Time is Ticking…

It’s hard to believe, but my 3 months in Italy is almost up. It is a Monday evening here and two weeks from this coming Wednesday, I will be back home. I’m not quite sure how to feel about that!

I know I will be overjoyed to see my family. I’ve had a couple small bouts of homesickness – nothing major – and I had to quickly just put that out of my mind. I want to enjoy every minute here and I have. So these days when I go out to walk, which I do 2-3 times per day, I stop and look around and try to memorize the sights and sounds and feelings of it all.

San Michele Square is so beautiful that I usually stop there and just take it in for a couple moments. Every day the light is different, but every day the people are coming and going like crazy. I love to sit on the steps for a few minutes and just watch the bicycles go by. Everyone here has bikes. And oh the things I’ve seen on bikes! I wish I could have gotten photos! But they go by way too fast.

There are almost always musicians in the square, so music is a constant. And the cafes have put out their “winter” versions of the outdoor setup. Some have glass partitions, but most have just put out fewer tables and kept them closer to the buildings in the cooler weather. I’ve been told, too, that come January and February, a lot of them will close down altogether. I’m sure they make up for it when the tourist season starts anew. And they deserve the break after the long hours they keep the rest of the year!

I did find a new supermarket right here within the walls that is every bit as cheap as the big market I was walking out to. It is not quite as big, but very convenient. And it is the place to buy wine. I got a bottle of Spumante for 1.79 euro! Even Prosecco was only 4.25! You can get red or white table wines easily for under 4 euro a bottle. And when you see the folks checking out – they have plenty of it!

The funny thing today was the young girl cashier. I’m always annoyed by the young cashiers at home. They don’t know a pepper from a potato and if the register didn’t tell them what change to give, they couldn’t figure it out. Well, guess what. It’s just the same here. My bill was 8.56 euro and I gave the girl a 20 euro note. The register did not print out the change amount and she didn’t know what to do.

She got out a calculator and couldn’t use it either! She kept putting in the amounts but I noticed she wasn’t using decimal points. So the figure didn’t make sense and she kept hitting the “equals” button, which made things worse. Finally, I gently eased the calculator away from her and put in 20.00-8.56. It came up to 11.44. She was very relieved and thanked me profusely. And I got the correct change. But I think that is pretty amazing…

Meanwhile, my Sunday sure did not go as planned. I walked to my friends’ house in the morning and after the meeting we had lunch. It was pasta with some ground meat, which Edgardo told me is not traditionally Italian. It is really a combination of the first and second course. Italians don’t normally combine the pasta with the meat course.

After that we sat and talked for a while – and a young couple had joined us for the meal – so we had a bit of fun trying to communicate. I thought the meal was over, but then a plate of fresh mozzarella was passed around. I cut off a very small piece since it is bland and unseasoned for my taste.

Again, I thought we were done and out came a very pathetic bowl of wet lettuce. I don’t mean to complain, but it was brown on the edges and very colorless. Everyone took some and drizzled it with a little olive oil and vinegar. Then we had a bowl of hot peas! They were actually very tasty!

ImageImageWhen everyone was finished, Edgardo brought out a tray of beautiful cream-filled cakes. Now those were really good. But eating the meal in definite courses is something to get used to. However, I am glad to see how it works in Italy. They didn’t even notice that I was perplexed! And then, Francesca brought me out a gift! It was a tin of colored pencils that you can use with water. I was so thrilled! Bellisimo!! I especially like that all the printing on the tin is in Italian. I can’t wait to try them.

After lunch, Francesca and I got in the car to go to Mariposa’s house for our ceramic lesson. I was quite excited. Until she started driving. OMG – it was a frightening trip across town. I honestly do not know how these people survive the streets. But Francesca was singing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra and plowing through the traffic at full speed. I tried not to flinch as other cars passed within inches and no one stopped to yield for love nor money.

When we got to Mariposa’s house (whose real name is Michaela) we went in and had coffee. She made a delicious espresso from Illy ground coffee – I think it is the best I’ve had in Italy so far. Then we went down to the studio in the garage below the house. I couldn’t wait to see what we would be doing.

However, M was not very prepared. I think she mostly works in her shop and not in the home studio. She got out big buckets of ceramic mix in water and tried to stir it up. It wouldn’t stir. Hard as a rock. Soon M and F had their heads together on how to solve the problem. They got out an electric drill and attached a big mixer to it. But all that did was shoot dirty water out of the bucket all over the place.

From there it was a circus. M would disappear back upstairs and reappear with some ridiculous weapon. She came back with all manner of butcher knives and huge drill bits which were used with no success. I tried to help a couple times, but it was scary business. The two of them were bent over the buckets, stabbing and punching and spraying water everywhere. I was sure someone would lose a finger or an eye at any moment. In fact, I ended up going outside to keep from getting blasted. Every once in a while I would peer in the door and they were chatting away in Italian, oblivious to any danger.

ImageFinally they decided that they were beaten and Francesca looked at me and said “We go home now!” I was fine with that! But I had done a small sketch for Mariposa to thank her for the ceramic lesson – which we didn’t have. So I pulled it out of my bag and gave it to her. I know she appreciated it. She had loved the one in my book, so I did one like it for her. Maybe we’ll still get to have that lesson, I don’t know!

Then F and I were launched into the mess of traffic and I tightened my seat belt while Francesca broke back into another stanza of “My Way.”

I asked F to drop me at a gate closer to my apartment, which she did, but I had to take my life in my hands to get out of the car. She stopped dead in traffic, which just diverted around her leaving no room to spare. Every time I moved the least little bit, F would yell “Wait! Danger!” and I would lean back from the door. Finally the traffic let up for a moment and she shouted “Now!” I bolted from the car and ran across the street with my heart in my throat. F honked and drove off with a cheery wave.

I was glad I had a few blocks to walk to get home – I needed to get my bearings. And by the time I got back to my neighborhood, the cafe across the street from me was filling up for the Sunday night music session. I was just happy to get inside and pour myself a glass of wine.

ImageBut soon there was killer blues drifting my way and I had to go to the window and look out. The music was awesome so I opened the window to hear better. Nothing like a free concert. And you know what is great about these Italians? They don’t hide indoors when the weather turns. Nope, they just put on hats and coats and scarves and do what they always do. This wasn’t a very big crowd – and there were a lot more people inside – but they were out there chatting long into the wee hours. The fog was setting in, but it was a lovely sight from my window.

So today was another Monday in Italy – I only have a couple more of those left. I worked during the morning and then got my usual craving for da Felice. I put on my coat and walked over there and ordered a slice. They weighed it and the grand total was 1.20 euro. AND I remembered to ask the question on my mind. I pointed to the 1960 photo and asked how much a slice of pizza cost back then.

Well, they didn’t rightly know, but there was a framed price list from 1965 hanging on the wall. They delighted in showing it to me. A slice of pizza was 80 lire. I had no idea how much that would have been, but the girl told me it was probably about 4 cents. Coca cola was 100 lire, so that must have been a nickle. And a compari and soda, the “Americano” drink, was 100 lire as well.

So yes, my time is ticking here. I’ll try not to get too sentimental on y’all, but I have a feeling it is going to be hard from here on out. I may be blogging less and wandering more. Don’t know at this point. But every day or two I do have to write it all down. Just can’t help myself. And that’s the way it is right now…

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paula
    Nov 26, 2012 @ 19:20:12

    What a beautiful box of pencils and so thoughtful! The drive,,,,, well sounds like you see in movies. Just enjoy every minute of every day there and don’t think about tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day! Soak it all in Starr!


  2. Ellyn
    Nov 27, 2012 @ 10:33:17

    Well, it’s comforting to know that math-illiterate cashiers aren’t just an American phenomenon.

    I’m confident that by the time you get back, you will have absorbed enough Italy into the marrow of your bones that you will need only to close your eyes to find your way back.
    Perhaps Dharma has charms of it’s own just waiting to be discovered!


  3. Billy D
    Nov 28, 2012 @ 06:44:08

    This here blog will come in handy when you need to spark some memories. 3 months initially seemed like a long time, but I can’t believe how fast it has gone! Soak it in- Barilla and Ragu just won’t be the same!


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