Sunday, 22 February 2009

Missing moments

It's been a strange year so far, and I've realised I posted about the flat without mentioning the month preceding it... Of course I've also got to add the last couple of weeks too.

To start at the end, I went to UK for a couple of days stopover with my parents. Arriving late it was not until the next morning that I found out that my dad had suffered not one but two mini-strokes in the last few weeks. That signalled the start of the longest week I have had in a long time. The following evening he had another mini-stroke and so Saturday saw dad and I at the walkin clinic, then it was upto Colchester General for the afternoon. There was talk of him being admitted, which he didn't want, but after a long day I took him home. big mistake. Just 10mins into the footie the next day I had to call 999 I followed the ambulance in the car and it was only after I couldn't get parked and then locate dad that I got scared and the emotions escaped. Naturally dad was admitted and later that eve I left, reluctantly, to go and try and calm mum. He seemed ok when mum & I went to visit him the next day, complaining of missing his tea as he was taken for a scan, but then the following day... Had to keep optimistic for mum, but was very worried as dad had seemed confused, ill, & so old. However that was the low point and by Thurs we were waiting for the ok for him to be released. I flew back to Oman, with doubts & guilt, on Saturday and a few days later he returned home. Still feel I should have stayed longer: what a horrible feeling guilt is!

Anyway onto happier things! December started with mum's visit here in Oman. She arrived on Thursday morning off a night flight and by the eve was at the St Andrew's Ball, hosted by the Caledonian Society Oman. She had a few turns on the dance floor, as did J & I. my dress was a casualty of a fast dance as the shoestring strap snapped oops. As it was Eid, I didn't work most of her visit and got to do several day trips out, although not to the beach due to the nasty red tide, which was lingering on Muscat's shoreline. One day was spent up near Sohar at an Omani colleague's house participating in traditional Eid feast. I hadn't realised just how important our host was until he took us to his village and the whole village turned out to shake his hand and greet him. From this very Omani traditional festival later in the week we celebrated Christmas by going to a Christmas Carol concert by the Muscat Singers. It was lovely to have mum out here.

Just 5 days later I was on a plane myself heading to Durban with J, picking his daughters up on route in Abu Dhabi, for 3 1/2 weeks. It was a different holiday as I very much felt an outsider at this family gathering, not because they were not welcoming, far from it, but because many of them hadn't seen each other for such a long time. J made an effort for us to have sometime alone especially on my birthday when we went out looking at art galleries, craft shops etc & then out for a nice dinner in the evening. The holiday highlight for me was the Hluhluwi-imfolozi game park where we spent 2 nights and got to see elephants just 20 metres away. AWESOME! This is what I wrote at the time:
5 Jan. Arrived game reserve & saw giraffe, zebra, and warthog next to road & buffalo & various antelope further away on the way to our lodge! The eve game drive added white rhino to the list. The 5am game drive next day resulted in baby white rhino pics & a rhino in mud SO close you couldn't use a zoom lens. As eating breakie, J spotted elephant across the valley and we jumped in the car, abandoning breakie, in search of them. There were 2 in a bush giving tantalising glimpses of ears, tails, and lots of dust as they bathed. Finally, after what seemed like forever, they moved & we got great views of these magnificient creatures.
The rhinos were also amazing, but slightly worrying when we were on a bush walk and ended up down-wind of a white rhino & her young, especially when our guide, Samora, headed us into the bush to circle around and get away from her.

Other great African moments: seeing hippos in St Lucia, a helicopter 'flip' along the coast, seeing Zulu dancers & drummers, and hiking in the Drakensberg mountains. Only traveled in Kwazulu-Natal region so got a great excuse to return to South Africa one day. Cape Town high on to-go-list.

I'm now back in Oman, start a new job Saturday & also on Saturday have to move out of J's when my flat is vacated by my lodger. Going to be a tough week ahead.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

OMG what have I done?

Arriving in Orsomarso in bitterly cold winter sun in mid-January with the newly collected keys for the apartment was scary. Opening the door to "my" new house there, after stopping to take a couple of cheesy photos was not something I thought would even happen after the long drawn out process started back in May. The purchase had finally gone through on the 19th December, but despite several attempt to call Italy for news before our flight to South Africa I could not get through. It was not until Saturday evening that I finally got a call through to find out I was now the owner of a little bit of Italy.

After walking around and several exclamations I was left with the feeling of "what have I done?". This feeling has come and gone over the 3 weeks especially after days & days of torrential rain. I was seriously concerned I would get cut off as the level of Fiume Argentina (the local river) overflowed in places across the road, and water poured down the hillsides. Following swiftly after the rain, SNOW, albeit on the hilltops around and causing the temperature to fall a bit more. Luckily, the flat has an ancient wood-burning stove, which after straightening the chimney meant the lounge wasn't filled with smoke on the 2nd night. It's lit now as I desperately attempt to dry the woodwork I painted in order to do the 2nd coat tomorrow. Normally, the paint is touch dry in 3 hrs, and repaintable after 24, so says the tin, however it also says at 20°C. As the temperature in the village is hovering around 9 in the daytime, 2½ days later it's still tacky. With the lounge door being a lockable main door, it needs to be dry so I can lockup when I leave on Wednesday, hence the panic.

Going back a bit... I had a heart attack on getting the quote to remove the excess furniture. The flat was sold furnished, but contained enough for a troupe of circus performers to stay a month in summer on furniture last renewed sometime in the 60s. The argument was that the municipal dump cost an arm-&-a-leg to deposit waste – no wonder there is so much dumped at the sides of the roads, unsightly as it seems – combined with the fact that a truck cannot be parked outside the house. It's about 5 minutes down to the square. The men would have to lug units, chairs, wardrobes etc down to their van. To be fair they slaved up & down the hill in pouring rain (who said Italians don't work in the rain???) finishing 3 hours after they arrived. The flat looked vast devoid of most of its furniture. The previous day had seen Lesley & I on a mammoth day out to Naples and after crawling through traffic we eventually arrived at Ikea. It was scary driving my hire car as I'd been upgraded from a little Ka type to a Ford Focus Estate and for some reason the Napolese seem to think there has to be a minimum of 3 lanes of cars in every stretch of duel-carriageway. Another heart attack occurred as I blithely signed the slip of my visa card, and going blind, squinted at the total and I was a whopping... well at least 200€ more than I expected. The drive back was horrendous through driving rain, although luckily not much traffic, and my Ikea haul spent the night in the car rather than get ruined in the rain.

The miniscule narrow bathroom has not been as horrendous to use as thought. As a wet room it functions if you squeeze next to the bidet in order to shower, but is a nightmare if you go to the toilet shortly after as you have to walk pass the bidet and shower head, on the wet floor, to reach the, sensibly placed, toilet. My first quote to reorder and extend slightly this miniscule room brought tears to my eyes and thoughts of 'maybe later'. The second was from a Rumanian builder, whose work I've seen and is ok, but was such a chauvinist towards me I was on the idea of never employing him. He marched around my place, with a nice Italian man, not listening to what I want, but reading a sheet from the estate agent about things. Well, nice as the agent is: 1 he is so busy I'm surprised he knows what I want: and 2 I have only had the terrace quoted for work in the distant future and my priority is the bathroom, kitchen and electrics, as well as anything else the crops up seeming important. Furthermore, 3 my ideas for the place have changed since I last viewed it in September.

To end for now on positives: Egidio & Michela, have been very supportive, especially Michela with her great English & Egidio with his ready smile, not only in setting up my bill payments saving lots of hassle, but also doing additional things over and beyond such as talking to my neighbour by phone due to a problem with my roof. oops. Michela has also had the trouble of giving me some Italian lessons & getting rid os my Spanish pronunciation on everything lol. Lesly & Brian have been fantastic too - providing company, food, heat when it all gets too much and overall great support and friendship. It will be a pleasure to be here with people like them here. Finally, my neighbour Lucia, who I cannot understand a word she says - apparently very broad dialect provided a first... She gave me some fresh brocoli & oranges. Later that day, I went to cook the brocoli, on taking it out of the fridge discovered snails crawling up the salad compartment. How fresh is that???


PS The pic is the view from the lounge.