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


Friday, July 25, 2014

A boat, a bus and a schlep on foot.

For those of you unfamiliar with the word "schlep",  let me give you some examples. If it's really hot and you have a long way to walk, you are schlepping.  If you have a lot of things to carry and you have to go up several flights of stairs, you have to schlep the stuff up.  If it's hot, you have a lot to carry, and a long way to walk, you are really schlepping. Ok, so now you can imagine me schlepping.

My Monday involved a 40 + minute boat ride from my end of Venice (way down in the tail part of the fish) to Piazzale Roma, a 10 minute wait for the 24H bus, a 35 minute bus ride out to the hinterlands of Mestre, and then a walk to several shops.  And it was hot. I avoid taking the bus to Mestre like it was the plague. For me it's like going to another planet. I have no idea where I am and  there are tons of cars, buses, motorcycles.  I am afraid I will get killed crossing streets, I always forget to stop and look.  I've gotten so used to not doing that in Venice, and I go to the mainland so infrequently  I just plain forget.

My laptop died over the weekend. Well, that's a slight exaggeration. It didn't quite die, but it would not boot up Windows Vista, the operating system on my laptop.  Mike tried using a restore disk, that didn't work. Nothing worked. I was very tempted to throw the darned thing in the canal. It was 5 years old, and had been giving me problems for quite a while already- it fried power cords 3 times a year. With what I've spent on replacement power cords I could have had a new computer 3 years ago.  My now dead laptop is the reason I had to make a trek to the mainland.

I went online and checked a few of the shops my friend Cat recommended.  Having  found a model laptop with all the features I needed and also in my price range at the Marco Polo Express, I set off Monday to buy it. First on boat, then bus, then a walk.  I figured this should be a piece of cake. Wrong.  I just should have known this was going to be difficult.

Inside the shop, I checked out all the laptops they had on display. The model I wanted was not there. I flagged down a store employee, who explained that the model I wanted could only be purchased online. It could be shipped to the store, or shipped to my home. I decided I wanted this particular model so much that I would do as he suggested, so I called Mike at home and asked him to go online to make the transaction.

Since I was out in the hinterlands and there were other large shops in the vicinity, I spent some time perusing a few other stores. I even purchased 2 pink tank tops!  Yes, I went where Karen had never gone before-- pink clothing.

Feeling good about my adventure (another opportunity to speak only in Italian), I waited for the next 24H bus back to Venice. At least finding a bus stop wasn't too difficult. Once back in Venice, I boarded a boat for the almost 45 minute ride to Sant'Elena, then the schlep to the apartment.

Once I got in the apartment, the nightmare part 2 began.  Mike had been unable to make the computer purchase online because the website wouldn't accept our US credit card.  We've been using this card all over Europe for years now, and this website wouldn't accept it.  I tried also, no luck. I called their customer assistance. Shockingly, they actually answered the phone without having to go through a ridiculously complex phone menu system.  Again, I had a great exercise in speaking Italian with the customer support rep. She also could not make the transaction over the phone, but advised me to go to the Rimini shop, where they had one of the computers I wanted in inventory. I thanked her and hung up.  I was NOT going to Rimini on the train to buy a computer.  I needed a Plan B.

Plan B involved another boat, bus and schlep to Marghera (another city on the mainland not far from Mestre) on Wednesday morning, to a different store.  My mission this time was to come home with a computer in my hand, no matter what. Mission accomplished- after another boat, bus and schlep.

My new laptop, an ASUS, runs Windows 8. It's foreign to me.  Everything is in Italian. Not good. First task was to attempt to switch the language to English, which thankfully was done fairly easily.  Mike was able to load all of my files and photos onto the new machine, and I am still reloading several programs I use. The keyboard (Italian style) is kicking my ass big time. Between figuring out how to navigate Windows 8 and locating keys on the keyboard, it's going to take some getting used to.

Nothing is easy here. I had moments when I was daydreaming I hopped in my car, drove to Best Buy and had the whole thing accomplished in 30 minutes.  But, it's the price you pay for living where we do. I'm not complaining, just laughing with myself over another one of my silly adventures.

I'm past this bump in the road, my new laptop is up and running, and I'm back online.  Life is good, aside from  the boat ride, the bus ride and the schlep.







Thursday, July 17, 2014

Hemingway in Venice update

Hemingway has a very distinctive screech. For such a little guy, he is VERY loud. And that's a good thing, because we've been able to hear him every night since we put him back out in the trees in front of our apartment, so we know at least that he is still alive.

We've had some torrential downpours since the day Mike spotted Hemingway in the grass.  It was probably a bad storm that knocked him from a tree in the first place. Because of the bad weather, we've kept a close eye out for him, just in case his little self was blown off a limb and down into the grass again. So far, he's been ok up in the trees. Clearly he is flying better. We hear his screeching from quite a ways down the park from our apartment, and then he returns closer.

Last night we didn't hear him around his normal time (around 11pm), and of course, I started to panic. Mike was ready to take his flashlight out to begin searching for Hemingway again.  Being the worried parent, I had a tough time falling asleep wondering what had happened to him, hoping he was ok.  Hours passed.  Nothing. I finally went to bed, thinking the worst had occurred to Hemingway. I reminded myself that he's a wild bird, and nature needed to take it's course, whatever that may be.

Around 4 am, Mike and I were awakened by a loud screeching just outside our window. We looked at each other, each of us saying at the same time, "It's Hemingway, he's safe!"  And then I wanted to give that owl a serious talking to for having stayed out past his bedtime!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Hemingway in Venice

Yesterday one of my Facebook friends made the comment "There's never a dull moment in the Henderson household!".  Yesterday she was so right!

Sitting along the canal while enjoying a lovely lunch at Gam Gam restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto with friends from Baltimore who were visiting us in Venice, our friend Mike turned to me and said " Hey, you just got an owl!"  Huh??? He handed me his phone to show me a photo. My husband Mike had just posted a photo on Facebook explaining  he had rescued a  baby bird . Sure enough, it was a baby owl.  My husband then sent me a message telling me I had to go buy some beef baby food and a syringe so I could feed the owl. Before our conversation was over, I had already given our baby owl a name, Hemingway. Looks like I was in for a fun afternoon!

In the meantime, we'd heard from another friend who was kind enough to check out some local sources for what to do with the bird. She was able to identifiy it- it's a baby Assiolo owl. And it didn't need to be fed, but it did need to be put back up in a tree or low branches  that evening so it's parents could find it.

My husband put the bird in our downstairs magazzino (storage room) to be  in a safe place. After bidding our friends goodbye, I rushed home to check on Hemingway.

 This is what I found - one very frightened little owl!  But what cutie. One look at him and I knew I wanted to keep him. How could you not? Just look at that little face?  He was totally petrified, so I just whispered to him that he would be ok, he was safe, and we'd do our best to get him reunited with his parents later on when it got dark.

Mike took a photo of Hemingway out where he found him, in the middle of a big open grassy area just in front of our apartment. It's in a place where lots of cats and dogs were, we were sure Hemingway would have been in one of their mouths if he was left on the ground. It was also blazing hot. Mike couldn't have left the bird there. He did the only thing he could think of, he scooped him up into a container and took him to safety.


Mike and I joked about Hemingway, our new family member, during dinner and while we waited for the sun to go down. We wondered what kind of owl he'd grow up to be, made plans for his future, all the things new parents typically do! As soon as the sun went set, Mike went down to the magazzino to get Hemingway so we could try to get him out into a tree.

Shortly after, my phone rang. Mike was on the phone telling me to run down so I could see where Hemingway was.  The little bugger could fly!  He wasn't in the plastic container anymore, he had flown up and landed on a metal bed frame we have stored along a wall in the magazzino. There he was , perched up above my head on this metal frame, just looking down at me.  He's no bigger than my hand, but looks exactly like a big owl, in minature.

We got him scooped up into the plastic container and took him back out to the park area in front of our apartment. The trees that he had fallen from earlier that day have limbs about 30 feet off the ground, there was no way we could climb up there. Fortunately, for us, and for Hemingway, there are several young pine trees recently planted in that area. We were able to let him loose on one of the closest of these smaller pines to where Mike found him.  We said our goodbyes, wished him a safe and happy life, and went inside.

A few hours later, Mike went back out with a flashlight to see if Hemingway was ok out there. Hemingway was not where we left him. He was no where in sight. Hopefully he had reunited with his parents. We already missed him, the little bugger!

We wondered about him all day today. Every time I passed through the park area, I checked out both the ground and the surrounding low trees. No sight of Hemingway.

We had another storm rolling in tonight. Of course, we worried about the owl.  Just as it was starting to get dark, I heard some loud screeches coming from the trees. Mike took a flashlight and went out searching. We immediately thought Hemingway might be in trouble out there.

Guess who was making all that noise tonight?  Yup, our boy Hemingway! Mike followed the sounds of the screeching, which was moving around, so clearly Hemingway was flying from tree to tree. He actually found Hemingway, perched about 20 feet up on a branch. The tiny guy is ok.

He'll probably  keep us up all night with his screeching, too. I imagined that his mother, if he's been reunited with her, has been giving him what's for for being out later than 8 pm last night.  That's our boy!