Thursday, July 22, 2010

I should probably add to the household income...

This week we didn't really "do" much but we had several things happen, and of course, some more exciting then others.

I'll start with the bad- car troubles. We bought our car about 2 weeks ago and then out of no where, one morning it decided not to start! It revved like normal, no slowness or lack. It wasn't just a "click" noise- it just wouldn't take the last kick to start. We didn't panic too much because what would what solve? And thanks to Dave Ramsey, we have an emergency fund set up for times like these, so we weren't too worry about the financial aspect. So, after two days of sitting in the parking lot, we found some time to go to the auto shop on base. As they were setting up a tow to get our car, a guy gets on the phone with someone who's car wouldn't start as well. Apparently his car was sitting for two days, the tow truck shows up, and the man decides to give his car a crank, and voila- it starts...hmmm. So we went home right away and gave it a try- and wouldn't you know it started right up. So with that we cancel the tow and decided to just leave it alone and see if it happened again. A few days later- it happened again... and again an few days after that. So we took it to the shop (we actually drove it this time) because also needed AC work. We told them the issue and that (according to my dad) it could be something like the alternator or the fuel pump, so to also take a look at those. After the "diagnostic," they said that it's just an old battery, so if they replace it, that should do that trick. Now, I don't know much about cars, but just recently replaced the battery in my Mustang, and she didn't randomly start and not start, she was just a little slow to start. So this didn't set well with me. I called my dad and he agreed that it didn't sound completely accurate, but he's not here and can't look at it (*tear*), so I'll just have to take the shop's word for it and see how it goes. But I'm not too worried, if it's something else, my car will let me know in a few days, hah! The battery was in fact old, so it's not like it can hurt. We shall see. Oh, and that same day we found out about a shop that's off base and across the street that seems to do more reliable work for a good price, nice. Guess we'll go there if this problem continues, sighhhh.

On a more fun note, we went Italian furniture shopping! We talked to an Italian sales women, where you flip through her catalogs, choose the couches you like, customize certain aspects of it (like the lengths, "L" shape or two separate pieces, the armrests, etc), pick the leather, pick the color, and about six weeks and several thousand dollars later- you have your furniture! The furniture is really neat and we're pretty sure we've decided on our couch & love seat, coffee table and bed frame. Financing it however will come in pieces! James said I don't have to work but the more money we have the quicker we can get all the things we want, hah! If that's not a hint... I don't mind working, it's just my options here are limited and I don't want to have to work on days that his job decides that he doesn't have to. However, I recently found out that the school on base ALWAYS needs substitute teachers and bus supervisors, so I will be looking into that. I've always wanted to be a teacher, so that could be fun- and can confirm what I already figure- I don't have that kind of patience! The bus thing is supposedly really easy. And both they always need and you can always turn down (of course you do have to say yes every so often so you don't get booted from the system). Back to the furniture- I'm kind of nervous because I don't prefer plan colors like black or brown, but I don't want to pick a certain color and then later realize that I don't want that color for years! The couches we like look beautiful in white, but I don't think that's safe either, I think brown is winning... Hmm, I'll keep you posted.

Possible highlight of my week- My friend Michelle sent me a care package, so sweet! Just random items to help me out, such as Starbucks instant Iced coffee. There are no Starbucks here so yay! A little taste of home! Italians take lots of pride in their coffee, I don't think a Starbucks would even survive, well maybe off of tourists in Rome and such, but that's about it! And I think the Italians might be offended... Anyway, she also sent some Tapatio, so I can put the Tabasco aside, hah! What a sweetie! I love my friends :-)

Lowlight of the week- I've been using Pandora since I got here, and the app on my iPhone was recently due for an update, well figures that once I update it- now it says that Pandora is not available in the country I am currently in! What's that all about! Um, can I get an un-update???

Monday, July 12, 2010

Another week ending with a great adventure to Rome

We finally have a car!!! We decided to purchase a 1996 Lancia Delta. It's an Italian car and we paid in cash, woohoo! Dad would be proud! Since we're not accustomed to the driving here, we decided this was the perfect car for the next three years. It's not too small, not too big, it's not in perfect condition, but good for a '96, AND has A/C! So now we're good to go!

On Tuesday night we were able to hang out with some fellow Apostolic families and have a Bible study. I recently found out there are four of us on the base and Chaplain Luff is one of Two Apostolic chaplains in the whole USNavy. What are the odds- isn't God so cool?! :-) So, the Bible study started with us hanging out and chatting, then we sang some songs and moved into the study portion. Afterwords, we had some snacks and chatted some more. It was really good and comfortable to talk, study, and worship with people with the same beliefs and we cant wait to go again next week!

On the home front- we still don't have our household goods shipment, so there a few things that we keep realizing we need (i.e., a broom), and since we now have a car we decided to go to the local Wal-Mart. Actually, it reminds us of Wal-Mart, but it's called Carrefour. So, speaking of buying a broom, they sell the long handle part and the bottom sweeper part separately- odd, but adds to my story. We continued through the store buying random odds and ends, everything was all good and finally it's time to check out. We get in line, another family follows behind, things are going normal, language barrier and all, until the clerk realizes the broom part doesn't have a price tag on it. She asks us but realized we don't speak Italian, so she asks the clerk next to her, she wasn't sure either, so she then makes a phone call, and behind us the line, of course, is only getting longer. Normally we would have just said never mind (or tried to signal it anyway), only she had already rang up the pole part and we weren't trying to go home with a bottomless broom. Then the people behind start getting aggravated, and based on their hand gestures, I think they were suggesting we just forget about the broom, but again with the language barrier, uhh, . And I'm pretty sure at this point everyone knew we didn't speak Italian- classic. Anyway, it ended well and we have our broom, so on to the next adventure!

This weekend the USO (United Service Organizations) brought a concert into town for us. The Lt. Dan Band (a cover band), held a free concert Saturday night on base on. It was a good time to just get out and relax on the lawn with all the other Navy families. The band got their name from the Forrest Gump character Lt. Dan, because he's the same guy who is the face of the band, Gary Sinise. They travel all over the world and do 75% of their shows for the Military which I thought was very cool! They were surprisingly good and did a lot of Classics (Sweet Home Alabama, Don't Stop believing, Ain't No Mountain) and also some newer fun songs (Sara Bareilles- Love Song, Kelly Clarkson- Walk away, Beyonce- Check up on it), and then they ended with God Bless the USA- it was a good time.

Sunday James and I, and some of our friends decided to spend the day in Rome for the first time. We got to the local train station and bought tickets for the 10:40am train and then had some Caffe while we waited. Once we figured out which train was ours, this group of youth run past us and sit all over the car we were in, we didn't think anything of it until we realized they were in our seats- and we had no idea how to tell them this. I would have showed them our tickets, and I'm sure they would have moved because they were looking at us like "I know this isn't my seat..." however, the seating situation was inconvenient and we just decided to stand in the back. While standing we chatted with a local, his English was pretty good, but at one point he didn't understand me, and when I asked him if we were allowed to eat on the train, and he thought I was offering him my banana which was half eaten- and as bad as I felt after, I could not help but to bust out laughing! Poor guy! I apologized and told him, it was ok, as my Italian in no way compares to his English! About 40 minutes into the trip there was a stop and our the kids left our seats so we were able to sit down for the rest of the trip. At about 12:30pm we were in Rome and got on the Red bus tour, since we didn't know what all there was to see, how to get there, and how to ask locals those questions, so we decided this was the easy way to go. The city is amazing with tons of old, as well as new beautiful buildings. They have things there that date back to 1000 B.C, and some of the most detailed architecture I've ever seen. One of our friends said "The Capitol Building ain't got nothing on some of these buildings," and as gorgeous as that building is, she spoke the truth! The tour was very captivating! We got off to eat some food, and it was, of course, delicious! I ordered a Calzone, which I didn't realize was going to be huge, I don't remember what James' lunch was called, but it just as delicious as mine. Now I understand why people said we'd get fat over here. The food has yet to disappoint! Other than the intense heat, touring Rome was great- getting home on the other hand, was quite the experience.
We bought our tickets for the ride home right when we got there to make sure that we could, in fact, get home that same night. This probably wasn't a great idea because we were ready to go home about 2 hours before our tickets would allow. But we were troppers and grabbed something to eat (as much as I hate to say it, we went to McDonalds! We heard it tasted different because they use Olive Oil and have wanted to try it. We also thought we'd save money because food in Rome, like most big cities, is not cheap!). We were passing time in the half air-conditioned McD's until finally we went down to the tracks about 30 minutes early, only to find out our train was delayed by two hours! To pass time again we walked around the station and the mini-mall under the station. we had to change our tickets to the next train because ours was so delayed, although even then, the next train was delayed as well, until finally at about 10:30pm we were headed back to Naples. Once on the train, we found our seats and they were great- we got a little 6 seater cabin thing all to ourselves! A few minutes after the train started rolling along, the lights in our cabin shut off and we had no control over it- uhh, that can't be good. I think we were going a little senile by then and wanted to document our disastrous train experience, so our friend turned on her camera, only for the picture not to be able to take because the her battery was too low, nice. So I took out our camera, took a picture and then looked down, and my battery, too was about to die. Then we took out the video camera and couldn't figure out how to turn on the light- which only added to our mess of an experience.

We had another great week and weekend full of laughs and new sites! And now I have learned not to buy our tickets back home right when we get somewhere!

This is James saluting the American flag at the US Embassy (formerly princess Margherita's Palace).
Love him!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New apartment and new sites!

This weekend was CRAZY, and a blast!

We moved into our apartment on Friday! Finally! We're really excited about it, everything is coming together quite smoothly, though, I'm not gonna lie, there could be some changes- like who actually wants a bidet in their shared bathroom? It seems awkward to me... privately tucked away in your bedroom bathroom, maayybe, but one that is at the end of the hallway for any guests' usage? No thanks! Everything is manageable though, at least once I lose the fear of blowing up the place every time I cook! Eek! Also, we are using loaner furniture, compliments of the US Navy, while waiting for the rest of our shipment to make it over here, good times. Oh, and we definitely put some things in the wrong shipment, i.e., our silverware, pillows and some other necessary odds and ends aren't here yet... Whoops.

We also had our first visitor from home, Kendall, and it was a blast. We hadn't got our car yet so we rented one and we took her on our first adventures to Pompeii and Capri. Pompeii was incredible. The old paintings on the walls had me mesmerized, and the architecture from that long ago (79 AD)- and it is partially still standing! Wow! Also, there was tons of Pottery, and one of our friends pointed out that they didn't have the tools and machinery we have now and yet it was so perfect looking as if they did! It's pretty indescribable, so you'll just have to come for a visit and witness it first hand! We were there for about two hours and didn't even cover half of the town. We'll definitely being going back there! And hopefully taking a real tour next time. They give you a map and book but it wasn't as helpful as the tour guides seemed and it was hard to track as you walked, so we didn't know what anything was. We did however use our imaginations, and created some good times for the People of Pompeii... and of course eavesdropped the occasional passing tours!

And Capri! Everyone should see this island, or something like it, at some point in the their life! The water was like the color of blue Powerade, and as clear! We woke up kind of late that day because I set my iPhone for Italy time, but the clock is still on MD time... Uh, Hi... So we didn't get out until about 10am and then we caught the 12:40pm boat across the water from Naples to Capri. When we got there we were fortunate enough to catch the last tour boat around the Island. The tour is about two hours long and stops at The Blue Grotto. It's a cave with a tiny opening (we had to switch to a four man boat and lay down to enter the cave), and then it's open on the inside. The way the water shines in and reflects off the rocks and water makes the water look like it's glowing- mesmerizing! Then we hung out on the island, checked out the shops and got dinner. I had Bruschetta as an appetizer- most delicious I've ever had! The tomatoes are fresh and it was nice and salty and OH so yummy! That was followed by spaghetti. I think the best way to describe the food here (other than perfect) is fresh. You just feel like you're eating healthier and more fresh food. It's great. Though I have no idea how many calories or fat I'm in-taking because the nutrition labels are different (and in Italian) and I don't think the laws are the same here as far as providing nutrition facts- though even if they were I couldn't read them!

Finally, Monday, we toured downtown Naples. It was a day full of "parla inglese?" (Do you speak English?), beautiful old buildings, a castle, iced coffee, gelato- you know, the usual Italian living! One sharable moment- here pedestrians have the right-of-way at crosswalks, common sense right? Only if you make eye contact with the car you're walking out in front of, you have given up your right-of-way. So, basically you have to just walk and hope you don't get hit (main intersections DO however have crossing signals, fyi), we haven't had the guts to try this out, until we got to a street where no breaks in traffic were to be seen (and an Italian in front of us did it), so we went for it! Needless to say, you didn't get a phone call, so you know - we all made it across in one, fully functioning piece. The whole time crossing we were saying "we're doing it, we're so doing this!" I feel so "in" now! So, after a long day of walking around the town, we took Kendall to the main train station so she could get back to Florence where she was studying abroad. And along the way we found "Africatown" down one on the allies. I felt like I was in NYC again! They had knock off purses, sunglasses, watches and many other odds and ends. The amusing thing was probably how many languages they spoke! There was an African man and an Asian Women communicating in Italian! Which leads me to think about one thing- I NEED TO LEARN THIS LANGUAGE!

Well, it was a great weekend, lots of good memories, and good to have had a piece of home for just a bit! We were glad to have our first visitor and now back to real life in Italia!

Classic Capri:

Blue Grotto!