Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Very proud Mum & Dad

On Monday we had Jake's first parents' evening. And, of course, it wouldn't be right if it didn't have its own Italian slant!

On the last Monday of every month, between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. the 'Incontro con le Maestre' is held. It is the time at which you can go and talk to your child's teacher and vice versa about school issues.'So, how does it work?' I hear you ask. Well, you turn up on a first come first serve basis and wait your turn. 

Between walking from the main school doors to the classroom I became 7th in the queue. I should have been more observant of those other parents who usually walk with such nonchalance suddenly becoming Olympic sprinters. Methinks they had experienced the 'Incontro' before! 7th, not bad I thought, and then proceeded to wait a mere 1 hour 15 minutes to be seen. Goodness only knows how long the mum 6 places behind me had to wait. It seems an appointment system in Italy is just too difficult!

The good news from the 'Incontro', in the words of the Maestra herself, is that Jake is the best in his class in terms of conceptual understanding and work production, despite the issues of the still ever present language barrier. Amazing, who would have thought it just two months ago. So, so proud of our awesome boy.  

Playing the waiting game

Wiki quotes 'In the Christian religion, patience is one of the most valuable virtues of life.' It is therefore no wonder Italy is one of the most religious countries in western Europe...and I am learning to be very, very virtuous!! 

Some of you may have seen my Lesson of the Week post back in September. It has been given elevated status to 'Lesson of the Year'. Currently we are waiting for the following:
  • The man from the CAF (Finance Assistance Office) to confirm that our property is correctly registered at the land registry resulting in us paying less council tax. He told us approx a month ago it would be done well in advance of 16th December deadline...perhaps his idea of well in advance and mine differ slightly?
  • The window company to tell us our new windows that we have ordered are ready. The three to four weeks quoted towards the end of October yesterday became 10th December!
  • The Chimney Flue company Piemme. Our two to three days for confirmation of the quote has just turned into a week...and given our experience so far elsewhere will probably be a while longer yet.
The response to our questions of "How does this country function?" to our Italian friends: The standard shoulder shrug and utterance of "This is Italy!"  

Thursday, 15 November 2012

An unexpected visitor


It's not everyday that a beautiful Arabian horse turns up in your garden...but hey, life here in Abruzzo is full of surprises!!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Jake's Birthday!

Submarine cake English side
Submarine cake Italian side

It was several weeks ago now that Jake celebrated his 6th birthday with his first ever birthday party in Italy.

Now, I never thought that I would ever be concerned about birthday party etiquette - after holding 5 birthday parties for Jake and 3 for Josh I thought I kind of knew what to do and what the children (and other parents!!) would expect.  It never dawned on me that birthday parties might be so different from country to country until...

I gave out the invitations to the party. Sunday lunch time, 12.00. My first surprise was when two sets of parents asked me, straight faced, if I meant midnight. "What?! For a 6 year old's birthday party?!" I thought to myself, and yet, they didn't seem shocked at the idea. Now, they could have just been humouring me - this strange woman that turns up from England with her unusual birthday party traditions - but for some reason I'm just not convinced.

Then, another two mums approached me (the school run here frequently involves stopping for coffee at the CafĂ© Giardini after the drop off, where you also bump into a fair few of the other parents). "Is a party at lunchtime something that you do in your country?" they asked bluntly. "No," I replied in my best Italian, "We don't really have a set time for birthday parties, but I thought as the children have school the next day lunchtime would be best." To which came the reply "Oh, we thought it must be something from your country as birthday parties are always late in the day here." Black mark number 1 on how to organise an Italian birthday party! 

Party Table!
Pass the parcel!

The day of the party arrived, I was running around like a crazy woman making sure I had everything ready:
- cake...check
- home made pasta sauce...check
- presents wrapped for pass the parcel...check
- prizes for musical statues, and musical chairs...check

Renowned for their laid back attitude, I was pleasantly surprised when most of our Italian guests arrived within half an hour of the specified time!!

It was a hot day and the children were running around together excited about the party. However, it seems that it is not the done thing for Italian children to sweat... and yet, Italian mums dress their children up in shirts and jumpers - or winter tights and dresses, when the temperature outside is nearing 30c. Excitable children, layers of clothing and rather warm temperatures, does not bode well for sweat prevention! Black mark number 2.

So, drinks in the shade to cool down I thought and, yes, you've guessed it - Black mark number 3! It seems a birthday party is just not a birthday party in Italy without half a dozen bottles of coke, orangeade, lemonade, etc. So my British 'blackcurrant squash' was eyed with great suspicion, with most children opting for the alternative choice of water...and the mum's smiling at me through gritted teeth!

However, I think I redeemed myself with the sweet treats. This year Jake wanted a submarine cake. I made and iced the cake, even putting both a white ensign and an Italian flag on it, and piping writing in both languages to show our appreciation of our new home country. In addition, I made flapjacks and cup cakes. The mum's all enjoyed tucking in, but it seems I still didn't get it quite right - one mum brought a tray full of mini pastries from the local baker's for the children, just in case my English ways weren't quite up to scratch! Oh well...there's always next year to get it right!