Sunday, February 15, 2004


Spring is definitely in the air. Although nothing is blooming yet, fields are being plowed and new plastic is being put on the greenhouses. As with spring in Kentucky, the temperature still has its mood swings, and we are still more cold than warm. The days are mostly cloudy, but when the sun does manage to pop through, it’s much warmer than it has been. The birds are singing like crazy, and the cats are in heat. Spring is definitely in the air!

Last week was our first week back in school. We signed up for three weeks this time, skipping the first week of the month. I feel much more comfortable this time. Of course I am still learning many, many new words and rules, but, this time I don’t feel like the dummy of the class. My class this session includes two sisters from the states, a guy from Libya, a woman from Germany, a girl from Belgium, and a woman about my age who is also living in Italy now. Adding to my comfort level this time is the fact that I have the same teachers as before.

This session is doing a lot of reinforcing of the things I learned last fall. At least this time I have a better grip on the basic verbs essere (to be), and avere (to have). Many of the verbs are used differently in Italian, and this has been my biggest challenge. In Italian, you don’t say you are hungry, you say you have hunger. You don’t take a walk, you make a walk. And the hardest one for me to understand was the word piacere, which means to please. When you meet someone, you say “piacere”, which means, “it’s a pleasure (to meet you)”, more or less. In trying to memorize the conjugation of the verb, I couldn’t understand why “mi piace la bira” was correct, and not “piaco”, the first person conjugation. Then it was explained to me that the beer was doing the action! “The beer, it is pleasing to me.” Okay, now I get it!

And as you can see with the above example, there are many words that are close enough to English to help me along: bira = beer, televisione = television, lampada = lamp, etc. So, it’s a slow process, but I am moving forward. Last fall I felt as if I were going backwards, getting more and more confused as time went on. I wanted to scream “WAIT! I still don’t understand the stuff we had the first day!”, but of course I couldn’t! Now, sometimes I know something that the others don’t. Not that it happens very often, but it does happen once in a while, but when I do know the correct verb, or a word or phrase from before, it boosts my confidence and keeps me from getting as discouraged as I was in the fall.

Once we complete this session, we won’t be able to afford to return until later in the summer. Hopefully living here day to day will keep me from forgetting what I have learned. We plan to return to Kentucky for about three weeks in May, and being gone three weeks instead of six should help too. We try to watch Italian TV, but it really wears you out, trying to understand what they are saying! I pick up odd words here and there, but never understand enough to make any sense of what’s being said.

We have decided to get the Italian satellite TV system, but won’t have that installed until we return from the states in mid May. As an alternative, it’s also possible to get satellite TV from England, but we decided that the cost is just too high. The prices, in English pounds, are as follows: 33-36 per month for the service. 18 per month service fee…this is, I think, to pay for the company to supply you with an address in Britain, which is the only legal way to get this service. And then there is the cost of the converter box, maybe 300, used. And of course the cost for the installation. And I thought there was some sort of annual fee as well, but when we started to do the math, and with the dollar at its weakest ever, we were looking at $90-100 per month! And we won’t even watch that much of it! All Art really wants is CNN, the American version, which he won’t get here anyway, and I would like The Discovery Channel, The Travel Channel and HGTV. But, for now, until we win the lottery, we’ll just have to get our fix of American TV when we’re in America!

I’ll be happy if we can get the TV/DVD/VCR/speakers hooked up and working, and IF we can understand the set up well enough to perform basic operations like watch a DVD or record a program! And then I also have to get my computer hooked up to my printer…man, do I hate not having my printer! Our friends in Atlanta sent us a list of wines to look for, and it would be so nice if I could just print out a copy of that list!!! I’m hoping to find a computer nerd who speaks English and can hook everything up, including my fax line, and can then explain the set-up to me. Right now, we have a dial up modem, but ADSL is supposed to be coming to San Venanzo this summer. Apparently the geometra has requested it…hopefully his name has a little pull, and will ensure that we get it.

On Friday we took two pictures to Marsciano to have them framed. One of the pictures was a Derby poster, and I wanted to have it matted in order to be able to see the entire poster when it was framed. Well, apparently that’s not the way it’s done in Italy…the man told me it would be too expensive, and it was only a poster, so it should be done simply. Since the money aspect was definitely a factor, I agreed to let him frame it as he suggested. Since the poster was free, I felt like I could take a chance. I apologized for not knowing how things were normally done in Italy. When I framed pictures in the states, I usually played around for a while with different mats and different frames. I don’t know if it was just this guy, or if this is normal, but he seemed to expect me to know how I wanted to frame the pictures, with no choices given. And the only mat he offered was white, which was definitely NOT what I would have used. I’m sure they have mats in different colors here. Next time I want something framed, I’ll shop around a bit first…there’s a frame shop in Collestrada, although I’m sure they’re more expensive. There’s also a frame shop across from Gran Casa. At least I can see what my options are before making a final decision.

The other picture that I had framed was a still life in chalk, done by our grandson Nicholas, who is ten. He has a fair amount of talent, although he doesn’t seem very interested in art right now. He was given a scholarship to an art class last year, and this picture was done in that class. I think it will look great in our kitchen, and I was very pleased with the suggestion that was made for framing it…each of the four sides will be a different color…I can’t wait to see the finished product! We pick them up next Saturday.

Speaking of next Saturday, Mauro told us about a dinner and dance that is being held by the commune. It will be held in the building where the city offices are…which is a very old and very elegant villa that used to belong to the people who originally owned all the land in San Venanzo. The ceilings and walls of the rooms we have seen are covered with paintings, so I’m hoping that the hall where the dinner/dance is held will be equally as grand. The cost is twenty euro per couple. We have no idea what will be served, what kind of music will be played…wonder if it will be recorded music, or the town band? And of course, the biggest problem: what to wear? Not jeans, for sure. But, dressy slacks? A skirt? And just how dressy? It’s times like this when I wish my Italian was better! I could ask Mauro’s wife, or the neighbor lady who always says hello.

I guess we’ll survive, one way or another, but we really must attend this function. The whole point of us choosing to live in a small town was so that we could get to know the people. So far, the only people we know are the workers for our house, and of course, the postmaster. Between being in school, shopping, and getting our paperwork in order, we really haven’t had much free time to just hang out in San Venanzo. Art plans to get his hair cut at the local barbershop the next time he needs a trim, and I guess I should take a chance and get my hair cut at one of the two shops for women. For haircuts as well as shopping, it’s usually just been more convenient to do these things in Marsciano or in Collestrada.

When we are in school, we can leave Perugia at 1:10, and head to Collestrada. There we can shop at the IperCoop, which doesn’t close between 1:00 and 3:30 like all the other stores do. We can get all our groceries, as well as basic household stuff there, and the shopping center also has an electronics store we frequent. Most of the clothing shops and other shops are too expensive, but Collestrada also has a “food court” with several restaurants to choose from, including a McDonalds, just in case we need a diet coke! So, this becomes our “one stop shopping” place…by the time we arrive home in San Venanzo, all the shops there are closed for the afternoon “pausa”, and don’t re-open until 3:30 or 4:00. Maybe once we get settled and are here all day, we’ll start to shop in San Venanzo on a more regular basis.

Yesterday we hung a bunch of pictures, and we’ll try to hang some more today…if the drill holds out, of course. I’m having a hard time making some of the final decisions until we get the two pictures back that are being framed. But even with the pictures that are hung, it made a big difference…it made this house feel more like home, a process which is coming along very nicely. So far, we are both very pleased with how things have turned out, and with the furniture we have bought.

Once the cabinet for the television is in place, (in about a month), all we’ll really need is an armadio for our bedroom, and there’s no big rush on that, the clothes that are out of season are just being stored in those vacuum bags and shoved under the bed. Once we have the additional armadio, we won’t have to put quite as much under the bed, and will have room to store the bed linens, blankets, etc.

Another project that still awaits us in the spring is the re-varnishing of all the shutters on the house…something that must be done…they are in terrible shape! We would also like to replace the windows in the kitchen, our bedroom, and the blue bathroom. Right now, those are the ones that need replacing the most, and later, if necessary, we’ll replace the doors and the hall window upstairs. The advantage of replacing all the windows is that we will have insulated glass instead of the single pane we now have…warmer in the winter and cooer in the summer. At some point we would also like to replace our front door…neither one of us like it, but at least it’s in good shape, so for now, it stays.

All the concrete work in the garage has been completed, I think. I guess all we are waiting on now is the arrival of the door. It will be nice to be able to park the car IN the garage instead of outside all the time.


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