Friday, May 29, 2015

Just saying . .
 Did we just get cooler? By default?
 Is Beyonce copying me?
 I never realized how much F has in common with Jay Z, but now that I think about it . . .

It's uncanny.
The recipe for successo

How to fill four hours of obligatory English lessons with around seventeen people in their twenties who are bored to death and have completely different levels of experience with the English language:

1. Make them sit in a circle on the floor.
This was a controversial move, and I had two assure two young men that their cell phones would places of honor right next to me in the circle. (Kumbaya.)

2. Teach them how to play a bilingual version of Cards Against Humanity:


It turns out that today's Italian youth will pass an hour playing a game that is very similar to raunchy madlibs with an extra topping of raunch dressing if it means that one team gets to win. They are very competitive.

3. Let them watch How to Get Away with Murder with Italian subtitles.

Get them to act out the Viola Davis parts even though almost no one knew what they were saying in English. Pray your boss doesn't walk in during the sex scenes that are allowed on primetime in the U.S.  (This happened not once, but twice.)

4. Teach Grammar. 
Just kidding. Don't do that. No one cares.

I asked them what we should do next week for our last (thank God) four hours together, and they said they wanted to do the same thing that we did this week, but with longer and more frequent breaks. Done and done.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

T by design
T had the great idea to fasten Rifle Paper Co. artprints from their Bon Voyage collection to blocks of wood for her wall. Check it out:

home sweet mammolo
Finally! After working around the clock, we got all this done in one week. 


I found this used for only 35 euros!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Allora . .  .
So the victories have been getting the plumber and the electrician to come, getting internet service, and painting the entire apartment in two days. I sent out an S.O.S. to my students from the "Very Much" English class, some of whom are still unemployed and have experience in construction. Two former members answered the call on facebook and whatsapp. One is a graphic designer who paints houses part-time and one was a mechanic and bus driver who has a family to support and has been out of work for the last four years after being involved in an accident. I found out late in the game that his peripheral vision was lost in the accident. We were really happy to make him happy with the hours of paid work we were able to give him. Painting was not a perfect match for him as far as jobs go as he could not see what was covered or where the drips were flying, but he had a good attitude and so we wanted to have a good attitude, too. We now have a bright white house instead of an ugly canary yellow one with brown trim.

We went to another student's family's furniture store and found a used pantry made from ancient Mexican wood that is a huge improvement over the ugly greige laminate that came with the apartment. I have been up on ladders and filling in any gaps around the windows and doors with silicone and acustic glue. We still need some furniture before we can take new photos to send to the reluctant families from home exchange who we had contracts with for the summer.

Our old landlord settled with us so we don't owe him any more money and now we just have to turn over all of the various power and utility contracts and do all of the bureaucratic things since we are currently still living off the grid, which is fairly dangerous in Lucca.

I had a terrible class with the apprentices/yoots yesterday. In the first five minutes I yelled at a boy and told him to leave, in the second hour I gave them a very generous snack break, in the third hour I lost all my love of teaching and in the fourth hour, I showed them the first episode of How to Get Away with Murder with Italian subtitles and tried to teach them legal terms in English. Even my best Viola Davis impressions couldn't save the situation. There was a nod to a homosexual love scene in the first episode and I had to yell at them to say that I wouldn't remain silent if there were any homophobic comments. I'm pretty sure several of the male students were whispering speculations about whether or not I was on my period. Lovely.

There are only 572 things left on my to-do list for this apartment. We celebrated F's 51st birthday. T surprised him with family photos and sweet messages on post-its left all around the house when he woke up. A party was just out of the question given all the chaos. 

I don't even want to see people. I met the construction guys next door. It encouraged me to find out that the team is made up of friends and family of my colleague Elisa from the English school. They told me that the work will go on for two more months, but the noisiest part is now and not to worry. I am still full of angst about the arrival of the newborn upstairs. I don't want to do all of the virtual feedings and I don't know how it will play out.

Photos are coming; I promise.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The yoots 
My class loved this video:

Afterwards,  I had them tell me all the words they learned and I wrote them on the board: scrotum, testicles, sack, anus, etc. And then my boss walked in.

One of the people had a migraine and while I was doing a bioenergy treatment on her during the break, the program supervisor walked in. Only I didn't notice him, so he stood there watching, horrified, for five minutes and then came back to talk to me about my unorthodox methods and the reason why the course can't be divided into experience based learning levels for financial reasons. It's okay because he has a toupee. In general, those men don't make much trouble because they don't want you to blow on their heads. That sounds wrong.

To fill up the three hours I taught them the dance moves and lyrics to this song with different parts for
the boys than the girls: Funnily enough, the boys had to keep saying: "We're just so pretty." It was not a big hit. There was so much eye rolling that I worried they would leave only being able to glance to the right.

In addition we did some grammar exercises and took four breaks that lasted almost a half hour each. In the end, I was so tired I couldn't stand up so I spent the next eight caffeine -fueled hours unpacking boxes.
Wherever you go
So last Wednesday F and our fantastic student Tommaso made a half dozen trips or so in the car to bring all of our stuff from one house to the other and then the workmen from the building under construction in Corte Campana brought the couch and chest of drawers over in their van and made a quick trip to Tommaso's family's furniture store to pick up a comfy reading chair.

Somehow when we made the decision to choose the more reasonably priced apartment with the real kitchen, we missed the part about how this one had been vacant for three months and was absolutely filthy. An old lady with a cat and a caretaker who smoked lived here before us. That is a delicious combination, let me tell you. We also didn't catch how the existing furniture had to be pretty much tossed out because it was damaged and that the fans in the bathroom had so much gunk stuck in the blades that they make a sound like pigs being butchered every time you turn on the lights. There is also a shower door to be replaced, tiles missing in the shower, a shower rod to be replaced, a video door intercom that doesn't work, a plug in the kitchen that doesn't work and a few other things. Luckily, my student Elena lives downstairs and with a few telephone calls to her uncle, our new landlord, we got him to come in person two days later to make a list of the things to fix and he sent us an electrician that same day. I think it helped that I did my best imitation of a pig being butchered for both the landlord and the electrician. They are not smiley people and they both laughed.

Cacchio, where are the happy singing woodland creatures?

Why did I forget about the huntsman?

Is she pregnant?
The apartment is an unfortunate shade of yellow that is boardering on orange. And speaking of boardering, there is a weird, old fashioned boarder at the ceiling that makes the whole apartment feel smaller. I managed to get permission to paint it all white if we cover the boarder to preserve it in some way so that is what we will be doing today.

T said that this was a hastily decided downgrade and that she is counting the minutes for the next three years until she can leave us and move out. 

I have a nagging fear that the pregnant lady upstairs is going to give birth to the most annoying baby ever who will ruin my chances of sleep in the future. Why did I think it was sweet when Elena first told me that the woman who lived upstairs in the biancaneve/snow white apartment was pregnant? She just finished vaccuming in her high heeled shoes (I couldn't even get into sneakers when I was pregnant!) and it is 8:11 AM on Saturday so I have reason to believe she is not the most thoughtful neighbor. I have been up since 5:00 AM worrying about the painting so today it really doesn't matter. So I am going to take stock in these babies

During the night at this moment all is quiet and the bed is incredibly comfortable with the double mattresses. Everytime I hear a building related noise, I cringe and worry whether we made the right decision. On the positive side, there are zero bugs. Let me say that again: thus far, zero bugs at all.

The home exchange people from Barcelona are having second thoughts.

We don't have the registered contract yet so we still haven't gone through the bureaucratic part of the move and next week I got work teaching night classes every night for the upcoming two months that don't finish until 8:00 PM. This is good for money and bad for everything else. The classroom is full of mosquitoes.

It will probably all be fine.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

50 shades of crazy
I woke up with my heart pounding in my chest at around  6 AM this morning.

 At about11:30 AM we found out that you can't really rent a moving van in Lucca. It is the Italian way of encouraging you to hire a moving service. We went to the van rental place and he said there might be a loophole if we told the city office that gives vehicles permission to drive within the walls the idea that we were acquiring something. Then he sent us to an office that has since moved. Then the real office told us that there are no loopholes.

At noon I taught English for two hours, by which I mean that I complained about how hard it is to move in Italy for two hours in my native tongue while some people took notes. I ended up inviting the whole class for an aperitivo at our new place when the course is over which I am pretty sure is against all of the rules. What else is new?

I have to back up to 8 AM when the hammering started and when I say hammering, I mean a full scale assault on the roof and back wall of our house by the gentlemen who are restructuring the building next door. Unable to do anything else with all that racket going on, I decided to stream a bootleg version of 50 shades of grey, just because, and then the hammering got so loud that I couldn't tell if the protagonists were in ecstasy or if we were just having an earthquake. In the end, I looked on my bedside table and I found a lot of rubble and it turned out that the workmen had made a hole in the wall right behind me.

 I called the current landlord and he told me to see if I could get them to come fix it. I took photos of it and made the workman tell the landlord it was all his fault because I didn't want to lose our deposit. While the man, who turns out be Lucien was doing the repairs when I had a conversation trying to convince the new landlord that we had to sign the new lease tonight. He heard that we didn't have a van and he offered up his team for tomorrow.

T got home from Madrid at lunch-time and was very tired and unthrilled to have to make packing decisions. Big surprise there.

Finally, at 7 PM this evening the new landlord called and told us that we could come sign and get the keys, but just as we were finally getting to his office the railroad crossing closed on us and we got blocked. He waited for us and we are probably the only new tenants who have ever brought him a bottle of prosecco to celebrate. He looked fairly surprised.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

OH that's why
Oh, that's why whenever I am happy for my Italian friends when they find a new house they look at me like I have two heads. Because moving in Italy sucks. That's why. You have to go to enel, gesam, geal, sistema ambiente, and the post office to change your water, gas, electricity, postal and sanitation services. You have to get your internet turned on, but it takes ten days. And then you must report your change of address within 48 hours with the city government or you get in big trouble with the law. You also have to change your identity cards, your health cards, and probably six other things that I don't know about. I miss breaking my lease and thrusting up my middle finger at my old living situations. The only thing that makes me able to cope in this moment is the fact that Madonna's New York apartment has a mouse.

Monday, May 11, 2015

ITALY (happy mother's day, mammina!)
First of all screwed up my Mother's Day Sunday by forgetting to load il serale of my favorite reality talent show Amici. T was still in Madrid and we didn't find out until 9 AM that the 50 euros we spent to send her her passport was money well spent. F obviously would have slept in the doghouse had we had a dog or a house, but at the moment, for all intensive purposes, we have neither.

I did piece together the clips of the show. The opening challenge to see which team starts the competition made me really angry, too. In fact, I think both singers Emma and Elisa should go on strike. That would show those backwards thinking morons who's boss. They made them have an ironing competition. If that wasn't bad enough, they had to iron these male dancers' pants and shirts. Some old, white, American guy, sports journalist named Peterson was the judge.
As I type this I can hear the Albanian construction men are on the other side of the wall scraping away. Maybe they are on the roof over my head. It feels like I could reach out and touch them.  To amuse myself, I am alone in the house, I keep yelling out complaints in Italian about how they are ruining my life. I will have to suffer in this place for a while longer because when we went to go sign the new rental contract today, a document was missing. WELCOME TO ITALY. They passed a new law and now we have to wait and see if they can prepare the energy agreement for tomorrow night. In the meantime, F will go rent a moving van for Wednesday and try to sort out the internet connection for the new house. The new landlord was very sweet, though, and we will be lucky to have him.

At least I wasn't in Emma's shoes, when two of her team members pretended to have hurt themselves playing soccer in the backyard. One wore a fake neck brace and the other a cast on his foot. At a certain point during the prank which she fell for hook, line, and sinker, they just break out dancing.

I know how you feel, Emma.

Friday, May 08, 2015

okay, so I let go of our apartment and I told a waitress she could have it. I have my daughter in a foreign country with no passport to come home. I pissed off a real estate agent to the point where he wrote me a text saying that he had lost faith in humanity because of my actions. I arranged to sign for a new apartment based on the word of a girl who I've met three times, maybe four. Today she held my hand, gave me a homemade, gluten-free muffin, and listened to me tell her that I was afraid to be alone. I just had a neediness flashback from my 20s. Anyway, we are packing everything up. Please, people, tell me I'm going somewhere.
Here is Jon Stewart's story on corruption and dig on real estate brokers. Let's just say his name is oh I don't know . . Pablo. Close enough.
Hail Mary
I just got cursed out by an Italian real estate agent. F said that this agent who only ever returned half of my phone calls to him, dropped the ball so many times that he had his balls practically dragging on the floor. One more guy on the person to avoid list. Yesterday I spotted all of my ex-colleagues from the fancy gym wearing matching t-shirts and walking around the city in hoards trying to convince people to buy memberships. They were sitting on the steps of the English school where I work and I had to march by them with the circles under my eyes and head held high. You can't be great these days if you don't have haters.

The real estate guy never sent me the email address to send the contract information to draw up the contract for the expensive apartment. We saw my student Elena's apartment first thing this morning and we liked it better than the expensive one. Aside from the fact that we don't have to pay the agent and it costs the same as we are paying now, it has some advantages. F was won over by the fact that it has a large eat-in-kitchen. It has two bedrooms and two bathrooms with showers and it has a lot of light. It is airconditioned because my student Elena's family the Martinelli's are the royal family of air-conditoning in Tuscany. We agreed to sign for it on Monday. I let my current landlord and the home exchange families know.

Here is Elena's family's business.
 F was so nervous that he sent Tatia to Madrid with my passport. We look a lot alike now so the airlines didn't notice. He had to express mail her the right one.

Here is our (fingers crossed!) new apartment: