Posts Tagged With: Monte Conero

UK Tour, Best Self Controlled Teacher Award and Appropriate Clothing…

Ciao a tutti!

How is everyone? Well, I hope! I’m sorry for the silence. I’ve been out and about doing a speedy tour around the UK.

So, the tour started a week ago last Wednesday and I headed up to the Lakes to spend some time with a good friend and her new baby (well new to me at least), then onto Harrogate in Yorkshire for an annual “girls weekend” and had a great time. Then I headed down south to see friends and family in Hampshire and then a flying visit to London before coming back to Italy on Sunday.

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Harrogate – that’s Betty’s Tea Room on the corner. It’s a bit pricey but absolutely lovely!

Meanwhile, I put in an offer for a house in Portsmouth which was rejected (pah!). Why are you buying there and not Italy I hear you ask? Well, I have a cunning plan which involves buying a house to rent out in the UK so I get some more rental income coming in every month and then I can retire from my much loved teaching career.

Much loved teaching career

ARGH I HATE IT!!! One 6 year old swore at me yesterday. I think he was hoping I didn’t know what it meant. Little did he know that I have an Italian friend here obsessed with learning English swear words which has resulted in me acquiring a reasonable grounding in the Italian equivalents. Anyway, in the last 6 months, I haven’t seen this child without ‘disgustingness’ encrusted around his nose. I’ve tried being nice to him which does work occasionally but when he’s actually punching me, it’s a struggle to be nice. I don’t want to ‘big myself up’ at all but I should definitely, DEFINITELY be nominated for some sort of prize for not punching him back (I’ve just checked – there are genuine Teacher Awards. Who knew? I think you have to be nominated by your pupils. Booooo!). I only have 10 weeks there left. I’ve informed the school who contract me out that the mental torture isn’t worth the money and I’m not doing it next year. They seem to have been alright with it and even offered me another teaching job every Thursday to “young adults” which I’ve accepted. It doesn’t sound quite so emotionally draining and apparently there’s a syllabus (not that I’ve seen it, still plenty of time before this Thursday eh?!). These young adults will be working in hotels and restaurants so I really hope this means cheap/free food and drink over the summer period. I’ve another private regular teaching job coming up too.

Fermo

I’m going to Fermo (a region in Le Marche further south than where I am now) on Friday for a couple of days to catch up with a friend of mine and to see the local area. I can’t wait! I don’t think I’ve been there before and it’ll be great to see some new towns and get a feel for a new area. My friend is then coming back  here with me so I’ve been trying to make the flat look acceptable. Another friend has very rudely dubbed my spare room the “sh*t tip” because of a rather large collection of driftwood and various beach-found materials stored there for artistic purposes. Pah! However, all the great artists were misunderstood and unappreciated when they were alive aren’t they? I suspect it’s just not my time yet 😉

Spring is here!

The weather has been amazing since I got back – hot and sunny. The flowers are out and everything is green and pretty. People had been asking last week whether I was looking forward to going back to Italy and I have to admit that I wasn’t that fussed this time because it meant going back to work! However, I’m thrilled to report that I still love being here. I was on the beach the last couple of lunchtimes and it’s difficult to imagine a nicer place, for me at least (mainly because I’m surrounded by seaglass and interesting rocks and shells for the artwork!).

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Look how nice and sunny it is around Monte Conero!

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And the nice sunsets are back too 🙂 This is from my balcony.

Artwork

Well, let me tell you. Nobody (that I saw at least) is using dry brush as a technique for portrait painting in London. They seem to be using charcoal. So the new plan is to do that. I still need a lot of practice on the portrait drawing front. My friend in Harrogate was stroppy for a whole hour after my portrait of her (nobody ever poses for me – they’re always watching TV, or looking at their laptop so everyone always looks a bit gormless. ON THEIR OWN HEADS BE IT!). I need to get better at making everyone look pretty. There’s not been much else going on unfortunately on the art front because I’ve been out of the country but hoping to do some more next week.

What’s a bit odd?

It’s been a while since I’ve had a “what’s a bit odd!”. This one cropped up when I got here last year but it’s worth a repeat because it’s such a weird cultural difference. You can ALWAYS pick out a foreigner here. Today, it was 21 degrees. A beautiful warm and sunny day. I even got a bit of a tan. I, Ms English, was wearing a vest top, cotton trousers and some slip-on shoes. To sum up, I was wearing weather-appropriate clothing. The Italians, also wear a vest top. But on top of that they might wear a long sleeved t-shirt, a jumper and then to all intents and purposes, a sleeping bag. They’ll also probably have heavy jeans/trousers, definitely a scarf, sometimes a hat, and a large percentage will have big boots on. And let me tell you why – it’s simply because it’s not June yet. In Spring and Autumn, the Italian’s wear jeans and jumpers and sleeping-bag-coats REGARDLESS OF THE ACTUAL WEATHER. We English folk will look outside at the weather, see that it’s sunny and warm and go immediately to a beach/park and strip off, lest we completely miss “Summer”.

So, I struggle with this one – I generally try my best to fit in with the Italian culture (mainly by eating pasta, pizza and drinking wine all the time) but I think I would just expire if I attempted to wear the excessive level of clothes that an Italian does. The weirdest thing of all, is that they genuinely don’t seem to realise that it’s hot. It’s not like watching dogs trapped in cars in the summer – they’re not panting and there’s no visible sweat marks (I suppose you’d never see it through the sleeping bag anyway). I think they’re actually just built differently.

Ok, onwards and upwards. Have a good rest of week everybody!

xxx

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Teaching (again…), roasts and liquor…

Ciao!

Well, this week, hot off the press I bring you teaching traumas, slightly inadequate roast dinners in Italy and Corbezzoli…

Teaching

I think I may have to set up an anonymous blog about teaching.  I think all I should say is that this week had challenging moments involving full on screaming fits, tears and temper tantrums. And don’t even get me started on the kids…

A couple of the students don’t like it because I speak in English – it being an English class and all (to be honest, they’ve probably more chance understanding my English than my Italian anyway).  Anyway, all my Italian classes where I’ve been trying to learn the insanely complex Italian grammar have been only in Italian and I’m surrounded everyday by people speaking Italian at the speed of light. I’ve understood barely nothing for 7 months. My lessons on the other hand are in very slow, basic English with pictures, songs, games and miming. So, I have no sympathy. I’ve prepared a speech for next week, in Italian, to explain to them how if they understood what I was saying, they wouldn’t need lessons and to stop being so whiney when I eliminate them from “Simon Says…”.

I’ve been taking the guitar in again – they like the hello and goodbye song. I had a request from the infant school to teach the kids a Christmas song. Only, they still haven’t grasped the Hello Song and it only has 8 words in it. There are no Christmas songs with less than 8 words. I’ve had to devise a special version of “We wish you a merry Christmas” but unfortunately this means I need to be there for their Christmas show so that I can play it on the guitar.

Anyway, despite all that, I’m honestly doing an amazing impression of a competent, understanding and caring teacher who adores children.

Corbezzoli

I’m making liquor! Out of these things called Corbezzoli which I picked with Il Polemico at the weekend in Monte Conero. Out of interest, can you buy 90% alcohol in the UK in the supermarket? I’m sure you can’t. You can here. It seems dangerous. Anyway, I’m glad you can otherwise the liquor would have been a flop.

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Bag of corbezzoli

We need to leave them covered in the alcohol for 40 days and then make some kind of syrup for it.  Yum.

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Corbezzoli up close… I think they’re called strawberry something or other in English.

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These are the corbezzoli being left with alcohol over them. I don’t really have anything other than a saucepan. Do you think I should move them into something glass? I have a big glass wine jar but then I’d need a funnel thing to get it in there or devise one out of something in the kitchen and I’m not sure I can be bothered unless I will actually poison myself by using the saucepan.

Roast dinner

I made my first roast dinner here at the weekend – there’s veggie meat alternatives here just like in the UK but slightly less variety. They’re alright. Nothing to write home about (she says, effectively writing home about them). Italian’s don’t seem to have gravy with is annoying. I need to bring back gravy granuals next time.  I bought this sort of gravy looking thing in a carton but it turns out it was stock, which I then tried to thicken with flour  and well, it just because a sickly looking white soupy goo. And they don’t eat Yorkshire Puddings. And they don’t make roast potatoes like we do. That’s all I have to say on roast dinners in Italy.

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A bit unceremoniously dumped on the plate but there we go. A roast dinner in Italy.

What’s a bit odd?

Olive oil is GREEN when it’s just been pressed!!!! And it tastes LOVELY!!!!!!!!!! It’s like a sort of spicy apple-y delight. Who knew?!?! It’s a completely different species to regular oil. Apparently after a month or so it goes more the traditional colour. I don’t think mine will still be around in a month.

And red wine is FIZZY when it’s just been made!!!!! And it tastes LOVELY!!!!!!!! I can’t provide any more description unless I’m doing my person-knowledgeable-about-wine impression and then I can thrash around “oaky” and “fruity” with the best of them but in reality, I can tell you that it tastes like wine (but a really, really, nice wine). Apparently, it’s very “light” because it’s just been er, pressed/made/done and only has 10% alcohol and then after a bit of  time, erm, something about sugar, means that it’ll become more potent.

Visitors

I have more visitors next week 🙂 The weather is set to be horrible – the area is much less attractive when it’s pouring down and grey. So I really hope the forecasters have made a terrible mistake. At the moment though, there’s a very spectacular thunder and lightning show from my balcony.

Ok, I’m off to analyse CSI subtitles. I’ve had a chance to do some Italian study for the first time in months so I’m pleased about that! At this rate, I estimate in 2040, I’ll be able to understand a whopping 65% of conversation!

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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Ferragosto, Falling stars and learning new things…

Ciao a tutti!!!

How is everyone?! Not loads to report on this week…

Monday, I headed out with a friend to Marcelli for a drink and found a good spot in a bar right next to where there was a polish/argentianian dancing and singing (not together mind) extravaganza.

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The Polish dancers. Polish dancing is not about releasing unbridled passion as opposed to….

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The Argentians… Now that’s how to do it…

Then we headed down to San Michele beach in Sirolo for some star gazing. Every year around the 10th August it’s a busy time for shooting stars (or falling stars if you’re Italian), The Italian theory is that Saint Lorenzo cries and his tears come to earth in the form of shooting stars. There have been so many that worried for the state of the sky, I investigated. I have problems enough trying to find the Plough without stars missing. Anyway, they’re not shooting stars at all. They’re shooting meteors. Phew!

I’ve been feeling rough for a few days and by Tuesday, I decided I should probably go to the doctors. I found an English speaking doctor (thankfully!) that’s a couple of minutes walk away and who seems to be nice yet credible (a rare mix). It was a bit of an odd experience. I wandered into this guy’s house and sat in his front room whilst an angry man glared at me (angry because I didn’t know that the front door made a large booming echoey slamming sound when it closed) and hoped there was a doctor behind one of the closed doors. I have now learnt the terms for a variety of symptoms, ailments and body parts in Italian “bleeding, sore, swollen, ulcers, gums, glands” etc. Apparently I have a virus of my upper respiratory tract. Alas, I think next week I’ll have to learn the terms for “BUT WHY WONT IT GO AWAY?”

I’m confused by the doctor situation here – I thought the way it worked if you were European was this: You go to the doctor, they’ll see you, they’ll want paying for the appointment and so they’ll take your European Health Insurance Card details and set about getting a reimbursement from the country where you usually live. But he didn’t take any details down and when I asked him about it, he said he’d only need them if he was giving me a prescription (he didn’t). I think that must mean he only gets paid if he gives me a prescription but then that would lend support to him giving prescriptions out willy-nilly which he didn’t. So, I think he’s a good’un.

My neighbour, the artist, popped in this week and we had a productive chat. He’s seen a few of my drawings now and has asked me to be part of an exhibition with him next year in Camerano. I’d want to do some big canvases inspired by the local area – though I’m still sorely missing a shop in Italy that sells big canvases (oh Hobbycraft, how I miss you). I still think there’s a market in portrait drawing too and I still need to get better particularly at drawing beards/stubble. Unless of course I sell a combined “wet shave / portrait drawing” experience.

Anyway, that would be for 3 months next year during Summer in what sounds like a disused building by the main piazza. He’s done an exhibition there before and made a fair bit of money he says so on the face of it, it sounds interesting (though I’d have to share the cost of hiring the place – though sounds cheap).

He also told me about his house in Cuba that I can stay for free whenever I want which is jolly nice of him……….

There’s a big event starting on the 23rd August and running until the 29th for “la contesa del sacro Vassoio di San Giovanni”. So, in the unlikely event you don’t know what that is, I’ve copied some text from the Camerano Tourist website

 “The 29th August is the Patron Saint’s Day of Camerano – St. John Baptist. Every year the Contest of the Sacred Plate of St. John is held in Camerano in which the eight suburbs of the town participate with great enthusiasm. There are also food stalls, bands, pageants and shows while the day ends with the late-night lottery”.

Who knew we had 8 suburbs?! I thought we barely warranted enough space/people to be classed as a single suburb!

And after that, there’s the “Rosso Conero”  3 day wine festival on the 7th, 8th and 9th September, also in the hip and happening Camerano. It’s well known in the area and sounds like the centre will be full of wine stalls where you can taste wine from the local areas and buy some if you like. I will be taking part in the tasting of the wine (and I will most certainly spend some time considering buying the wine too… all the way to the corner shop where the wine is a lot cheaper and tastes the same).  Friends/family – I’ve been suggesting you all wait to visit until I eventually get a car but actually, if you come down in the next two or three weeks then I think there’s enough to keep you occupied without a car.

Thursday was Ferragosto. Ferragosto marks the date that Mary was “assumed” into heaven and so the Italians like to mark this occasion by going to church, to the beach. I went to a new beach called Misano in the next region up (Emilia Romagna) with a new group of people. Going out with a group of Italian people always fills me with mixed emotions: Hooray – I’m going out with a new group of people! 🙂  And boo – I’ve no idea what they’re saying 😦  This time though, it was alright – I could pretty much keep up with the conversation. Having said that, I do have a habit of filling in the gaps with random flights of fancy that bear no resemblance to what they’ve actually said and not realising. So though I think I coped alright, perhaps their impending trip to the moon to buy a snow leopard wasn’t an accurate interpretation.

The beach was lovely – sandy and wide with actual beds to sleep on (though there’s nothing that could convince me to actually touch them let alone lie on one).

Beds! On the BEACH!!!

Beds! On the BEACH!!!

I learnt a few new things that day too:

1) I learnt that there are breathalyser tests in pubs there (see exhibit A below). Alcohol in Italy is called “Alcool” which I think glamorizes it…

Breathalyser machine in the bar/ restaurant where we were. Great idea - if you get caught drink driving, you lose your license for 3+ months.

Exhibit A: Breathalyser machine in the bar/ restaurant where we were. Great idea – if you get caught drink driving, you lose your license for 3+ months.

2) I learnt how prostitution worked in the old days (see exhibit B, thanks to Catherine for the photography)

Apparently this is a real sign (as in actually used!).  So, prices go up from a er, quickie, "twice", 20 minutes, half an hour, a full hour and two hours. I'm a little confused by the "doppia" - two times. I don't think it makes good business sense. I've thought about it - if I were a guy and wanted a couple of hours, I would just pay for a "Doppia" and string things out.

Exhibit B: Apparently this is a real sign (as in actually used!). So, prices go up from a er, quickie, “twice”, 20 minutes, half an hour, a full hour and two hours. I’m a little confused by the “doppia” – two times. I don’t think it makes good business sense. I’ve thought about it – if I were a guy and wanted a couple of hours, I would just pay for a “Doppia” and string things out…

3) I learnt how to play beach tennis. I use the term “learnt” loosely. I’ll never understand tennis. Why don’t the numbers go up properly? Stupid game (we lost).

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Exhibit C: Picture of the beach tennis…….

4) I had my first piadina which is an Italian delicacy but which tastes exactly the same as an Indian bread that I can’t remember the name of. Anyway, delicious and I had mine as a sort of “toastie” with tomato and mozzarella.

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Exhibit D: Tasty tasty tasty

So let me tell you about my health insurance quest. Italians – you may want to look away now. I hold my hands up – at times I *may*  have given the impression that Italians are a bit workshy (admittedly this would have more weight coming from someone who had a job) what with their daily 4 – 5 hour supermarket lunch break closures, Sunday closures, random other day of the week closures and I-don’t-really-want-to-work-today unplanned closures. But Ferragosto really is something to behold – EVERYTHING IS SHUT! For at least two weeks!

So, I just want to take some time out to summarise my varied thoughts and feelings about Italy: The countryside looks like it’s been painted by a grand master, the sea is like a warm crystal clear bath of splendor, the villages are stunningly picturesque whilst being bathed in history and architectural delights, the wildlife never ceases to amaze me with its sheer variety, the food is heavenly (particularly the tomatoes)… but I just can’t hide it under layers of sarcasm any longer:  HOW DOES THIS COUNTRY FUNCTION?! I just want to buy health insurance! There are about 30 (a slight exaggeration maybe) insurance companies in the centre of Camerano – every single one is closed until the beginning of September. It is INSANE. I.N.S.A.N.E.  And, and, and…no, I’m going to stop. Launching into a string of suggestions about how the country I think I’m illegally squatting in, might improve their economy is rude. However, I shall be providing a short private thesis on this for my therapist.

I did actually make it to an insurance company in fact, a few minutes before they closed down. In short, I need health insurance to get the carta di residenza (which I need for a whole bunch of other things). But (deep breaths) it turns out I need a carta di residenza to get health insurance. I have no words…

Yesterday I went for a long walk in Monte Conero national park. Since my first walk here I’ve been determined to try and find a round trip as so far, my walks have been characterised by me walking for hours in one direction in the hope of finding a convincing looking return path, giving up and walking hours back the same way. But yesterday I found a circular path (still 5 hours!). My next task will be to try and find a circular path without a couple of kilometers teetering on the side of a busy road. The walk was lovely all the same – the countryside has completely changed in the last month or so: wheat fields have been ploughed, the sunflower fields are all dried up, the blackberries are out and I have never ever seen so many butterflies! Beautiful!

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The white specs aren’t your eyes going…there’s a million butterflies in this photo…

For this week’s “what’s a bit odd” – see all of the above.

Not much else to report. I have new housemates – a family. I don’t think I can have made a very good impression – they lock their bedroom doors when they leave the apartment! I can’t believe they don’t trust me! (Thank goodness I made copies of their keys).

Right, onwards and upwards. Have a lovely week all!

xxx

 

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Earthquakes, the Rain Shoes and bureaucracy…

Ciao!!!

This week’s been packed. This not working malarkey is exhausting 😉

We’ve had earthquakes this week. EARTHQUAKES! Just small ones – 3.9 on Thursday and 2.9 Friday and I’m sure there was an even smaller one today but it hasn’t been reported so perhaps not. I’m not sure how I feel about earthquakes. “Fearful” seems to be the consensus with the Italians and they’ve had such terrible earthquakes in the past that have killed a lot of people and caused a lot of damage that that’s the rational response. Me, however, being a complete novice to earthquakes and these being minor, have been lying there with the bed shaking thinking “wow….. cooooool”. It’s really very impressive – this natural force that can shake buildings. I hadn’t really thought about what it would be like to be in one before. Anyway, on reflection, I think getting under the bed would be more productive than just lying there in a state of awe.

I had some success at the Comune on Tuesday morning, albeit limited. It turns out there’s a secret hidden entrance that’s not the large official looking set of doors at the front of the building. Thank goodness for random passersby. I wondered if there might be a secret knock as well but no. The office I needed was closed, as of course, all good offices are on a Tuesday morning. I had a challenging conversation with the information folk there about what I needed to do to live here. Nobody wants my dichiarazione di presenza so I’ve given up on that. It’s all about getting an Iscrizione anagrafica dei cittadini stranieri now. One of those is basically a sort of foreign person registration.  I need to prove that: I have some income, that I’m a student (or that I’m working which I’m not), and that I have health insurance so that I don’t become a drain on the Italian health system. According to the Comune, my European Health Insurance Card isn’t enough. And I’m not sure my travel insurance is either despite it having medical cover. I think they’d be content with an expensive private medical insurance but I don’t understand why I would need that –  we’ve an agreement between the European countries that we’re entitled to a level of healthcare I thought? Nobody seems to be able to enlighten me. Websites all offer differing advice. I’ve emailed the Italian Embassy in the UK and the UK embassy in Italy – hopefully I’ll get a response next week.

So, that will be next week’s task. And then after that, I might be able to get a codice fiscale and a carta di residenza but that’s only 3 months after I’ve been here. I think I can change back to my actual date of arrival in Italy now that there don’t seem to be any implications of not having declared my presence earlier.

I didn’t get around to seeing the neighbour’s place last week – I popped around on Sunday morning and spoke to the guy’s mum who was absolutely lovely but the son was still asleep. And then the son came around later in the week with some more battered courgette flowers and some stuffed courgettes and invited me around to dinner whenever I want again but I didn’t have time to see the house. So, I’ll hopefully see the house tomorrow and maybe get a dinner 🙂

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Battered courgette flowers – underneath there were some stuffed courgettes – lovely 🙂

I had a new teacher this week, Laura, she’s very good and I like her a lot but the sessions were exhausting. I have massive difficulties getting my head around the fact that some things are swapped around in Italian e.g. “he told me” is “mi ha detto”, literally translated as “me he told”. I think I react to pronoun quizzing “how would you say, ‘they gave to us?’” in the same way that people react to being tortured.  By the end of Friday I had both hands in my hair and was rocking back and forth in the chair. The other thing they swap around is the nouns and adjectives – “the sea blue”, not “the blue sea” which seems alien to me. I raised it with Marco earlier in the week claiming that the English way was clearly more logical. Look at that car….? What car?! The blue one? The red one? Why the unnecessary delay in describing things?! His argument: When someone’s on their deathbed and says “I have to tell you one last thing…our family has a really big <dramatic pause whilst final spark of life is extinguished>…..”, what good is the adjective?! Admittedly, I can see that it *might* just be more useful to get the noun across first in deathbed scenarios.

We did a few nice school trips this week. By a week or two into being in Italy, I’d already been to more churches than I’d been to in my entire life – this week has seen my church attendance sky rocket.

  • Ancona – around the old part of town by the cathedral at the top of one of the hills and then along by the port. Another interesting trip – Ancona has a lot of history, some of which has come more apparent following an earthquake a few years ago. A lot of buildings were destroyed, and because of that, they found an old roman amphitheater underneath apartments. Very interesting.

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Ancona – the port

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Looking towards the cathedral – where that carpark was, used to be a building but it was destroyed in an earthquake and people didn’t have the money to rebuild…

  • Abbadia di fiastro –  is a lovely nature reserve set in the midst of some beautiful countryside – it used to be a monastery and in fact, I think there are still monks living there.  It’s free to look around – there are a few shops and places to eat and a church of course and it’s interesting to walk around the buildings there. The monks used to / still make wine, and they’ve got a whole secret underground passageway thing going on where I think they used to keep it and hide from their enemies. I suspect that took the edge off hiding eh?

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Abbadia di Fiastra

  • Tolentino – is a little town around Macerata (province of Le Marche) with two giant cathedrals. One of which I think is the most extravagant cathedral I’ve seen so far. They really went to town with the gold leaf. We’d just been to see the church in Abbadia di Fiastro which was completely plain – the monks wanted to be poor and would give everything back to their community (nice bunch really). This cathedral seemed to have the opposite approach. The ceiling alone had life sized figures of important people – it took apparently 5 years to finish the ceiling and it cost an insane amount of money to do. It looked very impressive but perhaps a bit over the top. And there’s a museum underneath the main cathedral – if you go to the cathedral, it’s definitely worth having a look at that. They have this sort of theatre style nativity lightshow scene going on… it puts every other nativity scene I’ve seen to shame.

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The altar at the cathedral in Tolentino

  • San Severino – this is a town in one of the valleys around Macerata though actually I think it extends to a couple of churches on the hill too and a viewpoint looking over the main town. It’s unusual because it’s got quite a large oblong shaped piazza – most piazzas are square here. Went to see a church close by on the basis of it having some interesting frescos, and it did indeed. The artists at the time were experimenting with different ways of painting people.
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This picture of the boy exposing himself whilst kicking another boy in the bits, was in a church! Certainly not your usual frescos of the Madonna…

  • Monte Conero – Every week there’s usually a walk with the school as well – this time around the top of Monte Conero to Belvedere Nord where there are some spectacular views of the sea and coastline. Monte Conero is great. Great, great, great.
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From Belvedere Nord (Monte Conero) The bit sticking out is Ancona.

  • Beaches – I’ve been to San Michele beach in Sirolo a couple of times this week – the first time, I’d walked a couple of hours through blistering desert conditions dreaming of lying on the beach and having a dip in the sea. It was ROASTING. Barely a cloud in the sky. And then the moment I sat down exhausted on the beach, the skies opened! Grr. And it was a Sunday so the buses only ran 3 times a day so I had to wait an hour and a half for the bus. I have this pair of shoes – they have magical powers, as well as very holey soles. Whenever I wear them out, it will rain. Without fail. I should donate them to a drought ridden country. The second time was with my new housemate earlier in the week – I’d left the Rain Shoes at home so finally sat out on the beach and had a swim. The water was a bit nasty – rammed with detritus. Apparently that’s what happens this time of year and then because it’s got lots of vegetation in it, it attracts jellyfish (or medusa’s if you’re Italian – what an apt name). I think the sea will be a more attractive option in a month or two.
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Taken from a road that never ends near Sirolo on the way to the beach – see how lovely the sky looked? Until I put on the Rain Shoes that is.

The new housemate is now old housemate! She left this morning. It was nice to have her here. She was lovely and massively enthusiastic (particularly about Sirolo, she didn’t fancy venturing anywhere else after the first visit there), but I must say, communication was a bit of a challenge. She was starting out from scratch with Italian really and her English was a similar level and my Russian, well, I’ve let it slip to be honest (knowing only how to say “niet, he beat me, give that man his money” from the film Rounders in a dodgy “Russian” accent. Alas she hadn’t seen the film). So conversations were conducted in Italian and went thusly:

Sue: Do you want to go to the bar?

Housemate: Yes.

Sue: Or we could stay in?

Housemate: Yes.

Sue: You don’t understand anything I’m saying do you?

Housemate: Yes.

And you know the coffee that goes into those espresso machines that you put on the hob? Well, that stuff doesn’t dissolve. It’s not instant coffee. But she’d have a spoonful or so in hot water every day. I wouldn’t have imagined that would be drinkable.

This week there’s no school! My first week of no school! There’s not even an option to chicken out when I get bored and go to some lessons because there’s no other students at school this week either.  I seem to have a lot of bits and pieces to do so hopefully I should be able to entertain myself reasonably well. It’ll give me some time to do some self study – I hope.

What else? I might be sailing to Croatia beginning of July with the bunch that I went out with last week but I’ll see if there’s space.

I’m having a quiet Saturday today – I think there’s some event on in the piazza today so I might pop up and see what that’s about!

Buonasera all and hope you’re all well 🙂

xxx

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The Saga of Monte Conero, Monsters and Friends…

Ciao!

Well, this week’s gone quite fast and I’ve still not done all the things I was hoping to do – as well as little things I want to do every day, the bigger stuff like sorting out a car/apartment, trying to get a teaching job, sorting out my finances, remain woefully incomplete!

Instead, I’ve been catching up on sleep. I’ve had what must be simply the worst hayfever known to mankind that’s had me sneezing more than not and my throat swell so I can barely breathe. However, I’ve now found some good hayfever tablets that work so I no longer have an excuse to not get on and do things!

We’ve also had a few sightseeing trips with the school:

  • Grotto di Camerano: These are some caves under Camerano – there’s apparently more in the way of caves than streets above ground. It was a bit of a distracting tour – we went with a bunch of French tourists who had a translator so after every few words of Italian, the translator was wittering on in French for about double the time. I think she was making stuff up. I definitely would have (“And this cave is where Santa Claus keeps his reindeer in the summer”). Anyway, I picked up about half of it and I think I might go there every 3 months or so just to see if my Italian’s improved any. Perhaps in a few years time, I’ll understand two thirds 😉
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Grotto di Camerano

  • Ascoli Picena: Ascoli is a bit further south from here – about an hour drive. It’s set in a valley between hills/mountains. I liked it, but wasn’t overly struck. The city is very run down – they don’t have any money to restore the old buildings which is a real shame. The duomo (cathedral) was fabulous though – really very grand and the crypt between was really nicely done out with a lovely colourful ceiling mosaic. If I had a crypt, I would do it out exactly the same. Perhaps I’ll have “must have crypt” into my list of apartment requirements.  They have countless churches. Almost every street has a church. I can’t understand it – did they do no market research?! If you’re considering building a church, would you not think “hmm, but there’s a church next door but one… perhaps I’d best build it elsewhere”. Marco was his usual incredibly knowledgeable self, reeling off names and dates and history like a true tour guide.

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A main piazza in Ascoli Picena. Note the small dogs. The Italians have a lot of small cute dogs. That or large scary rabid looking dogs. There’s one I forget about down the road from here that creeps up in his garden whilst I’m walking past and then unleashes the loudest barking making me jump out of my skin. I think he plays a game to see how many unsuspecting pedestrians jump into the road and get run over. Next time, I’m going to creep up on him whilst he’s sleeping and bark the hell out of him…

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In the cathedral

In the main square – see the fountain on the left? You can drink out of it. I thought people were being disgusting but no, no, the water isn’t just recycled around endlessly.

  • The Saga of Mount Conero: I went for the longest walk ever yesterday – 20kms I think – to Mount Conero, specifically to the monastery at the top. I thought it would be a 4 hour round trip. Long, but doable. And I need to walk off a lot of ice-cream. BUT I went without a decent map. Or food. Or much water. Or decent walking shoes. And I was listening to music and looking at the scenery and lizard spotting and my mind was wandering and before I knew it, I’d walked too far to go back. Besides I thought I’d be at the monastery soon enough anyway so I carried on and thought I’d try and catch a bus back. Anyway, I then turned a corner fully expecting to be half way up the mountain to the monastery but no, the monastery has mysterious qualities much like the horizon or the end of a rainbow – it was still a speck in the distance on an even larger mountain. 
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Can you see the monastery?! If you squint and put your eyes up close to the screen at the top of that green mountainous blob, you can see it. This was about 3 hours in!

  • The Saga of Mount Conero continued: Anyway, not to be beaten, I continued, and after a 5 or 6km perilous road walk (I’m getting the hang of mentally calculating which side of the road I should be on based on probability of death), I started climbing THE mountain. I was the only one climbing up, everyone else was coming down (I worry there’s a cable car I don’t know about). And in large groups too. Every group seemed to have a member who would incredulously ask “er, you’re doing this on your own?”. Pah! PAH! And so started the Climb of Independence 🙂 Anyway, what felt like decades and several heart attacks later, I got to the monastery. My sense of achievement was only tempered by their being no buses or ability to get back. Why did I think I could get a bus? It was a Sunday and the bus drivers probably don’t work on Sundays. Or if they do, they probably have their lunch break between the hours of 00.01 and 23.59. And so….after 5 and a half hours, I walked back. 8 HOURS it took me in total. EIGHT! Up and down COUNTLESS hills and mountains. 

It took me a lot less time on the way back despite a “short cut” that took me past a creepy abandoned house and a wood I didn’t have the guts to go through (you should have heard the noises from it – no wonder they abandoned the house!!!) so had to double back. The speedy return was solely down to dreams of a relaxing bubble bath. Alas, my boiler decided to pack up and my bubble bath was freezing cold. I told myself that athletes, like my good self, always have cold baths (don’t they?) so had the bath nonetheless, but I can still barely move today.

I’m really impressed with the wildlife in Conero National Park – there’s so many different species of plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, lizards (in fact, I think the Monster in the Wood by the Abandoned House was probably a giant carnivorous lizard from the Jurassic era. Hmm. Perhaps that’s why Santa needs to keep his reindeer in the caves…) and it has snakes! I saw two 🙂 It’s a great place to go walking – I think I’ll definitely stay around here – there’s a lot of exploring to do. AND, I can walk to the beach – albeit it’s a 6 hour round trip but still, walking distance!

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After careful prodding, I unfortunately ascertained this snake had bitten the dust. Marco assures me they’re not poisonous (particularly when already dead).

The highlight of last week was seeing some friends from home – thanks Chris and Brad for coming to see me :-)! We had a small pub crawl from Bar Bosco to Bar Maffy and then they came back to mine for coffee. I think they liked Camerano and definitely seemed to be impressed with the scenery around Le Marche and Abruzzo.

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Chris and Brad on my balcony

I’ve been missing friends a lot this week – two of my closest friends have had babies, and there’s another one on the way so it’s sad to be so far away. I’ll have to plan a visit at some point. Anyway – tanti auguri to them 🙂

This week was supposed to be my first week off from the language school but Marco’s given me a good deal on Italian classes so I might still stick with it for this week and take a view next week as to whether to continue. I went out for dinner with a new set of students last night which was interesting – a couple of them (from England and US) have bought houses in Le Marche so I’ll definitely be taking some hints/tips from them. The students I met yesterday are WORSE than me at Italian – I hadn’t thought it possible, so I’m thrilled about that. Marco was concerned I might not like being a class with them but they look at me when I’m speaking in the same way that I look at people that know how to speak Italian…! It’s great – I’ve thought about it, and I definitely prefer being better than people 😉 Alas, I’m now in a class with someone that’s the same level or a bit better, so the ego stroking was short lived.

Bins – SUCCESS! Well partial success. Close monitoring of the bin situation has resulted in discovery of organic waste collections Wednesday, and regular waste on Thursday. And I’m pleased to report that they take bags of stuff that aren’t in the designated bags (which I don’t have and don’t know where to acquire). No success yet on cardboard and paper but I have high hopes for this week. EXCITING.

What’s a bit odd: This week’s feature – there are no prices on houses and flats in the papers or in the estate agents – you might get the occasional one with a price, but that’s it. I can see why they do it – they want  to entice you in so they can assess how much you’re willing to pay, get your details etc and there can be some negotiation. But it’s annoying – I’m happy to negotiate a price, but I don’t want to waste my time asking if the desired price is way out of my range so I just haven’t been following up. I’ll have to get over that at some point I think…

Right, that’s about it – this week there’s a few visits with the school planned and the weather should finally get consistently better from next weekend so hoping to do a few more beach trips.

Hope you’re all well.

x

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Monte Conero, Sirolo and an impending visit to the police station…

Ciao!

I have been planning! Planning is my forte 🙂 But er, not here! My plan was as follows: Stay in the apartment for two months (I’m in my second week), buy a car in a week or two’s time, use said car to find a flat/house to rent and then once I’ve got a car and a house, start looking more earnestly for a (bit of a) job.

However, you apparently need to be here for 3 months before you can buy a car (?!?!), and you seem to have to have a lot of documents first e.g. proof that you’re a resident, for which I’ll need an address. But I need a car to find myself a permanent address so that’s a bit annoying. And the websites I’ve been looking at which give info on how to get a car in Italy all provide differing advice – but according to them all, the main thing I seem to need is a carta di soggiorno. So, I went to school this morning and was regaling this to Marco and his wife who’ve never heard of this carta di soggiorno and looked at several different websites and decided I needed something else entirely.

So, I’m officially confused! I think tomorrow we might be going to the police station to tell them I’m living in the area. In the UK, I think you only have to tell the police you’re living in the area when you’re a registered paedophile! (I’m not). Anyway, I’ve not got my head around quite how to do this getting a house and a car malarkey and in what order would be best. There’s a fab website – similar to Gumtree, www.subito.it for people wanting to rent/buy houses and apartments. It’s got cars etc. on too. Houses/apartments look pretty cheap – definitely in comparison to London and more than within what I’ve been budgeting for so I’m pleased about that but without being able to look around the areas, it’s impossible to see really whether it is a good deal or not. You really have to have a car here to get places. Marco has suggested I rent a car for a while but that seems like spending money unnecessarily. So we’ll see.  Suffice to say, planning is difficult.

I’m hoping to see the girl I met in Senigallia at the weekend, tomorrow. She has a car so perhaps she’ll be able to help with some advice on that. It seems ages since I’ve actually been OUT for a drink! It’s a bit tempting to stay in for a drink here – the wine is 80 cent a litre… 80 CENT. I feel like I should be drinking it out of a paper bag on a street corner.

Today, we had a class trip (the class still being myself and Jeno) to Monte Conero and Sirolo. First up was Monte Conero – there’s a nice drive up to where you start the walk. Took a couple of nice pictures. Lots of swallows darting around the fields – very nice.

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Pretty pic! The little town up there is Sirolo.

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Er, another pretty pic (I’ll work on my captions for next time)

We walked to a viewpoint looking out over the Due Sorelle (two rocks out in the sea) and Sirolo. It was a lovely walk with absolutely fabulous views – really very impressive and only slightly marred by what I think might be a broken toe after walking into my bed last night. Pfft. Who needs little toes anyway…

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Le due sorelle (those two rocks you can see just after the nice looking bay)

After the walk, we headed into Sirolo for a drink. Sirolo’s very pretty but another one of these places where it’s dead outside of the three summer months (June, July and August) so it’s probably not somewhere I should consider living (everywhere I go at the moment I’m thinking about “could I live there”!) but there’s some lovely views again and the paese itself is very well maintained.

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Sirolo

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Sirolo

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View from Sirolo out to Monte Conero (Le Due Sorelle are out behind that mountain bit)

There’s some pretty little white flowers down the road – they smell nice. I nicked a bit for my apartment and it’s made the entire place smell lovely and less drain-like. Not sure what they are. Anyone know?

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Nice smelling white flowers

We should be going for a walk in the mountains this weekend – although I don’t have the shoes/toes for it so we’ll see. Marco showed me a nice place to go for a “jog” / walk just down the hill from Camerano so might check that out too if there’s time.

Right, off to watch CSI. My Italian is becoming someone forensic science-ly skewed. I have difficult conversing about what I’m doing in the future but let me tell you, I can tell you exactly the Italian for the tests that should be conducted in the event someone has been killed in a suspicious manner.

x

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