Monday, October 12, 2009

Getting Back on My Feet Again

This has not been a good month, although I've had some seriously exceptional moments, including a beautiful "insiders trip" to Capri, a couple of fun dates, some fabulous rides and tours, dinners and get-togethers with friends, some interesting (but not as much as I would like) new work, and many golden moments that happen to me every single day without fail, here in Florence. But I've been uninspired and unable to write. Until now.

I know that everyone has been wondering and worrying about me. I'm sorry. Unfortunately, almost everything that can go wrong, went wrong all at once.

In mid-September I was very, very sick with a virus and fever for 8 days. I c
ould hardly move out of bed and hadn't been that sick in decades. I had a knock-out virus, infection, and fever. I went to my new doctor for the first time, and don't know how I even got there. It was strange to go to "my" doctor in the famed Piazza Santa Croce, and yet to have to walk up 3 dark flights of ill-maintained stairs. I cringed before I even arrived at the office. I don't know whether my doctor is representative of all doctors here, (maybe I just picked a bad one?) but I will need to find out, because I really expected a bit more automation and technology. Instead, I felt like I was visiting my grandmother's house. Was I being stunned with a dose of Italian healthcare system culture shock? Or did I just pick the wrong doctor? Instead of continuing into the office, I went home, took some antibiotics that I brought with me from the U.S which finally knocked the bug out of me. The whole neighborhood knew I was sick, and one day my doorbell rang. It was Giovanni (the outdoor florist in my piazza). All cheery-eyed, he announced himself and delivered me a beautiful little bouquet of "get-well" flowers. (No....I am NOT having an affair with Giovanni!)

A week later I broke out into an ugly, itchy rash all over my neck and chest which looked and felt like poison ivy. I was horrified and afraid that it would spread to my face. I was in pain. This time I just went to the pharmacy, where the very friendly and capable pharmacist, who I've relied upon before, suggested a a tube of "Calendula".... which burned the hell out my skin. I found out later that Calendula is a mixture of Marigold flowers and St. John's Wort. The rash lasted 2 weeks.

No wonder all this wine. I'm conviced that drinking wine everyday here is a cultural necessity. It is the most effective and beautiful drug in the world. But, don't spill it on your computer.

Yes. After spending 4 blissful days in Capri at Constantino's and Carol's house (friends from San Clemente, Calif....he was born and raised in Capri and his family lives there for many generations)... I spilled wine on my computer. My jaw dropped and my body shook as I slowly watched the LCD screen fade away and my computer gasping for its final breath of air.... and then the lights went out. Spento. Morto. That was 2 weeks ago, and it took 5 days of pure panic to find somone seemingly worthy of trying to save it. No authorized Sony service centers around here. Today I got the dreaded "dead motherboard" diagnosis.

No, I'm not that stupid so as not to back-up my data. The last time I backed it up was only a week before it died. So I'm ok. But being without a computer is starting to make that rash come back again!

So, I have to succumb. I've started shopping around for a new laptop. I am asking everyone I know....what do you think of the ACER Aspire? That's what I'm thinking of buying. I really need an Italian tastiera (keyboard) anyway. Writing without the correct Italian characters and accents makes me look pretty stupid. Learning Windows Vista in Italian will be frustrating at first, but hey, if I'm gonna live here, I gotta "go for it".


Making the final decsion to buy an Italian computer or to have my brother ship me an American one from Best Buy......well.....I guess that's the "second stage" of adapting to my new country. Reality is really sinking in. I'm really giving up all of my American "stand-by" cures. It's scary. Not the Italian computer. But the realization that I'm really here. And I'm really staying here. The first year was bliss. This year is really going to be a killer year. I thought my guts had already been tested. But it's only just begun. I guess I must feel as though it's worth it.

And it is.

You think that's it? No. I didn't get to the good part yet. So, what I didn't mention, is that while I was sick, my bike was also sick. It was sick in June, and just kept on getting sicker, until I finally had to admit that my 2nd chainring was worn out. Living with a champion cyclist for so many years, I got used to having someone take care of all those mechanical things. Now I'm just an old female American sucker trying to look like a cyclist and I'm realizing that maybe I'm just not taken seriously. Bottom line is that I couldn't ride my bike for 3 weeks, instead of what would maybe have taken 3 days in America. Renting a bike in the meantime was a killer... because it didn't fit me right and hurt my back.

And that's not all. I almost swallowed my dental bridge while I was eating calamari in Capri. So I am missing 2 teeth. Then today, while finally renting a computer, I took my serious prescription eyeglasses out of its case to look at the invoice, only to find that they are broke.

So, I'm toothless, blind, without a computer, and until yesterday, was without my bike. I've been seriously challenged and just trying to cope day by day.

I'm spending 85% of my time trying to manage everyday living, trying to figure out which fire to throw water on for just a few minutes.

It's during moments like this that most people would give up and just want to go back to America. But I don't feel that way. I will somehow try to figure out how to navigate the healtcare system, I'll find out how to buy and use an Italian computer, and I'll savour the beautiful moments that I would never be able to find anywhere else.

Luckily, yesterday one of the problems was bike was finally repaired. I rode up to Monte Senario and found my peace in the stillness of this sacred spot. Along the way, the vineyards were starting to change colors, the chestnuts were falling off the trees, and there were still many bushes bursting with rasperries along the road. Just enough to keep me smiling. As I rode through Bvigliano, there was a chestnut festival going on. For just a few hours I was able to forget all these problems.

I hope the inspiration to write again will come back to me. In the meantime, I am spending virtually all of my time being inducted into the Italian world of healthcare and technology. It has not been fun, and I am just hoping to survive with a clear mind.

By the way, to all you Italian film lovers out there, you've got to see the new film "Baaria" which was nominated as Italy's hopeful for a 2010 Oscar award. It's coming out with English subtitles next week. It is outstanding.