All Things Recycling

Tags

, , , , , , ,

In the United States, recycling is still in its infancy.  In fact, in most areas, separating trash at all is still pretty much optional.  So it may come as something as a shock to discover that in Italy, recycling is taken as seriously as fashion, food, and fast cars.

The first thing you have to understand is that pretty much everything is recyclable.  In fact, I’d bet money that most Italians believe in reincarnation.  After all, it’s just another type of recycling 🙂

Anyway, the first thing to know is that at your house, you should have a small yellow container.  This is for personal trash–stuff that isn’t recyclable, like q-tips, plastic silverware, razors, things like that.  Once a week, the trash truck will come by and you’ll need to have the yellow bin on the curb so they will take your trash. And yes, it should be in trash bags.  The trick is that they will only empty full bins, so you may only place it on the curb once or twice a month.  There are guides online to help you know which day the trash pick up is in your city.  And you can download/print the guides to make sure you are in compliance.

And yes–that’s my new bike! Well, I guess it’s not that new anymore.  I’ve had it for a year.

DSCF0272

All other bins are for the neighborhood and you’ll see them at intervals all along the street.

DSCF0273

The two most common bins (in the sense that these are literally everywhere) are the red and blue bins.  The blue bins are for glass and so are usually full of wine bottles.

DSCF0275

The red bins are for food wastes–like if you are eating an apple and need to toss the core.

DSCF0276

Then there are the larger bins.  The large blue bin is for plastic and metal products.  Anything that contained food–to include meat packaging can go in here.

The green is for yard waste.

DSCF0112

Last but not least are the large yellow bins which are for cardboard (broken down) and paper products.

DSCF0111

You will generally see most people either ride their bikes to the recycle bins or load everything up in their cars and drive to the bins.  I’ve done both.

For things that defy easy categorization, you’ll have to find out the day that your city picks up that sort of stuff or you may just have to take it to the landfill yourself.

This whole recycling thing may seem daunting–okay, well it kind of is.  But just know that eventually you’ll get the hang of it and you really are contributing to a safer and healthier planet 🙂

Advertisements

Rations In The Post-War Era

Tags

, , , , , ,

The whole idea of rations sounds so World War II–doesn’t it?

Anyway here’s the lowdown on how fuel rations work.  Once you get through the labrynthian obstacle course that is registering your car, you will be given paperwork that you will then take to the BX customer service counter-along with your car registration from Pass & Reg.  When you get up to the desk, they will do the calculations and tell you how many liters of gas you are eligible to purchase for your vehicle type.  Your allotment is for the month and the most you can get is 400 liters.  Just understand that your allotment is not based on where you live but on the size of your engine.

Then they will ask you how much you want to buy now.  I opted to purchase 100 liters worth of tickets for 92.00.  Then they will hand you a book of tickets that you take with you to selected gas stations (AGIP–or if you aren’t a reader, it’s the gas station with the six-legged fire-breathing dog in the logo.  I promise I’m not making that up.)

AGIP

You’ll receive a packet of tickets that represent the number of liters of gas that you can get.  They are in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 20.

The easiest way to do it is to figure out how many liters your tank needs.  My tank takes 8.5 gallons of gas.  So that’s about 30 liters.  What I do is fill up when my tank is at the half mark.  That way I can roll up and say I want 16 liters and I know my tank will be on full.

**When you get ready to use your tickets, you have to sign and date each one and write down your license plate number.

Bon voyage!!

Reunited (And It Feels So Good)

Tags

, , , , , ,

They’ve been playing 70s and 80s music on Italian radio today, so I’m not really responsible for that title.

But the great news is that I got an email a week ago saying that Pearl was ready to be picked up.  For those of you who don’t know, Pearl is my beloved car. My Scion iQ.  My baby.  And oh how I’ve missed her!

DSCF0104

I’ve already told you in the “Shipping My POV” post how I left her on the docks in Baltimore.  Well, technically I left her at the Baltimore Vehicle Processing Center, but whatever.

She was not due to arrive until 15 July, so it was with shock and delight that I read she was here.  I’d been tracking her progress–because of course there’s a website for that:  https://www.pcsmypov.com.

So I followed her trip from the Baltimore docks to the ship bound for Bremerhaven, Germany, and finally on the truck for Aviano.

But of course, you can’t just go get your car and drive it home. No my dears, life in Aviano will never be that simple.  And this, like many other things was a multi-day process.

So when I first got the email, I went straight to Pass and Registration to register my car.  I’d been dragging my feet doing it because for one thing I thought I had time, and for another, it’s a lot like being at the DMV except that for the most part, the folks behind the counters do have better attitudes (here–not at the DMV).

So I signed in and sat down to wait.

(I would strongly advise you to bring a book whenever you have to sign in and wait.  The TV is on but its so far away and you can’t really hear it.)

They called my name and I gathered up my papers and trotted to the counter.  I had with me: the Form 302 that came with the email, a copy of my orders, a copy of my insurance papers, the vehicle inspection form from Baltimore, my AFI License, my stateside license and the vehicle shipping summary (also from Baltimore).  You would probably not be amiss if you bring your birth certificate and a copy of your DNA testing.

**Note: If you own your car, you’ll be expected to bring the title.  I was also supposed to have my stateside registration with me, but I didn’t. I was also supposed to have–and didn’t–the lien letter from the bank (because I’m still buying my car). So the shipping instruction summary came in extra handy because they know if you jumped through the hoops Stateside, that you really are legit.  But by all means, bring every piece of car-related information you have.  It will probably make the process go a bit quicker.

The Airman who was helping me gave me a rather beat up pair of plates when he returned my paperwork to me.  I asked him if I could get a newer set and he said they were all used and in pretty much the same condition.  But not to fear, when I got home, I took a rubber mallet to them to straighten them out a bit. Worked like a charm.  I would encourage everyone to invest in a good rubber mallet.  Seriously.  Sometimes hammers leave a mark.  For some reason, that sounds really bad.

So there was a bit of confusion because since I insure with Geico, apparently they were supposed to reserve some license plates for me.  But they did not.  I also only had one of the two sheets of insurance papers with me.  I had brought the one with the signatures because it seemed the most important.  I think I told you that I’d gotten the insurance before I left the States so I’d be ready.   But I think I could have waited.

I called the Geico agent but didn’t get an answer.  So I drove my rental car (yes, I know what I said about rental cars but I had a change of heart) up to see him and get things sorted out.  Oh yeah–the Airman at the Pass & Reg desk will also give you an appointment time to come back and talk to an Italian clerk in the back who will actually do the registering.

So you have a choice to pay either monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, every six months or for the whole year.  I had planned to pay monthly, but since I had some money in the account, I went ahead and paid for the quarter.  I figured there was no point in getting too carried away. making payments.  I think I mentioned it before but be advised that car insurance here is going to be about double what you pay in the States.  You see my car. It’s tiny and it’s not brand-new.  For June – September, I paid $485.00.

The agent gave me the receipt and I went back for my appointment.  I think I got a little lucky because  their office was closing early for some party so she very quickly rubber-stamped a bunch of papers, had me sign a bunch of forms and sent me on my way.  She told me I’d need to get a safety inspection done on the car in  order to get the fuel ration paperwork. (Yes, more paperwork)

The fuel ration for gasoline or diesel is basically  a government subsidy because fuel here is so expensive.  The amount you get is based on the size of your engine. You have to take the paperwork to the customer service desk in the BX and they will tell you how much you are eligible for.

***I also found out that you can get fuel rations for rental cars, but because I’d already registered my vehicle, I was no longer eligible for that.

Anyway, I drove the car to the safety inspection point and things were going well until I was asked for my vest and warning triangle.  Well, they were at home because I didn’t know I needed them for a vehicle inspection–call me crazy.

So I had to purchase them from the BX and then go back and show them to the inspectors before they’d stamp my inspection checklist as “Passed”.

DSCF0107 DSCF0109

**I also keep an emergency car kit with extra mylar blankets, a flashlight, seatbelt cutter and first aid kit, drinking water, hand sanitizer, jumper cables, and a gas can in my car. I know you are thinking “where?” lol  but there’s room.

I do it because in Italy, you are legally obligated to get out and help if you are the first to arrive at the scene of an accident.  So I figure I may as well be prepared.

I think the Pearl is ready to roll.  Have a great Sunday!

Where’s the Beef?

Tags

, , , , , ,

Eating is fundamental, and if you don’t want to spend a fortune eating out every day of your life, then at some point you will venture into a grocery store.  The good news is that unlike in the States, here, civilians can shop on the base at the commissary and the BX.  And I have to admit, it does make life easier.

For the most part, it’s exactly like shopping at a store in the States.  Except for two things:

1.  You must show (or swipe if you are at the do it yourself checkout) your CAC card. You must have it with you every time you plan to buy anything.  That goes for shopping at the BX too. No exceptions to this rule, so get used to it.

2.  The commissary is like a regular Italian grocery store in one respect:  when you want to buy produce, you will have to keep track of a two or three digit number that  is on the sign in front of whatever you are buying.

DSCF0081

See the #58 for the peaches?

DSCF0083

So when you get your fruit and put it in a plastic bag, you have to find one of these weight machines that are scattered around the produce section.  (Ignore the Nilla Wafers behind the machine.)

DSCF0082

You’ll find the number series for your item, tap on it, and each number will correspond to a fruit/vegetable.  You tap on whatever you bought and…

DSCF0101

Voila!  A tag comes out with the exact weight and price for you to stick on your plastic bag.  It takes a minute to get used to, but I do think it’s convenient.  Especially if you are in the habit of buying exotic produce that the cashier has a hard time recognizing.

Now as for shopping at Italian stores, there are a few things you have to know going in.  One, make sure you keep a one euro coin and a 50 cent euro piece on you at all times.  In fact, just leave them in your car–that way you always have them.  The reason?  Italy is exactly like Bottom Dollar in the States.  That’s the only store I ever heard of where you have to put a coin in to get a shopping basket. But all the store in Italy do it.  This is why the shopping carts are all outside.DSCF0086

So have your coin ready to pop into the slot…

DSCF0084

The coin releases a lever so you can then pull the chain out.

DSCF0085

Now you are ready to roll 🙂

For the most part, shopping in the city isn’t that hard.  For every clerk with an attitude, 20 more are perfectly pleasant.  So don’t be afraid to get out there and shop–like I’ve been doing nonstop.  Setting up house is exhausting.  But do try to learn some Italian.  Today I had to return a bunch of curtains that just didn’t work in the room I’d bought them for.

So I wrote out on a piece of paper in Italian that I wanted to return the curtains.  Actually what I wrote down was that I wanted to return some items because they didn’t work for the house.  When it was my turn, I carefully read what I’d written and I guess they understood.  I got my money back.  Be advised though–not all stores will put the money back on your card, so you may end up with a wad of cash in your jeans.

DSCF0103

Hey–gotta start somewhere right?  And I figure someone will have mercy on me if they see that I’m trying 🙂

Next time I’ll take some pictures of the shopping malls.  They are interesting.

Happy Sunday!

And yes, I had a fabulous Fourth, thank you for asking!! 🙂

**I debated with myself for 30 minutes about whether to write a new post or just add to this one. Finally my Yankee sense of order won out.  Okay so yesterday, I forgot to mention shopping bags.  Italy is a country all about recycling (in fact I will dedicate an entire post to that subject soon).

So when you go to any store, but especially the grocery store, you are expected to have your own bag with you.  If you make a mistake like I did and ask for a bag, you may get a snooty look and be told they cost 20 cents or whatever the going rate is for plastic shopping bags.  Department stores are a little more forgiving and will put your purchases in a bag for you unless you tell them not to. But for your sake, just keep a large canvas tote in the car with you so that you are always ready 🙂

The Winner Is…Telecom

Tags

, , , ,

The really great thing about setting your expectations really low is that there is no surprise when they are met.  I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t have much faith in Telecom’s customer service.  And they didn’t disappoint.  The tech came at 2pm today, pulled out a device, plugged it into the wall, and left saying she’d return in an hour.  She came back after about 75 minutes, said the phone line was working and gave me the number.  She looked like she was packing up to go so I hurriedly unwrapped the modem/router and asked how to set it up.  She did tell me which cord went where before saying the instructions were either on the driver CD or in the package.

After she was gone, I took a deep breath, said a prayer for grace and techie smarts, and set about trying to connect to the internet.

The simple thing to do (and yes, I thought of this) is to click on the network icon on the taskbar and see if the new service’s name popped up.  Bingo!  It did.  Then it asked for the security key.  For you non-techies, that would be the password.  Well that’s where I hit a brick wall. I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Not on the box, or on the modem itself, or a quick search through the various pieces of paper inside the box.  I finally settled in to read the quick-start guide cover-to-cover (the print of which is so tiny that I have to take off my glasses, hold the guide about 4 inches from my nose and squint.)  Forget waterboarding, when it comes to torture, this is the clear winner.

I read it twice and nothing jumped out at me. I mulled over possibilities and then it hit me:  Maybe what the quick-start guide called the “WPA Pre-Shared Key” was actually the “security key”?

Wonder of wonders, it worked!  Then the registration page came up…in Italian.  I muddled through it–mostly because I’ve no idea how to make a page English unless it’s already in google search and you can push the “translate” button.  I figured it was pretty standard stuff.  It wasn’t like I was going to be agreeing to give away state secrets.

Things were going well and I pushed the continue button only to get some exclamation points and angry red bolded letters (this, I thought, is what comes of trying to fake your way through a registration process).  For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what the problem was.

I finally had to resort to my handy-dandy satellite wireless gadget, fire it up, open an Italian to English translation page in google and copy and paste the sentences.  Turns out I had used some illegal characters in my password.  In my defense, there were several characters in the password explanation so I thought that meant I could use whichever one I wanted.  I guess not so much.

I sorted that out and rolled along.

I think I now have Telecom installed but I don’t know.  The next page instructed me to close the browser.  But I was loathe to do that until I finished this post and a little more research on some other topics.

So we’ll see.  Maybe tomorrow 🙂

Moving In (Like Breaking Up) Is Hard To Do

Tags

, , , ,

I actually wrote this last week, only I just realized today that I published it as a page and not a post.  I’m still new to this blogger stuff 🙂

I’ve been away from this blog for way too long, but oh my God!

Moving is hard work. It’s one thing to move to another city or even another state, but to move clear across the planet takes something out of you. It just does. It’s totally awesome and exciting—don’t get me wrong, but it’s also exhausting.

Well, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll talk to you about moving out of temporary lodging and into a house “on the economy”. Nobody really uses that phrase anymore…it’s kind of a holdover from the 80s from when my dad was in the Army and we lived in Germany for a while (I’m dating myself, I know).

Anywhoo, I found a house that suited me–relatively quickly. It’s a smallish house with a basement that could double as meat locker. I’ve learned that in Italy, the basement usually has a separate space that is called a taverna and is often used as a den area. Mine also has a fireplace in it, which is common too.

So when you find a house, you have to immediately go to the Housing Office and speak with a housing counselor to get the process started. (Did you really think this wouldn’t be a process??) The counselor will look the house up in the database and ask you a few questions. Mostly they want to know if the house was previously rented by an American and how long it’s been vacant—stuff like that. If your house is not in the system, then someone from housing will have to conduct a survey to make sure the house meets Air Force standards (don’t smirk)

At some point, you’ll meet with the landlord and a property management agent (if the landlord is going through an agency) and they will fill out the housing contract and the landlord will sign it. This is when you negotiate things like how much the paint job will cost, and they’ll fill in things like the rent, and taxes (of which you are responsible for a percentage). They will also check the boxes of the utilities that you will be responsible for. Gas, water, electric, etc.

*Please Do Not sign it at this point. You have to take it back to the housing and have them look over it. This is really a good idea anyway because it gives you more time to read over it carefully. In the agent’s office, things are moving fast and they are speaking in Italian and it’s easy to get carried away.

After you get the “all clear” from housing, you’ll sign the contract, get a copy back to the landlord, and your next stop will be Home Fuels where you will bring a copy of the lease. They will set up appointments for technicians to come and turn on the gas, water, and electricity. This can take up to seven days (this entire process can take up to a month) so be patient.

**One note: don’t let the housing agent talk you into a move-in date that doesn’t work for you. I kind of felt pressured to say Friday when I really should have given it a few more days. I ended up being in the house before my unaccompanied baggage arrived—which came that Monday. It wasn’t the end of the world, but I’d have been more comfortable moving in the day my stuff was being delivered, or even the day after that.

So negotiate first with the landlord or the property agent about your move-in date. And make sure you already have a delivery time and date for your unaccompanied baggage or household goods.

Next, you get to stop by FMO (furniture management office—or something like that) and put in your request for long and short term stuff to be delivered. Long term appliances are refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer, two transformers (not the toys), and a wardrobe. The washer and dryer are built to Italian specs which means they are very much smaller than what you or I might be used to. Basically you can only ever wash small-size loads in it (with not a lot of detergent) or it will leak. Short-term are two chairs, a dining table and chairs, and a bed, mattress, and bed spread. Of course it will depend on the size of your family as to what is provided.

Italian homes tend to be smaller than American ones, so it can be a bit of a challenge to fit things into your house. Hence, my fridge is wedged into the only corner left.  Yes, it is very ironic that I am provided with a giant refrigerator and a tiny washer and dryer set.

My kitchen

Here’s to home sweet home!!

More about Wireless Service and Phones

Tags

, , , , ,

I wanted to add a quick note about Wi-Fi.  You can buy a little device (which I like to call a gadget) that will let you pick up any satellite in the area and access W-Fi.  I have just realized that I have no idea what Wi-Fi actually stands for.  Ah well.

Because I had previously bought a Vodaphone, I went ahead and got the Vodaphone gadget.  I use it to make calls on my Android –on which, you’ll recall,  I have magic jack installed.  I paid 189 euros which included the price of the gadget and a year of service.

The good thing is that you don’t have to have Vodaphone or Tim mobile phones to be able to use the gadgets.  They will work with any Android or iPhone.  All you have to do is turn it on, and punch the gadget’s password into your phone or laptop or tablet.  You can have up to ten devices connected at the same time.

One last thing: someone told me its better to keep your phone in airplane mode because if you don’t (and it isn’t unlocked for use overseas) your phone will be constantly searching for a wireless signal and you will be charged for that–which can get expensive.  I have no idea if that is true or not, but I’ve kept my smartphone in airplane mode ever since.  Better to be safe than sorry.

And you can still use the Wi-Fi and magic jack app even with the phone in airplane mode.

How cool is that??

Surf’s Up!

Tags

, , ,

Ah no my friends, I have not taken myself off to spend the weekend at one of Italy’s famous beaches.  Soon though….

This post is actually about the Internet and how one acquires service in Italy.

If you are anything like me, then you are basically a technological dunce.  Yes, I own up to the fact that I am horribly unclever when it comes to all thing technology.  I take solace, however, in the fact that since most of it will be obsolete sooner rather than later, that I’m probably not as far behind as I think.

Well, that’s probably not true, but whatever.

So naturally, as a modern woman, especially one who is a newly minted blogger, connectivity was something I gave a lot of thought to even before I left the States.  For all the good it did me…

After arriving, I asked pretty much everyone I knew what service they’d chosen, why, how much did it cost, etc.

And the answers were as varied as Italian cuisine.  The lowdown is that there are a couple of different choices.  The main Internet company in this area is Telecom.  They are analogous to the old AT&T or Ma Bell (Southwestern Bell Corporation)–before she had a bunch of babies.  For you millennial types, years ago, Ma Bell basically had a monopoly on all telephone service in the United States.  There was no competing provider, so Ma Bell could set phone rates and charge whatever they wanted.  And if you wanted a telephone in your house, you paid it.  At least until the U.S. filed an antitrust lawsuit in the early 80s.  Once that happened, the cartel was busted up, and voila, the baby bells and a host of other service providers got into the mix.

So the upshot is that for many years, Telecom was the only game in town–and had the accompanying high prices and terrible customer service.  Then, capitalism, free trade, and anti-trust fervor being what it was, other providers elbowed their way in so that now there are several to choose from.

For the sake of brevity (I know, right?) I’ll only focus on two–Aria and Linkem.  These two are basically the same, just minor differences in the packages they offer.  Linkem is internet only while Aria does offer a phone service.

The difference between Telecom and these two (and really most of the others as well) is that as far as I can tell, all except Telecom are wireless providers in the sense that they run off of satellites.  Now please remember that I am technologically challenged, so if my verbiage isn’t 100% accurate, I do apologize.

Telecom is the only one that requires your house or apartment to already have the infrastructure to support its network.  And if you don’t by now, it’s unlikely that they will build a line from your house to the road where the telephone poles and fiber optic cables are.

So for those who live in more rural areas, the wireless services make more sense.  However, I live in the big city–Pordenone–so I wasn’t necessarily convinced that Aria would be the best choice for me.  Especially when I discovered that there wasn’t an office (for lack of a better word) in Pordenone, and the signal I would be getting would be beamed from Roveredo in Piano which is a few miles north.

To complicate matters, I also wanted a regular telephone line.  Yes, one with a telephone cord that actually went into the wall.  I’m not even going to try to explain why I want one, I just do.  Yes, I am a card-carrying Luddite.  So sue me.  Aria’s phone service required the line to connect to the modem.

To make a long story short, I am going with Telecom, which I am pretty sure I will probably live to regret.  They do have a reputation for terrible customer service after all.  But I just have a feeling that overall, because of my location, that they will provide the best and most consistent service.  I have heard that internet service in this part of Italy can be spotty because we are so close to the mountains.  The tech is coming Monday to set it up so I’ll let you know how it goes.

More acronyms…TQSA

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

As I’m sure you know by now, in the military, we are inundated with acronyms on a pretty much hourly basis.

So today, I’m going to explain TQSA and how it works.  I alluded to this in my post from last week on travel vouchers.  So this is a more detailed explanation.  Trust me when I tell you that you’ll thank me later for the extra details.

The first thing you need to know is that this is the term ONLY for civilians,  The active duty get the exact same allowance, but it’s called something else.  It’s in one of my other posts, but at the moment, I can’t think of it.  Let’s see if it comes back by the time I finish this post!

Okay I cheated–I had to reread my last post to see exactly what I’d already said about TQSA and…in the process…well the active duty term is TLA–temporary lodging assistance.

Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance (or TQSA) is the amount of money that the government will allot you to do two things with:

One, you’ll be able to stay in a hotel on your old base (or base lodging if you prefer) for up to 10 days before you get on a plane to your new permanent duty station (PDS) See–more acronyms!!

Two, once you get to the new PDS, you will be able to stay in the hotel on base there (also known as temporary lodging)..If you are coming to Aviano, I strongly, strongly advise you to try to get into the hotel on base.  While it may seem fun and exciting to live in an Italian hotel until you find a house–actually, it probably will be fun and exciting.  But still.  Just understand a few things–first, you’ll likely have non-existent or very spotty internet access.  Wi-Fi on the economy is not a given.  Even in a good hotel.

oliviapalace

(Above are the Olivia Hotel and the Palace Hotel.  Both are in the city of Aviano)

Second, someone will have to come and pick you up to take you to work everyday.  Which means you’ll be at their mercy for when they want to come get you and when you can leave work.  You will have a sponsor, but I always try to operate from the premise of “save them for when you need major favors”.

Even if you go on leave soon after your arrival, those first few days will have to be spent in-processing on the base.

The only way around this is to rent a vehicle.  And believe me when I tell you that car rental agencies here have prices that will make you choke.

So think long and hard before taking that off-base accommodation.  Especially if you are on foot.

Now, I was told when I got here that I would have to submit lodging receipts to CPO (civilian personnel office) every ten days.  But I’ve been here for almost three weeks and I haven’t submitted anything.  I also know that lodging has already charged me for a 30 day stay (on the GTC).  And I was given paperwork that indicated I was to submit it monthly. So I’m inclined to believe the 10-day rule is really for active duty only.  One more difference between us and them 🙂

Another nice little secret is that while the active duty folks practically get thrown out of temporary lodging and forced into short-term rentals after 30 days if they haven’t found a permanent home, civilians can stay in lodging for *gasp* up to 90 DAYS!!!

Shocking stuff, I know.  But there you have it.  As of right now, 7 June, that is the gospel truth.  And besides, I wouldn’t lie on a Sunday 🙂

Two things to keep in mind though:

1) Government regulations change almost weekly, so while its true this year, it may not be true next year.

2) Please please KEEP ALL RECEIPTS.  You will need them.

And how ’bout that American Pharaoh–first Triple Crown winner since 1978!!

Woot woot!

Happy Sunday 🙂

horse2

Processing Your Travel Voucher..and Related Annoying In-Processing Paperwork

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sounds fascinating huh?

I know.  And yes, I too will be overjoyed when I get all of the practical and logistical blogging behind me so I can focus on fun and exciting Italy!!!

But first things first.

So here’s the deal.  When you arrive at Aviano, you’ll have to go through a program known as Right Start, where you will be given about a million pieces of paper and your brain will be on information overload.

paperwork

To make it worse, most of what you will hear in Right Start will literally have nothing to do with you.  Because you are a civilian and it’s geared towards the active duty member and their families.  So yes, you will be just like me…sitting in the chair and wondering why you are even there at all.

Alas, it’s mandatory.  Which means that unless you died on arrival, your butt will be in that chair.

As a civilian, you will have to go to the comptroller’s desk, get the paperwork packet, and fill it out yourself (the military hand their receipts/orders/itinerary/whatever in at Right Start and it all gets done for them).  If you are lucky–and I was–there will be an Airman at the comptrollers desk  who will take time to help you.  On one sheet, you’ll list your itinerary:

For example, mine looked like this:

Philadelphia

McGuire

Baltimore

Ramstein

Aviano

And if you stayed in lodging at your old base, you’ll list that too.

And I didn’t know this before, but the only receipt you’ll need is the one for your lodging.  If you did stay at a hotel off base, you’d better have a non-accommodation letter from the hotel on base that authorized you to stay off base.  If you stayed at a friend’s house, you don’t get reimbursed for that.  Sorry.

I’m sure you know by now that the DoD purse strings have tightened, and you can’t just do things the way you may have in the past.  Now, you have to have approval/permission for everything.

The good news is–you can claim and get reimbursed for things like toll roads, taxi fare, excess luggage, etc., and if it’s under $75 you don’t need a receipt for it.  Now having just said that, we all know how the rules can change, so just make sure that’s still the law when you get ready to file your voucher.

I also used my GTC  (government travel card) to pay for several meals, and I included that on the voucher to be paid back onto the credit card.  And I didn’t need receipts for those meals–just a total of what I owed on the GTC.

*This is different that GPC which is the government purchase card.  (If you did have a GPC, you should not be taking it with you to Italy)

**And for God’s sake, be SURE that your GTC isn’t about to expire before you travel!!!  It would really suck for you not to have access to your card at the one point in your life when you really need it!

In addition to that first sheet, you’ll also fill out a W-4.  And you’ll need a copy of those orders again.

Then comes the fun part.  Included in your packet is RITA and WTA paperwork (I have no idea what those letters mean, so don’t ask).  I’m no tax professional so this is a seriously basic explanation.  The way I understand it is that the government gives you money to relocate, etc. and that money has to be taxed at some point.  So you have the option of having the money taxed during the year you move (in my case 2015) or taxed the following year.  I opted to have mine taxed in 2015.  Mostly because this is way too complicated and I’m sure I’ll have other things to worry about a year from now.

On a related annoying in-processing note, your sponsor should take you to see the civilian personnel office so they can make sure you are in ATAAPS and can get paid on time. While you are there, they will also give you your TQSA (temporary quarters subsistence allowance) paperwork (for the military this is their TLA–temporary lodging allowance)  and brief you on your housing allowances/entitlements.  (LQA–living quarters allowance for us and OHA–overseas housing allowance for the military).  Try to make sure you use the acronyms for civilians.  It can get confusing otherwise.  It’s confusing now, but you know what I mean.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Miss A