19 Mar My first Italian winter: Snow storms & motor shows
I accept that it has been an inexcusably long time since my last update. The ‘problem’, in inverted commas, is that after being here for eight months (that long?!), I’ve got into a little routine and am no longer running into too many awkward yet amusing foreigner situations.
Life is still fun though, and periods of boring lesson planning are thankfully still punctuated with aperitivi, coffee catch-ups and delicious dinners.
To avoid telling you hundreds of dull stories about students’ marginally amusing mispronunciations, I’m just going to skim over tales of teaching and give you a flying review (as condensed as possible) of the last, ahem, two months, and solemnly promise to try to be more on the blogging ball from now on.
Teaching is going, on the whole, well. Most of my students are lovely, and there is a sheet in the register allowing me to count down the number of hours remaining for the ones who aren’t.
Being paid to be English is a nice arrangement, and I do have quite a lot of fun making up silly activities to do with the various people I teach. Everyone else who works in the school continues to be totally lovely, and thanks to the number of other teachers, it’s frequently somebody’s birthday, which means large quantities of celebratory food in the staff room.
Italian bureaucracy has continued to rompere my palle so I’ve essentially given up and resigned myself to the fact that I will never be the proud owner of a tessera sanitaria. I seem to be able to get paid anyway, so for the time being I’m adopting the Southern European mañana approach and telling myself that I’ll worry about it all another time.
As has become the norm, I have absolutely no money, but am trying my hardest not to care. At last count, there were fourteen measly pounds and ninety five pitiful pence lurking within my bank account, which made me a little bit unhappy. And then my friend Fiona came to visit and I spent February’s last not-quite-fifteen euros on delicious cocktails and pasta, which didn’t solve my financial crisis but did cheer me up (just as beneficial, I think you’ll all agree). Now I’ve just decided to do the grown up thing and not check my bank balance any more. Ignorance is bliss, and I’m feeling much better about my finances as a result. And anyway, The Greek is exceptionally good at not handing over the receipt for a drink at the bar, meaning that we often get several drinks for the modest sum of seven Euros, which isn’t bad at all.
I’ve been snowboarding a couple of times now (thanks, strategically located city!), and am now significantly less rubbish than I was to begin with.
Our second trip of the year, to Bardonecchia, was probably the single most painful day of my entire life, and as I smashed my head against the sheet ice for the hundred and ninetieth time, I was very grateful for the €20 helmet I’d splashed out on a few weeks before. I’ve never seen quite so much ice in one place before, spent the entire day feeling absolutely terrified, and my black and blue bum did not thank me the next day.
Our most recent expedition, however, would have made David Attenborough himself proud. We read a report saying there was a lot of snow in the mountains, so we spontaneously hopped in the car and headed for Sestriere. What we found when we got there was a whole lot of snow and the worst visibility on Earth.
We blindly navigated the mountains and escaped with our lives, but it turned out to be one of the most fun days of winter sport I’ve ever had. Thanks to the metres of fresh snow, falling over didn’t hurt at all (which made a change…); we had a good explore of the whole resort (albeit not being able to see our way); and were actually pretty good by the end of the day.
Oh, and I learnt to put snow chains on a car, making me feel like a DIY goddess.
We’ve been to a couple of Greek Aperitivi of late too, which are quickly becoming some of my favourite evenings out. A couple of the lovely Greek girls occasionally organize a Greek-themed night at a trendy local bar, involving the usual Italian arrangement of free food when you buy a drink, but with the added bonus of said food including copious quantities of feta, oregano and tzatziki.
The bar is always full of the entire Greek community of Turin (and a few wannabes – hello!), and of course they stick on some nice, loud Greek music. The company is always great, and I’m having more fun every time as I’m getting to know the Greek girls better. In the past, we’ve always had to leave early for some reason, but at the last event The Greek and I stayed for the dancing, the ouzo, the vodka pouring, and the delicious dessert which arrived on a tray in the middle of the improvised dancefloor and disappeared in a millisecond underneath a pile of eager hands.
My only complaint is that there wasn’t a smashed plate in sight. Maybe next time.
The weather has been confusing, to say the least. One day it will chuck it down with snow, coating the entire city, and the next there will be brilliant sunshine which melts it all, followed by a hail storm with stones the size of your fist, followed by a day so hot and sunny that my housemate sunburns her face, and The Greek and I go on a motorbike ride and for coffee outside in short sleeves and then have a barbecue, and a week later we’re half a foot deep in snow once more. If the world doesn’t end soon, I’ll be surprised.
Finally, this weekend, I went to Geneva with The Greek, his work pal James, James’ wife Silvia, and two of their pals. We went because of the motor show there, to see the car that The Greek and James had designed, but deep down I was hoping it would be little more than a fondue pilgrimage and an excuse to wander around a little bit of Switzerland.
We spent many, many, many hours walking around the car show, which was absolutely fine to start with, but about an hour in I will admit that I slightly started to lose the will to live. It was nice to see the finished car, and the company was fun, but I was admittedly glad when we all decided to go back to the hotel to have a pre-fondue nap.
The next day, we’d hoped to have a little wander around the city, but the rain put us off and soon enough we were heading back to the apocalyptically snowy Turin instead.
Luckily, a huge pot of melted cheese did make the whole weekend worth it, and I’ll just have to try to go back and actually see Geneva another time.