Sunday, 19 June 1983
Dear Mom & Dad,
I am working at the hospital today & tonight. I am the medical officer of the day (MOOD) and have to stay here to cover the emergency room.
Enclosed you will find some examples of the money here. However, the condition of 90% of the paper money is far worse than what I am sending. Much of it is like trash, being very well circulated. It is very rare to find a dollar bill in the States in the condition of the average Italian bill here.
It still seems strange to me that we have to have 2 monetary systems here. On the base and in the hospital we have to have American money. They won't accept lire anywhere on base. At AFSOUTH (the NATO base) they will take dollars or lire. Everywhere else we have to use lire. We even have American coke and candy machines at NRMC and NSA. We see lots of Bicentennial quarters and even $2.00 bill here. A lot of the dollar bills are in poor condition because they have been over circulated.
I certainly enjoy your letters. They mean more than you can imagine. They always brighten my day. Angelique enjoys your letters, too. We appreciate the newspaper clippings, too. The phone bill for $7.07 will have to wait awhile. We are close to running out of our initial 50 checks and are waiting for our printed checks to arrive. When they do, I will send you one.
We have now closed out our checking account in Fort Smith. I got a check from them the other day.
Is your new garden coming up yet? Do you still have strawberries? How did the rain affect them?
Where did you pick up flat sandstone rocks? Where are you putting a patio?
As far as I can determine, the U.S.S. Mahan has not yet been to Naples. It seems that arrival dates of ships are classified, so I can't find out when or if it is coming. I understand I can't know until it gets here. It may come and go before I even know about it unless David calls me at the hospital (3396 or 3397) or comes to find me. There is a free shuttle (bus) several times a day from "Fleet Landing" at NRMC (the hospital). If David would like to, I will take him home, feed him, and let him spend the night with us (even without prior notice). Relay this information to June. Also, what is his rank and what kind of ship is he on?
I guess you went and picked up Becky yesterday. She will probably be gone by the time this letter gets there. If not, "Hello, Becky!" How are Alan & Brian?
Happy anniversary next week. Have fun in Springfield.
I hope Daddy had a happy Father's Day. With Becky and her kids there it was probably nice. Since they are the only available grandchildren, I hope you gave them lots of special attention. I do realize that it is difficult for you to be separated from your grandchildren, the Coles always away and the Newberrys nearly always away. Don't lose heart. We will return, someday, to Arkansas.
Besides that, you will be coming over here. Now is the time to get your passports. There is no reason to wait another day. It's almost as easy as applying for a credit card. Let me know that you have gotten them.
I really like our house. Jeannie seems to be tolerating the kitchen since we are eating pretty good meals. We have ordered some cabinets specially built to go in the kitchen that will help matters considerably (or so Jeannie says). These will increase the amount of counter space which is the biggest problem right now. The cabinets should be ready in a few days. We were told they would be ready yesterday, but we have been here long enough not to be disappointed when things are never ready when you are told they will be. We have the refrigerator sitting in the dining room and it seems to be no problem there.
Italians generally have small kitchens. Jeannie thinks ours is smaller than average. We have seen a lot of kitchens that are quite a lot bigger than ours. We have heard that they were well into the construction of our house before they remembered the kitchen. We'll never know if that is really true. But it is believable. I don't think they make blueprints before they start building a house. I think they make it up as they go along. I don't think any of the corners in the house are true 90 degree angles. This is very apparent from looking at the way the tiles are laid.
Yes, the Italians do use toilet paper. The bidet is not used to wash your bottom (in this house). Perhaps it was used for that at one time. Look it up in your encyclopedia.
Look up tufa stone, too. Tufa is short for something (tufaceous, maybe). It is a type of volcanic rock. It is quarried. There is a quarry about 5 miles from our house. The stones are used like we would concrete blocks. It is a dirty yellow color. They always appear damp. I am told it takes 5 years for the stones to dry out after a house is built. After the house is built, the tufa stones don't show because they are covered inside and out with cement, then painted. You can understand why it is always damp in the houses. Our downstairs is a lot like a cellar, cool & damp. The composition of the walls is not uniform. In places you can drive a nail in and it seems like a rock. In other places it's like putting a nail into cardboard.
A few days ago, after a big rain had washed the air out, we could see Mt. Vesuvius in the distance from the intersection of the Tange and the 4-laner (close to our house). I feel safer when I can't see it.
We are still very busy. We do feel much more settled now, though. There are only a few boxes that haven't been unpacked yet. Most of the house looks like we are settled. There are still toys all over the place. We haven't figured out exactly what to do with them yet. Right now about half the toys stay in Steven's room and half in Angelique's. Eventually, I will build some shelves in a corner of each room for toys. The kids play in each other's rooms all the time without problems (right now). I think their rooms are bigger than the master bedroom in Fort Smith, so they have lots of room to play.
Shopping on base is adequate, but not fantastic. The Exchange ("PX" in the army) is similar to a small K-Mart store. It has a little bit of everything. Generally, it is well stocked. We can buy just about anything that we were used to getting in the States, though sometimes we have to settle for a different brand name. If they are ever out of stock, we will probably be able to find something similar on the Italian market though it will cost a little more. For example, they have Pampers (even with elastic legs), Coke & Pepsi, Johnson's Baby Shampoo, Colgate toothpaste, and several other products on the Italian market that are identical to the American product except the writing on the box is in Italian.
The commissary (grocery store) on the base is a little smaller than what we are used to, but we can get just about everything we are used to. At least 80% of the food comes straight from the U.S. The fresh produce comes from Italy. The milk and bread come from the Army bases in Germany (so it is never extra fresh). The meat is expensive it seems, but it is less than we would have to pay in the States.
I have not yet had to use a pay phone so I am not sure about how long a gettone will last. Supposedly, in Naples, if you call a local number, one gettone is supposed to last about 5 minutes. I am told that it can vary from one phone to another. Some phones will warn you with a tone when it is time to deposit more gettoni. You are supposed to be able to deposit several coins when you start and then get back whatever you don't use, after you hang up. But this doesn't work on every phone, every time. You deposit the gettone before you pick up the receiver. A dial tone is a beep, beep ... beep, beep ... beep, beep ... A busy signal is similar to the busy signal in the States. If it rings, it sounds a lot like the dial tone. It took a lot of getting use to. About 5% of the time the phone goes dead in the middle of your conversation for no apparent reason. Personally, I think it is a miracle that the phone system works as much as it does.
Our phone system in the hospital is not much better. We don't have a switch board. I share 2 incoming lines with about 10 other people. We dial "0" to get out, rather than "9."
It is long distance to Lago Patria. I am told it takes "a few" gettoni to make a call to Naples. You can get gettoni at tobacco shops, bars, newstands, and out of machines located near many phones. The newer phones take gettoni and coins (100 lire and 200 lire size).
At AFSOUTH you can buy products from all the NATO countries. For Jeannie's birthday, I bought her a beautiful music box (measures about 6x9") for only $17.00. It would cost at least 3 times that in the States. There are lots of other things that are cheaper here, too.
We finally got our TV reception to work. Tuesday night the landlord took us to the town where he lives, several miles from our house. There we picked up 2 guys who are TV "technicians," and brought them back to the house. They determined the wire, that was installed in the house when it was built, was faulty. So they ran the wire out the window from the TV to the antenna. The reception is now very good. (It only cost about $13.00 for all that.) Yesterday the landlord drilled a hole through the wall (about 18" of stone & concrete). It wasn't easy. Now the wire goes through the wall like it should. We can pick up about 20 stations. Our TV can only take 16 stations. They have a lot of American shows that have the talking in Italian. We have watched parts of several different shows, like Happy Days, Little House on the Prairie, Bewitched, That Girl, Rawhide, All in the Family, Mighty Mouse, Yogi Bear, Big Valley, Bionic Woman, Flamingo Road, etc., etc. They also show a lot of old American movies, especially westerns. If the movie is an American musical, all the songs are in English and the dialogue is in Italian. Some of the movies would be rated "R" in the States and they show them any time, even Saturday morning. The commercials are the best because we can figure out what they are talking about, usually. We saw a Popeye cartoon the other day that was totally in English. A show may start at any time here, not just on the hour or half hour. Last week they had a special on Ercolano (like Pompeii) that had an expert speaking in English, then an interpreter would translate it to Italian. There are cartoons on many different times of the day, every day. Most are American, Italian, or Japanese, translated to Italian.
We are trying to find a dining table. We saw one yesterday that I liked fine but Jeannie thought it was too much like what we could have bought in the States. Jeannie wants to get one that is unlike anything in the States, but she hasn't found what she has in mind yet.
We are always going, always busy, and always tired. I finally got a good night's sleep the past couple of nights. Probably the only time in the past month. I decided I was going to bed at a decent hour regardless of how much needed to be done at home. I had gotten to where I was so tired, I couldn't think hardly.
Steven and Angelique like to run or ride tricycles around and around the house, through the tunnel. There is concrete all around the lower level. Steven yells "cycle," which he pronounces "sickle." He is getting pretty good at walking up & down the stairs, but we still insist on being near to help. He seems to be just beginning to learn colors. He and Angelique sit in front of the stereo a lot and both sing along with the tapes. Angelique is singing very well. Steven talks all the time but we still can't understand 95% of what he says. The kids play together very well most of the time. Angelique is starting to ask questions for where there are no good answers. She is very observant and thinks very hard about a lot of situations. Her conclusions are often very humorous. She has learned to read dozens of words and will often try to read Steven a book. They have both gotten to the stage that they like to wrestle with each other. Angelique is dying with excitement about going to swimming classes. She has decided she is going to teach Steven how to swim.
Yesterday morning they started digging the foundation for a new house right behind us. There goes our view of the lake, or most of it at least. We are a bit disappointed. It will be nice to have more neighbors, though.
The barbeque grill is working fine. There were only some minor problems to correct so it would work here. I have even cooked T-bone steaks on it.
I have gotten all our transformers hooked up. They work fine. Everything we brought seems to work fine on 50 cycles, even my typewriter and drill. Only the transformer for the refrigerator stays plugged up all the time.
Most of the time we are doing fine. We do look forward to going back to America in 3 years, though. Jeannie is doing fine in the standard-shift car. It wasn't as hard as she thought. She as been out several times in it without me. Jeannie and the kids came up and ate lunch with me today. Actually, getting in and out of the garage is the biggest challenge for her driving skills. The garage is almost big enough for 3 cars, but the door is barely wide enough for one car. She hasn't scratched it yet. Actually, I scratched the old Fiat myself trying to get around the way Jeannie had parked her car in the garage. The car looks so beat up any way that it just blends right in. I am eager to get my VW out. It will easily fit into the garage.
I guess I have said enough. I think I will try to write Grandma a letter, though I suspect you have already told her everything I can tell her.
You all take care. I will talk to you on the phone in 2 weeks and 2 days on 5 July, before you go to bed that night. If you have questions, make a list. I am really looking forward to it. I will probably spend a lot of money calling a lot of people. However, I can talk an hour from Philadelphia for about the same price as 5 minutes from Naples.
Michael, Jeannie, Angelique, & Steven
P.S. I enjoyed talking with you tonight very much. I miss you both.
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