Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Piano

I thought that when I moved to Italy that my life would change. OK, not that it hasn’t in some pretty significant ways. But there are things that seem to follow me wherever I go. It shouldn’t surprise me I suppose, but it does. I was born into a life filled with music. One month after I was born I attended my first high school basketball game and sat with the pep band that my father directed. I learned concert etiquette long before other kids my age did. I started playing the piano when I was five and the flute when I was eleven. I still play them both on a very irregular basis, just for fun. My life has been marked by performing for others and by watching others perform. When my family gets together it is assumed that we will all bring our instruments.

So it shouldn’t have been a surprise to find myself on Sunday afternoon sitting on a dining room chair with twenty other people anxiously watching the grand piano pressed into the corner of the room as eight little Italians nervously looked over their music and waited for the teacher to begin the recital. One of my best friends here in Florence has a daughter who was in the recital, and Sofia graciously allowed us to come with her parents to listen, which I felt was a great honor as this was her first recital and she was incredibly nervous. Especially since her mother told her that I have played the piano for many years, and there’s nothing like the presence of an experienced piano player to make a young player nervous.

In some ways it was exactly like every other recital or concert I have been to. Adoring parents and grandparents armed with high-tech cameras took pictures and videos of everything, the little boys squirmed and fought and talked through everyone else’s pieces and at least two people “forgot” to turn their cell phones off or put them on silent and had to rush out of the room to answer their phone. Two students forgot some of their music, and one poor girl had to stop in the middle of her piece to rearrange her pages that got into the wrong order when she (inevitably) dropped them.

In some big ways this recital was very different from those I took part in or attended in the past. I thought that only eight students would mean a fairly short concert. Hah! She took advantage of the fact that there were only eight students to have them each perform four pieces. When we reached the bottom of the first page of the program I thought we were done. I didn’t read the second page carefully so when the teacher then announced that the students would now be performing pieces for four hands I was a little shocked. I had never really played four handed pieces very often. But this teacher seemed to feel (and she could be very right) that even though the piano is frequently a solo instrument that her students should be able to play with another person. It definitely teaches them how to listen not only to the other person but to how they sound, so it makes sense. But I don’t think we needed an hour of four handed music on top of the solo pieces that they performed. They played with each other, then each student played with the teacher.

We had now been sitting in her living room for almost three hours. Italians have a fear of drafts, even warm ones, so there were only two windows open. Thankfully I was sitting next to one of them, but every time I inched it open a little more, the woman in the row behind me would slowly pull it back to the almost closed position. Dining room chairs are not designed to be sat on for three hours, and these still had their original varnish finish, so as I grew warmer and my blouse began to take on sweat I slowly became welded to the chair back and had to keep moving to stop my clothing from becoming part of the furniture. I wrestled my blouse free from the chair one more time thinking that we were finished.

But there was more yet to come. The reason the recital was being held in her home was so that her dying father could hear one more recital. This is no melodramatic sentimental Italian statement, but the truth. He is dying. He has lived with her and listened to her teach others to play for years. And so, after all her students had played for him, she sat down to play several pieces for him as well. I think every woman (and a few of the men) in the room except for the woman playing and me were crying by the time she finished. She is a consummate performer, I just don’t cry in public.

Honestly, even though I had spent over three hours in a hot airless room sitting on an uncomfortable dining room chair, even though I had to use force to separate myself from the chair back, even though I only slightly knew one of the performers that afternoon, I would do it again for a couple of reasons. First because it is always so magical to hear that moment when a player really connects with what they are playing. You can hear when they stop playing individual notes to a predetermined beat and start making music. You can see the stiffness fall away from their shoulders as they start to move with the music. Each student had that moment, and it was such fun to watch. Once they start to feel the music they will play for the rest of their lives. And second, it was an honor to watch and listen as Maria played to her father and to no one else, and to see him listen to her with complete adoration just like all those other parents had done hours earlier. He gave her music when she was young, and she gave him music to the end of his life. That kind of love is hard to see out o the streets where I spend my time. This intimacy happens in kitchens and living rooms and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share those moments.

Makes me think I should do something more with my dad. But there isn't a lot of music written for flute and tuba. Thank God. So I hope that it's enough to say thanks Dad, for putting music into my life.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Conversation Starters

For the last three weeks I wore a cast on my right arm because I broke my right elbow. I was soooooo excited when it came off and stayed off on Monday! I never thought I’d miss it. But…

It’s interesting how people react to another person’s injury. Here in Italy it gets you a lot of attention. I had so many opportunities to practice my Italian because it seemed some days that everyone wanted to talk about my injury and ask me questions. Usually they would start with “Poor thing….is it broken?” and then there would be the inevitable questions about how did I do it, how long ago, how long will I have the cast, etc. People who would never talk to me usually would stop me to talk about my health and future welfare.

It was sweet, really, to be sought out by others for awhile. Because people really do move as far away from me as possible in the crosswalk when waiting for a light to change. They really do look at me from the top of my head to my shoes and get those lines between their eyebrows that make them look angry. Maybe their eyes are bad and they have to squint to see me…but I don’t think so. And no, not everyone does this, but it is by far the most common reaction I get from people when I am outside the center of the city. So for three weeks, even though the cast sucked, it allowed people to show an interested in me.

I have discovered something that works as good as a cast. And I don’t have to hurt myself to do it. I may have mentioned that I started babysitting a two year old about a week ago. One day her mom met us at the park and took her home on the bike, while I pushed the empty stroller to their home. Old women who would normally give me the stink eye smiled at me and said good afternoon. They stepped off the sidewalk into the street so that I wouldn’t have to struggle with the stroller. Other women pushing strollers with actual children in them nodded and smiled. It was like being back in Minnesota for five precious blocks. It happened again when I walked her home from school a different day. Crowds parted for us, people smiled and waved. At the park one woman asked me to watch her child while she parked her bike. From what I can understand and observe, here in Italy those with children and those who care for them are like an endangered species. They are to be protected and cared for, maybe not revered, but definitely respected and encouraged to do the best gosh darn job they can with the future leaders of Italy.

Put simply, Italians love family and children. If I am part of this process than I am part of the family too. Even if I am a blonde, blue-eyed American who speaks crappy Italian. Because those kids are going to want to learn American English and who better to teach them than me?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Listening to My Sensible Voice

My inner, sensible voice has been talking to me a lot lately. This sensible voice has been with me for as long as I remember. I was brought up to carefully consider my thoughts, impulses and the consequences before making any important decisions. The truth is, I was brought up to treat most decisions as major decisions. Nothing was too trivial to escape some form of scrutiny. Sometimes what and when I ate would be dissected, sometimes clothing. And it wasn’t just my silent inside voice that I heard. My parents would ask me questions so that in the future I would know the right questions to ask myself. They weren’t wrong to do this. The skills I learned from their questions have helped me to survive some pretty difficult periods in my life that were filled with hard decisions.

A couple of years ago I realized that I had fallen into the habit of using those same old questions to make new decisions. This set of questions I always used were partly my parents and partly my own. But they were all formed during my youth and early adulthood and really, when I looked closely at them, didn’t serve me well at all in my maturity. So I began the process of remodeling my decision-making process. There have been a few bumps along the way but thankfully there is no permanent damage from the process. It was a pretty close call for awhile, but there are no tattoos or additional piercing, no silicone or hairdos to regret. I make no promises for the future though, I still sometimes consider a tattoo. No I don’t know why.

The big question in my life right now is…am I using this college degree that I spent so much money on? Well, technically you all pitched in to offer me the opportunity to borrow money for college at a lower interest rate, and someday soon I will start paying you back. But the question remains, now that I have it, am I using this education fully? I have actually been thinking about this for quite some time and I have an answer. Not the answer I would have with my youthful set of questions, but the answer for me as I am now.

Because me “as I am now” was only possible because of college. Sounds corny, I guess. But I would never have been pushed to ask new questions or to try new things if I hadn’t been at Augsburg. I wouldn’t have friends from widely different backgrounds and lifestyles. I would have continued to think the world outside a twenty mile radius from my house was a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. I learned some very valuable skills that built on the foundation my parents help me to create.

I learned to reflect on my experiences. Being able to examine separate moments and an experience as a whole has helped me to define not just what I like or don’t like, not even simply what I want, but to better understand what I need and how to meet the needs of those around me without sacrificing myself.

I discovered my spiritual side. Please don’t try to put a label on it. It is not Christian or Buddhist or Islamic. It is simply an understanding that this life we know is not an accident and that a great power exists to manage it all. It provides what we need, not what we want. It always seeks balance. It is love. I found my way to this personal peace through classes and discussions with classmates and professors. And by the way, not always religion professors. Almost every prof I had was willing to discuss the possible spiritual aspect of their given topic, and that was a great gift to me.

I have learned to trust myself. For many years I thought that my parents gave me all those questions because they didn’t think I could find them on my own. I was wrong. But I learned to distrust my own thoughts and needs, and then I began to lose my trust in other people as well. I figured out that my parents have total faith in me, they just did what parents do…offer advise they never expect to be taken. So I trust myself like a two year old. I believe that if I want to do something then I can. I know that I will never make a decision that could hurt me or the people I love permanently. And I am learning to trust other people again. This one is hard, but is something that was absolutely necessary for me during my years at college. I became too involved with activities on campus to shut myself off from others and so had to trust that when someone said they would do something, they actually would.

The most important thing I learned, if you can learn this, is courage. None of the other things I learned would be possible without courage. It takes courage to honestly look at yourself and name those things that make you unhappy. It takes courage to admit that you are powerless, and that instead of making you weak it gives you great strength. It takes courage to trust anyone, and I think that hardest of all for me was to trust myself. And it takes courage to take all these discoveries and do more than pat myself on the back for becoming more enlightened. I was able to define what I wanted my life to look like, and then find a way to make it happen.

So to answer my initial question, no, I am not using my degree as a degree. But I am using the experience I took getting the degree to live a life I never imagined possible before I went back to college. I wouldn’t change a thing about my past…it got me to this moment and it is, to coin a terribly overused phrase, priceless.

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Week in Review

I know...where the heck have I been? I'll give you the short and sweet version of the last week and promise to be better in the future.

Monday (a rainy one by the way) I got a message from a friend that she was in Rome and on her way to see me. I love company, even though it means running through the house like a madwoman wrestling the larger dust bunnies into the trrash and cleaning the toilet. We spent Monday, Tuesday and most of Wednesday walking everywhere in Florence. We both like to draw, so Kristine told me to decide where to go that would offer opportunities to draw. We walked miles each day and returned home in the early evenings to cook dinner and talk for hours. I'm proud to say that I pretty much walked this 23 year old flight attendant into the ground. With a cast.

On Wednesday we took the train to Assisi to see Leif and the group he was leading. We were very excited about this because the group was taking the same Art and Spiritualality course that Kristine and I had taken two years ago (and where I met Leif for those who don't know our history). It was wonderful to see the instructors again. They have both become good friends of mine in the last few years. We followed them for the day on Thursday and I led a yoga practice in an olive grove, yes with my cast. I am multi-talented.

Kristine left for Rome that evening to catch her flight home and I stayed in Assisi to hang out a little more with the class. OK, ya got me, staying with Leif was also pretty nice. Assisi is a town built on a hill. There are maybe two flat streets in town, every other street is definitely up or down. My one piece of advise for anyone staying in a town like this...no matter how daunting it may seem to have to climb to see everything, at the end of the day it is sheer heaven to walk down to your hotel. I also kept up with the 19 to 25 year-olds in the class. If it  sounds like I'm bragging, I am.

I came home on Friday evening, and after five days of walking all day in the bright Italian sun I was tired and a little sunburned. Saturday I went to the market and took a nap. Yes, Saturday was an exciting day, wasn't it? I got a call Saturday evening from a man who had asked me earlier about babysitting his daughter when I got the cast off. He said he was in a tight spot and needed my help, cast and all. So I agreed to watch his daughter the next day. It could have been worse I suppose. He took me to the home of another friend with children and said that we could kind of tag-team the babysitting. She watched the two little girls most of the time while I watched the 8 month old. It was fun to play with someone who thought bouncing was hilarious. It was sweet to hold a baby again and watch him nestle in to fall asleep. It would have been an even better experience if my cast didn't weigh as much as the kid.

At 1pm the sunshine in Florence becomes brutal and my 40 minute walk there became an hour and fifteen minute walk home. Too tired to cook, I fell into bed for a much deserved nap. Yes I lead an exciting life. I woke up feeling not quite right, with a sore throat and runny nuse that was more than allergies. I did actually cook dinner and went to bed early. I kept waking up because my nose was stuffy, my throat was dry and I had to pee constantly because of the water I was drinking for my throat. It was a long night. At what I was certain must be 5 or 6 in the morning I looked at the clock...1:35. Seriously? I didn't think I could feel worse but when I woke up in the actual morning my breathing sounded like Darth Vador and I had little or no voice. My eyeballs were hot. Not a good start to one of the biggest days of my life here in Florence.

That's right, the day has finally arrived. The cast comes off, x-rays will be taken and hopefully no new cast will be put on. I can only imagine what I looked like walking to the hospital...red burning eyes barely open from lack of sleep, swinging my Popeye arm back and forth to keep myself moving and wiping my endlessly dripping nose with the other as I struggled to get enough air through my nose and throat to stay conscious. Luckily a friend agreed to meet me at the hospital to provide any translating I might need. She had to speak for me too sometimes.

I feel like there should be a drum roll, a fanfare, maybe some fireworks. This is a huge deal for me. If they leave the cast off I have my independence back. I really want this. The doctor sat at the desk while the nurse cut the cast off. He came over, asked if it hurt as he moved it around for, oh, 20 seconds and said I wouldn't need x-rays. They will leave the cast off. Just start with small movements and I'll be fine. And we left. Sorrt of anti-climactic, yes? My total cost for this adventure, without meds, was 22,60 Euro, or about $32.00. Bargain that it was I am going to do my best not to repeat this little escapade. A cast cramps my style, if I could be said to have one.

There you are, pretty much up to date. Oh, because of the train strike today in Umbria Leif won't be home tonight. In Italy unions don't have to announce an intent to strike, they can and do wake up one morning and say, let's just not go to work today because we want (insert request here). So no one to say "look, no cast" to, and no one to make sure I breathe all night. But I'm tough.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Perfect Disguise

I am in my sixth month of living here in Italy. Plenty of time to form some first impressions about life here and make a few “uninformed but feels true to me” observations about what it’s like to be a woman in Florence. More to the point, how I can on the surface more easily blend into the crowd, given that my eyes are light blue and my hair is bright blonde. That means changing my wardrobe, which is definitely American and for those with a keen fashion sense, entirely Midwestern.

In order to become part of the neighborhood and walk around without the constant staring I currently deal with I will have to make a few costume changes. Almost all of them are drastic changes that would guarantee if my family passed me on the street they would't recognize me. With their central Minnesota tastes and upbringing they would probably laugh discreetly into their hands and wonder what I was thinking when I got dressed or maybe that I got dressed in the dark. But what they think doesn’t apply here. I have made a short list of things I must do to disguise myself as a Florentine woman. Or at least as someone from the north of Italy.

I must “dress” every time I step out of my apartment door. Comfortable is not a consideration when dressing for the street. Goodbye to my comfortable, lived in jeans and t-shirts and hello to dark blue, skin tight jeans with a crease ironed into them topped by several layers of shirts and sweaters. A tailored suit in a strong color would be better. A long top or short dress over leggings is acceptable. Pajama bottoms and your oldest t-shirt should never leave the bedroom. I bet these women don’t have pajamas, they probably float around in negligees and high heel mules with fluffy stuff on the toes.

Ponytails are for working out and for young girls. And even they have the good sense God gave them to wear a ribbon, fake flower or a series of barrettes to dress it up a bit. Of course, so many of these women have acres of gorgeous hair that curls and stays put. It has to be fun to do stuff with their hair. Mine looks combed for five minutes and holds a curl for less than that. Keeping it in the ponytail is a struggle, anything fancier will require the purchase of blow dryers and curling irons and hair “products” by the case.

At the very least, if I won’t dress more formally, I should be wearing make up. A nice daytime coating of foundation, mascara and a strong lip color is vital for women over the age of 30. Very strong or bright lip color is essential, so that when they frown or press their lips together in disapproval it can be seen for blocks. OK, I’ll try to be generous here…maybe they are tsk-tsking behind their lips and pitying my horrible fashion sense, but I don’t think so.

I must become bedazzled. Shiny is very, very in here. Bright rivets and buttons on jeans, rhinestones too. Rhinestones on everything. Pants, skirts, tights, shirts, jackets and shoes. Some women seem to find the rhinestone a little too flashy but never fear, they have options. There are sequins for the discerning and sophisticated woman and when used liberally give every outfit that little bit extra sure to catch someone’s eye. Even t-shirts designed to make a political statement are fair game for bedazzling. Yesterday I saw a woman with a Che Guevara t-shirt, but only his cigarette was bedazzled. I’m unclear if she liked Che or liked smoking and I wasn’t gonna ask. My guess is that the delicates these women wear are also bedazzled so that they have a complete ensemble, not that they would show anyone, but they would know.

Not everyone bedazzles their clothing. Women “of a certain age” and working women often opt for shiny material in bright colors as more suitable for their situation. And of course you must accessorize. Jewelry is large, chunky and (everybody now) shiny. Large, long necklaces, drop earrings to the shoulders, rings and charm bracelets that jangle and catch the light even during a lunar eclipse are essential to the wardrobe.

I must learn to do everything in heels. This won’t be easy. I think these women have spent their whole lives wearing these things. They probably get training heels for first communion. And they can move…wow. I don’t know how many times I have been passed on the sidewalk by a four foot tall 60-ish woman in stilettos talking ninety miles an hour on her cell phone and not even breathing hard. Flip-flops are for college students, Keens and Chacos for tourists, and flats for teenagers. The serious woman in Florence wears heels with everything. Boots, dress shoes, sandals and, yes even tennis shoes have heels. Because the tennies are technically wedges they are typically jazzed up (we could say bedazzled) by making them silver or gold metallic and yes, shiny. Flats can be worn if necessary but then have to be actually bedazzled, the more the better. Boots and sandals this year appear to be sporting numerous straps and rivets, the more the better. My next accidental fall in Florence will more than likely be from the top of a pair of four inch stilettos, but I will look fabulous on the way down.

Showing any amount of cleavage is acceptable as long as you cover your shoulders. This one I really don’t understand and that may very well be because I was raised Lutheran. Catholic sensibilities are very different. I once had a boyfriend lecture me on the views of the Catholic church regarding birth control as support for his NOT using a condom as he undressed for premarital sex. So he was Catholic when it served his purpose and not Catholic when it didn’t. Maybe it’s the same thing for these women. Maybe the strict rules about covering knees and shoulders pushed these women to show off something the priest didn’t feel strongly enough about to restrict. Maybe Italian women have ugly shoulders. We may never know. Whatever the reason may be, the result is that women flaunt what they got while keeping their shoulders discreetly covered. I wear my tank tops and get the evil eye. Makes me wish I had cleavage to flaunt, but all I have are great shoulders and I will be showing them off despite the glares and pursed, ruby red lips.

Learn to smoke. Smoking here does not make you a pariah. You are not forced to smoke out of sight behind the building next to the organic dumpster. When you aren't allowed to smoke inside you stand in the doorway. Smoking is everywhere and they start at a very young age. I don't find smoking attractive, but Italians seem to. They have elevated smoking to an art form. My favorite is the guy in the park who does his fitness walk with  cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. Classy. Maybe, with the right clothes, the hair and the make up I'll look like Greta Garbo, or some other elegant 40's movie star who smokes with style. Maybe someday I would even have that sexy smokers voice that some women get. My luck I'd end up sounding like Jimmy Durante.

More is more. It was 85F here yesterday and most women were still wearing a shirt, scarf and jacket. Some still in layers of shirts and sweaters and coats. Italy is a center for fashion and they love to try things out. They actually wear the stuff we look at in Vogue and wonder "how do they walk in that?" I am finding that there is not a lot of subtlety in Italy. Why they choose to dress this way I just don’t know, but it fascinates me. I watch them sometimes and try to figure it out. I see a woman in a mini-dress with plunging neckline and long sleeves, (bedazzled) tights, boots with 3 inch heels and fringe, one purse, one extra bag for possible purchases, wearing her weight in gold jewelry and often being escorted by an elderly man who makes those purchases for her and I wonder…who told her that looked good?

I think, as an experiment, I will go to a shop and try on everything that my Midwestern upbringing says is wrong. I will probably look like every other woman in the store…and that’s the whole point, right?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Last Day of My First Job in Italy

Monday was my last day of dog sitting. Don’t take it the wrong way if I say “Thank God.” It was fun, but of course we are strangers who don’t follow the routine exactly and so every animal expressed their concern about the (in my opinion miniscule) adjustments to their schedules in a variety of ways. It kept me on my toes and a little nervous the whole time, wondering who would do what next.

The cats took turns refusing to come in at night. Not a big deal as cats are well prepared to live out doors 24/7. It’s only humans who think cats would prefer to live inside and eat food out of a can. All you people who buy fancy cat toys for your pets listen up. I watched one of the cats play with a rock like house cats play with a catnip stuffed “mouse” and have as much fun on a garden bench with a rug tossed over it as he would on a hand crafted cat house with all the goodies attached. One night I decided that the one cat in already in the house didn’t need to be fed because it was already in. Cats have ways of showing their displeasure, like wandering through your bedroom at all hours making meowy-growlly noises in their throats and NOT using the cat box but continuing to do their business. Next time, as ridiculous as it seems, they will get fed every night before bed.

The dogs, waking up in a bedroom with no people in it (and being unable to tell time) thought that 5 or 6am was morning. Obviously, as the people who were usually in the bed were not there and so must be up and around already. We tried simply staying in our bed one morning and letting them wander the house for a bit, bit that too was a bad idea. I guess not all dogs desperately ask to be let out in the morning, but still find a place to relieve themselves. Thank goodness they have no carpets in their house.

This day the owners were scheduled to arrive around 3pm. The redhead, after four days of refusing to walk very far with me, decided that morning we should walk the entire perimeter of the property before the housekeeper came to feed them. The blonde tagged along of course so by the time we got back they were both covered in the stuff a forest is made of. Sticks, burrs, dead leaves, grass, dirt, bugs and (eeeewwwww) spiders. I wanted them to look good for their owners, not like I had left them outside for the entire five days so I got out the brush and went to work. I had brushed them in previous days for quite awhile to get rid of some of their winter coats and by the time I finished this last brush up I had gathered enough hair for a small sofa cushion. I was covered in dog hair and what I assume to be dog dander. I am coming to the conclusion that I might be a little allergic to dogs. Or there is dog hair so deep in my sinuses that it will takes months to get rid of the tickle in my nose. But they looked good…beautiful in fact.

After their breakfast they settled in for their post meal naps, the blonde out in the garden and the redhead near my feet while I read architecture magazines and enjoyed the sunshine. She got up at one point and I assumed she walked over to where the other dog was sleeping to get in the shade. But I couldn’t see either of them because of the charming, ancient stone shelter situated close to the house. She was gone so long that I thought I should check on her…and she wasn’t there. Yikes! Again, the thought of losing an entire animal, especially their favorite one, made me feel a little sick. OK, terrified.

I started walking around the house, calling her name and asking her to go into the house. She was not in the upper or lower gardens. I walked further away and followed the fence like we had earlier in the day. Halfway around the property I saw a red head above the tall grass under a tree. She looked quite happy lying there. I toyed with the idea of letting her stay there, but the owners had told me that she never left Monica’s side, so this was unusual behavior and I wasn’t sure if she could find her way back. She seemed disinclined to leave that place, despite my begging. Yes, begging. I just wanted to be able to present them with two dogs and two cats intact at 3:30 and get home. So I hiked back to the house (remember, idyllic mountains of Tuscany) to get a biscuit with which to bribe the little darling back to the house. I remembered to bring one for the blonde too, even though she didn’t leave the yard she did make the trek with me to find the missing pet. We get back to the yard as a group, so I felt accomplished.

I looked at the two dogs, blissfully panting with little smiles on their faces, and I could tell the redhead was thinking “That was pretty cool.” I decided not to brush them yet again, but to open my motherly eyes in the back of my head. That one taste of freedom and independence will inspire further escapes. She actually didn’t try to wander off again, thank goodness. She moved on to something all new and exciting. She was really getting in touch with her inner dog . Suddenly she started digging at the bottom of a probably hundred year old tree like she stood a chance of uprooting it. Silly dog. And of course, dogs are single minded enough to remain focused on the current fascination for hours. No matter how many times I tried to distract her, yes even tried to bribe with another biscuit, she kept going back to that tree. Finally I sat next to her at the bottom of the tree and held her back from digging. We didn’t leave the tree, but we tried very, very hard not to dig.

That’s when we all fell asleep. I was leaning against a warm stone wall with the redhead’s nose tucked into my lap and the rest of her curled up next to me, while the blonde stretched out on the other side of me with her back pushing against my leg. I can’t be 100% sure, but I think one of the cats (creatively named Meow) was sleeping on the wall above my head. Every once in awhile the redhead would wake up and try to dig, but I managed to persuade her to stop. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the day sitting on the ground. It’s pretty uncomfortable after awhile with a 40 lb (~20 kilos) cast. She was perfectly content at that point to follow me into the house and sit under the table while I read. She stayed that way until the owners arrived. In fact, she didn’t bark at all when they drove in. All the animals were accounted for and I hadn’t burned the house down, so the owners quickly said that they already had plans for August and would be calling in the next few days to confirm the dates with us so that we wouldn’t book any other jobs for those days.

When her husband drove me back to town he remarked that the redhead was so relaxed and calm, very unlike the dog they left. But he seemed happy about it. I told him she might be just extremely tired from her two long journeys this morning. I described the second solo walk and he said that she never goes off on her own. That she must be finally feeling that their home is her home. I told him about the digging. I had to, he couldn’t possibly miss the pile of dirt she created. Again, instead of concern he was excited. That’s what her breed does, they like to dig! She is really getting comfortable with their home and her life there and he was thrilled. He looked at me like I’d done something magical, which I didn’t. He also mentioned the coming trip in August with excitement.

I’m torn. Yay, I will have work. But it has been almost overwhelming. I had to stop and remind myself that next time I won’t be wearing the cast from hell and Leif will not be working elsewhere. It will be August, when Florence becomes an oven and tourists go to the coast instead. And so we will get to be in the much cooler mountains in a quiet and beautiful place. With two furry friends, two witches familiars and a nightingale in an olive tree.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Living Left-handed: Day Seven

Today the housekeeper didn't show up to feed the animals. We had a pretty one-sided conversation yesterday in which I thought she said that she would be here..but I guess I really need to get better at Italian. Leif had a bike tour today. That left only me, the one-armed wonder, to feed the dogs and cats. Luckily these aren't animals that demand to be fed the instant their slaves, I mean owners, get up. They are perfectly content to sit in the sun and wait for me to decide I'm ready. Which is good, because there is prep work to be done, rice to cook and meat to parboil before they can eat. It went pretty good. I made sure the stock pot wasn't over my weight limit of my good hand. (this is an experiment, calling my left hand my "good" hand. I'm trying to encourage it to perform a little more smoothly by using positive reinforcement.) I used a "mostly" sharp knife to avoid accidental dismemberment, even though that is covered by my special health insurance.

Except for a small rice spill all went well. Just for your information, in case you didn't already know, even one grain of cooked, sticky rice is difficult to clean up with one hand. A normal person gets all the errant rice stuck to their less dexterous hand, holds it over the trash, and brushes wipes flings the rice off with the good hand. Even with two hands it's a pain in the ass. Yes? Once you have cooked rice stuck to your only hand all you can do is shake it madly and beat it against the edge of the trash can, hoping that the force of the impact will separate your hand from the rice. Ever seen those videos of cats trying to walk through water? I pretty much looked like that, with the occasional downward stroke at the edge of the can. My guess is they are going to find rice dried to their authentic rough-hewn beams on the ceiling and wonder how that happened.

Yesterday I decided I was finally comfortable enough with the cast, and pan-free enough, to attempt an actual shower. I was really looking forward to it, because as you might remember our hot water heater finally got replaced after I broke my elbow and I have yet to take a shower that can boast hot water for more than about 45 seconds. I got all my clean clothes together, grabbed a fresh towel from the stack in our room and climbed the (narrow) stairs to our bathroom. I looked at the shower in the corner and started to laugh.

Our shower/tub at home is a 6 foot model with doors that fold away against the wall. Plenty of space to maneuver around in and handy for situations like the one I find myself in now. The one here is the kind of shower that people see in a show room and think about all the floor space they are saving. And it's cute, don't get me wrong. Curved doors wrap around the shower space like a cocoon. A normal, reasonably flexible person can use it easily. But there is only about a foot and a half opening to enter and not much more space once you are in.

After some thought and mental calculations (not my strong suit) I decided there were two approaches I could take. I could enter cast first, which would allow me to keep it dry, but I wasn't sure if I could hold my arm up like the Statue of Liberty for longer than a minute. Well, not while turning on water, guiding the shower head to hit all the important spots and applying generous amounts of soap. If I dropped anything I would be screwed. I also wasn't certain that I could slide the door shut once I got in, or worse, open the door again once I was finished. The other option, entering body first and slowly turning to ease the cast in afterward would allow me to hold the arm lower but increased the chances of getting the cast wet by about a million percent. Really, all that hot water at my disposal and no space large enough to accommodate me and the cast. I had to laugh, what else could I do?

So I turned to consider my options and there was the bidet. I think everyone knows my reluctance to explore this alternative to the full shower or bath. But I refused to be beaten by this bathroom and quite frankly I was tired of feeling dirty. Between the broken elbow and the layer of dog hair I have been sporting lately, I just really need to smell like soap for once. I won't bore you with the details, but when I left the bathroom I was squeaky clean except for my hair. For all you bidet-lovers out there, I'm sure I didn't use it right. I didn't come away from the experience all starry eyed. Just clean.

I grabbed some shampoo from the shower (I could reach it without getting in. Yeah, the shower is that small.) and my towel and headed down to the kitchen. When all else fails there is always the kitchen sink. I got myself in position, turned on the water and started to wash. Well, I got everything wet, then realized that the shampoo I brought down wasn't shampoo but conditioner. Crap! I wasn't going to drag a headful of dripping wet hair up four flights of stairs so naturally I grabbed the first available soap-like substance...dish soap. So now my hair is not just clean: it is grease-free and sanitized and smells kind of like cucumbers. I believe it was also an ecologically sound choice, if I am reading the bottle correctly.

The dogs are getting used to me so we are all getting along pretty good now. They bark less, run and play more and come by for affection a lot more. Since I was feeling so clean I thought they might like to pretty up a little bit too. No, I didn't give them baths. That would have been a disaster from start to soaking wet finish. But I did find a brush and they are still carrying around a good part f their winter undercoat. When I was young one of my chores on the farm was to brush the dogs every day in the spring to get rid of their winter coats. I spent hours a week brushing our collie and putting all the hair in that ubiquitous receptacle of my life - the Kemp's one gallon ice cream pail. They are good for everything you know...food storage, carrying basket, toy box, barf pail. There is usually a stack of them as tall as me in my parent's basement and I rarely leave their house without taking something home with me, lovingly placed in a festive plastic pail. But I digress...the dogs today loved the attention and I kind of hoped brushing them would slow the migration of hair from their bodies to my clothing. Because I'm not really sure just how much dog hair a person can ingest and inhale before it becomes toxic. There must be a website out there with a calculator for this.

Other than that it has been pretty boring. Sunshine, birds singing happily, flowers blooming, gorgeous views, great food, fantastic wine..what? Did you just tell me to shut up? Don't despair, spring is coming I hear.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jobs NOT To Take With A Broken Elbow: Zoo Keeper

It's been an interesting day. But I suppose you need a little background first. We (and when I say we I mean mostly me) are dog sitting until Monday. The owners are lovely people, their home is beautiful and I am so grateful for the chance to earn a little money. There are two dogs: one big white and gray furry puffball and one smaller sleeker strawberry blonde. No idea what breeds, so please don't ask. There are also two cats, both variations of black and gray striped, but cats are less dependent on people for help. We came on Wednesday, nearly 24 hours early so that we could "learn the routine." The owners left yesterday afternoon and we have been in charge since. Yeah, right.

Last night went far better than I expected. The dogs sleep with their owners in their room and after a little walking back and forth they settled in for the night.We didn't have to sleep in the owners suite and the dog didn't want to sleep in ours. Which was good cuz if they did there would be no floor left to walk on. Not a big room. The only glitch was that I couldn't lure one of the cats in. Yes, they bribe them to come inside with food because there are wild boar and other aggressive animals out there. So one of the cats refused to come and spent the night outside. I was naturally a little nervous, no one wants to lose an entire animal the first night. Cats have nine lives, so I was pretty sure she'd show up in the morning.

Aaah morning. The birds started singing at about 4am, the missing cat showed up around 5 and yowled her displeasure at us from the porch, and at 6:30 we all said what the heck, let's just start the day. Which means letting both dogs out the front door (closer to the bedrooms), down a flight of stairs and across the house to let them back in at the kitchen door. Then back up the three flights of stairs to our bedroom and one more to our bathroom.

We ate our breakfast under the watchful gaze of the three animals who slept inside. The other cat sat in the doorway with her back turned towards us. That really hurt. (sarcasm...lost on a cat by the way) The redhead, who has a little crush on Leif I think, followed him into the studio where the computer is located while the blonde sat with me outside. They did a great job of waiting patiently for the housekeeper to come and give them their food. Actually she has to cook it first. The animals eat well here. One cat eats on the windowsill, the other eats on one of the computer stations in the studio. One dog eats in the studio (on paper, she's messy) while the other one eats outside. I will never remember all this stuff. I was looking forward to when she would be gone and we could relax a little, but then the gardener came and started mowing and weed-whacking. Which kept the dogs restless and me wondering where he was going to pop up next. He moves quick for an old guy.

The animals miss their owners, so they spent the day kind of wandering around listlessly. The redhead kept watching the stairs to see if they were coming back. They were content to lay around taking numerous naps and I tried to spend time petting them so they might eventually like me. The blonde barks at everything, so I have to listen a bit to decide when to go out and suggest (I don't think they've been yelled at) that she stop barking. Mid-afternoon I had a "duh" moment. The dogs only know Italian, and have no desire to learn English. So I had to start talking to them in Italian. Really bad Italian, I'm sure. They probably laugh at me behind my back. But they also seemed to perk up a little bit. I will never be able to maintain the running dialog I have heard so many pet owners have with their pets, it is exhausting. But I will talk more than I usually do.

Leif had to work in the afternoon and that's kind when everything went crazy. I was tired because I am doing far more and trying to use my right arm more than I have since I broke it. The dogs saw one more person leave, and they weren't real sure about me yet. It seemed like suddenly a great many things happened in quick succession.

The garden looks lovely but the habitat for the insects has been removed so they all decided to move into the house. Gnats, flies and something that looks like a mayfly on steroids. When they hit the walls and lights it sounds like darts in dart board. I learned to duck when necessary and swat when one goes kamakaze on me. Otherwise I pretty much ignore them. Actually, I was a little afraid that they might swarm together and attack me if I went on the offensive with a rolled up newspaper.

When said gardener left for the day the neighbor's dog snuck in the motorized gate. Accident? Or was he having a little fun at my expense? Astra is a greyhound looking dog that trembles constantly and looks like she never eats. Well, she probably burns more calories during a meal than she takes in. She also seems a little less intelligent than the other dogs.

The motorized gate became possessed when I tried to get Astra back out. It wouldn't open, then only halfway, then closed when I wanted it to open. Of course Astra kept trying to get back in while my dogs kept trying to get out. So the gate became even more confused as four bodies kept passing the electronic eye. At one time I thought I had it. Everyone was on the correct side of the gate. I relaxed...stupid move. Astra crossed the electric eye on the outside of the gate and it magically opened for her. I hadn't pushed a button, it just started to move again. I started telling my dogs to come and Astra to go in Italian. Oh my god, they listened. I pushed the button to close the gate...and it did. I held my breath for a long time and it stayed shut.

At 6pm the second dog feeding of the day occurs. The rice was ready from the morning, but they also needed a little meat (I think). Yikes, I have to open cans. Not with an opener thank goodness, but even the "easy open" cans require two good hands. It took quite awhile, a lot of swearing and it hurt quite a bit but I got them open. What worried me most was the possibility that I would cut myself on the lid and bleed to death because I couldn't apply pressure. Or drive anywhere cuz I didn't have a car. Or be able to get out of the gate that is possessed by demons. This is how my mind works.

I tried to make myself dinner for the first time, alone and in someone else's kitchen while two dogs and a cat wound their way between my legs or lay in the only open path between the pantry and the stove. I learned that if you keep hacking at parmesan with a sharp knife you don't need a grater. I found out that I can whisk an egg with either hand. It is possible to slice a scallion with one hand if you stab it with a fork first. Of course I didn't realize this right away. Kind of a trial and error (way more error) period that felt like an eternity, especially after the cat/dog food can episode. By the time I was ready to turn my omelette out of the pan I was so wiped out that I almost let the eggs fall to the floor when the cast iron pan started to unscrew from the handle. Yeah, it was that kind of day.

The wireless stopped working and that was the last straw. All I wanted after this day was to check my e-mail and see what my friends were up to on facebook. Is that too much to ask? I sent Leif a text, short and sweet. "Am having a bad time. Come home as soon as you can." Wonderful man...he called and said he was on the way and bringing wine.

Of course when he got here the gate worked perfectly, the wireless was magically restored and all the animals came in when they were supposed to. He knew better than to question me, though. And a good thing too, because after he had been here about an hour things started to happen again. We lured the smaller cat into the studio and shut it in like we were told happens every night. It was not happy; loudly not happy. Then the redhead wanted to tinkle so I took her out, and of course the other dog wanted to come too. As I was walking them back into the house Leif said "The cat just went out, was that all right?" Uh, no. My greatest fear is that I will lose one of their animals. Oh well. We had one cat in, two dogs to bribe into bed with biscuits and finally we fell into bed, exhausted.

I sure hope tomorrow is better.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gravity Sucks: Part II

Today we once again made our way to Santa Maria Nuova, the hospital of yesterday’s adventures. Ths time we would be seeing an orthopedic doctor. I'm pretty sure just writing that on the appointment slip doubles the cost of this visit. Over breakfast we discussed what my questions were. This is important, because often Leif will have to step in and use Italian to get the answer. But unless I get him to first understand how important the real answer is to me, he may simply accept the first answer they give. Which here in Italy can be a non-answer intended to shut you up.

My big questions involve these mysterious prescriptions that came with no instructions. According to Leif, it is the patient who is responsible for getting the information, not the doctor or pharmacist to provide it. I understood the anti-inflammatory (with codeine). It’s for pain and the nifty part about this one is that it is a powder that sparkles in water and almost tastes like lemons. I just have to be careful when I use it, it puts me to sleep almost immediately. Until last night I wasn’t sure what the pill “for the stomach” was for…my stomach was fine. Until I tried to eat. Nothing tasted good, I felt nauseous and just not good at all. So the shots (that I now find are for “circulation and to dissolve things in the blood stream” make eating almost impossible. I’m fine till I try to eat. Poor Leif has to give me the injections, I don’t have the dexterity in my left hand to do this…yet.

Enough about the drugs, on to the visit with the specialist. First we had to get there with this monstrous thing on my arm. The bus is too small and crowded so we took a cab there. Extravagant, I know, but I’m not too strong yet. Not certain if we would have another long wait, we packed some snacks next to my paperwork and x-rays. Oh, you store your files, not the hospital. We handed the receptionist the envelope with my file in it and only moments later got to see the doctor. I know, wow.

He was very nice. We had to get me entered into his computer first. Because they are using my passport name for all official paperwork in Italy I appear to have a new first name…MicheleMarie. Actually, when an Italian reads my name I don’t recognize it. Meekaylay Mahreeai Rahoolate. I feel so exotic. We weren’t invited to sit down and so stood there as the nurse asks some personal questions while the doctor finishes with the computer. Where am I from? How long am I here? Oh you have the same address…oh, you are more than friends? She and Leif have a quick discussion. Apparently I am a fiancĂ©e without a ring. Hey, whatever gets me healthcare.

The break is piccolina (small) the doctor tells me. It sounds almost cute, but it is still a break. The cast, yes this awful huge ugly cast, will stay on for 20 days. We discussed smaller and lighter, but this required paging through a catalog, it would probably have arrived the day before it was scheduled to come off and would have made me look like the Terminator. So we will stick with this prehistoric looking cast out of a 1950’s health class movie on the dangers of riding motorcycles. “Sally foolishly rode on the back of her boyfriend’s motorcycle and after taking a curve too fast she will be wearing this cast to prom *gasp*” as the black and white film shows Sally being escorted into the dance by her date (we must assume not the boy on the motorcycle, he looks whole) while her friends laugh behind their hands.

He takes out his Italian prescription pad and starts writing. First a paper for the next appointment. Then a paper for today’s appointment (I guess for billing?) and finally a prescription for an injection…Leif stops him. We already have that. Well, this is just in case I think I need more. Let’s think about this for a minute. I’m supposed to self-prescribe for a drug that dissolves foreign material in the blood stream…exactly how do I know if I “need more?” He seemed reluctant to answer that question and since he holds the fate of my cast in his hands I will simply avoid refilling this prescription. Injections are no fun anyway, especially when they make a person so sick they can’t eat.

They wave goodbye and send us to the Emergency Room to make the next appointment. No, I don’t know why there. Their own receptionist looked quite bored and might have welcomed the work, but I am learning when to question the system and when not to. This is a “not” time. We were greeted like old friends by the receptionist and several others as we walked into the ER. The man who cursed me with this cast stopped and asked if everything was good. He looked so concerned I gave up hating him and smiled as I told him it was very good. Why hold a grudge?

Now came the part I was dreading…the bill for being seen by a specialist. Yesterday was an “emergency” but today was not. We all know what this kind of service costs in the states. I was pretty sure I would be wiped out. The bill was 22.60 Euros or $30.50 dollars. I don’t think you can use the tissues in the emergency room in the States for less than that. We hurried to the nifty little machine they have for paying your bill and got out before they changed their minds.

I don’t have to go back till the 23rd of May, interestingly enough the same day I also have to return to the Questura for my permesso. I wonder if this is some kind of endurance test. If I pass I get to stay and an "I heart Florence" t-shirt?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gravity Sucks

It's been a long weekend, but here are the highlights, if you want to cal them that.

I did something to my right arm this morning and now it hurts like the dickens. What I did isn’t important. Really. What’s really important is that I hurt, enough so that I am a bit concerned about how I will manage life until Leif gets back. I don’t know if I mentioned that he is on an 8 day tour with a bunch of doctors from Michigan and won’t be home till Saturday afternoon.

I used to brag about how I am pretty good at using both my hands. “My left hand,” I often say, “is more than a way to stop myself from falling onto my left side.” A shower and lunch, along with other trivial activities have convinced me that I am right handed. Exclusively right handed.

I have been getting progressively stiffer this afternoon. It wasn’t so bad at first…a little sore but no big deal. My first clue that this was going to be a little more difficult than I thought was when I tried to empty the ice tray.

It’s a perky yellow thing made of soft plastic. I grabbed it with both hands and started to do the twist to release the cubes. But my right hand wasn’t really cooperating. I couldn’t seem to get my wrist to turn, or simply hold that side still while I let my left hand do the work. I quickly ran some cold water over the back side to help release them, but they seemed to want to stick. To be honest, I had no idea who might have filled the ice tray to begin with…there was hoarfrost on the ice. So it’s been there for awhile. I anchored the right side of the tray against the countertop with the dead weight of my right hand and held the palm of my left hand against the tray to warm it. It worked! Tiny cubes shaped like hearts, diamonds, clubs and spades fell onto the cloth I put down. Hey, furnished apartment! It must have been on sale…

Not perfect, but enough to ice my…gosh, what hurts more? My wrist, I thought at first, but then it seemed more like my elbow. With occasional twinges in my shoulder. I started with the wrist and just kept moving the bag up my forearm until I got to the elbow. I think the shoulder is just stiff from holding my arm still.
(This is where I stopped, because typing with one hand is a lot more tiring than one might think. And I had more important things to deal with…oh, my, not that you aren’t important, but…)

TUESDAY MORNINGUmmm, it’s been a tough weekend. I fell on my bike on Thursday morning. The thing I was worried I had hurt (my wrist) is fine, while the thing I didn’t even know I hurt (my elbow) nearly paralyzed me for a day and a half. It swelled up, it wouldn’t unbend or move at all and every muscle in my arm cramped up for the whole day and a half. I slept an hour at a time, using my party ice cubes to ice the elbow in between. They didn’t make my night more festive, but I was grateful for them all the same. I laughed every time I took them out of the freezer. I took Excedrin, because I don’t have ibuprofen. Yeah, I know, pointless.

I suppose I should have gone to a doctor right away, but I have several reasons that seemed really good at the time. 1) I wasn’t sure where to go. It’s a big town and I didn’t want to wander around half-assed looking for a hospital. 2) I wasn’t sure who to call, and I wasn’t comfortable calling brand new friends to say I might be broken and need a little help. 3) I knew I could get out of my apartment but didn’t have the two hands it requires to open the door to get back in. 4) I wasn’t up to trying out my Italian while trying not to pass out. I said they seemed like good reasons “at the time.”

So I decided to wait till Leif came back on Saturday, and it really did begin to improve. By Saturday I was feeling much better, as long as I didn’t hit my elbow on anything or make any sudden moves it hardly hurt at all. My elbow looked normal, just swollen. I could even straighten my arm slightly. I was pretty sure it wasn’t broken, just surprised by the sudden meeting with the cobblestones. I survived on muesli and pasta with oil til Saturday…it is amazing how many things I do that require two hands, or a very dexterous one hand.

We decided to wait till Monday to go to the hospital…there are good reasons! Saturday was Notte Bianca (white night) which is an all night, city wide party. There would be too many party-goers in the emergency room that night. Sunday he had to work. Leaving Monday. And by Monday it was feeling pretty good, for something that was obviously hurt. And off to the emergency room we went, although it wasn’t really an emergency anymore.

After my experience with the Questura on Tuesday, I wasn’t real excited about my first visit to an Italian emergency room. Yes, it’s the oldest hospital in Italy, but there are other sites I’d rather visit. I envisioned a dark waiting room filled with wheelchairs and stretchers inhabited by patients either comatose or moaning in pain. I imagined being ignored for hours as I wasn’t actively bleeding onto the floor or throwing up in a trash can. I knew there would be stacks of paperwork (all in Italian) and that I would have to sign 20 pieces of paper, with my left hand, agreeing to pay huge sums of money for treatment, the outcome of which the hospital could in no way be held responsible for.

The reality was nothing like this, thank goodness. With Leif there to interpret, and the fact that I have a domocilio (yet another classification of residency) I only got four pieces of paper to read and sign, which we dutifully filled out but no one ever asked us for them. We sat in the waiting room with four Americans in their early 20’s. One of them had dropped a scooter on his foot and the rest were there for support. Strange how in an American emergency room everyone sits in silence refusing to make eye contact with others. I do it. It’s quite a different experience when you are in a foreign country. Three hours later we were all still there, and had added a tourist from Florida with a twisted ankle and a strange rash, a girl from Sardenia (we never found out what was wrong with her) and another from Amsterdam who fell down some stairs and may have broken her finger, a guy from Mexico who was studying here and a sweet old Italian lady who was waiting for her husband. The conversation never stopped, and switched from English to Italian as the need arose.

The doctor comes out to the waiting room for the initial exam and asks questions. Scooter fell on your foot? Diagnosis: trauma…wait for men in orange to take you to x-ray. Fell off your bike onto your elbow? Diagnosis: trauma. Wait for someone (no color specified) to take you to x-ray. The lady from Florida mistakenly called the dottoressa (female doctor) a nurse. Diagnosis: trauma. Wait here.

Once they took me to x-ray things moved quickly. Sign one more paper stating that I understand that x-rays are harmful to fetuses and that if I have lied about being pregnant the hospital can’t be blamed for what might happen to my hypothetical unborn child. Then back to the emergency room, but this time to stand in a busy hallway waiting for…I don’t know what, really. They just left us there. So Leif started talking to people and suddenly I was whisked off to a quiet room to be encased in the “Jurrasic Park” model immobility cast. The technician assured me that what he was creating would provide support and protection for my elbow with as little weight as possible. Well, it does weigh less than one fashioned from, say, marble, but to say it is light is just an out and out lie. The sling is cleverly fashioned from some stretchy knit cotton polyester blend about 3 inches wide and tied with a gay knot at the back of my neck. Useless.

Leif and I talked a little while waiting for the dottoressa and agreed that this must be a temporary cast until the visit with the orthopedic guy tomorrow. She came, told me “yes, is broken” and arranged for an appointment tomorrow, as well as giving me three prescriptions. That’s it, a paper with the prescriptions written on it and no further instructions. One for pain (yay, and only three days too late), one for “the stomach” (whatever that means) and one that is injected into my tummy for “blood thrombosis” (again, whatever that means.) I intend to ask the ortho guy tomorrow. One positive note, this visit cost me and my insurance company 0 euros, which at the current rate of exchange is 0 dollars. Take that, American health care system. Of course, tomorrow's visit to the bone guy could be far more expensive than I want to think about.

On our way out we passed the scooter guy being wheeled into an actual room still accompanied by people wearing orange. The girl from Sardenia was just being brought back to be seen and threw us an air high five. The girl who fell down the stairs had a cast that enclosed the hurt finger, the palm of her hand and her arm to the elbow, but she was thankful to be leaving the hospital. The tourist from Florida who offended the dottoressa? When we left she was still waiting for someone to take her to x-ray.