January 23, 2006

Tuna, Kirk, and Howling Winds

I detest blogs that discuss such boring topics as the weather and making obvious statements like "I brushed my teeth this morning." Usually, when people write about something they ate, that's pretty boring too. What follows is not any more interesting, but let's face it. This is a blog for family and friends who want to know what I'm doing. So let me just say...

I had a tuna fish sandwich for lunch today, the first meal I've made that isn't Italian in the least.

Kirk, from Hawaii, who is in the process of buying a house near Venezia, phoned today as I returned home from the alimentari. I hope to take a couple of days to visit him before JK arrives. I have never been to Venice!

Spent some time at the café today. It's -3C and the wind is passing through these cobblestoned streets with the force and speed of the express train in New York City.


A black Alfa Romeo Spyder was parked inside a garage in town, with someone's finger-spelled "LAVAMI" in the dust covering the hood. It's amusing that people share the same humor across cultural divides.

January 21, 2006

Silence is Golden.

The Butcher'sIt's my second gloomy day today -- the weather, not my mood -- though it looks as if the sun is now peeking through and pushing the fog away.

I had a pleasant early morning experience at the café. Despite a couple of odd moments keeping a couple of forward men at bay earlier this week, I have generally enjoyed watching and meeting the locals there.

This morning, since I missed the bus to Citta' della Pieve by five minutes (it left at 7:25 a.m.), I sat down to a pastry and a cappuccino -- after a shot of espresso -- to read (currently, Door Wide Open, the letters between Jack Kerouac and Joyce Johnson, though I'm also in the middle of Pulitzer Prize winner The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon). An elderly couple walked in. The gentlewoman slowly moved to the table next to me and sat down while her husband approached the bar. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a red and white checkered napkin which she carefully unwrapped, revealing four slices of melba toast in the middle. Her husband, meanwhile, had ordered her cappuccino, and upon receiving it, he added the sugar and brought it to her table. Standing, he snacked on a pastry bought at the bar, while she slowly dunked each piece of crostini into the coffee, enjoying her breakfast. He finished and waited for her, on his feet the entire time. As soon as the last piece of crostini disappeared, she wrapped up the napkin and wiped the table; his cue to start out the door. They didn't exchange a word the entire time. It was sweet to watch.

Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore.

baby food Or New York, for that matter. I was at the local supermarket yesterday, where they had a variety of baby food on the shelf... including veal and rabbit.

January 17, 2006

Overqualified and Underpaid

Mike used to be the Regional Director of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, and now he is a judge at the GAO among other things. I tell you this, because he also enjoys acting as my executive assistant, personal chauffeur, and when I am in town, my morning coffee maker. Mike signs my checks, mails my bills, moves boxes for me, and sends out the dry cleaning (and picks it up); he even finds the time to volunteer at the Kennedy Center. He's also married to my Italian Mother, which makes him infinitely more valuable as an executive assistant -- perhaps indispensable. Mike, I appreciate you, and I hope you get all the recognition you deserve. Especially since I can't pay you. Of course, you have a free place to stay in Italy!

just an update

The jet lag is terrible; I'm sleepy at 3 or 4 p.m., which is not even a decent bedtime in Hawaii so it doesn't make any sense. I'm stuck in no land's time. It really has taken me awhile to slowly settle in -- just buying the staples of milk, butter, eggs, cheese and bread took me a couple of days, though now I'm better stocked with veggies, juice, etc. I'm learning.

Other than Daria's birthday and a pizza, I've been cooking my own meals, which I think is what all the locals do. I haven't ventured to buy meat yet, except for the cold cuts at the small grocer's. Soon, I'll give it a try.

I'm also thinking about venturing on the bus to Citta' della Pieve for their Saturday market at the end of the week. Otherwise, no big adventures to speak of. Just small local ones. Still recovering from firewood fiasco. A presto.

January 16, 2006

A ton of logs.

Here's the background post to this one.

A ton of logs.
Actually, more than a ton. I moved more than 2,310 pounds of logs today. When they deliver, what they mean is, "We dump the load at your front door." Literally. So it took me about 45 trips of about 20 logs each (800-1000 logs) from the pile at the front door to these neat stacks in the living room. Now, I don't plan to live like this. I just had to get it in the house. After I get my energy back, I'll try to move a load to the basement... or something! All this, with some piles three or four deep, and I'm good at packing!!!

It took me about two hours, and then about a half hour just to clean up after the mess (three grocery bags full of bark, scraps, dust, and dirt that I have to take out to the dumpster tomorrow). I thought about the AIDS rides. I thought about the Arlington County Fair. No comparison, this was definitely easier. But it WASN'T EASY!

If you click on the photo, you can see the related photos. Remind me next time, some things should not be handled alone!

Tanti Auguri!

Tanti Auguri! Saturday night I went to my landlady's birthday dinner. There were actually three January birthdays, so we sang to all of them over a delicious mille-foglie cake: Daria, Marco (a sculptor), and Cecilia (an art critic and professor in Rome). More singing to follow, with the standards by Lucio Dalla, Battisti, de Gregori, and de Andre. Marco laughed: "She was born in Vietnam, raised in the United States, and sings Italian folk songs!" Great company.

January 15, 2006

Jet lag

I thought I was doing well. Yesterday I slept from 4 a.m. to 7:45 a.m., just under four hours. Last night I went to bed at 2 a.m. I woke up at 6 and it was still dark; I figured I ought to try and sleep some more. Imagine my surprise and confusion when I woke at 10:45 at night. I missed my first Sunday!

Not sure whether to eat breakfast or dinner, or all my meals, I opted for a light plate of pecorino, prosciutto and bread. I plan on going back to bed in a few hours and see how I do tomorrow.

January 14, 2006

Stateside tour

While my sister was covering three continents, I covered twelve states. Here's my list of travel from Jan 1 through the end of the year.

Jan 1 Saigon, Vietnam
Jan 12 Santa Monica, CA
Jan 14 New Orleans, LA
Jan 17 Santa Monica, CA
Mar 5 Oxnard, CA
Mar 6 Santa Monica, CA
Mar 17 Las Vegas, NV
Mar 18 Grand Canyon, AZ
Mar 21 Santa Monica, CA
Mar 24 Arlington, VA, 22203
Apr 29 Arlington, VA, 22207
May 10 Columbus, GA
May 15 Orlando, FL
Jul 6 Arlington, VA
Jul 8 Santa Monica, CA
Jul 20 Arlington, VA
Aug 18 Potomac, MD
Aug 19 Arlington, VA
Sep 2 New York, NY
Sep 5 Arlington, VA
Sep 24 Baltimore, MD
Sep 25 Arlington, VA
Sep 29 Columbus, OH
Oct 2 Arlington, VA
Nov 24 Orlando, FL
Nov 30 Arlington VA
Dec 1 Santa Monica, CA
Dec 3 Park City, UT
Dec 8 Santa Monica, CA
Dec 16 Kapa’a, Kauai, HI

January 13, 2006


This morning I made it to the grocers for some staples, and met the avuncular Giancarlo and his wife Maria. People turned to look at me, and about five minutes later, a woman who had just walked in, walked right up to me, kissed me on the cheeks with a robust "Ciao!" and spoke so incredibly fast, I'm not sure at all of what she was saying. I caught that she was friends with Miguel and that she's from Calabria. Claudia at the cafe told her I was in town. Turns out she's cousins by marriage to my landlady. Within seconds, she was explaining to all in the shop who I was, since they were wondering.

Tonight I went out to the local restaurant and ordered a pizza. I had to wait twenty minutes, so I went to Claudia's cafe next door, where her brother Fabio was working. I sat down at the table next to Silvano and Mario came to sit at my table. I chatted with them awhile and discovered that Mario is Giancarlo's brother in law. Everyone in this small town is so interconnected, and it's an interesting network in which to move around.

2200 lbs of firewood

When I called today for firewood, the young girl who answered told me it would be 13Euro per quintale, and how many quintali would I like? Not knowing what a quintale was, I told her perhaps I'd like one. She said that was not enough, so I asked for the minimum. "Dieci quintali," I'm told. Well, okay, if I must, I'll take it I say. I gave her my info, hung up the phone, and looked up the word "quintale."

quinta'le: n.m. a hundred kilograms.

Um, that means I just ordered 1000kg of firewood. That translates to 2200 pounds of wood. That sounds like a LOT of wood. I checked with my trusty contact, Grace, who lived here previously and she assured me that it sounded correct. All right, so next week, I get my first delivery of firewood. I'll let you know what comes in.

Ed. note: Here's the follow-up post and pictures.

Of New Year's Travel

waiting at the gate
After a car ride, three flights, two trains, one more drive, nineteen hours and four countries later, I made it to my new home in Italy. Europe is so civilized. The gate connectors at the Zurich airport are shiny glass and steel and if ordering a cup of coffee in the waiting area, you are served in a bona fide ceramic mug. The Munich airport was super sleek with flat screen monitors, beautiful seating, and directed signage, not to mention, floors so clean you could eat off of them (or at least extend the two-second rule). I hopped on a train to Roma Termini, on to Chiusi, where my sweet landlady picked me up for the drive to the medieval town of Monteleone. Everything went smoothly.

My first day in Italy, I woke at 6 a.m. to the sound of a flushing toilet from the next door neighbors. It took me a couple of hours to fall back asleep, and to try not to wake up every quarter hour to the loud ring of church bells. By the time I was prepared to leave the house, the only grocer in town was closed for the day. I stepped beyond the old city walls to the caffe' in the new part of town, filled with a dozen older italian men, who appeared a little surprised to see a Vietnamese girl walk in, but smiled at me with their kind eyes. After an order of espresso, I attempted to speak with Claudia, who was super friendly and the only person I had seen so far who looked under 50. The restaurants were closed, too, so I headed back home, where I discovered that I couldn't turn the electricity back on (I had turned it off, as instructed, on the way out in case of electrical storms blowing out everything). Well, I better cook myself something to eat before it gets dark, I thought. I turned on the gas stove, to discover that the pilots are lit electrically (who invented this, and why?). After a search for matches, I got going with anything I found in the cupboards, thankfully some dried pasta, fresh garlic, and canned tomatoes from which I made a sauce with spices I could find. Soon after I was in touch with the previous tenants, who were extremely helpful in getting the electric back on and my landlady stopped by and got the internet up and running. It was a little rough, but nothing terrible, and everyone's friendliness is certainly encouraging.

I find myself painfully shy about speaking Italian, but I did manage to speak a bit with Claudia, and was invited to Daria's birthday dinner for Saturday night where her artist friends (one is a critic for a paper in Rome) will join us. Looking forward to the days ahead, and hoping I'll meet plenty more people.

P.S. A few photos posted on flickr with more to come.

January 10, 2006

rollerskating days

Don't I always say we had a pretty perfect childhood (and here)? This is an old shot of Timmi, Souris, and me (sans front teeth) in the good ol' days.

Originally uploaded by terrile.

January 09, 2006

food fetish

In my family, we like to talk about food. We do it every day, and like a bad habit, we find ourselves discussing what we're going to have for dinner tomorrow at the dinner table today. Mom and her sisters do it, my sisters and I do it. My oldest sister, who made the goods pictured here, has a blog dedicated to food, and was married at Copia -- a Museum for Wine, Food, and the Arts in Napa Valley. And all this talk about food, because I came across this article in the NY Times today about mac and cheese, an item I didn't even know came out of a box (we had homemade, baked, with gruyere as children) until I went to college.

Count my lucky stars

Did I ever tell you I had an Italian mother? I stay with her frequently when I pass through Washington. She cooks multi-course dinners for me when she gets home from work, wants to know if I'm packing long johns for Italy, and mends the holes in my sweaters. Tonight she made my favorite, meatloaf with mushrooms. I have lots of favorites, but meatloaf is one of them, so much so that my friend Mitch used to call me up and say "Hani, they had meatloaf on the menu, and I thought of you..." Good times.

January 08, 2006

How quickly I forget

Last night I was struck by the memory of how incredibly sad I was last year. From the start of the year in Vietnam, well into the third quarter of the year in Washington, was an extraordinarily sad time for me, for many reasons, only some of which I can explain. Our childhood home was sold, dad's illnesses worsened, mean aunts, challenging responsibilities, uncertainty, family deaths... I cried a lot.

I've been embraced in such a nurturing environment over the last four months that I completely forgot how much grief I felt a year ago. 2005 was tremendously difficult but ended on a stunning high. I can't remember when the sadness left me, but it's comforting to know I've got plenty of happiness to come ahead.

January 06, 2006

Overachieving Jumpers Read On

Family Jump
If you haven't caught on already, we're a jumpy family.
Here's how to improve your vertical leap.

Tickle Attack

I was tickle-attacked several times while on vacation recently. This happens a lot when you're around little kids, and big kids who have little kids.

I came across "How to win a tickle fight" and was pretty amused.

Buon Anno

In five days I'll be in pastaland. I spend about a month on my own, learning the language, figuring out how to buy my groceries and how to take the bus, writing the annual letter, reading a stack of books, and working on multiple projects. Then, JK arrives, and we'll be moving across the land. Stay posted.