Saturday, July 12, 2008

First day in Italia

So far, during the first 24 hours of my adventure, it has been quite the experience. Everyone is so excited to be here. We've divided into two camps-the mature and the young students. I'm sharing a room with 3 ladies-Joann who looks my age but said she worked at Parke-Davis in 1958 so that gives a hint to her age though she was a high school co-op then. She, as almost everyone here, is of Italian ancestry. We have a friend in common- Carol Hann-small world phenomenen again. She has travelled extensively and is very educated. Then there is Nancy-a great-grandma of 4 who is in her 60s but looks younger. She is mourning a recent death of her husband and is hoping long walks in the mountains will renew her spirits, which have been sagging. Also searching her Italian roots along with Joann. The baby of the room is Dana in her 40s, who is here with her biker brother whose family came from the next town over.

Our room is quite Spartan. We each get a closet and a bedstand. I am glad I packed a reading light even though its adaptor is very heavy otherwise reading would have been dificult. Our first complaint was the one roll of toilet paper for 12 women, which has been since rectified though I stole some from the men's floor. I've been hanging around mainly with my two buddies Jack and Drew. Jack is a former restauranteur from Keego Harbor and interested in cooking and correcting grammar mistakes in the newspapers. I actually remember reading a review of his restaurant thinking this would be a good place to go-never did though. He is full of opinions and very sarcastic so we hit it off. Not Italian though-very Irish. Drew is a retired real estate agent from Seal Beach , California and is a painter and photographer. After my "run" this morning, we went for a walk with him photographing everything in sight. It is very pretty here. I will figure out how to attach pictures at some point. We are staying in a 13th century convent Santa Chiara. Some of the door ways I have to duck through so I won't hit my head.

The plane ride was quite an ordeal. I sat with Kelly-a very sweet, enthusiastic psychology student from Lathrup Village and across from Jack. On our little screen, along with the movies and games, they had a camera that was mounted in the cockpit so we could see what the pilots saw. Interesting at take-off. I thought the airline food would be better on a French plane but no. Lots of good booze though. Champagne, a good merlot and for an apertif- Poire William-a pear liquor. Unfortunately yesterday I suffered really bad heartburn going through a good portion of my Rolaids. Today I feel better so that's a relief. We flew to Paris and half of us immediately had to transfer to a plane to Rome. It was quite hectic trying to figure out where we were to be. They are doing major construction at the airport so we were left out in a field. They did give us a bus but we had no idea when to get off. Jack and I got off at the first spot with all the kids blindly following us figuring since we were old, we knew what we were doing. Wrong. The plane, when we finally found it, was very late, which was good as we would have missed it with all our wrong turns. I finally slept on the plane to Rome but got up while it travelled along the Mediterrean. Very beautiful. We were supposed to wait in baggage for the 2nd group but we were so hungry and thirsty. We finally left the area, which we couldn't get back into. It was hectic finally getting the group together. We had a bus for the 3 hour trip to Gagliano-our village of 300. We took the autostrada-a super highway most of the way-an engineering marvel with all its bridges and tunnels. Some of the mountains still have snow on it but the last 25 miles to our mountaintop home were up this twisty narrow road with our big bus. I was so tired with only one hour of sleep. I wanted to stay awake for the views but did sleep for another hour. We will be on that road again several times.

We eat meals together on two long tables. For dinner, the food was quite good-pasta and chicken. We had some kind of rose for our wine. Breakfast was very spartan with good caffe but not much else. We will share our convent with students from L'Aquila who are learning English. They come later today and we are supposed to interact with them to learn each other's language. Today we are supposed to have this elaborate openning ceremony that the whole town shows up to. The townspeople are very interested in us and have been hanging around. They are nice giving us the few chairs outside the Bar, where they sit outside at night and try to help us. We get a free day on Sunday. The head professor Rafaele has been driving us around in small groups for some to get money and phones from the neighboring towns. Classes begin Monday but we get impromptu lessons at every turn. I am supposed to take some independent study class, which I think will be in Abruzzi cuisine once I learn enough Italian to deal with the cooks here at the convent, the local restaurant and the bakery. It gets very hot here during the day but it was quite comfortble walking around at night. I did panic last night as I couldn't find the magic door to get back into the convent. All in all, I think I will have quite the experience here. I am glad I studied Italian before getting here as I actually can understand a little. I need to get better fast especially since the older adults are mainly Italians as are most of the kids. I am so hungry-I can't wait for lunch. Kelly will go with me for our search for the bakery.

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