Lost in Florence

If we’ve been friends for more than two weeks or you’re a family member, the title of this blog post comes of little to no surprise. As fact would have it, I was born with a somewhat unfortunate sense of direction. While this lack of geography has been referenced in previous posts, this one serves to offer a new perspective: the wonder of wandering.

915270eceea827bd83d2d83d84bbc407You see, when Rich and I head downtown or gallivant to a new city/town/municipality, we rarely consult a map of any kind. Of course in Florence it doesn’t matter so much as we’ve lived here long enough that even if a street doesn’t look familiar, the gelato shop on the corner of it probably does.

And because Florence is about 4 miles wide.

But we’ve come to discover that one doesn’t really need a map to get around a new place. Instead, what you really need is a small bucket of patience and a whole lot of time. And maybe some snacks. And a bit of water. And an umbrella if it’s raining.

I think the feeling of “being lost” often evokes negative emotions like anxiety, fear and maybe even a hint of paranoia. But, after living abroad for a bit of time, I’ve come to realize that being lost is some kind of special luxury. The thought of not needing to know where you’re going because you have the morning/afternoon/day to get there. The sense that you’re safe in a city and so the internal sense of obligation to reach a destination is quieted. The enjoyment of discovering some crazy cool things because you chose a street that looked like it might possibly be interesting from the corner. And the knowledge that even if you did have a map, there’s no way it could possibly include the 8,000 alleyways the Florentines call “streets.”d3587520f8a1fb47f7c27c7820d9b7f1

So, my friends and family, this weekend, I encourage you to invoke a bit of the wonder of wandering. Discover some new streets, find some tasty treats or maybe just curate a smidge of curiosity.

Unless it’s snowing. Or pouring rain. Or flipping freezing. Then maybe save the wondering and wandering for a better day so as to be able to properly enjoy it.

Cheers to being positively lost,

Morgana

 

Mysterious Ways

Happy Saturday All!

It’s time we start collecting the unsolved mysteries of Florence. After living in a place, any place, for over a year, you start to notice things. You know, things like food options, window screens, and cars. Important things. Since we’ve now been here for some 16+ months, several puzzles have revealed themselves. Riddles that do nothing but elicit a continuous stream of questions. Questions that seem to be answer-less. Questions like…

#1: Why are there so few screens on windows in this city?

A city that hosts some 500,000 mosquitoes on any given day. I was once again pondering this strange phenomenon on my walk home from the gym yesterday. You see, it’s been chilly. But then yesterday we spiked to 78 degrees and it rained. And with this rain came the multitudes of mosquitoes that had to have been lying in some stagnant pool of water just waiting for their opportunity to overtake the airways yet again. Everyone had their windows open and all I could think of, after being barraged in the gym (try holding a plank successfully with 3 mosquitoes vying for your face) was, what does everyone have against screens?

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so any windows, so few screens

Italians seem to swear by this magical potion called Vape. It comes in liquid form, it comes in stick form, and it probably comes in candle form. You plug it into the wall and lots of chemicals come out, keeping the mosquitoes at bay. We have one in our bedroom since that one little bugger always seems to find its way in and announce its presence right as you

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chemical, mosquito magic

start to fall asleep. But, in order to really eradicate the pests, you need one per room. Factor in the cost of refills for multiple tiny insecticide machines, the years of life you’re taking off by breathing in God knows what and the Italian love for the all natural and you get: confusion with a hint of disbelief. But still, no investment in screens and the price of stock for Vape rises.

#2: Why are there no real breakfast sandwiches?

Italians love sandwiches. They love eggs. They love cheese. They love toast. But…the breakfast sandwich just isn’t a thing here. You can get prosciutto and cheese on fresh bread. You can get a fried egg with some lettuce on a croissant. But I’ve never seen crispy prosciutto with some egg and cheese on toasted bread, all melty and delicious. Why? All of the ingredients are here. I’m pretty sure we could almost guarentee its safe success among the people. But no. No breakfast sandwich for you. And definitely no breakfast sandwich for me.

#3: How have I not seen 100 million motor accidents?

I thought people in RI, MA and NY drove recklessly. Hell, even the pedestrians in RI are crazy, crossing streets in Providence on busy roads, during busy times, without even looking both ways. But Italian drivers take the cake. Between buses, cars, SUVs, motorini and bicycles, I don’t understand how I’m not seeing 4 accidents per day. There are apparently laws that govern the roadways but I challenge you to see more than 5 people out of 60 following them at any given time.

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Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen a bus hit a motorino (everyone was ok), 6 old men pick up a car and move it so a bus could get by and a car hit another car while cutting it off and then getting mad at the other guy. But, that’s my list. There are things on wheels zooming everywhere, all the time. I sometimes don’t even feel safe walking on the sidewalk with headphones on because a motorino could come up behind me in its attempt to move through traffic more quickly. In fact, my research tells me that Italy has one of the highest road death tolls in all of Europe. But still, the number of accidents I’ve witnessed don’t even fill up one hand. Sometimes in the US I pass 3 accidents in one morning on the same stretch of highway. And we have 4 lanes to go about our business! Maybe our cars are bigger? Maybe Italian driving is better than I think it is? Maybe we’ll know next year when the new stats come out on driving across the world.

 

Until the next mystery,

Morgana

 

Exercising Escapades

Buon Venerdi All!

I hope you all have had a wonderful week! The weather here in Florence has finally started to cool down so that an autumnal feel is slowly, and incrementally, settling into our home (with the help of the Autumn Celebration Yankee Candle I smuggled in). I tell ya, I never thought I’d be so happy to wake up to a cold, gray morning. But dreary, chilly October skies are so perfectly seasonal, aren’t they? They erase all guilt of reaching for that second

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October skies in Florence

cup of coffee and adding a sprinkle of cinnamon. And don’t even get me started on the delightful-ness of being able to wear a jacket or sweater without sweating.

But let’s not get too far off track here. This post is about working out in Florence. Or at least what working out for Rich and I is like is Florence.

And so we come to the EUI gym. A land of 1 elliptical, 1 bike, some free-weights, and maybe 3 weight machines (lifting machines? exercise equipment? I’ve just realized I have no idea what said machines are most commonly referred to as). My typical routine is to gym it during the day, usually during lunch hour(s). Namely because:

  1. Who doesn’t like a quiet gym? I’m super sweaty and it’s preferable to have as few witnesses as possible to the amount of water leaving my pores.
  2. The EUI gym has zero air conditioning. In the best of times, there are three small oscillating fans stationed throughout the space. In the worst of times, there’s an open window allowing entry for the 1,000 mosquitoes that live in the neighborhood.
  3. 1 elliptical. 1 bike. If a couple of people are in there, the first part of my workout involves self-induced cardio circuits. Fine, but really boring to do by yourself.
  4. 5 people fill the space that is the gym. With 10 people in there, you’re grateful for sunny skies as you schlepp some equipment outdoors.
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the EUI gym

Our snapshot takes place during one of said times when there were 10 people inside the gym. You see, Rich and I made a mistake. We headed to the gym when he got home after work. But “after work,” is also when lots of people enjoy going to the gym. Cue the outside cardio circuits and inside sweating when availability opened up.

Brief aside that’s completely necessary for the next part of the story: One of the disappointing things about working out here is that the EUI doesn’t have (or didn’t to my knowledge) any workout classes. They have a running club but their first run, their lightest run, was 10km. They host yoga classes but in order to get there, I’ve gotta take 2 buses.

And now, back to Rich and I leaving the gym post 10 people, after work, work-out.

We walk out of the gym only to discover two individuals and a person, who one could only assume to be their instructor. They had mats. They had free-weights. They had water bottles. They were clearly a fitness class. My eyes popped and Rich immediately asked if I wanted to inquire as to what they were doing. We did. Here’s a modified version of how the conversation transpired:

Us: “How often do these classes take place?”

Instructor/class participants: “Three times a week! Two of the days are low cardio impact and one of the days is high cardio impact.”

Us: “What time do the classes start?”

Instructor/class participants: “Usually around 6. But sometimes that’s inconvenient for some of us so we start more like 6:30. Although I usually like it to start much closer to 7. And it only lasts about 20 minutes. Sometimes it’s an hour.”

Us: “How much does it cost for the classes?”

Instructor/class participants: “40 euro for the month/semester.”

Just to summarize for you here…

  • the class runs 3x/week
  • 2 days are low intensity, 1 day is high intensity
  • the class starts anywhere between 6-7pm, depending on what’s good for the individuals taking the class
  • the class runs anywhere from 20-60 minutes (or the 20 minutes feels like 60 minutes?)
  • the cost of the class is 40 euros for the semester, or for a month (obviously two completely different time frames)

We spent our walk home attempting to decipher this newfound information, chuckling over the clarity that was most surely lost in translation and adding this memory to our Italian box.

Hope your weekends are filled with escapades, exercise (should you want it), and good eats!

con amore,

Morgan

 

Tuscan Tidbits

Ciao Tutti!!

This post begins the third, and final year of life abroad for this married couple. We’re starting this year with a single goal: frequency. When we go home and I start talking about the piddly little things that we/I encounter seemingly randomly, friends & family always respond the same way- that, you should write about that. So this year, that’s what we’re doing. It’ll be a sort of compilation of snapshots, if you will.

Now, don’t be misled, this blog space is still a platform for narratives, reflections, and musings. I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of the copious and crazy thoughts that filter through my brain on a regular basis. You might just routinely find smaller posts popping up in your newsfeed or inbox. Or, you might not. It all depends on what happens in a day.

We’re going to start off our snapshot collection with two little snippets. Get pumped.

Tidbit 1May 2016, Circolo Arci II Risorgimento, Ponte alla Badia

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inside dining room at the Circolo

Rich and I are eating dinner in the garden of this establishment. This Circolo may not serve the most delicious food in Florence but it’s charming, the people are delightful, and it’s in our neighborhood. It’s open three days a week for dinner (starting at 7pm) and weekdays for lunch.

A quarter of the way into dinner (two pizzas, a Greek salad and a salami plate), we realize we don’t have enough cash to cover the cost of our bill. I reassure Rich, “No problem hun, I’m sure they take bancomat cards here.”

Wrong, Morgan. You’re wrong.

But since we’re in Italy, and since we’re eating at a neighborhood establishment that we’ve been to several times before, it doesn’t matter that we don’t have enough money to pay for dinner. We explain the situation to our waitress and she responds, “No problem! Enjoy! You can come back tomorrow and pay. Or the next day. Or whenever.”

Whenever. You can come back whenever to pay for a dinner that you’re already eating. Sure.

Tidbit 2April 2016, Via della Fortezza

Our next scene occurs in a doctor’s office. I decided I should probably get a check up and establish a relationship with an English speaking doctor while we’re here. God forbid something happens, it’s nice to know someone in the medical profession.

Brief sidenote: the doctor’s office had windows. Floor to ceiling windows covered with white curtains that were thick enough to ensure privacy but sheer enough to allow streaming sunlight. And, as I sat on the examining bed there, I realized that our typical doctor’s office (or at least the examining rooms) don’t have windows. We’re usually led through a labyrinth of hallways to a room with one or two terrible paintings and a closed door. And, you know what? It’s really nice to be able to see outside in an examination room. Makes ya feel a little less “rat in a lab” and a little more “person in a room.”

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a similar feeling doctor’s office

But back to the tidbit. So, had a check-up, made the doctor my new friend, and then went to pay for the visit. At which point the secretary informed us the bancomat machine wasn’t working. Based on her less than surprised reaction, this occurrence was not a rarity. “Don’t worry about it,” she said, “you can pay the next time you come in.”

“But we have cash,” we said.

“It’s fine,” she said.

Not only did we not pay for medical services before they even happened, we were trusted to come back again, with no future appointment, to pay for the services that were rendered. Can you even imagine?

Trust people. Maybe we’re just not giving/accepting enough of it.

Until the next post,

con amore,

Morgan

 

 

 

Insights from Italians

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Well friends & family, here we are, the end of year 2. It’s times like these where I come to realize 2 things:

(1) Time is a strange form of measurement. It has a feeling, right? Sometimes a day transpires in what feels like seconds while other moments seem to last an eternity. It feels like ages have passed since I’ve seen various family members and friends while simultaneously, so little time has gone by. Very bizarre units, these minutes, hours, months, and years we have to measure periods of life.

(2) Providence College has instilled in me an inherent need to reflect when coming upon any sort of ending.

That being said, you guessed it, this final post for the year is a sentimental, probably corny, and possibly somewhat entertaining reflection of the year past. Living in Italy, hosting beautiful friends & family, and teaching English throughout the course of the last 10 months has led me to several conclusions, thoughts & musings:

(a) Florence is a place to slow down. Whether willingly or involuntarily, my pace of life has significantly slowed down here. Over this past year, I’ve been late to teach classes, skipped going to the grocery store due to monsoons, and spent days taking three hour lunches with friends & family. All of these things are ok. You’re late because of the bus? No stress. You didn’t spend any time on the couch this weekend? Why?

On days I’m not teaching, I have no schedule. On Fridays when I head out with a neighbor friend, there is no plan. My OCD doesn’t flare up, my brain doesn’t search for some sort of structure, the day just goes where it wants. And usually involves snacks & wine.

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wine tasting @ Castello di Gabbiano

(b) Italians are wonderfully proud. Granted, we live in a little neighborhood where there are what we might refer to as “real” Italians who have English and make 3 gestures for every 4 spoken words but all of the Italians we’ve met concern themselves with ensuring we have the best experience possible. They want us to know Italy like they know Italy and it’s not only delightful, but incredibly helpful.

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some delightful Italian friends

(c) The world is a crazily big place. Being abroad for a long period of time makes me very conscious of the differences there are between cultures. I’m no longer in a position of knowledge but observation. There are so many places to see, so many people to learn from, and so many foods to eat. I also realize that when we’re here, Rich and I can explore so much more. Public transit easily connects place to place (even if a large waiting period is typically involved) and each place has its own specialties. We could travel for 2.5 hours and be somewhere that feels very different from Florence (like Lake Como). That’s so cool!

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up the street from our apartment @ Il Feriolo, a view of the Mugello

(d) Meals are meant to be shared. One of the reasons why wait staff doesn’t come to the table every 3 minutes in Europe is because they’re respectful of the fact, especially when you’re dining with others, of what your time means. You’ve come out with friends or family to spend time with them, to share food with them, to be together. That time is important and that time is well spent.

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family dinners in Italy = one of the best parts of year 2

(e) Flexibility is essential. Sometimes the bus is 40 minutes late. Sometimes you have to wait 35 more minutes for an appointment that was scheduled 1.5 hours ago. Sometimes there’s no bathroom and you have to go to the next cafe. Sometimes you can’t find the salt in the grocery store. All of these things conjure a phrase I used to repeat to my students on a regular basis, “Now is a good time to practice your patience.” This past year has involved so many opportunities to practice my patience, I’m now an expert.

(f) Americans are really good at several things. When I first got here, all I could think about were all of the things Italians did right and all of the things Americans did wrong. I was in the honeymoon phase with my new country and completely enveloped in the novelty of everything. After two years, I’ve begun my collection of things Americans are really good at which include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • brunch
  • salads for meals
  • accessibility to delightful ethnic foods
  • customer service (in certain settings)
  • craft beer
  • skyscrapers (really weird item but something Italians frequently mention when they learn I’m from the US)
  • special ed (at least on the east coast, I can’t speak for the whole country here)

The answer is yes, I’m completely aware that most of these items are centered around food and/or education. I make no apologies for the topics that frequent my brain space.

So there you have it. My reflections as we come to the end of year 2. I could probably keep writing but as the words move forward, I tend to babble and talk in circles and you all have things to do today.

I’ll leave you with this little Italian phrase to dissect as you will, “Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco.” image

A presto famiglia e amici. E buona estate!

Con affetto,

Morgana

When Visitors Come a-Visiting

The first time Rich told me he had received a job opportunity in Florence, I said “no.” “I can’t go,” I said, “I have a car and a job.” In discussing the situation with friends later, their reactions were always the same, “I’m sorry, you can’t move to Italy because you have a car and a job?! Are you crazy?” But, as a Rhode Islander, moving to Massachusetts seemed far enough never mind jumping across an ocean. After some time, some wine, and a whole lot of list-making, I had processed the situation fully enough to understand what kind of great adventure lay not just in front of me, but in front of us.

Now, after a year and a half of living abroad (with some intermittent chunks of stateside staying), Riccardo and I have established a little sense of community for ourselves on this side of the Atlantic. We have local spots, neighborhood people, and a mostly delightful little routine to our lives (with the occasional hiccup that comes with living in a country where you’re not fluent in the native language). That being said, when people take the time, energy, and money to come see us and be a part of our Italian lives, it is THE COOLEST.

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fam meets Nezio, one of the owners of our favorite local grocer

Granted, I’m currently feeling nostalgic after saying good-bye to my two aunts and Grandma after ten days of adventuring between two countries but seriously, having visitors is one of the greatest things that happens to us. Here are lots of reasons why:

  1. It gives us an excuse to be tourists again. There are museums I would love to revisit, squares I look forward to standing in and buckets of treats I would like to eat every day. Visitors award us the excuse to indulge in all of these things.
  2. Visitors create an opportunity for new adventures. After following at least four different Italian blogs, Rich and I have a running list of places we want to visit, wines we want to drink, and foods we want to eat. While it’s lovely poking around just the two of us, an extra element of special-ness is added when we get to share these new experiences with people we know and love.
  3. We know some cool people here. Outside of the little ex-pat community we’ve developed, we’ve been fortunate to encounter some very welcoming Italians. And they love family, specifically grandmas (my Grandma received both a free glass of Prosecco and a gifted bottle of wine her first day here). It is a super neat experience to introduce our American people to our Italian people while eating and drinking tasty things.
  4. We bring our visitors to the little places that make up our daily lives. It’s pretty difficult to be away from a great chunk of people you love on a regular basis but when fam and friends tell me what they’re doing or who they’re seeing, I have a visual of exactly where they are. And, dorkily enough, there’s a certain level of comfort to that knowledge. After our visitors leave, they have a visual of where we are most of the time too (in bakeries or at grocery stores fighting the crowds)  which makes me feel closer to everyone in its own little way.
  5. Making new associations with old places. Rich and I have now been incredibly lucky to have had seven different sets of visitors with some more on the way. They’ve all stayed in different places and we’ve done different things. Streets that used to be a passageway have turned into a little memory. Restaurants that have always been regular haunts now hold the lingering presence of familiar people. And treats that started out as tasty become even more delicious when you know other people like them just as much as you do.
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family selfie in front of the Arc de Triumphe

Is this post possible propaganda for everyone to come visit? Maybe. But the Rhode Isalnder in me will always want to be close to these wonderful family & friends and getting to hang out with them in Italy (and sometimes France) is one of the most delightful luxuries I’d never thought I’d experience.

con affetto,

Morgana

April Fish Day

AprilFoolFish+on+back

It’s April 1st. Which means I owe you all a very Happy April Fool’s Day or, as I’ve recently learned we say in Italy,  April Fish Day!!

My knowledge of this cultural difference came from the bilingual kiddos I work with on Thursday evenings. We were charting out the program for our lesson when I brought up the end of March and asked if they knew what was coming up. They all immediately responded, “April Fish Day!” Being the foolish American I am, I of course instantly assumed they were mispronouncing “fool” for “fish.” But no, no my friends, as per the norm, my students are geniuses and in fact, they meant “fish.”

Being a naive ex-pat, I never even considered the various ways different parts of the world may celebrate April Fool’s Day. Apparently in Italian schools, kiddos take the morning to create the April fish and then spend the day affixing it to someone’s back. The goal, of course, is to not disturb the person whose back you’re attaching it to so that they’re not aware of its presence. Afterwards, the jokes and frivolity ensue. From what I’ve been told, once you realize the fish is there, you’re completely allowed to remove it from your own back and begin the task of plotting whose back to adhere it to next. Although my somewhat adult mind can’t completely grasp what sort of hilarity this “trick” might befall, my students assure me it’s both comical and awesome.

So Happy Fish Day delightful people! And watch your backs for any scaly friends that may appear there today…

Con affetto,

Morgan

Lady Day

This year is the first I’ve experienced International Woman’s Day as a thing. Has it always been a thing and I never realized it? Do Europeans give more credence to such an important day? I have no idea. What I will tell you is that the Italians call it Festa delle Donne which literally translates to: Party of the Women. Which is incredible.

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neighbors on Lady Day

I’m assuming that different parts of the world mark this day (or don’t mark it if

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mimosas

you’re in the wrong part of the world) in different ways. In Florence, the day is marked with mimosas, free entry to all of the state museums, and free treats. Now, I know what you’re thinking and I have some disappointing news: mimosas are a kind of flower. Flowers are delightful and these ones are yellow and sunshine-y but come on, let’s be honest, handing out the drink on street corners would have been way better.

I spent a large part of the day with a friend who lives in our building and is affectionately called, “neighbor friend.” This neighbor friend also happens to be an art historian and so she knows almost everything about the various collections of art that Florence holds. She’ll tell you she doesn’t but it’s a lie, she’s a genius. We decided to go to the Bargello to start off Lady Day. The Bargello used to be the House of Justice and still contains prison cells on the bottom floor which have since been renovated into bathrooms.

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The Bargello

I know.

This museum is known for its sculptures. Do you know the David Donatello sculpted? The one where he’s wearing a hat? It’s there. You know what else is there?

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David with a hat

Buckets of stuff. My brain neglects to fathom the vast amount of historical artifacts we have until stepping into one of these museums. Who found this stuff? Where did it come from? How much is it worth? How come people don’t carve things out of marble anymore? How come the Catholic church owns so many things? So many questions. So many sculptures.

Anyways, back to the importance of ladies. Post museum poking, neighbor friend and I grabbed a quick lunch at this delightful spot. She headed off to a second museum and I headed home to do a few chores and lesson planning (I know, it’s not Lady Day like but I mean, it was a Tuesday). On the way home, I stopped in Piazza della Duomo to hear an acapella group perform because those are just the kinds of things that happen on Lady Day.

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lady day lunching

Hope all of my fellow ladies out there had a delightful March 8th and maybe even a wonderful March 9th too because who said Lady Day just had to be one day?

Con affetto,

Morgan

On Teaching English

One of the first Special Ed. courses I took as an undergrad was “Communication Disorders.” It’s very easy to conjure up memories of Dr. Keating referring to us in comforting childish nicknames, offering us crackers, and emphasizing the importance of a communication board.

I had no idea just how important that class would be not just as a Special Ed. teacher, but as an English teacher.

You see, teaching English as a Foreign Language is essentially finding your way through a communication disorder. The parties on either side have difficulty comprehending what the other is saying and so the teacher must revert to alternate methods to accomplish some semblance of understanding. Although I don’t make use of communication boards (because they’d be in English, come on guys), I do often resort to charades, using a multitude of synonyms, and pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

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what a communication board might look like (for my non-teacher friends & family)

Of course, Italian children have speech patterns and syntax that vary from our typical rhythm. For example, instead of saying, “What’s that?” my Italian friends use the phrasing, “Morgan, what is this _____?” Roll the “r” in “Morgan” and fill in the blank with anything from “horse” to “color” and you’ve got yourself a bridge across communication.

One of my favorite translations from Italian to English recently occurred with my preschool friends. One of my buddies was being more affectionate than usual, speaking to me in rapid fire Italian and pointing at his belly with a concerned look on his face. Thank goodness there’s another student in the class who lived in NY for three years (he’s five) and could serve as a translator for me. My translation followed: “Ah, Morgan. He is telling you there is a virus that lives inside his belly.”

Perfect.

The simultaneous great and unfortunate element to teaching English is that your students aren’t the only ones with a communication disorder, you’ve got one yourself. There’s nothing worse for a teacher than giving an explanation of something and looking out at your cherubs and seeing….nothing. Blank expressions, glassy eyes, and not one clear

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English is always better learned when dressed for carnevale

indication of new information being obtained. Round 2: different words, some pictures and still…nothing. Round 3 and we’ve picked up a few key words and by round 4, an overall sense of understanding has occurred with some modeling bringing us to home plate.

And now here’s where we get a little dorky/corny. You were waiting for it, weren’t you? Maybe even secretly hoping for it. I know, everyone needs a little dorky-ness and corny-ness in their lives. And if you don’t think you do, then you’re just lying to yourself.

You see, one of the things I’ve discovered about teaching English is that so much of how we communicate has absolutely nothing to do with spoken language. My preschoolers and I can converse with a solid four words including, “hello, blue, triangle and yellow.” We’ve been together for about ten weeks now and while I know a few things about them, I certainly don’t know as many as I would have if we were on the same language plane. But that doesn’t stop them from wrapping their tiny arms around my waist. Or lifting their delightful faces up for a kiss at the end of a lesson. Or wanting to sit next to me on a child- sized bench while we sing our “hello” song.

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some preschool cherubs

The moral of the blog post? Smiling at people and offering help both go further than you could ever possibly imagine, in whatever culture you’re a part of. While I’ve always held a philosophy of responsive teaching, being in a foreign country and teaching my native language as a foreign language were apparently two things I needed to confirm that smiling will always be more effective than screaming. Unless a child is wandering into traffic, then scream away, my friends. But until that wandering occurs, break out the smile and the charades and enjoy the hugs that come after.

Con affetto,

Morgan

Bent on a Scent

Scientists say the sense of smell is quite possibly the most effective in triggering memories. It has something to do with the fact that the olfactory bulb is directly connected to the parts of the brain responsible for handling emotion and memory. So, when you smell something, and associate a particular feeling or moment with it, that smell will continue to carry that memory for you. HOW COOL IS THAT? Since this post isn’t about the brain or how it learns or how magical everything inside your skull is, we won’t get into any detail beyond that description but it’s important for you to know because today we’re talking about a smell.

When Rich and I arrived in our charming Italian home a year and a half ago, the weather prompted, if not required, some sunny strolling. Additionally, a city lifestyle obliges its residences to oftentimes travel by foot. This strolling and walking and obligatory traveling by foot-ing is how we discovered the scent.

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neighborhood strolling

You see, we started to notice that many of the women passing us all smelled the same. And they smelled GOOD. As time went on and the seasons changed, we smelled the scent less frequently and then more regularly once again. But this passing time bit also put us into mission mode. Clearly the scent was a perfume. And clearly we needed it. Our strolling had gotten to the point that when we smelled the scent, we immediately perked up, latching onto that olfactory association of our Italian life.

This past Christmas we went into a delightful and gigantic department store downtown. The mission was clear: find the scent. Fortunately, one of our people happened to be

LA-RINASCENTE_Firenze_Esterno_BP_7090
downtown dept. store- La Rinascente

working there and quickly stepped into the role of leader of our quest. When I tell you we smelled over twenty-five different perfumes, I promise it’s not a lie. But alas, none of those smells was our smell and so the mission continued.

We finally realized there was only one way to obtain the name of the needed scent: ask a woman who we smelled it on. Of course, there were some problems with this particular branch of the mission:

  1. If I was by myself strolling and smelled it, I wasn’t entirely confident in my Italian skills being efficient enough to approach said Italian woman and appropriately gather the information.
  2. When Rich and I were together, and a woman walked by with the smell, sometimes she was headed very quickly for a particular direction. You know what’s not comforting to a gal strolling along? Two people chasing after her. Abort.
  3. A few times we smelled our smell walking home. At night. Once more, although I wouldn’t describe Rich or myself as intimidating characters, we decided it probably wasn’t the best idea to approach a woman, alone, at night, on a side street. Again, scaring people is not on our list of things to do, ever.

And so the scent went undiscovered, just a little memory hanging out in the olfactory bulb.

Until recently.

Several weeks ago, Rich and I were walking home from dinner and a young woman in front of us had the smell. It was night, which would be breaking one of our aforementioned rules, but we were on a street that was well lit and she was directly in front of us. And, just like that, she stopped. And turned towards her motorino and started to get ready to take off. Guys, the opportunity could not have been more perfect. So, we did it. We approached the young Italian woman (who had awesome hair), told her we liked her perfume, and asked what it was. Well, Rich said all of those things. I smiled and nodded as big and as much as I could.

We know have in our possession the scent. The smell that will always remind us of Italy and the time we spent here. And, guess what? When I went back to that department store to look for it, the woman behind the counter told me this perfume was ranked the #1 selling perfume in Italy last year.

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the scent

Mission accomplished.

Con affetto,

Morgan