Saturday, August 23, 2008
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Next song by this Irish-Italian folk group Modena City Ramblers for the anti mafia movie we saw "i cento passi" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUpcxdg2Iqs The hundred steps refers to how far the mafia was from this family's door.
And finally, a popular song L'Italiano with the common refrain, Sono l'italiano vero-I'm the true Italian that I heard in several places including the movie about Albanians wanting to immigrate to Italy were singing it.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZvA1utmKVxM
I wish I could figure out the band I listened to the second to the last night. They were really good. I will ask the kids and see if they are on youtube too. The band the last night played tired renditions of 'Knights in white satin".
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
I slept for 2 hours getting up at 1:30 am to leave. Some of the Italian girls helped me get my obese suitcase down the 42 slippery marble stairs. I went for one last trip to the bar to get a cappuccino at 2 am. Guiseppe gave it to me for free along with a hug. Lots of tears between the American and Italian students. Nancy and Joann had a big fight coming down the stairs. One bumped into the other starting a volley of Fuck yous. Nancy told Joanne that she may be smarter than the rest of us but she has never learned what is important in life and that was how to get along with people. I got all this later from Nancy as we were stretching our legs on the plane-her trying not to die from phlebitis-the sitting was making her dangerously swell. I usually got along with Joann though I was taken back that she didn't want to do a group project with me as she thought her efforts would be superior. As we packed, she gave me "Eat, Pray, Love" about this woman's travels in a year to Italy, India and Indonesia. I just finished the Italian part and found it fascinating. By 2:15, we were on our way singing silly songs through the mountains. By the time we got to the Autostrada, we were asleep. I didn't wake until we were at the terminal at Fiucimino at 5 am. We had to wait in a line from hell to get checked in having just a little time to grab breakfast before flying to Paris. I slept on that flight until I was rudely awaken by severe turbulence near Paris making all of us very nervous. We landed after we were supposed to be boarding the plane to Detroit which inconveniently was in a different terminal about a mile away. They at least provided us an escort so we wouldn't get lost but he triple timed it forcing some of us to run to keep up with him. Nancy kept begging to stop to go the bathroom but they were holding the plane as it was for us. Again I sat with Kelly. After an hour or so they served us dinner which would be about 5:30 am Detroit time. The food was much better this time probably because it came from a French concession rather than an American one as it did on the way there. I was able to sleep some of the time and watch a few movies. The Devil wears Prada and Jumper. The latter was stupid but parts of it was filmed in Ann Arbor at Gallup Park and Huron High. It also had alot of Roman scenes including standing in line at the airport in the exact spot we did so that was fun. We got in early and smoothly. A few more lines to stand in and we were cleared. Steve was waiting on the other side.
Monday, August 11, 2008
There was a bike race yesterday going through town- basically 7 laps to make 102 K. Up to Gagliano, up further to Secarino and down, down to Castelvecchio. Each biker had 3 support vehicles. Very tough course.I spent more time trying to talk to the locals. I have a long way to go to be fluent although I'm doing better at understanding. It was fairly cool yesterday even in the sun making it pleasant to walk or even sit around. After dinner I went to the Bar with Nancy and Dana. There was this really scary guy there, even worse than Marco, who kept pawing Dana trying to drag her away to have sex. She had drunk too much to see what danger she was in so I felt I had to keep a close eye on her. She is too friendly and very attractive and these guys here constantly misinterpet her outgoingness. They are persistant beyond belief.
We managed to sneak out eluding the asshole and went to the local Sangra, which from what I can tell is a food based Festa featuring the town speciality which sadly, here is liver dumplings and arrosticini, barbequed mutton kebabs. The band was pretty good so either I was going to listen to it sitting on the plaza or lying in my bed as it was just outside the convent. Another band is coming tonight and will probably play until we leave at 2 am. But the funny part is they let Dominic, the lame engineer who had previously tricked me into coming into his house, sing. He sang some Italian love song, he was really good but I'm still staying away from him. As for him being an engineer, he must be an unemployed one as he spends his days wandering around town. In the parade for St. Martino yesterday, he got to carry Jesus so they must think something of him though the Saint was the main thing to carry.
The kids were obnoxious again and not one showed up for breakfast but no more nights here.
See you all soon.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
I did get up early to do my big run to Secinaro which is about 700 ft higher than Gagliano and goes through parkland but I saw no animals. I did walk around their town some. Their town square is on a bluff overlooking the whole valley below. When I resumed running after breaking my arm, even that little hill on Bluett was hard for me to get up so you can imagine what a problem an actual mountain is for me with thin air to boot. I am walking less and running more. According to their signs, the distance between our two cities is 4 km so around trip is 8 km or 5 miles exactly. Of that, I walked about a mile so I am getting stronger. It is quite cool in the morning and dry so I am comfortable.
Yesterday was a slow day. In the evening we were bussed to Castelvecchio to look at their church dedicated to St. Francesco (of Assisi but he spent plenty of time here and there is quite the cult surrounding him) Very pretty church,way bigger than any in Gagliano. It was a gothic church but later was decorated in the baroque style. All the baroque touches seem to distinguish the churches here with those in France or Spain which keep everything Gothic. The highlight was a vial of St. Franceso's blood from his stigmata. Of course he lived in the 13th century.....
They also had this very elaborate creche display complete with a moving, crying baby Jesus. Too dark to photograph.
But the dinner they provided for us was nice. They put us on this high terrace overlooking the valley (the same valley one would see from Secinaro but from the southeast,you could see Secinaro way up there) If the sunflowers were still in bloom, it would be perfect. I wish I brought a camera with a wide angle lens or a telephoto lens. I can get great shots of the narrow alley ways but I can't get things out in the distance. They gave us pasta made from farro-barley flour with truffles on it and a bunch of different roasted meats that I was too afraid to inquire closely about. Then it started to pour. It rarely rains here but eating in the rain wasn't too appealing so we went back to Gagliano where they are having their Sangra.
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Apparently M. Escher, one of my favorite artists, came down to Abruzzo often to draw its hilltowns. They must have given him the idea for his impossible staircases. Anyway, the above sketch is of Goriano, last night's town, which is about 10 miles away where the town gave us a tour and dinner. We did climb to the top to the church pictured. The town lacks a castle; the church was built over the ruins of one. We had missed the town's Sangra featuring Neapolitan pizza and thought they would serve us that but no, just pasta and proscuitto and lots of wine. They provided a DJ for dancing until midnight. This one was quiet but he featured lots of salsa. The locals there joined with the kids instead of staring at us from the side like they did in Vittorito. The town has a very impressive fountain featuring dolfins.
Friday, August 8, 2008
Yesterday was very busy as I was trying to do my final paper for the cinema class and study for my two finals today plus there were many activities we had to attend. We went to the Italians' presentations on American slang. They had been interviewing us for the past 2 weeks. Their English is way better than our Italian. They are here to prepare for the TOEFL test to get into American universities. They spent alot of time preparing their presentations and they were hilarious. I wish I could have taped them. Then we had to go to a presentation on the Mafia by Piero, the advanced Italian teacher. Frankly it was not too interesting as he kept giving various dictionaries definitions of the word then listed all the Italians that have been killed by them, none of whom I've ever heard about. He grew up in Naples and always was careful who he talked to because if you piss the wrong person off....What was more interesting that some of the Canadian- and American-Italians have families with mafia ties (and admitted it!!!) I guess I shouldn't piss them off.
At night I hid rather than go to talk by the Franciscan Friar about silence. A concept he still hasn't mastered. I was very busy and I'm not Catholic. I was running around looking for paper to print my final paper on. I had to raid the waste baskets, which got me mad, for paper that had at least one side clean. I would have brought paper if I knew what a precious commodity it is here. I have trouble editing papers looking on the screen due to my eyesight. I wish I could have printed my paper first to edit it but NO PAPER. Later up at the castle, we had our graduation ceremony full of speeches. It was cool on top of the mountain. They had an orchestra there that was very good that featured an accordian player although they played too long when I wanted to get back to study and to sleep. I didn't get to bed until one.
I didn't run this morning due to the tests. The Italian test was too easy and the cinema one comes later. I have some time to review.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Our presentation went well. Jack, of course is a natural. I was James Lipton from the Actor's Studio interviewing him as The Man with No Name. James Lipton is very easy to imitate with his pompous over-enunciations but most of the kids never heard of him. Fortunately Elena, our teacher had. I got good reviews from the audience.
At midnight I need to go to bed, but of course life continues on for several hours after that. Dana almost had us all killed. She's very attractive and outgoing and interacts with all the locals but this time it got her in big trouble. There is this handsome man, Marco, who continually is trying to get her to come home with him and have sex. She tells him about her boyfriend to no avail. Last night he got very angry for her saying no for the umpteenth time and said he was going home to get his gun and kill all the Americans. At least that's how one of the Americans translated his ravings. He seemed very serious though he was also very drunk. I guess the Italians calmed him down but he was ranting loudly about killing us all for leading him on.
I ran down to Castelvecchio this morning. I could see the boar pack off in the distance running in a field knowing that they had to cross the road to get to higher ground where they spend the day. I was paranoid at their usual crossing point, heavily wooded, that suddenly they would emerge out of the woods into me and tried to keep my ears open for heavy breathing other than my own. I saw the fox twice, once he tried to cross the road as I was running down it and he backed off and later he (or she) was running across the field that I saw it before. It is much hotter today so we took our cappuccino break inside. The locals are being nicer to me despite my lack of being Italian. They can tell not only that you are Italian but from what region your parents came from. They are guessing that I am German or Scandinavian. I am such a mixture, it is hard to tell though I am not in the least Scandinavian. The Danes here really keep to themselves-very easy to spot them.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
Since we had an activity at night, we saw our movie during the afternoon after class eliminating that free period. Lamerica (Amelio, 1994) about post-Communist Albania and what a hellhole it was. The only hope the people had was to escape to Italy, the promised land, which they learned about through Italian TV. As the crow flies, Albania is quite close to Bari, Puglia. The communists had forbidden Italian TV or language or song but once that fell in the early 90s, they did get the TV but nothing else. From TV shows, crude imitations of American ones, Italy looks like a fabulous place. Lots of people tried to escape and of course, Italy doesn't need any more immigrants. Their story was similar to the poverty Italians, especially southern ones (like here!)suffered pre and post-war causing lots of them to immigrate to you know where. But in the 60s, Italy had its economic miracle, mainly in the North spreadly slowly to the south and they are doing quite well now. But the movie was extremely touching and thought provoking. It also brings home the message never to go to Albania. Alot of Albanians made their way to Detroit. Frankly they get negative press with their honor killings. At Wayne, alot of them take Italian classes.
Monday, August 4, 2008
On my run this morning I saw a roe deer. They are very tiny about the size of a one month old whitetail fawn. A roebuck tops out at 60 lbs compared to the Michigan white tail stag that usually weighs 300 pounds. I didn't seem to scare it-it just stared at me. On the cross country portion of my run, which I mostly walk due to steepness and uneven ground, a fox darted by.
My rash is a little better but now it is purple. Only us old farts got it but I have the worse case by far. Fortunately it doesn't itch. It looks quite hideous..
I spent 4 hours yesterday doing my 'group' project-a group of one but Jack will do whatever I tell him. I thought I should do this first but now I hear the final paper is due Wednesday-not next Monday and many of the nights are full of mandatory activities. Elena said I could have until Friday now. Joanne, my one roommate, has been quite ill. I really hope I don't catch whatever she has. My Italian class should be renamed 'remedial' Italian. I really think my French class in 8th grade was taught at a faster pace and I remember a good portion of it. I have just been studying on my own.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
These hideous red splotches on my leg feel hot. Most of us 'older' people got them yesterday-mine being the worse. But they didn't repel Dominick. I'm much bigger than him and he limps so I didn't think I was in real danger but I won't fall for a trick like that again.
Inside the Pantheon. Lots of marble
An interesting building
One of the many statues
6 am Saturday we were off to Roma passing the one sounder of cinghiale I had seen before and again having breakfast at the Autogrill. Too many meals at Autogrill. If it weren't for the long twisty road to the Autostrada in which our bus needs to almost stop at every switchback, Roma is actually quite close-slightly more than an hour on the freeway. I was surprised how little auto traffic there was around it. Ten million people live there . It is now the 2nd most visited city in the world -NYC being first- just bypassing Paris. But it is a fantastic city with ruins around each corner, mixed in with renaissance buildings and more updated buildings. Unlike Florence, the sights are spread out all over and virtually impossible to see in a day. We had to make a choice: Vatican City or the rest of Rome. I chose Rome. We had picked up a guide from Ohio who calls himself an 'edutainer' a term which really confused the Italian kids. He chose to pretend to have a Brooklyn accent and works as an actor in his spare time, name dropping alot. On the whole, he was knowledgable and entertaining. He liked to do impressions and act out Julius Caesar's last moments before he was betrayed. I still haven't forgiven him for our shitty lunch which I suspected he profitted from. He kept saying how fantastic the Caprese salad was but it was 12 euros, no basil and made with anemic, unripe tomatos plus the restaurant added all sorts of service charges for stale bread. Initially our bus went from site to site which was frustrating because we couldn't take pictures but finally we were let and out and walked for 7 long very hot hours from place to place. I couldn't even keep track of all the places. Rome still gets its water via the aqueducts from the surrounding mountains-does not need any chlorine and is cold and pure coming out of many fountains around town. The water isn't treated here in Gagliano arising from a spring. I filled my bottle up numerous times, soaked my hair and clothes, and never had to pee as the sun was so hot and dry. We did stop for lunch at the guide's suggestion in this awlful place that really overcharged us though it was nice to sit down for while. We saw the forum, the Spanish steps, the Trevi fountain, the Collosuem, St. Peters in Chains, which contained Moses by Michelangelo. Another beautiful church St. Maria's(unsure of that name) sobra Minerva (they had built it over Minerva's temple)was full of Bernini statues and breathtakingly beautiful. The most impressive site was the Pantheon, which despite being 2000 years old, is perfectly preserved. It has a huge dome that even Renaissance architects 1500 years later had trouble duplicating. Lots of inlaid marble in the floors and walls. The old forum where Julius C was killed is now a cat sanctuary filled with 500 cats. I could only see a few but it certainly smelled like they all could be there. They were probably hiding from the brutal sun. Cats are special as they are considered the reason that Rome was spared from the Plague. A third of Italians died and even a higher percentage in the rest of Europe. But the kitties kept the rats down. Some Romans thought they were just being blessed from God as the Pope lived there too. We heard plenty of pope stories-not very nice guys and very political. It was thought best to have them be officially celibate so they would have no official heirs and someone from a competing family would have a chance at it keeping peace between the 5 big families. We made two gelato stops. Gelato was twice the price as it is here in the boondocks but it was very good. Much more variey of flavors. Red grapefruit, limoncello and this very intense blackberry were some of my favorites. They let you have tre gusti (3 flavors) a time. After hours of being in the hot sun, though we went through shady alleys as much as possible, we were beat. People kept dropping out of the tour as the day wore on but despite my blisters, Dana and I kept on to the bitter end. I now have this ugly bright red rash on my calves. I thought it was an allergic reaction to my shoes but others have it also. On the way back, outside of Celano, we went to a real restaurant instead of the Autogrill. It was a seafood restaurant specializing in Neapolitan cuisine including pizzas. Pizzas here in Abruzzi are very disappointing and I threw mine away that they put in my sack lunch. Basically stale bread with a little tomato sauce. These pizzas were 'real' as they were in the Napoli style but I had had one for lunch so I tried some shrimp and porcini mushroom pasta. Good. It took forever to translate the menu. Some things I could literally translate like 'truffles from the sea' or 'bird beans' but we were lost. Had alot of venison too. No chicken or pork. Nancy likes seafood but not calamari as it is too rubbery for her. Calamari is the only seafood we get in Gagliano. I like it but sneak the tentacle parts out to my pal Dave. I had some pasta dish with shrimp and mushrooms. Nancy went over and over with the waitress to ensure her 'mixed grill seafood' had no calamari but was quite shocked when her plate included this big white ball complete with eyes and tentacles. Looked like a deflated bladder. I wish I had filmed her face as she tentatively poked it and it bounced back. After some confusion, it was determined to be cuttlefish which is related to octopus-also on the menu as Polpo which I remember from Spanish ( as seafood names to avoid). I told her I used to buy cuttlefish bones for my parakeets but she wouldn't try it. We bought expensive Montipulciano d'Abruzzo as recommended by the Italians and it was very tasty. This wine really varies in color, taste, and price. The version at the monastery is pink and not that good. I or someone else buys a better dark red one at the bakery for €1.3. I have a €2 bottle stored away that I hope is even better. I was totally sore and exhausted when we returned. I didn't even change and just lay down on my bed over the covers. I did get up early to run, which due to soreness, I had second thoughts about but I ran down to Castelvecchio anyways. No animal sightings except for the numerous stray dogs that fortunately leave me alone. Dave has stopped herding me as I now feed him but continues to herd others even nipping them or grabbing their wrists if they leave his flock. I am devoting today to school work-mainly film. It seems a massive chore before me. I did my laundry before the kids got up as there is alot of competition for the 3 tiny machines. No dryers but we have racks in back courtyard that work well. To announce mass, the bells go off for 10 minutes straight and there are several masses and churches. Some with louder bells than than the time bells. The kids must have fun trying to sleep through them. Have to concentrate.