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.