Saturday, May 29, 2010

Fotographia . . .

. . . Casuale

The villa on the left is ours - or will be in a few weeks. We have a contract signing on 12 Jun. No one was around, so I had to take the photo over a fence down the lane.

This is the view from our back terrace. I would rather have had an ocean view, but the villa we looked at with a nice view of the Tyrrhenian Sea and Ischia just wasn't right for us.

This little establishment, oddly named "Champs Elysses" is about a half mile from our villa. Specialties are pastry and gelato.

This is one of their two pastry cases. Four of my arteries clogged just during the creation of this photograph.

We couldn't bring it all home . . .

I snapped this photo of two rather foreign-looking types sampling the gelato.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Osservazioni . . .

. . . da Napoli

Uno: As DoD civilians overseas, we have "commissary and exchange privileges. The commissary (food store) has just about everything carried in U.S. supermarkets, the prices are less, and there are no taxes - sales or VAT. The exchange is like the largest K-mart you ever saw. Clothes, electronics, furniture, tools, sporting goods, jewelry, hardware. No taxes there either.

Due: We're trying to learn and use Itialiano, and the locals are trying to improve their English, which leads to some odd situations. A clerk will say "thank you," and without thinking I'll say "prego." Or, I'll say "buongiorno," and he will say "hi!" The real problem with knowing only a little Italiano is that when I say something that is pretty much correct, they assume that I speak the language. Wrong. I NEED my Rosetta Stone diskette.

Tre: Cell phones here are really cheap compared to the US - assuming you don't call the US or other countries. I've had my cell for a month, and only spent €15. Of course, I don't have that many people to call.

Quattro: For calling the U.S., we use both MagicJack and Skype. MagicJack is a bit scratchy, but, since it thinks we're still in Virginia, all calls back to the states are free. That has been a lifesaver, since I have had to call the Virginia DMV, our health insurance company, and several other critical contacts. Skype to Skype video calls are great for family contacts.

Cinque: I spend less than half the time travelling to work as I did in Virginia Beach. Even with the "interesting" habits of Italian traffic, it's a half-hour or less each way. That saves me an hour per day. In a working year, that amounts to about 230 hours, or almost 10 full days of time that I can use productively rather than sitting in traffic. What could you do in 230 hours?

Sei: Garmin, Google Maps and Bing are among the greatest inventions of all times.

Sette: Napoli may be the allergy capital of the civilized world. Of the 30 days here, I have had sniffles, coughing, sneezing and sinus drainage for more than half of that time. I am seriously hoping that it is a virus.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Homeless . . .

. . . no longer.

Actually, we never were homeless, but after our house sold - in three days, mind you - we have lived either in a hotel or in temporary government quarters. The GI quarters aren't bad, but it really doesn't work for us. We need a house - a place of our own - not institutional living and loaner furniture.

Fortunately, a friend and colleague from Virginia is also stationed in Naples. She connected us with her landlord, and sometime this week, we will make a deal on a nice little villa in Licola. It is brand new, three bedrooms, marble floors, granite countertops, air-conditioning, security system and gates, garage and . . . wait for it . . . a pool.

No photos yet, but we should have some this weekend.

Buona Notte!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pizza . . .

. . . to die for?

I know I haven't been posting much lately, but I've been sick two of the three weeks we've been here, we haven't moved to a house yet, and I've done little except fill out government paperwork.

Then, there's this, from Breitbart:
Italian prosecutors believe pizza in the southern city of Naples may be baked in ovens lit with wood from coffins dug up from the local cemetery, Italian daily Il Giornale reported on Monday.

"Pizza, one of the few symbols of Naples that resists... is hit by the concrete suspicion that it could be baked with wood from coffins," Il Giornale said.

Investigators in Naples are setting their sights on the thousands of small, lower-end pizza shops and bakeries that dot the city on suspicion that patrons may "use wood from caskets to keep ovens burning."

Naples' graveyard has long been hunting ground for thieves: last year, 5,000 flower pots were stolen from the cemetery.

"A gang might have set up a market for coffins sold to hard-hearted owners of bakeries and pizzerias looking to save money on wood," Il Giornale

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The first week . . .

. . . in Italia

Random thoughts:

1. BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) - Changing to a new job in a new country is tough enough, but it's even tougher when you are both sick and tired. The six-hour time change is bad enough, but we have both had severe colds or sinus infections for the last week.

2. The Army does not march on its stomach, nor does the Navy float on its. They both proceed on paperwork. I have been filling out papers and checking in with various departments for days.

3. Scary thought: we are now both licensed to drive in Italy. The only requirement under the Status of Forces (SOF) agreement is a written test on road signs. Knowledge of road signs does not prepare one for driving in Italy.

4. Definition of interesting - When you are in a strange country, you do not speak the language, you do not have a map, and: a) your Garmin looses satellite contact, then b) upon recovery, it tells you it is 176 km back to the place you just left 20 minutes ago.

We took our first trip "outside the wire" today. We have a loaner car, and it needed gas. The quick trip to the Total station and "cinquanti euro, per favore" filled the tank.

The plan then was to go to the next intersection, reverse direction, and come back. That did not work. I got confused in the Italian version of the cloverleaf, and ended up going in another wrong direction. I pulled off the side of the road, activated the Garmin, and confidently zipped off again. It worked flawlessly . . . until it didn't. (see first paragraph above).

Luckily, I had entered the first gas station as a waypoint. When Garmin lost his mind about our home base, I directed it to return us to the gas station, which it did flawlessly. I have since entered a couple of nearby "favorites" for insurance. I am a planner, after all.

5. I took an Intercultural Relations group trip to downtown Naples on Friday. I was not surprised by the crowds, narrow streets, crazy traffic, or different customs. However, I was totally shocked by the graffiti and tagging. I doubt that there is a single square foot of space in downtown Naples that is not covered with paint. This includes the walls of churches, statues, fountains, columns, antique facades. If it isn't moving, it's scribbled upon.

Sad, really.

6. We now have cell phones. The screen menus are in English. Unfortunately, I can't yet retrieve my voice mails. The (recorded) lady who tells my which numbers to punch speaks very rapid Italian, and I have no idea what she is telling me to do. I will eventually learn.

Next task - finding a house. We have a good lead. More to follow.