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.