02.27.06

Wisdom

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:22 pm

A few days ago it was my team leader’s six year anniversary of moving to Italy. I asked him to look back and give me, the new kid, some advice. He says…

spend more time with Italians! as much time as possible – get into their homes and their lives … sip coffee until midnight and play cards and make sharing Jesus as natural as talking about how foolish Berlusconi is …

He’s a really good team leader, huh? You can’t reach people if you don’t spend lots of time with them.

41 + 41 = 80?

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:54 am

Had to make a trek to the post office today. I had two things on my agenda:

  1. Buy stamps
  2. Open a bank account

In Italy, the post office is much more than just where you go to mail packages. You can open a bank account, pay bills, buy insurance, get a home loan, buy gifts, and recharge your cell phone’s minutes. I pushed the little button, and waited for my number to be called. The bell rings, and I go to the counter. “I need 20 stamps for the United States,” I said.

“I don’t have any stamps,” the clerk replied. She leans over to the next window and asks if he has any stamps. He didn’t. I wondered for a split second if I really entered the door to the post office. She directs me to a different line. I wait some more, behind some frustrated Italians who received a notice that they have a package waiting for them only to find out that they returned the package to the sender because they were late coming to pick it up. She complained that she got the notice only last Thursday, but the woman wouldn’t budge – the postcard was postmarked weeks ago. I’m siding with the lady, but I digress.

It’s my turn, I ask for stamps. She says she doesn’t have any. I calmly, but firmly stand my ground and explain to the lady that I was told to come here by her coworker. She rolls her eyes and says, “Well she probably thought that because I have other stamps. We don’t have any stamps for the United States. We’re out.” At this point I’m confused. Sensing this, she explains, “The only reason to buy an €?0.80 stamp is to send a letter to the USA. They’re not used for anything else, so they only print them twice a year.”

I’m still determined, “How about 2 €?0.40 stamps?”

“Those don’t exist. Let me check in back.” She wanders off, asking everyone she comes in contact with if they have seen any €?0.80 stamps. I don’t see her for a while. She’s probably hoping I’ll go away. I don’t.

She finally comes back carrying two sheets of stamps. She smiles and hands them to me. I politely point out that these are €0.41 stamps.”

“It’s the best I can do. You’re only wasting €?0.02.”

I give her my money and walk away, trying to convince myself that €?0.41 + €?0.41 = €?0.80.

02.24.06

The Mafia

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:52 am

Every now and then people ask us about the Mafia here in Italy. If you ask an Italian about it, it’s not uncommon to get an eye roll. The Mafia is a real thing, but it’s really not like what you see in The Godfather. At least not any more. It’s not so much about violent crime these days as it is about government corruption and drug trafficking. Italy had to do some pretty major house cleaning to get into the European Union, but organized crime is still around.

For example, Heidi told me a story that she saw on the news last night. I also read about it in the paper this morning. A former mob boss’ daughter was found dead, having apparently jumped out of her bedroom window in the middle of the night. No one saw or heard anything until the next morning. Police “investigated”, but do not consider her death to be retribution by the people that her dad ratted on. And by investigated, I mean this crime happened two days ago and they’ve already made their decision.

Hmmmm…

02.22.06

Am I buying this apartment or renting?

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:10 am

Big news! Last Saturday we had an appointment with our realtor and our new landlord (who is actually a landlady) to sign the paperwork for the apartment in Ancona. I was very excited, and a little nervous, as we went in.

A bit of background … renting an apartment seems much more formal here in the States. People often get a realtor, and sometimes the terms of the contract are negotiable. So there are offers and counter-offers. The whole shebang.

I sat down next to the landlady, and across from us sat the representative from the realtor’s office. And then they just started shoving papers at me. I did my best to read them, but it was completely different from the Italian I have learned. Think about it – the first time you bought a house, how many new words did you learn? Well I was in that same situation, but faced with a language and culture barriers.

The realtor, perhaps sensing my growing apprehension about signing my life away, stopped and assured me that this was all standard paperwork. She smiled warmly and said as long as I pay the rent, everyone’s happy. This would have been very reassuring if, as she said this, she didn’t hand me another stack of papers to sign that I don’t understand.

All in all, we got the job done. But I was literally dizzy when we walked out of there … keys in hand!

One more thing … the grand total to just get into the apartment:

€700 ($840) for earnest money (refundable at the contract signing)
€1,400 ($1,680) for a security deposit (2 months rent)
€840 ($1,008) for the realtor’s commission (10% of the yearly rent)
€168 ($201.60) for IVA tax on the commission
€186.48 ($223.78) to register the housing contract

€3,294.48 ($3,953.38) Total

All just a part of living and ministering in Italy.

02.20.06

Faith of a little child

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:37 pm

We were in Ancona this weekend, signing papers for the new apartment (a subject for another post later). Trey caught the stomach flu that the Casey family has had lately. This morning the little guy just kept running for the toilet. After a particularly rough episode, he limps into the living room and says, in the sickest, weakest voice you can imagine, “I bet Jesus can help my tummy feel better.”

Heidi scooped him up and prayed with him right then and there.

02.17.06

That’s a whole lotta’ Ottimos

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:37 am

It was report card day yesterday. I headed up to the kids’ school to meet with their teachers and pick up their grades. I wasn’t really sure what to expect. We’ve been told the kids are doing really well, and they like school. But since they had never really been formally evaluated, I was ready for anything.

And I was just blown away. The grading scale they use is:

  • Ottimo – The Best
  • Distinto – Distinguished
  • Buono – Good
  • Sufficiente – Sufficient
  • Non Sufficiente – Not Sufficient

And the kids did great! Mostly Ottimos and Distintos, and one Buono. Way to go Lance & Chloe!

02.16.06

Sergeant Weatherman

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:30 am

In the morning there are news programs on TV just like in the States. They start out all serious and towards the end of the show are talking about the latest celebrity gossip and fashion trends. Apparently some things are just universal. But one big difference: the weathermen on these shows are members of the military, and so are dressed in their military uniforms. They look quite official.

Accuracy, however, is apparently not improved. Like I said, some things are just universal.

02.13.06

Olympic Commentators

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:26 am

The Winter Olympics are pretty big here. One of the state-owned channels is all-Olympics, all the time. One thing that I have noticed is that many of the sports terms that they use are the English words with an Italian accent. Snowboarders do taiuhl grabuh in the af-pipuh. In curling they do lots of sweepinguh. Skiers do jump-uhs. Don’t read this like I’m making fun – but since all Italian words end in a vowel, it’s sometimes difficult for them to pronounce foreign words that don’t end in a vowel. It makes for some interesting TV!

02.11.06

Bird Flu

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:44 pm

I saw on the news tonight that bird flu has arrived in Italy. It’s been all around Italy, but it hasn’t ever been found here. They’ve been running ads for months telling people not to be afraid to eat chicken, that all chicken sold here is raised here, you only get it if you’re around chicken farms, etc.

But the weird thing is, they found bird flu in swans. What happens if I eat a swan?

02.09.06

Language Lesson

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:59 am

Last night the family and I and our teammate Josh took a rare excursion out to dinner. We went to one of our favorites, Etrusca. The people are very friendly, and it’s a good place to take kids.

Pause for a language lesson. Italian, like other Latin-languages, has a plural form of “you.” It’s like when we say “you all” except the verb changes. It’s something that takes some getting used to for English speakers. We would say, “Look!” to one person or to a group of people. Italians would say, “Guarda!” to one person, and “Guardate!” to more than one. End of language lesson!

So last night, the first amazing thing is when the kids’ ordered ice cream for dessert. In Italian, the waitress says, “Come with me! Pick it out.” The kids didn’t hesitate, and got right up from their chairs to the freezer where the ice cream was stored. I was kind of amazed – I didn’t have to translate for them.

Then, Trey comes back from the freezer. He proudly shows Josh and I his ice cream, and says, “Guardate!” Somehow his little three-year-old brain had already picked up on the difference in singular and plural “you.” Heidi and I looked at each other and got a little emotional. Our kids really are learning the language.