All your books are belong to us!

I went to the Questura in Pordenone last week to sign some forms, as noted in my last entry. I’ve been in a sort of legal limbo regarding identity and legal residence for a couple of months now because the people at the comune of Montereale would not give me a Carta d’Identita, apparently due to not having a clue what to do with an Elective Residence visa. The woman we talked to at the Questura was very confused as to why he hadn’t given me the card, as he was supposed to. This led to some questions about my being in Trieste rather than Montereale and we explained the situation and why I had rented here and had not yet legally changed my address and registered with the comune of Trieste.

I apologized for being a problem, even though the situation was largely beyond my control, and said that we’d been trying to make it less complicated. She said that since I am living in Trieste, she will transfer the forms I need to sign to the Questura here, which will mean that once the papers are signed, I can take the required classes here in Trieste rather than going to Pordenone for them. “You are not the kind of problem we have here,” she said, assuring me that everything would be all right, and that I should take the form she gave me to the Questura in Trieste sometime this week, and then register with the comune here to get my Carta d’Identita. Once that’s done, everything will be legal and proper and all the bureaucrats should be happy. The Permesso di Soggiorno is still approved and the current kerfuffle won’t change that; I’ll still be getting it about a month after I sign the papers here. My brother will be in town Thursday so we can take care of this.

After the appointment at the Questura, we stopped and got me an oven (combination microwave/convection) for the kitchen. I had to email the company to get a user’s manual in English; I couldn’t find a download on their website anywhere. I managed enough Italian to set the clock on it, but I didn’t want to take any chances misunderstanding the rest, considering that microwaves can actually catch fire under certain circumstances. Better to know what the different settings are supposed to do!

We also stopped at Ikea, where I got a bunch of bookshelves. I still need about three more, but most of the books, and all the dvds and cd’s are now up off the floor. The packing materials are broken down and consolidated into a mountain in the corner of the library, and some of the art is up on the walls. I feel so much better and more settled now that the clutter has been largely dealt with and that I have my books around me and accessible once again. Disorganized clutter tends to raise my anxiety levels a lot, so dealing with it as quickly as possible was as much for my mental health as anything else. One of the women at the American Corner said that she’d been here in Trieste for seven years and still hasn’t unpacked all her boxes. I do kind of understand that, if you haven’t got a place for things, or if you have closets you can shove less-needed things into and forget about them. I’ve done it before, usually with boxes of papers. Before I left Everett, I sorted through those and recycled about 95% of what was in them as the papers really weren’t relevant or needed anymore. Lightening that load helped a lot, as well.

I spent three solid days building bookshelves and shelving books. I finished up on Friday with what I had here, and am still aching like crazy.


Books in the office


Books in the library


Less of a mess at the desk

Sunday I met some new people. In the morning, I met with Michelle, a young woman originally from South Africa, who came to Trieste by way of London with her partner, who is working at the university here. She’s a photographer. I was introduced to her via Twitter by one of my writer friends, who’d met her in #blogchat a couple of weeks ago. We went to Caffè degli Specchi and sat out with tea (me) and a cappuccino (her) until the rain rolled in, at which point we went and had lunch at the pizza place here in Piazza della Libertà. She’s very interested in museums, as am I, so we are going to see about going to some museums together, possibly this coming week.

Later in the day, I was invited to an art opening at a small bar called Juice, on Via della Madonnina. The art is the thesis work by a woman who is, I believe, the sister of a friend of Giulia’s. We were told to show up at 6pm, only to find that the bar didn’t open until 7, so four of us – me, Giulia, another American, and an engineering student who is a friend of Guilia’s – went looking for a little snack. We grabbed a quick bite in Piazza San Giovanni, then headed back to Juice. Which opened twenty minutes late. We were going to meet Giulia’s boyfriend at Cinema dei Fabbri for a showing of The Imposter at about 8, so we didn’t really have time for more than just ducking in to see the art and leaving. The show was a bunch of sequential art, nicely done, with a manga influence.

Cinema dei Fabbri shows films in the original language. This one was an American film in English with Italian subtitles. I liked being able to see the subtitles to help with my Italian skills, which really do need a lot of work. I’m doing a little better and catching a bit more of the conversations as they go by, but am still having trouble actually speaking much. I did use a little of my Italian over the course of the evening, though.


Film projector at Cinema dei Fabbri

After the cinema, we went to Taverna del Giglio. It’s a burgers and beer place popular with the university students. They had a pretty extensive menu of flavored grappa, as well. I had a grilled chicken and cheese sandwich with a grappa rosmarino. Usually an herbal grappa would be a digestif for after dinner, but the rosemary flavor was really fantastic with the chicken and cheese. Several of the tables of younger people had ordered a long series of grappa shots, which were brought in on skis. It was an interesting presentation. I hadn’t realized that grappa came in colors, but these were creamy pinks and greens and other milky colors, with sweet flavors like strawberry and chocolate. I’ll have to try some of the other grappas when I go again.

We parted company after dinner, as it was about midnight, but I had a really good time and the people I met were very nice. Giulia’s boyfriend has done an extensive academic history of Masonry in Trieste and is doing a presentation at the university sometime in the next week or so. He’s apparently also done a short film on some of the Masonic locations in the city that I would like to find. I need to ask him if it’s up on YouTube.


Books! And progress on my Permesso

The past week has been crazy busy.

The weather here has been gorgeous, and when I was out walking today I saw that the fountain at Piazza Vittorio Veneto had been turned on. Another was being worked on, so I assume that the city will be turning on the waterworks for the season over the next week or two. I’ll have to get out in the sun and take some photos of the fountains in operation.

I got a call from the Pordenone Questura this week. The woman who makes the determinations about approval or denial of the Permesso di Soggiorno has decided that I can have one. I have to go to Pordenone on Monday morning to sign their integration agreement. Once that’s done, that gets sent to Rome and about a month later I should have the Permesso in hand. It feels like it’s been a long wait, and it’s going to be a bit longer but at least it will finally arrive.

Tuesday my stuff finally arrived! I wrote about the situation in my last post, and there was a lot of subsequent back and forth with the contracting company in the UK. The people who were actually driving it here to my apartment were based out of Sofia, Bulgaria, and the guys who came didn’t really speak either English or Italian. We at least managed to get the “this is your stuff” and “please sign these papers” bits out of the way, though.



Two views of the office, with packing materials still life.

I have to say that, despite the communications problem, I’m overall very pleased with the shipping service I got. The post office broke more of my stuff than these shippers. Everything was here, and the only breakage was the glass on two of my large pieces of framed art. The frames themselves were not broken and the art wasn’t damaged. One frame has a corner popped out of shape, but a quick trip to a frame shop for a few minutes with a rubber mallet should literally knock it back into shape. I don’t really need the glass for the pieces, as it’ll just add unnecessary weight to the art when I hang them on the wall.


ART! And also, lots of stuff and things.

I spent three days unpacking my stuff and consolidating packing material. The packing debris is all sitting in the library now, waiting for me to get it out to the recycle bins, a little at a time. I’ve got books sorted into private stuff that goes in the bedroom, the bulk of the collection into the library, and the writing, poetry, language, and Celtic books in the office where I can access them quickly. Now I need bookshelves and will probably end up getting them from Ikea, much as I dislike the idea, because it will be relatively cheap.


The library. That’s about the same number of books as in the office, but more spread out.

Lunch with Giulia last week was fun. We spent several really fun hours together at the café, walking around Trieste, and popping into a couple of bookshops. We visited a very nice little tea shop, where they also sell spices (berbere spice mix for Ethiopian food! Garam masala!), and talking about film, science fiction, and writing. One of the bookshops we stopped by, the antiquarian shop formerly owned by Umberto Saba, had a couple of copies of a book she’d written on a Trieste author in the window. Her publisher is a friend of the owner, and he’d got a few copies of work from their press. I had actually picked up a tiny book of poetry by Saba a little earlier in the day that was from the same press. The book is in Italian, and I also picked up a copy of some Emily Dickinson poetry in English and Italian to try to help me with my reading and comprehension. Dickinson’s poetry tends toward short lines and relatively simple language, as well as the poems themselves being fairly short.

Giulia said that she’d come help me get a library card for the Trieste library system so that I can do interlibrary loan for some of the things I need for my research. I was really blessed in Seattle, living so near the University of Washington and their fantastic library system. They allow the public to have library cards when they join the Friends of the Library, for about $100 a year, and I always found it a really good deal, because it can be difficult to get your hands on books about the topics I write on. On the other hand, Dublin is a realistic trip for me now, and they print a lot of the stuff I’m interested there, and in Cork. When I was last in Dublin, I shipped quite a few books home from the bookshops there. Still, journal articles are going to be the big thing, and that’s likely what I’ll mostly be using the system for.

I should be back from Pordenone late Monday or early Tuesday, and will be at the opening of the women’s library/space at the American Corner Trieste on Tuesday evening. My brother might drive me back so that we can stop at the Ikea and pick up bookshelves. It’ll be great to get the books up off the floor.

Moving day

Things that seem slightly unreal:

Gilded murals on buildings
Everywhere I walk, statues
Floating in a sea of barely-intelligible conversations
Vast pedestrian spaces
Good restaurants in tiny alleys
Roman ruins in the city
Café life, outside, in February
Being able to drink the coffee
Light in my rooms on a rainy day

I’ve spent the last couple of days moving into the new flat, with my brother’s help. We drove up from Montereale on Thursday so that we could meet my landlady a little after noon on Friday without having to come in early. His little car was packed with my things and we parked (illegally) just down the block where there was a little space and hauled things up to my place as quickly as we could. There was no rain, thankfully. In this huge space, my few things rattle and echo. My desktop computer sits on the floor beneath the office window, awaiting a desk, a wireless connection that doesn’t come from a USB drive, and a chair for me to sit on.

Insurance was procured. The registered copy of my rental contract was acquired. All the keys to the place were handed over. My brother installed wall lights in the dining room and hallway. The landlady likes the lights. We still have to deal with lights for the ceiling in each room, and with a desk lamp or three, but they can be handled later. I do want one for the bedroom soon, though.

This past week I got a clothes washer on a deep discount sale (it had a scrape on one corner) that will be delivered on Tuesday. They’re pretty simple to install, and I can do that myself once the driver brings it up here and hauls it into the bathroom. All I need is a screwdriver, and I’m competent to handle one of those, unlike lighting installation.

I got myself a little sound system for the iPod. On the base, it was less than half the cost of anything I’d seen in Italian shops, though I had been looking. I’m glad to have music again. My brother’s taste in music and mine are quite different, so I didn’t have mine playing if he was home, and he didn’t usually have music on or, if he did, he was wearing his headphones at his computer. It tended to be quiet, when the roosters weren’t crowing.

Most of my life at the moment is taking place in the kitchen, where I have chairs, or in my bedroom, where I can lie down and sleep, but there’s nothing in the other rooms yet. In two to three weeks, I should have my library and other things arrive, but there is no furniture aside from a few folding bookshelves. I’m having to acquire things slowly, a little at a time. That said, I’m just as glad I didn’t ship everything with me, as it would have been expensive, and I don’t think most of it would really have gone well in this space. Buildings have personalities, and this one is entirely different than my condo back in Everett.

Nothing moves in straight lines here. The streets might look straight but they are all moving at angles, along the coast or up into the hills, or around the piazzi. Walking in a “straight” line won’t get you to a place you though you were going, and the gps system on my phone gets confused by things. Locations are not where they appear on a map. My brother and I were searching for a Greek restaurant on Thursday night and both our gps maps had it at different locations, neither of which were the right one, even though we had both entered the same address. Sometimes a paper map is still the best answer, even for the wired.

I’m spending time getting lost, and it’s okay. Lost is an all right place to be at the moment, both in metaphor and in the physical space of Trieste. Being in a different country, surrounded by a different language, it is a natural state of being. Wandering aimlessly leads to familiarity and opens up the potential for serendipity. A comics and games shop across from a church whose door is surmounted by the all-seeing eye in a pyramid; the Lupa nursing Romulus and Remus on a building façade; people laughing and talking at tables outside a bar in a tiny alley.

Last night there were fireworks over the water. Neither my brother nor I have any idea what was going on. I only knew there were some loud bangs. I thought someone was hauling something really heavy up the stairs, as the sound was echoing in the building. My brother saw the bursts from his window above the piazza but he thought I was asleep, so he didn’t call me to watch. He asked the barista at the place we had breakfast this morning, but she hadn’t any idea either.

The clouds have rolled in thickly and it’s drizzling. I am inside wishing for a soft, comfortable chair and a lamp for reading. There is tea. Life is good.

Directionally challenged

I am directionally challenged.

I came up to Trieste for the weekend to carry some of my things here, and to see if I could go to the antiques market that’s supposed to be on the third Sunday of each month, at least according to a couple of websites I found. “Behind the main squares” (Borsa and Unità, from what I could gather) and “in the Old City” were the only directions I was able to find.  None of this was of much use. I asked one of the folks at Caffè degli Specchi and he had to ask someone. I was told it was “that way” (along the waterfront) about two minutes. I suspect they thought I meant the antique shop/mall (?) on one of the piers. I’ll explore that on a weekday, I think.

“Behind” is such a relative term, really. Did the website mean “behind” from the perspective of the train station? From the waterfront? Did “the Old City” mean up on the hill above the Roman amphitheater? I walked up the waterfront and in a block. I walked up the hill and up some stairs to the streets behind the amphitheater. I walked back down again, toward the public garden. No antiques market was in evidence.

I have no idea if I simply couldn’t find it or if the market is actually only a summer phenomenon. I’m leaning toward “summer market” at the moment. No matter, though. I got a chance to walk through more of the city on a Sunday morning and into the afternoon.

Lunch was pasta with salmon in a vodka sauce at Caffè San Marco. It is a large place with classic-looking art painted on the walls, and classical music playing. The wifi was free and fast, at least at that hour on a Sunday. The food was good, as well.

It will be nice to walk through the city on a weekday, when things are open. I need to get more of a sense of where different types of things are available, and I definitely need to find a shop that specializes in organic food. Yesterday I went into a couple of the small department stores near Piazza Unità; Coin and Upim. Everyone is having sales right now, probably for end of year inventory reduction purposes after the holidays. Coin seemed a little more upmarket than Upim, but now I know where to find a few household things of different types. I picked up a bathrobe and some slippers. With the polished wood floor in here, I don’t want to be wearing shoes in the house, but I’m not keen on wandering around in just my socks, either, in this weather. I haven’t done the shoeless in the house thing since living in Hawaii, back in the early 80s, so it will likely take a little getting used to at first.

I brought pots and pans and flatware with me to the flat this weekend, which means I’ve been able to cook a couple of meals here for the first time. There’s something satisfying about being able to cook in my own kitchen again. I’ve got some curried lentils and mushrooms simmering on the stove right now, which makes my heart very happy. On the phone, I’m playing some Mediaeval Baebes for a little background. Earlier it was Corvus Corax and Abney Park. Let’s just say my musical tastes are eclectic.

This evening I had to call Lufthansa to deal with getting a flight back to Seattle to pick up my dog. With an APO as a billing address for my credit card, it is impossible to book a flight online. I called from my Skype number on the computer. Between the echoes in the room because the flat is nearly empty, and the crap connection, it took us nearly 40 minutes to arrange everything, but I’ll be able to bring him here for about half of what the places quoted me when I checked into getting someone to ship him here without me. And I’ll get to spend eight days back in Seattle, visiting people. I’ll still have to pay for my dog’s ticket ($200) when I check him in at the airport, but that’s rather minor compared to the rest of the situation. Quotes for shipping the dog ranged from $3300 to $3700. With the dog, I’m only paying about $1200. Needless to say, flying myself and visiting everyone wins by a mile.

I’ve found a decent mattress and a bed for the flat. I tried to get store credit for them, but I have to actually have my Permesso in hand, and my Carta d’Itentità in order to do so. It won’t be a problem once I have them, but that’s still probably two to three weeks in the future. In the meantime, I put a little money down to hold the items at that price and have the receipt for later. This does, however, mean that I’ve got cash enough in my accounts to still get some other things I need within a reasonable time frame.

I knew when I sold all my furniture that I’d need to replace most of the material things that make life comfortable. It takes time to find things that I like, though I’ve started locating likely items. A clothes washer is next on the list, as I’ll need to use that frequently and it’ll be easier than hauling clothes down to a laundry and back. Another Real Soon Now item is a desk and chair for the computer. I’ve brought a measuring tape with me so that I know what dimensions I’m looking for. Now that I have them written down, a shopping trip is in order.

My brother took me to Ikea near Palmanova earlier in the week. They are the same everywhere. The vast maze of the place aggravated my dizziness and I suspect that visual overstimulation may well have something to do with it. I’m not fond of them at all, as the styles aren’t really what I’m into, with only a few exceptions. I’ve had Ikea items before and the bookshelves, at least, just don’t hold up to my literary needs. They’re fine for paperbacks and cheap hardbacks, but my books tend to be of the heavy and often academic variety, which seem to weigh about twice as much per square inch. Ikea shelves die under that sort of assault fairly quickly. My brother took me over to the furniture shop on the base, run by an Italian company that custom builds things, but I’m not sure if I can afford shelves there on the scale at which I will actually need them. I’ve taken measurements for the room that the library will live in, but until I get a look at what comes out of the boxes and gets stacked around, I won’t be able to make a fair assessment.

We got lights for the hallway and dining room walls. Those will be installed next weekend, when we come back again and I move my stuff in permanently. I’m still going to have to do some travel back and forth between Trieste and Montereale for the Permesso and ID card issues, but I’ll have enough notice of when that will need to be done to handle it all. It’ll be good for both of us to have our own space again. I’m definitely cramping the sib’s style.

I unpacked two of the boxes I mailed to my brother before I left. Four of the items were damaged but only two of them were unrepairable. They were not the ones that were most important to me, so their loss doesn’t bother me much at all. The other two will be fixable easily with a little glue and it won’t be noticeable at all on one. The other will have a little seam in one place, but that won’t be much of a problem. I set up a temporary Brigid altar on the kitchen counter, which makes things feel much more like home.

Home is such a lovely word, isn’t it?

An apartment, a film festival, and coffee

On yesterday’s trip to Trieste, I signed the rental contract for my apartment! I’m getting the keys on Friday, and having most of the utilities and services swapped over to my name, though the garbage service doesn’t get swapped over until the 31st. I’ll be able to use the place to bring things in and will stay for a couple of nights while I’m working through a few things there, but will legally take possession of it on February 1st. I’m perfectly okay with this, as I won’t have my Permesso before then anyway, and can’t legally change my residence until that happens.

Friday morning, I’ll go to the rental office to pick up the keys. This means that I still have to get up at an ungodly hour while it’s still dark, but that bit of it will be done, at least. I’ll be going by myself; my brother will drive me to the train station at Pordenone and drop me off and I’m actually on my own in Italy for the first time, just me and my phrasebook and dictionaries. It’s a little intimidating.

Okay, it’s a lot intimidating.

At 12:30 I’m meeting the woman who owns the building, at the fountain in Piazza Unità, so that we can go to swap the utilities over to my name, and in the evening I get together with the folks at the American group for their Trieste orientation evening. It’s also their TGIF and there’s food, so I had to get a ticket (€7) to cover for expenses and I’m supposed to bring along something to share to drink. With any luck, I’ll learn some useful things to help me get by.

My plan is to haul the air mattress and a few other things I’ll need over to my new place so I’ll have a place to stay for the weekend and not have to take the train back on Friday night after the gathering. I can spend the weekend exploring Trieste and getting acquainted with what’s there, both in my neighborhood and around the more accessible parts of town. Until the 1st, the landlord and the various workers will have access to the apartment, so I won’t be leaving anything valuable there, but I will be able to start getting things into the place.

Starting this weekend, Trieste is having a film festival. It runs for, I think, about ten days, and the program at the link is in both Italian and English. Most of the films are subtitled in Italian (if the film is not in Italian already) and English, and I’m considering going to one or two, if something I’m interested in is showing while I’m there. One film that looked like a possibility was about an Italian language teacher and his students – the teacher is an actor but the students are apparently all immigrants learning Italian to integrate into Italian society, so it seems like a thing that’s very relevant to me at the moment. I’ll have to look at the program again to see what day it’s playing, and where. The festival has about a dozen venues located around town, from cafés to theatres; they have dramas, animation, documentaries, and a variety of other genres playing.

I don’t have any new photos to share today, but I’ll be taking some of the inside of the apartment when I am there this weekend. I can’t even tell you how excited I am about the whole thing. I was able to give a delivery address to the people who are shipping my things, so that is finally out of the way.

Today I spent a little time getting a few small, light things to take to Trieste with me and leave at the apartment. I also got a bilingual Italian-English visual dictionary to help me along with the everyday things on a slightly larger scale than a phrasebook. I also discovered that I may not have the same violently bad reaction to Italian coffee as I’ve had to the coffee in Seattle. I had some at home earlier today and had only a vague sense of queasiness that might have been psychosomatic because I’ve had bad reactions before, or it might have been the acid on a nearly-empty stomach. I wanted to wait until I’d settled a bit, and to try it here at home rather than out at a café so as to avoid problems if it did make me ill. In either case, it would be nice to be able to have a bit now and then so as to be a little more sociable with the people here, for whom coffee is a way of life. We shall see.

Paperwork, apartments, and minor frustrations

It looks like I have an apartment!

We went back to Trieste a couple of days ago and talked with people at the rental agency about contract details, and are supposed to go back tomorrow to sign the contract with the building’s owner. I’m not sure if I’ll get the keys on the 15th of January or the 1st of February, but it will, at any rate, be soon. I’d like to work on getting a bed in there, and things for the kitchen as soon as I can, as I won’t really be able to live there without a place to sleep and something to cook and eat with.

The building with my soon-to-be apartment

The building with my soon-to-be apartment

Getting a bank account was a little more challenging than I’d anticipated. The first place we went to was reluctant and the person we talked to said that services for Americans were much more restricted than for other people. Apparently after 9/11 the US government put a lot of restrictions in place for offshore accounts, and that means that people like me, who just want to be able to pay rent and the bills, will have a harder time than otherwise. He called around for us and said that another bank would be able to help us, and we thanked him and headed over there.

The process of opening the account there took half an hour or so, not counting the waiting in line. I had to sign a novel’s worth of papers, and was asked if I was a political activist. The answer to this question, unlike the answer to “are you a god?” is always “no.” If I do any deposits that aren’t electronic deposits, I have to fill out a paper saying where the money came from each time I make one, so I’m going to talk to the VA and see about them automatically depositing my disability check while still having my Social Security check deposited in my US account so that I have options for dealing with things in both countries. I have a debit card and some limited internet banking availability. I’m still not sure yet if I can pay the rent electronically or if I’ll have to get checks every month for the rent and my bills. At any rate, I am bank-enabled now and this is a start.

Amid the frustrations of dealing with banks and rental agents, we took a walk around other parts of the city. The Roman amphitheater is right across the street from the Questura office, so I’ll be able to find the place pretty easily when I need to go there to do things like renew my Permesso when that becomes necessary.


Roman amphitheater in Trieste

Stained glass at Pescada

A little toward the waterfront from the Questura, and into a pedestrian street, we grabbed some lunch at a fish restaurant called Pescada. The décor was cozy and a bit funky, and they were playing chill electronica rather that the surprisingly ubiquitous English-language pop that most places seem to have going all the time. The food was fantastic as well. It’s definitely a place I’ll be returning to.

The restaurant generally caters to the office workers at lunch, with a fixed-price menu, except on Fridays. I’m betting dinner is really nice too. The stained glass separating one of the dining areas from the kitchen was oceanic, complete with octopus.

We walked around on the waterfront, too, and I took some photos of the city from the dock. The day was overcast and a little chilly, but not too bad. There was a little drizzle but certainly not anything I wasn’t used to.


Triestine waterfront


View of the city looking toward the train station


View of Piazza Unità d’Italia from the waterfront


Image of the Bora wind from a wind rose on the dock

I still don’t have a Carta d’Itentità. It turned out my brother’s landlady didn’t actually have to sign anything. The guy down at the office in Montereale has never dealt with an elective residence visa before and was concerned that the Questura would want one. They didn’t ask for it, so that wasn’t at issue. Since I arrived on an elective residence visa but am being sponsored into the country as though it was a family reunification type visa, he was not certain which category I belong in, and is not going to issue the identity card until I actually have my Permesso in hand. As previously noted in other posts, that may not be until the first or second week of February. While this isn’t really that long in the larger scheme of things, it does mean that I can’t legally change my address to Trieste until after I have a card for Montereale. Even if I get the keys to my apartment on January 15th, I can’t register my address there until that paperwork is done. I will still mostly have to be living here in Montereale. I suppose it’s not that big a deal, as I do still need to get things together to make the place actually inhabitable by someone who needs to be able to eat and sleep.

Minor delays, and witches

When last we left our intrepid expatriate, there was a Codice Fiscale, and there were forms that had been filled out. We did go over to the municipal office in Montereale, but found that we needed my actual Permesso, not just the receipt for it from the Post Office. This wasn’t a problem, it’s just a minor delay. My brother had to fill out a form, and his landlady will also have to fill out a form, confirming that I live here. Fortunately, this shouldn’t be a problem. All other things being equal, I should have my Permesso in early January. I’m finding it interesting just how many people around here have never heard of an elective residence visa; they’re very used to seeing visas for people coming to work, but it’s unusual to see someone in these small towns who has come to Italy just to live here. I imagine it’s even more curious to them that someone should come from the US for such a purpose.

I acquired a phone number yesterday, though AT&T still has not unlocked my phone. My brother has loaned me an old one of his, useful for calls and texts, but not really anything else. That’s good enough for what I need right now, as the only person likely to call me is my brother.

After breakfast and phone number acquisition yesterday, we went back to a place we had visited when I was here last summer. In the town of Polcenigo is a place called Gargazzo, which is a deep underwater cave and one of the sources of the Livenza. Last summer, we were there during the lunch hour and the place was packed at the little café there. Yesterday, there was nobody. Most of the area was deserted, as it was cold and everyone was off at work.


Nativity at Gargazzo

It was very peaceful, and there was a floating nativity scene there. I got a couple of photos with my phone, one of which is included here, but the phone’s camera wasn’t really up to the task, and the figures in the nativity are very washed out. Deep under the water, though, you can see the wavering figure of the Mary statue down there, wreathed with blue lights.

Lesson one for being in Italy: Be a hoopy frood and always know where your towel camera is. Phones, even with the improvements in recent years, are not up to some of what I’m likely to encounter and it’s easy enough to stuff the camera in the backpack for unexpected moments.

For dinner last night, we went to Fontanafredda, where there is an Indian restaurant. It was passable, but that was about all I was expecting. At least it wasn’t cloyingly sweet, as the Indian food I’d had in England and Ireland had been. It was good to be in a somewhat familiar environment, with images of Durga here and there on the walls, and Indian music playing in the background. It was a very nice alternative to the surprising amount of American Christmas music that I’ve been hearing in restaurants and public spaces here. It’s not quite as insidious as it was back in the US, but there’s still rather more than I had expected.

My brother took me to a bar called Le Streghe (the witches) after dinner, for a little drink before we headed home. I quite liked it and was tickled by the painted glass on the ceiling and all the various witch figures hanging from the ceiling and displayed on the walls.

Ceiling in Le Streghe

Ceiling in Le Streghe

After our trip to Maniago the other day, we passed a tiny town named Vajont. It is the place where the survivors of the disaster were relocated. I did some digging around on the internet and found out more of the story; my lack of language skills leads me to unintentional inaccuracies. I try, but don’t always manage, to get things right. Sometimes it takes a little digging beneath what I’m told about the situation, of course, and I can’t just read the signs here yet to get the information as it’s posted. I’ll write about that some more in my next post. I find that I am often confused and frequently wrong, but I’m willing to learn.