Sweden’s Disillusionment

Since I know people rarely click links and I wanted to share my colleague’s great post that inspired my rumination, here it is. ūüôā

EUROPEAN ESCAPADES

This weekend marked 8 months in Italy and¬†so far I‚Äôve traversed 7 countries.¬† I just returned from Gothenburg, Sweden. ¬†This month I was trying to make¬†it to Denmark as well (to make a true average of a country a month) but I‚Äôve run out of money! ¬†For a while here, I was feeling guilty about going to all of these various places in Europe and not traveling more in Italy.¬† Don‚Äôt worry ‚Äď I plan to do this ASAP.¬† Now that I spent a week in Sicily and have a Rome birthday trip planned, I feel a little less guilty.¬†

While I find myself sporadically shocked at the amazing beauty of Italy,¬†I also see there‚Äôs room for improvement!¬† Italians tend to have their way, know their way, and do their way. ONLY.¬† In other, perhaps more ‚Äúorganized‚Ä̬†parts of Europe, people actually wait patiently and respectfully in¬†lines, directions are clear, there‚Ķ

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Buon Natale!

My heart is officially melted into a puddle. The grandpa upstairs just knocked on my door to invite me to dinner tomorrow night to “mangiare con amici per Natale.” (to eat with friends for Christmas). He first tried asking me in English bc he knows I’m American but it was hard for him. I said I can understand a bit of Italian. So sweet! ¬†I explained in a mix of Italian and English that I’m leaving tomorrow morning and I’ll be back 6 Gennaio. ¬† So he said after I return. We will eat with friends. ¬†Awwww. Grazie Mille! ¬†ūüôā

 

My heart is already overflowing from the wonderful winter program today, the adorable children, and an impromptu fun gathering in the staff room with great coworkers.  

Thoughts and Prayers with Newtown, CT

I work in a school that houses kids ages 3-18. One of the best parts of my day is when I get to see the little ones, walking by with their sweet faces and innocent joy — it just warms my heart. How can you do anything but smile and love them? Today, the memorial page for Sandy Hook Elementary features photos and collages of their sweet cherubs. Beyond heartbreaking.¬†

Before I left for our staff party up on a hill in gorgeous, seaside Bogliasco, I saw a “breaking news” post about a shooting in CT. It said that the gunman was dead and at least 3 people were injured. I thought to myself, “I’m so glad nobody died except the gunman” and was slightly disturbed at yet another school shooting. When I came back from the party, bubbly and happy after a great evening of live music, great friends /colleagues, and wonderful food — I wrote a couple of carefree emails, oblivious to the horrible news and grieving everyone was going through. I then read an email from my father who said he was “sick over the news in CT.” On my Twitter feed, I saw he had posted this story from CBS Local in NYC. http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/12/14/police-respond-to-report-of-school-shooting-in-conn/

Instantly, I was sick to my stomach and began the never-ending tears as I saw that at least 27 people were killed . . . 20 of them children aged 6 and 7. How do you shoot an innocent child? How do you do it 20 times? We are all wondering the same things. I began to get responses back to my emails regarding the weekend. One friend wrote that he was “mostly drinking away the horrible news day.” He works for a news website, and they have TVs in the office playing the news all day . . .so when it’s a bad news day, it’s overload. I felt like an idiot for being so bubbly and happy, but I didn’t know. The news is now global news as the world mourns and wonders why. Here is an article on my yahoo.it homepage. http://it.notizie.yahoo.com/strage-di-bambini-usa-sotto-choc-obama-mai-155000716.html. My students will definitely want to talk about it in class tomorrow. These things just don’t happen here in Italy, especially in safe Genoa. But as we learned from the horrific summer 2011 shooting in peaceful Norway, nowhere is safe anymore.

I felt so buffered here in Italy, without a TV and so far from everything. Yet news travels quickly with modern technology, and the grief is palpable thousands of miles away. CT, part of the NYC metro area, the tri-state area, is close to home in many ways. I am familiar with the location of the wooded town in Western, CT — always feeling safe and at peace when I drive through that part of the state. I can’t comprehend the shock, the parents with Christmas gifts waiting in their hiding spots, the parents with dreams for their little cherubs’ futures.

While it was mentally good to be detached from the media, I did need more information so read as much as I could, followed statuses on facebook and twitter, and watched clips of news reports from home, learning about the teachers’ amazing bravery as they thought quickly to save their children’s lives. Some of those teachers, including 27-year-old Victoria Soto, did not make it although her students did. She sacrificed her life for her kids. What an amazing, brave and heroic woman.

My friend posted this amazing quote from Mr. Rogers:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother‚Äôs words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” — Mister Rogers

rogers

As I said in the heartbreaking aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, we get through tragedy through the triumph of the human spirit — by connecting and reaching out to each other. And that is definitely what I see now. And while it is no consolation and there are no words that can ever make sense of this unthinkable act, I wish everyone as much peace as is possible at this difficult time.

names

I never got to know you, but I will remember you. Rest in peace.

30 Days of Gratitude

I have to blog about my weekend trip to Verona and my long weekend to Bruges, one of my favorite cities. ¬†Lots of beautiful photos and some nice stories. ¬†Today was my first day back at work after being very sick, so I wasn’t able to get much of anything done. ¬†More soon. ¬†But first, I will begin 30 days of gratitude ¬†. . . because I am so very lucky and want to make sure I appreciate every beautiful moment.

Nov. 1: Grateful that my friends and family survived Superstorm Sandy.

Nov. 2: Grateful for a long 4 day weekend in Bruges, Belgium.  (And for French fries!)

Nov. 3: Grateful for the friends I met in Bruges over 11 years ago while backpacking. ¬†They are now lifelong confidantes – we’ve shared many fun times and memories.

Nov. 4: Grateful for the 250 euro voucher from Lufthansa when I volunteered to fly to Nice instead of Genoa.  They gave me a cab to my door and 250 euros, which I can use for another trip!  It was like getting this trip for free.

Nov. 5: Grateful for gorgeous spring-like weather in the Italian Riviera in November.

Nov. 6: Grateful to have such wonderful and caring coworkers and friends who helped me out while I was extremely sick with an inner ear infection/vertigo. ¬†I couldn’t sit or stand up — my boss said don’t worry about work, he and the HR rep helped me find and English-speaking specialist, and everyone checked in on me. ¬†One friend even came over to make me dinner. ¬†An angel.

Nov. 7: Grateful to wake up for the first day without vertigo.  I was able to take a walk in the fresh air and feel normal again.  Life is so special and beautiful when you are healthy again.

Nov. 8: Grateful for my sweet and caring students who make class an absolute pleasure. ¬†Today, one of my students said, “My mom really likes you. ¬†She says you’re a good teacher.” ¬†Some students thank me at the end of every lesson. ¬†No, dear students, thank you!

to be continued . . .   I really am lucky to be living here in Genoa.  Sometimes I feel like I gave up more than my heart can handle, but good friends and family have reminded me that they are always going to be there and to enjoy this absolutely amazing experience.

‚ÄúI went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die discover that I had not lived.‚ÄĚ- Thoreau

Aspetta

Italy’s favorite word seems to be “aspetta.” ¬†Wait. ¬†And I have been. ¬†At first, patiently, and then not so patiently, and now it’s almost laughable. ¬†My internet was fixed on Friday, hurrah! ¬†And it lasted a whole 2.5 days. ¬†Then the ADSL was down. ¬†Never in my life did I have to deal with ADSL because I had dial up in 1998, then went to college where there was the Ethernet, then my parents got cable modem, which is what I switched to when I got my first apartment in 2003, getting speeds up to 15mb per second. ¬†Here in Italy, on the two days I had ADSL, it was 3 mb, about the same as the Internet key. ¬† . . which sometimes goes as low as .03 rendering loading email impossible. ¬†Modern websites and applications can’t run on such a primitive system. ¬†As I ran my speed tests, I saw that the GLOBAL average for Internet was 11 mb/second. ¬†Italy falls around 3 or 4, giving them a D+ in the global Internet range. ¬†The world, not the western world or high tech society . . . the world. ¬†Italy is stuck in the 90s technologically, tho gratefully in the Medieval ages architecturally. ¬†Ok, that’s not exactly right, we have some renaissance and some other random buildings, but the architecture here is quite beautiful. ¬†Italy is gorgeous, and Genoa is right at the top of the most beautiful places I’ve seen in Italy . . . but there seems to be quite a price to pay for all this beauty.

Imagine my pure joy and elation at putting aside all this constant phone call, text message, phone company appointment nonsense and to move on with my life here in Italy with slow tho functioning Internet. ¬†Nope, back to square one again, but this time way more pushy. ¬†You literally have to fight for your right to anything in this country which has a very . . . lax . . . service industry. ¬†I had to call 3 times (well, get colleagues who spoke Italian) just to get them to open a work order to fix the line. ¬†But I have my bank card, and that’s progress. ¬†I also visited the doctor and renewed my allergy prescription easily. ¬†whew! ¬†I wasn’t up for another hoop to jump through . . . my legs are tired enough from hiking up and down my mountain each day. ¬†Again, the price for all the beauty.

In the meantime, sometimes my Internet key grabs a signal (as it is now) so I’m taking advantage and trying to update. ¬†Coming next, photos of Oktoberfest. ¬†I am also taking an online course for the International Baccalaureate (IB). ¬†I wanted to be as prepared as possible as it’s my first time teaching it, so I asked my boss and he registered me. ¬†There is work to do each day, though, and I need good high speed Internet, otherwise the modules won’t load. ¬†Sigh . . . Italy, seriously, get with at least 2002 if you can’t get to 2012 with Internet.

“And I can’t even get cheddar!”

Italy is just as frustrating as it is beautiful.  This is not a surprise, but that does not make it any easier to navigate the nonsense and to bolster my reserves of patience.

During the first day of orientation for new teachers, our director talked about the importance of recognizing culture shock, even when it doesn’t seem like the country is that different. ¬†He said it is especially hard coming from the US, which is “Top in the service industry, number 10. ¬†They do everything for you. ¬†Pack your bags, carry you to the car . . . “

We laughed knowingly as he continued, “I lived in Tanzania where we often didn’t have running water. ¬†I’d call the water company, but that worker there often had no running water for months. ¬†Why would he care if I was out for days or weeks? Tanzania is about a 1 or 2 in service.” ¬†He drew the numbers on a timeline on the whiteboard. ¬†“Here in Italy, we are at a 5 or 6. ¬†It’s not that bad, but it’s different. ¬†You won’t get the service you get in the states.”

When I first arrived on August 22, my top priority was getting Internet. ¬†3 days later, I finally found a shop that spoke just enough English to help me choose sim cards, get an iphone, and sign up for ADSL Internet. ¬†ADSL? ¬†No cable or fiber optic? ¬†Nope. ¬†But ok, I’m good just to get connected. ¬†After an hour of discussions (yes, seriously) I had my vodafone base station which would work with ADSL and an Internet key to get online right away. ¬†“Someone will call you in 15 days,” said the sales rep Simona.

“15 days?” ¬†I was shocked. ¬†I thought a few days with a long window of waiting like in NYC.

“Yes, the technician.”

But will he speak English?  Oh geeze . . .

And I still couldn’t leave the story because of a Vodafone system flaw that did not allow them to connect my brand new just purchased Sim card with the brand new iphone, both bought together in the store. ¬†Customer service kept the sales rep on hold and gave them the runaround. ¬†Hours later, they figured out a fix and sent me on my way, connected and happy tho drained. ¬†I had jumped through my first hoop.

Running the internet off the key was slow but at least it granted me instant access. ¬†Over the next two weeks, I learned, with massive difficulty that the station can run the wifi off the key, which would save me from overheating my laptop with the key plugged right in. ¬†Before that could work, though, I had to wait for an automatic system download that unfroze my brand new box and allowed me to use it. ¬†I had tried calling customer service, a toll line, and asked “Parle Inglese?”

“No.”

And then I didn’t know what to say next other than goodbye. Nobody they can even transfer me to? ¬†Ahh, Italy. ¬†I was going to have to get used to my complete lack of ability to communicate as I rapidly try to acquire a working rudimentary grasp of the language to communicate.

So with the wifi working, I had jumped through another hoop. ¬†Yet, 18 days had passed and STILL no call from the technician. ¬†Then, at last, I was in the middle of my 5 hour mandatory Italian culture class at the prefettura, when I received a phone call and deciphered “Vodafone” in the Italian and soon learned the technician was coming on Tuesday between 10 and 11. ¬†yes! ¬†I didn’t get to choose the date, but it’s ok. ¬†I got coverages for work, stayed home and at 10:15, they were at my door.

Wooh! ¬†I’m getting ADSL. ¬†Gonna jump through another hoop. ¬†Movies, Skype, faster downloading, and back to my normal surfing techno geek lifestyle. Yay yay yay!

“There is a problem,” said my technician in a mixture of Italian and English. ¬†“I must get my colleague.”

An hour and lots of drilling and fumbling later, the technician said, “It still won’t work but we will switch it on tonight,” and they were gone after helping me sweep the debris.

I eagerly checked my box every time I walked by the Vodafone station, but no ADSL. ¬†Days passed, nothing. ¬†I went to work and explained the situation to the admin who sent the realtor over. ¬†The realtor did not speak much English, but the next day, I learned that the landlord’s son lived there, and they tried to get ADSL, but it didn’t work so he just always used the Internet key. ¬†They turned the phone lines off to the building because it is so old. ¬†“What???” ¬†You can’t rent out an apartment with no phone lines. ¬†And it was just beautifully renovated . . .I have marble flooring and even some US outlets. ¬†But no phone line? ¬†WTF? ¬†I don’t get it.

“Isn’t that something the realtor should have told us?” I asked dumfounded.

“Yes!” said the admin all knowingly. ¬†“But this is Italy, a country that has 5 different types of plugs.”

“Oh yeah, I have an iron and can’t figure out where to plug it in.”

The admin sent over the school’s electrician to try to activate the phone line in the house (on the landlord’s dime). ¬†The electrician poked around for 2 hours, wires dangling everywhere, and he only spoke about 3 words of English. ¬†With the help of google translate and a few calls to the admin, we were able to call vodafone. ¬†Even though Telecom Italia, the phone company, did the installation, you can’t call them directly because they were subcontracted by Vodafone. So Vodafone created a ticket and said a rep would come to fix the line in 3 days. ¬†“Aspetta.” ¬†Wait. ¬†They always want you to wait. ¬†Nonsense, wait too long and nothing will get done. And I paid 35 euros for ADSL I was not getting, meanwhile an Internet key is 14 euros a month. ¬†And this service is slooooow and doesn’t work when it’s cloudy. ¬†NO.

So I waited, and of course that was Monday and now it is Friday and I still don’t have ADSL. ¬†The admin said, “It’s a fine line between patience and yelling and getting aggressive. ¬†After we’ve waited enough, then it’s ok to say ‘How could you do this to me? ¬†Fix it now.'”

“Will I get a refund for the month I couldn’t access it?”

“No . .. but we can try.”

While all this was happening, my bank card was misdirected to the wrong address because the school wrote 38, when my address is 38C and there are about 10 other 38s on the block including one solid 38 apartment building. ¬†And the Italian post, being notoriously slow and unreliable . . . sent the card to who knows where. ¬†The bank sent another one 2 weeks ago, and it still hasn’t arrived, so they walk me over to the bank to withdraw money with me . . . ¬†And I JUST got the code to access my online account. ¬†When I returned home after another stressful frustrating day dealing with bank and ADSL, I check for my bank card, but alas, just a BILL from Vodafone for the installation fees.

OMG . . .

And of course, the next day my shipment from the US was about to arrive. ¬†Hurray! ¬†But I tried contacting the UK company to let them know about the notoriously tiny streets of Genoa, which an International Shipping company should really take into consideration. ¬†I take a day off from work at the suggestion of my school’s director who said, “It is important for you to relax and get settled.”

So I waited. ¬†Waited for the phone call from the driver the day before, which I did not get. ¬†I continually contacted the company to make sure they had my Italian phone number and an address where they could deliver the goods easily. ¬†They could not come on my tiny ancient Roman road ¬†. . . they’d have to park nearby, so I sent very detailed directions.

Shipment day arrived. ¬†I woke up early as I knew I’d be the first delivery. I waited by the phone, kept checking the phone, and even turned on my old phone just in case they didn’t give my new number. ¬†At 12 noon, I was informed that my truck broke down 2 hours North of me and they were stuck waiting repair. ¬†I’d hear from my driver shortly.

5:30pm, no word from the driver. ¬†I wrote to the UK office, who said they’d probably come tomorrow. ¬†Frustrated and exhausted, I contacted work to arrange coverages on standby so I could run over to my apartment for the delivery. ¬†(They also offered I could take another day, but that is too many days away from the kids).

Freed from the apartment, I hiked to the supermarket.  I say hike, because I have to literally hike up a steep hill to get there and lug the goods back.  As soon as I sat down to have some chicken and cheese, my old international phone rang.

“Hello?”
“Hi, we have some boxes and a sofa for you,” said a friendly Irish voice.

Soon I learned that they did not have my new number or get the directions. ¬†They said they were 300 yards from me and wanted to carry the goods down that crazy hill. No way dude, too far and steep. ¬†They were stuck by the school and after 40 minutes on the phone, I got them to the street I needed them to be to get closer. ¬†BUT . . . the truck was so high that it wouldn’t fit under the highway overpass. ¬†They had to park on the highway and walk down with all my boxes, electronics and SOFA from the highway, down the stairs, and down a little winding steep street that led to my door — maybe 150 meters.

It started raining as they were finishing, and I offered them food and whatever they wanted. ¬†I also had no money to tip them for their extraordinary efforts so I asked if I could go to a bankomat to pay them. ¬†“It’s not your fault. ¬†Dont’ worry about it.”

And they were on their way to Monaco.  Such nice guys, and everything arrived intact.  I had my things.  Whew!

Earlier in the night, as they were unloading the truck, I called my dad at my breaking point, in absolute frustration and just needed to VENT.  I said something very similar to the following in a rambling monologue:

“I’ve had enough. ¬†This is ridiculous. ¬†This country is so broken. ¬†Nothing works. ¬†I can’t even receive packages. ¬†I can’t get money. ¬†My ADSL doesn’t work. ¬†I can’t even buy cheddar!” ¬†I was so serious, but even as I said the last line, I realized how ridiculous it sounded, but it’s a valid complaint. ¬†No variety, so shut in their ways, fearing global influence, fearing anything non-Italian, that we can’t even have cheddar cheese. ¬†All Italian, all the time. ¬†And that philosophy seems to have permeated the lifestyles, where they do things the Italian way, even if it doesn’t make the most sense. ¬†Whatever . . .

In my rant, I added, “If I could get back on a plane, I would. ¬†I’m done. ¬†It’s a frustrating place to live. ¬†Teachers left last year because they were so frustrated with the nonsense. ¬†The school is trying to help, but it’s ridiculous. ¬†Someone already left this year after 2 weeks. ¬†2 weeks!” I was so loud that I think neighbors heard me, so there goes my reputation in the neighborhood — there I was being a spoiled New Yorker Ugly American, unable to adjust to “normale,” the way things are done here.

“It’s good for visiting,” said my Dad.

“No it’s not. ¬†It’s frustrating for that, too. T hat’s why I avoided it for so many years. ¬†I’m done with this country.”

As I said the words, I knew I didn’t mean them. ¬†I instantly felt bad, like I had just talked badly about a boyfriend. ¬†I didn’t want to betray my Italy, my host country that offered so much to me: beauty, happiness, peace . . . ¬†Italy had changed my life. ¬†I just had to navigate this nonsense. ¬†One hoop at a time, I’ll get settled, I’ll learn more about the culture and the language. ¬†And at the end of the day, it all still makes much more sense and is way friendlier than working for the DOE in NYC.

More on Milan

At the end of my last post, I was in a spa enjoying the bliss in Milan yet feeling the tug of home. ¬†I guess my life will always be like this. ¬†I feel a bit at home everywhere and not completely at home anywhere. Perhaps all true travelers feel like this? ¬†And now I have to realize that I’m not just a traveler; I’m an expat. ¬†I have planted roots, however shallow, in this new culture. I am living a dream I have had for at least 11 years. ¬†Now, I am at home waiting for my goods to arrive from NYC, further proof that I’m here to stay a while. ¬†So I will continue with my Milan story.

In the middle of my spa experience, I went to the locker to check my iPhone for train schedules. ¬†(I can’t even begin to say how much this internet access has lightened my load, saved me money on guidebooks, and simplified my travel experience — just like it made my last few months in NY extra special. ¬†I can’t go back to life pre-smart phone . . .) ¬†I saw I had two options. ¬†One option would mean I’d have to leave the spa now, rushing to the station with wet hair, and ride home for two hours. ¬†The last option, a 10:25 train, would take 3 hours instead of 1.5, dropping me off in central Genoa around 1:30 am, after all the busses stopped and I’d have a difficult time getting home. ¬†Slightly dismayed, I thought “Hey, a hostel! ¬†I can look one up right now.” ¬†I didn’t have to run around looking for an internet cafe, or consult a guidebook I didn’t get. ¬†I could book now, load the directions and head on over. ¬†There were several options in a shared dorm for around 16 euros. ¬†Perfect. ¬†Yay me!

I decided to sort out all the details later, and headed back to the spa waters where I melted into water myself. ¬†Cozy and red cheeked, I went for one more round of food, sipping mint tea, and took a brief nap in the “Earth” relaxation room, where I literally sunk into a mattress squishier and cozier than any I had ever tried. ¬†After this brief nap, I was ready to sleep. ¬†I rinsed off in the shower, enjoying the thermal spring infused spa products, then unlocked my locker by tapping a special bracelet on the number, and reached for my iPhone. ¬†I’d better book now. ¬†I found a bed in a mixed dorm at a hostel near Buenos Aires, apparently a famous shopping street. ¬†When I went to book, the phone died. ¬†What? No!!!

I fell asleep last night without charging my phone, so it only got some juice just before I left. ¬†Also, the locker was draining the signal, I’m sure. ¬†Why was I not smart enough to turn it off? ¬†Because I was trying to have a “no worries” day. ¬†“Ok, it will all work out, I thought.” ¬†I might be able to make the 10:25. ¬†I dashed onto the Metro, but got on in the WRONG direction. ¬†I flipped around, and it was clear that I would be a few minutes too late. ¬†No! ¬†Also, I had left my ATM card at home by accident, had no cash, and the ticket machines didn’t take my credit card. ¬†I wouldn’t have had time for the long lines in the train station anyway . . . and while it IS an option to book online . . . my phone wasn’t working.

Ok, ok . . . ¬†Big city, plenty of options. ¬†I got out at the station to search for an Internet point or posters or brochures for hostels. ¬†It used to be that you could roll into town without booking ahead, and 24 hour hostel options would be everywhere, no matter what city. ¬†Not here. ¬†There were no info booths open, no Internet around. ¬†The modern world assumes that travelers have their guidebooks and smart phones, that we pre-plan and are connected. ¬†I walked around the hood, trying to suss out a cheap yet not skeevy hotel or a hostel. ¬†Nothing seemed affordable. ¬†I jumped back in the Metro and found my way to Buenos Aires, remembering that was near the hostel. Why didn’t I at least write down the address? ¬†All I needed was the address. ¬†Even if they filled their beds, they’d still be able direct me to another hostel.

12am, wandering on Buenos Aires, I was glad to be there. ¬†It was a wide shopping boulevard filled with tourists and locals, strolling on a Saturday evening, bright lights illuminating familiar international and European brands. ¬†But no hostel in sight. ¬†at 12:30, the subway line was closed, so I kept wandering around, trying to blindly choose which hotel I’d plop into, sacrificing money I didn’t plan to spend. ¬†I wasn’t upset or panicked, because the spa made me so relaxed and elated. ¬†I felt like I was floating around the city, curiously searching. Maybe I could stay up until the next train at 5am? ¬†I’d just have to keep killing time. But then I was incredibly exhausted, dragging my feet.

And there it was, I had made my way back to Central Station. ¬†I saw “Mini Hotel Aosta” and thought, I’m either sleeping here or on the floor of the train station. ¬†Even though they did clean it up, that wasn’t how I planned to spend my night. ¬†I walked in, weary and exhausted and said “Buona Sera” to the man who greeted me. ¬†“Do you have any rooms?” He nodded. ¬†“How much?”

“90 euros.”

Some hotels could be up to 200 bucks, especially by the train station. ¬†Fine, good enough. ¬†Sleep! ¬†“Ok” I nodded. ¬†As he checked me in, he said, “If you have time in the morning, there is breakfast on the 8th floor until 10am.”

“Oh, definitely!” I said. ¬†Hey, that knocks 10 euros or so off the price. ¬†Now, sleep.

I went to the room and noticed light was streaming in from the bottom of the shutters, so I pressed the button that drew the metal closed tightly. ¬†I didn’t see an alarm anywhere, couldn’t get the tv to work, and was so exhausted, I stripped and went to bed. ¬†I grabbed a book that only made it into the bed with me. ¬†Never opened. ¬†Then it fell to the floor with a loud THUD sometime in the middle of the night.

I woke up to a loud KNOCK. ¬†It was pitch black, and I figured it was a hotel guest knocking on the wrong door. ¬†I said, “Yes?” and they walked away.

I stayed in my slumber a bit longer, then had a suspicious feeling.  Eventually, I turned the lights on and glanced at my watch.  10:15.  No!

I opened the blinds, and realized there was a bright, sunshine-filled day outside. ¬†My room faced the train station. ¬†But I was too late for breakfast. ¬†I threw clothes on, splashed my face, and dashed into the elevator, pressing 8. ¬†But it would not illuminate. ¬†Apparently, they don’t let you up if it’s not breakfast time. ¬†So I missed out on all the food, the view of the train station from the 8th floor, and a relaxing treat before my departure.

View of the train station from my room.

Oh well. ¬†I checked out in a hurry, and dashed to the ticket line where I grabbed a seat to Genova. ¬†Why is it not departing until 12:45? ¬†Oh well, I’ll kill time. ¬†I wandered around the area, searching for an open restaurant. On a sleepy Sunday, even Milan was not awake yet at 11am. ¬†Hungry, I grabbed McDonald’s– I know, I know!

Then I sauntered back to the station and saw my train wasn’t on the schedule. ¬†Wait, what? ¬†Oh crap, in my groggy haze, I had misread my ticket. ¬†My train ARRIVED in Genoa at 12:45. ¬†It departed at 11:10 . . . oh so long ago. ¬†Back to the ticket line, where I explained my sitatuation. They said it was too late for a refund, but because they felt bad, they gave me the money back and booked me on the next train, which ended up being 8 euros cheaper.

Finally, onto the train. ¬†And as it pulled out of the station, I realized I left my book on the floor in the hotel! As we picked up speed, I figured I’d return the next week with a nice excuse for another spa weekend.

I did return. ¬†I made sure my phone was fully charged, and I got to the city early enough that I was ready to take the train home at 8:10pm. ¬† At the spa, I explored new areas, including a tram car outside that had been turned into a sauna! ¬†The food was just as delicious as before, yet more crowded as I was there when they started happy hour. ¬†I also tried out the “Fire” relaxation room, where I napped on a giant squishy beanbag before a nice fire. ¬†After, I tried the “Water” relaxation room, where I floated on a water bed. ¬† After another blissful experience, I didn’t want to ruin it. ¬†I made it to my train on time and had the cabin all to myself, reading a book for school as the train glided me home. ¬†Home to Genoa. ¬†I live here.

Milano Centrale Stazione

Farewell to Milan on my way back home to Genoa.

No Clocks, No Toys, No Packages

I know that people have already sent me gifts. ¬†One friend sent something before I even left, although I don’t know if I will ever receive it. ¬†Why? ¬†Well . . . Italy is a bit crazy with customs. ¬†Usually, you have to pay import tax on items that sometimes equals the value of what is sent. ¬†Sometimes items are worthless, like papers, and they will still charge 8 euros tax. ¬†I find this a bit odd considering that, from what I heard, many Italians–especially in the south– are guilty of tax evasion. ¬†But being double taxed on items . . . ahh. ¬†Luckily, amazon.co.uk will ship here without the customs tax. ¬†But shipping from America? ¬†Good Luck. ¬†I’m kind of sad because what will happen to things people sent? ¬†A trick is to declare the value below $40 for clothes, declare as second hand, etc . . . never send vitamins or prescriptions, and . . . well, avoid all these items. ¬†It seems like a joke, but it is real. ¬†Seriously, do NOT send children’s toys unless they are made wholly of wood.

The Quest for Protein

Just returned from another lovely day at work with great people. ¬†There is a COOP supermarket right by the school. ¬†Originally, I was excited because COOP chains always have an awesome selection of international foods from around Europe and beyond, including premade Mango Lassis and whatnot. ¬†But here in suburban Genoa, it is very, very regional and Italian. ¬†And of course, this means lots of pasta and carbs. ¬†Of course there is also a lot of fresh produce and plenty of affordably-priced seafood, but quick protein options are hard to find. ¬†I spent a good half hour walking up and down the isles on a quest for protein. ¬†There is bread for breakfast, pasta for lunch, and if you go out . . . the affordable option is pasta. ¬†This is gonna sound weird but true. ¬†I don’t really like pasta. ¬†With that said, it’s good here, but I still don’t like pasta and don’t want it twice a day. ¬†Also, I have seriously reduced my carb intake while increasing my protein intake in recent years with a diet that is Moo Paleo (the Paleo diet with dairy), with fantastic results. ¬†I don’t want to go backwards or shock my body with insulin levels. ¬†I’m not giving up; it’s a new challenge.

In the meantime, I haven’t been eating enough, and when fueling up with mostly bread products, I end up hungry all the time, especially after all the hiking up and down hills and lugging groceries long distances. ¬†I’m looking for suggestions for shopping with my new resources. ¬†I think salads have to be bigger for me, increase veggie portions, and cook meat every night. ¬†I like …never cook, and I’m looking for recipes and new suggestions. ¬†I bought some sausages, ground beef, and chicken cutlets. ¬†What shall I make? ¬†Thanks for your feedback!