My Italian Adventure pt 4 Big differences

In my first post about going to Italy, Italy or Bust, I stated that I have always wanted to spend some time experiencing the daily activities of someone living in Italy.  I wanted to see the country from a non tourist perspective.   I feel like I learned a lot while I was there, and I did see many differences, but now I have so many more questions.

First major difference- The language

20190531_155610Ok, I did know that it would be different, but I remembered from my trip 20 years ago,  most people spoke English as well as Italian. As long as you learned some basic phrases you would be ok.

This is SO NOT THE CASE when you are NOT in the tourist areas.  I found the phrases I used the most were Parla Inglese? (Do you speak English? ) and Me dispiace. (I’m sorry)  I probably also should how learned how to say I broke my foot and had surgery or something like that, because everyone tried to ask me about it.  (yay for a picture being worth a thousand words)  After the 100th time I was asked, I just showed the picture.

 

I didn’t feel the need to say that I also broke the screw…..shhhhh

Second difference- The power or electrical connections

In America, to the best of my knowledge our outlets look like this everywhere20190531_155734

you have two different types of connections that you can plug into the same outlet that look like this :

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or this 20190531_155746

But in Europe the outlets or plugs are round, like this:

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Talk about a square peg and a round hole.  (Yay I remembered this from last time and brought this adapter.)

The metric system-

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I grabbed a package of this rice something or other to have for one of the days I was alone. Looking quickly at the pictures told me to boil some water, add the package contents, and cook for 15 minutes… I think….. um…

How much is 600ml of water?!?!?!?!

This would not have been such a problem if I had wifi or turned on my International data plan, but I didn’t …..smh another long story.

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On the subject of food, I am pretty sure you will not find these two in a baby food aisle in America, well at least not a big chain store.

Nor will you find “real” pizza in Italy.

Ok, ok you can find pizza in Italy, just not what most American’s consider Pizza.

I have never ordered pizza while in another European country.  Does it more resemble Italian pizza or American Pizza?

 Let’s talk COFFEE-

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I knew that coffee could be made on the stove, but I have never actually seen anyone do it.    Is this the norm all over Europe?  I feel that most people in the states own a coffee maker or espresso maker that looks more like these…

 

Other Differences in the Kitchen

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It took me a very long time to do dishes the first night, not because they don’t have a dishwasher (I actually prefer to wash them by hand), but because of the limited amount of space that I had to stack and dry them. When I told Daniela this the next morning, she gave me a weird look and said, “well why didn’t you use the strainer?”  How would putting a strainer on top of a strainer area help?!?!?  Then she opened the cabinet to reveal the strainer she was talking about…..

Pretty creative use of space if you ask me

 

There is no bottom to the cabinet, so any water drains back into the sink.  I started to think about the homes I have lived in.  This would not be possible in any of them, because every single one of them has a window over the kitchen sink.  Is that an American thing?  Have you ever seen a system like this?

The size of the glasses amazes me too.  In America, I feel like everything is supersized. The glasses that come in most dinnerware sets hold at least 16 oz.  We carry thermos’s or huge water bottles.  Every home that I was in had glasses no bigger than the palm of my hand out for dinner.

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Pepper, Salt, Sugar and Coffee?

This is the standard pre-labeled set that you will find on most counters.  I don’t think I go through that much salt and pepper in a year.  For me the coffee one would have to be double the size, unless I used it for espresso and had a separate one for coffee.  I don’t need a sugar one, but I think most Americans do.  Not right or wrong, just different I think.

Toilet and Bidet

I have some very interesting bathroom stories from my previous visits to Europe, from having to literally squat over a hole in the ground or a pipe coming out of the ground with no seat to what I believe you find in most homes…the toilet bidet combo.

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This time I had to ask why….. “Why are Europeans so obsessed with using bidet’s?”

The response, ” well you do realize that most European’s do not shower everyday correct? Well this allows us to keep our dirtiest parts clean without needing to waste the water to shower”

Huh…well that’s pretty simple….Duh Grace.  Not only does that reasoning make sense to me, but maybe WE’RE doing it wrong?

The same way I personally feel that we are doing this wrong.

20190531_164555In most rural communities in America at least once a week, you see these cans sitting on the curb, well at least the big one.   GARBAGE.  The recycle cans are usually half the size unless you pay more for the duty to save your planet…smh

While at Daniela’s I had 6 different bags to choose from …paper, cardboard, hard plastic, soft plastic, glass and I don’t remember the rest, but I can tell you the actual garbage can was the smallest.  20190527_145925

Marble, Stone, and Concrete

They certainly don’t build things the way they used to.  (At least in America)

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With all the “cookie-cutter” type houses going up, heck now the itty bitty houses whatever they are called…you have to appreciate something that was built to last.  I don’t think even the million dollar homes in the states have marble stair cases, certainly not in a three story house.

 

 

 

 

Automobiles

In America, 95% of our cars are automatic (not stick).  In Italy 95% are stick, not automatic.  I also noticed that there were no “pick up trucks” anywhere.  Because I live in a rural area, they are more common than cars.  I believe most people know at least one person that owns one.  I didn’t see one.  I did see one Chevy and one Ford but I didn’t pay attention to model.  Most cars were toyota, volkswagon, or fiat that I could tell.  And the parking? 

Laundry-

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Not at all an uncommon sight.

And for the rainy or colder days, there is always inside!!!!!

 

NO SCREENS

 

Can someone please tell me one place in America that you don’t need screens on your windows?  I couldn’t imagine not having screens in Illinois.  The entire time I was there, the only unwelcome guest I had was ONE FLY and because he had eaten so much pasta he was very easy to kill…..sorry bad joke…..  I wish I had thought to take a better picture :/

Do you know that smoking kills?

 

Same Brand…which one does a better job of telling you?  Sorry on the SIDE of my American pack it does have a surgeon generals warning: Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide.

The entire time I was there, I had a love/hate relationship with the bells on this church.  I did not mind the 12 bell tolls at noon and midnight, I thought it was “cute” that on the 1/2 hour there were two softer chimes.  What I didn’t like was one being so damn close to them, and two the 4 hour ringing of them on Sunday for a first communion.

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I forget that little children have big ears.  Daniela’s son overheard me telling her about about the masses that had turned out, and the horrible sounds of the bells  for HOURS.  He asked Daniela, “Why doesn’t Grace go to church momma?”  Her response was, “Remember, Grace is an American, and the best part about that is that she has the right to make her own choices”.

Did I mention I really learned alot on this trip?

From city to city, or rural areas to city living, or crossing state lines in America you will find many differences in the way things are done if you pay attention.  The things I mention in this post are things I have not seen anywhere in America….. yet…..

Have you traveled to another country?  What were your struggles?  Did you learn anything that you could be doing better?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Italian Adventure part 2

As soon as the door to the plane closed, I quickly texted THING ONE to ask her to find a hotel for me, for as few of my travel points as possible, between the airport and the Statue of Liberty.  And then my phone died.

Luckily I was able to charge my phone a little bit on the plane. (yay 20% battery)

When I arrived in NJ, I went in search of my suitcase that HAD made the 11:30 flight that I didn’t.  Customer service advised me that it was already loaded on the next days flight to Milan, but if I really needed them to retrieve it they might be able to assist me within the next 4 hours.  Yeah no.  I made a quick reservation for a hotel and contacted a lyft driver to take me there.  I finally arrived at the hotel around 11:30 pm, where I promptly proceeded to pass out.

The next morning while eating breakfast, I talked myself into and out of going to see the statute a hundred times.  I spent a lot of time reading the Statue of Liberty Website.  I learned that it would be impossible for me to climb so many stairs with a broken foot.  The website stresses that you should allow a full day to visit.  On the other hand,  I realized this was probably going to be the only time in my life that I was here, so I might as well give it a go. 

The hotel agreed to keep my baggage for me and to take me to the airport when I returned.  I used the LYFT app to hire a ride to the Statue.  After all of the walking to get to the ferry, I decided to just see the Statue and the Ellis Island Hospital from the Ferry.  I’m glad I went.

This is probably the best picture that I was able to take of the Statue of Liberty.best pic

It’s certainly a lot larger than I had envisioned.  Here is another picture from behind.

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When the cruise returned to Liberty State Park, I spent some time wondering through the New Jersey Terminal of the Central railroad, before stopping to rest on a rock outside and requesting a Lyft back to my hotel.  As I waited, I kept looking at this “piece of art”, thinking how unusual it was to have something so modern surrounded by all the other ancient historical pieces.

memorial

When I got close enough to read the writing on the wall, this “modern artwork” took my breath away and sent a chill down my spine.

memorial one

 

It’s hard to read the words in the picture, but they say “On the morning of September 11th, 2001, with the skies so clear that the Twin Towers across the river appeared to be within reach, the very essence of what our country stands for – freedom, tolerance and the pursuit of happiness – was attacked. This memorial is dedicated to New Jersey’s 749 innocent loved ones who were violently and senselessly murdered that day at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Shanksville, PA. ”

I remember that day, as I am sure, most American’s do.  Wow, just Wow!

My Lyft arrived shortly after.  The rest of the day went as planned.  I returned to the hotel to pick up my bag.  Then took the airport shuttle to the airport.  I made it through Security without any hassles, and I even managed to figure out how to order food at the airport through a system I have NEVER seen.

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I only stood there waiting for someone to take my order for a few moments before I realized that no “BODY” would be coming.  I placed my order on the little tablet to the right, which emailed me a receipt.  A message popped up saying that I would receive a text when my order was complete.  15 minutes later I did.  I took the food to a self pay machine on the edge of the food court, scanned the receipt, paid for my sandwich, and headed to the gate.  All very impersonal.  I’m still not sure what I think about it, but I did manage to do it myself, so there is that.

I boarded the 6:30 flight without any hassle.  At 8:40 am I arrived in Milan.

My Italian Adventure part 1 of 5?

Before I begin to talk about my “Italian adventure”, it is important that I stress that all of my travel plans were with airline buddy passes.  If you aren’t familiar with these, let me briefly explain.  When you travel using a BUDDY PASS (an employee benefit), you are able to fly for free or dirt cheap on flights that have unsold seats, but you are on standby. This means you don’t know if you have a seat on the plane until moments before the doors on the plane close.  I was aware of this before I started my trip.

Monday morning 5/20/2019

I woke up at 5 am. (actually I think 5 am is more the time I gave up trying to sleep, and began moving.) I “Coffeed”, showered, put on a DRESS , and…wait for it….a little bit of make-up. This is another thing about the buddy passes, you have to “dress up” . I threw a couple of last minute items in my carry on, TRIPLE CHECKED that I had my boarding pass, passport, and bus ticket for when I arrived in Italy. Check, check, and check.

I checked the standby list and was still at number 2 (my chances were good that I would make it on the plane.) Whooo hoooo!!!!

My dear friend Brian arrived at 7 am to take me to the airport. We spent the hour plus drive catching up on all the things that had been happening in our lives since the last time we were able to “hang out”, almost a year ago. Traffic wasn’t bad, in fact we arrived early. He dropped me off at a door that had wheelchair access and assistance was just inside the door. ANOTHER win.

I checked a large suitcase.  Having a medical condition makes traveling for any amount of time with just a carry on, very impractical.  ( Pads, diapers, waterproof pads, medication, surgery shoe, etc)

Going through security was a breeze, other than a small oversight on my part which COULD have been very embarrassing. I was able to STAND in the scanning machine instead of having to be completely felt up. I didn’t have to take off the boot, and the lines were relatively short. WIN WIN! The moment that could have been embarrassing was when they had to open and inspect my carry on because I forgot to remove my laptop. DOH!

I arrived at my gate at 9:15 and immediately checked the standby list again. Number 17?!?!?!? What the hell had happened in the last 2 hours? Did everyone suddenly feel the urgent need to travel to Milan?

After people watching (active listening) for about half an hour, it was more than obvious that the standby list was going to continue to grow. The 9 am flight to NJ (My first stop) was cancelled because of the storms that were pounding the east coast.  So all of the customers that missed the 9 am flight would be squeezed onto later flights.

As a NON PAYING CUSTOMER, getting me on a plane was of very little importance to anyone but me.  Ok, I knew this COULD happen, let’s make the best of it. I chatted with several other passengers which made the time pass pretty quickly.  I looked up other flights that were leaving for NJ, and there were several, before my flight from NJ to Milan would leave at 6:30 pm.   Chicago to NJ is a 3 hour flight, and there were flights leaving at 10:00 am, 11:30 am (my flight) and 2:15 pm that would allow me to make it to NJ on time.  CLOSE, but still on time.

I waited at the airport and watched the 10:00 and 11:30  flights depart without me.  The airline personal said that it was only going to get worse, and may feed over into the next day. I was number 45 on the standby cue for 2:15, so  at 2 pm I  “gave up”. Again, I KNEW this COULD happen but  I certainly didn’t expect it.  I had asked my friend Marisa a couple of weeks ago if she would pick me up if ended up stuck.  I made the bail me out call now.

She picked me up from the airport and we went back to her house where I could use my laptop to explore any other options that might be available. During this time I began searching the airlines for flights to NEW YORK, PA, or Dulles that might allow me to still make a connection to Newark in time for the 630 flight to Milan. While I could fly from O’hare to any of the other states without issue, the lists for flights into NJ were all full.  Hmmmm what if I rented a car and drove to NJ from one of the other airports?  Probably not a good idea considering my right (driving foot is still in a boot).  It’s one thing to drive with my left foot  on country roads where I know how to avoid the traffic, but not very smart and probably illegal to do in a big city.

After researching all the options, we decided that I might as well try to catch one of the 4 other flights to NJ that night.  The flight to Milan had over 30 seats available for the next 2 days, so if I could at least get to NJ, half the battle would be won. I would just need to stay in Newark for the night.  ( yay hotel points)  So back to the airport we went.  If I didn’t get on one of the flights, Marisa would come back and get me at 9:30 pm and I would just crash at her place.

The trip through security this time did not go as smoothly.  (not terrible, just not smooth)Inkedbody scan_LI

While I remembered to take my laptop and tablet out of my carry on bag this time, I forgot to take off my sweatshirt, and to remove my cigarettes and lighter from my pocket.

So this is how I appeared on the scanner. ( lighter on my hip and zipper from my sweatshirt in my groin)

The sweatshirt and cigarettes had to go back through the x-ray machine, and the poor TSA agent had to reach between my legs.  She grabbed the poise pad I was wearing and asked, “what is this?” As we looked into each other’s eyes….We had a moment…. kidding.  I said ” a pad”, she said, Ok” . Kind of awkward :/ .

She finished her inspection of me. I re-packed all the items as quickly as possible in my carry on bag  and quickly moved away.  10 minutes later I realized that I had not recovered my cigarettes and lighter.  YES, we had to turn around.  No one in security could find them, so I shrugged it off :(.  As we were approaching my gate, the security girl came running up to me with my cigarettes and lighter.  This time, we did have a moment.  I even told her I loved her 🙂

When we arrived at the gate, I immediately checked the standby list and learned that I was number 33.  😦  I spent the next hour and a half catching up with the “new friends” I had made earlier in morning ( the other people that were stuck at the airport).  At 6:10 I heard one of their names being called to make the flight (#8) and went over to “congratulate” him.  As I leaned against the counter, I felt something move behind me.  It was his laptop falling off of the counter.

broken-laptop

(This is not his laptop, but it did look as bad as this 😦 )

OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  What had I done?!?!?!  How do you apologize for something like that?  He said, “don’t worry about it”, as he picked up the pieces and rushed to board the plane.  How do you not worry about it??!?!?  OMG I was going to go to hell for this.  I was going to be stuck in the airport for days. I was…… hearing my name being called.  I had made the flight!  The other 20 something people between this man and I had given up, or found another alternative.  I was actually boarding the plane!

Have you ever flown standby?  Do you have any security mishaps you’d like to share?  I would love to hear your stories!

 

 

 

Italy or Bust..or in my case BUST then…

Remember this old thing?  Well calling it old wouldn’t really be true, considering it is brand new………..

Confused yet?

Let me TRY to explain…

Do you remember, back in September of last year, I had a plate and screws put in my right foot? I was in a cam boot for a long time afterwards, and have only been walking in very hard soled shoes for the last few months.  A couple of weeks ago, while I was at my oldest daughter’s house watching the grandbabies, I took off my shoes while playing with the boys in their room.    Here’s where it gets confusing…..

I’m not sure exactly what I did or how exactly I did it.  I was holding Joey, and attempted to squat down on the floor with him.  I subsequently lost my balance, and in an effort to not drop him I did something very painful to my foot.  I don’t know what I did exactly, I just knew that it hurt like hell and I couldn’t stand on it let alone walk.

A trip to the immediate care and subsequent trip to the surgeon’s office revealed that I broke the lag screw from my surgery, and another bone in my foot.

I have no words.  Seriously who does this?  I have spent the last few weeks feeling embarrassed and in shock.

I am back in a boot for the next 3-5 weeks, and then the plan is to try to ease back into hard shoes.  If the pain is too great or the bone hasn’t healed around the broken screw, I will have to have another surgery.  😦

So there is the Busted (broken part)…what do I mean about Italy?

Earlier this year, Einstein’s dad gave us several buddy passes for his employers airline.  If you aren’t familiar with buddy passes, in short you are able to fly standby on the airline for next to nothing.  (taxes)  Anywhere.

I have a good friend who was born and raised in Italy, but has lived in the states for many years.  Her family still owns a home in the city she grew up in…..AND….they are going to be there for the month of May……………hmmmmmm

I have been to Italy 2x in the past, but it has been almost 20 years, and I was there as a tourist.  I have always wanted to experience activities of daily living in Italy, but never had the time, or the money.  I have the time, and the flight cost me $50.00 roundtrip, so I booked the tickets.

I am not nearly as prepared as I would like to have been,  ( I speak very little Italian and I have a broken foot.)  but I think I would regret not seizing the opportunity.  Who knows, the afternoon siesta’s may be just what I need.

I am supposed to fly out on Monday.  Wish me luck?

Stranger on the plane

As I wrote yesterday or the day before (damn the last week is a blur), I was pretty paranoid about leaving vegas after what happened last time I said goodbye to a friend.  All the bullshit I went through at the airport in Houston to get to vegas, had me dreading the trip even more.  (another story for another time)

As I walked through the door of the airport, a sudden calm washed over me.  Maybe it was the xanax kicking in, maybe it was that I was going to home to see girls, I honestly don’t know what it was.  Maybe it was exhaustion?  Either way I had not a care in the world.  I didn’t take more than 10 steps into the door before I found a porter ready and waiting with a wheelchair for me.  When I showed him the boarding pass on my phone I realized I was in seat 8F  ( yah window seat….maybe I could sleep?).

I barely remember that pat down, even though the foley catheter (who’s name is boppy, for bag of pee) set off the metal wand, I really don’t remember much about it.  We stopped for coffee and I was deposited at the gate.

I was the first to board the plane (after the pilot and flight attendants.)  The agent that took me to the plane even stashed my bag overhead for me.  I balled up my sweatshirt and laid my head on it closing my eyes to let the world drift away.  I couldn’t have slept more than a few minutes, before being awaken by this sight.flight home (9)

Meet Timmy

Timmy is the service dog for my new friend Bob…… Bob has Retinitis Pigmentosa, and is going blind, or as doctors have told him, he should have been completely blind years ago.  But I am getting ahead of myself, let me take a few steps back.

So I open my eyes, see this beautiful patient dog looking at me and let my eyes wonder up the harness to the man holding it.  He asks, “Are you ok with dogs?”…. I kind of shook my head and muttered, “um yeah, but where is he going to sit?”   thinking….Does he get a seat? are you putting a seat belt on him? is he going to sit on your lap?  The stranger responded, “oh he’s just going to sit down under our legs”   HUH?  (remember I have a German shepherd, who always TRIES to lay under my legs)…. Again, Ok.

Sure enough, Timmy laid under the seat in front of the stranger and between his legs.  As the other passengers finished boarding, the stranger allowed me to take several pictures, an introduce myself to Timmy.  At one point he said, I have RP and this is my service dog.  I actually knew what RP was…..well kind of, I knew how to say it, and that it meant he was going blind.  I think I surprised the hell out of him that I had heard of his condition.  You see, I follow and greatly admire the writer Susan Richardson, the author of Stories from the Edge of Blindness.  Susan has also been diagnosed and living with RP for 16 years.  If you don’t know Susan, please check out her blog, you won’t be sorry.

So back to the “stranger” on the plane, His name is Bob by the way, and by the end of the flight, he really was no stranger at all, but an incredible, smart, friendly guy.  We talked for the full four hours of our flight ( although it really felt much shorter than that)  We discussed politics.  yes I said discussed.  We disagreed about a few things, but I think we both LEARNED from each other.

When we were discussing how to find happiness while living with a health condition, he taught me a new term, “stamp collector” to describe a person that holds on to any and every misdeed that someone has done to  them.  We both agreed the secret to happiness is NOT collecting stamps, both literally and figuratively.

I could go on and on about the things we talked about, but I guess the whole point of this post, is that I am glad a “stranger” took a chance to open up about themselves and took the time to listen to another stranger’s stories and opinions.

I’m not a religious person by any means, but I do feel like I was “blessed” that day on my way home, and I am grateful for it.  I am also very grateful to have met so many wonderful new friends here on the interwebz.  Sincerely, I Thank you all from the bottom of my broken heart.

Soon, I’m going to have to tell you all about my Best Friend Gary, (the reason I went to Vegas), and about all the things he did to keep my mind occupied while I was there.  I really am a lucky girl.  For now though, I have the pleasure of Dutch’s company while Dan’s family finds a new home back in Illinois.

dutch

Is it a guy thing or a puppy thing that makes them take EVERY toy out of the bin?!?!?  lol