Tales of a wandering lesbian

Posts from — October 2009

More Voting

So, after our exciting day of horses and dogs, we went voting – again.  The ladies joked that I’m starting to look more and more like a spy.  Too funny that I would hit elections both times I’m here.  Last time it was the local races, as well as the EU election.  This time, it was a party election for the secretary of the Democratic Party.  (I think.)

This time, we went voting with Deb’s family in Barga and then in Fornacci with Sandra.  This is the same area Sandra ran for city council in last time I was here, and it was fun to recognize some of the people.  (I wonder if they recognized me  –  the stranger who never speaks and only shows up at election time.)

There were some differences this time.

1.  They had to pay 2 Euro each to vote.

Euro

Fascinating.  Something like 2.5 million people voted (you didn’t have to be a member of the Democratic Party to vote), so the party made a cool 5 million Euro.  It was a record turnout for a minority party, which is interesting to political types.

2.  I wasn’t nearly arrested.  I wasn’t wearing a political button, but I did take some pictures.  I didn’t want to make people nervous, but Deb said it was fine, so I busted out the camera.  (Seriously, these people have to wonder what the hell I’m doing there.)

FlagsPicture 081Select your secretary

After voting, we headed to dinner with Deb’s family and some friends of theirs who are in town from England.  I swear I’ve met more people who are primary English speakers than Italian.  We had dinner at Caffe Capretz, a place that serves excellent pizzas.  While I was voting with the ladies, Deb’s sister ordered me this amazing masterpiece.  (Funny side story – like there’s a main story – when she told the owner that she wanted a vegetarian pizza he said, “okay, I’ll put some speck on it.”  This is something my grandfather would say.)  Deb had the “smiley” calzone.   Dessert was panna cotta with amarena (winter cherries)

Capretz pizzaCapretz calzonePanna Cotta Capretz

At dinner, Deb’s youngest nephew, Andre, who is maybe 1 and a half, made friends with Bepe, the owner.  By the end of the night, he had learned his name, and Bepe brought him a special mandarin orange.  It reminded me of when my family traveled to Greece and the head of the kitchen used to bring my sister a bowl of special Queen Anne cherries.  When Andre saw Bepe this morning, he called out “Bepe!” and ran over to see him.

Pepe i Andre

On the way home from dinner we had one of those great moments where we were all talking and laughing, and Sandra was enjoying it so much that she asked Deb to keep driving so that we could keep enjoying.  As we snaked through the roads of a town above Fornacci, Debbie came to a stop, with the headlights illuminating a wondrous thing.

Foosball

Deb suggested that I must take a picture.  Well, yes, of course, but as I looked at the table I was overcome.  Tommy and I hopped out and reassembled the parts.  How could we not?  I’m like a 14 year old boy, and he IS a 14 year old boy.

Foosball assembly

There was even a ball!  Sandra and I tested it out.  Our hands flew, and the players whirred as they spun around.  The ball just rolled lazily around.  We had re-assembled the table, only to find out that the reason it had been abandoned was that the deck was so warped that the players could no longer reach the ball.  No worries!

Artists at War

The table came off the ground as we wrestled the table through the air.  Sandra labeled the experience, “artists at war.”  Fantastico!

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October 27, 2009   No Comments

Arrivo

It’s day two of my leap.

Day 2

Because of the time change, day two is really two days: yesterday, the day I arrived (which was part of day one, I think) and today, which is about 48 hours after I left the US.

Here’s a recap:

Flight to Amsterdam was good. I got free upgrades for baggage and also my seat (thanks to my seat-mate for that last one).

Amsterdam had great chocolate and cappuccino.

Cap 1

That’s a rhubarb bonbon on the plate. Va bene.

The flight to Florence was good. Lots of turbulence, which I totally prefer on a small plane. Makes me feel like I’m in a car. The hum-drum of the big planes makes me a little nervous, like I’m on some alien aircraft that might not land (am I totally crazy? I might be totally crazy).

When I got to Florence, my friends Deb and Sandra were even there to pick me up! Serious bonus and kind of amazing seeing as we met for one day and communicated over the internet until yesterday. Deb even changed cars with her dad so we could fit all my luggage. Amazing.

We headed to a great pizza place for lunch on the way back to their home. The food was so good I forgot to take a picture until the cecina was almost gone.

Chichina

Cecina is a kind of breadish thing made out of garbanzo beans. Yummy. Incidentally, while we were eating, I asked, tongue and cheek, if the pig flu was as big a deal in Italy as it is in the US. Evidently, Sandra and Deb’s son, Tommy, had it about a week ago. Sweet. He’s all good now. So, it’s not getting quite the hype here as elsewhere – although we did use a significant amount of hand sanitizer at lunch.

Banditas

Then we stopped at the store to pick up provisions for that night’s dinner party, and some more hand sanitizer. Sidestory: while checking out, Sandra lost her rewards card when it was sucked backward into the moving belt in the check-out line. After partially disassembling the under-carriage of the counter, I found a card and recovered it. Sadly, after we checked out, Sandra realized it wasn’t hers! Too funny. Well, at least I got to take something apart. Then I used some hand sanitizer, just in case.

When we got to Fornaci di Barga, we dropped off the groceries and headed into Barga, which is up the hill from Fornaci, to switch cars and stop by the castagne festival at the old folks home. “Castagna” is “chestnut” in Italian. The trees grow locally, and are used in construction, and the nuts and flour are used in cooking and baking. We had some lovely castagne snacks, said, “caio” to some lovely old folks, met Deb’s dad, and a couple of Deb and Sandra’s friends who happened to be in town from Chicago. It was good times, for sure.

Casteno

I asked what I was eating, and the ladies told me whipped cream. I’m telling you, this is not ordinary whipped cream. It was heaven. Maybe it’s changed since I last ate whipped cream, or maybe it was the setting. I don’t frickin’ know, but it was divine.

After the festival, we headed to Deb’s parent’s house to change cars, and say hi to Daisy.

Daisy

The day, by the way, was beautiful. Warm, clear and lovely.
Once back at Deb and Sandra’s, we had about 30 mins before friends started to arrive. The evening was spent in the company of some fascinating people. First was a wild artist – beautiful and intense – who is known to walk the streets of Barga barefoot, promoting art exhibits. (More to come on her, I think. Deb showed me one of her etchings, and it was quite excellent.)

Next was a string of ladies from Lucca, the walled city down the road a way. It has a fascinating history. One of the women, a nurse originally from Genoa, reminded me strongly of my mother and aunt.

The other two are union organizers, one for the schools, and one for the workers in paper factories in the region. Cool. These two reminded me powerfully of union organizers I know in Oregon.

Dinner Guests

We spent the evening talking politics, figuring out how to build a loft in Deb and Sandra’s place (so that I’ll have a room of my own – can you imagine? These women are amazing, generous people), eating, eating, eating,

Pasta dinner

and eventually singing Beatles songs – learning each other’s languages along the way. Fantastico!

It’s also possible that Tommy and I snuck off for a short time to play some guitar hero. Amazing how easily that translates…

At the end of the night we made a lovely nest for me out of a mattress and sleeping bag. When my head hit the pillow, I was just able to grasp a piece of the enormity of the leap I had made. Today, I am comfortably in Italy. Yesterday (or something) I was in Oregon. Where will I be tomorrow? Probably Italy, but you never know!

***

This morning, waking late, I packed up my sleeping bag and enjoyed cappuccino #2, made lovingly by Sandra. Truthfully, it is one of the best I’ve ever had. It might have been the setting, or the company, I’m not sure.

Cappu 2Fornaci MorningHolly Walking

I enjoyed breakfast with Tommy and Hollywinter, then headed to Barga with Deb for a photo shoot at the local dog shelter. She’s putting together a calendar to be sold to benefit the shelter. After a short shoot, which included a dog-bite [link] for Debbie, we headed over to her parent’s place, where we met her sister’s family (they’re living with her parents). One of the kids was on his way to a riding lesson, so we took the two boys to the arena.

We spent the next hour in an absolutely beautiful setting, collecting rocks and watching horses.

Andre and DebLuigi and cavallo

Now I’m sitting with Deb, drinking tea and watching Italian TV (Willie Wonka!), after a beautiful lunch with Sandra’s mother, who lives downstairs, and Sandra’s brother, sister-in-law (who is from Chicago) and their kids, all of whom had swine flu earlier this month. Looks like their tails have finally gone, so no worries.

The highlight of the meal was focaccia made by Sandra’s mom. Bellisimo!

Tomorrow, I’ll go pick up a sim card for a cell phone and an internet pen drive. And I’ll likely have at least one cappuccino. I feel like I’ve already had a month’s worth of adventures. I am a lucky, lucky girl to have such beautiful and generous people in my life.

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October 25, 2009   4 Comments

Vocab

Today’s vocab words are cavolo and cavallo.  They mean cabbage and horse.  The difference is in the spelling and also in the accent.  Cabbage is accented on the “a” and horse is accented on the second “a”.  Here they are in a sentence:

Il cavolo mangia il cavallo.”

Happy translating!

Vocab

Today’s vocab words are cavolo and cavallo. They mean cabbage and horse. The difference is in the spelling and also in the accent. Cabbage is accented on the “a” and horse is accented on the second “a”. Here they are in a sentence:

“Il cavolo mangia il cavallo.”

Happy translating!

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October 25, 2009   No Comments

The Universe Is Conspiring In My Favor

So, I’m in the Amsterdam airport, waiting for my flight to Italy.  It was a long flight, and will probably be a very long day.  But, so far it’s been a good one.

I don’t know if you’ve flown lately (flown is a word, right?  It looks weird right now.  Maybe my compression socks are effecting my brain.  Effecting?  Affecting?  See!?!?!), but the airlines are charging for stupid things.  You want to bring an extra bag?  $50.  You want an aisle seat?  $50.  This morning I wanted both.

I’m bringing an extra suitcase full of snacks and whatnot that I can bring fun things back in.  That’s in addition to my big pack that has all my clothes etc.  So, I checked in, used my credit card to pay for the extra bag, and then got a message that I qualified for a discount, and the bag was free!  Fabulous!

Then came the seat selection.  I was in a window seat (which is better than the middle seat on the big plane), but could upgrade to a “premium” seat (read aisle-seat) for $50.  I seriously considered it.  I mean, what’s another $50 if it’s going to make my trip significantly better?  (I get restless legs on long flights.  In fact, my doctor recommended compression socks, so I’m wearing awesome, therapeutic socks today.  They’re working, though, so I’m pretty happy.)

Awesome compression socks

When it came down to it, I have a moral issue with charging for things like an aisle seat.  I know everyone can’t have one, and I know it’s the market.  I also know that if I get my ticket early enough, I should be able to get something like an aisle seat.  I’m tired, so I’m not even going to try to make a cogent argument here.  I am going to use the word cogent, though.  Cogent.  Anyway, I can get a veggie meal if I ask for it early enough.  (Which was yummy, by the way.  Both meals were totally better than the non-veggie options.)  So, I didn’t buy the seat.

After like 20 mins of saying goodbye to Leigh (I might have had a hard time saying goodbye.  Just saying.)  I made it to the gate just in time to board.

As I walked onto the plane, there was a young woman talking on a cell phone right in front of me.  She was seriously engrossed in her phone call, and totally oblivious to the fact that I was the person sitting on the inside of her “premium seat”.  I stood there patiently, and eventually she moved from the aisle and saw that I was waiting.  We sat down and exchanged the usual, where you headed, info.  Turns out she had been scheduled on a flight that was canceled and that’s why she was on the phone – figuring out how everything was going to work.  Also turns out, she wanted to sleep, and generously offered me her aisle-seat.  Fabulous!  Free upgrade!

She was a great seat-mate, and we spent some quality time laughing at the products in “SkyMall”.  Hopefully she’s on her way to Sweden right now, where she’ll find a fabulous leap for me to take.

Yay for free upgrades!  Now I need to go see if I can get someone to upgrade me some liquid chocolate…stay tuned.

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October 23, 2009   9 Comments

Full is a good thing

A couple of weekends ago, our friend and carpenter, Derek, took us to a new breakfast spot in Portland.  It was new to us, but not new to Portland.

Fuller's Clock

Founded in 1947, Fullers has seen it’s share of Portland diners.  Black and white pictures of Portland landmarks like the St. John’s bridge in construction, hang on the plain walls.  Derek kept talking about men in flannel suits and fedoras.

The counter (which is the only place to sit) is in a “W” shape, allowing the well-practiced waitresses access to everyone without leaving the kitchen area.  Sidenote:  These waitresses are amazing.  They’re working in a place that’s roughly 4 feet wide, serving hot food and slinging coffee.  We watched as 3 of them worked silently to replace an empty coffee pot,one removing the pot, another removing the basket and yet another replacing the basket and a clean pot, in a dance that only comes from years of working together in close quarters.

The food was excellent.  The kind of food you expect from a good, old-fashioned diner.  Hashbrowns and eggs and big-ass bacon.

Fuller's big-ass bacon

I had the fanciest thing of any of us – a scramble/hashbrown creation full of veggies and cheese.  Yum.  I even broke my coffee embargo in favor of some really great black coffee served in a brown diner mug.

Fuller's Scramble

Somehow, it seems that Fuller’s has been missed by the Portland breakfast-crazed masses.  Either it’s been explored and rejected, or remains unfound by the hipsters standing in hour-long lines at any number of other breakfast spots.  We arrived on Saturday morning at about 10AM, and waited for maybe 5 minutes before a couple of people who could have been my parents moved over to make room for the three of us.

I’m a big fan of diners.  Fuller’s is one of the best I’ve ever been to.  If you’re looking for a good place to grab some breakfast and a large amount of coffee, head to Fuller’s.  Just don’t tell the hipsters.  Let them wait in line.

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October 17, 2009   1 Comment