Teachers always say that they like their job because no two days are the same. For me, this applies to my whole life in Italy, not just the few hours I spend in the classroom. To prove my point, here is a day (TOday, in fact) in my life:
My alarm goes off for school at 7am. I grimace. Trudge to the kitchen to make myself an Italian espresso, promptly adding a bucket of hot water to turn it into a nice recognisable americano. Have run out of suitable breakfast foods, so settle for a peach and some biscuits.
Already pretty hot as I leave for school at 8.20am, I give a cheery nod to the man from the 3 shop who recognises me from last week – it’s a small city. Slightly unnerved to see a lot of students from the school meandering along in the opposite direction when they should be in their first lessons of the day. My walk takes me past the local nursery, which has been amusingly translated as ‘baby parking’. I take the street escalators for the last leg of the journey (why have these not come to the UK???) as am not feeling quite up to the near vertical climb to school this early on.
On arrival at the school I find no students but plenty of teachers in the staffroom – there’s a strike. While many of the students have stopped at nothing to selflessly sacrifice a day at school in the name of democracy, it seems the teachers are taking a more leisurely approach to the protests. My two classes are cancelled due to a lack of willing participants – the English teachers invite me out for a coffee instead. Two minutes later, I contemplate my next move. (To say that coffee breaks are brief here would be quite the understatement: espressos are drunk standing up at the counter quicker than you can say ‘no sugar’). One of the teachers invites me shopping – I gladly accept. She shows me where I can buy clothes for ‘young people’, but the majority of our time is spent in Zara. I fall for a beautiful blue tunic – perfect for work as soon as the winter (or at least autumn) weather arrives, and what’s €39.95 to a working gal? I also invest in a copy of Dan Brown’s ‘Il simbolo perduto’ to get a grip on my language learning. The shop assistant does not look convinced that I will be able to read it. He underestimates me. As we leave the shops the sound of drums tells us that the protest march is approaching. I recognise some of my students in the throng. They motion for me to join them. I politely decline. The crowd passes as a lefty with a megaphone rouses spectator support – I pretend to listen but understand nothing.
The day takes a darker turn as I have my first encounter with the famous Italian ‘furbizia’ (cunning) since I’ve arrived. Opposite the Museo Nazionale I spot a stall selling a delicious kind of honey-infused bread that I haven’t seen since the day I got here. In the spirit of the holiday, I mean strike, I decide that I must have some. The stall owner bags up my bread for me. I hand him €10, expecting change. He tells me that I owe him another €8. I give him a €20 expecting my €10 back, he keeps the lot but throws in a ‘free’ packet of biscotti worth a maximum of €3. Having neither the will nor the vocabulary to say ‘give me my money back you thieving b*****d’, I am left speechless and bewildered as he warmly shakes my hand and offers me a dried fig. And so he should, I’m keeping him in hot dinners for the whole of winter! I leave momentarily disillusioned, chastising myself for shopping in such an obvious tourist trap.
All is forgiven though as I head to the Museo Nazionale (via a cash point as thanks to the morning’s shopping/robbery I am now broke), home of the famous Bronzi of the Magna Graecia, a reminder of Calabria’s place in ancient Greek history. My €5 ticket seems to have bought me a personal guided tour, as a curator accompanies me around the whole exhibition, which, despite being made up of under 10 exhibits while the museum is being refurbished, extends into a two and a half hour tour, and I get the feeling that was the edited version. Halfway through, my guide Antonio’s friends invite him for a coffee. For some reason I go with them. We nip across the road to De Mauro for an espresso before resuming the Magna Graecia experience. Antonio’s explanation of the sculptures in the museum takes us onto the topics of the fundamental differences between men and women, the core values of humanity and the importance of a multicultural society. I feel well and truly enlightened when our journey comes to an end, and only in Italy would a tour guide finish up with ‘I feel like I’ve been doing all the talking. Tell me about yourself’.
Leaving the museum with an invitation to return tomorrow to see more (?), I head out in search of lunch. ‘Fish m chips’ (not a typo), a recommendation from my students as a place to satisfy my craving for some good potatoes, is just across the road. The shop offers a variety of delectable meals, most notably ‘fish n chips’, ‘fish n fish’ and ‘chips’. I take my meal – a decent sized cone of chips topped with a variety of battered seafood – to the promenade. I munch away while watching the waves – bliss.
Only a brief pause, mind you, as in the afternoon I welcome my parents into the 21st century with their first ever Skype date. It’s great to see them. We marvel about what modern technology is capable of, I boast about the weather and we biro in a date for a November visit!
All in all, I’d say a pretty successful and surreal day, and it ain’t over yet! As I write this I mull over my options for the evening – the most appealing of which is reading on the beach, the most likely of which is a nap. I’ll need energy for whatever tomorrow has in store for me!