08 April 2018

What I Did Instead

It's taken me quite a while to make myself sit and write this post.  Mostly because it's still just raw and difficult.  Back in November I talked about the difficulties of my first  year in Italy.  But Jack was doing well and I was looking forward to another trip with him to the mountains to celebrate his 6-month cancer survival and my birthday.  He didn't make it.  And my heart, which was already in a million pieces over the loss of Cheyenne, was suddenly in a million more.

Oh how I miss that sweet face!!!

Our last walk.  It was cold but clear and beautiful and perfect.
I don't want to relive the whole thing but we had several wonderful days where he got to do all his favorite things including going for long walks, going for car rides and eating pizza.  I was incredibly lucky to have him for the time that I did.

For the first time in over 13 years, there were no dogs in my house.  I didn't know what to do with myself.  But I had time off work already scheduled and it was use-or-lose.  I couldn't just sit at home and I'm lucky enough to live in a place where I get travel easily.

I went to Innsbruck, Austria.  The weather was highly uncooperative as far as the spectacular mountain views were concerned.  At least, I hear there are spectacular mountain views.


There are mountains there somewhere...so I'm told.

So I tried going up the mountain and this is what I could see looking down.  It was so thick that the cable car going further up was closed and all the skiers and snowboarders were just stuck waiting around in hopes that it lifted and they could go.  
I did have an amazing apple, beet, lemon tofu salad for dinner one night.  I'd go back just to have that again!  And maybe to get a better view next time.

I went to Modena, Italy.  It's a quaint little town with almost no tourist presence which was just fine by me.  If you've seen Master of None, it's where the Italy episodes are based.  I learned the difference between tortelloni (cheese inside) and tortellini (meat inside) and that you can easily pay over $100 for a small bottle of balsamic vinegar.


I went to Garmisch, Germany.  I know it's very popular with Americans due to the Edelweiss resort but I honestly don't see what all the fuss is about. I also got food poisoning so that might have clouded my impression.



I dog sat for people wanting to take trips and I've fostered a few dogs needing temporary, emergency housing.  It's getting more and more difficult to fly with pets and as much as I want to get another dog RIGHT NOW, I know I'm not ready.  Traveling helps ease the pain of being in an empty house.

I hope to get back to blogging again.  I knew that I had to write this post and I kept putting it off because I knew how difficult it would be. I promise that my next post will not contain sadness.  I'm hoping that 2018 is little kinder to my heart. 

I've been to the US twice (it was supposed to be one trip but a one-day government shutdown recalled me back to Italy and I had to go again) and I'm going next week.  I've been able to see a lot of friends (one whom I haven't seen since 2008) and family and that's been great.  Mom and Gran are coming to Portugal in June.  I have tickets to see Hamilton in London in October (I WILL conquer my dislike of that city!). I'm already working on memorizing the soundtrack :D  I'll be in Amsterdam again in 2 weeks (my return flight from the US happens to go through Amsterdam so, of course, I can't pass up the opportunity to spend a few days there). More adventures to be planned...stay tuned!

Sundays In My City

28 November 2017

Because Pineapple on Pizza is Wrong

Hold the pineapple and ditch the prawns - Italy pushes for pizza to be given World Heritage status
In a campaign to save pizza from the indignity of being topped with pineapple slices or slathered in mayonnaise, two million Italians have signed a petition calling for the Neapolitan dish to be given World Heritage recognition.

Italy hopes that Unesco, the UN’s cultural body, will grant special status to Neapolitan pizza when its intergovernmental committee on cultural heritage meets in Seoul next week.

The Italians want official recognition that pizza-making is an art form that was born in Naples.
Attaining Unesco status could help combat culinary abuses such as pizza adorned with tinned sweet corn, prawns, chopped lettuce, “Ranch dressing” and other foreign abominations which make Italians recoil in horror.

“Neapolitan pizza has been officially recognized as a ‘guaranteed traditional specialty’ by the European Union since 2010, but now the aim is to secure international recognition,” said Coldiretti, a national food producers association.
Pizza needs to be protected from what it called “food piracy and appropriation.”
Abuses included using foreign, rather than Italian ingredients, the association said, from “flour made from Ukrainian wheat, mozzarella made from Lithuanian curd, Tunisian olive oil and Chinese tomato puree.”

The campaign is spearheaded by Naples’ association of pizza makers, known as “pizzaioli”.
They want pizza placed on Unesco’s list of “intangible heritage”, which includes food, drink, traditional songs and things other than castles, palaces and natural wonders.

Italy has already won recognition for a unique type of grape vine grown on the Mediterranean island of Pantelleria, violin-making in the town of Cremona, Sicilian puppet theatre and the Mediterranean Diet – the latter in conjunction with Spain, Greece, Portugal, Morocco, Croatia and Cyprus.
Intense lobbying over the last few years had “created the right conditions to achieve a historic result for a product that is a symbol of Italian national identity,” campaigners said.

Italy maintains that pizza was invented in Naples at the beginning of the 18th century.
The Margherita version was first created in 1889 and named after Queen Margherita of Savoy.
Its ingredients reflected the national colors of the Italian flag red from tomatoes, white from mozzarella and green from basil leaves.

To make a pizza in the traditional Neapolitan way, a pizzaiolo, or pizza maker, should use only durum wheat flour, sea salt, fresh yeast and genuine mozzarella cheese from the milk of buffaloes, rather than cows.  The dough should be stretched by hand, rather than flattened with a rolling pin, and then cooked in a wood-fired oven on a stone slab.

While the average Italian eats 7.6kg of pizza a year, Americans consume almost double that.
The making and selling of pizza employs an estimated 100,000 Italians and is worth 10 billion euros a year to the economy.

An online survey by an Italian cultural institute found that pizza is the most recognized Italian word in the world, after cappuccino, spaghetti and espresso.

What are your feelings on pizza?  Strictly traditional or anything goes?

19 November 2017

Not the Year I Expected

This past week marked the one-year anniversary of my boarding a plane with 2 dogs and starting a new chapter in Italy.  I had the worst cough and cold that I'd had in many years which made the flight miserable.  A doctor prescribed me cough medicine with codine but I suspect the pharmacist forgot to add both the codine and the cough medicine because it did absolutely nothing to help.  We arrived in Milan and I struggled to find anyone to assist a very tiny woman with 2 dogs and 7 pieces of luggage (you needed a 2 euro coin to get a cart and I had none).  Eventually we made it out (two very nice American women did help and I'm eternally grateful to them!) and a few hours later arrived at our hotel...exactly 40 minutes before my boss arrived to take me to lunch. The dogs and I spent 29 days in the hotel before moving to a house on my birthday (coincidentally, we moved into a house on my birthday in the Netherlands as well). 

The dogs and I settled in.



Some Peace Corps friends visited in April and we went to Bologna and Padova.

Having fun at the Padova Botanical Gardens

My parents came for the month of May.  It was great having them here!

I made them pose with all the statues.




They spent lots of time with the dogs.


We went to Trieste (Italy), Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Villach (Austria) on one trip.
A beautiful day in Venice



My Gran was supposed to be here in June but she canceled her trip.  I was able to cancel most of our plans and reservations but one ticket was non-refundable so in I took a ride on the Bernina Express and spent the night in Chur.



Glacial lake...still frozen in June!
Then...well, then things got a little rough.  Jack's spleen ruptured and luckily I realized something was very wrong and got him to the vet in time to have them remove it - along with 750 ml (3 cups) of blood - and he survived.  However, the mass tested malignant and we went for a CT scan to see if they had managed to remove everything cancerous or if the rupture had deposited cancerous cells elsewhere in his abdomen.

While waiting for those results I took a quick trip to Greece in early July.



When I returned from Greece we learned that Jack had 3 kinds of cancer and he began taking a lot of medications.  We have a great vet here and she's been wonderful managing it all.




At the end of August, Cheyenne had what I believe was a stroke and died on the first of September.  It was, and still is incredibly painful.  I am somewhat comforted by the fact that she lived an amazingly  long life - 21 years!! - and that she didn't suffer a long illness or decline.  But she was with me for over 13 years; she moved with me a total of 6 times and approximately 15,000 miles. Not having her is like not having a part of my body.







Jack, if you remember, came to live with us after Tex died and Cheyenne was extremely lonely.  He was there for her then and he was there for both of us at the end, providing comfort at a very difficult time. 

Jack has had ups and downs in his cancer battle.  When he made it to 2 months after surgery the vet was impressed.  When he made it to 4 months she was amazed.  Some say that caring for a sick pet is no different that caring for a sick person.  It can be physically and emotionally draining. So in October I took a little trip to my favorite place to recharge.





Last week we hit 5 months and Jack is doing well.  So to celebrate that and our one year anniversary in Italy, and just to get away, we went to the mountains for a few days.  Early in his treatment he would get tired very quickly.  Now he's feeling well and we were able to take long walks UP and down some very steep mountain roads.  When we weren't out walking, we sat by the fire - him in my lap and me with a book.

He hates having his picture taken and refuses to look at the camera.

We did try to see what this was but it turned out to be too far to walk and when we tried to drive there was a log truck in the road and the road was too narrow to go around it.





It's been a difficult year with many highs and lows.  I have no idea what the next year will bring - how much travel I'll get to do or how much more time I'll have with Jack.  Obviously, caring for him is my first priority.  I'm not planning any big trips right now although I do have two training classes scheduled back in the US in 2018.

Next month, for my birthday, I'm hoping Jack hits the 6-month mark!  I couldn't ask for any better gift.

01 October 2017

Art in Chur, Switzerland - Sundays in My City

I spent one (expensive!) night in Chur, Switzerland.  It's a very pretty town in the mountains.  There was some interesting art around town.



In case you want to read about (and can read German) this one.



Switzerland is gorgeous but so expensive that I doubt I'll spend much time there!

Sundays In My City

03 September 2017

τρεις φίλοι - Sundays in My City

These three friends were sitting and chatting next door to a restaurant where I went for dinner in Chania, Greece.  I couldn't understand a word they were saying but it seemed clear that they'd known each other forever.



Sundays In My City

19 August 2017

Take Me to Barcelona - Sundays in My City

Not quite a year and a half ago I wrote a post about why I would go to Paris (or Brussels or Beirut...).  Since then there have been attacks in several places I've been and some places I haven't seen yet.  I didn't want to have to do another post like this.  But here we are.

I've walked down Las Ramblas. Of course I have. It's a Must when visiting Barcelona.  I've crossed the London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge although I've crossed that as well).  Of course I have. It's a Must when visiting London.  I didn't see a concert in Manchester but I did walk quite a bit of that city.  Any one of these attacks could have taken place when I was there.

Manchester (May 2016) - Attacked May 2017

My kid at the London Bridge ( May 2016) - Attacked June 2017

La Boqueria on Las Ramblas, Barcelona (November 2011) - Attacked August 2017

I'd go to Barcelona right now (well, maybe I'd wait until tomorrow because it's bed time here).  I'd go back to Paris or London or Manchester.  I'd go to Finland, which was also the site of a "murder with terrorist intent" this week.  I went to Venice last weekend (no, it has not been the scene of a recent attack).  None of this will stop me from traveling.  If anything, it makes me want to travel more. It makes me more determined to go and see and be out in the world.

My heart aches for what is happening in places like Charlottesville, VA.  Fear and hate cannot be allowed to plant roots and grow.

When I was in the Peace Corps we had three goals:
1. To help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
2. To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
3. To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

The 2nd goal is something I feel like I am still doing now.  I hope that the understanding people have of Americans is a positive one based on their encounters with me rather than a negative one based solely on the news.  I trust that the good in people will prevail and the recent outbursts of violence and bigotry will be squashed and smothered by the displays of love and tolerance and acceptance. I find travel, meeting people, and learning about new cultures and customs is one of the best ways to expand one's understanding and tolerance and acceptance of people who are different from you.  We're all human regardless of where we're from or how you feel about durian fruit.

How do you feel about travel given what's happening in the world right now?



Sundays In My City

13 August 2017

Sunset in Greece - Sundays in My City

Last month booked a last-minute trip and spent a few days in Chania (Crete), Greece.  This was my first time visiting Greece.  Like a few years ago when I went to Budapest when they were having a heat wave, it was super hot.  But it was also beautiful.

One evening I just sat and watched the sun set.  I couldn't look away.








I recently got a new laptop and I'm still figuring out how things work. I'm not super tech-y.  So it's been a while since I've posted.  Sorry about that.  There's more from Chania but I'll save that for another day.

Sundays In My City

28 May 2017

Support - Sundays in My City

I read about this art installation just a few days before going to Venice and knew I had to see it (I plan to go back before November to see more of the Biennale).  Due to its location and Venice's mostly-water access, the only real way to see it is from the water.  Which means you can't walk around it or take a lot of time looking at it.  You see it as your vaporetto is going past. 





Venice is sinking, sea levels are rising...this might be just an art installation but so many places are facing the very real threat that is climate change. Venice currently floods (and by floods they mean that the water level rises 110 cm (43 in) covering 14% of the city) roughly 4 times per year. The famous Rialto bridge has sunk 1.7 m (almost 5 ft) since it was built.  This is not a fictional disaster movie.  This is real. And it's only going to get worse if we don't take drastic measures to reverse it.

Sundays In My City