Sports, School and Ice Cream (written by Tom)

by guest blogger Tom

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My favorite thing to write about is football, especially the Huskies.  This fall I wrote weekly reports on college football.  I watched every Husky game from our computer here, and I’m excited to go to all the home games next fall.

There aren’t many Italians who know what real football is.  Some think it’s soccer, and some think it’s rugby.  Most people think I’m a rugby player.   I wear a Husky football jersey to school every day under my uniform.  On Thursday when I have PE, I get to wear shorts.  P.E. is one of my favorite classes.  So is French.

I wear a Husky football jersey to school every day under my uniform.

These are all the boys in my class except one, who was absent today.

But I don’t really like school that much.  In Math, we have to be very organized.  We have to use a red pen for the title at the top of the page, a black pen for headings, a green pen for lines and line segments, a blue pen for showing our work and a pencil for drawling angles and pie charts.  And the big problem is, we are not allowed to use white-out or erasers, so if you mess up, you have to start over.  Yesterday I asked my teacher why we couldn’t always use pencils and erasers.  She said that people would take home their assignments after they were corrected, erase all the incorrect answers and replace them with the right ones.  However, students still find ways to cheat.  The other day, I caught three of my classmates using cheat sheets for a test, so I got up, grabbed the cheat sheets, and turned them into the teacher.  Luckily, the three boys weren’t mad at me and they agreed not to do it again.  Hopefully, this will put an end to cheating in my class.

We have a class called Antologia where we read stories.  The stories are confusing.  I understand the words in Italian, but the story itself doesn’t really make sense.  For instance, there was one called “The Wolf and the Sheep.”  This is how it goes:

One day, a wolf and a sheep arrived at a drinking river at the same time.  The wolf was mean and wanted an excuse to eat the sheep.  He said, “Why are you dirtying my water?”

The sheep replied, “How could I dirty your water? You’re farther up stream than me.”

Then the wolf said, “Six months ago you were saying bad things about me.”

“Six months ago I wasn’t born,” the sheep responded.

“Your dad was saying bad things about me,” said the wolf, and he grabbed the sheep and ate him.  THE END.

In art history, we are studying columns.  There are three types of ancient Greek columns: the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian.  On Sunday I found a Corinthian column in a town we visited.

In art history, we are studying columns. There are three types of ancient Greek columns: the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian. On Sunday we found a Corinthian column in a town we visited.

One good thing about my school is that the teachers sometimes don’t show up.  This week, we have gone to school for 15 hours and for 10 of them the teachers were gone.  When this happens, we go into another classroom and write, draw, read or do whatever we want to.  Right before school got out today, we heard that all but one of our teachers for tomorrow are sick.  The principal gave all the kids the option to go to school or not.  You can probably guess what I chose.

One of the worst things about school is that we go six days a week. Then on Sunday, my one day off, my parents take us sight-seeing and we have to look at piazzas, churches and museums.  Last weekend we went to Montefalco and Bevagna, but at least I got to bring my football.

I played catch with my dad in the main piazza

I played catch with my dad in the main piazza.

While we were there, we went to a museum that was kind of boring, but at least it wasn’t very big.  My mom and I counted angels.  We found 96 in the main part of the museum.  Then as we were about to leave, we found a special angel-only exhibit downstairs.  The first one looked like a wide receiver who missed a catch.

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And the second one looked like a disappointed coach

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We have only 149 days left, and I’m glad.  I like Bellevue better.  I think everything is better back home like my friends, my school, my house, and even the food. At least here I can get gelato every day.  My favorite flavors are lemon, vanilla cream and chocolate chip, but I like Baskin-Robbins more because the ice cream is colder and the flavors are better.  I can’t wait to get home and eat pink bubblegum ice cream, cinnamon firehouse, and poprock swirl.

Me in Italy (written by Ray)

by guest blogger Ray

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School has been going really well for me ever since Christmas break and the week I was sick.  I’ve been understanding a lot more in Italian.  I use to get easier work than the Italian kids in school, but now I do the same exercises and homework as them.  I think it’s fun.  Also, conversation is easier to understand.  I hardly ever have to say “Non capisco.”

My favorite class in school is Italian grammar because the teacher is really nice to me and it’s the easiest class.  Right now we are studying comparisons and superlatives.  For instance, if something is good, we say it is “buono.”  If something is better, we say “migliore.”  If something is the best, we say “ottimo.”  At first it was confusing, but my tutor Paola helped me understand.

In history we are learning about the Etruscans.  They lived before the Romans.  Where they came from is a mystery, but they lived in here Umbria and around the center of Italy.  They were the ones who invented the arch.  They were really good architects.  When they wrote, they wrote from right to left, and they did not have spaces between their words.  They wrote with a different alphabet than ours.

This is an Etruscan arch.  It's the most famous arch in Perugia.

This is an Etruscan arch. It’s the most famous arch in Perugia.

My least favorite class is science.  Right now we are studying the body.  We are learning about breathing, muscles, bones, intestines, nerves, veins and cells.  There are some funny pictures in my science book like a rotting orange, the Italian food pyramid, a little baby sitting on a potty, and an angry boy riding a bike.

This is a picture from my science book.

This is a picture from my science book.

We always have a break at 10:15.  That’s when we get to have a snack and talk.  My friends are Alberto, Andrea, Gaia, Anna, Alessandro and Teresa.  During break the boys sing Gangnam Style or play charades.  Actually, I don’t play charades because I have no idea what they are acting out.  Sometimes they do things and I don’t know what it is suppose to be.

This is me with my classmates.  I'm sitting between Andrea and Gaia.  In the background is poster of me that my class made at the beginning of the year.  It says, "Welcome to our school."

This is me with my classmates. I’m sitting between Andrea and Gaia. In the background is a poster of me that my class made at the beginning of the year. It says, “Welcome to our school.”

Today during snack time, I talked with Gaia.

Today during snack time, I talked with Gaia.

After school, I come home for lunch, check my emails, do my homework and get gelato.  I go across the street to Grom for gelato.  Right now my favorite flavors are cream, lemon, chocolate and stracciatella.  The most common flavor is hazelnut.  Vanilla is not very popular, and it’s hard to find.

Sabrina and Verenna and me.  Today I ordered three scoops and some whip cream.

Sabrina and Verena and me. Today I ordered three scoops of gelato and some whip cream.

We are half way through the year. It has been fun when people visit us, but I’m also excited to go home.  I miss our backyard and our house and our neighborhood and my friends.  But when I leave I will miss the gelato, the food, my Italian friends, all the traveling on Sundays and vacations.

Fifth Grade in Italy (written by Ray)

written by guest blogger Ray

This is me in front of my school

Elementary school is way different from Bellevue.  It’s all in Italian, it’s six days a week and I get out earlier so I can eat lunch at home.  I’m in fifth grade here.   I go to a different school than Tom since he is in middle school.  I like my teachers and my classmates.  School starts at 8:10, which means I have to wake up a lot earlier than in Washington.  When I wake up by a “beep beep” of my alarm clock, I am tired.  My school is only five minutes from my apartment walking.  When I get to class, my classmates say, “Come va?” which means, “How are you?” So I say, “Bene.”

One time my entire class went to a classmate’s birthday party.  We saw ICE AGE 4 in a movie theater.  Today I got another invitation to a birthday party on Saturday, but I can’t go because I’ll be in Rome.

This is my Italian and History teacher. I call her “Maestra.”

I have five teachers but a lot of subjects.  Every week I have History, PE, Math, Italian, Science, Art, English, Geometry, Geography, Music, and Religion.  Math is my favorite subject.  I understand it because it’s all numbers basically.  Right now, I need help in about everything but Math and English.  Whenever I say, “Non capisco,” everyone tries to help me understand.  Sometimes I get different assignments than the Italian kids.  One time, I got a worksheet that asked me what I eat for breakfast.  There weren’t very many choices.  The options were like chocolate, cookies, cake, sugar, coffee, milk, and jam.  I told my class that I eat cereal, and so my teacher added it to the list.  She wrote “cereal and sugar.”  But I told her I don’t add sugar, so she added the word “no” in front of “sugar.”   That was hard for everyone to believe.  No one here has milk without adding sugar.  And another thing weird, no one ever eats eggs for breakfast.

This is my assignment

One time in my Italian class we were talking about fall celebrations.  We had to write about our favorite holiday, so I wrote about Halloween.  The Italians don’t have Halloween.  It would be hard to go trick-or-treating here because everyone in the city lives in apartment buildings instead of houses.  Instead of Halloween, Italians celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day.  Those are vacation days, so I don’t have school for four days next week!

Translation: “I am an American. I would like to describe a holiday in the United States. The 31st of October in America, we celebrate Halloween. The kids dress up like ghosts, vampires, witches, zombies, and skeletons. They walk around to houses, knock on the door and say, “trick or treat.” The people give candy to the kids. This is the most important holiday in fall for American kids.”

The teachers are a little more strict here.  Sometimes when my Italian or Geography teachers get mad, they bang the roll of duct tape that is on the desk.  It makes a really loud sound because the duct tape has a hard piece of cardboard in it to keep the roll of tape in a roll.  Today my teacher brought a whistle to class and blew it loudly when we talked.  If we are working in class, they don’t want us to make a single peep.  Another thing that happened today was my Italian teacher left the classroom for about a half an hour.  I don’t know where she went, but the kids went crazy.  Everyone got out of their desks and talked.  One of my friends went to the front of the class and pretended to be the teacher. She wrote names on the blackboard.  Some of the other kids were watching out for the teacher and told us when she was coming back to the room so we all got back into our seats.

School is out at 1:10.  When school is done, I walk home with my mom, dad, and Tom.  Two times a week I have tutoring.  My tutor’s name is Paola.  She helps me spell words, pronounce words and understand words.  I like her.  She has made me better in school.

me and Signora Paola

This is another assignment I did. I had to draw a picture and write about myself. I said, “I am 10-years-old,” “I live in Perugia in Umbria,” “I have five teachers,” “I am in fifth grade.”

Overwhelmed (written by Tom)

by Guest Blogger, Tom

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Five and a half hours of school a day, six days a week plus two hours of homework each night.  I am so overwhelmed.

One thing I noticed about Italians is they love to yell.  During math class, unless your equations are written very neatly in black pen and the numbers are perfectly aligned, the teacher will pound on your desk yelling, “piu ordinate!” which means more organized.  In Technology, if you get up to sharpen your pencil or blow your nose, the teacher will scream “seduti!” (sit down).  French is impossible, because they are teaching me a foreign language while speaking a language I don’t fully understand.  They have different names for their music notes in Europe, which doubles the frustration in Music class.  Even English is hard, because my English teacher can’t pronounce simple words like “umbrella,” “poison,” “daughter,” or “hello.”  The kids are somewhat polite, but they don’t help each other out, so if I don’t understand the directions, it’s tough luck for me.

We have a dress code.  This is the first and only time that I have been forced to wear jeans.  And to make matters worse, I need to wear a button-up, white,  collared shirt.  Even on P.E. day I am not allowed to wear shorts.  I don’t think I will ever get used to the dress code.  I would run home after school and change into more comfortable clothes, but with the weight of my backpack, my top speed is only three miles per hour.

I am so wiped out when I get home I feel like taking a three-hour long nap, but I have to complete my homework first.  My assignments wouldn’t be that hard if they weren’t written in a foreign language.  Just converting the text to English takes forever, and by the time I am finished there is very little time before dinner.  My parents got a tutor to help me out, but she just makes it worse.  Even though my tutor can speak a little English, she refuses to.  She won’t even allow my mom to translate the directions for me.  In addition, Paola (my tutor) is strict and the sessions are supposed to be 30 minutes long, but they wind up lasting an hour.  Sunday, which is my only day off, is equally difficult.  My family goes on small vacations every Sunday, so a third of my day I spend packing, driving, and unpacking. The only good thing about Sunday is that I get to wake up early to watch the Husky game.

School has been ridiculously hard, but at least I have mid-winter break to look forward to… oh wait, I forgot they don’t do that in Italy.

Our Apartment in Perugia

We’ve been here almost three months.  And while we have no intention of staying a single day over one year, we do refer to this place as home.  When we visit another city for the weekend, we come home on Sunday.  When we pick up the boys from school, we come home for lunch.  And after an afternoon navigating the foreign, loud, confusing city below, we can always retreat to our apartment and feel like it’s ours.  It’s a good place.

But not perfect.

By now we’ve had time to get familiar with the nuances.  The good has only gotten better, and for the most part, the bad is just a big inconvenience. For anyone interested, here’s a little tour.

I’ll start with the disadvantages

1.  The water.  One of the first things I noticed when we moved in, was a strange, filmy, white residue left in the pot after we boiled water.  And the tea always has the look of an oil slick floating around on top.  I thought the pot had some leftover toxins from the previous tenants, but after buying a new pot, I had the same problem.  So I Googled “white residue” which led me to “hard water” which led to “calcium and iron magnesium”.  It turns out this suspicious film is a result of all the mineral deposits.  Upon further investigation, I learned that we are getting a full day’s supply of calcium and magnesium just by drinking water from the facet!  So this actually might be a good thing.  But it’s gross.

left: the mineral deposits left over in the pot.      right: the sludgy look of tea made with a daily dose of calcium and magnesium.

2.  Old appliances that break or don’t work well.   Since we’ve moved in, we’ve had to replace the washing machine and the refrigerator.  We had to live without both for nearly four weeks.  Then last month we had to repair the hot water heater after two days of freezing, cold water.  And the intercom used to communicate with visitors when they arrive downstairs (and also open the door to our building) hasn’t worked for weeks, meaning one of us has a long hike every time a someone rings, which leads me to . . .

3.  Living on the sixth floor.  There is no elevator in our building.  We climb up and down 89 steps at least three times a day.  I never buy more than a day’s worth of groceries at a time, one reason being that it would be too heavy.  I dread the ascent after a weekend away with the extra weight of suitcases.  It’s tiring.  It’s sweaty.  But I think I’m getting stronger.

4.  The shower leaks and makes a puddle on the bathroom floor after each use.

5.  The toilets are really hard to flush.

6.  We have woodworms in all the antique furniture and wood shelves.  I’ve tried getting rid of them, but they seem to be very resilient.  They have burrowed themselves too deep in the wood for me to see, but they leave plenty of evidence with a brown, sawdusty powder all over.

7.  The bells.  Outside our bedroom window is the city bell tower.  It rings every hour.  It also rings every 15 minutes.   Matt did the math; that God forsaken bell rings 456 times a day.

I’m starting to detect a little whine in my voice, so I’m going to switch over to the benefits of this lovely place.

1.  The ceiling.  Above the living room is a bright fresco of a horn, a ribbon, and some holly branches.  Another ceiling has beautiful red stones mortared into it.  I love it.  When I look up, there is no doubt we are in Italy.

2.  The boys each have their own room.  This has been so nice, especially since there isn’t a back yard to play in or much space in the apartment to get away from each other.  When they need a break from the rest of the family, they now have their own place to be alone.

Tom’s room is decorated with football pictures he gets in the mail from friends back home.  (Those are all his school books stacked on the right.)

3.  The location.  No other detail about our life here makes as big a difference as this one.  We are in the middle of it all.  We are in the center of the center.  With the warm weather, we keep the windows open and can hear silverware and plates down below at Perugia’s most popular restaurant.  The boys can go downstairs and across the street to the best gelataria in town, and we can see them the whole time from our windows.  We are are less than five minutes by foot to the kids’ school.  From our dining room table, there is the frequent sound of street musicians.  Then there is the constant traffic of fashionably dressed Italians walking past down below.  We are surrounded with so much vibrancy and energy.  It feels great.

4.  The way our oven cooks potatoes.  This is weird, but every time I make roasted potatoes, they turn out perfectly.  I don’t even have to do anything except cut them up and pour salt and olive oil over them.   I don’t even know how hot the oven is because it’s in celsius.  I just turn it on the highest number and check on them every 10 minutes.  It’s amazing.

5.  The fireplace.  There’s a little fireplace built into the wall.  You can see it from the photo above.  It’s adorable, and I think it will be really cozy in the winter if we can find some place to buy wood.

6.  The postcard wall.  Every time we visit a new city, we add a postcard from that location to our kitchen wall.  As the postcards accumulate, the wall of this apartment record the highlights of our year.

6.  The photo wall.  Thank God the apartment came fully furnished.  The landlords have done a nice job decorating it.  Most of their paintings on the wall are fine, but we knew we would want something from home to make this place feel like ours.  So we brought pictures of all our friends and family and stuck them above the shelves in the entryway.  It looks fantastic.

7.  A place for Luke.   The top shelf is dedicated to Luke.  In addition, we packed the pink candle that we light in his memory.  And I brought the framed picture that our friend gave us on the five-year anniversary.  It’s called Flight of the Recently Departed.  We keep them together near the kitchen table.  They hold a space for Luke.  While we didn’t bring very many personal items for home, these were essential.  These pictures and objects of Luke’s might be the most important features of our apartment.