Thursday, February 26, 2009


Wow...nearly five on Thursday and it feels like this is the first time I've had to sit this entire week! That's not entirely true, of course, (Marina and I did sit down to a romantic dinner of pasta with a mushroom sauce last night) but it's still been busy lately!

I may have mentioned my possible tutoring job here in Italy--on Monday that became a reality. I met Ms. Malandrino, the English teacher whose classes I joined a week ago Thursday, at Liceo Farnesia. From there, she drove us to her apartment in her daughter's SmartCar. My very first ride in a SmartCar! It was tiny, with only enough room for us, and loud, similar to what it sounds like riding the buses.

As crazy as the traffic seems when you are walking on the sidewalk, it didn't seem nearly so crazy from inside the car, and in a few minutes we were at her apartment where her daughter let us in. The apartment felt old and traditional, with lots of Persian rugs on the floor and paintings of landscapes on the walls. There was a lot of dark wood--around the windows and doors, the tables and cabinets--and this added to the atmosphere.

Francesca, her daughter, is 16 and goes to another liceo, one that focuses on the classics (meaning she has to learn Latin). Ms. Malandrino had us sit in their living room and said we could just talk for about an hour. She brought me a real, homemade Italian espresso and some sugar (wow, it was strong but tasted great!) while Francesca and I sat on their couch, like two new kids at school meeting for the first time. Francesca has been taking English classes since she was six so her English was good, but her mom wants her to just talk with a native speaker to pick up more of a conversational English. In her classes, they read literature but don't do a lot of everyday speaking.

So Francesca and I filled the hour basically getting to know each other. I asked about her classes, her dreams for the future, growing up in Rome, etc. and she asked me why I chose to study in Rome, what I want to do after graduating, and about differences between American teenagers and Italian teenagers. She has traveled a lot around Europe and to Boston and Toronto, which both became her favorite cities. She is planning on going back to the States this summer, but has to decide if she wants to go to the New York program or the Orlando program.

I found that she is very mature for a 16-yr old as she told me about how she wants to travel for her job but that because so many Italians do travel and never come back Italy has become filled with mostly the older generation, a generation set in their ways. So she wants to travel, wants to experience the world, but then she wants to bring it back to Italy. According to her (and I told her I agreed), Italians her age are going to be the ones to change Italy, to make it a better place.

After hearing her say that and thinking about our weekend in Barcelona I think I can appreciate what she means. Barcelona felt so young compared to Rome, and way more diverse. In Rome, it’s obvious when you don’t belong. Being Italian is like this exclusive club—once you’re in, you’re golden, but before that,’ve heard me talk about my experiences on the tram. Francesca shared similar thoughts but also figured out a solution.

Then Ms. Malandrino came back into the living room, saying it had been an hour. The time really went fast though. English tutors are in high demand and she said she would love to have me come back each week. I told her I thought I learned as much about Italian life and culture as Francesca did about America so it hardly felt like work. I never would have thought my path would lead to tutoring English in Italy!

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