Sunday, December 18, 2011

Art Smart.

I know nothing about art. If you tell me a painting is famous, I'm likely to believe you because I have no knowledge whatsoever about art. But in the past two months, I've been lucky enough to see some of the most famous works of art still in existence. I thought I'd document it here...and perhaps do a little research about these paintings as I write.

In Florence, our art adventure began at the Accademia. As far as I can tell, the only real reason you go to the Accademia is to see David. It was a relatively small collection of other works, but David alone makes it worth the visit. David was moved to the Accademia in 1873 to protect it, as it was originally intended to be outdoors. A replica stands in its place now in the outdoor location. Along with the Pieta at the Vatican, it is this sculpture that gave Michelangelo the reputation as the "foremost sculptor" of his day. Along the corridor leading to David, are five other Michelangelo sculptures, including the four unfinished "Prisoners".

Information taken from http://www.visitflorence.com/florence-museums/accademia-gallery.html

Botticelli's Primavera
Botticelli's Birth of Venus





While in Florence we also visited the Uffizi Gallery. I was so thankful for Rick Steves' audio guide while in the Uffizi. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known what I was looking at or why it was important and it also took a large art museum and helped you focus on some of the "famous" paintings. I remember the Botticelli room best. These two paintings are of his most famous. Understanding a painting is like reading a complicated book- you have to look for the meaning of things below the surface, or in my case, read about it on Wikipedia. There are, of course, varying interpretations of these paintings, but, in general, it seems that "Primavera" is related to the fertility of the world, featuring the goddess of Spring, known as none other than Primavera.

As for the "Birth of Venus" most state that it was painted to inspire both physical and intellectual love. It was painted in 1486 and shows Venus emerging from the sea as a full-grown woman. Or, so says Wikipedia! Just looking at the pictures online does nothing for these works of art, but I remember sitting in the Botticelli room at Uffizi and thinking that, in person, there was something quite spectacular about them.

It took until my recent trip to Munich before I went to another art museum. Kate and I went to both the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek Moderne. The modern art museum left a lot to be desired in my mind. As Kate said, "Don't just hang a light and expect me to believe it's art!" Seems like a theme in the modern art museum. There were many rooms that left me a little perplexed as to why it was deserving of so much space in a well regarded museum. But, to each his own, I suppose.

The good news was that the Neue Pinakothek was rather amazing. After three trips or so to the lockers to successfully put away all the materials not allowed in the gallery, we wandered through the rooms. I had zero idea of what art was in this collection, but found myself among some paintings that everyone has heard about before.


File:Nympheas 71293 3.jpg

One of Claude Monet's 25 "Waterlilies" paintings-- this one was painted in 1915.










File:Vincent Willem van Gogh 128.jpg

Van Gogh's Sunflower series...this one, painted in 1888, has the blue background, and was the 3rd in the series.

The first in the series has a turquoise background with less flowers and is part of a private collection. The second painting had a royal blue background, but was destroyed in a fire in Japan during World War II. The fourth painting has a yellow background and can be seen at the National Gallery in London.

Both the third and fourth versions were repeated by Van Gogh in different forms in later years and can be seen in other galleries.



Edgar Degas, "After the Bath", 1890












There were also works by Renoir, Cezanne, Signac, Manet, and so many others...

Most recently, the Melrose Place crew (Kate, Simon, Tegan and I) went to a church in Milan (Santa Maria delle Grazie) and spent 15 minutes in front of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper". Only 20 or 25 people are allowed in every 15 minutes, so getting tickets must be done in advance. In fact, we bought our tickets for December 15th in the middle of September. Craziness! But, the experience was really nice. It is not too crowded, no one is pushing in front of you to take pictures and the painting is well lit.

This painting was commissioned by a man who hoped to convince the monks living there in the 1400's to allow him to be buried at this church. No luck for him, he apparently left Italy some years later. Over the years, though, the painting has been restored many times. Instead of using a traditional fresco style da Vinci painted on a dry wall, and unfortunately, it started deteriorating almost immediately. The most recent restoration removed layers of paint that had been added during the restorations. I'm not exactly sure how all of this is done in order to preserve the original work, but...

The biggest disappointment about the painting is the huge door that the monks cut in the painting back in the day when the building served as a stable. So, Jesus' feet are no more...while there is not a door, they've painted one in its place. Hmph.
Found this picture on a blog...looks like they found a way to take a picture!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Been Awhile...


I seem to have fallen out of the routine of updating this blog lately and I'm determined to make my New Year's resolution include blogging more regularly! It has been a busy few weeks and perhaps that is the reason for my lack of posting, but I suspect that more to blame is the six season box set of NCIS that the Upper School principal has loaned me. I watch it all the time! Speaking of which...if you have seasons of TV shows that you'd be willing to loan me for a few months, let me know. I can get them while in the states and return them on my next trip home, or whatever. I'm especially looking for The Sopranos or Desperate Housewives...


  Anyways, moving on...Work is rolling along. As of now, we have six more work days before I can head back to the States for the holidays. I am so looking forward to setting foot on soil where I know the cultural expectations and can ask questions when I have them. I have a new found appreciation for those who don't speak the language of the country they live in. It is SO hard. My job at school changed a bit in recent weeks. I was hired as the Technology Integration Specialist and the idea is that over the next three years I work with the teachers to learn how they can integrate technology in their classrooms and help them learn some needed skills. At the beginning of the year, I would take the cart of laptops into the rooms and most of the time the teachers would leave, as this was a planning period for them. After discussing the timeline for this position with the principal, he decided to fast track my thoughts for next year; that the teachers have to stay in the room during technology and be involved in what's happening. Makes sense, right? Well, as many of you read this are teachers, you know the reaction to losing a planning period. So, while not everyone was thrilled about the loss of a planning period, most teachers are interested in learning the how-to's of some things and are eager to get involved. Now that this change has taken place, I think that long term it will make for a much better result for our teachers and students. I hope you'll check out my school website and go to the Showing Off Our Work page underneath Elementary Technology. I'm excited by many of the things we've done and I'd love for you to see it!

Grady
As for the non-work things, we've had a few breaks here and there that have allowed for lots of travel. After Florence at the beginning of November, I used the Thanksgiving break to travel to the UK and visit the Lynes family in Stone. It was great spending time with people who have known you more than three months and Christy and Keith have always been so good to me over the years. Grady has become such a little cutie and repeatedly said my name for the 24 hours I was at their house. Keith was probably ready to go crazy after a weekend alone with Grady doing that! Christy and I left Keith at home and headed to London. I loved London. I thought the city was amazing. Perhaps I was swayed by the idea that I could once again talk to everyone without worry of a language barrier. We did all the touristy things, plus a few extras. As a tennis fan, I was thrilled to get the chance to go to the Barclays ATP World Tennis Finals. Though we didn't luck out with a Nadal, Federer or Djokovic match, we had great seats and an exciting time. Saturday night we went to see Wizard of Oz, the musical. I have a certain passion for all things WofOz, so it was perfect. The acting was okay, but the set design was pretty spectacular. I'm always impressed with the mechanics of putting together large pieces of stage that move in and out of a small space in such strategic ways. And, of course, Christy and I made sure to see where the Royal Wedding took place and headed out to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels.

This past weekend was a five-day weekend for us due to some Italian holidays on Wednesday and Thursday. Kate, her mom, and I headed to Munich to check out the Christmas markets we'd heard so much about. While the train ride is a bit long, about 7 hours, it took us east to Verona, Italy and then headed north to Innsbruck, Austria. Along the way, I wrote down the stations we passed to map out the route we had taken. Shortly after leaving Verona, I was convinced we had to be in Austria because the architecture of all the houses became stereotypically German. But, alas, I was wrong, and for most of the trip we were in Northern Italy, which has a section that functions relatively like it is Germany, speaking German and not Italian.

This train ride took us through the Italian Alps and with a little help from above, snowed during our time on the train. It made the scenery something spectacular. If you close your eyes and imagine what you'd think the countryside of the Alps should look like in winter, this is exactly what we got. Evergreen trees and mountain tops covered in snow, with more of the white stuff floating through the air. Beautiful. This link is reminds me of what we saw as we traveled towards Innsbruck. I shot this video with my iPod, so the quality is probably terrible, but it'll give you an idea of a little bit of what we saw.

video

 Of course, once we got to Munich the pretty snow ended and we were stuck in the rain. Thankfully, Kate's mom's friend gave us a driving tour of Munich and I was lucky enough to have met Elizabeth in Boston at the job fair, who provided me with a place to stay. Elizabeth and I headed out that night to a German restaurant and I had the special of the evening...sauerbraten with kartoffenodel...or at least I think that is what it was called. But, here's a picture of it nonetheless.
Otherwise known as roasted pork and potato dumpling...as far as I can tell!
German palace
There were Christmas markets on every other corner it seemed, and plenty of shopping to be done as well. I decided that I was more interested in the shopping this time than the sightseeing! I have bought so many Christmas presents for my family from all these different countries! I am excited to share the gifts and stories with them! And, nicely enough, it snowed while we were in Munich. Just enough to dust the houses, grass, and cars and to make it really pretty. Elizabeth and I went out to the Schloss Nymphenburg during the snowy weather. But, I was tired of sightseeing in the wet snow and decided to take the opportunity to see Breaking Dawn, since I found a theater showing it in English. So exciting! I did, of course, miss getting to see it with my friend Tammy, since she and I saw the first two together.

Well, enough for now. Back to NCIS!

I'll be home late December 22nd. I hope to see as many people as possible while home-- the only rule is NO Italian food!

Lastly, if I'm on your Christmas card list and you're not sure where to mail the card this year you have two options. 1) Send it to me at my parents: 8 Moss Court, Savannah, GA 31410 or
2) Mail it here to Italy:
Carrie Zimmer
c/o American School of Milan
Via K. Marx, 14
Noverasco di Opera, 20090
Milano, Italia

The mail system here is slow, but I would love to get a few pieces of mail every so often! So mail me something, even if it's not a Christmas card. If you send it now, I'll get it by Valentine's! Just kidding...or not.

Wishing each and everyone of my faithful readers "Buon Natale!"













NCIS image: http://www.deadline.com/tag/cbs-ncis/
Christmas graphic: http://www.wishmerrychristmas.com/graphics/christmas_graphics_06.shtml
Wills & Kate image: http://www.people.com/people/package/0,,20395222,00.html


Friday, November 18, 2011

Slipping into the Fog


the fog in Milano
So, clearly the seasons have changed here. A few weeks ago the weather was bright and sunny and even warm midday. It was reminiscent of Savannah, where you layer up in the morning only to peel each one off as the day goes on. But now, here in Milan, the fog has rolled in something fierce. You wake up- to fog. You take the kids to the playground, at noon- in the fog. You leave work- in the fog. You look out your window as you write a blog post- and see only fog. Starts to make you feel a little "foggy" yourself at times, or maybe that's the dizzying days at work?!?


This week was a crazy one at work. First, it was Parent Teacher Conference day, which at May Howard, meant a really nice work day for those of us 'special' teachers. Here, though, it means something quite different. I met with 44 parents, 42 of which each had 10 minute appointments and two which decided they also should be squeezed in. It was my own personal Groundhog's Day. I found myself saying the same things over and over again, because since I have worked with their children maybe 10 times for our 38 minute class. I think it's good that I know their names, when they are in their classroom. (Here, you can call most of them Lorenzo or Luca or Leonardo and get away with it!) Anyways, while it was a repetitive nightmare, the parents were friendly and generally just wanted to say hello. Thankfully, it's a long time before the next go round of conferences.

Firenze
Since my last post I had the chance to visit Firenze, otherwise known as Florence. What an amazing city! Whenever someone mentioned travels in Italy, I always heard how they loved Florence. I'm not quite sure what it is about it either. Even in the off-season it was crowded and full of people. Restaurants were difficult to get into and the lines were long for many tourist favorites. But, the energy in the city was fantastic. It was different from Milan. Here, even though there is plenty of English speakers, it's not geared for quite the tourist scene Florence is prepared for. In Florence, there were tourists to your left and right, in front of you and behind. It was difficult to tell who actually lived in Florence. The stalls of leather goods, scarves and clothing were everywhere. While I resisted a major "bag" purchase, I did find some gifts to bring home at the holidays. So, when you come to visit me in Milan, if you haven't been to Florence, put it on your list!

Next week is Thanksgiving...how is that possible? (Today is exactly three months since arriving in Italy!) Thanksgiving is not a holiday here, but because I work for an American school, we are off Thursday and Friday. I'm flying out to Manchester, UK to see Christy and then we are taking the train to London on Friday. Thanks to my sister we got a really great hotel deal and I splurged and bought tickets to the ATP World Tennis Finals for Friday night. The sports lover in me could not resist such an opportunity- top 8 men's players in the world...we'll get to see one singles match and I'm crossing my fingers for Djokovic/Murray...but I've promised myself not to be disappointed if it's not that match! We are also going to see the Wizard of Oz and hopefully find some time to do a little sightseeing and shopping!

I'm including a link here to some of my pictures if you do not get to see them via Facebook. Also, the American School of Milan is celebrating 50 years of education in Milan in 2012 so they are gearing up for a big celebration. If you'd like to see where I work everyday and get a glimpse of the campus, children, and staff you can go to our webpage and look for the video linked on the page. Finally, based on a request, I am working on a blog post entitled "Man or Myth...the Men of Italy". I've been collecting some pics so that I can accurately portray my thoughts on this subject. Buona serata!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Colors of Europe

So, let's see...Fall has definitely arrived here in Italy. We've been having days of cool early mornings and warm afternoons, and really the weather has simply been fantastic. It is a challenge, however, to dress for such weather when you ride your bike in the morning and the wind and cool air is chapping your cheeks and then the sun is beating down on you as you ride home in the afternoon. I am always cold. Or hot. Haven't mastered the 'just right' yet.

One other important news of note from today...Italy issued my "Permisso di Soggiorno" today, which, I guess, means they have decided to let me stay. It translates to "Permission to Stay" and overrides any visas, so even when my visa expires, I'm still good to go. Of course, the school doesn't trust their teachers enough to let you hold such an important document...nope. But, they paid for it, so, okay.

Anyways, onto the blog I've been considering for the past week. Within the first 30 minutes of being on the train leaving Milano Centrale, I knew what I had to write about. And, no, Alison Glover, it wasn't a post on whether Italian men are hot or not. Maybe someday. Soon.

So, or I should say "allora", which means "so" or "then" in Italian. Allora, we were leaving Centrale on our way to France and it was early enough that the sun was just coming up over the horizon. Even through the dirty windows of the train the colors of the sunrise were unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like it. Ever. Or at least in my memory. There were shades of plum and magenta woven through the blue sky, and as another ten minutes passed, and the sun rose higher, tangerine and lemon were added to the mix. It was really something.

We knew the train ride had plenty of potential by this point. A good bit later, we cruised through Genoa and were off to Ventimiglia. This is the last stop along the sea in Italy, and we headed onto French trains from here. The good news- that a train trip along the south of France is something to behold. I am confident that Crayola sends their color people to this part of the world to develop the next box of 64 colors. The Mediterranean Sea was a variety of colors, but cerulean, turquoise, and midnight blue all come to mind. And, yes, I referred to Wikipedia's list of Crayola's colors to find the words for the colors in my head. At some points, the turquoise waters had a sense of opacity to it, with this milky white sheen all around, which was very cool.

And while you're looking at the sea on one side, to the other side is the deepest burnt orange and sienna colored mountains around. The grass seems greener too. But, perhaps, by this point, I was just on a color high.

The train trip took Kate and I through Cannes, Montecarlo, Nice, and all those other major riviera highlights.  For the most part though, I only saw the train station of those locations. We'd be gawking at the view ahead of us out the train window and try to guess what city we were coming upon, and then suddenly, we'd be in the blackest black of a mountain tunnel. And, the beautiful sight of the sea would be hidden and the gray of the train station would be the most exciting scenery around.

Saint Raphael, France was a beautiful location. Perhaps next time, the weather will be a bit more appropriate for beach going, but that didn't stop most people from busting out their Speedos in the cool October temperatures. We enjoyed plenty of Rose' wine from the Provence region of France, ate lots of cheese (and discovered one that I love) and baguettes, and took in the sites. It was a nice weekend getaway. I even bought some French goods to bring home at the holidays. And, then, of course, it was back to work on Tuesday.
Truffle Festival


Tomorrow, the school is providing a bus to a winery for a wine tasting and to a town called Alba, for the annual Truffle Festival. Should be a fun day!

So, when are you planning your trip to visit me?!?!?! : ) I have a bottle of French wine waiting.

Crayola picture from http://omgfacts.net/?p=886
Truffle festival picture from http://vintageholidays.co.uk/white-truffle-festival-italy-la-sagra-del-tartufo-bianco/












Thursday, October 6, 2011

SSDD

One of my favorite sayings has always been the "SSDD" (same S%*$, different day) line because so much of life becomes rote and monotonous, and every day has the same basic elements. The same is true no matter where in the world you live. Even in Italy. Living here, a few things have changed: how I get to and from places, the people I spend most of my time with, the experiences I am afforded here, the process that is laundry without a dryer. But, all in all, things are still predominantly the same. You get up each day, of course, having preferred to stay in bed all day long, go to work, come home, cook dinner, go to bed, and get up the next day and do it all again. I find myself getting out of bed wishing every day was Saturday!!

Even the kids and families are basically the same. I supervised on the playground and mediated a discussion where one little girl searched for the word in English to tell me the other little girl always had to be the boss. I have started tutoring after school now too. I met with the father last week and he was telling me about the divorce of the parents and how the girl goes from his house to her mom's and how hard that is on everyone. The issues and challenges all resonate the same.

Saint Raphael, France in the Riviera
But, of course, living in a new country does allow for some very evident differences. For example, this weekend, we have a three day weekend. Wahoo! It is our first long weekend of the year. Kate and I are headed out to Saint Raphael, France to visit the home of her boyfriend's family. It's a long train ride, but it is a free place to stay, so, of course, when someone asks you if you want to go to the French Riviera for a weekend, you say YES! And, this is what makes this country so great.

Before moving to Italy, I thought that Milan was the ideal location to travel Europe and that three years was more than enough time to see what this continent had to offer. I have come to realize that three years might not be enough to explore the country of Italy. There are so many small towns that are historic, picturesque, and worth taking a trip to, I'm not sure how you decide which ones you must get to!

Aperitivo at Le Biciclette
Another very fun difference, is the idea of aperitivo. I think Milan is the capital of this idea, as well! At most bars, cafes, etc. in the early evening hours, they offer a bevy of snacks and buffet items free with the purchase of a drink. This past weekend, a girl I met in Boston at the Cambridge Search Associates job fair, Elizabeth, came to visit from Munich, where she is a counselor at the Bavarian International School. We took her and her group of friends to Le Biciclette, a cute little bar in Milano that we discovered through the Lonely Planet travel guides. They offer a nice aperitivo and I was thrilled that everyone was happy with our choice! I have another Cambridge friend coming soon and hopefully we can find some more fun aperitivos to try out!

cappuccino con cioccolato
the coffee machine
One other difference to make note of here is the coffee. Thanks to my good friend, Becky Nease, I started drinking coffee a few years ago. Well, maybe I should rephrase that...I started drinking Starbucks vanilla lattes a few years ago. Only recently have I started exploring drinking regular coffee mixed with an assortment of milk and sugar. It's a good thing, too, since the Italian expectation is to have a coffee to top off every meal. The strange looks are a regular thing when you decline the end of meal beverage. Even here at school, coffee is available all day, every day. For only .35€. If you took your Starbucks beverage and asked for the amount you'd get for that price, you'd probably end up with the same size we do here. But, I have discovered the cappuccino con cioccolato (with maximum sugar, mind you) is pretty tasty! And it only takes a little to get you going when you are drinking Italian coffees!

So, while you sit at home, trying to live your life vicariously through me, just remember, I still get up and go to work every day and go through the "daily grind". The scenery is just a little different.
the view on the way to work 10/6/11...the sun
just starting to come up over the horizon amidst a ribbon of fog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Italian vocabulary lesson...

While we wait anxiously for the promised Italian lessons of our contract, we've been learning a few vocabulary words of our own around here, and, now, you at home can learn a new language right in your living room. So, here goes...

vino bianco frizzante...sparkling white wine! I'm pretty sure that I'll be a wine snob when I come home. The cheap stuff around here is so good. No need for wine lists or types of wines, you just order a liter of the house wine and you're good to go!

un biglietto (bil-lee-yet-toe)...ticket! Do you like my use of phonetic pronunciations? Bus tickets seem to be a little tricky around here. I am constantly worried that the bus/train inspectors will declare that I have the wrong ticket for where ever I am. It is a fine on the spot of €25-35 or they remove you immediately from the bus to who knows where. I try and keep plenty of cash on hand. Yesterday on the train from Bergamo to Milano a nice, middle aged lady did something wrong and had to hand over a wad of Euros to escape the certain punishment from intimidating train inspectors. I don't think the dumb American card will work too often.

il bagno...bathroom. You guessed it! The restrooms in Europe are worth discussing. No, not really. What's worth discussing is that if you imagine the worst gas station restroom you've ever seen in your entire life living in the US, it is nothing to compare to the handful of restrooms I've seen in just a few short weeks of living in Italy. I must wonder, with all the wine they drink here, how do they use these restrooms? Seriously, women's restrooms with windows where everyone can see in (the Questura...where you go to get permission to stay in Italy...perhaps they don't want you to stay) and restrooms that are only holes in the floor (now, I hear this is relatively common on this continent and it would be okay if perhaps these restrooms were even occasionally cleaned...this, too, you can find at the Questura and at the Bergamo train station. Here I decided I'd rather wait another 45 minutes to get to Milano to pay €1 to use the restroom at Centrale. It was so worth it.) I wonder, where are all the public bathrooms in Italy? I am pretty sure that any disgusting truck stop restroom will far exceed my expectations from now on.

A dance studio showing off their routines at Notte Bianca.
Notte Bianca...White Night...A celebration dreamed up by the city of Opera to celebrate the end of summer. Originally slated for last Saturday, a weather debacle caused a second go at the festival to happen this weekend. It was a dollar store bonanza- booths of junk everywhere! Plenty of games and what not for the kiddos and DJ music and karaoke for the adults-- club music, fist pumping music, American music- YMCA, macarena, and every other bad wedding reception song you could dream of-- right outside my window. Bless them...it went on past midnight...I think my brain was thumping all night long with the beat.

miei amici...my friends...I've always been blessed with amazing people around me and continue to feel the same about so many new people in my life. It's funny because as I meet and get to know each new person I find that they remind me in little ways of someone else. I've always been a big believer in knowing that everything happens for a reason, and so far, this journey has proven no different.

I've been uploading my pictures to Facebook, but for those still refusing to jump on the bandwagon (and lately I've thought about mutiny) I added my photos to a Flickr account. Here's the link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/carriezimmer/  Hopefully, you can access them there. And, since FB is kind of sh*%$ty these days, maybe you should join Google + (you'd be ahead of the game then!)

Buona notte...Good night! How does such a short weekend seem so exhausting! Back to the grind tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Living on the opposite side of the world...

I've been here almost a month now. There are days when it seems like that is almost impossible and there are days when it feels like it has been much longer. It actually humors me in a way. But, I look ahead to this time next year and think about how much I will have learned by then...and, it makes me happy!

It is odd having lived my entire life in the US to suddenly be cut off from almost everything cultural I've come to know. Entertainment websites from the US are blocked here and you must use odd and sometimes crazy looking sites to watch the shows you are familiar with. The USOpen streamed live in the US, but I had to use sites that were streaming it in undeterminable languages to see any of it here. When the anniversary of 9/11 rolled around this past weekend, it would've gone unnoticed if I hadn't been on Facebook. (Granted I don't watch any Italian news or see any of the papers to know if it received coverage here.) Trying to find a happy medium between having it all at your fingertips and being totally in the dark...

My shipment finally came this past Saturday. I delighted in the idea that I could wash my sheets, hang my clothes, and have some of my long lost belongings. Everything seemed to arrive safely, even if not in the best of condition. Note to self...even if the shippers insist they must pack things, make them pack a little better. It was really chaos trying to check to make sure everything had arrived in the end. I was so happy to have my things! But, what I didn't expect to arrive with my shipment was my first feelings of homesickness since I got here. Having my things added a sense of reality to this little adventure I am on and made me sad for some of the things I had to leave behind. Oh, the Ruby dog...

But, it's not in my nature to wallow in anything for too long, so Sunday Kate and I took off for the "city" to explore the castle and surrounding park. We had a great day people watching and finding parts of the city that we could indeed find beautiful. Much of Milan is covered in graffiti and it is distracting from all of the amazing architecture, but lo and behold, just turn a corner here or there and suddenly there is a spectacular sight in front of you.

So, on to some of my observations about Italians and the culture here that I have noted...

1. The fashion here is not what I expected. In the city, I expected to see the women "done" all the time. This has not been my experience. Some are dressed up, some are dressed down; it seems about the same as what you may find in the US, even if the trends are slightly different or more fashion forward. The men here love their bags, satchels, or, even, a fanny pack. Everyone seems to own one and carry it proudly.
2. Italians are not concerned with moving politely out of anyone's way. It's kind of like always playing chicken, whether you're in the car, on a bike, or just walking down the sidewalk. Don't expect anyone to move over for you. Or offer any sort of apology or sign of acknowledgement that you even happened to be there.
3. The wine here is amazing. I've never been a red wine fan, but told myself that while I am here I will learn to like it. Since they have this nice "frizzante" red wine, how can you resist! On the wine note, my roommates and I have discovered this nice little wine shop around the corner. Bring your own bottle and they fill it for €2.20 out of this little keg set up thing they have. Kate was even given a frequent shopper card...buy so much and get some wine for free. Now, somehow I did not qualify for this deal. I will have to rectify that situation soon.

Buona sera!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Waiting...

So, I've been in Italy for almost three weeks now. Some days it is hard to believe it has been that long and other days it feels like it has been much longer. And, even though I packed and shipped 700 lbs of my belongings on June 18th, I am still waiting for my stash of prized belongings. The Italian government is basically holding all our things hostage until paperwork upon paperwork is put in order. So, as it happens, the most commonly said phrase these days is, "I have it, BUT it's in my shipment!" If only I had a €1 every time I heard that statement.

In other waiting games, this past weekend eight of us took off to discover Colico, Italy, a small town on the north shore of Lake Como. Similar in style to Bellagio, where we visited the first weekend here, but quieter and less busy with tourists. To get to Lake Como, we took a bus from the town we live in, Opera, to the tram station. The tram took us into Milan, where we took the subway to the train station. At the train station we navigated buying train tickets and successfully boarded to make our way north.

The town was quaint, but lively. Surrounded by Alps, and nestled in the curves of the lake, it is quite picturesque. There was a small beach, and it was evident that this is a local spot used for many kite boarders and wind surfers on a regular basis. Of course, you can always count on the overexposing men's hot short bathing suits to leave little to the imagination! And, yes, they sell these suits in white too, though I haven't figured out why! The waiting came when we discovered we had misread the train station departure board and waited an extra hour for the next train back to Milano Centrale. Oh well, staring at the Alps and watching the cute little Italian lady bring her dry laundry in the window make up the difference.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let's Talk Lunch.

No, seriously. Let's talk lunch. I have worked in US public schools for the past twelve years and never once eaten a single school lunch. Have you looked at what your kids are eating? And, not just on Thanksgiving when there is slightly more effort made to make it look like it didn't all come from a can. So, today I was awestruck when once again the school lunch served at ASM was beyond amazing. We've been eating in the school cafeteria since the day we arrived in Italy, and, at least at ASM, it's just what you do. The food is real stuff, not just slopped out of a can and into a chafing dish. There is pasta every day. (This is Italy- did you expect anything less?) There's also salad options, meat options, vegetarian options, fruit options...I could go on. It really has been something impressive. But, today was different. Today they rolled out a buffet lunch for the staff. It started with Prosecco and other assorted wines. In the school building. With the administration. Where am I again? Oh, that's right...Italia...the land of wine. And on to the food. Caprese salad, sauteed eggplant, zucchini, peppers, cantaloupe, thinly sliced tenderloin, prosciutto, stuffed squash blossoms, stuffed shells, seafood linguini (the seafood being giant prawns and lobster like things) and so many other things I've probably forgotten a few. Are you drooling yet? Then, of course, you must have room for dessert, yes? Homemade in the cafeteria by the little Italian ladies? Tiramisu, chocolate tortes, cherry tortes, and fruit-- but who eats fruit when you have those other options? Anyhow, now that I've had an apple for dinner (mangio una mela verde) I will let you salivate...Kate took a picture of her plate. When she uploads it, I'll add it here. Until then, imagine me doing that little Italian gesture where you put your fingers together by your mouth and move them away and say something like, "Delicioso!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ciao Italia!

So, I've arrived in Italy. It has not quite been a full week yet, but I think we've been busy enough for an entire year. The flight to Milan was rather uneventful. I had to rush to board after my Savannah connection's time was cut so close. Once on the flight, I got to meet Kate, another new ASM teacher. We were both sandwiched between multiple Italian men, and, no, they were not the ones you'd want to fall in love with, so all of you can stop that thought already. Kate and I arrived at one of the two Milanese airports, Malpensa, and made our way through the immigration section, which only involved waiting in line and getting a stamp in my passport. They had no forms, no questions, nothing, which was nice. Next time, I'll fill my suitcase with whatever American products I am desperately missing. So we collected our luggage, lots of it at that, and made it to where the other ASM teachers were waiting for us. We filed out to a large Kelly Tours size tour bus and loaded up our belongings. I'm pretty sure Kate and I won the prize for the most stuff.

That same day we were shown to our apartments and found that they were brand new construction. Needless to say, I am thrilled. There are only six apartments in the building, and four of the apartments are occupied by ASM teachers. The other two are filled by the family that owns the building. They also operate a cafe/bar/restaurant on the first level of the building that just reopened this week. I have been waking up to the smell of freshly baked brioche the last two days.

The top floor of my building has three apartments, filled by Kate, Simon, and me. Kate will be teaching 1st grade and was last teaching in D.C. Simon is from Brisbane, Australia, but has been living in London the last year and was recently married to Tegan, who is moving here to be with Simon mid-September. Simon will be teaching Math in the Upper School. We are jokingly called "Melrose Place" or "Three's Company" and as soon as we have Internet we'll have to have a group screening of some old episodes! But, we got along "straightaway" as Simon says so it is all working out well.

Since moving in we have been to the mall, gotten basic Italian cell phones, gone to Ikea, and done some "business" type things here at the school. Our apartments are not air conditioned and it is hot here like it is in Savannah, so I've been sweating a lot! I bought two fans at the "mall" and we happened upon our landlord that day who was nice enough to loan us a screwdriver or two and even help us put them together. At Ikea, I bought a small desk, two bookcases, a coffee table, and a chair. I managed the chair by myself and Simon was able to put the coffee table together with this most uncooperative tiny screwdriver. I've yet to tackle the other pieces-- we've just been too busy!

Sunday evening, after our Ikea trip, we had dinner at a restaurant called Lo Chalet with the school administrators and the new and some veteran teachers. I ordered Pizza Gitana...ham, onions, cheese...it was excellent. And, of course, plenty of wine was served with dinner, both red and white, and I drank some of both. I will find a love for red wine while here. The red we had was cold and frizzante, as they say, meaning it had some carbonation/bubbles to it. It was pretty good. The night ended with small glasses of limoncello, poured by the upper school principal, of course! And, who paid the bill you might ask? The director of the school, of course! Nice! I do love this perk of working in Italy!

Yesterday we took our first trip into the actual city of Milan. It was beautiful, but HOT! And, I can not underscore the HOT enough! We went and saw the Duomo and wandered around to the Navigli, a canal, and had aperitivo at a restaurant called Maya. When you purchase one drink you can eat from the appetizer buffet, and there is tons of food, and it is delicious. And, it's even better when the school pays for your first drink. Yes, really. We took a cab ride home and the school paid for that too.

So today we made our first visit to the Prefettura of Milano, where you go to get your Permisso di Soggiorno, or your Permission to Stay in Italy. I hear it is the first of many visits. A lawyer meets you there and does all the talking and you sign your life away. I probably committed to give them my first child on one of those pages. Now we are waiting for lunch at the school. It is part of our benefit package and you can eat in the cafeteria as much or as little as you want. They serve pasta in a couple varieties every day, and I'm wondering when the day will come when I've had enough pasta and I'm craving...Mexican!!

Ciao! I'll add some pictures that you haven't seen tomorrow, hopefully!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trip to the Italian Consulate

So, this past week I headed to Miami, FL to make my personal appearance at the Italian Consulate. With my paperwork in hand, and good friend Sheila Woo in tow, we arrived at the Consulate. I had no idea what to expect. Inside, I was reminded of the DMV-- wait in line for your turn at the window. However, the Italian Consulate has proven much more efficient than the DMV. We were there less than 15 minutes, and sent on our way. The Visa process requires an application, paperwork from my employer in Italy called the Nulla Osta, my passport, and, of course, a fee!! The Consulate employee spoke at least three languages...English, Spanish, and, obviously, Italian, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear if he spoke others as well. All my paper work appeared in order and I should receive my passport and Visa materials in a few days. Funny enough, the man asked me if I was going with the other girl? I had no clue what he was talking about, but he continued and went to pull another application. The application was for someone else who was leaving for Milan on the same day, August 17th, and was also going to be working for the American School of Milan. It just happened that this girl, Emily, happened to have been in the Consulate office just a few minutes before we arrived. Coincidentally, this is the same girl who I tried to arrange to share an apartment with at the last minute. Sadly, Emily had headed back to NYC after her Consulate visit so I didn't get to meet her in person! Sheila and I used the rest of our time in Miami to explore the area, test out my new Nikon SLR camera, and hit South Beach. We had a great time! Thank you, Sheila, for traveling with me!!
So, this blog is still a work in progress. I'm not sure I'm set on using this website permanently, but we'll give it a go for now. You usually have to have a gmail login to access Blogger sites, but you don't have to create a new email address for that purpose. Just use one that you already have...I use my bellsouth account to login here.

In other news, my SCCPSS mail address no longer exists, so please use zimmer1977@bellsouth.net for all emails, as of now. My mailing address can also be changed to reflect my parent's home at 8 Moss Court, Savannah, GA 31410. I'll be moving there in about a week and they will continue to be my US mailing address.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Learning Italian- Lesson 1

So, my latest eBay purchase arrived today...Rosetta Stone Levels 1-5 Italiano. I decided it was probably best to jump right in and get started.

Lesson 1 included some basic vocabulary through picture recognition and they have you repeat things in your microphone...and, they definitely let you know when you're wrong, because you have to do it or say it until you get it right! It did seem really fast with all the vocabulary and conjugations for different pronouns, but I'm sure there's more exposure to come.

But, it was FUN!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And the packing and sorting begins...

So, since being offered a teaching position in Milan, Italy a week and a half ago, I have jumped into the packing and sorting process. Right now it's exciting and I know that by the time August rolls around I will no longer be interested in doing anything of the sort. I've already packed my one collectible, the Pen Delfin bunnies I've collected since I was eight, and sorted through the Stampin' Up stamps sets and began listing them on eBay. It's exciting that some of them already have bids and hopefully I can earn a little money to put towards having some fun in Milan!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Art Smart.

I know nothing about art. If you tell me a painting is famous, I'm likely to believe you because I have no knowledge whatsoever about art. But in the past two months, I've been lucky enough to see some of the most famous works of art still in existence. I thought I'd document it here...and perhaps do a little research about these paintings as I write.

In Florence, our art adventure began at the Accademia. As far as I can tell, the only real reason you go to the Accademia is to see David. It was a relatively small collection of other works, but David alone makes it worth the visit. David was moved to the Accademia in 1873 to protect it, as it was originally intended to be outdoors. A replica stands in its place now in the outdoor location. Along with the Pieta at the Vatican, it is this sculpture that gave Michelangelo the reputation as the "foremost sculptor" of his day. Along the corridor leading to David, are five other Michelangelo sculptures, including the four unfinished "Prisoners".

Information taken from http://www.visitflorence.com/florence-museums/accademia-gallery.html

Botticelli's Primavera
Botticelli's Birth of Venus





While in Florence we also visited the Uffizi Gallery. I was so thankful for Rick Steves' audio guide while in the Uffizi. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known what I was looking at or why it was important and it also took a large art museum and helped you focus on some of the "famous" paintings. I remember the Botticelli room best. These two paintings are of his most famous. Understanding a painting is like reading a complicated book- you have to look for the meaning of things below the surface, or in my case, read about it on Wikipedia. There are, of course, varying interpretations of these paintings, but, in general, it seems that "Primavera" is related to the fertility of the world, featuring the goddess of Spring, known as none other than Primavera.

As for the "Birth of Venus" most state that it was painted to inspire both physical and intellectual love. It was painted in 1486 and shows Venus emerging from the sea as a full-grown woman. Or, so says Wikipedia! Just looking at the pictures online does nothing for these works of art, but I remember sitting in the Botticelli room at Uffizi and thinking that, in person, there was something quite spectacular about them.

It took until my recent trip to Munich before I went to another art museum. Kate and I went to both the Neue Pinakothek and the Pinakothek Moderne. The modern art museum left a lot to be desired in my mind. As Kate said, "Don't just hang a light and expect me to believe it's art!" Seems like a theme in the modern art museum. There were many rooms that left me a little perplexed as to why it was deserving of so much space in a well regarded museum. But, to each his own, I suppose.

The good news was that the Neue Pinakothek was rather amazing. After three trips or so to the lockers to successfully put away all the materials not allowed in the gallery, we wandered through the rooms. I had zero idea of what art was in this collection, but found myself among some paintings that everyone has heard about before.


File:Nympheas 71293 3.jpg

One of Claude Monet's 25 "Waterlilies" paintings-- this one was painted in 1915.










File:Vincent Willem van Gogh 128.jpg

Van Gogh's Sunflower series...this one, painted in 1888, has the blue background, and was the 3rd in the series.

The first in the series has a turquoise background with less flowers and is part of a private collection. The second painting had a royal blue background, but was destroyed in a fire in Japan during World War II. The fourth painting has a yellow background and can be seen at the National Gallery in London.

Both the third and fourth versions were repeated by Van Gogh in different forms in later years and can be seen in other galleries.



Edgar Degas, "After the Bath", 1890












There were also works by Renoir, Cezanne, Signac, Manet, and so many others...

Most recently, the Melrose Place crew (Kate, Simon, Tegan and I) went to a church in Milan (Santa Maria delle Grazie) and spent 15 minutes in front of Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper". Only 20 or 25 people are allowed in every 15 minutes, so getting tickets must be done in advance. In fact, we bought our tickets for December 15th in the middle of September. Craziness! But, the experience was really nice. It is not too crowded, no one is pushing in front of you to take pictures and the painting is well lit.

This painting was commissioned by a man who hoped to convince the monks living there in the 1400's to allow him to be buried at this church. No luck for him, he apparently left Italy some years later. Over the years, though, the painting has been restored many times. Instead of using a traditional fresco style da Vinci painted on a dry wall, and unfortunately, it started deteriorating almost immediately. The most recent restoration removed layers of paint that had been added during the restorations. I'm not exactly sure how all of this is done in order to preserve the original work, but...

The biggest disappointment about the painting is the huge door that the monks cut in the painting back in the day when the building served as a stable. So, Jesus' feet are no more...while there is not a door, they've painted one in its place. Hmph.
Found this picture on a blog...looks like they found a way to take a picture!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's Been Awhile...


I seem to have fallen out of the routine of updating this blog lately and I'm determined to make my New Year's resolution include blogging more regularly! It has been a busy few weeks and perhaps that is the reason for my lack of posting, but I suspect that more to blame is the six season box set of NCIS that the Upper School principal has loaned me. I watch it all the time! Speaking of which...if you have seasons of TV shows that you'd be willing to loan me for a few months, let me know. I can get them while in the states and return them on my next trip home, or whatever. I'm especially looking for The Sopranos or Desperate Housewives...


  Anyways, moving on...Work is rolling along. As of now, we have six more work days before I can head back to the States for the holidays. I am so looking forward to setting foot on soil where I know the cultural expectations and can ask questions when I have them. I have a new found appreciation for those who don't speak the language of the country they live in. It is SO hard. My job at school changed a bit in recent weeks. I was hired as the Technology Integration Specialist and the idea is that over the next three years I work with the teachers to learn how they can integrate technology in their classrooms and help them learn some needed skills. At the beginning of the year, I would take the cart of laptops into the rooms and most of the time the teachers would leave, as this was a planning period for them. After discussing the timeline for this position with the principal, he decided to fast track my thoughts for next year; that the teachers have to stay in the room during technology and be involved in what's happening. Makes sense, right? Well, as many of you read this are teachers, you know the reaction to losing a planning period. So, while not everyone was thrilled about the loss of a planning period, most teachers are interested in learning the how-to's of some things and are eager to get involved. Now that this change has taken place, I think that long term it will make for a much better result for our teachers and students. I hope you'll check out my school website and go to the Showing Off Our Work page underneath Elementary Technology. I'm excited by many of the things we've done and I'd love for you to see it!

Grady
As for the non-work things, we've had a few breaks here and there that have allowed for lots of travel. After Florence at the beginning of November, I used the Thanksgiving break to travel to the UK and visit the Lynes family in Stone. It was great spending time with people who have known you more than three months and Christy and Keith have always been so good to me over the years. Grady has become such a little cutie and repeatedly said my name for the 24 hours I was at their house. Keith was probably ready to go crazy after a weekend alone with Grady doing that! Christy and I left Keith at home and headed to London. I loved London. I thought the city was amazing. Perhaps I was swayed by the idea that I could once again talk to everyone without worry of a language barrier. We did all the touristy things, plus a few extras. As a tennis fan, I was thrilled to get the chance to go to the Barclays ATP World Tennis Finals. Though we didn't luck out with a Nadal, Federer or Djokovic match, we had great seats and an exciting time. Saturday night we went to see Wizard of Oz, the musical. I have a certain passion for all things WofOz, so it was perfect. The acting was okay, but the set design was pretty spectacular. I'm always impressed with the mechanics of putting together large pieces of stage that move in and out of a small space in such strategic ways. And, of course, Christy and I made sure to see where the Royal Wedding took place and headed out to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels.

This past weekend was a five-day weekend for us due to some Italian holidays on Wednesday and Thursday. Kate, her mom, and I headed to Munich to check out the Christmas markets we'd heard so much about. While the train ride is a bit long, about 7 hours, it took us east to Verona, Italy and then headed north to Innsbruck, Austria. Along the way, I wrote down the stations we passed to map out the route we had taken. Shortly after leaving Verona, I was convinced we had to be in Austria because the architecture of all the houses became stereotypically German. But, alas, I was wrong, and for most of the trip we were in Northern Italy, which has a section that functions relatively like it is Germany, speaking German and not Italian.

This train ride took us through the Italian Alps and with a little help from above, snowed during our time on the train. It made the scenery something spectacular. If you close your eyes and imagine what you'd think the countryside of the Alps should look like in winter, this is exactly what we got. Evergreen trees and mountain tops covered in snow, with more of the white stuff floating through the air. Beautiful. This link is reminds me of what we saw as we traveled towards Innsbruck. I shot this video with my iPod, so the quality is probably terrible, but it'll give you an idea of a little bit of what we saw.

video

 Of course, once we got to Munich the pretty snow ended and we were stuck in the rain. Thankfully, Kate's mom's friend gave us a driving tour of Munich and I was lucky enough to have met Elizabeth in Boston at the job fair, who provided me with a place to stay. Elizabeth and I headed out that night to a German restaurant and I had the special of the evening...sauerbraten with kartoffenodel...or at least I think that is what it was called. But, here's a picture of it nonetheless.
Otherwise known as roasted pork and potato dumpling...as far as I can tell!
German palace
There were Christmas markets on every other corner it seemed, and plenty of shopping to be done as well. I decided that I was more interested in the shopping this time than the sightseeing! I have bought so many Christmas presents for my family from all these different countries! I am excited to share the gifts and stories with them! And, nicely enough, it snowed while we were in Munich. Just enough to dust the houses, grass, and cars and to make it really pretty. Elizabeth and I went out to the Schloss Nymphenburg during the snowy weather. But, I was tired of sightseeing in the wet snow and decided to take the opportunity to see Breaking Dawn, since I found a theater showing it in English. So exciting! I did, of course, miss getting to see it with my friend Tammy, since she and I saw the first two together.

Well, enough for now. Back to NCIS!

I'll be home late December 22nd. I hope to see as many people as possible while home-- the only rule is NO Italian food!

Lastly, if I'm on your Christmas card list and you're not sure where to mail the card this year you have two options. 1) Send it to me at my parents: 8 Moss Court, Savannah, GA 31410 or
2) Mail it here to Italy:
Carrie Zimmer
c/o American School of Milan
Via K. Marx, 14
Noverasco di Opera, 20090
Milano, Italia

The mail system here is slow, but I would love to get a few pieces of mail every so often! So mail me something, even if it's not a Christmas card. If you send it now, I'll get it by Valentine's! Just kidding...or not.

Wishing each and everyone of my faithful readers "Buon Natale!"













NCIS image: http://www.deadline.com/tag/cbs-ncis/
Christmas graphic: http://www.wishmerrychristmas.com/graphics/christmas_graphics_06.shtml
Wills & Kate image: http://www.people.com/people/package/0,,20395222,00.html


Friday, November 18, 2011

Slipping into the Fog


the fog in Milano
So, clearly the seasons have changed here. A few weeks ago the weather was bright and sunny and even warm midday. It was reminiscent of Savannah, where you layer up in the morning only to peel each one off as the day goes on. But now, here in Milan, the fog has rolled in something fierce. You wake up- to fog. You take the kids to the playground, at noon- in the fog. You leave work- in the fog. You look out your window as you write a blog post- and see only fog. Starts to make you feel a little "foggy" yourself at times, or maybe that's the dizzying days at work?!?


This week was a crazy one at work. First, it was Parent Teacher Conference day, which at May Howard, meant a really nice work day for those of us 'special' teachers. Here, though, it means something quite different. I met with 44 parents, 42 of which each had 10 minute appointments and two which decided they also should be squeezed in. It was my own personal Groundhog's Day. I found myself saying the same things over and over again, because since I have worked with their children maybe 10 times for our 38 minute class. I think it's good that I know their names, when they are in their classroom. (Here, you can call most of them Lorenzo or Luca or Leonardo and get away with it!) Anyways, while it was a repetitive nightmare, the parents were friendly and generally just wanted to say hello. Thankfully, it's a long time before the next go round of conferences.

Firenze
Since my last post I had the chance to visit Firenze, otherwise known as Florence. What an amazing city! Whenever someone mentioned travels in Italy, I always heard how they loved Florence. I'm not quite sure what it is about it either. Even in the off-season it was crowded and full of people. Restaurants were difficult to get into and the lines were long for many tourist favorites. But, the energy in the city was fantastic. It was different from Milan. Here, even though there is plenty of English speakers, it's not geared for quite the tourist scene Florence is prepared for. In Florence, there were tourists to your left and right, in front of you and behind. It was difficult to tell who actually lived in Florence. The stalls of leather goods, scarves and clothing were everywhere. While I resisted a major "bag" purchase, I did find some gifts to bring home at the holidays. So, when you come to visit me in Milan, if you haven't been to Florence, put it on your list!

Next week is Thanksgiving...how is that possible? (Today is exactly three months since arriving in Italy!) Thanksgiving is not a holiday here, but because I work for an American school, we are off Thursday and Friday. I'm flying out to Manchester, UK to see Christy and then we are taking the train to London on Friday. Thanks to my sister we got a really great hotel deal and I splurged and bought tickets to the ATP World Tennis Finals for Friday night. The sports lover in me could not resist such an opportunity- top 8 men's players in the world...we'll get to see one singles match and I'm crossing my fingers for Djokovic/Murray...but I've promised myself not to be disappointed if it's not that match! We are also going to see the Wizard of Oz and hopefully find some time to do a little sightseeing and shopping!

I'm including a link here to some of my pictures if you do not get to see them via Facebook. Also, the American School of Milan is celebrating 50 years of education in Milan in 2012 so they are gearing up for a big celebration. If you'd like to see where I work everyday and get a glimpse of the campus, children, and staff you can go to our webpage and look for the video linked on the page. Finally, based on a request, I am working on a blog post entitled "Man or Myth...the Men of Italy". I've been collecting some pics so that I can accurately portray my thoughts on this subject. Buona serata!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Colors of Europe

So, let's see...Fall has definitely arrived here in Italy. We've been having days of cool early mornings and warm afternoons, and really the weather has simply been fantastic. It is a challenge, however, to dress for such weather when you ride your bike in the morning and the wind and cool air is chapping your cheeks and then the sun is beating down on you as you ride home in the afternoon. I am always cold. Or hot. Haven't mastered the 'just right' yet.

One other important news of note from today...Italy issued my "Permisso di Soggiorno" today, which, I guess, means they have decided to let me stay. It translates to "Permission to Stay" and overrides any visas, so even when my visa expires, I'm still good to go. Of course, the school doesn't trust their teachers enough to let you hold such an important document...nope. But, they paid for it, so, okay.

Anyways, onto the blog I've been considering for the past week. Within the first 30 minutes of being on the train leaving Milano Centrale, I knew what I had to write about. And, no, Alison Glover, it wasn't a post on whether Italian men are hot or not. Maybe someday. Soon.

So, or I should say "allora", which means "so" or "then" in Italian. Allora, we were leaving Centrale on our way to France and it was early enough that the sun was just coming up over the horizon. Even through the dirty windows of the train the colors of the sunrise were unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like it. Ever. Or at least in my memory. There were shades of plum and magenta woven through the blue sky, and as another ten minutes passed, and the sun rose higher, tangerine and lemon were added to the mix. It was really something.

We knew the train ride had plenty of potential by this point. A good bit later, we cruised through Genoa and were off to Ventimiglia. This is the last stop along the sea in Italy, and we headed onto French trains from here. The good news- that a train trip along the south of France is something to behold. I am confident that Crayola sends their color people to this part of the world to develop the next box of 64 colors. The Mediterranean Sea was a variety of colors, but cerulean, turquoise, and midnight blue all come to mind. And, yes, I referred to Wikipedia's list of Crayola's colors to find the words for the colors in my head. At some points, the turquoise waters had a sense of opacity to it, with this milky white sheen all around, which was very cool.

And while you're looking at the sea on one side, to the other side is the deepest burnt orange and sienna colored mountains around. The grass seems greener too. But, perhaps, by this point, I was just on a color high.

The train trip took Kate and I through Cannes, Montecarlo, Nice, and all those other major riviera highlights.  For the most part though, I only saw the train station of those locations. We'd be gawking at the view ahead of us out the train window and try to guess what city we were coming upon, and then suddenly, we'd be in the blackest black of a mountain tunnel. And, the beautiful sight of the sea would be hidden and the gray of the train station would be the most exciting scenery around.

Saint Raphael, France was a beautiful location. Perhaps next time, the weather will be a bit more appropriate for beach going, but that didn't stop most people from busting out their Speedos in the cool October temperatures. We enjoyed plenty of Rose' wine from the Provence region of France, ate lots of cheese (and discovered one that I love) and baguettes, and took in the sites. It was a nice weekend getaway. I even bought some French goods to bring home at the holidays. And, then, of course, it was back to work on Tuesday.
Truffle Festival


Tomorrow, the school is providing a bus to a winery for a wine tasting and to a town called Alba, for the annual Truffle Festival. Should be a fun day!

So, when are you planning your trip to visit me?!?!?! : ) I have a bottle of French wine waiting.

Crayola picture from http://omgfacts.net/?p=886
Truffle festival picture from http://vintageholidays.co.uk/white-truffle-festival-italy-la-sagra-del-tartufo-bianco/












Thursday, October 6, 2011

SSDD

One of my favorite sayings has always been the "SSDD" (same S%*$, different day) line because so much of life becomes rote and monotonous, and every day has the same basic elements. The same is true no matter where in the world you live. Even in Italy. Living here, a few things have changed: how I get to and from places, the people I spend most of my time with, the experiences I am afforded here, the process that is laundry without a dryer. But, all in all, things are still predominantly the same. You get up each day, of course, having preferred to stay in bed all day long, go to work, come home, cook dinner, go to bed, and get up the next day and do it all again. I find myself getting out of bed wishing every day was Saturday!!

Even the kids and families are basically the same. I supervised on the playground and mediated a discussion where one little girl searched for the word in English to tell me the other little girl always had to be the boss. I have started tutoring after school now too. I met with the father last week and he was telling me about the divorce of the parents and how the girl goes from his house to her mom's and how hard that is on everyone. The issues and challenges all resonate the same.

Saint Raphael, France in the Riviera
But, of course, living in a new country does allow for some very evident differences. For example, this weekend, we have a three day weekend. Wahoo! It is our first long weekend of the year. Kate and I are headed out to Saint Raphael, France to visit the home of her boyfriend's family. It's a long train ride, but it is a free place to stay, so, of course, when someone asks you if you want to go to the French Riviera for a weekend, you say YES! And, this is what makes this country so great.

Before moving to Italy, I thought that Milan was the ideal location to travel Europe and that three years was more than enough time to see what this continent had to offer. I have come to realize that three years might not be enough to explore the country of Italy. There are so many small towns that are historic, picturesque, and worth taking a trip to, I'm not sure how you decide which ones you must get to!

Aperitivo at Le Biciclette
Another very fun difference, is the idea of aperitivo. I think Milan is the capital of this idea, as well! At most bars, cafes, etc. in the early evening hours, they offer a bevy of snacks and buffet items free with the purchase of a drink. This past weekend, a girl I met in Boston at the Cambridge Search Associates job fair, Elizabeth, came to visit from Munich, where she is a counselor at the Bavarian International School. We took her and her group of friends to Le Biciclette, a cute little bar in Milano that we discovered through the Lonely Planet travel guides. They offer a nice aperitivo and I was thrilled that everyone was happy with our choice! I have another Cambridge friend coming soon and hopefully we can find some more fun aperitivos to try out!

cappuccino con cioccolato
the coffee machine
One other difference to make note of here is the coffee. Thanks to my good friend, Becky Nease, I started drinking coffee a few years ago. Well, maybe I should rephrase that...I started drinking Starbucks vanilla lattes a few years ago. Only recently have I started exploring drinking regular coffee mixed with an assortment of milk and sugar. It's a good thing, too, since the Italian expectation is to have a coffee to top off every meal. The strange looks are a regular thing when you decline the end of meal beverage. Even here at school, coffee is available all day, every day. For only .35€. If you took your Starbucks beverage and asked for the amount you'd get for that price, you'd probably end up with the same size we do here. But, I have discovered the cappuccino con cioccolato (with maximum sugar, mind you) is pretty tasty! And it only takes a little to get you going when you are drinking Italian coffees!

So, while you sit at home, trying to live your life vicariously through me, just remember, I still get up and go to work every day and go through the "daily grind". The scenery is just a little different.
the view on the way to work 10/6/11...the sun
just starting to come up over the horizon amidst a ribbon of fog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An Italian vocabulary lesson...

While we wait anxiously for the promised Italian lessons of our contract, we've been learning a few vocabulary words of our own around here, and, now, you at home can learn a new language right in your living room. So, here goes...

vino bianco frizzante...sparkling white wine! I'm pretty sure that I'll be a wine snob when I come home. The cheap stuff around here is so good. No need for wine lists or types of wines, you just order a liter of the house wine and you're good to go!

un biglietto (bil-lee-yet-toe)...ticket! Do you like my use of phonetic pronunciations? Bus tickets seem to be a little tricky around here. I am constantly worried that the bus/train inspectors will declare that I have the wrong ticket for where ever I am. It is a fine on the spot of €25-35 or they remove you immediately from the bus to who knows where. I try and keep plenty of cash on hand. Yesterday on the train from Bergamo to Milano a nice, middle aged lady did something wrong and had to hand over a wad of Euros to escape the certain punishment from intimidating train inspectors. I don't think the dumb American card will work too often.

il bagno...bathroom. You guessed it! The restrooms in Europe are worth discussing. No, not really. What's worth discussing is that if you imagine the worst gas station restroom you've ever seen in your entire life living in the US, it is nothing to compare to the handful of restrooms I've seen in just a few short weeks of living in Italy. I must wonder, with all the wine they drink here, how do they use these restrooms? Seriously, women's restrooms with windows where everyone can see in (the Questura...where you go to get permission to stay in Italy...perhaps they don't want you to stay) and restrooms that are only holes in the floor (now, I hear this is relatively common on this continent and it would be okay if perhaps these restrooms were even occasionally cleaned...this, too, you can find at the Questura and at the Bergamo train station. Here I decided I'd rather wait another 45 minutes to get to Milano to pay €1 to use the restroom at Centrale. It was so worth it.) I wonder, where are all the public bathrooms in Italy? I am pretty sure that any disgusting truck stop restroom will far exceed my expectations from now on.

A dance studio showing off their routines at Notte Bianca.
Notte Bianca...White Night...A celebration dreamed up by the city of Opera to celebrate the end of summer. Originally slated for last Saturday, a weather debacle caused a second go at the festival to happen this weekend. It was a dollar store bonanza- booths of junk everywhere! Plenty of games and what not for the kiddos and DJ music and karaoke for the adults-- club music, fist pumping music, American music- YMCA, macarena, and every other bad wedding reception song you could dream of-- right outside my window. Bless them...it went on past midnight...I think my brain was thumping all night long with the beat.

miei amici...my friends...I've always been blessed with amazing people around me and continue to feel the same about so many new people in my life. It's funny because as I meet and get to know each new person I find that they remind me in little ways of someone else. I've always been a big believer in knowing that everything happens for a reason, and so far, this journey has proven no different.

I've been uploading my pictures to Facebook, but for those still refusing to jump on the bandwagon (and lately I've thought about mutiny) I added my photos to a Flickr account. Here's the link:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/carriezimmer/  Hopefully, you can access them there. And, since FB is kind of sh*%$ty these days, maybe you should join Google + (you'd be ahead of the game then!)

Buona notte...Good night! How does such a short weekend seem so exhausting! Back to the grind tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Living on the opposite side of the world...

I've been here almost a month now. There are days when it seems like that is almost impossible and there are days when it feels like it has been much longer. It actually humors me in a way. But, I look ahead to this time next year and think about how much I will have learned by then...and, it makes me happy!

It is odd having lived my entire life in the US to suddenly be cut off from almost everything cultural I've come to know. Entertainment websites from the US are blocked here and you must use odd and sometimes crazy looking sites to watch the shows you are familiar with. The USOpen streamed live in the US, but I had to use sites that were streaming it in undeterminable languages to see any of it here. When the anniversary of 9/11 rolled around this past weekend, it would've gone unnoticed if I hadn't been on Facebook. (Granted I don't watch any Italian news or see any of the papers to know if it received coverage here.) Trying to find a happy medium between having it all at your fingertips and being totally in the dark...

My shipment finally came this past Saturday. I delighted in the idea that I could wash my sheets, hang my clothes, and have some of my long lost belongings. Everything seemed to arrive safely, even if not in the best of condition. Note to self...even if the shippers insist they must pack things, make them pack a little better. It was really chaos trying to check to make sure everything had arrived in the end. I was so happy to have my things! But, what I didn't expect to arrive with my shipment was my first feelings of homesickness since I got here. Having my things added a sense of reality to this little adventure I am on and made me sad for some of the things I had to leave behind. Oh, the Ruby dog...

But, it's not in my nature to wallow in anything for too long, so Sunday Kate and I took off for the "city" to explore the castle and surrounding park. We had a great day people watching and finding parts of the city that we could indeed find beautiful. Much of Milan is covered in graffiti and it is distracting from all of the amazing architecture, but lo and behold, just turn a corner here or there and suddenly there is a spectacular sight in front of you.

So, on to some of my observations about Italians and the culture here that I have noted...

1. The fashion here is not what I expected. In the city, I expected to see the women "done" all the time. This has not been my experience. Some are dressed up, some are dressed down; it seems about the same as what you may find in the US, even if the trends are slightly different or more fashion forward. The men here love their bags, satchels, or, even, a fanny pack. Everyone seems to own one and carry it proudly.
2. Italians are not concerned with moving politely out of anyone's way. It's kind of like always playing chicken, whether you're in the car, on a bike, or just walking down the sidewalk. Don't expect anyone to move over for you. Or offer any sort of apology or sign of acknowledgement that you even happened to be there.
3. The wine here is amazing. I've never been a red wine fan, but told myself that while I am here I will learn to like it. Since they have this nice "frizzante" red wine, how can you resist! On the wine note, my roommates and I have discovered this nice little wine shop around the corner. Bring your own bottle and they fill it for €2.20 out of this little keg set up thing they have. Kate was even given a frequent shopper card...buy so much and get some wine for free. Now, somehow I did not qualify for this deal. I will have to rectify that situation soon.

Buona sera!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Waiting...

So, I've been in Italy for almost three weeks now. Some days it is hard to believe it has been that long and other days it feels like it has been much longer. And, even though I packed and shipped 700 lbs of my belongings on June 18th, I am still waiting for my stash of prized belongings. The Italian government is basically holding all our things hostage until paperwork upon paperwork is put in order. So, as it happens, the most commonly said phrase these days is, "I have it, BUT it's in my shipment!" If only I had a €1 every time I heard that statement.

In other waiting games, this past weekend eight of us took off to discover Colico, Italy, a small town on the north shore of Lake Como. Similar in style to Bellagio, where we visited the first weekend here, but quieter and less busy with tourists. To get to Lake Como, we took a bus from the town we live in, Opera, to the tram station. The tram took us into Milan, where we took the subway to the train station. At the train station we navigated buying train tickets and successfully boarded to make our way north.

The town was quaint, but lively. Surrounded by Alps, and nestled in the curves of the lake, it is quite picturesque. There was a small beach, and it was evident that this is a local spot used for many kite boarders and wind surfers on a regular basis. Of course, you can always count on the overexposing men's hot short bathing suits to leave little to the imagination! And, yes, they sell these suits in white too, though I haven't figured out why! The waiting came when we discovered we had misread the train station departure board and waited an extra hour for the next train back to Milano Centrale. Oh well, staring at the Alps and watching the cute little Italian lady bring her dry laundry in the window make up the difference.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let's Talk Lunch.

No, seriously. Let's talk lunch. I have worked in US public schools for the past twelve years and never once eaten a single school lunch. Have you looked at what your kids are eating? And, not just on Thanksgiving when there is slightly more effort made to make it look like it didn't all come from a can. So, today I was awestruck when once again the school lunch served at ASM was beyond amazing. We've been eating in the school cafeteria since the day we arrived in Italy, and, at least at ASM, it's just what you do. The food is real stuff, not just slopped out of a can and into a chafing dish. There is pasta every day. (This is Italy- did you expect anything less?) There's also salad options, meat options, vegetarian options, fruit options...I could go on. It really has been something impressive. But, today was different. Today they rolled out a buffet lunch for the staff. It started with Prosecco and other assorted wines. In the school building. With the administration. Where am I again? Oh, that's right...Italia...the land of wine. And on to the food. Caprese salad, sauteed eggplant, zucchini, peppers, cantaloupe, thinly sliced tenderloin, prosciutto, stuffed squash blossoms, stuffed shells, seafood linguini (the seafood being giant prawns and lobster like things) and so many other things I've probably forgotten a few. Are you drooling yet? Then, of course, you must have room for dessert, yes? Homemade in the cafeteria by the little Italian ladies? Tiramisu, chocolate tortes, cherry tortes, and fruit-- but who eats fruit when you have those other options? Anyhow, now that I've had an apple for dinner (mangio una mela verde) I will let you salivate...Kate took a picture of her plate. When she uploads it, I'll add it here. Until then, imagine me doing that little Italian gesture where you put your fingers together by your mouth and move them away and say something like, "Delicioso!"

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ciao Italia!

So, I've arrived in Italy. It has not quite been a full week yet, but I think we've been busy enough for an entire year. The flight to Milan was rather uneventful. I had to rush to board after my Savannah connection's time was cut so close. Once on the flight, I got to meet Kate, another new ASM teacher. We were both sandwiched between multiple Italian men, and, no, they were not the ones you'd want to fall in love with, so all of you can stop that thought already. Kate and I arrived at one of the two Milanese airports, Malpensa, and made our way through the immigration section, which only involved waiting in line and getting a stamp in my passport. They had no forms, no questions, nothing, which was nice. Next time, I'll fill my suitcase with whatever American products I am desperately missing. So we collected our luggage, lots of it at that, and made it to where the other ASM teachers were waiting for us. We filed out to a large Kelly Tours size tour bus and loaded up our belongings. I'm pretty sure Kate and I won the prize for the most stuff.

That same day we were shown to our apartments and found that they were brand new construction. Needless to say, I am thrilled. There are only six apartments in the building, and four of the apartments are occupied by ASM teachers. The other two are filled by the family that owns the building. They also operate a cafe/bar/restaurant on the first level of the building that just reopened this week. I have been waking up to the smell of freshly baked brioche the last two days.

The top floor of my building has three apartments, filled by Kate, Simon, and me. Kate will be teaching 1st grade and was last teaching in D.C. Simon is from Brisbane, Australia, but has been living in London the last year and was recently married to Tegan, who is moving here to be with Simon mid-September. Simon will be teaching Math in the Upper School. We are jokingly called "Melrose Place" or "Three's Company" and as soon as we have Internet we'll have to have a group screening of some old episodes! But, we got along "straightaway" as Simon says so it is all working out well.

Since moving in we have been to the mall, gotten basic Italian cell phones, gone to Ikea, and done some "business" type things here at the school. Our apartments are not air conditioned and it is hot here like it is in Savannah, so I've been sweating a lot! I bought two fans at the "mall" and we happened upon our landlord that day who was nice enough to loan us a screwdriver or two and even help us put them together. At Ikea, I bought a small desk, two bookcases, a coffee table, and a chair. I managed the chair by myself and Simon was able to put the coffee table together with this most uncooperative tiny screwdriver. I've yet to tackle the other pieces-- we've just been too busy!

Sunday evening, after our Ikea trip, we had dinner at a restaurant called Lo Chalet with the school administrators and the new and some veteran teachers. I ordered Pizza Gitana...ham, onions, cheese...it was excellent. And, of course, plenty of wine was served with dinner, both red and white, and I drank some of both. I will find a love for red wine while here. The red we had was cold and frizzante, as they say, meaning it had some carbonation/bubbles to it. It was pretty good. The night ended with small glasses of limoncello, poured by the upper school principal, of course! And, who paid the bill you might ask? The director of the school, of course! Nice! I do love this perk of working in Italy!

Yesterday we took our first trip into the actual city of Milan. It was beautiful, but HOT! And, I can not underscore the HOT enough! We went and saw the Duomo and wandered around to the Navigli, a canal, and had aperitivo at a restaurant called Maya. When you purchase one drink you can eat from the appetizer buffet, and there is tons of food, and it is delicious. And, it's even better when the school pays for your first drink. Yes, really. We took a cab ride home and the school paid for that too.

So today we made our first visit to the Prefettura of Milano, where you go to get your Permisso di Soggiorno, or your Permission to Stay in Italy. I hear it is the first of many visits. A lawyer meets you there and does all the talking and you sign your life away. I probably committed to give them my first child on one of those pages. Now we are waiting for lunch at the school. It is part of our benefit package and you can eat in the cafeteria as much or as little as you want. They serve pasta in a couple varieties every day, and I'm wondering when the day will come when I've had enough pasta and I'm craving...Mexican!!

Ciao! I'll add some pictures that you haven't seen tomorrow, hopefully!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trip to the Italian Consulate

So, this past week I headed to Miami, FL to make my personal appearance at the Italian Consulate. With my paperwork in hand, and good friend Sheila Woo in tow, we arrived at the Consulate. I had no idea what to expect. Inside, I was reminded of the DMV-- wait in line for your turn at the window. However, the Italian Consulate has proven much more efficient than the DMV. We were there less than 15 minutes, and sent on our way. The Visa process requires an application, paperwork from my employer in Italy called the Nulla Osta, my passport, and, of course, a fee!! The Consulate employee spoke at least three languages...English, Spanish, and, obviously, Italian, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear if he spoke others as well. All my paper work appeared in order and I should receive my passport and Visa materials in a few days. Funny enough, the man asked me if I was going with the other girl? I had no clue what he was talking about, but he continued and went to pull another application. The application was for someone else who was leaving for Milan on the same day, August 17th, and was also going to be working for the American School of Milan. It just happened that this girl, Emily, happened to have been in the Consulate office just a few minutes before we arrived. Coincidentally, this is the same girl who I tried to arrange to share an apartment with at the last minute. Sadly, Emily had headed back to NYC after her Consulate visit so I didn't get to meet her in person! Sheila and I used the rest of our time in Miami to explore the area, test out my new Nikon SLR camera, and hit South Beach. We had a great time! Thank you, Sheila, for traveling with me!!
So, this blog is still a work in progress. I'm not sure I'm set on using this website permanently, but we'll give it a go for now. You usually have to have a gmail login to access Blogger sites, but you don't have to create a new email address for that purpose. Just use one that you already have...I use my bellsouth account to login here.

In other news, my SCCPSS mail address no longer exists, so please use zimmer1977@bellsouth.net for all emails, as of now. My mailing address can also be changed to reflect my parent's home at 8 Moss Court, Savannah, GA 31410. I'll be moving there in about a week and they will continue to be my US mailing address.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Learning Italian- Lesson 1

So, my latest eBay purchase arrived today...Rosetta Stone Levels 1-5 Italiano. I decided it was probably best to jump right in and get started.

Lesson 1 included some basic vocabulary through picture recognition and they have you repeat things in your microphone...and, they definitely let you know when you're wrong, because you have to do it or say it until you get it right! It did seem really fast with all the vocabulary and conjugations for different pronouns, but I'm sure there's more exposure to come.

But, it was FUN!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

And the packing and sorting begins...

So, since being offered a teaching position in Milan, Italy a week and a half ago, I have jumped into the packing and sorting process. Right now it's exciting and I know that by the time August rolls around I will no longer be interested in doing anything of the sort. I've already packed my one collectible, the Pen Delfin bunnies I've collected since I was eight, and sorted through the Stampin' Up stamps sets and began listing them on eBay. It's exciting that some of them already have bids and hopefully I can earn a little money to put towards having some fun in Milan!