Saturday, October 13, 2012

i piccoli piaceri

Wednesday made for another eventful Italian lesson in Ostia. For one, our class has doubled in size, adding a couple ladies from England, another from Panama, one from Argentina, a man from Georgia (the country), an American girl (also an Au-pair) from Utah, and another from Brazil. Being a part of this course has inspired me to seek ESL certification once I return to the States. Next big adventure?

After one particular book exercise, the teacher seemed very pleased at my apparent understanding of Italian grammar and verb conjugations. "Bravissima, Sah-rah, gia sai tutto!" (Very good, Sarah, you already know everything!) I swore I didn't. I don't. I went on to explain that while I can read, write, and understand the language well, I have much more trouble expressing myself verbally. "Non ti preocupare, abbiamo una conversazione subito!" (Don't worry, we'll have a conversation now). Little did I know that this meant putting the Americans on the stand before the entire class. Utah and I sat in two chairs at the front, with fifteen pairs of eyes staring back at us. Our peers were to ask us questions in Italian one at a time, and we were to take turns responding, also in Italian. Somehow these kinds of experiences that might embarrass me in the States, simply don't when I'm abroad. This isn't "real life" to me.

After class, I grabbed lunch with Emmanuele, the teacher's assistant for the course. We took a pizza to the beach and sat on boulders that reminded me of oversized chocolate chip cookies. [Side note: a popular pizza topping in Italy is potatoes. Italians are certainly not shy with the carbohydrates.] If we had been lovers, this would have been a scene from a movie: the sun hitting the water just right, waves splashing up on our feet every so often, an American girl practicing her Italian with an Italian boy practicing his English, all over a picnic lunch. Thankfully, my Italian proved more proficient than his English and so this logged in some of the practice I so crave on a daily basis, but cannot get--English only around the children.

 I am beginning to understand how multi-linguists might be able to do it. After learning one foreign language, the second seems to come more easily and quickly. Although, in my case, the fact that Spanish and Italian are SO similar, proves both a blessing and a curse. Downtown last week, during an extended curbside conversation with a Venezuelan hippie selling handmade jewelry, I came to the crushing realization that I can no longer speak even one foreign language purely or completely. As I cruised through Spanish sentences that were formerly so familiar and effortless, I'd hit a speed bump as an Italian word would pop into my mind and out of my mouth instead. This new dialect I have created consists of about 75% Spanish and 25% Italian. For every encouragement that swells my head, I'm always dragged back to reality one way or another. Thank God for this!

Good 'ol Victor Hugo

Thursday, I took advantage of the week's best weather (which continues to be a mosquito paradise in the mid-70's by the way) and spent the day in Villa Borghese. This is like the Central Park of Rome, except the city really has two (!)...for another day. Originally, the park was privately constructed for the wealthy Borghese family in the early 1600's, but it became a government property around the turn of the century and has been open to the public ever since. 


Within the grounds, visitors can find a zoo, lake, riding school, villas, amphitheater, Globe Theater replica, infinite fountains, statues, gardens, merry-go-round, pony carts, and a handful of art museums. Through swelling accordion music and cheerful morning light slanting through the tree branches, I strolled past a multitude of bikers, lovers, runners, picnic-ers, boat-ers, and dog walkers, all enjoying the park in the middle of the day. Maybe the unemployment rate is even worse than I thought...?

For hours I wandered aimlessly and soaked in beauty, nothing more, nothing less. Everything takes longer here. Whether it's sitting down for coffee, socializing, never-ending meals, shopping, or hanging laundry, no one's going anywhere fast. I am so thankful for the freedom to enjoy some days with absolutely no agenda, a privilege I only seem to realize through travel. I guess removing myself several thousand miles across the Atlantic is all it takes to truly find rest. To think. To be still. To be QUIET and listen. While it could seem more like tuning out and turning off, this practice actually heightens my sensitivity to so many of the simple pleasures around me--all the things I typically miss amidst the stress and chaos of American life. Of course there is a time and place for everything, but for now, I'm content to just be.

My reading haven. I'll never leave. Will I?

Gardens, cappuccino, and a delicious book...these are a few of my favorite things. As I sipped on frothy goodness, I was reminded of what I might have ordered in the States: grande skinny caramel macchiato, please. No whip. In Italy, you order "coffee." Hot or cold, with or without milk, and that's about it. And sugar is just sugar by the way. We ain't drinking no skim milk over here and no one seems to be dying any sooner.

Globe Theater?

Unfortunately, the play season ended back in September and so the theater is not currently open to the public, but it was still neat to see from the outside. Villa Borghese's Globe is an exact replica of the Elizabethan original in Shoreditch, London.

Not sure who this is a statue of and neither did I stick around long enough to find out. I was keenly aware of interrupting one of the more passionate make-out sessions I've yet to witness from the other side of the bushes. This scenario was later trumped as I left the park that afternoon, by a reclined couple in nothing but underwear.

I wonder if Dr. Seuss was inspired by Mediterranean Pines

Twice weekly, Virginia attends classic (ballet) and modern dance classes at a nearby sports club in Infernetto. I dare you not to smile after these three pictures. If you don't, you might not have a soul.

Giulio, on the other hand, recently ended his four-year fencing career to pursue the art of karate. Stay tuned for pictures of the little man in his karategi.

1 comment:

  1. I got coffee at the coffee joint in the hospital last week...ordered a skim hazelnut chocolate mocha with whip...and they called my order "skinny whipped cream nut hugger". wasn't sure if they were calling me or my drink. The Dr. Seuss trees are so cool!! Also, love the reflections on traveling and being able to soak in the quietness. I need that!