Sunday, April 28, 2013

Looking Ahead
We finally found an exchange for London and the dating game is over as far as Home Exchange goes this Summer 2013. The nice man we skyped with had his video cam pointed directly up his nose and did not seem to know we could see him. His nose hair was trimmed and so I have no complaints. The family has two young boys ages five and three, but I can't even remember why I was originally vetoing families with small children. I am so thrilled we found a match. If I come home to find a few chocolate smears here and there, I think I can live. As long as they are not on the chairs, just kidding, kind of- sort of.

 After realizing that I was the only teacher without a special role to play in the six week spring fling at the fancy gym known as Fit Fiesta, I sent a power point presentation on other classes I would like to teach next year to the owner of the fancy gym and to the three fitness managers. Thank goodness Elena edited it for me as my grammatical errors are becoming less cute and charming with every day that passes. Let it be known that the next cash cow to be mooing in to the fitness world is called Bokwa. It is the new Zumba. You dance in formations that spell out the alphabet and some numerals on the floor. The instructor has a set number of options of steps to choose from and mixes them according to the music. The instructor can even use sign language to signal to the students which step is coming up and cue them accordingly so that it is not necessary to shout out instructions to the hundreds of eager and enthusiastic Bokwa followers. This is a global phenomenon that is taking over the entire world and anyone who doesn't Bokwa in the next six months will be prehistoric and swept aside. I offered to go get certified while I am in England this summer, but my manager boss guy did not even respond to that text. Sigh. Hence the power point. Italians love a good power point. They also love facebook and I am now up to 110 friends/clients. Friday afternoon I finally hit the big time with 30 students in a class.

Today was exciting only in that I found a scorpion on the door of the instructors' changing room. Jessica who works at the front desk bravely grabbed a roll of paper towels and then saw the impressive size of her target and retreated. I learned that when asked to come to the rescue, the majority of Italian men I work with will respond, "ma mi fa schifo. non posso," and are just as grossed out and paralyzed by fear as we are.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The hip hop boggle prophecy
T swears she shook the boggle board and ended up with this:

Wow. What does it all mean????!!!
The mega fiesta staff meeting
It was huge. There were spotlights for goodness sake. There were films and slides and a musical number for the big finish. The fancy gym's owner was in command so the tone in the room was somber, respectful, with a hint of fear for good measure. Despite my asking several colleagues this week if they might sit with me at the meeting in case I didn't understand anything, no one did. I came in with two nice people who I think work in the spa and who were watching the tango class in the other room with me before the meeting. I didn't push to sit with them because I wanted to see where my fellow instructors were going to sit until it became clear that the answer was -- far from me. So I met a nice lady from Argentina who has been in Lucca with her Italian husband for the last ten years and who teaches swimming.

The good news is that I understood almost everything that was said and that I don't have to wear the MC Hammer pants or the circus pants if I don't want to even though that is our uniform for the next six weeks. I will wear their overly wide sneakers until I get blisters to make up for it, I guess. There was a nice moment where the big boss welcomed some of us new kids and people clapped for us. I was thinking if you are clapping, why didn't you sit with me? But in the end my row was filled up with other instructors so probably it looked like I was part of the group.

The bad news was that during the meeting I had a colpo di tosse/coughing fit and I had to go downstairs to cough for a bit which is always embarrassing. I was sucking on honey lozenges like the baby sister in the Simpsons with her pacifier, but in the end I had to surrender. The other bad news is that I am pretty much the only instructor who was not given a special class or project for this special six week initiative. Sometimes pretending I understand less Italian than I do helps and sometimes it hurts, but it is too useful as an everyday ploy for me to give it up until at least September.  (I didn't know you wanted me to WEAR the horrendous fat pants! etc.) I do have to say that the owner is a very shrewd man who has figured out that during this part of the year people stop their gym memberships and go to the beach or do sports outdoors. He is both building outdoor components to the gym and does this six week long crazy party which over the last few years has made the fancy gym the only one with any business during this part of the year.

There was a slide show with all of the photos of the chosen crew of instructors who got to go to Germany and London and travel to the fitness fairs and conferences with the higher ups including the owner. At the end, there was a musical tribute from the concert for those affected by the earthquake in Emilia Romagna and then the owner and his helpers came around with miniature six packs filled with tiny whiskey bottles and we all took a big long sip and got out of there. It was not easy to get a ride home, but I got one from the financial guy Patrizio. I don't know what I said to scare him, but by the time I got out of the car he looked scared of me. Sigh.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A strong lunch
Today we went for an Italian Sunday lunch. No bagels. When we arrived Anna Maria chuckled at us and gave me a wink, explaining that she hoped we were hungry because she made us a "strong" lunch. I hoped she meant strong as in fortified with vitamins and minerals, but she meant really, really heavy. Anna Maria made us homemade lasagne from pasta she rolled herself, eggplant parmigiana, and a potato tart. It was like a restaurant for malnourished people with stick-to-your-ribs (and my thighs) kind of food. She also made her own strawberry sorbet and a cake. I had to beg her not to make me eat the cake.
There's more you say?
yum/gnam gnam
Oh my gosh, she's not kidding . . .
We were running late and so Fabio texted us that they had eaten all the food, but we could share an apple. He, as it turned out, was kidding.

T and Erica
T and Aurora. C'mon we know you want to be in the photo.

There you go!
 The sorbet made me cold so Fabio had me go outside in the sporadic sun to warm up. Unfortunately, I am allergic to outdoors. Next time you think about moving to Tuscany, keep in mind that when it stops raining, it starts blooming an extra potent snowy poplar seed that can bring grown men and female fitness instructors to their knees. This stops around July. Then it becomes insanely hot in August and then it starts raining again. Just saying.

Hair braiding at weird moments is a mother daughter thing.

This is Aurora and Erica's room. T has almost nothing in common with them in the sense that she is indifferent or repulsed by everyone in the posters.

After eating, F had three cups of coffee and found the strength to play Dance Revolution with the girls. Nobody got hurt other than a small porcelain elephant. After F, broke it he ran away from the scene of the crime like a little girl, but later confessed to Fabio what had happened. Fabio forgave him because he was so impressed with his dancing prowess. Take a look for yourselves:



Saturday, April 20, 2013

Pound the alarm
And I am not talking about Nicki Minaj. Although, I wish I were.

T called me from school because her site for the insulin pump fell out and she did not, for some horrible reason, have one in her bag. I was choreographing my class for tomorrow in my pajamas in a state of disarray with no idea where I had left my wallet. I got out of the house as fast as I could and called her on the way to ask her to meet me at the door. She said not to worry because she was with two of the bidelle upstairs. Then my phone battery died. When I got to the school door, after reinjuring my leg tendon by running on the cobblestones, the portinaia or door person had no idea who T was or where she was. I had a huge noisy fit in front of the parents who were waiting to have meeting with the teachers on the main floor. By the time I got to T, I was very upset and yelled at a bunch of kind, unorganized, people and got her sorted out. I limped home to finish preparing my class.

When I looked up at the clock I realized that I had four minutes to get to the train station to meet my female colleague who had promised to help me understand somethings at work. I sent her a text to say I would be ten minutes late. She called me in a hysterical state talking about ending things with her boyfriend. I will never ever ever never get into a car with her and her gigantic, barking dog ever again. I am lucky to be alive.

In one conversation she told me both that she hated and loved Lucca, that she hated and loved her boyfriend, that she was leaving and staying with said boyfriend, that she was leaving and staying in said Lucca, that she was going to tell our boss that she was moving to Rome and that she might not go. Good thing I chose the right person to clarify things for me.

At lunch she told me that at the full staff meeting which no one wanted me to come to, it was announced that my boss has now divided his job in three and he shares it with two of my female coworkers, one of whom is a swim instructor and one of whom is a trainer.  Neither of them ever have time even to say hello to me so I don't think this is going to affect my life in any way. Then she showed me a thick stack of papers she was given when she was hired; it was the exact same stack of papers that I was not given when I was hired. We made a photocopy of the few pages that describe the six profiles or areas that the gym and all of the courses are based on which are, strangely enough, in English: Balance, Move, Shape, Power, Sport, and Fun. They could not be more like zodiac profiles if they tried.

This week I was told that my category is Shape. Here is my translation in: "In the Shape profile are people who are interested prevalently with shape and have the objective of modeling their body for aesthetic purposes. In the profile, one can find both people who are always obsessed with their physical form and people who become concerned following a given event like giving birth or people who may also enter in the category Move. In the gym we have activities of cardiovascular training and refining of the body. Outside of the gym they pay a lot of attention to their diet and healthy life style. They are regularly at the club between meal times for up to three hours and they prefer balanced activities like cardio or spinning at an average intensity as individuals or in courses like pilates. They love clean, open spaces that are calm and luminous. The colors they appreciated are natural ones. At an atmospheric level they prefer loud, rhythmic music and in general environments that stimulate their heart beat."

Um, welcome to crazy town. Come to find out that balance people like new age music and soft lighting and relaxing colors like earth, cream and beige and natural materials like wood, glass, and water. Move people are more willing to try different activities and they also love big well lit spaces and pop music and they like having a person trainer. The power people are kind of pig headed and love pop music. The sport people come at lunch time because they eat power bars and their colors are silver, mercury and black which makes sense because they only listen to rock music. This is all starting to remind me of a tarot card reader I went to in Park Slope for kicks. The fun people like group activities and listening to their Ipods. Don't ask.

After lunch I stopped in the instructors' changing room and the other female instructors who were chatting had nothing to say to me. I asked how long the meeting Monday night would take if it starts at nine at night and they said I wouldn't get home probably before midnight, but one of them would give me a ride. Fun times.

Oh, and by the way, Nicolas stood me up again today. That is a record seven times. 

Imagine this in Italian!:

Friday, April 19, 2013

After one sick day, T was overheard having this conversation with her father as to whether he alerted her friend's mother that she did want to meet her friend to walk to school this morning.

T: Did you talk to her mom or did you send a text?
F: I sent a text and she replied.
T: Did you send it in Italian? Last time you sent a text in Italian she understood it to mean that I wasn't coming, not that I was.
F: (laughing)
T: What?
F: Who do you sound like?
T: Mom.
F: Exactly.
T: Yeah, but I'm not as crazy anxious as she is yet.
ME: Oh thanks, people. I can hear you, you know.
sometimes/qualche volta
Sometimes maybe it is better not to be included. My mysterious boss Giacomo entered the classroom of the fancy gym this morning bearing gifts: A bag, a pair of shoes (too small, but they run large, so okay), a tee shirt and two pairs of horrendous bottoms that would make Twiggy look fat. These circus pants immediately made enemies with my thighs. I don't know what to say. I thought the baggy ones were horrendous, but the tighter ones with the squiggles are even worse. I will have to give up salt for two weeks and wear a bra top just to break even. Even the tee shirt is a large, gray, unflattering thing. If we have to absolutely wear all of these options, I am going to have to take a sick day. Take a look for yourself:

And to think, I kissed him on both cheeks for this!

As a hat maybe . . .

I look like Richard Simmons, no?

And pockets! I can fit two of my skinny coworkers in here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

 La Telenovella: As the fancy gym turns

These are some photos that Mariella sent me from that night at the Casina Rossa disco.

Since then the soap opera at the fancy gym has reached epic proportions. My one real friend inside the joint named Nicolas has dato mi buca/stood me up about five times in the most theatrical ways possible, including forgetting to call me, calling me collect, and coming up with times and places that are impossible and implausible. He has continued to insinuate that I am the subject of much jealousy and gossip and that I need to watch my back.

My paranoia reached new levels when my colleagues started to post charts and have conversations that have to do with a Fit Fiesta and a Fruit Party. I don't understand the role fruit plays, but it is a large one. I have asked everyone I can to explain to me what is about to happen, but the substitute swim teacher said to ask the other swim teacher and the other swim teacher was too busy and my boss was spotted for three seconds in which he asked me my shoe size and when I responded he cursed under his breath and marched off. You get the idea.

Half the people who I wanted to ask were not around because they all went to a fitness fair in Germany. I had no idea they were going or for how long. Here are some photos of these mysterious people on this mysterious trip:

How nice. How does one get invited to go on these trips? I will never know.
This scene went down where my colleague Claudia and I were commiserating about the lack of communication and our sense of not really fitting in when Alessandra walked in. Claudia asked her about the Fit Fiesta and she starting speaking at the speed of light. I was so lost and frustrated that I just asked Claudia, who speaks English, if she could fill me in the next day. I stormed off and Alessandra gave me a mean look. I later apologized to Alessandra who was sweet as pie about the whole thing. She smiles at me all the time. It is a horrible the wolf about to eat red riding hood kind of smile so I don't know what to make of her. But she has never said one bad word to me. In fact, she pretty much avoids speaking to me, but there is a lot of finding ourselves in the same room at the same time and wishing we weren't and smiling. My smile probably looks pretty fake to her, too, come to think of it. I feel like we could become friends, but it may take some alcohol to get things started.

Finally I had a little success with Nadia. She is often standing with the reservations book for the spa at the front desk with flawless hair and makeup. I don't know her whole job description, but it is something beauty related. She told me that each fitness instructor has three symbols that characterize their course. Mine are Shape, something, and Fun. That means I am, let's say, an orange square, a green triangle, and a something. Every client at the fancy gym is given a questionnaire and they are put into one of the six categories so that they know which courses match them best. For six weeks the gym will highlight each category and some instructors will tailor their classes or make up new classes to highlight that week's theme. I have no idea if I am even going to be involved, and, if so, will I be shoeless? Then in June everyone in Lucca shows up for a party we host that involves fruit salad and drinking. The instructors perform in a show. For all I know, my colleagues are all rehearsing already without me and I will be pushed on a stage four seconds beforehand, not knowing any of the steps. Then I wake up all sweaty. What a nightmare.

In order to make up for my outsiderness with the staff, I started working on my Facebook everday. I put up my own videos and Tracy Anderson's. I put up drink recipes and charts of all the celebrities that are using this method. I have about 50 new friends on Facebook from the gym and it has been great. I even convinced the publicity lady to put up an official invitation on the fancy gym's Facebook to befriend me. It is like Glee in that my little club is filled with the misfit rebels who support the strange foreign lady whose colleagues avoid her and who has been saying anca when she meant fianco and tacco when she meant tallone for months at a time.

This morning I couldn't stand it any more so I texted my boss. He said all would be explained Monday at the staff meeting. What staff meeting? When? At 21,00. Where? The location will be disclosed at a later date. Sigh . . .

My boss. He is so secretive that I think he may be method acting for a role as the next James Bond.