Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How many Italians does it take to change a lightbulb?

Today was nice, Vesuvius had snow on the top of the crater, and the temperature in Naples was 63 degrees. Naples really is beautiful... just don't look at the ground.

But that's not what this entry is about. We have been living in a hotel room for 1 month now. 3 of 7 lights are out in the bathroom and apparently the maids aren't proactive enough to get them fixed. So I called the front desk yesterday and tell them 2 of 5 vanity lights are out, and 1 of 2 overhead lights are out. "OK, we will leave a note for maintenance."

Maintenance puts in a call to Public Works. Public Works writes a work order and sends that to the contractor who changes light bulbs in the Navy Lodge. And today, when we got home from the hospital and the housing office, 2 of the 3 lights were fixed.

By my count that is a minimum of at least 4 Italians to change 2 lights bulbs, or complete 66.6% of the work order. WHO WANTS A GOVERNMENT JOB?


Friday, January 23, 2009

Destroying my knee snowboarding

22 January 2009
By: Joe Casale

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball.

I destroyed my knee this weekend snowboarding. We went to Roccaraso (in Italy) for our first snowboarding trip in Europe. And on my second run, I hit a tree pretty hard. I was along the right side of the trail weaving in and out of the trees, looking for good powder between the moguls and the edge of the trail, and I hit a patch of crusty snow as I was transitioning from toe side to heal side (i.e., I was turning to the left). The board slipped out from under me, and I slammed the left side of my left leg knee into a tree. My last thought before I hit the tree was, "I'm going to break my leg."

My left leg below the knee bent about 20 deg to the left and the kneecap rolled to the right. So, I screamed and looked at my now bent to the side leg. It looked really bad, so I immediately pushed the left calf with my left hand, and on the "side" of my knee with my right hand and everything popped back into place. It hurt like a bitch.

People on the lift saw and called ski patrol, and I was able to take off my board and start to slide down the rest of the hill on my butt. Ski patrol launched a helo to come find me, and when I got to the bottom ski patrol was waiting for me. I got a ride back to the main lodge on the back of a snowmobile where Melissa was waiting for me.

So, I injured myself at about 10AM, these are the events that took place as best as I can remember. The Italian ski patrol was a trip, none of them spoke any English and they wore police uniforms, they were supposed to be EMT trained also, but as far as I could tell not a single one of them knew anything about first aid. The medical clinic was closed and unmanned and I waited there without treatment for an Italian ambulance to take me to the local hospital. I had to prompt the ski patrol to give me a bag of ice. Melissa seemed to be the person with the most first aid training in the area. Since no treatment was available at the mountain, and I thought that my leg might be broken we thought the best plan was to let the Italians take me to the hospital. Melissa stayed at the mountain to inform the people that we were on the trip with and, get our gear back on the bus, and because they wouldn't take her in the ambulance. I wasn’t sure why they wouldn’t take Melissa on the ambulance, but as we were heading to the hospital we had to pick up someone else with a broken arm.

The ambulance was a meat wagon, I’m not sure that the EMT’s in the ambulance had any training, and they were just there to pick up bodies. They didn’t even strap me to the gurney or take off my snowboarding boot. I just lay there, unsecured, as the ambulance bounced down the road and my knee flexed up and down between by butt and the top of my boot. Once I was at the hospital I laid on a gurney in the hallway entrance of the ER for about 2 hours before anyone spoke to me. I was the only person there that spoke any English, my Italian is bad, and I was by myself with no cell phone. Melissa was the only person that knew that I went to the hospital and then had to figure out how to get me back, and eventually back to the base in Naples.

So after 2 hours a real Italian doc saw me, poked at my knee and ordered some x-rays. After they wheeled me to the dimly lit X-Ray room, they wheeled me into a waiting room with an old woman that was clearly about to die. About a half hour after this, Melissa finally showed up with an American dude that was also stationed at the base, but drove up there in his own car, and they drove us back to the Navy Base.

While I was in the hospital, Melissa was able to contact the MWR (Moral Welfare and Recreation) people that put the trip together, the quarterdeck, the hospital, and got the emergency number to the Battle Watch, but no one was really able to help her out. She also spoke to the medical liaison, who is supposed to translate Italian to English if you end up in an Italian hospital, but she wasn’t very helpful. The bottom line from all of these people was that we would have to find our own way back to Naples. The medical liaison suggested that we take a cab back to the base. But, we did finally manage to make it back.

So, now I'm in a full immbolizer and I am unable to put any weight on the left leg at all. The doctors and have done x-rays and a CT and the leg is not broken, but I don't have an MRI and my appointment with Ortho scheduled until next week. The ER doc that did the exam on my knee says that the problem appears to be with my MCL (on the interior of my knee). I'm concerned that the MCL or several tendons are torn (based on how far my leg bent around that tree). But I also hear stories about how some people have this injury and they are able to recover quickly because the tendons aren’t even completely torn. I’m hoping for the best.

So, it looks like I am done snowboarding for the season.

A note on skiing in Italy: The mountain was only about 2 hours away and looked like a great ski resort with lots of varied terrain, and what appears to be the potential to have good snow conditions. I’m looking forward to getting back on the slopes next year.

Until next time.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Being named “Casale” in Italy

18 January 2009
by Joe Casale

Being named “Casale” in Italy is interesting. First of all, Casale in Italy is about as common as “Smith” or “Jones” in the United States. There are towns over here named Casale, if you open the phone book there is an entire page of Casales… but that’s not the best part. The best part is I can tell an Italian that my name is Casale and they spell it right the first time every time. And, they never, ever try to use the letter “K” to write my name.

It seems that whenever an Italian finds out that my name is Casale, they want to talk about if I have family in Italy, which, I do, but haven’t met yet. The old Italian family is located in the town of Santi Cosma and Damiano, which is between Roma and Napoli and is very close to Gaeta. Probably no further than 10 km inland from Gaeta. Our inter-cultural relations instructor Guiseppie was fascinated by our quest to go visit my distant relatives. He gave us a map and directions to go find the town. Whenever he had a chance during class or during our excursions out in town he pulled me aside to talk about the best way to track down the old Casale family. Melissa and I haven’t made the effort yet, but I assure you that we will, and we will keep all of you, and Guiseppie posted.

Finally, I don’t know if you heard, but…. The Mafia is from Italy. No kidding, I thought that HBO just made that up. Apparently the largest Mafia family in the Naples area is named Casale. Great, so I got that going for me…. The Casale Mafia is so large that there is a town outside Naples called Casal d’ Principa that is off limits to the military to rent in the area. Now, the official position on this is that the soil is polluted and the water is poisonous in the area, but I have heard speculation that because that area is Mafia run, the Navy doesn’t want sailors living out in that area. It is all very shady. And while we were house hunting we went by the residence that HBO rented in Monte di Procodia to film the episodes of the Sopranos in Italy. Now, I’m not sure if any of the above information is actually true, or it is just speculation by the Italians that I have spoken with… but I can say that it is all very interesting.

So, that’s all I have for on that topic. Melissa and I are taking our first snowboarding trip in Italy tomorrow and we will let you know how it is. Yesterday we took a tour of a vineyard at the foothills of Mt. Vesuvius. The food, wine, and views were amazing. We look forward to taking any of our visitors on a wine tour.

Until next time. Ciao. Joe

Friday, January 16, 2009

"How's Italy"

Posted by Joe Casale:
15 January 2009

Hello everyone, this is Joe, and this is my first entry on all of our experiences so far. Melissa and I have been very busy the last couple of weeks, and have had a lot of great and some not so great experiences in Italy. We want to be able to share those experiences with our family and friends so this is a brief synopsis of what we have done so far.

We left NYC, from JFK, on Dec 29th 2008. We almost didn’t make it to the airport because of traffic on the Van Wyck Expressway. Fortunately, I was able to “ride the wake” of one of the emergency vehicles for about a mile and we just made it to the airport on time. Now, I’m not sure who is familiar with riding in the wake of an emergency vehicle, and I think that in the US it is probably against the law, but I assure you in Naples, it is something you will see when almost any emergency vehicle goes by. Unless they are the Carabinieri, who are half police force, half military Special Forces…. but more on them later.

So, we made it to the airport, flew over night into Milan, and then down to Naples. Our sponsor picked us up at the airport and we were set up in the Navy Lodge. I can’t remember much after that because I think we slept for about two days.

A quick note for those of you that are considering visiting Italy, this is not the time of year to do it. Of the 17 days we have been here so far it has probably rained 12. The temperature has been mild, in the mid-40’s to the 60’s, but the weather is definitely not good enough to fly to visit this time of year. We hear the spring and fall are the best times. Apparently August is also bad… because it is too hot, and everyone in Italy is on vacation in August.

The Navy has a fairly robust program to help get you settled in Naples; ours started on Friday Jan 2nd and lasted 4 working days. The indoctrination program gets you started in the housing process, checked-in to the command, talks about emergencies, safety, and driving, and even gives you a short course so that you can take your Italian drivers test. Melissa and I both passed, so we are safe for the very unsafe Italy roads.

Over that first weekend we visited both Sorrento and Pompeii. Italy has some pretty amazing places that you all should come and visit. Our sponsor, the fantastic Aimee Smith, drove us down to Sorrento, along the winding coast road. Sorrento is a beautiful city by the sea. I ate some of the best olives that I have ever had, and then we ate Gelato, which was fantastic.

Saturday we went to Pompeii, an amazing archeological site, and unfortunately walked around in the rain. The civilization that the Romans had in 79 AD when Vesuveus erupted was amazing. And the city was perfectly preserved by this eruption. You get a clear view into a day in the life of this Roman town.

We finished up our “Area Orientation” class last week, and really got into looking for a place to live in Italy. We spent all of last weekend driving around the Naples area with a bunch of different realtors and finally settled on a beautiful villa in the town of Pozzuoli. It’s right on the coast, fairly close to my work, near Carney Park (more on that later also), and just a short walk from a very cute down town area.

Now we are in the middle of the ICR course (Inter-Cultural Relations). This class is a way for the Navy to get us out in town, experiencing the culture, learning how to use public transportation, and learning the language. We’ll be able to give any of our visitors a great tour of Naples from this course.

More to follow soon, I also want to write about the following topics and experiences:
Being named “Casale” in Italy
Everyone’s cousin has a pizza place in New Jersey
The food doesn’t suck in Italy

I’ll write more on those topics soon, but I wanted to get this out so that you can get a feel for “How Italy is” so that I can stop answering the question, “How is Italy?”

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Getting Started

Wednesday January 7, 2009

We have officially started our second week in Italy, although it feels like we are starting our second month with all the information we have been processing and learning.

Today is the last day of Area Orientation and the rest of the week will be dedicated to house hunting! However, next week will be spent in cultural classes...then back to house hunting! And of course the following week is when work will start for Joe.

More to come...