Monday, September 27, 2010

Birthday Languages

Last week, I was wished, "Happy Birthday" in four different languages. While I was down the hall helping out in First Grade science, my regular students made me a giant card that they all decorated and signed. When I came back to get my things before their Italian lesson, two of them presented it to me, and then they all sang "Happy Birthday," first in English, then in Italian.

That evening, several of us went out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant by the water. We ordered a bunch of different dishes to share and enjoyed all of it. My favorites were the lemon chicken dish, one of the vegetable pasta dishes, and a sweet and spicy pork. The fried banana Kristin ordered was a good dessert, but all seven of us shared one portion, because we were headed to a highly recommended gelato shop for a real birthday dessert. Lots more people met us there, and I had some super-creamy Nutella flavored gelato. While we ate our gelato, Veronica sang me her Puerto Rican birthday song, adding Spanish to the list of languages, and a few Facebook messages in German (and more Italian and plenty of English) brought the total to four.

Other birthday awesomeness included a package from my parents with warm blankets, coloring books and real crayons, and a giant jar of peanut butter. I've been alternating between eating it by the spoonful and trying to convince myself to ration it to make it last longer. So far, eating it has been winning.

I also had my first visitor when Ted stopped by on his way from Switzerland to Hungary. It was great to see someone I've known for more than a month and have a chance to show off my new city. He was very patient with me as I led us on a wild goose chase in the rain for the Natural History Museum, which we never found. The Gallery of Modern Art was fun (and out of the rain), if not exactly what we were expecting. I suppose "modern" is relative when there's Roman ruins in the middle of the city. We ate lots of pizza and gelato, so I consider it a successful weekend.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Survived the First Week

The first week of school is over (and I've procrastinated so much on writing this that the first day of the second week is nearly over as well). We have 17 third graders, which is just over half the number of students that were in my class in Cambridge, and there are only 4 boys. They are a rather chatty class so far, both in English and especially Italian, as all but 2 of them speak Italian at home.

It was an exciting week outside of school as well. Last weekend, several of us went to Venice, which is only about a two hour train ride away. Unfortunately, due to some ticket and scheduling confusion, this two hour journey took me nearly 6 hours and 3 trains. Venice is a beautiful, and touristy, city. It's nice to be able to walk wherever without worrying about cars, since the transportation is primarily by boat. After I finally met up with the other girls who had gone on an earlier train, we spent most of our time walking around the city looking in shop windows including many pastry shops, browsing a fabulous flea market/craft fair where I bought a necklace made of Venetian glass, and taking pictures.

Wednesday was Parent's Night, which is a sort of Back-to-School night, Tuesday and Friday were not-actually-the-draft parties for the school fantasy football league (I'm on a team with the chemistry teacher, and neither of us know what we are doing), and Thursday was the opening of a new, amazing cafe called Zoe Food. It's owned by relatives of the associate teacher in grade 2, so we all got invited to see the new place and sample Anna and Stefano's fabulous and healthy food. We had such a great time on Thursday night, we went back on Saturday. I had a banana and peanut butter smoothie. Yep, Anna has peanut butter (yay!), and she offered to put it in smoothies for us, even though it isn't on the menu.

To close out the week, a few of us went hiking outside of a nearby village, in Val Rosandra. This is a mostly limestone area, so the topography is pretty neat. The park is only about a half hour bus ride away, and our bus passes for school get us all the way there. We walked to a waterfall and up to a church built in the 1200s, enjoying the view and the return of the beautiful weather after it had been so cold last week.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Lasagne and Chocolate Salami

The school has a sort of unofficial connection with a tiny evangelical church in the city, with several teachers attending each year, so a few of us went to the service on Sunday. It's in Italian, but a returning teacher translated for us, and we sang several songs I recognized, so I could just sing in English when I got lost following the Italian words. Other songs were new, and we also sang Amazing Grace in English. They were so welcoming and accepting of our translation murmur, and after the service, we were immediately invited to dinner on Tuesday night with one of the families.

After a brief tour of not how to get there, we ended up back in our neighborhood and on the way to Nicoletta and Elio's apartment. It was lovely to visit a real home that a family lives in, rather than our just-moved-in, not-quite-home-yet apartments. The conversation was enjoyable (both Nicoletta and Elio speak fabulous English and are absolutely hilarious, and their two-year-old son was just adorable, if a bit shy) and the food was delicious! Nicoletta told us that she decided that because we just got here, we should have real Italian, and she delivered. We started with sun-dried tomatoes, an olive and cheese dip with bagel chips, and Prosecco, then she served us each an enormous piece of her homemade lasagne. This was followed by an eggplant parmesan-type dish. After a bit of a wait to digest, she brought out chocolate salami, which was a brownie batter/chocolate pudding/mousse dessert with crushed up cookies mixed in. Nicoletta kept apologizing because it hadn't set properly, but I loved it just as it was, all chocolate-y and creamy, with crunchy bits... yum. After that, it was time for grappa. Grappa is an after-dinner liquor that we have now encountered in a few different versions. I chose green apple, which I liked best of the flavors I've tried so far. Considering everything we ate and the breaks for conversation between courses, it's no wonder it was midnight before we got home!