Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Joining the Community

Two weekends ago, I became an official member of our neighborhood association. With a little membership card to prove it and all. The Association had a fundraiser in the piazza by our home. Down by the seafront, there is a community swimming pool under construction. It's been under construction since we moved in. The exterior of the building is gorgeous, all white, no crumbling, porthole windows [use your imagination since I don't feel like walking the block down there to take a photo]. But after all this time, construction is still not complete. Next to the swimming pool is the saddest little playground you've ever seen. A couple of grass covered, rusting rides that wouldn't have met U.S. safety standards 25 years ago. Grass choked out by weeds. Frames of former benches. It has the potential to be a darling little park, other than the fact that it's bordered on one side by a busy road and the other by a railway, but we just can't have everything. Anyway, the fundraiser was for these two places. I filled out my card, got my proper tax receipt, and don't forget, my membership card. I had gone to the fundraiser with friends from up the road who know about half the people in town, so we were kept busy chatting. Actually, they chatted. I did my best to just understand what was being said. We headed over for food and found that the dozens of little children had snaked all the hotdogs  and two huge bowls of pasta, leaving only potato chips and grilled lamb behind. I eat lamb when I'm in countries like Morocco or Greece. But otherwise, I tend to picture a cute, fuzzy, little thing that I want to pet. And I have absolutely no problem with the hypocrisy in my meat eating habits. Anyway, the upshot is that what we had left to eat were potato chips. Since I'd just paid 10euros and all, I made sure to eat my 10euros worth of chips. And Coca-Cola. Then dessert came out. Have you ever seen grown-ups shoving one another to get to dessert? Not only have I seen it, I participated. But I got a piece of the chocolate dessert. And the cookie, and the lemon, and about three other kinds as well. This old man next to me thought he might beat me out when we both went for the chocolate at the same time. He was mistaken. I'm not sure how well the fundraiser did, but when I just walked down to the Tabacchi to pay my gas bill, construction workers were once again on the job. Better yet, one fellow we talked to said the Association hopes to do more such community gatherings. We should be fully integrated into the community about the time we get on the plane back to America.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Luxury of Running Hot Water

We have hot water. At last, at last. I can turn on the tap, and hot water comes out. At any time of the day or night. Whenever I want hot water, it's there. This is big news in our household. For the last four months, we have had no such option. When our hot water went out a few months ago, we called our landlord who sent over a repairman, Pasquale. After Pasquale left, we had hot water for approximately seven hours. Mind you, this was in the middle of winter, and our house is heated by radiators. We have on-demand water from the city, rather than a huge, hot water tank, and our "caldaia," (hot water heater) is located outside our home. In order to get hot water, we would put on coats/rain jackets/etc., go outside, perform a series of button pressings in no particular order, turn the thing on and off, wait, press some more buttons, then hear the heater fire up.

So after Pasquale's first, failed visit we did not call our landlord back immediately. Mainly we spent a week arguing...I mean, discussing...who was going to call our landlord back (a common...discussion...in our household), then we went on vacation to Germany for 10 days, then another a week on the "Whose gonna call" discussion. Nathan's position is that I speak better Italian, and I'm the one with the home schedule that the workmen must work around. My position is that we currently live in a very patriarchal society, and while our landlord likes me very much, he wants to conduct business with the man of the house. Plus, my accent is difficult for him to understand, in both Italian and English. I can call him, say something, he tells me he doesn't understand, we go around in a circle for awhile before hanging up. Nathan will then call him right back and say the exact same thing. And voila. Understanding. It's enormously frustrating. One of us eventually called our landlord and Pasquale returned to get the hot water working again...for about six hours.

In January, as I was spending all my time on the sofa, our landlord sent one of his cousins who is a landscaper to take out some dead trees in yard, do some pruning, etc. While pruning around an old, abandoned tank on one of our terraces, one of the workmen cut a tube on this tank, possibly an old gas tank. This necessitated all sorts of other people called in to see if there might now be a greater problem, and the consensus was, no problem. I then noticed a bunch of water seeping down our garage wall and pooling all over the floor. I called the landscaper, our landlady who was here at the time, and the general handymen who are here often to the garage to see this. The ceiling was starting to bubble and crack as well. General consensus, no problem. So for the last four months, when I wanted to take a shower or wash dishes, there was a 20 minute dance performed with the caldaia. And heaven forbid we close up the house for the evening before showers and dishes, because once the house is closed up, we just don't feel like opening it all back up only to spend 20 minutes running in and out trying to get some hot water running.

Fast forward. Pasquale returns for about the sixth time to work on the caldaia, and I call a friend on the phone to translate what he's telling me. The problem is a water leak in the pipes, so the caldaia doesn't always have water to heat. I show Pasquale the garage, where the water in the garage is now causing the ceiling to actually fall in and some electrical box to start leaking brown spots. Pasquale also thinks this is a problem, so I try to get him to call our landlord and tell him. He doesn't want to. I can't believe that I'm now having the same argument...discussion...with Pasquale that I have with my own husband. I make the call. It goes as most of my phone calls go, and ends with my landlord saying, "I do not understand you. I'll call Pasquale." Back come the original workmen accompanied by our landlord and his cousin. Yes, there IS in fact a problem. The pipe that serves the caldaia is leaking. After ripping out the garage wall, they cannot access the leak and start eyeballing my front terrace and the tile inside my house, where the pipe comes up from the garage. I point out that if they rip into these places, and the leak isn't there, they'll next have to move onto my walls. I'd like to avoid ripping the house down in search of the leak. An hour passes with much discussion and phone calls on what they will do. They decide to run a new pipe instead. I think this is a stellar decision. My landlord then tells me that Pasquale will arrive in the afternoon to fix the hot water. I wait, Pasquale does not come. I call my landlord. He says Pasquale will come tomorrow. I wait, Pasquale does not come. This goes on for three days. I give up and decide I will never have hot water again, and I must accept this fate. And Pasquale comes. And WE HAVE HOT WATER! It's worked for two full days now. Two days of hot water. Life is good.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Scully, the Crazy Dog

He's a darn cute, little fuzzbucket.
Nathan feels that Crazy Dog has been absent from his fans for too long. Thus, this post is all about him. Scully continues to love Italy. He guards the perimeter of our house like a happy, fuzzy, gentle attack bear. Workmen (who are here often) and our landlord still ask at every single visit to the house: "The dog will eat me?" While I have repeatedly assured them that the dog will not eat them, and I desperately hope that what they're actually trying to ask is if he'll "bite" them, because otherwise, where on earth did they get their knowledge of house dogs...I forgot where I was going...oh, I have repeatedly assured them that he will not, in fact, eat them, but because our little Crazy can look scary and loves, loves, loves to sniff private parts extensively, I can see how they're a bit afraid.

With our recent news, we have wondered what Scully senses. He knows something is different and has turned into a little cuddlebug. His favorite thing in life used to be his toys, but now, his favorite thing is cuddling. Hugs, kisses, lying on the sofa to be my naptime pillow, sleeping with me in the mornings after Nathan has left. He's always been a sweet dog, but now, even more so. Unless you're a stranger walking by our house on the street. Or a cat. Then, he's a snarling, growling beast. I shudder to think about how we're going to manage back in the U.S. This house is our ninth in sixteen years (plus one six month residence in a hotel, so really, tenth), and it is the first with a fenced yard. We don't gravitate towards suburbia, where one might find a home rental with a fenced yard. But now, we may have to reconsider. That's right. We wouldn't consider moving to suburbia for our child, but for our dog, yes. If we treat our child anything like our dog, we are going to have one indulged, spoiled brat on our hands. Two, if we include Crazy on that list. Note to self: Do not spoil child, do not spoil child, do not spoil child.
I write this as I look out onto our terrace and see dog toys strewn everywhere. The dog has roughly 55 toys. The dog. But remember, toys used to be his favorite thing, so we just couldn't resist. Anything that squeaks and he can flop around and hit himself in the face is a winner with him (the moniker Crazy Dog is not in jest), but we have hit the jackpot. On our recent trip to the States, I stopped into our favorite, dog toy store in Alexandria, VA (The Dog Park on King Street), and there, I found a supersonic toy. The squeaker squeaks at a frequency that Scully can hear but we cannot. Yippee! So now, when I'm on the phone or friends come over, and Scully begins to act like a two year old wanting attention by squeaking his toy right-in-my-face, I can just sit back and continue my discussion. Hah! After four years, I have outsmarted the dog. I am going to be a fantastic mother.
It's the "Island of Misfit Toys."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Where's Waldo...or...I'm Back

I read a load of blogs. It's my reading equivalent of reality TV. When blogs that normally post quite often go dark, I worry about those people. Are they okay? Did they have a family tragedy? They just disappeared from my life with no warning, no time for me to prepare myself. I spend days, weeks even, wondering how they are, what they're doing, when they will come back to me. And then I went and did the same thing. Just disappeared. My family and friends know why, and while I know I have a few readers out there who are perfect strangers to me, I honestly didn't think there were that many of you. I'm not some blog saavy writer doing this for money, so while I do take a look at the number of page views, I don't often look at where that traffic is coming from or what search you put into google and ended up at In Search Of Gelato. Then my husband came home last night and told a little story. He ran into a guy a couple of days ago who recognized him, but neither of them could figure out from where. The following day, the guy showed up at my husband's office with the words, "Your wife writes a blog, doesn't she?" So...hello, stranger. I decided it was past time for an update. Plus, my aunt is NEVER going to leave me alone about it. I really don't know what she's going to do when we move away from Italy.

Here's the deal. I spent the time from my last update and most of February lying on the sofa. Yep, just lying on the sofa. No big trip (although we did go to Barcelona for a weekend - more on that later), no great explorations of Bella Napoli, not a darn thing. Just lying on the sofa thinking my misery would never end. No, not depression. I'm pregnant. While this is good, albeit incredibly surprising, news, I am not some happy, symptom free, pregnant lady who dances her way through pregnancy with an adorable, little baby bump, glowing skin, and feeling "the best I've ever felt in my life" (an exact quote from several women I've run into, once I got off the sofa, that is). You would think that spending so much time lying on the sofa would have been conducive to picking up the laptop and writing a blog every now and then. However, some days I didn't even feel like picking up the remote control to the TV or holding a book, so sitting up, holding a laptop, and using mental energy for something other than not getting sick was just not possible. But now I'm medicated, so life is good.

The meds came just in time for a trip back to the U.S. I made it through a 12 hour flight and got to eat and shop my little heart out for nine days. We spent a few days with family and a few days in our old hometown of Alexandria, VA while Nathan did some work and I ate my way up and down historic, King Street. Nights were spent catching up with old friends at great restaurants (food, a major theme of our trip "home"). We are home now, and our cold winter has turned into a gorgeous spring with sunny, warmish days. I like to sit outside on our front terrace and look at the little sliver of ocean view from this level (for some reason, I haven't been using the Glass House - probably because it's a bit far from the bathroom and the kitchen, my two favorite places in recent weeks). Sitting outside means I don't have to see the clutter and dirt that has accumulated in our house in two months of no cleaning or picking up of stuff. I used to be the type of housekeeper who could have any person drop by at any time on any day and find an immaculate house. We could invite friends to dinner with no notice whatsoever and not have to rush home and "clean" by throwing stuff into closets. No more, no more. While the meds keep the nausea down, at four months along, my energy levels are still pretty low. People kept telling me at my 10 weeks mark, "Only a couple of weeks before the nausea and tiredness end." Over and over, I heard, "Don't worry, it will be over soon." I now know that they were LIARS. Harsh, but true.

Anyway, I'm back now and hope to have the energy to stay updated more normally. We're planning a spring of heavy travel to maximize our time before I hit the point where I'm too big and tired to do anything else. We went to Barcelona just after my previous post in mid-January and my heavy sickness began the day of our return from Barcelona. But one day soon I may actually download those pictures from our digital camera and share a few here. Probably.