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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bagamoyo Young Artist Center

The Center that I worked with in Bagamoyo is losing their center and their home due to lack of funds.  Donations can be made to Masiga M. Jaruph Bagamoyo Tanzania via Western Union.  WU will ask for a test question and answer.  The answer should be "Margie."   

This is a center that gives lessons in art and language with the purpose of teaching skills in painting, drawing, music, dancing, and drumming to both girls and boys under 18 years old free of charge.

·         To help reduce the number of children on the streets in Bagamoyo society.
·         To give the opportunity to exchange views and cultural ideas with children and adults from different areas inside and outside of the country of Tanzania
·         To give children the opportunity to represent their opinion, understand themselves and to know their own value in the society through art work.
·         To give children knowledge and awareness about the killing effects of the HIV disease

The Bagamoyo Young Artist Center offers free of charge
·         English and Mathematics
·         Traditional Dance and Drama
·         Drawing, Painting, Carving

Bagamoyo Young Artist Center requirements are paints, paper, drawing pencils, pens, brushes, notebooks, children’s English books, writing pencils, crayons, sculpting supplies, clay, etc.  Send by UPS.
Time for sessions are afternoons Monday through Saturday - 4:30 to 6:30 pm.
You may be a member of Bagamoyo Young Artist Center only if you attend everyday.  If you cannot attend,  you must let us know before the class

·         At Bagamoyo Young Artist Center we like to work together as a team and to have a real relationship with the guardians and parents so that children reach their goals.
·         We ask the parents and guardians to give support and cooperation to Bagamoyo Young Artist Center to allow  the boys and girls to join with their fellow children in order to receive the training we give.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Reflections in the Arno

It’s Sunday morning.  My flight back to the States leaves Geneva on Tuesday but I leave Florence on Monday.  Typical for me, just when I’m feeling really comfortable, it’s time to go. 

Strangely enough I’m not so eager to go back to a place where I understand the conversation.  I’ve learned over the past six weeks that true communication has nothing to do with language and everything to do with the energy that is given and received.  This experience has been a great opportunity for me to learn how to communicate without language skills and to read other people’s energy.   I often struggle to keep a conversation going anyway, so being able to look at someone blankly and say “non capisco” turns out to be a beautiful thing.   My experience of being alone in Italy has been enlightening and enlivening for me in all kinds of ways.  

About three weeks into living here the outside noise that echoes continuously within this apartment became an undercurrent in the background rather than front and center chaos.  The noise was bothersome because it reflected the internal chaos I felt at the time.  And the location of the apartment is truly convenient, central to everything.   And I would never have seen David being paraded down the street in a cart if I stayed somewhere else.  

I did finally get the heaters to work but I never did get used to the spurting, scalding hot water that comes immediately out of the taps in this place.
Fear of showering was never on my list of topics to talk with a shrink about, but IT IS NOW! The burn on my arm has just healed from the first night’s shower.   I learned how to get a balanced temperature flowing without burning my arm but every time in the midst of the shower the cold water stops and scalding hot water bursts out.  There’s no place to jump out of the way.  Every time before entering I give myself a pep talk, “Come on.  You can do it.  Just get in there and get it over with.” 

I came to Italy and Africa to experience what it would be like to live for a bit in other cultures where English is not the first language rather than to simply travel as a tourist.  I leave today after spending four weeks in Africa and eight weeks in Italy with a deeper respect for my father, who immigrated from Germany to America in the 1920’s, and for all people who leave the safety and comfort of the known to make their way in another land.  And I have the highest esteem for anyone who moves to a new culture without the security blanket of a partner, friends in the area, or family like my friend Marc did moving from Switzerland to Hawaii. 

All aspects of this adventure have served me in ways that I won’t describe here because I can’t yet.  What has taken place for me is so far beyond the trivial words I write.  The experiences of the last three months have been both joyful and exciting and at times have shaken me to my core.  It was the ‘best of times and the worst of times’ and I’ve enjoyed every second of all of it.  Better still I didn’t just survive, I’m thriving.   

I’ve met wonderful and not-so-wonderful people.  I’ve seen amazing, phenomenal sights complete with wonderful and not-so-wonderful smells, textures, tastes and sounds.  I’ve been hugged and kissed by complete strangers who exuberantly let me know that in some way they find me beautiful.  Those experiences alone would have made it all worthwhile.  But something even greater happened.  I made a new friend in Africa with a bond so strong that it won’t matter whether we ever meet in person again or not. Tashi is 21 years of pure love - so open and so sweet.  He emails whenever he scrapes together 1000 shillings to use the internet.  "My tears dropped down the last night.  Please never forget me."  And there is no way I ever will forget him.

I’m not packed yet, but I’m ready to leave!  I feel like I’ve completed whatever this was all about and maybe someday I’ll know what that was, maybe not.  I’m eager to be surrounded by my children and my grandchildren!  They are the cake!  These adventures are just the frosting.  There are many times I wish I could be a more traditional mom and grandma.  I do understand what I’m giving up. But that’s not who I am and I appreciate that my family allows me the space to taste the sweetness of life in a way that works for me.  And I’m ever so happy to share it with all of you.  And if you wrote to me even a line while I've been away, bless you.  It meant more than you'll ever know.

I stayed long enough to see Firenze dress up for the holidays.  

Arrivederci Firenze!  Next Stop:  Ft. Mitchell, KY!!  Yeah!  You see I may not be able to stop blogging.  It has become an addiction.   

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mamma Mia!

Le Cinque Terre – Five tiny towns along the Ligurian Coast – Riomaggiore, Manola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso al Mare - quaint, beautiful, rugged, and......  Was there a full moon on Thursday?

As has become my habit I walked to the train station in Firenze in the pouring rain on Wednesday and arrived at my new destination, Riomaggiore, in the pouring rain.  I’ve become expert at taking pictures while holding an umbrella.  I count everything as a talent these days.  

Stairs to La Casa de Venere
Riomaggiore was my base of operation while visiting Le Cinque Terre.  I had a nice room on the third floor of La Casa de Venere on via Sant'Antonio located at the top of these stairs.  The stairs inside La Casa were also straight up and down.  I murmured a silent prayer that I wouldn't have to leave in a hurry for any reason. 

Riomaggiore is a picture book seaside town hanging on the edge of a cliff as are Vernazza and Manarola.  

I loved Riomaggiore and had a great time at dinner the first night with a couple from North Carolina and another couple from New York.  We were the only tourists at La Lampara, the only restaurant still serving customers.  Le Cinque Terre pretty much closes down in the winter.  The tortagliani di lobster was excellent,  the very tall young waiter was cute and pleasant and the older waiter held my hand and asked me if I was from California every time he came to the table. 
Even though the sun was out the next day, parts of the trail from town to town were closed  so I took the train.  It cost 70 Euro cents to go fron Riomaggiore to the other four towns.  Ya gotta love the trains in Europe. 

Besides loving the towns and the unbelievable scenery, it turned out to be a very interesting day in other ways.

Corniglia is the one town that is not at sea level.  It sits atop a cliff.  I had climbed to the top of the town and stopped at this piazza to rest. 
There was a man, late 40’s, early 50’s I’d say, wearing a brown leather jacket and knit hat sitting on the steps to the right of the church smoking a cigarette.  The steps lead up to a terrace at the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean.  We were the only two people on the piazza.  I sat on a bench facing the central statue and the church.  Just taking photos and willing my legs to stop aching.  The man stands up and very obviously stares at me for a long while.  I know I’m supposed to be flattered but it felt invasive so I stared back with a ‘get a life’ look.   He cocks his head and motions for me to come up the stairs.  He takes a few steps up, stops, and motions again.  I’m shocked but not afraid.  He goes up a few more steps and motions again.  This goes on three more times until he’s out of my viewing range.  I mean did he really think I was gonna hop up off the bench and run up those steps after him???  Anyway, I would have had to hobble, my legs were hurting too badly.  A few minutes later his work buddies returned from lunch and I saw him slink down the stairs on the other side of the church and join them at a construction site.   For a moment it felt like I had fallen into a really bad ‘B’ movie set. 

Vernazza and Manarola were pretty much totally closed up for the winter, but I enjoyed walking around them. 

Monterosso al Mare is my hands down favorite but then I’m a lover of the seaside and the mountains. The surf swelled and crashed magnificently for me.  It was here on this walkway next to the sea that an elderly gentleman, probably in his 80’s, flagged me down and did the hugging, cheek kissing thing with lots of “mi amore’s.”  That felt sweet. 

I returned to Riomaggiore in the early evening and once more went to dinner at La Lampara.  

The young couple from North Carolina was there again too so we had fun chatting.  Toward the end of the meal, they both said, “Do you see that man staring at you?  He’s been outside the window for a really long time just staring at you.”  I had seen him through the glass on the other side of the room but was just trying to ignore him.  He was a crusty old fisherman and did not leave the window the whole time I was eating.  I said, “Yes, I know he’s there and maybe it’s a form of flattery, but would you mind walking me back to my room when we leave?”  They did.  I said, "Grazie mille!"
Via Sant'Antonio (my room)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Typico Firenze Giorno

Before coming to Italy, several people asked me, "What will you do in Florence for six weeks by yourself?"  I usually replied, “I don’t really know.”  Now I do.  

A few weeks ago, I left my apartment and headed for the Palazzo Strozzi to see the exhibit of ‘Bronzino’ masterpieces. Palazzo Strozzi is located on Piazza Strozzi.

I turned left off via dei Calzaiuoli instead of right and found myself on via Mozzi in front of a leather shop named Pazzi.  I chuckled to myself and headed toward the Ponte Grazie.  

I passed up the Ponte Grazie and traveled along Lungarno Zecca Vecchia for awhile, crossed the River Arno at the Ponte Vecchio to do a little window shopping.  

Then I walked along the Arno on Lungarno Guicciardini which becomes Lungarno Soderini and then via Bobolini.  

Along via Bobolini, just after I passed the Giardini Bardini, I turned onto via Baldini before turning right onto via Torticelli and then left on Viale Machiavelli which becomes via Berelli and then via Zanelli.  After all this walking, I ended up 
on Viale dei Strozzi instead of the Piazza Strozzi so I waited till another day to see the Il Bronzino and decided to just have lunch instead.

By now, I’m starving but do I eat at the osteria, the hosteria, the trattoria, the caffeteria, the pasticceria, he straiccheteria, the yoghurteria, the gelateria, the vineria or the pizzeria? 
On this day I chose to eat at Trattoria La Media which was sweeta even though they sat me next to the meata.

and then I walk back to my apartment to put my feet up until  it’s time to start all over again!

And sometimes I just go to the Piazza della Repubblica 

and ride the carousel.  

Disclaimer:  More than a few liberties were taken with matching photos with location and while all the street names are Firenze streets and many of them are in the order I've given them, some are not.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Something's Changed!

Last night about 6:30 pm, I stopped in the mercato after leaving Moyo’s where I go to write the blog.  I’m attempting to navigate Borgo degli Albizi shoulder to shoulder with the newest throng of tourists    My  hands are full, one with my purse and computer, the other with my bag of groceries, and I am continually saying ‘permesso’ as I push my way through the avalanche of people.    

Just as I’m looking both ways before crossing via Proconsola, a man grabs both my arms, kisses me on both cheeks and swings me around.  He is speaking Italian so fast I can’t understand even one word.   I think he has mistaken me for someone he knows, so, I say, “Non capisco.”  He doesn’t let go of my arms but slows down his speech and repeats, “molto bello, molto bello” over and over again.  "Turista?  Studenti?"  (it was dark out.)  I say, “Turista.”  He says, “Posso communicato?  You, me.”  I say, “No.”  Sad face,  "Oh, bellissimo.  Famiglia?"  I say, “Si, si.” He accepts that with a smile and pulls me to him as he kisses me on both cheeks again.  Continually saying “molto bello” before letting go of my arms.  I must say I smiled all the way home.  Then I checked my purse to see if my wallet was still there.  It was.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Assisi Ascension

Wired from cappuccino and pastry in bars in Arezzo and Terentola, I finally arrive in Assisi three and a half hours after leaving Firenze.  I took the local trains.  But I got to see wicked storm clouds brewing over snow capped mountains and rivers leaping beyond  their banks in Cortona, a beautiful lake that I think is Lake Trasimero, and experience lots of Italian high school kids from Perugia to Assisi where it is blessedly not raining.

For me, Assisi is a slice of heaven on earth.  Peace palpitates through my heart as I walk the artistically paved streets and climb precisely laid steps through Assisi’s narrow corridors. 

The artisanship of the stonework buildings speaks to me in a visceral way that I find only in the works of Michaelangelo’s renaissance art.   

Beauty speaks every time I peek through a crevice or peer over a wall.  

I gesture with my camera in a couple's face between their kisses and request they take my photo on St. Clare’s piazza. It's what you have to do to get their attention.  And they seem happy to accommodate.  Well, let's make that 'willing' to accommodate.

If you climb the stairs right up the street from San Francesco, you will be greeted with this cozy spot 
and be able to eat the best cheese I’ve tasted in Italy (and that’s a high compliment) and feast on gnocchetti delle paesano, the best food I’ve had in Italy (and that’s more than a high compliment) and drink Umbrian wine at Al Camino Vecchio, like I did.  And it’s okay to enjoy every morsel because you’re going to be climbing more stairs and more hills.  

And as you ascend, you get to see the most amazing light display spotlighting specific beauty within the Umbrian mountainsides, the plains, and Rocco Maggiore.  

So I walk and I wander and I feel love all around me.  

I also watch a little TV (have no idea what that light is) 

and then Francis and Clare welcome me.  

I may need to come back to the Umbrian region another time to explore.   Although the weather is very cold, Umbria feels warm and welcoming.  Like a remembered home with lots of pleasant memories.

All Sam's Fault!

Just when I thought I had mastered the trains, I boarded without first stamping my ticket in the yellow stamping machine.  But I remembered Doreen reading to me out of the tourist guide that if you forget  to stamp your ticket, write the date, time, and location you boarded the train on the back of the ticket and sign it.  I did that.  When the ticket agent came by, I explained that I had to rush to catch the train and forgot to stamp the ticket.  With a pleading look, I showed him my written statement.  He asked, “All way Santa Maria Novella?”   I said, “Si, si.”  He signed the front of my ticket, “No problema nesta treno.”  I heaved a sigh of relief.  The fine can be anywhere from five to forty euros and I had two more train agents to face.

This train turmoil was all Sam’s fault.  Sam is a young man who does international consulting work on his own.  He currently lives in Madrid and is taking some time to see Italy.  I met Sam while at the bus stop in Assisi.  He stood next to me and whispered those magical words that I’ve been longing to hear, “Do you speak English?”  Then, somewhere in the course of our five minute conversation at the bus stop, he asked if I liked red wine.  Be still my heart!  English conversation AND red wine. 

After being flung about on a careening bus ride back to the train station, Sam invited me to have a glass of wine while we waited for our trains.  We were just like the Italians.  Talking and laughing over each other.   I was having so much fun, I had to dash at the last minute to board the train.  Let’s see, Enriche was in his 20’s, Sam?  Probably 30’s.  At this rate, I’ll meet a male kindred spirit in his sixties when I'm 90. 

Thanks, Sam, for the conversation and the wine.  Enjoy the Amalfi Coast and I'll enjoy Le Cinque Terre!

Photos from a most beautiful day in  Assisi next time.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Plea to the Rain Gods

Please, please, please stop raining.

And even in the midst of all the rain, they keep moving David (a copy of course).  They moved it from a niche in the Duomo to the front of the Duomo.

I thought, "Well isn't that a great third or fourth spot for David since he's also guarding the Palazzo Vechio and the Piazzale Michaelangelo (copies of course).

But then I heard music and when I looked out the window, I saw this

and this.  And I don't know where they've taken David now.  Oh, and at the same time I was watching out my window and making funny face and hand signals to the guy in the window across the street, a photographer was yelling, "Signora, Signora may I come up."  "Si, si," I said.  So I let this stranger into my apartamento.  He took his photo while I took mine and he left.

I think my next stop will be Assisi.  I'm sure it will be raining there too.  That's not a negative attitude, it's just fact.  :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Vigilante's Venetian Views

II left Firenze at 8:30 am in the midst of pouring rain.  'Thank god I'm going to Venice.'

Guess what! Here' my first view of Venice.  AND of course, the highly fit gondolier in the black and white stripe shirt, tight black pants, and straw hat forgot to show up and I had to take the water metro with the common folk.  

While trying to figure out which stop would leave the least amount of walking in the rain, I missed it totally and ended up having to go to Lido. Not the island I wanted necessarily.  No less than five people looked at me kindly and said, 'finito' when I didn't want to leave my seat.  So I disembarked in Lido instead of Venice, walked around the gangplank, and re-embarked.

  This time I sit where I can read the names of the 'prossimo fermata' or 'nesta stopa.'  During the 45 minute sojourn, the views I see of Venice make me think that Africa was pretty sweet.
I manage to pay attention to the stops, though, and get off at the station I want, flip open my umbrella, walk across a bridge, and stand face to face with Savoia and Jolanda, my hotel.  Be still my heart.  Tears fill my eyes.  I am overcome with joy. My hotel is right here.  You see, my teeth are chattering and I'm shivering from the cold and the wet.

My room is teeny-tiny (about the size of yours,Dee, in Firenze) but it has heat, real heat, not a space heater that blinds you as it swivels past your eyes and it has a shower with hot water that doesn't scald you.  I've decided in my apartment that the word for hot should be scaldo, not caldo.  Was it really just a few weeks ago that I was complaining about being too hot and having only cold water in the shower?  Never satisfied. And this room has a carpet, damask wallpaper and gold drapes with balled fringe.  AND it's totally 
Q-U-I-E-T.  I'm in heaven.  

I decide Venice be damned, I'm just staying in my room for the rest of the day, maybe tomorrow and the next day too.  I switch on the TV, something I haven't done in three months, and learn immediately 'breaking news' that Prince William is engaged to Kate Middlesomethng.  Then I watch the Simpsons and Friends in Italian. Pretty funny actually.  

Finally, my stomach gets the best of  me and I begrudgingly leave my heated room, armed with my new leather jacket, my scarf (which no respectful Italian would leave home without) and my trusty umbrella to brave the weather just as far as the nearest caffe.  Allora!  To my surprise, I encounter this when I step out the door.
And I haven't walked ten feet yet.

 I LOVE Venice.  I find a great caffe to have coffee and pastry right off with friendly people who make me feel welcome.  It's a great people watching spot too.   Later, I find the perfect restaurant where I have Cipolla (the best onion soup ever) and Grigliata di Scampi.  I'm almost embarrassed to say that I didn't even know that shrimp even have claws until being in Italy. (Doreen ordered shrimp last weekend.)  So I wasn't aghast when my scampi arrived with claws.

I can breathe here.  Maybe it's the combo of quaint Italian and ocean and open sky.  

I walk and walk in the rain for four hours with intermittent stops for food and drink.   I just feel happy here.  Maybe it's the half liter of red wine (They didn't have 'un quarto.'  What's a girl to do?) so I'll wait to put a down payment on an apartment. Just kidding.   I felt happy even when I was still hungry.  It's very interesting to me, though, that while I'm enjoying Firenze, I have felt very alone there and the people are not only not friendly, they're pretty rude.  I have not encountered this level of rudeness anywhere I've traveled before even in Paris. And I don't feel it here in Venice either.  People actually smile here when you look at them.  

I can't wait to see if it all still feels the same tomorrow.  According to the weather report, it will probably rain for the next two days, the entire time I'm here.  That's okay.  I'll just have to return for a longer stay in the spring.

Buona Notte!