Wednesday, April 30, 2008

White Knuckles

Those of you who know me can testify I'm a pretty happy-go-lucky kinda guy; but lately, something is amiss. I'm not sure what the problem is, but I've been having some kind of strange panic attacks or something. It's only happened a handful of times in the past month or so; and it lasts about an hour and then goes away. Today, I was driving to one of the wells and I almost had to pull over and throw up. But for the most part, I can function okay. I just get really stressed and this weird feeling develops in the pit of my stomach. All these thoughts start running through my head about everything I need to do and the stuff I have no control over. I try to keep reminding myself that everything will be okay, but it's not very comforting.
I know a big part of it has to do with work. I've never been under such a work load before. Plus, there's my house and everything going on with it (bills, maintenance, organisation, etc.). And I'm still trying to get situated socially, which is probably my biggest hurdle right now. I'm not feeling the camaraderie and acceptance I had in Utah, and I was really accustomed to it. Like all things, I know God is in control of these; and it will all work out in time. I've never been a worrier, and I don't know why I'm starting now. I'm just going to concentrate on taking deep breaths and taking things one moment at a time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Checking In

Sorry posts have been so sporadic lately, but not too much goes on during the week except work and moving stuff around my house. The boxes are unpacked for the most part, but the hard part is putting everything in its right place. I took a huge box of clothes and seven pairs of shoes to the base thrift store today, and there's a lot more stuff I need to get rid of. I've been telling people I plan on having a housewarming party in a couple weeks. I hope I'm ready.
As for the rash, it's about the same. Some days it looks like it might be getting better, but then I'll wake up the next day and it will still be all red and splotchy. I have an appointment for a biopsy on the 28th, but that's a month away, so who knows what it will look like by then. I don't even really think about it much anymore. It would be nice to be able to lay on the beach this summer, but I'm not holding my breath.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

City of Vivaldi and Casanova

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Yesterday afternoon, I finally made the trip to Venice. It was a gorgeous day, so Rachel, Shaun, Nate, and I hopped a train from Sacile south to Venezia. This is Rachel buying her train ticket.

Nate & Rachel
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It was only a 45 minute train ride, but we passed the time experimenting with our cameras.

Rachel & Nate
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I guess Shaun and I didn't provide adequate conversation, so Rachel and Nate watched "The Office" on Nate's iPod.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The train station is right in the middle of the city, and when I first walked outside, I was overwhelmed. It was such a beautiful city, just like you see in books and movies.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The architecture was amazing. It's hard to believe these buildings have stood for hundreds of years.

Venezia Canal
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The streets are extremely narrow, and the city is laid out like a big maze, so there's no set way to get anywhere. You just walk in the general direction and eventually you'll get where you want to go.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We walked through alleyways, over bridges, and through stores. We stopped for a very tasty limon gelato, and made our way through the crowded streets as best we could.

Venezia Canal
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Grand Canal from Rialto Bridge
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This is the Grand Canal. We walked over the Rialto Bridge, but it was so crowded it was difficult to get a good picture. It seems the Italians drive their boats like they drive their cars--crazy!

Venezia Canal
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I thought it was so cool how the water goes right up to the front steps of many buildings.

Piazza San Marco
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We eventually made it to Piazza San Marco, which was really gorgeous. There were pigeons everywhere, along with street vendors and musicians.

St. Mark's Basilica
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
But after walking around for three hours, we were pretty tired and hungry, so we decided to head back home. I took tons more pictures, which you can check out here. I can't believe I've been here for two months, and I just now made it to Venice. Now that I know my way around a little, I plan on going back on a weekday when the crowds aren't as bad. It might be fun to get lost on purpose, just to find those cool little shops and cafes that most people don't see. Then, when you come visit, I'll be able to take you, too.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Raw Sugar

I bought it. The release date is Tuesday for the States, and Monday for the rest of the world; however, Monday is a holiday in Italy, so it was on the shelves yesterday. I picked it up this morning for the bargain price of 19 Euro. I've only listened to it once, but I'm digging it so far. A full review will be published in a week or so. Regardless, I think you should buy it. Not to be a hater, but nothing would make me happier than for Madonna to sell more records than that ghetto-slut Mariah Carey.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Big Beers and Eight Balls

Corey & Johnny
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Johnny, a guy in my squadron, left today to go back to the States because he's getting married. He'll be back in a couple weeks, but we wanted to take him out for his last night in Italy as a bachelor.

Esther & Aaron
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After dinner, we played pool at the Cal Bar, where I displayed my extreme lack of talent. Esther, however, ruled the table all night long. It's been a while since I'd been to a pool hall; I had fun, and I'm sure Johnny enjoyed himself as well. Congrats, man!

Bricks Are Heavy

It's been a rough week capped off by a rough day. I've been feeling kinda down and lonely, but not for any particular reason. I've been busy trying to get my house in order, so I haven't had much social time; but I still feel that time is productive, so I don't think that's why. I've just been thinking about how when I got to Vegas or Japan or Utah, how long it took me to find my niche. I enjoy the company of Shaun and everyone at Church, and the guys at work are cool. But I guess it's just going to take some time before I feel like I can really be myself around everyone. It happened pretty fast in Japan, but took nearly a year in Utah. I wonder how long it will take here.
On top of all that, we've had several jobs at work that were very taxing and time-consuming. And one today that we worked on all day, and still didn't finish. I hate not being able to finish a job, especially over a weekend. It's going to weigh on me until Monday.
Luckily, I hung out tonight with Shaun, Nate, Jason, Josh, and Ronnie. We we're talking for a while, and I didn't say anything because all I could think about was work. Finally, Shaun asked why I was so quiet. It felt good to get it off my chest, and I'm feeling much better now. Maybe I've found my niche after all.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two's Company

I found out not long after I moved into my house that my next-door neighbour is [name withheld to protect me from getting dooced]. He was stationed with me in Japan, and he's my superintendent here (my boss's boss). At first, I didn't think it was too big of a deal; that was until the other day when I was unpacking boxes upstairs. Suddenly, I hear him calling my name from my kitchen. It seems he hopped my fence and let himself in. If we were best friends, I wouldn't care, but I really don't know him that well. And when he said very condescendingly, "Just because I'm your boss doesn't mean we can't be friends," all I could think was, "Man! What an asshole!" Things got even more awkward when he found out I'm paying less rent than he for the exact same house. Since then, he has frequently yelled over the fence we share asking if I want to go for a drive or a hike. Luckily, I've always had something going on. I know he's just trying to be nice, but I can't help but feel uncomfortable around him. Mostly because he's very zealous about the Air Force and I'm...not. Maybe if I just relax and go for a drive with him, it won't be so bad. Tolerance is a valuable lesson, even when it comes out of nowhere.

Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm Bound To Pack It Up

I've been unpacking since my stuff came, and I'm still up to my eyeballs in boxes. It's starting to resemble a home, but there's still so much to do. I thought I got rid of a bunch of stuff before I left Utah, but every time I open a box, I see something and think, "Why did I keep THAT?"
My unpacking has only stopped in the evenings for some socialising and on Sunday for Church and calcetto. Also, I've introduced everyone to Settlers, and they all agree: I might as well have injected heroin directly into their veins. I was hoping my experience at the game would allow me to win at least once, but no such luck. I'm no good at making deals or trading, so I guess I should just accept the fact my Settlers victories will be few and far between.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Feels Like Home

Yesterday afternoon, the TMO guy called and told me the rest of my stuff was in. He said it could be delivered today, but if not today, then not until late next week. I opted for today.
I asked my boss if I could take leave on Friday, just because it would take a while to get everything situated in my house. He told me I could take Friday off, and that I didn't even have to burn any leave. We work over quite a bit, so it all evens out in the end. So, yeah, I have a four-day weekend!
The mover guys came around 11 today and were done by 2:30. Since I've been sleeping on the floor for the past month, laying in my own bed tonight is gonna be extra-nice. I've been putting together furniture all day, with plenty more to do tomorrow. I think I could assemble any Ikea product with my eyes closed.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Case of Rugrats

Not too long after I found out I was coming to Italy, another guy in my shop also received orders to Aviano. Jeremiah, his wife, and their four children (the oldest, of which, is five) arrived yesterday afternoon. Luckily, we had three cars to transport them and their luggage to their hotel. There wasn't room in billeting on base, which seemed inconvenient, until we saw their gigantic suite in their hotel downtown.
After getting them settled in, I took Jeremiah to the commissary to pick up some groceries. After that, we went to eat at a local place called San Giorgios. It's been a long time since I've been out to dinner with toddlers, and I forgot how frustrating it can be. PCSing is hard enough as a single guy; I can't even imagine doing everything with a big family. I'm gonna help this guy out any way I can...unless he wants me to babysit.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Foregoing All Jokes About Rides

Shaun's been growing a full beard since before I got to Italy. When he got back from his trip on Saturday, he said he was going to shave it; but we had no idea we'd encounter 100% industrial strength AWESOME!

Shaun's Stache
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Land of 1000 Dances

Wii Dancing
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night, we all gathered for some much-needed social time. It began with lots of snacks and evolved into playing lots of group games on the Wii. The funnest (and funniest) was this strange dancing game.

Wii Dancing
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
It wasn't easy to begin with, and it got even harder as it went faster and faster and faster.

And if the still photos aren't enough to make you smile, check this out:

Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Green, Green Grass of Home

Tall Grass
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I have a nice little yard around my house. It's nothing huge, but it's big enough for tossing the frisbee or duck-duck-goose or whatever. We've gotten quite a bit of rain lately, and my grass has gotten pretty shaggy. I've never owned a lawn mower before, so I bought one today.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Unfortunately, it didn't come assembled. I gathered my tools and pulled out all the pieces, making sure to read the instructions as I went along. See, I'm not one of those guys that think instructions are mere suggestions. I follow them word-for-word, which somehow didn't stop me from putting the handle on the front end.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After only two hours of turning wrenches, looking for missing bolts, and stray curse words, I had a bona fide lawn mower. I was all excited to give it a spin, but during the assembly process, it started raining. I guess her inaugural run will have to wait until tomorrow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rollin' With My Homies

And a big "WOO-HOO!" for getting my truck today. It feels so good to drive it again. I can't believe one of the biggest hurdles in this PCS is finally over. Well, not entirely. There's still the issue of payment, for which I wrote a check for over $2,500 today. I'm still going back and forth between finance and TMO, neither of whom want to take the responsibility of helping me out. Monday will determine whether I take the matter up with my First Shirt or not. Let's pray everything goes well.
In other news, Shaun and the crew get back from the Czech Republic tomorrow. I'm excited, not just to see them again, but to hear their stories, as well. They have a 15-hour bus ride ahead of them through three countries. Let's pray everything goes well with that, too.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

You could be looking at me right now.

Because I always seem to be behind the curve on certain trends, I just got Google Earth. I've played with it before just for fun, but the reason I downloaded it today is to see different routes to get to places around Italy. It's not as helpful as I'd hoped because the roads in the towns are so narrow, you really can't see them, even when you zoom in really close. But I'm hoping this, combined with my GPS, will help be get from Point A to Point B without having to travel through Point U by way of Point J. And if I get lost from time to time, I'll just take the opportunity to get acquainted to places I wouldn't normally have seen. This is why Shaun told me to take the way I know, even if the road sign says otherwise. Following the sign might get you there, but it could take much longer.
So, if you have Google Earth, go to 46 degrees, 2'26.26" N / 12 degrees, 32'4.91 E. Yep, that's my house.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Motor Home

I sat in my truck today. A guy who spoke very little English called my office this afternoon and somehow managed to inform me my truck was waiting at a pick-up site in Pordenone. Luckily, I already had a print-out with the address on it, which I punched into my GPS. (Also, luckily, I purchased the European map card last week and received it yesterday. What timing!) However, I couldn't actually drive it home. I had to retrieve a form from the shipper which I have to take to Pass & ID along with several other forms to get my European plates. Then, I can get my truck. I hope to have it by this weekend.
The most frustrating thing about the whole deal is that I might have to end up paying for it out-of-pocket. I made the mistake of going through an independent shipping company, which, at the time, I was told wouldn't be a problem. I've made numerous trips to the finance office, who seem to enjoy giving me different instructions every time I go there. After countless calls to various people in the States and wild goose chases to a variety of offices all over base, it seems nobody can give me a straight answer. I'm going to make yet another plea to finance tomorrow, and we'll see where that gets me. I'm prepared to take the matter up my chain of command, if necessary. I don't play around when it comes to emptying my checking account.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

From The Channels - Mad Props #7

Have you ever seen Almost Famous? Or All The Real Girls? Or Elf? Or The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy? If so, then you've seen the very cool Zooey Deschanel. There's something about her I find very alluring. Her dry wit has me rolling in The Good Girl ("I put a Halloween curse on your hellish heads."). And she's about the only good thing in Failure To Launch.
It seems acting isn't her only forte. She's recently delved into singing, forming a duo with Matt Ward called She & Him. I bought their album, "Volume One," last week, and it's been playing in my head non-stop. It's full of quaint singer-songwriter tunes that bounce and lull around, with Zooey's mezzo pipes recalling 70s AM radio.
So Mad Props to Zooey and her multi-talented self.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Peel me off this velcro seat and get me moving

So, you know how I was gonna try and get out and meet people and do interesting things this weekend? Well, I didn't. In fact, I didn't do much of anything this weekend except sit around, surf the internet, watch movies, and eat peanut butter M&Ms by the handful. In my defence, I was confined to my house the bigger part of Saturday because there was a guy there installing new air conditioning units. I was hoping it would take a couple hours, but it ended up taking all day. But after that, I had little desire to do much of anything.
As a result, when I woke up this morning, my gut looked larger than normal. When I ran at PT, I barely made the two mile run without falling over. And after lunch, I could barely keep my eyes open. So, the time has come for me to seriously get into a normal gym schedule and cut down on junk food. The hard part is setting a goal for myself, as my self-esteem isn't exactly soaring right now. And if you were to rank the will power of all the world's inhabitants, I'd probably be down somewhere between Kirstie Alley and Pete Doherty. Still, I'm gonna give it a shot. I have to. My PT test is scheduled for May, and there's no way I'm gonna suffer the humiliation of failing.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Meeting People Is Easy

Shaun and the whole crew just left for the Czech Republic for their service project. They won't be back for eight days, so things are gonna be kinda quiet for a while. At first, I thought I'd just end up laying low until they got back, but I think I'll take this as an opportunity to branch out socially and try to expand my circle of friends. The guys at work are always asking me to have a beer with them, so I guess there's no time like the present.

New Old Stuff

I got my unaccompanied baggage today. It took the movers less than 45 minutes to unload everything, unpack it, and remove all the boxes and packing material. It's mostly clothes and shoes, but also includes some dishes and cookware, books, and my snowboard. I doubt any more snowboarding will go on this season, but I'm so happy to have it nonetheless. The guy at TMO told me my household goods is due by the 16th. This is everything else I own (furniture, electronics, and remaining clothes, etc.). I'll be so glad once my house feels like a home.
I'm still waiting on my truck. The boat was scheduled to reach Germany last week, and, from there, it will be ground shipped to Pordenone (about 10 km down the road). I've been going round and round with the finance office on base because, for some reason, the invoice for shipping it hasn't been paid. They keep asking for a certain piece of paperwork that wasn't given to me. I've called my contact at the shipping company, who has given me various people to call who might have this paperwork, but nobody knows what I'm talking about. I'll be really upset if I have to pay for the whole thing out-of-pocket. But I'm not going to stress about it now. I'm going to take this weekend to put my newly received stuff in its proper place.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Your epidermis is showing!

In the continuing saga of my red, reptilian skin, I got a call today from the hospital saying there was a cancellation, and asked if I could make an appointment this afternoon at an office much closer than my previously scheduled doctor. I accepted, and spent 45 minutes with Dr. Leonardo Marini, a dermatologist, in Roveredo. After a quick examination, he seems to think I have a form of psoriasis, despite a lack of family history. He also seems to think it's stress-related. He prescribed an antibiotic, an oil-based cleanser for showering, a post-shower moisturiser, and some other drug to counteract any side-effects of the antibiotic. Plus, he's ordered three injections to be given in 15-day intervals. He also recommended taking a 20-minute bath twice a week while adding sunflower oil to the water. Furthermore, he wants me to go to his main office in Trieste (125 km away!) to get a skin biopsy. I almost think he's trying to make money off the U.S. military. The biopsy means they'll punch out a layer of skin for diagnosis, requiring stitches. As I've been pretty lucky in my 33 years on this Earth, I've never had stitches before; and because of this, I'm a little nervous. I'm almost wondering if all this is really worth it. Keeping up with the schedule of when I'm taking all these pills is exhausting enough. Stress-related, indeed. Maybe I should just forget the whole thing and wear long sleeves and pants for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

But The Drugs Like Me

I went back to the doctor today since the drugs I got last time have done nothing for the horribly disgusting red splotches that continue to cover my entire body. I had a different doctor who thinks I was misdiagnosed, and that it's not even any kind of psoriasis. He's not sure what it is, but he set me up for an appointment with an Italian dermatologist next Wednesday. He also took tons of pictures of me with my shirt off. I probably should have gotten the money first.
While I was there, I asked if he could prescribe something for my allergies, which have started acting up since the weather has been warmer. He gave me Claritin, Singulair, Flonase, and a saline nasal spray. I'm beginning to feel like I could operate a pharmacy out of my kitchen. I also just read that a possible side effect of Singulair is suicidal thoughts. If I'm at the gym this weekend, and start listening to Marilyn Manson on my iPod, I'll immediately discontinue taking it.

Out of Thin Air

So, guess where I am. In my HOUSE! Yep, I finally have internet. After a couple trial and error experiments, I found a USB modem that plugs directly into my PowerBook. It works off of cell phone towers, and it's pretty fast, too. Plus, I can use it anywhere in Italy. Now I can feel free to browse sites like without worrying about who's looking over my shoulder.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Who are the people in your neighbourhood? The people that you meet each day!

Via Agostino Stefani
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I woke up this morning to a bright sun and singing birds. I opened up all my windows and decided to take a stroll to the middle of Budoia. It's only about a block away from my house, so it took all of five minutes to walk there. I live on Via Capitan Maso, which runs into Via Agostino Stefani (possible relation to Gwen?). All the streets are pretty narrow and the Italians drive like maniacs, so it's a little daunting to walk anywhere. Luckily, there wasn't much traffic.

Via Roma
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
In the middle of nearly every town in Italy, there's a church. From my house, I can hear the bells ring several times each day. Many of the churches date back several hundred years. The door was open, but I didn't go inside.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
In the center of town, where Via Agostino Stefani, Via Roma, and Via Umberto meet is the piazza (public square). There's not much to it--only a few small shops and a cafe, called Bar Ristorante Da Rene', where I stopped for a cappuccino. It was only 1.20 Euro (about $1.80), but it sure was tasty.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
There were about ten older men also there, chatting in small groups. I think I was the only one who didn't have some kind of alcohol. It was only 10 AM, but they were all drinking wine or had a shot of booze in their coffee. Damn, I love this country.

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
After I left the cafe, I walked around a little more, smiling and saying "Buon Giorno" to anyone who made eye contact. They all returned my greeting with a smile or a nod. I hope to spend many mornings here, getting to know these people personally. This is why I came here.