God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Day Draws Near

O.K., the plans are this:

Thursday we will get up with the birds (early) so that we can have the dubious pleasure (that, it is not!) of joining the morning traffic nightmare from here (San Diego) to there (Los Angeles.) We are off to the Italian Consulate--that bastion of encouraging words and warm welcome. Actually, I am working on changing my expectations which have been honed on previous contacts and reading the experiences of those who have gone before us. But, I believe in miracles and the serendipities of life and so am confident that our experience will be different, postive, productive and, above all, successful.

Actually today a good thing happened. Yesterday I called Sandra's extension at the consulate--a couple of last minute questions. She wasn't answering her phone but did give the opportunity to leave a voice message--so I hung up as ALL previous attempts (fax, email and letters) had been 100% unsuccesful. But then, I thought "What do I have to lose by leaving a message? Nothing tried, nothing gained." So, I called back and left my name and number.

By this morning, I had ensconced that memory deep within a non-reachable corner of the mental filing cabinet, so, was thoroughly taken by surprise when the phone rang with that special sound it makes with out of area calls.

And--I was busy and so just about decided to ignore it when I heard "This is the Italian Consulate returning your call. You didn't say what you wanted so I don't know what you called.........." I ran, tripping over left out shoes (Casey's, of course), a chair and a stack of books in the mad dash to pick up the phone before it went dead.

And--there was Sandra--or Sandy as her voice mail says--live and well on the other end. We had a very nice cordial chat. I asked my questions, she answered them and I warmly told her that we look forward to seeing her on Thursday.

So--with our brief case full of papers, cash in the exact amount that is required, an Express Mail envelop stamped and addressed to myself for the return of our passports and much anticipation, we face this hurdle. Our biggest concern is that Sandra or her counterpart accept the guardianship and travel court orders (translated and apostilled).

So--next time I write, I hope that there is good news, that all is well and, most of all, that the adventure moves along.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Non Sequiturs

Cars, Dryers, Tacos and the FBI

One would think that moving some place (even Italy) for just a year would be easy, just pack some clothes, leave and buy whatever else is needed when you get there. No way! The problem is that so many of the things that need addressing are the same as if for a longer stay—once taken care of they are in place--the first year is the adjustment year--so just about the time you experience a somewhat sense of knowing what you are doing and having the basics in place, it is time to repack and come home--so maybe we need a five year plan!??! In fact, that is exactly what some friends of mine in Firenze (Florence) have decided to do now that they are approaching the end of their first year.

But first, an update:
The long awaited FBI report came back and, you will be happy to learn, we are upstanding citizens with no arrest record. Why it took 11 weeks for this to be determined I am not sure--unless the e-mails I have sent to Bush make us suspect or is that paranoia without cause? Anyway, the report consists of the original fingerprints we sent with a little, teeny stamp on the back saying "No Arre
st Record."

We now have our signed, sealed and delivered rent contract--it arrived DHL yesterday. Or course, it is in italian--as well it should be--so one more time my friend in Chiocchio will read it over to make sure there are no surprises. Our landlord, Alessandro, is a class act and so I am sure that there will be none. We very much look forward to the friendship we expect to nurture with him, his wife Nicoletta and adorable Camilla.

Side Bar:

Aren't these two just made for each other? A perfect match for a friendship.

Although Casey has no glass in his glasses, he regularly polishes them. It is rather funny to watch this process!

The two of them have a great cyberspace conversations going. Camilla is studying inglese and Casey is studying italiano so they will at least be able to count in each other's language!

As far as I can determine, all that we need for our awaited but dreaded trip to the LA Consulate is in place--passports, marriage certificate, Casey's birth certificate, court orders-- translated and apostilled, plane itinerary, extra passport pictures, proof of health insurance, letters of intent, FBI report, the rent contract, proof of adequate financial resources and income, and Schengen visa applications (standard for EU countries.) In addition we have notorized pictures of Ken and I to prove we are the guardians identified in court documents. With all this, one would think that getting the visas would be a snap; however, I am absolutely confident that Sandra, the great and powerful visa guardian, will find something array or missing which will require a second day traveling to and from Los Angeles. This preparation is made that much more difficult by the fact that the LA Consulate continues to shroud what is needed in secrecy.

As of now, we are in a quandry as when to take the bull by the horns and do this. Our choices are now so that we have the visa in place for our March trip or in April in time for our July 30 move. Explaining why this dilemma exists would be too difficult and complex and boring--suffice it to say that it revolves around the best, surest and most convenient way to obtain a car. As you can see, nothing about doing this is turning out to be free of complications.

Now--why tacos and dryers. Well, because life in Italia will not be life in Southern California, where, in spite of non-stop sunshine (at least that is what the Chamber of Commerce promotes), we do not own clotheslines and clothes pins and dryers are considered a basic household necessity and because our standard, required comfort food is tacos, rellanoes, enchilades and chimichangas. In Italy, clothespins and clotheslines are the standard--dryers are the exception--even in winter when the snow is on the ground and temperature hovers around 17 degrees. During these months you use drying racks set up throughout the house. My friend Rita calls it the land of perpetual laundry.

And then--more importantly and the greatest deprivation to face in the land of marvelous food, exceptional vino, unparallel art, exquisite landscapes and fascinating people will be withdrawal from Mexican cuisine. People assure me we can find ingredients--real and substitutes--for tacos, and more, but, we who live here, know that is not possible. You can't even get the real stuff in Texas which thrives on some awful variation called Tex-Mex.

So--we are beginning now to prepare ourselves for these disruptions to life as we know it. I am pretty sure we will survive to tell about it but it will be rough!

So, our request--if you are coming to Italy--bring corn tortillas, good salsa or chilis so that I can make some and chedder cheese (which can not be found there.)

Molto, Grazie!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Meet Stefania e Pietro

I am Stefania and Ken is Pietro--at least for 6 hours every week. Together we are Stefania and Pietro. Italian lessons have begun!

Perhaps our new identities mean that we will soon be italiano fluent. But--if the first lesson experience is any indication, I will go to the grave being monolingual--Ken may do better but you will need to ask him.

Maybe if my history of language learning were less dismal, I would not now be wallowing in great pessimism. In the past I have tried French and Spanish--expending vast amounts of time and energy on the efforts--I was not a slackard at all. In fact, when working on Spanish, I had a Mexican secretary who faithfully would make me practice--or nothing got done as she, who was flawlessly bilingual, would speak to me only in Spanish. This was good because three-fourths of my parents spoke only Spanish.

Eventually I was able to carry on very rudimentary conversations with these parents who had such hopes and dreams for their children. But--after leaving that environment, I soon lost the language except for vocabulary--which sort of stays with you (much like never forgetting how to ride a bike once having learned.) This is quite helpful when in Spanish speaking countries as it is really quite important to be able to say donde baño when in desperation. Now I can also say dove è il bagno, per favore or per piacere--I actually have a choice! Truthfully, though, I did know how to ask this already--survival language, it is called.

Anyway, seriously, I am quite worried about this phase of our move because being able to communicate is so ultra important and the responsibility for this clearly rests on the shoulders of we immigrants. I know how incompetent I feel when just traveling in Italy (or another country) and so can not even conceive of what happens to self-concept when living there and being a perpetual tourist. This is not a nice thought--at all. Of course, the other alternative is always relying on our 8 year old for interpretation --another not nice thought. Thus---I am going to try very, very hard so that when August comes I will be able to communicate in the most basic of terms--which I am sure will cause heaps of inward laughter in the hearts of my listeners! But if they can understand that I want apples and not dish soap, I'll be somewhat successful. And I am told that Italians are very patient and kind to those who try to speak the language--except for the staff in the questura and other offices where one must, in all humility, get the necessary paper work to live there--legally.

That will be another story on another day--beginning with our experiences in March on our preparatory visit. And--that is assuming that we get our visas. Actually, this entry was going to be an update on where we stand on that--which is really no where. Or the entry was going to be on non-sequitors such as Cars, Dryers and Tacos--which, too, will wait until another day. Now, I am off to buy some clothes at Nordstroms.

Ciao e A Presto

Update: Back from Nordstroms--almost empty handed other than a pair of boots for Italy in March. But--I did finally understand why I am always wearing jeans and pants--that is all that is sold here in San Diego! No wonder I don't own skirts anymore--they just don't exist--unless you count those little skimpy, no material things that teen-agers wear.

I had decided that I needed a couple of classic, stylish long skirts--with nice slits for walking comfort--that look stunning with boots. Surely, I thought, this will be an easy task--but, no! I went to a multitude of stores and not one had anything remotely resembling what I was picturing. Maybe in Fireneze there will be something but the sales will be over and long skirts may be out of season. If I could sew--then voila!--resolved; however, I don't and so pants it will be.