Friday, July 30, 2010

Mars and Venus in Calabria

   Rock Music concert for Festa di San Giuseppe, Santa Domenica Talao  
Sorry, astronomy fans, The subject of today's post is related to the book by Dr. John Gray published in 1992--Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus wherein it asserts that men and women have a communication problem.  I am a consciousness-raised survivor of the second wave of feminism that fizzled out in the USA sometime in the "wonderful" '80s. Since the fizzle-- brought on by a combination of improved conditions (better jobs, no longer hearing "I'm not listening to a damn woman about it", or "we don't hire women, period" on a daily basis) and a general lack of interest in civics since the late '70s.  I am fully credentialed for noticing the blatant as well as the subtle forms of oppression. 

I have been here in Calabria since February and am still very cautious about generalizations or even the accuracy of observations of the language impaired.  However, this blog is supposed to be about our impressions of life here so please consider the following my observations--as I see things currently and specific to this exact place, nothing more.

First, I'll discuss the unexpected pleasant surprises, things that seem to click with me naturally and against what I heard about Italy or Calabria:
  • It's no surprise that women keep their maiden name here.  It's often done, I don't really understand why.
  • Being a "Senora" here is MUCH more comfortable than being an old broad in the US.  I'm invisible because I'm a foreigner somewhat, but not because I'm a woman of a certain age.  This is a big deal and not to be minimized.
  • Women get to do the whole spiritual thing for men, including going to church for them. Some men are very involved, but not many.  Makes the church sort of a women's club.
  • Our contractor (restoration project) is very respectful of my ideas.  I am comfortable discussing things with him or with our geometra.  He generally thinks Doug and I are clueless, but he listens and the clueless assumption is for both  Doug and I.  The only exception is physical stuff.  Hates to see me on a ladder.
I have a comfort gauge that tips me off when things are not quite right.  The following have set off this gauge:
  • Women on Italian TV (this has been discussed to death--suffice to say men are clothed thereon, women not so much).
  • Some men (not unlike the US) just plain don't listen to me and talk to Doug instead, regardless of who is talking when it comes to business.
  • Only Doug needed to sign on our residency application for our Comune.
  • I was working on refinishing our front door and a man walked by and asked me if my husband was sleeping (?).
  • Doug (!) noticed that our geometra (last time we got together) kept looking at him while he talked rather than looking at both of us.  Usually I notice these things.  I must have been concentrating on the Italian. On the bright side, I've never found that he devalued my design input.
  • Men wait for their women to cook lunch and dinner in the town square.  On the other hand, I'm guessing it all started because they got kicked out of the house.  The fact that Doug does our cooking is not a bad reflection on him, but I'm getting the vibe that it's a bad reflection on me.  I'm not too certain of this one yet.
You can see that these lists are not very long.  I'm not trying to make it in the workplace, so I'm sure I'm missing a lot of potential observation.  I don't yet have any Italian women friends who talk to me without their families, so I know I'll find out more as my Italian improves.  All in all, there is a lot to learn about Mars and Venus in Calabria and I'll stay here and keep you informed. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

Gloriosky! Permesso!

Little Annie Rooney said it best for Doug (I never heard of her). After our last frustrating trip to Cosenza, we were not looking forward to the next step. They said we could check the computer website to find out if our permessos were ready. After the two months were up, we looked daily. No change. We began to think something was wrong so we asked an Italian friend to call for us. She did and was given another number to call. She tried but they didn't answer. I called later and found out that the mythical documents were actually pronto(ready). I was proud that I did it myself. Telephoning an Italian bureaucrat is very scary.  If they don't get what you are saying, they just hang up on you--sometimes after saying goodbye, sometimes not.

We showed up at the police/immigration office today in Paola to pick up our Permesso di Soggiorno cards after a 6 month process. We were a little skeptical that these folks had finally gotten their job done--afraid they would say they weren't ready after all once we got there. We arrived ½ hour before the place opened and had time for a caffe. We were admitted at 0900 and, amazed, walked away at 0930 with two cards that are imbedded with chips and have holographic images on the surface. Very state-of-the-art compared to the process that brought us here.

Anyway, we are extremely relieved. Heady from our success, we stopped at the Comune office in Santa Domenica Talao with our new cards and applied for a Residency ID card (carta d’identica). We were happy that our Italian allowed us to do well enough there, and we will get the identity card soon-–after the local police officer visits us to confirm we have a house in town and are living there. We know the local cop and he’s a nice guy, so we expect no problems. We needed the Permesso to get this card. It will allow us to buy a car (we already did—now we can transfer ownership) and get health insurance here. It was touch and go for a bit as the clerk there was looking for the word “Cosenza” on the Permesso---and it just doesn’t have anything like that since it is a national card.

On the way home, we stopped at the beaches below the hospital in Cetraro and found a cool place with a nearby restaurant to try next week. The beaches there appear a little less crowded than what we have around here this time of year. The Neapolitan tourism influx must have missed Cetraro!! We are all legal now, so we can relax and enjoy the beaches until next year, when we have to reapply (that one will be good for 2 years, then 4, then I guess after 6 you get to be a permanent Italian). Gloriosky. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Restoration Fun Update 2

Angelo and his crew are steadily moving forward with the guest apartment. We are happy with their work and I also noticed they work in a safe manner without oversight of regulatory agencies. Here, you see how they made Otto a scaffold from within the bedroom complete with safety rail so he could work 2 stories above the ground. 

I don’t know how things work in the UK, but some Americans would be a little concerned to see their contractors drinking beer at 8:30 in the morning, and again at the afternoon break. I’ve seen it all over with road crews and others … it’s how things work here. They drink only one beer, then back to work. More shocking to me (and my tastes) is how they drink warm beer, especially in this hot weather! Course, a shot of caffe when the temps are 32C/90F degrees is hard for me too.

The new ceiling is coming along. This image shows how un-level the old ceiling was as the new travi (beams) are placed.

Here is the new ceiling with the tongue and groove pine boards over the beams. 

These beams are laminated and finger-jointed and look good. They happen to be from Poland. We’re wanting to keep things light in the rooms to enable sunlight to do it’s thing, so a fairly light stain will be selected.

Following the direction set by you readers, Di has been looking for wooden shutters made in a very particular way. The first carpenter turned us down because he’s not able to place such shutters two stories up.

We return to a wood shop in Santa Maria del Cedro Monday to see what they can do. As back-up, the local factory that makes very nice aluminum shutters in various wood patterns, says they can meet Di’s design configurations. Guido would be ultra pleased to support a local business and have shutters that don’t need maintenance.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Ruin of a Trip

La Roccelletta--Parco Archeologico di Scolacium

Doug mentioned in our last post that we took a somewhat belated anniversary trip to the east side.
If you don't have your own (better) map of Italy for reference, here is a map that will help only very broadly to place the route of our trip.  Look first at the top of the foot of Italy and find Castrovillari, then down at the ball of the foot of Italy and find Crotone on the east coast.  The Google Earth closeup will make more sense now.  Generally speaking this was a trip starting at Castrovillari (at a furniture store for reasons of restoration research) and ended in Fuscaldo at a lido where we had a drink.

The Blue that's not the Sea is the Route we took

It was a trip of many lessons and some delights.  The first delight was at Rossano, a little town where we took a pit stop but where I had the best gelato in Italy so far.  We were able to have Vince tied up at our little outdoor bar chair while we watched a definitely non-tourist town function.  We wondered what the source of income was for this place.  The next delight came all the way down at Crotone where we found once again a pretty seashore---which leads to the major lesson learned on the trip.  We learned we no longer like exploring via the road trip.  We have lost our stamina for long stretches of uninteresting terrain (specifically all the way from Castrovillari to Crotone).  If we had done more research, we would have created a better route, and would not have had to find our lodging for the night--which turned out fine, a nice hotel on the beach in Catanzaro Marina (or Catanzaro Lido) that was OK with dogs:

View from our room at the Hotel Palace in Catanzaro Lido

In true road trip fashion, we stopped at the Parco Archeologico di Scolacium without any plan in mind.
I don't want to pretend we understood it all perfectly.  There were Roman ruins on top of Greek ruins.  The Romans held their usual animal vs. people games in a small amphitheater shown below.  There was a very nice free museum explaining all this in Italian.

After our small dose of Calabrian history, we headed for the mountains to cross back to our beloved Cedro Riveria.  It was foggy, very foggy, we got a bit lost and ended up in Filadelfia!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lunch by the Tyrrhenian (not Ionian) Sea

It is Thursday 1 July as I write this. It is our wedding anniversary. Once more, I have screwed up and rather than driving to the east coast of Italy (Ionian Sea) for an anniversary trip – we are still here. In a sense, the present I gave Di today was an oil change and two new ammortizzatori (shock absorbers). The work that was to be done yesterday has (of course) flopped forward to today. We WILL take off on Saturday for a tour of southern Calabria. We’ve been invited to a pizza dinner Friday cooked by our friend Arturo, so we dare not miss that! I’m afraid I’ll have to tell a story from closer to home this week. BTW, the labor for an oil change and the other work was €40,00 ($32). A good present to us from our honest local mechanics.

Last weekend we were at the Sabbia d’Oro lido on the beach of southern Diamante. We enjoyed the beach and the adjoining restaurant where we found a fantastic spigola (sea bass) on the menu. I was amazed to watch Italians at other tables eating full two course meals, so I wanted to return and try it myself. The idea of “slow food” apparently has nothing to do with eating it, just real cooking instead of fast food.  They can wolf-down a lot of food very quickly—even the kids.

Wednesday we returned.  The beach is a white sand beach compared to the black beaches we frequent 15 miles north.  It’s busier and noisier than we would normally like, but it’s a special place mostly because of the food. The Sabbia d’Oro restaurant sits on the beach and operates its own lido  (a commercial beach renting umbrellas and lounge beds). You can enjoy the sun and sea in the morning, take 30 steps to lunch and return to relax during siesta. There’s a public beach only 200 meters away if you have your own umbrella and gear. In the photo below you see the proximity of restaurant to beach.

Here’s my challenge: to eat a full plate of spaghetti alla vongole (spaghetti with clams) then get one of their great plates of spigola (sea bass). We think they must put a light egg batter on the filet before grilling--wonderful.

Well, I managed just fine. It was a great meal and I finished most of it.  Having a reduced stomach from surgery years ago strains my capacity to eat sometimes, but not then!  It was all washed down with aqua naturale and a half litre of white wine. Di settled for a salad and spigola with gin & tonic.  Worked for her too.

The beauty of having the lido so proximate is the comfort of allowing digestion to occur properly.   Lovely place, lovely beach and good food. Ohhhhh and we watched a nearby table getting a split lobster.  A real lobster.  It had no claws and there was a long spiky thing off the head, but it was the size of a Maine lobster.  May look into that sometime, but we want to return to Lido Gabbiano for peace and snorkeling.

In the meantime, we’ll be off to the Ionian Sea and the Crotone area.  Our first road trip with the dog. Should have some photos and stories.

Ciao, Guido


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