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!


Mom said...

Two of your relatives were a little concerned that you hadn't posted in awhile. . . Trevi looks pretty! Lots of Roman history!

Can't wait to hear more details. I need to get a map and mark down your locations.

Do the theater performers just travel around to all the camps, or are there theater week-long camps too? Do they go around to drum up interest in a theater camp next time?

Hot weather here- hot and humid!! Storm this week blew the roof off of Dick Newton's barn. Must have been interesting to see the barn roof upside down in front of his house. No damage here, a mile away, besides flooded creek and huge tree limbs stranded on the bridge. And it only sprinkled at Gmom's that night. Crazy weather!

Jen said...

It sounds like you are having fun! I am so glad! Thank you for all the stories. I asked your Mom if you had internet access this week, b/c we hadn't heard from you. We just assumed you were busy having lots of fun! :)

Uncle Dave said...

Sounds like you had a good camp. I missed your updates this week. Can't wait to see pics and video.
What an odd coincidence about Michael Jackson.

PS. I have noticed a disturbing tendency. You may need to see a therapist re: "pegging" small kids in dodgeball. :)