Friday, February 23, 2007

Q: Who is Italy's prime minister?

A: huh? Prime minister? Is this a trick question? Italy doesn't have a prime minister.

That may have been my answer prior to moving to Italy. I was that ignorant of the political goings on. Today (in the vein of shticky comedies with carefully crafted misunderstandings--Who's on first?) this answer is correct. Who is Italy's prime minister? Nobody.

Normally, there is one. (A president too, but the president is more of a figurehead.) On Wednesday, however, Romano Prodi resigned from his post as prime minister of Italy. Leaving us with no prime minister. Can you imagine the headline: Bush Steps Down ? (Of course you can, and have, many times I'm sure.)

Prodi lasted nine months--three more months than the life expectancy of a prime minister here. Did you get that? The head political leader here typically changes every six months or so.

No wonder the laws and government here seem so discombobulated.

(That is the extent of my political summary. I really still don't have a clue what goes on here in the news. Still don't understand the word on the street....)

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hey Look at That!

That thing over there. ------>
To the right of this post.
(Or on the top right of the page once we update again.)
You can put your email address there, and an email will be sent to you when we update.
Our updates are spotty at best, so that might be a nifty tool.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Letter to NASA

To Whom It May Concern:

Regarding one of your recent inventions, I’d like to take this moment to say Well Done. I’ve no idea which department to send this letter to. Is there a mattress department at NASA? Or inventions? I’ve also no idea what the National Aeronautic Space Administration is doing inventing mattresses. I would think the conditions in space are optimal for sleeping. Doesn’t the absence of gravity create that “floating on air” or “sleeping on a cloud” experience that most mattress companies claim? It seems that mattresses might be a tad outside the realm of space exploration. Of course, so was Tang, and in the end I’m happy to have both of these NASA-sends in my world.

But NASA, if one day you find that funds are tight, that my tax dollar isn’t funding your random inventions the way it used to, I know a certain continent that hasn’t been pulling its weight in the mattress department. Europe. They’ve got 27 countries working together, and what have they come up with? IKEA. Cardboard beds you have to put together yourself with an Allen wrench. Let the European Space Agency invent a comfortable mattress next time. This continent certainly shows the greatest room for improvement in the mattress area.

I’ve traveled a bit. Not extensively, but cheaply. I’ve slept in my fair share of dingy hostels. There was that place in Honduras—a filthy hole, below which we witnessed a mugging and a hit-and-run (…or a hit-and-try-to-convince-the-pedestrian-to-get-in-his-cab-and-run-with-

him). Or that place in Mexico with the thin foam on particle board. I’ve slept in RVs, back seats, front seats, tents, sleeping bags, hammocks, on cots, dirt, and limestone. All of them were space-like conditions compared to some of the beds I’ve had in Europe.

First of all, the queen-sized beds are always two twin-sized beds pushed together. Not joined on a large frame, just two frames pushed together. I suppose in the Catholic nations we’ve lived in, it’s their answer to birth control. They simply make it impossible for one person to cross over the dividing line without the beds separating and the offending party falling through the crack.

When we lived in Ireland our twin-sized mattresses were filled with straw. Do I really need to say any more about this? Straw! The mattresses could be folded any way you wanted—lengthwise, horizontally, rolled up. If you spilled a drink on them, it would soak right in and carry the fragrance as a constant reminder. If you set them on fire, they would light in seconds. You could lose needles in their filling or feed horses from their bounty. But if you tried to sleep on them…you’d be in a constant state of painful frustration.

I foolishly expected more from an Italian bed. Once again, twin mattresses. This time instead of straw, they’re filled with springs. I’m pretty sure that’s it. Just springs. I was kept up with the poking and recoiling of tens of springs and with the thought that one night some wayward spring would shoot off and take with it my gall bladder.

That was before Jack went home. My days of sleeping on a European mattress are over. Jack came back from the United States bearing gifts: one of them being your Memory Foam Mattress Topper. Not only does it cradle my body and defend it from springs, it joins the two twin-sized beds in a way that no fitted sheet ever could. And one day I may allow Jack to cross the Great Divide, but for now I’m too busy sleeping.

Thank you, dear NASA.


P.S. Next time, seriously, it’s Europe’s turn. It’s been a while since you’ve come out with a powdered, fruit-flavored beverage. And nobody does the essence of fruit like the UsofA.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

This was the phase I was dreading

And there's one on the bottom that can do the twist. As she says, she doesn't even have to open her mouth to eat gelato anymore. Just sticks that spoon right through.

Monday, February 05, 2007

my favorite pics so far

well, the title says it all. these are faves.

The view down the Via Sacra and the Rome Forum, taken from the Coloseum, Rome
From Christmas 2006

A street in Venice
From Christmas 2006

The Grand Canal in Venice
From Christmas 2006

Parking lot in Venice
From Christmas 2006

Boats in Geneva, Switzerland
From Geneva - Nov ...

Ancient Greek ruins in Paestum
From Italy favorites

Belltower in Perugia
From Italy favorites

Ponte Sisto, the bridge we cross several times each day, Rome
From Italy favorites

San Gennaio Church pews in Naples
From Italy favorites

Nora doing her thing at a gelateria, Rome
From Italy favorites

Galleria Borghese: "the mother of all private collections," Rome
From Italy favorites

Nora, budding archaeologist, at Villa delle Vignacce, Rome
From Italy favorites

Arch of Constantine and Palatine Hill, Rome
From Italy favorites

View from the sea, Amalfi
From Italy favorites

Nora in Herculaneum
From Italy favorites

Sleepy Nora after too much wine, Paestum
From Italy favorites

Nora in Paestum
From Italy favorites

Friday, February 02, 2007

Italian Wars

Don't worry, this post is not about Caesar, empires, or Mussolini. This is about two very different kinds of wars I've experienced while living in Italy. The first I experience daily.

The War of Pleasantries
During most months, the Pleasantry War is barely noticable. When leaving an establishment or saying goodbye to an acquaintance, a few rounds of pleasantries are passed. Ciao. Ciao. Buona Giornata. Buona Giornata a te'. Bye. Bye. Have a good day...and so on. It's not so unusual, I guess. It's on par with the really chipper people in the US. But here, it's not chipperness, it's just good manners. I think I first noticed that the routine differed from ours back home when I heard an Italian saying goodbye on the phone. At first all was normal, the sing song pattern of two word phrases--the telltale sign of "winding down" a conversation, but then as the person went to hang up the phone (and by that I mean moved the thumb to the red button) the two people whispered ciao-ciao ciao-ciao-ciao ciao-ciao at each other. Not unlike the staccato rhythm of a machine gun sound effect.

And then I started to realize that my own rounds of pleasantries were about two exchanges long only because a.) it's what I'm used to/comfortable with and b.) it's all I know how to say. Looking around me I saw more experienced folk, i.e., Italians, who spent more time saying goodbye to the shopkeepers than they spent in the store itself. This became especially evident at Christmas time. And what's more? I got to participate.

During the Christmas season I learned a few standard Holiday Greetings for my daily errands. Buon Natale, Buona Festa, Buon Anno. That's all I needed. Add that to the generic "Have a good day, thank you very much, and bye" and I was able to go back and forth for 20 seconds.

My dad got a kick out of this when he was in town. As we would walk out of the store, we'd stand at the door, take a deep breath, let loose with "GrazieBuonNataleBuonaFestaBuonAnnoBuonaGiornata" and then run out giggling. We'd always lose (it is their language), but it's good fun with manners.

The New Years War
I said this post was not going to be about Caesar or empires, and it's not, but I'd like for a moment to remember some of the more impressive historical advances of the Romans. There was, after all, the Holy Roman Empire, architectural and artistic masterpieces, and running water. Some truly great minds and leaders came out of this place. I think that the modern Roman feels that with all that historical collateral-intelligence why should they bother? My point: they do some really dumb things.

On New Year's Eve we walked out of the restaurant at 11:59. Out of the restaurant and into a war zone. We were met with yells from people on the balconies above and the hissing of firecrackers being thrown down to the street below. The street where we were standing. The firecrackers never hit us. They tended to land at our feet, under the gas tank of a neighboring motorino, exploding with a boom that echoed through the small alleys. We clasped hands, squealing with fear and excitement about all the revelry. I remember all of us exclaiming that "it is a litle scary. Can you imagine if those missiles weren't meant for fun? Can you imagine if you had to walk home on a normal Tuesday like this? Can you imagine if you thought the person throwing the explosives were trying to hit you?" and we continued our heart-stopping, squealing, darting, and ducking walk down the alley.

At about this time Ashley pointed out that one of the apartments was lighting Black Cats inside their apartment. It was at this time that I think we realized that these people were not only not trying to hit us, they weren't trying to not hit anything. They were throwing explosives blindly onto the street and onto their own floor.
So we turned around and took the long, boring, and safe walk home.