Bocce soothes the nerves

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:42 am

Just down the street from our house is a bocciodromo – a indoor court for people (mostly older men) to play bocce (or in Italian). While on a walk after a stressful evening, Jason, Josh & I decided to go in to watch some of the action.

It was quite clear from the beginning that we didn’t belong. Some of the men glanced up at us, but quickly went back to their game. None of us had any clue how to play bocce. There was a little red ball (white in the picture), and a bunch of other balls that the guys threw. And by “threw” I mean launched 50 meters with incredible accuracy.

After a bit, Jason got up the nerve to go up to one of the guys and ask him to explain the rules to him. The man seemed eager to tell Jason all about the game – even taking him into the locker room to open up his foam-lined case with holes cut out for the bocce. When he was finished, Jason came back over to where we were standing, and we headed home.

It reminded me how just asking a few questions about something that people are interested in gives us a window into their lives.


A normal day in Italy

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:04 am

Today Trey and I went on some errands after he got done with school. In Italy, the post office is also a bank, and is also the place where you pay bills. I needed to pay for some kind of insurance for the kids during school (even though they already have insurance) and for a “discretionary fund” for the kids’ teachers (I have no clue what this means). And naturally there was a huge line – out the door huge. And one employee working the bill-paying line. And two working the post-office line, which had no one standing in it. Just a normal day in Italy!

As we waited, an elderly man struck up a conversation with Trey. It’s fun for me to watch what the kids do when someone speaks to them in Italian. Usually it’s something like a deer-in-the-headlights look – a look I remember well from our first days in Italy. The man asked Trey if he would pay his bills for him. What did he say, Daddy? He asked him where he gets his blond hair. Daddy, what did he say?! He asked him if he was a good boy in school today. Dad! What’s that man saying to me?! The people in line chuckled a bit and the old man asked me if he understood. I told him that we just moved here and he is learning. The kind old man looked down at Trey and said, “Penso che tu sia un bambino bravo.” I think that you are a good boy.

And Trey looked back up at him and smiled. And I think he understood. Sometimes a smile speaks volumes.


This is not a picture of me

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:08 am

EuroChocolate has begun here in Perugia (website in English and Italian). It’s 9 full days devoted to chocolate in all forms. We’ve seen hot pepper chocolate, cinnamon chocolate, cannabis chocolate (!), chocolate in all shapes, and even 3 meter X 3 meter blocks of chocolate that were carved by professional sculptors. Ladies are getting their hair styled with chocolate, getting chocolate body masks, and apparently (according to this picture) shaving with it.

The city is packed like we’ve never seen it. We’ve heard estimates that 300,000 people were in the city center on Sunday. Perugia’s normal population is around 100,000, so things are pretty crowded. But it’s fun to see so many people in one place. We also heard that one of the side streets off of the city center was so full of people at one point that everyone was completely stuck. Not my idea of a good time!


Words I’ve Never Heard Before

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:33 am

Today after I picked up Trey from school we headed to the park that is right across the street. We were by ourselves for the most part until an older woman and a little red-headed boy came and sat down near us. Trey and the red-headed boy sort of played near each other for a while, not really interacting. Then Trey started making a little pile of pebbles. The little red-headed boy watched him for a minute, and then started making his own pile. He then asked Trey, “Facciamo insieme?” He wanted to make a montagna (mountain) together. I just watched, knowing that Trey probably didn’t understand what he was saying to him. He repeated it several times. Then the little boy started adding pebbles to Trey’s pile. Trey stepped back and I could just see his little brain working hard, trying to figure out what he might be saying. He then quietly said, “Facciamo,” and started to make a mountain with the other little boy.

It was so neat to watch Trey learn a new word like that. We don’t always get to be passive observers of such an obvious step in language learning. I never told him that the little boy wanted to play together, and I’ve never taught him how to conjugate the verb fare. But he put two and two together and even made a friend in the process.

It really isn’t that different for Heidi and I. At one point the boys started chasing each other and the older woman scolded the red-headed boy and said “Non correre col bastoncino!” I’ve never heard that before, but it was obvious that she wanted the little boy to stop running with the stick. See … I’m almost as smart as Trey!


Parent-Teacher Conferences

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:16 pm

Today we went to a meeting with Lance & Chloe’s classes. I went to Lance’s classroom and Heidi went to Chloe’s. I was a little overwhelmed at times when all the parents started talking at once, but for the most part I got the gist of what the teacher was trying to get across.

After class I stopped to talk to one of Lance’s teachers. Before I had a chance to ask my question she stopped me and told me how attentive Lance is in class and how she thinks that she understands everything that she says. Time and time again she told us what a bravo studente, good student, he was.

When the meeting was over Heidi told me that her teacher told her how great Chloe was in class! Heidi asked her if there was anything we could do to help Chloe with Italian. Her teacher asked us not to do a thing! She said when Chloe speaks she sounds like an Italian kid. If we try and teach her she will start sounding like an American speaking Italian!

I was very proud of my kids today. They’re doing well in school and picking up an amazing amount of Italian at a very fast pace. Awesome!


Conversazione "In Tandem"

Posted in Uncategorized at 5:34 am

One thing that Jason, my team leader, has been trying to drill into my head is the importance of “language partners.” We’ve learned a great deal of Italian at school, but a lot of what we do in class is artificial. It’s fine for working in the classroom, but we are rarely taught how real Italians actually use their language. Our school recently offered a system to match up native Italians who want to learn a foreign language with people like me who are trying to learn Italian. I finally took the plunge last week and called up “Cristian,” who was listed on the board as wanting to learn German and English.

We met at the smaller train station and then went up to the city center. We spoke mostly in Italian. Believe it or not, my Italian is better than his English. After a nice dinner, we walked around the city center with no particular destination – very Italian.

Introverts like myself don’t always enjoy calling up strangers for conversation. But I had a great time and am looking forward to meeting with him again. I definitely see how a conversation partner can jump start your language learning.

PS – Did you know that the Italian political system has at least 18 parties?! Learned that last night.


A sea of umbrellas

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:17 am

Today it’s been raining almost the entire day. After language school I headed to the kids’ school to pick them up. There is usually quite a crowd of parents hanging out outside the school waiting to take their kids home for the day. Today was no different except everyone had an umbrella. As we all crowded towards the door, waiting for the bell to ring, I noticed that all the umbrellas made a kind of roof. As the kids started to pour out, they dodged in and out among all of the parents and didn’t even have to get wet. It was kind of a cool thing! I grabbed Lance & Chloe, they popped open their umbrellas and we headed home.


An actual conversation with me and Chloe

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:57 am

“Dad! Today the boy that always yells, ‘Coca-Cola’ in my ears tried to hug me three times. I think he’s really cute!”


Does anybody know what the “Coca-Cola” thing even means? Is that code for something?