Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A long overdue update

Dear Readers,
It has been drawn to my attention that I have long abandoned you to the perils of your imaginations in relation to my travels, and I seek here to rectify my error. First I must beg your forgiveness for this breach of my duty to you, and offer an explanation which may be inadequate but may serve as an explanation nonetheless.

It has been many years since this blog began, and some progress of my life may be traced through its pages. My enthusiasm for writing has ebbed and flowed as life has occasionally overtaken me, but the one constant for maintaining my will to write has been the knowledge that someone else would read it. Without this knowledge, I feel there is little point moving the memories out of my head and onto a screen. Althoughmy blog may serve also as my travel diary, so too do my photos, and the storyteller in me needs an audience with whom to share my adventures. And so dear readers, I must both apologise to and admonish you, for your perseverance but lack of response. A storyteller who is told to tell a story to a brick wall may question the sanity of that request. I must also thank those of you who do comment, my faithful readers. Your words are encouraging both for their existence and their substance.

And so, my learned friends, we move to the substance of the matter: What have I been doing in my long blogging absence? Most recently, I have been tackling the challenge that is teaching 124 Italian primary school children English. A challenge indeed, but a rewarding and fun one.

Who: Well I’m working for the English Experience (I must drop some names as I struggled to find any information about the company when I applied, and hope this may be of use to someone else) in Savona, Italy. The city is right on the coast of the Ligurian Sea, and much sea bathing has been done. And now, because I cannot be bothered writing it all out again, I shall give you the highlights of an email I sent my parents about it:

Currently I’m sitting in the living room at my host family’s house, the weather is ‘changeable’ outside (one of the kids knew that word the other day when we were talking about weather, I was fairly impressed) and I am working out what to do today. The family is probably going to the aquarium in Genoa this afternoon, because the weather isn’t crash hot (has been raining for the past week, but next week should be sunny allweek), some of the other teachers are meeting in town to work out where to go or what to do, and a couple of others are heading to Alassio, about 40 minutes west from here.

My host family is lovely – the two boys are great at playing together and almost ignore me, although I did play chess against the older one a few days ago. That was embarrassing – I couldn’t remember how all the pieces moved, and Samuele seemed to think that I would understand his instructions if he just repeated them over and over in Italian… I lost. Simone goes totally hyper every time any one knew walks into the apartment, apparently goes from sleeping on the couch to jumping around like a ninja jedi in a flash if the doorbell goes. He’s about the same age as the boys, has enormous eyes and expressive eyebrows, and is quite hilarious when he turns on the crocodile tears. Doris, my host mother, is very sensible and understanding. Her English is very limited, but I she’s not too bad on the past tense, so I’ve found out quite a bit about her life and we get along pretty well which is good. I’m not entirely sure if she minds whether I go to the aquarium or not – when I said I was thinking about going to see the Savona fort today, but that the aquarium sounded nice and I therefore wasn’t too sure about what to do, she immediately told me about what food I could eat for lunch when they were out (not in a ‘you can’t eat this’ way, just saying there was leftover pie, and there’s the pasta and here’s the pesto). But it will be this afternoon, so I might just wait and see.

I’m having a great time. Could never be a primary school teacher, but I am having fun. The other teachers are all lovely, we get along pretty well, and it’s got a similar vibe to summer camps at home, just with God missing.

Today (I started this email this morning, now I’m continuing it after dinner (semolina cakes, roast chicken, carrot salad and peaches)) I visited the fort and went to the beach for a while. When I asked Doris when she was possibly going to the aquarium, it was revealed that she didn’t expect me to go as there was no room in the car anyway. She offered to make room, but I insisted that it was no problem, that I really didn’t mind, so that dilemma was solved. They ended up going to the beach anyway – the sun came out and the predicted rain never eventuated, but Doris’ lower back started to hurt for some reason – she doesn’t know why, and she’s a physio… That meant they had to come back early from the beach. In the meantime I had a lovely day exploring the fort (no idea about any of its history – the usual problem of too many historical ruins, too few plaques to go around), wandering through Savona (everywhere was shut because it’s a Sunday), eating lunch by the harbour (panini with tomato and mozzarella), going for a swim (everyone else thought it was too cold, admittedly the sun was a little patchy and there was some serious wind action, but the water was wonderful and the wind dried me beautifully), and lying around on the beach in the late afternoon sunshine. This was all with most of the other teachers with whom it’s pretty fun to hang out. The next week is supposed to be sunny and warm (finally), so hopefully my next few afternoons will involve lots of sun, sand and gelato.

Yesterday four of us went to Monte Carlo for the day. It’s about 2.5-3 hours away on the train, but the tracks run right along the Ligurian Coast and it was beautiful. We kept going through tunnels and coming out into either sunshine or gloom, so we decided they must be magic weather tunnels. Monte Carlo was started sunny but it started to cloud over just as we were about to head to the beach. We wandered up to the castle, saw the cathedral, looked out at the view over the hideously large and expensive boats, and then meandered along to the beach. My general impression of the place was compact – it’s all very tightly packed. Also very touristy – the casino was swarming with tourists, I don’t know how James Bond manages just to walk in without crashing into snap-happy families. It was an interesting place – very well kept and very busy, but also with an odd combination of community and shallowness.

One thing I didn't mention was Doris' desire to introduce me to as many English speakers as possible, which led to a few awkward conversations of the 'so, here we are then' variety. The worst was when she invited her nephew around for dinner, with the intention that I go and meet his friends afterwards and do something. Another teacher from school came along, which I was immensely grateful for, and after much small talk we explained we had preparing and planning to do, and didn't think it would be a good idea to go out for a night on the town, the object of which was apparently to get girls drunk... On the penultimate evening, Doris said that we could go and have dinner at his house the next evening, to which I said 'sure, although all the teachers are having final drinks at 9:30pm'. Her response was 'no, that's impossible, he lives 20km away, it will never work...' I thought 'oh no!' until she continued with 'drinks are much more important.' Today's Awesome Thing covered this quite well...

And now, I am sitting on a train heading to Glasgow. National Express appears to have forgotten the difference between forward facing and backwards facing, so I am sitting once again looking at where I have been rather than where I am going. There should be wireless on this train, apparently, but my computer seems to have some trouble getting an IP address, and I can’t be bothered being proactive about it. I’ve just watched an episode of Doctor Who and Outnumbered, and when this is finished I shall continue to read Les Misérables or listen to Harry Potter. Exciting I know. (editor’s note: I actually watched them, and then an episode of The Office, and then most of the Dark Knight, to see how much I could watch on one charge of my computer… And I stared out the window at the beautiful scenery for many hours).

I returned from Italy on Saturday evening, and had a couple of relaxing days in Norwich, chilling out watching tv, the football, having a picnic, moving my stuff from the flat into a basement. On Monday I went to London, where I played with Sophie and repacked, managing to get four bags down to two without leaving anything out.

And now it is Tuesday, and I am on my way to Glasgow. 5.5 hours on this train, and evening in Glasgow and then half a day travelling tomorrow will bring me to the Isle of Iona, where I’ll be for the next 7 weeks. I’m now starting to get quite excited, as Italy has passed, so this is my new adventure. I expect it to be unexpected. There will be challenges and no doubt I will learn new things. Hopefully I have packed enough warm clothes – the weather there is supposed to be quite changeable, and can be quite wild. But I like weather, so I’m excited about that.

And that’s about it really. I’m worried I’m turning into one of those people who doesn’t really get excited about much – I seem to have lost the ability to get butterflies about upcoming events. Heading to Italy, I got up, ate breakfast, made my way to the airport, ate a sandwich there and flew to Italy. First day of school, I got up, got ready, ate and walked to school. This is amazing because I used to get quite anxious about small things, and wouldn’t be able to eat before going away for a weekend because of the anticipation. I’m not ruing the loss of my pre-adventure butterflies, but do wonder what it means about my attitude towards them. I still get excited, but there may also be an element of acceptance – ‘I’m going, there’s nothing I can do about it, I can’t avoid it, so just accept it.’ It’s probably my sensible kicking in. Has anyone else found similar? Is it just me getting ‘old’ and/or maturing?

Well folks, keep praying please. Especially for my time on Iona. And after that – currently no solid plans, although I have said I am available for another camp in Italy at the end of August, so that might happen. Or I could visit people all over the UK, or travel in Eastern Europe. Or perhaps a combination of all three. I don’t know what’s happening with Greenbelt – they haven’t gotten back to me for ages, so I’m just going to wait and see who offers me something to do first – Italy or Greenbelt… Prayer that I end up in the right place would be appreciated please.

Toodles for now, thanks for reading, don’t forget to comment just to let me know I do have some readers…



  1. Hello Imo! Sounds like a great experience! I'm happy to know that you have arrived in Glasgow safely and will look forward to more pictures. As far as the excitement thing goes, I've noticed the same. Not really sure what it's all about...might be part of growing up? But also maybe that we've both done quite a bit of traveling now and know what to expect. I still get excited when I see world famous monuments and occasionally at other points along the way...surprises. I'm sure others have noticed the same as well.

  2. Hey mim, Thanks for updating your blog. I enjoy reading what you are up to.. cant quite keep up with all the posts on f/b and the photos.. I appreciate greatly that somethings about you have not changed - your obsession with 'weather'!! Made me laugh :) I think possibly your current cirucmstances are changing frequently and the amount of 'newness' in each day may contribute to no nerves - this is a good thing, and will probably change again before you get home. I hope you have a great time in Glasgow, we miss you muchly, and are anticipating your return. God bless!!

  3. Yay, a post! That I'm too tired to read... But thanks for writing! I'm thinking of you and will read it ASAP and write a real comment :)

  4. Sounds like Italy was well worth it - great :)

    I think I need to learn some "meh, new experience, I'll just eat toast like normal and head on my way" lessons from you!

    I hope Iona is brilliant. Emails/letters are a-comin'!

  5. Nice stories Mog. I do read them occasionally! Italy sounds like fun - I do wonder at all these Euro mums assuming that all teenagers ever want to do is go out and get drunk with boys. I found the same expectations in DK. I guess we're just different.

    I still get excited about going places, but not with the same sense of breathless anticipation. These days, life happens and whatever happens on the trip will happen regardless. We'll most likely get there, and if not, we'll deal with the consequences at the time.

    Perhaps it's also just being a bit tired all the time that causes that butterfly feeling to be permanently dulled.

    It's like Christmas, the tooth-fairy, and the Easter bunny - all gradually lose the magic they held when we were young, to be left as celebrations. Perhaps it's to do with being able to tell the time, or not. When you can't, exciting things could happen at any time, you just don't know. When you know the date and the time, things lose that sense of unpredictability, and start to become a bit more mundane.

    That said, the same sense of excitement still arises when a train arrives on time! But that is unpredictable around here!

    Take care on Iona!

    Love, your big sister

  6. I previously tried to post a comment but instead I think I sent you an email inviting you to follow your own blog. Funny that eh?

    Anyway, Iona sounds awesome - I have a picture in my head of you on a small rocky island in a small wooden cabin eating sausages with a half-giant (I'm sure you get the reference).

    P.s. you should go to France and watch the tour and be on TV :P

    Have fun,


  7. So I'm a little late in reading this but I'm still here!

    Loved your Italy adventures - I'm am completely living vicariously through your more exciting life - maybe that's why the butterflies have died down, it's the sense of responsibility to have exciting times for the rest of us!

    Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing

  8. oooh. so jealous!! I vote u go to eastern Europe -- It's awesome -- and cheap :-) Oh, and thumbs up for watching the office... the US version I hope!