Welcome to the 15th issue of The Interiors Project.
My friend Jacquie Pender is a woman with many homes. She lives in Yokohama but has chosen to feature her home in the town of Ripatransone, Italy. Even though this town – with the name I still cannot pronounce – is on the other side of the world, Jacquie’s house in Italy is one of only four Interiors Project homes that I have visited including Ashley’s apartment and Jay and Jenny’s house in Bangkok plus our own apartment (which, frankly, isn’t much of a victory! ) At the end of March, I visited Jacquie in Italy for just two days but I could have easily stayed for two weeks. I felt immediately at home and relaxed in Jacquie’s gorgeous home; Jacquie is a skilled and gracious hostess and her town of Ripatransone cast a magic spell over me and made me want to s-l-o-w r-i-g-h-t d-o-w-n. One of the highlights of my stay was going to the town bar for an aperitivo… when we were actually looking for the technician to fix Jacquie’s heat. As Jacquie said, “If you wait long enough, everyone always shows up.” And, sure enough, he did… looking for all the world like Clark Kent. I know that you will enjoy the time you spend in Jacquie’s beautiful corner of Italy.
I chose to focus on my home in Ripatransone in Italy, where I like to spend as much time as I can in between my work life, in Yokohama, Japan and visiting my family in Australia. Ripatransone is a small town sitting high on a hill between the Sibillini mountains and the Adriatic coast in central Italy. It’s in the beautiful region of Le Marche, not frequented a great deal by tourists from outside of Italy. As a result, it has retained its charm, warmth and culture; life continues to be “slow”.
My apartment is an old house (not sure how old) that was totally restored in 2005 and was converted into two apartments. It is on two levels and is about 116 square meters. One of my favorite parts of the house is my terrace, especially in the summer, watching the swallows, swirling and dancing in the thermals. It’s a lovely space to spend time with friends consuming the fresh local produce and vino! The changing landscape with views of the Adriatic, colors changing depending on the weather and beautiful red and orange sunrises on those jet lagged mornings when I am up early. Summer nights, sitting on the terrace listening to the various concerts being performed in the open air ampitheatre, operas, the children’s ballet concert, Italian hip hop, there’s something for everyone… that’s what I love.
Home for me is here in Yokohama. When I’m in Italy it is there and when I’m in Melbourne with my family, I’m home there as well. So I guess it is wherever I feel comfortable. I always like to make my home a home, so that it doesn’t feel transient or somewhere where I am only staying for a short time. At times I feel a bit like a snail who carries their home on their back. My furniture has probably sailed the world’s oceans, more than most people.
Life as as an international educator
In what countries have you lived?
I was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and a large part of my family still live in Scotland. My mum and dad immigrated to Australia when I was two years old. From a young age I grew up with the idea of having two homes. I know my mother still considers Scotland as her home, so my Scottish roots are always at the forefront of my concept of “home”. I left Australia in 1989 to take up a teaching position in Kuwait. I was very naive about my first overseas position and really did not have a lot of information about what I was about to experience. I was going for two years and like so many others, forgot to go back. I have lived in Kuwait, London, Bangkok, Thailand, Vienna, Austria, Manila, Philippines, Bonn, Germany and now Yokohama, Japan and my other home in Ripatransone, Italy since 2005.
What is your favorite country?
I have been extremely fortunate to have travelled to many countries in the world. I love to explore new places. I guess Italy would have to count as one of those favorite places. It was a country I returned to many times before I finally bought my house. Other favorites are Nepal, Portugal, France, Oman, Greece and Japan.
What do you love about Italy?
There are so many things that I love about my home in Italy. “Molto tranquillo” is the first thing that comes to mind. I love the pace of life there. It is where I can completely unwind after hectic days in school and I am a zillion miles aways from my day to day work. I love the rhythm of life, the bells from the churches, reminding me of the time of day. The surrounding fields, that are like patchwork quilts of sunflowers, grapevines, wheat and corn depending on the seasons. The mountains that are snow capped in the winter and who play hide and seek with the clouds and heat haze and the splendour, when on a clear day they are in all their glory. I love being close to the sea and spending lazy days on the beach in the summer with a good book, and walks in the cooler months. I love the food, wine and the people. I also love the fact that my home is in the shoe manufacturing region of Italy!
Have you ever been evacuated?
I haven’t been evacuated as such, but close to it on a few occasions. I was working in Kuwait when Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990. I had just left three days before the invasion to meet up with some friends I was travelling with in Turkey and Greece. I left with 10 kilos in my backpack not knowing that I would not return until the end of October 1991. I was stranded in Turkey, with the realization that I no longer had a job, place to live or access to money and 10 kilos of summer clothes. As the reality of the situation in Kuwait became apparent, I realized I would not be returning in the near future. I made my way to London to find a job and to start a new home with five other people. I felt very fortunate as I had friends who were still in Kuwait and Dutch friends who were taken as hostages to Iraq and kept for three months. I returned to Kuwait after the first Gulf War in October 1991 to teach in the first school to open up after the war. It was a humbling experience to go back at this time into a country that had been devastated by war, with 700 oil wells alight and the surrounding desert and beaches littered with landmines and ordinance. We endeavoured to teach children, all of whom were Kuwaiti who had lived through the horrors of war and witnessed atrocities, one does not even want to imagine. We constantly lived with the threat of further conflict and our daily reminders were the fighter jets screeching up the gulf from Saudia Arabia on their way to Baghdad everyday. We kept our cars and homes stocked with water and bags packed at the door, just in case.
Do you consider yourself a risk taker?
I think all of us who leave the comforts of our family and friends in our home countries are risk takers. It just goes with the territory.
How do you know when to leave?
I have left different places for different reasons, some I have left to pursue a new job and some I have just realized it was time for a change. I don’t ever begin with a plan, I just let it unfold and when the time comes, for what ever reason, it’s time to find a new adventure. I’m never disappointed.
How has living overseas changed you?
I hope living overseas has changed me. It has made me appreciate the tyranny of distance and at the same time realize how interconnected we all are and whilst there are physical distances, we are really all very close. I hope I have developed more empathy for those people who do not have choices about moving their homelands. People who are displaced by war, terror, oppression, famine and poverty. I know how fortunate I am to experience the opportunities to work and live in many different parts of the world and always have the means to return to my family and friends for holidays and to connect with them. I know this is not a reality for many people. I think it has has made me more independent with the ability to adapt fairly quickly to new and changing situations. I think it has enabled me to see life through many lenses and has certainly enriched my life and has made me realize I wouldn’t change a thing.
How did you find your current home?
I went on a “finding a house to buy” mission one summer in Italy. I just happened to come across my house by accident. It was meant to be.
What do you always unpack first when you’ve moved into a new place?
I always seem to unpack the kitchen things first and get that sorted, followed by the bed. Putting up my artwork, photos etc is also a priority as it helps to make me feel at home.
What is your approach to packing?
I am such a procrastinator when it comes to packing. It’s certainly not my favorite thing. I hate having to make decisions about what to take. I always seem to leave it to the last minute. I always take too much and am continually striving to travel lightly.
What do you like to buy when you are travelling?
I tend to buy art or bits and pieces for the house. When in Italy, I have a weakness for shoes. I have also been known to smuggle the odd chunk of parmesan cheese, olives and other prohibited food stuffs!
Food is one of the things that I really love in Italy. The availability of fresh vegetables and eating food in season. I love artichokes and my neighbour taught me how to prepare and cook them. They are always a treat when I go in the springtime. It’s hard to have a bad meal in Italy. It is simple and delicious eating. I love cooking when I’m in Italy and enjoy going to the market and buying what is in season. So much of the food is locally produced or grown in nearby neighbors gardens. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.
You are invited to leave your love notes for Jacquie in the comments section below.