Monday, February 28, 2005


Well it’s a time for reflection for me because I’m officially half way through my 3-year contract in Italy. Three years seemed like a long time when I signed up and it still does. It some respects the time has seemed to fly by. I haven’t seen half the things I planned to see, but I have been spent a lot of time in places that I really didn’t know anything about before. The biggest “find” for me so far has been Sicily. It has exceeded my expectations. My biggest disappointments have been with myself learning the language and work. I really thought I would be “fluent” by now and we would have gotten more done at work. I can get by with my Italian but I wanted to be much more at ease by now. Maybe if we were doing more work I would be in contact with Italians more and the language would be easier. As it happened the first 8 or 9 months I had very little contact with others at work. I had days where literally all I said was “buon giorno” to people I passed. Also at work my main contact loves to speak English. In fact he has never spoken Italian to me. You can’t learn Italian like that. Italians outside of work are friendly, but up to a point. I can’t seem to break into a group that I can hang out with on a regular basis. I have friends that I only really hang out with maybe once a week. There is Turibio and his family and then the work crowd (Davide, Fiorentino, and Daniele) all people that seem very nice and I would like to hang out with more but it just doesn’t seem to work. Some live over an hour away so the weekend is really the only time to see them and that’s a time set-aside for family. I haven’t made any REAL friends but I guess my expectations were too high in that respect. I expected interest or curiosity in an American to lead me to have more friends but really people only have a passing curiosity in foreigners. I’m also amazed at the emotional highs and lows I’ve gone through, more than at any other time in my life. One day maybe elated over conversation or exciting day and the next day frustrated and upset over some stupid little thing that you can’t get done because you can’t explain it or you just have to wait.
High points: All Saints Day at Turibio’s house and Toarmina in Sicily.
Low points: Goodrich visit after the “incident” with an engine. I have never been so upset at work and without my normal hobbies available there was nothing to distract me like there would be back in the States. Problems at work affect me 24/7 here whereas in the States I had so many other things to keep my mind occupied.Of course the future has as much doubt as ever.

With us being so behind at work I could easily see this contract being extended and I think I would welcome that. Even though I do get mighty homesick at times but there is still so much I like here. Of course being so behind may also lead to early end to this assignment if things don’t go well. You never know.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Farm near Serranova

This is a rather random shot. The yellow in this picture is clover. It is blooming in mass right about now. The roadsides can be covered in it at times. Posted by Hello

Sunset at Torre Gauceto

Here is a "near" sunset shot from Torre Gauceto. I got cold waiting for the sun to go down so I headed home after this shot. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Coffee Machine Filosofia

I like to use my experiences with the coffee machine show how Italians are different from me. I’m not saying I’m better, just different. Most coffee machines have a dozen different choices but 99% of the time there are two buttons used, "caffe corto dolce" or "caffe corto molto dolce". Nothing wrong with that it’s a matter of taste. Everyone has about the same tastes including me. The differences come along when you look at the aspects of the machine. The machine has the ability to read a card and then automatically deducts the amount for the coffee from the money charged to the card like a debit card. Why in the world this isn’t used more in the States I don’t understand. It is so damn convenient! I want this everywhere. You don’t need to carry change. I don’t even have to take the card out of my wallet. I hold my wallet up and bang it’s ready to sell me something. In this respect the machine is so much better but it has its drawbacks. One is that the coffee machine doesn’t make change. So if you pay with money and you don’t have exact change then your change is lost to the next group of people. Given that a coffee is 23 cents it’s unlikely you will ever have exact change. I said next group because you always go to get coffee in a group, another good aspect of Italian life. So it’s agreed I love this card and getting coffee together, but the Italians don’t seem to really USE it. They think I’m mad when I put a 10 euro bill in the machine and charge up the card for a week maybe two. Most Italians on the other hand will never have more than 1.50 on their card, EVER. I’m not sure why they just put a few coins in and charge it up to about 1.50, when that will only last a day or two at best. This means that they have to carry change around. Why even have the card if you are always carrying change? Are they afraid the card will lose the value or they will lose the card? Do they not want to have that much money stuck in a card? Will they go crazy and spend too much with a lot of money on the card? I just don’t know. The benefit of the card is that you only need the card, not the change. If you don’t have money on it then you need change. I also like in Italian how they never use “ph” to get an “f” sound. Who came up with phoolish idea?


From time to time I buy something at the farmer’s market that I have either never seen or maybe I have never tried to cook before. One time it was a hairy light green cucumber, another time it was purple heads of broccoli, and etc. Last night was another time for a food experiment. For some reason I felt a need to try to cook something new. I went to the little hole-in-wall vegetable stand (the farmer’s market is only in the morning) with expressed purpose of buying something new. I talked to the lady there about something new and she said “pasta con rape”. I thought, why not? I’ve had it in restaurants and it seems quite simple and it’s considered a local dish. So with her guidance I bought a ton of “rape” (rah-peh), some garlic (I was low on that), and alici (anchovies). She and her friend ripped the rape down into pieces that I could cook taking off the main stems.
Now to me rape looks a lot like broccoli that never grows the broccoli head. It even has little broccoli like heads and a lot of leaves. As I started to cook I realized I had way too much rape and it was going to dominate the dish. So I added more of other ingredients (anchovies and garlic). The smell was great and the blue green leaves turned the dark green that made it clear why I didn’t immediately identify the rape in the store. I was rather proud of my concoction and it tasted very good but the rape was a little bitter. I threw some ricotta on top of the “pasta con rape” and it seemed to make the flavor much more balanced. While this dish was good it was more work than the pasta with tomato sauce so... Also I always dread all the dishes that are left to clean. It’s a good thing that while I was there I bought a bag of their minestrone soup. Tonight I’ll just throw the bag of cut up vegetables in some chicken broth and have that or just get a pizza. Nights of food experimentation are also followed by nights of simplicity!!!
Along with this I should plug a website that I found but I haven’t used as much as I would like. It’s It’s pretty obvious what it is and it started in Italy, which only makes sense. Look at the author’s names on the articles and you’ll see the Italian origins. There is an Italian version if you just put “.it” instead of “.com”. They are dedicated to preserving unique foods and “taste education”. The advice on cheap wines alone is worth looking at on this site!!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Olive Tree

This is one of the oldest olive trees in Southern Italy. Of course it's only a short walk from Turibio's house. Posted by Hello

Frisbee Golf

Turibio finishing the Frisbee Golf Course. It was a very tight course. They make up a new one every time. Posted by Hello

Aisha the retriever

Turibio's Dog Aisha. Obviously there is some retriever in this dog as she loves sticks and she'll chase the Frisbee all day. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Turibio's House

On Sunday I went to Turibio’s house. And again it was an adventure. I bought some pasticcieria on the way, which was easier than I thought. With so many little pastries to choose from I wasn’t sure what to pick. At the shop I ran into to the famous Nello. Now he’s working in a cafĂ© and bakery shop. Or maybe this is just another one of his jobs. I know he said he had 3 jobs when he worked at the restaurant “La Locanda degli Angeli”. I must admit I didn’t believe him but now I do. I wish he still worked there because he really did take care of you. I didn’t realize it until he was gone.
When I arrived in town Turibio, Marco, Lorenzo, Stefano, and I went out and played disc golf in a pine forest. It was very tough and short. Turibio won the first round after I got lost (several times). Then I won the second round easily by taking the right turns. When we got back to his house there was a quite a commotion. Turibio’s father was up on the roof and he dumped a big bucket of sand down through the chimney because it was blocked or something and it made an awful mess when it hit the fire in the fireplace sending ash into the house. Later someone showed up with a big brush and they cleaned the chimney and started another fire. While this mess was being sorted out we took Aisha (Turibio’s dog) for a walk. They really don’t realize how strange it is to me to be hanging out in an olive grove. The craggy trees and tumbled down stonewalls that could have looked like this 2,000 years ago. This time I took a few photos of particular trees for me and Aisha retrieving sticks for Turibio, as he doesn’t have any pictures of his dog yet. When we got back to house Mara, Ramona, Naomi, Gigi, and Antonella had all arrived. Antonella had brought her daughter as usual but she (I don’t know her name) was the only toddler this time. You could see her disappointment with only adults around. The young adults (those of use in 20’s and 30’s mentioned above) went on a walk to see one of the oldest olive trees in southern Italy for my benefit. To me it was really cool and I took several pictures of it, to them I was like some sort of Japanese tourist. Lunch was served around 1:30 and we ate well. First there was this piedina, which is a deep fried bread ball. Then we had penne and sauce that was simple and very good. The sauce seemed to be just tomatoes ground beef and cut up green olives but it had to be more than that as it was so damn good. Then grilled meat again like they did last time. They have this little portable electric grill that they set next to the fireplace. So the meat starts sizzling away after we finish up our pasta. After lunch it’s time for dolce and that was my contribution. It was cool because I got to be like the Italians I see every Sunday carrying a covered tray of carefully wrapped pastries. I especially like the ones that looked like swans. Maybe I’ll post the picture I took of them. I also made a mental note to try to see which are eaten first in case I need to bring something again. The younger adults again went for a walk after dinner like back in November. After the walk we came back, talked a bit, then Turibio and I took Lorenzo home. It was funny before we left, Turibio’s father screamed from the other room only because Lecce had tied up the score in their game with Cagliari (in the end Lecce lost 3-1). I left my apartment “for lunch” at 9:00 AM and returned back around 7:30 PM. And I’m still amazed at how everyone seems to disappear on Sunday. It’s so easy to figure out if look at what I just did yesterday.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


The lovely Patrizia at Goblin's pub. She just got back from South Africa last week. While there she got hair extensions, which is why I took this picture. Usually her hair is very short. She plans to keep them for about a month. I think she should grow her own hair long as she looks great like this. She is almost the first person I met outside of work and we tried to go out but she works at night and I work during the day so it doesn't seem to work. Posted by Hello

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Brutto Tempo!!!

Well this weekend they were showing 3 feet of snow in the mountains only 2 hours from me. It had blocked the A3 for 3 days and this is the main (only) highway from Naples to Sicily. It’s a great highway to drive as you’re riding along up in the mountains all the way to Sicily. The highway has many tunnels and each seems to change directly into a bridge that gives you a great overlook and you feel on top of the world. However, being “up” in the mountains seems to have a drawback when the snow comes. So shipping things south of me was impossible by truck and vice versa. That made me worry. A lot of produce for sale here comes from Sicily this time of year. We still have beautiful tomatoes and zucchini at the market thanks to the warmer and wetter conditions in Sicily right now. I never thought of it before but now is probably the best time for growing things in Sicily. In the summer it’s too hot and dry to grow things except olives and grapes. You would need to irrigate a lot and there aren’t many lakes a rivers use. This country is amazing when you think about it. It has roughly the same area as Nevada and yet it has all the climates of the US. In Sicily and here it’s roughly the same as Florida or Southern California and up north they have bone chilling cold and snow like New England. We even have the unwritten division between north and south. Which is really funny when you look at how Italy really runs east to west. Those Burlesconi loving fools up north are always calling this area “il mezzogiorno d’Italia” (literally… the midday of Italy) or even worse North Africa.
Now today the rough weather seems to be hitting Brindisi. This morning the temperature was about 38F but somehow a cold wind brought in a mix of rain, hail, and snow, all at the same time. I mean it, we had all three types of precipitation falling together. The snow melted as soon as it touched the ground but this combination made for a most unusual sight. I was at work so I couldn’t get a photo. It was bad enough for people to stop work for a minute and look out the window in wonder. By lunch the sky had cleared up and it was sunny with hardly a trace of the bad weather. Maybe I’ll head up into the hills this weekend. I hear they may have snow in Alberobello for those of you who have been here, can imagine what that would look like? The goofy little round trulli houses with their cone shaped roofs covered in snow. I’ll try to get a good picture.