August 20, 2012

Upon Our Arrival

As I mentioned in my previous post, it took three vehicles to get our family and all our luggage from the airport to the Support Center, where we are currently living in temporary quarters at the Navy Lodge.  My first impression of Naples?  Hot!  And humid!  It wasn't surprising to see palm trees and green (oh, beautiful green!) landscape.  With climate like this, and a location along the coast, it's easy to see the appeal for tourists.  The drive to the Support Center didn't take long but was enough for LtCol L (Ted's new boss) to give me some tips on driving in Italy:
  1. Don't drive like an American.
  2. Behind the side mirrors doesn't exist for Italian drivers--if someone merges or cuts in front of you, YIELD!  (That's the law, too, by the way!)
  3. Some drivers prefer to stay over the dotted line, rather than picking a lane.
  4. Flashing lights behind someone who is going slower than you want to go is the best way to communicate your intentions.
  5. If that doesn't work, honk.
  6. If flashed or honked at, move over!
  7. Speed limits are more like suggestions...keep up with traffic and you should be all right.  Speeding tickets seem to be pretty rare--and Italian drivers prove they aren't too concerned about that!
The base where we are at is at once familiar and strange.  I'm not sure how much of that is because it's a Navy base and how much is because we're overseas.  We're in the minority here in more ways than one!  And that's fine with me.  What a great learning opportunity for us all!

The clear, sunny weather allows a good view of Mt. Vesuvius as well as other rambling mountains.  We're anxious to start exploring our surroundings, but we must be patient!

Other observations from the drive to base:  they weren't kidding when they said Naples has a trash problem!  "The Crying Indian" from the "Don't Litter" campaign years ago would be sobbing if he saw this place!  The dumpsters have yet to be emptied since we arrived on Thursday, and they are already overflowing.  I'm sure we haven't even seen the worst of it yet!

Pets/animals seem to roam at will...we've seen unattended cats here on base and dogs running amok outside the perimeter of the base.  It makes me a tad bit nervous about going running once we get our own house outside the safety of the base fence, but I guess we'll see where we end up and what it's like.

When we finally stumbled up the stairs to our 3rd story apartment ("home" for the next ___? weeks), we had the opportunity to meet Dawn (Col. L's wife) and their boys Josh and Jacob.  Dawn had thoughtfully stocked our fridge and pantry with a number of helpful items, to include milk, cereal, lunch meat, cheese, bread, peanut butter, jelly, snacks, French toast sticks, orange juice, fruit cups, water bottles, and...

...this amazing concoction of sugary goodness!  Since Ted's sponsor, Maj. M, ordered 5 ginormous pizzas for us to eat as soon as we arrived (and again for dinner later that evening), we saved this tray to surprise the kids with at breakfast, since it was packaged neatly and left in the refrigerator.

Oops...I confused the kids...Arden and Lucan thought we were going to pray first!  Lord, bless this sugary bliss...somehow...some the nourishment of our bodies!  Let the feeding frenzy begin!
If I remember correctly, we slept until nearly 8 a.m. (Italian time) Friday morning. Ted was gone for a little while to do some in-processing stuff, and then we had the rest of the day together.  While he was out, I walked with the kids to the play area behind the elementary school, which is just across the street from where we are staying.  I figured it would be good for us all to get some sun and exercise to help with jet lag.  I took a nap for about an hour and a half after lunch (more leftover pizza--those suckers were HUGE!) because I just could not keep myself awake any longer.  Then, we left Charis in charge to babysit the little ones (Zaden was napping and Kenna and Lucan watched a movie--easy job for her!) while the older boys and Ted and I went with Dawn to the retail center.  Dawn had graciously offered to drive us to and from the commissary so we could do our stock-up shopping trip.  I had attempted to make a shopping list before my nap, but my befuddled brain couldn't really get past "eggs, cheese, milk, and bread."  Plus, I had no idea what to expect would be available!

So, the first unique thing about shopping here is that you have to put a euro in the cart to unlock it from the chain of other grocery carts.  It stays in the slot until you return the cart, and then you get the euro back.  Dawn loaned me a coin to use, as we only have American money still, plus a plethora of commissary reusable shopping bags.  She left to do other errands, and Ted took the boys to get haircuts while I began taking in the new location!  

We'll definitely want to get most of our produce at Italian markets--much cheaper.  We've heard great things about local markets, so hooray for that.  I got a few things to get us going.  Note to self:  Check grapes before purchasing!  Small does not necessarily mean seedless!  Sigh!  The produce selection was definitely limited, so I'm already looking forward to exploring local shopping options.

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the overall selection.  Obviously it's a lot smaller than the Wright-Patt commissary, for example.  And I did have sticker shock on a number of items.  (Ted reminded me that's why we will be getting COLA [cost of living allowance ] while we're here!)  I was told that we definitely want to purchase our meat on base, but I wasn't thrilled to have to get Tyson I gladly took a whole chicken that had a sticker on it indicating it was from an Italian farm. :-)  Since there is no Dorothy Lane Market or Trader Joe's here, this looks to be the best I can do for now!

Thankfully we have lots of children to help carry our many groceries up all those stairs!  We'll have to plan carefully, as the refrigerator is WAY smaller than an American fridge, and while the kitchen is a reasonable size, there definitely is not the storage space that we've been used to.

For dinner that evening we had a chicken and potato casserole that Dawn had left in the fridge as well--isn't she a gem?!  During our drive to and from the commissary that afternoon I found out that she is involved in the Protestant Women of the Chapel group and that her family attends the contemporary Protestant worship service at the base chapel Sunday mornings.  What a blessing to meet another believer so soon!  I pray we can show such gracious hospitality to newcomers in the future...once we get past our own newcomer status!

We herded everyone into bed at a reasonable time, hoping to get our bodies on track.  Zaden and Lucan seemed to be doing pretty well, but the rest of us were definitely getting grumpy and snappy!  After several false starts (i.e. interruptions by children), Ted and I finally fell asleep around 1:30 a.m.  Ugh!

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