Learning Italian: The ancient Italian coffee machine and an Expat accident

It was a dark and cold morning much like every morning during winter in December. Lazily I slung my legs out of bed, wrapped la sciarpa around my neck, slipped on my furry slipper Crocs and headed to the kitchen for morning coffee.

When I told my Sardinian mother that our electric coffee maker was broken, she happily opened the door to an old wardrobe and gave me one of hers. You see, in Italy every house has at least three; the one gifted to us is roughly 25 years old and I was proud to brew the morning’s coffee, daily, until nine days ago.

Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life

The culprit aka la caffettiera

My scream pierced the frigid morning air and Hub flew out of bed faster than a lion chasing a long-awaited meal, it gave me just enough time to turn off the flame and rip my boiling hot pajama pants off. When he reached me I was naked from the waist down, standing in a pool of steaming hot coffee with painful tears streaming down my face.

The gift, the ancient Italian coffee maker fell from its perch on the stove and spilled its boiling hot liquid down the front of my thigh, then did a fast flip as the bottom of the coffee maker scorched the outside of my calve. Small splashes of scalding coffee fell to the top of my foot making an abstract form of burnt skin on canvas.

“Che cosa è successo? Oh mio dio!”
“It’s hot, it’s hot, I didn’t know what to do.  There’s no skin! OMFG! The skin?! OoooooooHHHoooooooo. It hurts.”

He helped me to the bed, and in all honesty I don’t remember much after that. The fog cleared twenty-four hours later and I learned that the lovely neighbour heard about my plight, and was given an ancient secret potion that is brewed in the mountains of Sardinia. Hub religiously administered the potent medicine to my leg, through my heavy protests and tear-stained face. The neighbour spared only what she had left, leaving her household bare of this essential medicine, I am eternally grateful at her kindness.

We have since finished the secret brew and have switched to natural aloe vera. It’s a lovely miracle that my Sardinian mother has a giant aloe plant growing in her forest of earthly delights. Daily, Hub chopped large leaves of the golden liquid and administered it to my healing burn.

That was nine days ago.

A large aloe leaf, sliced in half sits slippery upon my wound, as I type this post. It’s a slow process, one I have never experienced in my life and one I hope to never experience again.

Today was the first day I tied my shoes myself, touched my toes, went for an hour walk and had a beautiful hot shower without the plastic bag duck-taped to my leg, and most importantly, all the above relatively pain-free.

The locals in town have been very helpful in offering advice and well wishes. I am a stubborn one, and during this nine-day ordeal, I still made it a point to get the daily groceries and enjoy the lovely December sunshine.

“Oh, Signora, che cosa hai fatto?”
“Ho bruciato la mia gamba.”
“Con cosa?”
“Caffe.” As I stimulate with my hands the turning of the ancient Italian coffee machine.
La caffettiera?”
“Si, Signora. Sopra tutta la mia gamba.”
“Devi andare a Cuppodia. Li, c’e una donna che si prenda cura di te. E ‘doloroso, ma non ci saranno cicatrici. Ho sentito che brucia l’ustione con una bruciatura.”
“Ummm…Cosa?”
“Vai al Cuppodia.”

A woman in Cuppodia who can take care of me. It’s painful but there won’t be scars. Words from every local in town is that this mysterious healing woman burns the burn, with another burn!

Yeah, I don’t do pain very good and decided to pass on the mysterious woman in Cuppodia. I said my thank you s and have a nice days and limped on home with fresh bread and local tomatoes in my recyclable shopping bag.

Words learned:

  • cicatrici – scars
  • la caffettiera – Italian coffee machine (possibly only known as such in My Town, Sardinia. In other parts of Italy it’s known as La Moka).
  • bruciare – to burn
  • And that sometimes, ancient remedies are the best.
  • Scarpa – shoes and sciarpa is scarf. Thanks my virtual friend. 🙂

Have you had any expat accidents? Did you prescribe to the ancient forms of medication? Tell me about it in the comment section below.

Top 10 reasons to make Sardinia a year-round travel destination

Top 10 reasons to make Sardinia a year-round travel destination

10. Sardinia’s summer season runs from April – October.

9. The sun shines on average 300 days a year!

8. With 1800km of rugged, emerald coastline you won’t have any troubles finding that secluded, romantic beach.

7. Sardinia is not just a summer destination. Stunning ski slopes greet the visitor in the spectacular Gennargentu mountain range.

6. The local food is out of this world! Be sure to try: suckling pig (the national dish of Sardinia), local pecorino, mirto, seadas, and of course local wine which will knock your socks off.

5. Sardinia is an adventure sporting heaven with rock climbing, mountain biking, road cycling, sailing, hiking, rally car, skiing and kayaking.

4. Sardinia offers the guest year round fantastic festivals for the entire family.

3. Staying with a family at an ‘agriturismo’ (farm-stay) has never been easier with thousands of locally owned and operated agriturismo’s all over the island which cater to skiers, climbers, boaters, beach bums, families and groups.

2. By visiting Sardinia throughout the year you are giving the islanders much-needed jobs, security, well-being and helping to sustain the local economy for longer periods of time.

1. The hospitality of the islanders is second to none, they are generous, humble and extremely kind.

The awesome folks over at Expats Blog held a contest for us expats, all we had to do was write a Top 10 list and submit it by December 11th. On the eve of December 9th I sat down with pen and paper and penned my submission, the following morning I was prepared to type up the list and send it off to Expats Blog – one full day before the due date.

The morning of the 10th I severely burned my thigh, calve and top of my foot with scalding hot coffee, leaving me bedridden and in agony. Needless to say my Top 10 list went un-typed and un-sent which was a total bummer as I was looking forward to winning entering the contest.

Will you make Sardinia your travel destination for 2014?

Learning Italian: Studying for the Italian Driving Permit

Snow DriveDriving in Italy is not for the faint of heart. The curves, the speed, the mountains, the goats, cows, dogs and kids, and the dreaded stick shift. I was crowned queen of the road in nineteen-ninety-two in a small town on the outskirts of Niagara Falls, Ontario.

The first time my father taught me to drive I was thirteen years old, and his blue Ford Bronco had aged significantly despite its young years. We were driving old country roads out by the old Avondale store on Stewart Road, the Rolling Stones sang i can’t get no satisfaction on the dust filled, static speakers. Memories were being made, moments to remember.

Then we hit a ditch and ended up sideways.

It was sensory overload, the happiness, the stones, the ice cream parlour, my first taste of freedom and the large curve in the road.

For some reason, unbeknownst to my thirteen year old self, I had thought the old Bronco would automatically straighten out, I didn’t realize I had to control it with the steering wheel. I was only driving 10 kilometers per hour when we found ourselves tilted sideways in the ditch with the ice cream shop not far in the distance.

We roared with laughter, changed places in the truck and went for ice cream.

Four years after that incident when I was seventeen, I got my license to drive in Canada.

Today, twenty-one years after being honoured with a Canadian driving license, I am not legally able to drive, in any country. My Canadian license expired this past October, and to renew I must visit the DMV in Canada, in person.

Did you know:

  • If you are planning to move to Italy and have a driving permit from outside of the European Union, you can legally drive in Italy for one year provided you have an international driving permit.
  • After one year driving with an international driving permit, you are required by law to take the exam for the Italian driving permit.
  • All tests are in Italian.
  • Here’s an awesome link which provides exam questions to study for the Italian license.

I’ve been in Italy almost six years and think I’m finally ready to take the official exam. I’ve teamed up with other expats in Italy who are also studying for the Italian driving permit or Foglio Rossa.

Leah from Help! I live with my Italian mother-in-law started a wonderful group on FB called Help! I need my Foglio Rossa where we can support each other in our endeavour to become road warriors.

I finally took the on-line test, in Italian, and did better than I had expected. There are 40 questions, some with diagrams and you have thirty minutes on the clock. Good luck.

italian driving test1

11 errors. Not suitable to drive in Italy. FAIL!

italian driving test results

Keeps track of how many times you take the test and compares score. Today was my first try.

This one threw me for a loop! I still don’t understand it’s meaning nor what the sentence says.

What in the *$*% is this all about?

What in the *$*% is this all about?

Now if only driving stick shift were as easy as studying for the Italian driving permit, I’d be set.

What I learned today:

  • I need to study a lot more.
  • Groups like Help! I need my foglio rossa will help me achieve this goal.
  • Italian driving exams are all sorts of crazy.
  • I will need the support and guidance from said group in achieving this goal.

Check out expat Elizabeth’s tales of woe in Umbria – My Italian Driver’s License Part 1: House Arrest. For the sake of our sanity – let’s drive! 🙂

Can you offer any tips, whether it’s driving stick shift or taking the exam?

Learning Italian: At the Gynecologist

Continuing on from the super successful post on Learning Italian: You said what?, I thought it only fair to share another one of my embarrassing moments from my expat life Sardinia. This story involves vagina’s and doctors, so if you are easily offended I suggest you click here and if you’re one of the millions of weirdo’s who gets giggles out of others’ follies then, by all means, please read on.

At the Gynecologist the first time:

We had just driven an hour into Sassari and we were lost. All the buildings looked the same, they looked like pale, sick apartment buildings not a doctor’s office, there wasn’t even a sign. A young woman came walking down the street and stops in front of us “Lèi e Jennifer?” With a rather perplexed look on my face, I nodded yes. “Sono dottoressa Venere.”

I followed her into the cold, dusty archway and whispered to my husband “This is a little weird.” He nodded and continued on my heel.

Dr. Venere opened an ancient wooden door to reveal a small apartment turned into a gynaecologist office: one tiny bathroom, one bedroom and a living room/waiting room, it felt like I was in the doctor’s apartment. The red sofa stood out against the white walls in the waiting room and she said to my husband “Lei signore resta qui.” Dr Venere pointed to the luscious sofa and gave my husband a wink. Yes, a wink! I decided to ignore it.

She gestured for me to follow her and I obeyed her stern look. She opened her bedroom door and in place of a bed was a canary yellow gynaecological examination table complete with remote control and pillow.

Togliti i pantaloni e sedersi lì.” Say what? What she say? I’d only been in Italy for a year and my grasp on the Italian language consisted of: Io, pasta, pizza, ciao, mi piace, tu and spagetti. The examination table reminded me of Big Bird and I was scared.

Pantaloni. Pants? Yes, she wanted me to take off my pants, right! She can’t check out my vagina if my pants are on, why isn’t she leaving the room?

The doctors in Canada leave the room when a patient gets naked and provides a lovely, white paper robe. I gathered enough courage to ask her “un vesitito? one dress?” as I pointed to the recyclable white paper adorning the yellow chair.

She looked at me quizzically, pointed her pen at my waist and motioned for me to remove my pants and sit down as the procedure was about to begin.

Santorini, Greece 2005 by Jennifer AvventuraI was mortified.

How could I do this without a dressing gown? I’ve never done it without a dressing gown! WAH! Cue internal freak-out and escape plan.

She was staring at me, I was staring at her, and the Big Bird chair was staring at my vagina. Somebody help me!

I did what I always do in situations like this – throw caution to the wind and just do it. After all, this is Italy, and I learned a new word that day: pantaloni = pants.

Are you an expat? What was different on your first visit to the doctors?

Stay tuned for more horror stories from the gynecologist’s office.

© My Sardinian Life/Jennifer Avventura. All rights reserved 2010-2017. All pictures, unless otherwise stated, are property of My Sardinian Life. Do not use without written permission.

Learning Italian: You said what?

Okay, I’ll admit it, or maybe I don’t want to just yet it’s a little embarrassing. I mean it has been five and a half years and all, I should know this stuff, but I don’t.

My Italian sucks!

Well, it doesn’t suck in the big sucky way, but it could be better. Where I get confused is the moment I have to open my mouth and speak Italian.

“Buongiorno.” Okay, that was easy.

“Come stai oggi?” Alright, maybe my Italian doesn’t suck as bad as I think it sucks.

Let’s pretend I’m at the local farmers market conversing with the sausage seller.

“Salve Jennifer!”

“Ciao Pablo! Come stai?” It’s so easy these one-on-one conversations.

“Sto bene. Il solito – the usual?” Pablo is cute and short, and has a super big smile each Monday morning.

“Si, il solito. Mio marito va pazzo per tuo salsiccia.” Now, it’s time to cue the laughter card because I just told the sausage vendor:

“Yes, the usual. My husband goes crazy for your sausage.”

If you don’t have a dirty mind then the above statement will blow right on over your head. I on the other hand was dying inside the moment the words left my mouth.

Pablo looks at me with a wide-eyed grin knowing what I want even before I arrive at his table.

“Senza busta vero?”

What I said:

“Si, no busta. Non mi piace ad avere la plastica a casa e poi fa male per nostro mondo.”
“Yes, no bag. I don’t like to have the plastic at home and then it’s bad for our world.”

What I wanted to say:

“Correct, no bag. I find it unnecessary to have a large collection of plastic bags at home, there is no need for it, plus plastic takes about a billion years to disintegrate thus making it bad for the earth.”

And with the same smile I’ve seen every Monday for the last five and a half years Pablo hands me the sausage without a bag and I smile graciously yet embarrassed, turn on my heel and search out the fruit and vegetable vendor.

Fig porn by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian LifeNow let’s pretend I’m speaking with the fruit and vegetable vendor:

“Ciao ragazza!” I really hate it that he calls me ragazza – girl. I’ve bought his carrots and figs for years, he should know my name.

“Buongiorno. Mi dai per favore cattru figa. Mi piace molto la figa.”

The fruit vendor is beside himself and nearly crying with shock and laughter. The two elderly women beside me seem to be suffering from some type of cardiac arrest, shock or there’s a new disease around that leaves your mouth hanging open.

What I said:

“Good morning. Can you please give me four vagina’s. I like vagina’s a lot.” Okay so, this is something I said years ago, not recently, but it was said and still today the shock and giggle factor remains the same. I also said four in Gallurese.

So you see, learning a new language is not easy and at the best of times can be a whole lot of embarrassing.

There are still a number of things I screw up on like when to use UN, UNO or UNA – A, One, A.

Let’s try a little excercise and please feel free to correct me in the comment section below. I’ve just looked around my house for the following word list and I hope get them all correct. I’m aiming high!

Una banana – a banana
Un portacenere – an ashtray
Uno libro – one book. I wanted to say A book, would I write un libro?
Una penna – a pen
Una finestra – a window
Un divano – a sofa
Uno frigo – one fridge
Un cafe – a coffee
Una mela – an apple. And if I wanted to say One apple would it be Uno mela? I don’t think so, cue confusion.
Un asino – a donkey

I think this is all too much for 7:30 in the morning. I have system overload and need more coffee but this is the life of an expat in Italy. There are always questions, there will always be questions and I will always admit my mistakes and laugh at myself. It’s the only way to learn a new language.

What linguistic blunders have passed your lips?

Philippines Typhoon Relief and Renewal Fund – How you can help

The death toll of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) that ripped through parts of the Philippines is nearing 10,000. Thousands of houses have been destroyed and many areas are still cut off from transport, communication and power.

Hundreds of thousands of people are still coming to terms with this devastating storm and are trying to cope with the lack of clean water, shelter, food and medicine.

A good friend of mine recently married a beautiful woman from the Philippines. They now have nothing. There are young children without a roof, water and food. There are entire families and communities that are suffering from this natural disaster and they need your help.

Words from my friend Chris:

“Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda in the Philippines) is the most powerful Typhoon/Hurricane in recorded history. My wife’s family is from a rural fishing and farming village. The family home was destroyed by the winds and they, like many others in her village, will need to completely rebuild their homes. I do not know what the cost to rebuild a home is in the Philippines but I am certain any money will help.

If we can raise enough to get their house framed in, I will ask T. to start helping others in the area who have lost their homes as well!”

UPDATE: November 11th, 2013

“I have just been on Skype with Theresa (She is in Iloilo right now) and she said that they have been told that they are probably going to be out of power for 4 months.  She is trying to get a generator so that they can power a refrigerator and have some lights and use some power tools.

They will need the generator and fuel for it.  I have transferred some money and am waiting on the Fundraiser site to complete the transfer of what has already been raised. They said it will take a couple of business days for the transfer.” Chris Faulkner

How YOU can help rebuild Banate, Philippines.

If you are able to give even $2.00 then please click the following link:

Banate, Philippines Typhoon Relief and Renewal Fund

Your name, amount donated can be kept confidential or you can choose to publish your name and amount donated.

If you can’t donate then please help spread this message by sharing to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any other social media tools.

I thank you. The Faulkner family thanks you and the citizens of the Philippines thank you.

An attempt to learn Italian prepositions

For anyone new to learning Italian – it’s not easy. I’ve been in Italy since May 2008 and I still haven’t wrapped my head around the Italian prepositions. Plus, I’m a little lazy. Okay, I’m a lot lazy. The first two years in Sardinia I studied and I studied hard with Italian workbooks, Italian learning CD’s, repetition and more repetition. Then it got boring and I studied by watching TV, listening to the radio or having a coffee at the local bar each morning.

Jennifer Avventura Learning Italian My Sardinian Life

I should know these off by heart by now, but I don’t. My husband speaks to me in Italian or Gallurese, and depending on my mood I’ll respond first in English, then Italian, and sometimes I’ll throw him for a loop and respond in Gallurese. The look on his face is priceless when I respond to him in his first language and the giggle that escapes from his lips makes me want to do it all over again.

So, in a haphazard attempt to fully memorize the Italian prepositions I wrote them on a white-board magnetized to the fridge.

I’m not sure it’s working.

What are your study tips?

Turning Gallurese

Every morning I head to the local coffee shop and it goes something like this Continue reading

Fruit and fig porn from the farms of Sardinia, Italy

“The type of fig leaf which each culture employs to cover its social taboos offers a twofold description of its morality. It reveals that certain unacknowledged behavior exists and it suggests the form that such behavior takes.” Freda Adler

The edible fig is one of the first plants cultivated by humans, and was a huge food source for the Romans who used figs to fatten geese for the production of foie gras. Ever wonder why your foie gras has a slight pink-ish colour to it?

Fig leaves have for centuries been used to cover the genitals of nude figures in paintings and sculptures as a protector of modesty, and I find this contradictory as the fig has to be the most sexy, erotic fruit I have ever laid eyes on. There is no modesty in a ripe, red fig is there? This is probably why I happened upon this interesting bit of information while searching for quotes on figs: God Hates Figs, he also talked about them a lot in the Bible.

Figs can be eaten dried or fresh, but keep in mind that once picked the fig will not last long. It’s better to sit under and ancient fig tree and eat them as they fall from the tree, like we do in Sardinia. High in fiber and calcium figs are known for having a laxative effect on the body – indulge a little, enjoy a lot.

Figs and other fruit

Figs and other fruit by Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life 2013

This fruit was grown and purchased from a friends farm. I love summer and all the delicious bounty it brings forth every year.

What’s your favourite summer fruit?

  • © 2010-2013 Jennifer Avventura All rights reserved.

31 Days as a Beach Bar Waitress – Sardinia, Italy

Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life Expat WaitressThe long hot hours of work are finally over and I’m looking forward to catching up on lost sleep. Everyday I worked 12pm – 9pm without a day off, as that’s how the cookie crumbles in Sardinia. At times, it was difficult to keep the smile on my face and more often than not I wanted to sucker punch a few guests in the face for stupid remarks. Overall, it was a beautiful whirlwind working at the lovely beach bar Mistral Bar at La Marinedda beach. I met some fantastic people who quickly became friends and I saw 31 stunning sunsets worthy of a painted picture.

Here is a little list of what I endured in the 31 days as a Beach Bar Waitress

  • “Do you live here?” Me: No, I fly in from Canada every morning. Ryanair now offers a direct flight from Alghero to Niagara Falls.
  • “Where are you from?” Me: You have to guess. Guest: Finland, Denmark, Australia, South Africa, England, Bulgaria, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, America … (they never, ever guess Canada).
  • “Why are you here?” Me: I hit the love jackpot.
  • “Wow, what sport do you do? You’re very fit.” Me: I serve drinks all day to idiots like you.
  • “Where are you from?” Me: I’m from Canada. Guest: Oh, you sound American.
  • “Excuse me? But why is the beach half of what it was last year? Did the sea eat the beach?” Me: (mouth hanging open) Uh, yeah, the sea was very hungry this year.
  • A woman walks into a beach bar full of guests eating lunch. She stands naked but for the small g-string attached to her curvy hips and she just stands there… her fake mountainous cleavage obscuring the view of the diners.
  • Three men from Napoli sit down and ask for three beers. When they have finished the first round I ask if they’d like a second and this is the response “well, we can’t eat the bottles now can we?” I quickly retreated behind the bar and popped open three fresh beers and brought them to the table when I’m greeted with “Ma che cazzo – chi ha ordinato questo? What the fuck – who ordered this?”
  • Two couples come in to eat and drink on the busiest day of the month – the Frozen Open Surf contest. They are polite, happy and after three hours one of the men ask for the check. When I deliver the check to the person who asked I am greeted with anger and really, really bad swear words from the other man. He told me that I should have given the check to him, and I’m an idiot for not knowing that. I told him “I’m sorry sir, but I can’t read the minds of raging lunatics.”
  • My Mizuno running shoes kept a lot of the customers talking for 31 days.Jennifer Avventura My Sardinian Life (9) A four-year old girl said “Your shoes are ugly. They are not beach shoes.” People would obviously stare at my running shoes and make all sorts of comments. I had an argument with a marathoner (N.B. never get into a conversation about running with a multiple time marathoner … it will never end) about me being lazy and not training for a marathon even though I told him I have zero interest in running marathons.
  • I cleaned up enough pee on the bar floor to last me a lifetime. Parents … I know it’s a beach but please put a diaper on it when entering a bar.
  • I learned that if you do your job efficiently that Italians do know how to tip.
  • I saw 31 stunning Sardinian sunsets, surfers and a popular Italian minister.

For this year it’s over, and it seems so is summer; I watch a storm roll in over the mountains of the Gallura and rest my weary waitress head to the table and dream of Mom’s chicken noodle soup.

What did you do that’s spectacular this summer?