05 July 2010

me and giulio down by the schoolyard

Well, I'm on my way; I don't know where I'm going
I'm on my way; I'm taking my time, but I don't know where. . .
-Paul Simon

All right, there's loads to catch you up on, and I'm not even sure where to start. I know I left you hanging, wondering if I would survive my week with that last host family, and I'm pleased to inform you that I did indeed live through the week. Probably only because they toned the cheese down a little bit.

We went back to the pool on Wednesday, and there was actually an albino there. That officially made one single person at the pool who was paler than myself (and my students constantly reminded me of this).

The next night, the tutors went out together to get gelato and a few drinks. Although I still didn't know my exact travel info at this point, I knew enough to know that Taylor wouldn't be going with me. This broke my little heart, since we'd been work partners for the past 3 weeks. I would, however, be traveling onwards with my two Canadian coworkers, and the idea terrified me. Spend the fourth of July surrounded by Canadians and Italians?! The idea was nauseatingly unpatriotic.

But we still had a few more things to wrap up in Cassano d'Adda, and these included testing. Testing either induces panic or provokes some really great broken English gems, such as this one from 11 year old Valentina, when asked to describe her family: "My father, he is tall, with the long harm (arm) and leg; he has got the no hairs on his head; he has got the big heyes (eyes), small hear (ear), em, his nose is a potato, and he has got the big hand."

Valentina was really amusing and highly animated. She was the one who freaked out the most pre-show, coming up to me and wailing, "Liz! I HAM E-SCARED!" so I had her doing some deep breathing to try and relax her. Her role was as a singer on X-Factor, and she sang 'Yellow Submarine.' Ooh, I forgot to mention, wheelchair girl decided she didn't want to do the show and wouldn't even be there. . . so I got to be the girl on the sofa changing the channels.

In the end, I think things went down perfectly. There were some mild hitches, like when my kids missed their cues and I just sat there in front of everyone, repeating my lines a couple of times more loudly, and then just sort of banging the fake remote against my leg and being like, "That's weird. . . doesn't seem to be working. . ." before the child would finally stumble onto the stage with a giggle. Anyway, probably my strongest show to date, and also the longest, lasting about 11 minutes.

After that, host fam took me home for the last time and were exceptionally and unexpectedly warm. We took a group pic and printed it out from their printer, the kids had made me a pop-up card, Andrea gave me a little dragon figurine holding a sword, little Simone gave me a Winnie the Pooh keychain thingy, and Francesca kept telling me, in Italian, that she loved me very very very very very very very very much. In the end, as strange a family as they were, I began to sympathise with them. I mean, I think they were trying to give me as much as they had to give- they just didn't have very much. And how tough would it be if you were that mom, and you had to deal with a bad job, your boorish husband and his bad job, your freeloading brothers who always come round for dinner, kids who misbehave at school, life in a tiny apartment in a bad neighborhood, and having to be primarily responsible for the children and preparing food each day?

Anyway, I didn't have to worry about any of that anymore after the next morning. I packed up and was picked up by Valentina and her family, who were hosting another tutor. On the way to Treviglio station, we got to hear all about how Simone, the little brother, was feeling a bit cranky because he had seen his parents preparing a sack lunch for their tutor and, according to their dad, asked, "Is it time to eat? Why is there food? Why can I not eat? Why is this food not for me? Father, I would like I sandwich. I want a peach. When are we eating? Where are we going? Why does Danica get food, and not I? I would like some crisps. When will there be food for me?" They also had their Staffordshire bull terrier in the car, so it was an amusing ride.

Then we finally got on the train to our next camp. It was only a couple of hours, and my host mom had prepared me a couple of cream cheese and mushroom sandwiches (surprisingly good, if a little salty), so it went quickly. Definitely my shortest train travels since I've begun working. Then we got into Vicenza and met our camp director, before heading out to meet our host families here in the Arcugnano comune. I say that because the school is in Torri (di Arcugnano) and I'm in Casette, just outside, but they're both in the same comune (which is like a county I think?).

My host family consists of Marco, a fiscal lawyer, Mara, a philosophy professor, and their two sons, Francesco (14) and Giulio (4). They've got a lovely house out here in the countryside, down in a valley amongst all of these massive hills. Everything in the valley is either houses or fields- they've made the most of every acre of space down here.

On Saturday night, Mara took the boys and me into Vicenza to just get to know the city. At first, Giulio was so shy- every time I turned around in my seat to look at him, he would stop talking and hide his face. And he talks a lot. On the ride there, it was, "Momma. . . Momma. . . Momma. . . Momma. . . Momma. . . where are we going? (Vicenza, Giulio.) When can we get out of the car? (When we get there.) Momma. . . Momma. . . why aren't we walking? (Because it's too far.) Momma. . . where will we park? (In the parking lot.) Black car! (In English?) Yellow car! (English, Giulio!) But Momma, I don't speak English. Why is there an English girl in our car?" and on and on and on.

He got much less shy the next night, at a family friend's birthday party up in the mountains. We ended up attacking each other with a piece of bread partially eaten to look like a Pacman mouth, and I had to put my hands behind my back after he ate them, and so on and so on. Tonight he actually pulled up a chair next to his on the porch, next to his toys, and said that no one else could sit there, because it was for me.

Celebrating the Fourth yesterday was a bit weird. There's an American army base here in Vicenza, but they didn't open up yesterday until after we'd left for this party of the mountain, and after said party, it was lightning. I think it ended up being a really good Fourth, though, because we were out in the country, grilling outside, eating chips and other sides, having pie for dessert, and watching the beautiful lights in the sky- is there any more traditional way to celebrate Independence Day? (Besides actually being in America, of course.)

We went for a bike ride last night around the area, the same path that I ran the morning before. Giulio was riding with his dad, I was on Francesco's bike, and Francesco graciously took the backup bike. We went through Fimon, which is an absolutely minuscule town, and then on through the Valley of the Windmills (though as far as I can tell there is not a single windmill), and returned by a little country road. It was so amazing to be flying under low branches on this gravel road, and having the pipistrelli, or bats, swirling all around our heads.

I really like it here. I hope to post some pics soon. "What's that you say? Your camera is fixed?" No, it's just erratic. The screen's cleared up, but sometimes it doesn't turn on correctly, or the usb cable doesn't work- it's just confusing. New cam soon hopefully!

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