July 19, 2017

Somewhat Homesick and Ethnocentric (Our Italian Summer - Dispatch 3)

Well, we all survived Munich, with a little help from cheapo pants from H&M so the girls didn't freeze their little legs off. Flew some random carrier called EuroWings (worked fine, but the legroom is less than zero), ate a ton of schnitzel, pretzels, and beer, and weathered some tantrums.

Pretzel as big as her head! We gave her money and sent her to the little stall
to buy this. She was SO excited to buy it on her own.
Our AirBNB was centrally located, and Munich's public transportation is great, so we saw a bunch of great stuff, like this awesome palace. The girls were pretty impressed that palaces exist in real life, not just on Sofia the First.

Nymphenburg Palace, Munich

There is a gelateria at the top of the hill, at least.

Yesterday, Cecilia had a minor incident in the garden. She fell off a razor scooter, banging up her knee and getting a surprisingly long thorn from a mysterious bush stuck just below her patella. She complained she couldn't walk this morning, and I fielded texts from Patrick about the state of her knee and where/how to find a doctor here for a couple hours. So far, it looks like it's mostly just banged up, as she's doing a lot better with the maximum daily dose of kiddie ibuprofen in her, so no doctor seems necessary. But it certainly added to the stress of not being in a familiar city and not understanding how best to deal with this.

There's definitely some homesickness and ethnocentrism going on in this apartment -- wishing that everything worked like it does in Pensacola and missing the comfort of a routine and the optimism that comes with being in a familiar place. But at least the food here is good.

These tomatoes taste like MAGIC. For real.
On Friday, we head back to the airport. This time, we're doing a weekend in Barcelona. (Did I mention we chose these getaway spots based on: 1) cheapest direct flights from Naples; and 2) countries Patrick and I have never been?) I think that Cecilia, with her love of art, will enjoy the city immensely. And both of the girls, with their love of food, will undoubtedly find something good to eat. Thus far, Cecilia is a major fan of pizza (in Naples) and schnitzel (in Munich), and Linnea would eat caprese salad and chocolate cookies three meals a day if we let her. I suspect they will both be sorely disappointed in American tomatoes and pasta sauce when we return. But at least they'll have their beloved Mexican food back!

July 13, 2017

Jetlag + Kids = Arrrgghhh (Our Italian Summer - Dispatch 2)

Sad at the Pantheon
Do I need to add anything to the title, really? ;-)

We arrived in Rome last Tuesday around 8am. After really no one slept on the plane -- just a couple hours for each of the kids. Cecilia had a major tantrum about not being able to sleep. The guy sitting in front of the girls kept giving us side-eye and then devolved into straight up yelling at me to control my (very tired) children whose seats he was fully reclining into.

But we made it to our AirBNB, and they let us check in early. The girls got gelato, we walked a little, and took naps. And then... like 5 days of whining and waking up at weird hours and complaining about the heat, the public transportation, the sun, and the fact we were only letting them get gelato once a day.

Still, by the weekend, the girls were pretty much back on their normal schedule (sleeping by about 9pm, up by 7 or 8 am). Just in time to take public transportation to Naples. With two enormous suitcases and 5 carry-ons. There was much crying. And tantruming.

But we made it to our AirBNB in Naples, which is a spacious 3-bedroom flat on Posillipo, a hill overlooking Naples with gorgeous views of the bay and Vesuvius. We were finally able to unpack the girls' clothes and, most importantly, their Legos. We found the gelateria by the bay, the grocery store, and the fruit vendor.

Since my husband and kids are all blonde(ish), they are fairly clearly non-Italian, whereas I with my dark brown hair and easily-tanned skin generally pass for local if I don't open my mouth. Naples is quite a friendly city, though, and people have been nice about helping me and my terrible Italian. And my husband and the girls get a lot of smiles and a lot of "dimmi qualcosa" from people trying to help them find stuff.

All. Of. This.
It's been interesting watching the three of them explore their new Italian surroundings. And they have had different experiences than I do. I always try to blend in as much as possible, perhaps because of my anthropological training, or perhaps because I'm usually doing this solo, and blending in is often the best plan as a woman walking alone. But the girls are, of course, not interested in that. So they bound around with their loud English, and it seems to work for them.

I'm not a big ice cream fan, so I take most of the
gelato-eating shots.
So far, the only major issue has been public transportation. It's not easy to get to site from Posillipo -- I take a funicular to a local train to a regional train. While the funicular runs regularly and on schedule, neither of the other trains does. Train schedules are a mere suggestion. Even late notices are just vague estimates of how late the train will be. In looking at schedules back in April when deciding where to live, I found that it should take about an hour to get from the apartment to site, to go 33 km. The first day, it took 3h15min. The second day, a little over 2h. The third day, about 2h15m. And coming back is worse because of rush hour.

It doesn't help that one of the train stops in Torre Annunziata, where Oplontis is located, is closed because of an apartment building that fell down near the tracks. Or that Mt. Vesuvius is completely on fire thanks to arsonists. Which means either taking a bus around that, or rerouting on the Circumvesuviana line. Many tourists are doing the latter, and the trains are packed. So packed that I got pickpocketed today -- but I managed to jump off, grab the guy's arm, call him a thief in Italian, and get a passing guy to help me. The thief gave me my phone back, I jumped back on the train, and all was well... Still want to avoid that in the future, though.

The girls are doing great with their babysitter, Giada. She is from Naples and has taken them to get gelato, taken them to the seaside, and even taken them shopping, where Cecilia bought half a dozen cheap souvenirs that she calls "treasures." Neither is learning any Italian, really, but Linnea made a little friend - a 2.5yo named Niccolo who lives in this apartment building too. The kids play in a little garden within the gated apartment, which is pretty nice to have.

We are off to Munich tomorrow for a 2-day holiday. It'll be nice to get out of the stifling heat and ash of the on-fire Vesuvius, but the girls also don't have any pants and Munich is promising highs in the lower 70s. Heh, oops!

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