08 July 2010

just livin' the dream here in casette

Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade
-Funny Girl, 'Don't Rain on My Parade'

What a great week. I've got this fantastic host fam, some of the best students I've ever worked with, and I'm in an insanely beautiful place. Every night, Mara prepares a feast of culinary wonders (similar to the Cave of Wonders in Aladdin, but with food instead of treasure). The first evening, we ate focaccia with different toppings. They were all brushed with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, but one was topped with little bright purple onions, black olives, and stracchino cheese; another had tomatoes and things on it; the last was left naked.

The night of the party up on the mountain, Mara brought a cold pasta dish of big noodles (like manicotti-sized) tossed with ricotta, cooked tomatoes and black olives, with some olive oil mixed in. Great idea for a simple, light dinner party dish. There were also quiche-type things with roasted vegetables inside, and those were pretty incredible.

Last night was one of my favorite of Mara's meals yet. She drizzled olive oil over a platter of sliced vegetables and then put seasonings and bread crumbs on them. Then she broiled them in the oven and served them. It was so good!

I know there have been more amazing meals, I just can't remember them all. There have also been great dessert items, such as the cake Mara made the other day. It was some sort of grainy, white cake with fruits layered on the top. Those fruits tasted like peach and apricot, with some almond bits.

Funniest moment this week probably happened while my kids were working on ideas for the show. One of the boys had suggested Guinness World Records as the theme, but they couldn't all agree on that, so then they had a little meeting so they could come up with something everyone liked. Finally little Giovanni came up to my desk. "Idea for the show," he began. "The grandmother. . . and the grandfather. . . in the Guinness World Records. . . versus. . . the people who lives under the bridge."

At first, I wasn't sure what Giovanni meant. People who lives under the bridge=trolls? Like in the Three Billygoats Gruff? Thankfully, he elaborated. "The people who lives on the street!"

This cracked me up. I mean really cracked me up. I stumbled into the next room, unable to speak because I was laughing so hard, trying to explain the whole thing to Sonia. So funny. My students wanted to do a show based on the Guinness World Records tv programme, with it being a special episode of the elderly vs. the homeless (one of the events would be beer chugging). This evolved into a World Cup final featuring the homeless on one side and the elderly on the other. Finally we ended up with Springfield (of Simpsons fame) represented by a team, and also Bikini Bottoms (the home of Spongebob), and a reporter going around pre-match interviewing fans. The kids wanted me to sing the Star-Spangled Banner for the show but I politely declined.

I've actually been singing all week for these kids- just while they're writing in their books or something, I'll just start into an a capella version of Telephone, or Bad Romance, and then I'll take requests. The first day it was all over the place. The aforementioned songs, plus My Heart Will Go On, Bohemian Rhapsody, Yesterday, Livin' La Vida Loca, Total Eclipse of the Heart, something else wonderful and old which I can't remember at the moment, Paparazzi, Poker Face, and so much more. I probably sing 5-10 songs a day for these kids- today I decided that Muse's Starlight will probably be my new go-to from now on. I can't even remember everything that I sang today- oh, some Piano Man, some Beyond the Sea (it was on my mind since I heard it played in the Piazza San Marco in Venice last night- more on that in a minute), and All These Things That I've Done (surprisingly difficult to sing and remember all the words to without accompaniment). The kids surprised me on Wednesday, our day at the lake, by actually asking me to sing while they worked on the script.

It makes things so much easier with my students if I get them to identify with me some way or another. Last week, I played basketball at lunch with a couple of boys I was having a little bit of trouble with, and we walked away from the game with much more positive feelings towards each other than we'd had before. My kids this week played Soulja Boy's Crank That (or is it Crank Dat?) and I helped them with some of the moves. Then I taught them Chicken Noodle Soup and the Stanky Legg. I definitely had a good rapport with these kids- they were so easy to get along with.

So as I previously mentioned, we spent Wednesday at the local lake. Long ago, all of the valleys in this area were covered in water, but gradually that receded, and now all that remains is the Lago di Fimon. It's shallow and marshy, with lots of lilies and reeds- much like many of the creeks, ponds, and lakes in my home area.

The path to get there was through cornfields, on the side of a paved road, and through more cornfields. We passed quite a bit of opossum roadkill (is it bad that I seemed to be the only tutor able to identify the individual roadkills?) and rocked out at the back of the line with a couple of the kids (Who Are You, I Will Survive, and every Beatles song ever written) before finally arriving at the lake. We found a shady spot and circled up to stretch (I basically went through my college softball warmup), and then broke up into our individual classes. I told the kids we needed a quiet, shaded area right next to the water, and after 15 minutes of walking, we found the most beautiful shady bank, which you could only get to through a little tunnel cut out of dense brush. I really feel quite lucky that we found it. Running up to the water was a little creek, and in the water were the biggest crawdad-like things I've ever seen. The kids called them gamberi.

A couple of the boys tried to catch the gamberi with sticks and bare hands, but I said, "No no no no no no. Step aside- this is how it's done." I showed them how you should put a net or something behind the crawdad, and then do something to scare it from the front, because although they can walk forewards, they can only swim backwards, and that's how they'll try to escape. Within a few minutes we'd caught two. The second was so big that the students named him Killer. . . or was it Kyle? The way they pronounce Kee-lair and Kee-lay is so similar.
We played some water games by the water, and finally walked back to the school at the end of the day.

The next night was supposed to be our night out for dinner with our director. We'd talked about heading into the city of Vicenza, but then she mentioned that she'd even take us to her hometown of Venice (I think she was joking), and one of the other tutors was like "VENICE YES PLEASE." Sooooo we went to Venice for an evening.

We'd all been once before, and I'd been there the most recently. Our director was really impressed that I had such a good memory of places I'd been- for instance, I was able to find the hostel I'd stayed at (Oh Mimo!), and remembered street and place names. It was so convenient to have her leading us like that so that we could see all the best parts of the city without wasting any time. We hit up the big hospital, St Mark's Square and everything in it, some of the bigger churches, the Accademia, and the Hotel Danieli.

I didn't know about this hotel before, but it's the most famous hotel in town because it's got this absolutely amazing interior. We ran inside just for a bit to see the lobby, and I'm so glad we did. There was this man speaking English in there, and I looked at him and thought to myself, 'That looks like a much paler Bill Maher.' And what do you know, I check his twitter later that night, and his last tweet says, "On Grand Canal in Venice. The Venice near where I live in LA really has some catching up to do." So I can tell you all that he is really much paler than he looks on tv, and he doesn't appear to be abrasive at all when his mouth is closed.

We got back from Venice around midnight, and I ended up getting only about 4 hours of sleep that night (I just haven't been sleeping well, what with the heat and bad dreams and my mosquito bites). But I had to be all ready to go on Friday for testing, and wrap-ups, and the final show! All in all, I think everything went off without a hitch, capping off a great week here in Torri di Arcugnano.

Now, it's on to Lurago d'Erba. I've heard some things about this camp that I'm not excited about from a friend who worked there last year, but the area sounds great. It should be an hour or two from my last camp, in the Como region, not too far from the Swiss border. I leave at 11:30 and arrive sometime in the 3 o'clock hour. So now I have to go say my last goodbyes to the Arcugnano area. More later?

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