Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My fave photographer
Here's T out on a photo mission. Last day of school today before the Spring break.

Monday, March 25, 2013

If I weren't ridiculously honest with you people, I would say that yesterday I went to celebrate Giusy's promotion at the fancy gym spa with Serena yesterday and it was a heavenly, stress free experience. But that is not even really blog worthy. So here's the truth. After I taught 13 people the stuff I spent twelve hours memorizing --actually it was twelve people, but I lied on the form -- I waited for my friends in the lobby. I took them upstairs to the gym part where I finally learned how to use some of the postural stretching machines that actually are heavenly and then I taught the girls to treadmill dance. We had a great time and I didn't find out until today that I re-injured my tendon. We had a great time and then I gave them massages using my special patented technique that I stole from an accupressure masseuse and Yamuna Body Rolling videos. Then it got complicated as I knew it would.

It turns out that I have had full access to the spa and swimming pool this whole time and that my colleagues hang out there steaming and swimming all day long without me, but nobody told me anything. Anyway, the spa experience was worse than my stress nightmares where I am wearing a bathing suit in front of a ton of perfectly toned people and praying that my Revlon colorstay foundation kept my acne scars hidden. This is harder than it looks while your really skinny friends who can eat anything that they want because of god given high metabolisms and are not fitness professionals are pushing you under six kinds of showers and steam rooms. I was so stressed out from craning my neck and angling my face away from all the many forms of h2o shooting at me from every angle that I was almost looking forward to the massages that I had booked for us. But then I remembered that you have to get naked. And it is bad enough to do it in front of someone you are never going to see again, but in front of a coworker?

The spa at work is not restful as the bulging beige poster of me is everywhere and I felt like I kept getting recognized. I kept running back to the closet that passes as the instructors' changing room to check that my scars were still covered and to get the little magnetic bracelet to let my friends in and out of the maze of doors while trying to avoid as many coworkers as possible. At one point I bumped into the Jack LaLaine looking guy who wears speedos and a unitard most of the time and the young girl who hates me (so far I have done nothing to her except exist) and that barre core teacher who was wearing almost nothing. They had no cellulite and no fat and the bikini clad one wore no makeup. They looked like they had been retouched. i could not keep my eyes off them. Jack LaLaine usually doesn't even respond when I say hello to him because they took away the Friday morning lesson from him to give it to me, but I didn't know that until recently. And also that is so not my fault.  They were talking about a staff meeting for tomorrow night that no one had told me about. I asked if I could get a ride with them as the meeting is in a nearby hotel and I don't drive. The girls left and I didn't realize that the shower curtain behind which I was quickly changing so that Giusy wouldn't miss her train back to Firenze was partly opened until I heard him chuckling to himself. Nice. On my way home I got a text from my boss saying that I didn't have to go to the meeting even though the entire staff of the club is going. Bad Sign. I really don't think they are planning to renew my contract in September. Too bad my face is like this or I could at least get a bunch of free spa time until they let me go. Even though after last Friday morning's disaster lesson, this one woman who wants me to help her open a tourist business with her said she would talk to the boss on my behalf.

I had to promise a private massage and lesson to this lecherous, old guy who ended up being in the hydrotub later just to get him to stop talking to me. This is unfortunate because he is not a good candidate for my method and I am not allowed to give massages. Apparently foreign languages don't inhibit my speaking without thinking mechanism. The real masseuse is this cute young guy who I really did not want to be basically naked in front of even if I was somewhat under a terry cloth towel. My friends apparently wore these paper thongs, but they looked complicated and unpleasant so I stuck with my granny sized bikini bottoms which he later, to my mortification, folded down into thirds. I'm sure other people know how to enjoy massages, but I spent the majority of my fifteen minutes wondering if I had any zits on my butt. Between craning my neck trying not to have my steamy, foundation filled face stick to the crunchy paper around the hole in the massage table and the general awkwardness of having this guys oily hands on my midsection, I think I am the first person in the world to leave that table with more stress than when I first smooshed myself onto it.

My friends had a lovely time. We had lunch in the cafè where I actually ate something for the first time and it was all light and delicate stuff that was very well prepared. I had a carrot sformatino. I got the picture of the three of us framed and made the card. Today I can't walk because of my tendon pain. Tonight I have to teach a lesson that is up against a party where they are serving alcohol downstairs and where they have hired a DJ. Who in their right mind is going to come upstairs to workout with me so they can move their arms in time to my carefully choreographed Nsync number? I am actually thinking about getting sloshed and joining them if I don't get anyone upstairs. Everyone who goes upstairs is planning on taking class with the curly haired teacher who now sees me as so little a threat that she has taken up blowing kisses at me. Another new little factoid a colleague shared with me is that we get extra points from the boss if we walk around the main weights room inviting people to take our class. I would rather poke needles in my eyes.

And that is how I made a pledge to give up sugar this month. So far I have made it seven hours. It is going to be a shitty, long week.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Broke & Broken out, but not straight up Broken
Almost three years here and almost every time I head out the door, I have to remember that people don't speak English here. Three years. You would think I'd have gotten the hang of that aspect by now.

Things at the fancy gym are going badly again. My boss is not impressed enough with my number of clients per class to buy me cheap elastic bands, but I stubbornly stuck with my choreography and figured I'd improvise with jump ropes. Bad idea. Some people had light ropes, some had heavy weighted ones, and a bunch had these light weight poles with tubes tied to one side. Two people threatened to walk out after the first song so I apologized and we did the rest of the class without equipment; but ten minutes later they left anyway. They said it was too difficult for them. One lady got up during the final stretch and then just stood at the periphery of the room staring at me. She swooped down on me the second I switched the music off to let me know that if I keep making the class so easy for the older people on Friday mornings, she is not going to come anymore. She already gave a negative report to my boss. Ah, that's why he looks unhappy to see me all of the sudden.

My friend Shilpa was really nice about it afterwards. She loves the classes so it is a joy when she is there. Then this other nice student named Giovanna sent me a text to tell me not to get discouraged and she called the complaining lady a schema which means she thinks she is a dummy face and makes me happy in a naughty way.

Then the swim teacher showed me that not only is there a computer tracking program where I am supposed to log the attendance numbers, but there is a suggested (high) number next to it of how many people they want to take the class. If my numbers are sub par, they might not renew my contract. So far I have not made the quota for two classes in a row. It is also not a good sign that the boss didn't want to meet with me so he sent the swim teacher to do it. This guy is a pretty crappy communicator anyway. There is an ad floating around saying that next Wednesday is Fashion metamorfosi night. My class is called metamorfosi, but I wasn't sure how I entered into this whole "fashion" concept. He told me the PR people made it up, but the PR person told me me that he made it up and then forgot he did it. I bought a tee shirt that says Fashion on it, which I am sharing custody of with T because she likes that is it is held together with safety pins, just in case. Since everyone forgot about the event, I will probably end up doing a class with a corny theme that nobody comes to because they are serving alcohol downstairs beforehand.

T has the possibility to go on a two day class trip to Trieste. Her math professoressa was disappointed that I didn't want to give my permission for her to go on a five hour bus trip to not sleep in a room crowded with noisy non-sleeping girls. T's stomach never did love a long car ride. I don't like the idea of her being far away if any problems should arise with her insulin or insulin pump. Anyway, her professoressa asked my permission to call her doctor who said it woud be fine for T to go on the trip. It was sweet that the professoressa wanted her not to feel excluded, but in the end T doesn't really seem to want to go. Her closest friends aren't even in her same class at school. So night of no one sleeping averted for now.

 There have been more rounds of the flu in Lucca this winter than Mike Tyson took to win the WBC heavyweight title in '86. So many of my lessons have been canceled that all the shopping I can do for the foreseeable future is on-line where I fill up the baskets with stuff and then delete it when they ask for payment information. It is tons of fun, until I remember that with fantasy shopping the stuff you buy doesn't really exist.

After eating more flaxseed powder mixed with peanut butter than any normal human being would ever want to do for over three weeks, I have learned that it's acne curing effects stop working over time, once your body gets used to the lowered testosterone levels. Now I have a new cure for my acne cysts which is Saw Palmetto mixed with stinging nettles. This is my last hope because they don't have a birth control pill on the market in Italy that doesn't run a high risk of thrombosis and is an androgen blocker. Their most popular brand was taken off the market in Germany and their second most popular brand was taken off the market in the Unite States. At least instead of eating gooey flour mixtures, I now just have a capsule to swallow along with a vitamin drink of A, zinc, and bromelaine to lessen inflammation. Despite all of these efforts, I had to do that really humiliating class with a huge zit on my nose and my self esteem at a real low.

 My dear friend Giusy has gotten a promotion that means she will move to Rome. Our mutual friend Serena suggested that the best way to celebrate would be to go to the spa at the fancy gym because it has been raining here non-stop for at least two months and so we can't count on going to the sea. It is good because I don't have to pay for some of the spa treatments, which include a walk through different temperature water and saunas and such, but it is bad because I don't really want to be in a bikini with a poorly concealed zit on my nose and a face full or acne scars in front of any of my coworkers. My living is all about appearances and it appears that my plan to never exit the house again until I have watched all past seasons of Shameless on the Internet and drink more cups of tea with honey than even Winnie the Pooh could stomach, may not be realistic.

Speaking of TV, ever since we got the bill from the TV police, I started begging F to hide the television. He got so sick of me that he shlepped it to the trunk of our car until he could get it to Melissa's house. Then he painted over the walls and hid the cables. I have dreaded the tv tax here the way some people avoid rectal thermometers, and I don't want to start paying for something we don't use. My friend Gabriella who works at the comune di Lucca is going to see if there is some form I can file with the city to show that I am not a television user. I am a complete thief of American television shows on-line, youtube songs and pinterest recipes, but that doesn't even count. I am the Robin Hood of popular culture and proud of it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Age Matters?
So my new theory is that the folks at Massimo Pretty Hair in via Garibaldi are doing such a good job covering my grays that my co-workers had the mistaken impression that I was a lot younger than I am. Last night after I had a victory of getting from six to 15 students on a Wednesday night, the curly haired instructor came into the dressing room/broom closet and told me all about her perimenopausal symptoms. She relaxed instantly when I told her that I am less than two years younger than she is. She is almost forty-five and I am forty-three. We kissed and appear to have made up. Weird, right? Also the bikini lady who was very suspicious of me at the photo shoot lent me her black, fancy gym tee shirt and I returned it to her freshly ironed (by F . . I wasn't going to burn a whole in bikini lady's logo tee!) and with a note that had a heart on it. I guess they were worried some twenty something was going to show up and steal their thunder. Well, not to worry because I am equally afraid of the young'uns and we are playing on the same team, my hormonal sisters. Also three sophisticated female clients asked me to personal train them because they think the other teachers are good, but too old. Well, they are about to find out that I am for all intensive purposes as old as the old teachers, so I don't know what's going to happen on that front. Right now I have more acne than wrinkles -- a good thing?? -- and a really good relationship with my colorist and that is going to have to suffice.

This is the better of the two ads they have floating around for my class (because you can't see my beige encased body.)

These are the cutie eight-year-old girls in F's new English class. He said they are awesome.
P.S. We are currently selling our television that was only used once since we moved here for watching Tutti Pazzi per Amore. After two and a half years of not ever watching Italian television since the good shows don't start until 9:30 at night and there are not very many of those, the television police finally found us and sent us a bill for 59 euro. My friend Federica at Massimo Pretty Hair told me not to pay it and to ditch the set. We are selling it to Melissa who can use it for her rental apartment. F made sure to tell me that he hopes I really enjoyed Tutti Pazzi because each episode cost me about 50 euro. But the thing is . . . I did! Now I am in constant paranoia that the television police will inspect the house on the day when things are a mess and I am doing a facial in my underwear. Sigh.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Nonstop Femininity, people!
In Italy we have a holiday to celebrate women that is completely different than Mother's day. It is the eighth of March and everybody gives out these mimosa flowers which are small and yellow and to me they smell like almond cookies, but that might have been the almond cookies, come to think of it. Anyway, they day started off with the fancy gym's Open Weekend where everyone can come for free to take any class they want. My boss came in and pointed out to me that there were a lot of older ladies in the room and he told me to take it easy on them. That was a nice gesture and all, but I had one second before the class that I had all mapped out was about to start and it was kind of too late to turn back. It ended up that there were a lot of really miserable old ladies and some of my regulars who thought the class was too easy. Some days you can't win. I went home and reformulated the class for the afternoon session. It went great and there were twenty five or so happy campers who loved it.

This woman who takes my class named Carmen and who loves Argentinian tango and cats invited me to her house for her Women's day party. I could not refuse. I went home on the bus with Cristiano. He felt my muscles four times and we chatted about my new contract with the gym which says I can't work for anyone else and the gym tee shirt that I finally got after three weeks of begging. On the way home there is always that cheery moment where Cristiano, who always sits opposite from me, and I both spot Naked Running Man who throughout the winter runs in his bare feet and bare chest and his bare, bald head all around the walls of Lucca in his red tiny tiny shorts and then stops to stand on his head and do almost naked yoga. We giggle. Our other tradition is that when the bus passes us by going in the wrong direction before it loops back to get us, I always make up some story about how this is the day that the driver is not coming back because he decided he needed a vacation. This day I tried to convince Cristiano that the driver was definitely going to Disney land but he wasn't having any of it. On our way through the mud and wind back across the stretch of land we have to cross to get to our final destinations I realized that Cristiano is very type A and he probably doesn't talk to me ever when we get off the bus because he is concentrating on not missing his second bus that leaves seconds later. That is a relief because I was starting to think I had bad breath or something.

Mimosa flowers look like this:

The florist lady Tina gave me some for free so I bought some to bring to Carmen's party, but it was very redundant because she had a table with a huge centerpiece full of them and then a single rose surrounded by them on top of each of the eleven napkins. I had no idea it was a dinner party so I had to address my vegetarianism through her friend Sonia who had given me a ride there and who speaks English, although not with me, and took care of me the whole night like the needy outsider I am. I asked Sonia when I should eat my special salad of rucola that Carmen made me to make up for the meat I wasn't eating. Not that I needed any more food because there were bruschetta and cheeses and almonds and olives and sformatini made with artichokes and a breadcrumb crust. I know the salad usually comes last in Europe, but I missed my moment and they took it away to bring out this mimosa inspired cake with strawberries on top like roses and I felt sorry for the whole bag of rucola she wasted on me, but I was drunk on prosecco and it was after midnight so that's that:

 Carmen has a really nice group of friends including these two guys who were allowed to come to the party because everyone loves them. They are also gym members who had taken my class once. They are instantly recognizable as being just adorable and they served coffee to all of the women and fawned over Carmen and her friend's mothers. Everyone was dressed very elegantly and the conversations was filled punched with raunchy jokes that I mostly did not understand, but whose theme were meatballs. There was also a line of conversation about how funny it is that American women design their pubic hair into shapes. Two of the women told me that they were widows and there was a lot camaraderie around the table about women taking care of each other which was nice.

 Today I had 35 people for my class and my friend Serena came. Two of the Ego ladies gave me their phone numbers in case I ever need a ride and they said that they would ask my boss if I could personal train them, which would be awesome. Shilpa who I met on the Lucca women's club website was there and she gave me a great pep talk as usual to calm my nerves before and afterwards. It went really well. They applauded after my Beyonce' and Justin Bieber choreography sets and it was all very exciting. Afterwards, Serena talked  me into taking the Tribal Dance class of Ginetta(who I have referred to as Jane Fonda rather accurately) with live drummers which was really fun as was the Sexy Chair and Broadway Dance classes she taught the day before that I checked out with my friend Elena. We danced to Hello Dolly using Fred Astaire type canes and then did burlesque to some Christina Aguillera song. I wanted to go back for Claudia's Fame Dance class this afternoon, but I just couldn't because I have three more classes to choreograph for tomorrow.

That's the Italian Jane Fonda and her drummer. 
I am hidden behind the seated lady on the far left. At least they got a good shot of Elena in the white tee.
Also it turns out, for the record, that the fancy gym had checked out all the season's fashion catalogs and knew that pink and beige would be in every store in Lucca for Spring --unfortunately, not as early as I needed them to be, but they knew. It is like a weird color indoctrinating conspiracy. Now every day I hit my head against the wall because that photo of me in the beige long underwear could have easily been that awesome tube dress or something else that is in every single shop window throughout the whole town. F keeps telling me to let it go, but somehow I know I will obsess over it until April.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

All Hail the Adonis of Zumba
Thank goodness it was only a twenty four hour stomach flu. Today I taught a private lesson at home and managed to get our toilet repaired --which is harder possibly than teaching with the stomach flu. Seriously, between the emails to the landlord's daughter-in-law and the back and forth via cell phone to arrange a visit from our hunky plumber, plus cleaning every crevice of the bathroom because our plumber has high standards for his workspace, it is a huge undertaking and also not cheap. After all that I got a phone call from Claudia the goddess of Zumba.

She is very sweet and she feels for me because she is new too. She is either half Italian or she was born here, but her mom is from Uruguay -- the point is she is completely fluent and smart as a whip. She inherited the unfortunate position of substituting for the Adonis of Zumba who is worshiped by all three thousand members of the fancy gym. The Adonis is called Martin. He has a huge afro and a killer smile and muscles on his muscles. So instead of bowing down or breaking down, she was clever. She got on the Martin bandwagon and decided to make a photo event out of his long awaited return from America where he was studying with the best of the best o quanto pare. She taught his class a special dance and got them into costume so that at the end of the performance they all appear before him in a line desperately waving their chests with the letters taped to them that spell out Welcome back Martin. He sat on the stage like the adonis he is and just soaked it all in. Claudia called me today and told me that she was picking me up and bringing me to this lesson because it would win me points with the clients if I participated. I am happy I thought to ask someone to show me a couple of the steps before we went on in the dressing room. The real one, not the closet.

I was down in the bathroom when they took the group photo, but thank goodness I brought some behind the scenes shots. The others I'll steal for you from their official FB page. While I was jumping, and sweating, and gyrating to Martin's lesson and he was looking at himself in the mirror, Claudia was off pretending to get a drink. Afterwards she told me that she never takes anyone else's class because she doesn't want to get hurt. Pain is an alarm she told me. Oh thanks. Could you possibly have mentioned that to me forty five minutes ago before I pulled about thirty different muscles in my legs and shoulder? She's a smarty pants that Claudia. Come to think of it she only took fifteen minutes of my class the other day. Then at the end she reappears all refreshed and clapping and saying what a great class it was. I'm totally stealing that move. She is gong to do the Beyonce dance for her Fame class that I have been preparing all month in case they asked me to teach hip hop at the last minute, but I forgive her because she is possibly my one and only ally apart from the cook and nudist Nicholas.  Oh and she told me, as if I couldn't figure this out for myself, that she had an advantage because not only is she tall and naturally thin, but she was a fighter for many years and has a rock hard stomach. She also is charming and friendly to everyone and can chat her way out of a paper bag. I stood in the locker room hiding from my own beige photo which is every-fucking-where and now they are selling the tee shirt of it for various charities and it is in the club magazine that is delivered door to door throughout the city and said barely two words that made sense in Italian the whole two hours I was there. Sigh.

I love you, New York, but until you have experienced the fancy gym you don't know the meaning of: If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I have a long way to go and still no tee shirt. I have to get more hours and soon. . . Or we are all going to get washed away in a wave of Martin. Claudia who teaches Zumba says she stopped doing all the jumps ages ago; it's bad for your knees she says. You don't say? I told you she was smart.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Fake it till you Make it
I woke up with that groundhog's day sensation that It was all starting all over again, and, unfortunately, I was right. Round 2 of the intestinal flu. The good news is that F and T don't have it. I spent the whole morning dozing and moaning and aching and freezing and then it was time for work. I have no idea how I didn't throw up. I asked Nicholas to keep his eyes open for me because I was worried about fainting on the stage, and when I walked into the room it was on unsteady legs. And not just because Nicholas was basically naked again in the dressing closet. The new zumba teacher who was hired right before I was introduced me to her class. I am going to go out on one of my short limbs and say that her name is Claudia, but I'm not sure.

 She was substitute teaching the lesson before mine and she said that not only would she try out my class but she would convince several of her reluctant and already sweaty students to do the same. It is always nerve wracking to teach a teacher, but today especially. This teacher is the woman who is a good foot taller than me and is featured next to me on the oh so beige poster. She is a long cool drink of Uruguayan water and she can zumba like nobody's business. She left early from my lesson, but later she told me it was because she got hungry. I am glad that she eats as I am convinced most of my female coworkers do not. It was not easy getting the students on board for this lesson, but I felt better as the lesson went on and was able to keep the majority of them motivated. Later in the supply closet that doubles as our dressing room, Claudia told me that on Mondays I am supposed to be asking for la news where I will fill in my classroom statistics and get any letters for the instructors. I asked her if Lanews was a person, but she just looked at my pitifully and repeated slowly and loudly la "news" is the news. Ah okay, another cute borrowed term from my native tongue. Gotcha. I forgot to do it anyway. I figure until I get told officially, I can keep acting clueless.

It was a blessed relief to hear Claudia complain about our boss and how he never tells us anything. So true! She doesn't have an official outfit yet either. I need every ounce of confidence I can get for this crazy scene so I explained last night to the Victoria's Secret saleslady in Virginia that I needed all my new workout wear shipped to Italy. Even she seemed to think that I was probably missing something. There must be an easier way, her tone implied. Sadly, there is not one decent workout outfit to be found in this whole region. Unless you like baggy and beige. One of my clients is already bringing me back pajamas from the US store, but I didn't want to trouble her with a bunch of extra requests. There are no decent pajamas without cartoon characters on them here, either. There goes this month's paycheck, but since I don't wear any real clothes anymore I suppose I will save money on those.

Anyway, Claudia told me that she had prepared a fantastic flamenco zumba lesson only to be told last minute that she has to teach FAME dance which is not a real thing, but just an invention of our boss' imagination. She asked me to collaborate with her, but I told her I'd help her behind the scenes, if anything. I have all the music to Fame, but I don't want to go head to head with somebody who counts out choreography for a living and is going to realize that I don't. It was also comforting to hear that she has to practice ten hours to really memorize the material for each lesson of zumba in order to get the cueing down and since they only pay her to work two hours a week and is under an exclusive contract it is really not worth her while to choreograph something from Fame which is not even her style. Maybe if I had been feeling more adventurous and less nauseous I would have stepped up, but I probably would have regretted it afterwards, so just as well. Both Claudia and Alice have perfectly ripped mid-sections and I had the intestinal flu tummy bloat that comes from only being able to eat white foods so I went out to the windy bus stop with all my sweaty and unfashionable workout clothes stuck to me as to avoid further pitying.

Cristiano felt my biceps two times on each side and took the bus home with me. I was ecstatic to have survived the day.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Good bits

I forgot to show you these photos of T when her friends came for an Oscar night dinner of Chinese dumplings with official ballots, old footage of red carpet arrivals (best I could do with the time difference) and full high fashion dinner attire.

Plus there is a riveting and not to be missed video of F driving me to the fancy gym in the snow last week.

By finally finding the instructors' changing room/smelly closet I have also discovered the chart where we are supposed to log how many students we have per class, a buzz kill if there ever was one, and also that everyone else has a mailbox with mysterious mail in it, and that my kind coworker Nicholas has no problem walking around in his undies. They still have yet to give me a uniform and so I am the only one who seems to not wear the logo, but I have already asked for balls, boas, and chairs. And I think my boss Giacomo is finding that I am a bigger pain in the butt than he was hoping for and I am finding that he is more evasive than I was hoping for.

The feedback I have received so far is that my class is too fast, that it needs to be more jam packed, that it is too hard, that it is too easy, that I speak wonderful Italian, and that no one can understand me. I did the same class twice on Friday and one time it took me an hour and the next time I finished fifteen minutes early and had to put in all this filler at the end. Later I realized why I was so fast in the afternoon and its name is caffeine. I am going to have to watch the pacing going forward. My coworkers seem really a lot more put together than I do. I can't explain it. They look so picture perfect all the time, whereas I have been eating flax seeds three times a day to keep the acne cysts away and constantly misplacing my magnetic entrance bracelet and refusing to get undressed even for a second in front of anyone. Super stressful.

This week I am doing bioenergy treatments for one coworker and two clients to try and get some good testimonial anecdotes that will enable me to bring the Domacic method to the fancy gym.