It’s been raining for two days, and I’m kinda bored. Can’t watch TV, because I can’t figure out how to operate it. You wouldn’t think it would be that hard. There’s no cable or satellite here, but there are two remotes, and I’m not sure why. One is the same brand as the TV, but when I push the power button nothing happens. Same with the other remote. I’ve been listening to NPR on my computer, and it’s good to hear another human voice. I’m feeling a little lonely for the first time since I left home.
It’s been a little chilly yesterday and today. I am in the mountains, after all. I’m glad I kept some of my warm clothes. I’ve been mostly eating in since I’ve been here. I had lunch at a little deli-like restaurant in the little town that’s close by….a delicious half chicken that had been spit roasted in a wood-fired oven and then dipped in olive oil with herbs. I’ve seen only one restaurant in Piedimonte Etneo, and I’ll try it before I leave. Anyway, I have plenty of food here, so I won’t need to go out into this gray rainy day for anything. I make expresso one cup at a time in one of those tiny expresso makers and then water it down to make what’s called caffe’ lungo here…or American coffee. I have to wait until the expresso maker cools down to make my second cup.
Yesterday, I kept hearing something like a phone ringing and couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from. I thought it might be the phone in the apartment below me. Though I can’t believe I hadn’t noticed it (although my mother would), there’s an intercom phone right by the door. I can’t imagine who would have been calling on me, but maybe they’ll come back. I’m reluctant to answer the door here, because there are very few people around. I think I’ll just look out the window where I can see who’s at the door.
Sometimes, the synapses in my brain just don’t connect. This isn’t an aging issue…it’s always been this way for me. I bought this international calling card, so I could talk to people in the U.S. cheaply (since I can’t get my MagicJack to work), and thought I had hours of talking time. But, what I didn’t think about was that every minute I talk might count against the mere 250 minutes per month I signed up for when I bought my smart phone. DOH! I thought that would be plenty of minutes, since there are only a couple of people here who call me. As most of you know, I’m a newbie when it comes to using cell phones, and my smart phone is definitely smarter than me! I ran out of minutes on the 21st in the middle of a phone call with my mother. I went to the website of my cell phone company, looking for instructions on how to purchase additional minutes, or to get help from customer service, but to do either, I needed to register. And to register, I needed to have an Italian ID number, which I assume is something like our SSN. Dead end. My cell phone company doesn’t have a store in the area, so I went into a different carrier’s store, and a very kind man, who didn’t speak English, was able to get me to understand that all I need to do is go into a Tabbaci and buy my minutes there.
There are these stores called Tabbacis in every town in Italy, I think. It’s where you go to buy your bus or train tickets, cigarettes (no, I’m not), phone cards, magazines, snacks, and I’m not sure what else they sell behind the counter. I would never have thought to go there to buy more minutes for my cell phone. Sometimes I feel like a child, just trying to figure out how things work here.
The day I got here, I stopped at a bancomat (ATM) to get some cash. I couldn’t complete the transaction, so I went into the bank to see what the problem might be. The entrance was similar to what I experienced at the post office in Sorrento. You stand in front of a glass door and press a button that’s lighted green. The door opens and you walk in. One person at a time can enter. The door closes behind you, and you are now in a glass enclosure the size of small closet. I don’t know if you get x-rayed in there or what, but then the next door opens and you can enter the bank. There were two men working in the bank, both sitting at desks—a typical office setup. One customer sat in a chair across the desk from one of the men. The other man was working on his computer and ignoring the two other customers and me, who were all waiting for service. The man who was helping the customer at his desk opened one of the desk drawers and counted out cash to give to the customer. Every time I want to do something that’s just a simple errand, I encounter the unfamiliar and it throws me off it bit.
I have seen nothing that parallels the American “superstore”—you know, like a K-Mart or Walmart, where you can buy anything. Here there are lots of specialty stores. You go to one to get your fruit and veggies, another to get your meat, another to get fish, another to get grocery staples (although some supermarkets have some meat and fish, but not the one here), the pharmacy, the phone store, the electric store, the flower shop, the pastry shop, the shoe store, etc. , etc. And I’ve already mentioned the crazy hours. You do your errands before lunch or after 5 p.m.
When I traveled in Europe before, I had always stayed in hotels and eaten out every meal. Renting a self-service apartment gives you a totally different perspective. You have to figure out how stuff is done and how things work. I’ve never really been good at figuring out how things work.
When so many things in your daily life are different, you feel the meaning of “fish out of water”. I’m surrounded by water here, so hopefully I’ll be swimming soon!