Part II of VI: Cross-Cultural Perspectives — Thriving Amid Pandemic — Italy

Italian man on a balcony with a sign reading "Andra tutto bene"--everything will be OK REUTERS: Daniele Mascolo

Many within our cross-cultural, intersectional community rely on skills to keep ourselves grounded among chaos. Yet, who would have expected a global pandemic would spur the masses to remember the wisdom of keeping body and soul together during difficult times?

In our series examining COVID-19 among our globally mobile community, we take a peek behind each continent’s curtain. Our second destination, after Shanghai, is Italy.

Italian man on a balcony with a sign reading andra tutto bene--everything will be OK
Italian man on a balcony with a sign reading “Andra tutto bene” — everything will be OK. REUTERS: Daniele Mascolo

Practices of getting by with few resources during the worst of times were recently relied on during the:

  • 1918 — Influenza pandemic (often called the Spanish Flu)
  • 1918 — World War I
  • 1939 — World War II
  • 1930 — The worldwide economic depression — the Great Depression
  • 2007 — The global Great Recession

Most families no longer teach this sort of long-term resiliency. According to the International Monetary Fund, many people view these days as the most emotionally and economically challenging since the Great Depression. Loss or reduction in income, quarantine, isolation, social distancing required to contain the spread of coronavirus, in addition to homeschooling children and loss of routine are pushing many to their personal edge.

Globally mobile millennials drawing from the past

A young man and woman standing outside her parent's home in Treviso, Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic
Colton Nelson and Sara Bianchini outside her parent’s home in Treviso, Italy during the COVID-19 pandemic. credit: Colton Nelson

Some have continued these traditions of long-term resilience on a consistent basis and they have a wealth of knowledge to teach.

Unity is Inspiring

Husband and wife — Colton Nelson, 24, of Idaho, USA, and Sara Bianchini, 23, of Italy, are in Bianchini’s hometown of Treviso, Italy — 20 minutes north of Venice. It is also near one of COVID-19’s hardest-hit regions in the country — Lombardia — which currently has more than 70,000 people tested positive for the virus.

I spoke with the couple about their ongoing experience in a country heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colton Nelson and Sara Bianchini in Treviso, Italy speaking about the COVID-19 pandemic near one of the hardest hit regions — Lombardia. credit: Antoinette Toscano

Lessons from the Corps

Nelson grew up in rural Idaho and he spent a lot of time on his grandparent’s cattle ranch in Montana, USA. He relied on a philosophy that was instilled in him on the ranch and it was “aggressively put into practice” during his time in the U.S. military.

“I learned a concept during my time in the Marine Corps that we called ‘embracing the suck’ which is to consciously accept or appreciate something that is extremely unpleasant but unavoidable for forward progress.”

— Colton Nelson

He continues, “basically what this means is that you need to understand that sometimes things are out of your control. We live in a constant state of controlled chaos and not everything goes according to plan. Learning to embrace this allows for better peace of mind. Instead of focusing on the bad look for the positives. Stay calm and don’t let the stress of a situation that is out of your control overwhelm you. Just do what you can and move forward.”

Resurgence of family values during a pandemic

Bianchini, experienced a return to her traditional Italian values of family connectedness as a result of the current pandemic.

“Even if it might sound obvious, what I learned (through) this quarantine is not to take anything for granted. I think (we) Italians have always been a very outgoing and social population. Being forced to stay at home away from friends and amusements has been very challenging.

When all these things were taken away from us, we were in shock and disbelief. Because our way of living was changed dramatically.

On the weekend, people are now at home with their family playing cards, cooking dinner together, watching movies and so on. [This was] something unthinkable a few weeks ago because we were too busy taking care of our social life.”

Sara continued by saying, “When lockdown began people started to get together (on) their balconies to sing and hold each other up with the motto: Everything will be okay.”

“ ‘Andra’ tutto bene’ everything will be OK).’

A solidarity that I’ve never seen before. I learned … that staying united is fundamental to (getting) through a tragic moment.”

— Sara Bianchini

New York City another location hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Chef Mustapha Abdul-Rahiim offers advice from his family’s cultural traditions. His advice will help to ensure your food security, in the next installment of this series.

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