75 at the time) well, let’s just say I’m wary of banks.

For those that don’t know, since 2003, Venezuela was subject to a draconian currency control exchange regime that essentially disconnected local banks from international payments. You needed to go through an extremely tiresome bureaucratic process to be allowed to use a local card for international travels and/or payments — and even so, you’d only be allowed a limited yearly ration that kept getting smaller and smaller as time went on.

It’s a long, long story, but this is one of the main several things that helped us push towards the brink of total collapse once the regime’s so-called Socialism of the 21st Century became inexorably unfeasible.

Opening a bank account in Venezuela can require a mountain load of paperwork. All I needed to open a bank account here was my brand new Italian ID card and my tax ID.

While in recent years Venezuela has finally “loosened up” some of the erstwhile draconian currency control measures, a lot of things remain a complete mess. Back in the day, opening a PayPal account or getting money from abroad was an near-impossible odyssey, that much I can attest to.

Things are easier these days, and there’s new tools and services that give you something that was once close to impossible to get: a Visa or MasterCard debit card that lets you buy stuff online. However, these things are not without their quirks, and it’s still not as straightforward.

It’s still very common to see people in Venezuela go through hoops and use things like Wally, Zinli, Binance, and other platforms just to be able to get paid or use their money to pay for an online subscription or what have you.

Here? I opened a Wise and PayPal account with nothing but my phone number and my Italian passport.

I also have a much easier way to use my savings when compared to Venezuela. I’m not rich or anything, but being able to have an easier time paying for stuff and moving money around feels rather good, I must say.

“Friction-less” bureaucracy

This is kind of a toss-up one, because all the stuff that went awry in Turin trying to get our local ID documents was not something I’d call smooth by any metric whatsoever.

I’ve been told that Italian bureaucracy can be pretty bad and that in fact, Venezuela’s bureaucracy has been historically bad because we inherited bad bureaucracy from the wave of Italian migrants from back in the day (where my dad and his family came from).

And yet, perhaps because I’m so used to dealing with bureaucratic nonsense that I’ve been desensitized by it, things aren’t quite as bad as they told me they would be in that regard.

Our local ID cards took about a week to arrive after doing the residency paperwork and the police’s inspection. Switching power and gas bills here from the previous tenant to me was done online. ISP took three days to setup the line here (one of which was a national holiday so it doesn’t count).

The only piece of local documentation that I don’t have is the voter ID card, and that’s because I haven’t been able to go through the process. 

This extends all the way back to my appointments at the Italian Consulate in Caracas, where they really treated us exceptionally well and were highly professional and considerate of our case.

The Venezuelan apostille stuff, just to name one example? Wew lad… 

The concept of “High trust”

I may be Italian by right of blood but let’s not kid anyone here, I know nothing of Italy’s culture and the sheer majority of its customs are still foreign to me, and I may never be culturally Italian, try as I might.

That said, I’m still amazed by the concept of High Trust, often explained to me, but which I only began to experience upon our arrival here.

Perhaps I’m too worn and tainted from Venezuela, but it’s quite the amazing thing. People straight up leave their apartments open, there’s flimsy security all around, even in supermarkets. It’s a complete 180 from what I’m used to, where you get highly scrutinized and your purchase is inspected before being able to exit a supermarket, or my old place, where every apartment door had a “Mul-T-Lock” security or equivalent.

I had a bit of a problem with a neighbor because of it this week, because for some lingering instinct reason I locked the stairway’s door just as I’d do back in Caracas.

I apologized for it because I completely forgot at the time that you’re not supposed to lock that door. 

In Venezuela it would be the opposite, my neighbors would complain on the building’s WhatsApp group if they found one of the doors left unlocked or straight up left open.

I’m still amazed how people leave Audis, Mercedes Benz, BMWs, Teslas, and even Masseratis parked alone outside overnight. Mind you, I lived in a  building where if you left a vehicle outside you were asking for it to have its battery and other parts stolen (many such cases).

This is a small town, with roughly 3,000 people in it. There’s only one supermarket, a couple pizza places, one or two coffee shops, and like two pastry shops, so everyone knows each other.

There’s some more small things that I’d be more than glad to start covering as time goes on. I’m still trying to acclimate here, and I’m making a huge effort to come out of my shell and get more ingrained with the local culture. My Italian is still super rudimentary and while I can, for the most part, understand people speaking it to me, I struggle to have my brain switch gears and go from Spanish to Italian. It’s the biggest barrier to break right now.

Then again, I’ve only been here for three months, and there’s still so much that I need to accomplish and do before I’m able to move on.