Tuesday, September 13, 2011

3 Strikes, You're Out?

Apparently NPR recently ran a story on public transit strikes in Italy. For those who are worried, yes, I take the bus and/or tram to and from work. Yes, there are strikes. No, it does not really make that much of a difference.

Strikes are a regular occurrence around here, and from what I've heard, in Europe in general. As far as the transportation strikes, the workers are quite considerate! They stop working for a matter of hours, not days, and try to avoid peak hours. They don't all strike at once, either, so you'll probably have a longer wait but still be able to get where you are going. Furthermore, they give advance notice on the website and occasionally, even on posters around the city or at the train station.

What surprised me more are the public school teachers' strikes. They seem more common, happening several times last year, and the kids suddenly, without notice, have the day, or several days off. We would occasionally have a few extra kids at our school when IST teachers had taken their kids to public school to find out the teachers weren't there and had to bring them along to work.

Watching a lot of F/S, fuori servizio, or out of service, busses go by can be annoying sometimes, but it rarely causes the serious problems that would be expected with a transportation workers strike. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

It's a lovely day for a picnic.

Today was the first Agape of the new school year. These are monthly church potluck lunches and fellowship times, and this month was a picnic! The kids, and some of us bigger people, had a ball playing a version of Spherical Objects, then we ate. There was a ton of food still left at the end, even after we'd all had our fill. I made a corn and pepper salsa that I learned from a former awesome roommate, but the predominately Italian attendees of this picnic did not know what to do with it. Most just ate the salsa with a fork and had the tortilla chips on the side. I tried to explain at first, but decided it didn't really matter.

After food, the games began in earnest. There were potato sack races and water balloons, as well as a somewhat bizarre (to me) English game involving throwing an old boot as far as possible. I did not try, but this is apparently harder than it first appears. (Perhaps this could become a new aspect of getting The Boot in the Miller family?)

Matt's winning!
Resting afterward while receiving congratulations. 
 Somewhere among all the games was the tug-o-war. First, the kids were split into two teams. Then they decided that all the donne, the ladies, should play. My shoes were sadly too slippery for me to be of much benefit to my team, but I tried. After the guys had a turn, the kids suggested a girls vs. boys match. It was decided that the number of men should be limited, making it 4 to 8, plus all the kids. We beat them easily, of course.  Once they recruited the rest of the men of the church, us girls held our own for a while, but eventually fell. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

And... We're Back!

After nearly 3 weeks back, school has started again! We all survived the first (half) week with kids, and I have now met the nearly 90 students I will be working with this year. Routines are still being worked out and I'm constantly looking at my schedule, both my school schedule and my after school schedule, and wondering just what I've gotten myself into!

Some things have come back really quickly, like the bits of Italian I happened to learn last year. When I got back, I was surprised to realize just how much I had retained over the summer. Basic signs are easy now, and I was able to help some new staff decode a menu. Of course, menus have always been my strongest vocabulary area!

Answering questions for new friends has also shown me just how much I didn't learn the first time around. There are parts of the city left to explore, and I don't think I'll ever master the bus system completely, at least when they keep changing it every few months. What time's the next bus?

Sunday, June 12, 2011


We lost the first of the staff this morning when Sara flew back to California.  It hasn't really sunk in that she won't be at school tomorrow, but watching her leave is a sure sign that the end is near.

I have...

5 more days with the kids,

17 days, 20 hours until I get to Newport News,

22 days, 12 hours until I go to camp, then on to visit relatives and friends, and

68 days until I'm back in Trieste.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

That's my life!

Yesterday, I was sitting in Piazza Unita, waiting for a farmacia to reopen after the afternoon break. I was alternating between just enjoying the weather, eating a snack, reading a book, and people watching.  To the left, one of my students was kicking a ball around with his brother and determinedly ignoring the fact that he saw me in public.  On my right, a young couple was playing with a toddler.  Towards the water, a group of tourists was learning about the post office building.

The next time I looked up, a middle-aged man was photographing the authentic Italian boys playing soccer in the historic piazza.  He wants to preserve that image of my student as part of his vacation memories.  I wonder if he'd be interested in taking my recess duty this week?

In the day to day stress of school, I sometimes forget that this life really ain't so bad.


There is a 10.05 Euro, 9:18 train from Trieste to Venice and I have been on that train twice in as many months.  Back at the beginning of March, a huge group of us ventured out for Carnevale.  Italy is obviously a Catholic country, so the beginning of lent is a big deal, and Venice hosts one of the biggest celebrations.  

We got our faces painted...

 We threw (and dodged) confetti...

 We gawked at the beautiful costumes and masks...

 The theme this year was "Renaissance."

And then we slept on the way home.

 Just under a month later, a smaller group headed back.  This adventure started when I received a phone call Friday night informing me that I was "expected" in Venice the next day.  Fortunately, I didn't have any plans I couldn't reschedule, so off we went, in search of the Ruyi as part of a grand scavenger hunt crossed with "choose your own adventure" crossed with awesome.

We read legends of Venice...

Solved puzzles... (MadAdder at your service!)

Discovered hidden beauties under tiny porticos off of little streets leading from back piazzas...

Browsed the coolest bookstore... 

Which was also home to this amusing sign...

And reveled in exploring the other, relatively tourist-free side of a lovely city on a beautiful day.

 My next (tentative) trip to Venice is almost exactly a month after this one, and I'm already excited!  What sort of adventure will it bring?

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pesche Aprile

In Italy, April Fools Day is called Pesche Aprile, or Fish of April. Instead of switching the salt and the sugar, people stick fish on each others' backs, kind of like "kick me" signs. The kids aren't very good at it. They'll walk up to a teacher and ask for a piece of tape, then a few minutes later, awkwardly pat the same teacher on the back. My students were not really into the process, but some of the teachers had entire schools of paper fish on their sweaters by lunch.

It was Friday and the weather was absolutely beautiful, so after school we headed out in the city. After a first stop at Zoe, we walked over to a nearby fish shop that was having an April Fish Day party. I drank a bright green (!) spritz and got "fished" by a student walking by with his family. The shop had fish stickers out and E left his soccer game with his brother for long enough to grab a few and stick one to my back.

I told him he needed to learn to be more sneaky.