Sunday, February 29, 2004

The Duccio Exhibit (by Sarah)

SIENA (#38)

Today, we went to the current big show in Siena – Duccio’s works. We met my dad’s past professor, Professor Cornice, at the exhibit. He offered to take us along with a specific group of his friends. We stood in line for a while and went through security and we were finally ready to start learning.

Of course, as we followed Professor Cornice through the exhibit, he explained everything in Italian. Alex and I followed along for a bit and then we had no idea what was going on. We were left to read the text on the walls (that was in both English and Italian) while the group was lead by Cornice. It really was not that bad reading the English, Alex and I talked about everything we saw and discussed a little about the paintings and put together what we both knew. I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as intellectual as Cornice’s explanation, but it was a start.

Crucifixion from the Maesta' di Duccio
My dad was listening very closely and picked up most of the main points. We were able to go home, eat lunch, and then come back to the exhibit, and use our same tickets to get in. This time, we had my dad explain everything to us, and got a lot out of it.

During this time period, artists were mostly painting religious scenes. We saw how the crucifixion scene really developed over time. (See story on the Crucifix museum in Pisa).  Duccio was one of the many artists who painted the feelings, for example the hopelessness and sadness of the people watching him be crucified. We also saw many paintings of the saints.

San Francesco was one of the popular figures. The story behind him was that he was very rich, and decided to give away all of his belongings to the less fortunate. He wanted to have his own religious group separate from the church. He went to the pope and asked if he could have his own group, but each time, the pope turned him down. Then, one night, the pope had a dream about San Francesco. The church was crumbling, and San Francesco was beneath it, holding it up.  The next day, when San Francesco came to ask if he could have his own followers, the pope said yes. Now, for an explanation of the actual painting. The way that San Francesco was painted was of him in sort of rags, symbolizing him having nothing. It was actually painted very elegantly, which is ironic because elegance and wealth was everything that San Francesco was against. So, the catch was that through time, San Francesco became part of the church. He was incorporated by artists as “just another saint”.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The Servi (by Sarah)

SIENA (#24)

Today, we went on our first historical adventure! We started with a church called Santa Maria dei Servi. It is one of the older churches in Siena, dating to around 1261. The church was close to Porta Roma, which is like halfway across town, but it still only took us 20 minutes or so to get there walking from our house. The church was empty: no one else was there most likely because most tourists were drawn to the more popular attractions such as the Duomo, the Piazza del Campo or the Duccio exhibition which we'll visit and write about later.

At Servi we had a little lesson taught by my dad. He explained about how Servi was designed from the Roman’s idea about a church, but it was sort of flipped around so that the door was at a different wall and the altar was at a different place. In the Servi, there were 3 naves, and the cross part is called the transept.

But the highlight of the church was a painting of Mary and baby Jesus by Coppo di Marcovaldo. There had obviously been thousands of the same painting done, but this painting was different in one very big way. It was the first painting to be signed by the artist. I was able to apply this to what I had learned in school about the Renaissance. Secularism, individualism, and humanism were the three main aspects that characterized the Renaissance. In my eyes, this particular painting related directly to individualism; or the celebration of the individual. Coppo signed his work, and therefore wanted to be recognized as an individual. He started a whole trend, and he was looked upon as people nowadays look at rock stars.

Now, back to history, Coppo di Marcovaldo was a Florentine. Florence and Siena have always been rivals. There was a very bloody battle called Monteperti between the rival cities where Coppo was on the battlefield. The Sienese recognized him immediately because of his fame and captured him. His term of release was to paint his famous painting of Mary and Jesus. This was the painting at Servi that we saw.

Really interesting stuff.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Reaching Out (by Doreen)

SIENA, February 25th

Gaining phone and internet contact has taken a few extra steps, but...

You know, it really is a different feeling to “be connected.” When I went to Israel by myself in 1980, my parents had little way of reaching me, and it was too expensive for me to “reach out and touch” them. I think I called twice in the 3 months I was away and wrote about weekly.

In the 21st Century, though, things are different. We arrived on the 5th of Feb (Thursday), had a car waiting for us, and by the next day had a telephone card so we could us a payphone to call home etc. We, by Saturday, had a cell phone and checked in with our parents. We had made one brief webmail visit at the Ducci’s. By the following Wednesday, day7, we had a phone in the house. On day 111, also known as later Valentine’s Day, we received a call from Nick Sarah’s Lexington beau who stayed up until 2:40 am so he wouldn’t call too early (8:40 am). Internet was not available until Day 17 and without the rented modem available for another 10 days or so. As the kids are in school and Steve really wanted to work on the website, he was motivated to get us connected. He investigated different modem choices and gave in to buying one for 49 Euros. It doesn’t work exactly the way he had planned, but….

Without the internet, we had no responsibilities, sort of. It was great that the kids couldn’t be “online” with their home friends, but we also had little ability to pay bills (including my malpractice insurance, the rent, and VISA). I was a bit anxious to be in contact with Orna who is caring for Annie (oh, yeah, and our house).

Now, we are connected. Sarah was online last evening for about an hour with her Lexington friends. She has agreed to only be “online” once a week but can e-mail daily. Alex spent about 15 minutes answering e-mail. Ok, I spent about an hour between my hotmail, webmail and work accounts. Steve has been good, too.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

02138: The World's Most Opinionated ZIP Code (by Shari)

CAMBRIDGE, February 20th

Oggi Davin Paley, mio figlio, ha incominciato ad organizzare i suoi compagni di scuola in una protesta control l'aministrazione.  Oggi, Davin va a uno tavolo con amici del aula altro.  Il suo Principal Tim dice: ogni aula a suo propio tavolo.  Davin vorebbe stare con lei amici.  Davin capisca che cos'e che Principal Tim dice. Davin finisco suo pasto in ufficio di Principal Tim.  Davin scribe con amici gli segni che dicono, "Freedom of Seats."  Sta con suo t-shirt nero che dice, "Cambridge 02138: the world's most opinionated zipcode."  Oggi, un segni.  Domani, una manifestazione.

E difficile apprendere italiano.  E piu difficile stare una madre.


2004-02-27 06:29:48 stefano
Today, Davin Paley, my son, is has begun to organize other students in a protest against the administration [of his school].  Today, Davin goes to a table with friends from another classroom.  The Principal Tim says: "Every student to their own table."  But Davin wants to stay with his friends.  Davin understands what the Principal says.  Davin finishes his misadventure in the Principal's office.  Davin writes some signs that say "Freedom of Seats."

There is a black T-shirt that says, "Cambridge 02138:  the world's most opinionated zipcode."  Today a sign.  Tomorrow a protest march.

It is difficult to learn Italian.  It is more difficult to be a mother."

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Road Trip to Lucca and Pisa (by Sarah)

LUCCA (#32)

This weekend, we went my dad’s friend Marco Gherardi’s house in Lucca (not to be confused with Lupa – a contrada (area) in Siena). His family was very welcoming and hospitable, and I really enjoyed our visit. Read more, per favore!

Marco and Jane
Sophie and Mickey
To begin with, they had the cutest little beagle that was so friendly so of course we got all nostalgic about Annie and how much we miss her. We met Marco’s wife, Jane, and their kids, Sophie (9) and Mickey (3). They all speak English and Italian, except for Mickey, who is in the process of learning both.

Sophie is extremely smart and really impressed me. I was supposed to sleep in her room, which had a huge poster of Orlando Bloom as Legolas from Lord of the Rings. We had a long discussion about Lord of the Rings and books and what school is like for her. The one thing I will never forget about her was when she was talking about her school friends at the dinner table. She told us about how her ex best friend used to cut up dead birds and try to tie up her dog to a post and throw stuff at it! It was just so unexpected and surprising. I was caught completely off my guard and thought it was the funniest thing ever. Every time I think about how she said it I laugh.

When we were in Lucca, we had a day trip on Sunday to Pisa. We saw the Duomo there, and of course the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We couldn’t get as close to the altar as we wanted to because of a special mass going on. We took a few pictures and talked about the cathedral and walked around.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Steve and the Permesso: A Cautionary Tale (by Doreen)

SIENA (#28)

It seems that permission to stay (permesso di soggiorno) was more difficult to obtain than we thought initially. Steve visited the Italian consulate in downtown Boston three times starting in October, to get the appropriate documentation for our trip. He was told we could get permission to stay for 3 months, but not 5, but that it was a formality, no additional documentation was needed and that it would be easy with an American passport. Well, it turned out that it was not that easy....

Read this if you are even thinking of trying something as crazy as this!

On our 6th day here, we had a 9:30 (nove e mezzo) appointment with the Preside at Sarah’s school. That went fine, but then the red tape showed up. We needed a copy of her immunizations (translated and) ok'ed by the Public Health department. (I had packed a copy of both kids’ medical records but somehow were not found upon my search, despite my best laid plans….) So, since we needed the documentation (immunizations, permesso to stay in Siena) she was unable to start.

On Wednesday, Steve was off on the permesso agenda. He received a list of hoops to jump. He then got the 5 needed pictures taken, paid fees at the post office for 1. the permesso, 2. for registering for school (about $25), then went back to the Questura and, this time, got to talk with someone who said he needed someone to vouch for us and sign a paper.

At that time the permesso situation was not pretty. Steve was basically told that he might need to go back to the US to get the right papers filled out. At least it looked like Sarah would be able to start school on Monday. Sarah, Steve and I went and met Carla , then Laura at the mercato. Laura wrote out the letter for the permesso. (We didn’t shop long as it was raining.)

Friday, February 20, 2004

Carnevale in Siena (by Doreen)

SIENA (#29)

We ventured out for a subdued, yet representative day at Carnevale. My take is that Carnevale is celebrated from Feb 1 through Mardi Gras (24 feb, this year). We thought about going to Venice or to Via Reggio (near Pisa, on the Mediterranean coast) where a bigger celebration with 4 story high floats...

Instead, we went to Buon Convento, about 25 minutes away from Siena.

Buon Convento has been having a celebration for many years always swearing they won’t next. But they did it again this year. It started around 3pm. There was a band (of all types, shapes and ages) that played “Brazil,” and other Carnevale numbers from Rio.

There were 3 floats. One was a Pirate Ship, another of The Lion King, and the third, a Japanese Pagoda (complete with younger and later middle aged Italian women dressed in Saris scampering about in lines). The teenagers on the Pirate Ship had a loud speaker system blaring YMCA, the Macarena and some Chihuahua song (that Laura was surprised we hadn’t heard). Throughout the parade, kids threw confetti at each other and sprayed everyone with silly string.

Not much that I could associate with what I expect happens in Venice, including the costumes. No masks of the Commedia D’el Arte. Mostly Zorro (with swords drawn), Batman, Superman, Caspar, tigers, princesses,1 Mary Poppins, dinosaurs, cross-dressed teenage boys and 1 Wild Thing character. Very cute. Especially Giulia in her leopard costume.

My First Week of Schooooool! (by Sarah)

SIENA, February 20th

Well, I haven’t written for a while, so it’s a good time for an update! School is going great, although it could be better. Unfortunately, the only class I know exactly what’s going on in is English. READ MORE!!!!!

Last class, we read a whole article about how “Accidents Do Happen.” It was very interesting because of how the article was taught. First, he picked one student to read the whole article. This seems to be a common thing in all classes – to pick on one student for the whole hour. But anyways, the article was all about a train accident and how crashes like that can occur. I was surprised with the certain things that the teacher picked out of the article, and I actually learned a thing or two. For example, we discussed the word “plunge” because the train plunged down off the tracks. We also discussed the term “In the wake of…” When the teacher asked me how to define it, I said it was like a result or consequence of one thing. He also went back and showed the other meanings of wake – such as to wake up, and how a boat makes a wake behind it. I was very impressed with the depth of the lesson and the knowledge of the students as well as the teacher. Even with my 5 or so years of Spanish, I don’t think I would know as much Spanish as they know English.

In math, I am pretty sure that I have done what they are doing already. It’s hard because I had algebra last year and geometry this year. At Liceo Scientifico, they have geometry and algebra together. So today, we had a whole lesson on proofs and theorems and then we went into imaginary numbers and quadratic formulas. It’s hard to follow, especially because all the terms are in Italian, so just realizing that he was teaching proofs took a few days. I think I will end up doing alright in math as long as I have someone next to me for the first week or so explaining the terminology.

Technical drawing is another class that I will be able to participate in. It basically ties together geometry and art. We get different assignments and we have to make these solid shapes in numerous ways and transfer information from certain quadrants to others in order to see the solid in a different view. I’ve only made one so far, and I have to say I’m not very good at it. But with more practice, I think I will have a really fun time in the class. It is really interesting that the same teacher teaches both this class, and the art history class because of the connections he can make to what we are drawing. He’s got the whole “hands on” and “applying knowledge” thing going on, which I really like.

Science is a class that I am not too sure about. We are studying exactly what I have studied this year, endocytosis, exocytosis, and the whole biology story. I know what he is teaching, and could easily explain in English, but having everything in Italian is really hard because again, of the terminology. I think that the teacher thinks I can’t really do anything, but I’m not sure about that yet. I want to get a book for both math and science, and study the terms, and I think I’ll be fine.

Italian is really cool, believe it or not. Today we had a lesson on “Le Figure Retoriche” which is basically rhetorical structures. I already knew things like alliteration, metaphors, etc. but the way that it is being taught all together like this (my dad says its from the Greeks…?) is quite different than how it would be taught in the U.S. so it’s pretty neat to be learning it. I took some notes from the book, and with Arianna’s help (a girl who is very good in English) I could understand some of the examples. One funny point in the class was when I was called upon to repeat after the teacher, of course having no idea what I was saying. She explained (in Italian) that there are words that sound and are spelled exactly the same, and some words are almost the same (sound the same to me….) and mean different things. This was an example of “paronomasia” under the category of “figure di suono” which is basically putting words next to each other with the same sound but different meanings – a pun.

Latin, History, and art history are classes I am hopeless in. I have never studied Latin, so Latin taught in Italian is simply impossible. History I haven’t actually had yet, but I’m sure I’ll know somewhat of what’s being taught but it’s just so fast in Italian. Art history I am buying the book because there is no doubt it is very interesting material. The class is just not a good class to be asking questions and understanding in because as it is, the students sit quietly at their desks while the teacher lectures away – a common Italian teaching method I have learned.

I think that religion class is going to be very fun. I have it on Wednesday, so we’ll see how that goes. I met the teacher and she seems very nice. I’m pretty sure that what most of the class time is spent both watching movies and discussing religious views. Couldn’t hurt.

My final class I am taking is Physical Education of course! Unlike Lexington High School, gym is a simply delightful hour in which kids can either be lazy or have time to let all of their pent up energy out. My class, 2C shares gym time with another class, which I think is 1F, but I’m not sure. The class is also split up so the boys go in one gym, and the girls have a different gym. In the one class I have had, we ran (jogged at a nice slowwww pace) for like 5 minutes and did some stretches. Then we had a sort of physical fitness test where we had to sit with our backs to wall and legs spread apart and see how far we could throw this heavy ball. So we all waited around while people finished up, and then we played volleyball! It was the first time I had hit a volleyball in quite a while, and it was nice to play again. Some of the girls are very “girly” in the game and jumped away from the ball when it came near them. Others were very skilled and it was cool playing with them. They play very differently than I was taught but play very well. They always include everyone, which is really nice, but a bumping circle with like 15 girls is not very easy.

So, I have usually four classes a day, but some classes are two hours. This means that I get out of school at either 12:30 or 13:30, which is really good. I go home for lunch and don’t have to go back to school and it’s really relaxing. I have not had a lot of work yet which is very good because we have been able to go on day trips after school to see places (the Servi, the monasteries, etc…) and I have gotten to do a lot of sketching.

That's all for now! Keep checking for more updates!

The First 10 Days of Food (by Doreen)

SIENA (#27)

It seems my kids are hitting many other high spots, so I’ll brag about my husband’s cooking. We haven’t eaten at a restaurant yet. Steve has been excited by the gas stove and varieties of food available...only twice, with others have we had take out pizza.

Day1 Thursday:
Laura made pasta and salad for cena “chaina”(dinner).

breakfast stuff –cocoa, sugar, pane (bread), and brioche, pasta for lunch. We went out shopping and had sandwiches and lit candles.

Day 3: Saturday:
after grocery shopping (see Sarah’s COOP entry) Lunch/pranzo was at LaurAngelo’s – pre-cooked chicken, spinach, salad, cheese, salami and fruit. Dinner was take out pizza, here.

Day 4:
breakfast was fresh made Perugina cocoa for the kids and stovetop coffee for us with bread and butter and apricot preserves. We had also picked up some straciatella (chocolate chip) and coconut yogurt (which tasted more like ice cream than something good for you). For lunch, Steve had visited the Ducci’s and returned with some of Carla’s home-grown, home-made sauce and added it to some gnocchi. He had reconstituted some cecci and sautéed them with onions (in good oil) and served them with parsley added moments before serving.

Day 5 Monday:
Alex’s first day of school (see his story). The usual breakfast was followed by (after taking Alex to school and meeting the officials etc) pranzo (let the eating begin): tortellini in butter with fresh sage, followed by chicken sautéed in oil with rosemary, broccoli with sun dried tomatoes and salad. Dinner was less involved.

Day 6: Tuesday:
Pranzo: Steve made meatballs (polpetti) and snail-shaped pasta, salad and bread. We were stuffed.

Day 7:
Pasta e fagioli –aka pasta fazool, with beet greens on the side and salad---we were too full again for the apricot torte we bought yesterday before lunch. For supper/cena , we had pasta with polpetti and the kids developed a new favorite –grissini (breadsticks) with the thin salami or bresaole wrapped around them. Alex decided that would be his life’s work and that Sarah would be his salesperson. She would get the schools to buy them “just like Domino’s Pizza” at their school “only better for you.”

Day 8: Thursday, 2/12
Curly pasta with the leftover meatballs (polpette) Fagiolini (little white beans) in oil and vinegar, barbatole (sugar beet greens in garlic, oil and vinegar), cavalo (cabbage for cold slaw like salad), and salami with fennel in it, some more cheese and pane Pugliese (con sale - bread with salt vs. Tuscan bread, without).

Day 9: Friday
dinner/ciena: chicken, passing up the rooster with headpiece still intact, with baked potatoes, and salad –pasta first, of course.

Day 10:
pranzo risotto with porcini, sautéed cauliflower with fresh tomato, chicken meat, and salad. Cena: leftovers, salami, cheese, salad, fruit.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-03-02 23:59:01 Roz
Re: The First 10 Days of Food
Hi Doreen, I so appreciate your "reports." The permesso story is truly a cautionary tale. Ah, but the food diary--bellissimo! If you come back after six-months of that kind of fabulous dining and are still as slim as a reed, we'll have to re-evaluate our friendship!

P. S. All right with the Italian, girl!

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

To go to school... Or not to go to school?! (by Sarah)

SIENA (#78)

So, for the past two days, I’ve been trying to attend school (Yes – TRYING believe it or not…). Yesterday, we successfully dropped off Alex at his “scuola media” (middle school) San Bernadino. We then did the 25 minute walk to my school, the high school – Liceo Scientifico. When we got there we talked with a secretary and made an appointment with the “Presidente” (principal) for today, because she was too busy to see us. We met with her today and I still couldn’t go to school because we still needed to get our permission to stay in Siena among many other things.

Today, I also met the English teacher. He seems very easy going, and enthusiastic about our decision to live in Siena for the next six months. He had been to Boston before, and lived in the ‘burbs’. He said that the families there were horrible. They didn’t take care of the Italian students at all and just let them roam around Boston. Yikes.

I’m actually very excited about going to school. Alex seems to be having a great time and is walking around with some friends before coming back from school. I think that the middle school seems to be a LOT less serious than the high school. It makes sense I guess. So, it’s already Alex’s second day, and I haven’t even gone to one class yet! Some may say that I’m lucky, but I want to go to school! All day, I study Italian with Mom, walk around with my parents, and sit around and listen to music. And that’s about it, folks.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Living in Siena is Going to Be Exhausting (by Alex)

SIENA, February 10th

Today, I have done more work than I ever could have expected.

I assumed that carrying around 20 bags would be difficult, but I did not know that we had to climb 5 cases of stairs to get to the apartment. From just walking up all the stairs, my heart beats like a rabbit, so when I carried an 80 lb. bag up the stairs, I was surprised I did not suffer from a heart-attack. Just wait until we go grocery shopping, I guarantee that my mother will make me help carry them up the stairs.

In order to get to those five sets of stairs, we actually have to walk up the stairs to the Duomo of Siena.

Oh yeah, and when Sarah walks home from school a certain way, she can climb another huge flight of stairs as well.

Did I mention that our car is parked far away from our house? We cannot keep the car within the walls of Siena, so since we’re in the middle of Siena, we have to walk halfway across the city to get to the car.

In conclusion, I'm exhausted, and I assume I will be for the next five months. Hey there’s a bright side to this, I will be in amazing shape when I return, fat, but in shape nonetheless.

Our Trip and Arrival in Siena (by Doreen)

Siena, February 10th (#21)

Averting one pseudo-disaster and fatigue....we entered the grand Cathedral of Siena which we now call "home"....

We only had one “almost fiasco” on our way here. Through Steve’s quick use of the public telephone (since we got rid of our cells just hours before we left) and A-1 Taxi’s quick response, his suitcase (that also contained some of Sarah’s clothes) made it to the airport (and us through security) just in time to board. Sometimes that 2 hour window can be helpful.

We arrived in London Heathrow at 5:30am (12:30 Boston time) and then waited for our 8:30am Milan flight. We arrived at 11:30 and were met just outside the entry hall by the woman from Peugeot. The car is great and all our stuff amazingly fit right in… good we took those 6 boxes to the post office Wednesday morning (in addition to the 5 boxes we mailed in December—which haven’t yet arrived….).

When arriving in Milan, we thought 1 bag was missing (–since all bags were held “standby” until we got Steve’s, we weren’t sure what would show up). After a few AutoGrill coffee stops and about 3 hours, we called Laura from Poggibonsi (known from that famous song, “It’s a long way to Poggibonsi, it’s a long way to go”,) we drove to their house, so Laura could escort Steve to the Police department where they received the “permesso” to take a car into the city to drop off our luggage (2 medium suitcases, 3 carry-on black smaller cases, tennis racket case, 2 gym bags - full of shoes, 2 computer bags, and 4 backpacks) we arrived to “our house” il Duomo –the huge black and white striped building with gold mosaics on the front and stautes across the front -The Cathedral of Siena and shlepped up the 4 ½ flights of stairs to our apartment. Sarah and Alex woke up from the car just long enough to say a quick hello to Laura, carry bags up, choose a bed to fall into and return to sleep. They didn’t wake until this morning. Steve and Laura put the car in a parking lot, took the bus back, and met Angelo out on the front stoop – in front of the cathedral. Antonio and Carla drove by (he has handicapped permesso so can drive anywhere in the city) to say hello and drop off Giulia. Laura made dinner…she brought grocery basics and then prepared them !!! We hung and had fun.


The apartment is a really interesting, cool place. You can see buildings from our kitchen balcony –tiny but present –good for getting crumbs off the tablecloth. You get a slightly different view from the shower – yes, that’s what I mean. When it’s sunny and the scanner works, we’ll take pictures. Sarah’s not allowed to take the first shower of the day….gotta let the window steam up !!! The water is either scalding or frigid…we’ll figure it out, or we’ll adjust (in and out of the shower stream).


COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-02-27 22:54:16 alison
In general....
I'm so enjoying the journal entries.  It almost feels like I am there with you.  The writing just invites me to participate.  What a gift you are giving to all your friends and family logging in.

Thank you. Love, Alison

First Day of School --Part II (by Alex)

SIENA (#77)

The first day of school was great. The kids were really nice, curious, and not too intimidating. To read the continuation of this story, click on the ""read more"" button below for all the details.

Click here to read part one of the story.

After gym we had “grammatica” (Grammar {italian}) I expected to understand nothing, and since the teacher spoke only italian, I expected to be left out. I was right about being left out, but I did understand some of what he said.

For about 15 minutes, I think he talked about me, and how they would handle me in the class. He said he would give me a separate lesson, and separate work, and I would not be expected to participate. Most of this I understood, and the rest was over my head.

For the next hour, we had geometry. The teacher was not there (who was also the teacher of Algebra and Science). We had a substitute. Here, in Italy the substitutes are more like babysitters. She seemed very interested in me, and had many questions, so she devoted the class to people asking me questions.

The kids started out kind of shy, because they thought that their English was bad. So, they asked in Italian, and Kathy translated. The substitute asked, “Do you play an instrument?” I said no, and explained that I used to play the trumpet. The kids really started warming up there, and then they couldn’t stop asking questions. It was actually really fun. For about two hours they asked me questions, I answered questions, and then we just chatted about stuff. We talked about which teachers are good, which are not, and they tried out some English swears, and exercised their knowledge of American music, including:

Linkin Park
Black Eyed Peas
The White Stripes
Limb Bizkit
50 Cent
Blink 182
Michael Jackson

And they hadn’t heard of many of my “obscure” favorites. When the bell rang, they all asked if they could walk home with me, but that day my parents and sister were walking home with me, so I suggested that we walk the next day.

Il Primero Giorno di Mia Scuola Nuova (by Alex)

SIENA (#19)

The first day of school was great. The kids were really nice, curious, and not too intimidating.

First, my whole family walked about 5 minutes to get to my school. Angelo Giallombardo met us in the main hallway. He was our inside connection. Without him I probably would have been turned away from the school like the rest of the many people who have tried this. Well maybe that is an exaggeration, but it would have been much more difficult anyway.

Angelo took us to the principal's office where Angelo convinced her of which class I should be in (the one which might be more accepting towards a newcomer).

The class Angelo had selected happened to be the one studying music as an elective. When the principal asked me if I played an instrument, I said no reluctantly, afraid she would put me in the other class. The principle took the five of us through the halls big enough to fit one person. She introduced me to each of the teachers as a class of students peeked out of the door. I was eager to meet my classmates, but each was a fake out. I got tired of being so anxious.

Suddenly, (well to me anyway) Angelo asked, "do you want to go to your class?"

I said, "sure" but I admit it was more like "sure?" I was kind of nervous.

Angelo brought me into music class. Angelo asked the teacher if any of the children spoke English. She said that one girl did, so she sat me down next to her, and that was basically it. Angelo left the room. The teacher attempted some English, and pointed out the "stupid" boys for me. The teacher then continued the class.

The kids didn't warm up right at first. One girl introduced herself. Her name was Kathy and her English was very good, so she agreed to be my translator for a while.

When the class ended, I followed the rest of the kids to the next class. I was so confused. We stopped in a classroom, which I thought was the next class. We then left that classroom and went to a separate building. This building held the gym. We ran around in a circle, and did some odd, “touch the ground as you walk"", and then some arm spinning, then shoulder touching, and then the SQUARES OF DOOM!

It is a wood, grid-type structure. Click here to see a drawing. And you have to go up it weaving in and out of the squares as you spin around in circles, but the hardest, and worst part is that the whole class stands and watches as you go up. There was some specific way you had to put your hands, and every way I tried seamed to be wrong. I spent about 15 minutes doing it, and the class seamed to warm up a little after I made a fool of myself.

The gym teacher then walked over to another corner of the gym. In that corner there were two poles and a rope.

He said to me "vai" (go) and I did.

I went as fast as I could because I saw it as a chance to redeem myself. When I came down, he seamed impressed, and in fact he was. He had me race another kid, and I made it to the top of the 30 ft pole when he was about 20 feet up.

We then played some soccer, and they were not all that amazing. There was one kid, Damiano (Damien) who was very good. Later I got to know him better; his mother is English, so he is pretty good at English. He actually made me a schedule the next day without me even asking.

When the class ended, I was really hot. I had a great time, and the kids seemed a lot nicer than when I first showed up.

Ed note:  Here is the second post on Alex's first day.

COMMENTS from the original blog

2004-02-26 14:25:27 sarah
Re: Il Primero Giorno di Mia Scuola Nuova
LOL! Alex, my teacher pointed out the ""stupid"" boys too! Actually, he was just like, ""Stay away from these boys..."" and then he started calling them stupid idiots and stuff hahaha.

No wonder the kids like you so much! You are like the gym masterrrr! Phhh, please Alex, anyone compared to you in soccer is "not all that amazing"!

I love you, keep up the good writing!


2004-02-26 17:29:02 alex
Re: Il Primero Giorno di Mia Scuola Nuova

I love you too!

PACE out


2004-02-27 06:05:39 stefano
A 'Lovely' Thread
This thread (and original story) is enough to make a parent proud.  Lovely.

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Update: We Have Arrived (by Steve)

SIENA, February 8th, 2004

We are here!  The house is wonderful.  The Giallombardo-Ducci family is also great.  As usual, they have been very helpful.  Without their help, we could not be doing this.

Antonio says that without their help, it would be a 'bel casino'.

We'll be filing more stories soon.

COMMENTS from the original post

2004-02-08 17:27:19 edp Re: Update:  We Have Arrived
woohoo!  congratulations!

2004-02-08 17:32:3814 edp Re: Update:  We Have Arrived
BTW, i tried for several minutes to figure out what the appropriate idiomatic meaning of ""bel casino"" might be, but i failed.  anyone care to enlighten me?"

2004-02-17 12:49:59 gretapasha Re: Update:  We Have Arrived
Hey there Quatrano Family:  We're so excited to see your website coming together - and know you must be so thrilled to finally be starting your adventure.  We'll be checking back often to travel with you.  Have an amazing time.

Pasha and Greta

Saturday, February 07, 2004

The COOP (by Sarah)

SIENA (#20)

So, today was the big day for none other than grocery shopping! We walked all the way to the Giallombardo’s house (30 minutes with a 10 minute stop for hot chocolate and coffee). We got to their house and then piled into their car so they could take us to our car, which was parked in a free lot. Giulia came in our car with us, and my mom went with Laura. For our shopping, we went to the Coop (pronounced ‘cop’).

I’ve decided that Italians have the coolest inventions. At the Coop, the carts are all attached to each other by chains. To get one, you have to put a euro into a slot, and the chain releases. When you put the cart back, and attach it to another cart in the line, you get the euro back! Also at the Coop, they had a sort of ramp with little grooves that moved like an escalator. The carts have these thin lines on the wheels that fit perfectly into the grooves. So, when going up or down the escalator, the wheels won’t move, no matter how heavy the cart is, so it can’t roll down! Another wicked cool thing at the Coop is the hand held scanner. Instead of the cashier scanning everything you buy, you do it yourself as you pick things up, so when you go to the cashier, it doesn’t take as long!

When we mentioned the high technology of Italy, Angelo responded with something like, “Well, we are descendents of Leonardo DaVinci…”

Meanwhile, Alex spent most of his time devising ways that these inventions could backfire. He wanted to attach our cart to another cart while that person wasn’t watching, and then get the euro back, and leave the cart attached to the other one. He also wanted to use the scanner and just not scan everything, so some stuff you get for free. There were many other neat inventions at the store, and Alex found ways to cheat at most of them.

We went to the Coop on a Saturday, which is probably the worst day to go. It was insanely crowded. But it was an experience. On our way out, we also got a cell phone. We are finally connected to the rest of the world again! What a concept!

After the Coop, we went back to the Giallombardos house. We had lunch there and watched the movie “Spirit” with Giulia. It was evening already when we realized we had to unload our groceries. We went to the Police Station to get permission again to go next to the Duomo so we could carry our groceries up. The police weren’t open, so we went to the Duccis to use Antonio’s car (handicapped). While we were there, I spent my time with Giulia and Carla. Giulia shared a chocolate egg with me, and then we watched as Carla made another torta, this time with ham, spinach, and pasta.

We finally got the car and drove down to our apartment. There was a couple that were being flirtatious and sitting on the steps of the Duomo. No one knew who they were, but nonetheless, Giulia wasted no time in getting in their faces, breaking them up, and “busting their balls” (“rompere le scatole”). The rest of us brought the groceries in while she sat next to the couple.

Alex and Angelo were already in the apartment when we got there (they had taken the Vespa motorcycle). Giulia used the computer with Alex and I, and dad and Angelo went out to get some pizza. We ate dinner and then they left and we went to bed.


2004-02-25 22:20:40 stefano
Re: The COOP
I can't resist the urge to comment on the creative mind of Alex, not at all unlike his namesake, Grandpa (Nonno) Allie.  Anyone for a game of cards?"

2004-02-26 17:41:29 alex
Re: The COOP
You forgot about the scale thing, that prints out a sticker with a bar code and all. You could put something light there and put the sticker on a heavy item! Bwahahahhhhahahahah.

Love Ya,


2004-02-26 17:42:21 alex
Re: The COOP
Wow, this kid is so amazingly smart!"

2004-02-27 05:57:58 stefano
Full Disclosure
For those newbies (new users) of news forums like this one, it is important to understand that the reader comments are not the work of the author...  and that the identity of the author should be carefully considered when interpreting stories, journal entries, or comments on stories.

Alex, have you considered the possibilities of a fake identity so that you can comment anonymously on your own work?  Benjamin Franklin (aka "Poor Richard") used this device successfully long before the Internet when "spoofing" had a slightly different connotation.

2004-02-29 15:07:35 Roz
Re: The COOP
Hi Guys!   I'm happy to report that (apparently) the descendants of DaVinci have created the same weight and sticker gizmo for the U.S.  Right now I have only experienced it at Wegman's a family chain of wonderful supermarkets, mostly in upper New York State, BUT trickling down to Virginia this month!    As I recall, tho, the produce here just doesn't have the color, beauty or taste of  its counterparts in Italia.

So, Alex:  are you going to work for the FBI, CIA or the Mafia?  That's a sinister mind at work, I'd say!

2004-04-04 21:04:0220 BubbieBarbi
Re: The COOP
It must be a genetic thing. Carrie always spotted all the ways the patrons in her restaurants could steal & cheat, too.  It doesn't come from me!  I still leave my purse on top of the lettuce while making a selection......   Bubbie BB

Friday, February 06, 2004

Our first Day in the Apartment (by Sarah)

SIENA (#17)

WELL NOW! My first real story is finally here! Who wants to know what I’ve been up to?!?!

Italy is amazing – we got here, we are living in our apartment, hanging out with friends, and loving every minute of it! Read more…

We are living in an apartment next door to the Duomo (Cathedral) of Siena!

The interior of the apartment is incredible. My room in the apartment is in the main living room, which is also one of the coldest rooms, and probably least private...oh well. It has three couches and one of them folds out – my bed. Marco Bruschelli, the owner of the apartment, must have been a traveler. We can tell because of all the souvenirs that we see around the house.


In my room, there is like an 8 foot Buddha statue. Luckily, he isn’t scary looking, so instead of a demon waiting to get me at night, I have a Buddha to watch over me! I’ve adopted “the green monster” (which Alex calls “the slug”) to be mine, so that makes up for everything. It’s a huge green comforter I found on my parents’ bed. I fell asleep under it as soon as we got here. The rest of the house is really cool too. To the left of my room/living room, is my parent’s room. It has the closets that everyone except for Alex are using; he has his own in his room. Going to the right of the living room, is Alex’s room. He has a double bed and a wicked cool blue light. It’s probably the warmest room in the house at night. Practically across from it is the bathroom.

The bathroom is personally my favorite room in the apartment. The first room has a bathtub that looks more like a hot tub; I can almost lie down in it. The catch is that it would probably cost about 100 dollars to fill it with water. Also in that room are two sinks and a dresser thing with towels and a mirror. There’s a room off of that one with the toilet and shower. The shower is so much fun, I can’t even express it! (Sarcasm….) It’s about 3 feet wide and gets everything wet. There’s also a window, so mom and I can’t shower until it is all steamed up! Also, it’s freezing when you get out.


Moving on down the hall, there’s another little living room with two couches and a TV. Alex found a Simpson’s rerun in Italian - even Dad couldn’t understand a word they said. I might actually move into this room because it is warmer than mine, although my bed would be a couch.

The next room is the kitchen. It gives off such a nice aura. There’s a table when you walk in, with three chairs and a bench on one side. We already have places where we all sit. The washing machine is in there, and as for the dryer, we use a clothesline outside, which hangs over a 90-foot drop. The sink is made out of brick, as well as most of the kitchen. There is no dishwasher, so we wash all the dirty dishes by hand. It reminds me a lot of camping – where everyone pitches in to help.

Now, for the whole run down on exactly what we’ve been up to here! We got on our plane at like 5:45 or so after our suitcase incident (refer to Alex’s article). On our plane to London, Alex and I watched “The School of Rock” and started to watch “Tomb Raider”, but never finished it. We stayed in London for a few hours. We did a little shopping but I didn’t get anything. We then boarded our plane for Milan. When we got to Milan, a woman was waiting for us with our car information. We got a Peugeot, and our license plate is red because it is a French car. We managed to just fit all of our luggage into the trunk and we were off! For the four hours it took to get to Siena, we listened to music in the car, pointed out beautiful sites, and slept (well not dad).

We arrived in Siena at about 5 in Italian time (maybe like 11 am in America) I was too tired to get out of the car to see Angelo, Laura, and Giulia, and so was Alex, so we stayed in the car and slept. We were woken when our parents got back into the car, with Laura too. We made our way to the Police Station to get permission to drive our car next to the Duomo , so we could unload our baggage. They gave us 30 minutes, so we rushed to our new apartment. After carrying our heavy bags up the 5 flights of stairs, I crashed. I was too tired to eat dinner when Carla, Antonio, Angelo, Laura, and Giulia came, so I just slept more.

Lucky for me, there were leftovers in the morning! For breakfast I had proscioutto, pasta, and a torta that Carla made, with ham and carrots. I also had delicious orange juice and when Dad got back, we made hot chocolate. After breakfast, we all took showers and took out our clothes from our suitcases. Yup, we’re here to stay for a while. After that, it was about 11 here, mom and I crashed again and fell asleep under the green monster on a couch.

While we were sleeping, Alex and Dad went out and got more food. They woke Mom and I up for lunch. We had pasta with zucchini and artichokes (carciofi). After lunch, we had our first Italian lesson. We started at chapter one in the Italian book I had been using in class, so naturally I knew most of the material already. We all went out for a walk after that. In the city, we bought more food and went to a department store for some pots and pans. Since we don’t have a phone yet, we had to use a public phone in the piazza. We then went home and ate sandwiches and leftovers for dinner. Yumm. Then sleepy time. I’m sleeping in the TV room because it is supposedly warmer. Whatever, as long as I have the green monster, I’m okay!


2004-02-25 22:20:40 bellonick1214 Re: Our first day living in the apartment!

i bet your view of the city is amazing. geeze when i look out my window i see hmmm 2 cars. my moms and my dads. you guys see everything! 

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The Forgotten Bag (by Alex)

BOSTON, February 4th

In the airport today, a very funny thing happened, funny in my eyes, but not in anyone else’s. You can be the judge when you finish reading.

Sarah was bringing bags downstairs that were going to be put in the cab. She couldn't carry one of the bags downstairs, because it was too heavy. She kind of mumbled to my dad that there was one bag left upstairs. My dad was so concentrated on whatever he was doing that he kind of dismissed the comment.

The cab arrived, so Sarah and I began to bring the bags out to it. As we got in the car, my dad looked around, and it all looked good. He had not taken any bags out to the car, so he did not know which bags had been brought out, and which had not.

We got to the airport, and even got in a line before we realized that the bag was missing. The bag contained Sarah and mom's clothes.

Also, off the topic, my clothes could not have been in there because I got the remaining (tiny) bag for MY clothes.

My dad quickly called the Taxi Company. He arranged this whole tag-team type solution. Our neighbor (Mrs. Duys) would let the taxi driver into the house with her copy of the keys. Next, he would find the 80lb suitcase using a set of directions dictated by my father. He would then bring the suitcase to the airport within 30 minutes (our time limit given to us by the airport service representatives who were concerned about boarding the international flight).

My parents had cancelled their cell phones the day before, so it complicated things quite a bit. We couldn't board the airplane without the last bag, but we couldn't split up, because we had no cell phones. It was a lose-lose situation, so the family decided that we would rather stay together as a family and would all take a later flight if the bag did no arrive.

What ended up happening was the bag came right on the deadline, and there were still people behind us in the security line to get into the plane. All's well that ends well. But that doesn't mean nails weren't bit in the mean time.