Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two months in...

I arrived in Rome on August 30th.  October 30th is around the corner.  I can't believe that I have been here two months...just two months.  It feels much longer than that.

Living here has been so exciting.  I haven't been able to get over the ... shock ... of living outside of the United States.  I wanted to take this post and talk about some things that I miss and don't miss.

Things I miss:

  1. I, of course, miss my family.
  2. I miss my friends.
  3. I miss having a car, but not for the capitalist/globalization reason.  I miss being able to control my own fate, so to speak.  Even going to the mall which is quite far from public transport is a hassle.  It involves a lot of planning or asking a friend to take me.  There's nothing wrong with planning, but it is an adjustment.
  4. I miss the centralization of things.  What do I mean?  Imagine you want to buy five things: a frying pan, a mop, some pens, milk, and some socks.  As an American, where would you go?  You obviously would go to as few places as possible.  You could probably buy all of those things at Target if you weren't obsessed with the brand that you were buying.  Maybe two places if there were special socks you wanted.  Here, I would have to go to five different places (maybe four, at the grocery store they sell mops).  A quick "run" to get errands turns into a big project. Sometimes that can be fun, but when you have hundreds of pages to read...it's not always the best plan of attack :)

Things I DON'T miss:
  1. Americans in the generic sense:  sometimes Americans are so obtuse and narrow-minded.  I have been following the elections, and sometimes I will watch news video and read stories and just see how  friggin' ridiculous everyone acts.  People say Italians are rude, but I think that Americans take the cake sometimes.
  2. Overpriced health care/insurance:  in Italy, health care things are SOOOOOOOOOOOO cheap.  Sometimes you don't even pay.  I had to buy aspirin...barely a dollar.  Other medications are reasonably priced.  It's rare to pay anything more than $20-30 for medication, at least the things that I have had to buy.  I can't imagine ever going back to that the health care hell that is the United States.  I have a private insurance plan, and I pay $400 a year.  That's pretty damn sweet, and I don't even have a job and there's no employer subsidizing my health insurance.
  3. Car insurance/buying gas:  I like not having a car because I hate buying gas and paying for car insurance.  
  4. American bigness: I don't mean fat people.  I mean the bigness of everything.  Go to a supermarket here in Italy, and they only sell things that people buy.  You don't have long long aisles for of processed crap.  No one would buy it.  People go into Italian markets and they buy healthy food.  Pasta, tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, fresh meat.  Most of the store is perishable stuff.  The cereal aisle...doesn't exist.  All the cereal for sale is crammed in with the other grain type stuff.  Juices are juices.  None of this mixture of water, concentrate, and lots of fake, engineered sugars.  It's funny when I first came here I found that all the food tasted funny...but it wasn't the food it was me.  
  5. Overpriced wine: I bought a brand of wine here that I used to buy there.  It's $4 here.  It's $14 in the USA.
Today someone asked me if I wanted to go back to the USA or stay here and try to find work and make it work.  I don't know what my future holds, but I really do like living here, despite the problems.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Shopping for beer

I love Italian supermarkets because they are SMALL!  You don't have to run around this gigantic grocery store that just sells aisle after aisle of crap.  When you walk into an Italian grocery store, the only things they sell are things that people buy (yes, there are larger grocery stores that sell tons of shit that no one buys, but those are generally at the mall -- can you imagine grocery shopping at the mall...go figure!).

The other day I was in there with my housemate, and I noticed this woman was pulling a cart that was just loaded with beer.  In Italy, you can buy beer by the bottle and not just in six packs or cases.  She had probably 20 or 30 bottles in there.  No big whoop.

I passed her about four or five times in the store, and the last time I passed here I was waiting for the woman who cuts the prosciutto to finish up.  The woman was looking at some displays of crackers when a man walked past and muttered something to her.  Neither she nor I heard what he said, so she says, "Pardon?"

The man had said, "Only beer?" Smiling, as if he was making some kind of great joke.

The woman stares into her basket and sees all the battles, doesn't smile, smirk or laugh, looks at a package of crackers on the shelf, picks it up and drops it into her cart.  "No," she says matter of factly and moves off.

The man was flabbergasted by her (lack of) a response, and I almost pissed myself laughing.  A few minutes later, there she was, checking out with her 30 bottles of beer and one package of crackers.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Blog Title Change, yes. URL Change, no.


I decided to change the title of my blog to reflect the fact that I am no longer trapped in North Carolina.  Not that I was ever a prison in the literal sense, it often felt like it.  Now I shall blog about my fun adventures in Rome.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Assertiveness

I learned fast in Italy that you can't be a wallflower or people will simply ignore you.  By being a wallflower, you simply just make it easier for them not to acknowledge you, and they tend to love you for doing that since it generally makes their day easier.

In Italy, people LOVE to chat.  About stupid shit.  Shit that I would never talk about with strangers.  Would you talk to a stranger about how your dog died and you put it down because it was shitting all over the place?  Would you talk about all the dates that you have been on in the last few weeks and how they have all turned into sexual encounters?  Sure, with your BFF and sorority sisters, maybe.  But strangers who come to your counter.  Most likely no.  Why are these strangers talking about these kind of personal things, and, really, I saw what the promiscuous woman looked like -- I didn't really want to see her in my nightmares later on that evening.

I went to have copies of my passport made for some red tape shit I have to do here to get my residence permit (an aside...turns out the fifty pages of my passport I had copied was a waste of time since the immigration official only took the relevant pages), and I dutifully stood in line like any good American boy to wait my turn.  Moments later, five people came in and proceeded to "cut" me in line!  Hello, am I invisible??  The sixth person, a woman, yelled at the people behind the counter for ignoring me and told them that I was ahead of her (she still went in front of me, but at least she helped me to get the ball rolling).

The woman behind the counter proceeded to try to get me to talk to her about stupid shit.  She realized quickly that I wasn't Italian.  If my accent didn't give it away, my American passport in her hands certainly did.  She showed almost zero interest in helping me and moved at a snail's pace.  But with everyone else, the chatty types, she was zippin' and zoomin'.

I learned two things:

1) I need to work on my small talk in Italian and pay more attention to what people are saying in the shops since it might get me faster service

2) I need to learn to speak up (which I got better at when I returned to the copy store the second day) otherwise, I bet you, I would have stood in line at the copy place, even if I was the only one, all friggin' day long waiting for someone to help me.

Live and learn!

The point of this -- being assertive and pushy might seem douchey and rude in the US of A, but, in Italy, it is how you get things done!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Rome!

Finally in Rome!

I've left my hell.

Leaving "hell" was easier said than done.

This year has been one big suckfest -- every action has been aimed at saving money so that I could do this graduate program in Rome.  I'm really excited about it, and it's great to be excited about something since it has been a long time that I gave a fuck about anything.

Well, that's not really true.

This year I've had a sinus infection, shingles, a broken thumb, a prostate infection that won't go away, a skin infection.  It's been like a year of medical bullshit it is not even funny.  The prostate infection is the latest and greatest medical "marvel" to come my way.  It could be worse.  I have a new-found respect for women who have to endure exams at their OB/GYN after having had to spend hours in a urologist's office.  So yeah.

So now I'm in Rome, still on antibiotics for this prostate infection (which no doctor can seem to figure out why I have it since none of the tests come back with any causes).  I can't spend more than 10 minutes in the sun.  Since I arrived here, I have to be careful how much time I spend outside when the sun is out.  It tends to take me a bit longer to get places since I try to avoid the sunny streets and try to intertwine my way towards places that are a bit shadier, but that's fine.  At least the constant urination has stopped.  I also have to avoid eating dairy products and time when I eat certain foods.  I shouldn't drink wine (but I do a bit).  No coffee.  I cut that out completely.  No gelato.  Well, I had one.  No chocolate as it is also loaded with caffeine.  The medicine I am taking seems to make me nervous.  Sometimes I find myself nervous and almost afraid of stupid things.  Like crossing the street.  The pharmacist said it can be normal.  Just avoid things that exacerbate it like coffee, alcohol and chocolate.

Apart from that, life is a peach!