09.30.06

Teacher Strike

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:13 am

The kids were sent home with a note from school yesterday advising us of a teacher’s strike planned for next Friday. I was actually kind of surprised that they gave out notice. The wording of the note was kind of funny.

First, it mentioned that the mayor has approved the strike. I didn’t realize that you had to have permission to strike, but apparently you can’t even strike here without going through the proper bureaucracy!

Second, the note “strongly urged” us to accompany our kids all the way to the door of the school, in case there is a strike. Thus avoiding a bunch of kids stuck outside all day because their parents drove off too quickly.

And third, our youngest kid’s teacher winked as she handed us the note and said, “Don’t worry about it. We never strike.” So what’s the point of a strike if they never actually do it?

There are some things about Italian culture that you just have to be Italian to understand.

09.25.06

Completely Lost

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:50 am

We took a quick trip to Perugia this weekend to visit some good friends there. On the way home, at the train station where we had to change trains, a man came up to me. He looked scared, and he sort of gestured to me towards the train tickets he held in his hand.

I looked down and saw where he was trying to go. I realized that he had no idea what he needed to do. I asked him several questions in English and Italian, but it was all lost on him. I took him over to the schedule, and found the track where he needed to be. However, they had made an announcement over the loudspeaker that they had changed the track, but since he didn’t understand, he probably stood at the wrong track and watched his train leave without him.

I finally figured out he was from Pakistan (the only word he used with me). I took him to the ticket window, which was already closed. I went to the computer to see if there was another train. I talked with the guys working in the control center. He had missed the last train of the night. So I had to explain to him that he needed to wait 2 hours for a bus, that would take him to another station. Then, he had to get on a train at that station to get to where he was going.

I sat him down in an area where he could see the bus, held up 2 fingers to symbolize how long he needed to wait, and pretended like I was driving a bus.

The thing that really struck me was how scary that situation would be. Coming from a country where public trains barely exist, I understand how confusing the system is to the uninitiated. Missing the last train of the night would be awful. Finally, I boarded my train, and prayed for him to get to where he was going safely.

09.22.06

I passed!

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:32 am

This morning I had nothing on my calendar except for one thing – my written driver’s exam. Unfortunately American licenses aren’t valid after one year of residency here. I am a little ahead of schedule, but figured I might as well get it over with.

Here, you have to attend driving school. So I attended class a few times a week. It was actually good language learning for me – a whole new set of vocabulary that I hadn’t ever learned. However, they recently changed the test to include other languages besides Italian. Since I’m a chicken, I decided to take the test in English. Since each time you take the test it costs €?50, I didn’t want to flunk because there was a word I hadn’t ever heard of.

British English is what everyone here means when they say English, which is really pretty different from American English. “In Britishen” (as Lance says) a verge is a shoulder, a motorway is a freeway, and a carriageway is a lane (I think). So even though the test was in English, I had to pay close attention to make sure I didn’t goof up something dumb because the word was different from what I’m used to.

But I passed! My driving instructor drove me to the office (they are required to attend), and waited while I took the fancy-shmancy touch screen test. He gave me the good news and took me home.

Now I have to pass the driving test, which should be easy since I’ve been driving in America for a while!

09.15.06

Conversations with God

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:58 am

Heidi has a ladies Bible Study on Tuesday nights. I try to get the kids out of the house, but this Tuesday the kids and I just hid in the kitchen and quietly made dinner. During dinner, somehow the kids started talking about hearing God speak to them. I mostly just listened, just kind of taking it all in.

Chloe mentioned that she always hears God talk to her. I thought she was just being silly, but the look on her face showed me she was serious. Then Lance chimed in and said that he had also heard God speak. I finally asked them what God said to them. Chloe said something like, “Well, I usually ask him how he’s doing, and he says, “Fine, how are you?”

Then she turned and told me, “Don’t worry, Dad. God said that we are going to get our permesso di soggiorno.”

This has been a big prayer need of ours for several months now, and honestly the situation has only seemed to look more and more bleak. But here my six year old was teaching me about faith and about how normal a thing it is to hear God speak when we pray.

So my question is … why does it seem so difficult for adults to have “conversations” with God? What happens to us as we “mature” that makes us more likely to explain that God doesn’t speak in an audible voice?

09.14.06

Stories from Rome, Part 3

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:10 am

Even though you have to watch out, the Metro in Rome is by far the easiest way to get to the big tourist places in Rome. But after 9 PM, the red line is closed, and you’re on your own to find a bus or whatever.

One night, we were hurrying to catch a subway. We thought we were going to make it, and were relieved to see the gates hadn’t been closed yet. We headed down the long tunnel to the escalator that went down to the subway … only to find out that those gates were closed. The subway was closed, and we were stuck and couldn’t go back the way we came. To our left was an escalator going up. And it went up. Three escalators and two people movers later, we were dumped out onto a subway entrance I hadn’t ever seen. It was night, we were in the middle of a highway. And there were no bus stops to be found – we didn’t even see any busses going by.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have zero sense of direction. But something told me to go left. So we did. We walked and walked along this highway. No sidewalk part of the way, either. With three kids. I was pleased to see some other people who also got trapped inside the subway and were dumped out at the same place we were – and not just foreigners – Italians, too!

Finally, we go around a curve and see a whole bunch of bus signs. We headed over and, with a little help with some Italians who pointed us in the right direction, got on a bus that headed to where we needed to go.

We we got there, Chloe looked up at me and said, “We’re at the train station? You figured out how to get us home? You’re the best daddy in the whole world!”

Which was the best thing I had heard all day!

And then she said, “You’re even better than Jason!”

Was I not better before this little incident?! :)

09.12.06

Stories from Rome, Part 2

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:17 am

Speaking of riff raff … I got pickpocketed on the subway. The train was incredibly crowded, and I was just worried about the kids, since, being a lot lower than eye-level, they tend to get squished. Somehow, someone opened my velcroed pocket and grabbed my wallet without me noticing.

Fortunately, I lost very little cash (only about €?20), and I was able to turn off my credit cards before they even tried to use them. All in all, not such a big deal. But it kind of reminded me that even though I live here and feel comfortable, I still need to keep an eye out on the Metro.

09.11.06

Stories from Rome, Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:22 pm

We took a family vacation to Rome last week. We had guests from out of town, so we decided to take one last trip before school starts this week. I was excited to see how the kids would react to such an enormous city.

The first night, as we were on the Metro (subway) on the way back to the hotel, the train was absolutely packed. I was worried about the kids, who are too low to even notice on a crowded subway. Above the murmur of the crowd, I heard a voice say, “This is what happens then you make public transportation so cheap. If they would raise the prices a bit, you’d get the riff raff off the train.”

There are about 100 objections I have to this woman’s comment. But I’ll leave those to the imagination. I was pleased to notice that her English was distinctly not-American. I was glad that, for once, it wasn’t an American making dumb comments. That may sound harsh, but especially when in Rome you see how rude Americans can sometimes be in someone else’s country.

However, speaking of riff raff, tune into the next post…