Sunday, October 24, 2010

A new week

This week was full of new experiences once again. One of these was doing a yoga class in Italian at studio in my neighborhood. I had to peek at the others in order to follow along, but I learned lots of new vocabulary like la gamba (leg), inspirare (to inhale), espirare (to exhale), la spina (spine), il corpo (body), il braccio (arm), and got lots of practice deciphering right and left (destra and sinistra).

As well I managed to scope out a clothing tailor (una sartoria)on (the yellowpages)to adjust my jeans. She didn't speak english so it was a challenge to communicate, but we managed. She gave me a few pointers too, correcting my pronunciation of 'capisco' (cap-EES-co not cap-EESH-o) which means 'I understand'. I will pick them up in due settimane (2 weeks) and pay her trenta euros (30, expensive!). At the end as we were striving settle the details she said sympathetically 'e` difficile' and I was confused and repeated it a few times to myself, 'deefeecheeleh, deefeecheeleh...' and the light bulb went off. Ah! Difficult! One of those words that isn't so far from the english translation. I told her 'Si, e` difficile ma imparo'. Yes it is difficult but I learn. I only know how to communicate the present currently;)

I've registered for an Italian course during November, but wanted to get a jumpstart so I arranged an hour with a woman I found on craigslist, not too far from my neighborhood. She was very nice and reminds me of my Argentinian friend, Lucia, so I felt very comfortable:) She reminded me of a few important things about pronunciation, for example, when there's double letters in Italian, it's very important to pronounce them both. H's are silent, so in order to distinguish the word hanno (they have) from ano (asshole) you must hold that 'nnnn' for an extra beat. Very important. She was quite impressed with my writing ability when dictating words to me. Pronunciation of letters is pretty straightforward in Italian, unlike English, thankfully. Also we practiced the differences between letters with and without accents, which made a new lightbulb go on for me. I didn't really understand why it was referred to as open or closed sounds, but after practicing and feeling the difference in my mouth and face, I understood. You have to open your mouth a little more to emphasize the accented letters. Un po`! (a little!)

I was considering going to Torino on Friday for Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, a festival and convention supporting Slow Food (as opposed to fast food) and ecological agriculture. I first found out about it in Toronto this summer at small street festival in my neighborhood where I bought some organic strawberries. There was a sign for Toronto's Slow Food group, they were raising money to attend Terra Madre in Italy, and I asked them what it was. I had it plotted in my dayplanner so when I rediscovered it this month I looked into train fares. Torino (or Turin) is a 3 hour train ride northwest of Florence, close to France (and Annecy!). The tickets came to over 200$ CAD and affordable hotels were all booked up, so that would've left me with 6 hours of travel time, and 5 hours in Torino, not worth it, I decided. Perhaps next year.

Instead, my Friday consisted of meeting new people, live music, dancing, and lard....let me explain. I joined a meetup group for people looking to practice Italian or English in Florence. There was an event Friday evening at a little wine bar so off I went. I met some very nice people, some locals, some Americans and a few Brits. Everyone had a story. One of the Italians was from a city in the south, and I inquired as to where. He said'Calabria', a region I was familiar with. I told him that my great grandparents were from a small town in that region near Catanzaro, called Amato. Surprisingly he knew it and has been there! The population of the town is only 800 people so not it's not very well known. He said it's very nice and gave me advice on the cheapest way to fly there when I'm ready to visit. I need to get really good at speaking Italian first!

This is also where the lard came in. I had a few days in a row of a gluten bender, which included my 'eve of indulgence' the day before. Foccacia, cheese, pastry, chocolate, gelato....I had a bit of everything. At this wine bar there was a number of little snacks brought to us, all consisting of combinations of bread, cheese and/or meat. As I was drinking l'acqua frizzante (carbonated water) while everyone else was drinking wine (it was a WINE bar after all), I had already made my health friendly choice, and decided to let go and eat few of the little bite sized snacks. I stuck to the vegetarian looking ones but am pretty sure I consumed a piece of meat in one of the mini sandwiches. The first in years. Then they brought out the last tray...

What is that? I asked, and one of the integrated Americans explained. 'Lardo' or just plain lard in English. She said it was gross but one of the Italians dived in, yum. Sensing his impoliteness, he offered me to try it first. I hesitated, and said I was a vegetarian, and he said, oh nevermind then, but I felt a tinge of curiosity in me and said I'd have a little bite. This wasn't easy as I had to gnaw on it like a dog to bite a small piece off. It was chewy, really chewy. I'm glad I got over my food issues to try it, but I don't think I'll venture to the extent of lard again! When I returned home afterwards, I had red splotches all over my face and jaw. I remembered my face feeling hot when I was there also. The results of an allergic reaction to bread? cheese? meat? lard? Who knows, but after a few days of headaches and moodiness, it's pretty clear it's not in my best interest to experiment. Because of my food choices, I can't fully participate in Italian culture but it's worth it to not feel like total crap:D

Later that evening I went to a live music performance with my roommate, Rosie and her friend visiting from England. Despite being Italian the band played some amazing country/ho-down/folk music with the banjo, cello, and harmonica, it made me want to get up and dance, depression-era style. Apart from us 3 blonde girls, the whole room appeared to be local Italians which is unusual in Florence, there are so many tourists and students from other countries. As the performance went on and the energy escalated, the room became more and more packed and people squished in to make room for others to sit. The guy I was sitting next to struck up a conversation with me and his friend was trying to get Rosie to dance with him to the last song. She was protesting that she didn't want to and I felt my friend Alex's fearless spirit bubble through me. She loves to dance and won't let anything keep her from doing it! I really wanted to dance! I volunteered to dance with the guy and they cleared out some space for us in front of the band. He proceeded to spin and fling me around for the final song while everyone cheered us on, and I got to fulfill my urge to ho-down, Italian style. To hear the tunes, check out:


  1. Jennie, you rock I had no idea you had this blog but I am hooked now. I am so impressed with all you are experiencing cannot wait for more stories. Have so much fun! xoxox Love Shell.

  2. Oh what a week! I commend you on "trying" everything! Good 4 you!!!

    Love Katie

  3. I'm learning something new about the world everytime I read your blog. I had no idea people ate "Lardo" for a snack!

    Keep posting your adventures