Monthly Archives: June 2012

Knitting in Italy

So this is a report on knitting in Italy in general.

For some reason I thought knitting would be more common in Europe, or at least more accepted. But I’ve gathered it’s just as odd here for a young lady to bring out her knitting while sunbathing or on the bus. In fact it’s probably more odd as they add it to the list of the strange American things I do. The boys I babysit find it annoying because they’d rather I’d be playing with them. Oh well. Every little girl I meet worships me and pretends to knit next me. One of many reasons I should’ve picked girl children. In general EVERY old lady who sees me tries to come up and talk to me. Even the really fashionable old ladies who you wouldn’t think knit. It’s really sad though because none of them speak English, and I’d love nothing more than to discuss knitting with them. It always ends up being a little awkward and they walk away. Especially while I was knitting my bathing suit, quite scandalous once the old ladies realize what it is. Oh well. My Italian is getting better, maybe sometime soon I’ll be able to communicate better. Maybe I’ll focus on knitting words.

It has been the greatest way to relax here though; the best break from stressful communication issues and child watching. I’ve tried combining the getting gelato/knitting activities, but gelato melts too fast here so I have to eat all the ice cream, then knit. Which is fine, I use the excuse to sit in the cute cafes longer. One of the best activities I’ve found is discovering gelato flavors. Some are really difficult to figure out, and if you’ve been reading my blog you’ll remember great amarena/amaretto confusion. My latest adventure in gelato flavor exploration was when I went to knit yesterday afternoon. I got the classic nocciola (hazelnut), and amarena again as I really like it, but I was intrigued by a yellow and red gelato called zuppainglese. I asked the attendant what it was as she spoke a little english, and she excitedly translated “english soup”. Well, I had gathered this much as that’s the direct translation, but I still had no idea what it could be. It looked like cheesecake flavored ice cream, or maybe raspberry lemonade. So I ordered it. At first it did taste like cheesecake so I thought I was correct. Upon further enjoyment I decided it tasted more like egg nog. It was delicious, but I still did not know what it was. Later I remembered to translate it, and apparently zuppa inglese is “trifle”! A very random flavor, but that’s half the fun!

I finally managed to snap a picture of one of lizards around here while I was knitting. It was difficult, it scuttled by a few times and I didn’t have enough time to get my camera out. This time it stop to drink some water from the base of a plant. I win.

Finished my bathing suit!

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Categories: Food, Thoughts, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Last bit of Teramo and Italian soccer match

So the last bit of night in Teramo was mostly uneventful. It was fun to be about the city in the evening, but I couldn’t find any bars/evening spots that I felt truly comfortable socializing with the locals (especially after the day I had). I did go to a bar that was on one of the main squares alone, and looked like a confused tourist trying to read the menu. I thought it was more a food establishment, but it was more of just drinks and appetizers. So I asked the waiter and he spoke English, and said they do the classic Italian happy out if you order a drink. I was indecisive (as I pretty much always am) so I told him to bring the best drink they made. He brought me the house drink that was just named after the bar “grande Italia” and it was a blended drink of fresh fruit/alcohol, don’t ask me what (I did try to ask, but they did not understand what I was asking, I could only tell that there was definitely peach in it big surprise). They also gave me bites of pizza, and a bunch of little delicious sandwiches and things, most of which I had no idea what they were. A highlight of this trip into town was also meeting “Antonio” a giant polar bear dog who laid in the middle of the square all night, and apparently all of the locals knew his name and would pet him and feed him. He was super old and adorable, I couldn’t help wondering if he just lived in the square getting fed.

The following morning I tried eating the horrible B&B breakfast, but decided to go and try and find a bar, I knew there were some close. Sadly I discovered that Sunday morning in a small town like this meant everything was closed. I ventured out further and finally came to the same bar that I went to happy hour the night before and they were open. I think this was lucky though, they had the most AMAZING pastries. I wish I’d taken a picture, but the waiter from the night before was there so I didn’t want to look like even more of a tourist fool. Slightly late for my bus I hurried back to my apartment, to be assaulted en route. An old guy on a bike stopped and started talking to me in Italian, he was pretty old so I considered him harmless, tried to tell him I don’t speak Italian, but he didn’t care and decided to grab my ass and take me by the arm and pull me somewhere. I freaked out yelling “scuzi” and pushed him away, finally making it to my apartment. I headed to bus stop, but missed my bus, meaning I got to sit at the bus stop for an hour during the heat of the day. Luckily a really cute 15 year old girl came to sat by me and was really chatty, wanting to practice her English. She told me she really liked Lady Gaga and wanted to study in the US someday. Apparently most of teenagers and students in Teramo take this bus to the beach on the hot weekends, so it was quite croweded.

I finally made it back to Pescara though! Later that day was the Italia vs. England soccer game which was the quarter final in the European cup (bear with me I’m just going by what I think the guys told me, it may be wrong). Enzo (host dad) had some family friends over and prepared some food. Basically a bunch of break and garlic tomatoes to put on it. I wish I had a picture before it was sliced up, it was the biggest loaf of break I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t follow much of the soccer game, but found it way more entertaining that I thought I would. When good teams are playing and actually keeping possession of the ball instead of it randomly being kicked about it can be thrilling, even though nobody ever scored. I learned that England’s goalie is really attractive, even though he got beat in the shoot out. I also learned that number 16 of Italia is the sexy version of Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny. That about sums it up. I also ended up eating about a whole watermelon. Which was amazing.

Italy ended up winning which means we play Germany tomorrow in the semi finals. After the game everyone drove around honking and waving flags and lighting off fireworks. It reminded me of when I was in Vancouver for the gold medal hockey match and Canada won. So fun!

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Girl on a Bench

Just a quick note to all of the potential stalkers out there. Does a girl knitting on a bench really look like that easy of a target to you? Do you really think I won’t know how to use my size three metal needles when the time comes? Seriously, figure something better to do with your lives.

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Teramo Pt. 2

My day in Teramo.

This is such a good example of a lot happening in one day.

I got up early, showered, got on my site seeing clothes, ate the subpar breakfast, and got out into the world.

The first thing that hit me was the fact that apparently there is a market Saturday morning. Or at least there was this morning. And I don’t mean farmers market. I mean basically every foot of every street in the entire city had a vendor on it, selling any and all kinds of products. Foods, clothes, toys, rugs, anything. It was crazy. It was very interesting, but at the same time not at all what I wanted. I wanted to see a slow romantic town, that wasn’t as overwhelming as this was. So I finally escaped the market and found a bench in the shade, where I started working on my lace pattern. Eventually some old ladies came and shared the bench with me, then one was replaced with a man. They tried to talk to me but we both quickly found out that we could not communicate. It’s times like these when I realize how little Italian I’ve learned. The old lady was very entertained by me knitting a bathing suit. She was a classic elderly Italian woman, fanning herself in the heat, wearing a funny shirt with a rhinestone Vespa on it. We managed to cover the basics of my name, where I’m from, and how long I’ll be in Italy. At this point they both called my attention to a creep many who had been walking up and down the street continuously smoking a cigar. I had noticed him, but hadn’t thought too much about it, it was a nice place to stroll. But they clearly had a better idea than me about the situation. They insisted on finding out where I was staying and having the old guy escort me home. I thought this was a little extreme, mostly because I wanted to go get pizza, but there was no arguing with two of them for more reasons than the fact that I physically couldn’t. As we headed back through the extensive market I realized the creepy gentleman actually did follow us. We turned more corners, took a fake water detour, headed back to the market, and the guy was still following us. At this point I was EXTREMELY freaked out. I’ve never actually felt so hunted. At the same time I wasn’t sure taking me home was the best idea if the guy managed to follow us all the way there… then he would know where I was staying… but at some point we did manage to evade him and make it the apartment where the B&B was. Then my elderly companion told me to never go out again without a companion (as if that’s possible) and call the police next time something like that happens. Also to call him Papi.

I went inside thoroughly shaken, decided to hide out for a while, and ended up deciding to take a nap through the midday heat. I was almost afraid to leave again wondering what would happen if I ran into the creepy man again with nobody to help me. But I didn’t go to Teramo to hide in my room, so around 3:00 I headed into the city again, slick with sweat. It was still the heat of the day so everybody had deserted the streets. To my surprise the ENTIRE market had disappeared. It was like a ghost town compared to two hours earlier. I really liked this. So despite the heat I went around the city again, taking pictures this time. The sites here aren’t strikingly impressive, but they do have a nice romance to them.  There are the last remains of a Roman theatre, intertwined with modern homes, and leading to a beautiful church. I went in the church and was thoroughly rewarded with medieval art and design (and pleasantly cool temperatures). I kept thinking I was going to get kicked out because of my scandalous off the shoulder shirt and my atheism (clearly nobody would be able to know this, but whenever I go into a church I feel like whenever somebody looks at me, they know), but they were busy setting up for a wedding later in the day. After the church I got some gelato at a café with a nice view of the piazza. I knit for a little while, and then went to find some other landmarks. I got some subpar pizza and peach tea (have I mentioned the peach obsession yet….) for lunch, knitted some more, then FINALLY got the courage to ask somebody to take my picture with the church. There are very little tourists here, but there were some others other than me, which felt nice. The first tourists I’ve seen since coming to Italy! I bet most people can’t say that. So I didn’t feel too awkward asking someone to take my picture; I was rewarded with the man speaking English, a wondrous thing. I kind of regret not talking to him more, but he was on a stroll with a lady so I didn’t want to interrupt.  At this point all of the people were coming out of hiding for the evening, so I decided to go back to my room for a break. So here we are! Catching up on blogging.

Sight seeing outfit that attracted the buzzards apparently.

For some reason I fell in love with this fountain.

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WTH Birkenstocks and Bugs

So for some reason I’m extremely delicious to Mediterranean insects. This picture can barely begin to describe the amount of bites I have received. It looks like I have chicken pocks or strange disease. ImageAnd I’ve had bad bug bites before, I’ve gone camping for weeks at a time in Idaho and Washington, but for some reason these bugs love me more. Why don’t Italians use window screens…….

Last complaint:

I wore these Birkenstocks on my hectic travel day, and they gave me a horrible blister. I’m really upset, I had hopes for these shoesImage. The blister juices actually permanently stained the shoes, hate to say it but I think they deserved it. Image

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Teramo Pt. 1

Wow. So I will never win The Amazing Race. And times like these are what make me wonder why I thought traveling would be a relaxing break from reality. I spontaneously decided Thursday night that I would go to Teramo for the weekend. I had originally planned on going to Rome, but decided the heat wave cause by the African winds (I always forget that Italy is actually so close to Africa, they’re so separate in my subconscious) would probably make that a hard first independent travel experience. So instead I decided to do something closer to Pescara. As it was the night before I wanted to go, I had limited options. I was trying to find a cheap hotel or room for rent, but most cheap ones were booked. I wanted to go to a small castle town that there are so many of around here, but there either was no accommodations in the ones I wanted to go to, or I wouldn’t be able to get to the hotel by public transport. So I ended up choosing Teramo. While not quite as picturesque as some of the hill top towns, Teramo has some beautiful churches and is smaller than Pescara, which is something I felt I needed at this point. So I booked a room at a bed and breakfast for two nights.

I was hoping to catch the direct bus from Pescara to Teramo at 2:45 as when I was planning to go to Rome Madda said I could have the afternoon off. But I guess Teramo isn’t as important so when I brought the kids home for lunch I found out she wasn’t coming home until 5:00. Oh well I thought, there were other routes later in the day. So I tried to catch the 5:50 bus that went through giulul—-nova something or other, then to Teramo. Or so I thought. I was actually supposed to take two different buses, so I ended up missing the 5:50 one as it didn’t say Teramo. This was such a frustrating experience. The bus station in Pescara had no shade so it was literally boiling out, my back pack was heavy, nobody speaks English here, buses kept coming and going in no order (the Pescara station is very unorganized, you literally have to run around and check the front of every bus to see which one you need, there are no set “stations”). Finally at 7:10 the bus came again and found it, got on, and the sense of relief was amazing. I had to transfer once which ended up being unpleasant, as I went from a charter bus to a local bus where I had to sit next to a disgusting man yelling in Italian on a phone for an hour. Curious point- I bought a ticket in Pescara, but neither bus driver checked it or asked for money. Anyways, by the time I got to Teramo it was dark out. Thank modern civilization and my host family that my Italian phone has unlimited data so I could use GPS to figure out where I was and the best route to the B&B. And that Teramo is not very big. I got there in about 15 minutes. It was a confusing spot to check in to, as apparently there’s no front desk, somebody just meets you there when you need to check in. So I was waiting outside when an old lady come up to the door (holding a pizza box, of course) and lets me in asking if I was trying to find the bed and breakfast. Apparently this was the wrong thing to do because I got lost inside the building while the guy was waiting for me outside. Oh well I finally got in and checked in and threw my stuff down and decided to go to bed early so I could go out early in the morning.

Quick bed and breakfast review (It’s just called B&B Teramo if you’re curious): Very modern and clean, I got turn down service today which I wasn’t expecting, and everything feels very sanitary. There’s no air conditioning or wifi, both of which are a pretty big inconvenience.  Also no first aid kit as I tried to find a bandaid for my blister. The coffee machine is cool, it makes espresso out of these little capsule things. The “breakfast” was pitiful, I recommend just going to a café around the corner and getting some cheap good pastries. I did managed to pick one out that was squishy like a croissant and was good with peach jam on it (have I mentioned they like peaches here?).  There was also good blood orange juice though that I liked. Overall I feel like it’s more like a more private hostel, doesn’t really quite hold up to watch a B&B should be.

So that’s about it for travel and accommodations.

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OMG beach volleyball

So I just got back from checking out the beach volleyball club. I was just going to meet the coach and observe some practices to help guess what level I would be at. Alfredo kept insisting I start at the ‘seniores’ level, and after watching for a little while I thought I might be able to. They weren’t spiking very hard and in general the pace of play wasn’t too fast. On the other hand the beginners were struggling to bump the ball without it going out of the court. Honestly, I had no idea if I was going to make a fool of myself, the women playing were rock hard dark Italian women in their thirties, clearly knowing what they were about. When they were taking a break Alfredo led me into the court to meet the coach (a past Olympian, I forgot his name), and he surprised me by asking me to join in right then and there (lessons are pretty expensive). That’s one nice thing about beach volleyball, once you have a court to play on there is very limited gear you need, just a semi dependable bathing suit (sadly the one I was wearing was a cream color, not expecting to actually play, and now it is brown). I surprised myself by actually being able to control my passes and return their serves. I couldn’t serve it over the net overhand, but I’ve really never been able to do that. That’s my main practice point. The Olympian coach spoke very good English, at least when it came to coaching terms, so that was a good discovery. I was worried there’d be a lot more pointing. I struggled a bit with some basic form and techniques, but I was nervous out of my mind so I think I will be able to get better at those quickly. All in all it was VERY fun, so much more fun than I thought it would be. Volleyball in my experience has been a good sport to bond with the other girls, and it proved to be true in this case too. The women were very welcoming of me and said it would give them a chance to practice their English. However, the coach said I should do the first week in the beginner group just to get some basic techniques up to speed. I wasn’t insulted by this, I was happy with the fact that in general he thought I could keep up with these born and bred beach volleyball players, I just needed some reintroduction into the sport.

Main conclusion: in a beautiful sandy place beach volleyball is amazing. It’s great to dive into the powdery sand even if you miss the dig. It’s an amazing workout and by the end of it you’re covered in sand and sweat and feel really accomplished. I hope I can get better, I know it will be a challenge for me every time I try. Especially in this intense environment, it’s definitely out of my element. But overcoming that challenge and reflecting on the fact that I’m watching the Pescaran sunset while being trained in beach volleyball by an Olympic player makes me think about all of the places I could go in this world!

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New Friends

So, I officially have two friends now. I’ve met a lot of people, but these two are more reliable/speak English/are really enthusiastic about entertaining me here. My new friend Alfredo is really proud of Pescara and wants to make sure I have the best time while I’m here. He has talked me into joining the beach volleyball league he is a part of, and insists (like everybody else I’ve ever met) that I must be good at volleyball because I am tall. He’s in for a good surprise…. maybe I’ll be better at beach volleyball? Anyways, it’s always interesting to actually find out the kinds of people you’ll meet. I never expect either of these two, they’re very unique and have both shown me how different people live in Pescara. I’m excited to meet somebody from couch surfing tomorrow, he seems like he’ll be a new piece to the puzzle of the Pescaran people.

It’s quite amazing to me how disparaging a lot of the people here are about Pescara, even my host family. When speaking to people of my life and how I ended up here and how I like it, they’re always very confused about why I would pick Pescara. I don’t think they realize that while they might not have the Colosseum or Greek ruins, they have a beautiful unique culture. It’s modern Italy like you really can’t get anywhere else. Of course I’m interested in classic Italy and the beauty of the historical sites, but Pescara is a great example of how Italy is growing up and facing the new world. It has experimental architecture that is trying to bring Italy into a new generation while still keeping the classic Italian charm. And above anything else, the fresh Italian food is as good as anywhere, and that’s really the most important part.

So, my new friends are helping me get to know Italy better, more through getting to know them than anything else.

P.S. I’m getting fat from Italian food and having a full house of food I’m allowed to eat (normally I don’t have that many groceries and it’s out of my own pocket when I go to get them; here delicious food just keeps filling up the refrigerator. Needless to say my self control has been pitiful). So it’s time I figure out the will power to not gorge on all of the free Italian food and start jogging/playing beach volleyball more. Wish me luck!

Categories: Food, Nights out, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Weekend

Ciao people!

A few things have happened since I’ve written. It was Lorenzo’s birthday so there was a large party on Saturday for that. At first I dreaded that thinking of the kid parties I know, and expecting that the au pair would be involved in herding children somehow. That however turned out to not be true at all, we simply went to one of places on the beach that the family rents a palma, where they had set up a little party area with drinks and a pizza/fry buffet. All of the kids were entertained with the impressive playgrounds they have here on the beach, and all of the parents stayed for the party as they were friends of Madda’s. So I actually just got hang out and eat pizza, and figure out which of Madda’s friends could speak English, not bad at all! And family friend Ilaria made the cakes, they had Mario and Luigi screen printed on them. The cake was SO good, I was expecting a normal sheet cake (which I hate) at first, but when I ate it it was an amazing torta with fresh whip cream instead of dense frosting, and pastry cream with fresh peaches in the middle. SO good. I’ve eaten way too much of the leftovers since then….

After the party I got to go out with my new friend Martina. She is amazing, so funny, and maybe not the usual type of person I’d make friends with. She had been an au pair in Dublin so she speaks very good English and understands my situation. We’re also equal parts Irish which I thought was funny.

Anyways, she took me to a wine bar that is off the main riviera party scene. Again, not what I was expecting to be doing with my night, but it ended up turning out better than even could of hoped for. It was such an intimate little setting, tucked away on a back street with tables out on the side walk. Everybody there knew each other. Her friend was the bartender so we ended up getting many free shots, “chicettas” (spelled completely wrong), and some free wine as well. All night she just kept pouring shots, and I’m not going to say no to that. Martina’s not a big drinker these days as she’s “old” (24) so she was taking shots of this dark liquor instead of vodka. I thought it was wine at first, but she corrected me and tried to explain what it was. It was a liquor made in Abruzzo from a fruit she did not know the name for. We tried very hard to figure it out with descriptions like “big cherry” and “really ripe cherry” from Martina, but they were adamant it was not actually a cherry. Thankfully my Italian phone has internet so we finally decided to google translate it and it turns out it’s just “black cherry”. Apparently here they have a completely different name for them, while cherry is “ciliegia” black cherry is “amarena”. Not only did this discussion help me learn about a new liquor, but it solved the mystery I have been dealing with with gelato flavors. I had ordered amarenetta thinking it would be something like amaretto, but then got black cherry flavor, though I couldn’t actually recognize what it was. I now know a lot about the Abruzzo black cherry!

The night turned out very fun and I met some more people. One of the bartenders had lived in Seattle for a year and he was very excited to meet me. A short hipster version of Fabio had his eye on me all night, and wanted me to go to more bars with him after we left, which I would’ve done just to get to know more places, but Martina helped me figure out that they wanted to go to a place that was very far away. I don’t really need to do that as all the best places are close to my home so I turned him down. We stopped by Zara on the way home which is the biggest bar/beach house party there is. SO many people are there, especially starting around midnight. All in all a very good night and I got to know Martina a lot more. She is introducing me to a young knitting circle on Thursday which I’m excited for!

Drunk snack Italian style

Categories: Au Pairing, Food, Nights out | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Sunburn: Scottatura

So I actually am not sunburned at all where I should be, but my feet are sooooo burnt. I’m not sure they could be anymore sunburnt or swollen. So strange. When I met a cousin of the boys, she came up to me, pointed at my feet, and said “rosso” and stared giggling. My sunburnt feet are a huge joke. Madda tells me to put sunscreen on my feet whenever I leave the house now. 

Categories: Au Pairing, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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