Day 2 in Otranto


Let’s kick this off with a quick story from yesterday.  We were relaxing at the house and Dakota (my sweet, insane puppy) was being a giant pest and generally annoying me.  I kept pushing him away, because I am apparently the meanest Puppy-Mama in the world (you’ll know why in a minute).  About an hour later, he was super lethargic and mopey, and I went to pet him, because he was acting so odd, and he FLINCHED.  So now I’m worried, trying to figure out what’s wrong with him – we checked his teeth (I had been about to pet his nose), we checked his lips, his entire body – nothing.  We found nothing.  You may know we lost Texas, Dakota’s brother, suddenly in June at age 7, so Dakota not eating, acting odd, and sounding as if he were in pain, had us near tears, we were so scared.

Our first thought was to rush him to a vet, but the nearest vet is going to be in Melendugno, the vet our cousin recommends is in Lecce (which is farther from us), no vet is open on Sunday, especially when we aren’t yet established patients, and we have no car.  And honestly, if it’s whatever killed his brother, there’s not a whole lot we can do because we don’t know what happened there.  So we just sat with him, terrified, while he slept, even though we were poking him and checking his breathing every few minutes.  About an hour later, we did another puppy check, and noticed his muzzle had been swelling up, right in the area that had seemed painful before.

I should point out that we have a bit of an ant problem in the backyard.  A problem to the point that Dakota was scared of the backyard for the first three weeks we were here.  We had treated it and it got better, but there are some tiny black ants – and by some, I mean a lot.  In the Puglia area, we also have mosquitoes, wasps, bees, hornets, and venomous spiders, but the ants matter for this story.

So anyway, due to the swelling, we guessed he got bit by something, and when I took him outside for him to do his business, I noticed that the ants were back and clearly climbing on him as he licked his legs.  Ok, so maybe he got bit by an ant.  But I know they aren’t fire ants and, I mean, they’re tiny – how much damage can they do?

When we moved, I researched the snakes in Puglia, the spiders in Puglia, the flying/biting insects in Puglia – anything that could hurt my animals because knowledge is power.  I did not research ants because, well, they’re ants.  That was a mistake.  It turns out, here in Puglia, we have “harvester ants” which, drop for drop, are more poisonous than a rattlesnake, cause more pain than a bee sting, and lock their mandibles in so that they can bite again and again.  When I was being mean to my scared, hurt puppy because I thought he was being a nudge, he was being bit by a very mean ant.  Talk about guilt.  Fortunately, he is fine today – he’s happy and eating again, and the swelling is gone.  The ants will be getting killed again.


You can’t see it here, but the water was about 4 or 5 inches deep – and this was at the top of the hill! At the bottom, it was much, much worse.

So we went to Otranto again today, because it was raining and Torre Dell’Orso shut down, and we needed things, including more of M’s medicine.  We got to Otranto at about 11 and had a cup of coffee, and mapped out a plan.  Because it was almost siesta, we wanted to the castello first (wow, I used the Italian automatically – I think I’m getting used to it!), since the stores there don’t shut down.  It was a very wet walk!  The water in the streets was easily halfway up our shins, and the stores had boards in front of their doorway so that the water didn’t flood in!  I think they thought we were crazy Americans, since the only people we saw out when the rain was coming down were us and a British group.  In the castello (remember from the last post?  The Aragon castle?), we found the old chapel, which was so cool!

After the castello, we went to the pharmacy to try and get more of M’s meds.  We weren’t entirely sure how it was going to go, between cost, prescription by an American doctor, and the fact that, at least in America, the pharmacy often had to order them.  So we go in, with our rudimentary Italian, to talk about Parkinson’s meds, and we start off by asking if they even have them in stock, because that is the quickest way to cut this interaction short.  The very, very kind lady, much to my surprise, pulls out about five different strengths and kinds.  Ok, we are off to a good start.  We ask about the prescription – she didn’t even need it – she just wanted to make sure we knew what kind we wanted.

Now, the scary part.  Let me start off by saying that in America, on top of hundreds of dollars a month for insurance premiums, any single one of M’s prescriptions had a minimum copay of $25, her Sinemet was always about $50 (and she’s on two strengths), and her carbidopa, which she is now off of, was $1800 for three months’ worth.  So I’m prepared for the worst, because we are paying out of pocket.  Anyway, we ask nice pharmacy lady the cost of a box (50 tablets) and she checks and WINCES!  I’m terrified that we are going to break the bank to get medicine.  She turns back to us and says “4.80 euro.”  Yeah.  We bought three months worth.  In fact, we bought three months worth, plus antihistamines, plus cough syrup, and we paid less than the normal copay.  So that’s how Italy do.  I’ve liked a lot of things about this country, I’ve had some things I’ve hated, but for that alone, I would kiss Italian feet.

Update:  M is normally on the generic sinemet, as the brand is even more expensive, but I realized this morning we got the brand name at the pharmacy in Otranto.  This could have been even cheaper!

Next stop was a home goods store to see about getting a mop (oddly hard to find in Torre Dell’Orso), and nail clippers.  We struck gold on the first, finally, but failed on the second.  Then we had time to kill before we headed home, so we swung into the supermercato next door, where I finally, 7 weeks into Italy, found a jar of peanut butter.  It’s a stupid thing, but you can’t even understand how much I have missed peanut butter.  It was a tiny jar, it was crunchy when I prefer creamy, and it cost 4 dollars.  Yeah, I now own peanut butter.  M pointed out white bread so I could make a sandwich, but hey, after all this, I am not letting any bread taint my precious peanut butter!  I’m going to savor all three spoonfuls in that jar.

My precious find!

Moving To Italy Check-in

We’re back in Torre Dell’Orso, and all in all, I’m happy in Italy.  It’s not easy to be here for a variety of reasons, some important, some more superficial, but at the end of the day, it’s the right decision for us.  We are eating better because there is no choice, exercising more because it’s what you do here.  We are literally forced to relax in the middle of the day (I may not be working but I am still the queen of stress – so a 2-5 hour period everyday where I know I can’t do anything is oddly comforting…when it isn’t stressing me out).  There’s still a lot more to get used to, but I feel like, at the end of the day, the big stuff, the most important stuff, is working out in Italy.  And I think that as we settle in more, everything else will too.  For a couple of years, Italy, the dream of Italy, was my major source of hope, and being here hasn’t diminished that – if anything, the experience so far has enhanced it.  I feel actual, viable hope that life can be what I want it to be.  That, to me, is priceless.

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