Saturday, June 30, 2007

Aloha from Italy - We've Arrived

I've had a few successful days and quite a few discouraging ones in Italia so far. Most of the frustration comes from not having transportation, enough foreign currency on hand, and, of course, limited communication skills.
Things are getting better though!
We haven't gotten to see downtown Vicenza yet, but we took a bus and visited the city of Lucca on Saturday. It was beautiful. We kept remarking on how much we wished we could live the heart of that city.

Lucca is a small city in Tuscany that is surrounded by a wall and a moat. On top of the wall they have a beautiful bike path, and inside they have some very beautiful buildings and strictly regulated traffic, so there are very little cars to be run over by.
We had a romantic lunch in a little cafe. I knowingly ordered boar with olives and Matteo picked something off the main dishes section that neither of us could figure out. Then, out came a steaming hot bowl of white melted cheese. Not fondue, cheese. hahaha. Good cheese, but surprising! After a bottle of their house wine (actually made by the owners) we decided a bowl of cheese wasn't such a silly thing to have for lunch.

We also visited an olive "orchard" in Tuscany and did an olive oil tasting. We bought some delicious olives.
There isn't much about the military that either of us like, but there are some hidden gems. There is an office that sets up tours for VERY reasonable prices and another office that sets up outdoor adventures for reason prices too. I'm signed up to hike MT. Pasubio on the 7th. It should be incredible (if I even make it!).

I am slowly learning Italian. Although, considering I haven't been here a month yet, perhaps I am learning quickly. I study from three different books every night. I am able to get my point across for the most part (knowing Spanish helps-- as does being a world champion at charades). I had quite a time trying to mime "trash bags" (try it).

Recycling is required here, which I wholeheartedly agree with. They have you separate plastic, glass, aluminum, cardboard/paper, organic (food scraps and such) and non-organic trash (anything not recyclable). This leaves us throwing away very little (two grocery bags of trash all month).

These are a few things I have learned so far:
1. never ever give the "okay" sign in Italy. ever. :-/ It turns out it means "asshole." oops!
2. grand firework shows at all hours of the night (and morning) are either legal or largely ignored. and very popular. As is driving down the street on a moped blowing your whistle, with all your friends following suit. So far, I've found this amusing.
3. church bells will ring every hour, every half hour, at the beginning of mass, at the end of mass, and for any other reason. Fortunately I live across the street from the church so I never miss mass.
4. Eggs apparently don't need to be refrigerated??
5. John Secada is popular on the radio.
6. You can buy a box of wine for under a dollar. It's not very good, but it's cheap. Decidedly better wine is more expensive, but still less expensive than Coca Cola.
7. Italians like to insert English words into everything, but they don't always make sense. We have a radio station here called "bum bum manatee."
8. it doesn't get dark until 9:30pm/10pm!! It gets light early in the morning too! eek. This does not say good things about winter.

We live in a town called Marola. There isn't much here, but a bar (cafe) is located just downstairs from, next to the church. The only other thing we really have here are a couple pizzerias, a "TACO KID" (where you can order panini and bruschetta with your enchilada), and a bread shop. I walk 2.5 miles to the closest grocery store almost everyday. As soon as I stopped drinking the filthy water from the tap, that didn't seem like such a long distance. Needless to say, Mateo and I don't eat watermelon or anything that comes in a can.

To the horror of my self righteous ego I almost bought shredded horse meat last week. Why I was even considering buying shredded meat to begin with is beyond my comprehension. Although, I must say that it looked like shredded beets, which I realized I had been craving as soon as I saw it. Then I figured out that "equina" meant horse and the friendly horse face label did not mean "happy horses eat beets."

Our cupboards were quite bare for some time, so Mateo broke down and asked someone from work to take us to the grocery store on base to stock up on food (our local grocery store has VERY little to offer other than fruit, horse, and dairy products). I had already finely crafted a shopping list in my spare time since arriving, so I went prepared. (When I'm hungry and bored, I make excellent shopping lists.)
We didn't have much time to shop so we decided to split up, meet at the center aisle. Before we parted Mateo looked at me, grab me by the shoulders and said "whatever you do: stock up." Of course this sent me into a frenzy like a SUPERMARKET SWEEP contestant. Thank god we have an elevator at the apartment!
When Mateo opens the fridge/freezer he proclaims "now, that is a beautiful thing." I have to say, I agree.

I've made a bit of a friend in the barista at the bar on our block. I'm hoping she'll take me under her wings and teach me how to speak like a local and get an extreme Italian makeover, minus all the gold jewelry.

Other news: Mateo has warmed up significantly to the idea of getting furniture.

I also want to apologize to everyone that didn't know that I'm now married. I meant to send wedding announcements in a timely manner, but moving to Italy made that more difficult than I expected. I'm married to a military guy, but he plans on getting out as soon as our time is up here in Italy (3 years). After which, he intends on getting a government/federal job to keep his years earned towards retirement.
He's definitely not what would expect of a military guy (in my opinion). He's an "artsy alternative" Aquarian who likes strong coffee, reading Nietzsche and Kerouac, punk rock, and long walks on the beach. He is from Massachusetts, and was a college radio DJ and fast food worker until getting his degree in Communications and a minor in Cultural Anthropology from UMass Amherst. Why the hell is he in the army? That's a complicated answer you'll have to get from him.

There are some wedding pictures posted in a previous post.

I must get going. Hugs to the kiddies!

P.S. Let me know if a song remarkably similar to the "Barbie Song" ever comes to the states. Call it a hunch, but I'm sure the name of the song is "Take It Easy."

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Apartment - the beginings

Our apartment: Well, upon first inspection I was quite pleased. It's a very large apartment. Definitely bigger than I had expected. I would say about 1,500 square feet (am I getting overstimulated?) Tiled throughout. Very large windows, which are a bit of a pain in the ass because they swing inside to open, which creates a lot of "dead space" around them. Perhaps, this is why the rooms are so large.

Anything and everything having to do with handles, switches, or electronics takes some getting used to. We still have a bit of a problem getting in and out of the front door and opening the window door to the patio. I blew up the radio, which Mateo is going to try to return feigning a pre-established malfunction in the device. We also had to vent the house in a hurry when we tried to use the gas oven--thank god gas is scented.

The water pressure isn't fantastic, but there is unlimited supply of hot water and a fairly large bathtub (not freestanding tub, don't get too excited). Also...and this pleases me thoroughly...there is a bidet. I tried it out immediately out of excitement (and lack of toilet paper). It is a decidedly better cleansing routine than "stupid american" toilet paper.
The two bedrooms are large. There is a small second bathroom, unfortunately lacking a bidet, but nice nonetheless. There are blackout security screens, which are hard to explain but fantastic.

However, I started to get really depressed and got into a bit of a fit when I started to unpack. The loaner furniture that the army gave us is horrible. I guess I am more spoiled than I thought. I really wasn't expecting anything, but apparently that was too much, because this furniture sucks. The wardrobes and dressers make the place look like a barracks or dorm room. The couches are icky. they smell like wet dog and are made of a horrible material in a odd "matches everything" pattern.

I mentioned that we could remedy this by buying our own furniture at the NEARBY IKEA, but Mateo started to get in a huff about not wanting to buy furniture because it was "expensive and we don't know where we'll be living after Italy." I think we must buy a new couch though, I swear the wet dog/old sock smell is starting to rub off on my clothing if I sit on it too long. I'll keep the loaner dressers and desk, but those wardrobes have go to go. They were so depressing we moved them all into the spare bedroom as to keep from having to look at them first and last thing everyday.

Now that I have been here two days, things are starting to look up. I don't want to sound as if I don't appreciate this experience or am miserable here. I am really happy to be back with Mateo again. And, as we get better transportation and used to the irregular business hours, we'll surely grow to absolutely love this place.