Monday, June 27, 2016

Cowboys In Italy?

Buffalo Grazing South of Denver
Ghost Town in Colorado
Yippee Kay Yay, cowpokes!  Last winter an unintentionally funny restaurant called Old Wild West opened in Monselice which is about a pistol shot from my village.  This is run by a corporate chain which has placed their burger joints in many other places all over Italy.  We have also been to the one in Padova, our nearest big city.   When I need a horse kick to get my blood flowing, we make a visit.  I miss burgers, and my Italian wife now has a similar craving.  She is converted  This is not a commercial for them, but more of a small Italian adventure, so please relax and put your boots up.  Remove your spurs, mind the fancy Italian furniture!
   
The two saddles placed on sawhorses at the door of Old Wild West call out to the youngsters….” Ride ‘em Cowboy.”   Walking inside, my first response was to point and laugh at the museum of cowboy paraphernalia nailed to the walls, complete with cowboy furnishings of saloon-type wooden chairs and tables.  Collecting all that stuff they must have had connections with the Pickers, Mike and Frank. 
Chuck Conners
On the back wall, placed to the left of the fake saloon doors is a replica of  Chuck Conners'  lever action rifle, which looks so real that people get up and go touch it.   The illusion is somewhat ruined by the large screen tv which shows a continual loop of rodeo barrel riders.  I have seen number 12 at least 50 times, and he never gets any faster.   Any possible intimate conversation is beaten by an earsplitting din bouncing off the wood floor and walls which would break a decibel meter.   Not a first date place, Old West.  

Orietta/Trapper
Yet Italians are buying this brand of western hogwash, especially families with children.   No one has yet to go as far as The Fort with its old Trapper or Casa Bonita in Denver where diners can watch cowpokes dive 30 feet into a pool, listen to a strolling mariachi band, or have ranch hands bring you sopaipillas when you raise the flag on your table.   Each time we go to Old West there are more cowpokes chowing down.   They are just itching for a spectacle to be made.  (A big  Italian chance to make a pile of euros, anybody listening?)

The provisions listed in the Mouth watering menu consist of items wrestled from the old southwest, like Apache, Navajo, Dakota, and my personal favorite, the  burger, Toro Seduto.  How they got the name Seated Bull, I had no clue.  My wife straightened me out by telling me it actually means Sitting Bull.  WHAT?  Let me show you my problem?  Bear with me, I am not a good at explaining……Oh, we English speakers have it so easy with English: our ing   and our past tense ed.   In italian when you want to do an ing type verb you add ando or endo to the verb.  With the verb sedere you add endo and get….sedendo…
Sedendo means sitting.  Seduto means seatedSo the burger should actually be called Toro Sedendo, not the past tense Toro Seduto.. haha!  I question her on this and she just smirks and tells me that they use Seated Bull for the name of the Indian Chief Sitting Bull because it sounds better.  Ggrrrrrr!  Oh, this is so Italian how they love to bend the rules with a straight face and confuse people like me.  And she goes on to tell me, “It does sound better doesn’t it?  Which sounds like a tomahawk word… sedendo or seduto?”  I have to agree that Seduto sounds more powerful.  But yet?
Let me suggest some names they could use update their menu:  Chill Wills Chili, Slim Pickens Salad, Tom Mix mixed meat plate or a super spicy taco could be called the Hopalong Cassidy.  Those were my true movie cowboy heroes.  Granting Native Americans some clout would feature names on the menu like Chief Thundercloud or Iron Eyes Cody, and we cannot leave out Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto!
Jack Elam Had The Look!

Back to the subject:
"When you order a sesame seeded bunned burger it comes with a limp new invention called the Dipper Fries, however, they don’t give you anything to dip them into.   My wife tells me that the pink blotch of mayo is for dipping.   I inform her that it is for the dry hamburger they serve.  You can request a switch from these oily creations and get the regular fries.  This I recommend.  Ketchup comes in a tiny plastic package, and you pay extra for it.  I have threatened to bring some from home!  This is when my wife threatens to make me sleep on the terrace.

Old West is certainly a step up from the soggy, warmed up burgers at McDonalds, a step between that and Bob’s Big Boy.   Burgers at the level of The Burnt Truck or Bruxie is a far dream in Italy.   In-N-Out?  HA!  You want to make a killing in Italy?  Start a food truck here.  Seriously bring one over!  In Padova, by the University, I bet my boots you could serve up a good burger or fat burrito and you will be a sensation!  They will erect a statue of your image right next to where they used to have a statue of Berlusconi.  There are no food trucks here.  Italians dream of visiting food trucks in America, thanks to all those food shows on television.   I also dream of a line of food trucks.  (I will consult for a mere 10 per cent of the profits!)

Cisco & Pancho fight
against enchiladas
made with flour tortillas
I steer away from the lowest of the low,  the Enchilada Tjuana made with a flour tortilla.  When will they learn to use a corn tortilla!  Better yet, when is somebody going to build a tortilla factory in Italy.   (Another big money making possibility).    (Consulting free on this action—I need corn tortillas, badly)   
Gabby Hayes
A Gabby Hayes favorite, the platter of BBQ ribs covers the plate and more.   Gabby was always grabbing his beard, opening his mouth and saying, "Yep!"  He would have made the perfect gold miner in any movie, but was always the 'pardner' to the white hatted cowboy.

Jack Palance
  The size of the Squaw Steak would please the palate of black hatted Jack Palance.    Who could forget his one handed push-ups were astounding at his age.  A tough and rough actor which played comedy against two New Yorkers who had never smelled the rear end of a cow.

When in Italy remember to use the words, “al sangue” when desiring a steak cooked rare.  My last mention would be the corrupted Dos Tacos made and photographed in the menu with lots of corn!  NOT!  The creator of this should be put in the hoosegow.  Pioneer Woman, give them a jingle, will you?

Mesa Verde National Park
The appetizers were constructed by a corporate owner who aims for a profit.   Shooting out southwest appetizers while missing the side of a barn, it is food both tasteless and a large rip-off.  We have tried a few, and worst is the Nachos del Sol, composed of  taco chips that taste less like chips and more like sawdust.  The cheese topping is a liquid goo of tasteless industrial cheese.   As for the salsa, you must never depend on hot and spicy salsa in any northern Italian restaurant. You are not going to get anything close to resembling a Dragon’s Breath heat (Guy Fieri’s name for his chili). 
Always On Any Good
Burger Table
  There’s an old cowboy saying:  Always take a real good look at what you’re about to eat. It’s not very important to know what it is, but it’s critical to know what it was.   I had to explain this one to my wife three times.  So don’t worry if you don’t get it right away.  Skip the appetizers, anyhow,  the burgers are quite filling.

Cowboys say,  “Always drink upstream from the herd,”  but you don’t have to worry here as the brews featured here are  some of the best.   One large glass and everyone has a smile.  There’s another bit of cowboy advice: never drink alone unless you are with someone.  Saint Benoit beer is featured, but they have others, even the translocated Millers. 

Old West prices would knock the wind out of Gabby Hayes, but not jaw dropping.  Diners should expect to pay for the cowboy circus atmosphere.  You won’t walk out feeling double crossed.  What would a burger in New York City cost? Burgers at Old West run from 8 up to 13 euros.  The high end is because of the double patty.   The beef is not from Texas, but is said to be from Ireland.  
                To help you compare prices, at this time a euro is worth 1.11 dollars.

I hope you get to try Old Wild West someday.  Just remember, never squat with your spurs on.  You can find their website on this link.

http://www.oldwildwest.it/Home
Make a comment by clicking below on the words   "No Comment" 


Adios Amigo!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Do Italians Think of Americans

Living in the Veneto,  the first question my Italian friends have been asking lately is ”What do you think  of Trump?”   Trump makes a big splash here in the news, as this is what they are seeing most.  They question his racist comments and the whole circus of the Trump campaign.  They also question why we have  expensive and long campaign periods.   

Killed by a gun
Now after Orlando, there will be questions thrown at me about the ownership of weapons.   Clearly the interpretation of this and other related events cause them to believe the pilot has announced a loss of cabin pressure!   

Monday the Senate, by a vote of 53 to 47, rejected a measure that would have denied a gun sale to a known or suspected terrorist , but only if prosecutors could convince a judge within three days that the would-be buyer was involved in terrorism.    Today, July 23 the Republicans voted to NOT vote and NOT debate a no-fly no buy for terrorist's bill.  I believe that this is the last gasp for the Republican Party,   They have created their own demise.  The American public is clearly seeing the truth, and they will react in November.  Many of those representatives will be replaced.   

We should be ashamed of ourselves to let the NRA buy off these senators!  Something is seriously wrong with our representatives!

He was killed by a gun
The number of firearm-related deaths in America since 1968,  is larger than all of the battlefield casualties in all of the wars in American history.   This fact was taken from the Washington Post, a  fact that I am afraid most Americans have not read.    Too many of them search Yahoo to find who wore the most revealing dress at last night's gala and think that Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.   I don't mention this lack of knowledge to my Italian friends, but they already know that most Americans could not find Slovenia, Portugal or Denmark on a map, nor know that Europeans have no guns in the home, great health care, three weeks of paid vacation, and free University Tuition.

Here in Italy it is far more difficult to acquire a gun in the home.  Pistols are allowed but only after a mental exam, a course on safe usage, and a visit by the local police (annually).  We have hunters, but otherwise it is not a big deal to have a gun.   There is only one gun shop in Padova, for example.  When I walk by there, there are usually no customers inside.

These statistics speak loudly:  Every year 0.80 in every 100,000 people are murdered annually in Italy compared to 3.80 in The United States.

In 2012, the United States had a homicide rate of 4.8 per 100,000 people compared to only 0.3 per 100,000 in Iceland, 0.7 per 100,000 in Sweden, 0.8 per 100,000 in Denmark and Spain, 0.9 per 100,000 in Italy, Austria and the Netherlands, 1.0 per 100,000 in France, and 1.2 per 100,000 in Portugal and the Republic of Ireland.

Killed by a gun
Mass shootings: There were 372 mass shootings in the US in 2015, killing 475 people and wounding 1,870, according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which catalogues such incidents

School shootings: There were 64 school shootings in 2015, according to a dedicated campaign group set up in the wake of the Sandy Hook elementary school massacre in Connecticut in 2012. 

Are you a bit afraid when you go to an indoor movie?   Maybe the NRA bigshots don’t go to the cinema?

Late at night it is safe to walk in the streets of Padova, a large city in northern Italy.  It is the same in other cities, such as Bologna, Verona, and Parma.  It is the same in other countries I have visited, Spain, Slovenia, Croatia, Austria, etc.    This statistic shows another angle:  87 in every 100,000 people are currently imprisoned in Italy compared to 698 in The United States.


I am not saying that people should not be allowed to own a weapon, but assault weapons are for the police and the military.   We need to stand back and take an intelligent look at ourselves.  We need to take corporate and group contributions out of politics.   We need to have possible gun owners checked by the FBI before acquiring a weapon.  We need to have some common sense about this.  This is what I tell my Italian friends.   

More people will enjoy prosecco
CIAO!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Dropping The School or How To Fight With Your Spouse

            Dropping The School or How To Fight With Your Spouse



I felt a great relief when I dropped the Italian Language School.  I needed to get back to my “old” life, pondering things like hair loss, sagging skin, shaky fingers and loss of memory.  The daily surrender to stress, being disgusted with their negative techniques and having too little  “conversation” practice  in class had taken its toll on my mental state.    The school was used mainly by students who wanted to enroll in the University.  Most of the European students had already had one or two years of Italian in their high school.  The school let them enroll in the beginner class, causing true beginners like me to feel always behind.   There were days when, after class, I just went out and sat in the piazza, feeling overwhelmed.  I wanted to learn but there were too many students who already new a huge amount of Italian.   I needed more daily conversation practice, which the school did not push.  It’s important to “hear” Italian and know what was being said.  It’s important to be able to carry on a basic conversation with people you meet during the day.  

I already had a problem as my hearing is not as sharp due to the fact that for some years I taught, one hour every day,  a marching band drum line.  Those drums were loud, and many days I suffered from headaches.  My hearing is now a bit  diminished and I struggle to hear consonants when listening.  (Yes, my wife thinks I am a poor listener…..)

We do not speak Italian at home, my wife needs to speak fluent English  for her job.   So I was not getting conversation practice there, either.   I taught her a few things along the way.  You would think she is from Iowa, but with an Italian accent.  The only time she has trouble with English is when we watch a British movie.  But, hey I sometimes wonder, are they speaking English?.

The day I left the school  I was walking past a newsstand and I noticed a small booklet entitled TEX.  Inside I found a Red Ryder cowboy named Tex,  (older readers might remember Red Ryder from the funny papers on Sunday).    This Italian cowboy’s adventures were chronicled in a monthly booklet.  As I flipped through the pages I discovered that all of the story was in “conversation”.   Tex, also known to the Indians as Aquila della Notte,  talks to his pard, Kit Carson (only the name is similar), his Indian pal, his son, and others throughout the story.   All this is in complete conversation with cartoons which would help me understand what they were saying giving my dictionary a rest.  I took the book home to see if I could gain some conversation practice through some cowboy adventures.  

After reading several months of Tex’s exploits I learned some things.  The funniest is that Italian cartoonists draw cowboys mounting  their horses on the right side of the horse (whoops).   Maybe they  are British drivers :-)   Tex and his cahoots shoot bad guys using only a couple of bullets, Tex always knows what bad guys are planning, and he always wins unfair fights.  Good Guys never miss with lever action rifles, and Tex never wastes ammunition when a good bonk on the head will do the trick.  Tex never utters swear words that kids should not know, and lastly, Tex never pockets, for himself, any of the recovered stolen cash, gold, or goods. 

While reading Tex I  would add useable terms to a spiral notebook I keep.   I think I am on spiral number 5.    There’s a number of these books on my shelf, and I still pick up a new one once in awhile.  After I have read the books I pass them onto my wife’s father, who is a nut about cowboys, Indians and the old West.   Shamefully, he knows more about Geronimo, Cochise and Native Americans that I do.  (Sergio, as a kid, left school to work at the age of 11)

Have a cappuccino while you study
A typical conversation between Tex and Kit while riding their horses:

Rallenta, Tex!  Cosi faremo sfiancare i cavalli!
Slow down!  So we will tire the horses!
Non c’è tempo da perdere!
There isn’t time to lose!

and later…
Siamo arrivati Troppo tardi!
We have arrived too late!

Of course there are useless phrases that I could never use….
Corna Di Mille Bisonti! 
horns of a thousand bisons!  (There is no bad language in Tex)

In a bar….
Un giro per tutti!  Offro Io.
A round for everybody!  I am buying
then a guy asks…
Che ti  succede?  Hai ereditato una fortuna?
What happened to you?  You inherited a fortune?

You can see how I could use this for a study.  There was no written story line, it was one panel after another of conversation.  The book I am reading, number 667 has 141 pages loaded with conversation.  I believe that there is a way to make money, using this type of technique to help people learn.  There are all types of learners.  (During WWII Disney was contracted to make cartoons for training soldiers.)  

I was joking with my wife that since there are a lot of phrases from Tex that are used in his personal confrontations, It might make a few readers smile to list some with translation.  I will start you off by using a quote by President George W. Bush when meeting the Italian Prime Minister…..“Amigo! Amigo!”


                        Starters!

Sei in un mare di guai   You are in a sea of trouble
strana coincidenza strange coincidence
la faccenda               the fact
di niente             it’s nothing
stia mentendo   be lying
poi di uno               more than one
per caso                         by accident
apri bene le orecchie open your eyes
lo ha fatto apposta!                  you did it on purpose!
prima a poi                         sooner of later
lascia perdere                   let it go
non costringermi a battermi con te    don’t force me to fight with you

                      Reasons

Home late again?              Sei di nuovo in ritardo?
Dove sei stata?                     Where were you?              
non mi tiro certo indietro          I won’t back off
La casa e’ in disordine!            The house is a mess! 
e’ macchiato                            it is stained, dirty
Cosa c è nella tua tasca?      What is this in your pocket?
tu guardi troppo golf           You watch too much golf


                      Uh Oh!           

colpevoli                          guilty
tu meriti di morire!             you deserve to die!
cosa ne hai fatto dei corpi?    what did you do with the corpse?
ricomminciamo                    Let’s start over
e’ stata dura                      it has been hard
nel rimorso                    in remorse
 mi dispiace                      I am sorry
 perdonami                         forgive me
 ti perdono                           I forgive you
versa da bere                         pour the drinks
e ora che cosa facciamo?         now what do we do?

Now you have learned some Italian, and I do hope you will learn and use few phrases,  but unless you are in the mafia you won’t need to use all of them.  If you have taken Spanish you might find Italian similar.  Italians  usually understand Spanish when spoken in a movie.  Maybe you will also find it understandable.   Buona Fortuna!

Ciao!




Monday, June 6, 2016

Adventures in Language School


My purchase of 12 months of Italian language instruction from a government recognised school assisted me in getting a one year visa with the ability to apply for a second year thereafter.  I needed to learn Italian in order to enjoy living in Italy.  I had taken some German in high school and at the University and did not have any difficulty in class.  Italian was a bit more challenging.
   
     The movie where Rodney Dangerfield goes to college? That was me!  Back in the states I foolishly the language school to be a congenial gathering of folks who were interesting in enjoying learning in a non competitive atmosphere.  I envisioned a small class of friendly people conversing in Italian, while learning how to use the language in real life situations.  I studied Italian by myself before I left, and expected to have a real good start in the language.  I did not realise that I from my first day in class it would be like hearing a tango while dancing the macarena.   And with two left feet!

     The first day, after quick introductions, the class began covering a lot of ground.  Five minutes on counting, ten minutes on the alphabet and pronunciation and BAM, we are deep into reading.  Using English to help learn meanings was forbidden as the class had students who spoke other languages.  After three days I was taking two steps and sliding back one.   I couldn’t figure out how so many of the students were not having difficulty.  Then, after a few days, while coffee breaking it, I learned that they had taken Italian when in high school.  The effect was that I was in a go-kart while the entire class was speeding along at the speed of a Japanese train.   There was nothing I could do about it, I just had to dig in and survive.    
Survive I did and I even elected to repeat some classes.  It was a daily rollercoaster ride    There were days where I had to skip class and go to a government office, or to a medical appointment, and the next day I sat wishing I was somewhere else with my line in the water.    Other students never continued past two months, which tells you a lot about the school.   You would think that the school would be encouraging people to continue.  

     Let me stop here and give some advice to any English speaker thinking about taking a language class in a foreign language.  Make sure that they allow explanations in English.  Make sure that they will teach the language in a way that you can practice it and learn it outside of the classroom.  Making purchases,asking for directions to places while understanding what the person is saying, reading a menu, greeting others, are important skills to know.

                         Sit Down And Belt Up!
     My third female instructor had the teaching techniques of Vlad the Impaler.  With the body characteristic of Luciano Pavarotti,  she used that weight to bully the class.  Thumper (Nothing about Bambi), became my most hated teacher of all time.   I hated how she taught, using a total negative system, without a bit of encouragement.  She had everyone, including me nervous and dreading each day.  
Where I Wanted To Be
Every morning on the bus to school I kept hearing  “Hey, Mr. Custer,I Don’t Wanna Go!”  (Maybe you are too young to know that song)  

Here I am, an old guy, with a Master’s Degree,  and hating every minute with that mean spirited teacher, counting down the minutes until the end of the day.    

I even began to hate Italy!

    
                          A  Day In That Class…..

     WHAM!!! (Clenched fist hitting table)  At the same time we heard, “NOOoooo!”   Think a long nooOOOOoooo in pitch.  A heavy dead wind filled the room.  Total silence.  No one moved.  It was the fifth time that day that one of us had received the slam of her fist on the table.  Jumping at the smackdown, it took its toll on all of us,….. eyes down, and stiff with fear.  Something is wrong here, at my age I should not be afraid of his overweight bimbo!  But I am.

     Who would be the next chosen victim, forced to answer a question?  A question asked in  lightning-speed Italian.   When answering you were not allowed to pause and think about what you had heard.  There was no time to process the words.  Sometimes I heard all the words but could not put any of them together for a meaning.   It is hard to think clearly when you are fearful.

    
She Lacked Some Sauce
(Italians do not use these much)
But they need it
Her uncompromising tight fist shot into the air and was poised to pound the desk to claim another loser.   I am convinced she enjoyed bullying.  Obviously something was missing in her life… Her teaching techniques were downright mean.    She had the anger of Jack Nicholas.  An old guy my age should not be making plans to spring for the door and escape, never looking back.   I am not a physical person, but I had thoughts to  leap over the table and happily grab her by the throat.  


     I was not alone in my apprehension.  The three Japanese girls, as if on command, would duck for the tabletop and hide their faces behind their hands in shame.     My mouth was dry, my face sweating.   All I could think of is a quote by Cicero, “The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.”

     There was a joint sigh of relief as we heard  the doorknob turn as Carl, shuffled in, murmured a soft, “scuzi” and took his seat.  Having Carl present in class meant that I was further from the bottom.  He was the class victim, more often than anyone  punished by the wrath of Thumper.   His blooper reel responses showed that  he was without a helmet on free bat day.   I do have to say one thing in his defence, he kept coming back for more.  

     I had one huge complaint with the class.  As the questions from the illegally photocopied material made their way around the table, I noticed that everyone, even numbskull Carl, was counting ahead to find which question they would get and figure out the correct answer before being called on.  No one bothered to listen to others in their attempt at their questions.  The result  was that the rounds of questioning went much faster.   I was trying to learn, and I was following each question, not counting ahead and think how I would answer it correctly.   The result was that each person in the class was not learning all the material, only their sentence.  Each sentence had a new verb and a new conjugation.  They were only learning how to survive.  While I scrambled to read, translate, and think fast enough keep up!

     The last part of the class Thumper handed out a test that the school would use to evaluate how we had absorbed their lessons that week.  Finishing that we then traded papers and corrected our neighbor’s work.  Nearly everyone failed!  Thumper was soon going to be having a long talk with the head administrator.  

     Thumper expressed her anger by thumping her fingers on the table.   She was clearly frustrated in wondering how most of the class always had the  correct answers, yet the final test revealed that nothing was being learned.

     Not known for being irresistibly charming, I had finally had enough, and like a kid in grade school I held up my hand.  It was time to offer my viewpoint on things.  This was my big moment!   I explained in my bad Italian what everyone in class had been doing.  Everyone had been counting down the questions in order to find the one they would get and then they would be able to offer a correct solution.  This meant that they were only working on one sentence, not all of the lesson.  This caused the class to fly through the page, and for me, learning a language at that speed was impossible, and I was failing miserably to keep up.   I went on to say, while I looked at the students in class, clearly there was no “one for all-all for one spirit”.  The boat was listing and there were no life preservers.
  
     That was the first time I saw Thumper bamboozled!  The sardonic smile vanished, as she began to see the results of negative learning.  Her open fist waved us  to the door.  I am sure she was thinking that my mouth deserved a liberal application of duct tape.  However, from then on no one knew who would be called on next, as she picked randomly and we went at a much slower speed.  

     There were other teachers, as the school’s policy was that you would have  a different instructor the following month.  My first teacher was an energetic 22, attractive and tried her best to teach the basics, while  befriending the students.  She actually made an attempt to teach at a level that everyone could succeed.  Something I needed and expected. She even organised a class trip to her village by train.  However,  the administrator heard of her plans and suddenly it was quietly forgotten.  Fun activities were out!   She was the most popular teacher, but the school dropped her after two months of employment.

     Another instructor knew how to use their material, and threw out sentences on the work sheets with bad grammer or complicated language way over our heads.  We knew she had a disagreement with the studies she was forced to use.  Later I found out that they had photocopied entire pages from an outdated book and put their name on it as if they had developed what we were to work on.   At least, with her, I felt okay to stop the lesson to ask questions on what I did not understand.   I also felt comfortable to speak up if  the pace was a bit fast for me.  

     The only male instructor at the school was demanding, but he was smart enough to introduce parts of his lesson in small 15 minute sections.  He would then change subjects and apply a different approach so our brains would not drift off.  I believe that he had been, at one time, a classroom teacher in a high school, as he knew how far to push us and when to slow down.   I learned a lot in his class and he was always patient to make sure I understood completely his answers to my questions.

                       To Give You An Idea Of The Students
     My second month in the school began with everyone taking a seat and being checked off the roll.  The class consisted of three Americans, including myself.  One lady, the age of 40, was a wife of a Protestant missionary based in Padova and the other lady was middle aged and from the Midwest.   There were 3 Japanese women, one taking Italian to better pronounce the Italian words when she sang opera, another who sat with her husband, who was also Japanese.  The husband was in the class to learn enough Italian to work as a chef in a restaurant in Italy.  His goal was to take the techniques of Italian cuisine back to Japan and make a go of it.  I had lunch several times with them and later kept track of there whereabouts as he got a job in the mountains and learned pasta techniques. 

     The tall Ukrainian fellow had been  a monk, who had left the monastery to study and  learn Italian. He was about 30 years old and had spent his adult life studying in classes, etc.  He never had trouble in class, and there was no doubt he was the most intelligent student and  knew how to learn.  He was not very friendly to me as he saw me as one of the students who slowed the class down.
     
     Seated across from me were the Palestinian version of “Cheech and Chong”, 20-ish in age, who were often absent, sleeping in or off or just plain goofing off.  Therefore they were always behind, exasperating the instructor no end.  The school was forced to make phones calls to  the parents in Palestine.  Missing a day in language class meant you missed out on a lot as in this school they never went back to review things.  The bonus for me was that these “behind” slackers  helped slow learners like me stay under cover, as the teacher had to stop occasionally to explain things taught the day before.  That gave me time to read the sentences we worked on over and over, while they struggled for a vocal answer. I used that valuable time to  translate things back and forth from Italian to English.  Nothing in my mind was automatic.  

     Another Palestinian who usually sat away from the others was from Nazareth and I had coffee during the break with him a few times.  His story was that he wanted to be a doctor and go to the University in Padova, but first he had to pass an Italian test upon returning home. Failing the test he would have to fall back to helping his father attend to his orchards back home.  This was not his life’s goal and he worked hard to know the materials.  He had a good attitude.  I hope he made it.

     There was one likeable Austrian guy, who did well in class for three weeks, then he disappeared.  He had claimed he was an engineer between jobs after building a dam somewhere.

   There was only other male American in any of the classes I took.  He was sent by his corporation to learn Italian as they were branching out into the Italian market.  Why they would send someone to learn a language with the attitude of Justin Bieber I don’t understand.  During the coffee breaks all he ever talked about were the Italian babes he was meeting in the piazza. 

    
Proof 
You can see that it was a mixture of many different types of individuals.  There were many reasons why we were each enrolled.  Most needed the ability to know Italian well enough to survive a class at the University in Padova.  A few needed the language to find a better job.  Each class had a couple of people who wanted to know Italian better while they spent a month or two here.  I wanted to learn and speak with people I meet and be able to express myself when I am at the doctor or at a government office, etc.  Imagine having a pain and trying to talk to your doctor about it, let alone tell him what medicines you have been taking back home, etc.  Italian government offices do not offer explanations in English and many of the people who work there do not care to help “stranieri”—foreigners new to Italy—like me.   Yes, there are racist attitudes in Italy by some.   In the states, a foreigner can get help  so much easier, and trust me, this is a good thing.  

    
My Life Now
I Wish You The Same
I feel that the school was teaching for the first mentioned, the students headed for a class at the university.  For that reason it was then up to the instructors to decide if they would give time for all the students to understand the materials.  That didn’t happen as often as I needed. I  had paid for 12 months of instruction, but I did not finish the year.  After a few months of peace in my life, I knew I had made a good decision.


Ciao!