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.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Send the Kids Skiing!

There seems to be a stark contrast between parenting styles in Trieste.

On the one hand, there are the mothers who see themselves as combat soldiers in a constant struggle to defend their children against their tyrannical teachers who assign too much homework, and the schools that provide inadequately delicious food to fuel their children. They monitor their children's time, schedule them abundant play time so they can be children. They vow to never let their children ride the bus unaccompanied by an adult until at least 3rd year of Middle School and are the administrators of the parents' whatsapp group.

Then there's our group of parents from Little Sweety's first grade class. Case in point.

We get a little flyer one day about a ski class for the kids. Five saturdays from 6:30am to 6:30pm. Not much more info on the sheet than that, which is an invitation to call. So we did. And the information was the total price, and how to participate.

1. Drop your kids off (with the skis they rent or buy ahead of time)  in a big parking lot at 6:30a.m.
2. Fetch them at the end of the day.
3. If you give them 6 euros they can eat lunch.
4. Bus costs 12 euros total for one day.

No info on what they are supposed to bring, or what to wear (I have skiied twice in my life. Not an expert).
No form to fill out (oh yeah, we'll do that next week), no emergency numbers for any Just in Case situations. No possibility to pay (hah?) before the kids go to their first lesson, our babies, without us for a whole day.

Saturday morning the kids, who are a little nervous, hop on a giant bus with Slovenian licence plates that is (hopefully) heading to a place in Italy where people ski two hours away.

And all of this seems, like, Fine, at the moment of drop off.

And, frankly, ALL DAY as I got more stuff done than I can remember in recent history on a Saturday. Time flies, in fact, and since 6-year-olds don't have phones, we don't really have any updates, so it goes even faster!

The lady on the phone said they would be back between 6:15 and 6:30p.m..

It is 6:15 on the dot and we are waiting with the other parents in the parking lot. We exchange comments like Is this normal? Who are these people again? Do we have a phone number for them? Do they have ours?

I start to wonder if the over-protective mom-squad was right. What if they don't come back. What have I done.

Then, at 6:29 the bus rolls in, the kids get off, they are happy and bursting with energy. They see a patch of ice and immediately go and try to make snow balls out of it (we live in Italy, remember) and throw them at each other. The chaperones are cool as cucumbers. They say the kids were good. They mostly listened, only a couple of them got lost, but then they found them, so, yeah, it was a good day.

But... can we pay?
Well, we are really tired now, how about next week?

Awesome. Can't wait for next Saturday!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

How to Have a Vegan Over for Dinner

Tired of your busy social life and want a break from all of those dinner invitations? I have two solutions.

1. Have a kid.
2. Tell your friends and family you are following a Vegan diet.

I know what I am talking about. Believe me!

Number 1 makes you temporarily Untouchable until your friends either embrace the Lunch thing or you find other people with kids to hang out with. Don't fret: that will happen at three years old when little Sweetie goes to scuola materna. 

Number 2 is more difficult to navigate. At first I thought this was only the case for self-righteous pains in the arses who are judgy and annoying. But, actually, it turns out to be the case even for those of us who are perfectly charming, easy-to-please, non-judgemental, wonderful people!

When I was just merely vegetarian, see, people treated me with fascination and slight pity. What do I eat if I don't eat meat? How do I get my protein (news flash, a POTATO has enough protein for a day, people, and it is not particularly protein rich, just saying.)? Wouldn't I just die for a nice steak? (No. A can of tuna, yes). It must be so complicated not eating meat, but at least you have fish. No fish either? Wow. Can't imagine that. Well, I am cutting down, too. Hardly eat red meat anymore. Mostly chicken, cold cuts, that sort of thing... To the meat eaters I didn't pose much of a threat, especially since my not partaking left more tartara for them...

My mother-in-law still has a hard time with the concept. She asked me nearly every week for six years if I was Still a Vegetarian. For her, my diet choices were problematic. She felt it was her responsability to offer another option and sometimes that pressure was overwhelming. Until I pointed out that I could just eat everything except the meat. Her solution was to provide large quantities of Cheeses and egg products to make up for the lack of meat. To her that made sense.

Then I cut out dairy and eggs.

That was when MY life got better, but those around me got WORSE.

Oh, being a Veggie wasn't bad enough?! What did we do to deserve THIS?!? (Did I tell you Triestini have a tendency to take things personally?)

Let me offer two solutions from the Vegan perspective. We are not as different as you think.

On my plate, the Starch is the star. I do not care about carbohydrate issues. I eat as many of them as I want, and at any time of day (nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah!)

Just put POTATOES, BEANS, LENTILS, RICE, OR PASTA in the area where YOU would normally put a hunk of meat.

For everything else, you and me, we are cool. I eat the veggies and the salad just like you do.

See? It's not so hard.

I am even happy to bring a dish to pass so you can try something yummy and new, too. Just ask!

Ok? Are we clear? Can we have supper together sometime again? Because I miss our little talks. And Red Wine is vegan, my friend. Another thing we have in common!

Planning a Family Reunion

My family lives in about 7 states total. We, like many other American families, do not see each other very often. Every few years, however, we make a plan to come together and party like nobody's business. Normally the meeting place is near the home of one of the ELDERS. My mom's house, or my Aunt and Uncle's place. Makes sense-- the Boomers have space and money, the salt and pepper of a good party. This year we changed the rules. Well, actually, it was about 3 years ago, which was when we started to plan our European reunion in Trieste for this summer in June. In the end there were about 23 of us in Trieste, we worked it all out, and we had an awesome time. Since a couple of people have asked how we managed to do it, here are some guidelines in case you would like to do something similar.

1. Start planning 3 years in advance. This gives everyone time to save up, get off work, get a passport or renew their old one, and mentally prepare.

2. Plan for 3 days with one BIG party on one of them. We make our Big Party on Fathers' Day because in the US it always falls on a Sunday in June. That is the day that all guests MUST be in town. This gives people wiggle room to make their plans and get a good deal on plane tickets.

3. Unless you live in a place like Rome, Venice, or Florence, don't count on everyone wanting to stay in your town just because you live there. Some members of my family got their tourism out of the way before coming to Trieste, others started here and went off to other places they hadn't seen yet after recovering from our party. Trieste is a great home base for trips to Venice, Rome, Slovenia, etc. Ryan air flies out of Trieste and Treviso, too. Easy jet flies out of Venice.

4. Lodging. Help your guests by giving them different options as to where to stay. Hotels always have airconditioning, which Americans appreciate when it is hot as a mofo in Trieste. I had people sleeping at friends' places, my house, in a residence (hotel where they clean once a week) and at a hotel. Everyone was happy. You provide the resources, they make their own plans. I think that works best. Put people close to busses so they can be self-sufficient. Everyone stayed downtown, so that made transportation easy, too.

5. Activities: We planned a series of things to do that people could opt to participate in... or not. We made everything we could Kid Friendly. 

Guided walking Tour of Trieste
Family Italian language class
Treasure hunt at the farmers' market
Cooking class
Dinner made by family with chef Federico
The Big Party

6. Transportation. Trieste is largely a walking city and my people stayed downtown. Those who did not were within feet of a city bus stop. There are also taxis and my family used those too. When we went up to the Carso to our party, we rented a bus to take 20 people and the other handful went in cars. If you want to rent a bus, try just over the border in Slovenia,  and there are places in Trieste, too. Be careful, though, weekends are much harder to plan in the summer because of all of the other little day trips people organize. The train is always a good idea and kids love them. They key is putting people in a position to be autonomous.

7. The Party. Finding the appropriate venue is not easy in Europe, especially if your group is big. We opted to go up to carso and have our party at a wine-producer that also has the Best Osmizza in the world. We worked out a price per person ahead-of-time and a menu. They gave us a great deal. My family drank A LOT of wine, so we threw more money in over the course of the evening.

Final thoughts.

8. You never know who is going to come. We had some last minute confirmations, and other people didn't come who we thought for sure would. No biggy. Do not take these things personally. Love the ones you're with.

9. Let your guests be part of the plan. You can give them information and guide them, but, ultimately, the success of the shabang is up to everyone, and that takes the pressure off.

10. Don't forget the family portrait. They are dippy as hell, but you just HAVE to. Our uniform this year was the Italy soccer shirt. I found them on sale at Lidl for cheap cheap cheap and bought one for each person, including the Italian components taking part in our reunion. They made for an awesome picture and a rocking souvenir!

11. Create a closed Facebook page of your event. This helps people get psyched up and becomes an online journal of everyone's trip. Afterwards people share their photos and videos here. I still go back to ours and look at it sometimes and remember how much fun we had.

12. Other Communication. Important info should be shared on Facebook and email for those who don't DO Facebook, especially in the time leading up to the reunion. In Trieste you don't always have wifi, so your family should know that you can also make meeting times and places just like in the olden days. Europeans use Whatsapp much more than imessage, by the way. Some of the family members NEVER communicated directly, but that was okay because there is usually a spokesperson in each family that just naturally speaks on behalf of the others.

13. Home Base. We used the Italian American Association as a home base, since it is centrally located, there is wi-fi, a bar downstairs, and I was often there.

Conclusion: Keep your plans flexible, give people options, make sure there is plenty of wine, and you can't go wrong when you are planning your next reunion!