Saturday, December 28, 2013

Italy is Weird

I really love Italy. Really. So much is wonderful; the food, the sights, the people... It's a beautiful place to live! Some things just need to be shared, though:

I'm (probably) signing life away. 

I fully agree to be trafficked within and around Italy.
Love, Jessica M. Streisel
These first bunch of months have involved a lot of paperwork. New employee paperwork, bank paperwork, "Codice" paperwork (to get an Italian social security code), residency paperwork (maybe? I'm not really sure about that one)... And as much as I love complicated paperwork, this kind is all in Italian. I just sign and initial away on pages and pages of documents that could say anything at all and I'd have no idea. They typically aren't explained, either. We've been lucky enough at the school to have a lawyer meet us at official buildings we've had to visit and sign or leave fingerprints at, but he doesn't say anything to us really other than "Sign here," or "Put your thumb here." There is a possibility that I've been signing myself into the sex trafficking industry and don't even know.

Spot the flush!


Trying to flush the toilet is like a trying to find a secret lever in a video game; you can't leave until you've found the hidden switch. Sometimes it's a button on the wall, sometimes it's a faucet behind the toilet that you have to turn on and off, once in my first week I came a cross a big black bubble on the floor that you had to step on. And don't even get me started on squatters! In Morocco, I thought, "Sure, squat to use a porcelain hole in the floor... this is fitting." But Italy? Definitely unexpected. Italian toilets lack consistency and it's just weird.

It's basically the same thing. 

Can you even see it?

Tiny Coffee

Coffee is miniature. Usually it's around the size of a double shot. My tiny little coffee maker is meant to brew two cups of coffee, but when I make a pot, the entire thing doesn't even fill my mug! On the plus side, though positivity is not the theme of this post, it makes coffee really inexpensive! There are two coffee vending machines at school with all different options, and it's only about 30 cents a cup! Woohoo!

All I need is alcohol, olives, and kiwi. 

Grocery Shopping

The grocery store is only a 15 minute walk from my house and it's not bad walking over with my Grandma Cart, but I miss Wegmans like you wouldn't believe. It's such a different experience here! I'll walk you though it: First, you need some milk for your tiny coffee, so head over to the refrigerated section of the store. Cheese... yogurt... fresh pasta...  But no milk or eggs! You spot them sitting on a not refrigerated shelf. Technically they don't need to be chilled, but getting your milk or eggs off a shelf that isn't cold is so odd! But now, you've seen cheese and you are in Italy, so you need to have some. But all of it is expired! Like, all of it! By months! I bought cheese my first week here that had expired in February.

Busy afternoon at Coop.
So you have your expired cheese, your room temperature eggs and milk, and now it's time to check out. It's a Sunday afternoon so half of the town is shopping with you, but for some reason only two lanes are open and the employees are taking their sweet time. You're waiting patiently with your spaghetti, eggs, cheese, and milk, wishing that the "10 Items or Less Line" was open when the woman in front of you calls her friend over, with a full cart, and she jumps into line in front of you. You're pretty annoyed, but try and be pleasant when a man comes up to you with four smaller items and says something in Italian, and motions to you. You have no clue what he's saying so you mumble, "Non parlo Italiano..." and he motions to the line in front of you. You smile, and he hops in in front of you. Apparently smaller items, even if there are the same amount, put you ahead of the line. Anyways, by the time you've bought the few things you needed and walked home, you are exhausted, annoyed with society in general, and hungry but too nervous to eat your warm eggs or expired cheese.

Chilling at the store.

Dog Care

Dogs can go into grocery stores, and if you pick up after your dog, you are in the minority. Dogs are also exceptionally well trained (they may poop where ever they please, but it's the owners fault for not cleaning it up, not the dogs!). The majority of dogs I see aren't even on a leash, but stay close to their owner all the same. Maybe I'm just hyperaware because I want a puppy so badly! It's not the right time, between work and travel, but I want a little baby dog right now!

Lack of cute/normal supplies mean students are extra entertained by
Post-It notes... here we're working on probability and determining the
difference between "Impossible," "Certain," and everything in between.
Please note that "Miss Streisel will be mean" ranks in at the same
probability as "Horses will back flip." Yay :)

School Supplies

Spiral notebooks? Nope. Composition notebooks? Nope again. 3-ring binders? Try 4-ring. Paper? It's an inch or so longer. I've been trying to stock up my classroom and keep running into problem after problem! For example, spiral and composition notebooks are not Italian things. I can buy composition notebooks at the school bookstore if I want for 5 euro (about $6 or $7), but that seems a little excessive. Binders really don't seem to be something people use around here. I've bought a few only to find that they are all weird. Some already have a certain amount of plastic sheets attached to them, most have 4 rings, but just when you think you're use to that you accidentally buy a two ring... And the notebooks! I've bought a few sets so that the students could have them, and they all have different types of lines! Grid paper, small rectangles, regular lines, some regular lines with a smaller line between them... and it's never clearly labeled and they're always wrapped in plastic so can't check. The kids don't understand the concept of "please bring a folder back and forth to school every day in your backpack," and folders aren't your normal 2-pocket type, but rather these weird folding things with a strap. Speaking of backpacks, most have wheels like a suitcase. The one thing that is easy to find is plastic sheets- the kind that go in binders. Typically the kids bring their homework, notes from parents, pictures they want to give me, any type of paper in a protective plastic sheet. What I wouldn't give for Target. It is kind of cute how excited they get over supplies I brought from home. I brought some alphabet stamps, magnet letters, and colored mini whiteboards in for "Word Work" and vocabulary practice and they are in absolute awe of them.


Ever heard of VPN? I hadn't until moving. Apparently websites I adore like the lazy bum I am, and completely take for granted, like Netflix and Amazon Prime haven't come to this part of the world yet. I know that because: 

I love this little Fire Man.
Honestly, I still have no idea what VPN means or stands for and I could Google it but instead I'm just going to be grateful for websites like Hola Unblocker that let me do something with this so called VPN and act like my internet is still in the US. I'm pretty sure it's safe and everything, but what I know for sure is that it puts an adorable little smiling Fire Man in the corner of my browser and lets me watch How I Met Your Mother, Always Sunny, and New Girl. 


  1. I hope you know that dates in Italy are dd/mm/yy - different from the US. Maybe the cheese was not expired after all.

    1. It's possible... I hope you're right and I didn't eat expired cheese!

  2. Oh my goodness, I know what you mean! Especially with the signing your life away part - I've decided to just give up and hope for the best. I also find that if it doesn't have a form, the answer is just "no". And I went to ASL Milano to find a doctor and they told me to "ask England" for a form. Who is 'England'? Actually, think I might have to write a similar post.. :) x

    1. Right?! Who is England and how do you ask them for a form?!

  3. You are certainly, absolutly right. I've been wanting to write about it.

  4. Hello! I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog...I am an American expat here for 4 months and I found your site while looking up stuff about daytripping to Pavia today. Your point about bathrooms cracked me up -- all this time I had thought it was just me!

    1. Thank you! Pavia was so beautiful, are you also in Milan?

  5. Hi Miss Streisel!!!
    I know exactly how you feel, school supplies and the bathrooms!! It was all the same for me and my family when we first moved here! Everything that you wrote about me and my mom have made fun of!
    From Venezia, sent from Jane's computer :)

    1. Hi girls! I know you feel my pain, hahaha! But it's pretty awesome once you get use to the little things!