Tuesday, December 26, 2006 0 comments

Buon Natale!

Ciao everyone! I hope everyone is having a good Christmas. The Shackelfords, who run Harding's study-abroad program here, invited us all up to the Harding villa for lunch this afternoon. We ended up having about twenty people: Robbie and Mona Shackelford and their two sons who are visiting, the Williams (the directors here), along with her parents (the Bybees), their two sons and daughter-in-law, and her brother, the Weavers (she was the faculty sponser for the Harding group this fall, and now her husband, daughter, mother, and daughter's friend are here for the last few weeks of her stay), a family that are staying with us while they're here on vacation (they're friends of the Williams' daughter-in-law), and me. We of course had way too much food, especially desserts. I made molassas cookies, and their were nearly as many pies as people...

Last Friday night, I spent one last evening Christmas shopping in town. I like the bustle of the city this time of year. I was walking around the duomo just around sunset, and I could hear something that sounded like beating drums somewhere in the distance. As I came up behind the baptistry (in a separate building in front of the church), I saw a colorful parade of people in medieval/renaissance costume marching into the piazza. A crowd quickly gathered as they filed into rows in the piazza. There, they stopped playing for a bit and someone important-looking wearing an sash in the colors of the Italian flag (denoting a government official doing some kind of official business) came out of a building and gave a speech to the marchers. They then resumed their line, everyone in their division by the costumes they wore, and marched on towards San Lorenzo. I took a video of them marching out, and several pictures. The costumes were fantastic; some wore red-and-white striped jackets with red pantaloons, a red felt hat, one red stocking, and one white stocking. Others wore similar outfits in red-and-yellow, green, and blue-and-white. Others wore colorful stocking with armor, and the riflemen wore green and brown with helmets. Some carried flags in light blue and yellow, and others carried rifles and cross bows. There were several young women towards the front, each in a different renaissance gown. Someone in the crowd said they had seen this group out at other holidays, too.

The city is beautiful at night in December. The streets downtown are hung with swags of lights overhead, and every shop has its windows full of Christmas displays and greenery over the door. There's a big tree lit up with white lights down in Piazza della Repubblica. I walked back to my bus stop near the train station the long way to enjoy the lights.

My favorite Christmas song this year is Neil Diamond's version of "White Christmas." It's such a fun version, and I've had it stuck in my head for days. I finally downloaded it and a few of my other favorites (Kenny Loggins "Celebrate Me Home", Randy Travis "Winter Wonderland", "Tennessee Christmas" (I think the version we have at home in Alabama, which I couldn't find. So, I got Steve Wariner, and it's pretty good), "Let it Snow" by Ricochet (a great 50's do-wop sort of four-part harmony), and the classics "Feliz Navidad" and "Happy Christmas (War is Over).") Wow, that's a lot of parenthesis in one paragraph. Anyhow, I'm enjoying the music.

It was quite warm here today--it must have been nearly sixty degrees. I was suprised when I went outside as we loaded up the food we were
taking up to the Harding villa. I never even put on my coat, though I took it. It's been really cold the last several days, so it was a pleasant suprise. I think a lot of it was that the wind finally stopped blowing. It's been howling all weekend; everyone comes in with their hair in a mess.

Thank you to those who sent Christmas cards! I enjoyed hearing from you. And sorry for not updating very often recently...it's my New Year's resolution to be better about that! I will get an article about the trip to Catania I took a couple of weeks ago up within the next few days, I promise!

Buon Natale! (Merry Christmas in Italian, pronounced like bwon na-ta-ley). I hope every enjoys the holidays. :)
Wednesday, December 6, 2006 0 comments

Life is getting interesting...

Hello everyone! Well, today was my last day of language school class. I will go next Tuesday to take the final exam, but I am done with class. I've learned a lot, but of course I still have a long way to go. Now that that is over, I am going to be very busy with students. Lauren and Matt, two of the other AI workers, are moving to Vicenza, a town in northern Italy, next month. They will be working with the church there, especially with the large youth group. I will be taking most of Lauren's students over the next couple of weeks, so my schedule is filling up fast. It's been very busy around here the last couple of weeks with Thanksgiving, a benefit dinner to buy a special bicycle for a disable man at church, and our Christmas festa.

Today, we had quite a crowd at lunch. Our directors' two sons arrived yesterday for the holidays, and we also had a couple from church over. David and Laneida Calabrese met here in Italy when she was an Avanti worker several years ago (He's Italian and she's American) and since their marriage have lived in the U.S. They have just moved back here with their two (soon to be three) children, David, Jr. and Miranda. We are really getting quite a crowd of kids at church!

In other interesting news of the week, our van is yet again in the shop. That vehicle is at least entertaining... Sunday afternoon, we were getting in the van to go home from church when the latest problem cropped up. I pulled the sliding door shut as usual, but this time, instead of latching, it bounced back. At first I thought the seatbelt or something must have just gotten caught in the door. So I checked it and then slammed it a little harder. It bounced open again. Yup, it was broken. The door no longer latched. We moved around until Matt ended up by the door. He tightened his seatbelt, and kept the door (mostly) closed by pushing on it with his foot. (Except for that part where he bounced it open and closed to make the overhead light flash off and on to annoy Greg, who was driving). Anyhow, we made it back without loosing anyone.

Sunday night, we headed back into town for the English service at Pepperdine's building. This time, we were prepared. David brought along an old belt, and he fasted the door shut by cracking the front passenger window and the window of the sliding door and belting them together. (See picture). This worked fairly well. Oh, by this time, Gary had tried to find the cause for the problem, and removed the inside door panel, and the lock was now jammed as well for some reason. But, a mechanic is taking a look at it now.

After we finished with the service Sunday night, a few of us went downtown and walked around enjoying the Christmas lights. Several streets in the historic center of Florence hang lights overhead between the buildings, and all of the shops decorate their windows. I'll post pictures of it next week when I get back.

Speaking of getting back, tomorrow morning (entirely too early in the morning, especially considering it's now after eleven and I haven't packed yet) Anna, Melissa, and I are going to Catania, in Sicily. Melissa is from Catania, but has been here staying with us and practicing her English. Anna and I are returning with her to attend a convegno at the church there. The church in Catania is the largest in Italy, and they are expecting quite a crowd this weekend. I'm looking forward to meeting the church members from other places around Italy, and also seeing a part of the country I've never been to. I'll be back next Monday night, so watch for a post about it sometime next week.

Well, I really need to pack...