The First Week
Coming here was surprisingly uneventful. We stepped off the plane in Olbia, collected our bags, and stepped into a whole new world! — moving from Texas to Italy. Our school set us up with a driver. He picked us up from the airport, took us onto the ferry, and across to the little island, La Maddalena. Our old life is forever behind us now. We are feeling anxious and hopeful. For better or worse, whatever happens we must take the consequences. Just think about it for a moment!!!
How amazingly beautiful it is!
Our apartment has all the basics. It comes furnished and they left us everything we will need for a month, except food, though it did come with some of the staples like sugar, spaghetti, olive oil, salt, bottled water, etc. All the dishes and pots and pans, most everything you would need is provided: soap, toilet tissue, shampoo, laundry detergent, hair dryer, coffee maker, paper towels, cleaning supplies, sheets, towels, all the basics. They really thought of everything.
It is a small apartment, with a kitchen, large bedroom/living room and a bathroom with a shower, and bidet. (I have never used a bidet, but I watched videos on youtube showing me how. I don’t think I will try it anytime soon!) We also have a gas stove, TV, washer, fan and refrigerator, etc. But no microwave, no dishwasher, toaster, dryer, A/C and so far we haven’t got the oven to work, just the burners on top of the stove. The TV didn’t work the first couple of days, but they came and replaced the antenna. I checked and we don’t have any English-speaking channels. People here hang their clothes on a folding rack to dry. I always do that too, so it isn’t a hardship for me. The convenience I miss most is a microwave.
There is a large patio, mostly private because of trees, with a gate that we lock. There is a lemon tree, olive tree, and lime tree, among others. I was surprised to see large rubber plants, because I have always thought of them as houseplants. Most of the fruit is still immature, but I picked a ripe lemon to put in our water and it is delicious.
We get around by walking everywhere and we are still finding our way. There is a bus, which I have not taken yet, that goes around the island. Also I haven’t taken the ferry back over to the big island of Sardinia yet, but hope to soon. There is only so much you can do in one week! I have found out that the ferry runs 3 times an hour in the summer, but only hourly in the winter. It is the only way in or out of our island, unless you have your own boat, or hire one perhaps.
Our first month will be spent in an intensive Italian-language course at GAIA Institute. We go to class three hours daily in the morning, where our teacher, Valeria, basically speaks nothing but Italian to us. It is intense, but she also tries to make it fun. Valeria took us to breakfast one morning so that we could practice ordering in Italian. We also saw some funny short videos and an Italian comedy movie. This week we were the only 2 students in our class, but that will change next week. Students come from all over and we will be in with French, Mexican, Swiss and Czech Republic students that I know of so far. It will be a fun multicultural experience — I hope!
Another teacher at the school, Giuseppe, took us on an excursion to Caprera, another small island, even smaller than La Maddalena. It is nearby and is connected to our island by a bridge. But most people go there for the beaches. Not many people go where we went, because it is quite a trek to get there. You must be good at climbing up and down mountains. And it is very beautiful. The views of the Tyrrhenian Sea alone are worth it!! But it is historical as well. There are ruins left over from WWI and WWII (some from the early 19th century) when it served as a military fortress, armed by the Navy. If you are into history, and we are, you would enjoy going through these forts.
Giuseppe conducted almost the entire tour (nearly three hours!) in Italian. We understood a surprising amount! Immersion does seem to work when you are learning a new language. There were also, of course, parts that we didn’t understand so well — but you can’t know everything in the first week.
In addition to our three hours of classroom time per day, we also have homework and outside study, which we do together. It isn’t easy, but we seem to be learning.
If you have ever been to the Greek Isles, you would probably say this island has a cool, young, Mykonos vibe to it, or it feels similar to Mykonos. Busy, but laid back, friendly, always with something going on. I have tried to think of a Caribbean island to relate it to, but I really can’t think of any.
The nightlife here is amazing! Everyone comes out and stays out very late. They dine and walk the busy streets, children (yes, young children) play and vendors sell wares into the night. It is all peaceful. Until their soccer team scores (they have TVs all along the outdoor street cafes, restaurants, and bars) and then the place erupts with squeals and the people in the sports bars start singing loudly in unison. We realize we have to learn about soccer as we know nothing! We have gone out most nights, walking, eating gelato, staying out until after 11 pm. But we have school in the morning and must sleep. People are friendly and it is a very safe place to vacation. If anyone is interested, I would recommend it. FUN!
A Few Things That Are Different (and what isn’t?)
This video shows something we first saw in Romania. A friend of mine says they have these in Australia too. Seems to be a trampoline with bungy cords. Looks like fun. I have only seen kids do this, and Ed says there is a weight limit. Not sure if there is an age limit. But… I want to try it! As a great- grandmother, I am sure I would look stupid, but I wouldn’t care. I am used to that.
One time this week in a crowd of tourists, I heard some people speaking English. Ed didn’t realize it until I pointed it out to him, but I noticed immediately because no one here speaks English at all. So I had to ask where they were from, and found out New York. Would have loved to chat, but they were on their way down to the beach, I think.
When I go to the store for groceries, I find that I need a lot of patience, time, and money. As an American, I am not real familiar with kilos, half kilos or grams vs. pounds and ounces, euros vs. dollars, so I find I am always having to do the math. I have found some real bargains, but mostly I find that the island prices on meats and cheeses are high. The only things I have found so far that are less expensive than in the United States are pasta and wine. Imagine that! It is a good thing we love both of them, and we have eaten mostly pasta since we got here.
On our second day here we were coming back from the store. Our bags were heavy and we decided to switch up. Ed was going to carry the wine and I would take some lighter stuff. When I passed him the bottle of wine, it hit the ground and broke. It was in his bag so the glass was contained but wine went everywhere. It made a mess on the sidewalk that I couldn’t clean up (I took a bottle of water there the next day to try to clean it up), and every time we went by there for a week I would see the stain and, of course, I felt bad. Ed suggested I name it Harvey Winestain. The wine stain is gone now.
We saw a snake by our gate one day, but we were told not to worry, because there are not any venomous snakes on the island. Thank goodness for that!! Also, we see lots of lizards. They are very common. Mosquitoes and flies are aggressive at times, but thankfully there are no fire ants.
I thought this was weird so I made a video. This looks like a normal loaf of bread, according to the picture on the side.
We expect bread to be sliced vertically in the bag, so when I went to get out a slice, I wasn’t expecting them to be laid horizontally. These are the kinds of things I want to blog about. Mostly just little things really, but different than we are used to. These are the things I find interesting.
These cute little trucks are also interesting. Many years ago when I lived in Japan, I saw three-wheeled trucks, but they weren’t so small . I am holding my arms out so you can see these are only about 6 feet long. Very cute!
We have been blessed with good weather. No rain so far. Weather has been mostly mild, but the midday sun is hot. We have been able to eat all our meals outside, either on the patio or in outside restaurants or cafes. I am starting to look forward to a rainy day, just to experience it.
We don’t know what will happen tomorrow or the day after. We don’t know where we go from here, but there is an Italian phrase that sticks in my head, “Non vedo l’ora,” which means “I am looking forward to it. ”
Ciao for now.