Shout out to subscriber Kathy H. who said “I feel a blog about being silenced is in your future.” Now, Kathy knows I love to chat. We Facetime, Viber or Magic Jack call each other a lot. What do we talk about? I haven’t a clue, but for about a week the chatting stopped.
On those chatless days we were plagued with thunder, lighting, whooshing rain and turn your umbrella inside out wind. The internet went kaput. No Internet no chatting.
Suddenly I was silenced!
Yeah, yeah I know – I could still e-mail from my smart phone but it ain’t the same as voice to voice chatting. For one whole week I couldn’t verbally reach out to family and friends in the USA. WHAT!
It was a great opportunity to read books, sit in the caffè and gossip and maybe even play at writing something. It also made me realize that my blabbing about our great cheap ways to communicate with folks in other parts of the globe needed a revision. Here in the hills we have one communication tragic flaw – storms knock out the internet.
Our internet is provided through an antennae on our house and a signal sent from an even bigger antennae somewhere in the hills. When the wind is whoooooooooossssshhhhhhhing the signal starts swirling and may be providing internet to Saturn.
How does one overcome this dilemma? First, make sure you have a good cellular telephone provider. We use WIND and pay ten Euro a month for 200 minutes of calls, 200 texts and UNLIMITED data. Second, make sure you have a phone that can become a wi-fi hotspot. I have an iPhone 4s that works well as a hotspot.
I will caution you, there were times when the storms also limited our ability to use our cell phones but not often.
To make quick calls to the USA – really quick because the more you use the unlimited data the slower it becomes – I would turn the cell phone into a hot spot and call through my iPad or Macbook Air. Apple doesn’t send me dime for saying what I’m about to say (though I would gladly accept the latest iPhone.) Apple products all work incredibly well together.
I’ve installed Viber and Skype on my iPad. Facetime comes with the iPad and Macbook. Magic Jack also now has an application for smart phones a well as your computer. Our New Jersey phone number is our Magic Jack number so folks can easily call us and/or leave a message. (Though I wish telemarkerters would stop calling at 6:00 PM Eastern Standard Time which is MIDNIGHT here.)
Bottom line – I may not be able to sip Campari Soda and talk about nothing with pals in America for an hour but thanks to a good cellular provider and the hotspot on my iPhone we can still get our words out.
Full Disclosure: I HATE THAT WE ARE BEHOLDEN TO COMCAST CABLE TO PROVIDE INTERNET SERVICE IN FLAGTOWN, NJ. Verizon never wired our street for FIOS – that makes Comcast/Xfinity the only show in town. What happened to choice? Oh yeah, we don’t have it.
Before we left for Italy I called Comcast to downgrade our account – we had the famous triple play package. Our monthly bill was close to $200. Since we wouldn’t be watching TV or using the phone I wanted to downgrade to simply internet. Easy. NOT.
Why is it that in this day of technology a kid at a computer can send a drone to pin point a target thousands of miles away, yet you still have to repeat all of your contact information a minimum of three times when you call the cable company?
Please say or type into your keypad your cable account number or telephone number.
CCXXXXXXX – I had put on my good speech voice and said it slowly.
Please say or type into your keypad your cable account number or telephone number.
Me: (Using the non-pretentious voice)
Please say or type into your keypad your cable account number or telephone number.
Me: (With my hand over the phone.)
I type the number into my keypad.
Please say your address
Can’t you see that from my account number?
Can’t you see is an unknown address. Please say your address.
I slowly said the my address.
Please say the last four digits of your social security number.
I carefully say the last four digits of my social security number and think I should play the number in the next big lottery.
Please wait while we connect you to the next available operator
Hello this is wp0e85rbv (name impossible to understand) may I have your Comcast account number or phone number please?
Finally, I make her understand that I do not want to talk to anyone about another type of plan or upgrading my service or adding the ESPN package. All I want is internet – I can’t get it from anyone else. Just internet now costs us $52.48 that equals 38.81€. Remember that number!
After rehashing Comcast for you, I took some deep cleansing breaths and am now able to talk serenely about our Internet connectivity in Pontelandolfo.
We didn’t know how to begin. My family members use wireless USB devices. Jack and I thought that we needed something more permanent with unlimited access. The wonderful Annarita Mancini and I went on a search for alternative services. Annarita discovered LCR System and Emilio (the contact for Pontelandolflo.) She did the calling for me and asked all the right questions. Putting her hand over her phone she asked, “Is 25€ a month too much? I think it is too much – it is usually less but you are only here for 3 months and he doesn’t want to do it for 3 months.”
Do I think it is too much? That is 13.81€ less than I pay Comcast normally. Yes, yes, have them come, I shouted. (I don’t know what their normal rate is but I think it is 20€ per month.)
The system is incredibly brilliant. They have a WiFi tower somewhere in Pontelandolfo and installed an antennae on top of our house. The antennae was hard wired into a router that they placed in a room on the second floor. That means – without cable or FIos – you can have internet access even on the top of a mountain! They charged me 75€ for the installation. Comcast also charges for set-up and activation. I haven’t been able to do a price comparison. Some smart folks will note that we needed to amortize the fee over three months which shot our charges up. We are going back for 6 months in May and I am hoping the antennae is still on the roof.
Watch out! Sheeeeeeeet, the motorini is aiming for us. I clutch the armrest. My heart races. Jack scowls and bellows, “stop screeching.”
Ahhhhh, thank you for listening. I have discharged my angst. I inhale deeply, and count to ten. H,mmmmmmm. I visualize white light surrounding the car. WATCH OUT!!!!!! I immediately stop all this relaxation, funky granola, bull poop and bellow, “DON’T EVER TAKE A FREAKIN’ CAR INTO THE CENTER OF NAPLES!”
Here’s the story. It was a beautiful day and we thought we could explore Naples. Our fabulous landlord had taken us a few weeks earlier. He drove us directly into the glorious historic center. He was incredibly familiar with the city and assured us the historic center was clean, safe and wonderful. It was! The architecture and history are worth a visit. With Nichola we strolled down to the waterfront, had a caffè in a small bar and people watched.
We thought we could do it on our own. (Notice the “we thought”.) We were accompanied by Giusy who attends Università DI Napoli “Federico II”. The plan was to take the train from Benevento. The down side of idyllic, very small village life is that there is really no public transportation. At 7:00 or 7:40 AM students and those lucky enough to have jobs can take the bus to Benevento. At 8:30 AM there is a bus to Campobasso. We didn’t know until a few days later you can take it all the way to Naples but it is a really long – stop everywhere – ride. Where was I? Oh yeah, the plan was to take the train from Benevento. Great plan – 20 minute ride to the station – 30 minutes trying to figure out where to park – and then finding a parking lot only to discover that the prepay machine only took coins! Sounds like New Jersey transit – we’ve got the trains just nowhere to leave your car. Shouting and cursing ensued – that was me. Jack did the scowl sigh thing. Giusy said, “maybe we should just drive.” Well she lives there how bad could it be?
I need to point out that the last time Jack drove to Naples – about 5 years ago – we were going to the Capodimonte Museum and National Galleries and got stuck in a horn blowing, knives flashing, traffic jam at a 1/2 mile wide round-about (circle). We were forced to crawl around the circle for about 45 minutes. We had only gone about half-way around the huge thing when Jack was able to ease off into a wide avenue. In less than one block, the wide two way street had bottlenecked into a goat path. People had double parked or abandoned their cars on both sides of the street. It was an impassable, drivers screaming and horns blaring NIGHTMARE. Jack Mr. Calm in a crisis pulled the car onto the sidewalk and told us to get out. When in Rome or Naples do as …. We abandoned the car, took a cab to the museum and worried abut driving later. So, here we are driving in Naples again. Are we insane? Don’t answer that.
This time we had our handy iPhones and could use the GPS. We knew we wanted to explore a neighborhood and picked the bayside “Posillipo”. Getting in was a dream. We took the autostrada to the city and then followed the water all the way to Posillipo. Parking in a lot was easy – though again you could only use change. Since we figured we only needed three hours to stroll, eat lunch and stare at the sea, we scrounged enough coins. The view from Posillipo is amazing. We all agreed this was the neighborhood to live in.
Gated private streets led to magnificent houses and apartment buildings. Sigh, anybody want to give me a scant million?
Strolling through the neighborhood we discovered a restaurant with an incredible view. Reginella Restaurant was the type that brochures touting the charms of a seaside community are sure to mention. It was perched on the side of the cliff leading down to the Bay of Naples.
We sat on a terrace overlooking the sea. Initially, the charming host sat us right next to the railing – ah a glorious view! Giusy and I looked at each other – we were both turning green. All I saw was my life passing before my eyes as I fell off the side of the cliff and lay broken on the rocks below. With chattering teeth we asked for another table.
Once we were happily seated a bit further back, we concentrated on the incredible seafood. I’ll let you see the food and judge for your selves. (Pssst – My “risotto alla pescatore” was chock full of clams, mussels, scallops and pieces of calamari.)
Delicious! Seafood by the sea . Those of you waiting for the other DON’T DRIVE shoe to drop. Hang on – here it comes.
After lunch we strolled a bit and took in the sites of the neighborhood. Most shops were closed. Even stores in the cities close for lunch and a break, opening again at about 4:30. Sated from lunch and the fabulous view we decided to head for the historic center and check out where Giusy attended university and lived.
Whaaaaaaa. Whaaaaaa. Nervous breakdown alert. If you do not have a strong stomach for street chaos stop reading.
We set the GPS for the address of the apartment, followed the bay and suddenly were told to turn left into Dante’s third level of HELL. Thousands of Evil Kenivals zoomed in and out of stop and go traffic on motorcycles, motorini and broom sticks. Cars double and tripped parked making streets impassable. The GPS didn’t quite get street closings due to well who knows – it was Tuesday. Where the hell was my Xanax? Clutching the purse on my lap like a life jacket, I tried not to cry out every time a freakin’ car or motorini cut us or or came careening toward us. My nails bit into my palms. Jack squared his waspy jaw and forged ahead. Forging ahead isn’t the right phrase. Begging for life – that’s a good phrase. Or crying for my mother – that’s a good phrase. It is like driving a car in a full washing machine set to the spin cycle. Bump, rrrrrrrrrrrrt, squeak, ugggggggg — HELL.
Giusy reminded us she always took the bus and walked and didn’t really know the direct route to her apartment. Gee, thanks for the relevant information! We saw the sign for a parking lot and whipped the car in. Relief. On foot, we enjoyed exploring the university.
Next, it was on to discover how college kids live. We checked out Giusy’s apartment – palace sized rooms stuffed with kids. Sound familiar? Well, in the U.S. we really don’t usually find apartments with 14 foot ceilings, beautiful ironwork elevators and five bedrooms, two baths for 350 euros per each of the five roommates. Granted, clothes were still tossed around and the furniture was all cast off – but still it felt like a palace.
Time to go – so we trudged to the parking lot – where being 8 minutes late – they charged us for an extra hour. Giusy argued like a trooper and oh yeah – she won! They didn’t charge us. We gritted our teeth for the drive home. I couldn’t watch as Jack tried to squeeze out of the garage to the street. We hadn’t a clue how to get out of town and the GPS in our iPhone was obviously under a lot of stress. We ended up by the docks – well that was fun. Not TOO many cars jockeying for position there. We sat inhaling exhaust for what felt like hours – Jack says it was only 30 minutes. The conversation in the car came to a dead halt. Since I was’t allowed to make caustic comments or scream, it was very quiet. Somehow Jack got us out of the city and on to the highway. We all exhaled and enjoyed the mountains, farms and lush green that is the Italian country side.
Naples is a glorious city. TAKE THE BUS!
PS: Jack says it wasn’t so bad. We got home didn’t we!!!
FaceTime at work! I hate to do a commercial for Apple but I have to tell you, FaceTime is an incredibly easy way to chat with the pals at home. Sometimes, however, the visual can be a little scary. I mean you never know in what state of composure you are going to catch someone. But then, they don’t have to answer the chirp. My best bud Janet called me via FaceTime and snapped this shot of me on her iPad with her iPhone. Facetime works really well from iPad to iPad. What I really like is the ability to switch the camera from a shot of me to a shot of where ever I am. There is a camera on both the display side and the back. Or is that the front? Apple says “FaceTime works right out of the box — no need to set up a special account or screen name. And using it is as easy as it gets. Let’s say you want to start a video call with your mom. Find her entry in your contacts and tap the FaceTime button.” (http://www.apple.com/ios/facetime/ ) It hasn’t been quite that easy for me. After you tap the FaceTime button you are asked if you want to use the person’s cell phone number or e-mail address. I discovered that my friends and I had to use our e-mail addresses not cell phone numbers. Once we figured that out it was seamless and we use it often.
Skype is another service that I use to chat face to face with friends. You have to know the person’s Skype moniker and that is a pain in the proverbial butt. I can barely remember my own name and find it tedious to e-mail pals and ask for their Skype addresses. The Skype visuals seem out of focus or pixel yucky (note the techy jargon). Microsoft now owns Skype and I wondered if that was why it didn’t work well with my Apple family of products. The audio, however, is always pretty clear. Occasionally it is a little behind the video – kind of like bad English dubbing of a foreign film. Or bad Italian dubbing of Law and Order. I have put a few pennies into the Skype pot to make calls to landline phones and it has never worked for me. It is pennies to call the USA via Skype and Verizon charges gold bullion for international roaming. That said, the Skype calls never connected and were dropped. I have read a number of reviews on line that swear that Skype calls work really, really well. Well, I really, really haven’t experienced that.
The easiest interface to use is facebook. All of your two thousand best buds are listed on the right hand side of the screen. A little green dot means they are allegedly on-line. The little green dot could also mean the computer is on line the the human is out having cocktails on the patio. Click on the name of the friend whose green dot beckons you. A screen pops up so that you can instant message or click on the little camera and a video call begins. You don’t have to know their phone, number, e-mail address or shoe size. I have used the facebook video chat a lot.
Facebook is how I connect with my Italian family when I am in the USA. The video is often rough around the edges – to the point of being ghost like. The audio quality seems to vary depending on the space the person is in – cavernous echoes have been known to happen. I didn’t realize until I sat down to write this that Skype and facebook now have some sort of marriage. The icons appear on both web-sites.
To summarize: the Apple FaceTime wins but if you want to hear the voices of those you left behind any of these internet methods will work. Happy calling! Hey, if you know of any other ways to beat the phone companies and BS for days with pals around the world let us all know! I’ll be calling you!