Thursday, May 18, 2017

Two Seasons in Trieste

Back in Ole Wisconsin we used to say there were two seasons: WINTER and CONSTRUCTION.

I believe that in Trieste there are also two seasons: WINTER and STINKY FOLKS ON THE BUS.

It's that time of year again!! Enjoy the sun!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Monday has Practically Disappeared!!

It's one festivity after another this month! Even next Monday we're off! Woo hoo! This week it was the Liberation, next week it's May Day. The week before it was Easter Monday.

Europe rocks!

Living the Elementary Green Dream!

I have to say I am quite impressed with what kids learn in school in Trieste from an early age. Earth day is not really a THING here like it is in the States, but there is an emphasis on living the green life every day.

My sweetie is in first grade and here is how she's learning to live the green dream.

1. Kids wear a smock over their clothes.

In her school the girls and the boys wear the same color: dark blue. The kids know that when they put them on they are in SCHOOL and not at Home, or at Grandma's house, and they act accordingly. On a green level, they are protecting their clothes and therefore less washing needs to go on at home (and thank God for that, as most of us here have no dryer, also green, even if I still miss having one sometimes).

2. Kids bring slippers to school.

They have their outside shoes and their inside shoes. This keeps their classrooms and common areas cleaner, therefore less need for heavy-duty harsh chemicals.

3. Kids grow a garden with their teachers.

They have a little plot of land about a 5 minute walking distance from their school. They plant all kinds of goodies and get to see them grow. They also see where their food comes from and have the opportunity to see a project through its entire cycle. This week they are beginning their "Fruits and Vegetables" project. There is a dietician coming to meet with parents and explain how parents can support it at home. For now, we got a note reminding us to have lots of fruits and veggies on hand and talk about them with our kids.

4. Kids leave a cloth napkin at school.

They use it all week for their snack and lunch and then bring it home for washing on weekends.

5. Kids leave a hand towel at school.

They use it to dry their hands after they wash them. They each have their own hook in the bathroom. When the weekend comes we do a load with the smock, the napkin, and the towel so we are ready to send them with her again on Monday.

6. The kids leave their own water bottle at school.

They fill up their bottles as they need them. Plastic disposable bottles are discouraged.

Yes, this is public school, but it's not just her school. I think most of the elementary schools in Trieste have similar routines.

These green details may be small gestures, but put them together and you create routines that can last a lifetime and make a real difference. Well done, School!

Monday, April 24, 2017

They do House Calls Here

The other night Sweetie started feeling nasty a couple of hours after dinner. Cramps, general nastiness. He declared he was going to bed without further ado. Unlike him.

I decided to stay up and watch some netflix when I heard a moan from the other room. I muted the tv and heard it again. It was Sweetie.

I ask him what's going on. He says he's cold, that his stomach is killing him. I tell him to go to the bathroom (where these problems have some chance of getting resolved). He tells me he doesn't think he can make it.


Then it all begins: the noises and gurgles that make you wonder if you should stay or leave him in peace. You can imagine.

So this goes on and on and on for some time.

Then he feels better.

Then it starts again.

And again.

And again.

Then he decides he wants to die, or call the Emergency number (118). This is where things get interesting. He tells them it is not life-threatening but he doesn't know what to do (I am in bed by this time, but keeping alert all the same, resting up for what will surely be a busier day for me than for him). They take the info and say a doctor will call him back.

The doctor calls back in about ten minutes. He tells his story. The doctor says it sounds like the virus that has been going around and hit a peak last month. He asks if he can get to a pharmacy. Sweetie says no since he's erupting at both ends and the daughter is sleeping so having wifey go out is impossible.

So, get this, the doctor comes to our house.

Yes, at 5am. He shows up, talks to husband and gives him a shot in the rump. And like that he feels better, or at least he stops erupting. He goes back to bed and wakes up the next day at about 11.

Amazing. A house call. I thought they only had those on Little House on the Prairie!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Basketball in English for the Wee Ones

Heads up!

If your little person was born in 2008, 2009, or 2010 you can send them for a double whammy of Basketball & English at the same time!

Dates: May 9, 16, 23, 30 and June 6 from 4.30-5.30

Palestra di Chiadino
Via dei mille 18- Trieste

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What do Wine and Non-Profit Language Schools have in Common?

I went to Vinitaly for the first time this year for a consulting job. I got back last night. What an experience.

It made me think a lot about the wine business and what it has in common with what we are doing at the Italian American Association (I know this seems like a stretch, just give me a second to develop the thought).

A couple of years ago, after a project working with Michelin-starred chefs in Dubai (of all places), I came back to my role at the Association with a renewed sense of purpose. Hanging out with people at the highest levels of Food & Bev can do that to you. They have such a different approach to the things we do every day (eat & drink) that you can't help but be inspired by them.

They are artists, poets, philosophers. They talk to the food, they hear the voices of the grapes, in short, they are two steps away from Wacko. But that is what makes them so special. They hear the voices and they Honor them. We get to high-five the angels through their good works.

You would be crazy not to want to apply that to whatever the heck it is you do in life.

So I decided it was high time we concentrated on the Experience we were offering our students and members, and their families, too. I was set on creating a Michelin-starred language school.

Step one. New toilet seats. You can't have a Michelin-level school without new toilet seats. That was a no-brainer.

Done. Then came the intangibles.

We had to focus on creating a top-notch quality environment for our teachers and volunteers. Our mindset changed. We wanted to create a Professional Environment our people would be proud to work in. It turned out to be easier than anticipated. It quickly became a sort of group decision. We had to all agree on it for it to work, actually. We started to see that we were part of something Bigger than ourselves-- something that hadn't been done yet in Trieste.

Our internal team of teachers are Libero Professionisti with a VAT number. You can say what you want, but for those of us who have done it, we know that when you open up your own (albeit small) business, you are defining yourself as a professional. That, and you come face-to-face with the reality that you have to be great at what you do if you want to survive and eventually thrive. That gave us an even greater impetus to succeed.

Choosing the best teachers is important. Keeping them, even more so. Quality and consistency are the value we offer our students. We started to collaborate more, have teachers co-teach, develop materials together, go on the road to present at teaching conferences here and abroad. We concentrated on learning, and giving the best of the best and not worrying about what money was coming in. Leave the fixation on profit to the for-profit schools. We wanted no part of that.

Fast forward a couple of years. Vinitaly. I am working with producers of Verdicchio di Matelica in the Marche region. I am talking to the President of their Consortium of Producers. It was like talking to one of my colleagues. It's like, this guy totally Gets It. 

1. Identify with your product. I am my wine (Association). 
2. Quality =  Respect. 
3. If you have a quality product, the money will follow. 

Over the last five years we have increased our number of students by 400% without sacrificing the quality of what we do. In fact, most of them come back year after year. The money was not our focus and yet it came anyway.

Could it be that our Association has more in common with producers of fine wines, than with other language schools?

Hallelujah everyone!!


Thursday, February 9, 2017

What is up with appreciating the season????

I have a couple of questions burning a hole in my pocket today.

1. Does anyone get USED to the Bora, like, Ever?

Just wondering. You know, curiosity.

2. Why don't people go somewhere hot in Winter?

That's what I don't get. In America, we like to go where it's HOT in Winter (Florida, Caribbean) and cold in the Summer (Alaska).

Here, they do the whole embrace the season thing. In summer, they go swimming (whaaa??) and holiday in hot places (Trieste for a staycation, Croatia, South of Italy), and in Winter they do things like wear snow pants and go skiing in the mountains and snowshoeing and things.

Like, what is UP with these people?!?

Having fun is just too EASY here. It should be more of a sacrifice, we should suffer more.

Don't you think? Help me out. This is almost as bad as eating food IN SEASON. Another thing the Italians just don't get.

Everyone knows prime season for Strawberries is in Frosty February. Can I get a witness?

Someone, please tell them.