martedì 20 aprile 2010

for rachel!

To walk from Zappa to Cremona you have to pass the basketball court and track, which frequently host all sorts of sports. I had run over to Cremona to make a photocopy and was returning to Zappa, and I found my students of last round's fourth year class playing soccer. They saw me and said, "Hi Rachel! Hi Rachel!"
The ball rolled my way, I kicked it back (despite pencil skirt), "Grande Rachel!"
And as I passed, one of the boys pulled away from the others, ball shooting out before him, and raced to the goal, yelling, "For Rachel! For Rachel!" And scored.
I was moved.

lunedì 19 aprile 2010

my experiments milanesi

I've inherited an old Nikon camera, almost untouched and only in need of a little "re-foaming," and I figured that there was no better place to practice taking old timey pictures than Milan. I have no idea what I'm doing (though thanks to the instructions of my mother I have a vague idea how to use the light meter), but I like the feel of the camera and the noises it makes.
In honor of the arrival of warm weather (finally), here are some of the experiments from my first round of film.

A few weeks ago, F lead me to the countryside outside of Piadena (aka middle of nowhere) to a festa di cultura at a country house. Meaning neverending amounts of wine, grana padano, polenta, gorgonzola, burger, and best of all leftist folk music. I felt my old joy for this stuff and even saw Suonatori Terra Terra, the first Italian folk band I ever saw playing la musica popolare. Pictured: F leading the way along the highway into the countryside, mandarino e vino, and the maestro of the gorgonzola.

Here are some kids painting the walls outside of a centro sociale, one of the occupied buildings converted into a hangout space for young people (especially leftists). We saw a police car pass by without a backward glance. An elderly couple stopped to talk to the adolescents and compliment them on their work. "Almeno così i muri sono belli eh," said the elderly man. At least this way the walls are beautiful.

Before spring break, I had an absolutely lovely Sunday in Milan where I woke up early (gasp) to go to the junk mercato senegalese near F's hood. After wandering around looking at appliances from the eighties and instruments and vintage place settings, we headed to Bosco in Città for greenery and a picnic...

...followed by a tour around Parco delle Cave and a sip from the fontana dei vechietti (Cue F's old lady voice "O sisi signora mia, ormai non ci sono più le mezze stagioni.")...

...and then a trip to the monthly Mercato dell'Antiquario sui Navigli, basically like the junk market only 10 times more expensive. I thought these typewriters were beautiful.

It was a Good Day.

Finally, to close, a portrait of the bici on my terrace on a sunny day, the one that we keep meaning to fix up.

giovedì 15 aprile 2010

all downhill from here

I'm beginning to realize just how little time I have left here. Six weeks. Six weeks is nothing...and the sun has just started to come out! Che sfigata.
I spent a lovely Easter break in Avignon and Paris with my close friend from Smith. We took the train from Milan, something I've always wanted to do, and ended up in a 17th century studio by the house of an old friend of my mom's in Saint-Hilaire-d'Ozilhan. Chuck was a grandfatherly Brazilian-American who regaled us of his human rights efforts during the Dirty Wars in South America. I felt I had arrived during the idyllic and beautiful conclusion of a film, just after the dramatic action.
Paris was also beautiful, full of the street performers I miss in Milan. I think at the end, however, Emily and I were sick of butchering the French language and both ready to get back to countries where we could be understood...
In other news, I've begun a new round of classes (my last), which means a new round of students to meet. Yesterday, I introduced myself to a 3rd year class at Cremona. When I said I was from the United States, a boy up front said he liked South Africa better.
"South Africa?" I asked, thinking maybe he meant South America, as opposed to North America, a preference I've heard before.
"Yes, South Africa."
"Well, they're very different places. What do you like about South Africa?"
"I like the Negro Woman," he said with a grin, waiting for me to be shocked.
This took me aback, I have to say, which is rare. I have become relatively accustomed to the politically incorrect (at best) and blatantly racist comments that pepper conversation here.* I raised my eyebrows and said, "Ah, well we all have our preferences. Does anyone else have a favorite country?"
A boy in the back said, "USA!" but the others remained silent. I asked, "Maybe Italy?"
"No," several kids said, others shook their heads. The first boy said, "I hate it here. When I wake up in the morning, non riesco a respirare, cioè I can't breathe."
He was Albanian, and he first immigrated to Puglia before moving up the peninsula to Milan. And he did not like Milan, for sure. I found myself defending our strange smoggy city. Look on the bright side, I said, thinking in my head that, with more knowledge of English, he might have replied, "There's no bright side, it's cloudy all the time."
In a way I understand him. Milan has offered me its share of challenges and smog. But there is much here that I don't want to leave, and sometimes I forget what a pleasure it is just to interact with strangers in Italian. To be missed when I don't go to my favorite bar, wave to the workers at my neighborhood gelateria, go on long bike rides in the sun, to be close to someone I love.
The time is creeping up when I will have to decide whether to come back for another year or not. I told my mentor that I have applied to return, and we have already made a toast to it over Cola in a fifth year class. But I am not so decided. I will have to think about what I should do, the best idea for my career and my personal development, and perhaps most of all what I want. Non lo so. We will see.

*Another example: At a world sustainability fair here Milan full of green products and charities, Fa la cosa giusta, a charity had made posters expressing solidarity for Africa. Their solidarity took the form of white Italians in blackface with wide grins. I did a double take. F called it a cagata.