In which there is a thought-provoking film, and trains are not what they seem

I’m back in Montereale. We’re having some sunshine and my brother is off on his motorcycle for a little bit while it lasts. It apparently poured here all weekend, where Trieste had a little bit of a break and occasional sunshine.

I spent most of Sunday wandering a little further afield. Rather than heading down to the waterfront, I walked inland a bit to the Giardano Pubblico Muzio Tommasini.

triestegardenIt’s a roughly triangular public park and botanical garden founded by its namesake, a botanist born in Trieste, who later became the city’s mayor. There’s a pond and a playground for the kids, some chessboards (including a large one paved in an alcove between some seats amid the trees), and busts of cultural figures lining the paths. Artists, musicians, scientists, and intellectuals of varying sorts who have some connection with Trieste are found all along the park paths. James Joyce and Italo Svevo are found next to one another with statues erected at the centennials of their birth.


James Joyce at the Public Garden

I sat for a while on a park bench next to the pond, under the watchful eye of Joyce and Svevo, scribbling in my notebook while the sun edged in through the clouds. The weather was relatively warm and pleasant, particularly after the previous day’s pouring rain. I enjoyed the respite as I let myself get a feel for this part of the city.

Because it was Sunday, and around lunchtime, most of the city’s businesses were closed, but people were out walking and taking advantage of the nice weather. I passed by Cafè San Marco (free wi-fi advertised in the window), which looked large and inviting, though I passed it by instead of going in. Wandering randomly, I eventually stopped for lunch myself at a little kebab place on a small side street before heading back to the apartment.

At the film festival, I watched La Mia Classe, which was much more about immigration issues than learning language, per se. It was fascinating, hilarious, and heartbreaking by turns. Part of the film was fictional, though some of it seemed to be entirely too real to be scripted, and the person associated with the film who spoke at the festival said that it had started out as fiction but mutated into something else as filming went along. It reminded me of how very fortunate I am in my own circumstances. I’ve never thought of myself as a wealthy person, though I know I am a lot better off than some of my friends. In Seattle I am just under the income cutoff for public housing assistance. I could have qualified for a very small, subsidized apartment. Over here, by comparison, I have a lot of money, and that isn’t a circumstance I ever thought I’d be in.

It’s sobering to think about. In my life, I have spent time homeless. I’ve slept on people’s couches and floors and in their spare rooms for a couple of days, or a few months at a time for a total of probably three years of my life, though, thankfully, I’ve never had to sleep under a bridge or in a doorway anywhere, or try to deal with a homeless shelter. I’ve had to go to food banks because I didn’t have money for food, but I’ve never gone more than two days with nothing at all to eat. By the standards of some of the people in the film, even those circumstances were better than what they left when they came to Italy. I have always been thankful when I have enough – a roof over my head, a warm place to sleep, something hot to eat that tastes good. I can only say that I am moreso now.

When the film ended, I grabbed a sandwich and went to find the train my brother had referred me to for the trip back to Pordenone. He gave me the information for the last train of the night, not realizing that it wasn’t the train to Venice via Udine, but the overnight to Rome. There is a price differential of €5, and I didn’t have that much cash in my pocket. They didn’t take credit cards on the train. There wasn’t enough time for me to run to the Bancomat for a little cash. I’d already stamped the ticket, as you’re supposed to, so I couldn’t use it the next day; it was now essentially just a piece of paper that had cost me €13 and change. Thankfully, my apartment was just across the street, so I hauled my backpack up the stairs again and stayed on the air mattress for another night, and caught a morning train down to Pordenone, happy that I had a place to stay and more than enough money to buy a new ticket.

Today my brother took me out to look at furniture and mattresses. I found one that will do nicely and shuffled funds around so that I have the cash in my bank account to buy it, but I will have to find out how much delivery will cost and when they will be able to get one to Trieste. It was at one of the chain department stores, so they can probably talk to a more local branch for less distance, but I’ll have to be in the apartment to take delivery. It’ll be a while before I can get a bed to put under the mattress, but it’s a pretty good start. A warm, comfortable place to sleep, even if it’s temporarily on the floor, is worth so very much.


Giardano Pubblico Muzio Tommasini


A view from the garden


Finding my feet

It is raining in Trieste. The rain here is not like the slow drizzle of Seattle, sifting down and settling into things with damp surety. The rain comes down much harder, soaking through my wool coat and leaving it and my hat wet, and me slightly chilly if I’m not moving. I’m going to have to learn to actually carry and use an umbrella, something Seattleites don’t tend to do very often. An umbrella and a hiking pole, though, are going to leave me with no hands to actually carry anything. Maybe an actual rain coat is a viable answer, though rather more expensive than the umbrella option.

Yesterday I came up from Pordenone on the train, alone.  My brother helped me to carry my larger pack from the car to the train but after that I was on my own. I bought my ticket to Trieste and back, got my keys from the rental agent, and went with my landlady to the utilities office to have gas, electric, and water shifted over to my name for the bills.

Dealing with the utilities company took most of an hour, though we were there during lunch, when the lines were very short. I’ve been making use of my English/Italian dictionary and more or less managing to make myself understood. Critical things are getting done, even if I don’t have much Italian and the people I am dealing with have only a little English, or none at all.

I had to go to my bank to have someone finish filling out a form to have my VA disability pension direct deposited. I’d already dealt with most of it and only had one small box with a few lines to fill out for the person at the bank. She needed to write in some numbers and the form required the signature of a bank official. It took about five minutes for us to communicate what needed to be done, and to wrap things up. When I get back to my brother’s place, I’ll mail the form to the US. I suspect it’ll take three months or so for everything to fall into place and start coming automatically to my bank here in Trieste.

Actually getting into the apartment took a little doing. I wasn’t sure which way the keys should turn, and which key fit into which lock was an open question. There’s a lock on the door downstairs, and there are two on the apartment door. I was given four keys. The last is apparently the mailbox key down in the little lobby on the ground floor. I haven’t tried it yet, as there are two unlabeled post boxes, but I suspect the one filled to groaning with advertising circulars is probably mine. I’ll have to make a visit to a recycle bin with them sometime soon. I’m also going to have to label the keys so I don’t get them mixed up in dim light.


Looking down the hallway from my front door


My kitchen table

Last night I visited the American Corner for their TGIF. They had advertised it as also being a gathering for a Trieste orientation, but that didn’t really happen. Still, I met some nice people. There was a fairly wide variety of ages represented, from school aged kids to retired individuals significantly older than myself. I was surprised by how many non-Americans were in attendance, and much of the conversation over the course of the evening was in Italian. There were people there from Scotland, Holland (I think), and Sweden, as well as Italians who had lived in the US or who had married Americans, all of whom are living in Trieste now. I believe there was also a Slovenian gentleman there, though I didn’t get a chance to talk to him at all.

I got several very kind offers of assistance from some of the people in attendance, and I’ll no doubt take them up on it at one point or another, as I work on settling into life here. One woman told me about an antiques market as a possibility for small furniture, so I’ll be asking about that once I’ve moved here permanently. Right now, I’m just content to be exploring a little of the city that I can walk to without getting entirely soaked.

Today I headed out to explore a little and run some errands. I stopped at a little shop called Ape Regina (Queen Bee); there were Indian and Tibetan items, some new agey type things, and a little bit of incense. I got a container of Bhutanese Green Tara incense, then wandered further toward the large piazze and grabbed “breakfast” at Buffet da Pepi – a sandwich and a glass of acqua frizzante (fizzy water) for €4. It was an excellent sandwich with pork neck, mustard, horseradish, and just a touch of sauerkraut. I find it a little easier to start my day with something lunch-like than something sweet, though I like going to Pasticceria Stradella in the mornings with my brother. I need to explore the various bars and pastry shops around my apartment to find a good place for that sort of thing.


The view from my apartment

After lunch I found myself at Caffè degli Specchi again, sitting out in a cushy chair under the awning, sipping a pot of rose-scented black tea and watching the rain pour down on Piazza Unità. It was relatively warm out, mid-50s f, and I was sheltered from the deluge. A wedding party was having photographs out by the fountain despite the weather, and then trailed into Specchi, where I could see occasional flashes of more photography happening out of the corner of my eye through the glass. A couple came and sat in the chairs one table over from me, speaking French.

When the rain let up a little, I wandered around until I found a shop selling computers and computer accessories, and picked myself up a small power strip so that I can plug in a few things in the kitchen on the same shelf. Right now it’s the electric kettle and my phone, which is playing some Dead Can Dance quietly in the background. Not far along, I found a games shop, with the usual RPG, board, and card games available, some in English and others in Italian. They had comics, action figures, and dice. It was a little slice of the familiar in a different language.

Another stop for a couple of things to organize my life here a little – a glass for my toothbrush and a lighter for the incense – and I headed home to dry off a bit.

A little before 3pm, I headed out to find Teatro Miela, where they were showing Parole Povere, an Italian documentary film by Francesca Archibugi about a Fruilani poet, Pierluigi Cappello (link goes to the Italian wiki page about the poet, as the English page is just a stub). The film was subtitled in Italian, and Cappello read a fair bit of his poetry as part of a musical performance, interspersed between his discussions of poetry and his life. I quite enjoyed the poetry, and will look for his work once I’ve settled in and actually have bookshelves again. One of the seats in the theater is occupied by a life-sized carved wooden viewer, which I thought was a nice touch. There will always be at least one person at every showing, anyway! I was glad to be able to attend the film, which lasted about an hour. I thought it was a fitting way to spend part of my first weekend in the city.

I’d like to go see some of their animation track, but it’s all on Monday the 20th, and I’ll be back at my brother’s then. Tomorrow I’ll be watching La Mia Classe before I get on the train back to Pordenone. The film shows at 6pm and is just over 90 minutes long, so I should be able to make the train that leaves a little after 8pm.

Before I got back home from the movie, I stopped at the grocery store and used their Bancomat chip and PIN card, the first time I’ve actually used one of that sort. They work a little differently than the cards we get in the US, so it took me a couple of times to get it right, but I emerged from the fray triumphant and bearing some roasted chicken for a late lunch, and a container of cherry yogurt for tomorrow’s breakfast.

In spending time this weekend in the new apartment, I’m starting to get a feel for the place. I’m also appreciating the heated towel racks in the bathrooms as a good place to hang a wet overcoat and get it dry! It takes the arms a little longer than the body of the coat, as they’re not directly over the rack, but it’s much better than the cold, damp alternative.

Most of my time has been spent in the kitchen, where I have a little table attached to the wall, and a chair to sit in. I’ve put a small air mattress and a sleeping bag in the bedroom; it’s quite quiet at night, or at least it was last night. There was a little sound that I couldn’t tell the source of. I wasn’t sure if it was the fridge, the radiators, or some quiet, rhythmic music from another apartment. I’m guessing that when I have furniture and books in here, it will be quieter, as they will absorb some of the sound, as well as the echo in the apartment itself.

I aired the place out again today for a while, despite the rain. Between that and the incense, the paint smell is starting to abate a bit. A little Dong Ding oolong in my traveling gaiwan set was a comfort in the chill afternoon. I’m going to wander out in search of dinner here in a little while and see what the city has to offer.


Still Life: Gaiwan and Tea with Computer