An Ocean and a Rock

Well, we cleared some of those - rocks that is.  We are home.  We missed our initial flight (because I'm lame) and were delayed for about 24 hours getting home.  We spent the last 72 hours in planes, trains, taxis, busses, and shuttles, in Rome, London,  Chicago, and finally Salt Lake.  We survived two ginourmous layovers, the Heathrow airport, 2 sassy flight attendants, and one really crap hotel (I know I said those days were over, but desperate times...)   At one point I leaned over to Max in the plane and said "I'm never flying again in my whole life."  But then we both looked at each other and burst into laughter.

I'll finish blogging about Italy and then catch everyone up to speed, but the short of it is we had a lovely time abroad and we are thrilled to be home.  I drove a car today, ate a hamburger yesterday (a good one), and I'm about to watch something on Hulu.  God bless America.


Things were bad, but now they are better.

Max and I had some dark days, but the last two were good and there is only one more!  On Monday I was ready to throw in the towel, but on Tuesday the day was much better and the children started looking like children again instead of Gremlins.  In fact, we bobbed for apples yesterday and I can't remember the last time I laughed that hard.  Most of my kids were very timid, but a few dunked their heads all the way to the bottom and came away with several apples a piece.  Italian schools have a "Bidella" who is a cross between a janitor, a ground duty, and a Mom.  I don't know if she was very pleased about the giant mess, but my kids had fun.

Today we had a carnival with bean bag throwing competitions and a tin can knock down game and even a cake walk.  At the end of the day we auctioned off all the prizes left over from the camp including one small bag of little junky plastic instruments.  Bite sized saxophones and almost functional harmonicas.  As we were leaving the school little Matteo ran up to us and gave each of us a little harmonica.  My land.

So this has been very hard, but I don't regret it.  The home stay experience has been wonderful for me and I have gotten out of this exactly what I wanted.  I really wanted to get to know regular Italians and understand more about the way they live and the things they value.  To that end it has been a big fat success.  Not to mention a few recipes I picked up that I'll be trying at home :)

One last bit:  Max has a little waif of a student, Gaia, with long black hair that cries a few times a day when she gets nervous.  She drew the fabulous picture of us in a heart in a giant fuzzy monster if you'll recall.  Anyway,  she gave Max a note today that said the following:

I Invented This Story

The Witch Carlina
Is the most crazy witch, 
She flies night and day with her broom 
what will she do?

She'll do a witchery every now and then. 

But if the naughty witch flies night and day, 
who put a violet in her house?

(Gaia is the little one farther up the slide)


English Camp, Lots of Fun.


Almost make up for these:

"Teacher Can I Go to the Toilet"  "Teacher Can I Go to the Toilet?"  "Teacher Can I Go to the Toilet?"

"I hate English Camp!"

"I'm calling the Polizia."

"Teacher Can I Go to the Toilet?"


"I won't sit by her" (in huffy English/Italian)

"I'm wanna call my Mom!"

"Max-eh. Max-eh. Max-eh"  (The little Italianos can't end Max's name with the "s" sound so it comes out with a vowel at the end.  And always whiny.  I think it's funny.  He doesn't.)

Awesome.  I know.  Friday and Monday were real doozies for us, but I think we are a little less homicidal now.  In a moment of desperation my Sweet Max made up a song right on the spot for our kiddos to sing.  It's called "Camerino".

English Camp, lots of fun.
Singing songs with everyone.

Camerino, Camerino (...think, "Colorado")

Playing Games, making toys.
Fun for girls, fun for boys.

Camerino, Camerino

Games outside, fun indoors.
Ones and Twos, Threes and Fours.

Camerino, Camerino
Camerino, Camerino.

They actually love it and during the "Camerino" bit they move their arms over their heads like the sun.  I don't know, it just came to me.

For a few months now I've been trying to get Max to agree to some sort of suicide pact in the event of an "eat your family and children" post-apocalyptic world.  I know, it's pretty morbid and it seems like a crazy thing to think about, but I've read The Road (well, the parts I could muster).  I'd rather die than live in that kind of chaos.  And maybe living in the bomb shelter "safe room" of our Jerusalem apartment really got me thinking...  ANYWAY, this morning we were trying to think of a silver lining to what has turned out to be much harder than we'd expected and I said to Max in all seriousness "Well, we are that much more prepared for an Apocalypse.  We might not have to kill each other after all."


Basilica Di San Nicola

We visited the Basilica di San Nicola di Tolentino.  Tolentino is a beautiful little medieval town about 45 minutes away from where we are staying.  San Nicola dedicated himself to praying for those in purgatory and was made a saint shortly after his death in 1305.  The church has a series of tiny dioramas in the basement depicting the different scenes of his life as well as a nativity room with nativities from around the world.  

Something about seeing this completely non-touristy church in the heart of what was Medieval Catholicism was really special to me.  People still practice and worship here and as far as I could tell we were the only foreigners.  Not that St. Peter's Basilica in Rome wasn't spectacular, but there was something very beautiful and peaceful in this church.  I think it's one of my favorite churches out of those I've seen - and I've seen a grundle of churches.  


That's Why Italians Eat So Well!

It's because their school children are given a full three course meal for school lunch - complete with checked table cloth, real plates, knives for cutting their meat, and glass glasses and pitchers that they pour themselves. These children are 6 and 7 people.

This week has been a doozy.  We have been drop dead tired every night and after what I'm sure is a 1,000 calorie sausage laden feast I usually fall right to sleep.  Teaching has gone pretty well and these kids are really adorable.  Almost adorable enough not to want to lock them in a classroom...  But seriously, we have had a very enjoyable time so far and working with these kiddos has been a good thing.  I have 12 6-8 year olds and Max has 13 8-12 year olds for 8 hours a day.  Woa.

We both have lovely host families that I'll write more about later - but Max is with a great family, Cynthia (pronounced Chintzea) and Franco, and he shares a killer bunk bed with their 10 year old son Fabio.  He's just adorable.  My family, Rita and Gasper, have two little boys, Ricardo and Andrea and I'm in a palatial suite with my own bathroom.  Both families have been very generous and very understanding of our married-ness.  They have worked out a schedule were we take turns doing things together with one or the other families and sometimes all together. It's been quite nice actually.

We didn't know what to expect on all fronts, but so far we are very happy that we risked it.  We are actually in a little town of about 4,000 at the base of Camerino called Castelraimondo (Raymond's Castle graces the main square).  The views are breathtaking and we wouldn't have traded this experience for any other non-screaming job we could have been doing these two weeks.    

More later.  Must pass out.


Best. Road Trip. Ever.

That's right. It's a tower, it leans. We saw it yesterday on an unexpected detour on our way to Camerino - was that just yesterday? This has been the longest 48 hours of my life.

The trip from San Remo to Camerino took us about 14 hours. Yeah. But, while the other tutors headed for the south rode on a bus, Max and I got to ride most of the way with the director of the program, Bruno, in his uber air-conditioned BMW. In fact, instead of Mystery meat sand-burgers from the kitchen Bruno stopped and bought us lunch at a little roadside grill. Longest trip out of the group vs. AC, not crowded, and free not sand-burger lunch? I think our option turned out much better.

When we got to Pisa as little ahead of the bus full of tutors Bruno questioned in his broken English "Tower? You've seen?" No, in fact we hadn't seen it. When we shook our heads he looked a little aghast, shook his head, and motioned for us to get back in the car. He speed demoned it over to the leaning tower and held up his hand "Cinque minutos" (5 minutes). I grabbed my camera from the back seat and Max and I booked it through the gates and up to the tower, took a few pictures, had some unofficial-wonder-of-the-world awe, and then raced back to the car. 4:39 in case you were wondering.
The rest of the trip to Orte where we caught our connecting train was just stunning. We drove through the countryside of Tuscany and Umbria with my face pretty much glued to the window. Max was really trying to finish Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October", but about every 10 minutes I would tug on his arm and say "Oh, and look at that little village! And look at those hills." He's a sport that Max.

As we approached the Camerino/Castelromando bus stop I saw the following out of my window. I know, get out of town.
Our route was roughly the following:


For Those of You Feeling Jealous


Here are a few totally summer campy things that have happened to us so far:

I got a Bee Sting

One of my roomates came home so drunk one night she not only puked in the bathroom...but in her bed as well.  Bed Barf!

Since we are fuddies we don't go out and party at nights - BUT that doesn't stop the party from coming to us.  Last night, no lie, I got invited to a dance party whilst I was on ye olde toilet.  Someone knocked on the cracked window and yelled "Hey, are you comin' to the club!?"  "...um, I don't think so."  Don't worry, the windows are frosted.

While falling asleep at night I have found myself an involuntarily witness to many a love spat happening outside my window.  Last night the conversation revolved around somebody not waiting for somebody else before going down to breakfast.  The gall!

Max's roomies are boys.  'Nuff said.  Underwear ahoy!  Plus, one has consistently come back to camp at around 2am and tussled with the loud curtains next to his bed for several minutes and cursing under his breath.  This will become funnier the more time passes.

We stand in circles and yell out camp cheers and songs, which is fun the first dozen times, but then start to border on enhanced interrogation techniques.  One involves several moose.

We accidently bought not one, but two carbonated waters when we were in a desperate search for regular old acqua naturale.  Hence the sadness pictured above.

But you should still probably be a little jealous :)  We have really had a wonderful time, met some neat people ('that we'll never have to see again' as Max keeps saying), swam in the ocean, and we have actually gotten some GREAT training. I've been very impressed with the quality of the training and the way we have spent our time here.

Tomorrow we are off to Camerino and pasta piled up to our eyebrows.


Sanremo in Pictures

Nice in Pictures


Those Crazy French

Despite my enormous fear of getting interrogated at the Airport and my electronics confiscated, Max and I had a safe confiscation/interrogation free flight from Tel Aviv - Riga, Latvia - and finally Nice, France.  Initially our plan was to stay in a shared bathroom bunk bed kind of delio...and you all know how well that worked out last time for us.  I decided to surprise Max with reservations for our first and only night in Nice with a nice room - still two beds pushed together - but clean and our own.  The walls are lined with yellow and pink flowered fabric.  Very French.  And oh my, I just noticed that there is a Mcdonalds across the street from our hotel.  You never get too far from home :)  
After getting almost no sleep on the less than comfortable Baltic Air seats, we were dead tired and crashed for a few hours in our tiny yellow room.   After some much needed rest we ate at "Hippopotamus" - great name, saw some unreal street dancers and the coolest public art I may have ever seen.  Glowing man-lamps in various kneeling positions.  They change color too.    


And We're Off


Farewell Jerusalem Bookbinding

This is my bookbinding teacher Yehuda.  He has been not only a fabulous teacher and mentor, but really a friend to me and Max.  He and his wife had us over for Shabbat dinner a few weeks ago and just the other day Max and I spent a few hours at his studio.  I went to pick up my new spokeshave for paring leather  - leather bindings here we come - and he told us a barrel of amazing Yehuda stories.  We also convinced him to show us some of his bindings.  You can see some of them on his website.


Singing For Your Supper

My preemptive apologies for the forthcoming plethora of "goodbye" posts.  We just feel like we have met all of the nicest people in Jerusalem - all of them - and we are so pleased that we get to see most of them before we go.

Meet some of them.

Last night I met up with Max and his a cappella choir at "Marakia" or "The Soup Pot" for a farewell dinner and what turned into an impromptu choir concert.  Check out the video and you'll see what a hippy dippy place this restaurant is.  The smiling, but seemingly homeless employees make huge pots of, you guessed it, soup and dish it out to the seemingly homeless patrons.  Part of the restaurant is actually covered by a tarp and held up by two by fours.  It's pretty wild.

Just as people were finishing their soup Max's choir director Shelly went to the piano and plunked out a few notes.  Then the group erupted into song.  They sang song after song for about 2.5 hours.  Everyone clapped after each song and the scruffy employees couldn't stop smiling.  It was one of the neatest things I've been a part of.  The good will from the members of the choir and the other people in the restaurant was overwhelming.  Max has really enjoyed this choir and they expressed many times how sad they were to see him go - and who wouldn't, he's a nice guy. 

By the end of the night Max had the room singing along to Beatles songs while he accompanied on the piano.  It was the perfect send off.