Sunday, December 7, 2008

Racism in America

Even though we have now elected our first black (well half black)president racism seems alive and well. In the past week for example I've gotten two emails as a point of reference. One was in my junk mail box, a long tirade about how they are filling laws suites in every state to get Obama to prove he is really a US citizen, this from a so called conservative group. The other most disturbing was one from I'm sorry to say a close relative that is being passed around the internet that shows the Sara Palin imitators next to pictures of her and then shows Obama next to Alfred E. Neuman the Mad Magazine character and his wife next to a monkey.

It's been a few days since I got these but I can't stop thinking about them. It's also interesting to note that last night an Italian friend asked me if I was surprised that people actually voted for Obama. The fear around the World being that racist Americans might say one thing to the poll takers and do another in the privacy of the voting both. Well I guess the suprise and the good thing is that a majority didn't.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Our Yard in Winter

I wish I could say it still looked like this, but the rain in the last
few days has washed it all away.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Steak Florentine

We've had a deadline for work lately so I have to do some catching up. On November 10th we took the camper to Tuscany and stayed at an agriturismo for two nights. They let us park there even though they are not supposed to. Only guests in their rooms and bus loads of tourists are allowed to eat there. But we had stayed there on our honeymoon ten years ago so they made an exception. The first night we ate the big and long dinner all the food is produced on their farm. The second night we bought the famous steaks that they produce and they grilled them for us so we could eat them in the camper. The shock came we went to leave and had to pay for them, we had made an error in what we thought they would cost. But they were good.








Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Navigating in the Camper

When traveling in the camper we always seem to be a bit lost even with
the gps navigator so I made this little "table" so that I can use the
lap top and have a much bigger map to look at. I have a small gps
receiver that plugs into my laptop. Originally it's main purpose was
for flying. It works with a pda and a special program for flying, but
it also works just fine with Microsoft Auto Route.

This also serves as a work station, for email and even potentially real work. The kids have also found it usefull for playing games etc. out of the way of cooking and such.

A Campsite in Lucca

Il Serchio,

As an architect I just can’t resist writing about this. This last Monday night we stayed at Il Serchio a camper site in Lucca Italy. At first glance the concept of the place seems great and it looks new and clean. It’s dedicated to campers, has electrical and water hookups at each site, free wifi internet, showers, laundry and dumping station. The price is very reasonable at 18 euro per night and it’s pretty close to the old town center. We rode our bikes into town the first afternoon then the next morning took a nice bike ride along the river bank just up a little hill from the camp.

But it’s one of the best examples of poor design I’ve seen in a while. It’s probably one of those cases where the owner’s didn’t think the services of a good designer was worth the cost of hiring one. The parking spaces for the campers are too short being more the size for a car so the camper sticks out into the road/drive area, it’s a big wide gravel drive with tiny short green spaces for the campers. They put the baths at the farthest corner rather than centrally located, the internet connection is intermittent, goes off and on, and can really only be accessed if one parks closet to the entry. The showers seem like they were designed by someone who never took a shower in a camp of any kind. They are directly across from the toilets, there is no dressing area or place to put ones clothes, turn on the shower and water sprays out into the hall area as the heads are fixed and there is no door just a curtain half of which were torn. The water stays on for something like 30 seconds then has to be started again. It was dark when my son and I went to take a shower and the lights also on timers went off 3 times causing me to have to go into the sink area naked, wet and cold to turn them back on, of course this area was also exposed to the outside through large uncovered windows. Finally, they have a nice dump area for grey and black water. But it’s right in front of the entry to the men’s bath area. In fact the black dump tank (that’s the stuff from the toilet) is right on the walk to the bath so one has to walk across the area where people dump their toilets on the way to take a shower.

As I said above the concept is great, a simple campsite dedicated to the needs of campers/motor homes, with just the things they need and nothing more at a good price in a good location. It’s just too bad it couldn’t have been designed properly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thank You Fellow Americans

Yesterday you restored my faith in my country. It's been really difficult watching what has happened to the US over the last 8 years especially for the 3 that I have been in Italy. I don't think most Americans even those who saved us yesterday really understand how much we have been looked down upon, how much we are feared, and how much we are disliked even hated by the rest of the world. Nor do they realize how important the world's opinion of the US is to the country and it's people. We really do live in a global society and economy and it is really important that we be a good member of that society, a good citizen. The Bush idea that you are either with us or against us just doesn't work in today's world.

I just hope that the damage done by the Bush years is not so overwhelming that it can not be overcome.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Our Next Project

Who did you vote for Daddy

At the age of 9 kids can some times surprise you at how thoughtful they can be. Julia asked us that question this morning and then she wanted to know why we chose one over the other. Part of our answer was that under Obama we hoped there will be fewer wars. So she asked what work those soldiers will do if there is no war.

Day of the Dead

We made the visit to the cemetery yesterday where Luisa's Grandparents are entombed and many of her other ancestors on her mom's side. It was interesting that the whole place was just full of flowers, very beautiful in fact. It seems to be such a nice way to remember those who have passed on.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Economics and the US Election

Maybe being far away from the US one gets a better view of the overall situation. The last eight years have been nothing less than a tragedy for the US. Now we are in the midst of the worst economic meltdown since the great depression. Do I blame Bush for all of this, yes I do, if for no other reason than he was so easily minipulated by a bunch of self serving wrong headed people. And also that he was just never qualified for the job, and that he seems to lack even a most basic sense of morality. He calls himself a christian, but what would Jesus have thought about the wasted lives of over 4,000 Americans, and up to a million deaths in Iraq.

Now it seems we have hope that a man intelligent and thoughtfull enough for the job may get elected. That man is of course Obama. If it goes the other way, then we can only hope that McCain lives long enough to finish his term, he probably won't be as bad as Bush, but I don't see him making any changes in the wrong directions we have gone these last eight years. But if for some reason Palin has to take over, well sorry if this insults a group of women who work hard, but that would be like having the local grocery clerk with an exaggerated ego take over the most important political job in the World.

I doubt Obama has a magic solution to our economic problems, but I'm guessing at this point that there will be such a dramatic shift in the opinon of the US by the rest of the World that things will turn around quickly. It's kind about consumer confidence on steroids. I am hopeful that the US can regain it's position in the World as a fare and just nation, not one that invades other countries causing death, dislocation, and distruction just because it wants to. And I am hopeful that the American people will break away from the control over them that has been excercised by those who use fear as their favorite tool.

Halloween 2

The party was to be over at 9:45 so that's when I arrived, but it was still going strong. It gave me a chance to see what they were doing. I was impressed. Of course at the beginning of the evening they had to learn about the reason for the day and the celebration of the saints. The part I saw was all fun. It was well organized and pretty much run by a group of teenagers who were on stage directing the fun. The kids were in two groups dancing and singing. It was kind of a contest to see which group had the most energy. I really got a good feeling watching them.

There is something about the simplicity and wholesomeness of the kids here at the church at least. It's hard to explain but I see it. These kids don't seem to have that since of alienation one sees so much in the US.

It's not to say that there aren't problems here. Belluno has a problem with young kids using alcohol and drugs. My goal with my kids will be to keep a close watch over them not giving them too much freedom but at the same time not restricting their growth, it's not easy. But I have experience, my three older daughters tuned out very well.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Our Church Project

You can read about our church project in Oceanside HERE, not a great write up but at least they mention "an architect has been hired". Well yeah a few years ago.

Halloween

Halloween, pretty much doesn't exist here in Italy. The church looks down on it. In fact our kids just left for a sort of anti halloween party at the church. At least they will have some fun. Frankly I don't see the problem, in fact in Switzerland which sometimes seems more catholic than Italy they seem to make a big deal out of it. Oh well. At least we don't have to spend a bunch of money of expensive costumes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fall 2008

The Fall colors are not that intense this year not yet anyway. It
probably hasn't been cold enough. We took a nice walk this afternoon
with some friends in an area about 15 minutes from here.

Who to vote for

Here is an article worth reading.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/24/opinion/24fri1.html?em

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Around Gruppo Sella

Just another day in the Dolomites

Blogging and Camping

Well I did get a couple of nice comments on my bloq question. I like the idea of being thought provoking. Sometimes I wonder how much I should say here about how I feel about things. I think I should say more.

We made a tour this weekend to check out possible places to park during the ski season. It was a bit disappointing. Seems so many places have signs saying no campers. I'm not sure if they can ban them or not as in Italy a camper is considered just like a car as far as parking goes. And you are not camping unless you have stuff outside the perimeter of your car/camper. So I have to do some research. The camp grounds are few and pretty expensive. And we don't need them for a two night stay. We are totally self contained for at least that long. Why would I want to pay around 40 euro just have a place to park. I think the problem is that people in campers don't spend much in the local areas. So hotel owners restaurants, and locals just don't like them.

Anyway it's a beautiful time of year here. Lots of Fall colors and today was full of sunshine. I will post some pictures.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Blog

I haven't posted much lately, not sure why. Maybe because I don't get much feed back. It's too much of a one way street. Also I'm wondering what is of interest to people and I'm also thinking that interest in Italy has dropped off a bit. What with the dollar so low and all the economic problems who can afford to come here. Anyway if anyone has any suggestions as to what they would like to see here let me know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Julia's Birthday Party

We had the party mostly out in the yard. Lisa prepared a treasure
hunt for the kids. It rained off and on and finally drove us inside
to have the cake and open presents.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Our New Motorhome

Well actually it's human powered, but it has everything, seating, a
bed, table, pictures on the wall.

Seasonal Stores

Just a note, I still haven't gotten used to everything changing with the seasons. I was in the local version of Home Depot today, it's about 1/10 the size. It was all full of things for the fire place. As each season changes so do the stores, and if one doesn't buy the seasonal things at the beginning of the season they will all be gone.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Reality of an Expat

You come to Italy as tourist and fall in love with the narrow streets, lined with ancient buildings full of rich texture and color you think that the clothes hanging from balconies are cute and add to the depth of the visual impact. You love the country side with it's rolling hills, vineyards and century old farm houses. And there is the sun with it's amber hue and the museums which hold 80% of the worlds art, the stores with the lastest fashions, the old churches and the opera.
Then you decide to leave your nice home in the subburbs of the US with it's wide yard, 3 car garage, big stores, lots of parking, great restaurants from all over the world and move to Italy. Where you find the reality of a country half run by the mafia and the other half by old and only self serving politicians. You see that the reason poeople hang their clothes on the balconies or out the window is that their apartments are tiny and they can't afford the energy for a clothes dryer like the one you left back home. On the streets and in the shops you find people just trying to survive in the rat race of a city overcrowded and polluted. You find people rude and crowding in lines, clerks in stores barely surving on an income that forces them to live with their parents are unhappy and unfriendly. You moved to the big cities because that's where you find more people like yourself and that's where you were most impressed by the famous tourist attractions. But living their you suffer from the reality of a city overcrowded and full of those Italians you thought were so friendly in the tourist places but turn out to be just normal people trying to survive. Cars are parked on sidewalks due to the lack of parking and the inability to create it in cities built back when people only walked or rode horses. You find people suffering from lack of work and low wages pitted against a high cost of living. You say I made the decision to move here so I'm going to adapt and make it work but after months or even years of trying you just have to admit that you can't do it.
Well that is the reality of Italy for many, maybe even most expats but not all. It really depends on your situation, where you live and what income and family you have. I'm happy to be living in a realitively small town in a nice home. I don't have any major complaints. Most people here stay in line and the other day as is typical I stood in a line with just three items with people ahead of me having tons of stuff to buy, they asked me if I wanted to move ahead.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fall

Seems like fall is coming early this year. School here just started on Monday, and this morning it was 6 degrees C. That's pretty chilly.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wildcamping

Camping outside of an organized campground. It's not that wild but
that is what the English call it. Here are some of the spots we
camped at during our trip though Italy, Switzerland, France and back
through Germany. Sometimes it mostly a big parking lot others along
side a river. In Germany we couldn't find a spot we spent the night
in the parking lot of a church. One night in Italy we asked the owner
of a small bar if we could stay the night in his parking lot, he said
why not. The kids get out there scotters and have fun wherevere they
are.