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In my last post, I complained tongue in cheek about my lengthy hair appointment. There are much more serious problems in Italy. Secondo me, Italy is a country on the decline. I’m not smart enough to give you a sociopolitical analysis. I can only tell you what I see and how it affects me and my family.

For just about any situation or problem, you’ll hear people say they can’t change it; it’s impossible, I’m not responsible or it’s going to take a long time because Italy is like this. Is “Italy” a person who is responsible for fixing everything and he/she is too damned busy and that’s why nothing happens? No one else appears to be responsible, that’s for sure.

Why am I on this particular rant today? This is what happened yesterday. Every morning, I drive the boys to their respective schools. (That’s right, no school buses.) First we drop Russell off then Duilio. As you leave Russell’s school, you ascend a steep hill and pass through a large metal gate to the parking area. The gate has a “people” gate to go through. It was very windy yesterday morning; I passed through the small gate with Duilio a few steps behind me. Just before he passed through, a strong gust of wind took the large gate, whipping it against him throwing him to the ground and against the wall. We are so fortunate that he came away with only a bump on the head. The poor kid was terrified, shaking and crying. I calmed the poor little guy down and took him to school.

I immediately called my husband. We determined the best course of action was to call the director of the schools. Someone needed to fix that gate before another child got hurt. This is a nursery school. I can only imagine what could happen if it were one of the little ones. He called but she wasn’t there yet (naturally, it is only 8:30 am). The person who answered the phone said they were not responsible (of course) and that my husband needed to write a letter (What the #$#@?). He was told that the director will call him which she didn’t. Later in the morning, he sent an e-mail summarizing the situation and adding that we’ll pursue other avenues if it isn’t resolved. That got a response. The director called him. By the time I went to pick up Russell, the gate has been “fixed” with wire and plastic tie-wraps. This took several hours to resolve instead of the first person to answer the phone simply calling the nursery school and telling them that something must immediately be done about the gate.

By the way, the gate has been broken since school started. The rod that goes into the ground to hold the gate in place is broken and the heavy chain and lock hang uselessly. They use only the steel pin which slides out. Why? My guess is they don’t want to walk up the hill to open the gate when the lunch truck arrives. A teacher at the school told me today that they have sent a request to the city to fix the gate several months ago but things are slow in Italy. Apparently she’s also the building manager and said she didn’t know what happened yesterday until she got a call around 11:00 am. What? She doesn’t walk through the flippin’ gate every morning? A makeshift fix couldn’t have been put in place until the city fixed it?  When your kids are involved, you know what excuses are like….

I can’t help but think that this attitude has something to do with the position that Italy is in now. Who knows if it is cause or effect? All I know is that it takes a different kind of attitude to make a country great.

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Generally, I write about the positive aspects of our experience in Italy. For the sake of honesty (actually, I just want to complain), I have to include some not so positive aspects. Going to the hairdresser in Italy is nothing short of torture for me. I have been through three hairdressers in one year and a half. It isn’t because they don’t do a decent job. It’s because they take so **bleeping** long.

The first one I went to when we moved here took 3 ½ hours to cut and color my hair. At the time, my hair was shorter than my boys’. What could possibly take so long??!! On to the next one… I stuck with him until I had to wait over an hour when I had called for an appointment. This is when I learned that appointments mean absolutely nothing so don’t bother. You try to go when it isn’t too busy. (I’m there when they’re opening the doors in the morning.)

Finally, I found the one that seemed to be quicker. Although, he is slipping. The last couple of visits are going over my limits. Today was three hours but it did include highlights so I guess I’ll give him another chance. Definitely on probation.

The new color…


Carnevale is a popular festival throughout Italy. Some cities are famous for their festivals but everyone celebrates in some way or other. Here’s a short article about it: http://goitaly.about.com/od/festivalsandevents/a/carnevale.htm

A couple of Moms in Russell’s class organized a costume party at a local party place or “ludoteca”. It gave the kids a chance to dress in costume and run around like crazy people while the parents stood around chatting and eating too much. In typical fashion, everyone brought a dish of something so there was plenty to choose from. My cupcakes were a hit because cupcakes are a bit of a novelty. The recipes were requested by a couple people so they’ll soon discover how easy they are to make. So much for my moment of fame….

Russell, of course, was Ironman. Duilio surprised us by asking to be Arlecchino (Harlequin Clown), one of the typical Carnevale clowns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlequin).

Duilio in his Arlecchino costume

Russell as Ironman

Towards the end of the party, Duilio says, “It’s just too much for me.”

The gang – at least those they could get to stand still for a moment


Yesterday, we took our first trip to the U.S. Consulate in Naples (http://naples.usconsulate.gov/index.html). We needed to renew Russell’s passport. I think my “bar” has been lowered from dealing with Italian bureaucracy because it was actually a pleasant experience. The passport renewal instructions on the internet are clear and detailed so we arrived prepared; the appointment was made online; we found the building easily and there was even parking nearby. A polite Italian and jolly American guy took of the paperwork and we were on our way. So what’s the message….Americans, for all its faults you should appreciate your government. You have no idea how good we have it!

After that we took a drive over to the Navy Support Site. I wanted to check out their commissary (grocery store) and buy some items that are difficult or impossible to find at Italian grocery stores. For an avid baker, it was bad news when I discovered that brown sugar does not exist here. I searched for a substitute and discovered you can make it with white sugar and molasses. Too bad you can’t buy molasses either! In the end, I bought molasses up at Aviano AFB last summer. You can make a lot of brown sugar with one jar of molasses.

You may be amused by what we bought:

Normal size chocolate chips (they only sell wimpy miniature ones locally)

Butterscotch chips

Cape Cod potato chips (woo hoo!)

Can of baking powder (sold in annoying little packets here)

Vanilla extract

Flour tortillas

Bagels

Two ribeye steaks

Hamburger buns

Bacon

Maple syrup

Transformer fruit flavor snacks

Super Mario Bros fruit flavor snacks

Perhaps not the healthiest selection but it sure will taste good! We topped off our American experience by eating lunch at A&W in the food court. Loved the rootbeer! The burger and fries…..not so much. Overall, it was a nice mini-trip to the U.S.


Can you guess what it means? Now, no cheating…don’t use some Internet translation tool…

 

I’m not quite sure how we’re going to remove said baffi. Russell, along with several other classmates, grew them today thanks to un amico che piace pirati tantissimo. Although, Russell decided that he preferred to be a famous artist. He wouldn’t tell me his name but did insist on calling me by my given name instead of “Mom” for about an hour. You see, I wasn’t his mom while he was in character.


A few Sunday mornings ago, I must have asked the boys ten times to get dressed. They have already perfected the masculine art of selective hearing. (I remember my Grandpa Nubile having this art perfected. It was truly amazing. ) Finally, around lunchtime as I took the last batch of chocolate chip cookies out of the oven, I yelled upstairs, “Whoever is NOT dressed doesn’t get any cookies!” Suddenly I hear little feet scurrying to their room. Five minutes later they arrived, fully dressed. Those kids will do anything for chocolate chip cookies. Whoever says bribery is not a good parenting technique doesn’t have kids….

This winter we decided to take little excursions when the weather is nice on Sunday mornings. It’s easier on the kids than longer trips, especially with Duilio in school on Saturday mornings. Besides, there seems to be castles or ruins of castles on every hilltop around here. We thought it would be fun to A) try to find them and B) hike around them and check them out.

One morning we went to Montoro Inferiore and saw this castle. We were actually looking for a different castle that we have seen from the highway many times! Guess we’ll have to give it another try.

Castle Ruins

View from the castle site – See the snow on the distant mountains!

Old building with pigeon holes

My Little Adventurers

Church adjacent to the castle ruins – It was pretty new – 1800’s….

Statue of Jesus outside of the church.

Another Sunday, we went to Agropoli. This town has been settled since Neolithic times and that is a mighty long time. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agropoli for more on Agropoli.

It’s a pity we didn’t know about this town when we moved here. I think it would have suited us even better than Salerno. It’s small but lively and has a charming corso. It has a centro storico on the hilltop with a castle, of course. Also, nearby are the many lovely beaches of Cilento.

Our budding photographers, Russell and Duilio took many of the photos this day.

We had many photos of cats…I figured I’d better publish at least one…

 

The stairs leading up to the historic center

Taking a break on the corso

I wonder why we look so tall?

Castle

Now that the boys are taking pictures, there will actually be pictures of Luca and I together again….

The old city gates…cool…

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View of the harbor

Agropoli’s corso on a Sunday morning…