Monday, September 25, 2006

Webkinz Info

For those of you chomping at the bit, anxious to school the 7-year olds at Tic Tac Toe, Nora's Webkinz user name is: Elinore (no idea why--my child can be a bit random). Her pets' names are Chicha and Rosie. But I'm pretty sure that you just need her username: Elinore.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Things I've learned/I'm learning/I may never understand in Italy

Things I've learned:
1. There's actually a digestive bitter that tastes good! Fernet Branca is strong, and it lets you know you're drinking something serious (and 90 Proof) when you're drinking it by the way it grabs you from your insides and threatens to turn them inside out. But for just slightly less alcohol content (70 Proof), you can drink Amaro and actually enjoy it. Think of how much prettier that experience can be. (Although it's not nearly as momentous an event, since I never once questioned whether or not I was going to die.)

2. I have also learned (this one’s for you, Cam) that olives are not only edible but also almost enjoyable if eaten with a little bit of meat or cheese. I’ve always described the taste of olives as an assault on my tongue (similar to Fernet, but with no benefits), so I’m shocked that I chose to handle an assault with no buffer at all. A little meat, a little cheese goes a long way. Someday, I may even enjoy them.

That may conclude the portion of things I've learned. Well...
3. I've learned that it's not wise to make statements about a culture or place before you've learned the language. I've taken some of these hasty generalizations to heart and suffered unnecessary stress from it. SO....most of what I have is
Things I'm learning:
1. This first one is actually one that Nora is learning. She's learning that the terms "river" and "lake" are not interchangeable. I'd like to thank Austin, Texas for this one. Almost every day when we walk over the Tiber, Nora makes some comment to me about how dirty the lake is.

2. I'm learning how to cross the street. Everyone knows that crossing the street is dangerous when you're in Rome. You're prepared for that. What I don't think people are prepared for is this: if you treat crossing the road as a dangerous thing, something you're afraid of, then it really is dangerous. If you are timid, slow, make false starts then you confuse the scooters and they swerve and then it's danger all around. BUT...if you step off the curb and onto the street, wait for a gap in the first lane, and begin walking directly and quickly across the street (making eye contact with drivers as you go), then no one will hit you, and you won't look like a tourist. People have even started asking me for directions. I know it's not my appearance. I think it must be my growing talent at this street crossing business.

3. I'm learning that gas water heaters are the best inventions ever and that I should have sent thank you notes to my utility providers every month with my bill.
You think electric bills are expensive there? HA! Every morning, my general cleanliness and odor revolve around this site:
Our electric water heater that's too expensive to use all the time, but it takes at least 2-3 hours to show any movement in the gauge. At the moment that gauge shows that there is very little hot water in our tank. This means that, with the faucet pointed all the way to hot, I could get a 5 minute shower IF I use the water in shifts. Wet hair. Turn off. Lather. Rinse hair, wet body. Turn off. Lather. And so on. Also remember that the water in Rome is piped in from mountain springs. This is fantastic when you're walking around the town, and you can stop at any number of ice cold drinking fountains. In the's not as appealing. BUT I'm learning. I'm learning to turn on the heater before dinner and turn it off before I go to bed. It just takes some time.

4. Unfortunately, I'm also learning a bit about E. Coli. Nora got two parakeets for her birthday, Sebastian and Olivia. Here they are: After a few days it seemed as though those birds were getting dirty, and I had a brilliant idea "A bird bath!" Birds love bird baths. I'll put a dish of water (shallow, so they won't drown) at the bottom of the cage. The birds will stand in it and splash and frolic and clean themselves, and everyone will be happy. Instead of cleaning himself in the water, Sebastian decided to drink the water after pooing in it. Here is a picture of the bird cage now: It may be difficult to see inside the cage, sorry for the quality of the photo, but instead of Sebastian, there is now a mirror. Oliva seems to be ok chirping to the mirror, but the whole ordeal is really sad. In fact Nora just came in and saw the picture of Sebastian and got upset all over again. Anyway...the point: I'm learning about E. Coli and that sometimes birds are just dirty birds and that's all.

5. I'm also learning that people really don't drink cappuccino after breakfast. I scoffed at Jack for this one because it sounded like one of those hasty generalizations, but nope. It's true. I still drink cappuccinos whenever I want to because I'm not Italian, and I think that's a pretty ridiculous rule, and I'll have a cappuccino whenever I want. Which is truly never. What I really want is a HUGE mug of coffee that I can sip in a comfy chair at a coffeeshop that charges me the same price if I choose to sit with my coffee as they would if I chose to stand at the bar. This is actually not fair. They do charge (almost double) if you sit down with your coffee, BUT they only charge like 85 cents to start off with. It's not a prohibitive cost, and I could sit down if I wanted to, but it's the principle. And anyway...the cups are so teeny, I'd be done by the time I sat.

6. I'm also learning that Jack is "the best...AROUND" (to be sung to the tune of the Karate Kid song) because LOOK what he found for me!! That's right. That's cilantro!! Words can not describe my excitement!!

7. I'm also learning that Italian schools are NOTHING like American schools. Here are the supplies that we were told to bring:
a bag that contains pencils, markers, scissors, etc (the bag actually comes with these things in it and NOBODY just gets a bag and fills it with the items--you can tell the difference, so we had to buy this item twice); a notebook; a "diario" (assignment book/diary); a placemat; and a cup. What we were not told to bring because it's normally expected that you know is that Nora was supposed to bring a toothbrush and toothpaste to brush her teeth after lunch. The placemat and cup are used after BOTH of the snacks that the kids have during the day. Their lunch is one hour long, prepared by a cook, and consists of two or three courses every day. The other day she had veal. They only get homework on the weekends, and they go to school from 8:20--4:20. There is no sort of ISL program, but her teachers seem very nice (there are two teachers for each room), and are really working with her individually to help her learn.

Believe me, this list is much longer, but we have to go home now, so I'll add more later.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Photo Post

It's been a really long time since we've posted anything, and the longer we wait to post something, the harder it gets--because there's more to say. So I think this post will be a photo essay...with very few words. I am compiling at the moment a three-columned list: things I've learned while living in Rome, things I'm learning, and things I haven't learned and may never understand. But for now, here are photos.

I'm pretty sure this is a Hobbit house, found outside a church near our home.

In Rome, there is a big festival at the end of August (or beginning of September, not sure if it celebrates the full moon or end of summer or what) called Notte Biancha. The entire town comes out and celebrates and every store/cafe/pub/bar/restaurant remains open all night. It's like the opposite of the month of August where every store/cafe/pub, etc. remains closed and the Romans are nowhere to be found. I think maybe this holiday began to celebrate the end of tourist season, but I could be wrong. Nora and I are looking out of the office windows, overlooking the Campo de' Fiori.

The whole town = a lot of people.
Photo taken at 3 A.M.

A gyspy and her baby.

My gypsy baby.

Nora loves Nutella.

Nora and Jack. My little gargoyle and pensive holy man.

I apologize that this picture is not rotated, but I really can't be bothered to go back and do it now. Jack, Nora, and I went to the nearby town of Frascati a few weekends ago. Frascati is known for its white wine, and here Nora can be seen pouring wine from the wall into a 1.5L water bottle. Total cost: 2 Euros. Not bad.

We are living in Trastevere--a "hip" neighborhood across the Tiber from the historic center of town. In fact, Trastevere means "across the Tiber." Lots of people congregate here in the evenings. This attracts buskers of varying degrees of talent. Most of them include some aspect of fire juggling in their routine. Two girls do an exercise routine, in what appears to be utter seriousness, to Cyndi Lauper. These guys may or may not have been performers in Cirque du Soleil. They were fantastic and performed to the music from Alegria.

From the top of St. Peter's basilica. (the one with the Pope)

This is Nora's first day of school. And this is one of her teachers, Serena. Her other teacher is Paola. They speak no English, and Nora speaks no Italian. I have more to say about this, but it will have to wait until the next post.