In Italy, everyone has at least one dog. Moreover, the streets are crawling with strays. (The Catholic aversion to birth control seems to apply to animals as well as people.) The dense puppy population certainly increased my love for the country at large.
As with food and art, every country has a unique variety of canines. Being partial to the breed, I decided to stalk out the best of them while abroad. Here’s a sampling of the most adorable, tough and bizarre to date.
It begins on a placid pleasure cruise around the Amalfi Coast. The setting was sublime. A little too perfect…
JS0’s resident klutz (me) made it through the day without incurring any cliff-related concussions or bellyflop-induced stomach rashes. As the trip neared its end, the JS0 crew splashed off the boat one last time to see the one, the only, the Blue Grotto of Capri.
That’s when it happened. While other visitors gasped at the beauty of the blue cove, I gasped at the pain in my black and blue ankle. It was a poignant moment for everyone. Of course, being used to bumping things and being weary of my bandaid box, I ignored the sharp pain in my leg and did a few laps around the grotto. The water was so blue it illuminated its occupants like a strobe light: too cool to miss.
Upon finally crawling back aboard the boat, I saw that my foot was gushing blood and my ankle appeared to have grown a beard. It was filled with sea urchin stingers. Even the tough Australian children on board, who had spent the day fearlessly cliff jumping and dodging jellyfish, shouted in disgust. They forked over their two best bandaids without hesitation. (At this point, I was feeling quite heroic for not crying: “I meant to kick the urchin,” I bravely pronounced.)
What Italian Grandmothers Do to Urchin Stings
Urchin stings are so common in Sorrento, Italy that the pharmacy is stocked with a tailored remedy called After Urchin. One slathers one’s spikes with rubber goo and waxes them off with a sheet of gauze. The tactic worked on the big pieces, but the remaining ones remained submerged in my heel, which now also reeked like a gas station and stuck to all surfaces like superglue. Sigh.
1 week later: Still conducting daily spike excavations. I am now in Ancona, Italy, where the local pharmaceutical grandmother has recommended that I soak my foot in white vinegar. I always wanted a recipe from an Italian grandmother, now I’ve got one. I bet it’s delicious! We’ll see how this goes…
Amongst sinuous canals, hair-skimmingly low bridges and floating garage doors, touristy Venice is restored to its roots. Our gondolier spoke only a few choice English words, including “water” and “Elvis.” (As a former crew coxswain, I identified with him despite the language barrier.) Partially submerged art peeped out from around canal corners; Madonna dolls waved from windows; and a bit of moldy graffiti sprang from the river, giving the quaint setting a (slightly) modern edge. Continue reading JS0 Italy Bucket List #3: Accomplished!
The Jet Set Zero Italy crew is about to begin our last week of teaching (except for Lynne, our crazy little Scottish trouper, who is teaching through September).
Sarah and I have been assigned to a nunnery, where we will be teaching 25 children by ourselves with the help of the resident nuns. We may also be teaching with cameraman Bogden, who has volunteered to step in in case of emergency. Please wish us luck. We’ll keep you posted on our…progress. 3 minutes til we depart for school…! Yikes.
In response to our last minute request, A.C.L.E. granted Sarah and me a night in Rome between our Roccafranca and Lanuvio destinations. We had from 4pm Saturday until 1:30pm Sunday to experience one of the most culture-rich cities of both the ancient and modern worlds.
I quickly began to feel like part of a rapid motion film montage. The trip began with a warm welcome from a “Free Tourist Assistant,” who approached us in Roma Termini station and recommended an 18 euro/night hostel. The trip ended with Sarah and me literally running through the Sistene Chapel. Continue reading JS0 on the Go: Rome in the Fast Lane
After a successful week of Orientation and Training, Sarah and I were sent to Roccafranca for our first week as A.C.L.E. tutors. I was in charge of the class of 9-year olds, a group I picked because of their class name, “Dogs.” (Each class was assigned an animal name, and frankly, I couldn’t think of a more legitimate way to determine which students l I would work best with.) Sarah was in charge of the “Tigers,” ages 12-13. Our experiences differed dramatically. Continue reading ITALY: WORK WEEK TWO IN REVIEW
I’m sitting in my host mother’s kitchen. As far as I can tell, in Italy, “kitchen” is short for “sanctuary only slightly less holy than the Catholic church.”
My mama, Fausta, is making fun of her son and also “making an experiment,” as she says, with a roll of dough. Dough and cheese…so far so good…I’m dying to ask what she’s making but I don’t think she knows yet. She looks like a mad scientist now, her frizzy hair leaking out of a hair band, her brown eyes wide and emphatic, and her body encircled in a pungent halo of parmesan. She is pontificating at 60 miles – ahem, kilometers – an hour, on the assumption that I have mastered the Italian language over the last 3 days.
When Fausta’s experiment was finished, the one who most enjoyed it was Hottie, the family mutt. Hottie devoured the 5 lbs of leftover spinach pie with the relish of the roundest kid at fat camp. Luckily the dog’s reaction was the only one Fausta seemed to register.
As a less-than-practiced chef and single mother, who works 2 jobs and bears no religious affect, she is hardly the typical Italian mama. But her resiliance and verve make me feel that she is all of the good that Italian moms are cracked up to be. She gives me what I want after a long day teaching 12 8-year olds who don’t speak my language: relaxing chit chat and a strong drink. Traveling can be hard and I’m lucky to have a mom while on the road.
This host family is stationed in Roccafranca, where JS0 is currently postitioned. The town has approximately the same population as my high school, T.C. Williams: 3,000. A key difference is that, while T.C.W. was notable for its high black-to-white person ratio, Roccafranca is notable for its high animal-to-person ratio. There is 1+ dog per person and the pig and donkey population is not far behind. Which explains the smell. Frankly, I would rather have natural air polution than the manmade smog of NYC. Is it weird to distinguish? Whatever, I’m just psyched to be out of the loud city and in a warm Italian family in the countryside, if only for two weeks.
I just opened my sister’s computer and was greeted with her latest diary entry, which was simply: “I thought about having my tubes tied today.”
We are here at her hotel debriefing after our first day of prison labor, which consisted of servicing a minefield of diabolical elves aged 5-6.
While Italian children look like dark-haired angels, shaming America’s obese youth yet again, the rest of our high expectations were not met. Here’s a glimpse into Sarah and my dialogue.
Perrin: What the f*ck?!
Sarah: We were surprise attacked by Jack and his hunters [from Lord of the Flies].
Perrin: I’m not surprised; I didn’t think the kids would understand us. We don’t speak Italian. I just felt bad when a girl had to pee her pants for me to comprehend that she needed the toilet.
Sarah: It turns out that it was the last day before summer, and the teacher had relinquished all hope for the children’s redemption. She sat in the corner laughing the whole time we were in there.
Perrin: The rest of the day was better. The next class was wild about our “Peel peel banana!” song and dance. Those kids really shake their hips, even the little boys had Shakira-esque rhythm going.
Sarah: ACLE does offer a brilliant teaching model. They’ve rocked the typical style of “repetition and strict memorization” found in most Italian classrooms. They replaced it with energetic songs and games that get the children involved. In just one week they have literally changed my tune regarding children: it used to be True Blood’s theme song, “I’m going to do bad things to you” but now it’s “HIP HOP! ENGLISH ROCKS!” I rather like it.
Perrin: Agreed. ACLE’s even changing my nighttime behavior. Without realizing it, I’ve begun deploying their body-language techniques to make Italian men understand that, when I hug my chest and make slurping motions, it means “I would loooove a beer!” I’m not learning Italian but sign language is universal.
Sarah: Sdfkjfajl [unintelligible].
Sarah is dropping out of the conversation now. She completely lost her voice while hollering at The Wild Things today. Grandpa always attributes her frequent voice loss to cheap whiskey, but this time it was due to Italian-mother style yelling.
Ready for the next episode? Next week we’ll be teaching 9am-6pm.