(Written on 9-3-2012)
Those of you who have traveled abroad know how spoiled we are in the U.S. with conveniences and luxuries. I love my apartment but here’s what I don’t have that is pretty standard at home: a clothes dryer, a dishwasher, a microwave, air conditioning (nor a fan), Wifi in the apartment, good knives, and counterspace. And while there are two televisions in this apartment, there is no cable service included in my rent.
Those of you who know me well and have put up with my griping about the small amount of kitchen counterspace I had in my condo….well, that space would seem luxurious here.
Going to a supermarket here is a bit like going to a country grocery store in the U.S. There are 3 or 4 central isles, a very small produce section on one side, a fresh meat/dairy section on the opposite wall, and deli meats/cheeses, and higher end butcher cuts of meat at the back. Of course, all the product information is in Italian, so you just have to guess what some things are. On my first trip there, I was able to find everything but butter. Because there are so few brand choices here, it’s possible to miss a major item like butter. I also couldn’t find Kleenex. I did buy some on my second trip, and here, they are somewhat like our napkins.
There is nothing here like a Walmart or Meijers. There are specialty shops for everything. Today, I wanted to buy hand lotion, so I stopped at a pharmacy. I pantomimed what I wanted to one of the clerks, and she gave me body wash. The clerk at the register must have overheard, because he asked me if it was hand cream I wanted, so I did walk out with the lotion. I also wanted to buy an adaptor for my computer, so I had to find an electrical shop. The hours of the shops are very different. They are open from 9 or 10 to 1:15 p.m. or so. Then they close until 5 p.m. and stay open until 9 p.m. This is not true of all shops, but the service shops, like pharmacies, telephone stores, electrical shops, etc. seem to operate on these hours. The shops that sell clothes and gift items items of interest to tourists are pretty much open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., as are most restaurants and food shops.
I stopped at the post office, and the mode of entry to the building is quite unique. Only one person can enter at a time. A glass door slides open and you step into a glassed in area. The door behind you closes and then the one in front of you opens. This is a scanning process for security purposes--they must have had someone "go postal" here, too. Then you have to select one of four options on a kiosk, and it spits out a numbered ticket. When you see that number appear above the station of one of the several clerks, you get served. Of course, my limited Italian didn't help me to know what button to push and I selected the wrong option. I got my stamps anyway from a nice clerk who took pity on me. There were others who just ignored my obvious confusion and avoided eye contact with me. (Some things are the same in all countries, I guess.)
I finally found out how I can access the Internet from my apartment without signing up for a service. Some of you may know that you can purchase a device that looks something like a memory stick and fits into a UBS port—it allows you so many megawhatevers of internet time. The one I purchased today will be usable tomorrow, so I can start posting here more regularly. Now I just need to figure out how to download pictures from my cell phone (believe it or not, I’m now the owner of a smart phone!) to my computer. The instructions are in Italian—no English ones available I’m told, but can’t believe it—and my intuitive powers have never worked on electronic devices.
Fortunately, I’m an adaptable creature and have taken all these cultural differences in stride. I beginning to feel a little confident in my ability to navigate this town, and like the locals, I’m looking forward to the end of the busy tourist season in mid-September, so the streets aren’t so crowded.