Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hopes and Dreams

Our class's "Hopes and Dreams" bulletin board, because the "Up" house took Carl to the place he hoped and dreamed of
We have the kids define their hopes and dreams at the beginning of each year, and I'm doing the same! I've set the following goals for myself for the year. My plan is to check in with myself when I have the kids check in on their goals. We'll see how it goes:

  • Cook a real meal at least once a week and try new recipes
    • So far, so good! I've been making a very tasty pancetta and veggie pasta sauce, and having lots of salads! Next step: meat. 
  • Bring lunch and breakfast to school at least 4 times a week
    • Nope. Our new benefits-package is more of an incentive- half off of everything we spend in the cafeteria, up to $1000 (up to spending $1000, with a $500 reimbursement). It kind of makes bringing lunch seem like a waste of money, but I need to do it because brioche and pasta are killing me!
  • Practice Italian every day
    • Nope. Get on it, Jessica!
  • Be a Yes-Man and become more social!
    • This one I've been really good about! I've been saying "Yes" to just about everything that comes up and am beyond burnt-out and sick now! But it's alright- I took a weekend off to recuperate and am all set to carry on with fun and adventures this coming week!
  • Walk to or from work at least 3 days a week
    • Nope. Maybe once or twice a week, tops. But mostly not.
  • Join book club
    • Mentally, I've made the commitment but I missed the first meeting and haven't started the second book. But I read it a few years ago so I could go to the next meeting and be fine!
  • Keep up with cleaning
    • Ehhhhh kind of...
  • Defined (but unblog-ed) weight goal
    • A little above my goal, but not too bad considering the twice a day pasta and at least once a day brioche!

Nature Name: Champion of the Sun

Most beautiful moment of peace in the mountains

This is going to be poorly written. I know it, and am sorry. Maybe I'll edit tomorrow but no promises-- I'm so behind on posts and just want to be up-to-date, and this is my last one for the night!

It still is incredible to me that our big 4th grade field trip is taking our students to Switzerland for a week. The trust that must take for our families is so huge, and it really does reap amazing benefits. Last year it was one of my favorite weeks of the year, and this year was no different. 

So much joy!
I've been struggling a little bit because there are so many times with this group of kids that I'm just like, "UGHHH WHY DON'T YOU KNOW HOW TO DO THIS!?!?! JUST FIGURE IT OUT!!!!" But since I don't want to scar them for life with memories of a verbally abusive teacher, I just keep that to myself and sweetly and calmly say things like, "What independent step could you take?" or "How could you be a problem-solver?" What I need to keep in mind is that the students I'm comparing them to are end-of-the-year-4th-graders, and these are beginning-of-the-year-4th-graders, and I need to give them a break. 

This week away at camp has such an amazing effect on the students, and they gain so much independence through natural consequences. The examples I give might seem small, but they really are huge for these children. Each morning we go up to the lodge for breakfast before heading out for the day's activities. If a child forgets something, they have to go back down to camp and get it. That will happen about 10 times for each child the first few days: coats, backpacks, water bottles, hiking boots, indoor shoes, etc. are left in rooms and need to be retrieved. If they're forgotten after they've left for the activity, well, they don't have it for the day. The first few days are full of many trips up and down the hill but by the end of the week, everyone remembers what they need. Before dinner each night, the kids have an hour of free time to play with their friends, shower, read, write in journals, or spend time the way they'd like. The choices they make in this time show so much problem-solving; one room set up a shower schedule so nobody missed free-time each day. Another boy spent Wednesday packing so that he wouldn't have to the next day and could spend his last day stress-free. Little things like this truly make an enormous difference in these kids, and I absolutely love seeing them change and grow over the course of the week.

They're not even posing. This actually just happened. I love 4th graders :)

Relaxing after a challenging hike, while the group hops
back and forth over the France/Switzerland boarder
My absolutely favorite part of the week is the hike. Our fourth-graders were split into four groups, with two groups hiking each day. I went with a different group on both days, and met up for lunch and the second half of the hike with the other two. It's not too far of a hike, but takes a while with 10-12 kids in tow. They bring sandwiches they've made themselves, and we picnic halfway through the day. Along the way the kids learn songs, pick flowers, find perfect hiking sticks, learn about the plants that they're seeing, and form new friendships. The most incredible part of the hike comes right after the steepest climb; we hike from Switzerland to France. It's a struggle for many of them (not going to lie, for me as well), but on both days I watched the most athletic little ones rush up to the top of the hill where the border was and cheer on their classmates as each one made it to the top. We played a game where everyone stood in a line in Switzerland, and the counselor would yell "Switzerland" or "France" and the kids would jump back and forth from country to country. It was so amazing!

I take it back- my favorite part is the bond that I develop with the kids throughout the week. These are definitely called "Bonding Trips" for a reason! Being able to see them outside of the classroom lets me see them in a whole new light- their personalities shine as they hike to the top of a mountain and take in the beauty of nature that surrounds them. We say that their counselors become the teachers and teachers become the parents, and I feel like that's pretty accurate- we take on the comforting, hand-holding, nurturing role that they need while away from their parents, and it creates a trust that carries back to the classroom. The learning environment at school is so different when we return. They bond so much with their counselors too- one of my little boys was so sad to be leaving that he couldn't even participate in last day activities; he just wanted to cling to the wonderful lady who had been leading him through the wilderness for the last 5 days! Our week in Torgon is amazing, and we are all so lucky to have it. 

We're With the Band: A Day Trip in Bergamo

Last year another teacher sent me the most amazing thing in the world: the 'to do list' she gives to her visitors. 

As someone who's been in Milan for probably 10 years (I can't remember exactly how long it's been), she's explored so many areas and tried enough restaurants to really have it narrowed down to the best. One of her top day trip suggestions is Bergamo, a city about 25 miles north of Milan. I can't believe it took me over a year to make it to the beautiful city, when it's not even an hour away by train, and cost less than 12 euro round trip!

The city is split into two centers: Città alta (upper city) and Città bassa (lower city). 

We traveled up to the Città alta via funicular. The word 'funicular' had been thrown around a lot when discussing Bergamo, but I honestly had no idea it meant 'cable car' until getting inside one. The upper city is surrounded by 17th century Venetian walls, and maintains a medieval atmosphere, with tiny, winding streets, cobble stones, and surprise cathedrals around each corner. We stumbled on the weirdest garden in the world, a colorful, geometric area with creepy music playing and a couple in wedding attire who did NOT look happy. It was such a huge contrast from the rest of the area, and we were completely and utterly confused about what was going on around us. We took a second funicular up to the second level of Città alta to the Castello di San Vigilio, the beautiful remnant of a medieval castle with a phenomenal view. 

As our day came to a close, we hopped back into a cable car for a ride back down to Città bassa. 

The sound of a marching band became louder and louder the closer we came to the ground, and when we finally arrived we found ourselves surrounded by older Italian men, dressed in camouflage with Robin Hood hats, playing in a band. The happened to be marching in the direction of the train station, so we marched along with our musical escort. We skipped along happily, until we realized we were about to miss our train back to Milan, and then literally ran the rest of the way, jumping on the train, sweaty and stressed, with seconds to spare,  thrilled to be in the middle of another 'Only in Italy' experience.

Where We Lay Our Scene

As I see more of my beautiful Italy, I can't help loving it more and more. 

I still have nearly two years left on my contract, and I'm already starting to worry about how I'll ever be able to leave. But enough of that, on to adventures! Last spring, a few friends and I found that there was an opera festival in Verona each summer, and that the festival would last through our first few weeks of school. We quickly booked ourselves an apartment through Airbnb and reserved tickets for the most perfect show we could ever see in Verona- Romeo e Guilietta (aka Romeo and Juliet)! I'm so glad we booked it so far ahead of time; had we waited until September, I never would have followed through. Having a weekend getaway with three awesome girls, however, was a wonderful way to unwind after the stress of the first week back at school!

The first adventure of the weekend was the train ride. We had gone out the night before and stayed out a little later than planned. Because I'm still living in Opera, Ali let me stay with her that night to lessen commute-to-the-train time. We ended up running into Harris at the train station and decided to get some very necessary McDonalds breakfast sandwiches and coffee to wake ourselves up. Even though we should have had plenty of time, it somehow came down to an important decision as we finally arrived at the front of a very slow moving line. It was three minutes til departure time: do we order our breakfast and pray it comes fast, or skip it? Luck was on our sides- we were able to grab breakfast AND make the train! Poor Katie was already in her seat, no doubt worried she was headed to Verona on her own. 

We spent the beautiful day wandering through the cobble-stoned streets, enjoying fresh-fruit cups from a market we found in town. 

I overheard an English-speaking tour guide telling her group that we were in Piazza delle Erbe, which was the city's forum in Roman times. Right off of the plaza, we found what we'd been looking for: Juliet Capulet's house. No, it wasn't really her house. Actually, the lovely balcony was added on in 1936 in an effort to appeal to tourists. On The List, I had added "Leave a note on Juliet's wall in Verona," envisioning the beautiful brick wall from "Letters to Juliet," with thoughtful little love notes and wishes tucked into the cracks. I had not imagined a graffiti covered wall coated in bandaids with couples' initials and heart shaped pieces of chewing gum stuck to every inch. Yuck. Well, yuck in a somehow aesthetically pleasing way. There was also a gate full of love locks, placed by couples sure that their love would last an eternity. Anyway, even though I didn't leave gum, a lock, or a bandaid, I did rub Juliet's right boob, which supposedly guarantees fortune and luck in love. We can only hope! (All the single ladies, put your hands up!). I'm crossing it off the list anyways, because a boob-rub is good enough for me!

After a gloriously long nap, we struck back out for a night on the town, beginning with a completely magical evening of theater. I didn't get a great picture of the Arena di Verona, but imagine a slightly smaller Colosseum (or google it). Each summer, Verona holds an opera festival and we were lucky enough to book seats at the last show of the season. The amphitheater is Italy's third largest, and was completed in the first century. It was absolutely awe-inspiring; sitting on the steps of an ancient amphitheater, watching a performance with three wonderful friends in Italy. I can't begin to describe it; I love Rome for its history, and the Colosseum is amazing, and here I was, using a similar space for it's actual intention- seeing a show. Add that to the magnitude of watching Romeo and Juliet performed in Verona... I was basically in heaven. 

Things at the show were a little funny though. We had spent the day discussing how even though the show was going to be in Italian, we all knew the story well and would definitely be able to follow along. We quoted parts we were sure we'd know no matter the language throughout the day and wondered if they'd sound just as beautiful in Italian. Somehow, however, despite the fact that this was the Arena di Verona Festival di Opera, none of us realized that this was going to be an opera. It made no sense at all. I'm pretty sure that Romeo was introduced alongside his fire-breathing dragon car, and Juliet was locked up in a metal cage pretty often. At one point, Katie leaned over to me and whispered, "I'm pretty sure this is the balcony scene," and I nearly died laughing. How could we possibly be unsure!? And yet, we were... Even if it was a confusing show, it was beautiful and I was blown away by the experience. 

borrowed from 20somethingsproblems

Romeo's new dragon car
"All this is but a dream"
Such a beautiful night!

My beautiful friends!
I never blogged about Genova last year, but it was also a wonderful trip. One of the highlights was staying out all night dancing, and that was part of our Verona plan as well. Unfortunately, it turns out that Verona has basically no nightlife (at least one that we could find in one night- maybe if given more time?), and we couldn't find anything open past 1am, and absolutely nowhere to go dancing.

The next day, we had a late train and spent the day wandering through the beautiful plazas, enjoying the city, and shopping. Somehow I always have good luck shopping with these girls! Verona is an incredible city, and I am so lucky to have experienced so many beautiful things on this trip. 

My future car
View from the bridge