Teramo Pt. 1

Wow. So I will never win The Amazing Race. And times like these are what make me wonder why I thought traveling would be a relaxing break from reality. I spontaneously decided Thursday night that I would go to Teramo for the weekend. I had originally planned on going to Rome, but decided the heat wave cause by the African winds (I always forget that Italy is actually so close to Africa, they’re so separate in my subconscious) would probably make that a hard first independent travel experience. So instead I decided to do something closer to Pescara. As it was the night before I wanted to go, I had limited options. I was trying to find a cheap hotel or room for rent, but most cheap ones were booked. I wanted to go to a small castle town that there are so many of around here, but there either was no accommodations in the ones I wanted to go to, or I wouldn’t be able to get to the hotel by public transport. So I ended up choosing Teramo. While not quite as picturesque as some of the hill top towns, Teramo has some beautiful churches and is smaller than Pescara, which is something I felt I needed at this point. So I booked a room at a bed and breakfast for two nights.

I was hoping to catch the direct bus from Pescara to Teramo at 2:45 as when I was planning to go to Rome Madda said I could have the afternoon off. But I guess Teramo isn’t as important so when I brought the kids home for lunch I found out she wasn’t coming home until 5:00. Oh well I thought, there were other routes later in the day. So I tried to catch the 5:50 bus that went through giulul—-nova something or other, then to Teramo. Or so I thought. I was actually supposed to take two different buses, so I ended up missing the 5:50 one as it didn’t say Teramo. This was such a frustrating experience. The bus station in Pescara had no shade so it was literally boiling out, my back pack was heavy, nobody speaks English here, buses kept coming and going in no order (the Pescara station is very unorganized, you literally have to run around and check the front of every bus to see which one you need, there are no set “stations”). Finally at 7:10 the bus came again and found it, got on, and the sense of relief was amazing. I had to transfer once which ended up being unpleasant, as I went from a charter bus to a local bus where I had to sit next to a disgusting man yelling in Italian on a phone for an hour. Curious point- I bought a ticket in Pescara, but neither bus driver checked it or asked for money. Anyways, by the time I got to Teramo it was dark out. Thank modern civilization and my host family that my Italian phone has unlimited data so I could use GPS to figure out where I was and the best route to the B&B. And that Teramo is not very big. I got there in about 15 minutes. It was a confusing spot to check in to, as apparently there’s no front desk, somebody just meets you there when you need to check in. So I was waiting outside when an old lady come up to the door (holding a pizza box, of course) and lets me in asking if I was trying to find the bed and breakfast. Apparently this was the wrong thing to do because I got lost inside the building while the guy was waiting for me outside. Oh well I finally got in and checked in and threw my stuff down and decided to go to bed early so I could go out early in the morning.

Quick bed and breakfast review (It’s just called B&B Teramo if you’re curious): Very modern and clean, I got turn down service today which I wasn’t expecting, and everything feels very sanitary. There’s no air conditioning or wifi, both of which are a pretty big inconvenience.  Also no first aid kit as I tried to find a bandaid for my blister. The coffee machine is cool, it makes espresso out of these little capsule things. The “breakfast” was pitiful, I recommend just going to a café around the corner and getting some cheap good pastries. I did managed to pick one out that was squishy like a croissant and was good with peach jam on it (have I mentioned they like peaches here?).  There was also good blood orange juice though that I liked. Overall I feel like it’s more like a more private hostel, doesn’t really quite hold up to watch a B&B should be.

So that’s about it for travel and accommodations.

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OMG beach volleyball

So I just got back from checking out the beach volleyball club. I was just going to meet the coach and observe some practices to help guess what level I would be at. Alfredo kept insisting I start at the ‘seniores’ level, and after watching for a little while I thought I might be able to. They weren’t spiking very hard and in general the pace of play wasn’t too fast. On the other hand the beginners were struggling to bump the ball without it going out of the court. Honestly, I had no idea if I was going to make a fool of myself, the women playing were rock hard dark Italian women in their thirties, clearly knowing what they were about. When they were taking a break Alfredo led me into the court to meet the coach (a past Olympian, I forgot his name), and he surprised me by asking me to join in right then and there (lessons are pretty expensive). That’s one nice thing about beach volleyball, once you have a court to play on there is very limited gear you need, just a semi dependable bathing suit (sadly the one I was wearing was a cream color, not expecting to actually play, and now it is brown). I surprised myself by actually being able to control my passes and return their serves. I couldn’t serve it over the net overhand, but I’ve really never been able to do that. That’s my main practice point. The Olympian coach spoke very good English, at least when it came to coaching terms, so that was a good discovery. I was worried there’d be a lot more pointing. I struggled a bit with some basic form and techniques, but I was nervous out of my mind so I think I will be able to get better at those quickly. All in all it was VERY fun, so much more fun than I thought it would be. Volleyball in my experience has been a good sport to bond with the other girls, and it proved to be true in this case too. The women were very welcoming of me and said it would give them a chance to practice their English. However, the coach said I should do the first week in the beginner group just to get some basic techniques up to speed. I wasn’t insulted by this, I was happy with the fact that in general he thought I could keep up with these born and bred beach volleyball players, I just needed some reintroduction into the sport.

Main conclusion: in a beautiful sandy place beach volleyball is amazing. It’s great to dive into the powdery sand even if you miss the dig. It’s an amazing workout and by the end of it you’re covered in sand and sweat and feel really accomplished. I hope I can get better, I know it will be a challenge for me every time I try. Especially in this intense environment, it’s definitely out of my element. But overcoming that challenge and reflecting on the fact that I’m watching the Pescaran sunset while being trained in beach volleyball by an Olympic player makes me think about all of the places I could go in this world!

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New Friends

So, I officially have two friends now. I’ve met a lot of people, but these two are more reliable/speak English/are really enthusiastic about entertaining me here. My new friend Alfredo is really proud of Pescara and wants to make sure I have the best time while I’m here. He has talked me into joining the beach volleyball league he is a part of, and insists (like everybody else I’ve ever met) that I must be good at volleyball because I am tall. He’s in for a good surprise…. maybe I’ll be better at beach volleyball? Anyways, it’s always interesting to actually find out the kinds of people you’ll meet. I never expect either of these two, they’re very unique and have both shown me how different people live in Pescara. I’m excited to meet somebody from couch surfing tomorrow, he seems like he’ll be a new piece to the puzzle of the Pescaran people.

It’s quite amazing to me how disparaging a lot of the people here are about Pescara, even my host family. When speaking to people of my life and how I ended up here and how I like it, they’re always very confused about why I would pick Pescara. I don’t think they realize that while they might not have the Colosseum or Greek ruins, they have a beautiful unique culture. It’s modern Italy like you really can’t get anywhere else. Of course I’m interested in classic Italy and the beauty of the historical sites, but Pescara is a great example of how Italy is growing up and facing the new world. It has experimental architecture that is trying to bring Italy into a new generation while still keeping the classic Italian charm. And above anything else, the fresh Italian food is as good as anywhere, and that’s really the most important part.

So, my new friends are helping me get to know Italy better, more through getting to know them than anything else.

P.S. I’m getting fat from Italian food and having a full house of food I’m allowed to eat (normally I don’t have that many groceries and it’s out of my own pocket when I go to get them; here delicious food just keeps filling up the refrigerator. Needless to say my self control has been pitiful). So it’s time I figure out the will power to not gorge on all of the free Italian food and start jogging/playing beach volleyball more. Wish me luck!

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The Weekend

Ciao people!

A few things have happened since I’ve written. It was Lorenzo’s birthday so there was a large party on Saturday for that. At first I dreaded that thinking of the kid parties I know, and expecting that the au pair would be involved in herding children somehow. That however turned out to not be true at all, we simply went to one of places on the beach that the family rents a palma, where they had set up a little party area with drinks and a pizza/fry buffet. All of the kids were entertained with the impressive playgrounds they have here on the beach, and all of the parents stayed for the party as they were friends of Madda’s. So I actually just got hang out and eat pizza, and figure out which of Madda’s friends could speak English, not bad at all! And family friend Ilaria made the cakes, they had Mario and Luigi screen printed on them. The cake was SO good, I was expecting a normal sheet cake (which I hate) at first, but when I ate it it was an amazing torta with fresh whip cream instead of dense frosting, and pastry cream with fresh peaches in the middle. SO good. I’ve eaten way too much of the leftovers since then….

After the party I got to go out with my new friend Martina. She is amazing, so funny, and maybe not the usual type of person I’d make friends with. She had been an au pair in Dublin so she speaks very good English and understands my situation. We’re also equal parts Irish which I thought was funny.

Anyways, she took me to a wine bar that is off the main riviera party scene. Again, not what I was expecting to be doing with my night, but it ended up turning out better than even could of hoped for. It was such an intimate little setting, tucked away on a back street with tables out on the side walk. Everybody there knew each other. Her friend was the bartender so we ended up getting many free shots, “chicettas” (spelled completely wrong), and some free wine as well. All night she just kept pouring shots, and I’m not going to say no to that. Martina’s not a big drinker these days as she’s “old” (24) so she was taking shots of this dark liquor instead of vodka. I thought it was wine at first, but she corrected me and tried to explain what it was. It was a liquor made in Abruzzo from a fruit she did not know the name for. We tried very hard to figure it out with descriptions like “big cherry” and “really ripe cherry” from Martina, but they were adamant it was not actually a cherry. Thankfully my Italian phone has internet so we finally decided to google translate it and it turns out it’s just “black cherry”. Apparently here they have a completely different name for them, while cherry is “ciliegia” black cherry is “amarena”. Not only did this discussion help me learn about a new liquor, but it solved the mystery I have been dealing with with gelato flavors. I had ordered amarenetta thinking it would be something like amaretto, but then got black cherry flavor, though I couldn’t actually recognize what it was. I now know a lot about the Abruzzo black cherry!

The night turned out very fun and I met some more people. One of the bartenders had lived in Seattle for a year and he was very excited to meet me. A short hipster version of Fabio had his eye on me all night, and wanted me to go to more bars with him after we left, which I would’ve done just to get to know more places, but Martina helped me figure out that they wanted to go to a place that was very far away. I don’t really need to do that as all the best places are close to my home so I turned him down. We stopped by Zara on the way home which is the biggest bar/beach house party there is. SO many people are there, especially starting around midnight. All in all a very good night and I got to know Martina a lot more. She is introducing me to a young knitting circle on Thursday which I’m excited for!

Drunk snack Italian style

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Sunburn: Scottatura

So I actually am not sunburned at all where I should be, but my feet are sooooo burnt. I’m not sure they could be anymore sunburnt or swollen. So strange. When I met a cousin of the boys, she came up to me, pointed at my feet, and said “rosso” and stared giggling. My sunburnt feet are a huge joke. Madda tells me to put sunscreen on my feet whenever I leave the house now. 

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I found the alcohol

So I found a small grocery store yesterday that’s really close to my home. It’s not as big as your classic safeway, but definitely bigger than the small fruit shops and cheese shops I’ve been to so far. I’ll probably go there to get some snacks for a picnic or something in the future. I was mostly excited to figure out that they had a good selection of alcohol. I found some off brand Bailey’s that I’ll think I’ll get next time to mix with some moka coffee in they sunny afternoon. They had huge wine jugs (and not just carlo rossi here) that were very impressive. I also found out that they list their ingredients on their alcohol, which I find kind of nice.

I was debating about what to get myself, it wasn’t the usual array of options. I found maraschino and grappa, two things I definitely want to try while I’m here, but I didn’t really want to commit to a large bottle of either at this point. I ended up finding really cute peach vodka, and thought, what the heck, it’ll make me feel at home. Why not do something that’s in my culture at this point. The vodka was only 5 euros, so nice! So I bought the vodka pesca and some fresh pesca juice (they really are obsessed with fresh peaches right now). This ended up being a really delicious combo and I drank a  little before I went out last night. Apparently that’s not in their culture either, to drink a little before you go out, but hey, it was fun to buy some alcohol as I wouldn’t be able to do that in America currently.

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Madda cooks very well

One of the nice things about being an au pair is that it’s cost neutral. This is largely in part because your host family has to feed you. This doesn’t mean that they’ll feed you well. I feel I got really lucky with Madda. She cooks very well and makes a point of using fresh ingredients and creating balanced meals to keep the kids healthy. It’s not very complicated cooking, but it’s very good because of the delicious ingredients. She’s been teaching me how she cooks the dishes, a lot of quick tips that I’ll be able to use to make quick good Italian food when I get back. Shown are some pasta dishes she’s made, one is sauteed tomatoes in olive oil and fresh garlic with “squeaky cheese”, and the other is fresh clams and tomatoes in olive oil. When we ate that meal Anzo (host dad) brought up that we had giant clams in Washington. Apparently the clams we eat at home are some of the biggest clam varieties. I told them about how we’d dig for clams at the beach and made chowder and clam patties out of them. I also have a picture of fresh homemade focaccia that was dripping with olive oil, and Madda making homemade pesto. There have been other dishes that were very good, I haven’t taken pictures of everything. There have been very good fresh fish dishes, roasted zucchini/eggplant dishes, and sauteed chard dish. All very good and pretty simple to make!

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Shopping district

I love the shopping district here. When I get time off from the children there are a very limited amount of places I can go. There aren’t any wonderful historical sites, and I don’t know how I’d manage a day trip yet as the bus system is huge fail, and I can’t drive stick. So, I’ve just been venturing to Old Town which is the higherend shopping district. It’s about a 10 minute walk from my house. There are countless shops ranging from H&M to the most obscure high end boutique. While the beach scene/night scene has its own people watching wonders, I feel the old town is almost better. People are being a little classier and looking their best. There are no cars allowed on the streets so that allows for sidewalk Cafes and a more welcoming pedestrian feel. I’m a little less awkward here about ordering food or buying something, as I feel like its a little bit less an exclusive local community.

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Brief Thoughts

Thank goodness for audio books. It’s very nice to listen to a book and still keep your eyes on the babies.

And knitting. Although I don’t think this activity attracts any Italian men. (edit: I got asked my number while knitting. But the man was no were near attractive)

Italian men are short.

If somebody yells Marco, they are actually looking for somebody named Marco. And it’s funny when somebody yells Paulo directly after.

Roller blades are cool. Well, they’re at least used, I can’t tell if they’re actually cool or not.

Short hair is quite in fashion here. Like short short.

The sun makes me tired.

I wish I could longboard because that would make me very cool. That trend hasn’t quite gotten here yet. Then again neither has smooth paved streets, but pescara is close with that one.

Balloon Aladdin pants are in fashion, and I’m determined find some and wear them forever.

Somehow they’ve mutated all if the dogs here to be short and squat. But like… Actually.

People don’t actually go out and get extremely drunk. They go out, have a beer, then a pizza, then go home at 2am

It’s very hard to make friends when you don’t know anybody and can’t speak with anybody.

Old people hang out where the young people do. Sometimes there will even be a lady trying to push a stroller through a crowd of what looks like prostitutes.

It’s very hard to judge italian’s age.

I’ve started speaking English in an Italian accent.

The Jersey Shore seems less and less eccentric.

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Finding a Yarn Store

I found an adorable yarn store, although I can’t promise I’ll be able to find it again. I found it while out on a bike ride through town. I was looking for either liquor or some good looking pastries, so I was just wandering around. I’m still not sure what kind of store sells liquor here. But anyways, I had stopped for some other reason, turned my head and was looking into a yarn store with an elderly couple in it. They looked confused about why I was staring, they couldn’t imagine how excited I was to stumble upon it!

So I locked my bike and went in. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. They didn’t speak ANY English as so many elderly people here cannot. I tried to tell them I knit by making the knitting motion, but they thought that mean I need needles. She kept trying to ask me what number needle I wanted by repeating “one, two, three…” which is apparently the only English she knew so she was really excited to use it. I couldn’t explain that I just wanted some yarn so I kind of just stepped behind the counter and started looking at the different kinds. I found some 50% merino 50% acrylic yarn in a beautiful mint color that I decided to buy. I just grabbed two as I didn’t know how expensive yarn is around here. It ended up being 5 euros, much cheaper than the same yarn would be in America, so I will definitely be going back!

I tried to explain that I wanted to take a picture for my knitting website, but they had no idea what I was doing so I think she felt really uncomfortable I was taking their picture. Oh well! Hopefully I know more Italian by the time I go back.

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