martedì 27 dicembre 2011


Matt’s first driving experience was at night.  So of course my first driving experience was at night in the rain. We were going to dinner with Matt’s group at the castle.  We programmed the address into the GPS and drove the big truck down a narrow street.  I squeezed through a tunnel with another car even though it felt like a one car only space.  The GPS brought us to a one way street, the wrong way!  So we maneuvered around and found the restaurant.  We even found a parking lot instead of trying to put the truck into a parking space meant for a Smart car.  People had told us that if someone comes up to your car when you park “to watch” it, you give them a Euro, no matter what.  So when the guy walked up to us, we gave him a Euro and said “Grazie, Buona Notte.”  Throughout the entire experience, Matt was give me positive reinforcement and was super supportive.  The rain didn’t affect too much of my driving experience and I successfully drove without any really scary moments.  I am sure this will not always be the case and there will be lots more scary driving stories.

venerdì 23 dicembre 2011

House hunting: Italian Style

Now that we have a phone, we can start calling realtors!  After the cell phone debacle, I was not optimistic that finding our non-temporary home would be a quick and easy process.  I mean in the time it took us to find a cell phone, other couples had found their apartments already!  Add all the Navy run around and the Italian factor to our thoroughness, I anticipate us being in the Navy Lodge until March!  Hopefully this is a very wrong estimate.
Our first trip into the Napoli housing world was a tag-along trip.  Kim Possible had her appointment with Milena and Ernesto and said we could come.  House hunting with training wheels!  We got to see some places and figure out how the realtors worked but with no pressure since the places were for Kim.  Milena and Ernesto are a married couple with two daughters.  He speaks only Italian and she speaks both.  They have five cell phones between the two of them!
During this outing, we went to two different places, one in downtown Napoli and one in Santa Maria.  Driving through downtown was an adventure all on its own!  We drive down an alley and stop in front of a warehouse type door (which is actually a garage door) and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Finally the landlord arrives and takes us up to the apartment.  Ernesto stays with the car to prevent anything happening to the car!  Once we get up the four floors in the world’s tiniest elevator, the landlady can’t figure out which apartment is the one she is showing us!  Seriously?!?  It turns out that the apartment is her nieces and she is just helping.  This will happen a lot.  The entire family is part of the rental property! The apartment is very interesting.  It was pretty big (apparently two apartments combined into one) but had a tiny kitchen.  And lots of furniture which they would not remove.   Kim decided that she didn’t like this place and couldn’t fit her stuff with all of their stuff too!  And we are not living downtown because we have a big truck, lots of stuff, a dog, and a baby!
 The second place we go to is awesome!  It has become dark and none of the houses have lights since they are vacant.  We are looking at this house with flashlights and phones. It has a little old Italian lady leaning out of the window yelling at us on both sides.  Old fashioned Italian security! It has beautiful marble throughout the house.  It has three bedrooms in the main house and two room mother-in-law suite which is off the balcony but not part of the main house.  It has cool stairs and chandeliers.  There is a garage door and space for parking but no grass for the dog.  There is no real view. And Santa Maria is not the area where either Kim or Matt and I want to be.  Strike 1 and 2.
We set up an appointment with Milena and Ernesto for us.  Matt tells them we want at least three bedrooms, a great view, a balcony, a fireplace, and a yard for the dog.  In an area we like.  Under 2000 Euros. And we would really like storage space and a fireplace.  Nothing much really?
The next time we go out with Milena and Ernesto they take us to at least five places.  The first place is not our home. It is not very nice and I actually can’t remember any of the details!  The second place has a great view but you have to lean to the left out of the window to see it.  The third place has no view and is on a kiwi farm. Another place has a cool road up to the house, an amazing view but is so small we would have to sell almost all of our belongings.  The fifth place is pretty good.  It has a big kitchen, three bedrooms, and awesome yard for the dog and patio for outdoor parties.  There is no fireplace but they will put one in for us.  There is an Italian family next door that babysits.  But there is no view.    Strike 3,4,5,6, and 7.
We ask when we can go out again and Milena and Ernesto tell us they have no other houses.  Time to find our next realtor. 
The next realtor is named Tony.  He is a character.  That is pretty much all you can say about him.  He chain smokes, but luckily not in the car.  He talks a mile a minute and says things like “you no believe me.  I have four NCIS guys who will tell you.”  He has a million different sets of keys and he stores them in a bucket, on his dash, and in a random basket.  And he is insistent that he will find our home.  “I tell people to go out with all the other realtors and then come to me because I find your home.  I find it. “   But he will only find our home if we want to live in Lago Patria.  And you must sign a waiver to live there because the Navy has deemed Lago Patria unsafe.  New mom in a foreign country living in a place where you must sign a waiver…I don’t think so.
We look at one house in the area we want to live to start.  It’s a three bedroom place with an okay view and a good yard.  There is no fireplace or garage or dishwasher.  The overall vibe is “ehh.” It is nice and has beautiful marble but nothing speaks to us.  He then takes us to Lago Patria and shows us a beautiful house with lots of space and a small area for the dog. The view is not good.  Then he shows us another place with beautiful marble and a nice kitchen but no grass.  And the third place has an outdoor mother-in-law suite but small bedrooms.  The fourth place is average and not memorable.  The fifth place was okay.  It has a nice view, three floors, big rooms, a fireplace, a garage, and small yard for the dog.  But it is in Lago Patria.  He makes us to go a random house, ring the buzzer, and ask the person what they think about living in Lago Patria.  Told you he was a pushy character.  He tells us about one other house that is in his neighborhood and perfect but won’t show it to us unless we come out with him another time.  Strikes 7-11 (I think).
The next day, we have an appointment with the official housing people.  Our guy is named Roberto and he takes us to about five different places.  Some of the houses were places we picked out of the database (the database had one random picture for each house and a few details...not much to go on).  The first place had a nice big yard, big porches, a huge kitchen, beautiful marble everywhere but was near a train track and only had a view of the mountains…not a bad view but not the best.  Then we went to a house but it was one we had already seen.  This made me worry that we were running out of options!  He took us to another house that is a blur and then wanted to show us a house out in Monte di Procida.  It was a cool brand new apartment but was only two bedrooms and didn’t allow dogs.  The realtor from that place (Angela and Enzo) took us to another place that the drive was the narrowest two lane road (literally the car was inches away from the wall on both sides).  This place was on a farm and very nice but it was probably 45 minutes to work for Matt and 70 minutes to support site for me (Little America). Strikes 12-15 (does the one house count as two strikes?)
Most people we knew from the area orientation have found their dream least for the next three years.  Kim is still searching as well and keeps her eyes out for places we would love.  She calls Matt and tells him about the “most gorgeous view I have ever seen.”  This house has a pool, a yard for the dog, a big patio, a view of the Lago D’Averno and the ocean, three bedrooms and an office.  So we call our fourth realtor, Suzie.  She is another chain smoker with big hair, long fingernails, and a tiny Fiat.  (theme of Italy-everything is small!)  She of course has to take us to another place before showing us the one we want to see.  And it’s another repeat!  So she takes us to the house that I think secretly we both think will be the one.  Matt seems to like it but wants to love it because of the view.  I like it.  We spend more time looking and sort of talking ourselves into the place.  Suzie tells us we must tell the landlord today because this house will go quickly.  The house is out of our budget by 100 euro so we make an offer of 2000 euro but we want a dishwasher.  The landlord will think about it and tell us.  Suzie says, she will take us to one more place and then we will decide.  The last place she takes us is a townhouse.  The house two doors down has a “beware of guard beagle” sign.  This is a good omen for me. Going into this house, I am thinking that the last house will be the one we get even though it was really windy on the porch and the bedrooms were kind of small.  We walk in and of course the house is beautiful.  I think the floors are hardwood and not marble.  The kitchen is large and has a dishwasher.  There is space for our table and maybe an island and a hutch.  Italian kitchens are very different.  There is not a tremendous amount of cabinet space and it is usually a one piece set on one wall. 
There are three bedrooms, one that is smaller and perfect baby room size.  The other two rooms are large with a balcony and ocean view.  There is one bathroom upstairs that all three bedrooms would share.

Downstairs is another bathroom and a living room area.  In the living room, there is a big fireplace with a brick pizza oven.  Imagine the pizza parties we will have! 

There is a small backyard with a view. The yard is not large but Lucy is not large either!

There is a view of the ocean and the Isle of Capri.  The view is wonderful from downstairs and upstairs.
There is a cute little front porch and a garage that could hold one car and lots of storage.  It is not the nicest of the places we looked at but it has everything we asked for: a view, three bedrooms, a dishwasher, a yard for the dog, storage for our stuff and a homey feel all in our budget. 
Matt went on Monday to put a hold on the place and now we start the month long process of pre-contracts, inspections, contracts, and move-in dates.  This process is supposed to be long, draw out, and painful.  I will not feel like we have the place until we have something written and all the negotiations started. 
Matt went back to the housing office on Thursday to set up an appointment for a pre-contract but we couldn't do it because the landlord didn't bring one set of paper!

mercoledì 21 dicembre 2011

Good Fun Old Fashioned Family Christmas

I love Christmas.  I love traditions.  Every year, we have ham croissants for Christmas Eve dinner, bubble bread and egg casserole for Christmas breakfast, and turkey for Christmas dinner.  We go to mass on Christmas Eve and look at Christmas lights on the way home.  We open a few presents on Christmas Eve.  Stockings are opened after the presents. One of my favorite Christmas traditions is opening a pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve, wearing them to bed, and then having all the Christmas pictures in my new jammies!  I actually got really upset with my mom when she didn’t give me pajamas on Christmas Eve one year.  I mean just because I was 25 didn’t mean she could change things on me with no warning!  I love watching Christmas movies for the entire month of December.  Some of my favorites are Elf, The Grinch, and of course National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. 
As you can imagine, I was not super pumped about Christmas in a hotel with no decorations.  I didn’t want the Grinch called PCSing to steal the baby’s first Christmas!  I decided I would buy the baby’s first Christmas ornament, the yearly Christmas vacation ornament (a new tradition created by my sister!), and a set of new stockings.  The baby needed a stocking and of course it had to match!  (I am not sure what I will do when we have more children!!)  I hung out stockings with packing tape, because everyone travels with packing tape, right??  But there was nowhere to put the ornaments.  Our temporary home is on the third floor and I have a baby carrier and diaper bag at all times so I was not going to buy a big tree…or a real tree for that matter.  So I bought a 2 foot blue tree with lights on it from the Exchange.
This will not be a typical Christmas but at least we have our stockings hung and our little tree with four ornaments.  Two baby’s first Christmas ornaments, one Christmas vacation ornament, and one Harry Potter ornament I found while cleaning out my closest at my mom’s house. We are going to Midnight Mass.  It just happens to be at the Vatican.  (at least that is the plan…if the weather turns cold this might not happen because of the baby.)  We will have cinnamon rolls instead of Bubble bread and probably no egg casserole.  We will have turkey dinner, even though we only have one pyrex dish and three pans.  And we will open our stockings last.  Buon Natale!

Update-I was able to watch Christmas Vacation.  Matt and I looked in two different libraries, three different stores, two different movie rental places, and on the AFN TV schedule.  Guess where we found it-MEDICAL!  Matt went to see a doctor about his cough (he has been sick since the week we left NC...three plus weeks!).  The doctor visit took an hour and a half.  SERIOUSLY???  But everything was okay because I was watching Christmas Vacation and getting ready for the holiday. 

lunedì 19 dicembre 2011

World’s Greatest Cucciolo

We have the world’s greatest dog, Lucy. 

Lucy loves to hike and run on the beach.  She hates her ACLs (both are surgically repaired).  She loves to snuggle and sleep in the bed.  She does not love tile floors (all floors in Italy are tile).  She loves to ride in cars but hates to ride on airplanes.  She loves to eat. And eat.  She kind of likes the baby but really loves Matt.

Lucy became mine in March of 2006.  She was smart enough to run away from her first owner into a five lane road in front of an elementary school and be saved by the third grade students and teachers (or be dumped which is what we think really happened).  I was lucky enough to walk into the office to check my mailbox right when she was brought to the front.  It was love at first sight.  Jay and Tracie came to the school, late as usualJ, and took the dog to the closest vet to find out if she was chipped or had an owner or if the vet recognized the dog.  They also drove around looking for lost dog signs.  During my 40 minute lunch break, I rushed to Jay’s office to see the puppy, who needed to eat when you were in love?  So by the end of this Friday afternoon in March, I had a new best friend and the world’s cutest beagle puppy. 

When we got our orders, one question that was frequently asked (especially by the people who knew Lucy)  was "what we were going to do with the dog?"  I had four offers from friends and family to adopt her.   Of course, I was not prepared to leave her behind.  I imagined that it would be tough to have a dog in Italy and that some of our travel might be limited by the dog (I am REALLY hoping that we find another family with dogs that wants to travel every other weekend and trade dog sitting).  I thought about how she and my dad would have a great time together going on walks through the garden and sleeping on the couch together but I just couldn’t do it.  So instead I had to prepare myself for putting the dog in cargo for a cross country flight and then an international flight. 
Lucy is a very adaptable dog because she has moved a lot.  In Raleigh, we moved every year and twice one year (Tanis and I are not allowed to speak about why we moved out of our first Cary apartment).  She has lived mainly in apartments with no backyard and several times lived with other dogs.  She made lots of 4.5 hour road trips to Maryland during the long distance part of our relationship with Matt.  She even made a cross country trip in the front of the Penske truck.   All of this with no complaining and no meds!  Even though I was terribly nervous about the flights, I knew she would be okay.  It is expensive to fly dogs and there are lots of guidelines, such as a weight limit.  If the dog exceeded the weight limit, we would have to pay double to fly her!  Lucy and her kennel were exactly 50 pounds on the flight from California.  This meant that in the two months that we were on the East Coast, she could not gain a fraction of a pound.  As I mentioned earlier, Lucy loves to eat.  And her grandmothers and Uncle Jay LOVE to feed her.

The dog was so stressed during the East Coast visit that even with all the people feeding her, she lost three pounds!  Poor Cucciolo!

As soon as we go to Napoli, she had to go stay with another family who had two dogs because the hotel didn’t have enough dog friendly rooms.  But Lucy is adaptable.  And smart.  She can do lots of cool tricks: shake, high five, sit, lie down, play dead, crawl.  She can recognize homes and cars.  She was able to find my friend Nicole’s apartment on a hall with 20 doors that looked exactly alike.   She knows how to not wrap around the tree with her leash and understands “around the tree.”  Usually when I give that command people look at me like I am crazy until she walks around the tree.  She can find food anywhere and remember every spot where she ever found food!  But for some reason, she can’t find our temporary home.  It might be because this is the third place apartment she has stayed in while in Napoli, in two different buildings.  Every time we come in the building after a walk, she tries to go to an apartment on the first floor, both sides of the second floor, until finally coming to the third floor where we are actually staying!  She can’t wait to move to our Napoli home which will have a yard for the cucciolo!


sabato 17 dicembre 2011

Dinners Out on the Town

La Fenice
We went out to dinner with Matt’s Rhode Island people again.  This time we went to a restaurant that was not meant for Americans and our waiter spoke Italian only.  The menu was in Italian with some crude translations to English, such as noodless with porky mushrooms and sausage.  Matt wanted a pizza and decided to make sure that there were no anchovies on the pizza.  This was a very difficult conversation.  Several of our friends know some Italian so they were trying to help.  One of the girls is fluent in five languages and studying Italian and another one studied Italian in college.  Needless to say, I felt like the slow student and wish that I knew more Italian and had more time to study.  At least I am signed up for a class in January.  ANYWAY, Matt and the girls tried to say he wanted a pizza with only meat no fish.  This is his pizza:
As you can see, we all need to practice Italian!  The pizza had shrimp, squid, mussels, olives, mushrooms, and octopus.  He LOVED it!  This is not something that I would have enjoyed.  One of my fears about living in a foreign country is that I will order something gross.  The food is different and being a very picky eater, there are lots of things that I think are gross, such as a fish with its head.  If I had come to Italy five years ago, I am not sure I would have survived eating.  Luckily, since I have been with Matt I have become willing to try most things at least once.  Even the things I know I hate, like black eyed peas.  Cause sometimes I am wrong. Shocking I know.  My dinner was risotto with sausage and porky mushrooms, it was just average.  One of the other girls order pasta with lobster.  I envisioned chunks of lobster tossed with linguine.  I was wrong.
One thing that was different than the United States was that when one dish was ready, it was brought to the table.  This meant all your food was hot and it all came out at different times.  And you couldn't use your manners where you wait until everyone is served to eat.  This works out well for the baby!  She got to be held by all the different people.  As the person holding the baby got his or her dinner, someone was ready to grab the baby.  She loved it but it was very tiring being so popular.

The next night, we went to dinner with Matt’s work people as a Christmas party.  We went to this really neat restaurant.  The restaurant was called Panart and it was in an old castle.  I can’t describe how intriguing this place was with the combination of traditional and modern.   Our table was up to the side and there was this really cool sliding glass door and there was creative lighting throughout the restaurant.  There was a cool modern staircase surrounded by stonework that seemed like it had to be 1000 years old.  The bathroom was down a little hallway that looked like it dead-ended into a wall and then the door would automatically open.  (Interesting facts-none of the public restrooms have toilet seats and most don’t have toilet paper.  I will start carrying toilet paper in my diaper bag and doing lots of squats!) I wish I had taken pictures, but I didn’t so you will all have to go there and see it yourself. The atmosphere was so awesome and the food was fantastic.  We got there at 7:00 and the place was empty. This was my first restaurant where the entire menu was in Italian and when I started to look at the menu to try to decide what to eat, I was lost!  I have to be careful because if I end up with a full fish on my plate, I will not be happy.  I was studying the menu looking for words I know like pollo, pizza, etc.  The party organizer arrived and alleviated all my stress by saying it was a preset menu! decisions.  We had an antipasto of prosciutto, cheese, and squash with a tangy mustard sauce.  Then we had pasta with ham and basil and a delicious cream sauce (not at all like an Alfredo sauce).  Then we had steak and French fries.  Not very Italian but very delicious. 
During the dinner, we did a White Elephant.  Matt was the one who got the evite which included the information about the White Elephant and he didn’t know what it was so he never mentioned it to me.  Needless to say, we did not have a present for the white elephant but one of the families had brought a present for the one year old who was much too interested in the stairs to participate so we got to use her gift!  I love White Elephants (or as I call it Dirty Santa) because the stealing of the gifts is always entertaining.  It is inevitable that one person ends up getting all his or her gifts taken.  During the dinner conversation, we learned that one of the couples was going to Winston-Salem (where I grew up) for Christmas to visit her sister.  Of course we continued to talk about WS and her sister lived near my parents, taught at the same school as my sister in law’s sister, and knew lots about it. It was a nice little reminder that we are not here amongst all Italians and that these strangers will have some connections to me and not just Matt.  This same girl also graduated from UVA (Matt’s alma mater) and her husband got his Master’s at NCSU just like me.  Everyone said Italians eat late and it is a true statement. Towards the end of dinner, the place was packed with all sorts of people, even young children.    All the people near us actually just stood and chatted.  Maybe meals are more of a social event where you walk around and visit instead of seat and talk.  We shall see.   Overall it was a great dinner and the baby was very well behaved until the end!  She decided that she needed more attention and wanted to have a blow out.  And of course she caught me unprepared.  I always have an extra outfit in my diaper bag but I switched baby bags for our downtown adventures (didn’t want anyone to try to steal my Coach!) and apparently did not include my spare clothes.  Luckily she only leaked through the onesie and was able to still wear the rest of her outfit (from her Aunt Sassy).  Another successful evening in town!

venerdì 16 dicembre 2011

Downtown Napoli

It was 12 days before I got to explore in Italy at all.  12!  I did get to go to the electronic store, at night, and to a friend’s house for dinner.  Also I got to do a little sightseeing while house hunting but all of those trips had an agenda and a task to be completed.  So Sunday afternoon, we decided we were going to go downtown.  Part of the orientation is a trip downtown to show you how to navigate the various forms of public transportation (trains, metros, bus), how to buy the proper tickets and where to buy them, and see a few of the wonderful things Napoli has to offer.  The baby was not invited to this session of orientation and since she can’t be left alone, I also missed the orientation.  I told Matt he had to take me on my own personal tour and tutorial on public transportation of Napoli. 
Because petty theft is a big problem in Napoli, we drove to the NATO base and parked our truck in the safe zone.  The GPS took us on the long way so we got to drive this AWESOME road that overlooked the water and was through a little town called Pozzuoli (one we want to live in, maybe!) Then we walked to the train station.  Another major decision we had to make was which stroller to take downtown.  We have an awesome MacLaren stroller (thanks Suzie and Doug!) and the car seat stroller frame but when Matt went down on Friday he noticed that most of the strollers were like the MacLaren but that it was VERY crowded.  So we decided to ERGO the baby.  Because Matt is still sick (yes, the entire first TWO weeks of our European experience he has been sick), I actually got to carry the baby.  Matt is a big baby hog!  At every opportunity he gets, he wants to hold the baby or push the baby or talk to the baby. (I am one lucky lady!) 
The baby has been on nine different flights (two from California to NC, two to Rhode Island, two back from Rhode Island, three to Napoli) and ridden in at least 15 different cars but she has not been on a train yet.  So being the new mom, I want to take pictures of her first train ride but Matt doesn’t want me to call too much attention to the fact that we are American tourists.  I don’t really know how with his haircut, my pale skin, and her big blue eyes we would be mistaken for anything but Americans.  So I had to settle for one little picture at the station since no one was around.
Matt is our tour guide for this family excursion and I am not worried because he is a world traveler and a navigator.  This is my first real taste of Italy, or Europe for that matter.  The rest of my European Vacation was centered in England when I was in fifth grade and we went to visit my sister who was studying abroad. She was the favorite child at the time, living overseas.  Ironically, we never went to visit my brother when he was studying abroad in Paris.  Anyway, I was a little too young to appreciate all the wonderful things I was seeing and really have very few distinct memories of the trip.  One was seeing the neighborhood friends, the Burtons on the street corner from the tour bus and then running into them at a coffee shop while discussing the fact that we saw them from the bus.  The second major one was getting off the Tube and being given a button that said “FREE KUWAIT” and I asked “Who’s Kuwait?” And of course I remember Stonehenge, which always makes me think of Clark Griswold backing into Stonehenge and it all falling like dominos.  So as you can imagine, I am very excited.
While we are on the train going into town, Matt trying hard to guess which station we are supposed to use, the love of babies continues.  This very punk man sits across from us and starts talking to me about the baby in Italian.  Of course, I have no idea what he is saying; my Italian class doesn’t start until January!!  He uses hand motions to ask if the baby is sleeping and then tells me how beautiful she is.  We come to a stop, which Matt thinks is the stop he wants so we got off the train.  It’s not the stop he wants!! We turn around and get on the next train, which is much nicer than the first one with padded seats and headrests.  The next stop is the one we wanted so Matt says, let’s take the stairs.  Of course I say okay.  This was before I saw the stairs.  They are literally vertical.  And from the bottom you can’t see the top.  EVERYONE else is taking the escalator. I have not started exercising post baby so this was HARD.  But I am stubborn so I do it.  I am huffing and puffing up the stairs carrying the 15 pound baby.  But I did it.  I was proud of myself.  Then I see the SECOND set.  This time I take the escalator. 
We walk out into the crowded street with tons of people and market stalls everywhere.  And cars and scooters still trying to use the road.  It was insane.  I assumed it was this crowded because it was Sunday afternoon but Matt said it was just as crowded on Friday morning.  The vendors have everything from faux handbags, Santa hats, scarves, umbrellas, children’s toys, fish (alive eels!!), winter hats, almost anything you can imagine.  I am really enjoying walking the street and looking at the people. I did not really look at any of the stuff, which will probably make you shoppers of the world cringe.  I did go in the baby store to see what the clothes were like.  One store had Tweety Bird on everything.  Or Disney characters.  I also noticed some familiar stores such as Foot Locker and the United Colors of Benetton.
We walk to the Galleria Umberto which is this amazing mall with marble floors and fantastic windows and a high intricate ceiling.  There is a Christmas tree in the mall with letters to Santa tied to them, which I think is a very cool tradition.  There are lots of people in the mall and one little girl is on her very own motor scooter by Peg Pergo.  It was crazy!
We decide to eat lunch in the mall at a little pizzeria.  The host speaks to us in English, what we don’t look like Italians??  Matt responds in Italian and the man is impressed.  It really makes a difference if you attempt the language.  If you try to speak Italian to everyone you meet, you can learn at least one new phrase from them.  Of course, you have to remember what they teach you!  We order a pizza and a caprese salad to split.  I think this might not be something that Italians do, oops!  The people next to us, there table is two inches away from ours, order three pizzas for the mom and two kids.  And they eat it all!!  They of course want to talk about the baby and ask her name and how old she is.  The baby smiles at just the right time again! Anyway, the pizza is wonderful.  It is not like pizza you have in the United States.  It doesn’t come precut and most people use forks and knives to eat it.  The crust is thin (why people use forks), but not like American thin crust pizza.  There is not too much cheese or too much sauce, a wonderful combination of both.  Overall, a very enjoyable lunch!

After lunch we continue our walk to the Opera House and a very cool church.  There is a large plaza in between the Opera House and church that people were lingering in. One person was driving a remote control car through the plaza.

Opera House
We continue our stroll to the Bay of Napoli.  There are tons of rocks on the edge of the bay which people spray paint their love for others.  You can see Mount Vesuvius and the Island of Capri.  There are lots of sailboats, which Matt loves.  You can see a castle, which we did not have time to visit, and so many other neat things that have been around for 2000 years!
Mount Vesuvius
Because we are obviously Americans, it gets dark early, and we don’t really know our way around, we decide to turn around and head back to the train.  On the walk back, we pass a gelato stand, selling pistachio ice cream!  We order one chocolate gelato and get totally scammed!  Matt asks (in Italian) how much it costs and the guy tells us 4 euro!!  SERIOUSLY!! Of course I have already had a bit by the time he tells us this so we have no choice but to spend entirely too much money on a small chocolate ice cream but we learned a lesson…ask the cost before you get it because they will scam the Americans!  The walk back is nice, just more people watching.  I did see a Burger King crown and lots of Merry Christmas signs.  It amazes me to see so much English!  On the train ride back to the base, another couple of ladies sits across from us and talks to the baby. I am going to learn how to communicate about the baby first! Overall a great first trip to Napoli!  Next weekend, Mount Vesuvius…or house hunting.

giovedì 15 dicembre 2011

The Country House

We were here for one week before we left the base.  This is one reason why I don’t want to live in Little America.  I fear it would be too easy to spend three years on the base and not get to really live in Italy.  Don’t get me wrong, I am quite nervous to live in town and not be able to communicate with the butcher.  I imagine I will end up bring home half a pig because I didn’t understand what was being said.  Or that I will end up eating parts of animals that I don’t want to eat.  That’s half the fun right?
Our first meal off the base was to a local restaurant called The Country House.  This is another easy transition because the restaurant caters to the Americans.  The restaurant has an American name! They have a shuttle that will come and pick you up outside of the main gate, the menus are in English, and the waiters are fluent in both languages.  For our first restaurant experience, we were going with 8 other people from Matt’s class in Rhode Island who are also going through the orientation at the same time.  We had our truck by this time so we drove with another couple instead of catching the shuttle.  We drove through a very cute town with beautiful Christmas lights and lots of little shops and restaurants.  And we drove through a very narrow street of apartments.  We had the big American car on the tiny little street…gave me the feeling “fat man in a little coat.”
 Prior to moving here, many people mentioned that Italians love babies.  This is a very true statement.  When we walked into the restaurant and sat down, the waiter immediately came up to the baby. He started to reach for the baby to pick her up but the other waitress stopped him and said something in Italian to him.  I thought it was so funny.  Usually when I am holding the baby, people will ooh and ahh.  When Matt holds the baby, typically only women ooh and ahh the baby.  But Italian men will ooh and ahh the baby while Matt is holding her and invade the personal space bubble.  The baby LOVES it.  She oohs and ahhs right back. She gets the giant toothless grin with drool running down her face.  Especially if the person is speaking Italian.  I think she thinks Italian is like music.  She has the same response to someone speaking Italian as she does when I sing to her.

When we told people we were moving to Italy, everyone was jealous about the food we would be able to eat.  I didn’t have the heart to tell people that I am not the world’s biggest Italian food fan.  I enjoy pizza periodically and pasta is easy to cook.  When it’s my turn to pick a restaurant, it is very rarely Italian.  Although there is one Italian restaurant in Pawleys’ Island that I love, mainly because of the house salad and one in Coronado, again mainly because of the salad dressing.  So when people raved about the food, I smiled and said something appropriate in response.  I knew there would be good food, since pizza was created in Napoli, but I wasn’t overly excited about it.  I was actually worried that eating that much pasta will not help me get my baby weight off.   
BUT, now I have seen the light..or the tomato!  I had gnoochi, which a friend described as “cheessy balls of greatness” with Napoli sauce (marinara, but the worlds’ greatest marinara).  I seriously wanted to drink the marinara sauce.  I think my mom might fall over in shock to hear that her favorite child, at least her favorite child who currently lives overseas, who always asked for pasta with no sauce couldn’t get enough sauce.  I wanted to only eat half of my meal so I could bring it home and eat it again the next day but I am pretty certain that “take away” is not a common thing in Italy and might be frowned upon. Also frowned upon is cutting the noodles or using a spoon to twirl.  The proper way is to twirl on your fork a small amount that can fit in your mouth.  Another thing that is different with dining in a restaurant is the coperto fee.  This is a per person charge to use the table usually 1-1.5 euro.  As for tipping, 10% is considered a good tip.  I understand why traditional Italian meals last for many hours, the food is amazing so you must eat it all but its rude to take it away so you must just sit there until you finish your dinner (flashback to meals as a child but not quite as happy!).

lunedì 12 dicembre 2011

The Amenities of America

Living in Little America has its advantages. Being in a new country where you don’t know the language is a bit daunting so being in a place where things are familiar eases the culture shock.  So far every Italian speaks perfect English, is willing to teach you Italian phrases, wants to help you in any way possible, and wears stylish clothing.  It’s got to be like this in the whole country, right??  Another comforting part of the base life, besides all the Americans, is the American electrical outlets.  Things like the computer charger, iPod charger, iPhone charger (we have to keep our paperweights charged!) and most importantly my nook charger, all still work.  So does my hair dryer but since I have a newborn (and I am lazy) I haven’t had time to dry my hair yet.  You will also find playgrounds galore, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a gym, schools, a hospital,  a bowling alley, an Irish pub (a very important feature for Naval officers since every port my husband has been to he has found the local Irish pub), a movie theater with two theaters and a concession stands (it is also freezing just like home), a food court with A&W burgers, Taco Bell, KFC, and of course the sandwich shop on every corner in America-Subway.  You won’t find the coffee shop on every corner (the one with pretty red cups at Christmas time) but you will find a real Italian espresso bar.  Which I learned the correct way to drink café is standing up at the bar.  You are supposed to drink it quickly while it is still hot to get the true Italian experience.  Luckily I can’t drink coffee yet so I didn’t screw this up.  It’s very sad to be in a country known for wine and coffee, both of which I can’t have because of the baby.  Little America also has shopping, arcade games, a barber shop and beauty salon.  The sign at the beauty salon says it does pedicures and massages.  I hope to find out if this is true someday soon.  And there is a grocery store with lots of American products.  So when you are feeling homesick and just want to buy something that you can’t find in Italian markets (I still have not experienced the Italian market yet) you can go into the grocery store and find it whether its Chex mix, Ghirardelli chocolate squares (my personal favorite), or Triscuits.  But one thing the Italian commissary (Navy lingo for grocery store) has that your local Harris Teeter does not is a Roman well underneath the cleaning supply aisle. 
Apparently when the Italians leased the United States the land to build the Support Site (what I refer to as Little America) there were some guidelines.  Any artifacts had to be preserved and maintained.  So when you are buying your Clorox wipes, you can walk over a glass floor and glance down at a well that is older than our entire country.  It is AMAZING.  I can’t imagine how many other cool things like this I will encounter and eventually take for granted (I truly hope this does not happen because the awe I feel is pretty awesome, pun intended!).  You can tell the newbies from the people who have been around for a long time because they stop and look at the well or take pictures like I did!  And yes, I had my camera in the grocery store.

sabato 10 dicembre 2011

Va Bene

Moving to a foreign country is tough and requires a lot of paperwork.  Moving with the Navy is tough and requires a lot of paperwork.  Together, it’s a big pain!  During the entire process of gathering medical and dental records, getting passports, getting no-fee passports, and getting ready to have our first child, Matt was known to say “it will be alright.”  I am pretty certain he told our mothers this statement at least a hundred times.  And he said it to me several times.  After a few breakdowns, I think I really only had two, I started to say this to myself.  Like when I spent an entire day at the social security office with a newborn trying to get a social security number so we can apply for a passport , a no fee passport, and a visa before we fly cross country (one of the breakdowns).  Or when I was told that my oversea screening which was approved really wasn’t because I had a baby.  Or when we got to the east coast and Matt was leaving me for five weeks with a two week old.  Or when we found out the dog didn’t have the right chip and how getting the right chip might mean she has to be quarantined.  Or when we got into the single digit countdown and still didn’t have the baby’s visa.  This phrase was my mantra.  And Matt’s.  And guess what, it ended up being alright.   I think it is fitting that one of the first phrases we have learned in Italian is “va bene” which means “no problem” or “it will be alright.” 

venerdì 9 dicembre 2011

Lizzie attempts a Jailbreak

Fail.  Big time fail. 
One of the big things that we “need” to get completed right away is establishing a phone number through the local cell service.  Being the frugal and thoughtful people we consider all the options; a new iphone for 5 Euros, unlocking the old iphone (and by old, I mean OLD), or getting a pay as you go cheap phone.  I have a great phone in our pack out (navy term for packing all of your stuff into boxes and then crates for moving!) that would be perfect to use as a prepaid phone but we have no way of knowing when we will have a home and get our household goods.  Buying the new iphone would require a contract and monthly fees.  Doing the pay as you go requires buying a phone and sim card than adding minutes when you run out.  Since we are going to be here for three years and we are spoiled with iphones, we want something more than just the minutes.  You can see the dilemma…we should probably just get pay as you go and just leave it at that but we want the best deal and the best phone we can get…therefore, jailbreak time!
Many of you may already now about this process but prior to moving to Napoli, I didn’t.  In America, each phone is “locked” so that it can only be used by one cell phone company.  This makes it more difficult for people to change cell companies or buy a cheaper phone than the company has to offer.  In Europe, this does not happen.  No one cares where you get the cell phone, you just buy a sim card and minutes and everything is good to go.  Of course, they want you to buy the iphone and three year contract from them but you don’t have to.  So, all the Americans show up with the nice new cell phones and they become worthless paperweights…at least our phones were not anywhere near new.
 To unlock your iphone, you must first “jailbreak” it and then download an app to unlock it.  Sounds simple right?  I spent three hours googling different “jail breaking” sites and read all the material I could find.  I finally found a program to use and step by step directions on how to do it.  I felt that I could do this.  Matt’s phone works better than mine so we were going to jail break his and use mine as a paperweight (it is really windy in Napoli).  So I got the USB cord and the phone, downloaded the program and was ready to “jailbreak.”  I should have realized that something called “jail breaking” would not be successful from such a rule following goodie two shoes like me!  I plugged in the phone and held the sleep button for three seconds, held both the sleep and the home button for five seconds, released the sleep and held the home button for ten seconds just like the directions said!  The phone should have been free and ready to download the unlocking app….instead it was black.  Nothing happened when you pushed the buttons.  Nothing happened when you plugged it into the computer.  Nothing happened when you plugged it into the wall.  Nothing happened when Matt pushed the reset button.  The phone was not free…it was dead. 
A dead phone does not solve our problem at all.  We searched the internet for solutions because surely someone else has done the same thing.  He was able to get the phone to return from the beyond and turn on.  He was able to recover it with iTunes and he had one phone number left.  One.  One, out of fourteen years worth.  FOURTEEN YEARS!  Not quite sure how the phone could recover just one number but it did or how my husband has been able to maintain every phone number for fourteen years.  I am pretty certain in the past five years, I have lost my numbers at least twice.  I like to think of it as purging.  All the pointless numbers or the people I no longer talk to are removed from my phone.  If I am still talking to you, you still have my number so I am not worried about getting in contact.  Matt on the other hand has had good luck with phones (until he let me touch it!) and has numbers from everything, restaurants, work people, friends, family, and other important business phone numbers.  Or at least he did.  I don’t think I have felt worse about a mistake in a long time.  I destroyed something he had been building for fourteen years. (if you were one of the contacts, send Matt an email!) 
Now we have two paperweights and Matt has every reason to buy a 5 Euro phone. We decide during the break of orientation the next day to go and get a 5 euro iphone 4 and sign the three year contract.  Of course, being Matt this means asking lots of questions about the plan and contract.  This is our third visit to the store and both Italian ladies working look at each other and seem to play mental rock paper scissors to see who has to deal with us!  Poor Daniela loses and asks how she can help.  She starts to show us the different plan options and the differences between pay as you go and contracts.  Matt asks about the 5 Euro iphone (remember we had decided to do it before we went in the store).  Apparently it’s not a 5 Euro phone, its 5 Euro today and 15 Euro a month for 30 months-455 EURO!  Which is about $650!   WHAT!  $650 for a phone!  Both of us think this is outrageous.  I have never paid more than $50 for a phone and Matt has only ever paid for one phone-his first iphone.  So needless to say, we are back to the beginning.  We tell Daniela we will be back.  The part that amazes me is that while talking to other people in the class or in the cell phone store, no one else seems to think this is ridiculous.  Everyone keeps saying, “it is over 30 months.”  Spreading out the cost over 30 months does not make it cost less people. 
The discussion at home that night is to try to jailbreak again and if not, we could consider getting a droid since they are much cheaper.  Crisis averted and decision made.  The next break we go back in to pick out our new phones.  Today the unlucky lady is Linda.  She shows us about ten phones and we each decide on one that we like.  Matt and I both feel like we are spending too much money.  I don’t have any friends here…why do I need a phone?  And none of the phones are going to be able to call home.  But we agreed we would like to have nice phones for three years and access to things like GPS when I get lost in Napoli.  And some phones can Skype which is free if you use the wireless and not the data package.  So we are literally about to tell Linda, I want this phone and he wants this phone when another customer tells Matt not to buy a phone here but to go into town because they are MUCH cheaper.  I literally slumped down and walked out of the store.  She burst my bubble and put us back at the beginning, again!  Although five steps back because we still did not have our car. 
After orientation we continue trying to rescue our truck from the storage lot and find some nice friends in the class who said they would take us out into town because they knew where to go because they are on their second tour in Napoli. To ship cars, you must only have a quarter of a tank of gas but when you get your car back you have just enough gas to get the car to the gas station so the first stop out in town is the full service Italian gas station.  Our new friend drives almost like a native and that means fast and a little erratic.  I didn’t realize how nice it would be to have someone take us to the gas station the first time so we would see how things work and learn how to fill out the gas vouchers. It also helped to realize that I need to learn Italian numbers fairly soon!  When we got our 40 litre of gasoline, the car wouldn’t start.  Yep.  The car battery was dead.  So Matt, the wife, and the gas station attendant pushed the car out of the way and the driver popped the clutch and everything started working.  After a little switching of cars and getting more gas, we made it to the electronic store to find out that phones cost more out in town.  So still no phone.
Matt realizes that I am about to give up and just go without a phone for three years but we have to have a number to coordinate with real estate agents and fill out all the Navy forms that ask for address and phone number.  Having at least one of the two is reassuring.  So, after the last bit of orientation, we return to the phone store.  Daniela is the lucky winner to get us as her customers again!  She walked us through several different decisions and we started the paperwork.  When a problem arose, she looked terrified to tell us, afraid we would just walk out again!  For example, the phone Matt wanted said it had a front camera but it did not.  She thought we would have to start the phone search again for him but instead he talked her into giving us a free case, 10% off another case, a car charger, and screen covers. I asked if there was another store at the other base and mentioned that we could go there (meaning if we had any problems or wanted to add minutes) and the look on her face was priceless.  Now we have Italian phone numbers!