Monday, March 26, 2007

5 Things

I’m going to try to do this as asked for by Cyndi at Re-boot . It’s funny because I really think that I’m starting to take things for granted here. My life has changed since I moved here and now I think I don’t realize it anyone. So trying to identify things I love in Italy verses what I miss in the US is tough.

Name 5 things you love about your new country
1. The personal touch to shopping. Saturday morning I head out to make the rounds and every store I go into they know me. I’m worried that I’m getting into too much of a routine so every once in a while I go to a new baker or butcher (but don’t tell them that). It has a Mayberry feel to me. I’m like Aunt Bee. Wait, that doesn’t sound right.
2. Maintaining diversity by staying the same. Italy varies A LOT from North to South but they are all the same, in a way. They all run on very similar schedules and have similar pleasures (food, calcio, etc) but then they also strive to hold and keep their local traditions and style. They are convinced their way is the best no matter what. I have to love their devotion to a local food or festival.
3. Getting around without a car. I picked the apartment I did for two reasons. The view and the location. I can walk everywhere including to work. Antonio “C’mon” recently gave me some tips about the buses that go town to town so even if I wanted to go to other small towns I could, without my car. To an American that seems impossible.
4. The lack of choice. This sounds like a complaint buts it’s not. Sometimes having a lot of choices just tricks you into making the wrong choice. You don’t need strawberries year round. Instead you appreciate them when they are in season. I’m not sure how to explain it but I break it down that I feel I appreciate what I do have, when I have it. It’s an important lesson in life. Still, I whine about not having a fast food restaurant when I need it but guess what. I don’t need it. It’s like The Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want. You get what you need.” Italy is better at having what you need, not everything you want.
5. Meeting up with friends. At this point I know my schedule and my friends' schedule for the most part. If I don’t feel like calling someone about what's going on then I go down to the Caffe Continental around 7:30 PM and see Gavino and Lucia
(they work there so they are always there). Have a coffee and read the papers until someone comes by (if they aren’t there already doing the same). Or like last night I went down to the Vertigo on Sunday night (because everyone goes there!) with no plans. I ended up having dinner in Ostuni with people I haven’t seen for months. I love that you don’t need to plan too much (we decided where to eat on the way and another car of people caught up to us while we were in route).

Name 4 things that you miss about your native country
1. The family and friends. I’m losing touch with Indianapolis as friends move away and I don’t make new friends in Indy. So the family becomes the only real link back to the US. Now my brother has a kid so it’s going to be tougher as the kid will show just how quickly things change and how much I'm not there. I noticed this with my cousin’s kids, but it will be even more close to home now. I just don’t what to have one trip where he’s just starting to walk and the next he's in the second grade. I have been able to get home about every 6 months so I think I’ve had it pretty good. This year I have to make it back for Thanksgiving. I know, I know. I said that last year too.
2. The convenience factor. Stores open all the time and I know exactly where to get what I need. The hardest thing here is that it’s 9:00 PM and you remember something you need but your next chance to get it is after work tomorrow. You better write it down because you may forget by then!!!!
3. The Indianapolis Zoo. I volunteered at the Zoo while I worked my 9 to 5 engineering job. I loved it because it gave me a sense of giving back to the community, the environment, and all that is good. I blogged some time back about the feeling of teaching at the zoo. Going to the gym has replaced playing Ultimate Frisbee (but not completely) but nothing has matched the meaning of being at the Zoo.
4. Job security and satisfaction. Over the years that I’ve been here, I’ve always had some concern that this could all end very easily and quickly. We have some pretty moody people on both sides of the pond. Work wasn’t prefect in the US but at least everyone seemed to work hard and people worried about the right things. I get so frustrated when people here worry about little things because it will make them look bad instead of worrying about the big picture which is how do we fix these things. If we just get the problem fixed and done then everyone looks good!

Name 3 things that annoy about your new country
1. I throw several things into one category, the lack of respect. Driving like everyone else is in your way. Walking on the sidewalk like no one else is there. I feel like people think it’s perfectly ok to use and abuse public spaces as they please (litter and graffiti are the most obvious signs). Then you go to their house and it’s spotless. These are same people that throw the cigarette butts on the ground in the park then clean out the ashtray in their house after each and every cigarette. If they just showed the same respect for the places we all use. Ugghhh.
2. The language. I have found my Achilles’ heel. I suck at learning a new language. I must be tone deaf because I swear I think I’m saying it right but I’m not. I have found that my voice sounds terrible when I record it so maybe there really is some disconnect from my ears to my vocal chords. Either way it annoys the hell out of me when I get the squinty-eyed look for the cashier when I ask for something. I know my Italian’s not perfect but you know what I mean. If I say “citta”, I’m not talking about Tarzan’s frickin’ chimp and you know that. Don’t give me that look!!! AHHHH!!!!
3. I get annoyed when people complain about the US as if they know exactly what my home country should do. I agree that there are some things that you can see clearer from a distance but they have to realize that EVERY country works for it’s own interests. Sometimes that leads countries to do stupid things. Stop giving me crap. Italy is divided just like the US so don’t lump us all together under one party and I won’t do the same to you.

Name 2 things that surprise you (or surprised you at the beginning) about your new country.
1. The stereotypes are true. The men do stay at home until they marry. They really do love their food and soccer more than anything else. I had coworkers who refused to work on Saturday even though they would get twice the pay. They wanted their time off and that’s that. They really do take their time. I can't tell you how many times I heard, “bello, bello, Jeff”. I expected all the stereotypes to be unfounded but I’m sorry they are true, in the South.
2. How dead the town is in the afternoon and alive at night. I still cannot believe when I look out my window on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and hear and see NO ONE on the road. You would swear that the town is deserted. Then at 1 or 2 in the morning there is still tons of people out and kids, on school nights!

Name 1 thing that you would miss terribly in your new country, if you had to leave it.
1. I would miss the chance to experience something new. Every time I think I know what to expect something comes along screw that up. It could be having lunch at someone’s house or learning another piece of history by actually experiencing it.

Just to add to this I have noticed another thing lately. I’m less likely now to jump and down singing the praises of Puglia. When I first arrived. I was telling everyone they should come and see Puglia, but not anymore. I saw Francesco’s Italy on BBC this weekend and he was in Puglia for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, I was happy because I thought he did a great job but also because he didn’t say too much. I kinda don’t want people to find out Puglia. There are already too many outside influences. So go read a blog about Tuscany! That’s where you all want to go away.


sognatrice said...

I love your last paragraph; it's kind of (exactly) how I feel about Calabria too :)

Jeff Gromen said...

Calabria wasn't even in "Francesco's Italy" so maybe you're safe for a little longer than Puglia. They are going to start flights from Bari to Russia as evidently this area is becoming a popular holiday for Russians!

Anonymous said...

In reference to number one of "3 things that annoy about your new country", i couldn't agree with you more. total lack of respect, common courtesy, and common sense if you ask me. It seems people are so busy looking out for themselves that they completely step over everybody else. It's funny because before i moved to italy MANy years ago, i never imagined it would be like this! i mean people in NYC show more common courtesy than in a city like rome- now that is crazy!

Elizabeth said...

just found your blog. great entry, I may have to quote you about the choice thing -- how true!Puglia certainly is a jewel and it is better to let all those tourists go to Tuscany (although I heard on the radio that oscar winning Helen Mirrens has just bought a trullo down there). We spent a week in Ostuni a few years ago and visited all over -- just incredibly beautiful and amazing food, smells, colors, light. I love the south for vacations....but could I live there?