These are the words Alex and I feel we must utter to each other when we enter the grocery store. The Coop - pronounced Co-Op or coop or any other variety of ways you can seem to make the vowels and consonants twist and morph into something else - is the one place that it appears one can shake off all sense of manners taught by society. It's no wonder the Italians wish each other bona spesa (literally happy grocery shopping) prior to entering this place. It's like they are saying good luck to one another!
Take for example, this afternoon. Grocery list in hand, we wandered through the dog park, down two flights of stairs and into our local store. Immediately, we could tell it was busy. I started picking up various fruits and vegetables we needed to make meals for the next two days, while Alex went on a quest to find us a container to actually carry them in. A couple minutes later we reunited after he had wandered through lines to find a basket.
Filled to the brim with individuals and families, all loudly chatting in a foreign tongue, I stared at the lunch meat. I've been here for long enough to know what kind of lunch meat I put in my school bag each day, but I'm still confused by what the words all mean. I feel like crying out to the sky, "Haymitch, send me help from a sponsor!" But alas, nothing is sent, and no cell reception means Google Translate isn't available either. Why I don't think about using the World Lens app is another story, but at this point, I'm feeling anxious. This place is no walk in the park - if you want an easy walk, you should have stayed two floors up and above ground with the dogs and their owners!
Next up, chicken and mussels; both of which I know they should have. However, getting there is no easy feat. Products on pallets waiting to be shelved are left haphazardly around in the aisles waiting for their rightful place. One must dodge the breadsticks, large families debating their cheese choices, and abandoned shopping carts to actually reach the back wall.
And that is when we see it. So strange. So foreign. 100% circa 1994, not 2014. A lady, receiver in hand, chatting on a bag phone. Oh no, I think, we are distracted. But I can't stop laughing! Who has a bag phone in this day in age?!? The Italians may value preserving their way of life and the thousands of years of history present in this nation, but who would hang on to a bag phone and keep using it! My husband must snap a photo before we continue on.
We continue our darting, dodging, climbing, and at times grimacing from getting hit to collect the rest of our food. We knew today would be a big trip, so we tote around 2 large bags as well. Everything we purchase, we must carry home ourselves. Gone are the days of lazily tossing bags into our car and walking them into our kitchen. Gone are the days of the short walk from our trunk to our apartment. Here, we earn our food, working off calories just to get it home!
A quick inventory reveals that we forgot lunch - the very meal we are going home to eat immediately after our time in the Hunger Games. Alex leaves me in line with our now two shopping baskets, and dashes across the store to grab a few more items. Now is when I need to pull out my weapons. I fight, not with a bow and arrow, but with elbows out shifting my hips around and standing closer to others than my American sense of distance cares to be. This is normal. This is the way things are. Soon I will be out and will be promised safety. Ha! What lies. Soon I will be back! For no one is safe from the Hunger Games. After all, one can only carry so much home!
We woke up early on Saturday and left our house by 7:15am to start a new adventure. Alex had his heart set on visiting Cinque Terre ever since we accepted our jobs in Italy. Seeing as we now only live about an hour away, there was absolutely no excuse!
Cinque Terre, which means “the five lands,” is a collection of five beach towns that have become a must see destination for tourists for quite some time now. There are beaches and all of the cities are connected by train and hiking trails. I visited eight years ago when I was backpacking through Europe on my way to study abroad in Lithuania; our trip brought back quite a few memories of my time there in college!
A quick bus ride brought us from our home to the train station, where we met up with two other teachers, Randeen and Beth, who joined us for the day. Once on the train, we rode all the way to Monterosso, the city furthest to the west. When we got there, we made our way into the city and ate a second breakfast (we were all quite hungry from our rushed morning!). We were quick to notice that the food was influenced from the tourists – though none of us complained! Alex enjoyed eggs with American-style bacon, while I enjoyed some bruschetta. Beth was even able to find a fruit smoothie on the menu!
From there we started our hike for the day. The treck from Monterosso to Vernazza took about 1.5-2 hours (to be honest I wasn’t watching the time and we got caught behind some slow tour groups and kept stopping to take pictures!). The path wanders around terraced vineyards and forested areas, and boasts scenic water views the entire way. Given the terrain throughout Liguria (the state we live in), our trek was filled with stairs and steep inclines. Needless to say, our legs are in pretty good shape after living here for almost a month!
Once in Vernazza, we followed our noses and found a great pizza place right on the water. At this point, pizza seems to be the one Italian food that Alex and I do not grow tired of! Once our stomachs were filled, we caught the train to the next town of Corniglia. Later we also visited Manarola and Riomaggiore via the train.
The towns all have their own personalities, which one can easily pick up. Monterosso is the largest of the towns and seemed the busiest of the five.
Vernazza is built on a steep hill and is filled with winding streets; it is quintessential Italy, if you ask me. Like Monterosso, Vernazza is larger and can accommodate the larger crowds a bit easier.
Cornigilia is the only town not located directly on the water. A walk up switch-back stairs leads you to the small town. Due to its’ location, this town’s beauty comes from its steep hills and not so much from the nearby water.
Manarola provided the best photos with the city and water in the background.
Riomaggiore has less access to the water for the walking tourist, but great restaurants along the hill that provide many Ligurian specialties mixed with American and British food.
The day was filled with laughter, a million “wows” as we took in the views, and lots of food. If you'd like to see more photos from our journey, check out Alex's post on our photo blog!
The first week of school is done and we are actually two days into our second! It's hard to believe that we haven't even been here a month and are already in the middle of our second week of school! Our first few days with students went well and we both feel like we are starting to settle into a routine within our classrooms. At home, we are still trying to get things and settle in, but slowly it is feeling more like home (we just need internet still!).
On Wednesday night, we went downtown with a group of teachers and had appetizers with them. We then decided to head down the street for Chinese food. Alex and I had walked past the Chinese restaurant and never even known it was there, because like all things in Italy, it was a bit hidden. Above all of the shops was Chinese food and we didn't even know it! We had a good laugh looking at the menu. Although most of it was in Italian and we struggled to understand; words such as "spaghetti" (lo mein) and "ravioli" (dumplings) threw us for a loop.
On Thursday after school, we went back downtown in search of shoes for Alex to play tennis on Saturday. We were thankful to find a pair, although Alex will soon be searching online for a more sturdy set. The only shoes in his size are velcro closures. Although they weren't terribly comfortable, they worked so he could play on Saturday!
Friday afternoon we had appetizers and wine at school in the staff lounge - all provided by the director and his wife. I'll admit it, it's weird drinking alcohol in school, but I'm now living in a culture where wine goes with just about any activity. After our rendezvous after school, a few of us met up at our house for dinner (trofie with pesto, salmon and green beans) and board games. We taught the group to play Ticket to Ride and they loved it! Here's a photo I stole off of my friend's blog (thanks Randeen!).
Saturday was a restful day. Alex went and played tennis with my teammate's Italian boyfriend. He enjoyed playing on clay, but has informed me that his game will have to change some.
Later in the day, we met up with some of the other teachers in Nervi, a nearby suburb of Genoa. Nervi is on the sea and boasts a beachey posh vibe. It's a place you go to relax, enjoy the (nice) shops, and grab dinner. It seems that the farther east you go in Genoa, the nicer and wealthier the neighborhoods get; very different than in Denver, where everyone wants to live west of I-25!
First, we walked around the town, made our way to the beach, and enjoyed the boardwalk. Being the tourist-teachers that we are, we took quite a few photos throughout our walk! When our stomachs began to rumble and the rest of the group joined us, we went to a restaurant that was recommended to us by three different co-workers earlier in the week. Sole Luna has Napoli-style pizza; puffy crust is what sets this pizza apart from the rest. It was delicious, quick, and very affordable, too!
Thanks, Randeen, for another great picture from your blog!
Sunday, Alex and I woke up and headed downtown to visit the only English-speaking church. We were expecting a small congregation as there aren't many expats in Genoa, as well as, a worship service that was very different from what we are use to (the church is Anglican). However, I don't think we were fully prepared for how different things really were. The church had maybe 20 people in attendance and Alex and I spent most of the service trying to figure out what we were supposed to be reading, what the tune was to the song we were supposed to be singing, or if we were allowed or weren't allowed to participate in certain activities, like communion.
We would appreciate your prayers as we continue to seek out a spiritual community to grow with. Right now, we are thinking that we may need to find an Italian-speaking protestant church. We're just not sure how to find it!
Following church, we met up with Randeen downtown and wandered around trying to find a place to eat lunch. One thing you must be aware of when visiting Italy is that most stores are closed on Sunday. What we didn't know was that other stores will open for the morning or the afternoon on Sunday. We spent a few hours downtown between waiting for Randeen to make it to us, searching for stores that were open, and deciding which restaurant to eat at, and in that time, we saw many open and close. I was thrilled when I found Lush tucked on a quiet street! It has been difficult to find products, since I can't read the labels. However, I am familiar with Lush's line AND the staff spoke English. I've been enjoying my showers ever since our visit!
A highlight of our afternoon was the hamburger I found. It may not have been the best hamburger I've ever eaten, but it was the first non-Italian thing I'd eaten in a while. There is, after all, only so much pasta one can eat... or so I think!
We went home and got prepared for the school week, as well as did some laundry. There aren't clothes dryers here, so everyone has clothes lines outside their windows that they use to drive their clothes. I felt very Italian hanging my stuff outside!
Today, the school took us to the bank and helped us set up our accounts. Nothing here is straight-forward and efficient. We had to visit several offices before we were allowed to set up our account, and we need the account to request internet in our house.
Now I know this is completely a first-world problem, but I have been missing internet. I've got the largest data plan on my cell phone (for this month), but it's still limited me. There isn't much video watching in our house and our families are under strict instruction to just talk to us instead of video chatting when we call. We can support no internet for a while, but not if we want to feel like we belong here in Genoa and aren't simply on vacation. I know I'm going to need it once culture shock begins to set in.
So what did we do after school today, you ask? We went to go get internet! It takes at least 2 weeks to get a phone call to set up a date to have them install it. So we are several weeks away from actually having internet, but we were at least able to take the first step!
I'll leave you a picture of us outside of our internet provider's store. One of us was more excited to be photographed... I'll let you guess who! ;)
The Two Teachers
He teaches math and science. She teaches 4th grade. Together, they have moved to Italy to start a new chapter. Follow along to hear of their European travels and educational adventures.
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