Two weekends ago, I became an official member of our neighborhood association. With a little membership card to prove it and all. The Association had a fundraiser in the piazza by our home. Down by the seafront, there is a community swimming pool under construction. It's been under construction since we moved in. The exterior of the building is gorgeous, all white, no crumbling, porthole windows [use your imagination since I don't feel like walking the block down there to take a photo]. But after all this time, construction is still not complete. Next to the swimming pool is the saddest little playground you've ever seen. A couple of grass covered, rusting rides that wouldn't have met U.S. safety standards 25 years ago. Grass choked out by weeds. Frames of former benches. It has the potential to be a darling little park, other than the fact that it's bordered on one side by a busy road and the other by a railway, but we just can't have everything. Anyway, the fundraiser was for these two places. I filled out my card, got my proper tax receipt, and don't forget, my membership card. I had gone to the fundraiser with friends from up the road who know about half the people in town, so we were kept busy chatting. Actually, they chatted. I did my best to just understand what was being said. We headed over for food and found that the dozens of little children had snaked all the hotdogs and two huge bowls of pasta, leaving only potato chips and grilled lamb behind. I eat lamb when I'm in countries like Morocco or Greece. But otherwise, I tend to picture a cute, fuzzy, little thing that I want to pet. And I have absolutely no problem with the hypocrisy in my meat eating habits. Anyway, the upshot is that what we had left to eat were potato chips. Since I'd just paid 10euros and all, I made sure to eat my 10euros worth of chips. And Coca-Cola. Then dessert came out. Have you ever seen grown-ups shoving one another to get to dessert? Not only have I seen it, I participated. But I got a piece of the chocolate dessert. And the cookie, and the lemon, and about three other kinds as well. This old man next to me thought he might beat me out when we both went for the chocolate at the same time. He was mistaken. I'm not sure how well the fundraiser did, but when I just walked down to the Tabacchi to pay my gas bill, construction workers were once again on the job. Better yet, one fellow we talked to said the Association hopes to do more such community gatherings. We should be fully integrated into the community about the time we get on the plane back to America.