About Me

I am a 45 year husband and dad, currently adjusting to life back in the United States after living in Italy for a little over two years. I love spending time with my family, cycling, model railroading, mosaics and watching TV and movies.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Picture Link

Here is a link to Katrina's pictures of our apartment. We received news this morning that we got it!


Preview Trip - Day 4

Today was a less hectic day. Katrina and I were up late talking last night, so we all slept in.

After a late breakfast at the hotel, we headed to Monza to meet Olga. She was going to help us open a bank account. Unfortunately, after an hour in the bank we realized that all we could do was start the paperwork to open an account since we didn't have an official address yet.

We said our goodbyes to Olga and drove over to a shopping mall near ST in Agrate, where Katrina will be working. We wandered the mall and had lunch. More pizza for me, a panini for Brandon and Katrina. Katrina had to go to work for a meeting, so she left Brandon and I at the mall. We wandered the mall, strolled down each aisle of the department store/supermarket and enjoyed a gelato.

Katrina picked us up a couple of hours later and we headed back to the hotel for some down time until dinner. Later that night we went to dinner with Gianluigi and Davide, two engineers from ST. They took us to Pizza OK, Davide's favorite pizzaria, in downtown Milano.

Dinner is an interesting time in Italian culture. Most places don't start serving dinner until 7 or 8pm. We ate dinner at 7:30 or 8 most nights and were usually the first ones in the restaurant. The places we ate at were usually really 'coming alive' about the time we were finished, around 9pm. Italians eat late.

Preview Trip - Day 3

I slept really well last night. Overall, jet lag has not been as bad as I expected it to be. We even slept in a little bit today.

Once again we enjoyed breakfat at the hotel before heading to Monza. This morning was all about Brandon. We visited his school, the International School of Milan di Monza. After meeting the pricipal, Brandon was introduced to his future class. He was a celebrity! The kids had been waiting a long time to meet him and were very excited. He was given two buddies, Arthur and Vincent, with 5 more waiting to fill in if needed. We left Brandon with his class for the morning. He was able to enjoy Italian class, math, and some water cycle study before having pasta for lunch in the cafeteria.

Katrina and I filled out paperwork then took a walk around our potential neighborhood, Vedano. Vedano is seperate from Monza. Brandon's school is actually in Vedano. Our potential apartment is actually in Vedano. Monza city limits start just a block away. Brandon's school is 3 blocks from the apartment. There seems to be just about everything we would need in this part of Vedano and Monza - small supermarkets, banks, a few shops, gelato shops, butchers, a post office, and much more. There is a park with a playground right beside our potential apartment. The apartment building also has a small playground right outside our kitchen window. We ended up eating at a pizzaria for lunch. I had another pizza while Katrina has a calzone.

Brandon was playing outside for recess when we picked him up. He was very excited and seemed to really like his new school. That makes me happy. We met up with Rinna again and headed out to view one of the bigger shopping centers nearby. It was only 3km from the apartment. We wandered the mall a little bit and quickly walked through Auchen, the large supermarket/department store. Rinna helped Katrina and I purchase cell phones. Its a different process there. We had to show our passports and give our Italian tax ID's. You don't buy phone plans in Italy. You choose a cell provider and then purchase cards for various amounts of call time. You then use the PIN codes on the cards to add time to your phone. We were so glad to have Rinna with us.

We had two appointments in the late afternoon to look at apartments for a second time. We looked at what had become our top choice and decided it was the one. We went downstairs to the Cafe to discuss our choices with Olga and Rinna. Olga will negotiate the contract for the apartment and will keep us posted.

It was another exciting and tiring day. We skipped dinner because we ate too many 'happy hour' snacks at the Cafe.

Another interesting aspect of Italian culture is driving. Driving can be stressful to begin with, but once you get the hang of it, all is well. Stoplights are followed closely, but lanes and merging are an artform all their own. Almost all cars are very tiny. Mini Coopers and smart cars are everywhere and are the normal size of the average car. In the land of small cars, its hard to believe that finding parking is one of the most difficult parts of owning a car. Parking is at such a premium in Milan that cars are parked anywhere and everywhere, including on the sidewalks and in the medians. If you ride a scooter or motorcycle, you ride anywhere you fit. My perception is this: lanes are for cars, lines are for motorcycles. Its common and expected for motorcycles to fly by on the centerline and weave their way up to the front at a stoplight. Once you become comfortable with all of this, its actually normal and kind of fun.

Preview Trip - Day 2

Day 2 in Italy. After another excellent breakfast in the hotel, we headed off to Monza for another day of apartment hunting. We met Rina in downtown Monza and walked to the first three apartments. The first one was absolutely beautiful. We loved it. The only downside was that it was in downtown. The second apartment was large, but much older. The third apartment was a small upstairs bungalo style apartment. We didn't really like it much.

We met Olga on the piazza for lunch. Once again, a pizzaria. I enjoyed another pizza. Brandon has - you guessed it - pasta pomodoro and parmagian.

After lunch we looked at 3 apartments near Brandon's school. Once again, each very interesting in its own unique way. The second to last one stood out. It was modern, mostly furnished and good size - just smaller than our house. We finished up around 5pm. Katrina, Brandon and I drove over to a playground in Parco di Monza so that Brandon could play while we discussed our top apartment choices. Our two top choices happened the be in the same building - the second one from yesterday and the second to last one today. We called Olga to setup second visits, only to find that the owner of our top choice decided that they would be moving back from Paris, so that apartment was not available afterall. Choice #2 became #1 and the beautiful apartment in downtown Monza was added to our backup list.

We ate dinner at the hotel after another tiring but exciting day.

Preview Trip - Day 1

Day 1 in Italy arrived quickly. Brandon slept like a rock. Katrina and I both woke up around 2am and had troubles going back to sleep. We finally did fall asleep again. Morning came too quickly.

The hotel had a nice breakfast. Fresh fruit, crossiants, sausage, meats, cheeses, yogurt, bread, and juices. Brandon loved the special breads and crossiants. Katrina and I are not coffee drinkers and never have been. We decided to each try a cappacino. Katrina didn't care for it. I am willing to try it a few more times before I decided.

Todays agenda was a busy one: Meet Olga and her assistant Rina, view 2 apartments in the morning, lunch, then 3 apartments in the afternoon. We met at a hotel in Monza, about a 1/2 hour drive from our hotel. We met Olga and spent some time going over the plans and ideas for the week, then it was time to visit our first apartment. Olga did not join us, but sent Rina with us. We looked at the first two apartments near Brandon's school. Both were much larger than I expected. The first one was actually too large. The second apartment quickly became our top choice of the day. It was very bright and very cutting edge modern, as well as fully furnished.

Some interesting tidbits about Italian apartments. First off, many Italians own their apartments. What we would call condos. Almost all the buildings have a door man. This is an important person and a link to all that is going on. Most apartment buildings have very small elevators - 3 - 4 person standing very close together. Most windows do not have screens. They do have wood or metal shades on the outside that are cranked down like a garage door, either by hand or by electric. A garage is called a box. There is very little carpet. Mostly tile or wood floors with throw rugs. All the front doors to the actual apartments are literally 6 or more inches thick, like a vault.

We had lunch a very stylish restaurant in Parco di Monza. I had veal that was excellent. Brandon had pasta with pomodoro and parmagian - for the second time.

In the afternoon we viewed 3 apartments in Monza city center. There is a lot of action and so much to do and see downtown. Unfortunately, even though it is only a 10 min or less drive to Brandon's school, these apartments would not be all that convenient for daily commuting to school. Each apartment is interesting and unique. These 3 were each very nice, but didn't meet our needs for one reason or another.

After a long day of apartment hunting we headed back to the hotel to relax and have dinner. Brandon had pasta pomodora and parmagian for the third time!! I had swordfish and Katrina had some risotto.

Off to Italy

The hour finally arrived for us to head to Italy for our preview trip. It almost didn't seem real.

We left Corvallis and headed north to Portland on Saturday morning 3/21. Our first flight would take us to Franfurt Germany on Luftansa. What a great airline. We flew on an A330, our route taking us northeast over Canada and Iceland, then down over Ireland arriving in Germany after 9 1/2 hours of flying. Katrina and Brandon slept a bit. I didn't sleep much at all. It was great having monitors in the headrests to keep our attention diverted from the long flight. I watched a couple of movies, several TV shows and occasionally checked on the flight status. Brandon was thrilled to watch Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Katrina also enjoyed a couple of movies. We enjoyed occasional snacks, drinks and hot towels regularly throughout the flight.

After touching down in Frankfurt, we had to clear customs. Brandon and I recieved our first stamps in our passports. Brandon was excited because the customs agent let him stamp his own passport.

Our second flight lasted only 55 minutes, from Frankfurt to Milano. Katrina slept the entire time while Brandon and I marveled in the sight of the Alps. Wow, what a majestic mountain range. I can't wait to explore them in the next two years.

We arrived in Milano around noon local time. 10 1/2 hours of total flying time. Not too bad. Our goal for the rest of the day was to stay awake until bedtime. We checked into the hotel and hung out for awhile. After realizing how tired we were getting, we decided that sitting around was not a good option. We headed out in search of IKEA. All I can say is, thank goodness for our GPS purchase several months ago. There are two IKEA's in Milano. One is located closer to the north side of the city, the one we will most likely shop at. The second one is located farther south. We chose this one because it was located closer to Gianluigi's house, one of the ST engineers that Katrina will be working with. We were to meet Gianluigi and his wife for pizza later in the evening. We found IKEA. It was crazy busy, but not a lot of stores are open on Sundays, so I guess that was to be expected.

Later in the evening we enjoyed out first Italian meal. We joined Gianluigi and his wife ???? at a pizzaria. I had my first Italian pizza - the Margherita. This is a comm0n and popular pizza. Basically its primodora (sauce) and cheese. The pizzas here are made with very thin crust. They are huge. Typically you order your own pizza. Its larger than a dinner plate and looks like a lot of food, but because of the thin crust, you can eat most of it all by yourself. Katrina had a pizza as well. Brandon had pasta withe sauce and parmagiana. He was in heaven since pasta is one of his favorite meals.

We made it to bedtime. Our travel day and and first partial day in Italy was a success.

Friday, March 20, 2009

For Rent

Our house is officially being advertised as "For Rent". This feels like a major step in our process of moving to Italy. Its a tough one. Its our home and it feels a little weird to know that someone else will be living in it while we are away.
Its out of my hands and there is nothing I can do. I'll be in Italy!!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Getting Ready to Move

This week has been all about getting things in order for our move to Italy. We have scheduled the movers, scheduled a consulate appointment for mine and Brandon's Visa application, scheduled a a carpet cleaner, put our house up for rent, planned a birthday party for Brandon, sorted through our belongings, worked on the inventory of our household goods, as well as all the normal daily chores.

Its been a busy week. On Saturday we leave for a 5 day apartment hunting trip to Italy. When we get back like will kick into an even higher gear.

One of the key time components is for Brandon and I to get our Visa's back in time to hopefully leave for Italy on the 18th. We shall see. If they are processed as fast as Katrina's, it will be no problem.

We are amazed at how many things we have accumulated over the years. We have given away so much to friends and Goodwill. Yesterday we gave away the last of our house plants. We've had some of those plants since we were married.

All this leads us to a new chapter of our lives. I don't really know what the next two years have in store for us. I know it will be an adventure that we will get to experience as a family.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Italy Update

Our plans for moving to Italy are really starting to come together.

Tonight we meet with the management company concerning the renting of our house. On Saturday we leave for Italy. We will be there four days and will spend most of the time looking at apartments. This morning I scheduled the movers for April 13-15. Two days of packing and one day of loading.

Katrina will be flying to Italy on the 14th. Brandon and I will most likely fly to Italy on the 18th.

The next few weeks will go by fast. There is a lot to do. The biggest task is deciding what to take and what to store, as well as creating an inventory sheet of the movers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Preview Trip

Our preview trip was booked today. We will be flying to Italy on the 21st for 5 days of apartment hunting. We also intend to let Brandon visit his new school.

Katrina also informed me that the Entry Permit for Brandon and will be be ready next week. It will be given to us while we are in Italy. Our next step will be for Brandon and I to visit the consulate in Portland to get his stamp, then mail our passports to San Francisco for final Visa approval. Hopefully we can do all this in 2 or 3 weeks.

Our goal is to be in Italy by 4/15. We shall see what happens.

The move to Italy is feeling much more real now. For nine months now it has been feeling a little unreal and something that is just hanging out there sometime in the future...maybe?! Now we are getting ready to move and that is really starting to sink in.

Its been a long process. Its been frustrating at times. I am now just trying my best to appreciate and enjoy the process. Life is a journey....every moment of it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Weight Loss

Eighteen weeks ago I started Weight Watchers. Yesterday I weighed in at -20lbs!!

I have a long way to go, but I'm getting there one small step at a time. I worked hard and did really well up until Christmas. Over the Christmas break and into January I gained about 6-8lbs. I was mostly keeping track of my points, but not working hard at it.

About 4 weeks ago I got serious. Since then I have lost the extra pounds I gained back and about 6 more. I feel good. I am even wearing jeans and pants that are one size smaller.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Italy Update

Our move to Italy is getting closer each week. We are still not sure what the exact move date is, but the window in which we will move seems to be narrowing down quite a bit.

Katrina checked the tracking on her Visa. It showed that it was mailed back to us. We hope that it will be a stamped and approved Visa, not just a request for missing paperwork.

If it is approved, then our lives will kick into the next higher gear of preparation.

Currently I am starting to sort our belongings into two categories: 1) Going to Italy, and 2) Going into long term storage. This past weekend I was able to check a couple of 'to do' items off of our list. Our good friend Shawn will be keeping our canoe and gear stored for us. And, biggest of all, we sold our car. I thought I would have some feelings about that, but it hasn't seemed to faze me at all. It will be interesting to live with only one vehicle for a few weeks. I guess its good practice for Italy, since we will only have one car while we are there. I would love to get a scooter, but we shall see what happens.