Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Living with Little Creatures and Other Interesting Tidbits...

Whoever heard of mosquitos at Halloween?!? Every morning for a few days I woke up with little red bumps on my face. The first day I thought that I was getting zits at my age. Then, when the next day I had a few more, I started wondering if I wasn’t cleaning my face that well…but nope, my routine is the same here as it was in America. Then, when I woke up one morning with four new ones on my face plus one on my eyelid, I thought “what the heck???” It must be spiders.

I went over to “Tutto Per La Casa” as I seem to do every day and asked for something to kill spiders. The sales clerk walked over to an item in a box, called “Vape” and said this will kill mosquitos. I told her I didn’t need to kill mosquitos, I needed to kill spiders and she replied (in Italian, of course), “There are no spiders in Lucca! Only mosquitos.” I asked her how that could possiby be at this time of year and she said it was because it was hot for a few days and then became very cold and rainy, so they’re all coming indoors to keep warm. Geez!

With Vape in hand, I came home and immediately plugged that sucker in. Here, the insecticide comes in a few ways. One is a coil that you light and burn at night which is similar to our citronella candle. Another is a smaller rectangle type thing that you hook on a gadget and light the same way you do the coil. The third comes in the form of a plug, like our Glade air fresheners. You insert the little disk into the unit and plug it in and are supposedly able to get a respite from mosquitos for 12 hours! So far, so good…no new bumps in the morning.

Last weekend for four days, the Lucca Comics & Games came to town. What a spectacular event! I thought it was going to be a bunch of comics who did stand-up and I was trying to figure out how I could attend and actually understand what they were saying.

Well, wrong! My friend Serenella informed me ahead of time that it was a huge event that is scheduled each year for comic book and video/board game enthusiasts. This includes Dungeons and Dragons afficianados.

I was exposed to the strangest bunch of people I’ve seen in a long time. Nothing much makes me drop my mouth in awe, but this did. Out of at least 10,000 attendees (all of whom were inside the Lucca walls), approximately 30% were dressed in outrageous costumes depicting their favorite comic book, video game or super hero. I saw people with extra limbs coming out of their bodies, large groups of people dressed as different cards in a deck, strange “Tinker Toy” characters, people with swords taped to their fingers - similar to Edward Scissorhands, and, of course, princesses and Superman. It was a sight to behold.

The odd thing (in my opinion at least) was that they were very self-controlled and quiet for such a large group. I took the girls for a walk a few times and ended up getting stuck in the crowds and everyone was very polite and well-mannered.

The bad thing was that the anfiteatro where I live was filled with huge tents which housed all the comic book and video game paraphenalia. The attendees had to purchase tickets to get inside each tent. The tents were set up several weeks in advance and were only taken down yesterday. I actually sat and watched for about an hour as one guy with a forklift methodically took apart the entire tent structure and placed each steel beam and component next to each other until everything was down. Then, he methodically put everything upon this large truck until the anfiteatro was completely empty. It was like watching a single bee in action. This was one Italian who knew exactly what he was doing and was very good at his job! I was mesmorized at how efficient he was.

I am lucky enough to be able to see down into the center of the anfiteatro from my office, kitchen and bathroom windows. It’s the ultimate for people-watching. What I found out that is completely different here than in America, is that there is no security or added barriers for construction and de-construction of projects. I was amazed at all the locals and tourists who meandered through the square while the construction crew was dismantling the tents. The guy on the forklift had to wait many times for sightseers or pedestrians to get out of the way so he could continue on to where he was going.

Anyway, the minute everything was cleaned up this morning, someone else began erecting a new structure. I found out later that it is going to be an 8-meter tall Christmas tree complete with glass ornaments from Murano, Italy. Murano is an island off Venice where they make blown glass items that are absolutely beautiful and sold all over the world. I can hardly wait to have that in the anfiteatro! I’m sure it will be absolutely beautiful!

Speaking of security and protection, a really positive thing that I found here (of which there are plenty) is the packaging. Even a toddler can open it!! That was a really big pet peeve of mine in America. They packaged everything so well that you needed a crowbar to open a package of crackers! Here, they open very easily and I am so relieved. I’m sure the packaging is secure for items that would hurt a toddler, but a package of crackers??? Get real!

I’ve been trying every Italian recipe I can now that I’m in Italy and can find the ingredients fresh at the markets or little outdoor vendors. Unfortunately, some of the dishes aren’t that low in calories. For example, tonight I made fried zucchini blossoms. They were incredible, but I don’t think I was supposed to eat them all by myself! I justified it because I went for a walk around the fortress walls again.

I’ve been taking a Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate course to try and earn some money in the interim until I get some design work. It’s a tough course but it will help me stay in the country so it will be worth it. It’s been a challenge learning all the parts of speech and how difficult a language English actually is. It certainly makes me appreciate my Italian tutor even more now that I know what I will have to do when I begin teaching.

Speaking of teaching, the woman who lives upstairs from me is quite a character. She jabbers to me every time she sees me and I can’t understand a word of what she says because she speaks so quickly. She was a teacher for years (she’s about 70 years old) and now tutors children in her home every day. The girls are still getting used to all the racket when her students run up and down the stairs on their way to and from her apartment. They are mostly young teens and she seems to have a couple of classes a day.

She also has these routines that she keeps every day. I see bags downstairs from the local market that are full of bread and other groceries and always wondered if someone did her shopping for her and, if so, why they left them downstairs.

Every morning I hear her pounding away. At first I thought she was hanging pictures but I thought her walls must be completely filled already with all the pounding. Then, one morning I looked outside and saw tons of birds flying around. Then I saw debris falling all around my windows and found out she was tossing bread crumbs to them. I now figured out that she’s pounding the bread into small pieces so it will be easier for the birds to eat. It's also why she doesn't mind that her groceries are left downstairs...what a lovely woman.

She also has a suitor that comes late at night to visit. I’ve run into him a couple of times when I’m taking the girls out for their final walk. It’s always a bit uncomfortable because the girls get scared to see someone strange in the stairwell and start barking like crazy. His clandestine attempts are for naught and it always embarrasses me for some reason that I've caught him in the act…

My friend Serenella pointed out to me that she has covered many of the things that I've mentioned about living in Italy and Lucca in her blogs. I read them faithfully but I guess everything slipped my mind during the past few months before I left due to the craziness of getting ready for my move. It was fun re-reading them and seeing that I could have come more prepared for the cultural differences and know more of what to expect in terms of paperwork and other day-to-day activities. She has also written several e-books, one of which is all about buying property here if any of what I’ve written about has you dying to be my neighbor!