Saturday, February 27, 2010

Military Milk

It Does the Troops Good.

Upon going to the military supermarket at Ederle Army base recently, I discovered military milk.

Yes, the US Forces stationed in Europe have their own brand! It includes meat products, too. We ended up purchasing the pictured milk carton to fill my visiting father's cereal bowl and angus beef with the symbolic eagle on the packaging to make some "real" American hamburgers, while on Italian soil back in Padua.

Plus, the base has Bank of America ATMs and real US mail boxes scattered across the property. It's almost spooky how much of America you can find on a US military base. They have definitely succeeded in creating "home" away from home for the soldiers.

Then you go beyond the barbed wire fences and find the rest of the world!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's the Perfect Wine?

Since my husband and I will be closing on our very first house tomorrow, I would love to celebrate with a fantastic bottle of wine. I welcome your suggestions for what would be most appropriate.

I can splurge a little but can't break the bank since there is simply too much furniture and so manyappliances to buy by April, when we plan to move in.

So please share your wine saggezza e consigli.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Promising Forever

This question gets asked repeatedly when I meet new people: "Rimani per sempre?" (Are you staying forever?) It comes after exchanging names, jobs, origins and a few other odds and ends.

How strange of a question. It is so total in its scope. Forever. In the introductions phase of a simple conversation, I get asked about my plans to stay or not stay in a place for my entire living life. No American would ask the same question to a fellow citizen if that person moved from Baltimore to Buffalo or even among Italians to someone who moved from Padua to Palermo. However this question seems perfectly normal to ask a foreigner who has come to live in their town or neighborhood.

I usually respond that the only time I have had to answer a question including the word "forever" in it was when I said my wedding vows and those only apply to my commitment to my husband. Everything else can change, and maybe should.

As foreigners, we are novel to locals but also threatening. An expat has chosen to radically leave their "natural" surroundings for somewhere completely new and different. And if that expat already left one place once, they could do it again in the new place of residence. It is almost as if the people are calculating whether they should bother to get to know me for fear we could become friends and then I might leave them in the future.

In life, one of the only things we can count on is change. As humans, many of us really don't want to face that fact. We hope things will stay the way they are. Italy gives this impression more than other countries, especially when compared to America. The buildings are old, if not ancient, and there is a sense that the passage of time has not disrupted much over the centuries.

It's not true.

I can just look at my street and see the flood of changes in the 3 years since I moved here: road became one-way, bike path installed, 2 new constructions built, one more house in construction, the bar changed ownership and the pastry shop remodelled. My street may be a superficial example but it proves a point. Things change. Period.

So I may change. In fact, I am changing houses to start. I'll be moving to another section of town that is technically not even in Padua (since it makes up its own comune) but sits squarely within what is considered the city limits.

Even though I am changing, I am not leaving, for now. So sit tight Paduans and refrain from asking what really is a "dumb" question, if you think about it.

Disclaimer: Paduans aren't the only ones who have asked it. I think people do this all over the world. I just want to be specific since I am An American in Padua.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Let Lions Sleep

I was ready to become a lion "queen" this Carnival, which ends this year on Tuesday.

However I am letting the lions sleep: the costume and the woman. I got a cold with fever that has kept me under the sheets for the weekend. It has really been unfortunate because I haven't made myself a costume in years and I was really looking forward to using it.

Usually I go to the Venice carnival and take pictures of others' elaborate frocks while, this year, I was ready to disguise myself as an African animal and accompany my father along the calle for his first carnevale experience.

He had to go without me.

Now I am starting to feel better but have to maintain plans to take my father snowshoeing tomorrow in the Dolomites so there's no more window of opportunity for carnevale this year for me.

Beh, c'รจ sempre l'anno prossimo.
(Well, there's always next year.)

The costume will remain folded and wait for its debut in 2011.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Portrait of Berlusconi

Berlusconi, a sculpture by the Kosovar artist Sisley Xhafa, currently living and working in New York, but who started his career in Italy in the '90s. This gigantic "thinking buddha" is made of sand. While living in Italy several years ago, the artist was already concerned about the mounting xenophobia bubbling in the country against the new immigrant population.

The work was commissioned by the Roda Sten gallery in Goteborg, Sweden.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

White for Winter

I continue with another list, please note Mr. Eco.

This time I haven't penned it.

[Blue] begins a list....[he] moves on to white. There are seagulls, he says, and terns and storks and cockatoos. There are the walls of this room and the sheets on my bed. There are lilies-of-the-valley, carnations, and the petals of daisies. There is the flag of peace and Chinese death. There is mother's milk and semen. There are my teeth. There are the whites of my eyes. There are white bass and white pines and white ants. There is the President's house and white rot. There are white lies and white heat.

Excerpt from Ghosts by Paul Auster.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Faces in Time: Padua's Mayors

Welcome to a miniature gallery of Padua's mayors which you can find at City Hall. I have found them interesting for anthropological reasons: the hair styles, facial hair flair, big glasses and distinguished titles. Here are a few of the most interesting:

To contrast, this is our current mayor, Flavio Zanonato, 2005-now, looking "fly" in a non-institutional portrait.

Images: framed pictures by An American in Padua, color picture of Zanonato from Il Mattino online

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A Shocking Healthcare Story as a Foreigner in Italy

This entry is dedicated to those who may be coming to Italy soon for an extended stay. You might find this story eye-opening.

Before I had a Permit of Stay as a worker in Italy, I was not covered under the Italian healthcare system. Instead I paid for an international policy through Lloyds of London that would cover any hospital stays, ambulance services and any recovery therapy. It was not exactly cheap. It almost cost typical individual insurance rates in the US at the time, which was the years 2001-2002.

Unfortunately I had to use the policy one day when I went to the emergency room for stitches in my inner ear, a series of facial x-rays and an overnight in the hospital.

Firstly I was surprised by how lazy the service was in the hospital in Venice, where I was living. The doctor checked on me for 2 minutes at 7 a.m., after I had checked into the hospital the night before, and I basically never saw him again. I felt I was wasting my time with only an ear injury and some bruises. The hospital had given me a glorified bed to rest in. I had to beg the staff to properly schedule my x-rays, which were the main reason I was staying checked in at the hospital. I left as soon as the images were made because I knew I was being billed privately for their services.

In fact, I found out 3 months later that they had billed me "royally". For the services mentioned above, the grand total was Euro 3900, with no billing details provided to understand how they arrived at that number. Then I discovered that Lloyds would only pay for Euro 1000, not even half the sum. I was shocked and horrified.

I started to ask for more information from the hospital billing administration, but their attitude was that I was an American and should expect hefty bills from a hospital. They were under no obligation by law to provide me with any further details. I simply needed to pay up.

After complaining to many Italians who had no idea that I would be billed so much, I was told by a nurse that I should not have given any insurance information. In that case, the costs would have been absorbed differently by the hospital. But I had wanted to use the policy I had been paying for. Also, it seemed devious to force the hospital to absorb my costs. I feel that I was over-billed in the end since they knew I was American and supposedly was used to high fees.

Now I know that I should bought insurance directly through the Italian ULSS system that would have cost less and guaranteed better coverage while in Italy.

Since I changed my Permit of Stay for work status, I have been put into the national system automatically so these problems no longer apply. At this point, I just pay a "ticket" which is a "co-pay", according to the American insurance system. I am finally enjoying socialized medecine, although it's even better in other European countries, with even fewer fees or even none at all.

For an American looking to come here to settle or finding yourself a tourist in Italy for more than 90 days, you should first get a Tourist Permit of Stay. That permit requires private insurance coverage. The basic permit requirements are listed on the website for the Polizia di Stato (in italiano). For English-speakers, The Informer is a great resource to get details about all permits and requirements.

Other useful links (in italiano):
explanation of health coverage situations and policies for foreigners in Italy: stranieriinitalia
information about buying the national healthcare card (tessera sanitaria): ministero della salute

Monday, February 1, 2010

McDonald's Goes Italian 100%


This new release is a sandwich that is being sold around the world by McDonald's for 7 weeks, using 100% Italian products: Asiago DOP, Bresaola della Valtellina IGP, Insalata Batavia, Italian meat, artichoke cream and extra-virgin olve oil.

The Italian sandwich debuted on January 27. The Food Minister, Luca Zaia (left in photo), is thrilled to have Italian tastes be promoted at such a large scale by the fast food giant. He is also happy about the Euro 3.5 bln that Italian food producers will enjoy from the massive sale of the globalized panino that uses national resources to satisfy worldwide customers from Seoul to London.

For a savory picture of the McItaly and descriptions in italiano, go to the McDonald's Italia website.

So what are Italy's slowfoodies saying about this DOP sandwich?