A {new} Refreshing Makeover at My Sardinian Life

Welcome to the new and slightly improved My Sardinian Life. After a much too long hiatus, I thought it was time to give my much-beloved blog a refreshing makeover. I am back in the writing-blogging saddle to share my experiences with the culture, traditions, and people of this enchanting island I now call home.

Keep your eyes peeled for new posts on cost of living, working in the hospitality industry, colourful and vibrant snapshots, short stories of a wandering waitress, expat tales, and bloopers that are best only when shared.

Sardinia, Italy has been my home for the last ten years, and it’s only here where I feel truly me, and feel home.

Please let me know in the comment section below what you think of the makeover regarding fonts and font size, headline and title. All improvements are a work in progress. Thank you for following along. There will be more of me in your inbox in days, weeks and months to come. Until then … Ajo, Eh!

From Sardinia with love.

Jennifer Avventura

Mega marketing failure by Classico

Mega marketing failure by Classico

I did a little shopping this morning, at a store I never go to and was delighted to see Classico Sun-Dried Tomato Pestomade in Sardegna. Happily, I added it to my cart, even though I was giggling to myself, saying – there’s no way this pesto is made in Sardegna.

Upon unpacking my goods, I noticed one mega marketing failure, it’s a colossal failure, such a failure that I had to share it with the world, such a loss that it rubs me totally the wrong way to which I will never buy Classico again.

And the mega marketing failure is:

Classico marketing failure by Jennifer Avventura 2015

On the front label (left) it clearly states – PESTO di Sardegna. The mega marketing failure is on the lid. Can you see it?

Where is Sardegna?

There is the mainland of Italy and Sicily, but where is the island that this pesto comes from? It’s off the map, gone AWOL or someone at Classico doesn’t know their geography.

Have you noticed any mega marketing failures? Share your thoughts below.

A retired expat

My Sardinian Life by Jennifer AvventuraIt has taken me months to come to terms with this difficult decision, weeks to accept its fate and countless hours on how I would pen a letter to the island and islanders who opened their hearts and doors to the expat Canadian who tried to make it work.

My fingers linger over the keyboard, trying to find the right momentum, trying to find the right words while internally I struggle.  Continue reading

Learning Italian: The verb to like

Learning Italian: The verb to like

Welcome back for another installment of Learning Italian with Jennifer Avventura. This week we take a close look at the verb to like – PiacereI hate this verb with every fiber in my being. I started to study Italian 5 years ago using a fabulous work book called Italian Now Level 1 by Marcel Danesi and I have just dusted it off in hopes to get this one verb mastered. This book has been a god send and I recommend it to anyone who is just beginning to learn Italian.

Piacere – to like

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014

I’m tired of asking people “piace?” when I should say “ti piace” or “vi piace” depending on whom I’m speaking to.

Then things get really confusing if the noun is plural, not only do you have to change the article, you also have to change the noun and the verb! In English we have one article ‘the,’ however, in Italian there are seven and they are gender specific – il, i, lo, l’, gli, la, le.

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014 (2)

Here’s a little exercise I did using the verb ‘piacere.’

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014 (3)

Can you see all the eraser marks? It wasn’t an easy chapter to master and I’m still learning the basics of this very difficult verb.

Here’s a little hint:

Learning Italian by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2014 (4)

Are you left confused by all this madness? Don’t worry, so am I.

Non mi piace il verbo piacere. Non e facile a imparare questo verbo e la mia testa gira quando devo pensare per piacere! Pero, mi piace mangiare pizza. Vi piace mangiare pizza?

How did I do above?

Can you offer any advice on how to master this difficult Italian verb?

For more in this series:

Learning Italian – At the local doctor’s office
Learning Italian – The ancient Italian coffee machine and an expat accident
Learning Italian – Studying for the Italian driving permit
Learning Italian – At the Gynecologist
Learning Italian – You said what?
Learning Italian – An attempt to learn Italian prepositions

Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

Nothing makes me nostalgic for Canada than receiving super, duper mittens in the mail. I’ll be rooting for my home and native land with these new mittens, and putting my hands up in the air while, watching Canada kick butt at the Olympics in Sochi.

wearewinter by Jennifer Avventura

This is my response to the weekly photo challenge: selfie.

Vote for My Sardinian Life in the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards

Just like the Emmy’s, Golden Globes and Music awards there are awards for bloggers who but effort, thought and heart into their blog(s). This year is the second year that My Sardinian Life has been nominated for the 2013 Canadian Blog Awards.

My Sardinian Life was nominated for Best Travel and Expat Blog. It would be fantastic to bring home the gold this season, and only you can help me do that.

To vote, just click the following link 2013 Canadian Blog Awards then scroll down the to the bottom of the page. Under Best Travel and Expat Blog click on My Sardinian Life.

Voting closes on February 22nd, 2014 so hurry before it’s too late.

A special thanks to Jonathan Kleiman who took copious amounts of time to organize this award for Canadian bloggers across the globe. Jonathan is a Toronto Business Lawyer and a Small Claims Lawyer and his side gig is organizing fantastic blogging awards. So, thank you Jonathan. I appreciate all the hard work you’ve done in the last year to make this award a reality.

So, what are you waiting for? Go on and vote. I am eternally grateful.

Don’t sell yourself short as a Freelance writer in Italy

writerOnce upon a time (about a year ago) a Sardinian travel agency contacted me to write brief English articles to help promote their travel brand. Unfortunately, at that time I was just packing up to move to Cayman Islands and I didn’t have the time nor energy to craft posts about Sardinia after slinging beer for 10 hours a day. I emailed them a polite reply stating that I was grateful for their consideration but am out of the country and haven’t the time to freelance for them.

When I returned to Sardinia last June I contacted this travel agency and told them that if the offer still stands I would be more than willing to write articles on Sardinia for them.

I didn’t hear back from them for six months.

I thought it was water under the bridge until a month ago when the same agency contacted me. At this point I thought “what the heck, eh” let’s do it.

This was their offer:

  • 6 articles a month, 250-300 words (I could even use my existing blog posts but they would have to be re-worded).
  • Write one post a week for their Facebook profile about Sardinia.
  • Respond to any questions about Sardinia on their profile – maximum three questions.
  • My pictures would greatly be accepted.
  • €100 a month for three months.

I took to my super fabulous expat group and asked a few questions about this type of work, as I’m new-ish to the freelance world and I certainly didn’t want to sell myself short.

Here are some of the responses from my trusted, in-the-know peeps:

  • not enough money.
  • that is ridiculously low payment.
  • you need to negotiate.
  • work like this is likely never under €300 per month and that would be the bottom of the bottom.
  • They will never find a native English-speaking person to work for that money.
  • if you start low, you will stay low on the pay scale. It’s better to play hardball and present yourself as a professional.
  • Off the top of my head €25 per hour for this type of work.

Like any professional freelance writer I responded with:

Good morning. I would be pleased to work alongside your team, however I would like to negotiate the salary. I am willing to write 6 articles a month including the use of my photos for €250 per month. I look forward to your response.

And this is what the agency said:

Good afternoon. Currently we cannot afford €250 a month as our budget for article writing is €100 a month. Please keep in mind that the articles do not have to be original articles, you are free to re-word the existing articles on your blog. Can we negotiate with 4 articles a month?

I thought over this offer for a good five minutes and decided that yes, I will give it a go. I’ve wanted to work for a company that is 100% owned and operated by an islander for a long time. It’s important for me to root my words, work and photography with the islanders who have adopted me.

I responded with:

Thank you and I accept your proposal of 4 articles per month for €100. I would like to be paid every month, not at the end of the three months. If you would like to add any of my photography, the cost will be €50 for each photo. How do you propose payment?

I understand that their budget is €100 a month, but I can’t nor I won’t give away my photographic work. Work that took hours of hiking in the mountains just to capture the feeling of Sardinia.

And now, eight days after I sent the last email I’ve heard nothing. Nadda, zilch, zero. I could have sent another email asking “what’s up” but I’m not desperate and I refuse to sell myself short.

You know what I’m tired of?

I’m tired of being paid pennies for my time and hard work. I’m tired of being taken advantage of with extremely low pay and no respect for the work done. This applies for hospitality work and freelance work.

Everyone I speak with says “Those are the rules here in Italy. Companies can and will take advantage of someone just so they can have more money in their pocket at the end of the day. We are just the little people here. In the end, it’s we who suffer. The ones who cannot make a difference. You either work for nothing or starve.”

Am I disappointed with the Italian way?

Sure, I am. Does it dishearten me to know people try to take advantage of me? Sure, it does. Does it lessen my love affair with the island I’ve come to call my own? Absolutely not.

If I’m going to work for free then I’m going to continue to craft posts about Sardinia and post them here, on my blog, where the only rules are mine.

Are you a freelance writer or photographer living or working in Italy? Would you submit your photography for free? Tell me all about it in the comment section below.

Learning Italian: At the local doctor’s office

The last three months of 2013 were absolute hell for me, I’m glad 2014 is here and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a healthy new year. At the beginning of October I came down with ‘colpo d’aria’ which roughly translates into a ‘stiff neck’. Now, this wasn’t just a little stitch in my neck it was a HUGE pain in my ass neck; you know the kind where your ear is glued to your shoulder and any movement you make sends shivering, painful shocks down your neck, back and arms. Heck, even sitting on the toilet was painful.

Then, I came down with a head cold which lasted two weeks. All that sneezing didn’t help the pain in my neck. By the middle of October my stiff neck was finally back to normal but I was still suffering from a serious bout of influenza which was now attacking my chest and lungs – I was a beautiful snotty, coughing mess.

Protecting myself from potential viruses.

Protecting myself from potential viruses.

By mid-November I was slowly getting back to my normal healthy self when I caught a nasty stomach virus which lasted a good three weeks. I thank the heavens above that I didn’t spill the contents of my stomach but the pain was enough to send me to the doctor for antibiotics, which I was instructed to take for a month. I dutifully took my medication and was beginning to feel better, at least I was finally eating full meals and enjoying a little Nutella on the side.

Just when I thought I was getting back to normal; one early, dark morning I awoke to make the morning coffee when the coffee pot fell from its perch on the stove sending the boiling contents down the top of my leg and onto the side of my calf. You can read all about it here, it was horrible. I couldn’t walk, sleep or shower for a good two weeks and the pain was incredible!

Four days after the scalding accident, I stubbornly threw on a pair of old track pants and limped into town for coffee at my favourite bar. It was nice chatting and catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a few weeks due to my illnesses. As I made my way out of the bar I slammed my thumb in the door causing blood to splatter on the door and the side of my good leg. I cried, and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes until I gathered enough courage to limp back home.

During the Christmas holidays I discovered a womanly problem that only a doctor could diagnose. The following morning I made my way down to the local doctor and this is what happened:

Me: Buongiorno.
Doc: Buongiorno.
Me: Oh, um … Dr. Fantastic isn’t in today?
Doc: No, he is on holiday and will be back on the 4th. You can leave and come back then if you prefer.

I wasn’t mentally prepared to tell this very young and rather stubborn doctor my womanly problem. I was used to Dr. Fantastic, who usually visits me in my home if I call him and smiles and laughs and makes me feel comfortable. This temporary doctor had me flustered from the moment I walked into the office.

Me: Okay. Um. I have a little problem, here, and I think I need to take an exam.
Doc: Who sent you here?
Me: Uhh, huh? No one sent me here, I came on my own. I found this little problem and maybe I need to have an exam done.
Doc: Okay, but who sent you here?

Seriously, at this point I wanted to sucker punch him. What was he trying to get at with this question? I was beginning to think I was in the wrong office – it felt all Godfather-ish.

Me: Umm, uhh. No one sent me here. However, I would like to have an exam done please.
Doc: Yes, but I asked you WHO sent you here?

Really? Again.

Me: No one told me to come here, no one! This is a doctor’s office right? And you are a doctor, correct? I have a problem, please …
Doc: WHO SENT YOU HERE?

Santorini, Greece 2005 by Jennifer Avventura

Internally I made this face at the doctor.

At this point I was a little freaked out and wished my husband was with me, cause one swift look from Hub the doc would have shut his idiotic trap.

Me: Listen. Dr. Fantastic is my doctor. I live in this town and I have a health problem.
Doc: What is your name?
Me: Jennifer Avventura.
Doc: Write it down.

He quickly throws a pen and paper in my direction and I write my name down.

Doc: So, what is your problem?

Big internal sigh.

Me: I’ve already told you, three times!
Doc: Oh, then you will need an ultrasound?

Did he really just ask me what type of treatment I needed? Oh, heck yes he did!

Me: I don’t know what type of exam I need. I am not a doctor, you are.

He rudely types away at the computer, then the printer starts. Dr. Stronzo throws the la ricetta medica in my direction and tells me to have a nice day.

SAY WHAT?

Without an examination!

What did I learn?

  • Never visit the doctor’s office during the holidays.
  • La ricetta medica – is the little piece of paper from the local doctor that you take to see a specialist.
  • Colpo d’aria – a perfect translation is ‘air shot,’ however – it’s a stiff neck.
  • 13 is no longer my favourite number.
  • It’s probably better that I wrap myself in plastic bubble wrap the next time I leave the house.

More in the Learning Italian series can be found here:

Have you had any strange expat experiences while visiting the doctor? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

P.S. a total clean bill of health. Finally.

Cost of Living 2013 – Sardinia, Italy

Cost of Living 2013 – Sardinia, Italy

Back by popular demand and another year older … the 2013 Cost of Living Report on Sardinia, Italy. Covering everyday items from tampons to fresh pecorino cheese. This year’s report is jam-packed with daily goodies from my shopping cart. I hope you enjoy. 

Cost of Living – Sardinia, Italy 2013

Toneri, Tonara by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life (3)

  • 1 liter of gas – €1.65 in Sassari – €1.85  in My Town.
  • Electricity – every other month this bill arrives. This year we spent €307.06 + the post office fee of €1.30 x 6 = 7.80 for a grand total of €314.86. Last year we spent the first five months working in Cayman Islands; if we would have been here during those first months of deep Mediterranean cold our electric bill would have been a few hundred euro more!
  • Internet – there are many plans out there and settled on the simplest, paying €15 a month for 10 hours of internet a day.
  • Cellphone – A basic cell phone which cost €18.99 on sale and spend about €10 a month for the credit.
  • Water – in the six years I’ve lived here not one water bill has arrived. We’ve asked, searched and done everything in our power to find out, only to come up empty-handed. I’m sure the water bill will arrive one day, very soon and will guesstimate €3500. word!
  • Eating Out – Two pizzas in the local pizza joint start at €5,00 – €12,00. Then you have your cover charge or coperto which is €2,50 per person (every restaurant has this cover charge, consider it your tip to the restaurant)One liter of wine €8,00. Dessert €4,00 – €10,00. Bottled water €2,00. Coffee €2,00. Mirto, Sambuca or Limoncello €4,00. A grand total for two people: €47,00!
  • Rent – by the sea per month €700 – €2000+. Interior, in the mountains or several kilometers away from the water, per month €300 – €600.

The Daily Groceries

These prices will vary from town to town across Italy – here I’ve taken the median price from all three supermarkets here in town. And just to give you an example of how much the price differs from supermarket to supermarket, take a look at this:

4 Activia Yogurt in supermarket A sells for €3.39. In supermarket B (which is only a stones throw from supermarket A) the same yogurt sells for €2.89. That’s a whopping .50¢ difference for the same product!

I know that in Sassari 8 Activia yogurt, on sale for … €3.48! HOLLA!

At the Supermarket

  • Local yogurt .99¢ for two
  • 1 liter of milk .79¢ – €1.77
  • 6 eggs €1.15
  • 300 grams locally baked bread .95¢
  • 500 grams major brand pasta .83¢ and on sale .64¢
  • 500 grams local pasta .68¢ and on sale .43¢
  • 1 kg potatoes €2.50
  • 5 large bananas €2.39
  • 6 two liter bottle of water €1.80
  • 16 regular maxi pads €2.39
  • 8 Tampons €3.29
  • Major brand toothpaste €2.39 – €3.29
  • Detergent for clothes €2.50 – €8.99
  • Dish soap .99¢
  • Diapers €4.99 to €7.29 (small pack)
  • 1000 grams of Nutella €6.99. SCORE!

At the butcher – La Macelleria

  • 5 thinly sliced chicken breast €5.41
  • 400 grams minced beef €3.85
  • 500 grams local salsicca €5.48
  • 1/4 local pecorino cheese €4.23

That wraps up this year’s report, and I’d like to close it with a comment from a follower, which has left me, uh, beautifully speechless. I applaud his fabulous effort and courage on leaving a comment in English, and am humbled by his simple honesty.

If you want to live in Sardinia: you want to live with nature, with only the money to stay alive and to stay happy. You will have to give up a lot, but you will be rewarded by the beauty of our land, and our people. “

You can read the post he was referring to here.

How does the cost of living in Sardinia compare to where you live?

*please feel free to add your cost of living links in the comment section below.

Related articles:

Cost of Living 2012 | Sardinia, Italy
The cost of going out – Moscow, Russia via Home & Away

Expat Speaks: The Italian postal system

Expat Speaks: The Italian postal system

At the beginning of September I was commissioned by a book publisher from England to write a detailed 38 hotel listing for Sardinia, Italy. I was over the moon at being asked by such a global brand that I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Heck, I even did the happy dance all over the house for a few days as this project was my first real Freelance job, and I was ecstatic!! I’d like to thank The Travelbunny for recommending me. Holla Girl! Grazie.

Source: Wikimedia

I finished the job and handed in the project two days before the scheduled due date. It was imperative that my contract reach London in time, to get paid. I printed two identical contracts, signed both on the dotted line as asked, and headed to the Italian post office in my town. I inquired about a courier service and she told me the price –  €35. I nearly had a coronary. Later, I asked in an Italian expat group – what the mainlanders pay for courier service to England and I was informed –  €15. A staggering difference.

I asked the postal worker if there was a cheaper, still secure method to send these ever important documents to England, and she told me that I could send the documents via a Raccomandata Internazionale – an International registered letter, which I could follow with the tracking number on the receipt. The cost of the raccomandata was €7.00. A huge difference in price, and one that I could easily afford. I filled out the necessary documents and waited, and waited and waited.  Continue reading

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