San Gimignano

San Gimignano
Beautiful city of San Gimignano, where we spent last Sunday afternoon.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Is it October Already!?

The girls at the always beautiful Cinque Terre :-)

Mary Beth and Melissa were both here and we visited Sienna!
I am obviously not very good about timely postings on this blog. My last posting was in June.  If you're counting that was 3 months/90 days ago.  A lot has happened since then but there is NO way I'm going to write it all down here.  Let me summarize in a few sentences and leave it at that. We had a lot of house guests lol  Steve went back to the states for a month and I stayed here in Italy. It was just me and Lyra for most of July.  I went to Paris with LeeAnna for a week ( we missed our return flight and that's a story unto itself!).  I learned to successfully can jelly and jam!  Mary Beth and Hannah came and visited for 10 days :-)   It got very, very hot for one week!  The beaches in Italy are quite nice in the summer. The Italian countryside scenery is even nicer.  I went stateside for 3 weeks in September where I had a wonderful time visiting with family and friends and ate my way through NW Alabama.  There, that about sums up the 3 months!

I am now back in Italy enjoying cooler weather, the beautiful fall scenery and anticipating Alabama house guests arriving tomorrow and my Dad to arrive in mid October :-)  Steve and I have spent most of this weekend just getting the house in shape for a month of guests, stocking up on groceries and allowing me to get over jet lag.  I think we are not as young as we used to be!  I have somehow managed to injure my right shoulder (rotary cuff tear) over the summer and he has been nursing a lower back strain for several weeks. We've gotta up our game around here LOL

So rather than lots of details in this blog I'm going to post some pictures I took this summer..... in a walk on the dirt roads right back behind our house :-) as well as a few in our travels this spring and summer.  It's a beautiful walk and it is always changing with the crops and the scenery.  We went last night and it looks even different now than what these pictures show :-)

Olive Trees-We are going to get to help harvest them and take them to press at the end of October!

Evening Shadows
Grapes in August-Harvested in October

Apple Orchard behind our House looking toward the Mountains

White Grapes-These were picked when I got back late September
Lyra makes sure she walks through every mud puddle!
Walking on the country roads behind our house-Lyra loves it!

Mary Beth and Hannah looking over the wall in Cortona

Sunflower fields were everywhere all summer!

Nancy, Reid, Niki and I in Cinque Terre
Dave and Mary Beth on their visit :-)
My very first Plum Jelly!
Kathy and Dale in San Gimignano-A beautiful place!
Steve and Melissa-looking very Italian.
July in Paris-LeeAnna and Delisa-The Louvre

The Straw Market in Florence-The famous Pig,if you rub his nose legend has it that you will return to Florence
Verona with Melissa-Home of Romeo and Juliet

Stunning stained glass chapel!  St. Chappelle-Paris

This is actually an old picture from 2004 inVenice :-)  It was taken during Carnevale in February. Mary Beth is celebrating her 16th b'day and Melissa isn't quite 13. She has just gotten a "mask" painted on her face.  Wonderful memories :-)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Home in Italy-Colignola

I must confess that when I created this blog I thought I would be better about writing short, concise blogs to help family and friends get a sense of what our life is like in Italy.  Alas, that is just not the case.  Days and weeks go by and more and more happens and I just don't manage to get it down in to words.  It's like all those photos you take and they keep amassing and multiplying until finally it is just overwhelming because you don't know where to begin organizing them all.  I don't even want to hear from all of you have have volumes of scrapbooks neatly labeled and on the shelves :-)

So, I am starting a simply posting here showing and explaining where we live.  We live right outside of Pisa in a small little Italian village called Colignola.  It is right outside of Pisa but you would never know it from walking down the main street.  I will post pictures of some of the shops on main street soon ( pesceria/fish shop, pizzeria, salemeria/salami shop, fruit and vegetable shop and of course the normal shops like hardware, etc.).  When we drive home we turn off the main street on to a one way street right by the only Pizzeria in town.  If we meet another car we have to pull over or they have to pull over to let the other car pass.  Sometimes we have to reach outside our window to tuck in the side mirrors :-)  This road quickly turns in to a pot holed dirt road for about 1/3 mile before we turn left and then we are at our drive way.

We lease our house from Mr. Franco and his family.  Mr. Franco is 80 years old and from what I can gather has always lived in this area.  He lives with his son, Marco and his wife and their 5 children in a two story home.   It is surrounded by their olive orchard and fruit trees. Mr. Franco has a HUGE garden where he raises artichokes, zucchini, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, strawberries, all sorts of fresh lettuces and a variety of other vegetables.  We are fortunate to enjoy the abundance of this garden too!!  He also raises chickens and we enjoy fresh eggs frequently.  At least every day or too he calls over the fence or rings the bell at the gate and is bringing over a basket of goodies to me.  It is wonderful!  Mr. Franco does not speak English and I speak little to no Italian but we manage to carry on a rudimentary conversation with a lot of gesturing, pointing and good will.  He has taught me the Italian names for most of the vegetables, taught me how to prune my fruit trees, how to dig for potatoes, how to trim off the lettuce as soon as it is cut from the garden and I'm sure there will much more to learn this year. I have a lot to learn.  I looked yesterday and there must be hundreds of tomatoes green and going to be ready on the vine within the next 2-3 weeks.  I'm thinking I'm going to have to learn how to put up tomatoes, maybe?  There are a LOT of tomatoes in that garden!

Marco his son speaks English very well and is the one we go to for our questions about Italy.  If we need to know where to go to get something repaired, where to go for something, why Italians do something a certain way, an explanation for anything....Marco is who we ask.  Although his Italian is very good he still has to frequently ask us about slang words we use or to repeat what we've said.  Our Southern accent gives him some difficulty, imagine that LOL!  He repeated a word after me a few weeks after we moved in and he spoke with a perfect Southern accent complete with about 10 syllables (it was quite funny) and I told him he could NOT learn to speak English from me :-)  The Profetti family has been just wonderful to live next door to and we could not have asked for a better landlord or neighbors.  It has made living in Italy a more enriching experience than we would have had if we just lived without having daily contact with an Italian family.

Our house is very modern and nice by most Italian standards.  They built it to lease to American families at Camp Darby however they likely will have their own family living in the house at some point in the future (they have 5 children ages 21 and under).  Most Italian children live at home until they marry which is usually close to 30.  Our house while not having that old Italian charm has many of the amenities you would not find in a typical Italian home.....i.e. we have air conditioning, showers with good water pressure,  a kitchen with built in cabinets, etc.  Those things would not be in a typical Italian home that you go to rent.  We also have a solar hot water heating system on the roof as well as a fire place with hot water heating.  Excellent windows and shutters (to keep out the heat and let in the cool breezes) without using that VERY expensive AC.  Utility costs in Europe are extremely expensive so anything to keep from using gas, electricity, etc. are used as much as possible by the Italians AND by the Browns too lol   We gladly use our clothesline to hang out our clothes rather than the clothes dryer every chance we get or we would have a 500 Euro electricity bill (about $600-$700).

Mr. Franco and Marco built us a new patio right after we moved in complete with lights.  We have really enjoyed spending cool Italian evenings outside, grilling out and watching the sun set.  The sun doesn't usually go down here until around 9 p.m.  Unlike in Alabama, around 7 -8 the temperature begins to get noticeably cooler here and once the sun drops it is sweater cool outside and very pleasant to eat outside, sit and talk.  There is a cherry orchard right behind our house that I enjoyed watching the cherries come to fruition.  About a month ago they covered the whole orchard in netting (it must be 7-10 acres at least) to keep the birds from eating the cherries.  They began to pick the cherries in early June.  I posted a picture earlier of the bright red cherries.  They are delicious and you see them everywhere now, in the markets, grocery stores and being sold almost everywhere we go.  I don't see them over in our orchard now so I think the cherry season must be about over.

Right beside our house and in our yard we have our own fruit trees!  Mr. Franco has tried to tutor me in how to take care of them (in Italian, yikes!) and they are now all getting ripe.  We have peaches, apricot, nectarines, plums, prunes (yep, that's what he said), figs, and a couple of things I'm not sure what he said they were. It's really been fun to watch the trees leaf out, the fruit bud and grow and now we can begin to pick an eat it.  Lyra, our English Springer Spaniel has great fun going around picking up the fruit on the ground and eating it.  How she keeps from getting sick from all the fruit she eats I do not know, but so far she's good.   Steve went out today and picked all the nectarines because they are ripe and needed picking so tonight we eat peeled nectarines with our grilled vegetables for dinner :-)

I am going to post some pictures and will attempt to put descriptions with each picture.  We'll see how that goes :-)

Mr. Franco is explaining to me back in the spring about his herbs.  He speaks no English and I speak little to no Italian.  We do a lot of gesturing and smiling but we manage to communicate and have a good time :-)   His garden now is lush and just full of so many beautiful vegetables!

This is the front of our house.  The tiled roof and stucco is very typical of most Italian homes.  All the windows except the 3 small ones you see have shutters that can be opened and closed, for privacy and for letting in the cool breezes.  The fruit trees are on the right side of the house.

This is the side entrance to the house, walking in from the parking and covered carport area.  The little pine tree pictured is very unusual and beautiful with gold and red foliage.  The solar heating panel is on the roof and my clothes line is on the left :-)

The bushy vine on the left is a grape arbor and is full of tiny clusters of grapes. Grapes are harvested in the fall.   In the rear you can see the net covered cherry orchard.  8-10 acres completely covered in netting to keep the birds off of the red, red cherries. They are delicious!  We spend most nights eating on the patio since it doesn't get dark until about 9 p.m. and gets much cooler after about 7 p.m.

Steve is picking the nectarines which are ripe now.  Peaches are on the tree to the left and are almost ripe.  There are peach orchards about 200 yards in front of our house that were picked last week . Lyra, the dog loves to eat the fruit that falls on the ground.  That habit is left over from her years in England and eating the apples off the tree :-)

The first picking of the peaches.  The trees are heavy with the peaches and we will have many peaches in the next 2-3 weeks.  I'm thinking peach pie, peach shortening cakes, peach ??  Alas, no homemade peach ice cream, since we did not bring our freezer :-(

My geraniums and basil....along with Lyra coming out of the backdoor of the house.  The doors also have shuttered doors that let the breezes in but keep the bugs and the sun out.

Peaches hanging on the tree!

And Lyra eating her fruit.  She is a happy dog!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Verona and Cinque Terre Pictures-May 2012

Melissa and I having lunch in front of Teatro Olmpia in Verona

The balcony from "Romeo an Juliet"  :-)

The bell tower in Verona. It is going to ring in about 5 minutes and there are signs to warn everyone of how very loud is is going to be

On the bridge in Verono, a beautiful city!

Cinque Terre

Lunch cliffside at Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre

Melissa and I at Cinque Terre walking between two villages.

Mary Beth and Melissa look down at the Mediterranean

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre!!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Italian Liberation Day-April 25 1945

There is a busy road about 1 mile behind our house named "April 25" which we found a rather strange name for a road.  Steve's secretary was telling him a few weeks ago that there were many roads in Italy named "April 25" because this was the day that the Allies helped to liberate Italy during WWII.  It is a National Holiday and everything closes down across the country.  There are parades, festivals, political speeches and other celebrations to commemorate this significant event in Italian history.

What I find especially moving is that the Americans played a major role in helping to liberate Italy at that time.  I wish I knew more about Italian history in particular  and I plan to read more during the coming months.  In the meantime I ask Steve a many questions :-)  He knows a lot about history!

About 45 minutes from us and just South of Florence is a large American cemetery where 4000 Americans servicemen are buried because they died fighting in WWII.  We often forget the sacrifices that have been made for the freedoms we enjoy now.  That is said so often I know.  Maybe it is because it is so true.  I believe it important that our children be taught history, taken to historical sites, explained the significance of historical events that have happened and that are happening now.  Our girls can certainly tell you that they were dragged to places they did not want to go to but now appreciate the exposure they have had :-)  I'm willing to bet they will be dragging their own children to some of those same spots.

When we lived in England we had a young housekeeper who worked for us.  She was probably in her 30's or so.  It was during the time that we invaded Iraq and the war and our invasion there was DEEPLY unpopular.  There were marches in London.  It was all over the news daily. Tony Blair was taking  huge political heat from his support of the Iraq war and of George Bush.  I remember asking her about her opinion on it all and her families position, just because I was interested in what a British family thought....not because I was trying to sway her opinion one way or another.  After a little discussion, she stopped and said, My g'mother said...."I remember the war (referring to WWII), if it hadn't been for the Americans we would have been lost, and I will forever be grateful".  Her statement brought tears to my eyes.  Not because we were right or wrong, but just because there was some recognition that at one time we did something that was still remembered by this family and they appreciated it :-)

I have attached a few links here if you are interested in reading a little more about Liberation Day in Italy.  I wish I had the time to go out and make some pictures in the towns close around but maybe next year.  Today I'm getting ready for house guests from Alabama tomorrow :-)  Plus I have my 2nd Italian class tonight.  I had to practice counting to 10 today and learning my days of the month LOL  It's kind of like being in Kindergarten except we don't get snacks or get to take a nap.

Here is a link to the Florence American cemetery:

Liberation Day-Italian Colors

And the Americans join in the Liberation Day Parades :-)
Liberation Day-April 25, 1945
I am guessing this g'mother was a little girl during Liberation Day 1945?

Wow! Just found this picture. African American platoon takes this position just a few miles North of Lucca in the foremost point occupied byAmerican troops.  Lucca is about 45 minutes from where we live.  It is a beautiful walled city and a wonderful place to visit. Amazing that only a few decades ago WWII was going on all around us!
City Festivities

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Keeping it Real Here!

I don't want friends and family to think that we are on one long vacation in Italy here.  That is why I always try to blog about real life here in Italy.  Yesterday life got a little bit too real for me.  Here is a disclaimer to say that the following blog may be a little "TMI" (too much information) for some people and that those under 50 may not find this blog interesting at all and will certainly not find it anywhere as humorous as those over 50 will, but I want to KEEP IT REAL here and yesterday was definitely real. So here goes......

Getting our prescription drugs filled has always been a real challenge when we lived in Japan, England and now Italy.  It has been more of a challenge here in Italy because the mail is not as reliable.  Most of the time we have my Dad, Melissa or a friend to pick up our filled prescriptions and mail them to us. With health insurance the way it is now that is always a challenge because insurance sometimes won't fill some prescriptions but every 30 days or until a certain time and when you throw in 7-10 days mailing time, well, we have a problem.  PEEHIP (our insurance) made the stupid decision NOT to have a mail order option so brick and mortar pharmacy is our only option at this time.

Over a week ago I asked Melissa to call our pharmacy that shall remain unnamed here to re fill my Prempro.  If you don't know what this is I need to explain here.  It is an HRT (hormone replacement therapy).  I started taking a low dose about 6 months ago so I wouldn't accidentally kill someone who said something to irritate me at the wrong time ( all you middle aged menopausal women know exactly what I mean!).  If you are female and not there yet you will be someday, trust me.  After menopause it's amazing how irritating some things and people can be :-)   So Melissa called our pharmacy on a Monday, asked them to fill my prescription and mail it to me.  They said they would.  End of story.

I knew I was going to run out on Friday but I thought, well the Prempro would be here on Monday or Tuesday (hopefully!).  So on Monday I decided I better called unnamed pharmacy to ensure they DID mail it out to me.  I get on Skype to make the phone call ....having to wait until 4 pm my time until they opened at 9 a.m. THEIR time.  Skype cut me off 3X.  Remember I'm off my meds here.  Steve finally calls for me on his Skype account and gets through.  I can tell from his end of the conversation it's not going well.  Let's just say they did not fill OR mail my Prempro.  Fortunately, I don't think they could hear what I said from the other side of the room.  I am not happy with the drugstore!

So there I am, off this medication for 3 days now which medically I'm not supposed to just quit taking.  My pharmacy has NOT sent it to me.  What do I do now?  I call my good friend that I always call in a bind that I will let remain anonymous here who calls my Dr.'s nurse.  We attempt to get a prescription emailed to me (can't do this, it's not allowed),  It's the end of the day on Monday, I'm without meds another day.

Tuesday morning I wake up with an email with all my Dr's contact information and head to the base clinic to try to get my prescription filled.  The nice pharmacist there is very, very helpful but cannot fill the prescription without a copy of it from Alabama (we are 7 hours ahead of Alabama).  PLUS they don't carry what I take, I would need to take 2 different types of meds.  Remember I am off of my Prempro for 5 days now and my patience on a scale of 1-10 is about a 1.  She finally suggests I try the Italian pharmacy since they are more relaxed about dispensing drugs and might can help me.  If this doesn't work we agree I will come back on Wed. and ask for an appointment and a new prescription (which I will have to pay for an file on my insurance myself). Did I mention I am NOT happy with the Alabama drugstore!  Soooooooo.......

I have to wait for 3 hours because the Italian pharmacies close from 1-4 pm every day.  Hey, it's Italy!  At 4 pm I manage to find the Italian pharmacy on my own, park, get out of the car with everything I need....hand written what I'm taking (from the base pharmacist), my empty blister pack of Prempro, my email from my Alabama Dr.'s nurse, etc.  I am praying someone speaks some English!   I go up to the door and it won't open even though I can see people inside.  So I am turning around looking puzzled and then the man sitting in the car watching me with his own puzzled look just points toward another door (that is standing WIDE OPEN) and I look at the door, look at him ......and give him the thumbs up.  I walk through the front door :-).

There are two pharmacists on duty. Fortunately I get the woman pharmacist who appears to be mid 30's or so.  I ask if she speaks English and she says "a little".  I slowly and simply begin to explain what the problem is and ask if I can get this and give her the empty Prempro package.  She takes it and begins to look in the computer seeing if they have it.  She's looking puzzled, calls the other pharmacist over, they are talking in Italian, looking at the package, looking at what the base pharmacy wrote down and I am thinking.....if I can't get this today I'm going to go berserk.  I can see the headlines now.  Small American woman goes crazy in Italian pharmacy.  She finally begins to explain that she can get it in a smaller dosage but in Italy they don't carry that exact dosage.  I tell her "Well, something is better than nothing" and I tell her that I need to get back on it before I choke someone.....and I make a motion like I'm doing that.  She smiles big and nods her head.  I hope the humor came across and she didn't think I was a danger to anyone LOL

At the end of the day, she gave me a blister pack of Prempro, not at my exact dosage and it cost me 25 Euro which I happily, happily paid with a big smile on my face.  I could tell she was amused. I told her "Grazia" several times and she smiled big and nodded her head.  After paying and gathering up my things I headed for the door (that I came in by).  It would not open for me.  So I am standing there trying to get out.   My nice lady pharmacist comes out from behind the counter, directs me to the OTHER door with a smile on her face and I tell her......"Grazia, Grazia"!  I guarantee you that whole place laughed once I was gone and my pharmacist will tell friends about the crazy American lady that so desperately needed her hormones she couldn't even find her way out the door!

PS I took the first dose as soon as I got in the car.
PSS And now I am headed out this morning to shop with friends at some Italian thrift stores.

Don't say I didn't warn you that this was probably too much information for some of you LOL  Keeping it real here!

Monday, April 16, 2012


If you know what the acronyms in my title mean you have either been in the military, have worked with the military or been somehow affiliated with the govt. in some way :-)   I took my title from the children's book "Lions, Tigers and Bears, Oh My!"  After 2 weeks we are somewhat settled in to our house, have working appliances delivered, internet is hooked up and working (after two weeks without it), we have our 8 channels of AFN TV ( I can hear you military/govt folks laughing from here!) and generally have survived the move intact.  

Since we have been through several international moves we knew what to expect and what to anticipate might be a problem.  Our first international move to Japan in 1999 was a HUGE learning curve!  We quickly learned then that the Government and the military love acronyms :-)  A move is not a "move", it is a PCS.  Your furniture, clothes, kitchen supplies,...well, that is your HHG (household goods).  The 1,000 lb. shipment they send early because you will need it BEFORE your HHG gets there (but it never arrives early) is called Unaccompanied Baggage. I can't remember the acronym right now for that.

One of my funniest stories and very true is a conversation that took place during one of the numerous phone calls with DC when I first got hired in '99 to go to Japan.  They were sending me volumes of paperwork to complete, a great deal of which I didn't understand, we were trying to get ready to make an international move, our friends and family thought we had lost our minds and I was still working my job at Winfield Elementary between wondering whether we HAD lost our minds.   During this particular phone call the detailer in DC (who was working with me on my paperwork) in preparation to go to Japan was barking question to me, taking down my answers, etc.  In the midst of all of this he announced we would be leaving from CONUS.  I had already asked soooooo many questions in the past few weeks I didn't want to interrupt him and tell him I did NOT know where CONUS was located.  So when I got off the phone I wrote my future new friend in Japan (the librarian who was my contact there) and told her I did not know where CONUS was and we were supposed to leave from there!  She immediately emailed me back and I could tell was highly amused at my question. She told me that CONUS was the acronym for "Continental United States".  We were leaving from the United States!!  Well, why didn't they just SAY SO!!  :-)

We have been dealing lately with TQSA, TLA, OHA, HHG, UTEP and lots of other fun acronyms I won't even go in to.  All offices on base are usually marked with acronyms and referred to with these acronyms.  This week we are working on LQA and COLA, getting that set up for the year.  Anyone familiar with DFAS? :-)  Even if you don't you do know the IRS don't you?

Just thought of another funny story from my "didn't know a thing about working for the U.S Govt overseas" days.  During the afore mentioned numerous phone calls before we went to Japan, the detailer one day was once again barking questions at me and one day he barked out "social?".....and I thought "well, I like people as well as the the next person but I'm going out every weekend to parties and what does this have to do with me working in Japan??"   Actually he wanted my social security #  LOL

I am headed to the Esselunga, which is a nice upscale Italian grocery store. I will post some pictures and a report of that experience in the near future.   I have only been twice and it's like an adult field trip every time I go!  Although this time may not be as much fun.  After two months of eating lots of pasta, cheese, salami, gelato and all the Italian food I wanted to (see TQSA above)...I have been on an old-fashioned American diet the last week or so.  It will be hard to go in an Italian grocery store with their delicious cheeses, breads and treats and not walk out with all the things I really want to eat.  I'm sticking with the diet for the next two weeks though.  Summer is coming and I've got to get back in my summer clothes.  Also we have visitors coming in two weeks and I know we'll be eating like the Italians during their visit!!


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Establishing an Italian Bank Account-you should have been there

Since Steve is the only employed adult on this tour of duty and I am the (happily!) retired adult, I am tasked with dealing with all the logistics of taking care of settling us into our new life here.  I really cannot fully explain on paper what all that entails. If you have made an international move you will understand.  If you have not had that lovely experience you will not understand.  I do try to share some of our experiences with this blog...the good, the bad, the funny, the unbelievable, etc. A lot of what happens is lost in translation, sort of "you really had to be there" :-)

We move into our new house next week.  In order to make that move happen we have had several meetings with the base housing office, visits to the house, one meeting with the Italian landlord and his son at the base housing office (with the meeting conducted almost entirely in Italian), etc.  I still have to meet with another office in order to have loaner appliances signed for and delivery scheduled.  Another office is working to have utilities set up and transferred in to our name.  Keep in mind all of this is taking place in Italian, with Italian utility companies and with their laws and billing.....all of which we do not understand.  There is a lot of simple trust that goes on and an understanding that there will be some things that don't work out smoothly and issues that will have to be straightened out after the fact.  I am channeling my years in England "Stay calm and carry on" :-)

So for the last week or so I have been attempting to set up an Italian bank account which we have to do in order to automatically transfer our rent from our bank account to our Italian landlord's account.  So easy, right?  Go in, give them my information, put in some $$ and you've got an account, voila.  No!  The Italian bank is only open from 10-2 pm and closed from lunch at some point during that time.
 I went in last week and the teller does not speak English so he send me to talk with the Manager who does speak English fairly well.  Remember I do NOT speak Italian at all lol.   He is very helpful and nice and begins to explain the whole system to me as best he can about various accounts, what information we will need to provide, how we can get OUR $$ into this account, etc. I finally get the basics in to the system and he checks for Stephen Brown in the BNL system and there are already 4 in the system (2 from England and 2 in Oman).  Glad none are from U.S. so that hopefully limits the chances for confusion!   I find out that the banking routing system for the U.S. will not allow us to rout dollars into the Italian banking system.  I do not even want to attempt to explain that to you here, it makes my head hurt.  Just trust me, it can't be done.  We have to either go to the ATM and withdraw cash, walk across the street and deposit it into the Italian bank OR write a check and deposit it into the Italian bank....both which will likely mean we "lose money" in the exchange rate from Dollar to Euro depending on the exchange rate that day.   Anyway, I understand that is what we are going to have to do.  It is what it is.

So today I go back to the bank during their "bankers hours" of 10-2 p.m. haha.  My guy is there and ready to work with me.  I have all my information and he begins to enter it in to his computer and he's talking 90 to nothing to me and the computer the whole time.  One of the words the Italians use a LOT is the word "allora" which is sort of like a filler word we use in English, like "Ok, um, alright".  He must have said "allora" 100 times today!  So he's typing away, there are two landlines on his desk, and 3 cell phones,.....all 5 phones rung at least 2-3 times each, at various times he would pick them up, shout something in to them in Italian, hang up, say "Mamma Mia!" ....and resume typing and saying "allora".  It was all I could do to keep from bursting out laughing!!  If I had the whole transaction on video it would be priceless!  Every once in a while he would stop, ask me a question, go back to madly typing and then say "Mamma mia" and throw up his hands.   He did say this computer system was terrible and didn't work right and he hoped it worked right today or he would be there all day.  Finally after many stops and starts, he begins to print out some paperwork and turns to me and says " Nowa Ia printa outa soma papa fora yoa. I killa many, many treesa.  Ita noa gooda fora yoa.  Ita alla ina Italia, buta Ia giva toa youa anywaya"  He was so nice and helpful that I didn't laugh but I did smile at his joke especially when he handed me about 50 printed pages......all in Italian!

So he begins to staple, all the while still answering his phones, talking to himself (Mamma Mia!), trying to explain the basics of the account to me, fees, what we can do, how we can put money in to it, pay our landlord and utilities, setting up automatic payments, checking the account on the internet, etc.  And I'm thinking there is NO WAY this is going to work smoothly but I have no choice so let's just hope they don't lose any of our $$ and we'll be happy with any small glitches along the way.  It's all in your
perspective, see :-)   He sends me with paperwork across the street to get Steve to sign and to get a copy of his ID card. I come back with this done in about 10 minutes.   And then the fun really begins.....

He grabs a key and goes to the safe.  He comes back with an envelope he gives me with our account card, he then rustles around in a drawer in his desk where he pulls out another envelope and gives me with our Pin # on it. He gives me two MORE for me.  After he explains to me how to use these he starts pulling out ANOTHER envelope from another drawer, a 4th pin number and this little device that looks like a pedometer in a box and begins to explain this to me.  This "pedometer" is used to access the account with a special pin # but will only give us this special Pin # for 30 SECONDS and then the # disappears forever.  We are supposed to enter this pedometer Pin # on the BNL (Italian bank) website.  Keep in mind that this Italian website is all in English.  He showed me the Italian website to me and began to try to teach me where deposits, withdrawals, etc. were located on the website.  No, I did not get all of that.  I ended up smiling sweetly and telling him that Steve would be in next week to take care of all of that with him :-)
I might or might not have said a "Mamma Mia" before it was over with.  I thought he should have treated me to a whole bottle of wine by this time!

A couple of last observations to share in this rather long blog.   Earlier in the transitions, he assigned us an account #.  This was quite simple.  It was a 2 digit #.  I have no idea how he came up with it.  But he pulled out dog-eared book from his desk, held together with some duct tape at the binding, wrote our name down on the line and put the 2 digit number beside our name.  We are official now!

I ended by signing my name on numerous Italian papers.....and then having Steve to sign right beside mine.  I have no idea what I signed.  I can only hope that I did not sign giving permission for shady characters to come to my home to collect for protection money (as they pay for in Southern Italy), that I didn't agree to any fees I didn't know about, that someone is not now cleaning out all of my bank accounts in the U.S.,  that when I leave Italy they will not hold me in customs with an "Aha, Mrs. Brown, did you not know you signed for ___________ (you fill in the blank)"

In all seriousness, he was a very nice, helpful man who went out of his way to help me.  He spent probably 90 minutes today and tried very hard to explain and help me to understand what my options were and minimize my expenses since he knew we were only going to use the Italian account to pay rent and Italian utilities.  Living in a foreign country means that you have to sometimes use your gut and just trust that you will be treated fairly.  Because as a guest in their country you are dependent upon their generosity, their willingness to help and assist you with the language, with your questions and with understanding so much of what you don't understand.  It is a humbling experience and also a chance to just really laugh at how funny the whole situation really is :-)   It is why I almost always stop and help people in the U.S. that I see struggling with the language or with not understanding how or why something is done a certain way.  It is because I have been in their Japan, in England and now in Italy.  Helpfulness and kindness goes such a long way.