To a de–luxe villa in Naples. A villa, that’s what we now know to be a single family home. Our time here in Italy has been one adventure after another, so why should we think that moving day would be any different.
Let me introduce to you to the slight …hurdles, we’ll say, that one might encounter when moving into a house where it requires working through a translator. Betcha never imagined how many definitions there are for our word “tape”. I mean are you talking about the verb of recording? Are you talking about the thing you use to stick two things together? And if you are talking about that kind of tape, exactly how does one resort to the game of charades to distinguish between duct tape, scotch tape, and athletic tape? Oh, it’s all fun and games here in Naples!
Now if you recall, I indicated that we were having some modifications done to our home before we moved in, a ceiling fan installed, walls painted, screens installed. You may remember, that the walls were a pastel pink, and though a very cool painting technique used, pink is pink and I wanted our furniture to have a fighting chance at matching with the house. We were given swatches, how could we go wrong? It was all official. Well, as official as it gets in Italy, which is to say it was done over “café”. Our English speaking realtor was there with our landlord, we picked out our color and as luck would have it, our realtor was also wearing the exact color that we wanted. We even made a joke about how all we needed is for Peter (our realtor) to go with the guy in his shirt and he was sure to pick out the right color. It was terracotta. If you know anything about me, you know, I definitely know the colors I like and don’t like, but I don’t know anything beyond a box of 16 Crayola crayons and that’s stretching it. I’ll leave the fancy mediums of art to Ben. HOWEVER, you have to understand that EVERY roof in Italy or at least in Naples, is this terracotta color! Just think potted plant…the orange clay looking color. That’s what we wanted. So imagine our surprise when we walked in the night before to move in some of our stuff and the wall accents that had just been painted were now a radiant color of magenta! I just couldn’t do it. So we called the realtor and he would meet us first thing in the morning and we would get it fixed.
Now, our landlord is Luigi, ( I know funny right? Especially after I made the joke about Italian drivers being true to form from Super Mario Cart) and we loooove him. He’s absolutely adorable, helps us learn Italian and asks us about English words and absolutely adores Ben. It was clear that the contracted painter did not follow directions and Luigi assured us that it would be corrected first thing the next morning.
It’s so funny to listen to Italians speak to each other, seriously, it is so lively and almost confrontational sounding and then you find out they were just arranging a time to go get their café. Luigi wanted to make sure everything thing else was good, and at first glance everything was. But then, there are the things that you don’t catch at first glance.
So our “move in day” consisted of people arriving “for stuff”. It’s funny because when you move anywhere in the states, you know what needs to be done and it’s just a matter of making the phone calls. Here, you don’t even know what it is that you need (until you don’t have it), but once you figure that part out, dear God, you have no idea how to get it. The first was the gas guy. Now in the states, you call Columbia or Washington gas and you say, “I am moving in on such and such day, please turn on the gas and send me the bill.” In Naples, we have to schedule a guy to come out, open your gas tank that is under ground and “put” however much gas you need for the month or at least for a billing period. …WHAT?! When you use it up, well then you call the guy again. Now, sure, you can just “call” the gas company and then hope that they will be nice and put you on the schedule in the next month or so, ooooor you can have connections like our landlord Luigi that “knows a guy” that makes it happen. We don’t ask…its better that way. So the gas guy comes, and something was not right because for some reason they needed to get the gas going through the new appliances, like the stove and they were having trouble. After that they moved on to the sink, to get the hot water, and before I knew it, water was spraying everywhere in the kitchen. But after a couple of hours…they were done? No. They left. Left? What do you mean they left? It’s Italy, where do you think they went? For their morning café of course! They were considerate enough to bring back one for Rob and me. O…M…G, since their cafés consist of a shot of expresso, and we couldn’t be rude, Rob and I drank up and as Rob said (at 90 mph), “I feel like I should be out climbing a mountain or something , there is so much I could be doing, don’t you feel like you have an endless amount of energy.” So when the guys returned everything “was fixed” and they left.
Next came the movers. They were quick and brought our loaner furniture and set everything up. After that was the Culligan man. Drinking the water here in Naples is not recommended, so the Navy requires that landlords provide bottled water or a water service for all families living on the economy (which means NOT living on base) and so it is included in our rent.
There was some paperwork Rob needed to go on base to fill out so that we could get reimbursed for our temporary lodging, so while he ran out I started laundry and began unpacking our luggage and the stuff we have slowly been accumulating in order to “build our home”. Now, our washing machine and dryer are located in our main floor guest bathroom, which is cool because you can work on laundry but not have to be disconnected from everyone else in the house. So as I went to get our first load out of the dryer, I walked into a sauna. What the heck? What’s going on? So I immediately went over to the window to open it and let some air in. One problem. Because of where the washer and dryer were placed, I was unable to open the window all the way. Windows in our house are not the type that you slide up the window to open and there’s already a screen in place.
Our windows open like doors, then you unlock the shutters and open those. They even have little stoppers that prevent the shutters from closing with the wind that are attached to the house itself. Then, you pull the string at the top of the opening in order to pull down the screen and lock into place. It is quite the production just to open and close the windows. The fact that I couldn’t even open the window, hmm, that could be a problem. Now for the other issue. Even with as little as I could open the window, the shutter, which is made of heavy metal was jammed shut, I couldn’t open that either. So why the sauna? Imagine your dryer and how the exhaust tube leads out to a hole in the wall that leads to the outside. Well, my exhaust tube led into a bucket. That’s right, a bucket! The hot air had nowhere to escape! So of course it was a sauna. I called our neighbors, who are Americans and whose house is almost identical and apparently they had the same issue with the
dryer. Turns out Italians don’t have dryer exhaust, heck they barely use dryers. She explained that her husband went shopping at Leroy Merlin’s, Napoli’s version of Home Depot, in search of a dryer vent to no avail because as mentioned before Italians have no need for this. He had to re-jigger something to make it work. Now this is fine, and I am totally cool with adapting and hanging my clothes out on a line to dry, but I don’t have a line yet and we needed laundry done. Obviously, we’d have to fix it but I couldn’t do much until Rob got home so I continued doing laundry until I got to the white load that is done in hot water. (Remember the gas guy? That comes in later) So, the water never got hot…weird. Well, I’ll just add that to the list of things that need to be fixed. I mention it to Rob, but I don’t make the connection, especially because I’m starved and we are trying to hold off eating until the traditional dining hour.
We all get into the car, (an old beater car that we picked up here on base from another officer who is departing post and will serve as our 2nd car once our Prius arrives) and off we go to find somewhere to eat dinner and buy materials to fix the dryer. Rob drops off Ben and me at the restaurant just down the way from Leroy Merlin’s, with the intent of running in, buying what he needed and then meeting us at the restaurant. Oh the best laid plans…
So I get a call from Rob on my cell as I am sitting at the restaurant , “How do you say tape in Italian?”
“Uh, I don’t know.”
“Can you look it up on your phone?”
“I can try.” Do you have any idea how many definitions came up and there was a different Italian word for every one of them! I gave him what I thought it was and asked what he wanted me to order for dinner.
He said, “I’ll just split whatever you get.” Famous last words.
So I looked at the menu and Ben had been craving his Pizza Margharita, which he has become quite fond of here in Napoli. As for me, always wanting to try something
new and relying heavily on my Spanish, which hasn’t led me too far astray, I find, “Bistecca Fiorentine”. Hmm, bistecca, that’s very similar to Spanish…steak…and Fiorentine…reminds me of my grandpa…steak with some new spices, how crazy could it be? Oh Grandpa, how you have forsaken me!
So Rob joins me and Ben, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to charade tape?! Anyway, I got what we need and this should work. What did you order?”
I show him what I ordered on the menu, explained my rationale and he ordered the same. The waiter gave him a funny look and then brought out the largest T-bone either one of us had EVER seen. He questioned whether or not we each wanted one. We understood and agreed to share the steak. Then, the moment of truth. The waiter wheels out a little cart and proceeds to put on quite a performance of putting garnish and pouring olive oil on two plates, with dashes of a mix of spices, as we admire his skills of carving the behemoth piece of meat into quite the lovely presentation, until Rob notices a great deal of pink.
“Is that pink?” Did you order us a rare piece of meat?”
“You saw the same menu I did! Oh my god, it’s rare isn’t it?” It’s not only the largest piece of meat I have ever seen in my entire life but it is the largest piece of rare meat and it is being served on a plate that I am expected to eat!
“Are you about to eat a piece of raw meat?”
“Yes, I believe I am.” I look it up on my phone and sure enough it is a signature dish from Florence entailing a huge cut of meat seared on both sides and served unmistakably rare. So we eat as much as we can manage and have the rest boxed up. It’s important to note that Italians don’t box things up. It is very much an American thing to do to ask for a to-go box, and yet when faced with the choice of leaving half our plate of food and asking for a box, we went with the box request and the least embarrassing.
We load up in our car accepting that our day could not have gone much worse only to realize that our GPS that had been acting up earlier that morning has just lost all maps for display. It tells us what direction we are going and even which direction we need to travel to get home but shows us no maps! So, as Rob chooses to take a turn or an exit, it will let us know that we are going the wrong direction and how much longer we have added to our travel time, but not what roads we need to take to set us back on track! Oh, and have I mentioned we were driving in the dark in an otherwise impossible city to get around in during the day let alone at night. What more could happen? We realize our car is on empty and my phone which was acting as a poor substitute for our GPS just powered down as we use the last remaining battery. We locate a gas station “in the hood,” as only my husband has such the gift for finding no matter what country we are in and we find our way home.
But our day wasn’t over. Oh no, there was more adventure to be had! As we got ready for bed and realized that we wanted to take just a touch of the humidity out of the room, Rob tried the air conditioner only to find that it didn’t work. Frustrated, he decided to take a shower only to learn that there was no hot water. Thinking that we were being given as big a sign as ever that we were just meant to end this day, we turned off the lights. Suddenly, we heard an alarm going off and then it shut down. Uh oh, wonder what’s going on and where. Come to find out, it was our alarm sounding randomly. We called our 24 hour emergency maintenance guy. As it turns out our battery to our alarm needed to be replaced. Seriously, I think anyone would be hard up to top our move in day!
Never fear friends and family, it’s amazing what a day can do. Our house is now painted the proper color. All of our A/C units works, and I learned I’m just an idiot and I need to make sure the power is on in the room before trying to turn on the air conditioner. We have hot water. Our window in the bathroom has been repaired so that it can be opened. We no longer have a sauna in our bathroom, although we decided it may come in handy in the winter months. Our alarm works properly. We have a new GPS …and…Ben found out that our
next door neighbors have three boys that he can hang out with all summer! Life in Napoli –never a dull moment!