After nearly eight months in Italia, we’ve become rather well acclimated to our new surroundings and feel we’ve assimilated pretty well (slow language skills not withstanding). Other than friends and family that we miss seeing and speaking to regularly, there aren’t many things from home that we’ve felt we really, really couldn’t live without.
We’ve heard many laments from expat acquaintances (and friends who formerly lived in Italy) about the things they just crave so much they must have these items brought to them (or incur costly shipping in order to procure them). Cheddar cheese seems to top the list, something that I confess confounds me a bit since there are something like 200 varieties of cheese in this country, and I’ve already found a few types that work well on Mexican dishes, the chief reason for wanting cheddar. Lest you think I’m not an aficionado of Mexican cuisine, refer to the title of my blog. I love the spicy stuff. I figure I’d be able to find replacement ingredients to get a “hot fix”, if green chile is not available to me. Of course, it may be easier for me to say that while I’m still hoarding a stash.
Chocolate chips seems to be a big one, too. My friend Cindy lived in Lucca for three years and complained about not getting the little, perfectly-formed chips. I just chop up a chocolate bar and call it good; I don’t think my cookies suffer. Some want a specific brand of mayo, yellow mustard, and cranberry sauce. I even heard about a lady who brought a whole turkey (the kind with the little pop-up timer) tucked into her suitcase!
But to each her own, and while there are not particular products I feel I need, there are two things that I just can’t obtain here and I can’t import them either: a good massage and a decent haircut.
The haircut thing I don’t understand. There are parrucchiere all over the place. I see women with gorgeous hair. Why can’t I find a competent stylist? I say, “just trim a little” and next thing I know I’m clipped into a retro-punk, spikey thing. Grazie mille. I’ve tried different stylists. I’ve looked up words diligently to make sure they comprehend and have repeated myself, then asking, “Ha capito?” Si si, they always tell me before hacking away. I’d consider flying to the States for a decent ‘do, but I’ve had issues there, too. I guess it’s my universal thorn to annoy me all my days.
The massage thing is a whole other ballgame. I went for monthly massages in New Mexico and had a talented masseuse who worked out the knots and kneaded the muscles to elasticity. Sheeting, draping, warmed rooms, relaxing music…you know, the usual professional massage.
Here, on the other hand, one must check her modesty at the door. Not only is there no draping, the therapist waits in the room while I undress. I must hustle across the cold tiles to jump onto the table, where no modesty sheet awaits. Let it all hang out seems to be the philosophy. Just a tad awkward and unnerving. The first massaggatrice I visited in Anzio allowed me the privacy to undress, but she handed me a little plastic baggy containing a white wad inside. I unfolded it to find a paper thong bikini that I was to put on. I cannot describe how uncomfortable that was. Oil is another issue. They use enough to fry a Thanksgiving turkey, and by the end the table is so slick I dang near slide right off. This is the routine at all three therapists’ I’ve visited so I’m guessing it’s just the way things operate around here. A massage is not the relaxing experience I’m accustomed to.
These are the things that I miss and can’t obtain, so I’ll not judge those who can’t get their coveted cheese or chocolate chips. We all have our comfort zone we want to maintain. Mine has slid away with the massage oil and the paper thong. I think I’ll give up the dream of relaxation and learn to live with a bit of muscle tension for the time being. If any traveling massage therapists or hair stylists happen to be coming this way, let me know if you’ll do house calls.
copyright 2007 Valerie Schneider