November 2011 #2
My Apartment: Borgo Allegri 66The adventure continues: (Sorry if you didn't get the first email...working on an iPad made it hard for me to create an email group, and I was really disoriented last week from jet lag and whatever)
SO!!! I just can't believe I'm in Italy and didn't know that the Big B had resigned. I could tell you all about how the Pazzi picked on the Medicis and the process by which artists created all those Medieval altarpieces with the gold leaf. I have been to the hillside town of Cortona, two hours from here by train. I have been to museums, lectures, and can explain the difference between the Passato Prossimo and Passato Remoto tenses. But until today, I was not even sure the modern world still existed.
But enough about politics. Let's move on. Andiamo avante.
The phone and email connections here are irregular at best. If Verizon ever tries to sell you a global American phone, tell them to shove it. Also, getting email at the school was difficult until I got it figured out today. Tonight is the first night I feel relaxed and am sitting here with my cup of tea? But where, you ask?
Did you know Italians don't have clothes dryers? They wash the stuff at home and hang it inside or out, or take it to a laundromat to dry. Mine's hanging up all over the place.Cose Vecchie means old things. For those who have been to Lex's Cool Stuff in Netarts you know I feel at home with old things so close. I am the fourth door down under the light. However, it strikes me odd that they are selling old stuff in a shop. Everything here is old. But as I said in my last email, I am not going to describe the art. Although I will tell you that seeing Michelangelo's Prisoners yesterday, both trapped and emerging from the stone, brought me, the Prisoner of Second grade, to tears.
There were all these people standing around me with headphones, listening to whatever it is they tell you on headphones, and there I was, wanting to sit down on a bench and cry for the grief of all humanity.
However, I do admit to finding myself constantly emotional as I get more and more in touch with my inner Italian.
The most Italian Italian I've met is Lorenzo. In this thirties, with dark hair and blue eyes, Lorenzo is the advanced language teacher at the school who is also the guide for many of our extra curricular museum events. Handsome as all get out, he has an ego the size of the Duomo with an intellect to match. He is a scholar of history, art, language, and knows the history of commentary about The Divine Comedy.
He dramatizes the spirit of paintings as he explains their structure and symbolism. He appears almost in a trance as he describes the mystical themes of birth, death, and resurrection of he admires. Yesterday at the San Marco museum, he was on a dramatic role with the repetition of the themes Birth, Death, and Rebirth. After three hours and room after room of Jesus sitting on his mother's lap, bleeding on the cross, and ascending, I fully understood the agony and then the resurrection as we finally stepped outside into freedom and the light.
Saturday, Lorenzo was our guide to Cortona. As we wandered among the hillside village and ran our fingers along the walls that were once a Medici fortress, Lorenzo, Kathleen, and I began to discuss The Divine Comedy. It appeared that Lorenzo was not interested in anyone's opinions but his own. However, when we returned to the Firenze train station and were all thanking him for a fine day, which it certainly was, he grabbed my hand tightly as he held me in a warm embrace, "Joan, you are very deep," he said. And it had the feeling of just being told by the angel Gabriel that my next book would be fantastico...semplice e elegante...full of the grand themes of birth, death and rinascemente...renaissance.
On Friday, I went to a travel agent recommended by the school to begin planning the trip to Maierato.
Did you know that in Italy, there are two types of street numbers. Black for houses and red or sometimes blue for businesses. I was supposed to go to 10 red on Via Pergolo. When I got there, niente. A boarded up window. I went back to 6 black...oh, yes, the numbers are not always in order so my apt. at Borgo Allegri 66 Black is next to number 22 Blue. So anyhow, the man cutting glass at 6 black said I should keep going. I kept going, and there was a second 10 red about five doors past the first ten red. The difference was that the agency's 10 red was redder.
It's like my washer. It always works. But it never works in quite the same way. I just have to keep pushing buttons until it starts. I never put both pairs of slacks in at the same time for fear of what might happen to them as the machine grinds away...a load takes 2 hours.
Anyhow, It appeared that the only way to get to Maierato was 10 hours by two trains at night. It sounded just awful. But today, I went back to the agency on the advice of my conversation tutor and got a different agent who recommended a plane. And an Italian rental phone because mine couldn't get through to Polma.
I can't book a flight until I have a look at the plane schedule on the Internet. The first agent from Australia was quite huffy. She'd been to Vietnam, Poland, the Soviet Union, but never to Calabria, she said, as if only idiots went there. But the second agent, from San Diego, said it was going to be fabulous, that her friend sought out her family in tiny hillside village. Her friend didn't speak any Italian and they spoke no English but it was a major event of the town. I celebrated the possibility with a gelato. I believe I am now prepared to say that Panna Cotte is supreme, that's a kind creamy caramel. With bocia, chocolate hazelnut, second.
Now, the saga of Lucy's jacket continues. Yes, I did save 4 euro. (hip people never say euros) However, the more I looked at it, the more I worried that it would be too small. And my dear Ross mentioned that he hoped it might replace the Tillamook hoodie. So...have you ever heard of anyone returning something to a street vendor? Well, My Aunt Mary, who was notorious for returning anything and everything, would be exceedingly proud. The guy gave me a larger size, and to express my appreciation, I bought a Leonardo T-shirt which pleased him...and then just gave him 2 euro for the exchange which really surprised and delighted him. If the T-shirt doesn't fit, I can bring it back, he said as he shook my hand like we were old friends.
And The moral of the story?
Father knows Best....unless you missed the story on my blog.
Then the secondary moral would be, It's not the savings; it's the journey.
Now to learning a foreign language in an immersion school.
In my previous email, I described certain looks. Well, there is the look of the student who has no idea what the hell he or she is saying and the look of the person longing to help out by understanding. You've heard of a deer in the headlights? Well, I'm speaking of the deer whose head is hanging on the wall of someone's living room.
Per esempio, for example, today, a woman who came here knowing no Italian whatsoever found me reading your emails on the stairwell steps of the school, the only free place where I could get a wifi signal. She wanted to try speaking and said something to me that amounted to Where are you? I finally realized what she really wanted to say was Where are you from? After we sorted that out, and I learned she is from Switzerland, I made the sbaglio grande...big mistake...of asking if she had ever been to Carl Jung's casa. We all know the word for house. But Carl Jung brought a dimension of unconquerable proportions to the conversation. Two deer heads hanging on the wall with those glassy eyes.
But then on my way to return the jacket, I saw her on the street. "Ah, la mia amica da Svizzera,"... I cried. And she greeted me, as if we were long lost friends. We exchanged names. She's Leah, and we agreed in our struggling Italian, that it's exhausting to be speaking with limited language all day. But suddenly, I felt great. I met a friend from Switzerland on the streets of Florence. It was almost like being at home. Almost. I miss my casa. And miei amici. And i miei gatti. In Cortona, I saw an orange cat and almost called the cat sitters to see if Reno had escaped.
Tomorrow night, my grammar class is going out to dinner. \Two women from Japan...Yoko and I are now Facebook friends, an adorable young man also from Japan named Kazu who is my grammar exercise partner, a man from Australia, and Martina, the stunning but reserved German who comes alive after a glass of wine, somewhat like one of those speeded up versions of a rose.
It was really strange the first couple days of class because the Japanese pronounce v as b, and bevo, I drink, is common in elementary conversation.
Bebo? what the heck is bebo?...
But what a difference a week makes. Yoko and I stopped for coffee following the 3 hour lecture at San Marco with all those bleeding images of poor Jesus. The coffee looked and tasted like soap. During our what-did-you-do-last night rundown in class this morning, I was able to tell the story and get a laugh. I have come to dread the glassy eyes.
I wonder what it was like for my grandparents arriving in a new land, not knowing English, needing work, wanting to make a home, seeking a new life. My father was born in a house with a dirt floor on Orphan Street in Pittsburgh.
Hey, you know those charming shutters on houses in all the pictures. Not so charming. They don't close worth a darn. At least not in this old place. But it does have a tile floor. And a plastic bag full of 1 and 2 euro coins that I keep as my gelato stash. Life is good. I'm lucky. I miss you.