Italian Memoir (Part Two)

My Love Affair
With Italy
Part II
The next day we finally met the rest of the English-speaking tutors we’d be working with – six Irish girls. Little did we all know that we were in for the ride of a lifetime! We were tutoring at Leonardo da Vinci – the school, not the person. Each tutor commanded a classroom of 10-15 Italian children. Children that only spoke Italian and very little English, children we were supposed to teach and discipline and control without knowing their language, children that were going to drive us insane!The first day was like a science experiment, studying the specimen. The children studied us, we studied them, and the director studied all of us. I, naively, tried to communicate directly with the children and quickly discovered that would not work – they just stared at me with blank expressions on their lovely faces. Then Eduardo walked into the classroom. Eduardo, who later I fondly learned to call Edo, was like a gift! His mother was Scottish and he was nearly bi-lingual! This made my job much more tolerable, even if he didn’t always like to listen.

The days were long and hot. The nights were short and just as hot. We were with the children from 8:15 am until 4:30 pm. Then we had to clean up our classrooms and attend a staff meeting. The school was very hot, with no air conditioning. We spent our days begging for a pleasant breeze, almost hoping for rain. Breezes sometimes visited, rain was never present. Mosquitoes were present though, all the time. Some of the Irish girls were covered in mosquito bites. Apparently American blood is not as succulent as I escaped Italy with only a few bites.

Through the first week we developed a routine to our days and worked together as much as possible! Not only did we find strength in numbers (number of tutors, that is) but it was also lovely to communicate with someone who actually understood you. After we released the children to their parents we went to the bar around the corner from the school, ordered a cold drink and were served an array of finger foods – for free! This was the time that we blew off steam and vented about the students before heading back to our host families. Every day when I got home, I took a multi-purpose, cold shower. It cooled me down and let me wash off the sweat and dirt I had acquired through the day.

Sometimes all the tutors would go to dinner or just sit in front of the duomo – a beautiful cathedral in the central square in Milan. Eating with my host family was the real treat! Their dinners were four-course meals every night! I began to realize that meals were a ritual and eating was an art.

One night at dinner I asked, “Why do you have so many different wines in one meal?”

Aldo, my host father, explained, “With every food corresponds a certain wine. So we must change the wine to match the food.” Aldo had taken a class on this when he was younger just as Sara, my host mother, took a cooking class right after she and Aldo married. It’s customary for men and women to be very knowledgeable about these subjects in the Italian culture. For a man to not know his wines is very faux pas.

Italian restaurants in America can’t do justice to the food in Italy. The fruits and vegetables there are incomparable in taste. When I went to Italy I hated tomatoes and while I was there I grew to love them! The cherries were mouth watering and everywhere, outside every little shop that you pass, in crates like at a farmer’s market. John could not get enough gelato. It’s the creamiest, softest, sweetest dessert I’ve ever tasted, especially after a long, hot day of teaching.

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