lunedì 28 luglio 2008

La Francia

I haven't given up posting again. I've just been busy . . .
Well actually I have been busy. We took what has now become our yearly journey to France. Whenever our good friend Tiph goes to visit her mother, she kindly invites us to visit. We spend our days eating our meals on the patio, or under a big oak tree, and driving around the quiet little villages that surround the little town where her mother lives. The weather can be a bit tricky. One year we combined our visit with a trip to London. It was late September and London was warm and sunny, while France was cold and rainy. Last year it was quite hot, but it was pretty perfect this year with only a day and a half of rain. Take a gander at the photos if you like:
Although, this doesn't really explain why I've been busy, it does explain what I was doing for a week and a half. The real reason is that three days before we took our 20 hour train ride back to Italy, Scott slipped on a wet paving stone and broke his ankle. Not that we knew it was broken. We were hoping that it was only a bad sprain, but as it kept getting more and more swollen, we were beginning to have our doubts. As we arrived fairly late in the day when we returned, we called the doctor the day after we returned, and thus began our first serious experience with the Italian medical system.
Our doctor suggested that it would be much quicker for us to go to the emergency room, as making an appointment would just delay the whole process. Scott bravely hobbled to and from our destinations on the crutches that we had bought in France, for a bargain price of 24 euros. At the hospital, there was some discussion as to whether he should be classified green or white, white being for those miscreants that come to the emergency room when there is no emergency, since he had waited four days after the initial incident. Luckily it was decided that he was no miscreant and he was given green status, which is third priority, but you have to be pretty bad off for red or yellow. He was seen almost immediately -- I only had time to buy a bottle of water -- and then rushed off for an x-ray, which indicated that his leg was broken, and he'd detached a ligament. Not bad. I think we both were equally dismayed to learn that he would need surgery.
Now this is where a bit of confusion came in. The person treating him said Scott could stay at the hospital and get the pre-op tests, or we could go home and come back. The medic had no idea when the surgery would actually occur, and indicated that it could be a few days. Thinking that Scott could be in the hospital for days, we opted to go home. We arrived at 10:30am and left at 1pm. Not bad for a trip to the emergency room.
I was surprised when, that same afternoon, we received a call telling us to come in the next day for the pre-op tests, and even more surprised when, after he had taken the tests, they said the surgery would be the following day. So we went in on a Wednesday and by Friday morning he was in the hospital having his surgery, and he was able to go home on Saturday. Thankfully our landlord kindly took us to and from the hospital, as it would have been an expensive cab ride.
The upshot is now that he is unable to walk on his foot for 45 days, and he has to use the crutches for 15 days after that. The worst part, for both of us, is that I have to give him an anti-thrombosis shot every day until they take the cast off. I'm not sure who hates it the most. The most interesting thing is that outside of the crutches and a few other first-aid items we bought it France, we haven't had to pay any extra co-payments or fees. It is all included in the yearly fee we pay for the national health-care service. Even the anti-thrombosis medicine is covered.
Well at any rate, outside of sitting on the patio, the summer is pretty well shot. He's been laying down with his foot up since he returned from the hospital. And although he hasn't been too demanding, he can't really even get himself a cup of coffee. Consequently, I've been busy cooking, cleaning, and fetching. The up side is that since he is confined to one area, the house remains fairly tidy. I'm more likely to pick up after myself if I'm sure that I'm the one making the mess. The only thing that I am doing more of is cooking, since he often cooks at least dinner. What I am doing less of is leaving the house, so my volunteer work and such has been curtailed. Although none of this is a reason not to write, so here I am starting over once again.

venerdì 4 luglio 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Last Sunday we had some friends over for dinner. Scott and I always lament about how this usually goes disastrously. Twice we have made burritos, and Scott, not repressing a desire to make his burrito really spicy, has crumpled some extra hot pepper on his burrito. On these two separate occasions, our guest has nearly choked to death because they thought that if Scott was doing it, it would be ok. I have suggested that in the interest of the health of future guests he should avoid the over spicing his food in front of anyone. I don't think he paid attention to me.
Our guests on Sunday had come once before. We made some pasta that was rolled too thin and consequently ended up being a big sticky lump. Another time we invited up the neighbors for some enchiladas, and I made the sauce too spicy. At our friend's house, where we previously had a stellar reputation, we over-kneaded the seitan, and rendered it difficult to chew. This time the food worked out all right, even if the refried beans were a little too gray.
As we had some time before our guests arrived at the Italian dinner hour, 7pm, we decided to go on a hike. Scott had been agitating for some time to walk up Marzola, the mountain behind our house. We've made this walk many times, and I really hate it. The path is very steep and unrelentingly uphill. After almost two months of rain, we suddenly also have fairly hot weather. We went from 18-C to over 30-C in the space of a week. We thought if we left early we would beat the heat.
After having hiked up the mountain from 500m to 1000m, vertically, miserable and sweating profusely, I declared, as I usually do when we take this walk, that this was the last time I was going on this hike, and he would have to find some other favorite trail. Scott agreed that it was a little hot and that maybe we could go to the top on another day. Instead of turning around, we took another path that loops back down towards our house.

When we stopped to take some pictures of this fallen-down shed, we heard some people nearby enjoying the day. Usually we don't see anyone on this trail. I think for obvious reasons. Although once I did see some insane person JOGGING UP the trail. I think he was just showing off however. As we rounded the bend, we noticed there was a family enjoying a Sunday in their Baita ( One of them called out and said, "are you here to steal mushrooms?" I assured him we were just taking a walk and he invited us over for something to drink, which is code for wine, beer or grappa. After hesitating a moment, we decided it would be fun. He had just been kidding about the mushroom stealing jab. We spent the next half hour drinking wine and chatting. They were preparing a big Sunday feast of chicken, lucanica (®ione_id=2), polenta, and most likely crauti, and even invited us to join them. We politely demurred, but had a great time chatting. They were surprised to meet some pasty Americans wandering in the woods. Trentini often ask in a guarded manner what you think of Trentino and the people there, as Trentini have a reputation for being cold and reserved. Scott and I have always found the people here to be very friendly, open and generous, as was proved to us again last Sunday.

giovedì 3 luglio 2008

Hey Jude

Today I was randomly looking at blogs on this site and someone had a playlist of songs that included "Hey Jude." I immediately started thinking about my childhood summers on Cape Cod. Before my grandparents, in typical New England fashion, retired to Florida, they retired to Cape Cod. Of the two, I preferred the Cape. Indiatlantic, Florida smelled of sulfur, and my grandparents lived in a retirement complex. The neighborhood on the Cape was full of kids our age. Besides, Florida never appealed to me they way it did to my grandfather, who adored the idea of the endless summer. To me summer means sunburns and hot weather -- two things I would gladly do without.
Our first summer on the Cape, my grandparents drove to Missouri to pick us up. We were living in St. Louis at the time, and I affectionately called it Misery, mostly because it was. The locals, unused to military families, and divorce, ridiculed me incessantly -- because I talked with my New England accent, because I had a different last name than my parents. The summer there was the first time I had experienced any kind of suffocating heat, and I was more than happy to go to Massachusetts even though my grandparents had moved far from their old Lancaster home.
On the way back we got stuck in a large traffic jam, due to road resurfacing. Oddly enough, considering how many decades have passed, I can still remember the sensation of sitting in the sweltering back seat that day in the boat of a car my grandparents owned, that for some engineering reason only known in Detroit, only had two doors. When we reached Massachusetts, my grandfather discovered that the road resurfacing had left tar on the side panels. He was furious. As a gesture of good will for the kind generousity he demonstrated in fetching us, Kris and I were consigned to tar removal duty for a good part of the summer. This was an endless, and frankly ineffective, task.
At this point we hadn't met any of the kids in the neighborhood, and my grandparents seemed dubious about the small crowd, of mostly boys, that roamed the neighborhood on their bikes. There were only a few other girls in the whole subdivision. Two of them were a year or two older than us, and definitely had attitude. One was a bit younger, and the last one, who was roughly my sister's age is still one of my best friends.
It was obvious that the other kids were curious about who we were, but also didn't seem to know how to approach us. One day, while Kris and I were on tar duty, they were kicking a ball around near us. Finally, they kicked it one too many times close to us that I yelled that if they kicked the ball over our direction one more time that I would stick it where the sun didn't shine. Poor Timmy was left stammering his apologies. While in realty, I was probably more annoyed with having to be on tar duty than anything else.
Oddly enough, that episode eventually broke the ice and Kris and I started hanging out with "the boys," who were obsessed with the Beatles. Being 10, I wasn't yet able to understand that their obession with trivia and song statistics was part of a male bragging pattern, and I listen patiently to all their facts and figures. Only in college would I realize that citing obscure song facts somehow conferred intelligence, in the same way staring at the guitar player -- instead of dancing -- demonstrated that you were a true music afficianado.
One day we were all sitting in Sean's house and Rob was telling me how "Hey Jude" was 5 minutes and 7 seconds long (or was that 7 minutes and 5 seconds). Not realizing that the information was stamped on the disk, I was wondering if they'd sat there with a stopwatch, and was frankly impressed that they would have gone to all that effort. I guess he was trying to impress me, but I was a little less impressed a few minutes later when they showed me the information was on the label. The song however, always makes me think of that great summer we had far away from the heat and misery of Missouri.

mercoledì 2 luglio 2008

Do you speak American?

People here in Italy often ask me if I speak American, as if there were grand differences in the British and American versions of English. Apart from the annoying variations in spelling and slight differences in grammar usage, we use the same language. Of course George W. Bush thinks that Mexicans speak Mexican, and he did receive a resounding applause for this statement. I may have posted this before, but Italians, depending on the region, often don't speak Italian. A great majority of people here in Northern Italy prefer to speak the local dialect, which here in Trentino subdivide further into each little valley. Often communities that are no more that 50 miles apart have difficulty understanding each other's dialect. Maybe this is the reason that I get asked this question. I have to admit that the question often irritates me. It feels like a criticism -- as if we poor, backward Americans haven't yet mastered the language of our superiors. Although there are plenty of British people that express this same sentiment. Perhaps they teach English here in Italy. There is nothing more annoying than being told by someone, who doesn't speak your language perfectly, that you don't speak your own language correctly.
This can be especially irritating when they use English phrases in their own language in a completely incorrect manner. I know I've written before about pseudo-anglicisms but I've recently discovered a few more. I have found out that Italians use the noun "slip" for "underpants" ("pants" for you British folks). An Italian friend here was surprised to discover that a "slip" was that dress you wear under your dress. Interestingly, the term "noprofit" is used instead of "nonprofit." This one is a bit baffling as "non" is the term for negation in Italian. I have searched on the internet to discover if this usage exists in Britain, but found only a website in Italian. I realize that the English language has absorbed and altered foreign words also, so don't break my chops on that issue. This is my soapbox.
Well enough of my lamenting. Thankfully all minor irritations usually pass. Or as my husband says, "time heals all non-fatal (or should that be no-fatal) wounds."