Saturday, May 26, 2012

Open Mic - More Responses

So we're back at the microphone with the questions from the crowd.  Diane just threw out the query about the strangest custom we've experienced.  Hmmm.  My first impulse is to say the way no lines exist, everyone just groups up in a human blob at whatever counter or office they need to line and wait for.  But that's may be more of a *lack* of a custom than a strange custom in itself!  I'd say the display of saints' parts in churches is a strange custom.  I still have a hard time understanding the appeal of seeing the finger of St. Whoever or other bits and pieces of the bodies of venerated saints.  Boh!

So're a curious dude tonight!  Let's see...Ndrangheta, never seen them.  No shake downs, no shady deals, nothing that looks like the mob in action.  Mammismo is prevalent all over Italy, also down here in the south.  Sometimes it's for economic necessity; other times, well, life is just too good with mamma, so why leave?  (They say.)  Purses aren't quite so popular down here, though you see them.  And Bryan carries one, but will quickly point out that it's "a man's bag, not a purse."  Yeah.  Okay.  And, wow.  You're a direct kind of guy, I like that.  So...ball grabbing to ward off bad luck is something I've heard about but never personally seen.  It may be more of a Calabrian thing, but gotta say I've not been a witness to it here.  And finally, yes, I've ordered a cappuccino after 10:00 am.  Nothing was said and no strange looks given.  After 11:30 am however will get a discussion of your colon's health and the dangers of milk before or after a meal.  Get Ed another birra and give him a round of applause!

Louise.  Hey!  Thanks for coming by!  Thanks for the comments about the house.  We think it's pretty cute.  And everyone who comes says it's cozy and nice.  The dream kitchen is still in the dreaming phase.  It's a little complicated to move it and will involve trenching the floor and new drains, which aren't so easy to do in a 300-year old building.  But as soon as we have the money, we'll get 'er done!  The plaster hasn't been stripped off the stone in the bedroom yet, either.  Our mason slipped a disc and wasn't able to work for a good six months.  Piano, piano.  And the cantina is behind the bedroom and a portion of a living room, so we'll be able to bust open a doorway someday to make another big rustic space, though we're still undecided about what we'll do with it yet.

Italia in 2015 posed a good practical question about moving - what to bring.  That's a tough one as it depends on each individual and what you can't live without.  I shipped a load of books, because English language tomes are hard to come by, but...alas, they never arrived.  The post offices on both ends blamed the other, but the sad result was about a thousand dollars' worth of books that I'd never see again.  I brought mostly clothing, a few personal items to decorate the house (Nambe' ware from New Mexico, mostly), and a few kitchen items that I'm addicted to (potato peeler, microplane grater, and a cross-cultural measuring vase that is invaluable for those of us that easily convert from cups to grams or mililiters.  And yes, it's made in Italy but I've never seen one anywhere.  Oh, the irony!  Electronics cost less in the States, so bring your tablet, laptop, and video camera gear.  Plus, you'll want that English language keyboard instead of the Italian one (unless you're doing lots of translations into Italian).  Anything else with a plug that isn't dual voltage adapted can be left behind.  The rest...well, it depends on you!  I do import green chile whenever possible to get a taste from home, and am hopelessly addicted to the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader's Joes, so I ask everyone who comes to visit to bring me a bag, but otherwise, I don't really miss to much in the way of food items.  Oh, except for spices.  I do bring bottles of Cajun Spice and Chili Powder back, which friends appreciate when I cook some good ol' American stuff for them.

Well...there you have it.  Feel free to holler out questions, chime in, or sing a song in the comments sections any ol' time.  See you later folks!

Monday, May 07, 2012

Open Mic - The Responses

So Janine kicked things off with a bang when she stepped up to the microphone and asked the deep, philosophical head-scratcher:  What is the biggest/most important lesson that Italy has taught me?  Well.  We've come so far from those early months when we felt like toddlers learning to walk.  We've learned a language, learned to adapt, learned to laugh at ourselves.  But I think the biggest thing we had to learn was patience.  Yes, it's the virtue that I've always lacked; but it's the most important one when living in a foreign country in general and Italy in particular.

Patience with ourselves as we spit out disjointed words; patience with others as they tried to make things clear or when the "be nice to the dumb foreigners" look wafted across their faces; and patience...oh Lord lots and lots of patience....with the burocrazia.  Investing days of circling offices, calling and being "disconnected", finding the right person who knew what we needed to do (and when and how we needed to do it) can really wear you down.  But perseverance and patience are what you need in those circumstances.
Good question, Janine!

Jennifer - cuz!  I know you're not the shy type, so glad to see you right there in the front row!  Even if you don't have a wonderful cousin who lives in Italy, you can travel around Italy without much trouble.  Yep, even if you don't speak the language.  As long as you have a phrase book, learn a few of the important phrases before you arrive, and have a sense of adventure, you're good to go!  Okay, I gotta say that down here in our parts, it can be more challenging as a lot of the smaller town are a bit thin in the English department.  But you'll always be able to get fed, find a bagno, and wander around the sights even if you don't speak the language.  Get a guidebook and go, has been our mantra from our first trip.  But definitely read up a bit before hitting the ground, so you know how things operate.  And of course, in the tourism-heavy areas like Rome, Florence, Venice, Tuscany and Amalfi Coast, you'll always find people who speak English.  (I hope this means you're planning a trip?!) shy one in the back.  The economy sucks all over, unfortunately.  Not just here.  Problem is, for us it's a bit more challenging because we're not EU citizens and can't take a regular job (no proverbial green card for us).  We can do freelance work, and that's it.  So while the cost of living is low and we don't have a mortgage to pay, there are taxes and living expenses.  And at the moment we're not filling the tank as fast as we're driving.  Yeah, the cost of gas is through the roof here.  We decided to keep going forward on our projects while bouncing back and forth to the US for bank account fill-ups.  The retirement fund is untouchable, so "si arrangia" as they say here, while hoping the economy picks up, work brings some rewards, and we can stay put and live happily, peacefully here in our village.

Thanks, you've been great!  Open Mic Night continues next time with the other find folks, and a couple of questions I get all the time...

See you then!