Thursday, August 5, 2010

Ch. 17 - Florence, Verona, and...Boston?

With the job successfully completed, I set my sights on the actual "vacation" part of my trip to Italy. In hindsight, the work with the kids and the staff helped me polish up my rudimentary Italian skills. These basic skills would help me in the coming days.

Florence is nothing short of grand. Boasting a gigantic footprint among the hills of Tuscany, it is an amazing and storied metropolis. I was anxious to get around and explore the vias, piazzas, and other points of interest. I had booked a two-night stay in a hostel nestled in between the large duomo and the Galleria Accademia, so I was satisfied with my relative location in the city. It was certainly a lot to try and absorb, so my few days there felt very rushed. I was also able to see the majestic statue of David; it was every bit as impressive as I had imagined.

Verona, on the other hand, is not known for its soaring domes and world-famous statues. It is best known, of course, as the home to Romeo and Juliet. It was not only this pair of star-crossed lovers that attracted me there, though. Its geography proved to be the selling point for me when I made the decision to buy a train ticket and a Bed&Breakfast reservation. I was glad Verona made it on my itinerary, in the end. I lament, though, that I didn't have a second night to stay. While there, I was happily reminded of several places in Spain that still hold a dear place in my heart: Segovia, Albarracin, Toledo, and Avila have that special "old meets new" magic just as Verona does.

As I write these words, I'm currently stranded in Boston's Logan International Airport cursing Mother Nature. Needless to say, I'd much rather be someplace else. Sorry, Boston. It's nothing personal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ch. 16 - A Whirlwind Week

A lot has happened since my last posting a week ago. It would be foolish to try and condense it in a witty narrative. Instead, I'll write them as easy bullet points:

- My work-issued laptop died. It was its time to go. Besides, I might get lucky and get issued a nicer, newer, faster one when I get back to Alexandria.
-Exhaustion is finally setting in. I will now happily embrace a multi-day recovery period when I get back home.
-It's been rainy for the past 2 days, and it's really put a--wait for it--damper on our outdoor activities.
-The "Russian Mafia" left camp, except for Vladestruction. Some of them were sweet, but they were all spoiled. Oh, well.
-I tore Vladarth Vader a new one yesterday for getting my bookbag wet on purpose. A fat lot of good it'll do in the long run, but I think he'll stop and reconsider his actions before trying to mess with me again.
-I talked with a camp counselor from a neighboring organization on the beach two days ago. She seemed really happy with her job. I felt insanely jealous.

I have nothing more to write. I'm fairly tired after today's rainy field trip to Venice. I was doing well until I sat down in my seat on the bus. Lights out!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ch. 15 - Beachcombing

Today was my "day off", which roughly translates to "sleeping in until the kids go on a field trip and getting back on the clock when the kids arrive back at dinner time" in English. I used my time wisely by falling asleep on the beach.

During my waking moments, however, I was privy to some of the finer examples of fashion, trends, and other intricacies that Italian (and, perhaps, European in general) beach customs has to offer. Take for example the following sights I witnessed while awake:

1) A tanned, round Kenny Rogers in a Speedo who spoke German.
2) An older woman using cross-country ski poles while strolling along a sandbar (No, she wasn't wearing skis.)
3) Now, ponder these five words: cowboy hat and a Speedo (more on this guy later).
4) A line of kids from a different camp doing the long jump from the sand's edge into the shallow water. It was pretty hard to *not* stick those landings, as one might imagine.
5) Many, many man purses worn by...wait for it...Speedo-clad men.

Back to #3 on the list. Imagine for a moment a cross between Burt Reynolds and a skinny Gary Oldman. Have you got that mashup in your mind yet? Now, put him at around 50 years of age. Then, add several years of recreational tanning. Next, put a black, straw cowboy hat on him and make sure he's wearing a navy blue Speedo.

That was my day. I kid you not. I'm glad--in a way--that I wasn't hallucinating, because I wouldn't have been able to share this little insight and slice of cultural joy with you. Sure, I got a bit too much sun but it was worth it. Besides, I can't unsee what I saw.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ch. 14 - Gelato Time on My Hands?

Gelato is one of those things that I had never sampled before, but now I have a point of reference. Gelato is so impressionable on some people, that it is often what they think about nearly all the time. Case in point: a camper here named Nick included the word "gelato" in his Skype handle. Now *that's* dedication to gelato. His favorite flavor is "Puffo", which is blue and he says tastes like cotton candy.

In Trieste, I sampled a concoction made with Nutella and chocolate chunks. A bus could have hit me after that first taste and it probably wouldn't have bothered me too much. I look forward to sampling more flavors in my remaining time here. I have to admit, a really good cone of gelato lives up to its reputation of being unique and enjoyable. Of course, now the dilemma becomes: where will I be able to get some comparable gelato once I get back home?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ch. 13 - New Nicknames...

...for my favoritest little Russian:

These might be the most appropriate nicknames so far. Ugh.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ch. 12 - It Was Bound to Happen

So...... I bought a man purse. It turned out to be a bit of a necessity, in a roundabout sort of way. Originally, I only wanted to get a wristwatch. That purchase soon gave way to the rationale that a murse was a good idea. The notion to buy a wristwatch came about from the need to deactivate my cell phone; side note: international roaming charges are a complete bear.

As a result, it was deemed necessary to get a murse. It's rather subtle: black ballistic nylon and lots o' zippers. It is *not* a "European Carryall" a la Seinfeld. It is, however, proving to be a useful addition to my wardrobe full of cargo shorts and guayabera shirts. Let's face it: I love pockets. Also, it couldn't hurt for me to get a bit more organized.

Ch. 11 - Waka Waka

My concept of Purgatory has changed a little since working here: I imagine a place of perpetual 90+ degrees Fahrenheit, about 95% humidity, and Shakira's "Waka Waka" on a continuous loop while a cold, 2-liter bottle of water is floating about 8 feet above my head. If you are unfamiliar with Shakira's latest dance hit, check it out here:

I hear it, on average, 6 times a day. Most of the kids around here know the choreography and lyrics. It's like the Macarena, but not as obnoxious.

On the other hand, Shakira is really pretty. And, her hips don't lie.