Sunday, May 8, 2011


entrance to the house


Saturdays will be a busy day for while I'm here this time. Why? For one, the weekly open market happens every Saturday morning in Zagarolo. I get up early to feed the cats and then drive into town, hoping to beat the rush of cars that jam the street near the market. People park every which way, so it's best to come early or late to the market. Not only is produce sold, but there are also meat, cheese, bread, honey and flower vendors. In another area of the market, vendors sell a wide variety of goods: clothes, toys, yarn, gadgets of all kinds, chandeliers, curtains, shampoos, kitchen ware, shoes, jewelry, etc. Yesterday I bought several used knit tops for 4 euros each that are warmer than some of the things I brought with me.

At 10 am, my first student, Valeria came to the house, to have two hours of practice speaking in English. Valeria is 25, a striking beauty and a young Roman professional. She's only been living in Zagarolo since last fall, when she moved in with her boyfriend. Together they are restoring a flat in a villa owned by his family. (Villa often refers to a building of 3-4 flats, where various members of the same family occupy all the flats.) Valeria has a degree in Economics and works in Rome for a large utility company. Speaking English is still an awkward challenge for her, so she is quite exhausted mentally after two hours. I know the feeling: it often happens to me when speaking Italian for several hours. Valeria commutes to Rome each day, works out 3 evenings a week, and often does not eat dinner until after 10 pm. Yet she still finds time to practice English for two hours every week.

Valeria told me of her wedding plans, and how they must save to pay for the elaborate dinner that is a main part of the Italian wedding celebration. It will cost @ 100 euros ($145) per person, and with at least 100 people in attendance, that comes to 10,000 euros ($14,500) just for the meal!

sidewalk leading to the house

At 3 pm in the afternoon, I drive to the home of Anna, a podiatrist, who needs help translating scientific articles about research in her field. Though Anna is already a doctor, she needs two more years of study to be able to teach at university, her ultimate goal. She has one year to go. Since most medical research is published in English, Anna spends a great deal of time wading through the long and complicated articles, then she summarizes the articles in Powerpoint presentations that she shares at conferences. She does not speak much English, but seems to understand it well enough to get a sense of the information in the articles.

Yesterday, our meeting went like this: I read a section of a scientific article in English, (on a particular type of nail fungus), then she read the same section back to me in English. Then she read the section again, translating it into Italian, to make sure she understood all of the English. At various times, her mother came through to get the laundry, her nephew Andrea came into to ask that Anna print him a coloring book page from a web site, and later he returned to ask for some of his Easter candy. We spent two + hours in this fashion, and only made it through two pages of the article.

I enjoyed the time spent with both of these women, and it humbled me to realize the struggles that many Italians go through to get ahead in their careers. Many of my Italian friends are very dedicated to improving their lives despite the challenges it entails. Neither Valeria or Anna have much free time in their lives, yet they are devoted to doing what they can to move ahead in their careers. I salute them, and am pleased to be able to help their journey in some small way. In addition, I earned 40 euros in the process! (@ $57). But in comparison to them, I feel both lazy and spoiled. It's almost embarrassing to say that I work online for my income! I know, I had my own struggles for many years, raising my son on my own. But now I'm able to travel and work online, which is a wonderful luxury. In any case, because of the life I now have, I can help them to improve theirs. Basta! It's a good thing!

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