After 2 months here, I’ve gotten to know the ins and outs of Spoleto pretty well. While it has some of the features of a traditional small town like villas, beautiful mountains, historic buildings and protected sites, it also has a side to it that I wasn’t expecting at all. There’s a bit of a Desperate Housewives feel around here – there’s a lot of pressure on the women to stay young, have the latest clothes and accessories, have the cleanest nicest houses, stuff like that. There’s also a lot of gossip going around among both adults and teens, although I find it all pretty trivial because it reminds me of high school. Everyone here knows everyone, and knows everyone’s business, which makes Spoleto actually quite insular despite being so close to Rome.
Another aspect of Italian life which I find quite amusing is the standard Saturday night activities for young people (mostly younger than me though, generally 14-18). From around 5.30/6pm everyone goes to hang out in Piazza Garibaldi, apparently even if it’s really cold. Their version of hanging out isn’t quite like mine, which would involve drinks and catching up with friends, and probably finding somewhere to sit. Here, groups gather but never stay in one spot for more than a few minutes, and there is always sense of waiting for other people to arrive or that something is about to happen or we are about to go somewhere, although nothing actually happens until about 8.30 when everyone goes for dinner.
You end up with groups moving around the square, picking up new people and losing other ones in a constant state of ‘about to go do something’ without doing anything or settling anywhere to have a proper chat. This might sound like a very German way of thinking, but I think there are far more efficient ways of socialising than what the kids here call ‘hanging out’, but I call ‘loitering’. I no I just realised I’m turning into a grumpy old woman. Blame the impending birthday (1 week today!)
Some stuff I have been up to recently:
- Hip hop dance classes
A lot of fun, although when I look up in the mirror and see myself dancing to Busta Rhymes all I see is the whitest white girl that ever there was. But at least I’m enjoying myself.
- Teaching at the Catholic school in the centre
The nuns have hired me to teach an hour a week to the tiniest of tiny kids, ranging from 2 1/2 to 5 years old. They are adorable, but they also have non-existent attention spans. Even 5 minutes on one activity is too much for them, and they are pretty blunt about it when they don’t want to do something. Some classic statements from the children include “I don’t want to hear this song” and “No. Stop. Enough.” 1 hour with 3 year olds is 5 hours in real time.
I have been helping out a woman who lives near me with her English skills. Teaching an adult one-on-one is also a lot more difficult than teaching year 5, as you can’t hide the fact that you’re learning English behind games and colouring in, and you have to find something that is more stimulating than describing what all your favourite objects are. However it is quite fun to be able to have more in-depth conversations than with the children.
(But slightly less further afield this time.) On Saturday afternoon I went to Assisi for a couple of hours. Assisi is where St. Francis comes from, and is the guy who the new Pope based his name on. Speaking of the Pope, I seem to have a knack of being in the wrong place at the right time for major world events, which has led me to being in both China and the UK during the Olympics but seeing neither of them, and living less than 2 hours from Rome but not going to see the Pope. I’m not that bothered though, Popes are much of a muchness and have very little impact on my life.
Back to St. Francis, he liked giving his money away and helping animals, and even saved the town of Gubbio from a wolf who was terrorising the villagers back in the day. This all ties in nicely with the fact that I went to Gubbio yesterday with one of the teachers and her family, as it is her hometown. For those less interested in religion and more in science, Gubbio is also the town where there was first discovered a layer of clay separating 2 different layers of limestone which proved that the dinosaurs had been wiped out by a meteor (sorry if my facts aren’t bang on). So clearly it’s a town with something for everyone.
- Avoiding my weird neighbour
In an apartment downstairs there’s this really weird guy who lives with his mum and his son. He doesn’t seem to have a job, so every time I enter the building he opens his front door a tiny bit and watches me go up the stairs, which is fucking creepy if you ask me. He’s also teaching his 4 year old to do it, I feel pretty sorry for the kid. What’s worse is that when I first moved in, I was told to pay money to this guy for the cleaning of the stairs and stuff. When I knocked on his door he happily took the money, I had no idea what he was saying as he doesn’t speak clearly, but I assumed it was all sorted.
A few days later a very official business-y looking women came to my door and said she was there to collect the communal cleaning money. When I told her I had already paid it the creepy guy, she said he has nothing to do with it and that he hadn’t given her any money and not to talk to him cos he’s strange. So that bastard has 6 whole euros of mine, and continues to watch me whenever I come in the building.
Don’t let the clear skies fool you, it was freeeeezing.
Sights of the day:
Worst clothes shop name and also worst logo ever.
One of the year 5 classes had a creative show and tell last week and one student made this awesome Red Bull can aeroplane. Future Flugtag participant?