Monday, April 27, 2009

Before & After

One fun thing about the move is that we get to do a little bit of decorating. I've been excited to step outside of the "box" from our usual neutrals and do something different.

Here is the living room. These are the couches that are part of our furnished apartment:

And here it is, after a trip to IKEA:

Amazing what a few accents can do! We are very happy with it, it makes this place more "ours" which makes it more home. I am happy that I finally have someplace to read that I can put my feet up!

We have a great picture from IKEA we would like for the wall, but it is 140x100cm and we aren't sure it will fit in our little Fiat to get it home. We were amazed at what we squished in from this Saturday's trip!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sunny Saturday Morning

Well, here it is, my second Saturday in Italy and my first blog post in over a week! I have had a lot less time to post than I thought. If you want more regular updates, I suggest you also read Patrick's blog, he's been doing a great job of updating!

What I like so far...

- Patrick and Brandon and Stevie are here! It is fun to have the whole family here together for the adventure.

- Cheese... Mmmmmm... I discovered fresh asiago is amazing, by far my favorite. And grana padano is similar to parmigiano only milder.

- Mornings free - it is nice to get up a bit later, have some personal time in the morning and then walk Brandon to school. They've still be pretty busy with appointments for getting things set up, etc. and will be for the next week, but I look forward to when that settles out. I'll also have Italian two mornings a week.

- Internet! I can't imagine being this far away and not having a good way to keep in touch. The internet is amazing - we were so happy to finally get it on Wednesday!

- Beautiful place to live. Our apartment is very nice, it will be very comfortable for us and it is in a beautiful place. Right next to a small public park and then one block from the giant Parco di Monza. On Wednesday, it was really warm and sunny so we went for gelato after dinner and then for a walk in the park. Amazing.

- Great people. Everyone we have met is very nice and helpful! The owner of our apartment's father, who has been handling everything with the apartment, lives right nearby and he has been super helpful. Even took us to a couple stores to show us where they were! The relocation people have been very helpful in getting everything set up. I really like all of the people I work with too!

What has been different...

- Time. Somehow I thought I would have more time! Work has been crazy, probably just some of it being pent up demand - "We'll work on that when we get there" - but some is just that work is really busy and there is a lot going on. So updates here will be less frequent than I thought, at least for the time being.

- Convenience. Mike, the other engineer who transferred here with me, said "Americans are all about convenience." It is so true! We are used to 24 hour stores open 7 days a week, an easy process to follow to get something done, automatic garage door openers, anything to make our lives more convenient and save us a little effort. Italy is NOT that way. They are more about quality than quantity or convenience. Some things are just done the way they have always been done. I'm sure there will be more on this later...

- Traffic/Parking. I live 7km (~4.5 miles) from work. It takes me at least 30 minutes door to door from the apartment front door to my office door. That includes handling the garage, driving through all of the roundabouts (which are fun by the way), parking at work and then walking in to the office. In the evening it is at least 40 minutes, up to one hour this week. That is just something to get used to! There are a lot of cars and people here, it's just the way it is going to be. We chose where we are living based on Brandon's school and convenience for Patrick and having a nice place to live, not the perfect commute for me. My commute is not bad, relatively speaking, but it is not Corvallis. :) That is something to get used to!

So far, we are all doing well. Brandon is enjoying his new school and adjusting well. He's a smart, happy kid and seems to adjust to whatever comes his way. Patrick is doing well, learning how to take care of our lives. He has some fantastic Italian meal he's been searching out the ingredients for that I can't wait to try! Stevie spends most of his time under the comforter sleeping, same as at home, and comes out at night to make noise and annoy us, same as at home.

Sometimes I can't believe I'm living in Italy... so much is the same even though so much is different. I've been so glad that I had the 3 months of language lessons. I can communicate on a basic level in restaurants and shops. Beyond that I still have lots of work to get more fluent - I listen to the radio and understanding seems so tantalizingly close... I recognize one word in three. All of the connecting words are there it's just the key nouns and verbs that are missing. But it will come.

If you get a chance, drop us a note! We love hearing from everyone, it makes us feel like we are close by. We are doing well and enjoying ourselves so far.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Got the Keys

Thursday Stevie and I made our way over to the apartment in order to officially take possession. I signed a ton of paperwork (all in Italian of course, hopefully I didn't sign away my firstborn son...) and received a ton of keys. I'll do a blog entry on the number of keys it takes to live in Italy some other time...

So, I spent my first night in the apartment! It was a horrible night of sleep. I think it was not sleeping well from the jet lag combined with the new noises of an apartment. Nothing obnoxious - just different. Neighbor noises, door noises, birds singing all night long (don't the birds sleep at night in Italy?).

It is nice to be in our place and start to unpack. My clothes are mostly in the wardrobe and my shampoo is in the shower. Stevie knows where his food and water and everything is. He tentatively explored the place quite a bit. I think he will enjoy looking out the windows, since you can hear so many birds I would assume he'll be able to watch them too.

Tonight I am going to the store to get some needed items... an iron, a hair dryer, an alarm clock, some silverware, sheets, etc. Oh yeah, and food! And hopefully, a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Finally in Italy!

I am in Italy! Stevie (the cat) and I made it to our hotel fine with no major issues. I never in a million years would have pictured that I would take a cat on an airplane, and an international flight at that.

Stevie did really well with the whole thing, it went better than I expected. He really didn’t even meow. We sedated him in the morning and he was pretty freaked out at the beginning. Did you know that you have to take the cat OUT of the crate to go through security? I didn’t! But Portland security is nice to offer a private screening – where we went into a room and I took Stevie out and then they ran the crate through the x-ray machine while I stayed in the room. Stevie has never been happier to get back into his crate! In Frankfurt, I just held him through the security walk through and he did fine.

Stevie in the Frankfurt airport, waiting for our connecting flight to Milan:

They didn’t even want to see any paperwork at customs once we arrived. I was surprised, here we had done all of this work to get the right paperwork, and no one even cared. But if we hadn’t they probably would have wanted to see it, so it’s just as well. I wouldn’t want to start my residency in Italy on the wrong foot. 

The biggest CAT-astrophy (that one is for you Brandon!) was in my suitcase when I got to the hotel. The travel cat litter box had opened and I had cat litter (unused, of course!) all over the suitcase. I’ve got that cleaned up, I’m finally showered and Stevie is hiding under the bed. Maybe he’ll come out if I sit on the bed and watch some TV, but if I do that I might fall asleep.

I need to make it 4.5 more hours to dinner and then I can go to sleep. I’m struggling…

Monday, April 13, 2009

Movers Today

Here is the pile of stuff we are taking with us to Italy, this morning before I went to work:
Here is the same pile of stuff when I came home at the end of the day, after the movers were done with it:

Today was interesting. A weird day of work and chatting with people. It felt weird to know I would still be working with everyone just not seeing them on a regular basis, just talk with them on the phone. It felt weird as I left the building that I will probably not come back and sit in the building again, everyone is moving to a different building in a few months and our building will be closed and/or rented out sometime in the next year.

Less than 24 hours left in Corvallis! Barely 12 hours actually.

Lots of change...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Last Days!

Yesterday we went to the coast for a last "hurrah" before the serious packing up begins. It was nice to go to the aquarium and have my favorite beer cheese soup at the Rogue Brewery before we leave. Unfortunately it was a bit chilly and windy for a walk on the beach, at least with the coats we had with us. You just never know with the Oregon Coast! I was inspired with a couple of pics I took yesterday to make this "triptych" with the photos.

Today it was pack, pack, pack all the day long (with a nice little break to go eat Easter ham with our friends Katey and Errol). Now, we aren't packing everything into boxes, but we've had to organize into four categories: Ship, Store, Carry, and Give away. The "Give away" stuff is pretty much gone - except for food and cleaning products. :) We've almost moved all of the "Ship" items into one place in our front room. The "Carry" suitcases have almost all been packed to make sure that everything fits and is within the weight limits of the airline.

This last one has been today's challenge! I have one suitcase that is overweight and oversize and it's just going to be that way for a $350 fee, because I can't handle more than two suitcases with the cat. I'm not even sure that I can handle these two suitcases but I will survive from baggage claim to the rental car lot somehow. :)

We just took a break to eat dinner and I've now backed up our desktop onto the External Hard Drive, so in a few moments I'll be shutting down the family computer and getting that ready to pack.

I leave in 2 DAYS!!!!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Saying Goodbye

It's that time. Time for the going away lunches and dinners and general well wishes from lots of folks. It's amazing how popular you feel when you get close to leaving! :) It is nice to spend time with your friends anytime, but it makes you feel special when it is in honor of you.

Friday night my friend Jenny hosted a small going away party for us at her house to have a chance to mix and mingle with our friends. It was a nice evening of yummy food and wine and chatting. There was also a "sock contest," which was supposed to be a joke but enough people took it seriously that we had quite a collection of interesting stocking feet! Brandon was the judge and enjoyed the responsibility.

Me, Emmet, Roberta and Jenny

Becky, Me and Sarah. Becky already has tickets to come visit this summer (woohoo!) and Sarah came down from Seattle for the party. So much fun!

A big thanks to Jenny and Paul for the good time!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Family of Grumps

Moving to Italy is not all excitement around here. In fact, I don't feel like I have time to be excited! We are all a bit on edge, and have become a little bit grumpy with each other. This evening Brandon had a major meltdown, and Patrick and I had a heated conversation that didn't really need to happen. I think we are all feeling the stress of our house being in disarray, a thousand tiny details that need to be worked out, and major uncertainty that goes along with a big life change.

It's hard. We are tired. But tonight we talked and all agreed that we would be trying to be more patient with each other because we're not really upset about the things we are reacting to, we are just a bit more stressed.

I leave in FIVE DAYS!!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Visas

Patrick and Brandon's passports arrived back today with visas in them! Yay! The final documentation. They also have their flight booked for April 18 so they'll be coming 4 days after me. Yay!

That is the exciting news today. Other than that I'm a big stress ball because there is just SO MUCH TO DO at work and with details on the assignment and I feel like things are falling out of my brain left and right. There isn't so much to do at home, things are coming along fine with the move prep, but by the time I get home I'm wiped out and apparently a bit stressed because I was snappy tonight.

I just want to get through a couple of big things at work - one of which is cleaning out my desk. Today I realized I still have a ton of stuff to bring home - like a whole shelf full of textbooks. I also realized that I had all of my performance evaluations since I started at work in 1992 filed away. What in the world was I saving them for? Along with copies of every expense report I submitted for the last 10 years? Who knows the logic. I guess I'm just a pack rat. Which is fine normally but in times like this it makes more work!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Earthquakes and Conferences

OK, first off, the earthquake in Italy is not near where we are moving. It is 200 to 300 miles south, closer to Rome. As Patrick put it "We are closer to France than to the earthquake." So don't worry about us. We cannot imagine the loss and destruction that the communities affected by the earthquake are experiencing. Knowing a bit more about the population density and the age of the buildings since we have visited, it is not hard to see what a great affect something like this will have.

Tonight we dealt with something a little more happy and closer to home, Brandon's school conference. He has had a wonderful second grade teacher that he is going to miss. It was a quick and easy conference. He's doing well in most things and just needs to work on his addition and subtraction facts. (There is nothing new!)

We also got to look through the Adams Art Show. Their school has an art teacher that is paid through fundraising by the school, and they do wonderful art projects. Here is the one Brandon had on display:
It is so much fun to see the creativity that these kids just have inside them, and their enthusiasm for art. When do we start to lose that?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An 8 Year Old Boy

I can't believe it, I have an 8 year old boy today! It doesn't seem like yesterday that he was born, but could it really be 8 years? He is such a sweet and fun kid to be around. Today was no exception! He spent the night at a friends last night and when he came home today he was bursting with excitement, just talking up a storm. He couldn't wait for his party!

This year he had a party at Papa's Pizza, the place in town that has an indoor kids play area and caters to kids parties. For Brandon, it was both a birthday and a going away party. He had kids from school and cub scouts and other friends come. They played in the play area, ate pizza, played some more, ate cupcakes, and then opened presents. See all the pictures here. They all had a great time and Brandon really enjoyed the party.

It's just hard to believe that he is 8 years old! Isn't he getting big?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Picture the Piles

In order to have our storage and shipment insured, we have to create a detailed inventory of our house. We have to pretty much list every item, whether it is being shipped or stored, and the replacement value.

We've been going through room by room and sorting things into piles. This is one of our "shipping" piles. In another part of the room is the "storage" pile. Plus there is the stuff we are taking on the plane, we need to see what fits in our suitcases so that we include the right stuff in the inventory.

We have 3 rooms to go... Office/hobby room, spare room (which we've been piling "storage" stuff into) and kitchen. Also clothes once we've packed our suitcases and have decided what has to be shipped.

Oh, and we have to take ALL of our small electronics with us personally because our company won't ship them - too high of an occurence of theft. We are trying to figure out how to pack everything so that we can actually maneuver that much stuff. Every hand will pull a rolling tote, every back will have a backpack and probably a couple of shoulder bags.

The inventory has to be done on Tuesday and emailed off to the moving company. Guess what we'll be doing this weekend?

The Last Consulate Visit?

Today should be the last time that we go to the consulate in Portland. We will be getting Patrick and Brandon's visa applications all reviewed and signed off so that we can send them to the consulate in San Francisco. Our hope is that by the end of next week we have their passports back in hand with the visa inside of them. We shall see!

We are feeling pretty busy with all of the details we need to do to get ready to move. Between move stuff and work, I'm feeling like I'm barely keeping my head above water. Whew.