interview

Sights & Sounds #44

by Jamie Sanford on May 21, 2013

Sights and Sounds #44

Click here for all of the Sights & Sounds posts. If you cannot see the videos, please click here.

[youtube PMFJ0MhD_S0]

90s Jam of the Week is the X-Files Soundtrack version of “Walking After You” by the Foo Fighters. This is a song I have loved for years and I think has fully sneaked into my top 10 favorite songs. That’s a blog post I should write.

RuPaul gives great interview. If you are not inspired by Ru’s message, something might be wrong with you. “Once you decide you’re gonna live this life, and you’re actually gonna be in it to win it, you’re open to whatever you’re facing.”

[youtube i4TVOJrnfRY]

Kat Graham gets her Josephine Baker on in this Art of Raja video. Sutan/Raja was the season 3 winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Colors in marketing! Check out this amazing piece from Fast Company.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Kelly Kreth: The JamieSanford.com Interview

by Jamie Sanford on April 2, 2013

Click here to read my other interviews.

I have written about Kelly Kreth on the blog before – she has written multiple guest posts. We met on a little website called Open Diary in 2000 when I started writing there and quickly stumbled upon her diary, which was immediately addicting. I haven’t been on Open Diary in ages, I rarely visit and when I do, I can never catch up because following 40 diaries and not visiting for 6 months makes it impossible. Luckily, I have connections with many of the friends I’ve made through OD on Facebook and Twitter, and Kelly is one of them.

Kelly is writing publicly as well – check out her Hell’s Bitchen pieces on Brick Underground and her blog, You Might As Well…  Kelly works as both a freelance writer and real estate publicist.

Kelly is currently fighting a hideous battle against Lyme Disease, which I had heard about here and there, but didn’t really know anything about. Luckily her friend Holly started a Go Fund Me campaign to help Kelly with the insane cost of Lyme treatment, and shared a link to the documentary Under Our Skin, which I cannot recommend enough. I decided to approach Kelly about an interview so we can talk about her diagnosis, treatment, and her long-term health.

When did you start experiencing issues that eventually led to your Lyme diagnosis? What symptoms did you start having?

In March of last year, I started noticing odd memory problems–sort of like things were always on the tip of  my tongue but it would take longer for me to recall them. I was in a sort of brain fog. I would notice some vocabulary issues, like using the wrong word for things or making really odd typos. My fingers and mind would no longer align at times. I write as part of my job, so this was frustrating and baffling.  By the next month, I was having trouble reading. By the time I got to the second paragraph I would forget the first. I have never had dyslexia or ADD so this seemed odd. I made a mental note to contact a neurologist and even set up an appointment but it was going to take eight weeks to be seen. A few weeks  into my wait I woke one morning dizzy, confused, and with the left side of my face numb and slack. I wasn’t sure if I had had a minor stroke or had a brain tumor but I raced to my doctor.

How long did it take you to get diagnosed with Lyme? From watching the documentary, it seems like it can take an exorbitantly long time to get a proper diagnosis. Did you find a specialist right away?

Thankfully my primary care doctor said that she was sure there was no stroke or tumor based on her exam, and she took blood and requested a CT Scan. She told  me to sit tight. Two days later she said I had a positive Lyme test and that all the symptoms I was describing were attributed to neuro-Lyme. She said 30 days of Doxycycline would fix it. I was relieved but about a week and a half into taking the medicine I started feeling even worse. Every symptom was compounded tenfold. I went to the ER and they did an MRI which showed lesions on the white matter of my brain consistent with Lyme. They suggested I see a neurologist. This was my first indication this was not going to rectify itself within 30 days. I now realized I was herxing even at the low dose of Doxy I was given–the normal dose which can never get past the brain-blood barrier and into the brain. (The Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction (or Herx for short) is an inflammatory response to antibiotic treatment for Lyme. It means detoxification of dead or dying bacteria and other pathogenic organisms in the body. Herxing feels like a worsening of illness symptoms.)

I started researching, and realized that chronic Lyme is a bear of a disease. I found the movie Under Our Skin and figured out pretty quickly this was going to be very costly because I knew I need a Lyme Literate doctor (LLMD), and none of them took insurance. I set up an appointment with one, but that would also be an eight-week waiting period. I also found the only neurologist I could find who specialized in Lyme. Since he was an insurance doctor, it was my best bet. In the interim, I went to a regular infectious disease doctor (DO NOT DO THIS!) and she took one look at my CDC-positive Lyme test and told me I don’t have Lyme. She said it was a false positive (this can sometimes happen but is silly to negate positive results when I had classic symptoms of Lyme) and said she’d take another test. I asked if it came back positive if she’d treat me and she said that I could have 40 positive tests and she would not believe I have Lyme. I already new of the Lyme controversy so it didn’t surprise me, but I just wanted this weirdness to be taken away. I asked her what it could be if not Lyme and she said to see a neurologist but that she sees people in her office everyday with my symptoms and she believes it is a psychiatric issue.

I often think that had I stopped there, I would be a vegetable by now. I think all the time about writing her a letter and telling her what transpired this last year and how so very wrong she was. This woman is literally killing people and/or making them suffer.

I finally met with my LLMD at the rate of $900 but I loved him. He has been compassionate and kind, taking calls from me and friends at 4am, sometimes several times a night. He has partnered with an insurance doctor that treats Lyme so my fees would be minimal. I have made them team up with the insurance Lyme neurologist who has a more traditional take on things, so I think it is a nice balance. That doesn’t mean I’m getting better.

What treatments have been prescribed for you? Are they working?

Initially I was given different antibiotics in 30-day increments at very high dosages. For example I was taking amoxicillin for 30 days at 3000mg a day. But nothing was working. Thankfully it was just the cognitive issues and joint pain back then. For seven months I had oral antibiotics with no change. Then finally I was given IV Rocephin through a PICC line and I started to feel better. I still had brain fog but I had energy and no joint pain. I felt like I was finally making progress, but then the insurance company refused to pay for a second month citing the CDC’s guidelines saying that after 30 days of treatment no one could still have Lyme. Because the current tests are not very good, there was no way for me to prove I was still sick and the insurance ID doctor I was forced to see to get the meds refused to help fight for it. Once they pulled the line out, that was the beginning of what seems like no return for me. For the next couple of months I was in severe pain and had a bout of disassociation. I put my hands solely in the hands of my LLMD at that point racking up tens of thousands of dollars. There is now a blood culture test to show if you definitively have Lyme. It is available in every state but NY so I had to take a long, painful drive to CT. It can turn positive between ten days (if you are severely sick) to two months. If it doesn’t come back positive in two months you are Lyme free. Mine came back positive in nine days. Traditional doctors do not trust this test because there have not been official trials on it but that is because, again, of the CDC’s guidelines from the IDSA (The Infectious Diseases Society of America).

I’m now back on an IV, and am told after this initial 30 days paid for, once again, by the insurance, I will have to pay for continued treatment for six months to a year myself. IV and nurse care can run about $5K a month! Who has this type of  money? But it is a fight for your life. From being off IV for so long I now have CNS damage which causes my brain to misfire and cause nerve pain all over my body. It is unrelenting. I’m on 30 pills a day now to try to assuage that and other painful symptoms. Nothing seems to be working.

If someone thinks they might have Lyme, what steps would you recommend?

First, learn all you can. Find a Lyme Literate doctor. It is sort of a secret society and you can only get the names by writing to an associate for Lyme advocacy as far as I know. The TickBorne Disease Alliance sent them to me all cloak-and-dagger style. Watch Under Our Skin. You can also contact them for chronic Lyme info. The good news is that most people don’t get into late-stage Lyme and are cured within 30 days if the disease is caught quickly. Be vigilant about scanning your body — even in hair — for ticks and if you should find one, bulls-eye rash or not, get yourself at least 30 days of Doxycycline. Better safe than sorry.  I never had a bulls-eye rash but now in retrospect I remember exactly when I got infected. It was almost a year before symptoms started, on July 4th of 2011. I was in the Hamptons for two days and was in Montauk and a friend told me not to walk into the brush to go down a small path. Jokingly he said it was Lyme-Alley. I didn’t know what Lyme was so I went. Two weeks later, I had a horrible fever and fatigue which felt like a flu but with no respiratory issues. When my fever spiked to 103 I went to Urgent Care, who said they suspected Mono. When the tests came back negative and I started to feel better we all figured it was a rogue virus. Over the course of the next nine months I was achy in mornings, but I attributed that to getting older.

What can I do to help with awareness and changing the way Lyme is addressed in this country?

Join the TBDA. There are always petitions to sign and rallies to go to. Watch the movie and learn about what organizations are trying to help us. Most of all if you hear of a friend or friend of a friend with late-stage Lyme be kind and try to help them. It is frustrating for us to be in so much pain and because no one seems to understand our disease. Since we typically look normal, people think we are being overly dramatic or are nuts. It is so heartbreaking when someone tells  me, “Well you look great, you must be getting better” or “Well at least it isn’t cancer…” You can start change right in your own home by learning all you can. We have symptoms that are intermittent and varying so for an hour your heart might be hurting and then it will stop and your vision will be blurry and then that will stop and your hands and feet will be numb or you will feel panicked or be unable to walk down the stairs. It is maddening because you never know what will be happening to you. It is much worse when those around you don’t understand that you can’t control these odd symptoms and that they pass and return with no rhyme or reason.

Try to be cognizant of the fact that sufferers have been affected physically, emotionally, and financially. I recently lost a 25-year friendship because of my friend’s inability to understand my disease. It has been more painful than the physical pain.

…and the questions that I give to everyone…

Tweet challenge! Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

A good girl who does bad things.

What’s your favorite website?

My own, because even though I’m sick I’m still dark and funny and a total fucking narcissist. (Pain can make anyone narcissistic, but I was one long before Lyme attacked me) For me, one of the only ways to stave off depression is through doing something creative, however small. Also, I like to complain. So each day I will share a reason to Die! (with the occasional reason to LIVE when I’m feeling oddly optimistic.

What celebrities did you have crushes on in high school?

I’m old, so I really don’t recall. I suspect Prince and Johnny Depp. Those two have endured for the last 25 years.

What’s next for you?

Not to sound morbid, but I just don’t know if there is a next for me at this point. I’m told it could take another year before I can function properly–not be cured, mind you, but be out of pain, able to walk outside for leisure, eat properly, be able to read large amounts of text… I will probably have to take pills my whole life and who knows if any of the damage caused by Lyme is permanent. I don’t know how  much more of this I can take so I literally live life some days, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, or when it is really bad, minute-by-minute.  I miss my dachshund Mini but am too sick to care for him properly. He is with a friend but all my friends are taxed beyond belief with dealing with me and this disease. I”m trying to find a local foster who will take him for a few months in the hopes I’ll get well enough to care for him again and give him back. I haven’t found anyone yet and it is a constant worry.

How can everyone connect with you online?

They can email me at: sixthflrwalkup@aol.com; leave me an anonymous note via my blog; or find me on Twitter at: @KellyKreth

That’s all everyone. Please go check out the GoFundMe page for Kelly, and also please watch Under Our Skin, which was really informative and certainly taught me more than I ever knew about Lyme disease.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Brian J. Orlowski: The JamieSanford.com Interview

by Jamie Sanford on June 3, 2012

My third interview for the blog, and the only one left that is ready for primetime. I will have to send out more questions soon to new subjects. Brian J. Orlowski and I worked together in cubicle land for a few years before I moved on to greener pastures in the land of consumer retail. Our time working together included subtle wars with lobbed rubber bands and a dry-erase board covered in random miscellany that came up in conversation. I wish I knew where the photo of that board was now, because it was amazing. I learned that it is quite fun to share time with someone who has wonderful artistic ability.

Not such a good picture of the “Web Task Force” logo designed by Brian.

I had already been exposed to Brian’s cartooning on Drawn of the Dead, but I was really pleasantly surprised when I found out that Brian’s cartoon, Strange Guts, was being published as a collection in book form. Naturally I bought a copy of Strange Guts: American Septic. Which is available on Amazon for $14.99, and well worth every penny.

Since I haven’t had any friends write a book before, Brian was a natural for the interview series. I actually sent his questions first! Here we go.

When did you first start drawing/figuring out you had some talent in this arena?

I was pretty much born drawing. I’ve been fortunate enough that it was something that I never had to work very hard at. I was considered an artistic prodigy at a very early age. And I said “artistic”, not “autistic.” And I’ve spent most of my life attempting to disprove the whole prodigy thing. I won art awards pretty much since kindergarten, so there really wasn’t much discussion as to what I would be doing when I grew up. I’m still waiting for that “growing up” to happen.

How quickly did your drawings take a turn toward the twisted side?

Again, that was pretty early on. I was always funny and warped. My father introduced me to horror movies when I was really young, probably about 8. And by introduced, I mean he pretty much forced me to sit and watch these movies that scared the crap out of me. The first movies I remember watching with him were The Blob (with Steve McQueen), Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Green Slime, and of course all the classic Universal movies, Frankenstein, Dracula, etc. He wouldn’t let me hide my eyes when the scary scenes came up. “C’mon, don’t be a baby,” he would say, half-kidding.

What’s your day job?

I am a graphic artist and web content developer by day, mutant samurai-zombie cartoonist by night. The day job is good; it pays the bills and keeps me interacting with humans, which I guess is good. It can be very stressful though but what day job isn’t?

Here's Brian making nice with my boy Tiny Edward.

Do you do work (other than that for yourself) outside of your day job?

I do a great deal of freelance cartooning for a variety of publications and sites. I also get to do some really cool movie posters, DVD art, CD art and other things. I’m available for anything as long as it pays.

Tweet challenge! Describe your book, Strange Guts, in 140 characters or less.

The Far Side meets The Evil Dead. Ha! 32 characters. I rule. Here’s the 140 character version: Strange Guts: American Septic is the mutant offspring of Walt Disney & Stephen King – Gory, funny, and goofy cartoons for the whole family.

How did you get a book deal?

The publisher found about 10 of my Strange Guts cartoons posted online and fell in love with them. He contacted me and asked if I could create enough for a book. Of course I said yes. I had about 50 done at the time, created throughout an entire decade. So I created another 52 to finish the book.

What’s your favorite website?

For horror news you can’t beat Dread Central or Bloody Disgusting. Those guys are the best. They have some really great reviews/reviewers and up-to-date news. I also dig the JoBlo network of sites like ArrowInTheHead, Geekologie, The Chive, all good stuff. Any other site I consider I have in my favorites can’t be discussed in this family-friendly environment.

What celebrities did you have crushes on in high school?

When I was a kid it was all about Mae West and the first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. No, just kidding. I’m not that old. I was a product of the 80’s. Who didn’t have a crush on Leah Thompson in Back to the Future? Or Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science (nothing was hotter than her!). Catherine Mary Stewart. Janet Jones. Fantastic chippies from back in the day.

What’s next for you? More books?

Yup, a few actually. I have a novel coming out in a few months. NOT horror, big surprise. It’s sort of a parody of The Da Vinci Code. It’s a frenetic, wacky, historical adventure about secret societies, ancient paintings, symbolism, the number 12, and Scientology. In the book I prove there is a connection between aliens and the Bible and the recipe for KFC. It holds no punches in its humor. It spoofs Tom Cruise and John Travolta and paints them as killers for hire.

After that I have a children’s book, entitled Odd Bird. I didn’t write it but did the illustrations for it. It was a fun break from my normal dark work.

And then I have another novel later this year. Can’t reveal much though. But I can say it’s a tween book. And like every other series that has come out, I’m saying it’s the next Harry Potter. Consider that a quote.

How can everyone connect with you online?

My main website is www.DrawnoftheDead.com. You can see some of my artwork there. Or email me at brianevil@gmail.com. Twitter is @drawnofthedead. Facebook is http://facebook.com/brian.j.orlowski or http://facebook.com/strangeguts. Or hand me food when you pass me in the Hoboken Path station where I panhandle to make a living.

Thanks Brian! Let’s go for drinks soon.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Erica Murphy: The JamieSanford.com Interview

by Jamie Sanford on April 27, 2012

My second interview for the blog is with someone I met in middle school! Erica Murphy and I went to middle school together, then I think Erica came to high school with me for a while and then went to another school, and then we both attended the University of Florida. (I hope I’m remembering that correctly.)

Here’s me and Erica in college. You can tell it is college because we are both equipped with the ubiquitous red cup. We are babies!

Anyway, I found out via Facebook (because really, don’t we find everything out via Facebook?) that Erica was selling everything she owned and moving to Italy.  This was sometime in the latter half of 2010, and I was intrigued.

Luckily for us, Erica started a blog called Erica’s Italian Adventure, and thankfully, has been a much more consistent blogger than I have been over time.  I asked Erica questions about how this all started for her, so let’s launch right into the questions.

I looked back to the beginning of your blog, but I can’t really get a sense of what started your Italian adventure. How did this all come about?

Yeah, good question. I never did go into details on that did I? Hmmm. Oops. Maybe I will write an update to let people know. But anyway, there were a lot of factors at play.

From a personal side, I turned 29 (2009) and got a little freaked out that 30 was coming soon. I turned 29 in Italy, and I planned a 2-week trip with my (then) boyfriend to experience all the culinary delights from Rome to Como. I wanted 29 to be delicious and memorable. Even before I went on this trip, I knew that I wanted to come and live in Italy for a while. Also, the whole “29” and “30” thing was freaking me out because a lot of people I knew (through friends, no one very close to me, but close enough) were suffering from illness or dying suddenly. Some of these people were older, but most were too young. A friend of my sister (age 26) was diagnosed with a huge tumor on his spine and had radical cancer treatment. He is extremely lucky to be alive today, but at the time, it was unlikely he would make it. Another friend’s mother-in-law had a heart attack due to pneumonia and died suddenly. Another friend’s father was diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live. Again, no one too close to me personally, but close enough to see the heartache and pain. I did not want to have any regrets in my life and you never know what will happen. I never wanted to say “I wonder if I had done XYZ,” instead I wanted to know what happened WHEN I did XYZ. And I wasn’t getting any younger. I was not married, had no kids and no real ties. Now was the time for me to still have an adventure without consequences.

(On a side note, next month I will turn 32 and the past 2 years have flown by. I will have turned 29, 31 and 32 in foreign countries, which I think is pretty neat. And I have spent most of my 30’s traveling internationally- also cool. Not so sure what I was so afraid of! 30s are great! Not only for traveling for me, but also just more contentment in knowing yourself).

I also needed a change in my professional life. I loved my job, but felt that I had given all I could and had grown to my max in my position. There were no other positions that I was interested in moving into. I had worked in F&B [food & beverage] for 10 years – in many different positions (prep cook, culinary school, food publishing, research & development, restaurant reviewing, gourmet import sales, server, hostess, training manager, etc.) – but I felt like I was disconnected from food. I needed to get my “hands dirty” in it again. I wanted to learn about food and how it influences culture. And I decided that Italy was the place I needed to be.

Italy does food best. They do it with complete love. To Italians, food is not just nourishment or something they need to make 3 times a day. To them food is life, food is love, food is the reason for being. And their food is not complicated. In fact, it is the most simple cuisine. But it is pure, regional, beautiful and seasonal. So I decided that Italy was where I could learn the most about food in the way I wanted and needed to at this point in my life and career.

It was a very difficult decision. I gave my notice at work 13 months in advance! I had a lot to wrap up at work and at home. For my last year in Colorado (2010), I had a “Colorado Bucket List” and I planned nearly every weekend for the year (mostly the summer months) to complete all that I wanted to do. I ran a half marathon, completed a mini-triathlon, climbed three 14ers, camped in Steamboat Springs, mountain biked to Wheeler Geologic Area, camped and hiked in Telluride, had a luxury weekend in Vail and Beaver Creek, and had all of my friends over to my house, individually, to cook them dinner and spend time together. When I left, I knew I had solid relationships and everyone knew exactly how I felt about them (I even hand wrote each person a note- there were 94 notes in total from work and friends).

I sold all of my belongings (except my good kitchen stuff, my ski boots, my art, and my books). I rented out my town home and I drove back to Florida. Back to my parents’ house. I had to give up most of my life in order to live it to the fullest. It was hard and scary and sad but at the same time liberating and exhilarating! Through all of this, I knew that this was the right choice for me in this moment. And I reassured myself by saying that no matter what happens, any culinary experience I gain through this adventure will only serve to help me in the future. Even though this seems like a wild and crazy experience, it all relates to my career path, in some way… a way I am not certain of yet, but it will work out.

Tuscan sunset, photo courtesy of Erica Murphy.

So, you travel around and work at different farms and such for predetermined periods of time. How do you get placed at these locations?

There is no “placement”. I do it all myself and it takes a lot of time and energy. It’s actually quite stressful to constantly be searching for a comfortable roof over your head, and plunking yourself down in the middle of different families.

I joined 3 different volunteer organizations (WWOOF, Workaway.info, Helpx.net).

Willing Workers On Organic Farms, now called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF). I am a member for Italy (each country has it’s own membership). Members and host farms pay a 25 euro annual fee (comes with some basic insurance- I have an additional insurance package, just in case) and everyone is able to see the host/member list. The host list is organized by region. Each farm has their contact info given as well as info about their setting- what they produce, what kind of help they need, working expectations, accommodation, languages spoken, who else lives there, farming philosophy, etc. There are over 400 farms just for Italy. I review the list for the regions I want to go, narrow it down to those who seem appealing (I prefer vegetables to animals, wine in particular, electricity and running hot water are good, as is WiFi and if English is spoken its a bonus, and near a city is good too) and then I email them with some info on me and ask if I can join them for specific dates. They respond with acceptance or not.

Workaway and HelpX are pretty much the same, but they are not limited to only organic farming. They have all kinds of volunteer opportunities from babysitting to carpentry to working in hostels to helping on sailboats and everything in between. So the nice thing with those is that you have more variety of work. And when I get tired of farming, then I like to pepper in these sites so I can have a break and do something more social. Of course the language is a huge factor in Italy. In Ireland this was a nice option.

Rosemary focaccia, photo courtesy of Erica Murphy. Click here for Erica’s original post which includes the recipe!

You’re generally very positive about everything on the blog, but (without naming names or locations) have you had a placement that you ended up really disliking? If so, why? (Again, not asking for you to burn bridges.)

When I started the blog, I wanted it to be educational, inspiring and fun for the readers and I was also coming from working in Human Resources where I had to be professional and PC all the time. It was good training and I continue to be positive, yet accurate. I don’t want to offend anyone and I don’t want to be negative. Sometimes I am feeling depressed or negative but I don’t let myself air that to the world. The internet, though intangible, is permanent and I would hate for me to post something I might regret later.

So to answer your question, yes, I had a farm that I left. But only one. It was in Chianti last March. I had agreed to come for a month and left after just 4 days. I had just ended a week vacation with my cousins who were visiting from Ohio. We went all over Tuscany and to the Cinque Terre and Florence. We had a fabulous time! The day before they left, the tsunami hit Japan, and I had just booked a ticket to Tokyo to arrive one month later. With my cousins leaving (and me feeling alone again), and knowing the devastation and unstable environment of my next destination, I NEEDED the internet to change my course. The host was not keen on letting me use his computer or the internet, insisting that I “relax and just take it easy, it will all work out”. Typical Italian. I had run out of cell phone minutes and did not have internet access and was in a very remote area of the hills of Chianti. I felt stressed, stranded and isolated. And I had a lot of communication I needed to do at that time. Also my hosts were 2 bachelors, guys in their mid-late 40’s and one was a bit emotionally unstable, going through psychodrama therapy for the death of his 4 year old son from 2 years earlier. All of this made me uncomfortable and I felt that I could not enjoy the experience there with all of this looming over my head. On day 4, I told him that I needed to leave, apologized, and asked for a ride to the bus station that morning. I was so happy I left. Instead I spent a week in Siena (one of my favorite places in Italy) and had unlimited WiFi. I got everything sorted and went back to my first family in Montalcino for the next few weeks. I’m so glad I listened to myself and got out of there. I think had things in my life (and his) had been different, I might have stayed. But I’m so glad I left.

Erica participated in the grape harvest! You have to go to her blog to see her stomping grapes like Lucy did. Photo courtesy of Erica Murphy.

Are your parents worried about you? I think my parents would be super nervous about me on a jaunt through Italy, surrounded (at least in their minds) by burly Italian men.

Good question. My parents are my biggest supporters. They have been so incredible through all of this. And all the while, yes, they are scared shitless and worried to death for me. I try my best to be sensitive to their emotions with all this and I try to be in contact with them as often as possible. Most of the time I send my mom a daily email, even if I just say hello and I’m alive. It puts her mind at ease. I know she thinks about me every day and wonders if I am OK. We try to Skype when I have good internet connection but that is honestly only every 2-3 weeks, especially with the time difference too. But as worried as they are, they are also the ones who tell me how proud they are of me. And honestly, it’s their fault! They raised me and my sister to be independent, self-sufficient and open to the world… and it worked. My sister has lived in Ecuador, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and has traveled extensively to Spain, Central and South America (as you can see, she is far more interested in Latin American culture than I am!). So between the 2 of us, we have lived for many years outside the US. They worry, but they also know I can handle whatever comes my way, and they know I have enough on my credit cards to get myself home at anytime I want. And they have my dog, so they know I am coming home to them.

Hazelnuts, photo courtesy of Erica Murphy. I will be eternally grateful to Erica for doing the back-breaking work of harvesting hazelnuts that went into the production of Nutella.

You are becoming (have become?) a German citizen. Why? Also, is it easy to attain citizenship there?

I have submitted my application and documents (which took nearly 100 hours to obtain). Germany has received them and is processing my application currently. When they approve me, they will email me and I will arrange to pick up my papers at the nearest German consulate in Italy. I will then apply for a German passport.

Why, you ask? Because Germany is a part of the EU, just like Italy. So, once I am a citizen of the EU, I can legally live and work in any EU country, including Italy, for as long as I want. (Right now, I am only here as a tourist and I can legally stay for 90 days every 6 months). Typically Germany is one of the most difficult countries in which to attain citizenship. However, because I am a direct descendant of a German Jew who escaped the Holocaust, there is an exception. I can have dual citizenship and I don’t need to learn German or take any tests. I just had to prove that my maternal grandfather was German and Jewish and left Germany on a certain date, arrived in the US on a certain date and naturalized after a certain date. So, this means I do not need a work visa to stay in Italy. And work visas are pretty much impossible to get as an American who doesn’t speak the language well, in a country that can’t even employ many of its own citizens. I also think I get free healthcare and lower tuition or something- other perks as well for EU citizens.

What distinctly American thing did you miss eating during your first long stint away?

Haha! Good one. Despite the beautiful cheeses I ate here (and LOVED), the thing I missed most were my guilty pleasure—Cheez-its. Silly, I know. But true.

What’s been your absolute favorite destination?

I have two. Courmayeur in the Italian Alps has certainly stolen a piece of my heart. It reminds me of Colorado, with all the natural beauty, but with all the perks of being in Italy and close to France too. Siena is my favorite town/city. I love it there and can’t really tell you why for sure. It might have something to with the sense of community and bond between people as well as the Tuscan food and beautiful architecture. I feel very much at home in Siena and have spent over a month there in total over the past few years.

Courmeyeur, photo courtesy of Erica Murphy. Erica’s blog post about her visit to Courmayeur is here!

Tweet challenge! Describe your adventure so far in 140 characters or less.

This adventure has been everything I had hoped for and more than I could have ever imagined. I have met the most interesting people, eaten the most exquisite food and seen some of the most beautiful landscapes. I’m hungry for more.

Don’t know if that is 140 characters and I have never tweeted before so not sure if that fit the requirements, but I tried. [Note from Jamie: You are over the limit, but since your answer is in the spirit of short and sweet, you get a pass.] That doesn’t really sum it up though. Let me work on that one, but for now you can have that.

…and the questions that I give to everyone…

What’s your favorite website?

Epicurious.com

What celebrities did you have crushes on in high school?

Gosh, I don’t think I had any. Maybe Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson from Die Hard. They were badasses. But really, I don’t follow pop culture or celebrity stuff, I don’t even watch TV. I have never had cable in my adult life until 6 months before I went to Italy and that was only to watch food network and travel channel. I go to the movies maybe once a year. I have no idea who is on the cover of any grocery checkout trash magazine.

What’s next for you?

My dream is to develop a culinary tourism company that allows me to bring foodie travelers back to the regions I have experienced. I hope that I can use the relationships I am building with farmers and the community in order to create an authentic and regional culinary experience. But I am completely open to what is presented in my path.

How can everyone connect with you online?

Facebook, Skype (EriBerri48), ericamurphy@gmail.com, ericamurphy48@yahoo.com, EricasItalianAdventure.blogspot.com

Seriously, HOW AWESOME IS ERICA? Her blog is really fantastic, and I really need to go to Italy SOON. I cannot recommend that you go subscribe to her blog, and read back as well.  It’s a mixture of cultural impressions, information on Italian ingredients, recipes, and most importantly, lots of photos. Go, now!

Thanks to Erica for answering my questions!

{ Comments on this entry are closed }