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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.

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 →

Crostate Exam

October 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

So I have the gang over for dinner one night because my parents are in town and want to meet the people they’ve been hearing so much about. My parents We make a lot of nice things to eat. A fonduta of young Pecorino, hazelnuts, thyme, and honey. Guacamole and frijoles negros. Eggplant parmigiana. Arroz a la Valenciana. I also do a banana bread because it’s my mission to educate my deprived Italian friends on the wonders of American baked goods. Piercarlo simply can’t imagine bread made of bananas, and neither can the rest so it’s what those ignorant mofos are getting for dessert. But then, as the dinner hour grows near, I soften up and decide to pick up a crostata on the way home from the office. Because I’m having a memory issue these days, I scribble the word on the back of my hand. Laugh all you want, but it’s the only thing that’s keeping me fed and clothed. Notepads and phone alarms are useless in the face of this recent memory lapse. When I write things I need to remember on my hand, the word winks up at me as I type, and gets further lodged into my brain when others ask: What’s that on your hand? And it works; after an afternoon of typing and listening to Old Man Antonio rant, I remember to drop by the bakery.

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