Posts Tagged With: Camerano

One Year On: An exclusive interview with myself…

Ciao!

It’s my year anniversary of moving here today! So, what better way of marking the occasion than interviewing myself…<first sign of madness?>

Sue: So, a year on Sue….did it go as you expected?

Sue: Well Sue, let me tell you. No it did not! Before I came out, my plan was basically to do a month at the language school, become completely fluent and proficient in Italian, buy a car, move out of the language school accommodation after 2 months and then find somewhere to rent whilst I look for somewhere to buy. In my free time, I would spend my time doing artistic things and writing a novel. It didn’t happen quite like that! 

Sue: Mmm…. So what DID happen?

Sue: Well…….I didn’t become remotely fluent in Italian in that month. It turns out I significantly underestimated how long it takes to become conversant in a language (by several years). “Immersion” is not the miracle language learning environment that it’s cracked up to be. I stayed on a further month at the language school to improve and it served as quite a nice social base for meeting new people and for visiting the local area. Eventually I ended up staying at the language school flat for 3 days short of a year having initially been exasperated at the sheer complicatedness of trying to find somewhere to rent, and then actually becoming quite fond of the place. As for buying a car here, you are required to be a resident and that was a long-winded process taking months longer than I think it should do. And it’s difficult to buy a car without having access to a car to travel to find one! So I bought the ‘Nan-mobile’ (my grandmother’s car) back from the UK. With regard to the artistic things, I accidentally committed myself to working as an infant and primary school teacher which has taken up an inordinate amount of time and effort.

Sue: And was that a good idea Sue?

Sue: No Sue, it wasn’t.

Sue: Oh really? Why ever not?

Sue: Well Sue, it’s because the children are happiness-killing nightmares. 

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Typical lesson. I’ve taken on board advice from my editor (thanks mum) than “happiness killing nightmares” is a bit strong. I’ve decided to keep it in 😉

Sue: So are you going to do it next year?

Sue: No………. No I will not be doing it again.

Sue: Sounds like a fabulous decision there Sue. So, the teaching seemed like it was a bit of low, but did anything go well in your move to Italy?

Sue: Loads went well. I’ve had a great time this year. In fact, I would say that it’s been my best year yet! Admittedly, the biggest factor in that was giving up “proper work” and allowing myself the freedom to do stuff I actually like doing…

Sue: Er, the teaching Sue….

… was a terrible, terrible mistake. Anyway. I really, REALLY like not having to go to a 9-5 office job. Then there was the move here… I’ve loved living in Camerano and I think this region of Italy is beautiful. I’m really pleased I chose the particular language school that I did – they’re a great bunch there and that definitely helped me with the “transition” to Italy. I’ve also  had lots of visits from friends and family which has been lovely too.

Sue: What has been the most difficult thing for you being in Italy?

Sue: People warn you about the bureaucracy here but it never prepares you for what you’ll face. Every tiny thing takes several months longer than you anticipate it will. And I miss my friends and family. Technology has been a life saver – without regular contact with friends and family on Whatsapp, Facebook, Skype and email I’d have felt isolated and depressed but I feel just as ‘in the fold’ as I was before. What has been difficult is when I feel like my friends and family at home have needed my support and I’ve not been there in the UK to give it.  I don’t like that I can’t be there in person and that I’m not as readily on hand for things like that as I would have been in the past.  Having said that – now that the teaching will be done in a month or so I’ll be a bit freer to go back and forth to visit.

Sue: Are the Italians really the insane drivers that we think they are?

Sue: Yes. Driving here has been traumatic and characterised by frequent near death experiences. However, it has got better. I worry that’s because maybe I’ve become an insane driver too rather than their sudden appreciation of life. I hope not. I take heart in that it still scares me when they drive at speed until they’re touching my rear bumper and then overtake 5 cars around a blind corner.

One example of insane driving...

One example of insane driving…

Sue: Does anything shock you about Italy?

Sue: I have to confess to spending a great deal of time light-hardheartedly poking fun at my new countrymen and I’ve been shocked on a fairly regular basis. This has been the source for a good 6 months worth of “what’s a bit odd” material to include in my weekly blogs.

Some of the ‘shocking’ highlights have been their terrible driving, their bureaucracy, their weird seasonal dress sense  (thou shalt not wear flipflops before 1st June even if it is 30 degrees celsius) and their weird dress sense full stop (thou shalt wear a mismatched pastel-coloured chino and shirt combo). They have awful TV – it seems to be back to back terrible game shows with big bosomed blonds prancing about in 10 inch heels. And oddly, Italians don’t really do “greetings”. It’s not guaranteed that you’ll get a hello out of someone when you walk past which I think is odd for a small town or if you’re on a walk in the middle of nowhere. And the custom of asking people you know how they are doesn’t seem to exist here at all unless it’s an official visit!

However, the truth is I feel I can say all that because in my heart there’s so much great stuff about the country and the people here. I should mention it more often. They’re friendly, generous and kind, and they’re helpful if you have problems. They are always interested and eager to hear about people. They organise weird festivals in the summer (the three day Festival of Fish is coming up in the next town in a week or so). They give you free food when you buy a drink.  It’s been really interesting living in a new country and there is lots that’s really not like we do things back home. Having said that – when I’m here chatting to new friends and we laugh about a joint experience it serves as an excellent reminder that we are all essentially the same – regardless of upbringing, culture and climate! 

Sue: You’re rambling a bit Sue… you should ramble less. So, is there anything you really miss?

Sue: Curry. English Breakfasts. Reasonably priced baked beans. Gravy. Decent tea. And reasonably sized coffee. And of course friends and family 🙂

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Sue: But it’s offset by?

Sue: Italian Yoghurt, ice-cream, piadinas, peaches, tomatoes, oranges, grissini.

Sue: So you had planned to do arty stuff and write a book – did any of that happen?

Sue: Not as much as I wanted but I’ve just got my online shop up and running now so I’m really pleased and enthusiastic about that. I do like making stuff out of things I’ve found on the beach. It’s fun, it’s free and I feel all environmentally friendly. I put off writing a book because I wanted to get better at Italian and writing in English all day wouldn’t have helped that. However, I’m sort of resigned to my level of Italian at the moment. I do really want to get better but I’m going to give myself less of a hard time about it and maybe it’ll just come. 

Sue:Has it been difficult moving from London to a rather tranquil village essentially in the middle of nowhere (according to UK standards)?

Sue: Not at all. I loved London but it is a rather hectic place and I definitely made it more hectic for myself by trying to squeeze in as much as humanly possible. I like this new quieter pace of life a lot. If I lived the life I do now in London I would have felt I was missing things – too many people to see, places to go, courses to do etc. But here, it feels as if even if there were the exhaustive list of things to do, by doing those things I would be missing out on doing Italian things like appreciating the scenery, drinking and eating nice food, relaxing and sunbathing 😉

Sue: Good. And have you made any friends here Sue? 

Sue: Well Sue, I’ve met a bunch of new people, and I hope at least some of them will be life-long buddies. It’s difficult making new friends. The language barrier adds an extra complication and the Italian’s can be quite private sometimes, keeping themselves to themselves. I’ve made a couple of friends doing language swaps which has been good. Friendships are difficult between men and women here – they keep to their own sex usually. A perfect example is when you drive through any village in the summer and there’s clumps of old men on one bench and clumps of old ladies on another (that’s if the ladies are not back at home cooking dinner…if only that was a joke!!!). Having said that, it’s been hard in particular meeting females though and I’m thrilled about stumbling into my new best friend here in a hotel last year, a New Zealander with a fab sense of humour. That’s made a big difference.

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Old Lady / Old Man Clumps. Scene in ANY piazza across Italy in the summer.

Sue: So do you think you did the right thing moving to Italy? 

Sue: Yes! In April last year I couldn’t even picture my life at the point where it is now – there were too many factors completely new for me to even imagine. But I’m really pleased with how it’s turned out. I do occasionally ask myself if I moved back home (because the UK will always be “home”), where would I live and what would I do? I’d love being near my friends and family again but is that enough? Particularly when I probably speak to many of them as much, if not more now than before.

We spend the bulk of our adult lives working. It tends to end up defining us – what we do, where we live, who we associate with. When you remove the job, it’s easy to feel a bit lost – the reason for waking up everyday has gone and there’s often no reason to be where you are anymore. Given there’s not much of a reason for me to be anywhere……. then well, I’d like to be here in Italy 🙂 

Sue: Aw Sue, that’s sort of sad that you don’t feel like you “belong” anywhere isn’t it?

Sue: No, it’s OK. I definitely have feeling “lost” moments but it’s more liberating than scary. Returning to the UK would feel like clinging onto the past rather than taking a step forward. I’d have to start out all over again when I’ve only just got myself on my feet here. I think I’ll feel a bit more settled and a bit more “at home” when I have my own house, with my own stuff in it. I can’t wait for that. 

Sue: So what’s the new plan?

Sue: Well Sue, good question. I’ve just moved into a new flat by the beach this summer. I intend to have fun, snorkel, sunbathe, do art, write, improve my Italian, make new friends, go out more, travel a bit and I hope before the year is out, to buy a house here. Then, who knows?

Sue: Do you think Italy has changed you Sue?

Sue: Yes, I think it has! This will make me sound incredibly smug, I almost don’t want to say it, but I’m so proud of myself! I set a goal to ‘up-sticks’ and come here by myself and I did it. I thought maybe I was just all talk –  but I wasn’t, so I’m happy about that <takes a moment to pat self on back>. So that’s a nice confidence booster and I feel a lot more self-sufficient than before.

Sue: OK, final question – do you have anything to say to your wonderful loyal followers?

Sue: Writing this blog has been excellent! Coming here on my own has been somewhat of a journey of self discovery but I’m a sociable soul at heart and it’s been sharing my experiences on this blog and getting feedback from friends, family and people I’ve never even met that has made my life here as good as it has been. So, a heartfelt thank you to the people who have been following my blog all this time! 

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Sue: Sue, you’ve gone all soppy and philosophical. Put the wine down.

x

 

 

 

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Places to see in Le Marche, the Trials and Tribulations of aperitivos and the delights of iced coffee

Ciao!

Sorry I’ve been quiet for a couple of weeks – it’s been a bit non-stop here for a while!

This week I bring you more places to see in Le Marche, the trials and tribulations of having an aperitivo and the delights of iced coffee.

Investigating Southern “Le Marche”

Last weekend I went to stay in a new friend’s house in Curetta, a little village by the Sibillini Mountains (still in Le Marche). The house is absolutely gorgeous and set in beautiful countryside with rolling hills, a snowy mountainous backdrop and little villages to look out onto.

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Look what a beautiful vista there was from the house…

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Nice little patio area for eating

On the way, I stopped off at Civitanova. I’d heard it’s quite good to go out there in the evenings but from what I’ve seen, I’m not convinced. Having said that, everything by the beaches is always dead before June so I’ll go back before making a final judgement on it. On the plus side, the beach was excellent for long flat pieces of driftwood 🙂 I suspect I could map out quite a few beaches now in Le Marche in terms of their beachcombing value!

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Church tower in Civitanova

INTERLUDE TO PONDER ABOUT THE ITALIAN APERITIVO

We had an aperitivo and dinner in a local town I can’t remember the name of. Almost a year into my living here, I’m still completely flummoxed by the notion of an aperitivo. WHAT ON EARTH IS IT?!  Is it a drink? Is it a drink with snacks? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? (sorry, that felt like a Superman moment). So, here are my various experiences of having an “aperitivo”:

  • You order a drink, you get loads of nice little nibbly treats given to you with your drink. Not just crisps and nuts, but olives, little pastry things, some salads and other bits and pieces etc. The price you pay is for the drink alone. All this extra stuff is free.
  • You order your drink and then you can get some extra nibbly treats from the bar like a buffet and sometimes you end up paying a couple of euros more. You can obviously choose what you have if it’s on the bar.
  • You order your drink and you just get a drink. This is oddest one for me – if you go somewhere and you ask for an “aperitivo” – surely it should mean something more than just a drink otherwise you’d go in and just ask for a drink?!

It’s completely hit and miss what you get. If it’s the first option where you get given a plate of food, then they’ll often bring out a selection of dead animals. I’m vegetarian so that doesn’t work out well for me and I feel rude leaving things that they’ve prepared on my plate untouched. However, I feel ruder asking them “er, will you be providing me a selection of free food and if so, could you go one step further and provide me a vegetarian selection?”. Though I love having free food with my drinks, I do find the whole thing a bit stressful! I’m so caught up on the food element that when they ask “what would you like?”, I start blabbering about being a vegetarian when they actually want to know what I’d like to drink! ARGH!

Anyway, I digress. This “aperitivo” ended up being just a drink. He asked what we’d like, I plumped for wine. This bar, however, didn’t have wine (a bar not having wine?! A bar in ITALY not having wine?!?!). Only prosecco. I hadn’t realised I’d sort of opted for prosecco for my friends too. And then the guy brought out an entire bottle. Does that mean we were now paying for the whole bottle? Anyway – it turned out that’s exactly what it meant. We were the only people in this bar apart from the barman and an old lady (his mother it turns out) who both came to stare at us, standing a foot away open-mouthed and aghast for what must have been about two minutes before saying “you don’t come from ‘round here” (in Italian).  That was my oddest aperitivo experience so far! Lovely prosecco though.

Southern Le Marche continued…

Then we popped into a local trattoria for dinner and headed back. No scary experiences there. The next day, I helped out a bit in the garden. My host had a couple of gardeners in to help maintain the land a bit. They were a husband and wife team – a lovely guy called Fabio and his wife (with an unpronounceable name that sounds like a sneeze). A thoroughly lovely and incredibly generous couple. I ended up taking home lettuce, fennel and home-made oil that they’d given to us. They come from Albania. I definitely want to go to Albania now after speaking to them. Every sentence started with “In Albania, we have the best <insert food, wine, grappa, countryside, coastline here>. He bought along some Albanian grappa for us to try on the last day. Very sweet of him and everything but he insisted we try it as soon as he got there – 8am! I generally maintain a “not before noon” alcohol policy. I certainly don’t think I’ve ever done shots before I’ve even had breakfast. And goodness was it potent… I wouldn’t like to be up a precariously placed ladder operating a chainsaw after that – but yet he was!

Whilst I was there, I did some exploring of the local area. First stop was Monte San Martino which we could see from the house. Very cute and quaint but not much to do there.

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Excellent views from Monte San Martino

Next up was Amandola which was positively bustling in comparison and had quite a lot of young people around (that tends to stick out in these hill top villages – usually there are just gangs of old men!). Quite pretty little roads, just narrow enough to fit a small car, which were cute although became considerably less cute as my sat nav kept leading me around and around them!

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The square in Amandola…

Then there was Servigliano which was actually not a hill top village – more a valley village. It had an interesting layout, one that I’ve not seen before. It sort of had village “walls” and then some quaint little terraces inside with a big square. Nice to wander around and I hear it’s nice at Christmas as well so I quite fancy going back there then.

 

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Here’s a pic of some of the houses surrounding the square…

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And here’s the square.

My friend came back with me on Sunday to check out my own patch around Camerano. We went via Porto San Giorgio – a new beach for me, on the way back there.

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The Le Marche stretches of coastline, apart from my own Monte Conero area, seem to be much of a muchness. Large stretches of coastline varying between shingle and sandy beaches and in the summer, covered in umbrellas and sun loungers. Seeing other beaches always makes me appreciate my own local beaches which, because we’ve got Monte Conero, offer I think a more interesting coastline with bays and woodland and because some of them are difficult to get to, end up being a lot less commercialised.

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San Michele, one of my favourite local beaches

And we found a new bit of Portonovo whilst we were walking around… Makes a nice circular walk…

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The coastline around Portonovo

House hunting

My parents have been doing a sterling job at investigating houses for me to let out back home and I’ve been putting in offers and getting them turned down! Pah! Meanwhile, I’ve been investigating some new areas around here for houses which I hope might be a bit cheaper than Camerano. I’m currently looking at Polverigi and Offagna. We went into a couple of estate agents and organised a couple of viewings which took place on Thursday. Visiting them made me reconsider my requirements! The most I seem to be able to get for my money around this area seems to be a small 2 bed flat with little outside space. Selling houses here seems to take years so I don’t want to buy something that I can’t see myself living in for the next 10 years at least. The flats were all very well but not my “dream” home by any means. I either need to change area or amend my criteria a bit to something that requires work but could eventually end up being the place I want to live in. So, I’ve asked to see a couple of other places a bit further south which is a cheaper area and perhaps now I’ll look at more of a “country house” type of property.

Meanwhile, I’m going to be homeless come end of May so I need to try and find another property to rent whilst I find something more long term. I’ve got some feelers out but it’s a bit unsettling and I’ve grown to quite like this place!

Iced Coffee

In other news, I quite like iced coffee! I’ve discovered a less faffy way of making it based on this enthusiast’s recipe… It’s very nice and very refreshing! I think I’ll have to take some to school with me to keep me awake 🙂

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Iced coffee on my newly acquired driftwood stool/table…(one can never have enough driftwood eh?)

Ok, onwards and upwards. This week is another busy week with school – in fact, tomorrow is a nightmare 12 hour day extravaganza. 12 hours of teaching. ARGH!

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How to: Prepare for an Art Exhibition, make a voodoo doll out of driftwood and avoid cheek stroking

Ciao a tutti,

This week I bring to you the nail-biting tale of an artist with no art, how to make a voodoo doll out of driftwood and where to stock up on products for all your bimbo needs…

The Artless Dodger

I have done something stupid(er than usual). I have ALMOST signed up to showing my work in an “exhibition” just off Piazza Roma in Camerano’s centre. My work. What am I talking about?! I have no work! Not here at least. Scattered around Portsmouth and London, yes.  My next door neighbour is organising the exhibition – for 6 months it’ll cost 1200 Euros to hire the place. He wants to split the cost. Ha! I have only ever sold one thing! Why oh why didn’t I do some artwork last year?! This week’s blog feedback request is face-saving methods of backing out of exhibitions… A free driftwood voodoo doll to the person with the best suggestion (see below).

Anyway, Operation Produce Some Art is in full swing and is commencing with a beach scene. If it’s any good, I’ll post a picture next week. I have also become quite enamored with driftwood of late during my walks on the beach. I have quite a collection now.

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Pretty….

I just haven’t quite got around to working out what to do with it yet! The good news is that I found some wood carving tools in my collection of art stuff today so I thought I’d give that a go. The bad news is, it’s coincided with me being in a bit of a negative mood all week…

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I’ve called him “Bob” (he floats).  I’m going to take him into school and tell the children that he’ll put a curse on them if they’re annoying 🙂

Teaching

I have a new private student starting next week and potentially some more lined up. I got in touch with the poor girl that used to teach English last year at my schools today. She managed two years. Two years! She should get a medal. She MISSES them she says! Having said that, I have now received two Frrero Rocher’s from cutie students and several pictures (I should probably have stored them somewhere other than the recycle bin to be kept as evidence that I’m an adorable and caring teacher).

English Language Consultancy

I’m actually doing some paid work for my language school (the one I went to for Italian lessons) – working on their new website. It’s quite fun! All being well, there should be a lot more students at the school this year so hopefully it’ll be a bit livelier! One of the students (“The Cheek Stroker”) from last year is returning for a few weeks soon. I will have to keep all my cheeks under close guard. Perhaps I can use Bob the Voodoo Doll again.

Swimming Attempt 2

Swimming Attempt 1 took place back in November last year. I went to a local pool that was deserted apart from creepy staring men so I didn’t even make it near the pool. Besides, it looked nasty. People were changing in the reception area.

Swimming Attempt 2 took place on Wednesday with a different pool in mind. However, I forgot where I was! I had planned to check the website, get the address and put it into my Sat Nav. You can’t do that in Italy!!!  The website is nice – it has nice pictures, a nice logo, it’s colourful – someone went to a lot of effort to put it together but alas, there is no information about where it can be found besides “Loreto”. The office address on there doesn’t actually exist on the Sat Nav or Google Maps. TYPICAL!!!! So, after turning up to a large house in the middle of nowhere and driving around for half an hour, I gave up and went home! I’m going to have to get my swimming fix in the summer!

University Popolare!

For a couple of months I’ve been hearing about a university that you can go to for evening courses etc. I like a good evening course. However, it’s been nigh impossible to find any information about it. The most I could get out of anyone was “yes, I’ve heard about that too”. However, I mentioned it my mother, the Queen of Research, and a mere couple of days later, voila, a website! With INFORMATION no less! The courses seem to start in September so I think I’ve missed the boat but to be honest, Operation Produce Some Art should probably take precedence for a while anyway.

What’s a bit odd?

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For all your bimbo needs…

It’s right next to Ancona’s “sexy shop” as well. The shop is not sexy (I’m sure it breaches some kind of trade descriptions act).

Next week I shall be attempting to do some bureaucracy! I know, I know… you’ve missed my stories about italian bureaucracy. I aim to please. Tune in next week for what I predict will be “The Unsuccessful Quest for a Tessera Sanitaria! (health insurance card)”

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Natale, Competition Update and Blog Rebirth!

Ciao a tutti!

Has everyone had a good Christmas? I’ve had (and I’m still having for that matter) a lovely break back in the UK. It’s a shame I’ve missed Christmas in Italy particularly when I’ve heard such odd sounding things about it from the Italian kids at school. I had a very long conversation with the infants about what name we call our Good Witch in the UK. I can think of a few potential witch candidates. However, on further discussion it’s nobody I know 😉 On the 6th January, the Good Witch known as La Befana pops around to the houses to fill the children’s stockings (as in Christmas stockings rather than those of the tights variety). TWO present giving days within the space of 12 days! I’m still in the UK on the morning of the 6th. I intend to leave my stocking out (probably the tights variety because my Christmas one is in the loft. They stretch so I think it’s a better strategy anyway) and hope she makes it to the UK.

Competition

Thank you all so much for your lovely comments on the Expats Blog website article and the blog (to see the lovely comments, click here) – I was really touched by the number of them and the thoughtful things you said 🙂 Alas, I didn’t win. There were some great articles and Greg who won “Italy”, wrote a spot-on and very amusing article on “Top 10 Signs that confirm you’ve gone full Italian”.

But it’s OK because we had our Family Christmas Photography Competition and I submitted these, quite frankly, WINNING photos taken around Italy (click on the photos to see them in their full size STUNNING glory).

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The kid version of the Big Tray Race back in the Summer

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Pretty Poppies in Spring

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Summer in Abruzzo

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“Autumn” in Macerata (quotes due to the fact it was I think technically Winter)

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Winter in Camerano

And lost that too! Competitions schmompetitions 😉

Blogging

I love writing this blog. It’s an excellent way of venting! I got a couple of books on how to make money from blogging for Christmas (thank you SD and GD!) and so I’ve been reading up on those. I’ve decided to keep this blog going but set up a more serious “Le Marche” blog (Le Marche – for those that haven’t been paying attention, is the region of Italy where I live 😉 ).  I suspect the people following this blog aren’t waiting with baited breath to find out about how to buy train tickets over here or the best restaurants to go to so I might focus here just on the column aspect and use the other blog for Le Marche specific news.

For this other “Le Marche” blog – I think there’s a niche in the market. I’ve by no means travelled to all the regions in Italy (this year though I hope!), but I really think you couldn’t get a much better area. There’s great transport links between here and London, fabulous coastline, national parks, mountains for walking and skiing, quaint little hill top villages, architecture, history… But hardly anyone’s heard of the place back in the UK and there’s a distinct lack of information about the area. I’d like to promote the area a bit to the English-speaking folk (and the Italian’s to be honest but my language skills aren’t quite up to that yet!).

I’d like your thoughts and advice though! Bloggers make money from adverts primarily – who would want to advertise on either of the blogs? Any thoughts on what I should include or not? How could I improve this current blog? All comments welcome!

Happy New Year all!

x

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Competitions, Popstardom and Christmas

Ciao!

Greetings everyone! I hope you’re all well. This week: I’ve entered into a writing competition linked to the blog, my glittering career as a pop-star continues to go from strength to strength, I review questionable smartphone language apps and I shall provide a Christmas status update in Camerano…

I NEED YOU!

Help! I’ve written an article for the Ex-Pats Blog website (click on that link to see it and write a comment) on learning Italian. The winner gets selected on the basis of comments so pretty please could you write a nice comment (apparently nasty ones don’t get published so apologies for that in advance!). Alas, it’s a bit of a faff to comment (I think to stop me from writing my own nice comments, pfft) but I would be very appreciative! I think it will want you to register and the comment needs to be more than 10 words so think of something intellectually insightful and thought provoking 😉 Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Return to the Big Stage

This week the infant school had their Christmas Show in a theater in Numana. I haven’t laughed so much for a long time. The kids were all over the place, waving to their mums and dads rather than doing what they were supposed to be doing and not getting any of the dances or songs right at all. Some of them only had to hold a glittery hula hoop over their head and even that they got wrong. One of them kept trying to run off the stage. Funny, funny, funny. I am still mystified that I was the only one laughing in the audience.

Anyway, the kids have been learning “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” with me as part of their English lesson. My job was to provide the guitar accompaniment. I imagined this would be offstage whilst I mouthed the words to remind them. Instead, they plonked me at the front of the stage with a microphone. I think I used up all of my embarrassment/stage fright reserves a few years ago playing Robin Hood for the local amateur dramatics society (I don’t know how I get into these situations), so thankfully I pulled it off without a wobbly voice or shaky hands (I don’t know how that would work playing guitar). We even had a rousing audience participation chorus at the end.

You know how the soprano always gets a large bunch of flowers at the end of an opera? Well, it was EXACTLY the same. I got flowers (albeit two slightly dead looking ones that look like they’ve been sneezed on) at the end whilst everyone clapped and cheered and because I’m such a celebrity with the children in the Marcelli/Numana I got a few people shouting out my name too. Finally, I have some recognition!!! Wembley, here I come.

Apps

I have downloaded a free app called Duolingo for the smartphone for learning Italian. It’s GREAT. It gives you phrases in Italian for you to translate into English (and vice versa), it speaks phrases and you have to type out what they are, there are multiple choices and you can test out your pronunciation. It’s got everything!!!! I could have people test me ALL DAY without ever getting bored (some sort of personality default I think). Unfortunately, the result of that is that I’ve almost gone through all the levels on the app. It’ll be a sad day indeed when I get to the end. Anyway, I’m not sure how good it is for learning if you don’t have the grammar fundamentals but it’s definitely worth a go either way.

Meanwhile, my friend, recommended an app called “Memrise”. It works on the basis of giving you some words and a method of remembering them (usually a corresponding picture) and then tests you again (woohooo!). However, I’ve decided I’m too young and innocent for this app…

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Uh huh.

Last week of School

SCHOOL IS OUT NEXT WEEK!!!!!! NO MORE SCHOOL FOR 3 WEEKS <insert celebration dance here>. I’m actually happier about school being out now than I ever was when I was a student.

I’m going to try and plan the next 5 months worth of torture teaching over the Christmas break so planning lessons doesn’t have to be quite such a weekly drain.

Christmas!

I’m not feeling very Christmassy at the moment, despite my door decoration…

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Look at my nice door decoration 🙂 I feel like an adult! I know what you’re thinking… you’re thinking “where can I get that lovely shade of brown from for my own door?”

All the villages have their decorations up too. Nothing quite as spectacular as my door decoration but still…

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Numana and the lights (and the ugly church)

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Camerano’s lights in the fog

I’ve made mince pies (they don’t exist here). They seem to be going down well with people despite them being burnt looking (I’ve dutifully informed people that’s how they’re supposed to be). It’s been difficult to purchase icing sugar to cover it up  decorate them. Apparently this is because people just save up those little packs you get in panettone (panettone for those that don’t know, is what Italians have at Christmas instead of Christmas Pudding. Like all Italian cakes, it is dry. Nice, but dry. I don’t think they’d know a moist cake if it hit them around the face. If you dip it in your cup of tea though, it’s amazing).

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MINCE PIES TAKE ONE (Test Phase). These were the results of the Test Phase. A lessons learnt workshop was subsequently held (with myself), and changes implemented for the Go-Live phase.

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MINCE PIES TAKE TWO (Go-Live Phase). I want you to feel like you’re getting your monies worth from my blog so I’ve compiled the Lesson Learnt into a handy set of Mince Pie Tips (MPT).
MPT1: Don’t believe your oven. My one is hotter than the sun even if you set it at 150 degrees.
MPT2: Put a TINY bit of mince in otherwise it bubbles over and makes everything look burnt / even more burnt.
MPT3: You don’t need to butter the tin. It would save a lot of researching / waiting for mother to respond time if recipes just said that (though I acknowledge that recipes could be considerably longer if they listed all the things that you shouldn’t do…)
MPT4: Don’t try and put strips on the top – it looks bad.
MPT5: Get a cutter if you’re going to do stars. 
MPT6: If you enclose the lids then there will be no bubbling over-spill risk – pierce the top though.
MPT7: If you use egg to gloss the top, it looks too scrambled egg-y and unappetizing. Best to use milk I reckon.

I think that about sums up this week. Right, lesson plans here I come…

x

ps) I’ve been using the american spelling of tyres (tires). I keep making the same mistake over and over. I acknowledge that will be annoying for people and would like to take this moment to apologise 🙂

pps) I still haven’t changed the tires. Tyres. Tires. Tyres…. TYRES.

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Visits, Raw Pig Butt and Navigational Challenges…

Ciao!

Well hello!!!! How is everyone?! Apologies for the radio silence – I’ve had an influx of visitors coming to see me which has been great so many thanks to the following for coming out to see me 🙂

  • “Ms Meaty”: She wanted a pseudonym – she’ll probably regret that.  Anyway, she’s so-called because she spent a good portion of our time in restaurants trying to find carcasses to eat  ;-)) and…
  • Jackie and Pete:  No pseudonyms required – they seem more confident I wont be harsh…

The Tourist Trail

I almost look like I know what I’m doing driving around – I can successfully get to my favourite local places without Tom (my completely untrustworthy Sat Nav – I really must check that I’ve not got some kind of “tractors only” setting on). I still haven’t discovered ALL of the sleeping policeman in order to impose speed rectification measures/avoid launching myself into the air like a stunt driver. To be honest though, I don’t think the Italian’s even know that they’re supposed to reduce their speed when they go over them, in the same way that they appear unaware what the white lines in the middle of the road are for  (any Italian’s reading this – they’re not lines that you’re supposed to drive on).

Anyway, Ms Meaty arrived first and she came with me to do some teaching on Tuesday with the little kids (3-5yr olds) which was EXCELLENT timing as I’d all but lost my voice on the Monday shouting at children (shouting + cold = rapid voice deterioration) which for Ms Meaty meant the start of her blossoming singing and dancing career. So, I played “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on the guitar whilst she sang, danced and trained the troupes to do the same. We have a Christmas play to do on the 13th December. It’s a shame that Ms Meaty wont be here 😦  By the end of it, she was shouting at them in Italian like a pro.

It was a fairly relaxed week and we spent Thursday doing “Sue’s Favourite Places Tour” where we learnt that the angels didn’t really fly what I thought was Mary’s house from Palestine to Loreto but only flew the bricks. There’s a massive marble surround that was in fact built there after to protect it… Fortunate really, as if it was there to begin with, I imagine health and safety regulations for flying such an unwieldy heavy object would have impeded the angel’s progress.

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Mary’s Marble Surround. The original brick walls for her house are inside.

Alas, by Friday, Ms Meaty had contracted the man-flu strain of my cold which I felt horrible about (but on the plus side, a problem shared is a problem halved and mine felt a LOT better).

In a whirlwind change of guests, I was sad to drop Ms Meaty off at the airport but pleased to pick up Jackie and Pete. We had a lovely dinner in Camerano (Bar Maffy) where I think we probably decided that my Italian/English translations when it comes to meat produce could probably do with more work. Surprisingly, Jackie STILL decided to have the Raw Pig Butt Pasta.

Then we headed to see a band that I felt sure would be cancelled because it was raining. However, they were playing under the Comune in a very atmospheric, er… cellar I think it is.  I was pleased about that – makes Camerano look a bit more hip and happening than it usually is.

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All very talented musicians but I must say, the bass player’s hair was a distraction. So silky smooth and flowing. I wonder where he buys his conditioner. The conditioner here seems to require something akin to acid to rinse out. Since coming here, my hair can happily stay in whatever position I put it in.

I included Osimo in the “Sue’s Favourite Places Tour” the following day which was good as I’d only been there once before.

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The statues here do not have heads. The Osimo inhabitants are thus called “without head” apparently. Poor inhabitants.

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You can take a little railway from some of the parking at the bottom to the town at the top. Cute 🙂

The following day we found a Chocolate Festival in Ancona and did a bit of sightseeing.

Camera 360

MMMMMMMmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Teaching Traumas Continued…

I haven’t made any children cry yet this week. I feel like I’ve let myself down. I did almost give them an impromptu lesson in English angry swear words after the squillienth time of telling them to “sit down please” and to stop hitting classmates. I exercised patience I think previously unbeknownst to mankind. I should really get a medal.

Anyway, let me tell you about school children here. They are OBSESSED with One Direction.  They ask me if I like them and because they use the correct English I reward them with a “yes, I like One Direction” but then alas, they ask me more questions like “What is your favourite one?” to which, I have no idea but vaguely remember that one is called Dane so go with that. It turns out Dane is not a member of One Direction. I should do some One Direction research to bond with the kiddies.

I’ve taught all the school children that felt tip pens are called felptip pens. They’ve written it in their exercise books and everything. I thought it was! I’ve been saying felptip pens for years!  Admittedly, I should have seen that one coming. I don’t know what felp even is, let alone what a tip of felp might look like. Next week I’ll tell them they’ve all made mistakes and they should really pay better attention when I write things on the board in future. I wonder if they have detention here.

In other teaching news, I’ll never be able to go out anywhere again without seeing children I now know – at the cinema the other day I think there was about 5 I saw. Admittedly, we’d gone to see Despicable Me 2. Perhaps I’ll have to start getting into the horror genre.

What’s a bit odd

Often offices don’t have a house/building number – ok, that is sometimes the case in the UK as well. So you think “Fine, FINE, I suppose I’ll just drive up and down the road and hopefully something will indicate where I’m supposed to be”. Maybe the postcode will help? No no, there will be no postcode. So you try and find the road in the Sat Nav. This is where the next challenge lies: the address you’re trying to find will invariably look something like this: “Via D. Mizoni”. Sometimes Sat Nav makes a point of making you put “via” in and sometimes it doesn’t. In fact, the only common factor I’ve found is that it’s whatever you’ve not tried first. And what on earth do you do with a full stop after D?! You try and put the full stop in after D but of course, there’s nothing – it’s an initial for something. It doesn’t work without the full stop. “Minzoni” on it’s own doesn’t work. So what to do? Is there a way of finding out what the D stands for? No. No there is not. The Italians, not even on their road signs, maps, formal addresses, “how to find us” sections on websites will include the full name of their road. People here must be born with this knowledge of road names. So, imagining you’ve been in Italy long enough to notice that there appear to be hundreds of Via and Piazza Don Minzoni’s within the area, you might try that. Success! But not for long. Then it asks the town, which is a challenge in itself because it could be any town within a 5 km area and then, because there ARE so many Via D. Minzoni’s, it could be any one of a dozen roads. My advice? Allow at least 3 hours to just locate the address on Sat Nav before even attempting your trip!!!

Right, I think that’s all of my ranting done today. Hope you’re all having an excellent Monday.

x

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The Fog, PMS and The Trials and Tribulations of Teaching Toddlers

Ciao all,

Well, this week, let me tell you…

Work

I had my first English teaching lesson with the 4yr old.  It did not go well. He didn’t want to learn, play or do anything and apart from about 10 minutes, he ignored me for the rest of the hour. The session was going to be split into 4 parts: 1) Sitting-down time, 2) Up-and-about time, 3) Going-to-the-toilet/ Having-a-snack (not at the same time) time and 4) Wind-down-story time.  I had a Box Of Fun which had different activities in which he could pick for the first two parts – but he just went through them all like this: “nope, I don’t want to do that” (in Italian) and cast them all to one side. He didn’t even know what they were and wouldn’t let me explain!

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Box of Fun. See – how exciting does that look?! EXCITING!!!

Having-a-Snack Time didn’t materialise. He wasn’t interested in the story. When we hit on a successful activity, it lasted 2 minutes before he wanted to do something else. THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH ACTIVITIES TO OCCUPY THIS BOY FOR AN HOUR. I phoned the mum up after and she said sometimes it was difficult to keep the attention of her child. Uh huh. She suggested I should do more drawing activities next week – “NEXT WEEK?! You want ANOTHER lesson?!” I said. Next week I’ll have to bring along some more activities (and a hip flask). I wonder if there’s a local teaching support group where all the teachers can meet up in a room and cry.

The next lot of lessons start on the 4th November with the schools – I’m working Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. They start from nursery school age (what’s that? 4 as well? God help me). There’ll be 26 of them. Marco wants me to work at the school here too. It’s all a bit like a full-time job this teaching malarkey – particularly given the length of time it takes me to prepare stuff. The work situation for a lot of people here is dire so I know I’ve been very fortunate and I’m honestly very grateful, but I didn’t want a proper full time job! I still have sleeping to catch up on from the last decade of working and I wanted to do more in the way of drawing and painting. I just seem to have fallen into it all. Anyway, my revised plan is to teach until the end of the school year – get materials, get experience and then give up next year and then I can do the occasional private lesson but this time with a modicum of experience behind me. At least it’s a way of making a dent in the car breakdown expenses!

Driving

I’ve been driving every day now. The number of Near Death Experiences has thankfully diminished (because I’ve narrowed down my driving times to when the psychos are at work). Today’s NDE was due to a crazy Italian flying down a hill who didn’t look to see if there was someone coming along the main road (I was) before veering onto it at 90 mph. Even though it was my right of way, he glared at me angrily in that 10th of a second it took for him to swerve around the corner. So that’s a classic example of one of my NDEs: nothing to do with me at all. Talk about defensive driving – I spend the entire time looking out for enemy attacks and ambushes. It would be more relaxing driving in a known land mine area. It’s odd – you’d think I’d be more confident…I spend the entire time driving saying positive “I am right” affirmations (to remind me to drive on the right!) 😉

Swimming

I tried to go swimming this week. There are two “local” pools. This week I went to the more local one which turns out is disgusting – in fact, the pool could be lovely for all I know but the car park looked positively derelict apart from creepy men staring at me and the changing rooms which were in the reception area were ghastly looking. I walked back out again. I’m going to go to the less nasty looking pool next week but it’s a bit further away. More NDE-exposure time <sigh>.

Visits from home!

My parents are here next week so I’m excited about that! I’ve been compiling a list of things to see and do:

Towns/ Villages:

  • Ancona
  • Marcelli (selected on the basis that one of my school’s is there, I suspect it might be dead during the winter but it would make for a nice coastal walk!)
  • Numana
  • Sirollo
  • Osimo
  • Loreto
  • Jesi

Walks

  • Around Camerano
  • Around Monte Conero – Passo del Lupo
  • Fiaba di Fiastra
  • San Quirico

Stuff to do if it rains

  • Frassasi Caves
  • Camerano Caves
  • Auchan! Oh yeah…
  • Camerano Commercial Centre

Anybody else have any ideas?

I’ve more visitors coming this month too. People – bring your own entertainment otherwise you’ll be watching CSI Miami in Italian (I really dislike CSI Miami compared to CSI New York – the main guy spends the whole time looking at his feet and then looking up in a dramatic fashion at whoever he’s talking to and then he walks off. No-one can be THAT dramatic ALL of the time. Irritating).

Walk

What else? I went for a walk round the local countryside and now have blisters from wearing my proper walking shoes (as opposed to flipflops which are fine (my feet were not designed for shoes). With Autumn here, all the sunflowers have been harvested and the fields are being ploughed.  It looks positively sparse!

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I had a race to get around the circuit before the sun completely disappeared. I have had now several confusing conversations with Italians about “the dark”. “Buio” (dark) and “buoi” (cows) are pretty much the same word eh?! Anyway, turns out I told my Italian friend that I needed to get back home before the cow came.

I went on another walk with Il Polemico yesterday too around Monte Conero up a path to the old monastery at the top. It was a gorgeous sunny day. Probably. If we could have seen any of it above the fog. As it was, it was very creepy! Monte Conero is pretty much covered in woodland. The fog meant all the spider webs were glistening with dew. Creepily beautiful.

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The entire forest was covered in these! It was like walking through an Indiana Jones set.

Fog has definitely been a bit of a theme lately – every evening it rolls in around 8 or 9pm and stays until midday.

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The Fog

Bureaucracy

I went to the Agenzia Entrata this week and managed to get a new codice fiscale number with my middle name now on – it seems to have placated the Comune so that’s good. I still don’t know what I’ve succeeded in doing.  There doesn’t seem to be anything else bureaucratic to do at the moment so er, that’s good / probably a lie.

Extracurricular activities

I’ve been doing a bit of painting/drawing which has been good. I bought an easel online back in the UK but it didn’t arrive in time so have to wait for that until Christmas when I can bring it back. It took me years to work out that if you paint on a horizontal surface, it skews your perspective. At least, that’s what I tell myself. 😉

What’s a bit odd?

Ladies!!!! It’s nothing to be ashamed of, no need to try and hide it anymore – take inspiration from this graffiti tagger and be PROUD…

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One of my friend’s theory is that there might be a “crew” called PMS. I know a few people that could be in that crew…

Ciao x

ps – WIFI IS BACK – HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Rosso Conero Festival, Working and Bureaucratic Success(ish)…

Ciao,

Come va? Hope you’re all hunky-dory!

I’ve been waitressing this weekend for the Rosso Conero festival in Camerano. Let me tell you – waiters and waitresses should get 100x more money than people that work in offices if they have anything like the experience I had last night! I was working for Angeli di Varano, a local cantina who had teamed up with a well known chef to offer a fancy 4 course meal. I was on clearing table duty. I had to learn some new words. “Lay the table” sounds a lot like “hairdressers” in Italian. For a while, I thought we had to serve an influx of hairdressers. I’m back on again tonight as well…

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Angeli di Varano restaurant / eatery at Rosso Conero before we opened…

Rosso Conero Festival runs for 3 days from Friday to Sunday. Thankfully I was only working two of the days – it’s the oddest wine festival I’ve been too. In fact, I think “wine festival” is misleading. There’s a place you can buy a glass and then there appeared to be about 3 tiny stalls where you could chose from an incredibly limited selection of wine. No free tastings! I’ve only ever been to wine / beer festivals in London where you buy / put a deposit down on a glass and then spend the entire day visiting 100’s of stalls getting free samples. A more accurate description of the event would have been “Cool art, music and other random stuff festival – oh, and you can buy a bit of alcohol if you want”. 

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One of the bands that were playing in Piazza Roma – they were a good laugh, very engaging!

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Piazza Roma at about midnight on Friday!

Other stuff this week – I had a business discussion with Marco (from the Language School) on Monday to discuss recruiting more students from the UK and teaching English to Italians so I’m putting together some proposals this week on that front. It’s been quite good engaging the brain on things other than what shall I eat today!

Continuing on with the “working” theme, this week’s English lesson with the Italian girls was actually fun! I printed out a couple of articles from BBC news – difficult ones it turns out and got them to read them out as “newsreaders”. English is difficult to pronounce for foreigners – we don’t pronounce words as they’re written – putting on a phoney newsreader voice seems to help for some reason. And then we spent the rest of the lesson playing “Taboo”/ “Articulate” – I prepared some cards with some of the words from the articles and they had to describe the words without using the word itself or miming so the other person could guess. That was amusing. On reflection, I think including “torture” and “immune system” was harsh 🙂

I finished my Italian Exercise book – I’m on the next level up now. Woohoo! And I’ve been doing “combined pronouns” this week (which I think are probably right up there with “rocket science” in terms of difficulty) and occasionally, OCCASIONALLY, I get them right.

Oh and I’ve got some bureaucracy done! What a productive sounding blog update this is. It feels like months have past since Monday for some reason. Anyway, I managed to buy health insurance and then, THEN, I did something at the Comune. I don’t entirely know what. I think what I’ve succeeded in doing is declaring that I live in Camerano. It seems odd to need so much stuff to declare that I live here. I had to get Marco to complete a form say that he’s letting me stay in the flat and now I’m waiting for the police to come and visit to double check. Obviously there would be serious consequences indeed if they didn’t know who was living where. I mean, imagine…someone could be living somewhere and if the comune didn’t know, then it would be bad because of the er….. because of the erm….. yeah, I don’t know why. Anyway, I don’t know if declaring that I’m a resident here is the same as this “carta di residenza” mythical beast – I don’t think so because I don’t get a card. Only a letter. Which I might frame if it does actually come through.

What else? Ah my neighbour popped around with a care package of stuffed tomatoes – very tasty. There’s a festival coming up in Jesi in the next couple of weeks – I think I’m going to that with him and will be helping with his grape harvest in his field nearby too. Goodness – look at that – more productivity. I’m on form!

What’s a bit odd? I don’t know whether this one applies generally to all people or not or just me but something strange has happened. I’ve never been able to make a proper omelette before – I turns into scrambled eggs to matter what I do. However, since arriving in this country, without changing my method in the slightest, I’ve nailed omelette making! So. Disappointed with your omelettes coming out scrambled? Come to Italy! 

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My omelette – it looks like an omelette and everything! Spinach, tomato and cheese. Mmmm.

Right, that’s about it. Short update this week (I bet you’re all breathing a sigh of relief ;-)) – all this productivity has taken it out of me!

Have good weeks.

xxx

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The Big Tray Race, eating dogs and I have a JOB!

Ciao,

I’m so proud of Camerano!!! Every, EVERY town should have a Big Tray Race, otherwise known in Camerano as “Contesa del sacro Vassoio”. So that was Thursday, our Patron Saint’s day. In fact, it was more than a Big Tray Race. There was a Wooden Block Transportation race and Tug a Large Metal Wheeled Thing competition and there were other games too but hunger took over and I went to get something to eat so I’m not sure what I missed. Anyway in summary: there were 8 teams of generally young folk from areas in Camerano – my area is called “Oak” (La Quercia). There were 4 or 5 “games” with a complex scoring system which made no sense at all. All of it was presented by Eurovision song contest style hosts. The Grande Finale was the Big Tray Race which was basically a relay race around Camerano with a large metal heavy looking tray carried by 4 people at a time. We (La Quercia) won that race but overall we came second. The team that won the whole thing were ecstatic, I don’t think they could have been more enthusiastic if they’d won the Olympics.

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“Tug a Large Metal Wheeled Thing”. The team that succeeds in tugging the large metal wheeled thing over a line on that wooden platform, wins.

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Wooden Block Transportation Race – In fact, I thought they were really heavy these wooden blocks; after all, it requires two guys to transport them on that metal pole, but when the race finished, an old guy picked up 3 of them and moved them back to the starting position without any noticeable problem. That seemed a much more effective means of wooden block transportation. Clearly this race wasn’t an intelligence / logic test. The guys here were the winning team. They had their own gladiator so not surprising (bearded curly haired dude at the back – he was good…)

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La Quercia! My Team!!! WE WON!!!!!

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This is the kiddy version of The Big Tray Race

What else? This week I’ve been walking in Monte Conero – Passo del Lupo is a very pretty and easy walk to a lovely viewpoint overlooking the coastline and you can see the mountains in the distance too. I’ve done that walk a few times now with the school but it never gets old.

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Taken from a particularly perilous part of Passo del Lupo

I had another dinner with the palazzo (the other people in my block of flats). This time, rather than making too sweet biscuits, I made overcooked potato salad (well, to be honest, potato mash) which was a big hit. Nobody seemed to comment on the overcooked-ness – I think I can pretty much get away with serving up anything under the guise of it being a “Traditional English Delicacy”.

After the dinner, I headed to Piazza Roma where they had a free dance show going on courtesy of our Patron Saint again. That was really good to watch too – a good mix of traditional and modern dance.

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One group of dancers… very good…

Tuesday I went to dinner at a local cantina  (winery) – Angeli di Varano – and had a lovely meal there with some friends and family of Marco. The cantina mentioned there might be a job serving wine at the Rosso Conero festival next week – I’d be paid in wine. Seems alright to me. The latest cheap wine box purchase gives me a headache after one glass!

I had a new housemate this week for 4 days but I’m back on my own again now in the flat and really liking having my own space again. I think that’s it now in terms of housemates for a while – hopefully I’m on my own for a bit!

Ooo and probably the biggest news this week was I HAVE A BIT OF A JOB! Teaching 3 Italian girls English in a group lesson – in fact, not really teaching at all because their grammar is pretty good. I think it went ok – they want another lesson at least. They just want conversation practice really so if anybody has any ideas for good things to do to get shy teenage girls talking, let me know! I made a whopping 30 Euros for an hour and a half.

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Post teaching treat… This was on a day where I was supposed to be eating only “500 calories”. Oops.

Il Polemico (“The Argumentative One” / my language swap buddy :-)) is back from holiday. We went for dinner yesterday and headed to see a band “Gli Amici Dello Zio Pecos” playing at the sports ground in Camerano. They’re a fab band – real characters and the lead singer was brilliant.  Here’s one of their songs on Youtube (*correction!  The song “Volta la carta” is Fabrizio De Andre’s song – see comment below for a link to one of their own). Il Polemico has given me some other songs to listen to now so looking forward to that (grazie!!!).

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Gli Amici dello Zio Pecos

Ferragosto (the 15th August is Ferragosto but the couple of weeks after, nobody seems to go to work), has finished now and I should be able to get my health insurance. *Should* being the operative word. I will eat my hat if I actually succeed. If I get health insurance, I *should* be able to get my carta di residenza (as if… AS IF!!!).

This week’s “What’s a bit odd”: Noises and gestures! My all time favourite noise that Italian’s make is “boh” – it means “I don’t know”. It’s usually accompanied by a shoulder shrug. I could listen to “boh” all day… And they all say it. I don’t think we English people have recognised random noises like that. I use a combination of “huh” (how interesting), “pfft” (you’re being annoying), “meh” (whatever), “pah” (you’re wrong) but I don’t think they’re universal and there’s a chance I’ve just made them up. Certainly the Italian’s don’t know what I’m on about. And they don’t use the acronym “lol” (Laugh out loud) when they message, understandably, but there’s no alternative Italian equivalent – they write out the full laugh, but it’s “Ahaha” rather than “hahaha”. Who starts a laugh with a?! That just sounds like their making repeated discoveries – “Aha!” (Huh. I wonder what noise they make when they’re discovering something then…). On a separate noise related front – I can’t roll my r’s. You need to be able to roll your r’s here in Italy otherwise you sound weird. I’ve been practicing to no avail. It’s a particular problem when I say I don’t eat meat – meat being “carne” (carrrr-nay). Without rolling your r’s, it basically comes out like “cane” (ca-nay) which is a dog. Basically, I tell people that I don’t eat dogs.  Which I suppose is true. I’ve found a YouTube r-rolling guidance video. I’m going on a r-rolling mission this week.

Ok, have good weeks everybody.

xxx

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Webs of horror, Spectacular Spectacles and Flying Lizards…

Ciao a tutti!

Come stai (how are you?!)

I’m so pleased to be here! This week’s been great – lots of interesting things to do, lots of laughing and lots of relaxation.

I went to San Michele beach on Monday with a friend and spent most of the day there – we splashed out on umbrellas which is something I never do. The beaches here aren’t like in the UK where you can basically go wherever you want – people here own bits of beach and they set out umbrellas and sun loungers which you need to pay for. For the whole day it was 6.50 Euros. I’ve decided that’s a bargain given the reduced chance of skin cancer! I might do that more often, despite my underlying dislike of these private beaches (it just doesn’t seem right for people to be able to own such lovely bits of land!).

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San Michele beach – busy even on a Monday

I went on a blackberry picking mission last week after seeing loads in the countryside the weekend before. I hadn’t wanted to look too closely because I was annoyed I’d not brought any bags. So, laden with tuperware and bags, I headed out on Wednesday. Alas, I picked about 40 – they were all small apart from the ones that were hovering over hidden ditches (it turns out), too high to reach or protected by a particularly nasty looking creepy crawly. I’m not cut out for the countryside really, particularly blackberry picking – I spend an inordinate amount of time screaming. You should have seen one of the spiders that dropped down in front of my face whilst picking blackberries. It was more like a giant crab. And look at this Web of Horror below…! I if I was an insect and got stuck in this thing, I think I’d die on the spot. If you look closely, you can see a creepy horrible leg sticking out in a creepy horrible fashion <shudder>.

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And these webs are BIG too…

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Can you see the creepy horrible leg?!

I’ve found a shorter round walking trip that starts from my house. My parents are going to come out in a couple of months so I’ve been trying to find a nice local parent-friendly walk.

On Thursday I went out with some friends to a Piadineria (a place where you get piadinas – the Italian filled flat breads that I tried last week) called “El Merendero” in a village/town called Marotta which is close to Senigallia. They make lovely piadinas but you can’t book. We ended up waiting an hour for a table and finally sat down to eat about 10pm, and then it took a good while to be served so by the time we actually ate, I could have eaten a horse (but that’s in the next region up…).

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El Merendero is a small restaurant – not many chairs and tables but really busy – it’s got a very good reputation for piadina’s

Then we headed to a bar, “Essentia di Mare” in a village/town called Marzocca, also near Senigallia where they played latin music and there was a couple of dance floors. I had a ball! It’s the first time I’ve danced anywhere apart from my kitchen for months. One of the Italian guys we were with asked me to dance – I don’t think the poor guy expected me to be quite so inept and spend the entire time laughing. And they had these group dance sessions – they were hilarious too (for me at least). It was a lot of fun.

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View onto the dancefloor

On Friday I went on an art course evening with an artist that has a studio in the piazza. There were three of us altogether – the teacher, me and another girl – both a similar age to me so it was a really lovely couple of hours. We headed to behind one of the local agriturismo’s where they have a stable and set up our easels there – we didn’t paint – we had blocks of clay which we worked to represent the scene in front of us. That was something new for me so I was pleased about that! Mine has split in two now – I think it dried too quickly but it was a really good experience and very relaxing to be out in the countryside doing arty stuff. I’m going to try and get an easel soon so I can head out and do a similar thing myself.

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My attempt and the background – I should have taken a picture earlier on in the evening because it looks a bit gloomy here. In actual fact, it was glorious weather…

The Camerano festival has started. I’m just so impressed with our little town! They’ve been making such a lot of effort – the whole town is decorated with ribbons and fabric for this “Festa Del Patrono” which started in earnest yesterday. The opening event was in Piazza Roma (the centre of Camerano) where they had  a “Spettacolo Spettacolare” – a tongue twister if ever there was one – basically, a spectacular spectacle which in this instance was a sort of parade of drummers, dancers, fire breathers, roman gods (or people dressed as them at least), kids with ribbons and pompom things. I haven’t seen so many people in one place since I’ve been here. I thought I’d treat myself to a glass of wine and on being asked if I’d like a small or a large glass, I opted for large based on in England a small glass being akin to a thimble. In fact, a large glass is a very large glass here though – a pint! I’ve never had a pint of wine before! Perhaps we’ve been missing a trick in the UK. And it was only 2 Euros. So, I found a good spot in the piazza, sipped my pint of wine and watched the spectacular spectacle, which was, well, I think, spectacular!

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Eurovision Song Contest style presenters… complete with same wooden script!

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Part of the procession…

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Fire breathing dude…

Rumour has it, my Italian has got er, audibly better. I think this is thanks to 3 things:

  1. I’ve acquired more Italian people to speak to. When I have something I want to say, if I’ve got an opinion on something or if I’m recounting a story, I’m a bit more fluent. If it’s just general chitchat, then I’m still useless. General chitchat should be easier surely? But it turns out that if you have something to say, you forget that you can’t speak the language and you just get on with it. Having said that, this improvement only applies during part of the day. My Italian deteriorates rapidly in the evening (even without wine!). My brain seems to have a daily best before time – it just doesn’t function in Italian after about 8pm. It’s annoying because that’s when people want to go out!  I’ve never detected this phenomenon with anything else – I never found my job harder in the afternoon than the morning and I don’t *think* I was ever visibly worse!
  2. I’ve been watching Italian films without getting distracted: “Benvenuti Presidente”, “Pazzo di me” and “Il 7 e l’8”. The last two I watched on YouTube, the first one on the list I watched on some dodgy Romanian website that gave me a virus and had Romanian sub-titles. I don’t recommend that website. But I’m pleased that YouTube has a seemingly infinite number of Italian films and other films dubbed in Italian (in fact, I watched” Enemy of the State” in Italian too – it’s less mentally exhausting if you know the film already). Alas, there aren’t often subtitles on the films on the internet but as a learner, if you go for something suitably action-y, then it’s easier to follow. In fact, of the list above, all of them were ok to understand. And it’s really helpful to watch with an Italian so you can stop (constantly) and check your understanding. I had been watching CSI but the TV is in the kitchen and it’s difficult to maintain concentration if there are housemates here and if there’s Nutella in the cupboard.
  3. I’ve been looking up absolutely everything I don’t know how to say in Wordreference. You can’t keep looking up all the words that you come across otherwise you’d never get anything done, but you can look up the things that YOU want to say and it sinks in a bit easier because it’s more relevant to you. After the 10th time of looking it up, sometimes it sinks in. Learning stock phrases is helpful, particularly if they’re complicated constructions. I’d hoped to just be able to produce them off the cuff if I knew the logic behind them but for example, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to work out how to use Italian pronouns without sitting down with a pen and notebook for 15 minutes first.  However, if you know “he told me…”, “I asked him” etc., then you can just pull them out of the bag without having to think too much.  And it turns out the more you know, the easier it is to find out other things and remember new words. You don’t have to rely solely on charades!

It’s been a while since Lizard Watch – and I’ve recently discovered a new type of cutie little dark green lizard so to combine with this week’s “What’s a bit odd” – here’s a picture of Super Lizard. He looks like he flies. I don’t think he actually does. Cute, cute, cute.

I think this is my favourite lizard shot. He looks like he's flying.

I think this is my favourite lizard shot. He looks like he’s flying.

Hope you all have good weeks.

xxx

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