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Eau du Thief

July 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

Don’t quote me on this because I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, but there was this study somewhere, at some time, done by some psychologists. Basically, these psychologists set up two rooms – Candy Shop A, and Candy Shop B. Both Candy Shop A and Candy Shop B were virtually identical; both were loaded with lots of tasty-looking sweets, and neither had a clerk at the till. There was one difference between the two candy shops, however; Candy Shop B had a large mirror behind the empty till, and on the mirror there were two large, angry eyes.

The subjects were let loose, allowed to roam freely between Candy Shop A and Candy Shop B. Kids in a candy store! And the psychologists were able to confirm their hypothesis: subjects happily pocketed candy in Candy Shop A, but kept their hands to themselves in Candy Shop B. While they were technically free to steal candy in both shops, the mere suggestion of a disapproving conscience was enough to reign in any impulses to commit the crime of theft.

This is a little bit what living in Italy is like.

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Eat Me

July 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

After six years of teaching English to Italians – themselves, byproducts of their culture; themselves, an intriguing blend of impatience and laziness – I have come to the succinct understanding that only 2% of their grammar questions are serious.

  • What’s the different to the past simple and the present perfect?
  • It is the same I use will and going to?
  • Why I must to use get?
  • I no understand the different to could, would, and should.

Apart from the fact that it’s all there, clear as crystal, in their books (really, the rule is there in front of you. What’s so hard to understand?). So, diagrams upon diagrams and metaphors upon metaphors to break it all down, dancing on my head, pulling rabbits out of my ass: PRAISE JESUS I HAVE SHOWN YOU THE LIGHT. Thinking, at the end, covered in sweat: My god, I am brilliant. My god, I wish I’d had a teacher like me.

And yet, the next day, no matter what I do, no matter how many rabbits I pull out of my ass, it’s the same exact mistakes, the same exact questions, from the same exact students. I no understand

Thus, after many years and many feverish impulses to fling myself off a balcony, it finally dawns on me that they’re just jerking my chain; they couldn’t give two craps about understanding English grammar or using it properly. Could, would, should, get, and the G-D present perfect are only red herrings for the real question, which is:

Why is English different than Italian? Why can’t I just use English exactly the same way I use Italian? Why can’t I just throw any verbs in any order I feel like, without any effort, and have it be perfect so I can write on my CV: “English skills, Excellent”?

Yeah. Pull the other one. I’m on to you, you lazy motherfuckers.

The Living. The Dead. The Return.

July 31, 2017 in Uncategorized

It took them six years to find me but by golly, they sure did find me. “Can the Dead REALLY come back to life?” asks this flier, dropped lovingly into my mailbox by the Italian Christian Right. Or, rather, I assume it was from the Italian Christian Right, as I didn’t actually read the thing. Because I already know the answer; the metaphorical answer, and that answer is, YES. THE (METAPHORICAL) DEAD CAN RISE.

The ex who keeps popping up again, like a fresh case of herpes.

Equitalia – just when you think you’ve settled all your tax disputes, here they come again.

And me. Humble pigeon eater, erstwhile blogger. Less nouveau expat stars in her eyes, more into food, language, and photography. More crotchety than ever after six years living in Italy!

Stick around. Be the herpes of this story.

Why I Did Not Celebrate Halloween (and Will Not Celebrate Thanksgiving)

November 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

The zucche are back in season – round squash with bright melon-like flesh and ivory-colored bulletproof rinds. I see heaps of them in a plastic milk crate at the market and think about it for a heartbeat, but then remember the toughness of that rind, my desperate awkwardness with knives and, above all, the fact that whether I carve a squash or not, no one will give a crap except for myself.

I see the ads on Facebook. This nightspot or that nightspot promotes a “Halloween” party that will – as I know by now – be, at most, half-full with people dressed as zombies or black cats, who haven’t the slightest idea what the holiday is about, and if the rains are too heavy, if Paolo suggests seeing a movie instead, if mamma makes a really heavy dinner, those people will bail on that ‘Allo-win party because in the end, the day means nothing, it’s just something stolen from American TV, just another excuse to drink, and no one will give a crap about it except for myself.

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August 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

I wrote this.

If you feel like reading it, you can.

Capture the Color

August 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

So there’s this color virus spreading around the travel blogosphere, and apparently I’ve been infected by none other than Madame Ivory Pomegranate herself (thank you, Kristin. It is always a pleasure swapping pixels with you). Carefully selected travel bloggers are invited to post five photos that celebrate the colors red, blue, white, green, and yellow. It’s a contest you see. Run by the good folks at Travel Supermarket.

I live in a small beach town called Terracina on the West Coast of Italy. Loadsa color here, which I’m happy to bring to you. Except I keep thinking of the old ad copy, “Skittles: Taste the Rainbow” which, in turn, makes me hungry for preservatives and artificial coloring. My feet may be in Italy, but my taste buds are in America.

Without further ado, my five colorful photos.

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The Sound of Silence

August 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Eva, they say, you’re quiet tonight.

They get nervous when I’m quiet – these friends of mine – and they’re not wrong to be. I like to talk, and I can do it in twoalmostfour languages. It’s rare that I stop – What’s that? What’s that word mean? Conjugate this verb in dialect for me. Can I eat this? Can I eat yours, too? – and when I do, 60% of the time it’s because I’m upset. 30% of the time, because I’m writing in my head. 3% of the time because I’m feeling shy/awkward/don’t know what to say. 2% of the time because I’m ignorant of the topic and would rather not talk out of my ass.

But the last 5% of the time? Because I’m spellbound. Because there’s something coming out of someone’s mouth that leaves me speechless, and hungry to know more.

Like when my friends – in their 30s like me – talk about the good old days. The good old days of being children in an ancient city.

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July 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

In case anyone has been curious about the state of my novel – that thing which I came to Terracina nearly two years ago to write – I am pleased as punch to tell you that it is going very well. Very well indeed! I finished the rough draft a couple of months ago (huzzah!) and am now looking for agents (the opposite of huzzah!). Between teaching and travel writing, I’m deep into the revisions of said book; my routine at the bar still sacrosanct. For all intents and purposes, Caffè Girasole might as well be my second home, so deep is the imprint of my ass on the chair at “my” table. The staff tells my visiting parents that I’m “family” and routinely slip a gummy candy into my hand along with my receipt. My friends know that the bar is where they can find me, and they pop in regularly, unannounced, and when I’m not looking, pay for my Lemon Schweppes. My friend Andrea – prisoner in arms of the 7:30 A.M. commute to Rome – tells me, People see us together and they say, “We’ve seen that girl at the bar.” You have a reputation. Everyone knows you as that foreigner who writes at Caffè Girasole.

I can think of worse reputations.

And even as the summer heat wears on and I find myself stymied by revisions, even as I find myself fighting waves of icy fear – I’ll never find an agent. Nobody will like the book. This metaphor I thought I liked is derivative crap! – I can’t help but be proud of myself. Even if it’s true that nobody will like it, even if it’s true that I have only months of rejection ahead of me, I’ve still written a book. I made a commitment and saw it through. I created something. I kept a promise to my six year-old self.

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Things I Will Never Get Used to About Living in Italy. A Love Rant.

July 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

School is out, the rains have gone, and once again, the beach umbrellas are up along the curving beach. It’s officially my third summer on the Italian seashore. Lather up the sunscreen. Rinse off the sand. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

I’m a pro at this Culonese beach life by now. The tourists are back, just as I knew they’d be. They are clogging up my parking spots and making noise at night once again. I’m not white like mozzarella anymore, but toasty beige like scamorza, yet the villagers continue to ask me: Aren’t you going to the beach? I no longer get annoyed; by now, I know it’s just Culonese small talk.

We have, once again, the weekend dithering:  Which city? Which outdoor concert? Which English-themed pub? Which summery dress?  and the boys are back to their Uh oh, here she comes – the foreigner with her foreigner hat! Seriously, you can just tell she’s a foreigner when she wears that hat. Could you BE any more American right now? Followed swiftly by – wait for it – Come on, let me try your hat on.

You all know you love it.

There’s a rhythm in this town and you’d think that after nearly almost 2 years here, I’d be integrated. You wouldn’t be wrong. There are lots of things I’ve gotten used to living away from the United States; living in Southern Italy. Celsius is slowly beginning to make sense – heck, I even voluntarily switched my Google weather reading from Fahrenheit the other day. I’m used to the bacetto. I’m used to the hand gestures (love it). Used to people crossing the street any time they damn well please, and I’m used to the fact that the police are useless and I’m not to count on them for anything. Ever.

I now have a guy for everything – my frizzed out hair, my worn down heels, my pergola fillets, my spicy local sausage, my rattly alternator, my leaky washing machine, my spotty polyester dresses.

I now can direct tourists on where to go (Temple of Minerva), what to see (the ancient quarter), and what to eat (bombe, boar sausage, muscatel grapes).

I now plan my meals based on what foodstuffs I am gifted on any particular week: eggs from Piero’s neighbor, a foil-wrapped wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano from Old Man Angelo, lemons or avocados from Flora’s garden, a surprise kilo of mussels from Maria.

I no longer have a problem with the “pausa di pranzo” – those 3 or 4 hours that Italians take for lunch. Plan around it, that’s all. Enjoy.

I now often think and dream in Italian.

I’m accustomed to the fact that if I turn on the radio, there is a 90% chance that I will encounter a Police song.

I’ve made peace with the existence of Fabri Fibra.

I agree that Terracina should be named a UNESCO heritage site and will be indeed signing that petition!

But even with all this assimilation goin’ on, there are some things I still cannot, simply cannot, get used to about life in Southern Italy. Namely: Read the rest of this entry →

Food Slut

April 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

It’s April 5th and we’re in Hungary: in Budapest, at an Easter Market, staring down wooden kiosks laden with painted Easter Eggs, bottles of elderflower syrup and strawberry wine; giant cast iron skillets heaped with fat red sausages, rainbow-colored root vegetables, and spicy potatoes.

One kiosk attendant stirs a black cauldron full of porky, savory gulyás. Another rolls out floury potato dough to shape into dödölle.

There are glass tanks of fresh lemonade, teeming with thin slices of lemon, limes, and oranges. Side dish stations overflowing with tangy sauerkraut, plump beans, and sour cream. Grills sizzling with juicy sides of pork. Artisan Hungarian beers. Pots of pork-and-rice-stuffed cabbage. Chicken on the bone!

It is in this wonderland of traditional Hungarian deliciousness that I opt to try the rooster testicle stew.

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