It has been pretty quiet here for the past few days, with the exception of my Internet connection being down again, as well as my e-mail service not working. We had some rain on Tuesday, the day I had decided to take my fishing tackle with me on my morning walk, intent on fishing that spot I’ve referred to previously (it’s maybe a mile and a half away). I did fish; I did not catch. At this point, a nibble would be nice (and I do mean that in more than one way). The past two days have been windy and cool, which is good today because my laundry is outside drying in the breeze.
I mentioned on Facebook that I finally found some towels at a small discount shop. Upon further review, however, they were far too small to work as bath towels – so I went looking again yesterday. First, about that discount shop. The Chinese apparently have bought a lot of businesses here, and opened up many retail shops. You can tell if it’s a Chinese business because there will be some sort of sign in Mandarin, or the outside of the building will have Chinese lanterns hanging. So you might see a manufacturing business with its original signage in Italian, but with some sort of Mandarin symbol also on the sign.
Anyway, as I walked all over town Monday, I ran across a couple of Chinese “knick-knack stores, for lack of a better term. They sell all sorts of home items cheap – kitchen utensils, dinnerware, linens, and sometimes, towels. The first one I went into did not have towels, the second one did. In the first one, I did find a small cutting board, a BBQ lighter (for the gas stove) and a floor mat for the bathroom, all for less than $5. At the second, I found a small quantity of towels but the largest are still small and thin. Desperate, I bought two sets (you have to buy one larger one with a companian hand towel as a set). They were just over $5 per set.
Dissatisfied still, I took the advice of my friend, Liz, in north Goergia to look for department stores. Unfortunately, my walking around town had not turned up any department stores; the only ones I had seen were when Giuseppe and I drove outside town to the mall areas. Instead of walking, however, I decided to let my mind do the walking and let Google do the work. A search for “department stores Catania” turned up one – COIN – and an address.
COIN was a good hike, past the central market area even, which was clearing out as I passed through. Finally found the store on Via Etnea. The store is fairly narrow but extends up four floors. Men’s clothing on the second floor, housewares on the third. They had plenty of towels but they were still expensive, although not so much as the boutiques I previously found. A full-size bath towel was priced at 34 euro, or $45, with some a few dollars less. I selected two sets of smaller towels for about $17 each.
Once I paid for those, I went back downstairs to investigate the men’s clothing. Very expensive. I was considering purchasing a scarf but you wouldn’t believe how much they want for a simple piece of cloth. I also need a couple of long-sleeve shirts, but not at $60 apiece. I should be able to get both of those items at the center market for far less, if in a somewhat chaotic atmosphere.
On my morning walk today, I picked up a sales flier (they like to use them here) for an other store that looks like it sells kitchen appliances. Since the coffee pot in my new coffeemaker is already cracked, I needed a replacement. I had noticed on my walk that the usual traffic jams I have to negotiate were not present. In fact, there was hardly any traffic. When I went back out to find the store in question, I noticed that everything was closed, except for an occasional cafe. Must be a holiday, I thought. Sure enough, it turns out today is the observance of Immacolata Concezione (Immaculate Conception). I’ll find the store tomorrow.
One of the negatives of what I’m doing is the separation from humanity you sometimes feel, brought on as much by the lack of language understanding as being in a strange country. I can get around in foreign lands, but I miss the conversations with friends. I remember when I was back in the States, participating in my first poker game in a long time with my friends in Atlanta. before we started playing, we all sat outside just talking. Actually, I was just listening, because it was so great to hear a conversation that I could actually understand and participate in.
Here, I have yet to make that sort of connection. I have tried to reach out online to any expats living here but have not heard anything in return. And virtually nobody that I interact with in the stores speaks any English. Giuseppe was a little help, but he has gone back to his world. Now, I’m tasked with trying to find someone to talk with, socialize with, maybe even travel with. Until that time, I will feel like an intruder, someone no one knows and none can communicate with. Someone who can’t communicate with them, either. I wrote in a poem once: “It’s a lonely place, people all around …”
One way to break this cycle is to visit another town. I’m not yet comfortable enough with the language to venture out just yet, but soon.
BTW, the Internet connection was only out for half a day. And the e-mail problem? Suffice it to say that if you don’t clean out your in-box on your provider’s server, eventually you can’t receive any e-mails. I was, however, able to call Netfirms via Skype, and the customer service was excellent.