Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Views

We took a drive to...guess where. The house is still standing after all the snow of the winter. It was cloudy when we arrived, but as we drove away the sun broke out and I got some beautiful shots. The area is on the border of Tuscany so we can see the Tuscan hills on a clear day, which are still part of the Apennine range. We are closer to the decision to make an offer.

We saw another ruin along a road we explored. It is in a panoramic location and a very interesting building, and even though the roof has collapsed there is an outbuilding with some beautiful wood beams that are jointed without nails. There is a lot of potential if anyone is interested in taking on such a project.

We met a woman walking her dogs on the street. She asked us if we wanted this little puppy (ek! in a minute..) but she has been living in the area for ten years and complained how isolated she felt. A song to my ears.

We also discovered the Church of Saint Valentino at the end of a little-used road. We read on a board that the area holds a terrible history of bloodshed and violence of a battle taken place in 1943-44. The area is so peaceful and beautiful, it is hard to believe such a thing has happened but I suppose one could say that about almost every war zone at some point.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Bowels of Winter

The lowpoint of the winter was last week and a teacher at work said there had been a formal study and last Monday was cited as the most depressing day of the year - arriving shortly after the holidays have passed and before the next holiday (and spring) is here. I suppose that depends on one's geographics, but it certainly seems true for me and most everyone in dreary Bologna.

Ray fell off a ladder while Andrea and I were working on setting up the new program office, and here is his first beauty (it really started as a bump on the forehead and moved down to the eye the next day). Three days later, I sprained my ankle by missing a step on our landing. You can imagine how funny I looked as I had a box full of groceries in my hands and we all ended up sprawled all over the balcony then I had to crawl to the phone inside to call Andrea to come home, all the while trying to sound cheery so Ray wouldn't be more upset than he was ("Mommy, what happened? I am going to cry...", he was so frightened). I laugh now, but man, that hurt and it is still swollen ten days later. And don't ask me why I just didn't use my mobile phone and save myself the humiliation of crawling.

On the upside, all of the 36 new students arrived and we were able to pull off the pizza party at home without incident (my ankle didn't get me off the hook) and the new office looks great but will be better when they get the internet installed. Andrea has been doing all his advising from home so the students have to walk up the long hill to get here. I hope no one is complaining. Here Ray and I are at the restaurant, the students crammed into the apartment, and at the restaurant again in first photo of this post.

The local Americans organized a party at a jazz club to watch the Presidential Inauguration live last Tuesday at 6 pm our time, and with my bum ankle and Ray being fried from school, I opted instead to go to my (English) friend Philippa's house across the road to watch it with her (we don't have satellite at home). She was sweet enough to have a chilled bottle of French champagne waiting, and we really enjoyed celebrating. My friend Kathryn (pictured below) told me that at the club, after the event was over, everyone broke into the national anthem which must have been nice to witness. Yesterday at school, the 5th and 6th graders had to analyze Obama's speech and except for the word "less", every other word he used repeatedly was positive. I hope he is able to continue to pull the country together and up.

Ray had a late Christmas visit from Godmother Kathryn who brought him a surgical Shrek head (future doctor?). Yoshi came over for dinner a couple of nights ago laden with gifts. He returned to Bologna after spending Christmas with his family in Japan. He gave us a beautiful calendar and a framed ink print of his local landscape. He also gave us one of those beautiful Japanese fortunes, done in ink calligraphy and wrapped in a red paper ribbon that Ray ripped off, much to Yoshi's chagrin as it is now supposed to be bad luck. Agh, we will see. Discussions of the dream house have not been taken off the table and tossed into the trash...hummm.

Andrea is planning for his trip to the US at the end of March, beginning of April. If anyone is interested in visiting at that time, I would welcome the company. And only five more months before I touch down on American soil. Can' wait.

Friday, January 9, 2009

It usually doesn't snow often or much in Bologna, but these past two weeks brought the most gorgeous snowfalls - big, lazy flakes swirling in the air before quickly piling up on the ground. It makes the hassle we suffered of having these large windows installed well worth it. The original terrace was partially walled in a couple of decades ago, and last year we changed all the little windows to the largest pieces of glass possible so they are about 6 feet tall and ten feet long and really bring the outdoors in. The view on the hills are especially beautiful, though today with the sunshine the white is quickly disappearing.

Not much has been going on these days. We had some of Andrea's friends over for dinner last week and I was surprised to realize just today that the language of the evening was in almost all Italian and I UNDERSTOOD most of it! ha. Finalmente. Here is a photo of them - the men are friends for 40 years now. Lucrezia is 11 and fell asleep on our sofa as the conversation wandered on until 2 am. They had a 1.5 hour drive home so I hope they made it okay. Oh, and they liked alot the beef mignons, which is taken from the white cows of Italy and even at a whooping $35 a pound was well worth it.

Poppy stayed with us for a few nights over the new year. Ray has become so comfortable with her which makes me very glad as I look forward to the day I will be able to have dogs back in my life again. I am back to work at school this week and the kids have really changed a lot in three weeks. Not only are they all a little taller, they are enthusiastic to get back to reading and writing and it is obvious they have been practicing. I really like this job and had a conversation of going on a permanent contract beginning in the fall which would be nice, though I could double my earnings if I ventured into the business world. But got to love the summers free, and a week off every 6. (The Italian job market is a huge topic to cover, and there are many complications and contracts - all very different from the American mentally of doing things. One day I will go into more details.)

Andrea's students arrive on Monday, 36 in all, and so next week will be hectic as we will attend a dinner out Tuesday night with them, then give them an introduction to the Italian aperitivo on Wednesday, then have them all come here for pizza on Friday evening. This place is feeling way too small! Oh dream house, come back to me...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Final Visit to the Dream House

The Dream House will always remain in its state - a dream. We went to visit it with a geometra yesterday and there were no surprises in the condition of the house, but the news of the church next door going up for sale was a whopper - and I was really disappointed to hear about it. This would give us some very close neighbors, and depending on how a converted church would be used, could potentially lead to more traffic than we would like along with noise, people, foot traffic, etc. So the whole purpose of finding a hilltop home to get away from it all is mute in this property and I am truly sad. Here are some photos taken with the lovely snow - we have now seen the house in three seasons and it is heavenly. I hope one day someone will appreciate it and restore it back to some of its former beauty.