Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Please let our couch cushions reveal lost riches.

One strategy I employ when faced with conflict is the "Just ignore it and maybe it will go away" technique. Not a wise (or very effective) strategy, but one that brings me instant (albeit temporary) gratification. The thing is sometimes it works. In my younger years, I ignored a ticket...and it turned into a warrant. But THEN I ignored the warrant, and it went away. That is not the only instance of effective "wishing away" a problem. I'd say it has had a 10% success rate, which is terrible statistically, but just good enough for me to continue using it with crossed fingers that THIS time is that magical 1 in 10.

We don't receive mail at our apartment. All letters and packages from friends back home are sent to our office address because we have NEVER (save two rare examples) received a thing in our mailbox. Including bills. At first I asked around. "No. Don't worry. It often takes four months to receive your first bill." Bills here only come every two months, and you often miss the first cycle and get hit hard with the big four-month bill.

Nine months later, still no bills. At this point I don't talk about bills; I don't think about bills, because if you talk about the problem or even think about the problem then you are not fully ignoring the problem. I do, however, walk quickly, eyes straight ahead, past our leasing agency, which is located next door to our apartment. I suspect Jack has been doing the same thing because yesterday he said "they caught me." Our landlord would like to meet with us about our lease and to give us our bills.

So let's see that's 9 months of electricity that is reportedly 5 times as high as it is in the states; plus 9 months of gas that is reportedly 3 times as high as it is the states; plus 9 months of phone usage that charges by the minute for all local and long distance calls plus extra for all calls to cell phones for a grand total of...

perhaps a new philosophy on conflict resolution.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Another thing to give thanks for

We all know that trying on bathing suits is a horrific experience that we all dread. An event that brings joy to no one except the makers of miracle creams and machines, the writers of diet fad books of the week, and the creators of Cathy. For without the fear of bathing suits our dear Cathy (and her readers) would be content and happy in their own skin. And happy women don't buy miracle creams, machines, and diet fad books of the week. But I digress. This is not a soap box for me to tell women to love their bodies just the way they are. Clearly I am not above getting a little crazy thinking about my ass. I thought that the women in America should know that they have one more thing to be thankful for.

You have not experienced the pain of trying on bathing suits until you've tried on a bathing suit in Italy.

So far it's been rather challenging to get a shop keeper to help me look for shirts, pants, and shoes. Not so when you're looking for bathing suits. They descend upon you, look you up and down, surmising your Euro-size, and then hurry you into a room with your unfortunately mismatched sizes (bigger than you'd like on the bottom and smaller than you'd like on the top--or perhaps that's just me).

At this point you're in the tiny room with the florescent bulb, which is reminiscent of shops back home but smaller, so you're literally on the mirror. There's no hope of achieving a better reflection via distance or angles. You're exposed. With shadows and dimples you'd never noticed before, now very prominently displayed under the greenish flicker of the florescent light, with your (what you thought were) high-cut panties sticking out like your granny's under the bottoms of the bathing suit that was cut for the impossibly perfect ass, all in a reflection that is a mere 12 inches from your body.

And then the curtain is pulled back. And now you're really exposed. And the shop keeper examines you and assures you that the bottoms are not too small. "This is Italy. You're German, so you don't know, but that's how we wear bathing suits in Italy." At this point you stammer back in your poor Italian that you are NOT German--as if it were that mistake that took your dignity--but the "same-difference" look on her face when you tell her that you're American does not help you regain any shred of dignity.

You yank the curtain back and hastily put on your street clothes. When you walk out you ask how much the cheaply made piece of tiny cloth costs. 65 Euros (that's 90 dollars) so you thank the woman for her time and walk on to the next store under the naiive assumption that this store and this woman were an overbearing exception to the rule.

Three shops and three humiliating experiences later you realize that last year's bathing suit is actually much nicer than you'd remembered it, and you go home.

Monday, May 21, 2007

We found Mexicans!

And more importantly real Mexican food! In Piazza della Repubblica on Sunday evenings, the sidewalks are lined with street vendors selling tamales, pozole, rotisserie chicken, tacos, burritos, sodas, and beer. Plastic containers of salsa and peppers hang from the fence, waiting to douse your meal. Bad music blares from boom boxes, and everyone sits around eating deliciously bad for you food.

(Discovery made on way back from train station after a fabulous weekend in Umbria. Details and pictures to come.... Right, Jack?)