Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Day 28

Tonight we got an extra hour of sleep! Wahooo! We wake up with plans to go to church and see this “trunk”. All we know is that it’s a huge Castangna (chestnut) dessert.

We wake up to no pancakes! And just a pastry breakfast and fig jam. Right after we were done.. we were told to get ready, yet again. WHERE are we going this time. It is only 9 am. We go get ready and Francesca comes in with two fleecies for us! So once again, cute outfits out the window haha. Well we put them on along with our new sneaks. And getin the car with Ponuchu and Mariagrazia. We go up the mountain to Mondella, not to be confused with Mondello the beach. Ponuchu is soo excited to show us the mountains, so we took a few pictures and saw a few FLOCKS of sheep on the road. We saw the ski lift (and I got made fun of because I don’t ski but CC does).

After our little trip, we get dropped off. We thought we were going back to change. We DON’T have umbrellas? So we get out with Mariagrazia (my 11 year old cousin) and Ponuchu drives away. Sweet.

We walk around for a while and it starts to rain. Again, we still don’t know what we are doing and now we are wet. Thankfully, we run into Zio Pietro who so kindly give us his huge umbrella =) Happy Happy!

We are still walking around in circles, finally we go to the church, but no one is there because it is so early! So we stay for 5 minutes then leave to go to the tent with the dessert in it. Just a big mess haha. So the tent never opens so we go back to church. FINALLY a normal mass! =) Time to see this “trunk”. It is actually a huge dessert on a table that looks like tree branches, and people are waiting in line to have a piece. We wait in line and try it, but it has A LOT of alcohol in it, which distorted the chocolate taste. So we had a few bites for the hell of it.

We finally convince Mariagrazia that we want to go home because it is pouring at this point. And lunch is almost ready when we get there. We had another huge meal with lasagna (with egg and babe meatballs…sounds weird, but was YUMS), fried steak, corn, walnut bread, cheese, and of course…Tiramisu and Espresso =)

Although all the meals were delicious.. we were glad it was our last because we may have gained 2 kg here!

As we were eating our dessert my family is chatting away in Italian and we come across Cynthias nationality once again, and they try to talk to her…again. Not successful. I wish they would stop trying poor thing, but somehow I tell them that she speaks French. (Ps. I told Ponuchu and Mario this yesterday) They start talking (sounds like screaming) about how I should have told them earlier because Zio Pietro speaks French and he could have translated. Well that was fun.

Me and CC did get the recipe for the Tiramisu, so watch out America… its coming haha

We take pictures, play a few more rounds of UNO with the kiddies, and pack. Pack my 12 lbs of cheese and nuts and tea and chocolate! I don’t know how this is all going to fit to go back to the states, but they would NOT take no for an answer. Even after I gave my best loud Italian arguing voice. Fail.

So we leave for the airport, with some paninis they made us in hand. They came all the way to security to say bye. I tear up/cry (No surprise there!) Let me tell you, Naples airport is wayyyy better than Palermo’s. They had leather couches instead of seats! So fun!

We made it home with no problems! Yet another successful trip!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 27

 Day 27- from CC’s perspective

I wake up and think okay…here it goes.. I can do this! Yesterday was a bit overwhelming considering I only pick up on words that sound similar to French. Poor B has to play translator and everyone and I mean everyone is always screaming! I wait for B to get up since I refuse to be left alone and we go into the living room for breakfast. Everyone greets us with such big smiles, its so nice to be in a family setting as opposed to our empty apartment. We sit down to eat and are told we are getting pancakes…PANCAKES?!?! Neither B nor I really want an American breakfast, I mean we are only in Italy for a little while longer. But they were so excited to give us something we are used to and they were delicious. They also had homemade jam out on the table which was molto delizioso! After breakfast, B tells her family we need to shower…after various hand motions of what we want to do, they put the heat on (FINALLY I AM SO FROZEN) so we can shower. I go first. When I come out B asks me how it went and why I took so long. It was a fiasco. I tried flushing toilet paper that wouldn’t flush then panicked. Sweating, due to the increase in stress and heat and steaming shower, I decided to wait until I saw B to see what to do. She nonchalantly told me not to worry about it and that she would flush it for me..She saved me a lot this wkd.

When we both are all showered and ready for the day, they tell us to get ready to leave…its POURING outside…why do we have to leave?!! Im finally warm and dry…why!! SO B runs to the bathroom really quick before we go…I am not sure why but almost every time she leaves me to go run to the room or go to the bathroom, everyone decides to talk to me. Again, I understand close to nothing yet they all still talk to me. I eventually got to a point where B wasn’t allowed to leave me alone!

And so we’re off..into the rainstorm we go all equipped with umbrellas. The wind has picked up and B and I are still not adequately dressed for this weather with our little baby flats. All of a sudden a look over and B’s umbrella has inverted in the wind..I should have helped her, but I couldn’t stop laughing. She was panicking trying to get it fixed while Francesca has run to her side in a failed attempt to help her. Eventually Francesca decides that the umbrella is useless and throws it to the side of the street…and leaves it there. Even after all this, we continue walking. We make it to the town center/festival still unaware of where we are going. We make it to the jewelry store where they are buying B a gift (seriously the sweetest people ever)!

We trek back home after that and with soaked feet enter into the welcoming smells of Bolognese sauce. Its lunch time. But I am still not hungry…why are we eating again. I am going to explode from breakfast still…oh boy. So we sit for another delicious 4 course meal filled with homemade ravioli, steak, mashed potatoes and prosciutto, mozzarella, bread, and of course the amazing tiramisu! We also got to eat some figs today, my favorite =)

So now we officially cannot move and I am starting to grow accustomed to the loud speaking Italian family and I am honestly trying to follow what they are saying/ pick up on some phrases! We play uno with the kiddes and then get told to get dressed since we are leaving again. Again, it is POURING and B said she thinks they are taking us to go get shoes..WHAT?! No, that cant be right…so we get in the car.

We pull up to a mall 20 minutes later, yup…we are getting shoes. Apparently, we need shoes in order to go outside. After much arguing and attempts to tell them thank you but no, we lost. I got a pair of gray sneakers and B got a black pair, we didn’t have socks on, but that didn’t matter. Then we mosey on to a different store. And Maria Grazia asked me if I like a bag she is holding up, I told her it was cute and she proceeds to motion that it is for me! WHAT, For me?! I don’t need a bag, why are they insisting on buying me a bag?! They were so sweet for wanting to get me something and after trying to say no thank you again and B trying to explain they didn’t need to get me anything, we failed. We both got scarves. After a while we realized we shouldn’t say we like things anymore because then they just end up buying them for us!

We go back home with our new sneakers on and a happy Francesca and go to the festival. As per usual, the festival was bustling with people even though the weather was crappy. We got to taste more cheese and eat more chestnuts which were delicious! B and I were sharing an umbrella when we went up to a hill to get this specific cheese (I don’t know the name, I just know it was delicious)! Anyways, we get the cheese and the wind picks up. Here we are under an umbrella, holding chestnuts, trying to eat this melted cheese and in the rain. I thought a dropped a piece of cheese but couldn’t find it so let it go. The rain picked up even harder so B pulls up her umbrella again..this time the cheese that I previously dropped flew from the umbrella onto her while she was fighting the wind and I was cracking up. No one stopped to help us, they just watched us struggle. It was quite a site.

We finally get to go home and sit around the table to talk a bit. B went to the bathroom again and left me and conversation was steered my way (I still don’t understand why they think I speak Italian) so Maria Grazia pulls out the dictionary before we call it a night.

Day 26

We wake up SO excited to go to Capri. We are all cutely dressed for a warm, sunny, gorgeous day. We go to breakfast and all of a sudden feel the breath of COLD air. CC almost immediately gets goose bumps on her legs, why is this girl wearing shorts? We knew we may have a problem. Our driver, who has beautiful eyes, comes to get us for our tour shortly after and we drive for a solid 30 minutes until we get to the port to meet our guide. We get on the boat and look behind us to see where the guide would like us to sit and she is nowhere to be found. Um, what? Where is she?! We thought she would come back, but she never did. Guess we are seeing Capri on our own today.

The boat which looked more like a bus on the inside starts going and going and I am starting to feel so nauseous. I am glad I brought my bonine. I go to take one and decide one whole one is too much. So I break it in half, hmmm still too much. So I break it into a fourth…well crumbs of a fourth as CC would say since I did not do my best work. We start nearing Capri and see clouds, uh oh. We make it out of the boat and feel that it is somewhat warm so we should be ok. We find our guide (finally) and she tells us we are taking a bus up the winding mountain up to Anacapri. So we get on the bus and find ourselves amidst a Japanese tour. The guide is speaking into a mic into their ear pieces and we have the pleasure of sitting right next to her. This is going to be a long one. We make it up the mountain somehow without headaches and the guide gives us an hour until lunch to either go up on a chair lift to the highest peak of the mountain or stroll around the shopping area. We chose the chair lift even though she warned us how cold it is 4 different times.

CC, an avid skier, had no problem with the thought of going on a 13 minutes chair lift, I on the other hand, was a little worried. I watch CC do it and it doesn’t look so bad. I go to wait on the square and proceed to tell the man that I was scared. He said NO NO NO and I replied SI SI SI.
I wasn’t ready for the chair because of our little convo. He grabs my hand and throws me in. CC described my face as one of the petrified looks she has ever seen. She said that my already big eyes were the widest shes ever seen them and that I looked like the definition of scared. And I was for a minute or two because then I also realized there was no latch…sweet. But after a little it was fun! Well sorta because then I got bored and just bothered CC for the last 10 minutes of the lift. She said she wanted to enjoy her alone time. PSHH there is no alone time here, is she crazy! It was the longest we have been separated the entire time here!

We get up to the top and realize her shorts and my tshirt were a bad choice. It also starts to rain; however, THE VIEW WAS AMAZING! The sun was shining through the clouds and casting a scattered light onto the water. It was just spectacular. We took more pictures than we probably should have, but it was seriously beautiful.

We make it back down to the town center and go to lunch, which was delicious as well. I even got to drink from the little baby wine bottles! So cute and so good! I drank the whole thing so I was kinda tipsy by the end. We left Anacapri to go back to Capri on yet another Japanese tour bus. Capri was so cute and such a nice town. The alleyways were all narrow so cars weren’t allowed. The shops there were outrageously expensive, but I did find my little baby flats!!!! AND THEY HAD MY SIZE!!!! Its unheard of around Palermo, so it’s a good good day =)

The last part of the tour was supposed to be the blue grotto but the tide was too high so we were not able to go in it. Instead, we did a boat tour around the island. At this point the sun had come out and was gorgeous. We got to see other various grottos and learn a little history about the island! There are a LOT of famous people who have villas and yachts there, we plan to come back and meet up with them! Lol We even went through the tunnel of love. It is said that if you kiss someone while going under the tunnel that you will have everlasting love. Well, we blew kisses so there is no tearing us apart. We made it this long without killing each other, so eternity should be no problem.

We make it back to Naples exhausted and wait for my family to come pick us up! We are going to BAGNOLI!!! My home home town =)! We wait maybe 5 minutes and call them to see where they were and it was perfect timing since they were just pulling up! Ponuchu and Mario (my cousins) get out of the car and the traditional two kisses are exchanged. We sit down and the conversation begins. I am NOT ready for this. I am not fluent… what was I thinking! Is this a good idea? I mean CC is not going to understand anything but hello, eat, do you understand and pants! I struggle withthe convo and the car goes silent for a while. Soon Mario starts making phone calls. A LOT of phone calls. I am picking up words like EAT, TONIGHT, are you coming. Oh lordyyy, how big is this going to be. I look over and CC has the terrified look again. Oh boy. I ask her why, and she said she is nervous. I tried to calm her down, but I don’t think it worked. We get into town, and nothing looks familiar. We go inside and everyone was there! Yay! Also, the table was set. Dinner time. We had an amazing risotto with tartufo (truffles), roast beef and potatoes and mozzarella. We were stuffed! Francesca pointed to the new mayonnaise and ketchup bottles on the table. Ponuchu made her order them off the internet because that’s what they thought “americans” liked. Sweet thought, but we didn’t touch them the whole weekend. Lol People kept talking and I was answering but in fragmented sentences. They were also talking to CC, even though I told them she doesn’t understand. So I tried to translate the best I could lol. Then came the Tiramisu… The BEST tiramisu CC and I have ever tasted. We actually had it once a day for dessert and were not mad about it! Sooo good!

We were exhausted then I thought I heard Francesca say, go get your things. WHAT? It is 10 pm  and we are ready for bed. Apparently my family is not! This weekend was the chestnut and truffle festival and despite the cold and the rain, we were going. They laughed at my sandals and CC’s shorts, so we changed into the warmest things we had. Not good enough. I ended up getting a knitted blue sweater and CC got a white hoodie. Guess our cute clothes aren’t going to get much wear this weekend, and I spent a lot of time picking out my outfits, like too much time. So we go, in the rain. Thank goodness we brought our umbrellas. Although we just ate, they kept giving us cheese from the stands. Don’t get me wrong it was GOOD cheese, but we just ate a 4 course meal. The one cheese we wanted to know the name of, so I asked. They kept saying formaggio di pegora. I never heard of pegora cheese. Then my cousin starts going “Bahhhhh Bahhh”. Well then, I guess it’s a cheese from a sheep with no name. We move on.

I accidently mentioned marco polo, this gelato place that I vividly remember from my younger years. MISTAKE. They want to buy us gelato now. Ummmm, I want to explode. Poor CC says No, grazie. Too late Ponuchu already went to pay. We are all getting cones. It was really good though. CC said it was the best strawberry she had (this means a lot because that flavor is half of every cup she gets!) We go on our way for a little long with our wet feet, then go home for bed.

Day 25

We started off the day with a pit stop at La Gaufre, today was the day I was getting my waffle. We arrive and I order a waffle with nutella and bananas…YUMM!! It was 7:50 so we allotted plenty of time to eat. Little did we know that the waffle machine was not warmed up..CC and I order cappuccinos, shes eating her pastry, its 8:15 and still no waffle. Five minutes later after realizing we were not making it to rotation on time, my waffle was done. And it was worth it. SO worth it. I may go back, I promise pictures will follow soon!

We get to rotation 10 minutes late and it seemed like no one even noticed. We had to give a presentation today at 12 so we basically did nothing until then other than talk about how excited we were for our upcoming wkd trip! We gave our presentation that seemed to go well and we even had copies of the slides translated in Italian for everyone to follow along. We are too cute! We got to leave right after that and went to Cibus to grab a quick lunch before finishing packing.

Cibus was literally a hop skip from our apartment and we ordered a pizza (margherita since we were so overwhelmed by the process of ordering) and literally watched the man make it and throw it into a brick oven. It came out and was looking absolutely delicious! We made it a “take away” order (their version of to go) and CC complained the whole way home about how hungry she was and how she wanted a piece now. It was also, worth the wait.

So we pack after eating, shower, and are ready to go to the airport to go to Naples. We agreed to go super early since we were unsure how the check in process would go. So we get there..3 hours early…We go to check in and the screen freezes on CC’s name and would not let us click that she was older than 18. We opted to go to the person shortly after and check in took about 10 minutes…now what? We go through security and I am wearing little baby flats. Here we don’t have to take off our shoes, success. CC goes through and has no problem. Its my turn and I walk through and the buzzer goes off. I couldn’t figure out what it was until the man told me to take off my shoes. I wanted to tell him it wasn’t my shoes, but I didn’t know how to say that in Italian. So; I agree and take off my shoes. And apparently it was my little baby flats. I guess they have metal in them?

We were in the smallest airport alive. There were not even any shops we could have gone to. So we decide to sit at a restaurant since we didn’t know when we would be eating again. We got salads and spaghetti thinking it was the safest option. CC finally got spaghetti and tomato sauce and I ordered the Carbonara. We would have probably preferred to go hungry.

Now feeling sick to our stomachs from the below par food, we sit at the gate and stare at each other until it is time to board. We board and walk to the airplane (smallest airplane) and people were giving their carry-ons to store underneath the plane. I see CC’s frantic face that I have now grown accustomed to and already knew what the problem was. I tried to tell her I have done this before, but she was convinced her luggage was not going to make it. So she stared out the window until we took off convinced her bag was not on the plane.

We make it to Naples, yes with both of our bags, and get to Le Cheminee Business Hotel. We had to ring a doorbell to get in while CC stared into tiny camera oblivious to what it was, they had to know we are American…. The hotel was super nice, super super nice. Everything was technologically advanced with our card serving as a light switch. Our room was very nice too with again one large bed to share, we have gotten too close on this trip. We get ready for bed and I get ready for a shower. Let me tell you about this shower… It was just a glass square. A tiny glass square. A tiny glass square with the tiniest opening I have ever seen! Im not the skinniest person, but MY GOD. I squeeze myself in there only to find out when I put my hands on my head to wash my hair, my elbows touch both sides of the glass. How am I supposed to do this? Well, in fact, it is impossible. My body hit the lever about 10 times. After about the 5th time of me screaming, I hear CC laughing in the background. I am appreciative of her concern snuggled in bed. Well, hope I got my conditioner out because I ended that nonsense early.

Day 23 and 24

Day 23-

MOST.boring.day.EVER at rotation!

We were so ready to leave come 3 pm because we had big plans. We were going to Bar Alba to get the famous Arancina con carne (fried rice ball filled with meat and peas..best thing ever, no really...so good) and gelato. So we started walking...

and walking...

...and walking some more

and 2 hrs later, WE WERE THERE!!! And it was worth the wait. This pasticceria was huge! Filled with so many pastries and marzepan (which I have yet to taste, but CC hates them) and gelato (to die for) and of course a full coffee bar, restraurant area and the beloved arancinis!

On our walk back home, we played in one of the pretty gardens and had some kodak moments! We also stopped at some shops and failed miserably with buying the things we wanted.

Around 10 pm (Italy's dinner time), we got hungry. Cooked two zucchinis and called it a night

Day 24-

Pretty uneventful; however, we found out that we can leave 2 hours early tomorrow WAHOOO!! We also did some shopping and went to Caffe Spinnato to get some goodies and a great snack =)

Off to Naples tomorrow!! And Capri AND Bagnoli and FAMILY TIME

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Day 22

This trip is FLYING by...and even though we have been here for 4 weeks, we are still very much in denial that we are actually in Italy!

One thing we are not in denial about is rotation. It is starting to get EXTREMELY mundane and boring. We have exhausted all options when it comes to things to do..we have even resorted to cleaning out our
e-mail accounts..its pathetic. So nothing interesting happened today.

I have been checking the weather religiously while here, especially for the upcoming wkd since we will be taking another mini-vacay. So I KNEW for a FACT that today was supposed to be a gorgeous day. On our walk to rotation, however, it was looking a bit cloudy...we did not think anything of it.

When it came time to leave, we looked outside and realized we were in trouble. Not only was it raining, but also neither of us has umbrellas and it is an hour walk home. Oh and we were also starving. Sweet.
Thankfully, I wore a sheer scarf as part of my ensemble today, which transitioned into a lousy head shield for me and CC to wear at the same time. We looked like idiots, uncoordinated idiots who kept
running into each other and getting soaked anyways.  We decided today was not an ideal day to go to the market, so we grabbed a few veggies on the way home and the guy ended up giving us parsley and basil for free, oh and an extra zucchini. Okay? We also stop for an espresso and piece of pizza at my boyfriend's coffee bar. We finally make it home just as the rain started picking up again, kind of lucky.

So instead of going out we decided to preoccupy ourselves with other things, such as learning how to gangham style...we already looked like idiots once today, why not continue on. Right? We then decide we are starving and sautee some zucchini. Since we agreed that we cannot taste the garlic when we cook, CC decided to cut up 4 cloves for our 3 zucchinis...you'd think it would be strong...it wasn't, what's wrong with this garlic in Italy???

Monday, October 22, 2012

Day 21

I woke up excited for breakfast. I have been dreaming about this breakfast and talking about this breakfast and annoying CC with conversation about this breakfast all week. It was the sole reason I chose this hotel. But to my defense they had scrambled eggs. That’s a hard thing to come by! We decided to see the Greek Theater after breakfast and before mass. It was really big and had some breathtaking views of mt etna smoking.

We get to mass and of course were expecting something to occur during it since we have yet to have a straightforward mass. Of course, we were right. Not only was it a baptism, but also a school mass, where the children were singing and the instructor talking into the microphone upfront over masking the priest.  It did only last 1 hour though..which is also hard to come by here!

We make our way to the bus station since we decided to take buses back to Palermo. This abandoned parking lot with benches was what they called the bus station…whatever works I guess.
We got onto the first one to Catania and were on our way home. Bye bye cute little town and wonderful weekend vacay!

We make it to Catania by this horrid bus that was falling apart. There was no leg room, it was dirty, the man in front of us smelled of something wretched and we were both nauseous. Sweet. When we finally got to Catania we had 45 minutes before our next bus..we asked the bus driver where to go since he dropped us off in the middle of street and he had no idea nor spoke any English… He just said “I don’t know”…HOW DOES HE NOT KNOW!?!? Omg omg omg we are going to be stranded omg. We decide to follow the crowd of people which luckily led us to the ticket station. We buy our tickets to Palermo and waited until it was time to go. People kept coming in but since we were preoccupied with our cameras looking at pictures, we did not realize no one was sitting down. It wasn’t until 30 minutes had passed that we looked up and saw an empty room. UH OH.

I asked the guy where we need to catch the bus and he just signaled with his hands outside, well that was helpful. So we walk outside and don’t see a bus anywhere so we go back to where we were dropped off and see one after 5 minutes pull into a stranded parking lotwe follow since that’s what the last one looked like.

We stand there for a minute or 2 and no one else is around, this cant be right. I start to panic. CC is all carefree (god knows why?!) as I sit here thinking we are going to miss our bus home. I express my concern and she decides to go ask the bus driver in the stranded lot. Turns out he speaks no English, but through various hand motions we were able to make out that the buses are stationed in another parking area that is blocked off across the street.

We thank him and run. We make it to a much larger parking area with benches and signs of where each bus was going and lots of people. This is more like it. We hop onto our clean, new Mercedes benz bus that is playing current American (aside from the Barbie girl song from the early 90s) music. Peacefully, minus the almost accident and almost rear ending, we make it home…sorry we RUN home. CC has the bladder the size of a pea.

Day 20

TAORMINA! Patrizia’s husband, Alfredo (like the sauce) was right on time at 6:40 am. Guess who pops out of the car as well, Patrizia!  Wooo! This should make conversation go a little smoother. So we hug and kiss and do the typical Italian greeting, and smoosh ourselves in the mini FIAT. Off we go. 3 hours  of driving ahead of us. It is kind of silent, and CC is dozing off already, as per usual. Here is me poking her to stay awake! This is giving me flashbacks to our plane ride over here. Although it was silent for the first half of our trip, things picked up because we made a pit stop at a gas station that just so happened to have a FULL Coffee bar! WaHoooo! Espresso time! Yummm. And why not, a huge chocolate bar to boot (our excuse: we should try authentic Italian chocolate lol). So excited eating our chocolate in the car. I looked down. Oh no, a perfectly round chocolate drool spot on my white shirt. REALLY! Ugh. Its not coming out!! I look over at  CC, and she is shaking her head in disapproval as she points out yet another chocolate stain. I guess I was excited for the chocolate?? 10 minuets later I happen to move my jacket and see a huge smear of guess what? Chocolate. WTF! Clean that up, and we are almost there!

After some confusion on where our hotel actually was, Patrizia takes off down the street. Where did she go? Alfredo just asks the lady next to the car who lets us know that its down the street some more. He tells us to get in the car. CC and I are like but Patrizia isn’t here. He clearly isn’t phased. Thankfully, we pick her up mid street on the way.

We make it to the cutest hotel and run to the reception desk to see if they can print a voucher for us (yes, we can all the way to Taormina without one and prayed the hotel could print us one, allah be heb el mejedeeb (a saying in Arabic that translates to “God loves the idiots,” who just so happen to be us)! She was able to print us a voucher =) and we relax until our tour guide gets there.

We meet our guide, Ermanno (who I called Ernello and CC called Ernesso) an hour later and are off to the volcano!  He takes us on the scenic route along the coast and describes some history to us. Part of the tour is a wine tasting with some appetizers..we assumed it would be maybe a tray of cheese while we sampled 4 wines..we couldn’t have been more off

We make it to the winery  called Gambino’s that was gorgeous and are led to a dining area with a spectacular view of the vineyard, now this is a wine tasting. The people there are so charming and nice and our waiter brought us our first two wines to sample. The first was a white wine that had a light but crisp taste. It was 12% alcohol (which seems to be on lower end in Italy). This was amazing! The next wine that was a red with typical Sicilian grapes. It was STRONG (14%) and Tasty all at the same time! He poured us our glasses, but left the bottles. He left the bottles?! Arewe suppose to drink all of those?

Out comes the “light” apps…in Italian translates to HUGE meal. We look over at our waiter who is holding two HUGE platters. One platter is divided into 5 sections with olives, tomatoes, sun dried tomatoes, and two different types of mushrooms all in various oils and seasonings. The other huge platter was divided similarly only with different types of cheeses and salami. That one went next to me, yum!! We also got a basket of bread and were told that we could have as much as we wanted, which means seconds, amazing. We drink our glasses of wine. CC over there finished her white in a second. Can she have more? Of course, we are in ITALY! And so she does. Our waiter then brings out our next red wine. This was full of tannins (again 14%) It was also very good. CC is liking these red wines, so they have to be good! Woooo! Yummmm! As we are drinking and refilling every so often, we see our waiter with another dish. ??? He puts it down, and we notice it is sausage and a whole heap of mushrooms. These mushrooms are indigenous to the slopes of mt etna. And let me tell you… these mushrooms are also delicious. Are you jealous yet? lol
I look across the table to see CC giggling. Oh no. I start giggling. Oh no. We now have 3 open bottles of wine on our table, and we haven’t even received the last one yet. Even our tour guide comes over and asks how things are going. Sorry Mr. we are on Italian time now. And our last wine is brought out to us. Another strong red wine! But this one takes the cake of the reds! And so we drink some more. Here we are drunk on a mountain not even halfway through our tour. The owner of the vineyard so kindly came over and talked to us about their wines. I look over at CC with her semi glazed look. She is not paying attention, but drunk me was! Cutest, actually pretty hot, man had my full attention! We decide we should buy a wine on our way out and pick the white one. All giggles, we get back into the car.

We are back on our way up the mountain! We found out that Mt Etna is the largest active volcano in Europe that just so happens to erupt every so often, sweet. Drunk and most likely not able to run from an eruption. Sweet.

Up we go! We stop, of course, for an espresso- by the needs of our tour guide. Yep, there is another full coffee bar 1700 meters up. Up we go again! The views and the lava rocks and the lava sand and the black stones are beautiful and honestly unreal. And then our tour guide pulls over. We brought sneakers; however, decided to keep on our flats. Apparently, we are going for a mini hike that turned out well and with more fantastic views.

On our drive home we pass some cows on the road, get and decide we need a nap before exploring the town of Taormina (it was 3 anyways so nothing would have been open)

We groggily get up around 5 (whoops, overslept) and go out and about into one of the cutest towns ever. This town was what you expect from Italy. It was pristine. Filled with shops, churches, beautiful views and families (the cutest little nugs you will ever see!). Also there was a piazza in the town center that was playing live classic Italian music with beautiful light posts (for some reason I really liked). A clock tower, many restaurants, and antique buildings surrounded us with the view of the sea and beach behind us. Seriously the perfect place for a wedding proposal. Simply gorgeous.

We went to dinner around 9 pm (officially on italy time) after sitting in the piazza and enjoying the sweet moments of children running and music playing. And dinner, was, AH-MAY-ZING!

Day 19

Well this was an interesting day at rotation to say the least. We were actually busy. Maria was pulling us around like we were rag dolls. And you know why we were busy?? Because a translator was in the building. Not one, but two. Oh goody! Well we had a few meetings and everything was going fine, until we walked into one of the patient rooms with the pain management nurse, and our extremely awkward and tall interpreter. Here he was telling us what she was saying; however, me and CC both knew he wasn’t telling us everything she was saying. Ummm hellooo, we understand a little buddy. Annoyed and not really listening to his half assed interpretation, I give a glance at CC. This is when I noticed she has her panic face on. Yepp, the same face she had when she was running from the dog. I don’t see a dog or a butt….what could possibly be going on now?!?!.

She whispers to me, “My strapless bra somehow got unhooked. SOMEHOW got unhooked, HOW does that even happen?!?! Okayyyyy. I really couldn’t help the poor girl considering we were in a patient room with a total of 5 people around. So shes standing there with her arms crossed trying to hold it up while the awkward translator is still talking and I am trying to hold in my laughter.

In the transition to the next patient, she was able to re-hook it so it wouldn’t fall until we got back to the locker room. Well after our mini 10 minute break, we were off to the next meeting. We were in a room letting someone talk to us about social work, while the female translator (we aren’t sure where the man is now) interpreted. Half way through this meeting, we hear a knock at the door. Here is the male translator giving the female a package. She proceeds to tell us that she thinks this will be easier with “head pieces”. EXCUSE ME?? I really don’t think its necessary for these things when there is barely room for our four chairs. Once she takes these head pieces out, CC and I examine them…. They look like they were made in the 80s and they didn’t even go on top of our heads. They were ear pieces the size of olives that hung down to our chins where a larger mechanical, plastic piece laid. What is this nonsense???? Seriously. Then we see it… she busts out an actual microphone. Then she tells the man to continue. We now are facing the man with the female behind us with her voice smoothly whispering in our ears. We cant hold in the laughter. Both of us giggle, trying so hard not to be rude, BUT seriously, WHAT IS THIS?! Not only is the voice we hear absurd, we can still hear the man. This is NOT helpful. Here are CC and I now not paying attention to anything. Great.

After this long, long day. We go home and get ready for a good dinner! This place looked like the cutest little nug, and I have been eyeing it up for 2 weeks (and it was only a block away, so no chance of getting lost!). We get there and were kind of underwhelmed from the get go because it was pretty empty (we should know better). We order a caprese appetizer, pasta (which should be a safe bet) and green beans as a little side. It takes a long time  for the food to come out… and we get our pasta first. First sign. Where is the caprese?? We eat our mediocre pasta, THEN get our caprese that was clearly thawed mozzarella =( and to top it all off, NO green beans. The waiter then comes over and asks if we would need anything else. CC replies, just the green beans. And he brings over the dessert menu. I know he doesn’t speak that much English, but dessert and green beans sound nothing alike. We then politely decline the dessert, and continue to sit there hoping it will come. All we got was the owner asking about our meal. CC then says we are just waiting for our GREEN BEANS. And she asks if we want dessert. We don’t understand at this point. No one cares about the green beans. We leave without them.

At the hotel, we realize we forgot something…no not just something..a big thing. Our voucher for the trip we are taking TOMORROW is still in our locker at the hospital….An hour walk away, 2 if you count the return trip…we are not going.

Days 15-18

We are getting pretty lazy with this blog, so it is going to short and sweet. This weekend should be eventful though so we will have more to say after our trip!

Well, this week has been uneventful...really uneventful. At rotation, we've worked on a powerpoint that honestly we could have finished in one day. We did get to see a chemo embolization procedure with an extremely helpful doctor so that was fun!

We just did some shopping mostly during the week and CC literally ran into three different moving vehicles (1 bike, 1 small child on a scooter, and 1 motorcycle) in one day. She will most likely hate me by the end of this trip since I now warn her when ANY moving vehicle is coming her way even though she clearly sees them.

We had dinner on Wednesday night at a top rated pizzeria here called "Fridas Pizzeria" and we can finally say we have had a real Italian pizza. This place was fantastic. Beyond amazing. I have pictures of the pizzas. CC has pictures of the finished portion (she can never wait to eat once the food finally reaches our table!) Best.PIzza.Ever There was a square pizza with stuffed cheese and cheese overload and cheesy goodness and just cheese everywhere. I cannot emphasis enough how in love we are with this place. We plan to go back before we leave, it was that amazing!!!!

We did laundry again, in the sink, getting the hang of this. Only problem is 3 days later they are still wet. CC continues to almost slip everytime she takes a shower and also ends up getting 1/3 of the bathroom wet anytime she takes one..she still hasnt mastered the half door shower.

Hopefully a great wkd is in store for us and we will keep you all posted =)

Lessons Learned Week 2

Lessons learned:
1.) Stray dogs are not to be run from
2.) Sadly, it does rain in paradise
3.) Don't use google translate in e-mails, it will be misinterpreted
for verbal fluency
4.) No church in America can ever compare to the ones we have seen here
5.) It's a SMALL world
6.) Wine > Water
7.) When someone tells you they speak "only a little english," they
are lying and are actually fluent
8.) You do not get oil and vinegar to dip your bread in like in most
American-Italian restaurants; however, you do get oil and vinegar
(JUST oil and vinegar) for your salad dressing

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Day 14

Monreale Day. Monreale is this little town just up in the hills of Palermo. It has a church that people here have been raving about. So why not attend the mass there? Well we did our research, had planned taxis, found the mass times, picked a restaurant and were expecting a nice, relaxing, stress free day!

We get there two hours early since mass is at 11 am. We sit down have a cappuccino and croissant (does this sound familiar yet? YUM) We walk around and stumble on some amazing little ceramic shops. I start talking to this one owner who seems to love us and makes us see her other store. Well, I HAVE to buy something now.

After that, we walk into the church around 10:45 because we wanted to be a little early, only to find out we were not only a little bit late, but the priest seemed to be well into his homily. I could catch a few words here and there, and noticed that he kept referring to communion and children and growing up?? Then we hear it. All little voices in the front saying amen. IS THIS A FIRST HOLY COMMUNION? Another sacrament to mark off the list. I guess it was a blessing in disguise that we were late because this 10 am mass lasted until noon!

On a good note- The church was all that it was cracked up to be. It had gold mosaics everywhere. It was an amazing site, making it well worth our trip.

CC decides she wants something from the nice ceramic lady. She walks into her small shop and gets her attention. She leads us to the other shop once again. Meanwhile, CC is desperately trying to whisper something to me. Eventually, I hear her say “Her husband was full on making out with her when I walked in with a handful of her ass!” Oh these Europeans.

Lunch was delicious! I did have a minor scare when CC educated me that these HUGE red things on my plate were whole shrimp that I need to cut to get to the actual food. Well, gotta learn sometime!

We find our overly talkative (not English) taxi driver waiting for us a half hour before pick up time. Whatever. We hop in and go home. As we walk into our room, our cell phone rings. Again, WHO is calling us?? CC throws the phone at me since I may have a better time understanding. After 8 consecutive pronto, which is the equivalent to hello when answering the phone, we hang up. Okay…?

We go grocery shopping, we go to bed, and on to week 3 we go!

Day 13

Our walking tour of Palermo is planned for this rainy Saturday. We both head out with our umbrellas somewhat dreading a walking 4 hr tour in the rain. We get to the plaza where we will be meeting our tour guide and see a woman walking around a bit…not wanting to be the first ones to say, “Are you Patrizia?” we just had 5 minutes of awkward eye contact until she asked CC if she was “Chin-sia”

We begin our tour with this extremely nice woman who was just so happy to be guiding us around.  She showed us the Capo Market which is an old arab market that carries the freshiest fruits, veggies, meats and fish we have seen yet. As we started taking a million pictures, CC and I both realize that our cameras are not charged and are dying. The one day in Palermo that it rains and the one day that we don’t have our cameras charged in the one day we desperately need both.

We managed anyways. Patrizia also took us into many churches within the market that were breathtaking. Teatro Massimo was also on the tour list and after 3 hours of walking we were  starving. Little did we know that this lunch that was included in the tour was going to be a 6
course, traditional Sicilian homemade meal. (omg, yum!)

The menu was as follows:
Antipasta: Panelle (Sicilian fritters made from chick pea flour and other ingredients. They are a popular street food in Palermo and are often eaten between bread or on a roll, like a sandwich.)

Primo: Sfincione PIzza (is a very common variety of pizza that originated in Palermo. It is typically square, with more dough, sauce and cheese. An authentic recipe often calls for Caciocavallo, bread crumbs, onion, tomato sauce and bits of anchovies)

Secondo: Anelletti Al Forno (You may find this little timballo of pasta in bars and diners in Palermo that goes with the most classic Sicilian ragout made of minced meat, tomato sauce, onions and pieces
of vegetables like carrots and peas.)

Contori: Caponata (a Sicilian eggplant dish consisting of a cooked vegetable salad made from chopped fried eggplant and celery seasoned with sweetened vinegar, with capers in a sweet and sour sauce)

Dolce:disgusting dessert wine and cassatta al forno con ricotta (traditional Sicilian dessert that is fried dough filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and choclate bits, sprinkles with powdered sugar..YUM)

Caffe: Espresso and mini biscotti

After we could barely move, we say bye to our dear Patrizia who kept referring to herself as our mother in Palermo. It was one of the best tours we have both ever been on and really appreciated how helpful and friendly she was.

We get back home and are so full that we cannot move and lounge in bed for the rest of this rainy day and refused to eat ANYTHING else. I guess it might be good we didn’t eat much the first two weeks, because food is now easier to find. This may be a problem. As we are in bed, we get a text message. Anytime our phone rings, we get scared because no one should be calling us! Who is it? Patrizia. She is with Maria from our pharmacy. Literally the only two people we really know in Italy are besties, and informed us that they are currently drinking wine to our health…what is going on?

Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 12

Its 7:15..CC is still sound asleep and I just groggily woke up. Well there goes breakfast.

The maids were coming today so we had
 quite a busy 20 minutes to get ready and hidethe water bottles, the toliet paper, and soap. You may wonder why we are doing this. No, it is not an Italian tradition, we just need to make sure that we are supplied with more. If we don't hide them, we don't get replenished.

After that fiasco and another unsuccessful surgery
 on CC's hand, we are off. Just as we turned the corner, CC runs head first into a stray dog that seems to be accompanying another person going to work. As we stroll along, I hear CC squeal "the dog is following us!"


I look back and sure enough the dog is 
on our heels. I am less worried about the dog than I am CC though since she has moved into panic mode. Why is she panicking? The stray dogs here have yet to hurt us, but I am a little nervous that CC's reaction is going to be mistaken as play time to the pup.

So we cross the street to avoid t
he dog and the upcoming traffic prevented him from following suit.

..for now

30 seconds later, I look back and se
e the dog sprinting towards us. Why I ever informed CC of this is still a mystery to me because the second I did, she was off. "STOP RUNNING" I screamed (has she never been told not to run from a dog?) I look back and it has just made the dog run faster...is this real? I screamed at her to go into the first open breakfast place she sees, but she kept screaming that it wasn’t what we had planned to dofor breakfast. Luckily, she ran into a place called La Gaufre (the waffle). Just when we thought we were safe, the dog literally follows us into this place. We just stared bright-eyed at the Italian barista pretending we didn't know the dog was following us, despitesCC's squeals and cowarding behind me. This man saves the day and shoos him away. Or so we thought.

While eating our crossiants and drinkin
g our fantastic cappuccinos, we look at the door and see the dog cuddled up by it. How are we ever going to make it to rotation? Seriously, are we going to have a herd of dogs following us there? After 5 minutes, he went the other way and we were free. This is the second time CC has run in Italy, first from a leather suited man and now from a poor, friendly stray dog...I'll keep you posted on what she tried to run from next week. Hopefully, its not me.

So we made it to rotation, finished our first project and were itching to go home. Its 2:30 and we finally finished our blog (while at rotation) and were ready to relax when Maria comes to get us. It’s 2:30 and we have nothing on our schedule, we look at her confused and then she tells us we are going to the OR. Oh all right, off we go! We get down to the OR and are told to go into the locker room. Not understanding what is going on and really wishing we could just go home early, a nurse hands us scrubs- which we should have been wearing every day anyways. We start to get dressed. As I am putting on my pants I notice that CC’s pants are far too big and my pants are far too tight. Seriously couldn’t pull them up. Ummmmm I guess we picked up the wrong pants. So we switch mid locker room as the nurse is watching us. We continue to put on our tops when I realize that my boobs have NO room. This is not appropriate, but all is well because CC was swimming in hers. Round 2? So we switch again; this time the nurse is laughing. Sweet. Scrubs are finally on. Success. Then the nurse looks down at CC’s wedge sandles and my flats and says “shoes.”

We moved into another room to get the shoes and gave our European size (guessed our European size would be a more accurate statement). I had little baby socks on while CC had no socks at all. We put on these red, rubber shoes and went on our way.

We met with the nurse in the OR who took us around. We passed a few surgeries while he explained the procedures. We came up to one room with an ongoing liver transplant. The guy asks us if we wanted to go inside to see. We enthusiastically said yes! Our only prepping requirement was masks?? We only had to put on masks for a so called sterile enviorment? No hand washing, gloves or gowns? When in Rome…

We waltz in to the OR and are face to face with the donor liver. The surgeon is doing some tests, flopping the thing around as if it was..Oh, chopped liver? Lol

Anyway, it was an amazing experience to be a part of and we plan to go see a whole procedure sometime in the near future.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Day 11

CC wakes up with an inflamed finger. If you remember, she grabbed a cactus fruit (thanks to Tina I now know it was NOT a star fruit that we purchased..) and got little needles all over her hand and one stubborn one was still there. She starts freaking out and is in some serious pain. After attempting to be her doctor, she is now bleeding and we are late for rotation. Good thing I brought bandaids and

On our walk to the hospital, a car pulled up beside us and starts rambling on before I even got a chance to try and figure out what they were saying. Another stranger thankfully interjects and tells them where to go. They were asking for directions?

I know we look European and all, but this is the 4th time we have been stopped for directions and just give a doe-eyed stare back. We now walk with our heads down.

We also stop to get water since CC is used to a much larger h2o intake than we have been getting here. We hand over 5 euro for two bottles of water. 5 euro, the smallest actual paper bill...and he looks at us like we are crazy and clearly did not have any change. This is a common theme around here, change is essential to have. After he calls his friend from outside and a 5 minute wait, we get our 4 euro back (in coins).

We made dinner (chicken and veggies) and booked some wkd trips that evening. After getting hungry an hour after dinner, we decided we needed gelato from Ocean Ice (english name should mean we have no problems, right?). Off we go, yum! We finally mastered how to order gelato to go; however, we want to stay at a table this time and apparently are clueless about that process. So we walk in, order, and say for here and wait to pay. Clearly you are not supposed to wait and pay. We get
shooed away to go sit at the table.Ooookay, wonder if there is going to be a sitting fee like in most places because Italians are cheap tippers.

We grab a table by a plant, which in retrospect was a bad idea since I have 8 bug bites to now show for it.Finally our gelato has arrived and we are presented with the check. Do we pay now or pay after? Well we gave him the money right away so we will never know. I was expecting for us to get some change back so we could get more coins, but that did not happen. We don't have anything small enough to leave a tip. Seriously. We both feel horrible and jet off as soon as we finish.

We pass a pizzeria on our walk home that has samples sitting unattended and looking delicious. CC decides she NEEDS a piece. Here we go again. We both run in, grab a piece, and run away...what is wrong with us? It was delicious, though so we may be back for a paid pizza at some other time.

Planning to wake up early so we can actually sit and enjoy breakfast, we go to bed.

Day 10

Rotation was uneventful except for the fact that mid-day we are sitting there most likely talking about different words and translating them, when we hear a sex in the city ringtone. In the pharmacy. At work. Sex in the city ringtone that NO ONE seems to think is a little, just even a little inappropriate. Guess this just fits the theme of sensual Europeans. Go us!

You know what we have started to notice, toliet seats are hard to come by...just like toliet paper and chicken. I am not sure if they are preventing us from sitting on the seat (which we wouldn't do anyways) or if they simply do not exist, but it has made using the restroom extremely difficult. My butt would seriously just fall in..I don't know how all these tiny italians don't fall in more often.

DINNER DATE NIGHT!!! With you know who (insert eye roll here)
Just kidding, I love my CC =)
So we decide to plan ahead, research the crap out of the restaurants we wanted to go to...we were not repeating that horrible dinner last Friday. We find a place, see where it is and pick out what we are going to order...google's "translate this page" is a tool that restaurants have no yet instated.

Right before we leave, I make sure we know where we are going and tell CC that we may be walking on a highway. We both agreed there would be a sidewalk and start on our way.

We run into this highway that we assumed would just be a bigger road and see that it is 4 lanes with bridges and forks and mayhem. We looked for a cross walk and when we did not see one, decided this would not be a good idea....And we're back to the hotel... so much for a sea side dinner at Kalhesa. Maybe another day..with a taxi

We find another restaurant that was ranked # 11 in Palermo, this has to be good right? We look at the menu and decide we are hungry enough for anything.

Upon arriving at the Regine Ristorante, CC pulls on the door. It is locked. Are you kidding me??

Almost had an acute MI when a nice waiter opens the door. What restaurants locks its door?? We walk in and it is gorgeous. We sit at a table, with two huge smiles matching on our faces. They start with the bread that had a gorgonzola mousse. A GORGONZOLA MOUSSE. Heaven. I am DETERMINED to replicate this. I can't stop thinking about this cheese.

We order a risotto appetizer (delicious) a fillet with mushrooms (even better) and a fresh (fresh as in was sitting in ice head, tail, and all right in the center of the dining  area before we ordered it)
grilled fish. I ATE MY FIRST FISH BONE, on accident of course and I caught it before swallowing it (a picture will soon follow). For dessert, yes we are still eating this doesn't happen often, we had
panna cotta with a light caramello sauce--That I now know how to say in 3 different languages .

Bellies full, we head back to our place

Day 9

So its Tuesday and we are convinced that nothing interesting is going to happen to us anymore since we are starting to get the hang of things.

We couldn't have been more wrong.

Rotation went well, we met with Cheryl for lunch, yes we actually met cheryl for LUNCH...we had LUNCH and it was delicious. At lunch, we had a surplus of bread and a large bottle of water that was barely even drank from. We contemplated taking both the bottle and the bread since we were not sure when we would eat again, but decided it would not be appropriate unfortunately.

On our walk home to the grocery store (yes, an actual grocery store), CC felt a sting on the back of her knee...how she felt a sting through her tight jeans is beyond me, but she was convinced a bug was in there and stinging her. Instead of acting like a rational, normal human being, she unbuttoned her pants in the middle of the sidewalk and stuck her arm all the way down to her knee (again- tight jeans) and what did she find?


...and we're back on our way to the grocery store. Walked in a saw buggys...we were floored. We got everything we needed to make a pasta dinner and had a delicious, fresh meal with freshly made pasta, not that nasty, hard pre-packaged stuff.

That night after watching spongebob in Italian, we got ready for bed. I was already in bed and all of a sudden everything goes black. Of course here i say again "CC..." In our apartment we have a switch that shuts off ALL of the lights. So CC comes on over scared from the pitch black and laughing because she can't figure out how to turn it back on and begs that I (who is already snuggled in bed) go switch it back on because she is scared of the dark. After a mini-moment of terror, we go over with linked arms and my ipad serving as her flashlight...I wish I was making this up.

Buono Notte

Monday, October 8, 2012

Day 8

Week 2 begins. We are off to rotation on this hot day. We did not have any fruit at home, so it was time to stop in a bar on the way. We saw fresh oranges and got excited. We went in and asked for "two of those" in Italian and pointed to the oranges. His response was that he didn't have a juicer. Did we ask for juice? No. We tried to tell him that we didn't want juice, and what does he pull out? A juicer. Well Cynthia and I then split one little glass of orange juice. Awesome.

Rotation was going smoothly, just working quietly on our project when Maria, the assistant that speaks basically no English comes over to tell us to check our email. Okay? We did, but no messages were there. Looking puzzled and trying to come up with words but can't; she drags us to her computer where she showed us about 12 emails she sent us and asks us why? How do we know?

That problem didn't get resolved, guess its not much of a problem after all.

We had to stay a little late today for a meeting with a lady named Cheryl. A little annoyed, we followed Maria down to this office. The woman didn't look Italian, dress Italian or really speak Italian. Then she said Cynthia's name correctly. Nope, definitely not Italian. She told us she is supposed to talk about rules and regulations but she usually just gives the students survival tips for Palermo. Ummmmm, where were you last week!?! She told us that there is a grocery store close to us, but it is hidden down a staircase with no signs. And how exactly were we supposed to know this without being told?!

She then finished up by telling us of the many different places we should go visit while here on our free weekends. Good thing CC already booked a tour for this Saturday that now doesn't seem worth it. She also told us that she would take us to lunch tmw at the pizzeria across the street from the hospital...there's a pizzeria across the street from the hospital?! The hospital we continued to eat a piece of fruit and some coffee for lunch?! Seriously?! A mtg with Cheryl as we arrived may have been a little bit more beneficial...

We hurry home after what seemed like a horribly long day and pick up some lettuce and a piece of zucchini (to match the other one waiting at home)...to say we have been starving today is an understatement, but neither CC nor I really felt like getting ready to go to dinner tonight... CC ate close to all the fruit we have in the place so it looks like we will be grocery shopping tomorrow.

Oh and we picked up some star fruit when in Mondello beach (or as CC would say "star fish in mandalay bay" lol) and decided we would try it since it is in season. CC, not knowing there are small sharp hairs surrounding the fruit, decided to pick it up completely in her palm.

It didn't take long for her to scream in pain...why does this girl keep having trouble here?! No suitcase, hair dryer blew a fuse on her, and now this?! Well at least she doesn't have bug bites the size of Toronto on her legs and arms like I do. Once we were able to get all the little sharp pieces out of her hand, we settled down and talked for a bit/skyped with our families, who seem concerned that we still have yet to go to the grocery store even though we are now well aware where one exists.

We had a pretty uneventful night in, except for the random squeals coming from CC when she would find a dagger in her hand that she did not remove previously. Oh and for the fact that we are both going to bed starving again.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Lessons Learned in the First Week

Things we have learned thus far:
1.) There is no such thing as personal space
2.) Restaurants are available in two hour time slots
3.) No one will bring you a check unless asked
4.) Looking like natives prompts people to speak their native tongue to a rusty Italian and a pure-breed Lebanese...
5.) Via Maqueda is the slums(which is our walk to the hospital)
6.) Via liberta is our new home
7.) Cappucinos are not acceptable after 11 am even though CC keeps ordering them at all times
8.) Gelato is delicious
9.) Grocery stores are hard to come by
10.) If it wasn't for CC this blog would not be possible. For those of you that know me, my typing skills are non-existant... THANKS CC for not only typing all this but for expanding my vocabulary as well (lobster ;) ) =) 

Day 7

Sunday. A gorgeous day to start. All dressed for church and so excited to attend mass in the cathedral of palermo. It was HUGE and we made it there with time to spare andddd did not get lost. We are starting to get the hang of things.

We entered in the church and were blown away! CC made a non-consevative decisions with her dress and had to bring a jean jacket. She suffocated...finally she knows how I felt in that god awful green wrap in the hospital. Thankfully, a copy of my passport sufficed as her fan.

Next thing we know, we start to hear "dun dun da dun...dun da dun dun"
.... Is this a wedding?!

Yep, yep it's a wedding.
The bride is wearing black and we are tourists attending her wedding. Why is nothing ever normal here?!

We can't even handle this situation but realized a catholic wedding means a mass is included and decide to stay/ were forced to since the area was now roped off...

An hour an a half later, we make our way to lunch. We got onto via liberta and finally found the nicest area. The roads are closed off for Sundays and children and families are running around in this gorgeous scenery...we fell more in love with palermo....now this is more like it.

We find the cutest restaurant and decide to eat there. CC and I never seem to remember that the menus are in Italian, so we struggled ordering once again. Luckily, the ravioli with fish was so tasty. So was the glass of white wine, bread, salad and espresso. Heaven.

Rudely awakened from our reverie, is a man literally grasping onto the hood of a moving vehicle and slamming his fist into the car, screaming "you are going to kill me" in Italian... What is this? Seriously, what is this?  The men at the restaurant start following suit..what? This can't be real.

Eventually the man gets off the moving car and scurries along...again, what?!

We continue our stroll after CC successfully asks for the check in Italian and enjoy the rest of our gorgeous Sunday. No need to mention the laundry in the sink since I am procrastinating on doing it as per usual. 

Day 6

Beach day:

Cynthia is convinced we are going to "mandalay bay" instead of mondello beach. After correcting her a million times, it still has not registered and see continued to call it mandalay bay all day long ( which is a Las Vegas hotel...close enough, right?).

We cheerfully go downstairs to ask the concierge for a taxi. She respectfully refused and told us a bus would be cheaper.

Too intimidated to try the bus system out, we stood there staring at her for a minute but she did not seem Iike she wanted to help...off we go to find a bus.

We stopped at a pharmacy to get sunscreen...I insisted n the spray, Cynthia insisted it causes cancer and got the cream (for 20 euro...worth it?....no.) After 20 minutes, we still have yet to find a bus or kiosk for the tickets...we back track.

We demand a taxi at the hotel. And she listened. And we met Vito, our driver. We finally get to MONDELLO beach (still Mandalay in CC's eyes) and it is breathtaking. The clear water and white sands and surrounding mountains are majestic. Is this going to be a good day? I hoped so...

We walk for a bit on the beach and are in absolute love. We decide we need lunch because again we have not eaten. We get grilled paninis and are happy.

We go to lay out and find no chairs or towels. CC lays on her clothes while I, who decided to barely wear clothes long enough lay on, situate myself in the sand. New it's time to apply the sunscreen which better be worth it.

As I start to apply the sunscreen to my shoulder, it feels like I am applying butt paste. Very thick butt paste. What is this stuff? It is peeling off of my skin. CC seems to be having no problems with it and is sand free as I lay there with sand in crevices I never thought imaginable and little bits of sun screen speckled across my body. At least the weather was nice.

We did make a buddy who we clearly laid too close to and we could tell since speedos do not cover enough.... Is this our life?!

The sun was setting and we were getting cold. We decided to go get food at 6 pm....we should have known. NOTHING was open! The restaurants all looked amazing and not a single one was open. We settled on gelato for dinner and then had 2 hours to kill before the taxi came back for us. We then went to a coffee bar in hopes to find food.

We found food. Cold rice with cut up hot dog bits counts as food, right? Oi vei. 

Day 5

From cynthia's POV:

Friday! Thank God! This week has been SO slow.

Our hair still in shambles, we went to go get breakfast. The place we wanted was wayy too crowded so we chose to starve..AGAIN...I thought Italians loved food?! Beyond confused.

We stop at a little fruit stand on the way to the hospital (which we have come to learn quite well) and get a banana for breakfast and an apple for lunch...since when are these portions acceptable??... Sadly, we considered this quite a lot of food in comparison to what we usually bring, which is nothing.

At rotation, we were set up with a translator to get the safety procedure tutorial. One woman spoke Italian while the other translated. Honestly could have figured it out without the translator, but protocol left us with a hilarious memory of one lady talking and the other quickly translating. Again, this cannot be real.

So then we got an assignment. We were given absolutely no direction on what to do or how to look things up so we started on our own. Unsuccessfully.

We quickly gave up and decided we can start again on Monday. It's the weekend. After a brief lecture on how to do renal dosing, since we clearly were not taught this in school, we were allowed to leave.

We started walking and thanks to the girl from tre, we hit up a part of town that may have straighteners (FINALLY!). We get to the places and realize they are hairdressers not stores. She clearly thought we wanted to get our hair done instead, which in her defense is understandable because we were beginning to look like bichon-frises. After watching bianca try to ask if they sell straighteners and attempt to tell them that we did not want to get our hair done, we went home defeated.

On the walk home, we passed what looked like an appliance store and decided we would try our luck. Bianca spotted straightens behind the counter and was so excited! She asked the lady in her perfect Italian (not sarcastic, it's REALLY good) to see it. We were giddy school girls for a mere minute before realizing it was a portable scanner and not a straightener... Wtf is a portable scanner?!?!

We had given up. We were going to have to wear our hair outrageously for 5 weeks. We had come to terms with it, when we passed another store and I thought we should at least try. How lucky are we to actually have stumbled upon straighteners!!?!?! We bought one and then walked next door to buy a bottle of wine to celebrate!! It is still in the fridge since we don't really know what to do with it, but we were too excited not to get it.

We decide that we should go out for dinner and go out after! Excited, we left with no restaurant names in mind. We get to a place called ristorante 59 and even though it was empty, decided we should go in. Maybe it was the couple beside us that kept going outside for quickies or the fact that the waiter never brought us our salad, but it could not have been a worse choice.

Disgusted, we left and decided to go out! Found a wine bar and the night picked up!
We ended up at a place called "drinkeria" and decided to get a bottle of wine or 2. Every single guy there instantly fell in love with bianca. It is unreal how many guys literally fall head over heels and stare at her! She found her lobster (a term she picked up from me and now uses ALL, yes ALL, the time...beginning to regret saying it), but he walked away after some eye contact. She is convinced he's her man. I am convinced the man in the leather Adidas jumpsuit is the one for her. After all, he did buy us roses.

Stumbling home, Adidas decides to follow. I naturally begin to run in heels as bianca is yelling wait in Italian behind me.

Clearly, a much better day. 

Day 4

Still no straightener. A cut up SIM card (we tried to get it to fit into Cynthia's unlocked iPhone...clearly unsuccessful...where do we get these ideas from?). And still no food.

Had a heart-to-heart at rotation instead of doing the assigned reading... No one seems to care...at all. Time flew this day!!

After rotation, our empty bellies led us to a pizzeria where we grabbed sandwiches. We walked on via Roma hoping to find a straightener and came across tre (3) another phone place. We walked in and asked if they had SIM cards for iPhones. They did =) finally a successful day!! We even walked to the market got another zucchini, some lettuce, olive oil, vinegar etc..,and made a meal-sort of.

After dinner, we continued our search for a straightener with no luck...our hair seriously was intolerable. 

Day 3

We woke up today and were determined to make it successful and the walk to the hospital/ stop for breakfast and coffee was. However, we looked at my blackberry and realized that the SIM card was not working since my phone is locked...this cannot be real. We decided to worry about that later...

We get the hospital and start getting the hang of things. The extremely small elevators where people hug and kiss no longer intimidated us. However, for the last few days Cynthia and I have been feeling something playing with our hair in these elevators but did not think anything of it. It wasn't until I saw the woman actually caress Cynthia's curl that I realized people have been playing with our frizzy, curly hair for days now...we still have no idea if this is part of their culture.

So we get in the pharmacy and actually have plans! ICU day!! We met with the respiratory and physically therapy team today... We did a few rounds with them and were less than amused the entire time. We walked into a patients room with the respiratory therapist and had to garb up since he required isolation. So we are now wearing clothes, white coats, gloves and a large green foamy wrap. Once again, not breathable...why does this keep happening?!

Cynthia seems to be ok while I am slowly suffocating to death and decide that if I don't step out, I will pass out. So I ungarb and wash my hands and step outside. Cynthia remains inside the patients room like a good student and after 5 minutes, I get really bored. I inform Cynthia I am coming back in. She informed me to take off my coat before garbing up so I don't get hot again, but I chose not to listen.

I garb up and 5 minutes later get too hot again. I guess I should have listened...

Well here's me all alone outside of this patients room waiting for the therapist to get the hell out of there (since when do they stay in there for an hour??.. My feet hurt!!)! Finally, Cynthia has had enough and joins me outside. We move on to the next patient.

This poor woman is waiting in her bed excited to walk with the PT. She successfully gets out of the bed with her abdominal wrap supporting her. Little did she know, that said wrap had pulled up her hospital gown. And no, she was not wearing anything underneath. We assumed the therapist would fix the issue at hand; however, she simply put a see through wrap over it. So off the patient goes, up and down the halls basically naked as we walked behind and stared at her naked bottom. The poor patient asked if the gown was transparent, but was told it was fine. Is this real life?

The patient finally got to her room and was allowed to sit down, which provided us with a full frontal, and we were allowed to leave.

Oh and also, the "th" sound does not exist in Italian vocabulary so the array of names that Cynthia has been given range from "cintia" to "Bianca's colleague".... She's not as amused as I am by this. Her name now is Lucia if anyone asks and she is from Rome.

After the hospital, we went back to TIM to fix the phone situation. We were told there was nothing they could do... There goes 35 euro...I wish I could scream in Italian.

Defeated, we go to find food. We passed this great little place called pomodoro e vino on our walk to the restaurant we planned to go to. We decided this day was long enough and went to eat there. The waiters seriously seemed like they have never seen an Italian girl before. If you ask Cynthia she would tell you how "in love with me" they all were. But I'll take the 2 free glasses of wine and free shot any day. As we left, the maitre'd yelled to the waiter who referred to me as his love that we were leaving... I definitely told them I knew Italian...

Sent from my iPad

Day 2

On our way to the hospital, we decided to take a different route. But we realized there was no connection between the road we were on and the road we needed to get to. So little back cobblestone roads it is! Cynthia led us down the road which I should have known was not going to end well since she is directionally challenged, not that my directional skills are ANY better. We soon found that little back roads do not have street signs. After 20 mins of going in what felt like circles, we saw the road we needed to be on. So now we are not only running late, but also are sweaty.

By some grace of God, we make it to the hospital. Luckily (and I mean this sarcastically), we found out we were going to be in the IV room all day. Neither Cynthia nor I really care for the IV room, so it was a long one. Since people in Italy are miniature, they did not have scrubs our size. So instead, we were given huge, periwinkle blue onesies (a picture will soon follow). Besides the beauty of these jumpsuits, they were not well vented....so sweating ensues once again.

Since food is a rarity here, we skipped lunch...AGAIN! We did manage to find a sandwich on the way home...so we were at least satisfied for the most part. On the way home we looked for a market since we still needed things to buy. We were unsuccessful in finding any hangers, detergent, cleaning supplies, and still no straightener. We did find a small market and were beyond flustered during the experience. The man continued to yell "finito" at us while we were there...we ended up leaving with a kilo of tomatoes, ONE zucchini, and the largest bag of salt known to man.

On our walk to dinner, we stopped at the phone place to finally get a SIM card. We successfully got one for my blackberry and were well on our way to having a successful day. To make the walk to dinner even more entertaining, we start hearing pitbull from a car being blasted behind us. We immediately assumed it had to be a sweet car. And it was.... A nice, miniature, smart car...with a hello kitty paint job...we could not even control the laughter.

As we continued our search for the restaurant that we previously found online, we got lost (shocker). Thirty minutes later, we give up and head home. We stumbled upon restaurant called gilmantis and since we saw a crowd of people, we decided it was good enough for us.

Dinner was delicious and we ended up having one uninvited guest. This stray cat was circling our table nonstop and the second the food came, he began jumping onto my chair. Not one to usually make a scene, I started freaking out. The cat would not leave me alone. Eventually he went into a bush and decided to just stare at me. Cynthia hysterically laughing, was not helping me at all.

Ended up asking for the check and ending it with "por favor," yet another successful night. 

Guest Blogger Series: Traveling to Palermo and Day 1

*Note:  This is the first post in the guest blogger series!  Please use the link in the menu bar to go to the full listing on posts.
I am traveling to Palermo, Italy for a rotation at UPMC ISMETT with my friend Cynthia for 5 weeks. I have not traveled abroad for quite sometime, so I think this trip will be interesting, oh and my Italian, not that good.

Traveling- Cynthia and I were very excited to start our trip. A little too excited maybe because we brought three suitcases that were 49 lbs a piece, two carry-ons and two huge purses; however, we felt it was necessary. We flew from Pittsburgh to Paris to Rome to Palermo. Paris airport is still getting remodeled, but the parts that are completed are gorgeous!! The bathroom was to die for, huge stalls, great lighting, bright colored doors. One thing that America needs to emulate is the system of having a hand dryer next to every sink so there is not anymore lines to dry hands. Well once we barley made it to our gate, it was time to board for Rome. Eventually we were in Palermo; however, one luggage short! We looked in many different places, but was no where to be found. Off to "baggagli smarriti" (lost luggage) we went.  It looked as if we were not the only ones! After about an hour we had to call our residence because they were not normally at the desk on Sunday and they were waiting for us. That was an interesting conversation because she did not speak English well. Eventually got my point across, and we got our luggage claim ticket in, so now all we can do was wait. Finally we reached our apartment, received our key and our very needed wifi password. 

We are staying at apartments called Residenza D'Aragona. This place seems very cute and hidden from the excitement just a road away. We lugged our bags to the lift and rode it up to our floor. Was very pleased with the appearance. Tiled floors and a great bathroom that even had a bidet. We were very excited to see two beds, two balconies, which is very common for just about every home and a cute little kitchenette. Oh and a couch that I doubt we will be sitting on. After the long day, we just wanted to shower, but Cynthia got a surprise when she plugged in the blow dryer. She got shocked so much that there was a black mark on her hand for a whole day. Well, our appliances arent even going to work with a converter. Curly hair it is! We finally relaxed and took it easy; although, we were very hungry with just a few pretzels left, but because it was Sunday, nothing was open.

Day 1 of Rotation- well we had to be at the hospital at 8 am and google told us it was a 45 minute walk. So at 7 am we were out of the apartment with just a paper map, no phones and grumbling tummies. So our journey begins. We walked past numerous pastry bars, but we were intimated by the crowds and not knowing the procedure. Eventually, we walked into one and managed to get a pastry, by pointing and sayin "duo per favore". They understood enough, and we were out the door. We were very confused because these places did not have any sort of menus, so coffee was out of the question today. We naturally got lost because the map we were given only had a select few street names, so once we got into the back roads we were done. Not like the street names really mattered because most of the streets didn't have signs anyways. Well, it was time to test out the rusty Italian that I knew. Approached the first man with an Italian hello and a where is ISMETT. Took him a while to understand but after 5 different ways of pronouncing ISMETT, he finally got it. However, he was talking so fast that I only got the first few directions, it seemed like we were close. Well, so we thought... It was now 8 am and still no hospital. We asked another man who looked friendly, and thankfully, he spoke a little English and he actually walked us to the hospital. Angel in disguise. We finally made it. Now we asked for the assistant to the director, but she hasn't arrived yet. Well I guess no one knows we were late, success in my book. 

We waited for about an hour before someone got us, but we ended up sitting in the pharmacy for another hour just to get taken downstairs to wait for another hour. Seriously, we were so bored. So I was like let's go back up to the pharmacy and tell them. We went upstairs and found the assistant who doesn't speak English. I wanted to say that no one had come for us yet downstairs, however, I am pretty sure that I said "there is no one in the basement". Oops. Eventually she understood though. When we left, we of course got lost again, and couldn't find any food! And we were starving because apparently cafeterias in Palermo are unheard of. Once again nothing was open, and the things that were, people were just standing at the bar drinking espresso. Although this may be the land of food, Italians do not eat much at all! Lol 

Eventually we go back to our place and decide we need food. We found a ristorante with a lot of looking, and were excited to sit down and eat, but it was three pm and dead. Soon we figured out that people eat lunch 1-4, which happen to be the same time all the stores close down as well. So we ate dinner even though we would be the last ones there before they closed to reopen at 8 pm for dinner. Dinner was delicious but when we ordered pasta, we were expected something to fill us up, but portion sizes are NOT like America. Well it came to about four o'clock and only one other table was there, and we have been done for 15 minutes. WHY WASN'T OUR WAITER GIVING US OUR CHECK?? Soon, we asked in American and gave a little hand gesture and he figured it out. We learned something new today. Italians don't bring you your check or ask you if you want your check. You have to ask for it or you will sit there all night. So get used to the phrase, "il conto per favore". Day one done, and we are still hungry.