Mon. Night, 16 May 1983
Dear Diane, Bill & Laura,
I thought I had better write before we move into our house Wednesday. I may be too busy afterwards trying to get a household in shape.
We arrived safely and after a few days of jet lag, we were feeling pretty good. We've been here 3 weeks and haven't had a chance to get bored yet. Our first full week here Michael & I took an ICR course (Intercultural Relations). A lady from the church kept the kids every day. In this course we had some very basic Italian language lessons plus lessons on Italian customs, hand gestures, driving, security, marketing, bargaining, etc. The course also included 3 days of actual touring - basically so we would learn how to use the transportation systems available here - trains, buses & funiculari (trams going up steep hills). We got to do only a little shopping these 3 days. We visited several elaborate churches, the Royal Palace, the San Carlo Opera Theater, museums, a couple of markets & the Flavian Roman Amphitheater - the 3rd largest. We had a very lively group and everyone had a great time. We were exhausted by the end of the week because every night when we got home we'd go out looking at houses.
We did finally agree on a house. Michael & Angelique really like it. My only complaint is its tiny kitchen. Every house had something unsuitable about it, but somehow we ended up with the one unsuitable only to me. A ranch style house would look rather out of place here. Almost every house here is 2 or 3 stories. Some even have patios on the roof. All are flat roofed. They are built out of tufa stones & a stucco type of substance is put on that. Most houses are painted white. A few are beige or a pastel. Ours is white with a rusty red trim on the shutters & railings, etc. This house is built on a slope so when you go in the front door you are on the 2nd floor. On this floor are the living room, dining room, tiny kitchen, 3 bedrooms & a bathroom. As you go down the marble staircase to the lower floor you enter a huge room that will serve as a guest room, study for Michael & a playroom. There is a large bathroom down there where I'll put my washer & dryer. Also down there is a large garage. Garages are generally under the houses for security. There is plenty of room for 2 cars and work area for Michael. Italians use tile & marble liberally. Often the tiles are bold & bright & change from room to room. (This house is about 4 years old.) The yard is fenced and is large by Italian standards, but small by our standards. It's not unusual for one's whole yard to be paved. We do have some grassy areas. I think there will be room to put a swing set in the back yard grass. The front yard is pretty well taken up with trees & shrubs & plants. We'll have 2 lemon trees. For some reason, since this house is built on a slope, there is a tunnel-like area running under the house under the front patio. The kids will enjoy riding their tricycles through there. The Italians are big on balconies. Two of the bedrooms have balconies. Unfortunately, the best view is from the middle-sized bedroom where we plan on putting Angelique. We'll check again tomorrow, but I don't think all our bedroom set would fit in that room. From that room is a good view of Lago Patria - a lake. There is an open field of about 200 yards between our back fence & the lake. I'm sure they'll build houses back there eventually, but right now it's really pretty when the sun sets behind the lake. There are many Americans living around this lake. In some areas it's about 95% Americans. I think it's about 50/50 close to us, though. Our house can't be more than 2 miles from the Sea & the beach. This is a very popular resort area, but too expensive for most Neopolitans. We're paying £710,000 a month. I think that's about $485.00 a month - well over the average Italian budget. Italians spend most of their money on cars & clothing - to look prosperous.
The Italians are colorful people. They talk noisily & very excitedly. You won't believe their wild driving until you see it. They are very friendly - especially to the children. Most of them look like the Italians on TV - the Fonz, Carmine, Travolta, etc. Most Americans do stand out in a crowd here. Unfortunately, I probably won't get a chance to take any Italian language classes until the fall. Many Italians can speak some English.
We're getting a 1976 Fiat 131 tomorrow. It's the only automatic transmission we could find. Maybe I'll get a chance to get away from this Navy base and do some shopping in the markets then.
The kids are doing fine. None of us have been sick, yet. We all expected to have severe diarrhea by now, but we haven't yet. I'm sure we won't get by without it, tho. We're all functioning under the stress of culture shock - both to Naples & the Navy. I can even see it in the kids. They're just not quite themselves - moodier & crankier. I'm sure getting into our house and getting some familiar things around them will help. Living in a hotel for over a month & eating out constantly is stressful even in the States - even more so here. Every once in a while I ask myself, "What am I doing here?" and then I remember all the things I want to see and learn & for the kids to experience and then I calm down. Everyone says the 2nd month is the toughest as far as homesickness goes. Keeping busy here & communication with friends & family from home are supposed to help. Hint Hint. Actually I know we're doing better adjusting than many. One of my new friends told me she had started packing her bags to go back home before her husband got her calmed down. So far we all still want to stick it out in this beautiful country.
Speaking of country - I lived through my 1st earthquake Sunday night. I was down in the basement of a building on the Naval base when it happened. There was a lot of rattling & rumbling, but not much more. Michael & the kids were here on the second floor of the hotel across from the main gate of the Naval base. Apparently, the higher up you are in a building the more it shakes & sways. I wasn't all that shook up about it, but that's all Michael & the kids could talk about when I got back. I'm not sure how high it registered on the scale. It was supposedly pretty strong, but just lasted maybe 5 seconds. The longer it lasts the more damage is done. The strongest area was just over the hill from here. This is a very active seismic area. Earthquakes are frequent here around the Naval Base (NSA). Fortunately, our house is about 15 miles from here and the quakes are seldom even felt out there. The Naval base sets inside the mouth of an ancient volcano. You can read more about this unsteadiness in the 1982 December issue of National Geographic.
Moving right along - Angelique is really getting interested in reading and is learning new words every day. I try to support her without pushing her - but I can't hardly turn my back when she asks me what this or that word is. I have mixed feelings about it, but I can tell I'm not going to stop her. She says she wants to take swimming lessons this summer. We may try it, but I won't be surprised if she doesn't do well. She really doesn't like water in her face. We haven't heard of any gymnastics classes yet. Steven & I could go to a Mom & Tot swimming class. He'd love it. We may try it. Steven is at that cute stage now. Learning so many words & saying a bunch. I think he said today, "Planes go Bzzz," but Michael says that doesn't count as a sentence. Since I'm not sure that's absolutely what he said, I won't insist it was his 1st sentence. He does say, "I love you" or "I love you, too," but I taught him that. He sings along on my songs, but I guess that doesn't count either. I think he's slimming down now but has gained more weight. I guess that means he's getting taller. He's 19 months old now. The Italians just love to pinch his cheek.
The food here is marvelous! Everywhere you go there are gelaterias (Ice cream shops), salumerias (lunchmeats & breads), trattorias (small family restaurants), bars (which also serve food), ristorantes (fancy restaurants) & pizzerias, etc., etc. I even tried octopus salad & squid. I wasn't too wild about them. There's something about tentacles sitting on my plate that didn't excite me. It's OK to eat a lot 'cause everyone is too active & busy to gain weight (so far).
The weather is marvelous right now but it's gonna get hot soon.
It's late. I'd better get to bed. Write when you can about good ol' normal Arkansas, Razorbacks, family & self. Write about anything - how many inches your plants have grown, laundry problems, toothaches, anything - as long as it keeps us in touch with you & home. Tell Laura we'd like to hear from her if she gets a notion to write. Hope y'all are well. Maybe by the end of 3 years I'll be able to write a neater letter.
Our mailing address:
Every house has a name. Ours is called "Villa Carolina."
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