Friday, February 18, 2011

A Full Year in Calabria

 
Yes, 18 February is the one year anniversary of our move to Italy. To honor the occasion, I’m putting together a few comments and answers to some questions we hear a lot.  First though, we extend our congratulations to the people of Egypt who have peacefully changed their lives--hopefully for the better. Di and I protested back in 2003 trying to stop the war against Iraq, but alas, Bush prevailed. 
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Peace Rally against War in Iraq--Portland, Oregon


Having said this, please, please Egyptians, keep the lid on things because we are meeting friends there in May for a cruise on the Nile! 


The simplest way to start this first year anniversary discussion is to say that yes, we are very happy with the decision to pack everything up and come to a lovely little village in Calabria. It would be a long while before we could start taking our morning view across the terrazzo for granted. 
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Today is going to be one of those perfect ones. A deluge of rain last night and this morning it is clear as a bell and the temperature is 19.5 before 10.00. It promises to be good afternoon for reading in the sun and boosting the body’s vitamin D level.

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Tomorrow we are celebrating with Italian friends from our village, and our good American friends from Praia a Mare. We’re doing lunch at Ristorante Vigri’. It will be fun and I’m sure there will be some laughs over our Italian-speaking (especially mine).
Vincenzo and Angela from Vigri' Ristorante
Learning Italian is proving the biggest challenge of the move. Bit by bit (piano, piano in italiano) we’ll get there. Based on the experience of other English expats, we can expect to work 3 years before starting to get the hang of it. At least we now joke with the neighbors that when they rib us about not speaking Italian, that they too need to drop the dialect and speak more Italian around us if we are to improve. I chatted with a Pakistani chap in class last night who speaks his native Urdu, a little Arabic, a little English, some Persian and some Italian. I cannot whine about learning just one language.
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Do we miss anything from the States? Not a lot really. Our friends and family stay in touch and our families are used to seeing us only every 2-3 years anyway. Speaking for myself, the things I miss involve my stomach. As much as I am wrapped-up into cooking and eating an Italian diet, I occasionally have pangs for good cheddar cheese (Canadian or Tillamook), cilantro for salsa, and maybe good coffee for home use. Yeah, there are dozens of super cheeses here, but when Irish friends smuggle down a couple packets of sharp cheddar it is a special time. I make my coffee remark because we come from the coffee capital of America in the Pacific Northwest. We became coffee snobs there. The coffee in the stores here is okay, but not super. Maybe I need to get beans from one of the 4 bars in town. Maybe we can grow the cilantro.
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This winter we are feeling the first touch of culture shock.  It is not about a new country and culture, but simply that which comes from retiring. It was a busy summer with construction and fun-in-the-sun and now we are adjusting to a slower pace. I know many American pensioners are busier in retirement than before and I want to be careful about that.  We can’t get tied-down by anything that might affect the ability to travel and play! Di plans to get involved in some sort of civic duty when her Italian is up to snuff.
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I must mention driving. Many Americans are horrified by driving in Italy. My first time, I had white knuckles for a week. I’ve grown used to driving here, although I still get passed by many German cars, I keep up better with the turbo diesel. We believe the Italians are very good drivers. Just remember, Italian driving requires your body to be moving all the time. Your hands especially so you can steer the wheel, shift, smoke a cigarette, honk the horn, talk on the mobile and gesture if talking on the phone or to a passenger.
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Oh, I do miss DMV (Division of Motor Vehicles in America). DMV offers easy written exams. As an Italian resident (and not an EU citizen), we Americans are supposed to get an Italian drivers license (patente di guidare). It will NOT be an easy thing and I’m told that very few Italians pass the test their first time. My lucky day, they did away with an English version of the exam this past January. For the privilege of taking the exam, I get to pay 450€. I’m posting two versions of practice exams you can try. You can get no more than 4 wrong out of 40 on the real test. The first one allows you to switch to English. Skip the sign in and click “inizia”.   I was able to pass that one about 20% of the time! We’re now focused on the second test as we can print the results, translate the Italian more and study. Good luck.
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http://www.esamediteoria.com/exam.htm
http://tuttopatenti.lastampa.it/quiz.php?reset=1
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On the people side, we have made many friends here.  Local Italians, British and American expats and other “foreigners” that have holiday homes here. They all make for a tremendous variety of personalities and experiences from around the world. Pretty danged cool. Now, shall I cook lunch today or go out again? So many decisions, so much time…….. Guido

7 comments:

  1. Congratulations on completing the first year of your new life! I participated in the protest against the Irag war on the same day in Portland in 2003...somehow I take that as a sign that I'll end up in Italy...no?!

    I love that all you miss from "home" is Tillamook Cheddar and cilantro - we can send you cheese if you want and yes, grow the cilantro!

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  2. Congratulations on your first anniversary.

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  3. Congratulations on your 1st anniversary! I can't believe a year has gone by so fast. Then again, my wife, well girlfriend at the time, protested at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and it definitely doesn't seem that long ago.

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  4. Yikes, I know, Gil. I was brought up in Chicago so those days are also very real to me. I still remember my Dad yelling at the TV "let them protest"
    which was an unusual stance both for him and the times. Was your wife then a "clean Gene" or a "yippie"? I was so rooting for Eugene at the convention-I still remember the tears when he told us all to go home (or not to come) so we wouldn't get hurt. Ah, youth....Di

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  5. She was for Gene. She was one of the protesters bad mouthing John Bailey and his son Jack. A few years later I had her working on one of Jack Bailey's campaigns. I had to promise not to mention Chicago!!!

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