Medieval Ferrara

After Christmas in 2009, through the New Year, I went to one of my favorite places, Bruges – as mentioned in previous posts such as My Magic Bruges.  On that trip, I was relaxing and warming up in the hostel common area when a friendly fellow backpacker wandered in.  His name was Joseph, and he spoke briefly with my friend and me.  I had plans to see my Belgian friends, and then we left the hostel the next day. But just in that short time, it was clear this person would become a nice friend.  Thanks to facebook, it was easy for that to happen.

We chatted online over the years.  Joseph is even more of a Europhile than I am, and with his duel French citizenship, he has lived in France and now Ferrara, Italy since he departed his hometown in Midwestern, Iowa.  When I was in Italy in the summer of 2011, Joseph gave me some great advice as my mother and great aunt prepared to visit the hometowns of my great grandparents in Emilia Romagna, his local region.  With our tight travel schedule, we didn’t get to meet up, although I appreciated his super helpful advice.

Last January, when I received the job offer in Italy, Joseph was one of my biggest proponents.  “Come to Italy,” he said.  “I’ll visit Genoa and we’ll paint the town red.”  I knew how happy he was teaching English language at the University of Ferrara, and I knew it was time to live my dream as an expat abroad.  It was extra encouraging to know I’d have a friend in country.

When I arrived in Italy, Joseph was there to chat on Skype, counsel me through the many translation or bureaucratic issues, and we shared many laughs and good times, becoming even closer friends.  Due to our busy schedules, most of the year went by before either of us had a chance to visit each other.  Finally, with my summer flight home booked, and the last of my visitors had departed, I set a date for the weekend of May 25th.  I was going to Ferrara, finally!  And I would see Joseph in person for the first time in 3 years.  Wow.

Over the years, I have been following Joseph’s facebook posts: stories and pretty pictures from the flat, charming, peaceful medieval city.  A month ago, I boarded a 9am train, departing soggy Genoa and arrived in sunny Ferrara.

Joseph met me at the train station, and we walked to have yummy piadine — I chose speck  and cheese with a creamy mayo sauce.  Yum.  We chatted over a beer, then I wandered through the center with a little bit of history from Joseph, explaining the Jewish ghettos and information about the various buildings we passed.  He had some things to do in the apartment, so I went for a nice wander. I deliberately did not consult a guidebook or too much on the Internet so things would be a surprise.  A wandering adventure.  I snapped many photos on my walk, then returned to prepare for our evening.

Joseph’s friend, a woman who owns the cafe down the street, invited him to an outdoor concert that night, featuring her husband’s band.  It got unseasonably cold, so we bundled up and Federica picked us up.

While we waited for the show, wandered in search of food, and ended up in a tent that was a fundraiser for a local church.  I tried the local treat cappellacci, made with squash and filled with yum. BLIpqfQCMAAPyX4.jpg-largeOur servers were parishoner children — it was just a really super special, super local night.  We chatted and ended up enjoying the show very much.  When Fedi noticed that I was into the music, she returned later with a surprise — an Inspiral album for me, which she then had all the band members sign. 🙂  What a special treat.  It was also fun hanging out with her because she helped me practice my Italian.

The next morning, we had lazy Sunday.  Joseph had delicious pastries and made fresh coffee, then we went out for a stroll around town, followed by another coffee.

Making friends on a Sunday stroll

Making friends on a Sunday stroll

 Before departure for my train, we stopped for pizza at a place he never tried before.  With so much good pizza in Italy and so many great places in Ferrara . . .Joseph was diasppointed that his 4 Formaggio was made with a premixed spread and that my pizza featured canned olives with pitts and awkward tomatos.  Not as good as expected.  He said, “We just got fu*cked.  They could at least kiss me next time.”

That aside, it was still a lovely day. We took a peek at some Palio-related events (this Palio is older than the famous Siena one). It was a nice atmosphere, but I didn’t see too much. Before long, it was time to board my train and head home.  I was lucky that I had business class for the stretch from Bologna to Milan on the high speed train, for a little spoiled comfort.  It was the same price as the 2nd class ticket because they still had some super economy fares left.  Woo!

Here are some photos from my adventure in Ferrara.  I’ll certainly be returning:

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It’s really not all sunshine and roses – but life is still beautiful.

Sweden’s Disillusionment.  My friend and colleague just wrote the previous post about life and travel in Italy vs. other, wealthier countries.  I truly agree.  It’s amazing how people ooh and ah at home about Italy and refuse to let me say a negative word, thinking that I’m doing some kind of Eat Pray Love La Dolce Vita who knows a whata experience all the time.  One friend even said, “It’s a 2 year vacation with just enough work so you don’t feel lazy.”  No, no, no.  And . . .it’s work just to live here.  There is a very high price for all this beauty.  I’m happy to pay it . . . at least for a little while, but I do love the ahhhhh I feel when crossing the border into Switzerland, for example.

I’ve had many visitors since I arrived, and many were happy to take in the sights, but they also quickly grew to see the subtle annoyances of life here.  “Where can I buy a razor?” Not at this hour. (8pm) “Why is the store closed?”  Nap time, lunch time, holiday, because they don’t care.  “Why is this post box shut?” They can’t be bothered.   “Where can I buy bus tickets at this hour?” You can’t.  Hop on and take a risk.   “Why did they just charge us 13 euros for boxed pasta?”  Where is the food I’ve heard about?”  The food in Italy can be hit or miss, and actually, the best food’s at home.  Pasta Fresca, 2 euros!  “Where is the sun?” Uh, I have no idea, that’s supposed to be a given . .  .  

I know some of my visitors on their first visit to Italy may have been disappointed.  I remember the feeling.  In 1997, I signed up for a High School trip to Europe. That year, it was Paris, The Riviera and Rome.  yay!  I wasn’t too psyched about Paris, but with low expectations and it being my first European country, I was thrilled and pleasantly surprised.  I remember gazing in awe at the canals, finding the people friendly and helpful, and just kept hugging my friends because I was so happy.  When we arrived in Italy, it was nice — but we were starting to get tired as we visited Assisi and then we got lost in Florence where the ATM took my credit card and the bank was closed and  . . . it was a lot of nonsense.  By the time we got to Rome, it was pouring rain, we were exhausted, and I just wanted to go home.  Italy and the food didn’t really impress me.  Too many tourist traps?  Package tour food?  Whatever it was . . .I was ready to go.  Perhaps extra disappointed because my expectations were too high.

Moving here, I was well-informed.  I had been to Italy 5 other times.  I enjoyed the summer days Under the Tuscan Sun; saw the gorgeous Cinque Terre through train windows and wanted more; studied a bit of Italian in college; and had an amazing week along Lake Como.  But I had my share of cancelled or overcrowded trains, travel stress, disappointing and overpriced meals, tourist crowds, frightening travel chaos, and bad attitudes . . . to make me notice the reality.  I came to the conclusion that Italy knows that tourists will visit anyway, so who cares?  They are too busy enjoying life!   I also devoured travel writing that made no secret about how complicated, bureaucratic, and often completely nonsensical life can be here sometimes.  I was prepared.  But it can still be hard.

This is further exacerbated when the weather does not cooperate.   The weather and beauty soothe the soul and make the nonsense tolerable. But this year . . .is a bit different.   For some reason, Europe has been plagued by very strange unseasonable weather. Dublin was getting snow into March.  Genoa even had snow.  My students and colleagues said the swimming season is definitely in full swing by the end of March . . . but this year, I STILL have not been in the sea, except for a brief wade up to my calves while visiting the Cinque Terre for four days.  Yup, for the Festa della Liberazione (Italian holiday last Thursday and Friday) I thought for sure I would have the opportunity for sun-soaked days in the turquoise water.  But we had mostly clouds, walked around in our jeans and jackets — and were even drenched in pouring rain one day.  I had a friend visit for Easter break, and excitedly told him “pack your swimsuit.”  That was the only item of clothing he did not use, and we spent quite a bit of time wandering around the soggy streets of Rome and Milan.  I felt so bad.

We’ve all been waiting for the spring that was supposed to arrive a while ago, but . . .it’s just taking it’s time.  I have my mother here these past two weeks, and then on Friday, two of my best friends from High School arrive for a girls’ weekend, where we head to the Cinque Terre again.  Mom and I spent 4 days in Monterosso, and I’m heading to Vernazza with the girls.  I hope we have sun!  I’m sick of disappointing my visitors and myself.

I often think of Wordsworth who wrote a poem when climbing through the Alps.  He was looking forward to his first view of Mont Blanc.  All the others on the Grand Tour, the artists and poets, have explained the view — talked it up so much, that when he did see it, he was disappointed.  He regretted choosing the wrong trail, the mountain revealing itself in a different way, not the way he pictured it. He couldn’t appreciate it for how beautiful it was because it didn’t match the image in his mind’s eye, didn’t live up to the hype he expected.  He didn’t feel the sublime light of sense he craved.  Expectations breed disappointment.   That’s why, sometimes, a small unknown city can bring me so much more joy than a famous tourist destination — ESPECIALLY when I don’t know a thing about it.

Italy is so hyped up.  People have been raving and talking and writing about it for years.  In NYC, there are whole neighborhoods devoted to Italian culture and cuisine.  Movies are filmed here, books written . . . I remember when I posted that I was moving to Italy, the response was absolutely overwhelming.  I wondered if people would have been as excited if I accepted a job in Kiev or Oslo or Kuwait or Jakarta or even London.  I made the choice.  I wanted the weather, the language, the location, the comfortable familiar culture, but I also know that if I was in London or Switzerland or Germany I would have a better quality of life.  But . . .hey, the grass is always greener.  I currently have a friend in Switzerland who can’t wait to leave and feels it’s too Xenophobic and cold and harsh.  These feelings are all a part of expat life.

In grad school, I wrote an upside-down sonnet inspired by Wordsworth’s disappointment.  I remembered hiking in the Swiss alps, with the beautiful snow-capped peek of Jungfrau in the distance.  I have included this poem now because I was thinking about it this weekend in the Cinque Terre when I was disappointed like Wordsworth.  I wanted to show my mom how beautiful and lovely it was with crystal blue skies, igniting a bold turquoise sea and an unparalleled, sublime vibrant glow to all the scenery.  I couldn’t thoroughly enjoy the beauty that was before me because it wasn’t matching what I had in my mind’s eye.  My mom, however, was able to appreciate it for what it was — gorgeous and relaxing.

Jungfrau, Switzerland

Shadowed by the image in my mind’s eye,
the crest thwarts my dream from across the vale.
Like Wordsworth climbing for the light of sense,
I grieve and regret choosing the wrong trail.
No sublime, no flash, can’t see — though high
struggling to comprehend the immense.

Soon I realize there’s no single right way
for in countless, varied directions lie
diverse perspectives of the same blue sky,
framing the same grand pinnacle. A gray
frosted mane of wisdom reflects each ray
as I snap breathless photographs and try
to explore every path, pretending to fly
soaring–arms spread– till the end of my day.

~July 2003

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Spring Break: Genova, Roma and the Swiss Alps (Part 2 – Rome)

Easter Monday, we woke early when it was still dark.  Brendan’s hay fever had taken full hold, and I found some Aleve and Claritin to give him to help him breathe a bit better.  However, it was a mostly sleepless night before we groggily got ready and headed for the bus to Brignole station.  Off to Rome!

I was a bit apprehensive after checking the weather all week.  Rome — usually sunny and beautiful in the spring, was showing a soggy forecast.  All of Europe seemed to be stuck in unseasonably cold and rainy weather.  My students and colleagues told me that it was usually possible to swim this time of year.  I felt so guilty because I had told Brendan it would be a good time of year to visit.  But all of this is part of travel.

I checked my transit ap to see when the next bus would arrive at our stop, growing a bit nervous because it looked like it would cut it close.  “Should we take a cab?” I asked.  “Whatever you think is best,” he said.  I decided to take the risk.  The bus dropped us off in plenty of time, we got to the platform, and as the sun began to rise, we saw our train was delayed.  “Good thing we didn’t spring for the cab,” Brendan said.

Now we both felt like zombies.  It was cold and quiet as we waited for our train, moods tense.  I felt like I was on an episode of Amazing Race . . . these things happen.  And with both of us tired from long workweeks, we both just needed some peace.  I was hesitant to book such an early train, but this was just over 4 hours instead of 7 hours, and would give us more time in Rome.

Eventually we boarded, and napped our way along the Riviera and down the coast to Rome, pulling into the station around 1pm.  It wasn’t raining.  In fact, the sun was shining!  Brendan was finding it impossible to breathe and still feeling epic jet lag, but we both knew we had to get out in the sunshine for some wandering before the downpours.  We dropped our bags off at the hotel which was right by the train station, then saw the Colosseum, The Forum, and other iconic landmarks.
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I had a Frommer’s Rome Travel Guide, but instead of trying to navigate to one of the suggestions, I figured we’d pop into one of the little cafes on a side street.  The food was ok, but mediocre and didn’t impress me or my foodie friend.  The price wasn’t too bad, but I knew that Brendan was waiting for some mind-blowing Italian food.  Having been spoiled by years of Arthur Ave (Little Italy in the Bronx), featuring the best of all of Italy, he may have been expecting all of Italy to be like that.  In addition, Rome is known for many things, but not necessarily their cuisine, especially for lunch.

We found a pharmacy where, hurrah! they gave Brendan some antihistimanes that helped him breathe with sweet relief.  He took a long nap, then we wandered out again at dinner time, once again finding a disappointing dining experience.  Mediocre and slightly expensive pizza. “It’s all pizza and pasta, everywhere,” he noted.  Yeah . . .

Toting my takeaway Quattro Formaggio, we looked at the tourist map, trying to find the Ice Bar.  The winding backstreets of Rome were quaint and a bit empty due to the holiday.  If it wasn’t cold and rainy, it would have been more enjoyable but we weren’t really feeling the scene. We wandered into the Ice Bar, where we were the only folks.  “Come back tomorrow, for open bar for 20 bucks.  There will be a crowd,” they advised.  Sounded good, so we left and tried a few other places, but couldn’t find a seat or a good scene.  We eventually ended up sitting at the bar of an Irish Pub, talking to the Australian bar tender over Guinesses. We walked home past the ruins lit at night as Brendan entertained me with his comedy.

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Tuesday 2 April, we got to sleep in a bit, waking up just in time to head to the free breakfast upstairs in a sunny room.  There was good variety as we woke up and hoped the rain would hold off.  We had “Skip the Line” tickets to the Vatican.  For a nominal fee, you don’t have to stand in line for hours.  Perfectly worth it.

We took the metro and arrived, wound our way through the halls filled with art, peeked out the window at a massive thunderstorm, and eventually found our way to the highlight of our visit, The Sistine Chapel.  This was my third visit to Rome.  Both other times, I had been on EF Tours.  1997 as a high school Junior and last year as a teacher, bringing my own students.  in 1997, we were not able to get admission to the Sistine Chapel, which was a major disappointment.  Last year, we did get to go, and I found it to be so moving and one of the most amazing works of art I had ever seen.  This time, it actually brought tears to my eyes.  It was less crowded than our Easter time visit last year, and I didn’t feel squished and pushed through the room while trying to look up and enjoy. I could really take it in and absorb the wonder as it was meant to be appreciated.  Splendid.

The ceiling in one of the main galleries

The ceiling in one of the main galleries

Thunderstorm as viewed from one of the windows

Thunderstorm as viewed from one of the windows

Brendan identifies with Mercury and even uses the symbol for his brand, as seen on his shirt.

Brendan identifies with Mercury and even uses the symbol for his brand, as seen on his shirt.

Upon our exit, I went into a little gift shop to get pink rosary beads for my great Aunt Minnie.  We almost left the premises to get online for admission to St. Peter’s, which we had to do last year.  That line was winding around the giant square.  But first, “Let’s just pop into that pretty chapel,” I said, peeking through a door featuring lots of marble inside.

We walked in and Brendan immediately said, “Wow!”  This was not some little chapel . . . it was St. Peter’s, and we had entered without a line.

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

We went straight to Michelangelo’s gorgeous Pieta, and I explained how someone had smashed it in the 70s, so it doesn’t have the original glow, even though it was carefully repaired. It’s still amazing.

The Pieta

The Pieta

We wandered around, and Brendan was excited because he got to “see a dead pope!” in one of the many tombs.

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After some pictures and prayers, we exited into torrential rain.  First I sent my parents and my friend Kat postcards with the Vatican postmark.

Welcome to the new pope.

Welcome to the new pope.

Where to now?  Rome is enjoyed by wandering, walking and soaking in the beauty — not by actually soaking.  It was so disappointed because last Easter it rained a bit, but we had a sunny day that was just splendid.  To stay dry, we hopped on the first tram we saw, and figured we’d go on an adventure, not knowing the destination.  En Route, we skimmed Frommer’s for ideas for aperitivo later. We stopped for gelato and saw this:

Viagra Gelato! ha

Viagra Gelato! ha

Eventually, we made our way back to the hotel, cold and wet, and each had a warm bath trying to get our body temps back up. When we departed for dinner, we had plans to head to the Ice Bar, then the Disco after, so I took a small purse and no guidebook.  We headed to Spagna, the neighborhood where the Spanish Steps are, and wandered in the rain until we found an amazing, trendy cafe with stadium seats for chairs.

The Spanish Steps

The Spanish Steps

There were tiny snacks for aperitivo (that came out with our wine), then I ordered Ceasar Salad and Brendan got meatballs and some pasta.  The meatballs were absolutely divine, and as much as I try not to eat lamb, we think there must have been some inside.  “This is the pasta I’ve been waiting for!” Brendan exclaimed with pure joy, finally having found the Italian meal he’s been craving.

Next, off to the Ice Bar, touristy but fun.  Again, we were the only ones there as they draped us in capes.  Nobody looks good in a cape.  We waddled into the icy room and settled into a little igloo, drinking our vodka mixed drinks out of ice glasses.  While we waited for others to arrive, I noticed some glasses left behind and began smashing them like a disgruntled wife.  Eventually, a bunch of college-aged kids arrived, and we made small talk.  We each had 5 or 6 drinks, and there’s only so much time you can spend in the ice bar, so we waddled on out, but not before taking some photos that made us look like Bond villains. photo-1

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Drunk on vodka, we were too beat and money conscious to spring for the disco, so headed for the hotel and Brendan wandered into a kebab shop for a late night delicious snack.  Tomorrow we would depart Rome for the Swiss Alps!

We didn’t really get the best vibe from Rome or give it the best chance, but we saw it.   I had visions of visiting the fountain of Trevi, Trastevere, drinks in piazzas, wandering along the Tiber, maybe even a boat cruise.  The weather was a real damper.   I felt bad and almost responsible, but Brendan reminded me to relax and that he was not mad.  (Although clearly disappointed).   Rome deserves another chance with more time and better weather, but we enjoyed our mini adventure. This is all part of travel, and overall, it was fun and we saw a lot. 🙂

Brendan’s been thinking about Rome for years.

 Check out one of his many comics, Hannibal Goes to Rome.

-written 26 June but posted in April for timeline purposes
-continued in Part 3

Spring Break: Genova, Roma, and the Swiss Alps (part 1 – Genoa)

One of my best friends, Brendan, has always wanted to visit Italy.  When I got the job offer last January, he already started talking about his visit.  We decided on Spring Break, so I could be the female Rick Steves, and take him around my beautiful local hood as well as Rome and the Alps, as he requested.

Our spring break began on Friday March 29, which gave me a day to chill and take the train to Milan.  Brendan got the shortest and best airfare to Milan, arriving at 7am on Saturday March 30, Easter Eve.  Since I was off and eager to enjoy the city, I said I’d meet him at the airport.  I booked a single room at the Bio City hotel, an eco friendly, brand new hotel that was just before its official opening.  At this point, I let out a big “Ahh” as I looked around the cozy room.  The weather was not cooperating, with a chilly drizzle, but I was just glad that my much-needed vacation had started.  For teachers, breaks always come just when you think you can’t handle another day.  I checked the mini bar, and for reasonable prices, I saw natural soda and super yummy sesame seed bars, which I devoured while watching BBC news.  I tweeted a couple of pictures and fell asleep knowing I had to wake early tomorrow to get to the bus for the airport.

Brendan walked through the gate, and I ran to give him a hug, amazed at how guys can pack all they need in a little carry on duffle bag.  Well done.  The weather was cloudy, but I was hoping the rain would hold off.  We caught up on the bus ride, then by the time we arrived in the city, the rain turned into a downpour.  Luckily, I still had the hotel room, so we had it for a few hours where I figured Brendan could take a nap and I could enjoy my free breakfast.  As soon as he passed out, though, they started drilling.  (They were still working on the hotel, so I knew this might happen).  He managed to fall back asleep . . . until the belt sander came on. “We’ll find this funny later,” he said. But clearly not now. The poor guy was exhausted, having not slept on the plane.  So I went outside and asked the guys if they could move, which they so kindly did.

At 11, Brendan was in a sound sleep but I had to rouse him for check out.  “You said I could sleep,” he said like a school boy talking to his mom, wanting to go to school late.  I know the feeling.  I remember telling my mother, in my sleep, that “The lake is closed today,” when she tried to wake me up for my lifeguarding job and I knew I just couldn’t make it.

I felt so bad, but I had to get him, up.  We checked out, and luckily they didn’t tack on a fee for bringing a second person into the single room.  Then we had to brave the rain again.  We originally considered the thermal spa, which I love and have posted about before here: My New New York . But it was not the weather for wandering or sightseeing, so we boarded a train for Genoa, gliding through the soggy landscape to Liguria.

2 hours later, we boarded a bus to my neighborhood as exhausted zombie Brendan said, “How much longer?”  It might be initially more convenient to fly to Milan, but ultimately it’s a big pain in the butt, unfortunately.  Once in my hood, we had to find food.  As it was the day before Easter, nothing was open, so we walked through the hills for 10 minutes to Jungle Pizza, which is always open with its 100 varieties.  But alas, even that was closed.  Back to my apartment where I offered some of the food I had purchased and Brendan passed out into a deep sleep.  I used this time to go on my second ever scooter ride!

The clouds cleared, the sun came out, and I enjoyed stunning views over the sea as I tried to keep steady and not tip over.  Back at the apartment, I had to wake up Brendan again, afraid that if I didn’t he wouldn’t sleep the night.   Arrival day is often very hard, especially when the weather is not helping.  Starving, we walked down the hill to restaurants by the sea, looking for something open.  He gave up meat for Lent, so we went for some pizza or pasta at 5 Maggio, a place I had enjoyed many times, along the sea by the monument.  We shared pasta, cooked in foil in the brick oven, foccaccia formaggio and one other kind of pizza as well as creme brulee for dessert.

Brendan wanted to meet one of my friends, and I wasn’t sure who was in town but remembered that Robin was both in town and nearby.  At 11pm, I called her then we showed up at her apartment (with its splendid castle view), and got her ready to go out dancing down by the sea.  At that time, Brendan felt it was time to ditch his Lenten beard, so Robin lent him a disposable razor.  And off we went.

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The club was fun, and unlike some of the other ones further downtown, where guys like to come up and grab you while you are dancing, the people were older and a bit more chill — but the vibe and music were great.  We even got free shots from the bartender because we were from NY! 🙂  We walked Robin home, then up the hill to my apartment where Brendan realized it was Easter, running to the fridge and tearing open the packages of cured meats I had bought for his arrival.

Easter Sunday bells rang at noon, but Brendan was still sleeping off his mega jet lag.  He had tried to warn me it could get like this, but I had never seen jet lag this bad.  Around 1:30, he woke up and we tossed the football-sized Easter egg that I bought for a charity fundraiser at school.  It broke to reveal the gift inside — a boxed silver-toned bracelet.  Not bad.  Apparently, these chocolate eggs are very popular as Easter treats for kids.

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Soon we went outside into the warm sunshine for one of the prettiest days of our trip. Buona Pasqua!
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We piled onto my scooter for my third ride, and my first ride with a passenger.  Once I mastered the weight balance, we took it nice and slow, heading straight to Nervi.  It was Brendan’s first time on a scooter, and he was thrilled.  Once we parked, we went for a walk along the gorgeous passageiatta — bright turquoise water, waves crashing into the jagged rocks, Portofino in the distance, and families and friends, tourists and locals strolling along for a Happy Easter.  The vibe was perfect.  The flowers were blooming, but unfortunately so was Brendan’s hay fever.  We didn’t let it get in the way of our fun, though.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

We did not have reservations for dinner and were worried about finding quality food on a day when so many locals head to the restaurants.  Luckily, even though we were in Italy, both of us were craving sushi, so we planned for that.  While we were waiting for the restaurant to open (Many places in Genoa open for dinner at 7:30 and close by 9 or 10 for a small dining window), we wandered through gorgeous Nervi, through a local park watching families with their dogs, bacci balls, and picnics.  Then we found a little church on top of a hill and decided to see if there was an evening mass.  We walked in sometime near the beginning, and enjoyed a special, beautiful Easter service.

The sun was starting to tinge the sky pink, promising an awesome sunset.  I regret not heading back to the passegiatta because I know Brendan would have appreciated it, but we were already at the restaurant, where we enjoyed a lobster roll among some others.  As Brendan gave up meat for Lent, he also gave up sushi, so this was a treat. And for me, who was growing quite sick of Italian food, I was happy for the change of pace.

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Back to the scooter and home to prepare for tomorrow’s trip to Rome!  The fastest train was at 7am, so it was gonna be another early morning for us. I popped Mad Men on Netflix, and we enjoyed a chill evening.

Here’s a small slideshow with more photos:

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–to be continued in Part 2 – Roma–

-written 26 June, but posted in April for timeline purposes

Whirlwind Weekend

When I departed for Genoa, one of my best friends Kat was there at the airport to send me off along with my parents.  Kat gave me lots of luck and hugs, and said “I’ll be there soon.  I’m also good with postcards.”

Kat kept good on both promises, with postcards arriving frequently to brighten my day and a whirlwind weekend visit planned.  In the fall, Kat called and said “I can’t get much time off from work, but I’m coming.  Alitalia has good fares.  How about March 1st?”  

Kat arrived fresh from JFK on a Friday and departed on Monday morning, for a fantastic, fun-filled weekend adventure. What perfect timing.  Work was at its most chaotic of the year, with International Baccalaureate assessments and paperwork due — super high stakes work.  As this was my first time through it, there were a lot of nitty gritty details and stressful aspects (work to be redone, late work, formatting) that I didn’t anticipate.  All of us IB teachers were like zombies walking through the day.  Usually, Friday arrived and I was relaxed and peaceful with a light schedule, all classes completed by 11:30.  When Kat arrived from the airport, I was in a meeting with a student, and didn’t even have a minute free to run down to the office to notify them of Kat’s arrival fresh from the Genova airport.  Luckily, she met the director who asked around and found me.  When I exited the classroom with my student, there was Kat’s smiling face.  How can she look so awesome and fresh from an overnight flight?  Amazing.

Originally, Kat said she was up for anything and just wanted to spend time with me.  But this was her first time in Italy.  She was also a Medieval Studies major (along with Spanish), so I knew she would appreciate a lot of the wonder of Siena and Florence.  In the days before her departure, I said, “I have a crazy idea.  Want to spend a night in Siena?  It’s beautiful.  Then we can visit Florence before heading home on Sunday.”  When I saw that the train to Florence stopped in Pisa, we planned for that as well.  3 nights, 4 cities.  And we did it!

I gave Kat a quick tour of the school, which she noted was beautiful.  She also asked, “How do you like it with all the little kids?” As a group of 3-year-olds walked by in a neat little line like ducklings.  “I love it.  It always brightens my day,” I responded.  The director had generously given us lunch tickets to enjoy a meal in the cafeteria.  I had hallway duty upstairs for the first part, so Kat took the opportunity to meet many of my coworkers, noting that they were extremely sweet, friendly and positive.  That truly is the vibe of our school.

I joined Kat when my duty was over, and she was in mid conversation about all the wonders of Siena.  One coworker said, “You will eat well.  This lunch food doesn’t count as your first Italian meal.”  It’s ok for school food, but this is true.

I walked Kat down to my apartment, which is just minutes from the school, where she settled down for a short winter’s nap, and I went back to work until the end of the day.

Back to my apartment, I roused Kat as we prepared for an evening in Nervi, a nearby resort neighborhood along the sea — where I take all my guests on their first night much like the school brought me when I first arrived.  There is no better welcome to Genoa and the Ligurian Coastal beauty.

We walked along the passegiata and walked into a quaint seaside restaurant called Chandra, with views of the waves crashing against the rocks.  With a slightly Indian vibe, we enjoyed the quaint decor, snacked on the free snacks with our drinks, and then ordered our meal, featuring focaccine (friend dough filled with soft, yummy stracchino cheese). I had chicken tandoori and Kat had a pasta dish, I believe.
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I’m showing off the beautiful new necklace Kat bought me at the Met as a hostess gift along with plenty of other practical and fun goodies and meals to spoil me.

 We chatted, caught up, enjoyed the sea, and then enjoyed the live music as it began to play.  With jet lag for Kat and general fatigue for me, though, we couldn’t last through more than a couple of songs.  Back to Genoa for bed.  A big day ahead of us on Saturday.

We were blessed with glorious spring-like weather that weekend, with temperatures climbing into the low 60s, a delightful break from the soggy 50s we had in the week leading up to her visit.  Saturday morning we had breakfast, then headed into the city to see Genoa.  I showed Kat the medieval center, the port, Columbus’s alleged birthplace, and we even had some time for boot shopping . . . while there were some good potential options, we didn’t find exactly what Kat was looking for but we enjoyed the browsing experience.
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 Back on a bus, we grabbed our overnight bags, then back on a bus for Brignole train station, then to Siena via Pisa.  I slept most of the train ride, absolutely exhausted from work.  Kat began her many postcards (I believe she sent 30 something).  The sun was in that glorious golden hour, and with our latitude, it lingers longer than in other parts of the world.  We consulted the map, and made a mad dash for the iconic slanted architecture.  
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It leans a bit more every year, and as I had not been since 2004, I could really feel like it was leaning noticeably more.  After posing for the obligatory “let’s hold this thing up” pictures, we strolled back through town, past postcard shops and touristy knick knack pushers, back to the train and towards Tuscany and Siena.

At one random station, we stopped to get a snack and read the board for our connection.  Our train was cancelled!  Ahh, Italy . . .always full of frustrations.  We had to sit in the station and wait a bit for the next train, but we were grateful there was a next train.  We rolled into Siena a bit later than we anticipated, but glad to be there with fresh air and stars peeking out of the inky sky.  Having not been there since 2002, I was very pleasantly surprised by the redo of the train station. Previously, you had to board a bus, grab a taxi, or walk up a very long hill to the city, with the station settled at the base of a big hill.  But now, they have constructed an elaborate system of escalators and people movers that bring you easily and conveniently to the top of the hill, where you can then stroll through the medieval wall and right into town, all lit up in its serene romantic beauty.

We were tired from the travel, but captivated by the magic of the city.  Siena is special, and I will always choose staying her over Florence.  It’s a popular day trip place, but to stay allows you to experience the real magic when the tourist crowds disperse, and you can wander and enjoy in peace and serenity.  Kat had articles from the New York Times Travel Section and she had a recommendation for a restaurant in the main square.  We found it, and enjoyed an absolutely delicious meal with a view of City Hall.  Then a short stroll just outside of town to our hotel, which we were so excited about. We chose a quaint b&b with 360 degree views of the hillside.

Upon arrival at our hotel, we experienced a bit of a snafu.  They accidentally gave away our room to someone who arrived looking for a room.  The person working the desk was not a regular, so she made a mistake.  I was so exhausted and irritated by that point, but Kat works in hotels and knows this can happen.  They rebooked us in a nearby hotel in the same area.  We ended up with two single rooms, and the rooms were on the road instead of secluded like the other hotel.  However, the quality was excellent as was the service. The original hotel was very apologetic and offered us discounts on future stays. So it’s all good — and these things are part of the travel adventure. I slept very well, and we awoke to a beautiful breakfast with views over the hills and valley in the bright sunshine.  Delicious.  No complaints.  Another gorgeous day awaited us.

After some photos in the garden, we saw the civic museum with its famous mural.  Kat educated and entertained me with her wealth of medieval knowledge, enhancing the experience.  We then boarded a train to Florence and headed to the Duomo for a quick photo stop then straight for the Uffizi Gallery, where we had booked “Skip the line” tickets for a nominal fee.  This was my 5th time in Florence, and I was finally getting to see the Uffizi.  So much outstanding, famous and beautiful art to contemplate.  We spent hours there soaking it all up, took some photos outside along the river, stopped for some yummy pizza, then back to the train.  Yes, there was unfortunately a lot of clock-watching on my part to make sure we could do everything — and it wasn’t as laid back as I would have liked to be.  But we made it happen, it was a great adventure, Kat was in awesome spirits, and I had a blast.

We rolled into Genoa that evening, and instead of going straight to sleep, I hung out in the living room with Kat for a sleepover style late-night chat.

Here is a slideshow of our adventure:

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Kat left for the airport 5:30 the next morning, with a stop in Paris long enough for her to enjoy the city then back to New York.  What an amazing, fabulous adventure.  Thanks for visiting!

“I’ll be back!” she said.  I’m looking forward to our next adventure, whether it’s a weekend somewhere in Italy or Europe, or a longer break.  We shall see. Until I post our next adventure, you may be interested in checking out Kat’s photography blog: http://hhphotogsummerstreets2013.tumblr.com

-written 26 June 2013 but posted in March for appropriate timeline

Cheers in Dublin to 6 months living in Europe!

Exactly 6 months ago, on an unusually hot and humid day, I saw the twisting, stunning Ligurian Coast from the airplane and landed in Genoa, Italy with several new colleagues.  It was the culmination of a whirlwind of planning that commenced around this time last year, as I started paperwork and the long process of packing up my wonderful, comfortable life in NYC for the adventure I always dreamed about.

The fountain at Piazza de Ferrari, cooling off in the mist. I was not posing, believe it or not . . .a friend just caught the bliss.

The fountain at Piazza de Ferrari, cooling off in the mist. I was not posing, believe it or not . . .a friend just caught the bliss.

I had been plotting and scheming a way to do this for so many years, even as a high school junior, contemplating attending college at the American University in Paris.  Studying abroad in England, with weekends all over the country and the continent, ignited the travel bug; the summer after that study abroad experience, I had the fever big time.

I was heading back to England for my flight home after three weeks solo backpacking around Europe post graduation from college.  I was sitting on my overstuffed backpack at the Bruges train station when a woman started talking to me, explaining that if I was a teacher, it would be easy to live abroad. “I don’t want to leave Belgium” I had told her. “I love it here.”

“There are jobs in Belgium and all over Europe at US Military Bases,” she explained.  That stuck in my mind, and a fantasy began exploding, but honestly, I had no intention of becoming a high school teacher, with dreams of a Masters and eventually PhD in English on my mind.  A tanned, happy girl in low pig tails, a dreamer.

We parted ways, and I kept that dream in the back of my mind but thought it would probably be something else that brought me to Europe.  One day, one day.  Maybe grad school.  Maybe working at a hostel, I dunno.  But I had to come back.  And LIVE here.

Eventually, after backpacking around Australia and many other fun post-grad adventures, I started my MA program in English at Fordham University, then wanted to get a PhD but took time off to sort things out, get on my feet financially, and figure out my whole deal.  I got a job as an adjunct professor at Iona College in 2004, when I had just turned 24 years old.  That was so much fun, and I knew I loved teaching.  A few years later, very happy but pretty darned broke, it was time to reevaluate — and I saw a poster in the NYC Subway: “You remember your teacher’s name.  Who will remember yours?”  It was an ad for the NYC Teaching Fellows.  I realized I loved teaching, wanted to give high school a try and wanted to help the community I had been living in for many years as I lived by Fordham University, which happened to be located in one of the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the city.  I applied after the deadline was extended, after I stopped hemming and hawwing, and before I knew it, I was in an overwhelmingly intensive summer training program.  Instead of sunny days on the beach at my lifeguarding gig, I was in an overheated un-airconditioned classroom with 60 kids.  Yes, 60  “Don’t worry, many will drop out,” said a supervisor as I watched kids sit on the windowsill and floor.

That fall, September 2007, I began teaching at a high school right by my apartment, and met wonderful colleagues and amazing students that I am still in touch with today.  It was one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life.  Although I only had a 2 year commitment, I stayed 5 years, 3 additional years after completing my Education Masters at City College.  Then it was time to reevaluate again. Time was ticking, life was slipping away and I thought: hey, I’m not married, have no kids, no property, and no serious strings. Remember that dream?  Remember it? GO FOR IT!

So, how did I figure all this out?  I thought, ok, I want to work at an international school.  I looked into the military schools, but you have less options to choose where you work.  Even still, I did apply.  But after studying in Norway on a fellowship in Summer 2010, I learned about international schools and how great they are.   I thought, ok, what are some of the best schools?  Looked them up, and then looked up who accredits them.  CIS.  Ok, so I applied to be a candidate for CIS, the Council for International Schools.  I also entered my information, got recommendations from my principal and other supervisors, put together an application package, and I was in the system.   I paid for some of my own International Baccalaureate training (IB) to distinguish myself from the heaps of other English teachers, trying to give myself that competitive edge and a school the incentive to hire a non-EU teacher.  Although they tell you to be open-minded, my heart was set on Europe.  I was coming from one of the greatest cities in the world, and I wasn’t going to leave it for anything other than my dream.

January 2012, I flew to London for a huge fair, and was overwhelmed by the response of notes in my email and my mailbox in the candidates lounge.  A day and several interviews later, I had narrowed it down to four exciting prospects.  But Genoa was number one in my mind.  Let’s be honest: I saw the salary online and didn’t even contact the school, thinking, “Oh no way can I make that work.”  I did not know Italy had a special tax exempt status for two years.  But still . . .

So, one of my emails was from my boss in Genoa.  He seemed so positive, and I was curious. I  went to google maps, knowing Genoa was in the North, the food belt . . . but where exactly?  And then “OMG, it’s on the water!!!  Oh, right on the sea!” I enjoyed the interview and there was just something so unique about the school community that came across in the director’s presentation. He showed us pictures of Salty Cats Day, and I thought “This place is special.”   So, I had options at other schools that were amazing but when the Genoa offer came in, I knew I had to take it.  But not before I had one of the most sleepless agonizing nights ever as I tried to decide.  I woke up, and after checking my email, I discovered my dad had worked out my financials  to show me that it would be possible.  And that  . . . they would help.  (It is in a very large thanks to them that I have a little travel budget!!)  My mom, who was originally against my coming said, “Who could you be if you followed your dream?”  It was simple and short.  And I knew what she meant.  I walked over to accept my position.

When I told my other prospects I had accepted another offer, one man said, “It is a good decision.  It’s how I started my own international career . . . in Italy.  You won’t get rich, but you’ll live richly.”  It’s true.  I may not be paid a fortune, but I’m paid a fortune in beauty.  La Vita e Bella!

Flying home, I was walking on air.  I ended up getting a taxi ride all the way to the airport for the same price as if I had transferred to the train (nice cabbie), and then when I flew out of London, I flew right over Central London, with a sparkling view of the London Eye, Tower of London, all bright and glimmering in the sunshine. I had never flown this way in all my years of flying to England.  Everything magically fell into place.

When I came home, I was so ecstatic, I couldn’t contain my excitement, as I called everyone and then eventually broke the news on facebook for 86 likes and a bunch of comments and well wishes.  “This is pretty much a combination of everything you love,” somebody wrote.

yes.

Everything was dreamy after that.  I had a glow that just didn’t wear off. Oh, and then I received a message from the US Department of Defense to come down to DC for an interview for positions for the 2012-2013 school year.  Ahh, but I already had my job!  But still, so nice to be invited.  🙂  With departure on my mind,  my life had a new trajectory and spark, and I began to carpe diem and savor every sweet, delcious, awesome moment of the life I was leaving behind . . .for now.   It was half a year of celebrating and partying which was revved up in the summer for The Grand Farewell Tour, one of the best summers of my entire life.

I was elated and exhausted when I finally landed in Genoa.  While I do miss home, especially everyone I love, I also am savoring every moment here because although I can stay international as long as I want, I know this particular experience, given many factors, can’t last.  But oh, it is so so beautiful and it has changed me and my career forever.  Whether I return to the NYC school system (They have Public IB Schools) or continue at an international school or seek another private school, I know I will always stay with the IB and that I will always have this experience tucked away in my heart, soul, and  . . . the very fabric that is me.

Grazie Mille to my former self for giving me this great gift!  Grateful for everyone in my life for all their support during this process.  I have never smiled so much.

Today, I am in Dublin for my annual visit with my mother (who just got her IRISH passport!) and my Great Aunt Minnie.  Instead of flying from JFK with them, I just met them here.  I will certainly have a Guinness in celebration.  CHEERS!

I’ll leave you with this video which is like my theme song while living this good life here: One Republic “Good Life”  🙂

Buon Natale!

My heart is officially melted into a puddle. The grandpa upstairs just knocked on my door to invite me to dinner tomorrow night to “mangiare con amici per Natale.” (to eat with friends for Christmas). He first tried asking me in English bc he knows I’m American but it was hard for him. I said I can understand a bit of Italian. So sweet!  I explained in a mix of Italian and English that I’m leaving tomorrow morning and I’ll be back 6 Gennaio.   So he said after I return. We will eat with friends.  Awwww. Grazie Mille!  🙂

 

My heart is already overflowing from the wonderful winter program today, the adorable children, and an impromptu fun gathering in the staff room with great coworkers.  

Verona: Looking for Romeo under some balconies

A few weeks ago, I planned a lazy, cozy PJ weekend spent dozing and catching up on movies.  But when a couple of friends invited me to Verona, I couldn’t say no.  A new city!  Yay!  Unlike Shakespeare, I was actually going to see Verona.  Yup, he set his star crossed lovers in this quaint medieval city without ever setting foot in Italy at all.  When I announced my departure on a Girls Night Out skype chat in NY (well, they were still up, and I was about to hop into the shower), they said “Have fun looking for Romeo.”

“Where do I find him?”

“Check under some balconies.”

Sleepy yet excited, I met my friends at that train station and we headed on over for our adventure. We were greeted with torrential rain upon our arrival – bummer.  We walked to our quaint hotel, which was midway between the city center and the train station, and began exploring.  Knowing nothing at all about Verona and having not even seen a guidebook, the city was a complete surprise.  Quaint castle.  Cool bridge from that castle with views over the river and the panorama of the city.  Various lookouts filled with tourists and necking teens.  This was definitely THE makeout spot for the Vernoese – wannabe Romeos charming the pants off their girls in that old fashioned lip lock we so often forget as we grow older and  . . .anyway.

My friend kept saying, “I love my life!  Seriously, I love my life.”

This was just a simple weekend trip for us.  Yes, I love my life.  We are so lucky.  Even in the rain, we were blissfully happy, wandering, exploring, just being.

Strolling through town, it was apparent that not just the locals were inspired by Romeo.  Many couples made it a kind of romantic pilgrimage to walk hand in hand in the streets that inspired the tragic love story.  People do love this story.  It came up in my 10th grade class, and all the girls swooned about how romantic and sweet the story is, and my snarky, sarcastic Korean student said “They die.  It’s tragic.  It’s horrible.  Nobody wins.”

And I said, “Would you rather have that amazing love and then die or would you rather live a long life and never know love?”

The girls said “love and die,” the guys said “life!”  hmmm.

After the bridge, we wandered in search of good food.  We heard that the people are really nice here and that the food is splendid.  We followed an amazing scent to a local restaurant where we learned that both rumors were true.  Our waiter was nice, sweet, funny, and spoke English!  Coming from non-touristy Genoa where almost nobody speaks it, this was a welcome treat.  I ordered macronicini with pumpkin and pork.  My friend ordered tortellini filled with a mix of meats. That sounded amazing and I went to switch and the waiter shouted an alarmed, “NO!”

Startled, I said, “Huh?”

“The macaronicini is amazing.  You must have it.  It’s my favorite.”

One friend switched her order and we were absolutely not disappointed.  Apparently the tortellini was delicious too, but that pumpkin … mmmm, such hearty flavor.  In Northern Italy, near the Sud Tirol, the food shows an interesting alpine influence.  Italian cooking — so regional.  Travel a hundred miles in any direction, and you’ve hit an entirely different style of cooking.  Living in Genoa, all the restaurants (and even the shops) feature ligurian cuisine, food from the land — simple compositions that let the ingredients shine.  But I get sick of the same thing over and over, and therefore love trying new cuisine!  YUM!

It was cold and wet, so we met up with friends at a bar.  They used to work with my colleague in China and are now at an international school in Albania.  We traded teaching stories, planned a visit, enjoyed lots of vino, then strolled through town, down cobbled lanes, into an old church with a funky pendulum, past a market, and then into another bar next to the coliseum, where I had 4 more glasses of delicious vino and aperitivos.  Chatting, enjoying, and relishing the evening.  Afterwards, we were hungry for more food and ducked into what we thought was a chill restaurant.  In our fleeces, with soggy hair, we didn’t exactly fit in with the packed crowd dolled up for date night, but we enjoyed our snug table by the open fire where the chefs cooked veggies and bread.  I had a simple onion soup, thick and tasty, while gnoshing on bread.  Then back to the hotel and to bed.

The weather got even colder the next day as the rain came down even heavier, so we decided to grab an earlier train home.  But first,  we grabbed a nice heated outdoor breakfast, featuring hot chocolate that was like melted candy bar … mmm… then we figured, hey why not . . . let’s go look for “Juliet’s House.”  Of course Juliet is fictional, but they set up a balcony and a bronze statue of Juliet.  Tourists rub her right breast for good luck in love and sex.  That breast was worn shiny by all the . . . love? I touched it quickly for a photo with silent apologies to the bard for the huge disgrace that must have him turning in his grave . . . but I couldn’t help it.  When in Verona . . .

The whole area, a little cove off a side street, has turned into a shrine for love.  Couples attach locks to a grate, engraved with their names.  Locks of Love.  I wonder how many of those relationships outlasted the lock.  I wonder how often someone comes over with clippers to ditch the locks.  And in the archway leading to the whole scene, couples doodled their names, initials, and love messages to each other within hearts.  The urge to mark, whether it’s a tree, a bathroom stall, or “Juliet’s” balcony.  The urge to preserve when everything is ultimately transient.

It’s hard to think of Romeo and Juliet without thinking of this song:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fiXkvsKpdk

Here are some pictures from our trip:

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Happy Halloween from Italy!

Halloween is starting to become a thing here in Genoa.  They have a pizzeria in Nervi called Halloween, all decked in black and orange year-round.  Nestled in the little port, I really want to try it, especially since it was recommended in our “Welcome to Genoa” packet compiled by staff members.

Trick-or-treating is a new trend here.  My colleagues were surprised when kids showed up at their 4th floor apartment, then proceeded to give two pieces of candy they scrounged up for the 6 of them.  Even so, they still said “Grazie mille!” I never got trick-or-treaters in my NYC apartments so I think it would be very interesting to have my first ones here.  But after 9pm, I guess the time has passed.  Good thing.  All I’d be able to offer is change, like that old lady in grandma’s neighborhood who gave out nickels on Halloween and warned us not to eat too many tootsie rolls, as if those were what I craved.

Due to the new trend, Halloween shops have popped up all over the city, including a quaint one down by the sea, selling devil horns, vampire teeth, masks, wigs, and pre-packaged costumes straight from America.  A costume that costs 50 bucks at Party City is now 75 euros.  Yikes!  I should get into that as a side business, much like the shop owner.

Somehow in the move, the stand-up collar for my vampire costume did not make it to Italy. I had to get something to go with my gothic dress.  Thanks to the recommendations of my students, I strolled down to the sea to the quaint little Halloween shop, where I then waited on line for about 15 minutes.  A woman said, “Buona Sera . . .” and I said, “I only speak English,” feeling guilty because I should be able to say that in Italian.  I get embarrassed using my “broken” Italian, but how else am I going to learn?  My progress is coming along, though I will talk about that in another post.

The woman gestured to the man next to her who said in near perfect English, “How can I help you?”  I explained my situation and he said they only had the packaged sets there and to come next door to get accessories in the Tabacchi.  He took me to the front of the line, and soon I had a nifty witch hat.  “Where are you from?” he asked.

“New York City,” I said proudly, missing home but not enough to jump on a plane or leave my beautiful life just yet.

“I go there at least once a year to meet with the costume designers and stock up.  I love New York, what a great city.  But next year, the event has been moved to Houston.  This is my side business.  I work for the German company Siemens”

“Ahh” I had seen the name on a building in town.

“How long are you here?” he asked shaking his head with that look I get so often here in Genoa.  People don’t seem to understand how I could leave such a great city or how I could be happy here.

“2 years.”  His look grew even more exasperated.  “How about we switch.  You stay here, and I work there.  I’ve always wanted to live in New York.”

I hear it a lot, and I totally understand it.  “New York has everything, but I have the sea here,”I said, gesturing across the street to the moonlit waves gently lapping against the  shoreline.  “And the mountains,” I added, pointing behind me.  “I guess the food too, but in New York we can get anything . . .ok, except maybe good pesto.”

After chatting a bit, I left knowing I’d be back.  He sells decorations for all the holidays, and I was hoping to get a few things to bring my place into the Christmas spirit soon.  But first, Halloween Spirit.

My school — being cute and adorable and super spirited . . .well, the parents put together this amazing Halloween Festival for kids through 8th grade, featuring a spooky room and outdoor activities and candy.  While I was teaching the older kids, I kept hearing “Thriller” –occasionally breaking out into the dance– “Werewolves of London,” and “The Addams Family.”  Speaking of which — each day, we rise for a different world anthem.  Today, we rose for — The Addams Family.  I have juniors, and I even got them to sing and snap along with me.  Yay!

The Genovese seem to prefer the spooky over the cute costumes, so there were witches and ghouls galore, monsters, vampires, ghosts, and gory makeup.  But there were also quite a few cherubic witches and cutie pie kiddies as well.  Ahh, so fun!  Even many of the teachers got into the spirit.  Since I am teaching The Crucible, I decided to be a witch — although they didn’t quite dress up like this kind  . . . and I’m a good witch.  🙂

Here are some photos of my colleagues and me from today.  Happy Halloween!

With the Middle School head of years / other English teacher.

Head of Years for High School

Our IB coordinator had to take a phone call. When she entered the room, with the best voice ever, she said, “Ahh, my long lost cousin, how are you? It’s been forever!”