Friday, January 16, 2004

Infection - I've got it

So I tease Antonello a bit about his "modern ideas" (see comment in "3D glasses for Grandma") and what does the technological karma bring me in return? A nasty computer virus!

After three days of rinse, restart, and repeat, this horrid computer is still having issues. Now who's the one begging for simpler times? Tin foil and a number two pencil don't seem so bad from this side of the infection.

Wouldn't it be fun to try old-style record keeping for a day? Doodling on vellum, singing matins, copying hymns...I think the adventure would have to end with mealtime though. After all this computer cleansing, I'm ready to order a pizza. (What would the Donato's guy say if I asked for french fries and corn on a thin crust? Jackie, I miss you...and Pizzettiamo!)


What a little chocolate can do

After lunch today, Antonello was making coffee, and his brother Sandro pulled a big block of chocolate with hazelnuts down from the cabinet. He offered me some, and I of course accepted. It was a form of the beloved Italian classic holiday treat Torrone, although this one was practically solid chocolate--the smooth kind that really melts on your tongue. Delicious stuff.

I offered some to Antonello's grandma, who was sitting there watching me cut a piece for myself, and her eyes got all big and she smiled and said "Okay, I'll take a piece." I think it must've halfway made her day--me offering her chocolate from her own kitchen--because after she took a piece, she started pulling all of these other sweets out from the cabinets. She just kept placing them in front of me: almond biscotti, Perugina chocolates, everything. It was as if she'd been waiting to show someone all of the candy she had collected.

And she smiled so brightly and winked at me, this 91-year old grandma with a sweet tooth.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

As mornings go...

This morning I had to go to work early. Needless-to-say, I was not thrilled, but I had decided beforehand that today I wanted to work in the morning (normally I work in the afternoon and get to sleep in--late), so that I could spend the afternoon with friends and doing grocery shopping (which, in the end, turned more into a long afternoon nap, but that's another story).

Anyway, Antonello picked me up at my apartment, and I was in the worst mood. We left to go to work, and I was complaining horrifically about how early it was, how I was still suffering jet-lag (which is a joke, considering I've been here for over 2 weeks already), and how it is impossible to wake up in my apartment being that it is underground (hence no window-light). It's like a bear sleeping in a cave. And I do like to sleep.

But Antonello, being who he is, put up with my complaining and just smiled and laughed and patted my shoulder, and we drove off to work--him smiling, me complaining and wanting to go right back to sleep.

However, in the midst of all of my complaining, we drove by the countryside, and it was beautiful. It was somehow richer in the morning--all of the clouds, which in daylight would have looked just dreary, gathered together to make the sky seem larger than normal--like its eyes were wide open. Cupolas of churches silhouetted beautifully against the rising sunlight, and the mountains were purple and snow-tipped. It was morning in Italy--and I could see why someone might want to wake up early, just to see the day begin.

I told Antonello that I wished I had brought a camera, because I doubted I would be up this early again.


Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Italian Glaciers Grace Hoosier Restuarant

Reading of Jackie's adventures in Italia is inspiring. Not only because she writes of magical events in a magical place, but because her notes remind me to take notice of the little things. If I pay close enough attention, any place can reveal its magic in the details.

Last night I had dinner with some friends at a restaurant downtown in Indianapolis. All our food came at the same time, the restaurant owner's brother didn't help himself to a seat at our table, and espressos were on the menu for more than $3 a shot. Needless to say, this was no Italian trattoria - but tasty all the same.

On the way out, I wrapped my scarf around my neck with one hand and grabbed a mint with the other. Looking down, with my coat only half on, I saw the crystal blue wrapping around each candy in the dish. Closer inspection revealed a Perugina trademark. They were Italian mints, "Glacia" to be precise.

With the crisp mint candy in my mouth and the crisp winter air in my lungs, my friends and I walked through the lights of the downtown streets - not medieval streets, not through ancient gates, not through patinaed piazzas. Just a little thing, but a sweet reminder of the sweet details. A little bit of Italian magic from the American candy dish.


3D Glasses for Grandma

I have been eating lunches at Antonello's house lately. It's been really nice, and I have been slowly getting to know his family--his mother and grandmother. They are good people, his family. While it still isn't home, it's nice to feel closer to people, to see a connection being made.

Today, after a lunch of risotto (which Antonello said was too gooey, but I liked just fine), cheese, and oranges, we sat down for our daily coffee, and then Antonello was up out of his seat, saying "Okay, let's go." But before we got to the door, his mother reached under the television stand and said "Oh, this came for you." It was Antonello's monthly Caving magazine.

Anyone who knows Antonello knows he is an avid caver (when he came to America, the only place on his list of "Things to See" was Mammoth Cave in Kentucky). So, when he saw the magazine, he got all excited and tore the plastic wrapping off. Inside was a the caving magazine: Speleologia, plus a set of 3D glasses.

The 3D glasses were the icing on the cake. "Ah!" he said. 3D glasses!"

Inside were pictures to look at, in 3D, of various Italian caves. Antonello and I took turns with the 3D glasses, and, in my opinion, the glasses didn't make much of a difference. The pictures were kind of unclear, but you could at least get a better perspective on the depth of the various stalagmites. Antonello, though, was in awe. He was quick to show his mother, who didn't really seem to care much, and then his grandmother, who was a little more excited. His grandma took the glasses and sort of plastered them to her forehead, covering up most of the whole red lens, and looking, well, just rather odd. White hair and all, half the red lens covered, Antonello's italian grandma was trying to see caves in three dimensions.

I had to slip away, to silently laugh.

As we left, Antonello said "You know them. They don't ever want to see anything modern or new." Yes, 3D glasses are modern and new. I teased him the rest of the ride back to my house about his "modern" and "new" ideas.


Learning a Language

Antonello and I have been studying English. I had sent him a book back in November called "The First Thanksgiving," and three days ago he got out his gigantic English dictionary (that had that "never-been-used" look), and we opened "The First Thanksgiving" and started to read. It is one of those books for children who are learning to read, but it's a little more advanced, and the story is at least somewhat interesting, seeing that Antonello probably knows very little about the first pilgrims in America. (Although he apparently knows a great deal about maple syrup).

Anyway, in these past few days I've begun to see that it's a really wonderful thing to watch someone learn your language. Watching him pronounce the words even, just the way his mouth moves differently than it does when he speaks Italian. To hear him sound almost like me--it's kind of fascinating. And every time he gets to a word he doesn't understand, he opens his gigantic dictionary (that has that "never-been-used" look) and looks it up. And slowly, he gets to words he has already looked up, and he knows what they mean. Yesterday, he got stuck staring at the "J" section for way too long, and I couldn't help but smile. There is no "J" in Italian.


Monday, January 12, 2004

Sono arrivata!

Well, in response to Corrie's recent post from America, Ferie has been replaced by factory work, and the warm Italian sun is not so warm anymore. Yes, it's winter in Italy. But I made it back safely, setting two jet-lagged feet on the airport carpet in Rome almost two weeks ago: the 31st of December.

The last week and a half have been made up of rather mild adventures: moving into my new apartment (which is in the basement, stuccoed ceiling and all, with two windows that let in very very little light. Where did my dream of a balcony and a panoramic view go?), finding a new local vegetable store (I'm not too excited about the one I found either. They priced a jar of beans 30 cents over its original price, which I found out about by tearing off the price tag of 1.10 to reveal 77 cents beneath it! I am thinking of going back to the store and telling him that I think I lost 33 cents there, and if he has seen it, will he please let me know), visiting 100 nativity scenes and counting (no, Eric, the Piazza in Rome was nowhere to be found), and giving gifts to various family members of Antonello (his sister-in-law is quite confused about what to do with the Welcome Sign I got her).

Some of the more exciting adventures have included a romp in the mountains near Pesaro, a birthday party with 10 little kids in birthday hats, blowing really loud whistles and obnoxiously popping "Buon Compleanno" balloons, and New Year's Day in Rome.

While all of these things seem like a lot, Macerata is moving slowly, and each day wakes me up with a tap rather than a shake. I am moving slowly into my life here, trying to make my every day adventures seem more like routine. I guess this is really trying to live here, instead of being a tourist.

Yesterday, after visiting Loreto, Antonello and I drove a country road to Montecassiano. There was a stretch where, if you looked north, you could see dozens of hill towns on the countryside around. They were everywhere, with their brown tiled roofs and bell towers rising just above the horizon. The sky was blue, the grass green, and the air cold and crisp. It was a good feeling. Italy was all around me.

Quick note: If anyone knows how Maple syrup is made, can you please let me know? Antonello doesn't believe it involves a spigot and a maple tree.