by Melinda Gallo

Some of the differences between here and there

Today I realized how many differences there are between living in California and living here. Many of these things seem normal to me now, but still I find them interesting to mention. When I look at the differences, some seem minute while others seem much greater than they really are.

Well, to start off we don't have a dryer or a dishwasher. Some people have dishwashers even though they don't use them often. And even fewer have dryers. Our refrigerator is the size of one you'd put in your dorm room, which is why I'm always going to the market. Most people don't have the large American-sized refrigerators with double doors and roomy interiors.

We hang our clothes on a rack and only recently have been able to put it outside on the terrace. Our jeans take two days to dry hanging inside the apartment and they are so stiff that we have difficulty folding them. My friends tell me that they iron their clothes to get them softer, but I can't be bothered. Once I put my hard jeans on, they eventually give and become pliable.

We buy milk by the quart and eggs by the half-dozen. I have to ask for everything in grams, which is not easy for me since I can't yet visualize one etto (which is 100 grams). I usually ask for due etti (200 grams) no matter what. I figure it's not too little and not too much. We buy butter in a 250 gram piece, no sticks.

We have to weigh our fruits and vegetables ourselves and put the price stickers on them. We generally bag our own groceries in supermarkets. Since we don't have a car, we have to lug them all the way home and up the two flights of stairs, so we shop often and don't buy too much each time.

We use the grocery bags, which are not free, as trash bags and walk to the big blue bins down the street to dump our trash. We like the plastic bags we buy at La Standa because they are thick and aren't too big.

We have to buy water in six packs of 1.5 liters because almost no one drinks the tap water. Almost all Italians buy their water; I don't know of anyone who drinks water out of the tap. We all use it for cooking and brushing our teeth, but no one I know pours a glass of it and drinks it.

We get our electricity, phone, Internet, water, satellite TV, and gas bills sporadically. Some every three months and others by consumption. Since we don't have a checkbook, we pay all of our bills at the post office in cash. We pre-pay our cell phone by charging it with 30 Euros cards that we get at the tabaccheria (tobacconist's) on the corner. A guy comes by every few months to check the water meter inside the apartment. The mailman rings everyone's doorbell in the hopes that someone will buzz him in so he can distribute the mail each day.

As I write this list, I realize how much really is different and yet it all seems so normal to me now. Although I am looking forward to going to a supermarket in the US (which, by its very nature is normally huge), pick out my fruits and vegetables without weighing them, have someone else bag my groceries and then take them to my car.

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