Sunday, July 13, 2008

Play date

Saturday morning dawned soft and grey, with Rosie and Sam whining impatiently at the back door wanting out. Knowing their persistence, I crawled out of bed and let them out to investigate the overnight changes in Naruna. As soon as the door started to swing open, they barreled through the gap, and ran into a big polka-dotted red dog. Some of our closest (about a mile away) neighbors are gone on a cruise to Alaska, and their red heeler puppy got lonesome and came looking for a playmate. It wasn’t his first visit this week, so he has apparently solved the puzzle of opening the gate to his pen.

Rosie lost interest since no food was involved, but Sam and the heeler went zipping around the yard. They both tried their best to convince anybody watching that each was the fiercest puppy in Naruna, snapping and yipping as they tumbled around. After half an hour of this playacting, they collapsed, puffing and panting, best friends again.

Until next time.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Why we liked it!

The LB and I had a wonderful time on our recent trip to northern Italy. It gave us a much needed escape from our normal lives, and allowed us to visit and experience a new part of the world. We saw artworks, cities and cathedrals previously only seen in books, movies or on television. History came alive as we walked through the narrow streets and alleys of the Veneto and Tuscany. But it was people, and the personal connections we made with them, who made our trip truly come to life.
In Venice, “our” gondolier took us on a trip through the canals, pointed out the sights and spoke of the historic people who made Venice what it is today. After our ride, it seemed we bumped into him several times each day. We would be sitting at our neighborhood canal-side cafĂ© sipping espressos; he would row past with a load of tourists, and give the LB a hearty wave and big grin with nary a pause in his spiel. Walking to dinner across one of the endless bridges, we would hear a “buona sera” and he would go gliding under the bridge on his way to giving more tourists an experience of a lifetime.
American tourists are not common in the little hilltop town of Chiusdino, and most of the inhabitants viewed us as if we had green skin and had just climbed out of a spaceship. Carla went out of her way to make us feel welcome and encouraged us in our attempts to speak Italian. She ran the local fruit, vegetable and wine shop, so mostly we only needed to point to indicate what we wanted. We were able to communicate enough during our daily visits to learn she had studied English in school many years before, but hadn’t used it since. The day before we left, we had to go in just to say goodbye and let her know how much we appreciated getting to know her. All of this with her not speaking any English and us with no Italian.
When we first arrived in Florence, we felt we had arrived in a big city and might have trouble meeting people. The first time we went to catch the city bus to the historic town center, we realized that would not be an issue. We were standing at the stop, and a little old Italian lady walked up and launched into a monologue. She had talked for several minutes, when she finally noticed the blank looks and asked, “Capisca?” After we replied with shakes of our heads, she started up again. Apparently, she didn’t really care if we understood her, she just wanted to talk. By the time our bus came, we knew she was a widow and her husband had been dead for many years, she had been a teacher and had been forced to retire after thirty years because she hit the mandatory retirement age, and she really missed her home in Naples, but was living in Florence because of her son. Apparently, there was enough crossover between my college Spanish and her Italian for me to catch the general drift, but not enough to be able to converse. She blushed a bit when I asked if I could take her photo, but acted pleased.
This is what made our trip special, these and others we met and got to know, if only for a few minutes. They turned what could have been a sterile romp from one museum to the next into a human experience.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back to Normal

July 1, 2008
The jetlag is gone for the most part, clothes are getting washed, and I’ve gone back to work to start paying for our great vacation. I suppose that means the adventure is over and all is returning to normal. Yesterday afternoon I sat and watched the final of the Euro-2008 tournament where Spain defeated Germany. Italy had been ousted by Spain in the semi round, so at least they were defeated by the eventual champions. It was exciting to be able to watch the entire tournament, even though I didn’t have a personal stake in the outcome.

Another sign life is returning to normal occurred Saturday night just before bedtime. The LB’s beagle, Sam, was out for his evening constitutional, and began baying frantically. I eased out to explain to him that everybody else was trying to go to bed, and discovered he had encountered a little Boer goat while making his rounds at the church across the road. When the goat spotted me she trotted right past Sam, who was still loudly announcing the intruder’s presence, and followed me around to the pen out back, where she settled in and made herself at home. The next morning at church, the first person I asked knew exactly where the little goat was missing from and gave the owner a call. No cabrito for me!