26 June 2009

A week in Modena

I'm not quite sure where to begin. I've spent the week in lovely Modena, home of Ferrari, Maserati, Pavarotti, and Italy's best balsamic vinegar (not in that order). The people here consider their city to be located in a very flat area, and I suppose it is, but I don't really think it's fair to say that when you've got four layers of mountains as a backdrop to your everyday life.
My family lives in a sort of suburby area of the city- wait, can classify an area as suburby if there's no corresponding urba area? Because all they've got here is the 'Center,' which is an old cobblestoned area where all the churches and bars and pizzerias are. Don't get me wrong, it's very nice, but the city as a whole is not as big as I'd expected. Anyway, I'm out in La Madonnina, which is the same area the school is located in. Literally, I can see the playground from our 7th floor kitchen window. It's maybe 2 minutes walking.
I taught the same level this week as I did last week. There were seven in the class, and I'm not lying when I say one of the boys had the surname Ferrari. Apparently it's quite common here. There were two Lorenzos, one of whom was my little brother. They were a really sharp bunch, actually, and the week went quickly.
Of course, we spent a fair amount of time just playing dodgeball, but we pretty much completed our workbooks, which impressed me, at least. That requires more focus than most 10 year olds possess.
One of the boys, the other Lorenzo, pretty much had a massive crush on me. I thought I was just imagining it, actually, until our camp director asked me about it during dinner. When the class was doing drawings of the camp director and myself, Lorenzo 2 drew me as quite voluptuous, and took a lot of care with the eyes and the hair. When we were going somewhere (like to the gym to play dodgeball, for instance), he would wait behind to walk with me. I probably encouraged it by developing a rivalry with him in dodgeball- I would always make sure I was on the opposite team as him (just because he was the only kid I didn't feel bad about absolutely pegging). So that was a little weird. Also, if you are keeping track, the latest song on the European soundtrack is officially 'Hot For Teacher' by Van Halen. I think it's fitting.
A trio of actors from our program's theatre division showed up on Thursday to do a show for our kids. They teach through acting, and it was actually a really funny show. Originally, they'd intended to do a program based around the Wizard of Oz, but they decided to go with Robin Hood instead when they heard our kids' ages. I was a little disappointed, I'll admit, but I probably just would have criticized Dorothy anyway.
Anyway, they were really funny. They'd told us over dinner the night before that they try to do things which are funny for the kids, but then they also might add some lines which go completely over the kids' heads and crack the tutors up. The girl playing Robin was a chirpy Kiwi who came onstage with an eyeliner moustache halfway through the show. Lady Marian was played by a South African girl who decided to make the artistic decision to portray Lady Marian as a Southern Belle. The guy who played the Sheriff was a Brit who, while talking with Robin, slipped in the line, 'So you're fast? Maybe. Strong? Sure. But good? Not according to Lady Marian,' which I found funnier than it probably actually was. Anyway, they were funny, and the kids learned prepositions, action verbs, how to pronounce the h sound in English, and a whole lot more.
Their performance motivated our kids when we were planning for our finl show. I had one big goal for this week, and that was to have a better show than last week. So I talked it over with the kids, and I think we put together something pretty great. Again, I indulged the kids when it came to character selection, so we had Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, Agent Smith from the Matrix, Neo from the Matrix, and LeBron James and Kobe Bryant (and we nearly had Harry Potter and Pinocchio in there too). Basically, the storyline was, Peter and Tink get kidnapped by Hook and Smith while wandering through Never Land, but then Peter calls Neo for help, but then Hook stabs Neo, who calls Kobe, who shows up with LeBron and beats the baddies by throwing basketballs at them. I was struggling to find a good way to wrap it up, though, and the only thing I could think of was to add a closing dance number.
The kids had never heard of any of the dances I suggested. Finally one of the girls mentions 13 Going on 30, and wouldn't you know it, I'd brought it with me to Italy (it's a classic, okay).
Well, the dance scene we wanted to watch from that movie was a recreation of the dance from Michael Jackson's Thriller video.
So we spent all Thursday afternoon going through the scene in 13 Going on 30 (by the way, in Italian it's called something like 30 in a Second or a Moment or an Instant, I can't remember which) and putting together a really basic routine which was made up primarily of head bobbing, but which ended with that really sweet werewolf/zombie move from the video. That was the only homework I gave the kids that night- go home and memorize your lines + plus the routine, because it was the saving grace of our show.
You know what's coming next. Apparently, Michael Jackson died overnight. I really honestly thought our camp director was joking when she informed me. There was some quick thinking involved, but ultimately, we decided to leave the routine in and call it a tribute.
We spent several hours rehearsing, and a couple more hours taking advantage of the sound system to do karaoke onstage. Josephine manned my music collection, and as a result, I sang a medley of Sweet Child o' Mine, Don't Stop Believing, Back in Black, Dance Dance, Mr. Brightside, Welcome to the Jungle, Don't Go Breaking My Heart, and Hells Bells. (The AC/DC was by request from our students.) Air drums and air guitar were provided by 6 year old Simone and 8 year old Gabriele. I think that got us all loosey goosey and relaxed for the show.
The final performance well, actually. I had to stand at the back and mirror all the moves so the kids wouldn't get lost, but still, I was entertained at least. The parents didn't seemed weirded out by the fact that I called our show a Michael Jackson tribute. In hindsight, though, the Thriller dance performed by a bunch of prepubescent boys during a show which is set in Never Land seems almost an uncomfortably apt tribute to Michael Jackson.
Anyway. May he rest in peace.
Tomorrow: train to Trevi. Should be about five hours (could mean six, the way the Italian train system operates). Josephine's going too. It's a two week camp, which means we'll be celebrating the Fourth of July (plus Katsy's birthday) while we're there. We're making plans to honor our great nation already. Let me know if you've got any ideas.
I think that's all for now. As soon as I've got wifi I'll upload vids and pics. Love and miss everyone! Talk to you all soon, hopefully!

20 June 2009

'One Night with Bruno'

Yesterday was both the last day of camp and our last day in Modigliana. We spent most of the day getting ready for the show, but honestly, it didn't show. My kids dropped lines like nobody's business, so much so that our skit lasted about 3 minutes, including a song (Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes). I stretched it a little by singing Happy Birthday to Denis at the end, but really, there was no hope anyway for a skit entitled 'Poke-Garfield.' As long as the kids are happy with it, and the parents get to hear their kids speaking what sounds like English to them, it's all good.
For dinner, we went up to Bruno's country house. It was in a very rustic area, just a little stone cabin surrounded by hills and trees. The views on the drive up were amazing, but unfortunately, once we got up there I was unable to take any pictures because of the foliage. Josephine was there, Olga and Raffaele were there, our camp directors were there, and then there was Bruno, Bruno's sister and nieces (one of whom was in my class), his mother, and the woman who cleaned the school, plus her husband and son. I think that was everyone.
We all sat in this old room, with a stone floor, whitewashed walls, and a cracked ceiling. It was the sort of thing you see in a movie, or in a chic home magazine. Everyone was around a U-shaped table, and Bruno's sister and the cleaning lady brought in pizzas one by one. Then there was a soupy thing of fruit, and more fruit, and some alcohol, and gelato. After that, Bruno gave us each a piece of paper with his phone number and e-mail address on it, right before sending around a paper upon which we were each to write our own addresses. Josephine and I weren't really sure what to do, so we didn't write anything. When Bruno noticed, we told him we'd e-mail him. He asked us if we had his address, and we pulled out the pieces of paper he'd given us moments before, and he looked stunned. Really, really strange guy.
We all got together for a group pic before we left, so Josephine would never, ever forget Bruno. I ended up being trapped on the end, and he came to stand next to me. I sort of leaned in so I wouldn't look unfriendly, and next thing I knew he had his arm around me. When the pictures were over, he took the opportunity to rub my back for a second before giving me the old two-cheek-kisses goodbye. In the car, later, Josephine and I looked at the pictures on her camera, and in all of them, my face expresses varying degrees of horror. It would be funny if the whole situation hadn't been so terrifying.
After dinner, Rosaria and Ermes drove us back to Forli to spend the night so we could be on the train the next day. We slept on their pullout couch, and Ermes pointed out to us that the sheets on said couch had been Rosaria's wedding sheets from her first (failed) marriage. Not awkward at all.
Got on the train at 1.30. Got off the train at 3 or so in Modena. I forgot to mention, it's still me and Josephine, and we're still the only two tutors at a brand new camp. I'll be teaching a similarly-sized class at the same level as the last one, so that's good.
Hung out with the camp director and her husband? brother? It wasn't made clear. However, he is exactly what I would expect an Italian man to look like. . . if the year were 1975. He's balding, but he's grown his hair out fairly long for a psychology professor (although I believe he was recently made redundant so that could explain it). He wore burgundy polyester pants and carried a jacket made of some weird material. His glasses were horn-rimmed and slightly shaded, and his shirt was unbuttoned nearly half-way, exposing a large quantity of chest hair. He had a gold necklace entangled in said chest hair. And he smoked like a chimney.
He took us on a tour of central Modena. That was entertaining. Then I was driven to meet my family. They are Milva, her husband Francesco, and their sons Lorenzo (9) and Gianmarco (19). They're all super nice, but they don't speak English well at all, although they do try. We all sat around the dinner table tonight (while they fed me dish after delicious dish) and tried to understand each other. Originally it sounded like their plan for me was to head out with Gianmarco and his friends to a disco or something, but I guess he ended up going out with just his girlfriend so now I'm here!
I feel like I had more, funnier things to tell you, and I feel like you all must be so disappointed when I have only boring things to say. Sorry about that.
Anyway, Lorezo's waiting for me so I must go.
More later, including the vid of 'Poke-Garfield.' Get excited.

18 June 2009

Next stop: Modena

"Where troubles melt like lemondrops, high above the chimney tops, that's where you'll find me. . ."

Found out this morning where I go next: Modena. Stress on the first syllable. It's in the same region (Emilia-Romagna) as Modigliana, but about an hour and a half to the north-northwest by train. I'll be leaving Saturday afternoon at 1:30. I was trying to figure out where I'd heard the name, until someone told me: all the balsamic vinegar bottles around here are labelled 'di Modena,' so that's good.
The last two days have been pretty good at camp. The kids are getting maybe a little too comfortable with us (for instance, they know that all my threats are empty), but we've got the final show pretty much ready to go for tomorrow, so that's good. I expect Poke-Garfield to be a rousing success which everyone will be talking about for years to come.
My Italian is definitely improving. I think now I might actually be at the level I claimed to be at on my application- 2/10. This morning I asked Alberto in Italian how his 'son' was doing, and he said he was well. Later I asked him where he was, and he said that he was at home. Remember, Alberto's 'son' is a monster drawn with marker on a yellow balloon. He had a face, prominent eyebrows, horns, lopsided arms and legs, as well as male genitalia. I'm pretty sure the boys (or little Alberto at least) are completely obsessed with that kind of thing. Josephine told me that yesterday, Alberto and Matteo P spent a large chunk of time just kicking each other in the crotch. Today, during dodgeball, I noticed a bunch of boys standing around Alberto and laughing, so I went to see what was up, and he pulled his shirt down quickly. "Che cosa sta facendo?" I asked him. Finally he showed me. He had taken a big piece of cardboard and left it hanging out of his open fly. I'm embarrassed to say that it made me laugh. A lot.
So that's favorite pasttime number one of the boys in our camp. Favorite pasttime number two is throwing things at my chest when I'm looking away. The best part is, these boys aren't going to get more mature. They may get smarter, and they'll get older, but they will still be laughing at that sort of thing 20 or 30 years from now.
Heard some more good Bruno stories when Josephine came over for dinner last night (we couldn't leave her with him). Apparently, Bruno: a) watches the movie Anastasia (yes, it's animated) with his nieces so he can have an excuse to cry, b) claims the wild animals at his country house recognize him and follow him in a line when he goes up there, c) they also speak to him, d) he may or may not have special needs, and e) we've already established that he's a hoarder, which is a sign of obsessive compulsive behaviour. Diagnosis, anyone?
Went running tonight for the first time in what felt like forever. I think I explained in a previous post (Llanes, perhaps?) that I firmly believe that running through a new town is one of the best ways to get to know it. The run didn't kill me like I'd expected it to, which I think is a sign that running around with kids for ten hours a day is actually pretty decent exercise. I mean, you have no idea how much time we spend playing dodgeball (a couple of hours, at least), and you'd better believe I participate. I feel like a sniper out there. Sometimes when a ball comes to me I'll hand it off to one of the little ones, but more often than not I'll start charging to the line, and then everyone on the other team will run the other way, screaming. There's one boy I sort of pick on (is that bad?), because he enjoys taunting other people while we're playing. I wait til he turns around and shakes his butt at me, and then I reach back and knock him over with a fastball (overhand). Sometimes I let the children hide behind me so they can get all the way to the line before they throw, but usually it's the other way around. Realizing I use children as body shields signified a new low for me.
Today, actually, I was more or less responsible for a near concussion. There's one girl, Agnese, who I don't feel bad for hitting because she's a champion wrestler who can definitely hold her own against the boys. So today when she was going for a loose ball, I let one fly. It was headed straight for her head, so she ducked out of the way. . . straight into a wall. I really felt bad about that, because she's a tough girl and she was crying. At least no parents were called- I can see that being a tough one to explain.
All right, Olga's just finished preparing dinner, so I've got to go. Possibly more later! Love!

17 June 2009

Che cosa stanno facendo?

Here are our kids, playing a brutal game of dodgeball in the palestra

And here is little Alberto, trying desperately to pop the balloons I use as teaching tools. The other boy is Matteo (one of 4 Matteos out of 16 students):

This is the balloon Alberto refused to burst, because "it was his son." I just want to point out that it is a dragon, peeing.

Thursday Night in Sanremo

This is the modified haka done by the all-male Mini-Olympics group during our orientation. Their team name was the Super Sausage Jockeys, and they basically took the New Zealand rugby team's classic haka (Maori war dance) and gave it hilarious (although not totally appropriate) lyrics. (I won't go into specifics, but you should know that they rhymed meat, heat, and treat. I think that will explain enough.)

16 June 2009

Day 2

So yesterday was our second day of teaching here at Modigliana (our second day of teaching at all, actually). I would like to start off by reassuring you and saying that it went as well as the first day went poorly. There were, however, a few kinks, but I will tell you all about them.
Firstly, my window got fixed. That was pretty great, but didn't actually seem to help at all. It's still hot as here and it will only get hotter.
Nextly, while we were in the gym playing dodgeball (yeah, you're allowed to do that here), we found a lizard that had wandered in. I had to shoo it outside while all the kids watched and laughed.
Thirdly, a scorpion also invaded our gymnasium while my class was sitting around discussing our final show (which very nearly became Pokemon+Garfield+Lord of the Rings). I had never seen one before, but it fell on me to scoop it up on a piece of paper and toss it outside. That's a life experience for you.
Okay and also I really must tell you about Bruno. I told you there was another girl teaching here with me, right? Well we're in seperate homestays. On Saturday night, she was introduced to her host mother, Luisella. She got all excited because Luisella was really nice and had three cute daughters, but then we all went to see the place where Josephine (the other tutor) would be staying, and it was a one-person apartment. Turns out Josephine would be staying with Luisella's brother Bruno because Luisella was going out of town. So we figured this was just for one night, but turns out that Luisella agreed to host Josephine in exchange for a discount for her daughter in the English camp, but she's making her stay with Bruno.
Here's the best part: Bruno is a 45 year old guy with huge glasses and a big potbelly, who has hundreds and hundreds of bike magazines around his apartment, and has taped every bike race since 1980 and watches them regularly. Sometimes he watches Josephine while she sleeps, and on Sunday he made her go hiking with him. Along the way, he quoted Back to the Future non-stop. Around this town, if you say, "Do you know Bruno?" people groan and roll their eyes, because he's known as a rather talkative guy. We've had quite a few jokes at Bruno's expense.
All right, so I should probably get going. It looks like maybe some rain today, which would be great, because yesterday I checked the weather at 6pm and it was 86 but felt like 93. At 6 pm. So hopefully today's a little cooler. Later!

My new friend

15 June 2009

Bananas of the World: Unite!!!

First day of class today. I don't even know what to say about it.
To begin, I was exhausted when I woke up this morning. I spent yesterday afternoon out with my host family. There's Olga, my host mother, and her boyfriend, Rafaele, and her brother Luis and cousin Roberto (or something) were staying with us, along with their friend Noelia. We all went out to eat at a pizza place for a late lunch- so late, in fact, that the waiter and owner had each left before we had finished our meal. Then someone else came to join us and we all drove to the next town over (through a national park, fyi) to hit up the pool. We laid out for about 3 hours (it was the late afternoon though, so no tan) and then went back to Modigliana.
Last night, after Luis and the cousin had both left, the rest of us went on a walk through town to get dinner and gelato. I saw the route I would take to school and the school itself. As you could see from my last post, I got to bed waaaay too late.
This morning, I woke up with my lesson plans all ready. We got to the school at 8:05 to prepare. Most of the children had arrived by 8:15 or so, which surprised me, as I was under the impression that we would not begin until 9. Apparently, our camp directors were under a different impression, and we started at 8:30.
Today was a little rough. We spent about half of our time playing games with the kids outside, and the rest of the time was spent playing games inside or teaching lessons, so I was standing almost the entire day. I had expected that there would not be air conditioning in my classroom, but I had at least expected there to be a working window. There was none. The building is very interesting, as it was built in the 1930's or so, but this also means that its plumbing is not quite up to modern standards. The only toilets are squat toilets. I'm not okay with that.
Also, our directors aren't really respecting the 'no Italian' rule. When I say something, they translate about half the time. That's not our program's philosophy, but I suppose they don't know any better because this is their first camp. Then again, it's my first camp too, but I'm pretty sure that when I was told to use Italian never if I could help it, that that meant Italian should not be spoken in my classroom.
What else. . . we went over colors, feelings (emo, I know), and parts of the body. Parts of the body are easily taught with songs like 'Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' and 'Lalalalalala Body' (yep, to the tune of 'La Bamba'). For colors and feelings, I used balloons and drew faces on them. We had contests to see who could identify the expression or the color fastest. There was also Musical Chairs used to stall for time when we ran out of things to do at the end.
I've got them trained fairly well though. When I need their attention, I yell, "BANANAS OF THE WORLD!" and they all turn to me and jump to attention with their arms extended above their heads and their hands together and respond, "Unite!" If you think it's silly, well, it's something we learned in orientation, so lay off me.
When I got back from that exhausting day, I essentially passed out with my clothes on, on my bed, for a couple of hours, until Olga woke me for dinner. She made Spanish tortilla, with Italian salad, and fresh bread, and for dessert we had watermelon! It was delicious. After that, I took a much-needed shower and did laundry for the first time since I got here. Definitely overdue.
Not sure what the plan is tomorrow. Need to do that now, actually. I'm thinking way more games, and then extensive planning for our end of the week show on Friday. The kids wanted to do a play about either Garfield or Pokemon, sooooooooo I decided we should combine them. I'm really not sure how to manage that, though. Ideas are defnitely welcome.

PS: Dear Grandmom: Olga can't understand why you are so worried about me dying in an earthquake when I come from the land of tornados. I have to say, she has a valid point. Think about it. Plus, all indications are that Amanda Knox probably did kill that British student back in November, so I feel like I will actually have to commit a very serious violent crime to be held extensively by Italian police (and for the record, I have no plans of doing that).

14 June 2009

"Hello my name is Dorothy/I am a little girl"

First day of class tomorrow. I will be teaching a group of 6 8-10 year olds from 9-5:30. We're going to start off with some cheers and whatnot to get everyone going- I think we've decided on Boom Chicka Boom, Jump In/Jump Out, and the Name Wave. After that, it's three hours or so of lessons. I believe tomorrow is partially assessment, and then workbooks. Then it's lunch, and the afternoon we will spend working on invitations for our spectacle on Friday (forget that we know nothing about where or what time it will be held). We'll end the day with some more songs and games (Blob anyone?) before handing the ragazzi back to their parents (hope I used that word correctly).
It goes without saying that I'm nervous, so I'm just going to talk about something else.
I had been expecting Modigliana to be a little more Sound of Music, but. . . well, I don't know. There are a lot of apartment buildings, but on the other hand, it takes like a half hour to quite literally walk around the entire town. Trust me, I did it.
But really, it's not too terribly different from home. . . except here we've got mountains and vineyards. Be jealous. Huge similarity: it's hay season here. I'm not sure why this shocked me- I mean, it's the summertime, things grow here, and livestock always need to eat so. . . yeah. They even drive tractors and combines and do their hay bales up all round like we do at home. Never thought the idea of hay season could soothe me this much.
Honestly, though, ever since I flew out of Kansas City, high above the country roads dividing the ample land into mile after endless flat mile, since I last caught a glint of light reflecting off of a muddy country stream, I've missed home. That's why these silly little familiar things mean so very much to me.
There is so so so much more to add in which I continuously forget, but I absolutely must go to bed now before I die of lack of sleep. Love you! Bye bye bye!

Watch, Listen, and Repeat

There's so much to tell you about these last several days that I'm almost afraid to try. However, my tale involves sun, cute boys, and especially pasta- not in that order- so I've decided it's worth the time it will take to recount it.
Monday night: Dinner at Tahiti (not the country, just the beachfront restaurant in Sanremo). My roommate Vanessa and I didn't really realize that it was a dressy thing so I def showed up in the same clothes I had been orientated it. A little awkward.
The food was all up at a buffet. There was penne pasta in a marinara sauce, with grilled vegetables and salad and french fries and some scalloped potatoes with broccoli and pesto. (There was meat, too, for those who eat it, but of course I didn't really care.) They also gave out several bottles of wine per table, and there was gelato after dinner. I wasn't shy about getting seconds.
I should add now that Tahiti has possibly the cutest waiter in the world. That is all.
Tuesday: I wish I could remember everything that we did every day, but that would involve me getting into my backpack, finding my orientation packet, and copying the info from there to here, and I simply don't have that motivation right now. However, I think Tuesday was more of the same as far as learning different teaching techniques. We also spent a fair amount of time playing games and learning songs to use with our students.
That night, we split into two groups for dinner, because apparently ours was the largest orientation class they've ever had. My group went to the Yacht Club, which is literally the whole town's yacht club. It was pretty good but not super amazing. The view, however, was pretty great.
Wednesday: We actually got to work with little Italian children for two hours in the morning! I was assigned to a group of 6-8 year olds, along with a few other tutors. We played a few games with the kids to warm up and get them comfortable, then we introduced the lessons for the day with more games. After that we played more games with them. When we were all done, they didn't want to leave, and we definitely didn't want to do more workshops, but what can you do? Oh, and the picture below this is of one of the chalk tracings we had them do. One boy made his anatomically correct. He's got a full circulatory and respiratory system. There are intestines and pretty much everything.
I should add that lunch each and every day was really, really good. Lots of pasta, lots of salads with balsamic vinaigrette, lots of cheeses and risotto and just everything.
After lunch, we were split into groups to make up a final show, which is something we'll be doing at the end of each camp with our kids. It has to be a little performance of 5-10 minutes, showcasing the things they've learned and worked on throughout the week. Each group was assigned an age group, and we basically put together a show as if we were kids from that age group. The performance would be on Friday, so we got some ideas together and decided on all the basic deets- characters, plot, etc.
Dinner that night was back at Tahiti. The waiter was still amazing, but one of the senior tutors, Mike, definitely gave me grief about it for the rest of the week. Oh yeah, the food was good too. I think this was the night several of us just wandered around playing hacky sack in the streets of Sanremo. We were pretty excited, though, because one of the boys had been selected to leave for a camp the very next day and the whole teaching thing was becoming more palpable.
Thursday: We learned some more games and songs, and some of them were really great. I think my favorites are Boom Chicka Boom and Bazooka Bubblegum. Oh, and Lalalalalala Body.
After that we did some more group exercises. By this time we had all sort of figured out those people that you definitely could never ever stand to be placed with, and everyone was a little anxious because they'd told us we would learn our assignments that afternoon. I definitely had a countdown going in my head.
The afternoon was spent rehearsing for our final show and with Mini Olympics. Mini Olympics is pretty much what we would call a Field Day. We all split into teams, had to come up with a team name and different chants, and then we competed against each other in various activities (most of which involved water balloons).
We took a break, and then it was the moment of truth. Everyone sat around Vince, one of the guys in charge of the program, as he read off locations and names. First were those who would be leaving Friday night on sleeper trains to teach at camps in the south of Italy (about 40 people). The second group were all leaving Saturday morning. I was part of the second group, but he misread my name so I hadn't been paying attention when he said where I was going. I did, however, find the girl who would be teaching with me, and was pretty excited because she's hilarious. We were told to save our questions for Friday, so I would almost have preferred that they not have told us at all on Thursday.
Dinner that night was at Urbicia, up in the old part of Sanremo. Everyone was in a really great mood because we knew it would be our last night all together. There was quite a bit of wine poured, and then one of the groups from Mini Olympics performed their team chant by request. Afterwards, most of us walked the 20 feet or so to the bar we call the cave bar (not to be confused with Madrid's Cave Bar), where mojitos are the bartender's specialty. I think it's actually called something like L'Aighese. Our directors and the senior tutors were all there, and we had a great time.

Friday: We rehearsed one last time for our show, and then performed. Ours was a variation on Cinderella, in which she hosts a birthday party. All manner of fairy tale characters show up, giving her various gifts. What she really wants, however, is a glass slipper (typical). Finally Prince Charming makes an appearance, bearing some shoes. Just as Cinderella is about to try them on, however, Prince Rude crashes the party. Prince Rude was played by a tutor named Gennaro from Jersey, and he said hilarious things like, "Fuhgeddaboutit," and "Hey, I brought some slippers. Try 'em on. DO IT." Basically, everyone loved it. I should also mention that Cinderella was played by a boy, and I was a narcoleptic Sleeping Beauty.
The afternooon was spent with taking a group pic and receiving a few more details about where we would be going. I still wasn't clear about the name, but from what had been said, I thought it was in the Milan area. Then they gave us our t-shirts (like a rite of passage!) and we were dismissed. There were goodbyes said to all those who would be leaving that night.
Those of us who were staying, however, had dinner all together at the port. Like we climbed up on to a massive stone walkway, like a pier maybe? and ate pizza out of boxes just sitting there by the sea. I don't think you've really had pizza until you've eaten an amorphous slab of dough covered in mozerella and gorgonzola cheeses. (At one point, Mike yelled out to the whole group that he'd never seen an orientation group eat so much- that we were like vultures who hadn't seen food in weeks. He acted like he was talking to the entire group, but I'm pretty sure the comment was actually directed to the girl who went back for seconds every single meal, i.e. me.) The views were amazing. This was when they actually gave us our info packets and train tickets, and told us when to meet at the station the next day.
I found out I would be going to Modigliana. It was described to me as a town up in the mountains, and I learned that my class would only have 5 or 6 kids in it. It wasn't actually anywhere near Milan. The journey by train would be around 7 hours, and I'd be leaving Sanremo on the 9:15 train to Milan, but transferring at Voghera and taking that train to Forli'. Exciting!
A few of us headed to the bar at the end of the pier and said our goodbyes. Then it was back to the hotel to get some rest.
Saturday: Woke up at 7 or so. Packed furiously. Grabbed brekky, loaded 'luggages' into a car, and walked to the train station. About half the program was there, and we'd all be on the same train for a while. More goodbyes were said, and then it was on to the train.
I wish inside jokes were easier to explain. They're not even my inside jokes, but they're still hilarious. They involve driving up and down the streets of Sanremo in the Theatrino car screaming slanderous songs about the tutors, and altering the words of the theatre troupe's songs to mock our driver. I'm sure you're completely confused right now. Anyway.
First train- 3 hours to Voghera. Just a heads up, Italian women love to steal your window seats. And some of them are old and very tan. I did not miss them when I got off the train in Voghera, but there I had a traumatic experience trying to find a toilet which was not a hole in a floor. (Unsuccessful.) They'd given us 5 euro for lunch, so I got a tomato and mozeralla (I really think I'm spelling that wrong) sandwich out of a vending machine. It was 2 euro, so I'm telling myself I made money on the day.
Next train- 3 hours more to Forli'. This train was slightly better. . . no wait, I retract that. We were sitting across from an old couple who glared at us the entire time and whispered about us, not realizing that the girl I'm travelling with speaks Italian. They can be a little pushy here.
When we got off the train at Forli', Maria and Ermes were there to meet us. Maria is the Modigliana camp director. They took us to a bar for 'refreshment,' and we talked a little, and went to Maria's flat to discuss the camp. It's a totally new camp. The very first one. On the one hand, there are no expectations for us, but on the other. . . well, we could just do awful. We're pretty nervous. Also, during this time we discovered that our sense of humor doesn't really translate well to Italian.
They drove us up to Modigliana. It's sort of up in the mountains, but I was definitely expecting goatherds and Sound of Music. There are 5,000 people here. . . I'm trying to figure out if I think that's small, or really small. It's about a hundred times less people than are in Madrid.
There was a multiethnic festival going on in Modigliana. Both our host families were participating, so we attended the festival while waiting for them. I had some Portugese flan-ish stuff, and a burrito from Mexico, and a massive helping of couscous. That really had a kick to it. It felt like a bunch of ant-sized rugby players were doing a jig on my tongue and bottom lip.
Eventually I made it to my host mom's apartment. Her name is Olga, and she's Spanish! We've been speaking Spanish and English mostly, because I know so little Italian. Her apartment is amazing. . . and it has wifi!!!
So there you have it I think. Today I was thinking about going running, but Olga and her friends are going to the beach today or something (where the heck are they hiding a beach up here in the moutains? Seriously), so I don't know. Josephine and I were going to work on lesson plans but that may or may not happen. Classes start Monday!!!

PS: I feel I should add that my perfect American accent is now shot to hell, thanks to the 5 days I spent immersing myself in Australian, British, Scottish, and Irish accents. I can't tell you how many people said to me, "But. . . you don't have an accent!" when they heard I was from Kansas (also on that note, the Wizard of Oz jokes are wearing thin), but that's done with now. A few days ago it was an Aussie thing I had going on, now it's a tiny Irish twinge. I really, really have to focus to go back to the Midwestern thing, and I think I'm going to come up with some stock phrases to help me with that.

PPS: The title of this post is what we tell kids to do before every song. It's sort of become a joke amongst us.

Madrid Pics

Okay, they're in reverse order. Bear with me. At the end of the day, at the Reina Sofia.


In front of the arch and faro at Moncloa.

Admiring my handiwork.


08 June 2009

Journeying on

All right, I know this is probably a little confusing, but I'm no longer in Madrid; rather, I'm in Sanremo, Italy. I'll try to summarize briefly the last few days. . .
Okay. Friday. Kelsey day. Left the hostel around 10 am with a couple of the girls from my room because I hadn't heard from Kelsey and we were all ravenous. Walked down to Calle Atocha (a fairly big street) and took chocolate con churros AND tortilla at a little cafe. I gave the girls as much info as I could think up on Madrid, and then I took them down through Sol (under construction now! ridiculous!) to Gran Via, back towards Opera, then past the Palacio Real and through the Plaza de Espana, to Calle Princesa before I heard from Kelsey and both the other girls were thoroughly exhausted.
Met up with Kelsey and took pretty much the same route, only with a lot more picture taking. I love her! And I proved it by carving our initials into one of the trees in Parque del Oeste (don't tell). What else. . . oh, we walked for hours. We walked all the way from Parque del Oeste (if you're looking on a map of Madrid, it's at the extreme left) down to Calle Atocha so that I could pretty much escort her to the train station so she could get back to where she was staying. I'll put pics up when I go somewhere with wifi, rather than using an internet cafe.
Saturday I did some more exploring. I went through Retiro (by myself, yes, don't freak out), visited my old apartment, had a bocadillo at Bar Los Bocadillos for old time's sake. . . good times. Met up with a friend who'd done this Italy program before and asked him some questions about it. Spent more hours talking in the bar than the bartender spent working. Went to the airport and spent the night there.
6 am Sunday morning, I boarded a plane for Milan. After that, I took a bus to the Milan train station and a train out here to Sanremo. Fell asleep at 7 last night out of pure exhaustion.
Today was the first day of orientation. I was told I could potentially be discouraged by all the information at once and the 8 hours 9 hours of orientation, but I thought it went by fast. Tonight=dinner, and then more orientation til Friday, when we get assigned to our camps. I'll give more deets when I've got a free moment. Til then, much love! I will talk to everyone soon!

05 June 2009

Estoy aqui.

[I tried to post this last night but the internet cut out so I'm posting it now.]
He llegado en EspaƱa.
The last 30 something hours have been sooo disorienting! I started off at MCI, and left from there at 10:50am Central time. Thought I had everything, but turns out I forgot something painfully essential. More on that later. When the guy who was checking my suitcase saw that I was going all the way to Madrid (albeit through two separate airlines and totally separate bookings), he tagged the bag to go all the way through to Spain, so I wouldn't have to pick it up and recheck it. He seemed pretty sure that this would be foolproof, but I mentally marked the moment in case I needed to look back later and identify the moment when my trip first began to go horribly wrong.
Flew to Atlanta. Had to hustle through that airport to make my 2:45pm (Eastern) flight to JFK. I'm pretty sure I slept for like the first hour of that flight. Go me.
Cue five hour layover in New York. Almost the boringest layover of my life. Then, at 9:40pm Eastern time, we left the States for Ireland. It was only a six hour flight, but when you are sort of in a half-asleep, half-awake daze, time seems to last way longer than usual. Plus I had the world's WORST seatmate, an oldish guy who totally put his elbows in my space, so I had to curl up to sleep. I was like, "Surely I will awaken when they bring us our meal." Wrong. I definitely woke up about ten minutes later to the smell of food. Thanks a lot for waking me up, old seatmate. Then he watched The Wrestler and ate with gusto, and fell asleep. I decided that if anything important happened while he was out, I would not wake him up for it. I watched Twilight to pass the time. . . but it turns out it's as bad at 30,000 feet as it is on the ground. So disappointing.
Landed in Dublin at 9:00 am Dublin time (Greenwich Mean Time? I do believe so). That's 3 am home time. Spent an hour or so getting through customs, then I just walked from terminal to terminal (I honestly probably walked several miles during the course of the day) before my 4pm flight.
By the time we took off, I'd been travelling for nearly a day. I tried to sleep for the entire flight, but I was in a seat in the emergency exit row. That equals more leg room but no seat reclinability. So probably less than an hour of sleep.
But it did mean that I was able to watch as we came down through the clouds and crossed over the mountains. I saw the familiar rich oranges and clay greens of the Spanish landscape, and I felt better.
Customs and baggage claim were a breeze- yes, my bag arrived at the same time as me! I got my Metro pass, and after a brief subway adventure, I made it to my hostel and got in contact with my friends here. I even had time to partake in one of my all-time favorite pasttimes- wandering.
Turns out my hostel is on a street I'm pretty familiar with, near a place where I used to meet up with friends. It was so good to walk past restaurants and cafes where I'd spent so many fun times, and I'm astounded by how Madrid is so very the same as when I left. It's very reassuring. While cleaning up, however, I did discover that I neglected to pack my deodorant when I took everything out of my suitcase and repacked. I have mixed feelings about this- on the one hand, I might get gross, and people might notice. On the other hand, it’s Europe. I really don’t think anyone will notice I’m gross.
Okay. It's past one, I think I've lost my internet connection, and I'm exhausted. More later!

02 June 2009

It's go time. . . almost

So here we are- the night before I depart for Europe.

Am I ready to go? Probably not. I did spend the day going around, trying to pick up all the little things I still needed to get. I really wanted to find a powder blue Royals jersey in a smallish size, but the only Royals tees I found anywhere were royal blue (go figure) and in massive sizes. Soooo I'm not sure what I'm going to do about that. Looks like I won't be reppin' the Killa City after all.
Cowboy boots- while they were initially under heavy consideration, I ultimately determined that they were simply too impractical. I wear mine more as work shoes and less as a a fashion statement, and yesterday was no exception. But Grace and I spent the day at our grandparents' house, and we ended up spending quite a bit of time in the calf pen, seperating them by gender and then moving the little steer calves over to Becky's. Soooo my boots are now a little on the filthy side. (I recognize that most people would just wear old tennies to work in, but I really hate the feeling of tall grass on my legs, and I don't have a pair of rain boots right now that fit me, so I wear my tan ostrich and cowhide cowboy boots. Don't hate.) Plus they weigh entirely too much to justify taking them. It makes me a little sad; I was just really beginning to break them in, and they're such an unmistakeably American staple- but that's probably for the best. I will, however, miss the swagger I take on while wearing them.

Here's a rough approximation of what I will be taking:

A pair of khaki shorts and a pair of brown shorts, per the program's recommendations
3 or 4 tank tops that match either pair of shorts
1 pair of softball shorts that I plan on running in
2 shirts that I can either wear with said shorts or my softball shorts
4 dresses, in varying degrees of formality
A couple of pairs of leggings, one for possibly running in and the other for wearing under dresses when I need to class it up a notch
Brown sandals
Flippy-floppies (not familiar with that term? Check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOvaCV6uQp8. . . heads up, it's edited but still pretty intense)
Maybe some heels, because I feel that I don't wear them enough and I really ought to
A jacket?
Some short shorts to sleep in
That's the big stuff. . . I think. I still have to figure out what toiletries and makeup I'm bringing.

So. . . I tried to find a picture of my face expressing pretty much how I feel right about now:

Yep. That's me, and that's how I feel right now- a little nervous. I just know I've forgotten something important.

Next time I update you, I hope to be in Europe. . . or at least on the East Coast.


01 June 2009

T-minus 2 days

In 48 hours, I will be far, far away from Kansas. Somehow, with all the planning I've been doing the last few weeks, it's still snuck up on me. I'm split right now, and not sure if I'm really prepared to leave. But I leave Wednesday morning whether I'm ready or not.
That is all.