Tag Archives: babysitting

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.

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Tempting Spring

13 Feb

We had absolutely beautiful weather last week in Bologna. Every day had blue skies, and as the weekend drew nearer, temperatures kept creeping up until Friday when we were in the mid-fifties.

As early in the week as Monday, I took Ludo to the park to play, and though I was so happy to be out of the house, it was perhaps a bit premature. There was still a bit of snow on the ground and a whole lot of mud. Darling angel that she is, Ludo would wrap her little legs around me when I would pick her up, smearing mud from her sneakers all over my jeans. Beginner’s mistake on my part.

On Saturday a couple of SAISers, bored with the lack of work in the first week back in class and inspired by the sun, got together and hosted a barbeque. They bought something like five kilos of ground beef and spent the morning making burger patties. Even tucked back into their private courtyard, we were on the receiving end of several curious stares from the Italian neighbors. My Italian instructors told us the Monday following Easter is typically spent going out with friends for picnics, so maybe that’s the unofficial start of the eating-outdoors season, but we’re not trying to fit in anyway.

It’s back to gray skies today, and we’ve got rain forecast for later this week, but the taste of spring and the fun that will be had was enough to get me by until the weather warms up for good.

La Befana

7 Jan

As I was about to leave work this afternoon, Federica told me that she had left out a sock for me for Befana to fill. She handed me one of Matilde’s anti-slip socks bulging with little hard candies and chocolates while Matilde bounced on her toes to have a piece or two because it was, after all, her sock.

Befana is an old witch who visits the homes of Italian children on the eve of Epiphany, January 6, the day the Three Wise Men reached the baby Jesus. One Christian legend says the Three Wise Men met Befana on their way and stopped to ask her directions. She didn’t know, but her house was so neat and clean, they decided to stay there for the night. They invited Befana to come with them the next morning, but she declined, she had too much house-cleaning to do, and then too late changed her mind and tried to follow them. She’s never found the baby Jesus, and as she searches she manages a naughty and nice list for all of the other Italian children, with the nice children getting caramels and toys and the naughty children receiving coal, onions, or garlic.

The story of Befana is likely from pagan tradition, though, specifically that of Strenia, the Roman goddess of strength and endurance. Strenia distributed gifts of honey, figs, and dates at the New Year, and one can see how pagans would have adapted their customs to fit the Christian calendar and slap a new name on them. As one scholar put it, “Christianity conquered paganism, but paganism infected Christianity.”

When I told Federica that Befana doesn’t visit children in the U.S., that instead Santa makes the rounds on Christmas Eve, she was floored. That only increased when I told her I’d never heard of Epiphany before arriving in Italy—here it’s a national holiday with the shops closing and everything. I should check with her to see if Santa exists in Italy, because I can’t remember seeing any evidence of the jolly old man during the Christmas festivities.

Yo yo yo!

5 Jan

I complain a lot about not feeling comfortable wearing my UCSB hoodie around the streets of Bologna. The dress code here is posh (fur coats, fur hats (though no boots with the fur, surprisingly)) or street (slick track suits worn by teenage boys, mostly). It’s not so much a continuum as it is two separate worlds, so there’s really no place for my casual, comfortable hoodie.

I got a little insight into this the other day when I was sitting with Ludo. She’s really too young to judge my fashion sense, so I allow myself the comfort of my hooded sweatshirt in her presence. Then one day, she’s dressed in this adorable fuzzy lime green hoodie (different fashion rules apply to babies), and I pull her hood up because they keep the house too cold. She smiles up at me with her four teeth and leaves it because now we’re matching, and I think she digs that.

Her dad comes home a few hours later and laughs when he sees her. “Oh look, she’s a rapper! Yo yo yo!” Maybe the fashion rules aren’t so different for babies…

Where’d you get the pink 50s you cheating –

3 Jan

Sometimes I have to remind myself that life isn’t about winning. Like when the 5-year-old I babysit wants to play her Italian Monopoly. Travel Italian Monopoly. It could fit in Barbie’s Playhouse. Of all the games to turn into travel games, I would not have chosen Monopoly. I bet her grandma gets her these travel games; she probably just thinks they’re kids-sized.

Mati didn’t distinguish 10 euro bills from 500 euro bills because they were a similar shade of pink, even after I pointed out the difference to her and tried to say the numbers in Italian. It was that sort of game—forgotten in a flash when her lunch was ready.

Italian Monopoly has Mafia shakedown cards mixed in the Chance piles: “Hand over the money or your little doggie gets it!”

I must be missing something

15 Nov

I don’t like giving up on things. Well, certain things. I don’t like giving up on teams or school groups, on causes or bake-offs or anything I think I can win at. I don’t like giving up on books. I’ve done that twice now—once when I was in seventh grade and one of the major characters in a novel I was reading killed herself. I decided that was too much for me. The other time was a few weeks ago: I gave up on Catch-22.

Colin would ask me why I wasn’t laughing. He’d read over my shoulder or ask if I’d met Major Major yet. I could see that the story was ridiculous and absurd, but it didn’t make me laugh—it stressed me out. I found all sorts of other diversions besides Catch-22. Finally, I gave it up.

I followed Colin to his school’s library instead. Most of the works are nonfiction and on SAIS-related topics like economic systems, political systems, conflict, resolution, etc., etc. But there’s a small fiction section, and I picked up a collection of Mark Twain’s works in addition to a couple nonfiction titles that caught my interest, The Ethics of Food and Sex & Gender in Historical Perspective.

I get a good deal more time to read now, not just since we’ve arrived in Italy, but since I’ve started working in the mornings. I stay with just Ludo while Mati goes to school and both parents are at work, and since I know I have a book waiting for me, I look for any signs that she needs a nap. There’s always some reason.

So now I’m reading The Ethics of Food, but already I’m making a list of authors whose works I’ll try to pick up while I’m home: David Sedaris, Jhumpa Lahiri, Angela Carter, etc., etc. I’d like to get Earth, the Book by my favorite funnyman Jon Stewart, the sequels to Wicked by David Maguire, and the sequels to Dune, which I was unable to find after starting the series in Taiwan.

Anyone reading anything good? I’m definitely open to suggestions.

Pint-sized milestones

23 Oct

Ludovica took her first steps by herself on Thursday near the sandbox at Matilde’s school. She even bent down to pick up a green sand mold and, tottering a bit, stood back up. I think I must have been the first to witness it since her mom got so excited when I pointed it out.

When her dad saw her do it again on Friday night, he called Federica in to watch and we all clapped. Matilde then pointed out that she, too, could solo caminare, so we all clapped for her as well as she bounded across the room.

Matilde does get points though. Nicola took her toy shopping for her birthday (because they need more toys), and in addition to the surprisingly basic bouncy ball she chose for herself, she picked out a plastic toucan that whistles for Ludo.