11.28.05

The Eurostar … Grrrrrrr

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:37 am

Yesterday we traveled back to Perugia after spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Ancona with our teammates. We were in a bit of a hurry to get back right after Life Group since the kids had homework and school the next morning. So we decided to break with tradition and take the Eurostar train.

In Italy there are two main types of trains. The regular trains, which are slower and cheaper, and the Eurostar trains, which are faster, but more expensive. And they have assigned seating, which is nothing but a thorn in my side. Every time I buy Eurostar tickets for my family of five, they give us seats spread out throughout the whole train! Yesterday we had two seats in car 5, one seat in car 7, and one seat in car 9! How exactly is that supposed to work? “Trey, sit here for two hours and don’t bother anyone. Mom and Dad are just four cars away. Don’t forget to get off the train in Foligno!” Please!

What they’ve told us to do in the past is to sit together and as people come on board, explain the situation and ask if they wouldn’t mind trading. It usually works well, but is kind of a hastle for them and us. Yesterday a young woman got on and told me I was in her seat. I apologized and said the ticket agent gave my family seats all over the place, and asked her if she wouldn’t mind trading. She explained that she was also traveling with a friend she wanted to sit by.

So I grab Trey, put his coat, gloves, hat, and scarf on. I grab our luggage (which was between my legs since there wasn’t room in the overhead compartment). I tell Heidi I have to move and I’ll see her in Foligno. And I huff down two cars to find my empty seat.

In the long run, not a big deal. I told my sister the story last night and she wisely said, “But you made it home, didn’t you?” But for the life of me I can’t figure out why they insist on splitting up my 6, 5 and 3-year old.

Back to the cheap train for us! We’ll ride with the cattle as long as we get to sit together! ☺

11.25.05

A Fantastic Thanksgiving

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:09 pm

I’m glad to have people on our team who value traditions. We spent Thanksgiving in Ancona with our teammates Matt & Angie. They prepared a FANTASTIC feast … there wasn’t a single dish that I would eat on Thanksgiving in the USA that wasn’t on the table. Matt had the Macy’s Day parade on the TV (recorded from about 2 years ago!). Angie prepared a beautiful table. Our whole team (at least, those of us in Italy right now), Matt Hodges (a good friend from the USA), and Harold & Enid Fowler (longtime missionaries in Italy) were all there. It was great.

Our team needs Matt & Angie. I always enjoy doing big holiday things, but honestly wouldn’t ever thing to plan them on my own. Being away from friends and family in America is tough around the holidays. But friends like Matt & Angie make it a lot easier.

11.22.05

I can wear a scarf

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:37 am

Italians are always cold. Or at least is seems like they are. Winter coats are out in full force in September when I would still be wearing shorts in the states. Bus windows never get opened because drafts make people sick. We don’t have a car, so when we want to get somewhere, we walk. Perugia is one big hill! If I’m walking my heart is pumping and I am HOT!

One day I decided to bite the bullet and bust out the winter coat. I was tired of people staring at me and thinking that I should be wearing something warmer even though I was sweating to death. I had a few errands to run before school. By the time I got to school my entire shirt was wet with sweat. All because I wanted to be “Italian.”

I’m not sure why Italians’ collective thermostats are so much cooler than ours. It’s not just me – our teammates have noticed the same thing. But just to avoid the staring, I wear a scarf. Even though my shirt is damp with sweat.

11.18.05

Strikes!

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:08 am

One of the stranger parts about living in Italy is work strikes. They’re very common here. There is hardly an area of life that isn’t effected in some way by strikes. Transportation strikes effect us the most. When traveling we always check to see if there is a train strike that day. Bus strikes mean a lot of walking for us. Usually the strikes last only 24 hours and, fortunately, there are laws that state that even when there is a strike, certain busses and trains have to run. For example, the busses that run during the times when kids are going to and from school. So if you time it right, you won’t even notice that there’s anything going on. Except that there are about five times the people on board! I’ve been told many times that the purpose of these strikes isn’t to inconvenience an entire city, but to cause the company to lose money. In practice, I don’t see much difference.

But I was surprised to learn of a new kind of strike today. I went to the newsstand by our house to buy my favorite newspaper. On Fridays it comes with a special magazine that I really like. Today, however, the lady told me that there wasn’t a magazine today because they went on strike. Why a magazine company would strike is beyond me. They could want higher wages, better hours, or just a three-day weekend. Beats me.

11.16.05

Coldplay!

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:34 am

I did something that I haven’t done since I-don’t-know-when last night. Matt, Josh & I went to the Coldplay concert in Bologna. I don’t remember the last concert that I went to, and was very excited about making the trip.

One thing that amazed me about the concert (which was excellent, by the way) was how much the audience sang along. Coldplay obviously sings in English, but the crowd was singing every song, sometimes word for word. I did hear some foreigners in the crowd, but the vast majority of the people were Italian. English has very much made it into Italian life, especially with younger people.

But while Italians may be able to sing or carry on a brief conversation in English, the language that they think in is definitely Italian. Their heart speaks Italian, and that’s why we’re going to school … to speak to Italians’ hearts about the love of Jesus.

11.10.05

Purchase Mistakes

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:40 am

I think one of the more challenging things about living in Italy is learning how to buy things. Stores of any kind are very different here. Most Americans would be amazed at the size of most grocery stores – I’ve seen gas stations bigger than the one just up the street! And to top off all the differences, Italy (like the entire world except the USA!) uses the metric system.

Heidi went to the store the other day to do the weekly shopping. Not seeing ground beef in the butcher’s cabinet, she asked if he had any. He said he would make her some. So he grabs a couple of pieces of meat, asks her how much she needed (2 Kilograms), and starts grinding it. Heidi notices that the price tag on the pile of meat he picked from was about $9 a kilo. But she figured that surely it wouldn’t be that expensive for ground beef. Wrong! He weighed it and the total was around $18 for 2 kilos (about 4 1/2 lbs) of beef. He ground up steak to make hamburger!

The other day I was walking home from school when I saw a sewing store. Trey’s school uniform is already missing about 4 buttons, so I figured I would swallow my manly pride and head in. It got worse when I walked in and realized it was a sewing / ladies underwear store! I asked the lady if she had buttons. She showed me what she had, but I didn’t know what size I needed. I explained I would return with the uniform so we could get the right size. When I did, I asked her for 6 buttons. The total? €€3.50 … around $4! for 6 buttons!

I’ll know we have truly understood this culture when we learn how to shop here!

11.08.05

He doesn’t even speak Italian

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:49 am

We had an interesting conversation with our grammar teacher about the last king of Italy, Umberto II. In 1946 Italians voted to end the monarchy and become a republic. The newly-drafted constitution demanded that every male member of Italian royalty be banned from ever stepping foot in Italy again. That rule has been in place ever since, though recently they have been allowed to return for short periods of time.

Umberto II had one son, Vittorio Emanuele, who lived most of his life in exile in Switzerland. Many Italians are confused as to why he would want to come back. He is more “Swiss” than “Italian.” His accent when speaking Italian is very pronounced. He has children who are Swiss citizens.

As we were discussing the subtleties of former Italian royalty, our teacher kept explaining the absurdity of Vittorio’s return to Italy: “He doesn’t even speak Italian!” It struck me that she placed such a heavy emphasis on the language a person speaks. The idea of a person who doesn’t speak Italian having some kind of cultural link to Italy was absurd to her.

All of which makes me want to work on my accent…

11.04.05

We’re Back!

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:06 am

Alrighty, so we had some problems with the web server. But she’s chugging along fine now. More news is on its way…