Monday, August 6, 2012

Adjusting to European Life...

Well, let me preface this little sharing session by saying I'm honored to have gotten the chance to move to Italy and experience all that life has to offer in Europe.  I know it will be adventurous and fun and of course, I'm with my husband and wouldn't have it any other way.  I realize I'm getting the chance to do something I would've never done if it weren't for the fact that my husband is in the Air Force.  That being said... so far, the experience has been a bit more annoying and frustrating that I would've hoped.

1.  It's like 1000 degrees here!!  C'mon!  We're at the foothills of the Alps and we're farther away from the equator than where I previously resided - shouldn't it be cooler here than back home?  We have one air conditioning unit in our whole house (so unless I want to sit on the tiled floor of our dining room, I'm sweating out of my clothes) and the vehicle we're currently using while we wait for our POV (Privately Owned Vehicle) has no air in it.  Needless to say, the heavy-set, some may prefer "thick," woman that I am is not up for being the touristy-get-to-know-the-neighborhood type until the weather becomes true fall or winter outside.  So of course, my expectations of the type of temperatures I'd be encountering were shattered the second I stepped off the plane, and I haven't really been able to shake the dis-satisfactory funk I've fallen into, hence the foul tone for the remainder of this blog.

2.  Speaking of plane - the 12-hour excursion across the Atlantic was quite possibly the worst experience of my life.  I had a night-flight so I had every hope of sleeping the 8 hours from ATL to Amsterdam and then reading or writing during the two hour layover and then listening to music or something for the two hour flight from Amsterdam to Venice - um no.  Let's just make a super long and complainy story short by saying I'll never fly an international flight again unless I am in a window seat and far, far away from the bathroom.  Moving on...

3.  The first night I was in my lovely little Italian home, some sort of spider or mosquito literally went to chow-town on my feet.  On my right foot alone I have 10 individual bite marks and on my left foot I have like 4 or 5.  They itch so badly I've considered using the dull kitchen knife my husband bought to chop my feet off at the ankle, or less severe but just as ridiculous, using my razor to either lance each individual bite or shave the top layer of skin off my feet.  I am not joking - all of these have seriously been considered.  In reality, I filled up the bidet with the hottest water this house can produce (which is honestly scalding!) and poured an entire bottle of alcohol into it and soaked my feet until they were literally numb (since, let's get real, I will not be using the bidet for it's intended purpose.. sorry but I'm perfectly capable of cleaning my butt-hole in the shower like a normal person!).  I doused each bite in globs of calamine lotion and covered them with thick ass socks and have been repeating this process everyday.  It's day 6 and just now the itchiness has subsided to the point where I don't feel like my skin is crawling with thousands of microscopic bugs urging me to scratch the ever-loving hell out of them.

My first purchase at the BX on base!
          3a.  Speaking of feet - every surface is hardwood or tile.  It's really pretty and goes well with decor, but when it comes to comfort, not even my dog likes to be on the surfaces (our couch is white and I refuse to let her chill on it with us!)  My ankles and calves are swollen and I've taken on a hopefully temporary case of RLS at night when I'm trying to fall asleep.  We've already invested in a beautiful mattress which will get delivered this week, but I'm thinking another trip to the BX to buy the puffiest slippers ever is in order.

4.  The roads and the drivers here scare the crap out of me.  I don't understand the system with which they've constructed their highways, signs, and back-roads.  Maybe because I can't drive yet (since I don't have my AFI driver's license) and haven't been forced to understand it all, that could explain my issues with grasping why everything must be so damn confusing, I dunno.  But tell people that they can pretty much go whatever speed they want with caution and holy hell I'm glad for regulated speed in the states!  Sure there are occasional speed limit signs posted but for the most part, you can pass whenever you want at whatever speed you want.  And there are cyclists EVERYWHERE.  It's like the Tour de France 24/7.

5.  And why exactly was I brought up in the only country on earth that doesn't use the metric /Celsius system?  I think I should petition the U.S. to change over or make it a requirement that all schools teach both!  Lazy, complicated Americans, ppsshhhh.  And trying to switch over to saying "euros" instead of "dollars" is going to be the hardest thing ever for me.  I'm sure I'll get it all eventually, but I have a BA in English for a reason, okay?  Math and I aren't good friends.  When they used to say in elementary school, "Math is important - you use it in every situation in everyday life," I used to laugh and say, when will I ever need to do constant "mathing?"  Well played teacher, well played.  Trying to cook a meal here is like a mathematical decathlon - the oven is in Celsius so I have to convert all Fahrenheit degrees over (little trick the hubs taught me is to double it and add 30 and that'll get you close), water in a recipe is measured in mL (apparently 600 mL is 2 1/2 cups or something like that?), and fitting four pots on one tiny ass stove takes serious skills (lots of balancing).  Gas is sold in liters, not gallons, and speed limits are posted in kmph, which isn't so bad when you're driving a rental European car, but when we get our Mitsubishi, I have a feeling I'm going to just want to hole myself up in the house or make my husband chauffeur me around everywhere to prevent myself from accumulating tickets in those rare areas where speed limits are enforced!

6.  ELECTRICITY and GAS!!  I've never been more appreciative of simply plugging something in or turning on a switch and things being powered without any hitches.  And previously complaining about the cost of it -BWAHAHAHA - I'll never do that again!  Trying to get things to work here takes patience and a lot of crossing your fingers.  I've kicked off the entire house's power/breaker four times in the 6 days I've been here and even literally blown up a power strip while it was still in my hands (a loud pop followed by a fizzy, smoky explosion, ending with a foul smell for hours in the bedroom).  We've spent probably $100 US dollars on adapters and converters and plugs and extension cords.  We've yet to find a power strip that will work on this system (the one I blew was 330v so I'm assuming one with less voltage may work, but this trial and error discovery will get more expensive)!  We have one frigging power outlet per room and even then, some have two-hole plug-ins, some have three small-hole plug-ins, and some have these weird two/three-hole hybrid plug-ins.  

It's soooo damn confusing that I'm tempted to buy a generator for each room or something just to make sure that everything will get powered.  And gas - we woke up at 2am drenched in sweat to find that all the radiators in the house had magically turned themselves on.  What the... it was definitely an experience.

(But look at these friggin awesome lamps that we got - Euro plugs btw - at this place called Ovvios!!)

7.  Everything is tiny.  Rooms, appliances, cars... the list goes on.  They certainly make the most of every inch of space available, but there isn't a whole helluva lot of space to begin with.  They don't have closets, but they do have these floor to ceiling armoires which take up a huge portion of the already small room.  Inside these "closets," I can't even reach the top rod to hang clothes on (ask my hubby, I literally have to jump to place a hanger on the rod).  Same goes in the kitchen with our cupboards.  They use all available space but it's not efficient - unless I have go-go-gadget arms or a five-foot high step stool (which I hardly have anything because our belongings won't be shipped in until mid-September!) I won't even be able to utilize all the cabinet space on a daily basis.  Our fridge is like a flashback to a college dorm-room (I can't go to the store every friggin day - who has that sort of time?) and the oven is a joke.  There's no way I'll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for fellow Airman and their families with the minute amount of space I have!

8.  They have the weirdest and most arduous trash system ever!  Well, it should really be called a recycling system because it's mandatory to recycle here.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving the planet but this... it's ridiculous.  Here we go:  There are four trash bins, yellow, brown, dark green, and light green.  Each color is for a different type of trash.  Every Monday is secco and umido.  Secco is sort of like compromised recyclables like used pads, pizza boxes with cheese stuck to the top, paper towels used to mop up spilled milk - things that can be recycled but that have waste attached.  Umido is food waste, the food you scrape off your plate before washing it, the peel to your banana, etc.  Now, secco must be placed in a see-through plastic bag and then put in the light green trash bin. Umido must be placed in a biodegradable bag and then put in the brown bin.  Every other Wednesday is carta e cartone which is basically paper and cardboard and it must go in the yellow bin without a bag.  On the other Wednesdays, it's plastica e lattine which is plastic and cans/metal which must be placed in a blue see-through plastic bag, no bin.  And then every Thursday is secco again (same "rules" as listed above) and vetro, which is glass.  The glass goes in the dark green bin without a bag.  Now whenever you have "yard waste" which would be weeds, dead bushes, raked leaves, things of that nature, you'd put it in the light green bin with the secco.  They literally send out a calendar for each city for the entire year to tell you which days they do which types of collecting... like I said, weird and arduous.  To make it a bit easier on us, we got these nifty trash containers (at Ovvios too) and a tiny trashcan for the kitchen for the food waste.  Since we won't have a lot of glass, that one is our secco container.  All of the outside bins that go to the street we keep in our garage... the hubs pretty much takes down a bag a day to the bins and lets it collect there instead of inside the house.

So, tons of complaining has occurred here today, BUT OF COURSE as Tim Gunn would say - MAKE IT WORK, which I will.  I'm allowing myself a little bit of a pity party because I miss my family, my town, my space, an easy way of life.  Things are changing and it'll take some adjustment.  But millions of people survive this way of life every single day and so will I.  And honestly, the fact that I'm once again reunited with my husband makes all that other stuff completely irrelevant.  Hopefully from here on out I'll have much more positive things to say and I'm sure that exploration of this beautiful country will take place as soon as we get fully settled in and I'm completely over this jet-lag.

Until then...  here's a little slice of my everyday view

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