Friday, March 26, 2010

River Walk

Walking in Santa Domenica Talao is an aerobic experience, if you have spent any time here you already know that.  I rely on that fact for the heart-lung portion of my exercise routine because I am not a person who can stay on a tread mill or any other such device for very long.  Five minutes goes by and I think it’s 20.  There are two great walks in S. Domenica—the walk to the top of the hill to the cemetery and the walk down to the river.  The river walk is also a nature walk so I am partial to it.

It starts on our street Via Cappella, named for the small chapel at the bottom of the road.  I still haven’t gotten over how many things there are to look at that are so different from what I am used to.  This walk is the reverse of how I usually like to exercise in that it’s all uphill on the way back but that makes it more fun on the way down looking at everything and saying ciao to neighbors.

This is a very small chapel at the end of our street.  It is still being used.  The first time I came down the steps here, a service was being held inside. 

Below is the walking route as viewed from our terrace marked for you.  The part of the route visible on this photo starts at the chapel and ends at the edge of the canyon down to the river.

At the chapel, we cross the road at the home of what appears to be a lawyer and continue down through the newer residential area.  There are many iron gates and railings in S. Domenica and there is still a place in town that makes them. 

At this portion of the route, I always turn around to look back at how far down we’ve already come.  Our casa is gray with bold white trim.  On the building to the left of ours, you can see the faint remains of the trim.  We chose the historical finish rather than tarting it up with colored paint.  It was the choice of our geometra and I figured he knew more about than we.

We leave town at the contractor’s supply store, Mammoliti.  We bought a sander and a tile cutter there…(hey, it’s Doug and Di, we have to have some DIY going).  Dirt lanes with plants growing in the center always look inviting to me.

We were surprised to find few people around in this area.  It’s clearly being farmed, there are houses, old sheds, fields, grapes, olives, and nature.  There weren’t any dogs or other domestic animals around, so Vince got off his leash.

We made it to the bridge and to the creek.  

The road continued up the other side, but we did not, saving that for another day.  We did not find the name of the creek nor could anyone we asked tell us.  Pina said it was too much dialect, too hard.  

There was a flowered path that went for a short way along the river.  

We explored that until it ended in brush and then faced our up-hill challenge.

Friday, March 19, 2010

You say Terrazza, I say Terrazzo

I’m living one aspect of my dream right now.  Always good--blogging while sitting in the sun on our Italian terrace.  In English, that word is pretty simple.  Here in Italy there are two choices which really aren’t very clear.   I named our blog Il Terrazzo Italiano, and began to be concerned that I made the wrong choice when I saw that our geometra (surveyor/architect) used “terrazza” with an “A” at the end on our drawings.  So because I’m also trying to learn Italian at la scuola media in Scalea, I did some research.  I found this on a website here (excuse my translation):
Technically, la terrazza is an area of the roof of a building, while il terrazzo - or balcony - is a more viable area that protrudes from the wall, next to one or more interior doors.
In practice, however, the words "terrazzo" and "terrazza" tend to indicate either one and define a space protected by a balustrade and directly communicating with the house. Thanks to modern progress in construction materials, the terrace became a very important area in domestic buildings--an environment for elegant living.  There are famous terraces built by Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, master of architecture history, and some from the German Bauhaus movement, or Italian rationalism.

Our terrace is not a roof terrace and it is directly connected to the kitchen, so I feel both technically and informally correct enough.  I don’t have a new picture of it as I’m still working on filling it with plants.  Below is my sentimental favorite--in July 2008, we had just come from the US to see our semi-finished house.  It was our first cocktail on the terrace:

We are enjoying our Italian lessons every day for two hours.

Our teacher Carmelina (shown below) has a great sense of humor and has a lot to handle.  Anyone can come to take the free lessons so she has to run the class like an old one-room school house in order to deal with the varying levels of fluency.  Our class is very international--English folks, a young woman from Morocco, a funny guy from Iraq (our class clown), two guys from Pakistan, and one from Brazil.  We have both separate and group exercises and she ends the day with conversation.  My worst.  Everything leaves my head when she requests that I ask someone in the group a question.  Too much pressure.

Our neighbor who speaks English, Pina del Campo (nickname--because many folks have similar first names in town) seems sort of impressed by my progress, she gives me a year for fluency.  Hope so.  She came with us to Cosenza (provincial capital) yesterday for our appointment with the questura (police station) to get fingerprinted for our Permesso di Soggiorno.  She joked with the police woman who was typing up the forms and generally made us seem human to them, I think.  We could have gotten by without her but we did not know if they would have any questions for us.  The appointment requires that you bring all your original documents so we had no idea what to expect.  The reality was just fingerprints and about one hour of waiting.  Not too bad.  In two months, our “green cards” should be ready.  Here’s hoping that our Italian improves enough that we will feel all comfy about going back alone.
Driving in the city of Cosenza rather than just a town was very challenging for Doug but he did well.  He had studied maps from Google before leaving and basically drove right up to the area we needed to be by virtue of his (to me) completely uncanny sense of direction.  Pina asked directions of a guy in the street after we parked and he ended up walking with us for a block because they appeared to argue a bit about his directions.  As it turned out, we parked only two blocks away (or so).  On the way home, however, we missed a turn and we ended up eating pranzo (lunch) in a town that none of us had been to before--Lauria.  Doug found a new pasta dish that he really loved.  Pina told him how to cook it, we finished our wine and drove home.  A good day for learning Italian, cooking, geography, and meeting people.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Expat Dog

I have a bit of a guest blog today.  By Vince (as told to and photographed by Doug):

A little too much attention has been given on this blog to Diana and Doug’s crazy move to Italy, and not enough to me – the guy who brings them all their happiness in life.  Me, the intrepid traveler who crawled into a little cage for 11 hours including in the belly of a Boeing 767 for 3,500 miles without losing control of my bladder.  Yeah, where they don’t serve dog biscuits OR wine.  Yeah, me, Vince.  I’m the expat dog living in Calabria, Italy and I want some recognition.

You saw some photos of me swimming in the Tyrrhenian Sea, and that’s cool.  But you need to see how I have immersed myself in this new culture. Here are some pictures of the view from my walking routes on the streets of Santa Domenica.

A picture of the entrance to my secret abandoned garden where I go for “privacy” and no one has to clean up.

Me with some prickly pear plants that are good for scratching my back.

And me sitting in the family’s new Alfa Romeo where my Mom Di thought for some reason I’d need an umbrella.  Like, listen Di, dogs aren’t afraid of a little rain, blogger babe.
I have adapted completely to Italy.  I love walking these streets with their old buildings and walls.  The one negative thing about those walls is that all the stray cats (a lot) can jump over onto the other side of a wall and I can’t chase them.  I get along great with the local dogs as we speak a common language.  The humans have to go to school every day, but we dogs already have our international signs.  Many of the local humans are nice to me too, but some are not so glad I’ve moved into town.

Our neighbor Rosario will actually scream and drop what she’s carrying when she sees me…..that scream scared me half to death.  I first met her when her family was boiling hog parts in a vat outside their house where they were making salami.  I just stuck my nose in the door to say hi and it went downhill from there with Rosario.  Her husband still likes to give my Dad wine and grappa, and he gave us some salami to try.

I’m sort of used to Hood River where everyone had a dog and I was kind of a chick magnet with women always coming up to pet me and say how cute I was.  I think that will probably happen here too by summer.  Wish me luck and lots of Italian sausage…. I think Doug is putting my glucosamine tablet inside a piece of mortadello each morning because I don’t chew my meat, I swallow and would never know there’s a pill there.  Why do I keep falling for that old trick?  Why pass up some meat?

Anyway, I’m having a blast even though the humans have been whining about the cold.  It’s been 2C/42F and raining and blowing for about two weeks and the house is 10C/60F inside, but I don’t mind.  Last night after the rain it hailed and when we went on my walk, it was déjà vu like walking in the snow of Oregon again.  Get this – they bought a new electric blanket yesterday, so today of course, the sun is out!!  Ciao i miei carne amici, Vincente

You will have to excuse me now, I'm done with blogging, time to get to work.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Finding our Stick in the Surf

Everyone took advantage of the weather to get the laundry done, including us.  Good thing.  Two more days of rain now.
We've been here almost three weeks now.  There is a subtle feeling I wanted to get across to you. I don’t want to generalize, so this is only my observation—that moving to a country where you don’t (yet!) know the language well--or the customs, your fears as well as your sense of adventure are accentuated.  This leads to more highs and lows than you might experience during a routine existence where everything is all-too-familiar.  You have pushed your comfort level to the extreme setting.  It’s in the red zone.

One minute I am thinking, “what am I doing here?” and next minute a man outside the restaurant starts to chat with me in a very friendly way that I am not used to in my country.  He is younger, I am a woman of “a certain age” and I am pretty much used to being ignored.  I notice right away that this weird feeling is that I am being treated…like a person.  Then, just a few minutes later, an older man on his cell phone spots me sitting outside enjoying the sun and starts talking to me about the weather.  I get that person feeling again and realize that I like this.  I like being here--even though it can be very difficult just getting things done I used to take for granted.  The same feeling I think applies to Doug when the mail carrier here in Santa Domenica hands him our mail from America out on the street sparing him the long line in the post office.  Even if Nuncia at the local store waves at us every day from inside the store when we walk by because we are their best customers, it still happens and feels different than going by Safeway—in a good way.

It has not been an easy three weeks, but it hasn’t been that difficult, either.  Like Vince, we have figured out that while the stick in the surf isn’t just quietly going down the river as we are used to, we can brave the wave and get it.  For example, I found a great plant nursery Wednesday and I took a deep breath trying to figure out how to communicate and then found that plant people speak the same language all over the world, and they deliver!


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