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Wrapping Up: Part II

16 May

On Friday I had two gelati within two hours of each other (rose and pomegranate (Colin: Fail) and watermelon and lemon).

Mom and the gang left that afternoon. Everyone seemed to have a really nice time. They took with them one of my suitcases to ease my journey. I worried briefly about not having enough left to fill my remaining backpack, but somehow I’ve managed.

Venezia, my favorite.

On Friday night I threw Colin a surprise birthday party. I’m missing his actual birthday next week, and I’m racked with guilt about it, so this was a way to make up for that. He was totally surprised, and super pleased that so many of his friends came in the middle of paper-writing season.

I think at this point, with six hours left inBologna, I’ve said all the farewells I’m going to—some of them twice. It feels so epic, but it’s just summer vacation. See you later! HAGS!

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Wrapping things up: Part I

2 May

My time left in Italy has dwindled to two weeks. It’s actually a fair chunk of time if you’re talking about being in Italy for a vacation or waiting for the results of a fellowship application. And though, in a way, I’m doing both of those things, ultimately I’m moving away from this temporary home that I’ve come to really love.

Some family are on their way here and will likely arrive before many of my West Coast readers find this post. I had time to tell them that the forecast says rain, but not the time to say the last day and a half have been absolutely beautiful.

As a result of their visit, Colin has been telling everyone that even though I’m not actually leaving for two weeks, it’s really as though I’m leaving the moment my family arrives. I feel as though I have some affliction: Well, she’ll be here, but it’s the time of year she turns into a werewolf. Maybe it’s true (not the werewolf bit—definitely not true), but I hope not; though I do realize it will be difficult to be present in any aspect of the SAIS social scene while showing off Venice to the fam.

And the fellowship application? Before I leave, Colin will know if he’s received the Boren to go study in Morocco next year, and I’ll have to figure out my plan.

There are some people I really won’t see again. I said goodbye to my Italian teachers and my language exchange partner, as well as to the kids I tutor. I worked my last shift as a nanny, though they’ve had such an important role in my time here that my family will meet them. Everyone’s curious about the other.

Making chocolate zucchini cake with Mati.

The father of the girl I tutor gave me a lift home, as usual, but for the first time it was on his scooter—my first time being on one in Italy! I know it’s cliché, but it really is a totally different way of seeing the city. I quite liked it.

At this very moment, I’m waiting to go meet my friend Leah for maybe the last time in Bologna, since she leaves even sooner than I do. Then we’ll go together to yoga; then I’ll rush over to the train station to meet Mom, Craig, Uncle Rick, and Cousin Melissa. As I wait, though, two beautiful loaves of oat-wheat bread are baking away (adapted from Radishes and Rhubarb, I added about a cup of oats), and the smell is absolutely marvelous.

Before I tell my spring break tale…

25 Apr

It took a day and a half of traveling, but I made it back to Bologna last night. After dinner and a much-needed hot shower, I went to face the big wide world of the Internet after a week of being away. To my great dismay and complete disbelief, my laptop’s poor broken power-supply cord had finally given up. The last thing it had ever done for me was give me a shock when I was pulling it out of the outlet at the train station cafe. Lousy thing.

Luckily, I had five minutes of battery left on the thing–enough to grab my Garibaldi file. Colin kept his old laptop around, which functions fine but can’t connect to the Internet, so I’m working on that.

Mom’s hopefully bringing a replacement cord with her when they arrive in a week. Then we’re off and running to everywhere you might expect: Venice, Florence, Tuscany, Sorrento, and Rome.  It’ll be a fun and busy couple of weeks with what I imagine will be a very abrupt end. I’ve only got three weeks left in Italy.

A scrawled note

5 Apr

It turns out Garibaldi is as formidable an opponent when it comes to meeting deadlines as he was when met in battle. I’m feeling downright overwhelmed by this editing project—it looms over me all the time. Additionally, my time in Italy is coming quickly to an end, so all of those trips that were being put off until the nice spring weather are piling up, and people want to be social. People can be hard to say no to. Those people also include those two other jobs I still have, babysitting and tutoring.

And oh man, could this weather be more beautiful? Nope.

I know I still owe you photos from my trip with Noel, not to mention some of the delicious food we made, but now I’ve got new photos to share with you from my trip this past weekend to Cinque Terre. These will all come soon.

Since most of my readers are back home and I haven’t had much recent contact with them, I just want to use this as a way to tell them all that I’m happy and healthy and working hard and missing them and learning lots and eating well and not packing just yet but starting to worry about it.

Excuses

31 Mar

I just want everyone to know that I still haven’t even unpacked from my trips with Noel. The blog (and correspondences and going through photos and cleaning my room) has taken the back seat this week while I’ve tried to get caught up on everything else. I promise photos and stories soon.

Too much of a good thing

19 Mar

Speaking of diminishing marginal returns, this is a terrible photo of the delicious antipasti at our Bolognese dinner at Il 15 the second night. Tragically, I left almost an entire plate of pasta uneaten. Meal fail.

Noel and I have had a bit of a traveling fail. We need to rewind all the way to Thursday, when we were supposedly on our way to Florence to enjoy the free museums. Well, as Noel’s boyfriend put it when he heard the story: “Florence is so cool it sells out.”

Taking the sold-out morning train as a sign of overwhelming crowds on the Florence end, we opted not to take the slightly later train and to save Florence for another day, as originally planned. Instead we bought tickets for a noon train to nearby Ferrara and power walked back to the main square to catch Bologna’s parade for Unification Day.

I have to say, I wasn’t expecting all the military action, but it was neat to see the flags everywhere. I was almost sorry we were leaving Bologna, actually, because everyone seemed to be in a festive mood and enjoying the sunny morning.

With still a couple hours before the train, we climbed Bologna’s tallest tower. Coming in at a remarkable 97 meters, almost double the height of Pisa’s tower, the Torre Asinelli offers a fantastic view for those able to get up all 498 of the steep, worn wooden steps.

We eventually made our way to Ferrara, only 30 minutes away on the train, and it turns out they were celebrating Unification Day with free entrance to museums too! So we explored their castle (one of the few in Italy with a functioning moat—“functioning” in the sense that there’s still water, not that it keeps out invading enemies). We peeked in their duomo (the first time I’ve been caught touring a church when a service started). We shared a gelato (strawberry and some yummy white chocolate and fudge flavor).

I think every Italian city I’ve visited has felt less claustrophobic than Bologna because they don’t have the portici covering the sidewalks and hiding the sky. I have been grateful on so many occasions for the portici (I think they’re ruining my instinct to grab an umbrella when going out on a rainy day), but it’s a nice change to stroll without them, especially through Ferrara’s many pedestrian-only walkways.

OK but the plan for the next day, yesterday, was to try again for Florence. We didn’t have tickets, but figured if we arrived when the museums opened the lines wouldn’t be too bad. Unfortunately that meant catching a 6:45 train. Well, that didn’t happen. Noel met me in the kitchen at 5:30 looking like an absolute zombie: jetlag had struck again—she’d only slept for two hours. Today was not a day for touring museums.

"I don't trust them."

Venice, however, doesn’t require the intense focus of appreciating Renaissance art, nor does it require as early a start. We left for Venice around 10 and had a lovely sunny day strolling around the canals and listening to Rick Steves.

"I'm on a boat!"

But we should make it a fairly early night, we reasoned; we’ve got Cinque Terre tomorrow. Well…

I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this if we’d made it, but I’m kind of glad I am. I feel a little bad: I’ll have another shot at Cinque Terre before I leave, but Noel definitely won’t. We are both bone-tired already, and that’s not the way we want to start our week in Rome and Sorrento on Monday. I think we need this weekend to regroup a little, rest these weary feet.

We will be leaving for Rome before the sun even comes up on Monday for six days down south—that’s the plan, at least.

Silence on the blog waves

12 Mar

Apologies for the extreme dearth of posts recently. I got myself a bit of a grown-up job last week and have been spending most of my free computer hours working on that. It’s definitely what I should be doing now, but I’ve missed you.

My new project is editing a book manuscript about the military history of Garibaldi. The typical response from people when I tell them that is laughter, some confusion. The Italians I’ve told have been utterly baffled.

I’m only 25 pages in, but already I think I know more about Giuseppe Garibaldi than I do about any other figure in history. (But I still had to look up how to spell his first name.)

As I toil through the roughly translated paragraphs (only 200 pages to go!), occasionally throwing up my hands in frustration, reaching for the thesaurus or my style guides or Colin’s better understanding of what an Italian might have actually intended, the weather gets nicer, Noel’s and my family’s arrivals get closer, our time here gets shorter.

This job is making my English better at least.

I’m no more sure about where we’ll be next fall, but I am sure that I’ll be arriving in the San Diego airport the evening of May 17. I am so excited to be going home, but there is a twinge of sadness that I will be leaving before everything wraps up here, plus that load of anxiousness about getting all my stuff into just a few suitcases. There will be casualties.

And I’m OK with that. Our vibrant-blue couch throw, purchased in Yonghe’s night market at a jacked-up price, will not make the cut; I know that. The next tenants of our lovely apartment will get to use it. Pass it on. Purge the baggage.

But I know when it comes down to it, I’m going to want to keep this stuff, my stuff. My name is Valerie, and I am a packrat.