Posts Tagged With: ex-pat

Dog attacks, the abandoned village and gigs!

Buongiorno a tutti!

Well it’s been a very mixed couple of weeks here.

Generally I thoroughly recommend being an ex-pat. Living abroad and learning a different language and about a different culture is eye-opening. Every day is exciting because there’s always something new, something weird on the TV, a strange festival you’ve never heard of or a new phrase to learn. I don’t know whether that lets up at some point after years in the country, but at the moment I find it just as refreshing for the soul as ever almost three years on. However, being an ex-pat does come with its down sides. The most difficult thing by far is being away from friends and family and rather than it getting easier with time, it gets harder as everyone, including me rather depressingly gets older and frailer. It’s only a 2 hour flight to get back to the UK from where I live in Italy but it takes a full day by the time you take into account getting to and from airports etc. Then of course it’s difficult to drop everything in your new country because you’ve built a life there – work commitments etc. And herein lies the heart of the matter, deciding to live away from family and friends because the weather is nicer and it’s just more exciting, seems an inherently selfish choice! It becomes increasingly difficult to reconcile that choice when something bad happens at “home”. Last week, my grandmother died. So, it’s been a sad few days but I feel somewhat cheered that she fully supported my life over here. Despite being almost ninety she used to always read by blog and when I came home was full of questions.

On a far less depressing note…. I finally got to go to a place I’ve been meaning to for the last few months, Laturo. Laturo is a little village in the middle of the Abruzzi Mountains. In the 1950’s there were 50 families consisting of about 200 people living there. By the end of the 1970’s the last family had left and the village was left to go to ruin. It really is in the middle of nowhere, there are no roads to get there. I had attempted to come here with a group a couple of months back but I mistook directions. Now some of the houses have been bought, vegetable patches have been planted, a new church has been built and other aspects are all slowly being restored with the help of a group called Amici di Laturo (Friends of Laturo). We met a few other walkers/explorers whilst we were there and were offered a beer with them! I hate beer. I know that people’s tastes change over time and I’ve actually grown to like olives and coffee when before I would have thought I was being poisoned. So every so often, I try beer. Usually I’m left wondering why beer manufacturers go to such lengths to make the stuff when the dregs of my washing up water probably taste the same. Anyway, in Laturo, drinking with some random men, I discovered a beer I actually like. But it was a local artisan beer that the guy had bought with him that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to find it again! Anyway, what nice people you can meet out and about 🙂

Laturo (1 of 1)

Overlooking the  mountains…

I also went to see an Italian / Irish music band last week at a pub in Civitanova. You might remember a few weeks ago I went to see an Italian / American Country music band and was gobsmacked at how authentic the music and accents were. This time was the same – authentic even to the point of not understanding half of the words.  Anyway, that was a lovely night and I discovered that the pub does a good veggie burger meal!

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The Green Mussels 🙂

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And my doodle of them on a place mat!

Weather wise it’s been a very interesting week! At the beginning of the week there was so much wind I’m surprised it wasn’t called a hurricane! One tree blew over by the house blocking one road and a big branch fell down blocking another. It’s been good for wood collecting though to top up my supplies which I’m a bit worried about to be honest! Yesterday we had our first snowfall and today it continues! Hopefully I’ll be able to get out and do some snowboarding this week.

In other news, I’m just in the process of getting house insurance. Buying insurance here isn’t a simple case of going online to one of the comparison sites. I can only think of one here and it gives you about 3 very expensive options.  You can go to specific companies and they might be able to give you a quote but even that’s rare. It seems an absolutely archaic way of going about things, actually having to SPEAK to someone! Still, I braced myself and contacted my Insurance Man who sold me the car insurance. I told him how much I paid last year and what the policy covered (that was an online thing but for stupid reasons, I couldn’t renew it this year) and he came back with a much cheaper and better policy. So perhaps this archaic way of going about things isn’t really all that bad.

I’m on a “making bread stocks” mission at the moment. I’ve just made several sourdough loaves and next up is pita bread, hamburger buns and pizza bases. I’ve also resolved to make a new recipe every week so working my way through my new Christmas recipe book as we speak (thank you Mum & Dad!).

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And this morning I narrowly escaped (in my opinion!) being mauled to death by four angry dogs. There’s a breed here local to this part of Italy, Pastore Maremmano. They protect sheep flocks from wolves so they’re pretty vicious when they need to be. And very, very protective. I went for a walk this morning nearby. I could hear the gentle jingling of sheep bells but didn’t think much of it. When I turned a corner, two of these large dogs came running at me, teeth bared.  I thought that was the end of me! They slowed down and followed me up the road and then another one came running behind me barking. Then there was another one up ahead that had thankfully just veered off the road so I could at least head back home and then another one joined in at the side to ensure I was properly scared away (I was, I was!!). I shall not be walking here on my own for a while.

I think that about sums up the last couple of weeks here. I hope you’ve all had good weekends! I’ll leave you with a photo I took on the mountain above the Garulla Rifugio last week…

Laturo (9 of 9)

xxx

 

 

 

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Imminent departures, Solitude and Catholicism…

Ciao! 

WEEEELLLLLL!!!! The flight is <checks ticket> Saturday at 18.25 from Stansted and let me tell you…. it’s a bit stressful trying to fit all your stuff into two bags. I believe I have to sell a family member for every 1kg I’m over my allowance. It’s a shame, I quite like them.

Plan of Action

So this is the plan:

  • Arrive at <checks ticket. Hmm. It’s not on here> 21.40 or something I think.
  • Get picked up by someone, hopefully a guy called Marco who seems to be a key player in the language school.
  • It’s a 22 minute drive from Ancona Airport to my apartment in Camerano (I think we can safely halve that time based on the driver being Italian)
  • He’s going to show me briefly where things are: the language school (which I have been “walking” to on google streetview – it’s only 5 mins away), supermarket etc. And there’s an Ikea apparently very close.
  • The American girl that was supposed to be staying in my first week has had to postpone/cancel which is a shame so I’ve got the apartment to myself for the full 2 months at the moment. That’ll be not at all lonely then! Good job I’m not the kind of person that requires constant entertainment <cough>. So, plan A of course is Italian Befriendation. If the regular approach of just meeting and chatting to people proves slow, I might consider becoming Catholic 🙂 That’ll get me in the thick of it eh? My first confession I suspect will be a long one… probably focusing on my not actually being a Catholic.
  • Sunday, everything will be shut and so I’ll wander around the town a bit to get my bearings (or go to church ;-))  I’ve got some food and Marco did say that he might take me to a supermarket which is open outside of town if I’m desperate. But we’re going for drinks/dinner on Sunday evening at 7pm as a sort of introduction to all the people on the course (I mean “all” in the loosest possible sense given my strong suspicions that it’ll just be me!).

Things to do in Le Marche

I’ve been doing some research into what to do in Le Marche when I get there – I’ve got several brochures from the Italian House during the Olympics last year. On the face of it, they look very useful and in fact, I’m sure they are. If only I could bring myself to read them! My mind wanders after the first couple of words – they’re not very entertaining <flashback to book club>. And there’s not a single paragraph. Well that’s a lie, there is a single paragraph. Perhaps I should create some Italian brochures with at least two paragraphs and potentially, headings.

I’ve signed up to Le Marche’s quarterly newsletter. That site has quite a bit of info on about the area and events. I came up with a good list of things to go to see and do. Which I’ve promptly overwritten. Annoying.

I’ve been looking at train travel too – it’s about 3 and a half hours (and 19 euros) from Ancona to Rome and a similar sort of time to get to Venice as well. And there are ferries which go from Ancona to loads of places in and outside of Italy. I’ll definitely look at that. I wonder if I could add ferry travel to my sailing hours for my log 🙂 Oh I went sailing last weekend with some lovely random’s from the Sailing Networks website on their trimaran – quite, different from the last boat! Here’s a pic of it:

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The Dragonfly 920 Trimaran I was out on last weekend

I left it a bit late to get the credit cards you can get for travel abroad which I think are a good option. I have, however, gone for a couple of pre-paid cards. I’ll be interested to see if they work! The Post Office card one was recommended to me so I’m pretty confident that one will work. But you have to pay 2 euro’s to take out money from the cash point. Having said that, it seems a needless point of clarification given it will be impossible to withdraw cash anyway – as far as I can tell, there’s no pin number! I’ll phone them today to see how they imagine that might work. And it was a bit of a faff to register the card (you need to activate it after 10.30 the next day. I’m BUSY!).

The other one I got was a Travelex “cash passport” card  – same kind of thing but the Travelex guys on the phone weren’t a) able to reassure me that anyone would take their card and b) that the people that do take it wont put some of their own costs on. And there was a long story about how the card will assume if you’re in a cafe/restaurant, that you’re going to pay a tip regardless of whether you do or not and that eventually the “bill” will settle. WHAT?!?! Having said that, it was less faffy to register for it, it was activated immediately, there’s no “activation code” you have to keep forever and you don’t have to pay for withdrawing cash.

I phoned Smart Currency Exchange too  – they can transport money from one bank account in England to one in Italy at a good exchange rate. Alas, I’ll not have one in Italy for a while so not a go-er in the short term.

Healthcare

I’ve been looking more at healthcare in Italy as well. Health insurance is far too expensive. As an EU member, I get healthcare provided free of charge, similar to the NHS. I need to register for a doctor at some point – I think I’ll need a fixed address for that though so might not be for a couple of months. If I need a prescription, the general consensus from the internet forum’s is that I can sort of wink and nod at the person over the counter and they’ll give me whatever I want (within reason and for a price).

Skype & Whatsapp

In other news, the girls from home are now on Skype and Whatsapp which I’m pleased about! Makes it marginally less scary to know that there’ll be people at the other end of a laptop/phone. Having said that, I’ve already used up my data allowance for the entire month in about 3 days due to Vodafone’s fabulous updating of my phone which wiped everything, switched wifi to “off”, switched mobile data to “on” and then took off my data limits during a period where I’ve become obsessed with the Scramble app <sigh>. If you are my friend, and you’re not on Skype / Whatsapp, PLEASE GET SKYPE AND WHATSAPP IMMEDIATELY 🙂

Ex-Pats

There’s no ex-pats website for Le Marche – I mean, it’s kind of good that they’re not all out here hiking up the prices of houses etc. (well, for me, probably less so for the Italians) but it would be nice to know one or two English-speaking people… So, my next mission might be to set up an ex-pats website for Le Marche.

Right, probably my last post before I head off. Wish me luck. I will be annoyed if the plane crashes.

xxx

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Il mio appartamento, solitary confinement and the Sue Entertainment Plan…

Ciao,

Not much to report this week – it’s been very sedate! I saw the girls, my friends from Portsmouth, last week which was great – I’ve been so busy the last few months that I’ve not been down much so was good to see them. We went out for a meal and cocktails and they got me some lovely pressies – a lovely silver bangle, a personalized travel journal and some tea bags in a very patriotic tin so I can take a piece of home with me 🙂

I’ve been doing some finance stuff – I’m sticking (er, more accurately, I will try to stick) to a budget and I’ve got an AMAZING spreadsheet for tracking my spend developed years ago back when I had a job but absolutely nothing all day to do for it. I’m going to give some currency conversion companies a call tomorrow – suspect they’ll tell me I need to have an Italian bank account before I can do anything which seems sensible, only that I don’t have it set up now.

I was hoping to go full steam ahead on the Italian last week but I’ve lacked motivation. I have, however, gone on a health kick and been swimming at the local pool most days. I’ll do some more Italian next week hopefully.

I’ve got some pictures of the apartment I’ll be staying in. It’s 5 minutes or so from the school, in Via Minzoni. It looks reasonable enough – pretty basic but clean looking. I haven’t slept in a single bed since Halls of Residence at Uni. I think I’ll spend all night rolling off it. Perhaps I’ll need to invest in some pillows early on for the floor. The town center, a supermarket and a bus stop to Ancona and the bus stop for the beach are all less than 5 minutes walk away from the apartment. Here’s some pics of it they sent through:

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I’ll be sharing it with an American girl the first week I’m there and then I think I’m on my own for 7 weeks! SEVEN WEEKS!!! There better be more people in the class! I’ve no doubt one to one Italian tuition everyday would do my Italian some good but I was sort of relying on making some friends there! I’m going to have to devise a rigorous entertainment plan I think. So far it consists of:

  • Do something healthy everyday – I think I’ve found a swimming pool in Ancona. At a push, I might try to start “jogging”.  I use the term loosely. I can’t jog. This weeks attempt was shocking. I made it about 100 yards before having to stop in a heaving mess.
  • Do something creative every day. I want to find a nice cafe and perhaps go there regularly to write/sketch. Probably write. I need to do some photography as well – I will win the Christmas Family Photography Competition one of these years.
  • I need to get a bank account and a new sim card for my phone – I’m hoping to get a pay as you go limitless data one. I strongly suspect the apartment doesn’t have wifi.
  • I’ve got a bunch of Le Marche tourist brochures I’ve started going through – there’s lots to see and do around the area so looking forward to doing some of those. I’m also hoping to pop into the tourist office in Camerano too but I think it might not open until June so that might not be a runner in the first few weeks.
  • I need to work out how to get around – there’s lots of little villages quite close and I think it’s only about 5km to the beach which I could probably walk to but would be nice to get the hang of buses / trains.
  • There’s a few ferries which leave Ancona to Croatia, Istanbul, Greece etc, so would be good to explore that a bit. The prices aren’t bad – about 60 Euros for a return to Croatia (takes 10+ hours) – more info http://www.directferries.com/
  • Hoping to try and befriend an ex pat or two as well. There’s some websites that seem to bring ex-pats together so will have a look at that.
  • Finding/befriending the local sailing club.

Right, onwards and upwards. I’m going to continue the research into the local area and with any luck, might actually create a separate page!

Buonasera,

x

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