Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Viva la Scuola! Morte per le Zanzare!

Giovanni and I join the legions of proud parents this week who dropped their children off at a new school and documented the event with umpteen jpeg files. Giulia clung to my leg for her customary 15 minutes when in the presence of a new teacher but took to Maestra Alice's arms/charms without much cajoling. When I returned to pick her up from her first day of Prima Elementaria (first grade) she ran into my arms and declared that she understood a lot of the Italian that was spoken and really liked it. Giorgio started "Terza Materna" (Kindergarten) last week and I spent a few hours with him the first two days to ease his anxiety. By day 3 he simply hung up his new backpack, sat down to paint and waved when I said ciao. Glory be to all those gods who may have been involved in the smooth transition.

Here's a shot of the kids waiting for the #44 bus in Monteverde to take us to la Scuola Arcobaleno.

Here's my parting shot of Giulia looking dubious in Maestra Alice's arms and one of Giorgio getting to work in Kindergarten with his nuova amica Allegra.
The most amazing thing by far is that the kids get served a hot three-course meal and stay until 5 pm every day (which must have something to do with residing in a siesta culture where businesses close for three hours in the afternoon and reopen at 4) so there's no "aftercare" as we Americani know it. It now appears that I'll have time to explore the neighborhood, visit local museums, bargain hunt, exercise, read, write and work while school is in session and be able to devote the customary hours required here to wait for repair people (our fridge is broken) and stand in line to affect any kind of official transaction.

Living at the Academy has been wonderful (excepting the aforementioned refrigeration issue) and we continue to meet interesting people and make new friends daily. Gio started in the kitchen and will work day shifts primarily so we'll get to see him for dinner every night. Here's a shot of us with Mona, head chef of the Rome Sustainable Food Project, and kitchen intern Francesca welcoming us last week in the garden where we enjoyed a preprandial prosecco and transcendental burrata cheese served with chestnut honey.
The kids love running in the grass, but we keep reminding them that the rapturous screaming in this particular garden (the one where Galileo reputedly first demonstrated his telescope before being consigned indefinitely to house arrest by Pope Urban VIII) has to come to an end this week when all the fellows are scheduled to arrive. Once they do manage to control themselves (the kids that is) we look forward to trying out the bocci court and grill. The ochre edifice pictured is the main administrative building which also houses the library, kitchen and some studio apartments. The stakes visible to the left are supporting the last of the summer pomodori.
Wildlife sightings thus far include a dozen feral cats in various states of health, multiple itinerant parrot colonies that swoop overhead at twilight preceded by garrulous squawking, and several plump bats that clearly cannot keep up with the great number of mosquitoes (zanzare) in the offing. The latter have been merciless, and continue to feast on us whenever we decide to allow fresh air into our quarters after 6 pm. Giorgio appears to be their preferred appetizer and Gio their main course. When Giulia and I are alone, they'll happily settle for our relatively meagre vital juices, but when the boys are also on the menu, we girls rank no higher than a so-so side dish.
The incessant (and quite historical) mosquito problem raises another big question in my mind: if Romans have been battling these blood suckers for millenia by draining swamps and reclaiming marshes, why hasn't it occurred to any enterprising soul since Caesar to design a retractable window screen for seasonal installation or at least sell mosquito nets at the local markets? I've declined more light-up paperweights and music-activated stuffed toys from street vendors than I can count, but would readily lighten someone's load if s/he offered citronella or a net for over the bed instead. Just sayin'.


  1. Marie! It sounds like you all are having a fabulous time! Aside from the mosquitoes, that is...when we were in Delhi, they had these great little plug-in mosquito eaters. It was some sort of light with a motorized fan that sucked 'em in. I've wished for that here in Nebraska more times than I can count, when a stray mosquito finds it's way in (past the screens on the windows and doors ;) ).
    Say hi to Gio!
    Keep writing for those of us who wish to "vacation" in Italy vicariously!!

  2. Italia needs you and that is why you are there!!!

  3. want mosquito nets? Say the word & they're in the mail. they have saved my life many times.
    I love reading your adventures, I see a 21st century bio-epic in the making.

  4. You should get one of those electrical tennis racquets (racchette ammazza zanzare) for personal defense, or look for "zanzariere" a ferramenta might have them (which can be retrofitted to windows) or a "griglia antizanzare". A bigstore like Leroy merlin should have them. Alternatively you can buy "reti anti zanzare" (http://www.touratech.com/shops/003/index.php?cPath=22_177).