Monday, July 21, 2014
I got up at 6:30 this morning after only six hours of sleep. Then I had the fun adventure of trying to figure out how my landlady’s shower works. No major problems, thankfully, but I do have to hit the button for the toilet with a bit of force.
Marcella made me coffee this morning. Despite my general dislike for coffee, I wasn’t about to turn down a free drink. She gave me a little espresso cup and then asked if I wanted milk (latte). Yes, please. There was a sugar bowl (zucchero), so I helped myself to that, too. Anything to help the coffee go down.
The walk to school takes me about twenty-five minutes and includes a beautiful view of St. Peter’s (as I cross Via di Conciliazione) and then a nice shot of Castel Sant’Angelo. The school doesn’t open until 8:30, and I arrived a bit early, so I had to spend 15 minutes out in the piazza with the other students. I think we were all wondering what other languages everyone else spoke, but none of us had the guts to approach anyone.
Once inside, they asked if I spoke Italian. I responded, “Soltanto un po.” (Only a bit.) Then they asked if I wanted to take the test. For a split second, I almost chickened out and just told them to put me in the beginner class. Luckily, curiosity won out over potential embarrassment, and I said I’d take the test.
The test had two parts. First, a written part that started off easy with questions about where you’re from and what’s your mother tongue. Then they got into harder questions that involved advanced grammar. By pages 3 and 4, I was completely lost.
After that, we were called for brief one-to-one conversational tests. Again, they used some basic questions to assess our speaking abilities. I felt I did okay because they were really normal get-to-know-you sort of questions. When the conversation test was finished, I was told to return to Room A (where the written test was given) at 10:30. That gave me a little over an hour of free time.
The school had given us coupons for a free cappuccino and croissant from a nearby cafe. So believe it or not, I had my second cup of coffee for the day. Hey, when in Rome . . . (besides, it was free!).
With still a half hour to spare, I headed next door to Chiesa Nuova, a church I didn’t get to visit on my pilgrimage in April. It’s a beautiful church, and a few minutes of prayer was exactly what I needed. After I’d been in my pew for a bit, I looked to my left and realized that I had seated myself near a painting of the Annunciation. At this point, I didn’t yet know what level Italian class I’d be put in, so the painting was a beautiful reminder to just “Let it be.” (Cue the Beatles song.)
When I returned to school, all of us new students were handed different books and sent to different classrooms. I looked down at my book and read the words “Livello 2.” Level 2? They’d actually put me in level 2? Well, I guess a full year’s worth of Rosetta Stone got me somewhere!
The class was hard. I won’t lie. I think I only understood about one-third of what the teacher said. However, I could understand most of what was written in the book. Hopefully, this means I’ll survive.
There are seven other students in the class. They are all from different countries: a man from Korea, a 40-something woman from Austria, a 30-something woman from Germany, 20?-something man from England, a man from France (30?) who seems to know more Italian than the rest of us, a 40-ish woman from Switzerland, and a 20-something girl from Australia. I’m the only American.
Class got out at 12:15, so I headed out to visit a few other churches I didn’t get to see on my pilgrimage: Santa Maria Sopra Minerva (where St. Catherine of Siena’s body is kept) and the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits (and since I’m Jesuit-educated, that was pretty cool). Oh, and I also stopped for a little gelato for lunch. (Cherry gelato is a healthy lunch, right?)
By 3:30, I was exhausted. A half-hour walk brought me back to the apartment, where Marceella tried to chat me up some more. I asked her where I could find a “supermercato,” so I could buy a few groceries. We tried to use my map app on my iPad, but she was having some difficulty. In the end, she just walked me out to the balcony and began pointing down streets to different stores.
Before I could go shopping, however, I had another event at school, an “orientation” meeting. It was, like everything else at the school, almost entirely in Italian. I really don’t know how an absolute beginner would be able to get by. The teacher went over how to take the bus, where some major sites where, and the extra-curricular activities the school does at night. For example, tomorrow night, you can pay to go out for an Italian meal with other students from the school. I think I’ll do that, but I’m kind of dreading how much Italian I’ll have to keep trying to translate in my head. Auditory skills have never been my strong point.
After the meeting, I got pizza and a Coke. (I know, I know, how American! But I didn’t have any the last time I was here, and I needed a bit of caffeine.)
Before returning to the apartment for the night, I found one of Marcella’s supermarkets. Okay, I’ll admit I haven’t done any cooking so far here in my Speak, Pray, Cook adventure, but things are a little different than I first imagined since I’m in an actual Roman woman’s home. If I’d been in an apartment with other students, I’d just say,
“Hey, roomies, I’m cooking dinner tonight. Anybody want some?” But I feel like I’m intruding a bit in this woman’s home.
At least, I was able to do a little shopping, and I made only one grocery shopping faux pas. I had read that when purchasing produce in Italy to use the supplied gloves for picking up fruit lest a little old Italian woman come out and yell at you. So I managed to find the gloves and the bags. What I missed was that I was supposed to weigh the fruit and print out a little sticker with the price to put on the bag. The cashier guy had to run back to the produce section to do it for me. Oops! Guess it was obvious I was a foreigner. Oh no shopping bags there either, so I just jammed all my stuff into my tote bag.
What did I buy?
-two bottles of fruit juice
-four cartons of yogurt
-a bag of pre-popped popcorn
That’s a well-balanced diet, right? I figured for my first try at grocery shopping, it was enough to handle.
When I returned home, Marcella wanted to chat some more, but I had a terrible time understanding her. All I wanted to do was finish my homework and rest. Basta italiano (enough Italian) for tonight!
A domani! (Until tomorrow!)