23 June 2011

italia, take four

I slept like a baby. . . until a phone alarm went off at 6:30 am. On top of that, it had been packed into a suitcase, so not even its owner could find it. But that got me up and ready to run.

I ended up near the canals in the northeast corner of Milan, where I could run along paths and do pushups, crunches, pull ups, and other exercises on a playground. (It is possible to get a great workout in outside of a gym if you're willing to improvise a little.)

My afternoon was devoted to searching for Inca Kola in Milan's Little Lima or whatever you want to call it, finding an ATM, and meeting friends at the train station. I reunited with Kat Hall, and we spent the rest of the day wandering and causing mischief, most notably when we went out to eat at a Chinese/Peruvian restaurant and got hit on by some Peruvian men who thought I was Spanish because of my accent (win) and bought us something like 8 beers. We did our best to politely decline and tell them we had to be up too early to go dancing with them, but in the end, the only way to escape was for Kat to take a fake phone call from her fake boyfriend, make a massive scene in the middle of the street, and for both of us to run for our lives once we were out of sight.

We hit up the usual spots in Milan the next day--Duomo, Galleria, Scala, all of that, and then got on our separate trains. I found my future co-workers almost immediately, and we talked for the entire 40-minute journey. There were two boys and four other girls.

When we arrived in Romano, we were picked up by our very enthusiastic director, Pinuccia. She whisked us away to her home and served us the finest meats and cheeses in all the land while giving us a rundown of the week that was to come. After that, she took us to meet our host families.

Lemme tell you a bit about my host family. The father was a Sicilian man who looked like a skinny George Lopez. His surname meant 'War Winner,' and he has multiple pictures of himself hanging out with Totti, a legendary Italian footballer. They had a dachshund named Otto and a 12-year-old daughter with hair as long as mine used to be in high school (long enough she could sit on it). The town they lived in was tiny, but it boasted a castle, a church, and a football field.

We established a rapport at our very first dinner together, and made good conversation despite the language barrier. They asked me if I was a singer, due to my 'powerful voice' (not-so-subtle hint that I'm too loud?), and of course I thought that would be a good occasion to break into 'That's Amore.' What. Is. Wrong with me.

In spite of that, they actually seemed to like me. I had a great little room with a beautiful bathroom to myself and the wireless router literally under my bed, which is of course my dream come true. Things were off to a good start.

We all went up to the high city of Bergamo on Sunday, and that was awesome too. If you remember, I went up there one evening with a coworker last summer and saw all the sights, but it was good a second time too. (Would like to point out that host dad drove through town on the way up there with the sunroof open, windows down, and 'Baby Got Back' at top volume.) Once we took the cable car up the mountain into town, we were met by the sight of men dressed up in the Alpine uniforms from when they used to fight the Austrians or the Germans over the territory, and we got gelato, and then we took some group pics.

Things got even better when we started camp. Specifically, my class were an absolute dream. Brilliant, hard-working, respectful children. There was this girl Anita who looked like my sisters when they were little, and she could go on and on in English about how much she liked studying science because it was so interesting, and she also liked French, and if she won the lottery the first thing she would do would be to give her grandmother some money and then she would pay her parents back for the braces she was about to get and she was so excited to be at English Camp and she was just so happy about everything and her favorite actor in the world was Johnny Depp. Did I mention that she was 10? Easily one of my favorite students of all time.

Throughout the week we had two tutor dinners, went out for drinks/gelato (sometimes both in one cup) twice, I hit up the mall with my host family, and had a mani/pedi party with the sister and mom. One afternoon I came home to find that the host dad had set himself up a home gym and was blasting 'Don't Stop Me Now' while doing curls with extremely low weight (I guess he's going for definition, not bulk).

My group's final show was about the Yule Ball at Hogwarts, with the Thriller dance cleverly included. Anita was my Harry Potter, because she brought such enthusiasm to everything she did and she just looked so darn cute onstage. All the kids were great, and the show was a success. I was on the verge of tears as I said goodbye to my students afterwards, and I'm not really sure how to explain why. It was just the kind of week that, after seeing the promise and joy that the children had to offer, made me want to be a teacher full time. I tried to express to the kids, especially the girls, that they can be whatever they want to be if they just keep working hard and have a good attitude, but I think my emotion freaked them out a little bit.

Covo Camp was an absolute dream, but of course Saturday was inevitable, and we had to move on. (I moved on with two practice football kits in my suitcase, thanks host fam!) Six of us were sent back to Milan to work in two separate city camps. I found myself with Kelly from Florida and English Will, plus a new tutor, Catherine.

Once again, I lucked out with a fantastic host family. My room is a loft, with two twin beds up above the rest of the room. I can look out the window and see into other apartments in our little complex, which is think is pretty cool.

My host mother has an intolerance to some grains, so she's very careful about what she eats. She's also careful about what I eat, which is great. There's always plenty of protein in whatever we're eating, and it's never short on flavor.

Everything was going well until we met the children on Monday. These kids are a world away from our last camp. Some of my kids have climbed over their desks to fight each other while I'm in the middle of teaching, and it takes forever to quiet them down enough to get anything done. Plus, they're way behind where they should be, and they have a very different idea of what is an acceptable amount of personal space. During the first week I was stung by a wasp, nearly started crying from exhaustion caused by projecting my voice so much, and had a bottle of nail polish break in my bag. (Not all of those are the kids' fault, I know, but still.) The best news? It's a two-week camp.

We got a nice break last night when we went out for dinner and took a little walk around Milan. Our dinner was at a restaurant near the canals by Porta Genova on the green line, where I went out with friends a couple of times last year, and then we headed to San Lorenzo's Columns and on to the Duomo, which looks pretty cool at night. Today, I'm staying in bed for as long as possible, then eating and heading to the pool with my host brothers, Tommaso and Pietro. Hopefully I can recharge this weekend and return to camp on Monday with the attitude and energy necessary to turn this camp around.


Uncle Dave said...

What.....no "dodgeball" stories?

Anonymous said...

On THIS side of the Atlantic, we say "my class was"...