Our summer started with our American friend, Julia, in Fano who asked me to teach at an English language camp with her in Italy’s countryside. They needed a teacher for three weeks to stay overnight with the kids at the camp, as well as teach them English in the morning. Seeing as though my schedule was completely open, and Giancarlo’s job didn’t start until September, we jumped at the chance for the experience and what would be turn out to be our first real adventure in Italian culture. The first week we both got a crash course in Italian organization (or the lack thereof…how many coffee breaks does one really need to take in day?), camp food Italian style (Nonna couldn’t have done it better herself… in fact, I thoroughly believe she was in the kitchen cooking) and the art of the Italian line dance at the weekly disco party for the kids. Let me quickly jump back to the food at this camp.
It should have been my first sign that the food was going to be unreal when the owner of the camp offered the adults an aperitivo hour with fresh local meats, cheeses and wine from his friends. Everyday was some new local vegetable from his neighbor down the street or some meat from his cousin’s farm. American camps, take notes.
Our last day of camp we were asked by one of the directors if we wanted to accompany a group of Italian teenagers to London for an immersion program that they would be running. Why they wanted to American’s living in Italy to go up to London to be
“English speaking tour guides” for these Italian kids is still a mystery to me, but a free trip is a free trip and getting paid in British pounds was enough for us to stop asking why and just go. So a week later, we made our way to catch our flight to London. Our first sign that we were in for another adventure was when we arrived, the teacher checking in all the kids at the airport not only didn’t know who we were, but didn’t know why we were there.
A few phone calls later, and with tickets already in hand we knew that either way we were going to London, but now it was just a matter of what we were going to do once we were there. Yet again, Italian organization at its finest. Once we arrived in London we made our way to King’s College where the all the Italian groups would meet, and we would finally be introduced to the woman who would be our boss the next two weeks. Not only did she have no clue who we were when we met her, she had no record of me (Ms. Emily), and had Giancarlo in another room with a girl named Angela Marconi. Emily/Angela… yeah, I can see how easily one could mix up the two… strike two for Italian organization.
But honestly, the best part about the trip was witnessing the Italian/English clash of the cultures. Here we go:
*Italians forming a line (if by line you mean a bum rush to the cashier) vs. the English uniformly queuing while getting coffee ( if by English coffee you mean brown water).
* Watching Italian kids eat (or the exact opposite) breakfast, lunch and dinner in England. Definitely not how Nonna cooks at home.
*Blitzing the Metro cars when they arrived, and not letting the people on the train get off. My apology to all the Londoners who might have been run over by a teenage Italian trying to get on the train.
* Stealing the seat from an elderly lady when a young British woman got up to give her the seat. Italians are fast little devils.
*Italian teenagers (16 years and younger) being amazed they a) can’t legally order a drink at a disco, and b) aren’t even allowed into a disco under the age of 18. (The disco scheduled a kids night for us. The Italians felt cheated.)
*Not understanding the concept of walking at a rather fast pace when crossing the streets. Everything is always a passegiata (unless it involves stealing a seat from an old lady).
But as great as it was to be able to speak English non-stop for two weeks, it was nice to come back to real food and real coffee. London is one of my favorite places in the world, but there is only so much fish n’ chips a girl (and her hips) can take.
So now we’re back in Bologna, subletting the month of August before we can move into our apartment in September and start work. When we left New York City back in May, having an adventure this summer was definitely on our to-do lists. Looks like we’re on the right track.