martedì 17 gennaio 2012

The Adventures of a Navy Wife in Italy: Finally

The Adventures of a Navy Wife in Italy: Finally: We are finally moving out of temporary housing and into our new home for the next three years!! There is a lot going on and lots of funny st...

Finally

We are finally moving out of temporary housing and into our new home for the next three years!! There is a lot going on and lots of funny stories to share but I am going to have to wait to write them until we are in the new place.  Also, we will be without internet for anywhere from ten days to who knows when. Wish us luck!

giovedì 12 gennaio 2012

Proud to Be an American

We are told to blend in as much as possible.  Matt is not supposed to wear his uniform anywhere but on base. We are not supposed to wear Navy clothes. But we stick out as Americans in many many ways.  The giant Ford Explorer.  The base stickers from San Diego.  (Tip for anyone moving overseas, scrap your stickers before you get here because no one has a razor blade).  The limited vocabulary in Italian.  The pale skin.  The clothes we wear.  And all the baby gear-the car seat, the stroller, the pacifiers, the blue eyed baby! And every Italian baby is dressed in a snowsuit (it is currently 57 as the high 45 as the low) while my baby is just in a warm blanket and hat. Side note: The strollers for the newborn babies are more like the old fashioned prams or bassinets on wheels.  I didn’t understand why strollers are like this but I think the reason is because now you have a place to change the baby’s diapers!  I think we will always stick out but I started an easy Italian course and Matt starts his college Italian class next week!

Keys Galore

Key rings can tell you about different personality types.  Some people have lots of different key chains from all the wonderful places they have traveled.  Some people have keys from every house or apartment they have ever lived or worked.  Some people have clips and remotes to help find the keys when they are misplaced.  Key rings are a very personal and each person likes what they like!  Matt and I are very simple key ring people. My keys have just the keys I used on a daily basis- my car, house, and mailbox.  Matt’s keys had his house key, mailbox, car key, and car remote. There is a separate key ring that has the house keys for my mom’s house, the beach house, the house in Maryland, and Jay and Tracie’s house which I bring when we are going to those places.  Since we sold my car in October and rented our house in October, I only have the key to our hotel room.  It is a key on a very LARGE key ring. 
Yesterday we got the keys to our new home. 
This is not what I would call a small key ring!!  There is a key to the house, a key to the alarm, a key to the breaker box, a key to the garage, a remote to the gate, and there will be a remote to the garage.  All the keys for the windows and shutters are still in the house.  This is not going to fit well into a pocket.  Please notice the length of the house key:
I guess we are going to be big key ring kind of people for the next three years!

lunedì 9 gennaio 2012

Shopping in Italy

This entry will make everyone happy because everyone I spoke with before moving wants to go shopping in Italy and buy Italian shoes!  On Friday night, we went to dinner with three other couples and the wives were all planning a shopping trip to the local mall for Saturday.  This is not something that appealed to me at all and I gave the “Let me check” answer.  I thought about it that night and the next morning, I decided I would go.  I need to make friends and get to know people.  I need to eventually try to shop.  I need to have more than two hours away from my child.  All of these points suggested that I just do it.  Matt would be able to watch the baby and after many painstaking episodes of pumping often times accompanied by tears, he had several bottles to give the baby if we were gone for a long time.  Everyone was meeting at 10:00 so I figured we would be back by 14:00.  I fed the baby right before we left, kissed the baby and Matt and told him thank you.  I packed snacks in my purse *I actually got to carry the new purse I got for Christmas instead of the diaper bag!
I should have realized it would be longer than I anticipated and stayed home when I heard one of the ladies sharing her lists of things she wanted to find.  They were all things I probably want too-new winter coat, Italian boots, change purse for my euro coins.  We arrived to the mall and it was fairly crowded, at least we thought it was!  The parking lots are very entertaining because the spaces are small and the lots are usually very large but there will also be at least one or two SMART cars that are squeezed on the sidewalk.  Italians will often make their own parking spaces in the weirdest spots!  The mall is pretty much like most indoor American malls: two stories, food court, nice area between stores to walk, lots of stores!  There were LOTS of people.  The parking lot didn’t look that full but there were people everywhere.  I think we went on a day that was like a Black Friday because every single store was having SALDI.  And every store seemed to have a small collection of coats.  I think coats are a very big deal in Italy.  Most people had on a nice big puffy coat and were looking to buy several more coats.  My only question is where do they put all the coats?  None of the houses have closets and coats would take up a lot of space in wardrobes and most of the rooms in houses are not large.  I can’t wait to make friends with an Italian who will let me look through the house to see where everything is stored!
As the day went on, the mall became more and more crowded.  While shopping, I noticed that I am not going to have much luck with shopping here, at least for several months.  The largest size in most stores was a large (I only looked at tops; I was not prepared to try out the European pant sizes).  And for the knee high boots which are everywhere, they are not geared for people with big calves like I have.  I think I found about three pairs that had any stretch in the calf region but they were all 90 euro.  I am sure I will eventually spend that money on a nice pair but I was not mental ready! So I need to continue on my baby fat shedding process before I buy my Italian clothing!  Although all the stores had smaller sizes, there are big women in Italy so there will be clothes somewhere…but the secret is finding out where the larger women shop!  I can’t imagine trying to find maternity clothes here!  It was hard enough to find the maternity clothes in California where I spoke the language and knew what stores should typically have them!
We stopped to refuel and I am not sure I have ever since a more crowded food court.  Every restaurant had a line with at least 15 people in it!  And the seating in the food court was very crowded and smaller than the typical American food court.  So we found a little restaurant with tables and waited for about 15 minutes to be seated.  While we waited, I saw for the first time EVER a Mars Bar!!  I was so excited and the other girls sort of looked at me like I was nuts.  It’s hard to explain the running joke Matt and I have about the Mars bar without sounding strange. So I made my first and only purchase of the day…a surcie for Matt.  (A surcie is a word I got from one of my old roommates, it’s a present and a surprise all wrapped into one.  There is no reason for the surcie other than you saw it and thought of the other person and wanted to make them smile.)  After lunch, we focused our search more on coats and boots.  There is a shoe store called Scarpe & Scarpe which reminded me of DSW.  I know that my sister in law will want to go here when she comes to visit!  There were rows and rows of shoes.  Kim was able to find two pairs, both of which were on SALDI!!  After the shoe store, I had to be the party pooper and request we return home to my baby.  It had been 5.5 hours.  The girls were all very nice about it even though they were disappointed about not going to the outlets. 
Things I learned while shopping:  wearing rollerblades in the stores is perfectly acceptable (not Heelies, rollerblades!), bringing your dog to the mall is okay (I thought this was only okay in California!!), the Italians are brilliant by combining escalators and people movers into one, this makes shopping with a stroller much easier, Italians like to use shopping carts everywhere, not just the grocery store. American stores are everywhere.  I thought I was getting away from Abercrombie & Fitch but oh no-there is a Hollister here.  And footlocker, Champion, Adidas, Nike. 
To make the weekend all about shopping, Matt and I decided to try the Auschan on Sunday.  We were told this was a Sam’s or maybe a Walmart style store.  I personally think Sam’s and Walmart are too very different types of stores so I was not sure what to expect at all.  It turns out that the Auschan is a BIG grocery store more along the lines of SuperWalmart than Sam’s.  But it is attached to a mall.  So you can shop for everything you need all at once.  We spent a few hours wandering the mall and the Auschan.  I think this is probably the first time I have spent over an hour in a grocery store without purchasing anything!  My brother in law will want to come back here for sure! It was really neat to look at the different products and compare to the commissary and to America!  For example, we looked at the diapers.  The sizes are slightly different.  The baby is currently in size 2 but according to the packages, she would have to be size 3 here.  A box of 192 size 2 Pampers were on SALDI for 42,90 from 70,90 ($54 from $90).  That is 46 cents a diaper.  SERIOUSLY!!!  I thought 16 cents a diaper I got from the commissary with a coupon was a lot.  Another difference is the giant box of Pampers comes with a robe.  I haven’t seen that in America.  What is the youngest you can potty train a baby??  Do they have to be able to roll over first?

venerdì 6 gennaio 2012

New Year’s in Napoli

video
Apparently fireworks were invented in Southern Italy and Italians take fireworks seriously!  We were told that New Year’s Eve, we would see the most spectacular firework show ever.  Apparently every family sets off their own fireworks and if you are in downtown Napoli, it’s like “bombs over Baghdad.” Someone told us that people set the fireworks out of the windows of the house!  We were tempted to drive to CAPO (the base where Matt actually works) but we have a newborn and decided we would stay in our hotel room.  We realized that by staying in our hotel we were going to miss the fireworks because we are 25 minutes north of downtown in an area that is not very developed.  With a three month old, I wasn’t sure if I would stay awake until midnight but I am proud to say that I did it!  And man was I glad I did! Even though we were in BFE, there were fireworks EVERYWHERE!! There are no words to truly capture this evening.  Every inch of the sky was covered with fireworks and they continued with this intensity for at least an hour.  What an incredible start to our first full year in Napoli!!
The video of the fireworks shows you have far away we are from downtown and how many fireworks there were…but it still does not do it justice!

giovedì 5 gennaio 2012

New Year’s Eve Day Trip

There is this feeling of the “need” to hurry up and travel.  I am not sure if this is a common feeling for other people living overseas.  The fact that we aren't established yet doesn't seem to matter on the traveling front.  And we don't want to be the only people who haven't been someplace cool.  One of the vows we made when Matt and I decided to accept orders to Napoli, was that we would travel and experience Europe.  We weren’t going to spend three years in Europe and only see the basic areas where we were living.  And we weren’t going to let having a newborn (and a dog) keep us from missing opportunities to travel.  Of course this is much easier said than done!  Matt had several four day weekends because of Christmas and New Years and he didn’t want to “waste” them.  We decided to go to Roma for Christmas Eve but I told him I didn’t want to spend the night because I wanted to do Christmas and I didn’t want to leave the dog.  So, needless to say the dog and the baby are going to affect our travels.  I think eventually we will find people who will be willing to dog sit so we can do more than local day trips!  For New Year’s, we decided to copy some of our friends here and drive to Sorrento for the day.
The drive down the coast was unbelievable.  It was a curvy road with very high cliffs that looked very scary but the view was amazing.  It was one of the roads that you want to drive because it is curvy and fun to drive but you want to be the passenger so you can stare out of the window at all the landscape passing the windows.  Periodically there were little overlooks where you can stop the car and enjoy the view, take pictures, and even eat a Panini from the Panini truck! Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite:



I know you want to visit even more now!  When we got into Sorrento, we realized we would have to find parking with the big Explorer!  This could be very challenging and scary.  We drove through the town square and didn’t find anything so we went back towards the bus station.  Luckily there was a parking garage at the bus station which was walking distance from downtown. We have been told many times that our car will be broken into or we will be pick pocketed while we are here.  So of course we are paranoid to leave anything in the car, including the car seat!  But today we decided we would try to leave the car seat in the car and take the stroller instead of the ERGO.  We walked into the downtown square which was still decorated for Christmas and was VERY crowded even though this was the off season for Sorrento (in the summer the population is doubled with tourist!)


Since the drive was about an hour and a half, I was hungry when we got to Sorrento.  We wandered a few streets looking for a restaurant to eat a nice lunch.  For lunch we shared a Caprese salad and some delicious calamari.  During the lunch, the table next to us started talking to us about the baby.  It was an older couple and the woman really liked the baby.  And the baby liked listening to her speak.  Of course, we have no clue what she was saying, except when she asked how old the baby was and told us she was beautiful.  She got the waiter to try to translate and one of the other things she was trying to say was that the baby looked like me!  This was one of the few times someone said the baby looked like me and not Matt!  We asked another waiter where we should go in town and he recommended a local park with an extraordinary view.  So we got the baby all snuggled up in her stroller and walked to the park.  It was a very nice view but a little too windy to hang out for an extended amount of time. 



When we left the park, we ran into the friends whose idea we stole to come to Sorrento! We found the street shopping of Sorrento!  Matt’s brother would have LOVED this narrow street with shopping GALORE! As I have mentioned we are not shoppers but we still enjoyed looking at all the wonderful stuff.  There was a taste tester of Lemonicello and Meloncello.  This was the first time I tasted either and they were both MUCH stronger than I anticipated!  My endurance for shopping ran out before Matt’s and I needed to refuel.  Of course I want to eat the yummy treats or drink a delicious coffee but I had already started my Weight Watchers adventure so I settled for my apple.  It was probably one of the most disappointing apples ever.  We strolled around Sorrento a little more but it was starting to get chilly and we still had to drive back to Napoli.  We hiked back to the car and saw some of the coolest trees but of course didn’t take a picture! During this day trip, I learned that we are able to maneuver through the streets with our stroller and that I must bring lots of snacks to help stay on the plan.
 On the drive back, we stopped at one of the overlooks to watch the sunset.  It was beautiful and a wonderful way to end a very exciting and life changing year: a sunset in Sorrento:

Last New Year’s eve, we were in California celebrating the wedding of two of our friends with no clue that in one year, we would have a daughter and live in Italy.  What an adventure!

lunedì 2 gennaio 2012

Reality verses Fiction

Since I am writing a blog, can I call myself an author?  Does that mean I can write myself as a thin, active, fashionable mama who is a fantastic dresser, terribly organized, and the world’s best cleaner?  I didn’t think writing it would make it real!
To be honest, I have always struggled with my weight.  I have had several successful attempts at losing weight but don’t always have the desire, or motivation to maintaining the lifestyle that I mentally want.  I worked very hard while my husband was deployed and I lost 35 pounds using Weight Watchers and completed a SuperSprint Triathlon (REALLY short one but I still did it!).  I wasn’t the ideal weight based on all the scales and charts but I was pretty happy with myself.  I even went on a bike ride with my husband where his heart rate was elevated because of MY pace!  Shortly after his return, I found out I was pregnant.  During the pregnancy I tried hard to work out (Lindsay Brin Prenatal workout was my friend), did the Coronado Bay Bridge Walk, and we continued to go on weekly hikes until close to the end of the pregnancy.  And we stopped the hikes more because of the move than my giant belly!  I tried to continue to eat healthy and not listen when people said, “Have another one because you’re eating for two!”  I stressed A LOT about gaining too much weight, which of course means, I gained too much weight.  I eventually gave in to the eating for two and the chocolate cravings.  I still worked out some (I did a 5K three days before my due date!!) but not enough to keep up with the food intake.  And I had a big baby. 

So I was not upset about being the heaviest I have ever been when I left the hospital.  I set my goal to lose the first part of the baby weight by the end of the year, which I failed to come close to achieving L. I was told that with nursing, it just melts away.   That may be the case for people who are skinny to begin with but nothing was melting away with my nursing.  And my chest is larger than I ever imagined, so even though my arms are not fatter I have to wear XL shirts to fit my boobs-and buttons are not a good look for me.  My jackets don’t zip over the large baby feeders either.  I waited my 6 weeks until I had doctor’s approval to work out (asking your brother at thanksgiving dinner counts as doctor's approval right) but I started doing what I could.  I can’t run or do jumping jacks.  But I can walk and do other aerobic activities.  I have my Lindsay Brin Postnatal Boot Camp and 60 Day Slim that I do periodically.  And I am thinking about what I am eating.  I am trying to not overeat and to still get fruits and vegetables.  BUT-nothing is working! 
Naturally there is a lot of walking in the different tourist areas.  As we walked up the stairs in the train station, I struggled and got very down on myself.  I get winded or I am the slowest person in the group and I hate that feeling.  I want to be skinny and fit and have no trouble carrying a case of water up three flights of stairs.  I want to be the type of person who wants to go work out and spend spare time working out.  In reality, I would rather use some of the time the baby is sleeping to read, sleep, occasionally straighten up the hotel, or hang out with the dog and husband.  So I had to admit to myself that something has to change in order to get this excess baby weight off.  I mean I live in Italy and I have to enjoy the Italian fashion, right?  I need to be comfortable with my size so that I can buy nice clothes and get to be the fashionable mama that is my fictional character. 
SO I rejoined Weight Watchers.  I am doing the online program because there are no local meetings…I can’t imagine why! I am working out and trying to get my life on some kind of schedule (although failing miserably with the holidays and housing stuff).  But let me tell you right now, dieting in Italy is going to be TOUGH.  I have a fantastic husband who is super supportive and willing to eat the healthier options with me.  BUT, how do you resist the caprese salad or delicious pastas or delicious breads?  And how do you cook healthy meals when you have a hotel kitchen and very limited options in the grocery store?  When we were discussing if I would do it again, I told Matt I couldn’t do it because they didn’t have things like ground turkey or turkey sausage in the commissary (Navy Grocery Store) and I didn’t think I would find it in town if I ever learned how to say it!  But I am happy to say that I have since found the ground turkey and sausage hidden in the frozen breakfast section.  I am also proud to say, that we went out to lunch and dinner since I signed up and I was successful.  It is hard and I want to eat all the delicious pizza (especially since I can read and understand what is in the pizza).  Being on a diet in Italy is going to be tough but I moved to a foreign country with a newborn, I can handle it!
This is going to count as my before picture.

domenica 1 gennaio 2012

Full Contact Communion

When you tell someone you are moving from San Diego to Naples, Italy, there is inevitably a conversation about the other person’s love of and experiences in Italy.  This is followed by a request…”oh send me some Italian shoes!”  or “I can’t wait for you to send us your favorite bottle of Italian wine” or “you must find the restaurant that is describe in Eat, Pray, Love.”  My favorite request was from my Wii playing chicken nephew.  His request was not for something but for me to find someone…Francesco Bernoulli.  For those of you who don’t know Francesco, he is an Italian racecar from the movie Cars 2.  So as we were saying good byes to the family, my nephew whispers again “keep your eyes out for Francesco!”  You can imagine his excitement when I told him we met a man named Francesco, even though it wasn’t the real  one.  And when we found pistachio ice cream.  But the best part happened on Christmas Eve.
Being our first Christmas with our baby and our first Christmas in Italy, we decided we needed to make it memorable, especially since we are living in a hotel!  The USO was hosting a bus trip to Roma for Midnight Mass at the Vatican. Of course being Catholic, this seemed like a fantastic idea!  I signed us up…not thinking about how much it actually cost, how long the bus trip would be, how we would get tickets, or what the weather would be like.  After paying our bus fare, I decided to figure out about tickets.  The Vatican does not accept email requests for Midnight Mass so I had to send a fax.  And we were supposed to find out if we got them with a return fax.  Of course, since we are living in a hotel, this was a difficult task.  I was able to find a fax (where I could send FREE faxes) in the Fleet and Family Support Center.  And not thinking about it, I put that number as the return fax.  Well, after I sent the fax, I found out the fax machine had no ink and therefore I would probably never hear if we got the tickets.  I was optimistic that our friends would have better luck or they would send the tickets to the address provided.  I was also not going to be disappointed if we didn’t have tickets and were out in the square.  Having a 3 month old baby in a two hour long service seemed like a bad idea. Now to figure out the other issues:  the flyer said the bus would be back between 2:30-3:00 AM.  So being a smart person, I decided that the bus trip couldn’t be more than an hour and a half since mass was at midnight and would be at least an hour and getting everyone back on the bus would take a few minutes so we would be headed back by 1:30.  Seems logical right??  And the weather…this issue was a bit nerve-wracking.  It was going to be cold, and we came from California so we were not prepared. So I determined I was going to wear layers, borrow Matt’s coat since I can zip his coat (breastfeeding has made zipping my jacket impossible), use my new hat, gloves, and scarf combo that Matt gave me for my birthday.  The baby was going to wear a corduroy dress with long sleeve shirt, tights, a knit hat, socks, and be snuggled up to her daddy.  Also, she had a coat, pajamas to put on with the tights and shirt if necessary, and two blankets.  Matt had his warm clothes picked up so we were ready to go. 
Before we could leave for the trip, I wanted to make sure everything was ready for Christmas morning.  Every year, we have breakfast casserole as an intermission during present opening.  It’s something that is prepared the night before and thrown in the oven when you get up.  After looking for what Santa left and opening some presents, the casserole (and bubble bread usually) are ready to eat.  Then you continue with the present opening!  I was debating what to do because we were leaving at noon and I wasn’t sure how the egg casserole would do if it sat for 18 hours. And being in a foreign country, I couldn’t just call my mom and ask!  So I decided I would shred the cheese and brown the sausage.  When we got back at 2:00 AM, I would assemble the casserole and then sleep.  Sounds like the perfect plan, right? 
So we get everything ready and walk to meet the bus.  We left 45 minutes early to meet the bus and get a sandwich to bring with us…and we were one of the last people there! We had to sit in the very way back of the bus. Looking at the bus, it reminded me of the charter buses we would take for long field trips in school; the buses were big and comfy (at least compared to the school bus) and had a bathroom in the back of the bus.  This bus was not like the charter buses I remember.  The leg room was nonexistent. There was no bathroom on this bus and the seats did not recline.  For 90 minutes, we can handle this. 
Well, make that 3 hours.  The bus ride was 3 hours! Apparently my calculations were incorrect because Midnight Mass starts at 10:00, who knew!?  We did stop about 40 minutes outside of Roma for a pit stop.  The truck stop had nice bathrooms with toilet paper, lots of snack foods, and a full size snack bar.  I was holding the baby and standing in the candy section looking for a Mars Bar (I have never had a Mars Bar and don’t think they are made anymore; Matt thinks they are still made so it has become a family joke to look EVERYwhere for a Mars Bar and I have yet to see one) and waiting for Matt.  I was standing in the same spot for at least 5 minutes before I realized who was next to me!  My wii playing chicken nephew would be so excited because I found him: Francesco Barnouilli!!


The Baby wasn’t nearly as impressed with the ride-in Francesco (which is good because it was 159 Euros!) but we could not resist the photo opportunity.  And we couldn’t wait to get back and SKYPE with the family to tell our nephew all about finding Francesco.
We continued our journey to Roma.  It is so fascinating to look out of the window as we drive through the country (and slightly nauseating) because everything is different.  It is hard to describe how you will see a rundown shack surrounded by beautiful Roman ruins next to a farm and shopping center and brand new mansions.  And of course the vegetation is different than the plush green rolling hills of North Carolina or the desert like environment of California.  And there is no way to describe the beautiful architecture that has been around for 2000 years.  We pull into St. Peter’s Square area at about 16:00 and are told to be back on the bus at midnight.  Let the Roman adventure begin!

We never got tickets so we planned to roam around Rome until it was closer to time for mass to start.  First stop was an espresso bar.  I have not had a real Italian espresso because I am nursing and the baby does not do well with any amount of caffeine.  But I had researched and learned that decaf was decaffeinato and decided now was a good time to try my first proper cappuccino. And it was delicious!  Matt even got a latte macchiato, which is a lot of milk and a little espresso.  The proper way to drink a café in Italy is to drink the café hot and quickly while standing at the bar so that is what we did.  After our café, I decided it was time to go to the restroom before we wandered aimlessly around a city.  This was a uni-sex bathroom with an attendant, who you are supposed to tip.  She works very hard to tell you which stall to use.  But at least there was toilet paper, no toilet seats though. 
So we set off.  First we went to the Square to see if the Vatican was open for touring and to see if we could go to the gift shop. Both were closed.  We also watched the unveiling of the Nativity Scene, although we had no idea what they were saying.
We continued to wander around following Matt’s direction.  And we ended up walking in a circle.  Then we decided that we would want to eat dinner and since most things were closing we needed to locate an open restaurant.  So we wandered some more.  Eventually we found a restaurant that was open.  We had a nice dinner and still had lots of time to kill so we decided to have another coffee and cannoli.  Then we all had our bathroom breaks so we could start exploring again.  And we needed to change the baby’s diaper.  The bathrooms do not have convenient changing stations.  And we had no place to put her to change her unless it was on the ground or outside in the cold rain.  So Matt and I had an exciting diaper changing adventure.  He held the baby vertically and I took off her bloomers and tights.  Then I changed her diaper while he continued to hold her.  She was laughing the whole time!!  At least we know we can change her diaper in a pinch!!
After our dinner, which was over-priced based because of the proximity to the Vatican, we walked down a street that had a river down the middle.  We saw the castle  Sant’Angelo and it was spectacular.


We wandered the street looking for street vendors and other interesting things.  We took some really neat pictures even though it was dark.



Roma is amazing.  And we saw the tiniest little bit of the city.  I have noticed that there is marble everywhere in Italy.  This makes for beautiful floors, counters, bathrooms, and stairs but not the best sidewalks.  Yep, the sidewalks in Roma were marble.  Seems nice, but is not a good idea in a rainy city.  It makes for a very dangerous and slippery walk.  As you can guess, it decided to rain on Christmas Eve and of course we did not have an umbrella, I had it in the diaper bag and took it out…silly Lizzie.  Conveniently there was a man selling umbrellas on the street for 15 Euros. Great deal, right? NOT!  He approached us and we were able to talk him down to 10 euro.  I told Matt “absolutely not, let’s go!”  in my attempt to haggle although Matt thought I was really upset about spending that much money! As we walked away and waited at the street corner to cross the man came back over and said we could have it for 8 euro.  And we said deal!  Half-price for an overpriced umbrella.  My mom would be so proud.
It was about 20:00 at this time and we didn’t want to go stand in the cold for four hours especially since the square was not very crowded.  Apparently cold and wet kept a lot of people at home.  Since no one was driving, the boys wanted to find a pub and have a beer.  Seems like an easy idea right?  Well bars aren’t bars, they are coffee places or snack places.  We think bars are tarvernas or pubs so we went looking for signs.  We found a place called a tarverna and being the gentlemen they are, the men opened the doors for Mandi and me.  We poke our heads in, had everyone stop and stare and realized very quickly that this is not where we would be able to get a beer.  The restaurant was very fancy and the waiters were wearing tuxedos.  Of course, Matt and Jamie didn’t believe us and wanted to look themselves so they stuck their heads through the door to receive several more stares.  Onward we go.  We found a little restaurant and decided we would stop there for a glass of wine (everyone else had a glass of wine; I had a bottle of aqua natural).  After about 40 minutes of enjoying the wine, well drinking it because this was not the best wine in Italy, we got the impression that we were keeping the family from Christmas.  So we paid our bill and headed back to the square.


Matt wanted to see if we would be able to get in without tickets.  St. Peter’s Square is quite large and the line to get into mass literally weaved and wrapped through the square several times.  It might have been the longest line I had seen in quite some time.  I don’t think everyone from the line actually made it inside the church.  So we picked a good spot, you can see the screen and the pope’s balcony. And we weren’t crowded.   There were so many different kinds of people around some who felt that it was okay to drink and smoke while watching mass.  Others who were moved to tears watching the Pope ride into mass.  It was a very surreal atmosphere. 

The majority of Mass was in Italian (at least I think it was Italian) but each part of the service had a different language.  One reading was English; one reading was in Chinese, the homily Italian, the prayer requests in all the different languages.  Of course we didn’t understand most of what was being said but it was one of the coolest experiences.  Matt asked me how they were going to do communion and I said I had no idea…I thought that maybe only the clergy and the people who were part of the mass would be offered communion.  If you are not Catholic, you are not supposed to take communion in a Catholic church and there was no way of knowing who was or wasn’t Catholic.  I also think there are people who are not Catholic who would take communion in the Vatican just to say they did.  So we were watching the different priests on the screen and suddenly Jamie realized that the priests were coming outside to the masses!!  We looked at each other and immediately started to walk towards the barricades, just like thousands of other people.  Jamie is a good person to bring to crowds or mosh pits, he is able to weave and get to the front without pushing and stepping on feet.  So we were up on the barricade, probably two rows of people in front of him and three in front of me.  The priests (about four different ones) each went to a different part and each was escorted by a photographer and a bodyguard.  The first priest passed by and we were not able to receive communion because he seemed to only be able to reach taller people.  More people were shoving and trying to push closer to the barricade.  The priests ran out of hosts and returned to the basilica but another round or two of priests came out to the square.  We continued to stay in the same spot and get elbowed and poked from all directions. People were so determined to get to the front of the barricade that they wouldn’t let people out for fear of losing spots.  Suddenly, we were two and three and both Jamie and I received communion blessed by the Pope!!  It was beyond anything I had ever thought would happen to boring old me!  And to make the experience that more exciting, right after I received communion I got elbowed in the stomach and my foot stomped on by a mean girl in a red hat and big black rimmed glasses (they looked like the 3D glasses that teenagers take the lenses out of) as she tried to get up for communion.  Not the exact attitude you should have at Christmas Eve mass.  As I fought my way out of the crowd and back to my husband and baby, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were in tears.   I think some were crying because they were in awe of receiving communion blessed by the Pope and others were pissed that they didn’t!

So after mass, we went back to the bus and got the baby changed and in her pajamas with a flashlight because the power was not on for some reason.  After everyone who got to go inside the Vatican got back to the bus, we started our 3 hour journey home.  The plan was to sleep the whole way back but since the bus was not as comfortable as one would like, it turned into several cat naps.  But luckily the baby slept the whole way home.  The cold walk back to our temporary lodging was enough to wake her up though!  We changed her again, fed her, and laid her down to go to sleep.  Instead she decided to chat with her butterfly mobile and tell it all about her adventures in Rome!

Overall a pretty nice Christmas!