We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Two old broads and a boat

Ciao, tutti!

We're officially into summer, and while everyone in Venice is making fast exit plans to head for either the mountains or the beaches for the next 2 months, I'm staying here. Besides my Italian lessons, writing courses, my English student and the usual "stuff" of life, I've picked up a new project. 

 Since even my rowing group The Lionesses will be away, I have been looking for some other opportunities to row for the next few months. My wishes were granted, with one  little, teensy tiny  caveat. The boat offered to me has to be finished being built before it can get in the water. 

So instead of heading off to the beach, I head to the old salt warehouses to go to work. (Think salt mines). Currently we are sanding.

 The salt warehouses are cavernous old storehouses where Venice kept it's inventory of salt beginning as far back as the 1400's. Venice was a trading center in those days, and had built up a considerable spice trade selling salt.

 I'm working at the very back of warehouse #5, where it's nice and dark. We turn work lights on so we can see what we're up to back there. Walking into the warehouses is a bit of an eery feeling, but despite the spookiness, I love being in there. Makes me wonder about what went on in there all those years ago. Oh if only these walls could talk!!

I had hoped to try my hand at rowing a canottaggio, what in English we would refer to as crew or skull rowing  The boat we're working on, a whitehall ( caiccio in Italian), has seats for two rowers very similar to the skull boats but is bigger.  According to wikipedia, the whitehall is "considered one of the most refined rowboats of the 19th century".  The whitehall, first built in New York City at the foot of Whitehall Street, was used to ferry goods and sailors on and off boats in the New York harbor.  Our whitehall,  constructed mostly of mahogany, was built by Marco, an elderly member of the Bucintoro rowing club which is housed in several of the salt warehouses. Isn't she a beauty?

My partner in crime on this project  is Paula, originally a Canadian who spent 30 some years working in Rome and has now transplanted to Venice. She rows Voga Veneto style (standing up just like the gondoliers do) and sails. When she asked if I would like to row the whitehall with her, I didn't think twice. My hand was up in a second. Yes, even if there was some work involved.

I've sanded two afternoons this week. I also rowed one day. My shoulders are currently killing me.  We thought we'd be on to the varnishing by now, however, Sebastiano, the guy who maintains all of Bucintoro's boats, has declared that he wants more sanding done. Sebastiano can be very, hmm, what's the word....demanding?   And so we sand. By hand. With little bits of fine sandpaper. I now have some pretty nicked up knuckles!

In the meantime, Paula and I are making grand plans (in our heads) for early evening rows over to Lido and Malamocco. With some luck, and perhaps a few bribes to Sebastiano so we can speed up and get to the varnishing,  it won't be too long before I will be able to write "two old broads IN a boat".

Oh, to actually be in that boat on the water. Dreaming!!

Photos will be forthcoming as the work progresses. Stay tuned.

(P.S. It's not all work and no play this summer. I'm still sneaking off to the beach for a bit a few mornings each week. )

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Impegnativa, one very important Italian document

Perhaps a better title for this post is The Italian Medical system, part XXX .  Seems I could write on this topic endlessly!  It's a subject I get asked about frequently in emails and in conversations with tourists from almost every country imaginable, but mostly from Americans wanting to hear first hand what I think about the differences between medical services here and back home.

I spent a bit of time this rainy morning over at Ospedale Civile while waiting for an appointment with an ear specialist, and that got me to remembering a previous visit to an ear specialist back about 6 years ago.  It was my famous visit to ex-Ospedale Giustinian, over in Dorsoduro, the afternoon I got lost and locked in the bowels of that huge, dark, scary Venetian building and ran into the worker wearing only his underwear. An afternoon I would like to be able to forget, but unfortunately that image is forever etched in my brain.

Last week when I was making this appointment, I flatly refused any and all possible appointment times offered at Giustinian. No, never again. Trust me. Never again. I'll go anywhere else, even to Mestre on the mainland, but not Giustinian. Thankfully this morning finds me at Ospedale Civile in Campo San Giovanni e Paolo.

I couldn't help but do a re-play of that horrifying afternoon in my head while passing time in the waiting room this morning. When my turn was called, I took my place at the sportello (counter) where the intake nurse processed my paperwork. Finished with all that, I asked if she could help me with one other matter.  I've been having a real run around trying to get appointments for injections in my knee for months now, and since Orthopedics share the same office space here I thought I'd just try my luck one more time. I already had an impegnativa (see photo above) for the injections, but for unknown reasons every time I tried to make the appointments, I was given another reason why they could not make an appointment on this doctor's calendar. It has been months, and still nothing. 

I'd discussed this problem with my regular doctor the week before, and she gave me yet another impegnativa for the injections with the advise to try again at the hospital appointment desk. I did try, but was told only my Orthopedic dr. could give this prescription, and I must wait on him.  Yes, I've been waiting. Months. And now the knee has decided this isn't fun any more.  So today, I explain that I now have 2 impegnativas and still no appointments. My regular doctor had also advised me that if I still didn't get an appointment to go take the matter up with the woman who runs the Office of Public Relations. That woman was my next stop this morning, after the ear dr. finished up with me.

The second secretary in the office, who was listening to my explanation of the multi-impegnativas,  turned from her computer screen to face me and told me to come see her when I had finished up with the ear doctor.

Back in the waiting area, I waited for my turn for the doctor. When my number was called, I was
introduced to a fairly young Ear, Nose and Throat specialist. Instead of asking me what brought me to him this morning, he asks what brought me to Italy. I should have been prepared, as this is a very common question, especially in any medical office. I proceed to give him the brief history of Karen becoming an Italian. Why is this so curious?

Next question from the dr. , " Is it true American doctors are all rich? My friend told me this. "
My response: "Doctors in the US do make more than most doctors in Italy, I am sure of this." He turns to his nurse and begins a fairly lengthy discourse on how medical services here in Italy are free or so inexpensive compared to in the US. He seemed quite unhappy with the whole scenario.

As he is examining me, he relays his family story of how his nonno (grandfather) immigrated after the war, how one uncle ended up in the US, another eventually in Germany. The examination conversation took a few more turns, ending with the doctor writing another impegnativa for yet a different examination. As you may have deduced by now, the impegnativa (see photo above)  is like the Willy Wonka Golden Ticket.  This gets you appointments with specialists; blood tests, x-rays and ekg's etc.; and prescriptions. It's a crucial document.

I remembered to stop by that secretary's desk on my way out. She took both of the impegnativa's for the knee injections, looked them over, hit a few keys on her computer and asked me if next Thursday at noon worked for me.  Absolutely yes. No matter what I might have planned for next Thursday, I will be cancelling. There was no way I'd miss an opportunity to get these shots. I asked her about the other 2 dates. She responded, "Don't worry. Get here on Thursday and we'll work all the rest of that out."  I thanked her profusely. She adds, "I remembered you from when you had your knee operated on. The American woman. "

Yes, the American woman. I must seem like a freak show to these Venetians.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Last night's Venice Night Trail

Venice isn't a city designed for long distance runners. Or even short distance runners. Any runners,  for that matter. It's a walking city. That's how we get around.

However, a local running group, Venice Running Days, in association with the Venice Marathon, organized a 15 k night run through the city. Brilliant idea, to do a run at night when all the streets are empty. The link below is a video of the course mapped out, beginning at the port on the Zattere and winding it's way throughout the city.  Do take a look.

Along the course, somewhere between 10-11 k, the runners would be going right by our house! I noted the event on my calendar and was prepared to watch from my vantage point on the terrace. 

 Yesterday was not the best weather day here in Venice. We had a nasty thunderstorm in the morning, then it cleared up mid-day, with another storm hitting late afternoon. Fortunately for all the race participants, the skies cleared up by night time and the temperature was also perfect for running in shorts and t-shirts. 

I knew the race was slated to begin at 9pm, so I figured the fastest runners might be already at the 10k mark around 9:30. About 9:15 I stepped outside, looked down and noticed a white haired  gentleman on the street below me, dressed in a neon green high visibility vest. He had a flashing light strapped to his arm, and he was waving a lit-up orange wand, similar to something an airport traffic person on the tarmac at an airport would use. No, an aircraft was not coming in for a landing on our sidewalk.  He  was busy practicing his hand motions to direct traffic.  The original race course was set to run past us, straight down the edge of the street to the waterfront, then along the waterfront all the way to the bridge over towards Giardini.  However, with all the rain the path along the waterfront was more like a stream. Obviously someone at race headquarters had decided to change up the route to keep feet dry. 

 The volunteer down on the street practiced his arm motions for 15 minutes or so. Every once in a while he'd say something out loud, as if he were having a conversation with someone.  But there was no one else but him down there. Then I noticed who he was conversing with.  A cat.  The cat, lying   on the sidewalk or walking around a bit,  was keeping the man company as he swung his arm with the wand back and forth. 

The first runner was past our house just a few minutes before 9:30.  Our traffic controller yelled out a cherry "Ciao!" and then proceeded to give directions , " Sinistra, poi destra, poi lungo viale" 
The second runner followed seconds behind, and got the same greeting and instructions. 

In another five minutes  runners started arriving down the street in packs.  Our guy downstairs was swinging his orange wand, and greeted each and every group with the same happy "Ciao!". For some he yelled out "Bravi, Dai!"  (Good, go on!) Every once in a while he'd not only give the directions in Italian, but also in English. "Left-a, right-a, then-a straight-a down-a  da street-a".  This went on for well over an hour, as a couple thousand runners made their way through our little corner of Venice. 

All the runners were wearing head lamps, some had red blinking lights on their backs, some even had shoes with blue lights in the heels.  

While the friendly volunteer downstairs was directing runners, the cat was getting into the action. Every once in a while we'd hear the man yell "No, Milo, vieni qua"  (Come here) or he'd run a few feet from his post and scoot the cat out of the way. He and Milo greeted every runner that past our corner of Sant'Elena. Runners were  yelling back to him "Buona sera" or "Grazie". 

I can only imagine how joyful this event was for the participants.To be able to run through this spectacular city on a clear spring night must have been something so unique and memorable. If only I could run, I am pretty sure I'd have been out there with them. Even from my non-runner perspective,  I know how happy I was looking down at them.  And this guy on our corner made it even more special. 

Photo of runners on the sidewalk straight below our terrace. ( My husband has a fascination with these night time light streams)  Thanks to Mike Henderson for the photos. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Sunday on Lake Garda

The shoreline at Toscolana Maderna, Lake Garda

Ciao tutti!  I know, I've been absent for quite some time, and I'd like to thank all of you for the many emails inquiring "What the heck is going on?"  The answer- lots of stuff going on.  I've been studying my rear end off, ramping up both my Italian lessons and writing courses. We've been traveling, AND I've been rowing. My most recent row was this past Sunday, which is the topic of this post. 

I've been to Lake Garda before for several days of relaxation and exploration. I can highly recommend a day trip, or an overnight from Venice. It's a glorious location. Sunday's trip to the lake was hardly relaxation, though. My rowing group, the Pink Lionesses in Venice, were scheduled to compete in a Dragonboat race. A gara (war, in Italian).  Normally, my group rows in Venice-  up and down the Grand Canal, in the smaller canals, and in the lagoon surrounding Venice. Usually at a nice leisurely pace. This dragonboat competition was a distance of 200 meters, at a pace as fast as you can row. 

At 7am we were gathering at Piazzale Roma, which meant I had to be on a 6:13 am vaporetto from Sant'Elena in order to get there in time.  Dragging my paddle, life vest and change of clothes I left home with my eyes barely open, wondering why I get myself into these things in the first place! With everyone present and accounted for at the appointed hour, we loaded all our gear into the cars, divided ourselves up, and set off for Toscolana Maderna, on the west coast of  Lake Garda about 40 km from Brescia. 

Living in Venice, I don't own an automobile. I rarely even ride in one anymore. We use the train and public buses for getting around if we are going out of Venice for any reason.  So the 2- plus hour ride in the car was a treat, especially the pit stop at the Auto grill  along side of the Autostrada.  

With a bit of persistence on the part of our drivers, we found the location of the event just in time. We had about 5 minutes to change clothes and get into the boat. Rowing on a lake is quite different from what we are used to. Even getting into the boat on the shoreline was a bit of challenge for us canal rowers. 

When you are in a competition, there isn't even time to look around. You must be completely focused on the race the entire 200 meters, and focusing on every command your helmsman shouts. Too bad, because the area is stunningly beautiful. Sunday was cloudy, I can only imagine how gorgeous this would be on a sunny afternoon.

Here's my team, Pink Lionesses in Venice, on Lake Garda getting ready for the first match. 

We didn't place well, but we did finish, and that was a grand accomplishment in our opinion.  It was tough rowing. I was wishing (praying) that we would not have to do a second match. My prayers were not answered. The video below is our second match. We're in the middle boat. Actually, we improved our performance the second match, despite much worse conditions. The wind had picked up, the waves were fierce, the boat was rocking and we took on quite a bit of water at the back end, where I happened to be sitting. Before we were two seconds into the boat, just getting into position, we took on a good 5 inches of water into the boat. My partner and I were drenched from head to toe. I was trying to keep my feet out of the water, it was impossible. I remember thinking, "Oh what the hell!".  I put my feet into the swimming pool I was sitting in and rowed like a bat out of hell. 


After our second match, the rest of the event was cancelled due to weather conditions on the lake. We changed clothes, packed up, and headed out to find a restaurant for some food. Lunch was a two hour operation, par for the course for Italians. Lots of pizzas, beer and wine, dolce, the coffee and there was even a grappa or two down at the end of the table.  Eventually we piled back into the cars for the journey back to Venice. Exhausted, still with soaking wet shoes, (did I already mention exhausted?), I arrived back home at 7pm. What an adventure!

Sunday was a grand challenge for me, for two reasons. First, I completed a race I never would have imagined I would do at my age. Never in a million years did I ever think I'd be rowing, let alone competing.  This just goes to show you that you can do anything you set your mind to. Trust me, if I can do this, anyone can. You just have to get up and do it, whatever it is you dream. Just do it.

The second reason Sunday was a challenge is this:  I spoke no English the entire time. 12 hours of non-stop Italian!  Incredible! (Well,  aside from one little mini English lesson at lunch when someone asked me about the f-word and when to use it.)

I can tell you right now, I am not ever going to be a professional dragonboat racer, or racer of any type for that matter.  I wasn't built to be an athlete!  But I wouldn't trade the experiences for anything.

And that was my Sunday. How was yours?

*Special thanks to Pink Lioness Monica Nardini for the group photo and video.

As always, I am so grateful for every one of you who takes the time to read my blogs. Leave a comment and let me know where you are, what you are doing. I love hearing from you. Ciao!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Winding up 2015 in Venice

As 2015 wound down, I spent some time wandering the city taking photos of this year's holiday lights. For the first time in as long as we can remember, Campo San Barnaba and the nearby streets were lit up even over the canal. I love the reflections!

Even the boys on the vegetable barge at Ponte dei Pugni got into the holiday spirit donning their Babbo Natale suits to wear to work. 

As in past years, St. Mark's square is ablaze in lights, adding to the festive atmosphere in Venice during the holiday season. 

The Christmas tree next to the Basilica was gorgeous this year.  I particularly enjoyed the ornaments- all simple plaques displaying  heartfelt holiday sentiments from schools, organizations and shops in the city. 

Holiday lights along  Calle Lunga San Marco

Sadly, the Rialto bridge is dark this year. I suspect  the multi-year restoration project currently underway on the bridge has something to do with why lights weren't strung on the outside of the bridge and along the center strada. Adjacent streets on the San Marco side of the bridge were lit up, though. 

It wouldn't be Natale without numerous sightings of Babbo Natale all around Venice.  This one inside the window caught my eye. I'm wondering if he was looking for a way out?

All over Italy, right before Christmas the traditional presepi, nativity scenes, make their appearance  They are in every church and almost every household. This year, as usual, the presepe at Chiesa di Santa Maria Glorioso dei Frari (the Frari, the Venetian shortcut), is exceptional. My photo above is only one tiny portion of it, it is much too large to get into one photo. Figures are moving, cows and sheep are mooing and baa-ing, there is even a volcano erupting at intervals in the background. It wouldn't be Natale without getting into a few churches to see what they have on display in their presepe. 

And our tree is up in Venice again this year. From our house to yours, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Buon Anno Nuovo! Auguri!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Meet the Venetian artist behind the doors of Plum Plum Creations

Often the best things about Venice are the surprises that come when you are lucky enough to get a peek behind a closed door.  I'd say one of those was the day I was invited to meet Arianna Sautariello at her studio tucked back in a far corner of  Cannaregio, not far from the Church of Maddonna dell'Orto.

Arianna is the creative genius of Plum Plum Creations, her endeavor to share her original engravings, drawings, paintings, photographs, and sculptures.  I'd seen a watercolor of hers and was so intrigued by it I couldn't wait to meet this talented artist. Arianna and her husband Nicolo graciously spent time explaining the techniques Arianna uses and the complexities of her work while Arianna demonstrated her print making.

The first engraving she showed me was a commissioned creation for a local hotel. She starts with a hand drawn detailed sketch, which is then transferred to a piece of metal (copperplate) upon which she etches the drawing line by line. Arianna still uses the printing techniques of the 1500's called calcografia.

While we surround ourselves with modern technology every day, stepping into Arianna's studio is like taking a step back in time. She's preserving an old art form while she uses it to express what she sees and feels in current day Venice.

Arianna at work

A look at the printing process - each print done individually. 

A finished etching

Watercolors of Venice

Arianna's paintings and etching capture all the architectural elements of Venice in fine detail, and yet they also exhibit her unique style.

Next time you are in Venice, take a walk in one of the lesser known neighborhoods to meet one of Venice's special artisans. Instead of taking home a mass produced mask for a souvenir, consider purchasing one of Arianna's engravings or watercolors.  These also the make perfect gifts for someone you know who loves Venice.

You can tour Arianna's studio with her and see first hand how she creates her beautiful engravings. Please see  her website at Plum Plum Creations for more information or to purchase any of her marvelous creations for yourself.

Grazie, Arianna! 

Monday, November 2, 2015

All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day

When I checked my email this morning, I found a message from one of the Italian language websites I subscribe to containing some vocabulary and a brief video related to the two big holiday's All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day on November 1 and 2.

All Saints' Day (Festa di Ognissanti), November 1, is the day Catholics honor all saints known and unknown. All Souls' Day (Commemorazione dei Defunti), November 2 is the day to remember dead loved ones, when everyone and their brother will be taking chrysanthemums to the cemetery.

These are two huge holidays in Italy. The first, Festa di Ognissanti is not only a religious holiday, but also a national holiday meaning banks, offices and schools are closed.

I attempt to do something each day to improve my Italian so this was perfect for today. I clicked open the message and looked over the vocabulary list. The list is helpful:

crisantemo - chrysanthemum
ognissanti - All Saints Day
regalo - present
candela - candle
visitare al cimitero -  visit the cemetery
anima- soul
castagna arrosto -roasted chestnut
pregare- to pray
onorare i defunti- honor the deceased
tomba- tomb
andare al mesa -  go to mass
pulire la tomba - clean the grave
biscotto di Ognissanti- all Saints Day cookie otherwise known as  Ossi dei Morti or  bones of the dead

The video contains both Italian and English translations.  If you are learning Italian, I've included the links to both of these here:



And also a recipe for the  Ossi dei morti cookies,  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/mario-batali/ossi-dei-morti-recipe.html

Ossi di Morti (Bones of the Dead cookies)

In Italy, if you were named after a saint then you not only get to celebrate your birthday every day, but you also get a bonus celebration on your Saints Day. I got curious whether there was a Saint Karen.  A little bit of Internet research turned up the answer.  No, there isn't. Karen could, however,  be celebrated on St. Katherine of Sienna's day since Karen is a derivative of Katherine.  Please, we need a Saint Karen.

Interestingly, the Internet also turned up a few websites that sell Saint medallions, and there is a Saint Karen medal for sale.  Two websites also mention Saint Karen is either the patron saint of philanthropists or the patron saint of love, romance and intimate relationships. Hmmm.

The only other slightly interesting fact I turned up is that Venice's ACTV, the company that runs the vaporettos, runs an express boat to San Michele,  the cemetery island, from October 31 and November 2, to make it convenient for you to take those flowers to the dearly departed. Line DE runs from the Lido, Fondamenta Nove, and also Piazzale Roma.   Just in case you were wondering, "DE" stands for "Defunti" or deceased.  The deceased line. Makes perfect sense.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Il Postino - the postman cometh.....or not

At the back of our orto is a gigantic old apricot (albicocca) tree which had been unfortunately, dormant since we've moved in. This year it decided to make up for it in spades. We had more apricots than we could eat, give or throw away. Mike decided he'd try his hand at apricot jam (marmalatta), and successfully made several batches of the stuff. We're set for apricot marmalatta until next year. (Watch, our tree will decide to go back to sleep again for a few years again!)

Our tomato (pomodoro) crop was also prolific this year, so Mike canned stewed tomatoes. 

Recently I eyed a crate of black figs (fichi neri) at the  market. There was NO WAY I was getting by them.  Three kilos of those beauties came home with me for a batch of fig marmalatta. 

 They are beauties, aren't they?  

 Those 3 kilos became 10 pints of glorious fig jam!

What I've neglected to tell you about all of our summer canning adventures is that we didn't own a canning pot. And now we're getting to the crux of this blog. You know that humongous pot you put the jars into to boil?  We'd been doing the boiling part of the process by putting 2-3 jars at a time into our largest pot, boiling and repeating until we'd done all the jars. Tedious. Mike and I both came to the conclusion it was time to purchase a canning pot.  I looked all over Venice. Didn't find one. I might have been able to find one somewhere in Mestre, however I just didn't want to spend the time hauling there and back. 

My fall back is always to search the internet. I found just what wanted on Ebay. It was a no-brainer. I ordered, and paid extra shipping from the USA to make sure it was delivered safely.  All I needed to do was sit back and wait for the delivery guys. Sweet. 

Yes- this thing! Remember your grandmother always had one?  Now I have one too!

Ebay was great about sending emails with tracking status. I knew when my pot had left the warehouse, I knew it had made it to customs in Europe, and I knew an approximate date it would be delivered to my doorstep. On Thursday, I received an email late in the day informing me that the delivery guy had been to the house, but no one was home.  Odd, I thought, that he didn't leave a card or note informing me that they'd been here and instructions for re-delivery.  I called the shipping company and finally managed to arrange for him to return the following day.  (The voice mail systems of all Italian companies need some help. I'm forever lost in menu system hell, but with some courage and perseverance I managed to get what I needed done.

Friday we waited at home all day long. About 5pm I phoned the shipping company again. They told me the guy had been at the house at 2:10 pm but no one was home.  Strange. I know Mike and I were there all day long, purposely waiting for this canning pot. And weird again that no note was left on the door. The guy clearly never came in the first place. The woman from the delivery company explained they would not make another attempt to bring it to the house, instead it  would be sent to the local post office. I should wait until Tuesday, then go collect it from the post office at San Marco. I reiterated "San Marco, right? "  "Si".  I clearly understood that part.

I ended up hauling my grocery cart (carello) to the San Marco post office on Wednesday morning.
And had to haul right through ...this.  Water. Now I love a good photo op as much as the next person, but I don't particularly love acqua alta when I have to haul a big box strapped to my carello.

At the post office, the guy at the counter handling dispensing of deliveries asked me for the tracking number. I had only what was emailed me by Ebay. No, not that. He wanted the number the delivery company used. Don't have it. They didn't leave me anything. By the look on his face I knew he wasn't happy with me. Could he possibly locate my package by my name?  I handed him my passport. He grumbled a little, but went off to the backroom passport in hand. 

He came back to the counter with my passport in hand, and no big box.  Nothing here for you, signoria. Try at Rialto. 

So. I hauled myself and my carello from St. Mark's to the post office at Rialto and prepared myself for round 2.  When it was my turn at the sportello, I again explained that I only had the tracking number Ebay had sent me in an email message. No. Not that number. Ok. Could you locate it by my name, here's my passport.  He looked at my passport and looked back at me. Nothing here for that name. Are you sure?  Yes. And then he dismissed me with the hand signal that means "Go away".  As I was collecting up my purse he opened up a blue folder to show me that there was nothing logged in with my name on it, when low and behold he sees my name on the list. AHA!  They do have my package.  

Then he looks up at me, smiles, and says "Signora, you should trust us. "  What?  Didn't he just shoo me away after declaring there was no package for me?  

He trots off to the back room and returns with a small package. It has my name on it, but it obviously is not a canning pot. It in fact was for me, a book, that had not been delivered to my house ever, and I had never received any delivery notice telling me to pick it up at the post office. I was overjoyed to receive my book.  The guy mistakenly thought  my signs of happiness were meant for him.  Again he gave me the "shoo" hand signal.  

I asked if he could double check because I was supposed to pick up a big box,  I even showed him a photo of the canning pot.  No, nothing else for you here. Shoo, shoo.  As I am picking up my purse, the guy does exactly the same thing. He opens up the blue folder containing his package log, and low and behold, he finds a second entry with my name on it.  "Yes!  We have a package for you, Signora"
He smiles and trots off to find my box. When he returned, with my very large brown box, he says  again, "See- You should trust us."  

Me being me, I wanted to explain the absurdity of that. Instead I flashed a huge smile, thanked him profusely and let him think he had done the greatest favor for me of my life. 

And then I proceeded to do what he wanted in the first place. Shoo. Shoo.  
I wrapped all my bungee cords around my huge box and wheeled out into acqua alta again. 

We are now the very happy owners of one extra large canning pot, which we have already inaugurated.  Our orto is overflowing with hot peppers just itching to be turned into Hot Pepper Jelly.

Just part of our hot pepper crop this season.  I think there are a few more batches of hot pepper jelly to be made!

  Our hot pepper jelly just out of the pot this afternoon

Despite the hassle, I am sure that the next time I need/want something I will  just order it online and suffer with having to deal with the post office, as much as I detest it. After all, I am supposed to trust them, right? 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How I learned Italian medical terms...or .. More fun and games with the Italian medical system AGAIN!

One of my favorite lions in Venice, on  the Scuola Grande di San Marco, has nothing to do with the contents of my blog today, but since he graces the front of our wonderful hospital, I thought I ought to use it. I am writing about something medically related, after all.

In a recent blog, I wrote about having to make several trips to the hospital on the Lido, and that my orthopedic surgeon there was retiring at the end of June.  Since then, I've had to have a series of injections in my other knee. As there is no one replacing my dear Dott. F at Lido, I had to see a different doctor at the Giustinian building in Dorsoduro.  If you are a long-time follower of my blog, you may recall one of my wonderful adventures being lost in the basement of the Giustinian building. I have avoided this particular building ever since!  Unfortunately, I had no choice this time, so back to Giustinian I went.

The first injection went off without a hitch. I felt a little better about having to go to Giustinian.  The second visit was a complete bust. I went at my appointed time, sat in the waiting room, and waited, and waited, and waited. Finally I tracked down a nurse. She looked at my appointment papers, motioned for me to sit, and ran off. When she returned, she asked me to follow her. Down a maze of halls we went, I had no idea what was going on. We finally got to an office where another woman was behind the desk. She looked up at me and said " We called you but you never answered. The doctor (Dott. D.) isn't here today."  We went back and forth, it turns out she called but never left a message. She wanted to know why I didn't pick up the phone. I was busy at the time, I told her. I wanted to know why she didn't leave a message.  Her response?  "No one here in Venice ever listens to voice mail, so we don't bother doing it."  Seriously.  Bottom line, we had to reschedule the visit.

The second injection- when it actually happened- also went smoothly. While I was there, I asked the doctor to take a look at my hand, which had a lump at one of the joints on my fingers.  I asked him if there was something I could do for the arthritis in my hand, which seemed to be getting worse lately.  Dott. D. took one look and said, "Signora, this isn't arthritis. You have a tumor. " Next he asked, "You are American, yes? "  Yes.  He instructed  me to stay on the examining  table. He went  to his desk, did something on the computer and  told me to come have a look.  I thought he was going to show me information about this tumor, maybe some photos so I could have a better understanding of what it was.  Instead, he had a document displayed on his screen, written in English and asked me to translate it for him.

I wanted to laugh out loud.  He's asked me to translate a Letter of Recognition, sent to him by the US Army in recognition of his service in Afghanistan assisting an American medical team. It was filled with medical terms. I study Italian,  I'm  at  upper Intermediate level but  I'm certainly no translator. Oh, what the heck, I  took a crack at it.  As I translated line by line from English to Italian, he typed my words on the computer. Every once in awhile he'd look up and say "Hmmm.. I don't like this word here. Do you have another instead of that ?"  I got out my phone which has a dictionary on it and looked up the word.  I'd give him a choice of one or two synonyms and he'd choose the one he liked, and off we'd go again until we got to the end of the letter.  Dott D.  was happy with the result, and I'd had one more weird medical experience to write about.

But we're not done yet. I asked him about Afghanistan. He said it was the worst 3 months he'd ever spent in his life. He was doing surgery on casualties there along with an American team of doctors.  Next, he got on the phone and scheduled an appointment for me to have this tumor removed. He said he had connections at Mestre and could get me in right away, but he couldn't do that at the hospital in Venice, so I should go to Mestre.  I said, "I hate going to Mestre. " He said, "Go to Mestre, we'll do it there." I think my translating got me a little connection.  He wrote out the appointment and off I went. Thanks, Dott. D.

Today was my apppointment at Mestre.  Honestly, I hate to go to Mestre. I had to take a boat to Piazzale Roma, then the 24 H bus to the new hospital out there. I was thankful to actually have arrived at the right place. Anything else that might happen would be gravy. The only other time I'd been to that hospital was in an ambulance through the emergency entrance, so I was totally unfamiliar with what the rest of the place looks like. This hospital is enormous!  After much hunting and pecking my way through the place, I located a secretary who took a look at the letter Dott. D. had given me and pointed me to an office.

Trying my hardest to remain optimistic, I just had a sinking feeling that the day was going to turn south. I waited my turn in the waiting room.   When my name was called, I was surprised to discover that my doctor was NOT the doctor in the room with me.  I fully expected Dott.D. had scheduled the appointment on a day he was working at that hospital. Surprise, surprise.  This new doctor took a look at my letter, looked up at me and said, "Dott D.  Of course."  That should have tipped me off right there.  He asked for the x-rays.  I told him Dott D. hadn't send me for any x-rays.  He reached for my hand, took a closer look, then looked up and said, "No, I'm not cutting without x-rays".  Then he asks, "Why are you here? Why didn't you just go to the hospital in Venice? "  Hmmm. "Well, Dott. D sent me here."
He responds, " Mestrini come here. Venetians stay in Venice.  Doesn't make sense for you to come here.  You can come back here if you want, but I think you should just go to Venice for the x-rays and see the surgeon there."

Coming out of the hospital I discovered there is a train that goes  right to the Venice Santa Lucia station. You could call that the fun part of my day. I bought a ticket for 1.25 Euro ( had to use my credit card since the ticket machine wouldn't take cash), hopped on the train, and got back to Santa Lucia in under 20 minutes. Sweet.  Since I'm not going back to the Mestre hospital I won't be using this handy route, but it seemed like something I ought to know about.

The train ride gave me a little time to ponder my situation. Makes a lot of sense to have x-rays. But my Dottore D. didn't need them. No, he'd been to Afghanistan. He can probably do heart surgery without x-rays.

Tomorrow I am making the x-ray appointment. In Venice. Even if I get sent back to Dott. D for the actual surgery, I'll feel a little more at ease I have them.  You never know,  someone might even look at them.

And why is it some of my best adventures involve the Italian medical system?  I'd like an answer to that.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Blogging from the beach (Warning, this may contain sand)

Trying something new today. I've been spending a lot of time "fuori" (outside /away) from the house lately, and thought I'd attempt a bit of blogging on the run using my iPad. 

If this works well enough for me, it may well be the answer to one of the issues I've struggled with all summer. How to find enough time to keep up with writing. Heck, I haven't been able to find enough time to get to the beach even. Wouldn't it be heaven if I can connect the two? I'd even suffer with some sand on the iPad screen now and then! 

The Blogger app on the iPad is pretty bare bones. i can post photos, and have only bold or italics for text enhancement. No other fonts or font sizes to choose from... but... Bare bones from the beach or on the go could be just what this girl needs.  

Stay tuned for more from capanna 169 - my beach home on the Lido.  Right now I have one other little technological problem to resolve. Must email myself some photos that are on my smartphone so I have access to them here on the iPad. 

Ciao tutti!