A memorable day began with a memorable “incidente”. The boys were expected at school this morning at the special time of 9:30. We were all excited, and ready to leave the house with plenty of time to spare. I’ve mentioned before that our driveway here can be a bit treacherous, same also goes for the area around the house. As Chris reversed the car (preparing for a forward-facing journey down the driveway), there was a sudden jolt and the car would not move. To explain why, I need to describe the lay of the land. The house is built on a slight slope, so that the front corner of the foundation is cut into the land. There is a pathway all around the house and the front corner is bordered by a retaining wall whose top edge is almost flush with the land around it. If you were walking along (or, indeed, driving!) you might fall into the path around the house……and that’s exactly what the car did. One of the back wheels was hanging over the pathway, with the other three on the ground. Not really knowing what else to do, I dashed over to Franco’s house and tried to explain what had happened. I managed to ask for help and explain that the car was stuck (using some miming techniques to clarify!) and Franco accompanied me back to the house. He suggested getting the jack out and lifting the car on the stuck side, then putting some blocks on the pathway stacked up to the wheel and then a board from the top of the blocks to the higher ground. It worked and we managed to get the car with all four wheels on land again! Franco is awesome!! I gave him some Peanut Butter choc chip cookies that I’d just baked, so hopefully he and Maria enjoyed some very un-Italian treats for their trouble.
(side note: family members may recall a certain retaining wall incident when Chris and I were first dating. He does seem to have a thing for them!)
Embarassing car troubles behind us, we finally arrived at the school half an hour late. The people there were all expecting us and had organised for the English speaking teacher to greet us. He was very nervous, but spoke English well enough for us to understand him. We were ushered into the Grade 1 class first of all. The kids were all very excited to see us and the teacher seemed very glad to have Denver in her class. He had a seat right up the front and seemed pretty happy with the whole scenario. Next, we went to Balin’s new class (Grade 3) and were greeted with the students singing us an English song they had learned for the occasion. Balin has never been serenaded like that before! To be honest, we couldn’t understand all of the words (even though it was in English) but we clapped and told them it was fantastico. Balin was put next to a little girl named Jodie who was from England and would be able to help him with the language initially. Balin’s teacher (Rafaella) seemed very nice and spoke to us in enthusiastic Italian.
As reluctant as we were to leave them in a strange foreign school, we were promptly steered from the room and another teacher (Christina) was assigned to take us to the Commune (like a council office) to organise the bus and meal coupons. The kids are fed at school every day with a 3 course cooked meal. The bus comes to Groppo and stops at the end of the driveway at 7:10am and then drops the kids back here at 4:45pm. So for 2 kids (meals and bus every day) for 3 months, we need to pay €289. Christina took us to the Commune and helped us to fill in the forms (there’s ALWAYS forms!). We were then told to go to the Post Office and pay, then back again to the Commune to collect the coupons. Unfortunately the Post Office was having computer problems today, so we need to try again tomorrow. These things are never straightforward. We went back to the school and had a final check to see how the boys were going, they looked pretty happy so we left and tried not to fret too much.
Monday is market day in Bagnone. If you are in Villafranca, it’s Friday and if you are in Aulla, it’s Saturday. Markets sell fresh produce with a big emphasis on cheese and cured meats. You can also find shoes, underwear and coats with Villafranca and Aulla also having a reasonable selection of general clothing. We went to the cheese stall and bought a wedge of Parmagiana. The man there was very nice and made us taste large chunks of two different varieties before making our final decision. Evidently Italians take cheese very seriously and it’s important to get the right type which you just can’t do without tasting first. With the cheese sorted, we stopped into an ancient cafe for a cappucino and brioche (as you do) and marvelled at the formidable old church on the piazza. Those catholics can certainly build a darn good church!
On the way back home, we stopped in at the local cemetary and looked at the graves. Almost all of them had cool old photos and we searched through the names to try to find a Puccetti. No luck unfortunately.
4:10pm came around all too soon, and we returned to the school for pick-up time. We managed to locate the bus that the boys will take tomorrow, it’s number 01 which is easy to remember. Here’s a pic
The boys were very happy to see us and reported a pretty good first day. A lady came out to speak to us (in Italian) and told us that Denver had not eaten much but had been good. She kissed him and seemed to think he was pretty cute. Another lady told us to bring toothbrush, toothpaste, soap and towel for Denver tomorrow (not sure why?). The boys were full of stories on the way home and seemed to be fairly un-phased by the lack of English in their day.
The “weird things” in Balin’s first day (according to Balin):
- Teachers kiss you!
- The toilets are unisex, no separate one for boys and girls
- Play time is 2 hours and you don’t go outside
- You eat meals in the cafeteria
The “weird things” in Denver’s first day (according to Denver):
- Teachers kiss you!
- The day is long and seems to go forever
All in all I think it went well for them, and I’m optimistic about the coming weeks of adjustment. They’ve already learned quite a bit of Italian just from today, so I’m inclined to believe all reports that children become fluent very quickly (within 2 months).
This evening we had visitors: Monika and Dorinel. Monika is our house cleaner and her husband Dorinel is the gardener here. They are from Romania and our only common language was Italian, which of course is the second language for both us. You can imagine what fun we had communicating! We even drew pictures for each other. Actually, we understood exactly what was being said most of the time, which is quite amazing really. They told us that they did not know Italian when they came here, but it is quite a similar language to Romanian and it didn’t take them long. They did not learn in formal study, but from TV shows mainly. They have 2 sons exactly the same ages as our boys and they are in the same classes too. I’m constantly amazed by what you can learn even when you don’t speak the language well.
I leave you with this evening’s sunset. It was a rainy and cold day, but gosh what a lovely sunset!