Monday, February 8, 2010

Foot Powder and Four Square

This week has really been about adaptation and adjusting to this new culture I live in. When you really are submerged in a culture, especially in the United States, you lose sight of how great many of us have it (Now, hang on. I am fully aware-and maybe more aware than most-that not everybody has enjoyed life like I or many of my friends have, so let it be known that I am not generalizing the entirety of our nation.). Most of us have at least the basics: plumbing, running water, a toilet and toilet paper, hair dryers, etc. These are things to really appreciate, things that are expected for a certain standard of living. And do these things have to do with culture? Sure. To some extent I suppose. I've been to China, a place where toilets almost don't exist and you are expected to poop in a hole because the squatting position is better for your colon. I've been to several countries where you have to travel with toilet paper if you expect to wipe anything, and I now live in a place where the pipes are extremely small so flushing can be a problem. I've never been a wasteful toilet paper user like some people I know. In fact I had a roommate in college (who will remain nameless) who would wrap her arm past her wrist in toilet paper before she wiped. I wondered why we were buying toilet paper so dang often until I figured out she wrapped her arm in a cast of t.p. every time she peed. Can you imagine the wrap job when there was more than pee?! Anyways, back to my point. Such luxuries and wastefulness are not tolerated here simply because the plumbing can't handle it. After only a few days in my house, I noticed that the toilet leaks water onto the bathroom floor every time I flush (thank goodness there is a drain nearby). I figured out that if I use less toilet paper and flush less, then the problem takes care of itself. I can only use four squares of toilet paper and flush after every third pee trip if I want my floor to stay dry. So, I've made an adjustment that, as it turns out, is not only better for the environment but also better for my bathroom plumbing.

The climate and my lifestyle here has presented a few new habits as well. Italians are very adamant about drying their hair after getting out of the pool or a shower, so everyone has a hair dryer. I actually really appreciate this part of their culture because my hair has to be dry in order for me to put any product in it anyways, so I've taken to it quite nicely. The part I did miss out on though is how important it is to use the dryer to dry my feet. It's too cold to wear sandals and often too cold to go without socks at the house, so my feet are always covered and apparently not always dry. I happened to notice my feet feeling funny while I was walking through Catania during the Saint Agatha celebration. When I got home I took off my shoes and socks only to find what appeared to be athlete's foot. DIS-GUST-ING! At home I would have gone right to the store and bought some spray. Here, however, you have to go to a chemistry (pharmacy), which is its own separate store, which presents another problem: now I have to tell someone about my foot fungus (embarrassing) so they can help me ask an Italian pharmacist for what I need. Great. So, Chiara, who is a good friend and whose dad is our team doctor, took me to a chemistry to get the magic foot powder I needed to make this foot funk disappear. I have to put it on after every shower, which means I have to bring it to the locker room with my team (even more embarrassing). As I was putting my foot powder on after practice today, I looked up to see if anyone is noticing, but, instead, I see one of my teammates doing that same thing. Apparently it's not that uncommon, especially for aquatic athletes here, and not much to be embarrassed about at all (although it is still really gross). I will, however, now be thoroughly drying my hair and my toes from now on, even when I'm back in the States. I don't need to be taught that lesson twice!

Aside from using the average four squares of toilet paper and my newly acquired foot powder, I haven't had to make too many other changes to my regular routine, except for trying to learn Italian, which is not quite as easy a task to master as flushing the toilet less and drying your toes more...We'll see how it all pans out.

2012 Olympics