Sat., 21 May 1983
Dear Mom & Dad,
It is 9 pm Sat. night (2:00 in the afternoon in Arkansas right now). The sun goes down about 8:30. It comes up before 6 am. That is the earliest I have been up. I will probably only write part of this letter tonight and finish it another day.
We are now in our house. It sure beats the hotel. We were staying in the worst hotel around NSA (the Navy base), but it was convenient and cheap. The Navy paid for the room, plus gave us lots of money to eat on. We were getting a total of $80.90 per day. We actually were "making" money, because we weren't spending as much for meals as they were giving us. But we were eager to get out of the hotel just as soon as possible (and we are glad we did). At the end we were eating two meals a day in our room. We had a small refrigerator. We stayed in the hotel a total of 21 days. It is so nice to be in this house. The living room is nearly twice the size of our hotel room that had two bedrooms. The kids are acting better; we are acting better. It is nice to sit down around a table, by ourselves, again.
The mail is delivered to the hospital only Monday through Friday. Most of it comes on Monday for some reason. Jeannie finally got a letter from her mother yesterday. We very much appreciate getting mail from back "home." It makes it more bearable here, knowing someone in the States cares about us. After we get settled, you can expect my letters to get shorter and probably less frequent, because there will be less to tell you. Right now we are experiencing so many new things that there is a lot to write about. Otherwise, it would be hard for you to understand what we are going through over here. There are a lot of pleasurable things for all of us at times. Also, there are a lot of things that we just have to "put up with" and things we find disappointing. Most of the time, we are excited to be in Italy. Sometimes we wonder if we did the right thing. We do miss a lot of things: especially, conveniences in the U.S., our house in Fort Smith, being able to read signs on the road, our furniture, T.V., and thousands of other little things. But, we enjoy a lot of things here: the friends we have made in the Navy, the closeness of the church, the beautiful mountains, the sea, the history and sights in the area, the food, and a few other things. Sometimes we want to cry but realize that the day will come when we will have no regrets about coming. We are growing and learning.
Since Grandma, Joan & Bill have moved, I need their new address, please.
Tuesday, when I got off at noon, I went and picked up my new, used car on the base. It lifted my spirits considerably to have freedom with transportation again. Tuesday afternoon Jeannie bought several things that we had to have to move into a house. At 4:30 pm, Jeannie had arranged for us to go look at a stove and a dryer. We drove several miles but no one was home. We waited till 5:30, then had to leave, because we had to come pick up the keys to the house at 6:00. We then went to a nearby hotel and ate supper with some friends. Then, we reluctantly drove back to spend one more night in the hotel.
Wednesday morning we got up early so we could check out of the hotel, get our stuff out here, and me get back to work before 9 am. Jeannie & the kids stayed here and had no furniture for 3 hours. We brought a car load of stuff with us Wednesday morning, even though we left a car load of stuff in the house on Tuesday night. We accumulated a few things since we got here. Our express shipment was delivered Wednesday morning along with some "loaner furniture." Wednesday afternoon, when I got off, I stopped at the Commissary & bought a few groceries that had to be refrigerated. I also bought Jeannie some African violets. She was really beaming when I got home. She was glad to be out of the hotel. She was pleased that she had gotten all the boxes unpacked, except for Steven's bed. Sheila, from church, had brought food for lunch, then took the kids to her house all afternoon, giving Jeannie time to get things done. Jess, from church, brought over a bombola (a small gas tank for the stove), in the middle of the afternoon. One of the neighbors brought some brownies and some lemons. Faye, from church, brought over a fantastic supper at 6:00 pm. The landlord came over and installed a new 85 liter hot water heater. (The water heaters here are electric and hang from the wall about a foot from the ceiling.) He also worked on the lock on the front gate. The gate unlocks with a key or by pushing a button inside near the front door. We were all very tired by the time we got to bed that night.
Though we don't feel lucky, we are very fortunate to get out of the hotel so quickly. Most people stay in a hotel 6 - 8 weeks here trying to find a house. We don't know of anyone from our plane who has moved to a house yet. We know several who have signed contracts for houses but are just waiting for them to be vacated.
With the exception of the small kitchen, we are quite pleased with this house. Jeannie thinks just the upstairs has 1700 square feet. She drew a floor plan of the house that should be in this envelope. The seat on the toilet in the upstairs bathroom is square. Next to that is a bidet. All of the Italian bathrooms have bidets. We are told they are for washing feet. (Angelique insisted that I wash her feet in it tonight before she ate supper.) The tile on the floor, throughout the house, is very pretty. Our staircase, which has a door at the top, is marble. There is also tile on the walls in the kitchen and bathrooms and on the balconies and the front porch. The stairs off the front porch are marble. The house did come with bathroom fixtures, light fixtures, and kitchen cabinets. None of the doorknobs are round. On all the inside doors there are handles instead of knobs and they all use skeleton keys. The front door and garage door knobs are square-shaped. The French doors and windows have T-shaped knobs. All the windows upstairs have shutters that also have T-shaped knobs. No two doors in the house use the same key. There is a small yard in the back and a small yard in the front. Very few of the Italian houses have yards of any kind. The average house in the suburbs has about a 1 yard strip of grass that runs around the house. We have an iron fence that runs all around the house. Most of the doors and windows have bars on them. The house is 4 years old and looks very similar to other houses in this area. They are built with tufa stone, primarily. I am watching them build a house just to the north side of us. If I remember, I will tell you more about how it's built as I see it. The roof is flat.
The lake (Lago Patria) is only 150 yards west of our house. There are no houses behind us yet. The view out the back is great. It is only 2 miles (west) to the sea, but we can't see it because there are a lot of pine trees on the other side of the lake. The house is white with red shutters, red trim, and a red tile roof. It sets right on the Via Circumvallazione (called the "4-Laner" by the Americans - a 4 lane highway with a median). Our house is #185 and is named Villa Carolina. Sitting here listening to the traffic, it sounds like we live on the interstate. The house is halfway between the Tangenziale and the Domitiana (about a mile in either direction), both of which will take us to Naples. The Tangenziale, just like an interstate, (called the "Tange" by the Americans) is a toll road (but not all exits have toll booths). It cost 500 Lire to drive on it from here to work and takes 15-30 minutes depending on the traffic. It also cost 500 Lire to drive home. (That's about $1.45 per day in tolls.) The Domitiana, also spelled Domiziana sometimes (called the "Domitz" by Americans), is free, but would take about 1 hour to get to work. The hospital is about 2 miles off the Tangenziale. The traffic through that two miles is like nothing you have ever seen in your life. You move too slow over that stretch to get hurt, but it seems like a miracle that your car doesn't get dented up every time you go through there. We live about 15 miles north of the hospital.
The earthquake that we felt last Sunday was not felt out here. We are glad of that. The only problem is that I have to work so close to the epicenter of the quakes.
The car is doing fine. The only problem we have had was that Jeannie couldn't get the key to turn in the ignition yesterday morning. The Americans get gas cheap over here. I paid the equivalent of $1.10 per gallon, while the Italians are paying $3.06 per gallon. We buy gas coupons on base which are for 5 or 10 liters. We get gas only at AGIP stations and pay only with coupons. There is no self service in Italy. It's nice having someone fill up the tank and wash the windshield while you sit in the car.
Sun. 22 May 1983
It is a very beautiful afternoon here. The sun is shining brightly, but the temperature is very nice with a cool breeze. At night, it seems to get pretty chilly, probably because of being close to the lake. The bugs are not too bad, though they may get worse this summer. There are no screens on the windows, but I am sure we will put some on the shutters.
The water supply is very good. It tastes a lot better than Fort Smith. We have a septic tank, but I haven't found where it is yet. Our landlord pays the water & garbage bills. The garbage collectors come by daily. The electricity on our house is limited to 3000 watts at any one time.
Thursday morning, when I got up, there was an inch of water over the floor downstairs. There was a water fall coming out of the hot water heater. We aren't sure if it is fixed yet or not. We are glad we hadn't put anything down there yet. Jeannie had it all cleaned up by the time I got home.
I bought some metal shelves so we could use the storage space in our one closet off the dining room.
Friday morning I got up early to catch the bus to work. It leaves from the Anchor Hotel at 6:50 am. This hotel is about a block from us and across the road. Before the bus came, a patient of mine stopped & gave me a ride to the hospital. Jeannie used the car Friday to wash clothes at Pinetamare (5 miles north of here) and came and picked me up at 4:30 at the hospital. We bought over $100 worth of groceries at the commissary on base and made good use of the storage shelves.
Yesterday morning the landlord came and built a brick wall around a ledge on the top level where we were afraid the kids would fall over.
From noon till 5:30 pm we were at Carney Park where we had a picnic with 3 other Navy families that we met on the plane coming over.
The soil over here is just like dust. I'm not sure if there are any rocks. The dirt brushes off pretty easily. We hear that the kids' white socks will eventually be permanently gray. I guess the soil is all volcanic ash. It is pretty similar to ashes. You can imagine how dusty the house gets with this dirt and the windows open all the time. It gets dry in summer because it seldom rains then.
We went to church this morning. I found it without any trouble. It is in the basement of a building. This was the first time I drove to church.
This afternoon Jeannie went to a baby shower with someone from church.
Angelique is outside playing. She is really fascinated by the "tunnel." The fence around the house is high enough that she can't climb over it. If it weren't for the outside steps, we could let Steven play outside by himself.
The kids are excited about having a lot of toys again.
I guess I have rambled on enough.
You should find enclosed a "gettone." It is a coin made especially for pay phones. Most of the pay phones won't take coins, but use gettone. (It is pronounced jet-TONE-ay). The gettone cost 100 lire each (about 7 cents). One gettone only gives you so much time and there is nothing that warns you that your time is up. You just get cut off unless you put several in when you start. When you are finished you push the coin return and some will come back, if you didn't use them all up (that is if the phone is working right). I figured Daddy would enjoy showing one at the phone company. (Not much of a birthday present, huh?)
I haven't heard from David Campbell yet. If he has already been here and didn't look me up, get word to him that he better next time. After mid-June, we will have our furniture, and could have him out for supper and spend the night with us. What ship is he on?
We love you both. Happy 48th birthday! I guess you'll be about to go to camp by the time you get this.
We appreciate your thinking of us.
Michael, Jeannie, Angelique, & Steven
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