Friday, October 21, 2005

It's Worse Than Yeky

While my friends have been teasing me about my new nickname (Yeky), here in Italy, people finally seem to be getting my name right. Perhaps it has to do with teaching English--each first lesson always involves spelling, and of course I make sure people learn how to spell Jackie (and Jacqueline). I've been seeing Jackie spelled right more times than I'm used to here in Italy, and it's been a pleasant change.

Until two days ago.

Antonello got home from work with the DVD his brother Sandro made--three copies of them, actually. Each had a handmade coverpage which read: Viaggio in America and featured either boats or flowers (I guess our niece Valentina wasn't aware that her father, Sandro, took a plane to America). On the back cover was a map, featuring the silhouette of Africa. So far, so good. Then, as I skimmed the titles of the different scenes (one was "Dinner at El Sol," another was "The Wedding" etc.) I stopped at one imparticular. What should have been "A Visit to Jackie's House" had the name "Jackie" replaced with another word.


Seriously, though, I can't wait to watch the video. I look forward to learning about Sandro's voyage, by boat, to Africa, to visit a girl named Jakj.

-Jackie (or Yeky, or Jaky, or Jakj)

P.S. Not trying to make it sound like we don't appreciate the dvd. We really do. Sandro spent hours (literally) filming and editing, and his hard work holds a special place in our wedding memories. Especially the laundromat bit :).

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Twice blessed

The Heartland Film Festival is an annual event in Indy. For a week in the fall, theaters around town show independent, short, foreign, animated, documentary, student, you-name-it films. A volunteer opportunity won me a few comp tickets so my friend Jill and I went to see Kathryn: Story of a Teller this week.

Even through film, this 85 year old storyteller from Alabama made a theater-full of Hoosiers fall in love with her. A soft southern accent told unassuming stories about her ghosts, her childhood, her career, her future. At first glance, a person might not assume Kathryn had broken repressing gender and racial standards through her work as a reporter in Selma, Alabama. But with just a few words, her sweet sincerity casts a spell that'd make anyone want to be her friend...even ghosts.

There were lots of memorable tidbits in the film, but two stick with me. When Kathryn decided to make her funeral arrangements, she started shopping for a coffin. The ones on display were so expensive that she asked the funeral director, "Weren't these shipped here in boxes? Couldn't you give me one of those?" In the end, she asked a carpenter friend to build the coffin, which waits in her storage shed in the backyard. "It's become the most handy storage space," she said. When someone gave her a rosebud set of service for 12 and she couldn't get anyone in family to take it, she packed up the dishes and stuck them in the coffin. "When the time comes, they'll have to clean it out - it won't be my problem."

Then, at the end of a set of stories she told under a tent at a festival, she recited a few lines from a Jan Struther poem that she'd like to appear on her gravestone: "Here lies a woman twice blessed; she was happy, and she knew it."


Viva La Noce!

Photo taken by Cyndi Abbott.

I had expected my train to Fano to get in late since we had left fifteen minutes behind schedule from Civitanova. But somewhere along the Adriatic coast, the train made up those fifteen minutes, and as we pulled into Fano I was mostly on time (you can't be too picky, this is Italy). I was meeting my friend Cyndi halfway between our two towns, and it was the first time either of us had been to Fano. Arriving, I looked around for Cyndi, saw no one, checked the train station monitor for arrivals, and saw that it was Cyndi's train that was fifteen minutes late--apparently those fifteen minutes we had made up had been passed down the railway line to her train. I took off my backpack, plugged in my ear phones, and smiled at the thought of Italian coincidences.

Cyndi and I have been wanting to meet up for as long as I can remember--she moved to Italy last year around this time, and we were surprised at how much we had in common. Cyndi had studied Italian with my mother in Indianapolis, and it just so happened that she was moving to Italy for reasons similar to my own: true love on a different continent. While we live only about 2 and a half hours away, on an Italian map, it's like an entirely different country, and finding times to meet have been difficult. After having seen each other only twice in Italy during the past year, we decided it was time to take matters into our own hands (letting our husbands stay home), and we began planning a trip to Fano.

When Cyndi arrived, we left the train station and headed toward the walled town. Cyndi was the first to notice how gorgeous the day was. It was the middle of October and there were no clouds to be seen, the sky so blue it seemed to be reflecting the Adriatic Sea nearby. I crossed my fingers in hopes of a beautiful day and a beautiful town to explore.

Fano proved to be both of those things. The city center was cobblestoned and rich with medieval and Roman architecture. Wandering around the town, we found the shell of an old church, roofless with columns and Malatesta tombs outside its walls, an ancient Roman arch white as travertine marble standing tall right next to the day's traffic congestion, a main piazza with a lively Wednesday market, and picturesque alleyways lined with lanterns and open windows.

We followed one street until we found that Roman Arch, and as we headed back into town, we stopped at a nearby loggia that seemed like it belonged on a street in Ferrara, not a sea town in Le Marche. The door was open, and we eagerly entered. In through the doors, we discovered a courtyard surrounded by two stories of arches, and all of the sudden I felt as if we had discovered a little treasure of a space: tiny and medieval in the city of Fano. Each stone built into those arches glowed with a stream of sunshine, looking almost proud in its role as part of this ancient cloister. Cyndi quickly took a picture of an unaware pigeon sitting ever-so-nonchalantly on one of the columns, and we were back in Fano's streets again, the morning crowd returning home for lunch.

We needed lunch, too, and after stopping at a local sweet shop to buy tins of candy (raspberry bon-bons for fifty cents a tin!) and to ask for lunch suggestions, we goosechased around town until we found two restaurants--both closed (The reasoning? It was Wednesday). Backtracking, we finally came across a quiet little restaurant that we had passed by before. Hungry and wanting to sit down, we hurried in. Any restaurant that wasn't closed on Wednesday was good enough for us.

After a delicious lunch and plenty of conversation, we ducked out of the restaurant. We only had a couple of hours before our trains would arrive, but the town had closed for an afternoon nap. We decided to search out a few more landmarks--the remains of a church cloister redone into a pleasant piazza, Roman arches, ancient walls--before making our way back to the train station.

On the walk toward the station, we passed a porcelain shop on the main street, and I convinced Cyndi to stop and check out the little shop. I have a weakness for ceramics and porcelain, for some reason--I have no idea where it came from. This little place, named something like "The White Porcelain Shop" had all sorts of little white porcelain pieces: tiny bowls and pitchers, spoons and cups and saucers, other various little objects that seemed to serve no purpose. I was in a buying mood, and I spotted something in the storefront window that, for some reason, tempted me. A porcelain noce (walnut). I don't know what made me decide to purchase it (when I asked what it's purpose was, the salesperson's response was unclear). It opened, and I immediately assumed it was a sugar bowl, but I guess it wasn't. It didn't matter. We had eleven minutes to get to the train station, and I made my decision. I bought the porcelain walnut. Cyndi must have thought I was insane.

But the day ended sweetly--me carrying my porcelain walnut, Cyndi carrying her camera, filled with photos of Fano. We had to hurry onto our different trains--one heading north as far as Milan, one heading south to Ancona, but in the meantime we promised to do this again. October in Fano, on a sunny day, had been the perfect solution for two happy, yet homesick, American girls.