How hard can it be? Well..we’ll tell you.

Yesterday we had our introduction to driving in Italy, in the dark, with a stick-shift, mint green, 15 passenger van the OM team fondly calls “Giorgio”. Jon did a great job navigating the windy, narrow, hilly roads to the valley where we’re living!

Today we drove again and had our first experience getting gas for the car, which is actually called Petrol here. Our teammate and friend told us what we needed to do at the gas station so when we arrived Jon made sure to be at the right pump (#2) as instructed and was ready to fill Giorgio up.

The problem was, we could not get the gas cap off! Jon turned and turned moving the whole van at times as he wrestled with it but it would not budge. We both gave it everything we had to try to get it open. Unsuccessful, we had to drive back to our friend’s house to see if he could get it open. He did. It must be because we loosened it up for him. 🙂

Back to the gas station we went. No one was at the station to help us since it was afternoon during what Italians call “siesta” when most shops close for a couple hours to have lunch and rest. No biggie. They have machines like in the U.S. where you just pay at the pump. Or so we thought. However we realized that since we have an international credit card we couldn’t use it to pay at the machine. It has to be processed manually. Ok. As we were standing there deciding what to try next we saw another guy pay with cash at the machine for pump #1 which was next to ours. Pumps #1 and #2 share the same machine so we stepped aside. He put in his money, pumped his Petrol and went on his way. He sure made it look easy.

So Jon took 20 Euros out of his pocket and fed it to the machine. He tried pushing the button for pump #2 but nothing happened. The machine ate the money but gave us no gas. He tried pushing a bunch of the buttons according to the prompts but still nothing. Jon thought maybe it needed more money so we added just 5 Euros and tried pump #1 this time. Sure enough, the gas tank rumbled to life like it did for the gentleman before. It seemed to be working so Jon quickly moved the van around to pump #1. Erika pumped until the 5 Euros ran out – not very long! And Jon added another 20 Euros. We successfully pumped 25 Euros worth of diesel but still had no idea what happened to our previous 20 Euros and thought it might be lost forever. Since no one was there we called our friend to ask if we should let it go and write it off as learning expenses :). He said we should be able to call a number to talk to someone about it and as we were talking a receipt printed from the machine that seemed to indicate there were 20 Euros of credit left on the pump.

Then as if on cue, the owner of the station pulled up and came right over to us. He must have sensed we were new to this and needed a little help! With our limited understanding of Italian and his of English we were basically understood and he asked, “no diesel?”, to which we replied, Si! To which he promptly responded by pulling a $20 out of his pocket, feeding it to the machine, and allowing us to fill Giorgio with another $20 Euros of Petrol. Whew! God gave us back our $20 (His $20), Giorgio was good to go, and we were on our way back to the valley where we’re staying.

Just 2 days here and we’ve had this and other adventures. No doubt we’ll have many more to share!