The line was about six deep at the hotel reception desk, and moving slowly. Tired and restless about a week into my travels, I decided to wander the luxurious, modern lobby and have a quick look. From around the corner, I heard some music and laughter, so I followed the sounds to investigate further. I found a hostess standing in front of the entrance to a big, vaulted space; behind her, a Plexiglas dome with several large spheres swinging from the arches, all lit up with black light and pulsing laser beams from every direction. Electronic music blasted from the speakers.
The hostess asked me, “Klingon, Romulan, or Federation?”
“È Klingon, Romulan, or Federation, Lei?”
I pulled my passport from my jacket pocket, “American.”
She rolled her eyes and pointed me back to the reception desk in the lobby.
After a sputtering restart following the summer holidays (we’re in Italy, after all, it takes a few weeks to crank it back up), our nutty group of expats has returned with a vengeance to tell you all about working in Italy without getting caught—I mean, how to find a proper job with a legal contract. Never mind that 1/3 of the economy is in nero (under the table), we’re here to help you do it right. Sort of. I mean, if you’re not ready to master l’arte d’ arrangiarsi (the art of “getting by”) then maybe you should just stay in Kansas.
But very few things are black and white over here, so you’d better decide how much “gray” you’re comfortable with before you sell all your furniture. For those fearless souls like us that have more enthusiasm than common sense, let us explain a thing or two about working in Italy as a foreigner. It should be mentioned that this particular type of experience is actually much more rewarding than that of the lucky few who can afford to finance their dreams without working. By immersing yourself fully into the culture by way of a job, you become an active participant in your journey rather than just an observer. From the start, you should view this as an advantage, and not just as a necessity—even if it is. (OK, yes, I’d rather be toasting George Clooney’s nuptials with him at his Lake Como villa, but short of that, working for a living isn’t so bad.) [Read More...]
My little principessa turned one year-old recently, and this is a great time for being a parent. She’s discovering the world, learning to walk, and saying her first words. It would not be an understatement to say that hearing her call me, “Da-da” for the first time was the best moment of my life so far. However, it comes with a little anxiety, too. She’s learning English and Italian at the same time, and I can’t help but feel a little guilty about intentionally causing all this confusion in her developing brain. I tell her “shoe,” and Jessica tells her, “scarpa.” Poor thing.
My wife and I have both been language teachers, so you’d think that teaching our child to be bilingual would be an easy task. The obvious fact is, it’s not the same thing teaching a language to an infant as it is to an adult. In some ways, it’s easier…at least for our “student,” who has no blocks and no preconceived notions of grammar rules or pronunciation. For the teachers, however, how do you “explain” something to a little person who has none of your linguistic reference points?
While attempting to take notes in a bouncing van just outside of Florence, I listened to my guide Anna describe our first stop on our tour of Chianti. “We will be traveling along the Via Francigena, stopping at San Donato where you will see a typical Tuscan hilltown which sits along this very important route.”
“The Via who?” I asked.
“The Via Fancigena. You know, the pilgrim route from France to Rome. Actually it goes all the way back to Canterbury, England, as first described by its archbishop, Sigeric the Serious, in the tenth century.”
Was I sleeping in history class that day, or did I just not understand the Italian pronunciations? Or maybe it wasn’t my history so much as my catechism that was lacking. Quite probably, all of the above. I tried not to let my ignorance show. Anna was too busy driving to notice, and at that point she was in full storytelling mode.