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Hello! This is my last entry from Naples :) We are losing our internet connection this evening, so there will not be anymore phone calls either. We are off to Rome tomorrow and then to the US on Friday! I am excited because we get to see Trevi fountain at night :)

See you all soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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We went out today! The goal was to see Herculaneum and Vesuvius, but we only made it to Herculaneum. It was rainy and cold, so there were no other people who wanted to take a shuttle up the volcano and the bus schedule was not condusive to our other plans. We'll try again next weekend and try to bring along some friends this time so the shuttle driver will find it worth the drive.

Info on Herculaneum can be found here.

Pictures behind the cut )


Aside from the rain, it was a very nice day.

P.S. I have pictures from Pompeii that I never posted. If anybody wants to see some bodies encased in ash, let me know and I'll put them up.
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A short update of some of the things we have been doing that I have been failing to post.  Our monitor is trying to die, so I don't have extended periods of time to write long posts!

First, a couple of weeks ago we went to Paestum, the home of the oldest standing Greek temples.  They were awsome.  I cannot even begin to desribe the feeling that one gets when standing in front of the oldest temple dedicated to Hera in existence.

Take a tour here:  http://www.paestum.de/en/indexen.htm

We spent Thanksgiving at the home of the Commader of all Europe who's daughter Bart works with on the NATO base.  Dinner was tasty, but the highlight I think, was that the table the 22 of us ate dinner on once belonged to Dwight Eisenhower.  How cool is that? 

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Extremely well located! Short walking distance to metro, buses, shopping, theaters, museums, night clubs and the ocean!! Honestly, it would be difficult to find a better location in the historical city center. The streets are noisy, but the apartment is VERY quiet. There is also a very nice covered patio that houses a washing machine, both of which you will share with your neighbor.

The apartment is mostly furnished including dishes, oven, refrigerator, two sofas, bed, dresser and two wardrobes. We are moving back to the states and won't be shipping any furniture, so if you want to purchase the pieces we have added which include a computer desk, region 2 DVD player, rug and a kitchen cart/island, we could certainly work something out.

700E per month
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So, I stumbled across this today:

http://www.expatsinitaly.com/stories/stories.htm

It seems as though our blog has been linked on a site for expats. Which might be okay if we had been asked, but we weren't. She even has it so that one can subscribe to our blog, actually any of the blogs she has listed on the site. I am rather irritated by this. I guess I shouldn't be because the blog *is* on the internet, but she could have at least asked and given me the opportunity to make it friends only before she made us subscribable. It is just creepy. I sent her an email requesting she remove us from the site.

I may just have to go friends only anyway....
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*
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We have tickets. We arrive in Baltimore at 6:57 pm, Friday, December 23rd.

Let the rejoicing begin.

Greg, I don't want to hear a peep out of you about the date.
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I have just discovered my limit for dealing with crap at the lab. It is 20 days. I know this because it is now September 21st and I can no longer deal. The thing that sucks is, I was beginning to think that I had been too hasty in my decision to return home because things, while still not the best, were not as bad as they seemed before the one month vacation.

I arrived to work early today so that I could get into the cell culture room before everyone else and actually get to use the ONE microscope to look at my ailing cells. They look to be recoving nicely. We shal see in a couple of days. That is the only good thing that happend today. A few minutes after sitting down at my desk, the maintenance crew arrived to continue working on the air conditioners tha have been broken since June. Nice of them to wait until SEPTEMBER to fix them. So I move out of the way and the crew procedes to stand on my desk and make a huge dusty mess in the lab. They are drilling holes in the ceilings and floors for new drainage pipes, you see. This takes three hours.

When they are finished, I go around the lab and wipe up the dust from the bench tops, computers and chairs. I close all of the windows and turn on the AC. Yay, clean at last. Then T and L come back in and open all of the windows. F tells them that I just finshed cleaning and closing, but they say that it smells in the lab. No, it doesn't. I have the world's most sensitive nose and I didn't smell a thing. All of the clean surfaces are currenlty becoming dusty again. So I went home.

The one good thing is that my cells didn't do so well over the weekend, so I was unable to do the three day experiment on them that I had planned. If I had, I would have had a huge dust cloud everywhere contamination everything and I would have been IRATE instead of just irritated.

Deep breath. In. Out. Good.

EDIT: This is my MSN horoscope for today. Sometimes theses things are accurate.
Aquarius
January 20 - February 17
If you are involved in a class, or if you find yourself in any kind of group activity or social situation, be prepared for quarrels to break out among everyone there. You could find this extremely useless and counterproductive, and you might be tempted to try to break in and put a stop to it. It's best to stay out of it, dear Aquarius. Get rid of your frustration by walking home! You'll feel better for it!
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This is the news that you have all been waiting for. We are coming home after only a year of living in Italy. First, I want to say that we are enjoying ourselves very much! Friends, travel, weather, the country...all great. We have met some really great people who I will be sad to leave. We haven't seen everything we would like to see yet. It is warm, but many days, not overly so. Naples is not the worst city on the planet, but there are certainly better ones in Italy and we have seen several.

But the thing that is just intolerable is the reason why we are here: the PhD program. We were lied to from the very beginning and nothing is as I was told it was going to be. I am not getting the stipend I was promised. I am not in the lab that I was promised. I am not even in the building that I toured, the Tower. Instead, I am in the building that has apparently been feuding with the Tower for years and the animosity shows. Getting paper towels is like searching for a kidney on the black market and I am not so good in dealing with lawful evil people, especially in a language I don't completely comprehend. But even in a different language, I know when someone is lying to me.

Other things that are wrong with the lab/building:
1. There is a hole in the wall that opens to the outside in the cell culture room.
2. The air conditioning in the cell culture room is TURNED OFF over the weekend. WTF??
3. Antibiotic resistant Mycoplasma.
4. Ancient autoclaves that I just don't trust.
5. Ancient equipment in general.
6. Open windows in the lab.
7. I ordered supplies in FEBRUARY that still have not arrived.
8. 2,000 Euros per month to spend on a lab with seven active workers, yet they still insist on doing
everything with kits which are very expensive.
9. Seven people in a lab that should really have four.
10. Nobody works the entire month of August. (okay, so maybe that is not a totally bad thing, but it
freaks me out)
11. Because of #10, the cell incubator is turned off for the entire month, so I couldn't do anything even
if I wanted to.
12. I am beyond frustrated that it takes months to get supplies.
13. The lack of any semblance of organization is more than overwhelming to my OCD nature.
14. Because of these conditions, I can't trust any of my data.

There is more, but this will suffice I think. The really sad thing for me is that every morning I wake up in a good mood and go into lab thinking, "Today will be the day that I get the hang of it. Today will be better," but inevitably something goes wrong and I come home sad. Further, I don't want to waste my time with a degree that I can't respect even a little. So, now the life plan has to change. My goal was to be a lecturer at the university level, but without a PhD, that is almost an impossibility, which is terribly frustrating. Just because I don't have a degree, doesn't mean that I don't know the material and conversely, just because someone else has a degree, doesn't mean that he is a good teacher. I know I am a good teacher. I have taught karate, aerobics, genetics, intro bio and cross dressers how to do their hair and make up and I have enjoyed every minute of it. But now I am whining, so I will stop.

When will we be home? Not certain as to the exact date, but it will be late December or early January. My student visa expires on January 18th, so that is the latest that we can leave. When we have exact dates, I'll post.

See you all soon!
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I have finally received all of my reagents and am doing real live science! I am very excited about the whole thing. I currently have sixteen plates of cells growing in phenol red-free, high glucose DMEM plus 2% charcoal dextran treated fetal bovine serum and 1% pen/strep. This is a very good thing. On Monday, I will collect the DNA from two plates, the RNA from two other plates and treat the rest with a hormone called dihydrotestosterone (DHT).

Yay science!
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There is currently a party going on at our neighbor's house. We were specifically invited to this one, as it is a birthday party :) The whole idea of walking into a house filled with people who may or may not speak English terrified me. It took a lot of deep breathing to get my ass over there. We found our host very quickly and were immediately introduced to an English speaker. Whew. Th English Speaker is very nice and invited us to come swimming at her house this summer. Excellent. We found a couple more English speakers and had nice conversations. Actually, they found us. You see, most of the people at the party are doctors or in science in some way because our host, the birthday boy, is a doctor himself. He just got back from a month in Africa on a Doctors without Borders stint and he is wearing a brightly patterned tunic and pant set that he bought while there. Very nice.

It is very odd that I found it so difficult to go over there. It is very much not like me, I am all about meeting new people, but the thought of the language barrier is almost too much for me. I am very funny in English, dammit, not so much in Italian (non tanto in Italiano). All I had to do was walk through the darn patio. How hard is that?!?! Very, apparently. I am such a dork.

Bart is still over there. I told him that he should go up to our hostess and ask her to introduce him to an English speaker. I wonder if he has...


UPDATE: So I went back over to the party after posting and had a very nice time. We found several other people who speak English. Most everyone who attended is a doctor or scientist or some other form of very smart person. One exception to the science rule, Roberto, is a make-up artist for the cinema :) He told me the name of a place in Rome to get the good stuff, Studio 13. Yay!! Bart also got the location of a couple of clubs that we are going to try to find.

So, in the end, it was all good and I am still a dork, but now I am a dork with more information and one or two more friends.
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And this is just one more reason why:

Thursday the 26th was supposed to be my graduation day from the Hopkins Master's degree program. If I had been in Baltimore, I would have done the whole walk across the stage wearing a funny hat thing. I completely forgot, but my most wonderful husband did not. He showed up at lab with a gelato cake (no easy feat in the Naples heat!), which was enjoyed by many. Not only that, but he also bought me a massage as a present! I am a HUGE fan of massages. And pedicures. And manicures. And facials. But massages are definitely at the top of the list!! Followed closely by ice cream cake. Yummmm.

Bart, you kick ass. I am the luckiest pixie ever.
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This past week I went to Positano for an oncology conference. Both the conference and Positano, which is on the Almafi coast, were great. The conference started on Monday, but the two most important things happened on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Tuesday, I went dancing for the first time in at least six months!!!! I was sooooooooo excited. It was fabulous. Not as fabulous as it would have been if Pet were there, but fabulous nonetheless. AND, I got free water at the bar. On Wednesday, Bart came to join me!! It was very nice to see him after a whole two and half days apart. I have a problem being away from him for any period of time.

Views of Positano )
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Hey, look what [livejournal.com profile] burny_md just taught me to do!!

Rome Pictures )
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Saturday we went to Rome via train. We bought seats in second class both ways, E22 there and E16 for the return trip, making it a grand total of E76 for the both of us. Kick ass. What is even more kick ass, is that Bart's first paycheck from his teaching job paid for the whole trip!

We started at the Colosseum, which we learned, is actually not it's real name. It's real name is Flavius Amphitheater, Flavius being the ruler who commissioned it and amphitheater meaining amphitheater. Here is an intersting tidbit, the word arena means sand in both Latin and Italian, and this applies to the Colossem because sand was spread on the ground to soak up the blood. This was the first time that either one of us had been inside this amazing structure. Here's the thing though, most of what we see, isn't original. Most of the marble and limestone was "recycled" for use in other buildings. There was a major reconstruction in the 1800's that was meant to recreate what it originally looked like, but they recreated it in red brick while the original structure was made of brilliant white limestone. There are many places where you can see the two materials in juxtaposition. The idea that we were standing where so many people and animals met their deaths was a little unsettling. One can practically hear the crowd roaring.

Next, we walked to the Pantheon and stopped on the way to see the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The TUS is huge and beautiful with larger than life marble statues and two winged angels standing on top. There are police roaming the perimeter shooing tourists off of the steps. Sorry, no sitting here. The Pantheon was the first structure to ever have a perfect dome. St. Peter's Basilica (which we visited last) and the capitol in D.C. both copied the design from the Pantheon. It was originally a temple where all of the gods were worshipped as well as whomever was ruler at the time. It was of course, taken over by Christian interests, which, in the long run, was a good thing because the Pantheon is the ONLY pagan structure from antiquity to make it to our time mostly in tact. There is a huge hole in the center of the dome which allows a perfect pillar of light to shine down. Currently, there is a major cleaning being done on the building, so there is this huge scaffolding from floor to ceiling messing up the view and obstructing the view of Rafael's tomb. Bummer. The one thing that didn't make it to modern times was the bronze ceiling of the entry way. However, the bronze can be found melted down and in a different form at...

St. Peter's Basilica, the site of St' Peter's upside down crucifixion. There is a huge altar in the center of the building (under the dome that is a copy of the Pantheon) that is covered by an enormous canopy...made of bronze stolen from the Pantheon. I love themes. St. Peter's is the "largest church in all of Christendom." It is also the most ornately decorated and ostentatious building most people will ever step into. There is goldleaf, marble and lapis lazuli everywhere. It really is just too much. Absolutely beautiful, but still too much. It is a little odd that there are many people who attend this church weekly because it is the closest one to them. Lucky them. Bart thought that it was audacious to have offering boxes out amongst all of the grandeur. It is hard for me not to agree.

We then made our way through Piazza Novanna to Trevi Fountain, which, in my opinion, is the most beautiful sculpture/fountain in all of Rome. It is huge and perfect. We didn't get to see it lit up at night, which is amazingly gorgeous, but we will most certainly have the chance to be there after dark one day. There are many folks there walking around trying to sell you things; bubble guns, squishy toys, scarves and roses. As a clever ploy to get the rose vendors out of my face, Bart bought me one :) We both threw coins into the water, assuring our return to Rome. The last time I did that, I wished that I could live in Italy. Wishes do come true!

The last trip was to the train station to find our platform, which was not as easy as it sounds. We arrived with very little time to spare before our desired train was to leave so we tried to get in the less than 15 minute departure line, but we were turned back because there were in fact, 17 minutes before our departure. So, we waited in the longer and unmoving line for three more minutes then tried the fast line again. This time, we were accepted. We got our tickets and asked which platform was ours, but the clerk was unhelpful, so we asked the man who had originally rejected us from the short line. He said Binario 26, but I that is not what I see. I see Binario 16. I assume that I am wrong and we walk really fast then jog to platform 26. There is no train at platform 26 even though the train is supposed to be leaving in three minutes. Hmmm. We decide to go back to binario 16 which is much farther away than it sounds. We run. Fast. The entire way. As we are running, we hear and announcement confirming that our train is indeed, on line 16. The only reason that we made the train is that it was delayed by five minutes. Whew. Now we are hot and sweaty and not in a good way. AND, we made it back to Naples in time to catch the last metro home.

All in all, a great day!
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Today was a wonderful day. Bart worked and I attended an seminar with four speakers, all in English! And, they were all interesting to boot.

We have just arrived home form an outing to a very beautiful theater, Teatro di San Carlo. It is the oldest theater Naples and was renovated a couple of hundred years ago to connect directly to the royal palace that is directly across the piazza, so that the royalty could go directly from their chambers to the their seats. We saw an odd concert presenting Romeo and Juliet, mostly through orchestral music, but also with a chours and three soloists, all singing in French with Italian supertitles imposed on a screen overhead. It was very odd in that there was about four minutes of music then the chorus begins to sing and we are already at the balcony scene! Then there is about another ten minutes of music and then they are singing about what a great party it was and the Italian stars. Then there was forty more minutes of music and all of a sudden, Juliet is dead! Nothing in between. The singing goes from what a great party to Juliet is dead. Odd. Then more music and Romeo comes in and he is all pissed and is a bartone now (his solo was a tenor in the balcony bit). And now Romeo is dead, but they keep playing music and the chorus is singing about the poor dead youth. I must say that the percussionists in the back playing the tambourine, cymbals, a metal disc and a triangle were very entertaining and I enjoyed them very much! While one might thing that the best part about the evening was the tasty gelato on the way home, one would be wrong. The best part of the evening was that it was free. The man whose lab I work in has season tickets and he couldn't go this evening, so he gave the tickets to us!! Yay Lorenzo.

We are going to Rome tomorrow! First thing...the Colosseum!!!
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So as many of you know... I am not the busiest guy in the world. Oh there is tons of paperwork to do, appointments to keep, groceries to buy, D&D gaming group to play with on the weekends. Mostly you could say that for a guy who just moved to Italy with is wife 4 months ago, I am doing ok! But I have discovered that when one does not have a job -strike that- when I do not have a job, I feel less "important" No one is relying on me. Now I know my lovely wife will smack me for saying that since she has said many times that she relys on me. But, for me personally, ... having responsibilities out side of the house and family (in my case apartment and Brandie) is something that is important to me. I am not saying that some time off from working is not nice, and for any of you reading this who envey others who do not have a 9-5 grind to go to we can argue later. :-) But for now, my big news is that I GOT A JOB! Due to an intial push from our friend Melanie, followed up by a contact made in the womens group, I am now a substitute teacher at an english speaking elementary school, on the NATO base here in Napoli! Its not regular Mon-Fri work. I get a call in the morning if they need me to cover for someone, so I have yet to learn how often I will be called. But so far, the indicators are good. Further, the school is interested in starting some sort of drama program later this year, and I was asked to run that for them. (that might even move me to full time for that quarter of the year) Details are not yet available about this whole deal, as today was just my first day! Regardless about the quantity of work I recieve, I can now at least saw that I do something here in Italy. I some how contribute to the community, and I feel better already. (I didn't know I was feeling bad.. but I do know I feel better now)
That's all, just wanted to put it in print, and thank all those involved in getting me this job, and send happy energy back into the universe for letting things work out the way they have here for us.

Be Well, everyone, and Blessed Be.
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But it doesn't seem to make that much of a difference here. Nobody seems to be talking about the whole thing. It was front page news for one day when the last one died and this election will be front page news for one day, too. I somehow thought that because this is Italy, home of the Pope and ever so many Catholics, that he would be a common topic of conversation. Absolutely not the case.

I originally titled this post "So, we have a new Pope," but then I thought that would include me and other people I know who don't think of him as "ours". Surely, he would look at my pentacle and not consider me one of "his" (that whole not suffering witches to live thing), so I changed it.

All I can say is that he is an awfully hale looking 74.
naturallypixie: (Default)
Thanks to a bit of networking with the new english speaking women's group (which we finally found) and some help from our wonderful friend, Mel, I have a decent change of getting a job! Technically I don't get my permission to stay until the 20th (and only then if we get our apartment inspected before that date) And I am supposed to have my permission to stay before I can get employed.. but *crossing fingers* lets all hope for the best. If I get this job, I would gain base access to the particular base where the school is located. (I would be a teacher at an elementary school, where english is the biggest job requirement) Now I do not believe that the base access granted for this job would actually let me take classes at the military education center, but, I think it would be a huge step in the right direction! Even if I do not get access to the education center, the idea of having a job to go to is very exciting! The have even indicated that I may be involved in a school theater program. (I think they want the kids to do a musical) So once again, theater will be my paycheck.

My D&D gaming group is getting bigger. Due to an add placed in a military paper, we now have David, Damon, Brian, Adam, Nathan, Viola, and Jason. I play once a week over at David's house (though the location might move once the other players become more active) Brandie comes with me to the session and spends time with David's wife, Denise. In addition to all the gaming time we share with them, we even babysat their kids. They have a three year old named Amanda, and a 1 year old named Courtney. Both kids are great, but just the whole family scene has been enough for Brandie and I to contemplate having kids of our own. Seems the more we hang out with parents, the more we don't want to become parents. We both still have times where we want kids... wow.. this is just so wierd. If you had asked me 2 years ago if I wanted to be a father, I would have told you no. Now with Brandie, even that seems possible! None the less, its been great to spend some time with children. (while in Iowa, before moving here, we spent 3 months with my nieces)

Oh.. random question. Does anyone know where the KKK got the idea to wear white sheets over thier heads?? Well Brandie and I do! We visited Sorrento around Easter time, and saw huge pictures of men in white hoods, with holes cut out for eyes, carrying large crosses. Turns out the chatholic church approves of this behavior, and makes a parade out of it every Easter. We are still trying to figure out all the details... *shaking head* but I am scared to ask more questions.
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I just made a photo of Bart and I my desktop wallpaper on the shared lab computer. As I was getting ready to log off so that others might use the machine, I was caught gazing at Bart with a stupid smile on my face :) I was then called "ridiculous" by one of my Italian lab mates. "Yes, I am and thank you for noticing," I replied with a huge smile.

I have the most handsome and most wonderful husband in the entire world.
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I signed up for health care yesterday and went to see my assigned doctor today. When I saw that she is located at V. Salvator Rosa 55, I was very excited! We are at V. Salvator Rosa 46, right down the street! I made Bart come with me to see her because I was feeling nervous. When we got to her office, which was really a floor of a several story house, Bart looked around and said, "This is what our courtyard looks like." He then went on to describe the similarities. Then we looked down. Bart instantly realized that this in fact, IS our courtyard. He had just climbed up the wall on our patio and looked into our neighbor's yards the day before. After some convincing, I began to recognize things from this peculiar angle. It is very odd because many times we tried to figure out how to get inside that courtyard, which isn't really a courtyard at all, but many patios from separate apartments converging in one space.

So, my new doctor is directly above us. She recognized the address immediately and asked us if we lived underneath her and if we knew our doctor neighbors (we do). Very cool. Now we know why the security buzzer that we can hear coming from our bathroom goes off all day long and starts so early in the morning. Now we know what the noise is above our living room: It is the people in the waiting room moving the chairs around. She actually has the top two floors of this building. We think that maybe there is a smaller apartment in the front that another older woman lives in. We are still trying to figure everything out.

Anyway, I have a doctor who speaks no English...thank the gods for Google Language Tools. She was nice enough to refer me to a gyno nearby who speaks "inglese bellisimo." Fabulous!

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