...except for me and my monkey! "Everything we see hides another thing. We always want to see what is hidden by what we see." -Rene Magritte

Friday, May 19, 2006

Air Dolomiti has the best plane food ever

On the hour-and-a-half flight from Munich to Genoa, they served us a little box with three slices of prosciutto, two mozzarella balls, a bunch of green grapes, a strawberry, a cherry tomato, and four cheese puff crackers, with red wine and mineral water to drink. Delicious!

Sarah and I arrived in Genoa, then took a bus to the city center, where her mom Caron met us. The thing about Sarah's parents is that her dad was our sophomore year literature teacher, and her mom was our junior year lit teacher. So I always think of them as Mr. and Mrs. X, and it's hard to get used to referring to them by their first names and interacting with them in a non-teacher context. They've been so nice.

After we settled in, Caron prepared a midday snack of brie, foccacia, and salami, which we took on their little balcony, overlooking the city--it was so relaxing. Then Sarah and I took a walk around their neighborhood, along the boardwalk overlooking the rocky coastline (we're in the extreme northwest of Italy). A lot of families were out, walking with strollers and their dogs, old men and women sat on the benches with their friends, talking a mile a minute, and young men sped by on scooters and motorcycles. It was so incredible to talk by and hear everyone speaking Italian, and the scenary was lovely.

Today we got together with the Sarah's family's former exchange student, Barbara, who lives in Genoa (Genova in Italian). She showed Sarah and me around downtown--we saw the medieval wall, the exquisitely ornate Catedral di San Lorenzo, the house of Christopher Columbus (he was from Genoa), and the aquarium, where Sarah and I were baffled by this huge sunfish (Mola mola). It's circular and huge--like, four or five feet in diameter--with long dorsal and anal fins, beady eyes, and fleshy lip. It's truly bizarre-looking. We also got gelato. This will be a recurring theme, I'm sure. Then we went back to Barbara's apartment and met her parents, and admired the view from the terrace on top of her apartment building. The view over the city was beautiful: tons of apartment buildings, most with roof-top terrazas and gardens, along with old buildings and cuppolas of churches. Sarah's parents took the three of us out to dinner at a pasta restaurant, where I had gnocchi casaro, or gnocchi with a tomato and riccota sauce, and a glass of Chianti.

Barbara's English is excellent, which is lucky because Italian is going completely over my head. I can say grazie (thank you), mi scusi (excuse me), posso fare foto? (can I take photos?), and Non capisco italiano (I don't understand Italian), and that's pretty much it. I'm pretty sure I could ask someone where something is (Dov'é...?) and after I gave up my seat on the bus to an elderly woman I used the phrasebook to figure out how to say "Do you want to sit down?" (Vuole sedere?, I think) in case the situation comes up again. Yeah, a lot of Italian resembles Spanish, and looking at signs and things I can usually figure out what they mean, but it's just different enough that I can't just add an Italian ending to a Spanish word and be understood. Being here, though, is making me really idealize my Spanish. A situation arises where I need to ask a question or something, or I want to make a comment to someone, and I think, "Man, if I were in Chile, I would know exactly what to say in this situation, and exactly how to say it." Or, "If they were speaking Spanish, I would understand exactly what those people were saying." It's foolish, because it's as though my Spanish were perfect, or that I always understood what Chileans were saying to me. Far from it. But being here and only catching every thirtieth word has really made me appreciate (in all senses of the word) how far I've come in Spanish.

Standing outside the aquarium, there's a line of palm trees and an overpass, and in the distance multicolored houses climbing up a hill. It looked so much like Valparaíso that it practically took my breath away. I felt right then like I could have been standing on Avenida Argentina, looking towards the Universidad and that overpass that turned onto Avenida Pedro Montt, with Cerro Barón in the background. It really made me miss Chile.

Tomorrow Sarah and I are going with her parents to a meeting at their school, then all of us are going to a little town that's around here for the afternoon. By the way, I'm serious about the postcard thing: I will send a postcard to anyone who emails me their address (jobanek@lclark.edu). I don't have anyone's home address, so if you'd like one, send me it!