Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Getting to Know You

I'm driving in my car, I turn on the radio and I hear the opening lines to Getting to Know You from The King and I.

It's a very ancient saying,
But a true and honest thought,
That if you become a teacher,
By your pupils you'll be taught.

How is it possible that I never realized that this song was about a teacher getting to know his/her students?

This is how I envision my first day of school in September - a spectacular musical number with adorable children singing and dancing in an easy, friendly manner.

And while you watch ask yourself, "can these kids be any cuter?"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kinder Buch Laden

The title is German for children's book shop.

Children's books fascinate me. They make me happy. So, when I travel it is probably no great surprise that I like to stop in children's book stores to check out my favorite titles written in languages other than English.

But sometimes my proclivities can cause my traveling companions some embarrassment.

For instance this exchange in a book store in Rome.

Gary: Parlate inglese?

Guy at Counter: A little.

Gary: Do you have Curious George?

Guy at Counter: (stares blankly, clearly confused)

Gary: (attempting to clarify) The monkey.

Guy at Counter: Mon-key?

Gary: (deciding that I will give sign language a go as the sign for monkey must be universal especially if I add in some sound effects, which I do).

Guy at Counter: (steps back in fright as I scratch under my arms and jump around noisily. He is clearly appalled and closes the shop shortly thereafter).

I never found Curious George in Italian.

I had better luck in Switzerland.

German speaking Zurich is very kinder-friendly! At every turn there are postings for some kinder related activity. The drum playing teddy bear directed us to the Kinder Musik Laden (children's music shop) and we stumbled upon an outdoor performance by Kinderzirkus Robinson (children's circus with Robinson the clown!).

At the Zurich bookstore I was shown the Curious George books without my theatrics. Although in German he is called Coco, as in Coco Fahrt Rad (which seems to literally translate to Coco drive wheel but better known here as Curious George Rides a Bike).

They had many of my favorite titles;
  1. Der Kleine Prinz - The Little Prince
  2. Wo Die Wilden Kerle Wohnen - Where the Wild Things Are (or directly translated as Where the Wild Guys Living).
  3. Wo Ist Walter Jetzt? - Where is Walter (Waldo) Now?
This last one is especially meaningful (and funny) because my dad's name is Walter and he is 100% German.

I purchased Coco Der Neugierige Affe (Coco the Curious Monkey) and have attempted to read it but I think my German comes across as too angry and intense for children. Some things are best enjoyed privately I suppose.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I had envisioned spending the month of August recreating the dreamy landscape that was Ernest Hemingway in Key West mode. This entails waking early to spend the morning writing, researching and crafting my doctoral comps and the afternoons drinking at Sloppy Joe's Bar, or some equivalent leisure time activity.

But this ambitious plan has yet to take hold. Instead I have simply been thinking about comps while lounging about with a book (current read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle), napping, exercising or socializing.

My desire for anything too involved (like doctoral comps or even blogging) has taken a back seat to doing a whole lot of nothing much.

I am not quite sure if I should go with it, light a fire under me bum or take the advice of Scarlett and think about it tomorrow.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Festival Italiani

Italy abounds with meticulously themed festivals during the summer months and each one invites gleeful participation. The La Marche region, being outside popular tourist meccas like Rome and Venice, offers a plethora of possibilities to delight locals and travelers alike.

It is quite imaginable to spend an evening in July hopping from one festival to another. Outdoor celebrations, music, dancing, history, chariot racing, delectable food, fire throwing, drink, performance art, color, re-enactments, glass blowing, juggling, flag tossing, period costumes, beautiful men, exuberant women and life call from every corner.

I attended three festivals in Italy. While I was certainly welcomed at each, it was clear that the celebrations were not designed with me, the English-speaking American, in mind. There were challenges in even the smallest tasks, such as ordering food.

At the Palio del Somaro festival (donkey races) in Mercatello Sul Metauro I bravely ordered a porchetta sandwich (delicious!) but had an awkward moment at the counter because I kept saying "sì" to an either/or question. That little dance went on way too long before I was rescued by clever hand gestures and lots of pointing.

There was certainly a friendly spirit throughout the opening ceremonies (of which I understood only a few words but contented myself with people watching) and the excitement peaked as the donkeys were mounted for their race around town.

Donkey races are slow! The donkeys seemed totally uninterested in winning or even competing at all. The good humored frustration of the riders was encouraged by the large crowd who appeared to realize that this was part of the fun. In the end I was unsure who actually won but there was no mistaking who came in last. I think the loser must have taken a detour back home before deciding to cross the finish line.

At the Fano Dei Cesari festival 5,000 men, women and children paraded in costume. There were peasant girls and slave boys, fire throwers, charioteers, servants, revelers and lots of whoops and wails. Families mingled with wild party boys, police good-naturedly accepted being pelted with ice from drunken merry makers and despite the oppressive heat and sweaty bodies everyone was touchy feely. This is a country unafraid to show affection. Everyone hugs and kisses. I loved it.

The grand attraction here were the chariot races. Unlike the donkeys, these things flew around the track. In my mind I was telling them to slow it down - what's the hurry? Somebody is going to get hurt! - but the ever-swelling horde of spectators felt otherwise. Well, it's not every day you see a chariot race.

On our last night in Italy we attended the Palio Dei Conti Oliva festival which is an homage to medieval times. Strolling musicians wandered the streets past glass blowers, merchants, jugglers, knife throwers, craftsmen and spinners.

I watched a family perform acrobatics and banter with the audience. Again, I didn't know exactly what was being said but I had a pretty good idea.

The finale was an extensive flag tossing ceremony with men in multi-colored tights performing perfectly choreographed routines. By then it was getting late and we had to get back "home" to pack because more adventures were awaiting.

* Pictures taken either by myself or Mike Thomas.


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