Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Adventures in Italian Driving

Good news from Macerata...after months of preparation, long hours of driving, stalling, learning to use the stick shift, and apologizing to my driving instructor as he yelled "sinistra, sinistra!" (left) and I turned "destra" (right), I took the driver's exam today. No one was injured, no pedestrians were killed and, get this--I passed! Yes you read that correctly: I really did pass my driver's test Can you believe it?

A week ago my driving instructor told me, after a half an hour of bad parallel parking, "If today had been the test, you would've failed." What? Huh? I'm a week away from risking my life on the Italian streets for a lousy Italian license, and THIS is all you have to tell me? So these past couple of weeks, I've been intent on proving him wrong, and last Friday, one of our final driving lessons, he changed his tune. "Today was almost--could it be?--nice! You're getting better."

Monday and Tuesday were my final two driving lessons, and they went by without a hitch. I even managed to teach my instructor how to play "Punch Bug" without running anyone over in the process, and I began to improve my chances of not stalling on hills (which, incidently, Macerata is famous for). So today I felt ready, yet still severely nervous. Antonello, being the wonderful husband that he is, accompanied me to the driving school, dropped me off, and made me promise to call once the test was over. There were six other students taking the test today, and here's how it works in Italy: the student taking the exam gets into the school's car, while the rest of us pile into a big van to follow the car around the city, waiting for it to stop and one of us to change places with the student driver. It's like the peanut gallery in that van: we murmured and commented and tsked as the first student driver took off, forgot to put on his turn signal as he merged into heavy traffic, and proceeded to later go down a "No Entry" street in the city centre. And he still passed!

So, as I volunteered to go second, I figured my chances of passing had just gone up a notch, and unless I did something really stupid--like run someone over--I was in.

And that's when I stalled the car.

Still, I don't think my examiner was even paying attention: I had just gotten into the car, barely touched the clutch, and managed to stall the car in a mix of nerves and sweaty palms. Next to me was my instructor, who basically rolled his eyes when he saw my error, and behind me, in the backseat, was my driving examiner. And she was busy chatting away on her cell phone. I sighed and tried again, made sure to put on my turn signal (I could almost hear the "tsks" from the van behind us), and off I went.

After ten ten minutes, it was all over. I barely did anything--no parallel parking, no stopping at a stop light, no up-hill struggles--just straight on, a couple of yield signs, and passing a bicycle who I carefully managed to NOT run over (whew!). My driving instructor and examiner chatted away the whole time and finally had me pull over and stop the car, getting ready for the next driver to come aboard. They handed over my pink licence right away, and I have the sneaking suspicion that, if I hadn't passed the test, a 100 euro bill would've gotten me my driver's license just the same. They had me sign something and they told me to skedaddle. I grinned, ear to ear. Here I was, an honest-to-goodness Italian driver's license-holder!

And as I got out of the car, I made sure not to stall it a second time.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Three Years

"The idea of you is a part of my mind; you influence my likes and dislikes, all my tastes hundreds of times when I don't realize it. You really are a part of me."

-Willa Cather, My Antonia

It's been a long and busy day, and this week is just going to get busier the further along it goes, but I couldn't let tomorrow come before I mentioned what today really is: it's Antonello and my 3 year anniversary! Yes, I'm a typical expat in that Antonello and I celebrate MORE than one anniversary, but this first one, the anniversary that celebrates our legal marriage in Macerata's city hall on a rainy May 8th, tells the length of our story, measuring out the three years of our married life in Italy together. Looking back on it reminds me of those months of adjusting, of paperwork, of proposals and plans: all of it cumulating with two simple signatures of a marriage certificate. We kept the festivities small, inviting just a handful of people, making it perfectly intimate--just right, really. The only thing that would've topped it is if my family could've been there--but there's another whole wedding in the states (complete with its own anniversary) that solves that whole dilemma. And that's another story. For now, for that day in May, we have these memories, and they are indeed grand ones. Three years have passed quicker than I ever thought they would.

So Happy Anniversary Antonello! Ti amo moltissimo! Many more anniversaries to come (and hopefully many more flowers! grazie, amore)!


Macerata Monday: Poste

This is a pretty generic Macerata Monday, since I'm trying to get back up to speed. Italian mailboxes aren't like the big blue creatures you see back in the states, but instead they are, like this one, creatures of a different sort: big red boxes with two slots in them: one for local city mail, and one for all other mail. I of course usually use the one for all other mail to send postcards and letters back home to the states. Anyway, over the years these mailboxes have served as loyal friends, popping up in every city and town, ready to eat up my letters and send them on their way (whether that be three days away or a month). This traditional mailbox was found in one of the neighborhoods I teach in. It happily posed for me, and I didn't even feed it.

Have a great Monday (really, it just turned Tuesday). More to post soon--this week is a busy and important one over here at our house!