Friday, August 06, 2004

A Bunch of Birthdays

August is birthday month in our family. Yesterday was my mom's, Monday mine, Tuesday my brother Paul's, his wife Carolyn's, and my Aunt Dolly's. Just wanted to say Happy Birthday to everyone! Mom, hope you guys had a great time hiking, and Paul, hope you and Carolyn do something special for yours! My birthday should involve house work, but might include a Paolo Conte concert in Macerata on the 25th of August. That would be incredible.

Happy Birthday to everyone! Miss you all!


An August At Home

Today should be the last day of shoe-making for Antonello before ferie, that wonderful Italian period of time when everyone makes a mad dash to the sea. We might be a little less inclined to go swimming though and will probably opt instead for house preparations. I've been begging to move over to our new house, but we're waiting to finish up some things. First, I have to finish painting the bedrooms.

I started painting the guest room on Wednesday, and while I am mostly finished with the first coat, apparently the type of paint they use here in Italy requires two coats. Also, there are no Home Depots here where you can find paint in eighty zillion colors: instead you buy a little plastic bottle of yellow and add it to the white paint according to the percentage of yellow you want. I am not talking Canary Yellow or Sunburst Yellow or even Lemon Yellow. I am talking yellow, like the crayon color. There is no clear sign of what color you will mix up, except that in some way it will be yellow. This is how house painting goes in Italy, apparently.

Anyway, needless to say, we have a room that is very yellow. I decided against adding the WHOLE bottle and having a blinding room of bright yellow, so at least the yellow is a bit muted. Antonello likes it. He says it looks like a happy room. I am going back today to paint the second coat.

Also, now that Antonello is done with the shoe-making for now, we will have time to do more furniture shopping. Tomorrow or Sunday we are headed back to IKEA to pick up two wardrobe doors that they never gave us and to buy some living room furniture. This time, though, we are going to pack our own lunches and skip the whole IKEA cafeteria thing. I'm hoping we'll stop over for dinner in Bologna as well--what's the point in going to the food capital of Italy and eating Swedish meatballs?

So that's ferie in Italy. One day at the beach? Maybe. Big week-long vacation? Not a chance. Cross your fingers for a two day trip to Genova, though! And a move-in-to-the-house date that is relatlively soon. Ah, what a summer.

Have a great August everyone! Corrie, glad your vacation was fun! Sounds like a great way of life.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Out of the woods

Reading Jackie's blog on the cultural experience of IKEA, I realized I'm experiencing similar sensations these days.

Last week I met my family in upstate New York for a week in the Adirondack Mountains. It's an annual tradition with my dad's family - this year celebrates their 55th summer within the "blue line" that marks the mountains' boundaries on state maps. It's the kind of vacation where we take off our watches as soon as we make the treck into the woods and enjoy days at a slightly slower pace, a more relaxed schedule...until having to strap on the watches again at the end of the week, preparing to face the mixed blessings of this modern world again (e-mail, telephones, cars, showers).

Going into the woods is quietly shocking at first - the nights are dark, truly black, and the evenings are quiet, truly hushed. Coming out of the woods is alarmingly shocking at first - the street lights burn all night and the sirens out my window are no loons in the mist.

Even though I'd trade this city desk for a lake dock in an instant, I have to admit that both culture shocks are necessary and exciting in their own way. It was refreshing to get away, and it's interesting to come back and catch up on happenings. (Jackie's got a home - in the Swedish section of Macerata! :-) )

-Corrie (of the pines)

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Blog News From Italy

Looks like the computer labs here at the University of Macerata are closing down for the rest of August. In fact, pretty much everything is: walking through town yesterday, stores closed and roads empty, was a lesson in remembrance as to exactly what Italian ferie means--a month-long vacation at the beach. Some of our friends are taking two and a half weeks to drive up the Adriatic coast, visit Venice, visit the mountains, and then come home--the whole way taking it easy and enjoying the Italian summer. They told us it was their duty: they were given days off, they have to spend them well. Sounds good to me.

Antonello and I, on the other hand, will probably spend the next few weeks working on the house, with (hopefully) a short vacation squeezed in. I'm voting for a trip to Genova, this year's European Capital of Culture. But I'm up for anything, really--as long as it means getting away. With my birthday coming up, I keep hinting at places I want to visit, day trip ideas, etc.. Today Antonello said, "what about when a little bag of chocolate was enough?"

Anyway, have a wonderful ferie, everyone! I will hopefully check back in with posts every once in a while during this month of rest, but for now (or at least the next couple of days), it's off to paint the house, buy furniture, and similar stuff like that. All worth it for a house that we will hopefully actually move INTO one of these days!


Swedish Culture Shock

Saturday we drove up to IKEA to confront the furniture issue. Basically, when buying an Italian house, the only things that stay in the house (that the previous owners don't take with them) are the bathroom sink and the shower. Everything else, including the entire kitchen (sink and all) are hauled away, leaving Antonello and me pretty much forced with the task to shop. Couches, tables, desks, beds, everything--we are starting from scratch here.

If you don't know yet about IKEA, you soon will I'm sure. It must be the largest furniture company in Europe, and it's making its way to the states one big city at a time. We went to the one in Chicago--this massive three-story department-style store complete with every type of furniture you could ask for, plus a cafeteria--and as we were leaving, my mother said, "That was a real cultural experience."

Those words are probably the best way to describe IKEA, actually. FIrst off, the store, Swedish in origin, is practically a giant travel ad. In Bologna, Antonello and I ate Swedish desserts at the IKEA cafeteria (where you could also order Swedish meatballs) and sat across from a huge mural of the city of Stockholm, lit up like a postcard with a paragraph paying tribute to the Swedish capital. When we went to pick up our furniture at the distribution building that evening, there were poster-sized travel ads everywhere about regions in Sweden, and one even had a little poem paying tribute to a region in southern Sweden that was known for its fishing towns. If you don't know anything about Sweden, a trip to IKEA will fix that.

But I don't think that is what my mother meant when she made the cultural experience comment. Instead, she must have been talking about what IKEA is doing as a business. People come to IKEA from all over (we drove 3 and a half hours up to Bologna on a beach-goer's traffic Saturday morning) because they hear that the prices are low, really low, and the quality, relatively speaking, is good. Contemporary furniture designed by top Swedish designers fills giant showrooms, and the people just pour in.

The stores are huge too. That one in Chicago--3 packed stories of furniture and Swedish nick-knacks--is not too uncommon. Bologna's was a little smaller, but the confusion level was the same--we spent half an hour following signs around in a circle until we arrived at the same place where we started. There are escalators designed specifically to carry your cart to the next level, and each level is distinctly different--a furniture level, a nick-knacks-and-other-accessories level, and a warehouse level. It's like going from one Swedish town to the next, and, in fact, the size of each floor probably exceeds some Swedish towns.

But their prices are so low in part because you don't actually buy that well-put-together cast-iron bed or that nicely-assembled glass table. After buying the stuff, you go to a distribution center to pick up everything in pieces--you can buy a kitchen and get 3 dozen pieces of wood and plastic to put together all by yourself, with little instruction sheets written in tiny print. And, as you are loading all of this stuff into your car, you begin to wonder when the last time you assembled your own bedroom was, and if that bed will look like a bed or a kitchen table, and if maybe it will actually make a NICER kitchen table than a bed. And then, as you are driving away, your van shaking with the different pieces of kitchen in the back of your car, your fear reaches its height. And you think, it can't be can it? The instructions won't ONLY be in Swedish, right?