01 September 2010

Valli del Pasubio

Ah, Valli del Pasubio. A tiny village in a valley amongst the Lower Dolomites, about an hour or so from Vicenza. We arrived late Saturday afternoon, and met our families at the train station. I was set up with the Trentin family, and they carried my bags to their H2 to drive me home.

When they parked in their garage, I saw that they also had a white Maserati at their disposal. They led me into the house, which was a cavernous, refurbished table factory with rows of windows and high ceilings. But I wasn't actually staying in the house, they told me. There was an entire other little house just for me, and it was on the floor above an indoor swimming pool. Does this sound like a dream? Because it really happened.
We had a little get-together Saturday night, to meet the families and hang out, and that was when we got to really see our new director, Laura, in action. She was a force to be reckoned with, a veritable sandstorm (cue techno music) in any social gathering. The next morning, at our pre-camp meeting, she was just spouting ideas and plans. Very positive, and extremely energetic.

I agreed to work with the oldest group, 13 and 14 year olds. I like to work with extremes because I feel that the group in the middle is where you actually have to teach a lot of sentence structure and the really difficult stuff. With little kids, it's just basic vocab and really simple conversation, and with older kids, you're building on the foundation that was set by the teachers that worked with the kids when they were somewhere in the middle. I guess I'm just lazy like that.

After the meeting, we went through Valli for their Sunday market, and ended up eating at a nice little restaurant somewhere in the mountains. Their specialty was gnocchi, and I had some with a classic butter and sage sauce. I found it a little rich, with the gnocchi too doughy for my taste. Then Alessandro (the 3 year old son) threw a fit and we went home, and Lisa (the 14 year old daughter) and I got ready to go to the pool.

I was terribly exhausted at this point, but I knew Tom was going to the pool and I didn't want him to be alone. Once we got to the pool, however, I knew I should have just stayed home. It was actually three or four pools, with hundreds of chairs and umbrellas around the water. We couldn't find a spot anywhere and had to settle for sunning ourselves next to the baby pool. Lisa and her friend Roberta went swimming for a bit, but I was a little nauseous and just wanted to sleep.

Somehow, though, the prospect of sexy lifeguards and cold water on such a disgustingly hot day persuaded me to get off my towel and into the pool. I showed the girls my waterproof camera and they were pretty much blown away. We took some pics, swam around, then made our way to the lazy river (love it!) and finally took a few turns down the water slide. I managed to get a wedgie every single time, but used it as an opportunity to explain that bit of American slang to the girls.

Host dad picked us up in the white Hummer and asked for our pizza orders. Perfect, I said to myself. This family has money. . . it costs money to get extra toppings on pizza. . . money which they have in spades. . . therefore I can get whatever I want on my pizza and not feel guilty!!! Long story short, my pizza was covered in grilled eggplant, zucchini, and peppers, mushrooms, olives, tomatoes, and corn. I had considered asking for ricotta on it but thought that would just be excessive. Roberta called it my fantasy pizza.

I was feeling pretty worn out by this time, so I went to bed early after some brief time on the facey b. It was nice to have a king sized bed all to myself, in a guesthouse all to myself, and be able to play a movie as I fell asleep.

I woke up far too early, at 6:45, because I had to be at breakfast by 7:30. However, I pressed snooze perhaps a few too many times because all of a sudden, I looked up and it was 7:28. Somehow I got ready in 10 minutes and was at breakfast just a few minutes late.

That magical Monday morning I had the great pleasure of being driven to school in the white Ferrari (no, the host dad hadn't been joking). It was incredible. Maybe Papa Trentin drove a little fast, maybe it did mess up my hair a little because the top was down, but it was still an amazing experience.

This is the point where I should probably tell you how the first day of camp went, but I don't really remember much of it. At this point, I was feeling a bit achy and could tell I was coming down with something (likely the result of too many late nights in the previous week). I can tell you, though, that my class were generally very bright, with 9 girls and 2 boys, most of whom already knew the simple past tense and could write fairly complex essays in English.

What else happened that week. . . well, I was driven to school each day in either the Hummer, Maserati, and Ferrari. The Maserati and H2 started to feel like downgrades, actually, after a few rides in that Ferrari. What is it that Ferris Bueller says about Cameron's dad's Ferrari in 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off'? I think it's something like, "If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. They are so choice." But I could be wrong about that line.

I got progressively sicker throughout the week. What began as extreme exhaustion on Sunday turned into a sore throat on Tuesday, lots of coughing and sneezing by Thursday, and super sinus congestion on Friday (just in time for the final show!). I wanted nothing more than to sleep all the time, but my host family always wanted to take me out for ice cream after dinner, or watch a movie in English, or whatever. That was sweet of them, don't get me wrong, but I don't think they had any clue how awful I was feeling.

Ah yes, the final show. I basically had the kids write it themselves, so it turned into English Music Store. One girl walked in, asked for a cd, and the saleslady was like, "Yeah try this one," and then Waka Waka came on so a bunch of them danced to that, then someone was like, "OMG that's a terrible song, Beyonce's better!" so then some of them danced to Single Ladies, and finally someone else said, "But Rhianna's the best!" and then three of them came out in slinky dresses and performed a dance they hadn't even shown me before the actual show. There were umbrellas and fedoras used. And also chairs. Still worried about my job security after that. Anyway, then they were like, "Oh wait what's this cd over here?!" "Well this one's full of English camp songs!" Then they all sang English Camp, and the girl obvs decided to buy that cd. The end!

After the show ended, we had some aperitivos with the parents, then went home to eat dinner with our host families, and then the tutors went out with a couple of host sibs and our director to a rap/ska/reggae concert in Schio (which began with a guy coming onstage and yelling, "Schio! Sch-Sch-Sch-Sch-Schio! Schio!") and later to a club to find another host bro. Laura was determined to help us find this host brother, so she dragged us through the club like our mother trying to find him. We were trying to hide our faces and not die from laughter at the same time. She was out of control!

Later there was this big complicated mess when Laura told us we had to go home because our host families were waiting, and Kat and I was like, "Okay, that's cool, we're actually pretty tired," but then Laura was like, "I can tell you don't want to leave so let's go inside and dance for fifteen more minutes! YOU MUST DANCE!" And the next thing we knew, we were on the dance floor with Laura behind us, with all of the Italians giving us a wide berth. Simultaneously hilarious and mortifying.

Our train the next morning didn't leave until noon, so I packed a little, took a leisurely dip in the pool, showered, packed some more, and ate with the family. I'd gotten them a tiny gift, and they'd gotten me a tiny gift, and then they tossed me onto the train with the other tutors, and that was the end of Valli del Pasubio.

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