Thursday, November 28, 2013

Baby steps
We did meet with T's Italian/Greek professor and she was much nicer than expected. She didn't correct me once! (Hee Hee.) Anyway, it was reassuring that she is a real person. Unlike my ex-supervisor. She had a thousand times the empathy of Giacomo on the Giacamo Zero Empathy meter. T still says that she is scary and hard to please, but that is normal. The scariest part is making conversation with the other parents outside the door while you wait. Something about chatting under pressure makes my consonants stick together. I ended up sounding like a New Yorker speaking Italian while eating an entire pack of saltines. Unlike the middle school, the Classico highschool is very civilized: People stick to the order in which they signed up and don't try to cut you in line or trip you as you go in. The Science professor is out sick for the month and the Latin professor cancelled on us so you will need to hang in there for news from the remaining five professors with whom we were not clever enough to get appointments.

To go along with all of my unexpected decreases in work as people cancel lessons all the time, I have an unexpected increase in work because Pierluigi is having me translate all of his furniture making manuals into English. He numbered his steps in the most adorable way: "For the first, for the second, for the third." He had used Google Translator to make the documents. They read like Ikea instructions if you are putting together shelves while simultaneously doing bong hits and standing on your head. He has a really hard job to do because he has to be the point person for three different manufacturers, none of which have a written guide to how they actually managed to put the Italian furniture together. Luckily he has a lot of experience and is a smart guy who can think quickly on his feet. The cabinets are heavy and he has to make sure none of the parts can fall on anyone and that they are all secured. His crew will be made of around five people, but he doesn't know if they will be Chinese, American or Arabian or all of the above. If he does well this time, he will have plenty of work in the future because he will be supervising the design elements for a chain of stores that will keep expanding. I am determined to get him to pronounce the words "think, thing, and furniture" correctly and to get him to be able to give commands authoritatively. I can't send him out there as the guy who says I fink the fing I have to explain you is how to put together the fornitore. Not on my watch.

"But Dad, I want the meatballs." "Um . .yes, here it is, one moment . . .1. Cut up the meat. 2. Mix the elements . ."

In other news, in my impatience not to wear foundation make up anymore, I used too much of the exfoliating cream that the German Barbie doctor gave me and burnt off some random layers of skin on my face. Now, not only do I have to wear make-up, but it is kind of hanging off of my face in a weird, lopsided, accident victim kind of way. Lovely. When I am not working I am watching old Italian television programs on the internet and practicing my pronunciation. I watched I Cesaroni, Amici, and whatever else they put up on Darn those stuck together double consonants. I will get you!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

No, you don't understand
Well, today was T's birthday party with her friends. This is always on the weekend and should not to be confused with her family birthday party which is a much simpler affair in comparison. Well, T was brave this year and invited her 100% Italian friend from school and a friend of her friend so that her friend wouldn't feel uncomfortable. Including T, there were five girls all together. T casually dumped the job of inventing a game for all of them to play onto me. I say dumped because she didn't want the responsibility of making a game in case it didn't turn out well. The odds of the game turning out well are, well, not good. So I did some Pinterest research and found out that the coolest teenager party game is a high tech scavenger or treasure hunt with a little truth or dare thrown in for good measure.

F and I gave each girl 5 euros and we took down their cell phone numbers. They were divided into the Italian girls that she just met this term and who felt more comfortable together and T with her two besties to start out. Then I made a list of about seven tasks and I sent the two groups tasks starting from the top and the bottom of the list respectively.

1. Go to the cafe' and order yourself a drink to go. Walk out with a plastic spoon.
2. Go to the fountain in the piazza behind the cafe' and scoop three spoons of water over your left shoulder and have a teammate take a picture of you with her cell phone.
3. Go to the coolest clothing store in town and try on a full head to toe outfit and have your teammate photograph you.
3.1 The two tallest members of each team must go and switch places. (This was to try to create a bit of girl group intergration. It was a bit of a fail because the girls who switched had already done the tasks of the team they were asked to join, but, hey, nobody's perfect.)
4. Take a photo of cute kid who is under three years of age.
5. Go to the shoe store and ask for the highest pair of heels they have. Walk across the store in them while your teammate films you.
6. Buy a crazy color nail polish and give an on the go manicure to at least one hand of one of your teammates.
7. Go outside the discount store and serenade the members of the opposing team with a song.
8. Finally, everybody run together to the magazine store where the kindly owner was to have a treasure box of chocolates waiting for them after they said the magic words. Unfortunately their was a change of shift sometime in there and the store owner's daughter had no idea about the magic words. But it all got straightened out.

Teenage girls have lots of hair. Weave makers everywhere get itchy fingers just thinking about this hair.
That's me explaining the game to the panic stricken girls.

Photo of T fulfilling fountain task as sent from Giorgia's cell phone.

Now that's why they call them S'mores, people.

Things you need to know:
1. While I was furiously texting on my ancient cell phone and frantically forwarding saved and sent messages from one team to another in Italian, F and I were playing a video game on the Sephora website where you have to feed macaron cookies to an expensive looking bird. This is harder than it looks because their is an electric fan with varying air currents and you have to judge the direction of the bird's beak and the magnitude of the air current in order to get the french gourmet cookie into the bird's mouth before the time goes out. I kept yelling at F to help me keep track of the texts, but he, admittedly, got a little obsessed with feeding the bird.

2. I, in my fury to not keep the girls waiting for the texts, sent an accidental text message to F's friend Alessandro Grossi saying that he should return back with his old teammates. He wrote back "cio'e' " which means, in effect, "say what?" And I had to call him and explain the whole situation to him in Italian.

3. T stormed back into the house with her friends looking rather unhappy. She glared at me and utter the words no mother wants to hear: "Well, that was really weird. Now what?"

I went right to plan B which was the awesome S'mores cake that F made which had two cheesecake layers, two chocolate chip cookie layers, two brownie layers, four marshmellow layers, and lots of chocolate icing. Later we heard giggling which I took to be a good sign, but F and I retreated into our bedroom to watch The Great British Bake Off on the internet with our piece of cake. T told me after the Italian girls left that there is sort of a formula for Italian birthday parties that is not supposed to be violated that involves a mandatory film watching, present opening segment, potato chips, and I believe chatter. We were pretty much a total fail by those standards except for the presence of superfluous potato chips.

P.S. Also the morning started out with a new English student for me named Pierluigi. He is an adorable person who loves New York and New Yorkers and he was quick to explain that he was devastated by the events of September 11th and how it changed the world. He and his wife have three children between the ages of 19 and 11. He needs to speak English because he has a job in Qatar where he has to explain to laborers how to use an Italian instruction manual for putting furniture together. He described himself as an interior designer, but the job description he gave me doesn't match with the title. I had all of these outdoor construction vocabulary sites up on the computer and then I realized that he basically is putting together furniture on a massive scale. But we got along great, and he wants to keep up with lessons even after the job is over. Yay! It was fun to teach him how to make a "th" sound so that he doesn't keep saying I fink all the time. This is good news because it means that I was right about that being an English teacher is a satisfying job for me. I could seriously teach the th sound 24/7 and be happy as a pasqua. Maybe I have just been lucky because all of my students are pretty chatty.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanks pinterest!
Seriously. I love Pinterest. I have a board called Things My Teenage Daughter Will Love, Unless I'm Wrong. And since I often am wrong, T made her own birthday board called Well, Now I Feel Selfish :) in which she suggested gently and with urgency some great things that she would like for her special day, none of which were very material in nature, and all of which were fun to do. 
The night before F and I made thse photo balloons with pictures of T from the beginning until now. It was so fun to watch her descend through them first thing this morning. 

We also got her a slushie maker! (Francesca, I'll explain slushies to you next Monday.)
This was a little dress she wanted from a weird website that ships things from Asia and whose customer service representatives desperately need English lessons.
The first gift she opened was a birthday outfit of skeleton leggings and a plaid shirt which she wore to school.

Then breakfast was salted caramel pumpkin muffins and hot mocha. Lunch was homemade pretzels with a cheddar cheese dipping sauce. For dinner T wanted falafels from the falafel place and chocolate peanut butter lava cake. Eat your heart out, Tracy Anderson.

She had a great time opening presents over skype with our friends in Denver -- Meagan, Stephen and Vivi and chatting away with her Grandma Dos in NY.

To top it all off, she got an 8+ and an 8- from her Italian/Greek professor which will make parent-teacher conferences a much more amicable and lovely event. There was a ton of confusion about how to sign up for these bad boys. It turns out that "the Americans" couldn't find the giant sign up board again and had to call a mom from the class to get the inside scoop. We, therefore, missed out on being type-A first to be seen parents and are settling for people who eventually get seen, but not necessarily tomorrow. I just realized that I spelled necessarily with two Cs when I taught my last English lesson. Happy Birthday, Tbird, bunny racket, bunny bagel, honey bagel, T, and bella di mamma that you are. Did I embarrass you yet? 

In case I didn't; here's this:

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A comeback
I am slowly, slowly making up for the lost lessons at the fancy gym with a few faithful followers who have sought me out and some new hand-me-down, passaparola, English students from F. My first new student is coming to the house tomorrow and I am hoping that teaching English is fun and easy or that it is at least easy to make non-English speaking people think that you have some idea of what you are doing. And that it is fun! My all new life plan is to teach exercise once a day, six days a week, if possible, so that I get a workout in without overdoing it. The rest of the time I can teach English. If people come back regularly I believe I am back on track and even saving money on gasoline that we had to use to get back and forth to the gym all of the time.

 A less faithful inner circle person got pissed at me for cancelling on her after she had invited me for a late night of midweek dancing. She had told me the dinner that I wouldn't eat would cost 15 euro and that she would give me a ride, but when she wrote back to tell me it would cost 20 euro and that she would not give me a ride, I took it as a sign that I should bow out. In retaliation she wrote a love letter to my substitute at the fancy gym just days after writing an appeal for justice on my behalf on their fb page. She comes off looking a bit schizophrenic in my opinion, but I'm not going to take it personally. Change is rough for some people.

It is lovely not to have to sign in and out, fake smile at people all day, get in and out of the car, wear sweat drenched clothes in the freezing cold, smell those yucky locker room smells, and deal with the constant backhanded, low life, sneaky and vile behaviors of my coworkers.

My skin is very slowly getting better, but I can't say that I am yet thrilled with the results that going to the German Barbie has brought me. Patience is a rough one when you are the immediate gratification poster child.

The problem with having loyal friends is that they feed you really well. Friday night we went to dinner at my friend Karin's house and she made this really impressive meal that was designed to feed tall people with high metabolisms. The pumpkin soup and pumpkin gnocchi were very autumnal comfort foods and then for dessert she baked her own apple strudel ala mode. Even F had to surrender.

On Saturday night had a really nice dinner with a new friend of mine and her husband. She went to an awful lot of trouble. I thought when she said to come for a simple pizza, we would order in like we do in New York. Come to find out, that in Lucca a simple pizza comes with six kind of appetizers, at least six different kinds of HOMEMADE pies, and a homemade layer cake for dessert. I should burn it off in about a week, if I eat nothing but fennel. It was so generous of her. We really felt at home. Before dinner F and I went to her grandmother's house to do a bioenergy treatment for both granny and grandpa. Granny suffers from horrible nerve pain, and grandpa just had a surgery related to leukemia. They were adorable. It was shocking because her grandmother came originally from England and spoke perfect English and so it was hard to choose which language to speak. It didn't matter because I made her take her hearing aide out, and so I don't think she really heard me in any case. The grandpa was equally super cutie. It was weird because what is not weird about bioenergy healing, but it was really weird because their whole extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins, about a dozen of people with large brown eyes and thick, thick lashes all kept hushing each other in the background.

I am in a bit of a panic about parent-teacher conferences/ricevimenti at T's highschool. F went by and he got told by a bidella that you don't have to sign up ahead of time, but T thinks she heard her Latin teacher say that the sign up list was almost full for this coming Tuesday. Somebody is wrong, and this means that I will probably end up getting all dressed up only to wait around in the wrong place at the wrong time only to waste a whole morning not getting the chance to embarrass myself or T in front of her scary professors. I think they do not even know that T only started speaking Italian three years ago. Fun times.

Here are some photos from the apartments above the church of San Michele that F found open to the public briefly and complete with relics and fancy stuff:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is it bad if I call all my posts: "Well, this is awkward??"
I kissed the dentist. Keep your shirt on, F was with me. I'm sorry I have been locked in the house with a scabby face for an entire week and she was my first human contact outside of my immediate family. I was so frustrated by having the dental equipment in my mouth (that just sounds wrong in this context, I know) that when I was free and clear I couldn't stop talking. I fear that I said crazy things. The dentist is one of F's English students as is one of her colleagues and so she peppered her speech with cute English words and a few idiomatic phrases. She had killer green eyeliner. Among the weirdest of the weirdly weird things I did during those forty five minutes of chatty dental cleaning, is the fact that I outed F for not flossing regularly. He got so pissed he turned purple. Who could blame him really? But I like to think that his gums will thank me one day. Then at the very end the dentist lady reached across her reception desk to limply shake my hand. I felt that it was such an unsatisfying way to end my first human contact in seven days that I inserted myself behind the desk with her and said, Dai, ti do un bacino and kissed her on both cheeks. She looked kind of upset, actually. Then I skipped off hoping that what had just happened had not really just happened and that nothing worse would happen, and that is when F dropped the heavy metal coat hanger with our coats on the stone floor causing a huge and startling boom which scared the bejeezus out of all the other patients in the waiting room. Yup, I need to get out more.

9 out of 10 dentists recommend the brushing of teeth.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Black mold, cancellations, and cripling pain
I don't know what you're doing this weekend, but I hope it's better than what I'm doing.

We seem to have some kind of mold or mildew problem that has multiplied with all of the recent humidity that autumn brings to Lucca. I am worried that the roof or something is leaking into the walls, but F thinks it is just an opportunistic mold that is spreading. He bought a special kind of paint. The bottom line is that he opened all the windows. The only positive side to the cold draughts is that it was the annual moment of breaking F down and convincing him to turn on the heat, which is an added expense that, if living alone, he would probably never take on. We had to bring our mattress out to sleep on the living room floor which would have been okay if I was not experiencing the most cripling sciatic pain I have ever had in my life. It starts in my lower back, but goes through my groin down my shin to a burning patch in my heel. I seem to be allergic to either the mold or the paint fumes and now have a full on sore throat and cold symptoms. I don't know if the stress of extricating myself from the gym like a less successful Katie Holmes wrenching herself from the grips of Tom and the scientologists is what has triggered it all.

It could have been the trauma of having my face torched. After my regular session of unpleasant, but mild laser treatments from the German Barbie doctor, I had her blast off three dark spots. I had suggested that she use a different kind of laser because the mild one didn't produce results. What I didn't know is that she would use something like a blow torch and that I would be left temporarily with three blooding holes where the spots used to be. As I slowly scab over, a process that has been retarded by the amount of humidity and black mold in our home, I have had time to cancel all of these lovely invitations with patient friends who are probably on the verge of giving up on their limping, scabby ex fitness instructor.

On a positive note, I have been obsessively watching a little known television program called Styled to Rock, where a bunch of eccentric creative types have to make pop star inspired outfits for a panel of famous English people I have never heard of that are led by, of all people, Rhianna. IT IS BETTER THAN CRACK, but only slightly less addictive. What's that sound? Ah that is the sucking sound of silence for the money that I am not earning by having morals and standards. I love Sundays.

p.s. Don't google black mold under images, it is alarming. I think we just have mildew and not something worthy of men in white suits and women crying, which is the overall theme of the images which emerge.

Apart from my own personal marathon, here you have the marathon of Lucca.

"I hear the Americans' house is full of black mold, any thoughts?"