Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quick Post: Alba Truffle Festival

Just a few pictures from the annual Alba Truffle Festival I attended. Alba is the birthplace of Nutella, TicTacs, and the super delicious truffles (also, the first truffles I've ever had). 



Friday, October 25, 2013

Another Fashion Night

Since Switzerland, I've been a little antisocial.

 At times I feel like my entire life is work; today I was at school for 15 hours, and though I will be doing something fun tomorrow I've also brought home a huge bag of work to finish up on Sunday. But earlier this week I was invited to one of the most "Milan" experiences that I could hope for!

Picture from Vabene's facebook- I don't own it!

One of the girls in my class has brought in these awesome, vibrant watches to show the class a few times. 

As it turns out, her mother is president of Vabene Watches. Every year they have a cocktail party to launch the new designs and I got to go! My life is so fancy now! Heehee :) Anyways, before the party I went into the city with Julia, the music teacher at my school. Everyone I've met at school has been so friendly, welcoming, and fun; it's such a great community! And, (personal victory!) I had a super tight dress hanging in my kitchen for months last year, both a taunt and an inspiration, waiting for me to lose that college weight and fit into it. I'm so happy I could finally (a year after buying!) wear it. Woohoo! After getting ready and having some wine and snacks we took a taxi over to Il Tempo Dell'Arte on Via Dante. Let me just say that I knew we were there before even walking in because there are two big, beautiful bodyguards that I see waiting for my little girl most days after school and both were guarding the building. I've never talked to either before but was feeling supa' fly in my little dress and so we said "Buonasera" to each other. It was very romantic.

Fancypants night out in my fancypants dress

I don't even have words to describe how the night went. 

After telling the women at the door whose guest list they could find us on (!!!), we went upstairs to find a few more coworkers and a few parents. There was great music playing, and amazing aperitivi and champagne being passed around. Watches were displayed like art on the walls on transparent neon backgrounds, shown by the year they were designed. More watches were worn by mannequins that were grouped in threes and wrapped in saran wrap (it sounds really weird but visually, it was interesting, unique, and fun!). Between the watch displays were paintings that were done by the WinArts group. It was all very modern, which usually isn't something that appeals to me, but in this case it was just so exciting and beautiful!

The city at night!
The woman who was throwing the party had asked me before, "Do you have any friends?" I'm working on finding humor in the language barrier and cultural differences that affect conversation with Italian people, but sometimes it takes me aback! I mentioned a few posts ago that I had to ban the "Are you in high school?" question in class, but had told all of the students that I'm 23 years old. As it turns out, the mom was only asking because their aupair is 24 and she wanted me to meet him! She's mentioned it a few times now, and the second I said "Hello" to one of the other mom's of a girl in my class (the mothers and the daughters are best friends), she grabbed my hand, gave me this intense, super excited look, and just goes, "Josh!" (that's the aupair's name) and sprints me across the room in her stilettos to meet him, weaving in and out of all the party-goers. Awkward. He ended up being pretty cool, but I didn't really get to talk with him at the party. I'll hopefully have time to talk about the school's awesome Halloween party another day, but we chatted that night and he'd for sure be a fun person to travel with, or even explore Milan with!

The woman throwing the party is, from what I've heard, one of the most... affluent... woman/families in the school... actually, in all of Italy. The crazy thing is though, while most parents pick up their children from school in their highest heels, completely made-up, and in their best designer clothes, I've never seen her in anything but jeans and a tee-shirt. Both her and her husband, who I've only ever seen in a sweatshirt, jeans, and Chuck Taylor's (I believe he and his father own a bank? Maybe? From what the daughter has mentions, it's what I've gathered?), are down to earth, sweet, and amazing. The two of them, though, all dressed up for their big event, were literally stunning. They were so ridiculously beautiful that it was actually hard to make words happen. The father was telling me about his wife starting this great company as a way to bring watch design from Germany to Italy, and I just kind of nodded and smiled a lot... 

All in all, it was one of those things that made me feel like I live in Italy. 

I'm making an effort to keep from reverting to my comfort zone (cozy in my apartment with some wine or tea, a book, and Jurassic Park) and to take advantage of where I am. I feel so lucky to be having experiences like this. I knew going to Milan would mean being in a fashion capital, but I love that I've had two nights out already that revolved around this amazing fashion world.

Julia and I at the end of the night

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Field Trip" to Switzerland

Most adorable little old couple that I saw walking around all week 

Saint Oyen- Mom and Dad, this is your future town!
When I was in elementary school, field trips were to the museum or planetarium. 

On one particularly exciting Girl Scout outing, we slept at the zoo. At my new school, 4th grade and up takes week long "Bonding Trips" all around Europe, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the trip to Torgon, Switzerland with 34 nine year olds.

Hiking boots and leggings
to work=awesome

For weeks leading up to the trip, the kids asked billions of questions. 

We'd set aside the "Activity" or "Share" time of Morning Meeting (usually, Morning Meeting includes Message, Greeting, Activity, and Share) to talk about what we were excited or worried about for the trip, and for me to answer as many questions as I could. Seeing as I'd never been on the trip either, I didn't always have a ton of answers! We left at 8:15am on Monday morning, waving goodbye to tearful parents. Most of the kids had never even been to a sleepover, so leaving the country for a week was a huge deal! We got pretty lucky on the bus ride- no pukers :) I cant even explain how beautiful the drive was- all mountain views and picturesque villages (Mom and Dad, I found your future town! Saint Oyen, Italy). 

View from the lodge was AMAZING!

Around lunch time, we pulled into Torgon.

There were six wonderful, amazing, fun, helpful counselors (all with awesome nature names!) that divided the kids into three groups. We tried to make the groups so there were an even number from each class, split up any kids that fought (or girls who brought out each others' mean sides!), and weren't sleeping in the same rooms. The actual camp itself was pretty nice. There was a building with a dining room, a little sitting area, and upstairs, a rock climbing wall. Then there was the lodge where we all slept. Dividing them into groups of 4 or 5, where each kid was with at least one person they chose (we had them list 5 people they'd like to be with), kids who fought weren't in the same room, and no one who wasn't a native Italian speaker was stuck alone in a room with all Italians was hard work, but eventually it worked out! The other teachers and I each had our own rooms. For the most part, the rooms were great! The only bad part was that the doors were really hard to open, so I walked into the rooms many times to tell the kids to quiet down only to find someone desperately trying to get the stuck bathroom door open. 

Starting the hike on Day 1.

Monday and Friday were mostly travel, but the teachers and I split up the days so we could be with each group for a day.

Tuesday I went on the hike. The other two days were split into two day time activities but hike day was all day. I'm not really sure what this means in miles (8 maybe?) but about 12km of hike was so much for such little kiddos! It really was incredible though. The mountains were gorgeous, and it was sweet to see how much the kids supported each other. 

One of my little photographers

My absolute favorite part was the solo hike. 

I went ahead and the counselor stayed back, sending kids off one by one in minute intervals so they could hike for about 15 minutes alone, listening to the sounds of nature. It was so peaceful! One of my little guys was so sweet; he finished first and as each kid came to the stopping point, he'd meet them to give a high five or a hug and say good job. They all supported each other and were so caring. One little guy was having a lot of trouble and was soooooo slow (my arm hurt so badly the next day from literally dragging/carrying him up the mountain), so they let him set the pace by making him the leader. When he'd stop they'd all start up with encouraging words and congratulating him on how well he was doing. 

Even the cows were cooler in Switzerland!
It was nice to divide up the days because then we'd get to see all of the different activities but also get to know the entire 4th grade and not just our own classes.

One of the best parts for the kids was all of the independence. They got to make their own sandwiches for lunch, and felt so grown up doing it! And while we would tell them they really needed to take showers and brush their teeth, it was mostly up to them (until they got too stinky) when they made the time to do it. They also learned to "Bust a 50" or "Bust a 100" in the woods... It's the little things  that make them happy heehee. 

So cute with their walking sticks. They spent all
week trying to find the perfect one!
I'd love to show all the kids mud facepaint, but I don't
think I'm allowed, so I'll just show mine!

The other two days were full of lots of different groups and activities. 

In "Living With Nature" they learned to make a shelter and build a fire, and in "Earth Works" they learned about ecosystems and played a bunch of fun games. That one they particularly loved, maybe in part because the leader was Italian and would explain things to them in their own language (the other counselors were Portuguese, Hungarian, South African, and two Americans). The next day we went to "Where Are We," where they learned to read and make maps and use a compass, and went rock climbing. 

To me, the most challenging part was being one of the three Mom's to all the kids. 

Fourth grade is at the older end of elementary school, but they still really are such babies! From nannying days, I remember putting one kid to bed is enough of a challenge, but 34? Ahhhh so crazy!!! At the same time, it was one of my favorite parts. It gave me such a different perspective on the children in my class, and helped me to bond with those who weren't. From my class, my strongest little girl was the one who cried the most over missing her parents, and the little boy I hadn't connected much with yet was the one who held my hand during the "Fluffy Clouds" portion of the night, and asked to borrow one of the stuffed animals I brought since he had forgotten his. Fluffy Clouds was AWESOME! One of the other teachers did this visualization technique that put the kids right to sleep. One of the rooms was all my boys, though we did try to prevent any all-one-class rooms. I'm pretty heavy on terms of endearment (I know, you're probably thinking, "You? Really? I don't believe it."), so I'm always calling them my little darlings or little angels. I went into the boys room to say goodnight and they all had glow sticks on their heads like halos and were like, "Look Miss Streisel! We're you're little angels!" Gahhhh I love being a teacher so much!

My little guy in blue congratulated
every kids accomplishments... Love him!
So many new friendships! The girls in the back are both
 in my class, but hadn't bonded until the trip

Anyways, as homesick as some of them were (I literally had to pull a few onto my lap and hold them until the hysterical crying stopped a bunch of times!), they were so sad to leave and loved camp. The bus ride back was also smooth, and although one girl turned completely green (I finally know what people mean when they say that!), there was no throwing up. The only downer was how obsessed with watching "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" the kids were. Isn't that weird? I remember watching it once when I was little, but despite how old it is they all loved it. Probably the most annoying, high pitched movie on Earth. What made it better was hearing their little accents refer to the movie over and over again as "Shitty Shitty Bang Bang." Hehehe. What a week :)

The bus driver saw me trying to take a picture of the beautiful view and stopped for
me to take this one. Whatta guy :)

P.S. If anyone knows privacy laws better than I do, PLEASE let me know if any of the pictures of my kiddos aren't okay. I think back of the head pictures should be fine, but feel free to message me if I'm doing anything wrong!! Grazie mille :)

P.S.S. I crossed the first item off of "The List!" Woohoo! Eating chocolate in Switzerland: Completed.