It's nearly 3am here in Perugia and I couldn't sleep so I decided to get up and write a bit about what's been going on this week. We have been working hard at our studies, going to school every day and trying to read the newspapers and watch the TV news and especially the silly little game shows and absorb, absorb, absorb. There are times when I feel a brilliant little breakthrough, where I have a conversation with someone in Italian and I understand them and they understand me and it is like a small miracle to think that I am actually speaking another language! And then there are the times (which is really a more common occurrence) where I can pick out the words but the meaning goes right over my head. The funniest thing is watching Will and Grace, dubbed in Italian, if you can imagine! They have done a great job of dubbing voices that sound like the actors voices and even though we don't understand what they are saying, the body language, the facial expressions of these characters still makes us laugh.
I wanted to tell you about our classmates at the Università per Stranieri. I have told you that they are from all over the world. It's a wonderful little United Nations we have here and so fascinating to be around such a diverse group of people. Last night, Michael and Mary who are Australians, organized a small gathering of eight of us to go to a pizzeria after class. We had been told by our Professoressa about one of the really good ones to try (Bob and I had already discovered this place) and since our class gets out on Wednesdays at 7 (we go from 11-1 on Wednesday and then back from 5-7), we decided it would be a good time to go out together right after class for pizza and wine.
We had the most lovely time! Michael and Mary are about our age with grown children and their first grandchild on the way. Sweet, warm & friendly people, Michael was a teacher and Mary, a pharmacist, who recently sold their pharmacy in Sydney and are on this amazing tour of the world for 3 months. Along for the evening also was Jocelyn, a lovely young woman with long dark hair and always full of smiles, from Taipei, Taiwan who took the most amazing photographs of the festival in Assisi, taping some of the music as well and showed them to us as a slide show on her laptop before class so that those who had not been able to go could see what it was all about. After her month in Italy she is off to Prague to meet her husband and visit the Czech Republic. She and Bob had much to talk about since he had just been there on his Fulbright. Penny and her daughter Vanessa (also Australians) are touring Italy and taking this month to study in Perugia. They are meeting up with Vanessa's dad in Venice, I believe, and then Vanessa will go off and meet up with friends. Vanessa is a gorgeous young woman with long blonde hair and dazzling blue eyes. Like me, Penny also likes to paint and do watercolors and she and her husband share our dream of living in Italy. And then there is Helena, at 19 years old, the sweetest young person you could ever meet. She is from a small city in Switzerland and with her blond curly hair and blue eyes and her charming disposition, we liked her immediately and all of us find ourselves feeling quite motherly towards her. It is amazing to me, how quickly we have formed friendships with these fellow travelers. Before the class begins there is a buzz of conversation in the classroom as people share experiences and advice and ask questions of each other. Everyone speaks English and I realize now that this is not just helpful for us, but a way for all of these people who speak many different languages, to communicate with each other as well. I am constantly in awe of these people from all over the world (outside of the U.S!) who speak several languages. Even in Australia, Michael was telling us it used to be French but that recently, they have required their students to study Japanese. Helena was telling us that in Switzerland, they must learn not only English, but French and German. Her native language is a Swiss-German and she also studied Latin for 8 years!
Some of our other new friends not in attendance at the pizza gathering are Irma, a psychotherapist from Oaxaca, Mexico; Maria a student from Sweden; Carlos, a doctor from Colombia, who is always studying; another Irma from Georgia (near Russia), an anesthesiologist who married an Italian and is living in Assisi now; a few more Australians; Aws, a student from Tel Aviv; Leslie, from Great Britain and married to an American, who lives half the year here in Perugia because her daughter and granddaughter are here, and half in London; a few girls from Germany and Holland and one or two other Americans.
Our pizzeria was not quite ready to open when we arrived so we decided to go and have a drink at our little Irish pub, which added a whole other element of international flavor to our outing! This place is down a dark, narrow alley not far from our apartment and is truly like stepping into a pub in Ireland. There is a bar at one end with the typical Guinness on tap and all the Irish whiskeys and beers on hand. Marty, the Irishwoman who owns the place has satellite TV there (you might remember my telling you about the day they selected the Pope) with booths in the back, complete with a room for throwing darts. We sat and drank a toast to friends around the world and shared stories and got to know each other a bit better.
The pizza was delicious, wine and conversation flowed freely. We've begun sharing email addresses and already I know I will miss them when they leave at the end of the month! But there are still more than 2 weeks to go so I don't have to think about that now. I'm certain these little gatherings will happen a few more times and I look forward to them eagerly.
Now it's really late and I should try to get some more sleep. Our class is early tomorrow - from 8 to 11 and then back for exercises from 2 - 4.
I can't wait to tell you about our plans for this coming weekend which include a trip to Gubbio for the Festival of the Ceri!