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Since Federico left Palm Desert in June, 2013, he has had quite a lot of studying to do. When he arrived home to Pescara that June, he immediately had to study for tests to see if he could pass all the classes he had missed in his 4th year of high school in Italy. He had written and oral exams, defending the classes he took here and their curriculum. He also had to pass his hardest Latin and Greek classes (he had Latin here, but it was too easy, and no Greek), and what his classmates had learned while he was in California.
Then he began his difficult 5th year of high school, 6 days a week, with MANY more written and oral exams each week, and hours of studying each night. While his American friends were starting college in California, he was studying every day, and getting only Saturday evenings off after school. Sundays were spent studying for Monday's tests. It is hard for an American student with games, dances, and fun social activities to even imagine the routine of a conscientious Italian student. Federico already felt "a year behind" his American friends beginning their futures.
The BIG decision was what to do after high school? Where and what to study? What do I want to do next in my life? Those BIG questions were constantly on Fede's mind.
His application process actually began in February. He applied to the Academia della Guardia di Finanza, a military academy in Bergamo. This elite school trains young officers for the Italian Guardia di Finanza, or Guardian of Finance, an law enforcement agency, whose closest American equivalent might be the FBI. They are responsible for dealing with financial crime and smuggling, and it has also evolved into Italy's primary agency for suppressing the drugs trade. Its activities are connected with financial, economic, judiciary and public safety: tax evasion, financial crimes, smuggling, money laundering, international illegal drug trafficking, illegal immigration, customs and borders checks, copyright violations, anti-Mafia operations, credit card fraud, cybercrime, counterfeiting, terrorist financing, maintaining public order, and safety, political and military defense of the Italian borders.
The first step in the process involved Federico (along with 10,000 other students) taking written exams near Rome. They kept the top 2,000 applicants.
In March, he travelled to Bari to take a 6 hour essay exam. They kept the top 237 students, and he made the cut.
In May, he went back to Rome for 5 days of physical endurance tests, medical exams, and psychological testing. They were down to 180 applicants.
In July, (which cut our planned time in Venice in half), he went to 2 weeks of "Boot Camp" in Bergamo. They were woken up early to run, march, pass inspections, and learn the routine. Classes, marching, following orders, lots of being yelled at, discipline, and running laps for infractions like laughing, or not immediately jumping out of bed were the routine! There were 130 survivors.
On September 2, it was Federico's turn for strenuous individual oral exams in several subjects. They chose the top scores and took the top 57 candidates. FEDERICO is IN, and starts on October 8!
We are SO proud of his stamina, determination, courage, and intellect. He had long talks with Brad (who attended the Air Force Academy), about life in an academy setting.
The road ahead will be challenging and long. In 5 years he will have a law degree, then 7 years of service to the Guardia di Finanza. After three years, he will move from Bergamo to Ostia to complete his training. He will begin getting a salary the first year, which will increase annually. In two years, he will be a commissioned officer, with more privileges (like a weekend off a month).
It all begins for real on Wednesday, October 8! Good luck, Federico. We are with you all the way on this new adventure.
Federico had a fun week when we returned from Carmel. Sunday afternoon, Brad was anxiously waiting for us when we got home from the airport. Later that evening, we went to Fleming's Steak House to celebrate our 14th anniversary with our son.
I worked Monday-Thursday, but since Federico can now drive, he would drop me off, and take my Fiat until it was time to pick me up from work. He visited friends, hit some golf balls, went to the mall, went for a swim, and even visited his old teachers at Palm Desert High School. He spent a day with his buddies at Seth's beach house in Carlsbad, and his friends were in and out of the house. Luigi was so happy to have him home. He would sit outside the door to Fede's room and wait for him to get up or come out. It was like old times for me, except he is older, more mature, and those old high school exchange student rule days are gone. I can treat him as an adult. I loved cooking some of his favorite foods: sausage pasta, cutlets with asparagus and big baked potatoes!
One thing that WAS the same, was baking for Fede. In a week, he went through 2 batches of chocolate chip cookies, a double batch of brownies, and 10 dozen of his favorite vanilla sable cookies!
While Fede was out and about with friends much of the time, he hung out with me as much as possible, during dinner, or late at night before bed. Those moments of Mom time are SO precious!
On Saturday, we began our day with breakfast at EmLe's for their obscene "World Famous French Toast". I don't know where Fede put it, but he got through a whole order, while I couldn't finish half of my half-order. It was delicious and decadent with the warm cinnamon sauce.
We headed to the Monterey Aquarium, and beat the crowds. I hadn't been in a while, and Federico and I enjoyed the sharks, jellyfish, otters, and penguins.
We headed back down the coastline for a walk on Carmel beach.
On to the 17-Mile Drive! Federico said he LOVED this! Amazing scenery, and a stop at Spanish Bay and Pebble Beach Lodge for a beverage.
We went back to Carmel to relax before dinner at the Rio Grill. Fede and I shared stuffed potato skins with salsa and guacamole, and had spicy chili-braised shortribs with jalapeno-cheddar mashed potatoes and Mexican street corn. Afterwards, we sat out on the deck to chat with our gracious hosts until bed.
On Sunday, we had a leisurely breakfast before heading back to the San Jose airport. We made a quick stop at the Abecrombie Outlet in Gilroy so Fede could pick up some of his cologne. (Mom thought of everything!)
This special time I had with Federico nourished my soul. We talked and talked about everything! We enjoyed the moments, and also reminisced about his year in Palm Desert, and his exciting plans for the near future (more on that very soon!). It was a perfect Mom-Son getaway weekend!
Federico arrived at LAX on September 17. I left work at noon, and got there just as he walked out of the International terminal with his bag. What a wonderful day to have my son back in California! We drove back to the desert, catching up on everything since I had seen him in Venice in July. As we approached, he recognized landmarks, the windmills, outlet mall, and soon exits and street names came flooding back. He was very happy to see the front gate, and our house, just as he had left it, in June 2013!
Brad was working in LA, and had an afternoon meeting he couldn't ditch, so he couldn't be there for our first night. I had made a big pan of Fede's favorite, "Mom's Mac & Cheese", and a double batch of chocolate chip cookies. Fede had been up for almost 36 hours, as he left Pescara in the middle of the night to take a bus to FCO for a 6:30 a.m. flight from Rome. He happily settled in his room, and tried to take a short nap. His closest friends had other ideas, and began texting him and me. "Are you back from the airport? Can we come over and see him?" they asked. I suggested they come for dinner at 8:30. Dakota, Seth and Casey arrived to see him and have dinner with us. He was still pretty sleepy, but made it through dinner and I sent everyone home a little after 10. I had big plans for the next day!
I told Federico that the next morning we were leaving for the airport at 8:30 for a "weekend adventure", and made some packing suggestions (clothes for cooler temps), but he didn't know where he and I were headed for 4 days until we got close to the Ontario, CA airport. We were off to Carmel/Monterey.
That day didn't exactly go as planned. Our flight left at 11:00. We boarded, and sat while they fixed a wing-flap. But they couldn't fix the wing-flap without ordering a part, and there was no other plane, so we sat at the terminal. Luckily, the first 50 boarding cards made it onto the 1:40 flight, but we lost a few hours of time. We landed in San Jose, picked up a rental car and drove to Monterey. The weather was perfect! It was 70 degrees and sunny. Before arriving at my friends' Lynn and Gary's home, we drove through Monterey, Cannery Row, along the beach at Pacific Grove and Asilomar, and finally to Carmel, where our friends left us a key, as they had a dinner to attend.
We settled in, freshened up, and had a simple dinner at Taste in Pacific Grove. Federico wanted a big juicy burger and fries! We returned home and chatted with Lynn and Gary on their beautiful deck.
The next morning, I had another surpise planned. After breakfast, we headed to the mountains a few miles outside of Santa Cruz for a Redwood Canopy Zipline Tour.
Fede, in a group of 8, got into their equipment and attended "Ground School" before heading out on the course of 6 ziplines on their two-hour tour. I watched the beginning, then settled in at the office to do some paperwork and return phone calls for work.
After the tour, (he loved it...even the scary parts) we swung through a driving tour of Santa Cruz, and I showed Federico the beach, boardwalk, roller coaster and a few places from my childhood visits before heading back to Carmel. We had a snack and walked around Carmel before relaxing at Lynn and Gary's before dinner.
That evening we had a wonderful meal with Lynn, Gary, and their nephew, Hunter, at Cantinetta Luca in Carmel. I was SO happy and proud to be with my son in one of my favorite places!