Every 4th of July, I recall the Independence day Bill and I celebrated on July 4, 2008, when we were traveling in Europe during our Big Adventure. In honor of Independence Day, I am reposting the blog entry from my Reluctant Traveler blog from that day…..
FRIDAY, JULY 4, 2008
Happy Independence Day
Last night as Bill and I sat outside on our patio after dinner (occasionally glancing nervously at the bell tower to make sure it wasn’t starting to lean), we began talking about what we miss most about the United States.
“Wide roads and good highways,” Bill immediately said.
Predictable toilets was my first thought.
Other American take-for-granted things that we miss most:
Bacon-and-egg breakfast, with American coffee (and endless refills).Italians don’t eat breakfast. While they enjoy their noon and evening meals, breakfast is virtually nonexistent. They will most likely eat a roll or pastry and an espresso at a bar on their way to work. Even the cereal that Bill and I often have is more than most Italians would ever eat for breakfast.
Stores that are open all day (and some even open 24 hours). In Italy, the majority of stores are open for a period of time in the morning, and then they are closed for most of the afternoon. They will reopen somewhere around 4:30 or 5, and stay open until about 8. On Sundays they aren’t open at all. Restaurants are open from about 11:30 to 2:30, and then don’t reopen until 7 in the evening. The bars stay open, but you can generally only get a sandwich or salad. Sometimes I need something from the market, or am hungry, at times other than these. Bill recalled one time when my sister was visiting us, and when she went to leave at about 10 o’clock at night, she discovered she had a flat tire. Thanks to a 24-hour K-Mart, we were able to fix her tire.
Ice cubes. I don’t really understand the deal with no ice cubes. We are very happy that the Priest’s House has a refrigerator with a freezer because we can, and do, make ice cubes. The first night we were here, I poured some Diet Coke over some ice cubes and gave it to Bill. “Would it kill them?” I wondered.
Soft beds with soft sheets. Europeans in general like very hard mattresses and pillows that are as hard as rocks. Their bed sheets are also very stiff and hard. We finally went to an Ikea store in Padua and bought ourselves a couple of soft pillows that we carry with us. When our landlords see them, they laugh and shake their heads in puzzlement. At home I have a wonderful pillow-top mattress with two feather pillows, and I sometimes daydream about them!
Air conditioning. It is not uncommon to be without air conditioning here in Italy. The families sit outside in the evening where it is a bit cooler, and use fans. We do both of those things as well. In the summer in the United States, most people have air conditioning, and all stores are cool when you enter them. That is not so here.
Clothes dryer. There is a reason you see clothes hanging out on clotheslines throughout France and Italy. There are no clothes dryers, except in laundromats. The result? Stiff clothes.
Diversity in food and people. I lied above when I said that the first thing I thought of that I miss is predictable toilets. My real first answer was Mexican food, but I didn’t want you to know how often I think about food. The food in Europe is very good. In particular, we love the food in Italy. But we do miss the fact that in the United States on any given day you could eat Chinese, Mexican, Thai, Japanese, Italian, Ethiopian, Indian, French, Greek, and of course American barbecue, fried chicken, and hamburgers! In Italy, you can find an Indian or Chinese restaurant, and occasional sushi, but you have to really look for it. The same is true for the people. There is just not the same richness of diversity in people and ethnic or cultural backgrounds as there is in the United States.
Our English language. Bill and I have done remarkably well with language, particularly here in Italy. As I have said before, the Italians are so eager to help you and try to understand what you are saying. We have been able to communicate very well with our little bit of Italian and the Italian’s agreeability. Still, we miss turning on the television and hearing an English-language news broadcast. We miss hearing a Mass in English. We miss the ease of being able to communicate in English.
Now, I want to be perfectly clear that there are things here in Italy that we will miss very much when we go back home. The pizza here, baked in wood burning ovens, is hands down the best we will ever eat. The Italian people, as I have already indicated, are friendly, warm, polite, and just funny as can be. They will always greet you with a cheerful buon giorno or buona serra. The love and connection that the Italian people have to their history is remarkable and enviable, as demonstrated at the Palio on Wednesday. The meat and produce here are wonderful. And, finally, the wine is scrumptious and amazingly inexpensive.
While we have enjoyed our experience immensely, Bill and I will definitely not be the kind of people who will come back to the United States sneering at the supposed commercialism, greed, and crassness of its people. Instead, we will never again take for granted the wonderful things our country has to offer.
By the way, the photo is the closest we could come to finding an American flag. The flag is on a bag of hot dog buns, or as it says on the package hotdog roll (no ‘s’).
Happy birthday America!