Monday, April 14, 2014

Weekend Update
We were invited to an aperitivo at the Zazzi store by Vladimiro and Massimo. Massimo is very happy with the results of the bioenergy treatments I did for him and he has even told his friends about me. We met this one American woman who comes here for half the year. There is something kind of compelling about her. She said horrible things about American tourists and I thought that was fair because we are both American and we can make fun of ourselves, but then she said even more horrible things about British tourists. I wish I had disagreed out loud with her, and I am now thinking of what I should have said, but instead I kind of nodded along. Ah well, next time. The artist whose painting you will see in the window which was the basis for the print on the scarf didn't seem to really like F and me that much. I'm not sure what we said or didn't say that did us in. His wife was more friendly. I really was digging her red hair and purple flower earrings. As we were leaving I made this joke I used to always say at my favorite stores in Brooklyn about how I am at the store so much that they will make me pay rent there soon. I realized after we got home that the way I phrased it in Italian made it seem like I said that I was such a great patron of the store that my sales alone were paying the rent for the store. This is what happens to me all the time still. It's not just that I still make mistakes everyday it is that there is a time delay in my figuring out what I said wrong and why people are looking at me like they know how weird I am. When the truth is they have only scratched the surface. Sigh.

The lady with the red hair is the artist's wife. She was delightful.
The guy on the left is the artist. We said something wrong and now we long for yesterday, to quote the Beatles.
We scared the crap out of this guy when he found out we were English teachers. We practically come with our own creepy soundtrack. I'm going to start saying that I work at a paper mill.
I took prosecco from the guy in the white jacket, but since there was no toast I didn't drink it. He knew.

It is still a cool painting, though.

F tried to make me gluten free pizza. It turned out like having savory pizza toppings on a sweet mushy muffin. He is adorable. I hope he never makes that again. Gluten free pasta, on the other hand, is not bad at all.

We sealed the deal with our apartment exchange people in New York. We are going to spend a week at the end of July and then go to Colorado to visit our friends there.

I am already freaking out about fixing up the house and travel arrangements. Give me four more months, it will get worse.
 If you want to meet the cutest Italian children ever to grace the planet, you just have to get a load of the finalists for Masterchef Junior Italia. The girl won and the kids hugged each other. During the final battle she reminded him to take his pasta out of the freezer because she wanted to win a clean fight. He has a cooking blog. They were freaking adorable.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

AMICI parte 3, the Hunks
For my Italian friends let me say right off that a hunk is what girls like me who grew up in the 70's watching Happy Days can, in moments of weakness, use to describe a man who is super figo bel pezzo d'uomo. The third part of the 13th series of Amici was judged by none other than Gabriel Garko. I had no idea who he was either. Apparently he has starred in some popular television miniseries. But he looks like this:

from the back
from the front
Judge Sabrina Ferilli responded to the news that he was about to walk out on the stage by compulsively sucking on her pen.  

The latin music comes on and he raises one shoulder. You can hear a pin drop.

 He takes a pose.
 Then Garko goes to pick up a tuxedo jacket with a shirt built into it.

"What's this? Oh am I half naked?"
"I make velcro look good, don't I?"
Sabrina actually started to drool and almost destroyed the pen.
A female dancer enters the mix. The young Vincenzo who is the latin dance contestant on the show should take notes from Gabriel on how to look at your partner. Vincenzo never looks at his partner Giovanna in the eyes, even though she is his girlfriend in real life, and this costs him big time.

Sorry did I say one? Make that three female dancers surround GG.
The singer on the blue team (Giada) and the dancer on the white team (Federica) both needed to be fanned by their teammates to keep them from fainting. It was funny. Then Gabriel Garko went and kissed Sabrina in a way that seemed to say long time, no see. She was so discombobulated that she almost forgot to take the pen out of her mouth. Maria Di Fillipi asked Giada to comment and all she could say, which needs no translation was, "Complimenti  . . . alla mamma." Then Di Fillipi asked Federica to comment and she said that she had followed him (I think she meant his career) her whole life from home and it was weird to be just a few meters from him without being able to reach him. Gabriel got up out of his chair and went to kiss her. She turned a color so beyond blushing that it was a mix of red and purple. The poor thing had to do the double kiss while wearing her head set microphone. Such is life, girlfriend.

Right before Gabriel Garko came on there was a dance off between the breakdancing squad of Knef and a dance group featuring the amazing character dancer named Cristian. The song Cristian and the other two danced to was Let's Have a Kiki and he wore mile high stilettos.

Check out the heels/trampoli!
To me the judges Luca Argentero and Gabry Ponte's reactions showed varying degrees of homophobia just due to the fact that the very masculine dancer was wearing heels and dancing in a purposefully feminine way. Luca's vote went to the breakdancers even though they committed an error on one of the tricks. Luca Argentero for me gets less cute every time he opens his mouth. Be quiet, Luca.

To give you an idea of how grossly unfair this show is. Moreno the rapper who won last year's show and is now the captain of the white team put up Paolo who is an adorable puppy of a singer. He is the kind of sweet boy who needs very badly to appear in RENT on Broadway. They had him do a kind of Jim Morrisonesque rendition of These Boots are Made for Walking. It was very spirited and sweet.

The evil mastermind Michel Bose' then put up an ensemble dance of Pinocchio with an entire circus scene including fire eaters and trapeze artists that had lifesize sets and a nose that grows on Pinocchio. It was sad. These was no contest. Christian, flanked by classical dancer Oscar, killed it.

The hillarious part was when Maria Di Fillipi asked GG to comment, reminding him that his vote doesn't count at this juncture. May I make a joke, he asks. Sure, says Maria. Then, in imitation of De Niro's refusal to take sides last week, he says, completely dead pan: "Both Terriffic." Except he pronounces it: terreeefeeek.

oh GG, you slay me.
In the contest between the deep voiced Nick and a choir singing Amazing Grace versus the group dance of the white team minus Federica, who injured her neck during rehearsal, Luca Argentero voted for the chorus a reminder from Bose' that the Vatican is only around the corner from the theater.

Then comic Giorgio Panariello made some horribly misogynist jokes that make me almost like Luca Argentero again.

Just to keep us guessing the second match, Cristiano dances a sexy number with a girl in night club setting. He is ultra masculine, but behind him the song is provided by a drag queen singing in Spanish. GG said it was meraviglioso. Debora responds with Proud Mary backed by a choir. Even Grazia Di Michele the professor who has given her so much crap about her "physicality," and who no doubt has been watching her on the cameras stuggle all week with her diet and mandated sessions on the treadmill/tapis roulant, has to smile at her Tina Turner dance moves.

Continuing with gender warfare, Lorenzo had to take the injured Federica's place in the GaGa number with the feather boa necklace and the MTV worthy dance in the enormous birdcage. She was crying with frustration, poor thing, the whole time. The band Dear Jack won due to Luca Argentero who followed the logic that he would have preferred to see Federica in the cage. If women ever end up earning the same amount as men, I fear that with this type of media acceptance of total bullshit, in Italy we will be the very last to get there.

Nevertheless, romance wins out at Alessandra Amarosa's duet with Nick beats Francesco Renza's duet with puppy dog Paolo. Next up was Christian's astoundingly beautiful dance using real clay sculptures in which he dances over a sculpture of female figure and then a real ballerina dances with him in the wet clay until she too takes the shape of his lifeless fantasy. Lorenzo then did a group dance using a prop that served as a bunker which recalled the film Life is Beautiful. The brother and sister duo of choreographers Veronica and Giuliano Peparini really are world class, even if sometimes it goes over the head of the judges. At the end, the injured Federica who was saved once at the midpoint of the show, doesn't survive the cut and is sent home. It is like watching someone step on a kitten.

Friday, April 11, 2014

And so it turned out that the no-show student boy did in fact show up on day two for the English lessons in the stunningly, frescoed classroom at the headquarters of the associazione degli industriali in Lucca. He was late. But you can't have everything. The thing about all the sh*t we talked about him behind his back calling him a mammone and so on, made me unclear whether I should hope for him to show up or not. He turned out to be just the sweetest kid. I was expecting this surly, uncooperative guy and then I saw him and my first thought was: Hi Bambi. Given the set up, it was an excruciatingly awkward first meeting. When I started speaking in English, he responded in Italian saying, "Oh no, you are not really going to expect us to speak English the whole time," in such a sincere way that it broke my heart to speak English to him. This is a bad thing. Especially bad since I got the job by saying that even though I am know grammar scholar, I can convince anyone to talk to me. I went over his assessment test with him to show him that he really had done a good job on it.

Who I was expecting.
Who I got.
My whole idea of engaging him about art did not go over well because, despite the fact that he went to the artistic high school, he is really interested in being a sports trainer. He doesn't want to work in a gym, though, smart boy that he is. But that knocked out a lot of conversation possibilities. I asked him how much he hated English on a scale of one to ten and he said that he really did want to know English, but that the words didn't come out of his mouth. This is a huge problem in Italy. Everyone studies grammar books and they know the grammar, but no one ever practices actually speaking English. The longer this goes on, the worse they feel about themselves. I blame the teachers. Anyway, his pronunciation is actually fabulous. He has none of the five most common pronunciation problems. I told him that we would need to start speaking in English about whatever and that we just needed to find a film or a book or something that we wanted to talk about.

That's when I found out that we have nothing in common. He doesn't like thrillers, science fiction or reality television. (Gasp!) Forget fashion and art. I think there is a lot of Sports Center in my future. The only thing I have found so far is an Italian movie called Calcio Storico about these crazy guys who play a gladiator style soccer with no rules in Florence and proceed to kill each other on the field. I found one version with English subtitles. The main thing is to get him to speak in English and to speak English for the entire next lesson, no matter what his Bambi eyes implore me to do. It's for his own good.
Calcio Storico
Before I play death soccer, I march around looking intimidating. Got a problem with that?

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Back to the bitchiness
Yesterday was my nervewracking first English lesson with my dear friend who told me that if I couldn't get her to finally speak English she was going to give up and start studying French. No pressure. She has been participating in a group English class for over a year that is not really helping her very much and she is super frustrated with our whole kind of ugly and unmusical language. I think it went pretty well. In any case, I did not terrify or enrage her and she is coming back next week. After she left is when I started getting nervous. I decided to go back to the fancy hair salon with whom I had such a successful conversation in Italian the other day.  I had intimated that I had a lawyer on call and that I wanted my money back for some hair dye that I would no longer be needing, but that I had paid for in advance.

When I got to the fancy hair salon, the receptionist greeted me with that She's here kind of fake smile people reserve for you when you have been spoken about a great deal behind your back. She called over the manager who told me that her lawyer had drawn up something for me to sign which would document my getting my money back. Then my young, but not slicker than me, hairdresser came up to check me out. I realized afterwards that she wasn't greeting me so much as deciding if she was going to A) hit me B) pull my hair out or C) take a closer look at my color and make sure that it was true that I had changed it since she had messed it up. Once she saw it was no longer striped blond with a red patch in the front, and that I was back to having a chocolate brown color, she slunk off. The manager lady left me with yet another girl who gave me my money. Yay me! I tried to say that I wanted money for all six tubes because despite the fact that I had opened one it had been a waste of my money. The hair dresser had recommended a color that was too dark and had ruined my hair. I suggested that if they wanted money for the sixth tube they could take it out of her salary. This threw the lady off balance. She said that I had agreed on the phone to being reimbursed for five and that I needed to stick to that because they were going to punish the hairdresser privately. Now it was my turned to be alarmed. I assured her that the hairdresser had done an excellent job the first day and that her problem was that she didn't know how to acknowledge when she made a  mistake which makes it hard to then fix a mistake. I said that I would have worked with her if she had done that because making mistakes is not an unforgiveable offense. The lady looked shocked to say that least and said that she hoped I would come back. I smiled and told her that I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

This man is so cute. And yet this week, he is stressing me out.

I was not at all convinced by the diagnosis of the dermatologists that F has an allergy to some unknown substance and that is why he is covered with something that looks like an angry case of chicken pox. Luckily my friend Serena is a doctor and she also is not convinced by the dermatologists at any of the hospitals in this area, including her own which is all the way in Pisa. She did get us an appointment within 24 hours with a private specialist who is the very best you could ask for, after seeing a photo of F's torso that scared the crap out of her. We waited for forty-five minutes and watched Antonella Clerici make pasta with a bunch of pretentious male chefs and some nice old ladies on the built-in television set in the waiting room. I would not eat that chocolate mousse if you paid me. Anyway, the doctor made his diagnosis in about twenty seconds. He agreed with F that it is pityriasis rosea which is something that will go away in a few weeks and is not dangerous or contagious. He asked if something stressful started it all about a month ago. Hmmmn a month ago. The only thing that happened a month ago was my mother-in-law's visit. Surely that couldn't be it?? The good doctor will take a photo map of all of F's birthmarks next time and remove some that need removing which just goes to show you that sometimes you think you are getting knocked around when the universe is actually just trying to give you a present.

 Today I was mildly nervous for my first lesson at the English school. I wore my cool shirt that says Manhattan on it and my ear cuff and generally tried to look tough for my nineteen year old mammone/mamma's boy whose mother signed him up and who had initially refused to take the assessment test. This morning I found the results of his assessment test (apparently mamma won that round) in my inbox. Luckily F was home to explain to me how to explain to him why the things he got wrong were wrong. Raise your hand if you know the difference between how to form the zero and the third conditional. If you raised your hand, you didn't go to my highschool. Anyway, I could have watched Italian soap operas instead because loser boy never showed up. A really cute boy did show up, though. I asked him if his name was Andrea. He said no. He said his friend Andrea was outside and he brought me his even cuter friend Andrea. I said, "Hi, Andrea, I am K." He looked taken back. I said, "You are not the Andrea who is here to take English class with me are you?" And he said that indeed he was not. But he didn't move. So I said, "Well, I said it looks like you are still a perfectly nice Andrea, and now we have met, and that's that." Then we ran in opposite directions: I took refuge in my totally stunning frescoed, high ceiling class room and he ran back outside.

My new friend Elisa who watches the same bad Italian television shows that I do and works at the office of the English school called the boy whose cell phone was turned off and then called his mother. Meanwhile, I showed about six English tourists my classroom and they were really impressed. It turned out that he was not coming. I get paid anyway. But he is not going to get to see my cool Manhattan sweater if he shows up tomorrow, and that is final. 
T's friend Giorgia

T. Rolling her eyes again
I made this one. I'm crafty like that.

This one was made by a nice blond, Italian chick.

This week T has dark purple hair at the bottom, but you get the idea.

CUTENESS overload
I think they must really waste a lot of time on stupid things in my middle school aged student Andrea's English class. They have only taught him about five verbs so far which makes it really hard for us to have a decent conversation. I have tried using flash cards and crossword puzzles. Over the past few weeks he has gotten better at memorizing my list of a dozen verbs and another dozen or so random nouns that are good to know. The one word that always stumps him is the verb capire which means to understand. Finally, last week he looked me in the eyes and said, "Doesn't that mean something about underwear?" Since I have this perpetual fear that things are not really happening and that I am actually hallucinating,  I had to ask him: "Did you just say underwear?" And he reluctantly told me that he had read a book. . . That's when it clicked! He must have read this book:

 In Italian it looks like this:

So now we both crack up evertime I show him the flash card because I say capire and he says I don't remember and then I say underpants and then he says now I understand. Total cuteness aside, I told him he better learn that word because the moment he says, I underpants English, people are going to come looking for me and that will be embarrassing for everyone involved.

In other cute news, I went to my new boss at the English school's gospel music concert. Her Italian choir group sang four songs and then an American group of mostly kids who were about T's age from Michigan sang a bunch of songs about Jesus, including some African American spirituals. They were really really good. My battery almost died during the concert, but before it did, I snapped you some photos. My boss had a sassy solo complete with hand clapping and shoulder shaking that was utterly adorable. Unfortunately, the kids were forced to sing This Little Light of Mine, but apart from that, the songs were uplifting and not too sappy. While everyone settled in for the first number, I was filling out my employee form and copying my banking information from text messages that F was sending me. I kept thinking I was going to get zapped by lightening or something, but it all worked out.

Since Lucca is a tiny little microcosm, I ended up sitting next to the nice bearded man who runs the edicola where I buy my American fashion magazines everys so often when I feel I deserve a treat. He mumbles a bit, but I am almost able to understand him now. Even when I can't, he is always really nice to me. I told you: C-U-T-E. His friend kept asking me what the Americans were saying and what the gospel means in English. I felt incredibly smart for once. These are my kind of events.
Everyone in the church was wearing black, including all the singers. I wore a sequined white bomber jacket and a white long sleeved cotton shirt that says Love on it in silver script. My friend asked me, not for nothing, if I was familiar with Sister Act and Whoopie Goldberg. The reference was not lost on me.
If you peer down at the microphone, that is my new boss lady.
Here are the cute indoctrinated children making their way to the altar.
Here is my friend the fashion magazine dealer. It is an expensive habit so it is important to have good connections, if you get my drift.

Here are the angelic faces of the chorus right before my ipod died.