#SuckItUp

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows.

SnapseedToday was not an easy day, and we were apart, but on these days one can only do their best and move on. And on those days, it is even more meaningful to have the right person(s) by your side. Thank you to my friend and colleague for getting me through this day and to my husband for supporting me even though he was thousands of miles from me.

Greetings from two very different places. Sometimes you’ve got to take a step back and enjoy the view.

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Throwback Thursday!

SnapseedI am in Strasbourg for the Plenary of the European Parliament. I have been travelling for a while now, and will be doing some more travelling soon. While I am beyond grateful to be here, to be a part of this and to be living the dream in a much better way than I ever pictured for myself, I am also missing two of the most important people in my life: my beautiful, beautiful sisters!

So here is a little #tbt to the second-to-last day before I got married, when my sisters and I took a nice walk in Val di Fiemme to go see the waterfalls just above the place where my husband was born and grew up. It was a precious moment that we shared, just the three of us.

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Work work work… and friendships, and love

SnapseedWhat a week! I worked non-stop from Monday to Saturday. Three different meetings in three days for the EU, and one more three-day meeting on the private market, this time in Montreux, Switzerland. I was not 100% sure I would be able to come out alive, but here I am to tell the tale! More than anything, this post is meant to celebrate friendship.

I was lucky enough to work with a wonderful friend who went to university in Geneva with me and with whom everything became easy, even working for a full day with an early start (7 AM!) after sleeping for no more than 3 hours. Giulia and I even managed to go for a run later that day and explore the beautiful lake-side at sunset. As always, we were two little chatterboxes! We had to catch up on so many things, even though we regularly talk to each other on Skype. We took our run easy enough to make sure we were able to talk non-stop all the way through our 9 kilometres… To be honest, I was happy we only ran around the lake, as it is the only flat part of Montreux (otherwise famous for a trail running festival… But as you might or might not know, uphill running is not my cup of tea).

When we went to university, all our teachers would tell us not many of us would end up working as interpreters. We know the Italian booth is particularly competitive and we were discouraged from the very beginning by everyone around us. And that only makes it so much more special, to get to work together and do our dream job. Getting to work together at a conference was our little victory over those doubters.

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We were joined by four young interpreters for the French and German booths: it was a pleasure to meet three new colleagues and to catch up with another former student of Geneva University. I had forgotten how expensive Switzerland can be, and it was a bit of a shock, but all in all Montreux treated us very well and provided me with some much needed peace with its placid lake surrounded by beautiful mountains.

It is now time to go back to Brussels – but just for little more than 24 hours, as Francesco and I are headed to Strasbourg for the plenary session of the European Parliament on Monday. Will try and catch up on sleep on the train(s) and plane(s)!

Coming home as husband and wife

We’ve made it! Our last flight for the summer is over and we are finally home. And we are both so, so happy.

We have absorbed, enjoyed and made the most of all the love we have been surrounded by and showered with and we have now made it home again, after a little more than a month.

It feels good to be home and to be able to spend some time with each other. To go back to all the old habits, but with a new role and a new awareness. To go get groceries together, cook for each other, go back to our old running routes – which can get boring, but are also reassuring -, pick clothes from a wardrobe and not from a suitcase – even though we are quite used to it even under “normal circumstances”.

Worry not, we will be writing on the blog because we have now grown quite fond of it 😉

P.S. You will be happy to know that we have managed t bring along some of your wonderful gifts without breaking anything and ALL of your heartfelt cards. We have been absolutely blown away by all your wishes, congratulations and expressions of love and we want to keep you close.

Throwback Thursday

Wedding: #tbt

My wedding day was perfect, because I knew it would be. I was going to marry the man of my dreams, my one love, The One. What could go wrong, as long as we were husband and wife at the end of the day?

That said, any wedding can prove tricky. I had been told that there would be glitches, but I didn’t believe them. My wedding would just be perfect. And it was! But we did have glitches. So here comes my very personal list in 6 points (plus 1) on how to survive on that very special day.

  • Break your shoes in (and have a spare pair!)

I am a trainer type of girl. I do wear heels at work but I deeply care about my ankles, toes and nails and was worried about how I was going to run a trail marathon just days after my wedding. I had a pair of trainers to change into and just loved them. I wore my beautiful heels during the ceremony and even during the reception, but those customised trainers saved my life during the photo shoot.

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  • Use compeeds

On the same note, you can identify the spots where the shoes are going to cause you blisters and prevent them with Compeeds. I did find them useful, but do not try to peel them away before they come off, or you will regret it (been there, done that).

  • Have someone keep tissues handy

I didn’t want to have to carry a clutch but I did need a few essentials, and I had my sisters and my mum put a survival kit in theirs. That included the above-mentioned tissues, lipstick (which I forgot in my sister’s clutch when we went away to take pictures), stain removal wipes and contact lenses. Of all, I only really needed the tissues, but quite a lot of them.

  • Allow yourself to feel everything

I was dead calm until around 5 pm the day before my wedding, when I started feeling a sense of anticipation in my stomach. I didn’t sleep at all. The next day I went running at 5 am, under a light, quiet rain, which helped me focus. I then went from excited to impatient to incredulous my wedding day had actually come, to feeling waves of love, merriment, and a profound and deep awareness of what I was about to do. I felt the luckiest person in the world and asked myself if I deserved all that joy. And even though I got emotional even before the ceremony and I knew my makeup would suffer, I allowed myself to feel everything, absolutely everything that went through me. I cried my eyes out during the ceremony, and laughed my heart out during the reception, and I felt absolutely blown away by all the love I was surrounded by.

  • Remember it’s your (and your husband’s) day

We were so lucky to have the wedding we wanted. Still, there will be guests who will try to monopolise you because they want a thousand pictures with the bride and groom; or there could be a conversation you seem to be unable to come out of with grace; or your wedding planner could be all over you. Don’t let it get to you. Enjoy your day, the company of your friends, and most of all your newly-wed husband.

  • Have a good breakfast (and lunch, and dinner)!

I always kick off my day with a good breakfast. My mum, my sisters and I allowed for an extra half hour specifically for breakfast. And make sure your hotel has you covered for dinner! My husband was so hungry by the time we got to our hotel after we had said goodbye to all our guests that we went down to dinner still dressed in our wedding suit and dress. Everybody loved it!

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  • Pick the right guy

Once you’ve nailed that, everything’s cool.

The good, the bad… and the fun

After telling you all about our experience, the time has come to give you an overview of what this race (and everything attached) might have in store for you. Virtually every person whom we have told about our project of running a trail marathon in the mountains of Northern Mongolia has reacted with (polite) scepticism: why would we want to choose such a remote place, let alone such a hard challenge, for our first steps as husband and wife? Why not choose to spend a fortnight on the beaches of Bali or in a luxury tourist resort on some African coast?

The answers are manifold, but can be perhaps summed up in one. We took a giant leap of faith, getting married and promising to ourselves that we would forever be together. It was only logical to take another little step in the direction of being brave and making the most of this unique opportunity and this very special time we have now. We feel extremely lucky and privileged. We can always go to Bali and join the scores of British pensioners on the safaris in Kenya, but honestly I had my doubts as to whether in ten years time, hopefully with some kids around, or in forty years time, probably with more than a few aches and pains if I continue to be so reckless, I’d be able to run a trail marathon (although after witnessing the incredible feats of our fellow runners in Mongolia, I am much more optimistic about my future running career for the long haul). The good news for you is that you don’t have to get married to run this race. Francesco wrote a beautiful post about the people we met there, and we were the only honeymoon couple there.

If you are interested, I hope this post will help you make up your mind as to whether this race is worth it. I promise I will not sugarcoat anything at all. Conversely, I hereby declare that it is my intention to point out all the things that I didn’t like, regardless of the fact that you might think I am a pain in the ass for complaining so much.

I am not a camping enthusiast. When I started dating Francesco, one of the first conditions I put was that we would never go on a camping vacation. This honeymoon of ours went dangerously close to it, but does not fall into that category because we did not have to set up our own tent and we technically had a bed. That said, do not expect a luxury accommodation. The tepies and gers all look very cute, but it rains inside – and it rained a lot during our week at the camp… In fact, we only had two dry days and luckily race day was one of them (until late at night, when the last 100k runners had to finish under the pouring rain).

The food – as already mentioned in my previous post – is very much the same all week: nothing to complain about, but if you don’t want to eat sandwiches every day you might want to bring some food from home (also, I think comfort food can go a long way when you find yourself in a new place and when the conditions aren’t always ideal). You will also have to bring warm clothes with you, as the temperatures rarely, if ever, go beyond 20 degrees, and the nights are cold (around 5 degrees). You can ask to have a fire made in your tepie/ger, but communication with the locals is very limited. Everyone will say “yes” and flash a giant smile, but rarely do things get done. For instance, we were told that we could have hot water (in a giant 2-litre thermos) in our tent any time, but whenever we asked we were reassured that they would bring the thermos, and most of the times it never materialised. There were basically three levels of (non)communication: we talked to the organisers, who talked to the people who managed the dining ger, who talked to the boys and girls who served the gers and the tepies of the guests.

The bathrooms and the showers are located in an autonomous building. The lavatories were clean, which I appreciated, but the showers have absolutely no pressure whatsoever and hot water is rarely available, which makes taking a shower very difficult, as it is usually not warm enough outside not to freeze to the bone. Considering that this is a camp for people who are training to run a marathon/100k and are pretty active, much could be improved. I am proud to say I managed to wash my hair three times over the week, mainly thanks to the above mentioned thermos of hot water, which I sneaked into the shower to have enough hot water to rinse the shampoo. On the plus side, there was a sauna available every day for 90 minutes for the ladies and 90 minutes for the men, which was nice, even though it wasn’t quite hot enough.

As for the leisure activities, we didn’t take part in too many, as our body was already struggling to adapt to the changes and we didn’t want to make things even harder before the marathon. Some participants took the opportunity to use the kayaks on the lake and do yoga, and we went on a horse riding 1-hour tour the afternoon after we ran the marathon. There is no wifi available at the camp, so we spent the rest of the time taking naps, walks, pictures, reading and writing. Getting to know the other runners and chatting with them over a cup of tea was perhaps the best part. It is so rare for people from so many walks of life to find themselves in the same place for so long and to be able to share a passion. Every one of us had a very different story to tell, but all were incredibly interesting.

The race really showed how selfless trail running is. Nobody was racing against the others. Instead, everybody was just trying to find out how to overcome the rough patches, when to push harder and when to slow down, when to tap into their mental resources and when to enjoy the scenery and stop to take pictures. At the same time, everybody was cheering for the others and encouraging them. It was truly moving to see how everybody was greeted at the finish line, regardless of their time or ranking.

The race itself went well (of course it did, we won! XD) but for some people it didn’t go as smoothly as they would have hoped. Some got lost or struggled to find the green marks that indicated the trail to follow – I was lucky enough to run with my very own hero, camel, and guide, aka my husband, who showed me the way, but not everybody could count on that. The aid stations were placed every 12 k for the 42 k distance, and then at the 55, 65, 76 and 88 k for the 100k distance. Before the race we were told that there would be drinking water for us to refill our bottles, but when we got to the second aid station we discovered that they only had hot water, so we had to carry on with what we had. There were no gels nor electrolytes or packaged foods that one could carry to have in between aid stations, so we ended up relying entirely on what we had brought. The runners who finished the 100k were very happy about the warm pumpkin soup they were served from the 55 k aid station on though.

I really liked the blue t-shirts that were given to all the finishers, even though the sizes were all wrong, as were the sizes of the technical white t-shirts that were given to the winners. Had I known, I would have bought one of the right size for 15 dollars… We also got very pretty medals: they are shaped in a little ball that recalls a traditional Mongolian badge of honour and are engraved with the shape of the two mountains we climbed and the distance (either 42 or 100). Our photographer’s pictures were also one of the best parts! It is great to run a marathon, but if you can’t prove it on Facebook it never happened 😉

Wedding day report

Disclaimer: this is going to be a monster post, but I promise to keep the next ones shorter!

 

Despite an administrative problem, a ribbon that wouldn’t be undone by our best man when we had to exchange rings, the worst nightmare of all – an accident with my wedding dress involving an aunt stepping onto it and tearing it apart, albeit in a non-visible way –, and a wasp that somehow managed to find her way inside my bodice and sting me twice on my tummy, we pulled it off. We are husband and wife!

Our wedding day was, oh, so special. After a sleepless night – I might have slept about an hour between 3.15 and 4.15 am – I finally got up at 5 and changed into my running gear. I had already planned to go out for a short run because I wanted to have some alone time before all hell broke loose. I needed to find peace. When I went out I didn’t even know it was raining. It was a quiet rain, one that accommodated my need for peace of mind. When I got back I was drenched, but as the saying goes (in Italian), “Sposa bagnata, sposa fortunata”. Let’s get this part done, I thought, so that the sun can shine later in the day. And it did.

It took me almost three hours to get ready, with Irene doing my hair and make up and Sofia taking pictures of us. Throughout all that I was trying to keep calm and focus at the same time. I didn’t want the day to slip away from me. I wanted to be in the moment. I let my mind and heart wonder and I allowed myself to feel whatever feelings came to me. My sisters eventually left, and I slipped into my wedding dress. At that point I was alone with my dad, and only had to wait for the car to be sent to me. My brother in law – who was extra elegant in his new dress – handed me my bouquet. It was the perfect bouquet, the prettiest bouquet I had ever seen.

We arrived a few minutes early, but because the marriage certificate had my sister’s name instead of mine we had to wait for the name to be changed on the paper. I finally went up the second flight of stairs and made my big entrance, with the music playing and everybody looking at me. I felt disoriented for a split second, before looking up at my very-soon-to-be husband. I went up to him (too fast, my mum said afterwards, too fast, you were rushing down the aisle!), kissed him on the cheek, and wiped away the mark that I’d left with my supposedly non-transfer lipstick. We sat down, both of us incredibly full of emotions, and we locked our hands for a good ten minutes, until we were allowed to exchange rings. First the best man couldn’t undo the ribbon that held the rings in place, then I had a hard time slipping the ring onto my newly-wed husband’s finger. Oh well, our photographer would have some more time to take a nice pic of that very special moment. My ring was easier. My sister read out a poem, and then we read our vows out loud.

Francesco started, already making me emotional, even though his vows were full of humour. I laughed and cried, but when I started reading my vows I was already so emotional that I knew I would cry my heart out. I did. I cried so much I look teary-eyed in all the pictures taken immediately after, but I was in good company, as almost everybody in the audience wept as well. My mum, whom I have never seen being emotional, looked close to tears as well, even though I was not able to spot a real tear on her face.

Then we took pictures, and then more pictures, and then more pictures, until we were finally free to go take more pictures. I freaked out shortly about the dress mishap and felt really disappointed for about 15 minutes, but then I figured I didn’t want to have my whole day ruined by it. My sister-in-law and her boyfriend took us to a park and then to a very cute lookout to take some pictures, and I immediately grabbed the chance to hug and kiss my husband as many times as it is humanly possible in an hour. I think we might have set a new record.

When we arrived at the reception venue everything was exactly as we had wanted it, even though the run up had been everything but smooth. The sun was out, there was a light breeze, the food was excellent, the garden was gorgeous, and our friends were waiting for us to celebrate. We went around the garden, chatted with everybody, took pictures again (my least favourite part, but maybe I’ve already mentioned it?), had some food (although not as much as I would have wanted), then marked the quiz we had organised for our guests and proclaimed the winner. As I imagined, not only did the quiz bring our guests together, but it also brought out the competitiveness within them. We had a good laugh, with Brits giving the wrong answer to the question about the number of Commonwealth countries and a Norwegian guest indicating that the moose was a predator in Norway.

The afternoon slipped away too quickly. We cut the cake, after giving a very short and totally improvised speech, and enjoyed that moment too. My heart was full. I felt so grateful and blessed for all the love that surrounded me, and so proud to be standing next to my husband.

To sum up the mood of the day I could maybe quote two friends. One said “I want my wedding to be just like that”, and the other said: “I have to find a man who looks at me the way Chiara looks at Francesco”. Have a look at the picture and you will understand what she meant.

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