Sunday, November 24, 2013

Fakesgiving and Other Adventures

The last few weeks have been, as usual, extra stressful, but had some fun adventures mixed in.

Clearly, they have champion wine. 
Last weekend, one of the teachers sent out an email that the usually super exciting Opera (sarcasm) was going to be having a wine tasting at the local library, and another new teacher and I decided to go. For 4 Euro, we were given 5 drink tickets, a neck pouch, and a wine glass. There were probably around 10 or so vendors and each had a few different wines to choose from. When we arrived, a few other people from school were already on their way out, but were able to give us a few recommendations on which wines to try and which to skip. While 5 tastings seemed like a great amount for so little money, a few vendors were extra generous and would give us each a glass for only one ticket, so by the end of the night we were a littttttle more buzzed than I expected to get. Drunk at the library... brings me back to fond memories of finals weeks at AU. 

On a different note, my hair sucks. 

Not always... usually, it's my crowning feature (get it? Because it's on my head... hehehe), but the water here is loaded with calcium and it's been giving me flat, straight, volume-less hair. One of my friends and I got a recommendation from another teacher for a good hair salon and went Wednesday after school to get beautified. Thinking we were late, and forgetting that this is Italy and time is looked at in a less... timely... manner, we arrived stressed and out of breath, thinking we were going to lose our appointments. Luckily, we were escorted to a very odd waiting room with squishy purple couches, plastic lawn chairs, and fake grass. A short wait later, a man with possibly the most gorgeous hair I've ever seen sat down in the most relaxed, carefree way, started playing with our hair, and asking questions about it. After the most amazing, relaxing, wonderful wash/head massage of my life from a man with awesome tattoos, studded shoes, and an adorable accent, I had the weirdest haircut of my life. First of all, Mauro, my hairdresser, decided that I would look great with "Charlie's Angels Style." Umm.... no. I told him I really didn't want bangs and didn't think a Farrah Fawcett style would suit me or really anyone since the 70's. He did it anyway. He had me stand and face him while he cut my hair, cut it while my head was flipped upside down, and definitely gave me Farrah Hair anyways. "You have to trust your hairdresser," he said in his perfectly broken English (I may be a sucker for an accent. It's possible.). Well... when in Rome, I guess! Or Milan! 

As if the haircut wasn't weird enough, the conversation was weirder. 

"Tell me all of your secrets," he instructs me while cutting my hair face-to-face (imagine this all said in an Italian accent). When I told him I didn't have any, he told me I was boring, so I told him they were just too good to tell a stranger... I don't know that that's the truth, but when I asked what his was, his response was, "I am a girl." Hm. How to respond as this beautiful, clearly male.. male... cuts my hair. When I hesitated, he just says, "Can't you tell? I cut my boobs." Again, we are not even a foot apart so avoiding eye contact while trying to think of a response is not really an option. Running through my head are the following options:
  1. Are you/were you a man and trying to become a woman? I see stubble on his face, but I'm pretty sure his arms are waxed.
  2. Are you/were you a woman trying to become a man? He is wearing a very beautiful, long black sweater that I first took as Italian fashion, but could be feminine?
  3. Are you messing with me?


I'm still struggling with what to say when he asks again, "Don't I look like a girl?" and I just kind of stammer, "Well, you have... very pretty hair..." He gives me this look of disgust and tells me I look like a man, but he'll make me sexy. Great. The rest of the evening was similar. At times, very flirty with invitations to show me the best nightlife in the city, comments on how he use to mess up the phrases "Blow Dryer" and "Blow Job" when first learning English, other times where he reminded me of how boring I look and how sexy he will make me (can't count how many times that was brought up).  In the end, I did have Farrah Hair. It was the worst. Katie was worried too, as he insisted on giving her the darkest hair color on the color chart. Somehow, despite our original skepticism, we ended up with the best haircuts we've ever had. Strange. He also tricked us both into leaving our numbers at the desk. Anyways, it was a great night out filled with interesting Italians, awesome hair, and delicious sushi (oh yeah, we got sushi afterwards). 

Friday after school, I had planned to stay late.

The week had been busy, the day had been insane (all of my students came back from recess either crying, injured, or accused of bullying. Except Nicole, because she is a drama-free little angel), and I just needed to get some things done in peace. This is school, however, which means that there is no such thing as a minute of peace. Two boys, one from my class and one from another, came in looking for a hole-punch to decorate the Mother-Son Dance with. Maybe with the hole-punch dots? I don't know. 

Isn't it cute!?
They spent at least 20 minutes quizzing me and having me quiz them on superhero stats. They had seen my Superman shirt and Spiderman socks on the Switzerland field trip, and wanted to know if I was as knowledgeable as them on the things that mater, like Tony Stark's nemesis. 

Anyways, I was saved around 6pm when another teacher came in to see if I wanted to get Thai food.

We snatched up another teacher and took the bus down to a restaurant I've heard good things about that ended up being closed. Luckily, there was a pizza place open across the street that ended up being fantastic. It had a medieval theme, complete with a drawbridge entrance and suits of armor. Good beer, scrumptious heart shaped pizzas, great company... Definitely a sublime alternative to staying late at work on a Friday afternoon.

Finally, I come to Fakesgiving, our week-early celebration of the magnificent American tribute to food and gratitude.

What a crew. A group of people from school, mostly newbies but a few returning teachers, got together at on of the new teacher's apartments in the city (lucky girl escaped Opera life), for a Thanksgiving feast. I made brownies and four batches of artichoke dip (I only know so many recipes). Everyone brought such mouthwatering dishes- two types of stuffing, mashed potatoes, garlic pull-apart bread, sweet potatoes, lentil salad, pies, cookies, pumpkin bars... just so much deliciousness. Thanksgiving in Spain was the one point when I was truly homesick. It's hard being so far from home, but it hits you that much harder when you know that everyone you love is together and you're not there. I know it'll be hard again this year, but having people who are in the same position get together, and knowing I'll be busy (in Berlin!) on real Thanksgiving is surely helping. Anyways, after typing so long about the hair salon, I'm typed out and ready to sleep. Goodnight world!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day of Monet

I think that any teacher could tell you that work is never over. 

Harris and I on the train
You can get as far ahead as you want, but there is always going to be something you could be working on. With Parent/Teacher Conferences coming up on Wednesday (AHHHHH!), I've gotten too wrapped up in the stress of it all to remember what I've seen my parents do my whole life. As business owners, they are never truly done working, but help each other to realize it's alright to give themselves time for themselves. On Friday some of my lovely coworkers and friends did the same for me, helping me to realize that while I could keep up the vicious cycle of working and stressing and working and stressing, I need to give myself a break. If you don't, you'll burn out! I'm also starting to realize that that really is a part of my stress: being in Italy and not taking advantage of being here was killing me! So, this weekend I went with a group of girls to Pavia, a town not far from Opera that I've been hearing many of the other newbies rave about. 

 First of all, taking a train feels so fancy!

Cutest little stands on a random road
Is that lame? Hehe, well, even if it is, I love the idea of hopping on a train to go on a day trip! Pavia was beautiful, and was my ideal type of place to live; it was somewhere between quaint town and small, bustling city. Opera is fine and is appealing in its own way, but it's a pretty sleepy place to live and there isn't much going on. Pavia was a lot more like I had pictured Italian towns; it actually reminded me a lot of Granada with its cobblestones, castles, and narrow roads full of shops, restaurants, and bars. It wasn't anywhere near as big or busy as Milan, but had more charm.

Why yes, I DID spend my Saturday at an exhibit for an amazing artist in a

I went in earlier in the day with three other girls. 

We met up with three more later, but we wanted to go early to see a Monet exhibit (!!!) in the basement of a castle (!!!!!!) called Castello Visconteo. Italian castles are interesting. There aren't turrets and towers, but look more like fortresses, and from the few I've seen are huge, and square with a large courtyard in the center. The most awe-inspiring part to me is walking across a bridge and looking down to see where the moat had been. A moat! That's just nuts! It makes me absolutely giddy thinking about the fact that someone (or many someones) lived there at one point;  what we see as a tourist destination to stare at in wonder was once a home. I love imagining the lives that were lived behind those walls, and as soon as I have time to read for fun again, I'll definitely be picking up some Milan historical fiction!

The exhibit was beautiful and very strange. 

While the paintings were amazing to see, there was also this weird "sensory" piece where each room had a different smell. There were also videos playing in different rooms that I believe were supposed to be about the lives of different people who were important in Monet's life. It could have been very interesting, but unfortunately all I could tell about that part was that there was an endless loop of different faces in black and white staring and blinking into the camera, and a voice in Italian monotone explaining something or other... Hmm... The paintings themselves were beautiful, including Monet's paintings and the work of some of his influences and stepdaughter/daughter-in-law's (interesting concept... her paintings were gorgeous though! A lot like his, but a little brighter, more feminine, and with more definition than his), and some of his old letters and photos. None of the paintings I knew were there, but they were all really just so beautiful. 

Got caught taking pictures before I could get one of a Monet... Dammit!
This one is still beautiful though :)

There's a line in Clueless where Cher calls a girl a "Full on Monet," explaining that, "From far away, it's OK, but up close it's a big old mess." 

I completely disagree. It was unbelievable to stand close enough to the paintings to see every detail; to see every brush stroke and how the colors blended together. From far away the colors look muted, but if you're standing right up close it's so vibrant! Ahhhh I cant believe I saw those!


After the exhibit we explored the town a little, stopping at a pastry shop to try the beautiful and delicious desserts before dinner. 

Dinner was at a cute, outdoor cafe and afterwards we met up with three more of the girls to have a few drinks. The first bar we went to was an Irish Pub, and afterwards to this aperitivo bar called Minerva Bar & Lounge, which was maybe my favorite bar or restaurant I've been to in Italy so far. The town must have had some connection to the goddess because there was a humongous statue of her reaching for the sky in the middle of town. Not that there is anything wrong with Opera, but the bars are... not the most exciting. This one was amazing! And the aperitivo was great too... 6 or 7 euro for a Strawberry Daiquiri and access to a delicious, full buffet of snacks and appetizers? Sounds good to me! We stayed for a few drinks, got on the train, and headed back to Opera for a trip to American Bar. All in all, an awesome Saturday :)

It was such a necessary day. 

I just need to tell myself this a little more often!
I've been feeling so out of the loop with these friends, and I'm thinking I need to give myself the time to get together with these friends rather than focusing every thought I have at all hours of the day to work. Friday, I was such a nervous wreck and so stressed out, and now, even though I didn't work at all yesterday and had the same work to do, I feel way more capable and in control of the work. Woohooo!