10.25.06

Superstitions

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:03 pm

Heidi spent some time tutoring a friend in English this afternoon. We have been having some unusually warm weather lately. Heidi’s friend commented on how strange the weather was, and explained that she had heard several older people saying that they feel like an earthquake is coming. I have no clue how those two things are connected, but I suppose time will tell. Yikes!

10.23.06

My First Earthquake

Posted in Uncategorized at 2:42 am

We had the pleasure (!) of experiencing an earthquake this weekend. Heidi has felt a small one before, but this was the first one where both of us looked at each other and knew what was going on. It only lasted ten seconds or so, but was eye-opening for sure. No damage to anyone or anything.

Read about here in english, or here in Italian – for the brave! Just one of the fun parts about living in Italy!

10.19.06

The Open Air Market

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:34 am

Today I found myself with some extra time between a couple of appointments, so I decided to take a stroll through the open air market. Every morning about 20-30 vendors set up tents and tables along a certain street. I don’t go their often, but today I noticed that suddenly everyone was selling winter items. Sweaters, big coats, scarves, mittens – no more swimming suits and flip-flops.

It’s an interesting experience. The vendors yell out their little catch phrases: “Good quality! Low prices!” … “Real leather” … “Must go” … that kind of thing. In between customers they take time to greet friends as well as the other vendors. It’s really a community “watering hole” of sorts, were people (mostly ladies) go to catch up and see what’s going on with so and so.

About 6 or 7 in the evening, they pack up their stuff, take down the tents, and take it all to their storage units. The street cleaners come by at night to clean up, and it’s like the whole thing never happened.

10.18.06

Are we still talking about chess?

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:27 am

More schoolhouse drama! Last weekend our daughter brought home a note from school. There was a meeting planned on Monday to discuss “the recent problems with the projects.” A puzzling note. Heidi inquired around Monday morning. One mom said, “It’s about chess. We have to be united.”

In Italy, 27 hours of the school week are devoted to the main subjects (reading, math, etc.). Three hours are devoted to “projects” – special things like music, art, and (for the first time this year), chess. However, each project much be approved by all of the parents – 100% approval – in order to pass. The vote for chess was 18 parents in favor, 4 opposed.

So the teacher brought us all together to work out our differences. She had heard that there are parents that are mad at each other, and wanted to fare la pace. She claimed that she had no agenda and didn’t care one way or the other if chess passed or not (though her glowing reviews of the benefits of chess helped me to see where she really stood). She then turned the discussion over to us.

And that’s when the yelling began. Those in favor of chess were upset that a small minority could overrule the wishes of the majority. However, the law says (there are laws for such things?!) it must be 100% or nothing. We all agreed that this law should be changed, but there’s nothing we can do about it now. Those opposed to chess were upset because if they vote “no” we’re just going to call a meeting and try and get them to change their minds anyway. Phrases like “false democracy” were used.

Both sides had valid points. But I could not for the life of me figure out why everyone was so angry! I think I’m a pretty involved parent, but I really just don’t care very much if chess passes or fails. And perhaps the most unsatisfying part of the whole meeting – we couldn’t revote. The votes must be secret and there was no way to assure that secrecy in the meeting. So if anyone wanted to change their vote, they couldn’t unless they spoke privately with the teacher later. Such a let down to get all riled up and we couldn’t even change anything!

I think I learned a little bit about the Italian culture. But I think the meeting brought up more questions than answers!

10.14.06

That must have been a really big pipe

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:53 am

We had a little bit of craziness in Ancona yesterday. Around 11:30 AM a water main broke. The break was near one of the main intersections in town. In addition to around 1/5 of the population of Ancona being without water (around 20,000 people) traffic was backed up for Kilometers going in and out of the city. The eventually had to close one of the tunnels going to downtown because there was just too much traffic.

The police went around with megaphones telling people where water tanks would be set up, but there was still a run on water at all the stores. Even though the news listed our street as one of the streets without water, we’ve had water the whole time. Our teammates weren’t so lucky, so we ended up making dinner for everybody last night.

As of this morning, it sounds like most of the water is back on. And they’ve assured us it is safe to drink, even if it’s a little “red.” Gross.

10.11.06

Schoolhouse Democracy

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:21 am

Today was the first parent’s meeting for Trey’s school. And at the first meeting of the year, by law, the class must elect a class representative. This person is supposed to be the liaison between the parents and the teachers. But in reality they just collect money for field trips. Apparently, there are actual laws governing the election process.

At the very beginning of the meeting, one of the teachers explained that they needed a volunteer to watch the ballots. The voting would be open from the end of the meeting until 7 PM. But one volunteer wouldn’t cut it. They needed two. The second person to volunteer ended up not being able to because she had served (at one time) as a class representative. So we waited in awkward silence for a third volunteer. Oh – and a teacher cannot watch the ballot boxes. Conflict of interest, apparently.

Then, we take nominations, and the nominees must be on the list of parents provided by the school district.

Next, we all head into the voting room, where there are three big boxes. One for each class. Sitting nearby are the two volunteers, who have everyone sign the roll next to their name (I noted that they weren’t checking ID, though there was a space on the roll sheet to check when we present our ID). Then, they hand us a secret ballot, where we write in our candidate’s name. Fold the ballot in half, put it in the box, and you’re done.

I have to confess – I really don’t have a clue who I voted for. There was so much chaos during the nomination process that the poor foreigner (me) didn’t have a chance of hearing the names. So I peeked at the ballot of the person in front of me and voted for the same person.

Tomorrow we’ll find out the nail-biting results of the neck and neck race. But since there was only one nominee, I think I can probably guess.

10.10.06

Riding the Scooter on the Highway

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:48 am

My team leader, Jason, graciously is letting me use his scooter while he is away in the states. Scooters are a very popular mode of transportation here. Parking is always free, and I paid €?3 in gas last month. It’s a good deal.

Today, I took the bold step of deciding to take the scooter to some slightly out-of-town stores. I needed to return some things, and since each stop would only take a few minutes, I really didn’t feel like waiting on the out-of-town buses. So I hopped on the scooter and off I went.

I wasn’t exactly on a highway. In Italian it would be called a secondary, out-of-town road. It was legal for me to be on it, but man were those cars passing me in a hurry. The top speed of the scooter is about 60 KMH (37 MPH) on a flat road, and it just couldn’t keep up. I especially liked it when the truck passed me in my lane while we were on an overpass. I kind of peeked over and thought, “I’m just one pothole away from flying off the overpass.”

Next time, I’m taking the bus.