It is sometimes the little things that can delight, perplex, and drive you completely insane about living in another country. My favorite find this week has been tucked around the corner from our house the whole time we’ve been here (longer, no doubt) and it is the 24-hour Latteria – or milk vending machines. How cool is this? And a brilliant answer to shops that don’t stay open late and not at all on Sundays. Right next to the milk machine from which you can choose semi-skimmed, whole, or cream, it gets even better: a vending machine that dispenses mozzerella, ricotta, yoghurt, and bags of salad greens! Would Americans have a problem with obesity if we had these kind of fast food options? I think not.
The more aggravating moments of living in Italy are usually reserved for navigating public transport. Just today we tried to make a quick trip to Venice to visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum but were foiled because only when we reached the station we discovered that most of the trains were cancelled due to a strike, and missed the last one for hours. Of course, there are no notices posted on their website, which I checked for train times before we left, or at the station. Just the amorphous murmur of “sciopero” (strike) being passed around the crowd by others, stranded like us.
Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza
Earlier in the week, we went to visit a bilingual international school located in a hamlet not far from Vicenza as the crow flies, but 2 ½ hours each way by two trains and two buses. Plus, a journey that should have cost no more than €10 (L is free, being under 12), cost €30 because we missed the first local train and had to catch an express – one stop. Grrr.
This school is deemed bilingual and international because up through the 5th grade part of the curriculum is taught in English. However, the student body is entirely Italian and the feeling when we walked into the classrooms was one of well-studied conformity. The students rose immediately and uniformly as the Coordinator came in with us. The desks were all lined up neatly facing the teacher and students were being summoned, one by one, to the front of the class to recite their lessons orally in front of the teacher and their peers. For me, it is reminiscent of schooling in 1950’s-era America. It honestly makes our local public school in the Midwest look like an experiment in avant-garde, progressive education. Another one off the list for us.
The search for a school for L is really not because I am worried about him ‘falling behind’ or any kind of subliminally sadistic wish on my part to make him ‘build character’ through enduring more school, albeit in another language. But truly, it is only in the hope that we might find a place where they might speak a little English, in addition to Italian, and where he could go part-time to learn the language, at the least, and meet some other kids, and perhaps, even learn more of Italian culture and play more football.
Yesterday we visited a local, small, private Catholic school (but no nuns!), and it was the nicest place we’ve been so far. This is not something I would have ever considered, being not only not Catholic, but fairly all around un-religious. But my friend's uncle is involved with the school and so took us for a tour. They have great sporting facilities (big thumbs up from L) and they seem to be kind people who all speak a little English, students included. They are happy to let L attend half days until, and if, he decides he likes it enough to want to go longer. And they got the idea that he is officially homeschooling, so he does not need to be subjected to the same level of testing or even keeping up with his peers, which would obviously be quite hard, given his lack of any proficiency in Italian at this point. So we will try it after Christmas and just see how it goes. Sometimes, good things do turn up in unexpected places.
actor-writer-director, improviser, mother, traveler, life renegade