January 24, 2015

#39 - Skiing The Matterhorn!


It has been a while since my last post as things have been quite busy here! Any down time I have I've spent translating lesson plans or spontaneously napping! I realized this morning I've only really been here for two weeks so still having some sleep transitions is excusable. I noticed a small detail that will excite my friends - the door on my bedroom has a familiar face!

In addition, I got this little box from my host-brother asking if I would play futbol with him, and my obviously response already drawn in, 'yes!'

Yesterday in Saliceto I had my lesson where I had to each about the US Government to a class of 8th grade students, who know little english, with a teacher who speaks to english. It went better than I thought. I translated my lesson plan to italian, and would say the different part in english slowly, and then in italian. Aside from a few untranslatable terms it was really successful!

Last weekend we embarked on a journey to Cervinia aka, the Matterhorn! It was a two and a half hour drive from our town, so we loaded up the car to the max and set out! We had some rain storms on the way and I was quite entertained by the number of castles we passed on the highway. They were all different shapes and sizes but all stood out like beacons high on the mountainsides glowing in the night.

When we got to the village below Cervinia I was informed that our drive to the apartment was about a half hour driving up the mountain. We have big mountains in the US, but I really couldn't comprehend the sheer size of the mountain we were going to. At the first turn we saw a mini 3-D replica of the Matterhorn, perhaps 15 feet tall by 20 feet across, even that was quite beautiful!

We started the climb up and for those who've not been to Italy, or regions with steel hills, the only roads are long traverses, snaking back and forth across the mountainside. Mixed with speed, this could be a recipe for car sickness! Luckily, I was all set and was able to enjoy the ride. About ten minutes up we came upon a light snow storm which grew with intensity the higher we climbed. I couldn't see very much due to the snow, and the time of night. After many tunnels and steep hills we happened upon some beautifully lit streets, and then darkness, and another small village. We passed through a few more until we were up as high as we could drive. Here we drove down into the cellar for the apartment and got out suitcases up in a cargo elevator. Then we headed out to dinner!

It was a beautiful little restaurant truly fit for the Alps. After a wonderful meal and a small glimpse of the village we headed back for the night as it was already 11PM. I could only see the main ski slope near us in the morning as it was snowing heavily. I was assured that the mountain was much bigger than my current view would suggest. We instead decided to go to the spa for the afternoon, and wow. It was wonderful. I don't think I've ever been to a real spa but I imagine it to be like this one! When you arrive they give you a robe, slippers and a fluffy towel and bring you to a very stylist locker room.

It had a pool, grand hot tub, this interesting hot/cold bath situation, a constellation lit waterbed room with soft music, chairs to sleep in lit with a dark blue light, a dry sauna, hot sauna, and really steamy hot sauna as well as any combination of cooling down one could imagine. There was even an indoor water wheel with intermittent hot and cold water, as well as a shaved ice dispenser. Dispersed throughout there were various hot showers, food and drink tables and as I found the hard way, a cold water downpour room. I went into what I thought was a normal shower only to find that the button didn't seem to work. I stood there for a minute looking at the spout on the ceiling only to realize in horror that the whole ceiling opened and poured dozens of gallons or freezing cold water on me.

The sleep chairs with waterbeds in the last room.
The pool, hot tubs etc. 
Constellation ceiling.
On the bright side, I then went to a misting shower that was scented of fresh mint, and a sauna that was scented of orange peels. All in all, I was quite refreshed after I left.

That night we were happily join by some family friends Valerio, Stefano and Asia (pronounced Aziah) for dinner at a very, very remote, gorgeous restaurant somewhere in the Alps! Per usual Italian food, it was all SO DELICIOUS. Both dinners I had there made me want to contemplate death by exploding because I felt that I ate so much but couldn't help it one bit. Asia, if you hadn't noticed is not a human, but in fact a beautiful dog who joined us and some other tables for dinner. After we were invited to see the wine and cheese cellars which were extraordinary in their structures and collections. We then traversed back down and up to our apartment were we slept a good night for the long day of skiing ahead! 
Simone, Asia, and Valerio 
Francesca and Asia
Asia's beautiful scarf

Upon waking in the morning (I woke up early to peek out at the mountain) I was stunned at the view! Even though the clouds had not cleared yet I could see the mountains rose literally miles above us and the sun had yet to come over the tops. 

View from the apartment window
We dressed quickly and I was fortunate enough to have every last piece of ski equipment needed provided by my loving host-family! We then walked across the street to the base, got our tickets and boarded the first chairlift. (Which was already loads nicer than and lift I'd ridden in the US.) Lines in Italy are more like crowds that just push until they get to the end, which is true for ski lifts!

Italian lines
 I thought we'd be skiing back down, but instead we skied to another lift and proceeded higher, and higher. Then another lift, and a small gondola. The lifts are for five, and have not only body guards to keep you in, but wind guards to protect against the cold winds. 

Looks a bit fake right??
The gondola of course was enclosed. To avoid having others in our gondola box Lorenzo did his best to fake tripping into the entrance so that no one had time to get on with us all. After getting off of this gondola, we climbed some stairs and came upon the biggest gondola I've ever seen. Not that'd I'd ever seen one before that day, but it must have held about 230 people (the capacity was 200, but it felt like we squeeze in a few extras.)
The Matterhorn from the little gondola.
The tiny specs in the distance are the massive gondolas.
View going up!
After the ride to the tip top, we took in the view. It was spectacular. It certainly felt like we were atop the world, as the mountain tops and clouds were far below. I took make videos and it's obvious in them that my attention was less of the slopes (which were pristine) and more of the views which were practically unreal. 

Spectacular view of the Alps!
The Matterhorn!
Lore and I


Italian/Swiss border! 

We had lunch at a restaurant only accessible by ski, which is were I realized I was getting a goggle tan/burn, and that my shins and calves felt as though the hulk himself had them in a vice grip. Despite all better judgement I loosened my boots all the way and headed back up to the top! 

Francesca and Lorenzo
Simone and Daniele
This time we went all the way to the bottom which was a total of 22 km in one run, or just about 14 miles! And none of it was crazy intense, it was all wide open and beautiful! 

After packing up and heading out I came back to the realization of how high we were as the decent did a number on my ears. At the bottom of the mountain drive I saw these odd slides on the hill and was told that they were the areas form of hydroelectric power. Very neat!

I managed to pass out soon after and woke a couple hours later. All in all a spectacular weekend that I won't soon forget. Additionally, I learned that there was a small village located in the mountains accessible only by gondola which was near the base of the mountain pass. That village is call Chamois, and it is the only municipality in Italy with no cars and a population of just about 100 people. We din't go here, but I did find a few pictures online of the cute little village. 
The goldola to Chamois
Very cute little village 

I've got some other neat trips in the works! Hope all is well where ever you may be! Ciao!

January 17, 2015

#38 - The first week

Hello again! 

We're currently relaxing in my host-families apartment slope-side at Mt. Cervinia. The snow is beautiful here and has been falling fast. The visibility is low due to the snow so we will be skiing tomorrow. We plan to go to the spa today which should be a nice time to relax. I've found that beyond helping to translate practical words and sentences, I've been helping to translate song lyrics and explain what "all about that bass" really means.

This past week was certainly a tiring one due to the time change, jet lag, and the sun setting earlier and rising later, but so far it's quite wonderful. The town where I live, Cortemilia, has a population of about 2,000, which makes Farmington seem quite large! There are many back streets, stores and interesting landscapes I hope to explore soon, and so far the biggest difference I've seen compared to anywhere else in Italy is that I can walk down a street and not see another person. And if I do, they are local. I feel that I might be one of the only non-locals at times but I do not mind. 

When we went to church or arrived at a new school I could see people looking from behind doors and whispering, children giggling as they know I that I am the 'mother tongue' meaning I speak english as my first language. Although very few people can speak english, and some only have a few words that extend as far as what they've seen in movies ie; "I love you!" "kiss me!" "sit down!" almost everyone is willing to learn what they can. In the cafeteria the chefs would say "hello!"  and smile trying to say the days meal in english, "fish an peas!" 

There are not many teachers who speak english, primarily the english teachers (as one would expect,) but they are eager to learn more and perfect what english they know. All of the teachers I work with, except for one speak english, and many of the older students I work with (6-8 grade) can understand much of what I say if I speak slowly and use more basic descriptions. My host-sister has improved very much as sometimes my host-mother is gone and I have questions etc. 

Somehow everyone thought I was from New Mexico but when they learned that I was not from New Mexico, one of the boys put his hand on his head and exclaimed in Italian, “Ohhh I spent much time coloring New Mexico!” It was quite funny. Upon arriving to most classes the students had 'welcome' signs, and all said 'hallo!" in unison. It was very kind and welcoming! During each week I go between five different schools, three located in different towns from Cortemilia 20 - 30 kilometers. I'll tell you a bit about each day, with some of the funny things students said and asked. 

Monday - I rode to Monsiglio with one of the teachers from Cortemilia. He didn't speak english well but enough that the ride was not silent. In general, riding in the car here is not for the faint of heart as the roads wind sharply in the hills, and they are very narrow. In addition, the speeds are quite fast making for a roller coaster rider! On this day the sun didn't rise until 8:30, and I had already been teaching/assisting for almost an hour! I had to leave our house at 7:10 am to arrive at the school in Monsiglio needless to say I was quite tired. In addition, many students and some staff were sick, so I was not excited that I too many get sick! I rode back with a staff member at Cortemilia who spoke very little english. We still managed to have some disjointed conversations with a lot of arm movements and pointing out the windows.

During the rest of the morning, I helped in my host mothers class, and then had lunch with the 1-6 graders. I somehow ended up next to the six year olds who kept looking at me and giggling as they only knew italian. After this I returned home to lounge as I was very tired! I read in the sun on my bedroom terrace and finished the book - which was the only english book I brought!
A photo of the tower in Coremilia - I hope to climb up there!
The walking bridge that connects the two sides of the city.

Tuesday - I stayed in Cortemilia and helped at the elementary and middle schools. On this day, I received a few special drawings! In my first class a small boy drew me a picture of myself teaching which received many whistles from fellow classmates. Later at the middle school, a different boy drew a picture of me being overwhelmed by being asked dozens of questions all at once. The students are all very funny and nice.

Wednesday - On this day I ride with my host mother to Castelletto which is very close. This school is very small as well, and has only two classes - one is the first and second grade, and the other is the third and fifth grade combined as there are no forth graders. This school/ village is perched right above some big cliffs so the view is great. I was quite sick this day and didn't get many photos due to the foggy weather. After lunch at home I went to the middle school again for a bumpy experience with the Lin which is the projector system. We had some problems getting it to work but eventually I could show them pictures of my home, school(s), family, and friends.

Thursday – Castino is another tiny village high in the hills in the other direction. We arrived in Castino just in time for lunch, and as they are only 10 students in total (grades 1-4,) we eat at a local restaurant. When the cook (who is also their gym teacher) comes out and explains to the that there will be no hotdogs and chips, they declare they will start a revolution. Additionally, I was able to convince a boy to eat his carrots saying he would see better at night, and because well, Spider Man eats his carrots to see at night.

Friday - I started my day at the middle school in Cortemilia with another very warm welcome from the students (two signs!) and then rode with the school secretary to Saliceto which is quite far away. She didn't speak english and had difficulties understanding my broken italian. The first teacher I worked with on this day spoke english, and her students who were (I believe) 8th graders, spoke english quite well, which was good because I had that same class later in the day for geography and their teacher speaks no english. Zero. So, I was suppose to explain the geographic landscape of the US, using an italian textbook, to students who had only just heard their first english speaking person an hour earlier. Despite some obvious setbacks we were able to do quite well and the students worked very hard to understand my drawings, and gestures. In addition, I spoke italian for things I could, and they would translate it back in they understood. 

This is going to be the hardest class I work with, but they are very hard workers and I think they will learn a lot. Additionally, the teacher for this class would like me to prepare a lesson for next class that explains the US Federal Gov. and how voting works on a federal and state level.... It will certainly be an experience! But most importantly, don't wish me good luck as this is not good luck in Italy. Instead you would say 'in bocca al lupo!' which means 'in the mouth of the wolf,' to which one would reply, 'crepi il lupo!' which means ' wish that the wolf dies!'

For all five of the schools I've found some similarities with the questions that I've been asked. The most interesting, but common questions I got were: what is your favorite futbol team, do you like One Direction, how old are you, do you have a boyfriend, do you have a husband, how many kids have you got? I've found it difficult to pick a favorite futbol team as I pick solely on the looks of the team as I have no insight into their true skills! I hope to get pictures of each school, ut the weather had been quite foggy so I will in due time!

Friday afternoon I got to meet with a friend of my host-family, Lorenzo, to learn a bit about his university in Turin, and speak english. It was nice to speak with someone close to my age as in the schools the children I work with are 6-14. That evening we packed for Cervinia (The Matterhorn) in the Italian Alps! We headed out for our ride and arrived at night. After about two hours on the highway, we had over a half hour to climb the mountain to where we the apartment was located. We got a wonderful dinner on the main street, and the waiters all could speak french and italian as the mountain is located so close to the border. I also found that they spoke english and even served me a beer first! Lucky me!

Stay tuned for how skiing goes and to get some pictures of the other small towns! I hope to plan some travels once my soul arrives to Cortemilia!*

*Referencing the insights given from a professor in Dubrovnik!