Dear friends and relatives,
This year has indeed been an interesting one for our family. Since moving to Italy in April, we have all grown in patience and maturity. We enjoy the new experiences, but occasionally find things that are very trying. We have learned how to live without a telephone, reliable utilities, window screens, air conditioning, garbage disposal, garage door opener, or dish washer. All these things seemed necessities when we lived in the States.
Naples is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. The typical driver here would feel right at home on a race track. Traffic signs and signals are ignored until there is an accident. Naples is in an active volcanic region and there are frequent earth tremors. There are about 20 TV stations in the area, most of which have no concept of "family entertainment."
Quickly after arriving here, we found a large villa near a lake, about 15 miles from the Naval Base. It took a long time for this flat-topped, stone, tile, and marble house to seem like home. Our landlord speaks no English. Still, we have learned less Italian than we originally intended. Our neighborhood is about 50% Americans.
Going to church, Chiesa di Christo, is quite different from church in the States. We have about 30 in attendance at the American service that meets on Sunday mornings in a small basement. We both teach classes. Regularly meeting in one another's homes, we have grown quite close helping each other cope with life here.
We have visited many archeological sites, including Pompeii and the Forum in Rome. We have been to the top of Mt. Vesuvius and to the top of the Leaning Tower in Pisa. We took a refreshing trip to Florence which reminded us of beauty and civilization. The excellent Italian food is beyond adequate description. We purchased a beautiful inlaid wood dining room set in Sorrento.
Practicing medicine is a challenge at a small Naval Hospital and branch clinic. Michael was reminded of his real purpose for being here when the injured Marines arrived from their bombed barracks in Beirut. He is now board certified in Family Practice after taking the test in Philadelphia. Preferring to be at work, Michael had to be forced to stay home when he had pneumonia recently.
Keeping house is a little more time-consuming here than in the States. Nevertheless, Jeannie found time to take a watercolor class. One of her favorite experiences was attending an opera in Rome. She learned to drive our standard-shift Fiat, even through the worst traffic.
Angelique (4) and Steven (2) took swimming lessons for 6 weeks and learned to enjoy the water, both at the pool and at the beach near our house. Angelique is reading very well now and occasionally will write a short letter to a grandmother. She goes 3 half-days a week to nursery school about a mile from our house. Recently, after being found with large black spots on her, Angelique explained she had looked up our fireplace chimney. She said, "I wanted to be sure there was a hole big enough for Santa Claus to come down."
Steven is now speaking in complete sentences most of the time. He knows all his ABC's, can count almost to 20, and can spell his name. He pays careful attention to our video tapes of Sesame Street, but will run to hide when certain "monsters" come on. He frequently says, "Oh, Mama, I'm so proud of you," or "You be good. Okay?"
Though we are grateful for the opportunity to be here, we miss many things about America. Most of all, we miss our friends and relatives. We love and appreciate each of you in a way that we didn't understand before coming here. Let us hear from you.
Buon Natale (Merry Christmas),
Michael, Jeannie, Angelique, and Steven Cole