Things I have been doing other than eating pizza

30 Jan

So life has been very busy here, this week I started teaching properly, more about that later though. Like in Bordeaux, my boiler here also seems to hate me, and for the first week the clock on it was out of use so I had to deal with a few sleepless nights from from the freezing temperatures inside. I would have left it on all the time instead of off if it weren’t for the exorbitant gas prices here. To heat my apartment all the time would cost a lot more than my monthly rent, so instead I leave it off unless I want to have hot water or I can’t feel my fingers.

I have also had a few internet issues, as my apartment doesn’t seem to have a phone line so I’ve had to make do with a dongle. Unfortunately where I live is a black hole for signal, and after changing companies 3 times I have settled with 3, who allow me 100kb/s max download speeds if I sit on the windowsill. Italy are pretty behind in terms of internet speed in general, and I wasn’t surprised to read the other day that apparently 25% of Italians think the internet has no purpose.

I have done a bit more exploring of the town, which despite everyone here saying is ‘so small and quiet’, actually has a population of 40,000 which is about 2/3 that of Woking. The centre of town itself is very small, but there are loads of suburban-y outer roads which is where I think all the people are hiding, although I still find it strange that everyone seems to know each other (you can always explain who someone is by going ‘oh you know, she’s my friend’s sister in law’s cousin’s teacher…’). Maybe there’s a very low proportion of people who actually leave the house.

Last week I went to a Buddhist meeting with Tina, which is definitely something I didn’t expect to find myself doing, but it proved that the stereotype of Italy being strictly Catholic isn’t true. I have also met up with lots of people my own age, thanks to every teacher and their friend/brother/hairdresser offering me their children to be my friend, which is much appreciated. I’ve had coffee, gone on mini tours of the city, and gone out for dinner, which has kept me busy (and distracted me from starting my first year abroad essay, which constantly hangs around the back of my mind and prevents me from ever really relaxing). On Saturday night I went out for pizza with Sara (one of the teacher’s daughters) and all of her friends, which meant lots of attempting to speak Italian and being the awkward person who brings a dictionary to a restaurant.

Thanks to these meetings I have been offered to try out a few other dance classes, including a jazz-type one that I went to last night. This week I’ll be trying out belly dance and hip-hop as well, although I’m going to have to limit it to what I can afford and what I can fit in. Yesterday I also went to an Italian class hoping to iron out the considerable creases in my Italian which have developed since finishing uni for the summer last June. It turned out to be an A1/A2 level group which was way too easy for me, although I got to meet some other stranieri living in Spoleto, including Ali who comes from Togo but was working in Libya and had to flee 2 years ago. The horrible story of his journey here (many people died on the boat over) has made me realise that I don’t really have the right to complain about anything ever again.

I’ve been meaning to get some photos up of my apartment, which I will definitely get round to once I do some washing up. As for living alone, it definitely has it’s benefits, but also some downsides. It can get a bit lonely, so I try to make sure I have lots going on all the time, plus having this much free time means I am getting through the 100 hours of internet 3 gives me per month far too quickly. I’m looking to change company yet again. The other day I walked past a pet shop and considered buying a cat to keep me company, but then decided that probably wouldn’t be a good life decision. Besides, I can always steal one of the strays that live up by La Rocca.

Speaking of which, on Saturday it was actually sunny for once (I have brought the steady downpour back from Bordeaux, via Bristol) so I went to visit La Rocca Albornoziana, Spoleto’s very own fortress. I’m not gonna lie, it’s pretty awesome living in a town with a fortress, walled centro storico (historic centre), and aqueduct. To get to the fortress, which is on top of a hill, you can either walk up through the town centre (done it before, don’t need to do it again), or take the escalators. Whoever decided to construct them is definitely my kind of person. I might talk to them about my plans to put a ski lift up Park Street.

Enough talking, here are some photos:

Escalator! Una bella vista La Rocca Aqueduct I gatti!

I then decided to walk back down, assuming that as long as you keep going downhill until it’s flat you can’t get lost (not true), but I eventually found my way back to the bus stop. Here are a few shots of the town itself.

A piazza (can't remember which one) Spoleto centre Walled city

After 3 days of teaching I feel I’ve already learnt a lot, both about teaching in general and about what difficulties there are in teaching English to Italian children specifically. Unlike in English, where you make a statement into a question by putting ‘do’ at the beginning eg. ‘You come from England’ becomes ‘Do you come from England?’, in Italian they don’t have this. For any question which doesn’t start with one of the usual who, what, where (chi, cosa/che, dove) type words, they just say the sentence as it is but add a ‘questioning’ intonation at the end. Here’s more Brian and Stewie to illustrate my point. Sorry I just can’t help myself.

The kids haven’t quite gotten to grips with this mysterious ‘do’ verb, which has led to some confusing moments when combined with the fact that they don’t always get the difference between I/you/he/she/it. This is a conversation I had the other day in the middle of what was supposed to be an ‘ask Louise every question ever’ session:

Student: I like dog.

Me, thinking he just wanted to say something about himself: Ah…well that’s nice.

Student: Yes, I like dog?

Me: Do you mean ‘Do you like dogs?’ ?

Student: Dog.

Me: Ooook…yes I like dogs too.

From school to school the standard of English varies, and while some classes are loud and confident and can introduce themselves with simple sentences quite easily, others just give me blank stares and then tell me in Italian that my name is strange.

Sights of the day

When it comes to supermarket names, Italy has gone a little ‘outside the box’. Some of my locals include Tigre, Euro Spin, and Despar, which from the looks of it is related to the UK’s Spar. On my list of all the prefixes you could use to make a shop sound more attractive, ‘de-‘ is somewhere down the bottom, below ‘im-‘ but a bit above ‘anti-‘.


In the classroom

Seen today: 2 boys with short back and sides, plus the addition of not only tram lines but their initial shaved into the side of their head. Don’t forget the obligatory earring.

I’ve managed to embarrass myself a few times already with my lack of knowledge about things like beefeaters, why the Union Jack is called Jack, or the story of Tom Sawyer, and not realising that ‘kneeling’ has the word ‘knee’ in it, which was apparently very obvious to all the 9 year olds who managed to guess the meaning of it without me explaining.

Today when a class was asked to describe me, they said I was ‘tall’, if not ‘very tall’. One boy even suggested I was ‘at least 2 metres’, which might be a bit of a stretch. However, I’m excited to say that in Italy, I am actually average height. In fact I’m taller than quite a few of the female teachers.

Here is a small sample of the lovely artwork the students here have done for me:

Putting Woking on the map...although no one here can pronounce it.

Putting Woking on the map…although no one here can pronounce it.



4 Responses to “Things I have been doing other than eating pizza”

  1. Becca May 8, 2013 at 00:02 #

    I’m so glad I just found this blog, I’m just about to go on my own year abroad, and I’m going to be a comenius assistant in Italy too in September, generally quite terrified about the logistics of it and my poor quality of Italian, but your blog has already put me at quite a bit of ease. Looking forward to reading the rest of it to figure out exactly what I can expect 🙂

    • louiseineurope May 8, 2013 at 19:09 #

      Hi Becca, where will you be for your assistantship? If you have any questions about teaching or general Italy stuff, feel free to message me!

      • Becca May 8, 2013 at 21:53 #

        Hey, Still don’t know where I’ll be yet, just playing the waiting game – supposed to fine out in June I think, but thanks 🙂 Do you have any general tips and things before I go?

      • louiseineurope May 9, 2013 at 12:01 #

        Good question! I might actually do a post about what to expect from Comenius sometime soon that should explain everything 🙂

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