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

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Silver linings...

Ok, so I've been under a few clouds in the last few weeks.  Despite that, I've found silver linings - several times lately!

My silver linings have come in the form of new friends and acquaintances from around the globe, who have found me either through my blog or FaceBook.  In the past several weeks I've had the distinct pleasure of meeting several of these people while they were visiting Venice.  I am living a very charmed life, for sure! I know if I were still back in Baltimore, there is no way I would have ever come in contact with all these people. I would have missed the opportunity to make new friends.  There have been so many unexpected benefits as a result of our move, and this is one of the big ones.

First there was Candace- who found me on FaceBook after she saw a comment I made on a mutual friend's page.  She then checked out my wall, and discovered we have a favorite caffe in Venice in common. We emailed back and forth for a few months, and then made arrangements to meet for coffee in that very caffe when she was here in Venice in late February. We met a few times while she was here, and I'm sure we'll get together on one of her return visits.

Next there is Yvonne, an Australian  I met  face to face a year ago through another mutual acquaintance, Michelle from Seattle. Yvonne and I emailed back and forth all year, and now she is back in Venice for a month or so. This time she's in an apartment not far from where we live. What a pleasure it is to share some of my little corner of this fabulous city with Yvonne, and to get to spend a bit more time getting to know her in person.

And then there is Maxine and Tom from New York, also mutual friends of Yvonne and Michelle, who were in town again in mid-March. They were back in Italy to see one of Maxine's beautiful quilts on exhibit in Verona, and made a stop for a few days in Venice as well. We had met them last year at a lovely dinner Michelle hosted, and it was delightful to share another dinner with them during this visit as well.

Two weeks ago I met Cariya, an American who was coming to Venice from Bombay.  We corresponded via FaceBook for a few months prior to her arrival in Venice. Cariya was introduced to me by a Venetian friend, who thought I might be able to assist Cariya get settled in, as she was moving to Venice for a year.

I'm planning to meet Antonia  next week. Antonia contacted me a few months ago after reading my blog entries about my Italian citizenship ordeal. She and her daughter Allegra are in the process of getting their dual citizenship in the US, but decided to contact my immigration lawyer Luigi here in Italy to see if he could help them too.  They arrive next week to begin their process, and will be taking up residence in the same little town I spent time in while I was going through my citizenship process.  I'll meet Antonia the day she arrives at the train station here while she is waiting for a connection to Bologna where she will hook up with Luigi.  She plans to return to Venice before she flies back to the US, so hopefully we'll have another meeting then too.

In May, I'll be meeting Scott, another Italian-American pursuing his citizenship with Luigi. He contacted me after reading my experiences getting my citizenship here.  He'll be in Venice for a few days following his meetings with Luigi in Bologna. I'm looking forward to hearing all about his adventures also.

Later in June or July, I hope to meet Louisa here in Venice when she arrives from the UK for a stay. Louisa emailed me after reading this blog also. She recently purchased an apartment in Dorsoduro and plans to make several trips a year.

These are just the most recent meetings. The list goes on. I've been  meeting people from around the globe,  many of whom have become good friends. None of this would ever have been possible without the internet, or even more importantly, without me having moved to Italy. Who knew??  I never expected my story would open so many windows of opportunity.

I'm loving these silver linings!!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Saying goodbye to FateBeneFratelli

For the last month and a half, FateBeneFratelli in Cannaregio has been literally my home away from home. Tomorrow that routine comes to an end. The better part of each day I've been coming here for physical therapy.  It's not the best way I could have thought of to spend the winter, that's for sure!  However, despite how grueling my days have been, the people I met at FateBeneFratelli made every bit of it worthwhile.

Once inside the front door of FateBeneFratelli, my first stop each and every day was at Massimo's bar. Massimo always has a smile on his face, he knows everyone by name. Each morning, I'd be thinking to myself, "Ok, I have about 15 minutes before the agony begins", because I know how painful it was going to be. But Massimo's boisterous "Ciao, Signora!" and big smile jolted me out of my thoughts, and put a smile on my face too.  He knows my morning routine- I have a pineapple juice and cornetto con marmelata, and he has it ready for me by the time I reach the counter.  Somehow he changes my entire perspective and instead of dreading what's coming next, I leave his bar looking forward to the next few hours.

Next stop is La Piscina- the pool. The pool is where I met most of my little FateBeneFratelli "family". You see the same 8 people every day for several weeks, and before you know it, besides knowing what ailment they are suffering that brings them here, you also know where the live, what kind of work they do, and who their favorite soccer team is. When you see them outside on the street, you are getting hugs and kisses from them. It's these people who share each little accomplishment with you, and also share in your aches and pains. I'll miss them, but most of all I'll miss seeing GianCarlo every day. I met GianCarlo during my 3 week residence time here. We both had knee replacements the same week. After being discharged, we discovered  we would both have our outpatient therapy sessions at the same time. This charming man made it his business each and every day to stop and talk with me, in both English and Italian. The Italian was for me to practice,  the English was for him to brush up on his language skills too.

Right after La Piscina comes Palestra time- the gym. In the gym, I had 45 minutes of private time with a physical therapist every day.  I've already mentioned my therapist, Blaga, in a few previous posts. This woman has worked small miracles on me, there is no doubt. I won't even begin to describe how tough my road to recovery has been. I'm not sure I would have ever made as much progress if it weren't for her persistence. She whooped for joy when I would struggle to get my knee to do something for days and finally be successful. I'll remember her yelling "Finalemente!!!!!!" for the rest of my life.  On the very last week of my therapy, Blaga announced  she would only be working with me on Monday. The rest of the week I'd have a different therapist, because Monday was her last day working there. The only thing I was thankful about was that I'd made it to the last week of therapy without losing her earlier.

Heartfelt thanks to each and every person involved with FateBeneFratelli- the doctors, nurses, aides, physical therapists- everyone. This place is truly miraculous.  I am forever grateful for the care and friendship bestowed upon me.

Note- March 29- About a week ago, Blaga was on the same vaporetto I was on, as I was headed to St. Marks. She told me she was returning to work at FateBeneFratelli beginning April 1.  I'm happy. This mean some other lucky people will be able to work with this angel during their rehabilitation.

Where I've been hiding lately....

I am thankful, and grateful for all of you who read my blog. It never fails to surprise me when I receive an email telling me how much one of you enjoyed reading one of my little adventures. And I must admit, it surprises me even more when I hear from you asking why I haven't been making regular entries.  When I haven't been up to much, I don't think there is a whole lot fun for you to read. And lately, I confess, my life has been less than fun.  The stuff my days have been consumed with are things I have been wishing I could forget, let alone document and reread it some time in my future.

So here's why I have been in hiding recently:

About a month ago, as I headed through Piazzale Roma to the Sant'Andrea vaporetto stop on my way to my morning physical therapy sesson at FateBeneFratelli, I fell down and smacked those Venetian stones on the street hard with my face. It was only after I picked myself up that I realized I had blood streaming out of my mouth and down the side of my face. As I felt my mouth, I discovered I was missing one of my front teeth, which I found lying on the pavement right in front of me. This wasn't good at all.  I made my way to the parking garage closest to where I fell, and asked the attendant to please help me.  He called an ambulance, brought me ice and some towels to wipe myself up with,and stayed with me until help arrived.

The ambulance that arrived had wheels. I was expecting a boat.  Clearly I would not be going to the Pronto Soccorso at the Ospedale here in Venice. I was examined briefly, then put in the van and taken to the new hospital on the outskirts of Mestre, where I sat waiting my turn for the next 4 hours. After being seen by the ER doctor and getting a series of x rays, the dentist on call extracted a second tooth that was lodged in my upper lip and stitched me up.  I had no idea there was a second tooth knocked out! Here is where we get to the only comical portion of this saga. This happened on Friday morning. The dentist gave me instructions to return to the same hospital on Monday morning to begin the work needed to restore my two teeth. Upon learning I lived in Venice, he changed his mind, and told me to instead go to the hospital in Venice on Saturday morning as there would be an oral surgeon on call and this would save me the trip out to Mestre. Turns out the oral surgeon on call was none other than my landlord.  Is this a small world or what??

So- over the course of the last month I have made 14 trips to the my landlord's dental office just off St. Mark's square. He and I have gotten to know each other much better thanks to my accident. The swelling on my cheek and under my eye finally returned to normal. The swelling on my upper lip has gone down, but there is still a little bit of puffiness  even today that won't go away. My landlord tells me it might be permanent scar tissue where the stitches internally were. Great. I was sans 2 teeth for about a week- my mouth was too swollen for the dentist to complete all that needed to be done until the swelling went down. Then I had temporary teeth for about a week and half, and finally two new permanent crowns.

The good news- my knee wasn't injured in the fall. That was my big concern.
The bad news- looks like I will be visiting yet a second dentist out in Spinea, about 30 minutes out of Venice, who specializes in veneers, which would be a closer match to the color of the rest of the teeth in my mouth than these two new crowns are.

And there you have it. You know the saying "When it rains, it pours" ???   I've had my own monsoon.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hot Dogs and "Yes We Can"

I've been pretty adamant about diving right into Italian everyday life and culture.We eat what is available here to eat everyday, we've even  learned some traditional Venetian recipes.   I've stuck to that rule- so no stops at McDonalds or BurgerKing just out of principle.  Until recently. I fell off the wagon.

A few months ago, after meeting up with a lovely American woman and her two young daughters aged 8 and 10, we made a stop at one of my favorite local caffes.  All of us ate tramezzinos- a little sandwich, except the youngest, who ordered - what else, a hotdog!  I hadn't thought about a hotdog in ages, but when her meal was delivered to her, there were the most wonderful smells coming from that hotdog I almost started drooling. I told that little girl to hold onto that dog or I was liable to grab a bite!  That was the beginning of my undoing.

Weeks passed by. I, unfortunately, eventually caved. I am in that same caffe day in and day out.  One day, when it was my turn to order lunch, I found the words "Hot Dog"coming out of my mouth.  The hot dog served up to me smelled as good as I remembered. Along side there was a packet of mustard and ketchup. I'm a mustard, onions and relish girl, or perhaps mustard and sauerkraut. Those other condiments certainly weren't on this caffe's menu, so I settled for the mustard and bit in.  I was in heaven. This was every bit as good as any baseball park hotdog.

Thereafter, about once a week, I go have a hotdog fix. On one particular day, when I was about to open my mouth to place my order, Marco, the barista, said to me, "Yes, I know. Cane caldo".  Cane caldo????  OH!  Now I get it - Hot dog. Literally, he was saying "Dog Hot".   I love these hot dogs.  Marco showed me the package of  hot dogs they buy, and told me I could find the same ones at the Billa grocery store. Guess what has been in my fridge ever since?  I even found sauerkraut. All I'm missing is the relish!

Yesterday, during my daily visit to this caffe, I asked Stefano, another of the barista's, where they buy the buns they serve with the Cane Caldo, as those buns are delicious.  When Stefano answered they get them in Treviso, my whole face showed my disappointment.  Stefano turned to me and said, in Italian, "Don't worry. We get them frozen. Karen, when you want, you tell me. I will give you a few every time to take home".  A big smile returned to my face.  "Really?," I asked?

Stefano's response, in English this time,  was "When you ask something, I can do it.  Yes, we can. "

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Another little taste of Carnevale today

Each day this week, I had intended to post my favorite Carnevale costume of the day. Today, however,to my surprise, I did not come across very many costumes at all in St. Mark's Square at midday. In fact, it was just about empty, most likely due to the high winds and very cold temperatures.  So- here are all of today's costume photos!

 The woman in pink practically had all of St. Mark's Square to herself!  She didn't mind posing for a few photos though.
 Isn't this guy great?  He chose to go sans mask wearing makeup instead, including bright red lipstick. His period look was picture perfect!

 Love the black and white theme this trio chose. 

 My last photo of the day is perhaps my favorite. I crossed paths with a  handful of "Marie's"on their way home from a day's work!  They are on the bridge right outside our apartment.

More Carnevale video- Flight of the Angel and Marie's Parade

Thought I'd share another nice video of Carnevale events this past weekend. Great shots of the Flight of the Angel and the Marie's Parade.