Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ch. 5 - The First Full Day

It’s hard to know where to begin telling what it’s like here. I’m not sure I have a good grasp of it yet, but a general idea is forming. In no particular order, here are some common themes that crossed my mind today:
- Kids are kids, wherever you go.
- Teenagers are teenagers, wherever you go.
- I really, really don’t like working with teenagers.
- Summer here is somewhat similar to summer back home in D.C.
- Are we going to come up with a reasonable, sensible schedule?
- My feet hurt.
- Hmmmm…it’s been about 10 minutes since I’ve had a drink of water; that might explain the hallucinations.
- The sand on this beach is perfect.
- I really, reaLLY, REALLY don’t like working with teenagers.

More to tell later.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Ch. 4 - Getting Acquainted...the Fast Way

There’s hitting the ground running, and then there’s what we did today. I was picked up at Marco Polo International—the Venice airport—by David, the main boss of MB Scambi Culturali. In a moving van. He had laden the truck with materials and supplies from Padova (“Padua”), and picked me up along the way to Lignano. In the truck with us rode one of the Italian teachers, by the name of Eleonora (though a different Eleonora that lobbied to hire me), and were followed by the immediate program director Roberto, and another English teacher from Philadelphia named Lynette.

On the road, David, Eleonora, and I got to know each other using an interesting hybrid of English, Italian, and Spanish. David’s English is exceptional, Eleonora’s Spanish is excellent, and I began to pick and choose how I’d phrase my own statements. Then, we actually got here: Villaggio Adriatico, AKA, Villaggio Sportivo Getur (read: "Jay Tour").

The resort itself used to be a Catholic Church-run getaway, but it's not so much that anymore and more of a uniquely European community vacation destination. It caters to families and privates groups alike, and it can accommodate several hundred guests.

After a very quick lap around the grounds, we began unloading the van. There was a lot to wade through, and we found ourselves in a very tight office space. Very tight. That is to say, we had to get fairly creative with organizing our materials MacGyver-style. Also, we had to consider a little thing called "planning".

Ch. 3 - Friday Morning

Now, most people in my line of work are used to getting up early. But, that’s during the school year. And, it’s usually not at 4:00am. A “get-to-know-each-other” meeting was announced Thursday afternoon, so I set my alarm to have a date with Skype early the next day.

The meeting mostly consisted of the previous director (“Nick”, a jovial-sounding gent from England) providing background information and fielding questions from me, the incoming director, and two other teachers. It was only slightly surreal, and it might have seemed normal and professional if I weren’t a bit sleep-deprived. Nick did a good job giving us a feel for the pace of daily life, general obligations, anecdotes, and other handy bits of information. We ended a little over an hour later, so I decided a bit more shuteye was in order.

After putting the finishing touches on my luggage—read: once I took my clothes out of the dryer, I began packing—it was make some last minute purchases. The aforementioned Nick hipped us to beware of Lignano’s particularly ravenous brood of mosquitoes. A bit of Off here, some Stride gum there, and I was relatively set to go; go visit my parents, that is.

My nieces Lily and Naomi are staying with my folks through the 4th of July, so I was able to hang out with them all for a bit before heading to Reagan National Airport. My dad was kind enough to chauffer me to the airport while my mom stayed home to wrangle the little ones.

I’ll spare you the airport-y details, except to say that I enjoyed relatively smooth baggage and security check-in procedures. I now felt that I was officially on my way.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ch. 2: Difficolta Tecniche

My contact at the Scambi Culturali requested a Skype interview for Wednesday, June 23. I thought, "This'll be near perfect, since I'll just be packing up my classroom, and the kids will be gone by then." In anticipation of a Skype conversation with Eleonora in Padova, my brother P.J. helped me figure out camera position, audio, lighting, and other technicalities that I wanted to sample ahead of time for comfort's sake. By the evening of Monday, June 21, I was feeling relatively confident.

Tuesday, June 22 was the last day of School Year 09-10, and the kids and I were all sorts of wacky. While the students were enjoying each other's company during lunch that day, the Conversation gadget in my Skype window blinked at me. It was Eleonora. I looked up at the students. They were busy being soon-to-be-fifth-graders, so I decided to engage in a quick chat session in an effort to show Eleonora my interest level and accessibility at school.

She requested a change in schedule for the interview. She and the screening committee at the Scambi Culturali needed a candidate before Wednesday. I knew that there was going to be a farewell staff luncheon followed by the final staff meeting of the school year, so I let her know that I'd need about 2 hours before I'd be available to talk. She agreed, and the schedule was set; I'd be ducking out of the staff meeting, but it was for a good cause.

Back in my room, after the staff meeting and lunch, was when things started falling apart. For some unknown reason, my Skype connection at school decided to become completely uncooperative and otherwise discombobulated. I sent Eleonora a quick email explaining I'd have to leave school and connect from home, so we postponed the interview another half an hour. I was in a huge panic at this time, thinking, "Great. Now she'll think I'm just some idiot with no technical know-how and is, at worst, wasting her time." Needless to say, my speedometer was dancing a mighty samba as I very carefully made my way as quickly as possible.

All in all, the interview itself went well. About halfway through, unfortunately, my camera decided to die on me. That didn't seem to faze my interviewer, so we continued. At the end, I felt pretty confident. She had even added that she was really going to lobby to the screening committee on my behalf, and that she was hoping the other four candidates didn't bring what I did to the table.

A few hours later, I received a confirmation email, and the hunt for reasonably priced airfare was on!

Ch. 1: Asking the internet to pinch me

Having never been to Italy, I was understandably filled with trepidation.

But, wait... I'm getting ahead of myself. In fact, as of this writing--at 12:42 p.m. on Thursday, June 24, 2010--I'm not even *in* Italy. Yet.

Dateline: My classroom, a few weeks ago. Also, at my home. And in the car.
I got to thinking about how I'd spend Summer 2010, and it occurred to me--little by little--that it might just be possible to (1) make some money (2) doing something I know how to do fairly well, and (3) in a place I've never been before, but have always wanted to visit. So, I did the next logical thing: I procrastinated like the lazy doofus that I am.

Eventually, however, I got back into the job hunt and ended up sending out about 10 applications/job inquiries. One outfit in England preferred an E.U national, so that was one shot down. I got a whiff of interest from a Language School in Spain, but I read over their program and wasn't that interested (though I am madly in love with Spain), so I decided to drop that one. Most of the others didn't bother to follow up.

Insert frowny face here.

Then I received an email from a Cutural Exchange organization in Padova--a.k.a. Padua--Italy. The liason there seemed interested in my C.V., and sent along a questionnaire as a follow-up. While they were perusing my answers, I decided to look more closely at MB Scambi Culturali, the organization that seemed interested in getting to know me better. More about that in a later posting, perhaps. I now found myself faced with a webcam interview!