Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Things I'm Thankful For /OR/ I'm Grateful For My Normal

Whenever I come back into the States, there is always a little sigh of, not so much relief, as - it feels good to be back to normal.  Which makes me call into question my concept of normal as the "abnormal" that I've experienced outside of the US is a whole nations' worth of normal somewhere else.  Crazy concept.

So - this time, I don't know why, but it seemed so much more abnormal in Italy.  I loved it, but I was really happy to get back this time and I was thankful for so many little things.  So - I figured I'd wrap up my trip, before I do an actual recap, with a list of things that I'm grateful for here in the good old USA....

Thankful #1 - STICK SHIFT IS NOT NORMAL!  My left foot is so dog gone tired -- I think my thigh and calf muscles on that leg have grown about 2 inches at least.  Its clutch here, stop, clutch there, shift up, clutch here, slow down, clutch here, STOP!  I'm so willing to pay more for gas just to avoid having to think so much and work even more just to drive from point A to point B.  Sure, it was fun on the windy roads and I liked to think I was in some Alfa Romero - but after a week of it, the rose colored glasses of the fun of stick shift wore off and I realized - I WAS TIRED!

Thankful #2 - We live in a country where our roads our wider than two hamburger buns lying side by side (I don't know why I came up with that analogy - I was trying to be witty and am just floundering here so just laugh and call it a quip...).   What is with that anyways????  Really - when you have two lanes and the possiblity of two cars that may be driving past each other, doesn't it make sense to make room for those two cars rather than having to have them both figure out who's going to make it through first and - alive?!

Thankful #3 - When good old American engineers build roads up the side of a mountain here, they build the road.  They might put a little run here and there but they build that road!  They don't go straight and then decide it might be a better view after a few kilometers and then decide after a few kilometers of that that they want to go back the other way.  Drive - screech - turn the other way (on two wheels because it came up so fast) and then - screech - go back the other way.  Eek!

You'll notice that three of my thankfuls had to do with driving.  I LOVE driving in other countries for the most part but this time, my second rental car was a horrible drive and the stick would get stuck on gears and I had three people crammed in the back of a wagon and it was crazy - so, you can understand my thankfulness :)

Thankful #4 - SO THANKFUL FOR DRYERS!  I can't imagine how they live without one!  I know in England we did have a dryer but every other European country, well, I think its third world not to have a dryer.  You definitely do ration your clothes - you evaluate - this isn't REALLY that dirty --- just squint when you look at me and definitely don't breath when you're close to me - and you'll be good.... You wash your underwear and it takes them three days to dry on the line!  It was so wonderful getting home and doing four loads of laundry - cleaned, dried and folded - within one day!

Thankful #5 - COFFEE MAKERS - I love their coffee in Europe, but if you're not slightly American, you either have to buy it or take a lot of time to make it in a stove top maker.  Coffee makers are so wonderful bceause you can serve more than two people with one pot.  There are wonderful things about stove top coffee makers, but, its nice to come back to the "normal" way.  On the subject of coffee - its nice to buy a cup of coffee that lasts you longer than three sips.  I can take it with me and savor it for a while as I kick into my day.  I'd rather not be caffeniately shot-put into my day but a thimble size of explosive liquid energy.

Thankful #6 - Our monetary system uses bills and small coins for change.  You give a person 1 and 2 large "bills" in a coin and then it just gets all mixed up with the smaller stuff and then you look like and idiot when you're sitting there digging through piles of change.  Keep you change - as change.

Thankful #7 - WIFI!  But then I'm not really thankful to come back to it.  It was nice not having it really accessible for the most part, but I don't think I could live like that forever.  But, it was a good excuse to not check email :)

Thankful #8 - Vegetables.  Its funny how most of Europe doesn't really eat their veggies.  I don't think they had good moms.  You can find them snuck in things in little dolops or, if you're Italian, you can find the good old tomato in plenty.  I know a lot of countries count the potato as a veggie and, I suppose it is, but you can only eat so many of those before you start feeling like - well, a potato.  Give me the greens!

Thankful #9 - Shower nozzles that stay on the wall and have moderately good water pressure.  In europe it either trickles out and you have to take the nozzle of the wall and hold it an inch from you just to get anything.  OR - you leave the nozzle on the wall and turn the shower on and suddenly you're standing naked in a field as the whole bathroom wall was blasted off the side of the house -- along with your whole top epidermis.  Ouch!

Thankful #10 - The last - English.  I suppose I should say people who speak my language fluently.  Its nice to speaka the Anglais....

With all those Thankfuls, I don't want anyone thinking I'm dissing Europe or any other part of the world so there are a few things that I figure I'd share as an Enjoy list....

Enjoy #1 - The experience of going someplace new and making those new discoveries like how to open your gas tank or what the best local baked good is or what the locals drink.

Enjoy #2 - Trying to get in the skin of where I'm visiting.  Shopping like a local and going to the cafes that the locals haunt.  Its fun just to pretend like you belong somewhere else for a while.

Enjoy #3 - Ok - I did quite enjoy the driving experience this time.  I usually do the automatic while I'm overseas, but because our budget was limited, I ponied up and took on the challenge of something I don't normally do when I drove that stupid manual car.  It actually turned out to be great fun as I had to manevuer through tiny, twisting roads and - even at one point, got up a narrow steep winding hill to find no parking and no way to turn around so I had to back down.... It was quite an impressive task and made me feel quite fulfilled after I'd finished successfully (but it was even a better feeling to pull into a parking garage and pull that brake up and turn the beast off...).

Enjoy #4 - European coffee is so much smoother than ours.  Ok - its way tinier - but its so good!

Enjoy #5 - New food.  I love to experience the local flavors and dishes when I travel.  Especially in Italy.  So much coast line and so much fresh fish and shellfish.  Then you get inland and its fresh meats and local herbs.  Nothing processed or kept on a shelf for the past three years (well, except the stuff that literally gets better after having sat on the shelf for the past three years).

Enjoy #6 - Having a pair of shoes made especially for you by a lady in a back alley on a small coastal town and seeing that "Made In Italy" stamp on the bottom.  Heaven.

And I'm sure you're now getting tired of my ramblings and are shouting - SHOW ME THE PICTURES!  So, I'll leave off my likes and dislikes and give you some time to recoup before I swamp you with pictures and comments.