Thursday, October 29, 2015

oh English 
K, Natasha, T, Giorgia: our English speaking crew reunited pre-Comics
My little girl student Elisabetta loves animals and it is the only way to get her to speak English so I was thrilled that there was a dog marathon on the walls of Lucca during her lesson time. The second half of the lesson was us walking home from the marathon while she gave me real estate advice about what kind of apartment we should look for next.

Elisabetta pointed to a pair of giant dog balls (the kind that are attached to a dog) and asked me what they were for.  I could not figure out a decent answer in Italian that would not scar her or get me fired.

So far we have seen a perfectly perfect apartment that was ruined by the "top" architect in Lucca's Willy Wonka-esque idea of what style Liberty means in terms of furnishings and a landlady who refused to let us redecorate. I went to see the apartment and thought I could disguise the crazy zebra painting and the wonky whimsical shaped furniture and the strange built in storage units in pastel shades of plastic laminate with cloud and rocket ship shaped knobs on them. I got the real estate agent's hopes way up and then I brought F and my friend Patrizia to come see it and they let me know that there was no way to disguise the ugliness. F managed to offend the real estate agent which is really a feat for a man of so few words, but I was happy that he decided to play the bad cop.

Why oh why did you put this in the middle of the bedroom, lady?

Even Patrizia thought the liberty style was too much and she is very pro-liberty.
As I was preparing for a new English course, I came across some videos.

This one seems like a cry for help to Hoarders Anonymous:

And this one seems like Austin Powers became an English teacher:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Scratch and Sniff

Last week was bad. Then this week, I redid the horrors of last week a second time, but it was even worse. Let me explain:

 Last Monday I started teaching English at a paper making machine company, but got terribly sick to my stomach. This week I went back to teach the second lesson and got the same virus again. Add in some computer glitches, some high pitched crazy talk on my end and a general lack of energy on their part and that is how that went. To be honest, I have had one sort of cold or another since mid-August and don't remember how it is to not be nauseous and to be able to breathe through my nose at the same time.
It's Tissue. Best friends' necklace or symbolic representation of the current state of affairs? You decide.
Health issues aside, I couldn't believe our luck when I scored an appointment to see our dream, gigantic, affordable, perfectly located, quiet, apartment that is owned by a legitimate Marchese -- an aristocratic title which turns out to be even higher up than a Count. Two nights before the appointment, I spent the whole night awake worrying about it. The next day the agent/geometra texted me to say that the apartment had been taken. When my cell phone chimed at me that he had written unexpectedly, my blood went cold. I understood right then and there that he had used us to seal the deal with the other family who had gotten to see the apartment first. I am beyond disappointed.

"One apartment you can never have, two apartments you can never have, three . . ."
There are only five apartments listed with all of the dozens of real estate agents in Lucca, and that is a sad state of affairs. We have no new leads. Our current apartment is still filled with tiny flies that try to get into my eyeballs and nostrils whenever I turn on my book light or the computer because instead of being drawn to food, they are drawn to light and heat. In the meantime, the humidity in the apartment has caused black mold to form all over our ceiling and walls. We have to keep spraying everything down with stinky vinegar. Today we just gave up and turned the heat on in the hopes that we can finally dry out a bit. Our upstairs neighbors probably have no idea how well we can hear their every move, argument, and odd idiosyncratic habit. On the other hand, people who jump rope three times a day, wear stilettos indoors, and chase each other around like horny teenagers may not actually worry about such mundane things.

Then, last night, I went to teach my advanced group at the same paper company where I have gotten nauseous in front of everyone not once, but two times. A student at a rival company told me about a gentlemen who recently switched over from his company to my new job site. He said that his name was Fabio and that he spoke English perfectly and was an oddball visionary. He added that Fabio would never be in my class because of his perfect English. Needless to say, out of all the Fabios in Italy, he was the one in my class. I guess this made me a little bit nervous because I started out the class with instructions for how to log into the accompanying website using the access codes from the book. The codes were seemingly hidden under a gray sticker so I told them to pull off the adhesive in order to find the correct number sequence. The one woman in the group started tearing away and I looked on in horror to see little gray pieces scattering everywhere along with tiny scraps of the first page of the book. Before I could even take a breath, my two other students were doing the same thing. It looked like I was in a life size litter box filled with eager cats -- A real Honey, I Shrunk the Kids moment.I got a hold of the female student's book and realized too late that it was supposed to be scratched off like a lottery ticket rather than yanked off like an old shoe. And so I made my mark as an epic failure of a teacher after only about 14 seconds had elapsed out of an hour and a half long lesson.

It quickly became clear to everyone that I am not equipped to talk paper industry or business dynamics with anyone over the legal drinking age, and I had to resort to some pretty diabolical level bullshitting. The students spoke English so well that the level of conversation escalated high over my head from a discussion of interest rates to the political stability of various countries around the world to privatization in the European community. Meanwhile, F was upstairs teaching an alphabet game to his beginner students that went: A is for an Adventurous cat; B is for a Bold cat. . . I kid you not. in the waiting room I told him how lucky they were that he was teaching that class because everyone knows that I could never get to the letter F without saying, F is for a F*cked up cat. 

It has been interesting explaining what has happened thus far to my new boss.

I want a new apartment.
Then I want to be locked inside until enough time passes that everyone forgets who I am.
I will emerge in a post menopausal sigh of relief, looking like a buff Madonna/J-Lo hybrid and I will sell scratch off tickets to tourists.
Or I will continue on as is, looking rough, and take on five new courses so that every waking minute of my life will be spent teaching English or dying trying.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

We're Legit

As soon as I got into the car, I knew it was going to be a rough Tuesday night. My stomach did not feel settled. So I was relieved when we got to the paper machine making company and the representative told us that he wanted to cancel our first class that night because there were no students or rooms to teach in. A moment later the boss of our boss, Mirko, came striding in. In less than five minutes, he found out that half of the students were to be found and that not all of the rooms were occupied. Despite my useless objections, he pushed us into the classrooms, all the while grinning maniacally at us. I got through the first hour and then the room started to spin and I turned green. It sounded like I was giving birth on the car ride home. We got home to find that T had the exact same virus, even though she was less dizzy and more stoic about it.

Things picked up later in the week when we got the call that our carte di soggiorno were going to be ready to be picked up on Saturday. I woke up full of dread because there is always a price to pay for Italian bureaucracy. However, this time it was only a small price paid in tiny bits of mortification. First, we embarrassed T by picking her up from school. That wasn't all bad since she got to miss a killer test on Dante's Inferno. We asked the bidella/custodian-secretary for the wrong class because we didn't know that last year Italy renumbered the class system and now instead of going 5, 4, 1, 2, 3 it just goes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Pazienza, I am still trying to understand who all is running for president in America. The embarrassment was compounded when I made T turn purple by speaking Italian where people T's age could hear me. Finally, we got to the questura/police station where my brain obeyed T's wish for me to speak only in English, I stopped being able to understand anything the agent asked for. The people on the line behind us giggled and groaned while I gave the wrong identity cards at the window, put the wrong finger in the fingerprint machine and dropped stuff. The important thing is that we got it. In a few more years, we should be able to become citizens.

I only somewhat regretted wearing these rings to pick up the documents. I wanted to be rebellious, but, then again, I didn't know we had to take more fingerprints:

What? No one reads English, really. It was interesting shaking hands with T's Latin professor . . .

Speaking of rings, my wedding ring came in the mail so now F and I feel very proud of our little symbolic renaissance:

In other news, we found out that T's friend Giorgia's apartment is owned by a Count. This is good because he has many beautiful apartments and he is loaded and he likes to rent to foreigners. The bad news was that the perfectly located, gigantic, affordable, top floor apartment with a terrace and a parking spot, right above theirs is being shown to another family before us. If they want it - and why wouldn't they? - we won't even get in to see it. However, even if we don't get the magical unicorn apartment that is the stuff legends are made of, I hope to score this contact and eventually find the home of our dreams. I may be down and menopausal, but I'm not out. There is still hope.

This is a good contact to have in Lucca:

Then T and I celebrated with a sunset walk on the walls. The photo below makes me laugh because of all of the tension in my hand. She was saying to me, Hurry up, it's crowded up here. Let's hide behind this tree and get it over with. Hence, my little pterodactyl claw.


Monday, October 12, 2015

I read a horrifying article on the Internet today that said that perimenopause lasts for years. It was bad because I had just psyched myself up to endure this crap for about one more week, and only if I really had to. I look like I took a nap in gravel. I will post photos of myself in three to five years, but for now please enjoy my gorgeous offspring and pseudo offspring.

In other news, Lucca is the most humid place on earth and it has weird bugs. This period of the year our apartment is filled with little gnats that love heat. We had to block up the gaps around the electrical outlets with stucco because they like to live in there. I can't watch one minute of Amy Schumer's stand up special or Benedetta Parodi's cooking shows without these little bastards diving into the screen. It is really annoying. They sleep all morning and then when you feel like you have rid your life of them they sneak up on you at two in the afternoon and invite themselves into your teacup or eyeballs. They are like little drunken party goers who you can't get to leave. Ahh the humidity of it all. This week I researched moving to Denmark. I feel like my current state of mind would mesh well with six months of darkness, binge drinking, and oily fish. It is supposed to be the happiest place on earth. They pay you to go to college. You wouldn't have to ask me twice to get paid to go to college for free with tall, blond people.

That's right, in order to improve my accent I have promised myself that I will watch all 60 episodes of Molto Bene, a cooking show where this lady has a cooking laboratory in what she says is her basement. It is of course larger than our entire apartment. She has hair and makeup people and a wardrobe. When she goes shopping for ingredients she always greets the counter people by name and they wink at her and give her the special treatment. Whenever I go shopping for ingredients, if ever, I wait in the store for forty minutes because I don't understand how the line works and then I proceed to forget the metric system. She is very busy cooking for her husband Fabio and her three children, Matilda, Eleonora, and DIego. They are all over six feet tall, even the three year old, and can eat whatever they want, including the slop that she makes. She is the kind of mother that at pick up time would enjoy nothing more than to make you feel inferior. Accent acquisition has its price: mine is unbridled jealousy and a real aversion to people who lick their fingers while they cook.

Enjoy life now, girls. Perimenopause lasts for years.

No, I mean it. It really does.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Onwards and crazy words

What is going on with this year? There is nothing easy about it. I lost a major job contract because, when I was turning away students due to my mistaken belief that my evening schedule was full, I didn't realize that the course I had committed to had not made that same commitment to me. There weren't enough students registered through the agency and they canceled it. Now I am scrambling to make a new plan.

On the commitment front, F and I bought each other new wedding rings. Mine was making a painful indentation in my finger that was leading to nerve pain. That can't be good, right? Symbolism aside. He had lost his before we moved to Italy when it fell down a drain he was cleaning back in Brooklyn. He had replaced it with something that had an unfortunate resemblance to a coca cola pull top. We don't have money for these things really, but magical thinking is my friend. We picked out new ones on Etsy. I love Etsy. And, trust me, that b*tch is getting paid.

T had her three month check up at the children's hospital in Florence and everything went well. She got to see her two roommates from the camp and they had a fun time catching up. She wrote an article for the school newspaper on the Republican primary debate and then had to re-write it a bunch of times to allow for the fact that most of her schoolmates had no idea that presidential elections are even happening soon in America. In fact, the only player who has any game here is Trump. He makes everyone feel better about themselves and less ashamed of the Berlusconi years. So that's something.

Garth Williams rules.
My last lesson with Roberto for the year is scheduled for this Friday. I will miss having my little Robin Hood guy as a student. He says that he will think about resuming lessons after he retires this summer. He is making it extra tough on me by being really cute. We have spent the last weeks where he reads Charlotte's Web to me in English and I read Il Telo di Carlotta to him in italiano. If you can imagine Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Pather reading Charlotte's Web to you, mangling the poor vowels in an almost violent attack on every vowel sound he can choke the life out of while he chuckles about how naive Wilbur is. I mean if he weren't paying me, I would pay him.

F and I got a horrible cold that has a two week life span with the first three days being the worst. My version came with a fever and has left me rather ragged. I actually had to stand on the opposite side of the room from Roberto yesterday and yell out the words for manure, hay, and hired man at him in Italian between coughing fits. I was no Fern.

Carino, baby.