Thursday, July 8, 2010

It's been a year already

We have now been in Italy for one year. On one hand it is hard to believe, but on the other it seems like we have been here much longer. It has been forever since I have updated the blog too. Honestly, I forgot all about it for awhile. Sorry for those who were following.
Let's see if I can sum up the last year. I will begin with all the positive things about Italy. OK, first on the list: I AM IN ITALY AND THERE IS LOTS OF WINE! That means I have easy access to all of Europe. Our adventures here started by meeting some wonderful friends. We have enjoyed festivals and local fairs. Just one month after moving into our house we experienced the largest celebration in all of this area of Italy right in our front yard. I think our dogs gained 10 lbs. that week from all the ice cream and food they were fed each night. We sat and watched the parade at 10pm at night, the fireworks at 11pm on a school night, and just the enjoyment of watching people from the comfort of our front porch. We have enjoyed traveling locally. There is plenty to do within a few hours of our house. There has been sled riding and skiing lessons on the edge of the Dolomite mountains in the town of Asiago (home of the famous cheese). We watched cows being brought down out of the mountains for the winter with a marching band, tractor parade, traditional herding costumes, and the cowbells ringing. As spring approached we decided to venture outside of Italy to the Netherlands. I fell in love with that country. I have never seen anything as beautiful or surreal as the flower fields. Of course we visited during tulip season. Then we had the opportunity to visit the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is believed to be the loin cloth that was used to bury Jesus. It is only put on public display every 10 years. We approached our one year anniversary by taking a small weekend getaway to a small farm located in the Alps. The family was amazing, but the most amazing part was that we experienced snow on the first day summer. It was beautiful and we will be returning to this small farm in October for another getaway. This highlights the positives of this past year.
Now the not so positive part. I LIVE IN ITALY! These people are insane when they drive. A friend who lived in Egypt for the past 3 years swears this is nothing compared to there, but it is crazy. Every day cars zoom up and down our street with no concern for children on the sidewalk. The only saving grace is the fact that we have a high fence around our yard and the kids can not get out the gate without a key or pushing a button. Jeff and I have both walked out in front of numerous cars trying to get them to slow down. More than once we have had to jump out of the way just so they would not run us over. Problem #2 is riposo or the hours of rest. From about 12:30-3:30 everything closes. This time could not be any more inconvenient. There are many times I just never step foot in a store because the hours are not convenient. #3 is the weather. It is humid as hell in the summer and it rains all the time other times of the year. I guess if I would have moved here 15 years ago after living in WV for my entire life it would not be such an issue, but after living 6 of the last 10 years in AZ with its perfect weather this sucks. Hot would not be so bad if these people believed in AC. Most houses do not have AC. Thank goodness we have two units, but they cost us a fortune to run. The one upstairs is in the far corner of our room. We have to run it on high all night with fans in the hallway and the entrance to the kids' rooms just so their rooms are tolerable. I can't wait for central air again. It also makes one think twice about going out to eat because most likely the restaurant won't have AC or won't have it running. I will end my ranting with these two final bad things about Italy: it costs a fortune to drive on the autostrada (interstate) here and the food is quite bland. Northern Italy food is not Olive Garden. It has very little sauce and very little spice.
Jeff and I are now finished with our master's degrees so we have more time to travel. It is expensive, but if we do it right we can stretch our dollar and enjoy the experience. I personnally have a long list of places I want to visit over the next two years. I know we won't be able to see them all, but I sure hope we can see some of them. Keeping this blog updated will help me keep track of our adventures until I get them scrapbooked. I am putting it out here for the world (to hold me accountable) that I will have a scrapbook of our first year in Italy finished by the end of September.
Here is to surviving another two years in Italy.  

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Italian Festivals

I have not written lately, but we have been busy with festivals. The first one took place right in our front yard. And I mean literally in our front yard. The Festa de Soco took place right here in our town of Grisignano di Zocco. I would compare it in size the AZ State Fair. It did not have the livestock, but everything else compared. We were fortunate (NOT) to have most of the food vendors and beer vendors on our street. In fact, the beer shack was just to the left of our driveway. The festival began Friday the11th at 6pm. Once it started there was no leaving our house. Things started rocking about 9 or so. Not bad on Friday and Saturday night. However, once Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday rolled around the things starting to crank up at 9 was not fun. The poor kids slept through most of it, but not soundly. We had parades at 9:30, music and announcements cranking over the loudspeakers starting at 10pm, and then on the final night fireworks at midnight. I can honestly say I know what it feels like to be shell shocked and no wonder the soldiers in Iraq have problems when they return. The festival was supposed to end on Wednesday, but we had  days of heavy rain so they extended it one additional day. Yippee!! The roads are so little here and the vendors were so many that I had to do a 5 point turn each morning to get out of the driveway so I would not hit the tables set up in the street. I can honestly say now that I have experienced an Italian festival first hand. Next year we are going to invite friends over and grill out as we watch all the people up and down the street.

Not quite sure what these guys are, but they were part of the parade.

So, a few days after recovering from the festival in our yard I decide to take the kids to another festival to celebrate the movement of cattle from the mountains (Festa della Transumanza). This was an interesting celebration. There is a large farm in this little town and every summer they move their cattle 80km up into the mountains. In Sept they bring them back down to the farm and it is a huge celebration. The cattle were supposed to arrive at 4:30 tonight. Having worked with cattle in my younger years I knew this 4:30 time frame was very flexible and it was. About 4:45 as 1500 + people lined the street of this little town the parade began. First in line were the tractors. It started with the big farm tractors and then local citizens showing off their tractors. There were some pretty cool ones. Next came the band along with majorettes. Next were the shepherds and then the long awaited cows. Of course they had placed cow bells on many of them so they made a ton of noise. The kids loved it. They were only inches from these cows as we had camped out for over an hour to guarantee our spot on the front row. Once the parade was over we left, but the festivities continued with food and dancing late tonight and more tomorrow. I guess this is something we will have to put on the calendar for next year to share with Jeff. He was unable to attend the festival with us as he is on a plane on his way back to the states for a conference this week in Baltimore. We really missed having him with us and Madison commented how she can’t wait to tell Daddy about it and show him the pictures so he will want to go next year.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Italian life is GOOD!

I am a firm believer in the concept that life is what you make it. As an American living overseas this is sooooo true. If you are the type of person who just sits and gripes because of everything that is different or "inconvenient" to the American lifestyle you will have an awful experience. However, if you take those differences, embrace them, and use them to make lemonade, life can be pretty good. As I was cleaning up the kitchen this afternoon I really started to reflect on this concept and how I plan to embrace my Italian experience.

My next door neighbor is Italian married to an American retired soldier. She is super nice and such a huge help. I asked her one day about the Italian preschools here in the area and she told me all about the experience she had at the one in the town just down the street. She could not say enough good things about the school. I told her I would be very interested in sending Nathan there. She spent several days making phone calls to them to see if they had an opening. They did and she went with me yesterday to the school to translate for me. I liked the school and want to send Nathan. The only thing keeping us from committing is the fact that the school runs M-F 8-4. That means he would be in school 40 hours a week at the age of 3. If I worked full time that is what it would have to be, but this is a choice we have to make. This whole experience is for a different post, but where I was going with this is the comment that my neighbor made to me. She told me she thinks it is great how much we are embracing the culture and exposing our children also. I guess the previous tenants of this house locked themselves inside and totally ignored the Italian experience offered to them. To be told by an Italian they think what we are doing is great is so exciting. That means we are fitting in and not standing out like the ugly Americans.

The start of the school year was one of dread for me due to the ungodly hour we needed to get up every morning to get Madison on the bus. I will admit I still don't like getting up at 6, but it has actually been a good week. Once we get everyone out the door and started on our 10 min. walk to the bus stop life is good. The kids and I usually have a nice conversation on the walk and the kids love listening to the rooster crow as we walk by a yard with a bunch of chickens.  We live in a small country town. Literally 2 houses away is a line of stores to include gelato, florist, meat and cheese, jewelry, tobacco, tapestry store, and an eyeglass store along with a hotel and two restaurants. However, a block from there is this house with a yard of chickens. I guess zoning does not apply here. Once we put Madison on the "school" bus Nathan and I go for a morning run. Or rather I go for the run and he enjoys the scenary. The first morning we did this I chose a road that I thought woud just lead us down some residential streets. Instead, it led us right down this beautiful country road full of corn fields and farms. Nathan loves to look at the horses on the one farm and I enjoy the peace and tranquility the area offers. What a great place and way to start the morning in the middle of nature. By the time we finish and return home it is 8 and time to start the day. Each day is different, but still the time of reflection in the morning allows for a pleasant day. Also, I have always had a hard time getting Nathan to nap, but for the first time in probably a year or more I told Nathan to go take a nap in his bed. Usually he will listen and go to his bed, but for only 5 min. if I am lucky. Today he layed there and actually fell asleep. This early morning thing might just pay off.

One of the things I have learned about Italy is that life is not as stressful here. People take time to "stop and smell the roses." There are no drive through fast food restaurants, almost every store is closed on Sunday, people walk, take the bus, or ride their bikes, they stop and talk to others on the street. Life just seems a little more relaxed here and less stressful. Repair people or service people show up when they say they will (or even earlier) and tradition and pride are very important. This past week everyone on our street has been trimming the hedges in their yards. I asked if there was a law or ordinance for this and my neighbor said no, it is just pride in the area for the upcoming festival next week. They have been preparing for this thing for the past month and we have been warned there will be 100's of people on our street each night.  

Life is not perfect here or in the States, however, as an American living overseas, I am embracing it and enjoying it. Every once in awhile I think how much easier I could do something in the States, but then I stop and think that is only because I have been doing it for so long there. Let me just figure out how to do this and then it will be easy here too. Life is what you make it and I intend to make mine an Italian bed of roses for the next three years.   

Sunday, August 30, 2009

First Day of School

As most of you were still in bed or probably just going to bed my big girl started her first day of First Grade. She is attending the Dept. of Defense school on post. She will be riding the bus every morning. Here are a few pictures from her first day.

Not quite sure about this school bus.

Off for the start of a big day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

National Lampoon's Italian driving

OK, I usually don't sit down this quick and write about my experiences, but I had to share this one right away. I had to take the dogs to the post vet this morning to have blood drawn. I went this afternoon to pick them up and I had to take the blood to an Italian vet for testing. He gave me the directions which seemed pretty easy. Mistake number one was taking a way I have never been before. Instead of turning where I should I followed the signs for downtown Vicenza. I knew it was near downtown so I figured what the heck. Soon I finally figured out where I was and which direction I needed to head. I turned around and headed in that direction driving right past the turn for the vet office (did that about 3 times in the course of an hour). I kept looking for a place where I had to turn either left or right as buses were only allowed the rest of the way. Well, I eventually found it, but only once it was too late. I followed all the one way signs around about 100 traffic circles and found myself in the pedestrian area of town. This is an area that actually have streets, but cars are not to be on them. As I turned a corner to try and find my way off these streets all these Italians are looking at my big white American van driving down this street where I am not supposed to be. They are all shopping and eating at the little cafes. Thank goodness it was not market day or a really busy day downtown. I was just praying there were no police around and thank goodness there wasn't. I drove in circles for about another 20 min. before finally finding where I needed to be. Thank goodness. We saw much of downtown Vicenza and how to get to places I have heard about for tourist events. Not sure if I could get back there the easy and direct way, but I can say I briefly saw them today. I don't know what I was thinking not taking my GPS with me today. Oh well, now that I have written it down it will be one of the many (I am sure) National Lampoon adventures of the Whitworth family.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Overseas Schools

So today was new family orientation for the school on post. It is an old school building with K-12 all in the same big building. Half of the building is the Elementary of K-6 and then the rest is High School. All students share the cafeteria at different times. For as old as the building is it is not too bad. They will be moving into a brand new building for the 2010 school year. That is exciting. Anyway, the school has a new principal. He used to teach at the High School so he is not new to the area. He seems really nice. There is a total of 577 students in grades K-6 as of right now. However, every day new students are registering so who knows how many there will be. There are 5 first grade classes with about 18 in each class. We are hoping to put Madison in the Italian immersion class. There were lots of kids who signed up and it is done by a lottery. We won't know until the weekend before school starts if she is in that class or not. If she makes the lottery then she will spend the first half of the day learning everything in Italian and then English the second half of the day. If she is not in the class she will still get an Italian cultural class every week. She already know several other first graders and walked down the hallway like she owned the place so I have no worries about her. We also bought her a school t-shirt for spirit days. She put it on right away and wore it most of the day. I also learned that there is not much of a Parent Teacher organization. The President had never been to a meeting, but took the job so it would not be disbanded. Not a very optimistic way to start the year. I guess I might have to go in there and shape things up a little. I have already joined and volunteered for many things. I am sure that is no surprise to those that know me well. I can never just sit back and not put my two cents into the situation.
Skype has become very popular in our house. We have only chatted with Jeff's mom so far, but the kids are loving it. They had to call her tonight before bed just to say goodnight as they knew she had the day off work. It is quite interesting to be able to see someone while you talk. I don't mind that, but I hate looking at myself in the little corner. We are going to try Madison's fiddle lessons this Wed. via Skype. Unfortunately, she has not practiced at all this summer. I am sure after a lesson or two she will be back up to speed though as she picks it up so quickly.
I had quite an experience with the gas this weekend. I did not fill up the van last week. The gas stations that take NATO coupons aren't open on te weekends. So, I waited until today to fill up. However, when I pulled into the station I was running on fumes. I had to drive past the first one because it was closed for holiday. I won't let that happen again. It took 60 liters to fill it up. It would have cost 75 euro or about $105. Can you imagine paying that about every two weeks.
Tomorrow they are delivering 2 kitchen cabinets. Once they are in I can finish the house. I can't wait. Jeff figured out how to fix my closet too so that should be done in the next few days and I will be back in operation. It will be nice to be unpacked and have other things to move on to. I have until Oct. when I start back to working on my Master's so I want to use that time to catch up on scrapbooking and pictures.
Time to stop and watch a rented movie. The free selection for the library is limited, but they are free so we are watching a made for tv baseball movie. Should prove to be interesting.

Friday, August 21, 2009


I know some of you have specific questions you would like answered. Please post them in the comments and I will try to answer them.