Typical day in the life…

The blue in this photo is a small kiddy pool on the shared patio next door.  We don’t use that area due to the plants surrounding it that seems to attract more wasps and bees than on either our private patio or veranda. By the way, we do not take photos of topless sunbathers, often seen lounging on this shared patio.

A number of our friends have asked, “What do you guys do all day?”

With no yard work, no major cleaning, no visitors, no dog to walk, no nearby store or health club, no family coming for breakfast or dinner, no cable TV, and no English speaking neighbors to chat within the yard, how in the world could we possibly keep from getting bored?

This is not exclusively our dilemma.  Many retirees eventually move to a low maintenance lifestyle in warm climates far from family and friends, facing a similar situation. 

While living in Scottsdale, Arizona from November 4 to January 1, 2013, we were entrenched in such a lifestyle.

Tom’s sisters and brothers-in-law were living only a half-hour away in Apache Junction Arizona as they did each year to escape Minnesota’s rough winters. Connecting with them each week or so was a respite from our daily flurry of activities as we prepared to leave the US.

Switching back and forth between two local restaurants for breakfast every few mornings, dining out for dinner each week, and occasionally attending a local comedy club created a pleasant break in our daily routine.

During that two month period in Arizona, we were busy preparing documents to enable us to leave the US for an extended period, learning to use our new digital devices, preparing our taxes, and spending a week in Henderson Nevada with family over Christmas.  Actually, we visited Henderson on another occasion, to babysit our grand dog Monty while son Richard traveled out of town.

Without a doubt, it was a busy two months, not unlike the busy times spent with many of our retired friends who have condos in warm climates, living a rewarding and fulfilling life.

As for us living in Boveglio, it was a culture shock to realize no one and I mean no one speaks English. Not at the grocery store, not in the street, not a neighbor, not our landlords, not our cleaning lady, no one. Adapting to this reality has been challenging.

Much to my surprise, now when a person speaks to me in Italian I am able to decipher the gist of the conversation, although not able to translate word for word nor respond in other than a few Italian words I’ve managed to learn. 

Today, I researched the word for “thick” in Google Translate.  The butcher at the deli slices the bacon (US type) too thin, resulting in in cooking too quickly and well done. There are several options for “thick” in Italian: “spesso,” “denso,” “grosso.” We’ll see how it goes when we shop for groceries in the next few days when I attempt to explain the preferred thicker slicing of the bacon.

Two to three times per week someone rings our doorbell immediately speaking to me in Italian. (Tom refuses to answer the door, understanding less than my feeble attempt). They are either selling mops, brooms, and dustpans, frozen foods, looking for an address, looking for a person, or our kindly Santina, dropping off yet another bag filled with vegetables from her garden which we cook daily, never seeming to run out.

A few days ago, Tom and I chuckled over the fact that we’ve had more surprise visitors at the door in the past seven weeks since we’ve arrived in Boveglio, than we had in the prior seven years in our old lives, with each exchange challenging my language skills.

The point well-made: Not speaking Italian has had an enormous effect on the activities if our daily lives. So, how do we stay busy each day?

Here’s the rundown of our activities today.  Tom’s day is similar spending more time online than I do. (I’d be curious to hear from others as to their daily activities.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re similar.  Please do share).

7:30 am
Bolt out of bed.  Turn on the coffee. Shower and dress for the day.  Make the bed together.

8:00 am
Start a load of laundry.  Then, drink coffee and fire up the laptop, checking in.  Put away dried dishes from last night’s dinner.  (In my old life, I never left a plate to dry in the sink overnight).

8:30 am
Make breakfast: sausages, bacon, and eggs. Eat breakfast.

9:00 am
Do dishes. Decide on dinner. Hand cut the cabbage and carrots for the coleslaw, a daily task. There’s no pre-cut coleslaw mix here. Cutting it fresh each day seems to add to its crunchy texture. Slice and dice any other veggies for dinner.

9:30 am
Removed all the food in the freezer stacking it in the kitchen sink to begin the process of defrosting the freezer for the third time since we’ve arrived. The freezer is tiny. We need every inch of space for our next shopping trip. 

10:00 am
Tom poured the hot tea water into a pan, placing it in the freezer to aid in the defrosting process, repeating three times. Within a half-hour, the freezer was defrosted. I replaced the food, noting what we have on hand for the upcoming shopping trip.

10:30 am
Took the laundry out of the washer, starting another load of whites, hanging it outside on the patio (where the bees congregate). Quickly hung the laundry, in another successful attempt to avoid being stung.

11:00 pm
Made hot tea, taking it out to the veranda with my laptop in hand, to begin writing this post, while responding to email, etc. Continued to check the laundry. When the sweat started dripping off of me, I switched to iced tea, capping off the liter container. Used the remaining hot water in the coffee machine to make a new batch of iced tea.

11:30 am
Observed topless woman arranging her chaise lounge on the patio next door. Mentioned this to Tom. Using his monitor as a mirror, he checked it out to no avail. Turning around would have been tacky and obvious. I had a better vantage point.

11:56 pm
Heard twelve clangs of the clock tower next door, always four to five minutes early, repeating at 11:58.  Removed the second load of laundry from the washer heading out to our patio to hang today’s final load. Finished making the pitcher of iced tea, chilling it in the fridge. Back to the veranda to work on my laptop.

1:00 pm
Laptop batteries were almost dead. Returned laptops to the kitchen table to recharge and began downloading TV shows and movies from Graboid for tonight’s viewing. Sat in the living room, playing Gin with Tom while English speaking international news program played in the background.  He won.

2:30 pm
Laptop batteries recharged, Tom headed back to the veranda while I read my latest mystery novel on my smartphone while lounging on the lumpy 100-year-old sofa in the living room. It was 95 degrees and steamy yesterday. Today it was only 90 but steamy as a gentle breeze wafted from the living room window, the opening now covered with mosquito netting, keeping the bees and flies at bay.

4:30 pm
Tea time, a daily ritual, hot or not. Tom had already showered and returned to the veranda with his charged laptop.  I brought in the now dry laundry from the patio while once again batted off the bees, folded everything, and put it all away.

5:45 pm
Begin final prep for our dinner, planned as usual for 7:00 pm. Yesterday, I prepared, but didn’t cook our dinner for tonight, a common practice with no microwave, making two night’s meals, cooking one each night for optimum freshness and enjoyment. Chopped more zucchini, to soon be cooked in olive oil with fresh garlic and herbs from the garden.

6:00 pm
Arranged the clean and dry tablecloth onto the kitchen table, setting our places for dinner: linen napkins, forks, and sharp knives.

6:15 pm
Mixed up the coleslaw dividing it into two batches and placed them back into the refrigerator to stay cold.  Preheated the oven to bake the cheesy chicken/bacon roll-ups, a recipe I got off Facebook, which I modified with local ingredients. Chopped the sausage and onion for the stir fry side dish. Prepared the fresh green beans. It’s a good thing that Tom does the dishes with so many pots to wash. Good thing there are enough pots in which to cook.

6:30 pm
Put the chicken in the oven. Started the stir fry sausage and onions.

This is the pan of yet to be cooked bacon and pancetta-wrapped chicken scallopini (thin slices of chicken breasts pounded by the butcher) that I stuffed with seasoned ricotta cheese and chopped herbs from our private garden, wrapping them in in the two versions of “bacon,” Tom prefers regular US-style bacon and me, loving the thin-sliced pancetta.  These cooked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees (180 centigrade). I topped this with an Italian pesto sauce I’d made using ingredients from the garden.

6:45 pm
Started the green beans. Reheated the zucchini. Tended to the stir fry as it cooked.

7:00 pm
Served dinner with each of us easily moving through the kitchen to fill our various plates with a wide array of food. Sat at the kitchen table eating our meal while watching a show, a favorite ritual when its just the two of us. Again tonight, we watched another episode of the current season of  “America’s Got Talent.” More light entertainment we find to be rather humorous and entertaining.

7:45 pm
Having enjoyed our dinner with the show over, Tom washed the mountain of dishes while I cleaned off the table the stove, and the countertops.

8:15 pm
Set up my laptop in the living room in order for us to watch two shows tonight, the final first season’s episode of The Killing (AMC) as well as episode 5 of House of Cards (Netflix production). Positioned ourselves as comfortably as possible on the lumpy 100-year-old sofa. 

9:45 pm
Finished watching the two shows.  Downloaded from Graboid, there are no commercials reducing the actual viewing time. It’s at this time, I usually take my smartphone to bed to read until Tom comes to bed.  (I read my downloaded ebooks on the same smartphone I’d dropped on the cement in March in Belize. Never having had the screen repaired due to the inconvenience of shipping it back and forth, I quickly read the first sentence at the top of the screen which was the most damaged area. Once past that first sentence, the remainder of the reading is a breeze.

11:30 pm
Tom came to bed, his smartphone in hand to read his book while I attempt to go to sleep. By midnight, he turns off his phone, lightly snoring a few minutes later.

12:00 am
Tossing and turning I struggled to find a comfortable spot for my still painful but improved right shoulder.  Within a half-hour, blissful slumber overtakes me only to be interrupted by dreams of having to get up to go to “work,” driving in the snow, office politics, deadlines, trying to achieve the impossible, a true “frustration dream” often similarly repeated several times a week. 

Does this mean I feel guilty about our simple life, our never boring routine? I don’t feel guilty, but I do still pinch myself every few days as many retirees may do, asking themselves, “Am I really free? Is it true that I don’t have to go back to work on Monday morning? May I now enjoy Sunday afternoons, angst-free, knowing that Mondays are just another “typical day in the life?