Friday, October 24, 2014

On a high note

The last day of my English course ended on a high note. I should have thanked my student Annalisa at the time, but I don't want to draw to much attention to the fact that it almost ended in disaster. We had already done the final assessment test. Over the weekend when I was in London, I had given them homework that showed how to think through every test question, and on my return I went over it with them in minute detail. During the pausa I went upstairs to make some fotocopies and took out my red pen to grade the tests. If I had not been standing in front of their cleared desks insisting on a quiet room, I would have thought they had some crazy cheating ponzi scheme because every single person get question ten wrong and almost everything else right. Darn it, I knew I should have spent more time on how to use like with infinitive verbs! Six people got everything else right and the lowest grade was a beautiful 17 out of 20. At least three of the questions had material that was beyond the reach of an A1 beginner course so 17 for our purposes was a perfect score. My Romanian student skipped the last page of the test by accident, but after she sat back down and filled in those answers she got the same high scores as everyone else.

After the test, we talked briefly about the difference between American and European style resumes and I encouraged them to ask me questions about New York and anything else as long as they asked in English. It is a four hour block of English and it was hour 79 of an 80 hour course so everyone, myself included, was kind of ready to go home. I was seriously considering  letting us all go home about half an hour early, but Annalisa wanted to go up to the office to ask about the chances of our getting to do another more advanced course together. They want to do an evening course because of course we are all hopeful that they all find jobs in the meantime. While she was up there she found out that someone from the employment agency who had paid for their course was going to come down to listen in on the end of our class. WHAT?? I pulled out a conversation game and got everyone back in their seats just in time for my colleague to bring in the employment agency representative who would be giving me my final report card, so to speak. She seemed very impressed with their improvement. The gang really tried to make me look good, which was very sweet.

 I ended up inviting my whole class to Thanksgiving dinner so that should be pretty blog-worthy.  There was a flurry of sweet FB exchanges the day after and we all swore to stay in touch. I got really lucky for my first time out and I will never forget my first real English class.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Energy in London
I went to London with my friend Alessandro so that he could attend the Pure Bioenergy Training that was being held at the Columbia Hotel, and so that I could translate for him if need be. We negotiated Stansted airport and the airport bus to the hotel fairly well. I would have gotten out at the wrong terminal train stop if Alessandro had not been with me. I have a terrible sense of direction and a deeply ingrained tendency to panic.


I have to say that speaking English does not help one iota when it comes to figuring out how to get around Stansted Airport because there is a serious lack of signage and helpful people in that place. When I went through the passport check, I lost my place in line because no one told me to grab a form to fill out first. Alessandro went through a different checkpoint for EU citizens. The female agent asked me for the address of my hotel. I told her that I didn't have it, but that my friend knew the address. I indicated that he was standing nearby. She had Alessandro come over and tell her the exact location and then she went so far as to ask me if I had a family in Italy. I told her that I have a husband and daughter. She asked me why they didn't come on the trip with me and seemed to imply that I was cheating on them with Alessandro. It was outrageous.

Hi, Alessandro.
This is Kati's where we had amazing dosai with spicy potatoes, eggs, and chutney.

I look like I got up at 3 AM for a reason.

Alessandro likes Starbucks (thank God!)

This guy had the coolest studded pants ever and he let me take his picture.

Here is Zoran, our teacher. It is thoughtful of him to look like Dumbledore, if Dumbledore liked sailing and beer instead of things like, say, peace and muggles.

We did share a hotel room because it is much cheaper to board that way. I already knew that Alessandro is very neat and proper so I wasn't worried about having him as a roommate. Here is one question I forgot to ask before I left: Do you snore? It turns out he does. It also turned out our room looked out onto a street so busy that it might as well have been the highway. It is very counterintuitive to do energy work when you have no energy. I hardly slept for three nights in a row. It was tragic.

Even though we got up at the crack of crack to get in Alessandro's father's car to the airport at 4:30 AM and the bus ride from the airport to the hotel ended up taking two hours plus a twenty minute walk at the end of it all, I still dragged him to go shopping on Oxford Street because I promised T presents and I wanted to stock up on things that I can't find in Lucca like herbal remedies and skin creams. He was a trooper.
This is really too close to be to someone who snores loudly. It was like being attacked by angry elephants. Sporadically.
Alessandro thought the whole situation was hilarious.

I  had a hell of a time going back and forth between the two languages.

I am really disappointed that Oprah is in Italy and yet she didn't respond to T's request on my behalf to come to a fabulous truffle filled dinner at my house. So close and yet so far. . .
The bioenergy training itself was even weirder than it usually is and that is saying a lot. People had come to learn the technique for a variety of reasons from having loved ones who were ill or physical problems of their own to having stumbled upon an advertising that seemed to call to them. A bunch of people had adorable accents so that was a plus. Alessandro really didn't need very much help translating and I kept kind of barraging him and saying "capito?" every two minutes so I think everyone was relieved when mid-way through the day on Sunday I decided to cut class. I walked and window shopped on Oxford Street for three hours and then went to this Mary Poppins-like park with people on ponies and fountains. It was a summery day that smelled like Autumn and the leaves were perfectly crunchy under my feet. It was blissful. When I got back I didn't mind the glares of the students because there is no way that I could regret my solo outing. I was kind of proud of myself because it may have taken me forty years, but I have figured out how to make my own fun.

Here is another thing about Alessandro: He meditates twice a day for at least 20 minutes at a time. I figured it you can't beat him, join him and did the same. The fun part was that when I finished before him or when he wanted to sit in silence while I was starving, I came up with new and inventive ways to startle him by yelling, Oh was that my phone! Or Oops who put that chair there?

We had to get up at 5 AM to get the bus to the bus to the airport. We had these giant cups of cappuccino with no coffee in it, full fat milk, and  powdered cocoa on the top and a lung crushing croissant at a pseudo English pub at the airport only to find that if we had walked 10 more meters and turned the corner we could have whole wheat delightful sustinence and Starbucks. It was devastating. There was nails on a chalkboard type construction going on over our heads while we waited for an hour and twenty minutes for them to announce our gate. I have never been so tired in my entire life. It had taken us a practice exploration on Saturday night for us to even find the right bus stop for the airport bus because I didn't want to leave anything to chance. A couple of nice doormen and a transit worker helped us and I appreciated them in what turns out to be a very un-Lucchese way, as it turns out. Another good thing about this little business trip is that it taught me that I could give less than a cacchio and only slightly more than a cazzarola about fitting in at this phase of my life. I appreciate having friends and making new ones, but if you don't like me, then maybe it's for the best.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Love at the Pizza Parlour
Renata & Eleanor reunited at last!
Eleanor and Renata with Michael and Gaia looking on . .
If you remember, it was Eleanor who gave Renata at Bella 'Mbriana pizzeria the love advice which is widely thought to be the reason that she met the new love of her life Stefano just two days after.  We had quite the reunion the other night. Renata's daughter Gaia who is looking for work as a graphic designer and who dreams of going to New York one day was on hand for the festivities. Stefano also joined us. He is an iron worker who earlier in the week had a shard of iron enter one of his eyes, but he regained his sight just in time for our pizza night. I was not pimptastic enough to score Gaia a trip to New York or a job, but Eleanor very graciously offered to give their whole family very expensive tickets to the musical of Dirty Dancing in Milano. They are going to close down the pizzeria for a night in order to go because Renata has a son in Milano and this will be a special night for them.
Dirty Dancing teaches English
I was so proud of my class during the Dirty Dancing Q & A lesson. It doesn't hurt to have celebrity guests like Eleanor Bergstein, the author and co-producer of Dirty Dancing, when you are teaching an intensive course and want to keep people interested, I tell you.

Eleanor said that the questions that they asked her about her film and about the musical of Dirty Dancing, which has just broken ticket sales records at the Teatro Nazionale in Milan, were more original than the ones that even professional journalists have asked her over the years. We really did our homework, so to speak. Our class is so united that students helped each other with pronunciation and were so respectful of one another. It was really beautiful for me to witness. There was one poignant moment where one of my students talked to Eleanor about the difficult period that Italy is facing, alluding to the number of unemployed people, and asked her for advice. Eleanor talked about the nature of change and why hope is so important and really lifted everyone's spirits.



 Afterwards, Eleanor let her picture be taken on what seemed like one thousand cell phones and then signed autorgraphs. They were all elated when they left.


 My favorite story from the class is about when my student Mario was a little boy on the train and he helped an American tourist get her suitcase down from the overhead rack. The tourist woman bent down and said "thank you" to him. He wanted to answer her in English so he said, "Very Much." Whenever we get stuck in class, we turn to each other now and say, "Very Much." Today they all invited me for pizza to celebrate new friendships when the class is over.

Take that, fancy gym.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Grammar Rap Challenge
It's Sunday morning and I look on Facebook to find that my students had sent me a challenge.
A quanto pare, they were all impressed by this rapping English teacher who sells his videos on-line.
Needless to say, I took the challenge and put my own little spin on it.

Here is his video:


Here is mine:

Irregular Verb Rap by K

 Be ready, you were
he was and has been
My name is K----
 I’m from Manhattan
 I will begin as he began
because the rap has just begun
 I’m from the big apple
so take a bite
 it’s bit, bit, bitten, son.
Beat, beat, beaten,
 the youtube professor has eaten my dust
 Take took taken the mic away from a fake
 and shake shook shaken
guardate la figura I’m making . . .



T said my video should come with a warning: THIS IS NOT A DRILL. MAJOR EMBARRASSMENT AHEAD.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Wow!

I have been admiring and obsessing over this gorgeous Campomaggi backpack for over a year. Unfortunately, it costs over 400 euro. I showed F the photo and he sewed me a knock-off that is even cooler than the original.  He MADE it with his own hands. It took him about four days and it only cost like 4 euros. So cool. I just love it. And I just love him.






Sunday, October 05, 2014

Oh Lucca, honey
First off, here are some photos of our niece Jasper when F took her to Pisa:




The amazing mosaic ceiling of the duomo
 Lucca tries very hard. Very hard. Some things it gets right and some things it gets oh so wrong. Take Effetto Cinema Notte which was a tribute to the Lucca Fillm Festival, where various locales all over the city host little film tributes to turn all of Lucca into a big film set. So much effort! Just look at the period cars for the Great Gatsby tribute. We got to the hotel Universo right on time to see the actors emerge from their snazzy car.

Check out the car, man.


 It became clear that we were to follow them inside. When F and I had peeked in the hotel moments earlier I heard some lady saying that the special decorations were for hotel guests only. I felt like some boorish intruder. Immediately inside the lobby, I spotted my old co-worker Amanda from Happy Gym. She was the one who fiercely holds on to the best time slots there, and was ultimately the reason for my departure. I don't blame her a bit. It was good business sense. Anyway, there she was dancing a period inspired piece she had clearly choreographed for her little troupe.


Here we are in the lobby.
That's Amanda on the far right.
Elegantissimo.
 Shortly after the dancers beckoned for the audience to follow them into a room  off the lobby. We could hear a man protest loudly about the fact that they couldn't close the door in his face because he had reservations just as the doors slammed in all of our faces. Only twenty lucky Lucchese made it inside. Complimenti, for your horrible organizational skills, he yelled as he stormed out. Now that's Lucca. And oh so blog worthy.

This is the only shot F got before the door slammed.

This would be the door. Ouch!
Saturday Night Fever?

The schedules for all of the events were staggered in a way that made it possible to miss everything and catch nothing.

But, on the other hand, this is incredibly charming.

Here are some kids dancing to lady Marmalade.


Lucca is very proud of their light projections, and the effect is pretty magical.


Here I am with our friend Angelo. We met up with him and Elena and their daughter Alice. In Lucca, you are bound to find someone you know everywhere you go.

Star Wars and miniature princess Leah were a big hit with Alice.

This is where the ghostbusters go for a drink!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nicest niece ever

I shouldn't have stressed over it. All house guests should be as easy and polite as my niece.

F hasn't figured out the selfie height differential. Those slits are his EYES.

Welcome to Lucca. No, honey, you have not entered some weird time warp, it's where we live now.

Here are Jasper and T eating gelato.
You know she is great, if she can handle me on day twelve of my cycle.
Day 12 according to the green line of estrogen is the zombie apocolypse.

Here is an interesting fact: I moved to Tuscany and I am deathly allergic to the blossoming olive orchards so that even when I am inside my sinuses look like whoopie cushions and my eyes look all puffy and weird. Imagine if I went to the countryside right now. Actually, don't do that. Don't do that with all your might.

Hint: This is not me. Not on day 12, anyway.