Sunday, August 19, 2007

We're leavin' on a jet plane...

Note: I meant to post this before we left, but it didn't post, for some reason. The trip went well, and I'll post again soon (after my jet-lagged brain recovers).

Our summer stateside vacation is finally over, and we leave for Italy later tonight. Aside from family and friends, here are the top three things I'll miss most about the U.S.:

1. the clothes dryer, and all the warm, soft, fluffy clothes that it produces. Sigh.

2. caramel frappucinos

3. ample parking

Here are the top three things I'm looking forward to when we return:

1. The clinking sound of real cups and saucers when I go into a bar for coffee. Since Italians never get coffee to go, there are no paper/Styrofoam cups with lids in Italy. The clinking comes from people setting their cups onto saucers, baristi clearing the cups and saucers from the bar and then stacking them in the sink to await washing. It's funny--I never paid much attention to the clinking until I got here and noticed it was missing.

2. pizza--As much as I love American pizza, I've missed the Italian version. It's not that one is necessarily better than the other. Like chocolate chip cookies and peanut butter cookies--both are good. But different.

3. sagras--These are outdoor cookouts with live music held all over the city and its outskirts. The menu's usually the same--grilled meats, french fries, sauerkraut, Nutella-filled crepes--yanno, food that's bad for you. Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Big 4-0

Today's my 40th (eek!) birthday.

If I were in Italy today, my Italian friends would not have taken me out for lunch or a celebratory birthday drink. Nope. I would have been expected to take them out and buy them a round of drinks for my b-day. That's right. As the birthday girl, I would also be the one to bring my own cake. At least I wouldn't be expected to buy my own gifts, though. There's always that.

The Italian translation of "Happy Birthday" is Buon Compleanno, but Italians usually don't say this to you on your birthday. Instead, they say Tanti Auguri, which means "Many Good Wishes." Come to think of it, Tanti Auguri is probably best tranlated as: "I wish you happiness, health, and above all, prosperity, so you can take me out and buy me a drink on your birthday."

Tanti auguri to you all!

Friday, August 03, 2007

My first meme

CynJay tagged me with this meme ages ago, so I think it's about time I followed through! If you've never heard of a meme before, here are the rules:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Since this is a blog about ex-pat life in Italy, I'll try to list 8 things that also offer insight into la bella vita Italiana. Here goes:

1. I've been married twice the same guy. We had a wedding in the U.S. on December 21, and another one in Trieste on December 26. I got to wear my wear my wedding gown twice! And we got to share our special day with friends and family from both sides of the ocean.

When my Italian in-laws saw the video of our American wedding reception, their first comment wasn't about the beautiful inn, decorations, cake or guests. No. The first thing out of their mouths was: "No one is smoking!" Hadn't thought of that, but they were right.

2. I wore a cowboy hat at my wedding.
No, I'm not Texan (although I did live there from 5th-8th grade), and I only wore it for about 2 minutes. And it wasn't my idea. Or even my hat. At Italian weddings, friends of the bride and groom plan scherzi (jokes or pranks) for the happy couple, which can range from silly to downright embarrassing. For one of these scherzi, my husband and I had to wear cowboy hats (because all Americans are cowboys, of course), sit in chairs facing each other, and hold a spoon in our mouths with a lighted candle on each ( the candle was stuck to the spoon with wax, so no balancing act was required, thank goodness). We were then given water pistols, and the first to put out the other's flame won. I, of course, emerged victorious.

3. I've had purple hair.
Okay, so it wasn't purple purple. But still. We had spent the summer in Italy, and I decided to get my hair colored before we went back home. I'm naturally a brunette with a hint of red highlights. So when the hairdresser asked if I wanted a reddish tinge added to the brown color, I agreed. When I took a gander at the finished product, my hair was brown. But in the right light, it had a purple sheen. Yikes. And my sister's wedding was a few weeks away. I later learned that when my family picked us up from the airport, my mom and sister were mouthing "OMG! Her hair is purple!" behind my back.When Americans color their hair, the goal (usually) is for it to look natural. Italians, on the other hand, figure they're paying an arm and a leg for salon-styled hair, so they might as well show it off.

4. I once taught a princess a thing or two.
When I first came to Trieste, I taught Kindergarten at the International School of Trieste. One of my students was actually a princess who lived in a real castle, the Castello di Duino. And she and her mother (also a princess) were two of the most down-to-earth, pleasant people I've ever met.

5. I've attended mass at the Vatican.
My parents, sister and I went to Rome for spring break, and we got tickets to the Vatican for Easter mass. Being Methodists, we felt like we were infiltrating Vatican City, but the pope didn't seem to notice. We filed in and took our seats in the pews, waiting for the pope's entrance. When he entered, I was expecting a solemn atmosphere worthy of one of the most famous, revered people on the planet. Instead, the crowd cheered, whooped, hollered, whistled, jumped up and down, and waved signs that said things like: "Brazilians love the pope!" It was akin to being at a European soccer match when the players take the field. Those crazy Catholics!

6. I crossed the finish line of a 10K race...from the wrong side.
Many road races in Italy are not timed. I didn't know this when I showed up for my first Italian 10K. Not only are the races untimed, but there's a 2-hour starting window, which means you can show up anytime from, say, 9:00 to 11:00, and start the race. My husband and I showed up closer to 11:00 (this was when we used to sleep in on weekends, before we had kids, obviously). By 11:00, most people had started and finished the race, so there was no pack for us to follow. The trail was supposed to meander through the countryside, but it wasn't well-marked and we got lost. Really lost. The race turned out to be more like 15K by the time we finally straggled across the finish line. From the opposite direction.

7. I didn't know my husband's name until we started planning our wedding.
I knew his first and last name, but there was a bit of confusion about his middle name. When we were first getting to know each other, I asked him what his middle name was. He said: "What do you mean, my middle name?" I didn't realize at the time that Italians don't usually have middle names. So I said: "You know, the second name your parents gave you, after your first name." He said: "Boris." Ouch. (No offense to any blog readers named Boris). We both agreed that it...wasn't the best of names, and had a good laugh.

When it came time to have our wedding invitations printed up, I said that it was traditional to have our full names printed on the invitations. I teased him, saying he should include "Boris." Come to find out, Boris is not my husband's middle name. My husband doesn't even have a middle name. When my in-laws were coming up with names for my husband before he was born, Boris was second on their list. Whew! That was close.

8. I've sunbathed topless.
If you've followed my blog, you'll know that breasts are everywhere, and they're not a big deal. When I got to Italy and realized that topless sunbathing is the norm, I thought maybe I should try it--"When in Rome," and all that. But what if I ran into someone I knew? My students? The parents of my students? A colleague? Nope. I just couldn't do it. But then we went to Lago di Garda, a gorgeous lake hours away from Trieste. When I saw that we were surrounded by sunburned Germans (also topless), I knew I was safe. So I did it. And it wasn't bad! Since then, I do sunbathe topless, but only when I'm faaaaaar from home. With plenty of sunscreen. And no cameras allowed.

Now I'm supposed to tag 8 people, but most everyone I "know" has already done this meme, so I'm tagging two children's writers, Rose and Mindy, and Edna a children's writer/illustrator).