02 September 2010


What would I give if I could live out of these waters?
What would I pay to spend a day warm on the sand?
Betcha on land they understand, bet they don't reprimand their daughters
Bright young women, sick of swimming, ready to stand. . .
-The Little Mermaid

Milan has a bit of a reputation within our company for being a shithole, to put it gently, for several reasons. Firstly, the children at Milan camps tend to be a little more difficult than children in other regions. Next, very few of the camps are actually in nice, fun areas of the city; they’re usually on the outskirts or in bad neighborhoods. Also, there’s not really that much to see in Milan. You’ve got the Duomo, the Gallery, the Scala, and that’s about it- and all of those things are within about five minutes of each other by foot. Lastly, the company has a flat in the Milan area for us to use when we need it, and it is legendary for its disgustingness.

However, all of these things went out of my head when I heard we’d all be going to Milan because we’d be near a Metro stop. Awesome, right? The heart of Milan would be easily accessible to us for two weeks by train. So we hopped on our Frecciabianca train to Milano, excited for our two week adventure in one of Italy’s most famous cities.

I first became worried when I stepped into the sunlight outside of Abbiategrasso Metro Station and saw the group of people there to greet us. There were a collection of women who could most kindly be described as Italian cousins of Susan Boyle, and behind them stood a street lined with dingy apartment buildings. The whole thing seemed very dreary, very dumpy, very out of fashion. Add to that the orange Scooby Doo van Melissa and I were loaded into (the interior of which was covered in dog hair) and I think you can start to sympathise.

I don't want to bring you down with all the depressing details of this place, so I'll make it brief. We're in a tiny flat in what seem to be the projects, with no sibling even attending English camp, with a host mom who seems to only be hosting us for the money and can't cook, with an aggressive dog who won't stop barking once he's seen us, sleeping in the host parents' bed, while they sleep on air mattresses in their office room. It's just awkward. Melissa and I went out with some of her friends here in Milan (she studied abroad in Bologna) to escape the awkwardness, and we both hung out with our own friends on Sunday. It was nice. After that, we all reconvened for a camp dinner with our directors.

I got my first look at my kids on Monday morning. They're all yellow-bookers, so about 6 or 7, and some of them are just adorable. Some of them aren't. Some of them spend a bit too much time with their fingers in their noses for my liking. Anyway, Monday morning was also the day when I first realized that our host mom was going to try and starve us steadily throughout the week. That first day, she gave me a panino made of mozzarella cheese between two pieces of bread, plus a nectarine, plus a plum. Basta. For the entire day. Let me remind you, we have two breaks plus lunch during our 9 hour camp days. And we are required to constantly be jumping around, making fools of ourselves and expending valuable energy. Day two, I was given the same sandwich, plus a nectarine. No plum. It's been that way ever since, except yesterday Melissa decided we should ask to bring breakfast yogurt with us to school so that hopefully our host mum would realize we are hungry and give us more to eat. Plan failed; now she just thinks we really like yogurt.

Anyway, tomorrow's the final show, and my kids are so not ready. No costumes, no backdrop, nothing. Hopefully they at least know their lines. . . And then we'll be here another week, just with some new kids. And that should be the end of my tutoring work here in Italy for the summer!

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