Monday, 16 May 1983
Dear Mom & Dad,
The kids have had their baths and are in bed. Angelique must not be asleep yet. It sounds like she is swinging on the bunk bed. We have to give the kids a bath in a baby bath tub which we have to fill up with the shower. Thank goodness this was the last night for taking baths like that.
Last Tuesday, I finally started seeing patients. The first few patients probably thought I wasn't a very good doctor because everything was so disorganized. It took awhile to figure out that the pharmacy didn't have most of the drugs that I prefer to use. There doesn't seem to be a "system" for taking care of patients. Things are done differently from one patient to the next. Part of the problem is that 3 family physicians and 2 obstetricians have to share 2 nurses (or actually they are female corpmen, also called "corpwaves"). I know a lot of doctors who employ 2 nurses and here I don't even get 1 nurse to myself. Also, I have only one exam room. Needless to say, one really can't see very many patients per day here. I'm still not over the initial shock of the way the clinics are run. I will probably adjust to Italy long before I adjust to this hospital.
Thursday afternoon, George Maynard and I worked on patching some of the rusted spots on the car, so it would pass inspection. The girl I bought the car from was advertising it for $2000 but came down to $1700. We talked her down to $1500 by fixing the body ourselves. It only cost about $20 to repair it. (It was her responsibility that it pass inspection before she could sell it.) There are still a few minor places that need patching, but now that I know how to do it, it should be no problem.
Tuesday night, we went to Dr. R. B. Hall's house for supper. He is the chief of Family Practice. His house is on a hill not far from the Bay of Naples. There is a beautiful view there.
Wednesday afternoon we signed the contract for our house. It will cost 710,000 lire (LEER-uh) per month. (There are presently 1450 Lire per 1 Dollar.) The Navy will pay for most of that. The contract "negotiations" were weird. Jeannie & I sat down with 3 Italians (one was the realtor, one was the landlord who speaks no English, and the other was an interpreter) and they argued for 15 minutes and we didn't know what they were talking about. They would have ignored us if we had kept quiet. It seems the initial problem was that he wanted 750,000 Lire, but that was more than he could legally charge. Besides, we thought it was too much. Actually, we thought we could get it for less than 700,000 Lire, but no such luck. We did get him to put a rail around the outside stairs, and a hole in the wall in the bathroom for the dryer. The house comes with light fixtures and kitchen cabinets. I will tell you more about the house after we move in.
Thursday at noon I applied for a phone which should take 6 - 36 months to install. Fortunately, I don't have to pay a deposit until just before they put it in. If we ever get one, you'll have to call us, because it is terribly expensive to call out of Italy. I will have to use a nearby pay phone for calling the hospital. I will be on call with a beeper 10 nights per month. It is long distance from Lago Patria to Agnano, where the hospital is. When I am the medical officer of the day (MOOD), about 2-3 times per month, I will have to stay all night in the hospital to cover the emergency room.
Thursday morning, Jeannie & I went to class to learn to drive over here. So now we have a license and can start driving our car tomorrow. It seems that the traffic laws are totally ignored unless someone has an accident and then the laws are used to determine who was at fault. It is a strange system. I don't think anyone here with a license has ever taken any kind of driver's test. We didn't take a test, either. So, I guess we are just as qualified to join the mass confusion on the roads.
Friday afternoon I became the owner of a car that I haven't seen since. I am supposed to pick it up tomorrow. The seller had to have the car this weekend and I either bought it Friday to take possession on Tuesday, or else wait until 1 June to buy it.
Saturday was a nice quiet day. I took the kids to the show while Jeannie washed clothes. It was a Bugs Bunny Movie. Even Steven paid attention to most of it. They are both learning to drink Coke out of a can. After we got out of the theater, I wasn't sure how much was on the inside of their stomachs & how much was on the outside.
Sunday morning we rode to church with Jesse Baird. I took careful notes about how to get there since I will have to find it myself next week. I was given a key to the building, so I guess I am officially a member. The kids enjoy Sunday school. The singing and fellowship are impressive. After church we went to Carney Park, which is a private park for NATO in an old volcano crater, for a picnic. The kids had a lot of fun. There are several other small children in the congregation. Both our kids got too much sun and are a little too pink & just a little sore. Two or three people from church plan to come by our house the day we move in to check & see if they can help with anything. One is bringing lunch & someone else is bringing us supper. They sure are a nice bunch of people. (It got up to 86 degrees Sunday.)
At 6:16 pm Sunday we experienced our first earthquake. It is hard to explain how it felt. I guess it was really only a tremor. It lasted about 5 seconds or less. It was strong enough that I was glad it wasn't any stronger. A few tiny chips of plaster fell off the ceiling and walls in the hotel room. The kids certainly wondered what was going on. The center of the quake was from the Solfatara. (This is a place like Yellowstone where the mud geysers are.) Apparently, no significant damage was done anywhere. The base theater has a big crack in it, I am told. The tremor probably wasn't even felt at Lago Patria. The Solfatara is only a couple of miles from the hotel. I am glad we're moving out soon.
Today, I got your letter. It was very well received by all of us. We really appreciated it. This was the first personal mail we've gotten since arriving here. We thought everyone forgot us. Also, today I got my typewriter ribbons from Fort Smith that I ordered in January. I'm glad you sent the papers on the car. They still can't give me any idea about when the car will arrive.
They said our household goods shipment should be here around 10 June. Our express shipment arrived here the day before we did. But we are still living with just what we brought in the suitcases, plus a few things we bought here.
Tomorrow at noon I pick up the car. Tomorrow at 6 pm we will go to the house and get the keys. I think Jeannie wants to look at a stove & dryer for sale in the afternoon. (I am off on Tuesday afternoon.)
Early Wednesday morning, we are going to move out of the hotel. I will take Jeannie & the kids to the house & then go to work. Sometime Wednesday, they are going to deliver our express shipment and some loaner furniture so we can start getting settled in the house. Angelique calls it the "tunnel house" because there is a concrete tunnel under the front porch (big enough for an elephant to walk through).
Angelique thinks she is about to learn to read. She is trying to learn to tie her shoes. She is trying to figure out what causes an earthquake. She got to eat some real Italian ravioli the other day and couldn't understand why it tasted so much different than what she got out of a can in Fort Smith. She still talks about Fort Smith as if we could get there in a few hours if we wanted to go back. She picks up an Italian word every once in awhile. The missionaries at church have a 3-year-old girl who speaks Italian as well as she does English. Perhaps she will teach Angelique a little Italian. They do have Sesame Street on Italian TV. I'm sure the kids will learn a lot of Italian from the TV when we get one.
Steven is doing better every day with stairs. He is at the stage where he will repeat just about everything he hears. He is picking up a few Italian words that way. He still jabbers a lot, but more of the words are understandable. Jeannie thinks that today he said, "Airplane goes zoom!" He is getting physical with Angelique. He pushes & pulls on her. He pulls her hair and pokes at her face. They get in arguments where he is screaming "No" at Angelique. Angelique won't hit him. Some of the problems will resolve after we move to our house because they are tired of the small place & few toys that we have.
Since it is getting late & I have to work tomorrow, I better stop till another letter. One of these days, I'll let Angelique write something before she goes to bed.
I am enclosing a check for the phone calls. Also, you'll find a receipt for supper at an Italian Restaurant. The food sure was good. Come see.
Michael, Jeannie, Angelique, & Steven
P.S. Thanks for the newspaper clippings. Please date them.
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