31 August 2010

the nice times

So I found myself once again back in Nice, as I had been about 53 weeks prior. I found my way to Hostel Smith- no map required- and when I arrived, I discovered that they have expanded a bit. They've converted an upstairs flat in the building into another room of beds, and some private rooms as well. It was a little bit hectic, but I got my bed (right where Robert the German had slept last year) and decided to head out to H&M. It had been ages, and I wanted to take advantage of the end of the summer sales that usually happen around this time.

Well, much to my surprise, I discovered that the sales had finished, and H&M had already brought in their fall collection. And guess what? I didn't like it very much. For the first time in my life, I walked out of an H&M with nothing more than I'd come in with. I'd never felt so uninspired.

To improve my mood, I crossed the street and grabbed a kebab. The owner gave me a creepy grin and definitely flirted with me a little bit before finally handing over my lunch. "All the boys on the street," he managed in broken English, "watch you." Oh, great. Thank you very much, sir.

I dragged myself back to Hostel Smith, thoroughly disillusioned. There was nowhere left to go but the beach. I found a couple of Brazilians in the beds across from me, and we made a little awkward conversation, but basically it was like, "You're going to the beach, I'm going to the beach, why don't we all go to the beach together?" So we did.

Their names were Luiz and Pedro, and they're studying law for one year in Munich. And they were, you know, Brazilian and handsome, so they made perfect beach accessories. We laid out and took turns swimming out to the buoys and talked about our homelands and our hopes and dreams. They said they were going on a pub crawl that night and told me I should come along. Then they went off to grab something they'd left at their previous hostel, and I fell asleep on the beach.

That night, I had my favourite meal in Nice: a little Pili pizza. This is the place with the 6 euro pizzas, except now it's 6.50, but it's still totally worth it. I got my usual (Provencale) and took it back to the hostel to eat.

I hadn't intended to, but I ended up having no better plans than the pub crawl, so I met the boys at the assigned meeting place. It ended up being myself, the Brazilians, and the two guides (one was Moroccan and the other was a Ukrainian male model). We definitely had fun that night. They were all super nice, and we ended up having heart-to-heart talks down on the beach at 2 in the morning.

The next day I went back to the beach and laid out long enough to get pretty red. That night, I decided I desperately needed some Mexican food, so I went down to the market and bought everything I needed to make guacamole and fajitas (minus the actual spices and tortillas and stuff). Everyone in the hostel was jealous of my improvised guac, and rightfully so. It was exceptional.

That night, it was Wayne's with a cute Canadian couple. Ryan was sweet and bought us drinks, and Sarah acted as my (largely ineffective) wingwoman when I wanted to talk to the fit drummer from the band. She also managed to convince a creepy Italian to creep on me, saying, "But I thought you said you liked him!" Definitely not. I'm out of Italy, I want to be as far from Italians as possible, thank you very much. Then I broke my sandal jumping off of a table.

Item A Thursday morning was to get new sandals. H&M somehow managed to solve that, despite their fall collection rife with can-can inspired pieces. Gag me with a spoon. Then I grabbed another kebab from creepy Pierre and spent the rest of the afternoon taking advantage of the hostel's wifi.

Thursday night called for more improvised Mexican food, some partying on the beach, some Wayne's, and more beach times. I didn't get nearly enough sleep, which meant I was twice as eager to go back to bed the next morning when I looked out the window and saw rain drizzling down. But I had to get to the train station, so I marched 20 minutes in the pouring rain all alone (well, not really, because some Frenchman came up to me and started talking to me, claiming he wanted practice with his English. Right). Then it was trains, trains, trains all the way back to Sanremo, where I made a guest appearance at orientation to gather my group of baby tutors and get them prepped for our first week of work together. It would be me, Tom, Melissa, and Kat together in Valli del Pasubio the next week, teaching red through green book. After that meeting, the returners headed back up the mountain for one last night of house cleaning, mass meals, guitarring, improvised drumming, and just general enjoyment of each other's company until the wee hours of the morning. As a result, we were all passed out on the bus and train the next day. Good times.


more catching up

After Kyle flew out on Friday morning, I returned to Rome via the da Vinci Express Train, which goes between Fiumicino Airport and Roma Termini Station in about 30 minutes. Once at the airport, I experienced a startling realization: I had nowhere to sleep that night. I'd been so busy showing Italy to Kyle, and I hadn't had any wifi for a couple of days, and I'd made zero plans.

I ran to McDonald's and bought a fruit and yogurt cup so I could use their wifi, but my battery ran out within 45 minutes, and I still had no plans. My next great idea was to wander over to the ticket machines and just play with some different itineraries. I thought of people I could call to stay with, but only one place seemed to make any sense: Baiardo.

It hurt my pride a little bit to have to retreat there, but I knew it would put me in great position to go to Nice the following Tuesday (which I'd already reserved), and it was really beautiful and relaxing, so. . . why not? The biggest problem was that, as it was 10am, it was too late for me to leave and hope to arrive in Sanremo with time to catch the last bus up the mountain, so I'd have to wait until Saturday. This gave me a couple more options: find a place to stay the night in Rome and take an early train out, or take a night train and get into Sanremo the next morning. I briefly did the math in my head and determined that it would be more economical to sleep in a bed on a train than in a cheap bed and then take a train the next day. With the price information up on the screen in front of me, I called one of my bosses and asked him if there would be a bed for me up in Baiardo. He said yes, and that they were already expecting me. Even though I knew that this only indicated that he was confused about when I'd get there, it felt like someone was waiting for me at home, and that was nice. I bought the tickets, and then set about waiting the 14 hours until I would be able to utilize them.

How does one set about entertaining oneself in one of the largest train stations in Italy for the better half of a day? It's a trick question, actually, because it's impossible. I sat in front of a cafe for a couple of hours drawing, then I did a few laps around the mall in the basement of the station (please keep in mind that I was dragging my suitcase with me and carrying my backpack on my back), then I set up in a different cafe for about 4 hours. Around this time I started to fall asleep, so I began chugging soda, and then I did some more laps. By the time 9 pm rolled around, I had visited almost every store in that mall, sampled chocolate, eaten Pringles and sandwiches, spent about an hour in the bathrooms just because they were that clean and they gave me a place to do my hair and wash my face, sketched another few frames of SuperGuards, traversed the three levels of the train station countless times- I mean, clearly it was a highly productive day for me. But at this point, I was fading. I ran to the grocery store to pick up a salad and a mozzarella ball to put in it, and then found a table up top where I could enjoy my dinner.

Opening the mozzarella proved to be more difficult than I'd expected, because they package it in a plastic bag with water so that it will retain its freshness. Unfortunately, I had nowhere to drain it, so I could only try to open it without making a mess, and then hope to lean it against something. Part one of this plan failed, however, when a waiter walked by my table at the wrong moment and subsequently had his arm doused in cheesy water.

I spent another hour up on the top level before finally going down to the middle to wait for my train. I picked a spot next to a group of girls travelling together so that I would look like I was with them, instead of alone. I proceeded to paint my nails, change the laces in my shoes (I bought bright new laces at the Foot Locker in the train station mall because my black softball trainers are on their way out and needed a bit of sprucing up), and listen to my mp3 playa for an hour and a half before boarding.

So I don't know if I mentioned how awful my last night train experience was (I was trying to sleep sitting up, in a compartment stuffed with five other people), but this was the complete opposite. I don't know if I've ever slept so deep as I did in that tiny bed, with one bed above me and another below me, in a dark compartment, rattling along through Italy. I was actually really sad to wake up and have to switch trains in Genoa, because my Intercity train to Sanremo was not nearly so restful. I did get to see a storm over the ocean at 6 in the morning, which was absolutely beautiful, but a little more sleep would have been nice.

Before I knew it, I was back in Sanremo, and it was drizzling there as well. I holed up in a cafe until the next bus left, and then I called Jimmy up in Baiardo to give him a heads up that I'd be arriving. He was kind enough to meet me at the bus stop and carry my suitcase all the way up to Casa Cinque at the top of the town, and help me get everything sorted as far as sheets and towels and whatnot. He also informed me that communal dinners were no longer offered, due to the low number of tutors and it being the end of the season. That would have been nice to know when I was near a grocery store.

I spent a lot of that day in bed, as did the girl in the bed next to mine (she was looking a bit rough after what had apparently been a long night). When the evening rolled around, I put together some mashed potatoes (Jimmy had been good enough to give me the last of the potatoes from the storeroom) and went down to the town center with some of the girls. There were some fun people in Baiardo, and we had a good time chilling with the townspeople at the local bar.

The next day was also pretty uneventful. I got some food together to make dinner later, and just chilled out, as far as I remember. A few of us set up shop down at one of the bars and just talked about girl stuff and sang Motown songs at the top of our lungs (as soon as the locals' concert had finished, of course). That night, I made pasta with pesto, some potatoes and onions, and caprese, and everyone who didn't have their own food came over. It ended up being a pretty big group. My favourite thing about cooking for big groups is that it automatically excuses you from doing dishes.

Afterwards, we went down to the town center, where they'd set up a stage as part of the local Ferragosto celebration. Ferragosto is a little similar to the whole White Night thing in that it celebrates the end of the summer, but that's about all I know about it. There was a band playing though, and couples dancing in a little dance area, and then all around there were tables set up, and they'd gotten together a little snack bar as well. It was fun, but surprisingly cold.

The next day, I went into town with a few of the other tutors. Some people had to go work orientation, others had to attend orientation, so there was quite a bit of shuffling going on. I got lunch in town with a few really cool people and then hung out in the office the rest of the day to take advantage of their wifi. Then I took the 5:40 back up the mountain to start prepping group dinner.

It was spaghetti and tomato sauce that night, with a mangled tortilla de patatas (everyone said it was good even though I didn't have a tortilla turner to do it properly), some salad, and more caprese. Afterwards, we went down to the Ferragosto festival once more, where it was the Night Dedicated to the Children (basically an excuse for some truly awful juvenile karaoke). We had a few drinks and then decided that we should 'improve' things by doing a song or two ourselves. I did proceed to sing backup for a lad from Liverpool named Dave on the song 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' (don't hate, they only had like 5 songs in English so our options were a little limited). While onstage, I found a basket full of hats which all said BAJARDO on them (still not even sure how to properly spell the name of the town because I see it written with both an i and a j), and I figured I had earned one, so I just sort of wore it off the stage. I still have it, and I intend to cherish it for the rest of my life.

Post-karaoke, we returned to Casa Cinque, and a few of us did some stargazing on our balcony before it was finally bedtime.

The next morning, I departed on the 7:40 bus so that I could catch an early train to Nice. . . but that's another story for another day. Hopefully tomorrow.

kyle week, part four

That night, Praiano was having its local White Night festival. I know I explained this about two years ago when I was in Madrid and got to experience their White Night, but you probably don't remember that, so this is what the White Night is all about: as you may or may not know, way up north, like say Sweden or Iceland, it pretty much doesn't get dark during the summer. Not even at night. They can stay up and party all they want, and obviously the southern nations get jealous. So they have one night or so a year, usually in late summer, where they stay up super late (if not all night) and party, so they can feel better about it.

Anyway, we wandered up to the center of Praiano (even if I try to explain the setup of this town, I don't think you'll get it, but just believe me when I say it was very steep and you couldn't go directly up except by narrow stairways) to check out the scene, and then decided to go by a pizzeria to get dinner before the music started. I think I had Kyle try American pizza, which would be tomato sauce, mozzarella, french fries, and wurstel or speck or something (those are both meats, btw). I also ordered every antipasto, or appetizer, that they had for him- a few arancini, some croquettes, basically one of each of the local specialties. The boy behind the counter recommended Nastro Azzurro to drink, so we had a bottle of that as well. My pizza was probably vegetarian or something.

After dinner, we made the trek back up to the town center. There we found the townspeople finishing up their buffet style dinner. Eager for Kyle to try some more foods he could only taste in Italy, I bought a ticket, and loaded him up a plate with beans and clams, potatoes and squid, stuffed tomatoes, and local desserts. Turns out Kyle hates seafood, but I made him taste everything anyway. Turns out he still hates seafood. I had the tomatoes though, and they were delicious.

Later, a band came on, featuring a whole lot of drummers playing a whole lot of different drums. Around eleven or so we left, because it had been a long day, and we needed to be packed and ready to go the next morning. Apparently the band walked up and down the streets of the town that night, banging their drums, but I was out cold, completely exhausted.

The next morning, we were out of there by 10 or so to try and catch the bus nice and early. It was about a half hour wait, but eventually we arrived in Sorrento once more, and there we stopped for pizza. Kyle was feeling rather tame and only got prosciutto on his (along with mozzarella and tomato sauce), but I ordered the mimosa, which at that pizzzeria consisted of sauce, cheese, arugula, and corn. I love corn here for some reason. Then I ran over to grab some gelato at the Sweet Sorrento gelateria (it's on the piazza just down from the train station and I highly recommend it if you're ever in Sorrento). I asked the guy how many flavours he could put in one cup and he was like, "Well maybe I could give you about four?" and I was like, "How about five?" and he goes "CINQUE GUSTI?!" like it was the most mind-blowing thing he'd ever heard in his life. Fortunately, he acquiesced, and I filled the cup with blueberry muffin, strawberry, hazelnut, banana, and another flavour which I can't remember. The guy had to weigh it by the kilogram to determine how to charge me, and to add insult to injury, he only gave me one spoon. I had to point out that I was not the only one who would be enjoying this gelato, and ask for another spoon.

Long story short, strawberry is now Kyle's favourite gelato flavour, we caught our train back to Napoli, and then we caught our next train (the fabulous Frecciarossa!) back to Roma. Then we hailed a cab (only 6 euro, and so much more convenient than walking) and found our next hostel. I proceeded to pass out for a few hours, and then we went out for kebabs and another gelato, and just wandered around the neighborhood. We were nice and close to a big park, and also Santa Maria Maggiore, which is a beautiful and famous church. We saw a little girl talk on a cell phone for longer than I've ever seen a little girl talk on a cell phone, and basically we were trying to imagine what the conversation was like. That's how we entertain ourselves, I guess, by doing weird things like that.

The next day was a little something I like to call Vatican Day. We had some grand plans in mind, like going to this place, or seeing that, but we got started about an hour after we intended to, and decided to shorten things up by actually paying for one of those tours of the Vatican (something I swore I'd never do). It was fairly informative, but we just wanted to kill the guide the whole time, and I think that her incessant babbling cancelled out whatever time we saved by not having to wait in line. Basically, by the time we got out of the Vatican, it was three o'clock, roughly the time I'd said we'd go back to the hostel to pick up our luggage, but we were so hungry we just didn't care.

Kyle wanted to go to the Hard Rock Cafe. I said okay, but I thought it would be such a touristy thing to do. And maybe it was. But when I was inhaling nachos and mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese for the first time in two months, I really didn't care. It was actually pretty incredible, and my mouth is watering right now just thinking about those nachos. So good.

Then it was back to the hostel to pick up our bags, and onto the train station to head out to the airport to our final hostel. This one was right off the beach, so we got to spend that final evening relaxing and taking jumping pictures in the sunset. Ideal.

The next morning, Kyle flew away from me and back to America, and I think that's basically the end of Kyle Week!

Next up: Baiardo/Nice week! Plus maybe some pics. . .

30 August 2010

kyle week, part three

So next, we hopped on a boat to go to this Emerald Grotto. It was only four of us on this boat plus the driver, who looked like he couldn't care less about the whole thing. Nonetheless, the ride to the Grotto was incredible. We were surrounded by water of the most brilliant blue color, and all along the coast were these amazing houses and hotels, clinging precariously to the cliffs. We kept pointing at them and joking, "I bet that one has working toilets," "I bet they don't have an ant infestation at that place." (oh did I forget to tell you about the ants? hahahaha another story for another day I suppose, but rest assured they were out of control. Like an entire dresser was covered in ants. You don't even know.)

We got to go under this tall, tall bridge between two cliffs, but we had to be careful because there were people fishing from the top. There were also a few secluded beaches along the way (not unlike the one in our town, which was probably less than a hundred meters long and flanked on each side by sheer cliffs- so incredible) and little ports. After about 15 or 20 minutes, we arrived at a dock, and were lead off towards a big rock. Like a really big rock. There was a guy out front selling tickets in and then before we knew it, we were inside the cave and on a tiny tour boat, rowing circles around the dark waters. All around us were stalactites, dripping down from the ceiling like spaghetti (as our tour guide said). He gave a cute little tour, adding some bits in English to try and appeal to us, although I was translating for Kyle. He had a little trick that he did with the oar, telling us he would show us a miracle, then rippling the water in a certain way so that it became really choppy and then cleared up (saying, "I part the waters like Moses!"), so that we could then see a nativity scene that someone had placed under the water. All together, it sounded a lttle something like this: "Do you want to see a miracle? Yes? Okay here we go. . . Ah, aha, I shall part the waters like Moses, like Moses I say, wait for it, wait for it. . . and look! Joseph, the Virgin Mary, and the Baby Jesus! Is a miracle! IS A MIRACLE U.S.!"

So that was it for the tour pretty much. He took us back to the starting point and asked that we 'don't forget the boatman!' The guy behind us said in Italian, "It's because Americans have lots of money," so I turned around and said, "That's not even true," and he was surprised, as I'd hoped he would be.

After that, we took the boat back to Praiano and got lunch, and then spent the rest of the day on the beach.

28 August 2010

kyle week, part two

So after Kyle had his first gelato experience, we hopped on a SITA bus and headed towards our destination. At this point, I was thoroughly exhausted, and trusted that our bus driver, who knew where we would going, would announce our stop, as he did everyone else's. Well, I trusted wrongly. I closed my eyes for two seconds, and when I looked up, we were already past the main stop in Praiano, where the hostel was. Somehow I got him to stop, and we found ourselves on this road that runs along the edge of the cliffs overlooking the ocean (if you remember last year, Josephine, Kelsey, Kristen and I took the same bus during our week off in Naples). We had a moment where we just stood there and looked up at the town above us, and then I finally had the sense to ask someone how to get to Via Umberto I. Turns out, the only way to get there was to take a long, steep, narrow staircase straight up. With our suitcases in tow.

Thankfully, Kyle was a gentleman and carried both our suitcases. I was still exhausted though, so I can't even imagine how he felt afterwards. We followed the narrow pathway to another staircase, and I asked an old man nearby which direction it was to our street. He said he would take us, but started talking to a banana tree halfway there, so we just sort of ran off. Finally we arrived at the street, after about 15 minutes of walking, but then it kept winding upwards, so it was probably another 10 or 15 minutes until we found our hotel.

Once there, we found a delightful scene. The place appeared to be abandoned, with doors and gates unlocked. I went inside, asked if there was anyone around, went around to the back balcony, came back inside, went up the stairs and bumped into the maid. I told her we had a reservation, and after a few moments of confusion, she found a room for us (it couldn't have been difficult, as the entire place looked empty). Then she took our passports and disappeared.

The room in itself was a revelation. I've spent a lot of time in Europe, and I generally think that I know a thing or two about how they do things in this continent, but I have got to tell you that I could not find the shower in that bathroom to save my life. It wasn't until I looked up and saw the shower head coming out of the wall that I realized that this was a type of shower I'd never encountered before. There was a drain in the floor for the water to leave by, but no actual recess. We also found a little surprise in the toilet which we wouldn't flush, even when we tried. At least we had the fantastic view of the coast to appease us.

After a long nap, I gave in and used the shower, being careful to keep water away from the door. Then we headed down to the beach, to a restaurant just a few meters from the water, to have dinner and check out the beach. Kyle tried pasta alla sorrentina or something for the first time, and also some penne. I also ordered him a Moretti so he could try one of Italy's most famous beers. Afterwards, we hit up a market on the way back to the hostel and I bought Kyle his first peach not out of a can.

The next day, we headed back to the beach. I'd heard a lot about the Emerald Grotto, a cave which was originally only reachable by swimming underwater, so when I saw a stand for a boat which would take us there, I signed us up. Before the boat left, we took advantage of the beautiful beach and I used my 'waterproof' camera quite a bit (it's working for now).

I'm falling asleep but I promise to write more tomorrow! I'm trying to catch up from 5 or 6 weeks of no wi-fi, sorry!

18 August 2010

catch up part 3: kyle week part 1

All right, I promised you Kyle Week, and now you're going to get Kyle Week.

I took a night train to Rome on the Saturday after camp ended. A reserved seat in second class cost a little less than 40 euros, and a private bed cost 70, so I think you can guess what I went with. Now I can safely tell you, as you probably already know, that there are few experiences more miserable than trying to sleep upright, sitting at a ninety degree angle. Painful.

Anyway, I arrived in Rome and hailed a cab to the hostel (I didn't fancy walking even 15 minutes with my suitcase, pack, and purse). I guess when I told my cabbie to go to Cesare Balbo, he got mixed up and started driving towards Cesare Lollo or something instead, so after about 5 minutes he goes, "Oh miss I'm sorry, I was confused, but it's okay, I'll restart the meter, I'm so sorry, turning off meter now. . ." and I was going to be like, "Oh no, it's fine, I know I would get so lost if I had to drive through Rome. . . but then again, it isn't MY JOB." I didn't say that though.

Post-check in, I walked back to the train station and caught a train out to the airport (14 euro a ticket!) and found KYLE!!! Can you imagine someone being crazy enough to spend the money to fly out to Europe for only 5 days?! I know. BUT I am so glad he did. We took the train back into the city and got settled. He showed me all the things he'd brought from home and we exchanged stories and got caught up and all of that. And then. . . we went to the Colosseum.

For being in Europe for the first time, Kyle acted remarkably unfazed. I gave him a grand tour based on the hilarious things Josephine and Liam had said last year when we were there, and we took so many cheesy pictures. We even took pics with a guy dressed up as a gladiator (set us back 5 euros but I think it was worth it). Then we got dinner and I had him try real Italian pizza and a real calzone. Also caprese salad. Delish.

The next day, we got up early to pack so that we could head to the AMALFI COAST. We had reservations on a Frecciarossa (red arrow) train to Napoli, and then we had to get on the Circumvesuviana (definitely a downgrade from the Frecciarossa, which is air-conditioned, has electrical outlets so we could watch movies, and was, in this case, impeccably clean). At the end of that line, in Sorrento, we took a bus to Praiano. We had enough time between the train and the bus, however, to sample some gelato (Kyle's first!). I think we tried strawberry cheesecake, blueberry, vanilla, and something else. Anyway, Kyle loved it, but that's no surprise.

Okay, I'm taking up too much room in my hostel's kitchen, so I should leave this for now. But rest assured, I will tell you the rest of the adventure very, very soon.

catch up part 2

Adventures of The Gum

Adventures of Edward Polenta-Hands
Adventures of Little Onion
The Hedgehog Assassin

12 August 2010

let's play a game called catch up

I don't even know where to begin. It's been more than a month since I've had reliable internet, and I don't know when I will have a host fam with wifi again. For the moment, I'm in Sanremo, at company headquarters, using their internet, and tonight I'll be heading back up to Baiardo. But tomorrow morning I'll take the train to Nice, to stay in the same hostel I stayed at a week ago last year, and I know I'll have wifi there. For now, though, let me start to tell the tale of my adventures so my family will stop panicking.

Three weeks ago, I found myself in Quarto d'Altino, 20 minutes from Venice. I was staying with a host fam along with two other tutors, Roisin (Roe-sheen) and Flor, and we were all in the same room, sharing a single bathroom. The host fam's names were Roberto, Roberta, Ester, Ugo, and Dario. In case you didn't catch that, my host parents were named ROBERTO AND ROBERTA. Awkward.

They were obsessed with Scouts- in fact, that's how they met. There were birdhouses and all manner of crafty items about the house which they'd made. Everything was pleasant at first, but gradually the father proved himself to be rather pushy, the wife developed into a sort of grumbling, glaring, food-poisoning crazy lady, the 16 year old daughter threw fits and made furious noises I've never heard before in my life, and the older son was just really, really obnoxious. The youngest brother was cool, though.

My students were some of the funniest I've ever had, but they could not focus to save their lives. I really did have so much trouble with them. I would show them pictures from my life to try to get their attention, and they just went off on tangents. When they saw a picture of Liam from last summer, all they boys oohed and aahed and said, "Eez a leetle leetle wolfman!" and then they saw a statue of those penguins on the Plaza and asked me if it were made of melted cheese. Every time they saw a man with any facial hair, "LEETLE LEETLE LEETLE WOOLFMAN!" and when I showed them a picture of my car after the wheel fell, they said in Italian, "Ah, because you ate too much melted cheese." They just went on for hours about wolfmen and formaggio fuso. Hilarious, but incredibly frustrating.

So on Friday night, several of the tutors went out to Treviso for the night. We weren't sure how long we'd be but we had taxi info and we knew our host fams wouldn't pick us up after 1. Basically we planned to just walk around after bars closed and then take a cab back in the morning. It was myself, Jason from Houston, the Feizhen Invasion and Kiwi Jeremy (and if you've followed this blog since my time in Madrid, you'll know just how partial I am to men of the Kiwi persuasion). At around 2:30, Jeremy got a text from his host dad. "Where are you?" Then a bit later, "I'm at the train station to pick you up." So we really had no choice but to move towards the train station and let him drive us back to Quarto d'Altino.

I texted my host dad, but no response. Jeremy asked if we could stay over, but his own host dad was very firm in saying no. When I was dropped off at 3:30, I had no key into the house, and didn't want to wake them up by ringing the bell. I pulled out a hairpin and tried every door, but Italians are absolutely fanatical about home security, so besides having a gate around the entire house (which I'd had to climb), their doors didn't have knobs on the outside, and they were barred on the inside. The windows were barred as well, and they have those impossible blinds which block out all sunlight. So basically I couldn't get in. And I slept in a lawn chair, with my head on the picnic table, until host mum woke up and opened all the windows at 6:30 am. She then shuffled me inside with a disapproving glare across her face. You'd think I'd stumbled onto her lawn drunk and woken all the neighbors, then passed out on the driveway for all to see. Certainly not the case. I then slept until 2, because 3 hours of sleep sitting upright with your head on a wooden table while an alarm is screeching down the street and things are rustling in the bushes around you while it's 60 degrees simply isn't satisfactory. Apparently host dad was upset that I didn't wake up for the boat trip he had planned all week (yet somehow neglected to tell me about). That night at dinner, he had a good laugh about how he hadn't gotten my text because he leaves his phone downstairs on the kitchen counter at night. I did not find it amusing and was beginning to get a little sick of his antics.

To get away, I day-tripped to Venice both days of the weekend. I spent some time in my favey places, including the Ghetto and the Accademia Gallery. It was lovely, and I bought a few gifts.

But camp again on Monday was inevitable. My class was a bit smaller thankfully, but still just as unfocused. The week was rife with jokes about formaggio fuso, wolfmen, little onions, and- oh, here's the best part. I had them make comic strips to work with action verbs. The whole activity failed miserably from an education perspective but was a massive success in terms of hilarity. We had the Adventures of Gum (a gum gets stuck on a tram, then travels the world, but the last scene ends abruptly with the line 'But you dead.'), Adventures of the Shark (scene 1: a little boy is playing with a ball in the ocean, saying 'Catch, Dad!' scene 2: a shark can be seen swimming up underneath him; scene 3: the child is in pieces, with x's for eyes, in the shark's mouth, with the caption 'DEAD CHILD'), The Hedgehog Assassin, The Adventures of Little Onion and Big Onion, and my personal favourite, the Adventures of Edward Polenta-Hands. It shows Edward battling an evil robot with a butter gun.

On Wednesday night, host dad could tell how heartbroken I was about missing that boat ride over the weekend and managed to arrange another for us. I don't want to beat around the bush or build suspense or any of that so I'll just come out and say it- I rowed around the Venice lagoon for 3 hours. I wore my striped tee so that people would mistake me for a sexy gondolier and want to take pictures with me, but we weren't very near the island. Instead, we were out in the marshy, Everglades-y part. It was a bit like CSI Miami.

Basically, host dad was at the back of the boat, because he fancies himself an expert steerer. The entire time he's trying to correct my rowing form, saying, "You must use your whole body." "No no use less body!" "Start with your legs!" "Your feet must turn out!" (that was a problem for me, as I'm really pigeon-toed) "Your arms should be the same distance apart as your shoulders." "No that's too wide!" "You're leaning forward too far!" "If you stand like this your balance will be better!" (well Roberto I wasn't aware that I was having issues with balance) "Stay on the rhythm!" (I would like to point out that the rhythm was being set by his 10 year old son, who would often just stop rowing to scratch his head or point at a jumping fish)

Anyway, we took the boat out at 7pm. The sun starts to go down around 8:30, and by 9 it was quite dark. The son's in the front of the boat, moaning about how he doesn't want to have to sleep on the lagoon, the daughter's in the back because she said her hands hurt and she couldn't row anymore, Flor's been asked to sit down and not row, so me and Roisin are holding down the fort. The host dad's in the back, he can't see a damn thing because it's DARK and our boat lacks a light and plus he's OLD so his night vision isn't quite as KEEN as MINE, and he's like "Liz! Are you okay?" I just keep rowing, facing forward, and with my teeth gritted, I'm like, "YEP." "Liz! Are you angry?" "NOPE." "Okay, only 50 more meters!" and then we could hear him whisper to his daughter, "Right?" He had no idea where we were, and it was pitch black. At one point an oar got stuck in the mud because the water was less than two feet deep- how much would it have sucked if we had gotten grounded there?

Good news is, we didn't. But we did get seriously glared at when we rolled into dinner at 10:30. They had guests waiting and everything. At least the camp director thought it was a hilarious story when I retold it at our big dinner the next night. She and I were cracking up, and then we were picking out people at the restaurant for the other one to date, and talking about people with faces of formaggio fuso and all that good stuff. So funny.

The final show was a bit of a disaster. We had a little onion, Bella, Edward Scissorhands, Jacob Black, a bunch of zombies, Shrek, a pirate, and a Little Little Wolfman Zombie. The kids danced Apache, Soulja Boy, and Thriller. Except they forgot to do some of the dances and they forgot almost all of their lines. Still, a good time was had by all.

On Saturday, Roisin and Jeremy and I went out to the beach. Jeremy and I were briefly trapped on a floating raft thing, surrounded by jellyfish, but we did survive. I arrived home to find that Roberto had gone to the hospital because he had cut his hand on the circular saw while building more BIRDHOUSES, but thankfully he managed to get me to the train station so I could take my night train to Rome.

That's all for now. In the next post: KYLE WEEK.