Monday, August 1, 2011


As we were driving to Venice, I remember feeling a little apprehensive. I'd had my idea of "Venice" in my head for so many years that I was afraid I might be disappointed. What if it didn't live up to my expectations? Driving over the bridge didn't really help-it all looked so industrial and...dare I say it...ugly. But I knew we were only stopping here to catch a boat which would take us to the Grand Canal, so I held my breath and waited.
It was SO worth the wait! As our boat approached the Grand Canal we were all struck by the beauty of Venice! The picture here is nice, but it can't, of course, really capture the awe we felt as we saw Venice for the first time. Even now, I can feel the joy in my heart as I remember my first view.
Once we docked and got off the boat, I felt like I couldn't open my eyes wide enough to take it all in. There was so much to see and experience, and I just wanted to see it all. I realize now that one day in Venice is simply NOT enough. There is still so much I want to see, even though our tour guide walked us through a good deal of the important or typical sites.
Once we met our guide, he took us briskly to the first stop on our tour, which was a campo in front of a church. Turns out that the churches used to let people use the land in front of their churches to farm and use the well there. Each campo has a well hat, which provided the potable water for the residents. The campos could be large or small, but each was lovely in its own way.
This was the first of many churches we saw in Italy.
Our walking tour took us past many more
churches, but I will never forget the way this one looked, with the sun just peeking over the top and the church itself offering a shady spot in which to feel protected from the sun's harsh rays. I knew I was already beginning to feel love for this beautiful city, and could understand those who always long to return.
At the end of our tour we were brought to St. Mark's Square, where we were to proceed to a local glassblower's for a demonstration and a tour through the shop/gallery. The work was gorgeous and the glass magnificent. It was a little nerve-wracking to pile all those students into that glass-lined room and watch them juggle backpacks and purses to steer clear of the glass. Still, it was a remarkable experience.
After the tour we arranged our rendezvous time and place, and broke up into smaller groups to explore the city. Three girls and I made out for our first taste of real Italian pizza, and upon the advice of our tour director, David, we looked for a small place with no seats, where we could get a slice of pizza and a drink, and stand at a table to eat. It didn't take long to find it, and I have to admit the pizza was incredible! As we finished our pie, we started to discuss where to get our first gelato. The maitre'd across the way heard us and watched as we spotted a sign for gelato down the street. He beckoned me over and told us to go past that one and go to the "second" one. We did, and are ever grateful to that man! The gelato was delicious and the place wasn't crowded, since everyone else went to the first place they hit. Always listen to the natives!!
We shopped, toured the Doge's Palace, and shopped some more when I suddenly realized I'd left my camera in the Doge's Palace! I was a wreck and practically ran the length of St. Mark's Square to see if there was any chance of retrieving it! The girls were great and came with me as we all hoped someone had spotted it and kept it safe. When I asked, the employees asked me what color my camera was. I know...sounds like an odd question, but my camera is red. When I said that, they told me the guard on the second floor had found it and kept it for me! I'd like to say I ran up to the second floor, but..well...the steps are simply NOT the kind of steps you run up! Breathless, I retrieved my camera and headed back to the girls....and more shopping!! Finally it was time to meet up with everyone else for our next adventure...a gondola ride! We couldn't believe we were actually sitting in a gondola, and were enjoying the ride through the little canals of Venice. Every turn brought us to yet another picturesque little vignette, another snapshot of a place so foreign and yet so endearing to us. We didn't think it could get any better, but then the gondolier steered us out into the Grand Canal. Everyone gasped at the sight as we moved into the open canal. It was magnificent!
It was just the most amazing way to spend our first REAL day in Italy! After the gondola ride, we had more time to roam around Venice, and so we, of course, did a little more shopping before heading back to the boat to go back to our hotel. As we left Venice that day, I felt like I was leaving one of the most beautiful places on Earth. I know I want to return some day and spend more time there. I'd like to see Venice by night and to have more time to stroll at a more leisurely pace to see all the little nooks and crannies we had to pass by in our haste to see as much of the city as possible.
Once we got back to the hotel we had one more Italian experience ahead of us. It was July 2nd, after all, and in Siena there's a huge horse race called the Palio de Siena. It's a crazy free-for-all, and is, naturally, televised on all the Italian stations. After dinner, the race was on and it was like nothing I'd ever seen. You see, there are no real "rules" for this race except for one: riders cannot interfere with the reins of another horse. That's it. The riders ride bareback, fight each other, spectators throw stuff at them, and a riderless horse can win the race. The horses run a very tight circle around the Piazza del Campo and must complete three full circles to win. There's more tradition about this, but I recommend you look it up to see all the particulars. All I have to say is that it was insane; horses were falling all over each other, spectators were throwing bottles of soda or other liquid at the riders, and in the end, a winner was declared. It was an exciting way to bring our Venice experience to a thrilling close. That being said, I really do want to go back to Venice. So badly, in fact, that I've been watching the last half hour of Casino Royale every time it's on, just so I can see Venice again. It was just gorgeous!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


So I was reading a friend's blog this evening and felt like a slacker. She's taking a road trip across America and is blogging her progress. As she wrote about seeing sights both different and familiar in our various states, I found myself thinking that I had my own travel experiences to record and for some reason, have been putting it off. Well, the procrastination ends here, folks. Welcome to Italia!
We began our tour in Milan. Actually, we weren't even scheduled to see Milan, but we had to kill some time waiting for part of our party (the tour company had split our flights...not an optimum experience) so we were taken to downtown Milan. My first impression of Italy was that it was HOT, and there was no shade! We walked (which became the overall theme of the trip) to a large cathedral and square and were left to do some exploring.
Fortunately, there was someplace I wanted to Italian mall. Let me say that it looked nothing like any mall here, as it was housed in old buildings and entered via a beautiful arch. Within were several stores I recognized, including a McDonalds. Still, the atmosphere was sufficiently foreign, so we found it acceptable. The main draw of the mall, however, was a mosaic on the floor. Seems there was this bull, and the Milanese believe it is good fortune to grind your heel into the testicles of the bull. Apparently it was also some sort of political insult hundreds of years ago, but we were all game to crush the
bull's testicles. As you can see, people have been grinding these balls for a long time.
As I was to find out, the Italians have some sort of superstition or ritual for most of the things in their lives. I kept waiting to be told that I was walking down the street the wrong way, or that I had to enter a room backwards for good luck. That was my first peek at the cultural differences between our countries. Our superstitions are kind of negative...don't walk under a ladder...don't break a mirror....step on a crack, break your mother's back...that kind of stuff. Theirs are all positive. Do this for good fortune, for good luck, to ensure you'll return. See. Positive. Not a bad way to approach life, even if you are grinding a bull's testicles to insult some nobleman from the past.
Our afternoon in Milan was nice, but we were very ready to pick up the rest of our party and head to our hotel outside of Venice. We were ready, but apparently hadn't performed the ritual concerning good travel conditions because there was a delay. We picked up the rest of our party just fine, but we were sharing the bus with two other groups. One from Virginia, which came in with our boys, and one from California. The California group's flight had been delayed so we had to wait for them. On the bus. In the heat. Finally, they arrived and we were on our way....our way was a four hour bus ride across Italy to the other coast. Not to worry, or so we thought. Too bad we didn't know of a ritual to guarantee speedy travel. There was an accident on the road ahead, which snarled traffic for around 30 miles. Yes, 30 miles. That's another difference between the USA and Italy. Clearing an accident is not the efficient operation we're used to. We saw this again in Rome, but more about that in a later post. Needless to say, we hadn't prepared for being on a bus for that many hours, and at some point, our bodies began to...rebel. We needed a rest room!!!
Rest stops on Italian highways are beautiful, but pretty widely spaced, and the everlasting traffic jam was keeping us from one for far too long! By the time we got to the rest stop we flew off that bus and into rest rooms toilet seats! More culture shock. Apparently Italians don't believe in putting seats in because no one will use them. My reaction was usually, "Hmm, this is interesting." but the kids reacted far more strongly. LOL I could see this trip was educational on so many more levels than they expected, but they adjusted more quickly than I first thought.
That first day in Italy was really just a very long bus ride, broken up with a couple of quick glances around the country. When we finally got to our hotel, we were absolutely exhausted and everyone just headed to bed. Besides, tomorrow we were going to Venice!!!
We arrived here about 11 pm on July 1st. Considering we had been traveling since noon on June 30th, I'd say we had a very full day of travel!
Buona Notte!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I am a geek.

Let's let that sit there for a moment and sink in. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I freely admit to being a geek. Let me explain.

In order to examine the weight of that declaration, we have to go back to middle school, or as it was called in the 60s, Intermediate School. Back then, it was death to be labeled a "geek." You were an outcast; a pariah. Unclean. Kids, particularly girls, would go to almost any length to avoid that label. It assured you of lonely Saturday nights, merciless teasing in the school yard, and hellish bus rides to and from school. No, geek was, by no means, anything one would voluntarily own up to. Someone tried to call me a geek once. Once. Not in those terms, exactly, but she told me I looked ridiculous in the sailor hat I'd recently taken to wearing. Hey, they were wearing them in Teen Magazine; I was merely being fashionable. But the real issue was that a cute boy had also taken to wearing a sailor hat. MY sailor hat, to be precise, but he'd borrow it on the bus and then respectfully give it back when we got to school. And did I mention he was cute?? Cause he totally was. Anyway, when the aforementioned bullyette mocked my hat-wearing tendencies, I simply told her she was just jealous because I was getting attention from a really cute boy, and besides, I wasn't as ridiculous as someone who dives into a shallow pond and winds up in a coma-which she had in her youth. End my geek label in seventh grade.

High school geeks took on a totally different cast. Horn-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors. And I had a crush on one of them. Lord help me, he was a geek, but he was a "cool" geek. He listened to folk rock, used big words, and could carry on megaintelligent conversations. I was smitten. I took to reading the dictionary every night just to be able to keep up with him. The crush didn't last long, and truth be told, my tastes did also include boys of all groups: jocks, hippies, geeks...they were all fair game, until I got involved in theater. Then the boys had to be talented and smart, which I now realize is a very special form of geek. And that's when I began to become comfortable with my geekiness.

For what is a geek, but someone with hobbies? Someone who is intensely involved with a particular interest set. I came to realize that being a geek really means you are knowledgeable in a particular area. I am a horror and film geek. I know a lot about these things, because I like them and I find out stuff all the time. I like finding stuff out, and I constantly learn more about the things I care about. There are geeks in every walk of life: film, comics, horror, sci-fi, and fantasy. But there are also Math geeks, Science geeks, and language geeks. If there is something in which people have an interest, there are geeks to be found.

As a geek, I joined a horror message board to talk to other geeks. Guess what I found there? My husband, who is, of course, also a geek. We have other geek friends with whom we watch and discuss movies, horror and other areas of geekitude. We enjoy our geekiness, and have a wonderful relationship.

So let me repeat: I am a geek.

And I'll bet you are too.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Three Day Weekends

The beauty of the three day weekend lies in Sunday night.

Ever since childhood, Sunday nights have been fraught with stress and dread. I was a nervous child, and knowing that school loomed on the horizon cast a shadow on Sundays. I spent Sunday afternoons clutching onto every second of daylight because I knew that once the sun went down, I was horrifyingly close to MONDAY morning! My nervous stomach would kick in around 8 pm, and move into high gear once the alarm went off the next morning. No matter what was on tv on Sunday night, it couldn't completely hold my attention.

Once I was out of school, Sunday nights meant thinking about the next day at work, which was usually at an unfulfilling, mundane job that was mind-numbingly boring. I had several of those jobs before I finally made my move into education. Now, I at least am NEVER bored with my job, but Sunday nights usually mean preparation for another hectic week filled with planning, grading, meetings, dealing with approximately 30 different personalities for 45 sustained minutes five times a day, and other "to do" items that must be accomplished before I can leave. I'm not nervous anymore, and at least I love my job, so that's a plus, but it's still unbelieveably busy and draining. Most Monday nights, I collapse by 7:30 pm, some items still undone.

But then there's a three day weekend.

Sundays of a three day weekend are always glorious, mostly because at several points in the day I stop and remind myself that no matter how fast the day is flying by, I still have one more day off! Sunday nights are usually when I have to fight my body clock and try to get to bed at a reasonable hour so that I can once again spend a week dragging myself out of bed at 5 am, but on a three day weekend, I can stay up with the big kids and watch all the late night shows I usually have to pass up or DVR. I can relax and feel like a human being without an impossibly busy calendar looming ahead.

So, it's 9:18 pm on a Sunday of a three day weekend. I'm rested, looking forward to getting together with a high school friend tomorrow, and for one Sunday night, enjoying the evening. Hope everyone is feeling the same! Happy President's Day!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

It's 2011-where does the time go?

Hello followers!

Well, it's been a while, I admit. Life has a nasty way of interfering, and this past year life has been most intrusive, I'm afraid.

I've been wondering what is happening to the world around me. Apparently people have begun to go insane, and I'm really trying to piece together exactly when that started. Apparently it's not enough to disagree with people, we now have to resort to name calling, character attacks, and calls for violence. Violence? Because we disagree? It just makes me sad.

Another thing that makes me sad is the economy and how the politicians in charge are trying to fix it. Our economy tanked because of greed, namely the greed of the people who control most of the wealth in the country. Now those are the people who are trying to blame public employees and union members for the problems and steal, once again, from those they stole from in the first place. Does no one see the hypocrasy? Really, people, unions aren't the problem, the greedy fat cats are the problem, and if you let them win, conditions for all workers are going to deteriorate so drastically that we will be in danger of becoming a third world country. The middle class is being assaulted from all sides and I'm fearful of the implications.

But let's not dwell on the negatives; there are some good things to think about as well. I have some remarkable students this year; kids I really like and who seem to care about actually learning something. It makes it easier to go to work when there is something good happening there. Oh sure, there are those who are disengaged and really difficult to motivate, but even some of them have begun to come around, and that really made this week a lot better. I actually had two students ask for extra help before HSPAs. In the beginning of the year they were disinterested and unmotivated. They're showing improvement now, and asking for help. I think that pretty much made my week.

My husband makes my week too. No matter what else is going on in the world, when we're home together it's like everything else fades away. Having a strong relationship when everything around you is falling apart goes a long way towards keeping it all together. I heartily endorse finding someone who can share in your interests, keep you laughing, and suport you no matter what you are doing. So glad I found him.

I'm not going to promise regular updates here, but I will be back, and hopefully with more upbeat posts. Lord, I need a vacation!!