Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fact: Italian love poetry is more beautiful than anything.
"Who is she who comes, that everyone looks at her, 
who makes the air tremble with clarity  
and brings Love with her, 
so that no one can speak, though everyone sighs?"
Learning it in Italian? Tricky, but totally worth it. Plus, it doesn't rhyme in English. Everything is better when it rhymes, right?

When I originally started this post, it was going to be a quick one because it was Wednesday and I didn't have a lot to say, but it seems I have a problem minimizing the time between starting to write and finishing. Now it's Saturday and I should be reading the book due on Monday but I can't resist the urge to commit memories to the internet before they fade. First, food highlights: gnocchi and pork steaks (is that what you call them?); this amazing strata-like dish with eggs, mozzarella, and buttered toast; pici in a red sauce; and the discovery of my first (and thus, favorite) alimentari in Italy. It took me a couple of weeks of getting pre-made sandwiches at cafes before I realized that surely there must be delis around at which I could create panini to my own liking; why hadn't I seen any? There are; I'm just blind. Conveniently, there's one right around the corner from where I live, the owner of which is a kind middle-aged Italian man who politely inquired about our stay in Italy and encouraged discourse in his language as the most effective method of learning. He also had great suggestions for food, telling us that his wife makes all of the dishes at home by hand, and offering us samples of a dish that I had inquired about. In the end, I settled on a sandwich of homemade pesto, some kind of white cheese, tomatoes, and seasoning meticulously applied by his practiced hand. It was delicious, and the nearly foot-long "snack" set me back 2.70 and lasted for two days. This kind of friendship with a local shop owner that culminates in great eats is exactly what I had envisioned when studying in Italy. No, really. It might be the highlight of my weekend. 

Thursday, as planned, I had my first experience teaching English to a class of Italian third-graders. It was amazing, exhilarating, terrifying, frustrating, hilarious, nerve-wracking, uplifting . . . too many adjectives. It was a lot of things at the same time, but on the whole, extremely satisfying. They spoke less English than I had expected and consequently I spoke more in Italian than I had intended. I had a lot of trouble slowing down my speech and watching out for contractions -- especially when singing If You're Happy and You Know It.  "How did I not realize there was a contraction IN THE TITLE OF THE SONG. Game time decision: teach them about contractions, or split the word up? Go with the latter, arrrrghh no, now I'm off tempo! It's fine they won't notice -- of course they will, because they're not singing along! Man, I really wish I had started in a lower key, my voice can't go this high. Am I singing too slowly? Why are they all just watching me? Okay, I'll slow down. Geez, this sounds awkward . . . " Phew. I think I'll have to be better prepared next time, even if that means singing them out loud beforehand. Sorry, Eric, you're about to discover that I have the voice of an ANGEL. 

Taking the bus to the school where I taught was extremely easy: get on at the piazza near the school, stay on the bus until the last stop, get off. Done and done. I was feeling so accomplished that on the way back, I decided to take a bus tour of the Sienese countryside and surround towns. No, really, I voluntarily stayed on the bus for two hours, just to see the sights. What's that? Okay, you got me. I got lost, big time. The embarrassing part is, I actually got on the right bus coming back into Siena, and I actually got off at the right stop. The trouble started when, looking around the correct bus stop, incidentally the one from which I had departed a mere hour or so before, it looked different. I got confused, panicked, and got back on the bus. "What's the worst that can happen?" I thought. "If this is the right stop, I'll just follow the same route as earlier and only spend an extra twenty minutes riding around. Class isn't for two hours, I've got time." Except, of course, that the bus didn't follow the same route as earlier. I watched out the window as the hills became steeper and more covered in snow, and the houses farther and farther apart. Class was a still a long way off, and having nothing better to do, I didn't really think much of what I considered "the scenic route." We made a lap around some of the quaint smaller towns and approached a crossroads, one way taking us back to Siena, the other back whence we had just come. The bus chose the latter. Okay, NOW I'm worried. Time to call Christina, our resident director. "Hi, uhhhh Christina? Um, I may have not gotten off at the right stop, and now I'm in the middle of nowhere. What do I dooooooo?" I asked the driver, who informed me we'd be back in the city center in a mere half an hour, but that there was a bus change that I would have to make. As per Christina's instructions, I practically glued myself to the pole as close to the driver as I could get, watching his gaze in the mirror to make sure I didn't err again. Fortunately, he was very helpful in indicating where I should change, and I arrived at the school, harried but in one piece and with a full ten minutes to spare before class. Hopefully, this week will be easier. There's no way I can make the same mistake twice . . . right? 

The rest of the weekend has been pretty quiet. We were instructed not to travel too much this weekend since the weather was supposed to be nasty, but we haven't seen as much snow as was originally predicted. We experienced "college night" at the local disco here, and suffice it to say, once was enough. Yesterday and today have been spent lazing around on the couches in the living room watching movies and reading for class. Sometimes Silvia comes in to amiably tease us about not moving all day, and she's totally right: I haven't set foot outside once today, and it's seven p.m. I'm blaming it on the cold (high of 32 today!), but it's going to get warmer as the week goes on (up to 46 by Thursday, break out the sundresses!) and I plan on fully taking advantage of the nicer weather. Eric thinks I'm crazy, but I swear the city is coming alive as the month goes on, with more and more shops opening their doors from the winter vacation and the streets staying busier later into the evening. It's amazing how much a difference it's making in the atmosphere around here. Or maybe it's just anticipation of the "best gelateria in Siena" opening in a mere four days. Whichever. 

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