The World at Large

Moving to the US

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Today started a little better, as I was able to get out of bed! So my back is improving, though it still hurts. I'll try to be diligent with the yoga.

I've found that my room is very quiet. It may not have bothered me in the past, but I'm used to having Anne and the boys in the house with me now. I might have been tempted to turn on the TV for some background noise, but it just feels weird having it on when I can't understand a word of it. I've been making extensive use of iTunes on my notebook to fill the void instead.

Tiredness is a constant problem (except at night!), and today was no exception. Fortunately, several people I would generally spend time with were in other meetings, so I got to spend some time finishing off some work on my own computer. It was nice to just "hunker down" and not have to spend the effort needed to interact with others. Hopefully that little bit of relaxation helped me enough that tomorrow will be easier.

We were invited out to dinner again, this time on a more modest basis. Chris, Inderbir, and I spend our time together mostly because we don't have enough confidence here to want to "go it alone". The language barrier can be intimidating. So while I'd have liked a quieter night, I went along. Besides, I should take advantage to see as much as I can while I'm here.

It turned out that the Italians we are working with all wanted to take advantage of a recent snowfall in the nearby mountains. This has been an unusually warm year, and no one has been able to ski until now. So everyone packed up their skis, put Chris Indy and me into a couple of cars, and headed uphill. The ski fields are only 20 minutes from Cosenza, so we were there very quickly. Then all the locals pointed us at a bar, and headed for the slopes.

Once we were inside we found a group of people standing around a central fire, and watching an unusual game on the television. It looked like snooker, with 3 balls, and no pockets on the table. None of us could work out the rules, but it looked fascinating all the time.

The people who were there all seemed surprised to see us, as they wouldn't normally have patrons until the end of the evening when everyone had finished skiing. They were even more suspicious of us when they discovered we only speak English (well, Chris can speak Mandarin, and Indy can speak Punjabi, but they don't count here). We were even asked if we spoke Deutsch, but the answer to that was nein. (Maybe that's the wrong answer?). But we were able to order a birra by name, along with some "Happy Nuts" (once again, reading the label on the packaging), so we managed to get by. That didn't stop many of them looking at us quite a lot. It felt a little odd, but at least we didn't have to worry about having anyone eavesdrop.

We started watching the game on television, while speculating on the rules, but it was the commercials that really grabbed our attention. They don't even pretend they're not using sex to sell here. I watched a commercial with a scantily clad washing a car with a hose, and then letting the water run sensuously all over her, until her thin clothing was no longer leaving anything to be imagined. This went on for the whole length of the commercial, until I learned that it was an advertisement for a mobile phone carrier.

This seemed extreme, particularly after living in prudish mid-western America, but Chris mentioned a conversation he'd had with a local, when it was rightly pointed out that you never see real violence in the media here. Odd as it may seem, it makes sense to me to see explicit sex instead of explicit violence. Obviously the majority in the USA disagree.

Our skiing hosts finally came in, and the atmosphere became much warmer. Over dinner we were told that it is a typical Calabresi attitude to treat anyone who is not a "friend" as an "enemy". This seemed consistent with the reception we'd had earlier.

Opting for the simpler dinner (like I'd promised), I got a Pizza alla Calabrese (ie. a local flavor), which was as good as pizza in this region normally is. The wine was nice, but not as amazingly smooth as what we had last night (Indy was so impressed that he bought 2 bottles from the restaurant last night to take back to the US). But the real fun was with the company. I suppose this is the real reason we all agreed to go out when a quiet night would have been so welcome.

When we got outside Chris asked me what a particular star was called. I was horrified to realize that I had no idea. I've spent my whole life looking at the stars in the Southern hemisphere. My last year in Chicago has meant that I haven't seen any stars whatsoever, so I haven't had an opportunity to learn the sky in the Northern hemisphere. I had a suspicion of the identity of the star, but to know for sure I needed to know which direction North was, and I couldn't work it out. (Where was the Southern Cross? Argh!). Maybe this is my cue to go and visit the Adler Planetarium. I've wanted to visit this since arriving in Chicago. Like my driving license, I'm going to have to bite the bullet and just do it. I wanted to avoid taking the children, but since he's nearly 3, then maybe Luc could come?

The view coming back down the mountains was beautiful. I can only imagine how it must look during the day. It really is a nice area here.

Once back in the hotel and online again (to write this) Anne asked if I could try using video over the internet. Apparently Luc wanted to see me too. Unfortunately, it's taking me over 30 seconds to get a simple page from Google. Any kind of communication beyond simple typing was totally infeasible. So I couldn't even hear them. Sigh. It would be much nicer here if I could see them at the end of the day. On the other hand, I don't know how I feel about taking the boys on yet another international flight. Maybe it's a good thing we can't afford another one for a long time yet.

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