Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Make sure you read that correctly….it said “Sick IN Italy”, not “Sick of Italy"! And yes, I have the flu, or whatever it is that seems to be going around. Art had a scratchy throat last week but never seemed to get any worse. I, on the other hand, started with a scratchy throat on Saturday morning and it’s been downhill ever since.

On Saturday and Sunday I took Tylenol and gargled with hot salt water. I drank plenty of orange juice and water, but nothing seemed to work. I also used some of that “Zicam” stuff I had brought from the states. It’s a gel spray that’s supposed to reduce the severity and length of a cold, and I’ve found it to be quite effective in the past. I guess my luck ran out. Although I wasn’t feeling a lot worse, I definitely wasn’t getting better.

I finally started taking some cold tablets I had brought from the states, and of course they not only dry you up, they also knock you out. Going to bed before nine and sleeping until noon now seems like a normal day to me. I didn’t even bother to get dressed yesterday, just took a shower and put on clean pajamas. For me, this is normal. When I get sick, my eyelids seem to be weighted. I just can’t get enough sleep, and I don’t see any reason to fight that urge.  Now I’m into the stage where I have a very unproductive cough, and I’m sure my throat will be sore once again. I’m just about ready for another nap on the couch. 

We haven’t heard much from Ramon and Anna lately. When I last spoke with them Anna said they were both sick, and if they have what I do I can understand why they haven’t been in touch. Funny thing is, both Art and I were wondering if we had offended them in some way….I guess it’s been almost a month since we’ve heard from them.

Our friend Shae has been having terrible stomach pains and hasn’t been able to eat ever since she returned from the states. Finally, after weeks of misery, her husband Art wrote to say that she was going into the hospital for tests. Initially Shae suspected an ulcer, but Art told us the doctors are now focusing on the pancreas. I’m not even sure what your pancreas does, or what the symptoms would be if you had trouble with it. We hope to hear more soon.

We’re still trying to figure out our best option to bring money to Italy every month. Our bank, Fifth Third, has now added an additional 3% charge to the 1% MasterCard fee, and we find ourselves paying a much higher rate to withdraw money from the bancomat (ATM).  Because we have to transfer money every month, it can get expensive with all the added fees. Last fall, before the fees were listed individually, and before Fifth Third added their additional charges, we would normally get our money for perhaps 1-2¢ above the rate listed on television or the internet. Not anymore! Yesterday, when the rate was listed as $1.1890, our cash withdrawal cost us $1.241….a good 5¢+ over the listed rate. Although Fifth Third has told us that these fees were always there, just not listed separately, we know differently. Or perhaps they use a different exchange rate now. Whatever the case, it costs us a lot more to withdraw cash than it used to.

Fifth Third has offered to give us a “special” rate to wire money to Italy, and the fee for that service is $40 per transfer. The PostalBank here will charge us .015% to receive the money. Another option would be to reopen our “dollar” account at the bank and have the money sent over as dollars. Allowing us to choose when we actually convert the money into euro….and in the past we’ve found that we do get a better exchange rate by changing it here in Italy. Having the dollar account will cost us €50 per year, but if we get a better rate, it could be worth it.  Additionally I’m going to ask my sister if she’ll make a cash withdrawal from her credit union account while we’re in London. We’re still members, so if this option is cheaper, we could always reopen our checking account and use it as our primary account.

In other financial news, I did my taxes online, using the TurboTax site, so that’s one less thing I have to worry about. Even better news is that we’ll get a refund that should pay for our trip to London!  At this point I just haven’t been able to get the deductions quite right…..I’m not a believer in getting a big refund…it just means that the government has been using my money, interest-free, all year long. Not a good deal.  I can’t change the deductions this year because we’ll be withdrawing some of Art’s IRA money and of course we’ll have to pay taxes on the one that’s not a Roth. I don’t want to owe money any more than I want to get a refund, so for now we’ll leave everything as is. At least I’m beginning to see light at then end of the tunnel, so now I just have to keep praying for the dollar to stay strong.


At 2/15/2006 02:59:00 AM , Blogger Judith in Umbria said...

Barb, have you looked into depositing a US dollar check at your bank here? I worked out a deal with my bank-- I have to go to the same person each time to get it-- and I pay just 3 euro plus their current exchange rate. I also do it in larger amounts and only occasionally so the load decreases a bit more. It wasn't an automatic thing. I went to the bancario and said I wasn't going to deposit anymore because it was too expensive and would just go everyday to the bancomat, take out the max and deposit it in cash because their charges were too high. She dealt.

At 2/22/2006 12:55:00 PM , Blogger jane said...

Art and Barb,
Loved reading your story. We are planning on moving from Southern Calif beginning of 2007. Would love to ask you a few questions via e mail or PM but can't seem to be able to do it. It appears from all my reading that things are quite different for Americans and most posters on all the sites are Brits. Would love to get advice from you guys. Thanks.

At 2/23/2006 03:18:00 AM , Blogger Barbara said...

Jane, Your best bet for good information is the Expats in Italy website...there's a link to it on the right hand side of the page. Most of the posters are Americans, and the site is run by a former San Franciscan, Cristina. There's a lot of general info, as well as the message board where you can do a search or ask a new question. We'll be happy to help, but most of our info about moving to Italy is now 2 1/2-3 yrs old!

At 2/23/2006 07:20:00 PM , Blogger jane said...

i left you a long message on the meet in Jan forum on ex pats.


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