Thursday, April 12, 2018

Signing up for the Trofeo

I did something courageous last week. I signed up for the Trofeo di Trieste, which is a series of nine trail races around town and up in the carso. I have Always wanted to do it but felt like I needed to be in better shape to compete. I wanted to be thinner and faster and then knock everyone's socks off at race one.

Surprise suprirse...Never happened. The years continue to tick by and I just get fluffier and slower. So I decided to just sign up. I reasoned I could use the races to shame me into getting fit.

The first race was on Sunday in Basovizza. It was a 12k with about 8k of the most boring and straight trail you can imagine, not even one curve. BOOOOOOORING! The rest was a little more exciting even if there was a hill in there that kicked me in the pants pretty good.

I brought up the back pretty well, I must say. At some point I was running neck and neck with a friend of mine who has survived a stroke (hats off!!), and behind people who were about 30 years my senior. I decided to embrace the fact that I am out of shape, but I am running anyway (How do you get back into shape if you don't?).

I also had plenty of time to recognize and reflect on how many people in Trieste run these races year after year and never miss even one. There are some seriously ANCIENT runners in Trieste, and many, actually, MOST of them are kicking my ass.

Let's hope that I get my consistency on, too, and start kicking ass again, too. In the meantime, I feel very proud.

By the way, if you are interested in getting into the running life in Trieste, I highly recommend it. I have mentioned it before, but Triestini make friends through hobbies, not work. It's a great way to practice your Italian and meet new people. Italians love to run in groups, so if that is your gig, you can Always get into one of the groups that meets in Basovizza on Saturday mornings, for example, or Barcola during the week. I found they are open to new people, too. To run in the races you do have to have a medical exam and fill out specific forms, but it's Worth it.

If you are not into running, try a new sport, there are tons of groups that are willing to take you under their wing!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Oh You're Late? Me too... NOT

Here's a little cultural difference I experience all the time. I am running something like 35 seconds late and I write a message to my appointment saying "Gosh, so sorry, I may be a little late. Get there as fast as I can." The reply is always a curt "OK." There is never any added "Take your time, no problem, I'm in the office anyway" or "No worries, me too." Then I get to the appointment and the other person is like 10 minutes later than me and there is no explanation and certainly no apology upon arriving.

What is up with that?

This is in the same category as the crazy advice I got from an Italian client a few years ago who said "Never say you're sorry, for ANYTHING. The other person will always want a discount."

It's as if saying you are sorry or admitting you are late is also admitting that you are weak or you are giving your power up. Here is another example. 4 out of 5 people in a class tell me they can't make it to our last class, which is a makeup class and which is also a party. So I decide to reschedule it when more people can come.

I send the message. Here's what I get for an answer:



Not so much. Well, one of them did say Happy Easter.

I will put that in my joy box.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Trail Running for Dummies

I could write that book because I am the Dummy.

Chapter 1 working title: "Sign up for an impossible run in the mountains and hope that your fear will make you run again."

The content would explain how to have your husband (who is in much better shape than you because he has a running group he runs with every weekend) sign you up for a SKY RACE (yes, that means exactly what it sounds like: RUNNING IN THE GD SKY, as in UP A FRIGGIN' MOUNTAIN for 12 kilometers and down for two!!) that will take place exactly MUCH sooner than any decent training plan can prepare you for (especially if you have done essentially no running since about, say, 2014).

Chapter 2. Run for Two Weeks and then Have Someone in the Family (not you) Catch the Flu and then Use that as a Convenient Excuse to Stop Running again COMPLETELY.

No content here, the title says it all. (Don't mention the fact that the Flu Sufferer started training again as soon as the fever went down-- besides the point).

Chapter 3.  (Guilt sets in,we must have full disclosure) Flu Sufferer Goes Back to Training, but NOT YOU!

Chapter 4. Race Day

Learn an hour before the start that the trail is completely covered in snow and that you will have to BUY and WEAR metal spikes that stretch over your running shoes or you will do the entire downhill part of the race on your BUTT.

Chapter 5. Starting place.

The group of participants is actually small enough and professional-looking enough that you will most probably finish last (which is your destiny you big fat loser!!). This is what true mountain people/ultra marathon habitu├ęs look like. Enjoy the view and get ready to fake an injury before the starting gun.

Chapter 6. Find Out They Won't Give you that Kick Ass Race Pack Unless you Actually Start the Race.

Don't play dead just yet.

Chapter 7. You May not Finish Last After All, but Please Finish!

There are a couple of slow pokes you can easily pass on the way up (walking mostly with no energy for deep complaining). The man with the prosthetic leg is ahead of you, but clearly he is an incredible athlete, so just get over it.

Chapter 8. Mountains Scare you and That is OK!

Get to the top, down some shitty cookies, slam a hot tea and start going down. Go mostly sideways, make a little squeak/scream with every slip/step. Admit that you are a flatlander, let the phony slowpokes pass you. Eat their snowy dust. Don't let it get to you.

Chapter 9. Don't Listen to the Kilometer Marker Dudes.

They always say You're Almost There!! They are totally lying. Tune them out.

Chapter 10.  Finish the Damn Thing, 

Get the hell out of town and hope you never see these people again. Take 3 ibuprofen before your legs (which have not been communicating with your brain for about 5 kilometers) even feel the pain. 

Chapter 11. Take a Red-Faced Selfie and Facebook it like you Won it!!  

The End.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Lunch and "Due Passi in Yugo"

The weekend has passed and no doubt if you are lucky enough to live in Trieste, you probably went out for lunch on Sunday in Slovenia and then out for do Passi afterwards.

It is a curious tradition that the Triestini preserve. It goes back to times before the fall of the Iron Curtain, which is evident in the language used to describe the phenomenon.

The invitation (in Trestino) sounds something like this:

A: Femo qualcossa in weekend per star assieme?

B: Volentieri. Demo fora maniar qualcossa in Yugo?

A: Va ben. Poi femo do passi.

Eating out "in Yugo" as in: the country formerly known as Yugoslavia, with friends and/or family on the weekend is going to involve some negotiation to 1) choose the right restaurant and 2) decide which border between Italy and Slovenia to meet at to be close to the destination. You will caravan together on the big day.

Choice of location is based on two things: 1) the ratio of price to quality and 2) how popular it is with Triestini. There is a direct correlation between the two. A gostilna has the best quality/price ratio as long as it is somewhat new and caters to the Italian palate yet remains unknown to the mainstream. Once too many Triestini start going (popularity is based on word of mouth), prices go up and portions go down. The trick is to get there "in time" before this happens. Curiously, once the place becomes truly popular, the Triestini no longer go there. They will have found a new place by then. Popular restaurants in Slovenia are much like free illegal parking places where you don't get ticketed in downtown Trieste, they change once too many people know about them. When the Triestini no longer go, the restaurants start to do really well. The "foreigners" keep them alive. First the people from the Veneto start coming (thanks to Tripadvisor), then the Milanesi, and finally the Germans as they pass through on their way to Croatia in the summer.

The "do passi" after lunch should not be confused with an actual healthy hike. It is short and sweet, just enough to say you went for a walk, especially since lunches in Slovenia tend to be a good excuse to stuff oneself with all forms of heavy comfort food. Actually, the smart Triestini meet 10 minutes earlier than usual for their walk so they can "earn" the gnocchi with goulash and follow it with a Lubljanska and a couple of homemade beers without feeling guilty.

If you haven't been privy to this practice and would like to start, feel free to adapt the above dialogue to fit your needs. Here is some more insight into the vocabulary you will use most often. Remember, when in Trieste, speak like the Triestini!

1. Stare assieme: Hang out and be together
2. Magnar tanto pagar poco= Poca spesa tanta resa: Cheap place with big portions/more bang for your buck
3. Far do passi= go for a walk (literally make two steps)
4. Volentieri: Gladly (in the dialogue above). Can also mean: would love to give you what you are asking for but we don't have it. Bad news if you are at a store...

Dober tek!

Friday, March 2, 2018

You call THAT a Blizzard?

 Even Rome did a better job than we did. The best WE could do was a couple of sad snowmen that didn't even have time to come to life because they melted before they could even get a hat on!

The only thing that gave me a TINY bit of solace was when my neighbor at the bus stop this morning asked me how I got home yesterday (I got a ride) because the bus back UP to San Giuseppe STOPPED RUNNING after 10:30am. At least that!

Meno male!!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Ask the Diavolo

A very stupid question I ask people when I get to know them is what their favorite pizza is. This is because I am almost always hungry and asking it gives me a good excuse to think about food.

In Italy you get a menu of about 80 varieties (give or take), which is a lot more choice than we normally have in the States, mainly because we order one big pizza and we share it. You only have so much freedom of choice when you have to negotiate with four or five different people (who almost always have strong opinions on the matter).

So this weekend I asked my students one by one what their favorite pizza was. Along with thinking about food, I am also interested in how people make decisions when there are lots of choices. I ask, and then I immediately judge them.

1. Do they decide by not deciding and always get the same?

If it's a Margarita, they are:
a. Under 10,
b. Picky eaters,
c. always on a diet,
d. risk averse
e. all the above

If it's a 4 formaggi they are:
a. Over 30
b. Like strong flavors
c. Have taken risks in the past but are finished with that now
d. are completely aware that their pizza is disastrous for their health but they "deserve" it because they work so hard.

2. Do they get the same pizza for a certain period of time and then move on to a different one?
This person also probably:

a. Reads every book by the same author before moving on to a new one
b. Is a fan of concept albums
c. Wears team colors the day their team plays
d. Is not afraid of commitment, but appreciates variety.

3. Do they purposefully get a different pizza each time?
That could mean he/she is:

a. a Risk taker
b. Respects processes
c. Loves food.
d. Gets bored easily.

4. Do they have the Pizzaiolo decide?
This person is:

a. adventurous
b. a show off
c. non-judgemental
d. has low expectations and therefore is always happy

So that's what I've got on my mind when this one girl says:

"I just love a pepperoni pizza!"

and I am like, "You would love America then, because that is one of the three pizzas that people can normally agree on."

1. Cheese pizza

2. Cheese & Sausage pizza

3. Cheese & Pepperoni pizza

But then the ex-pat in me kicked into gear and I got suspicious.

See, this girl didn't REALLY like pepperoni pizza, because, if she did, she would have said something like:

"I really love, but I don't know how you say in English, the DIAVOLA pizza. How you say... Devil Pizza?"

Because a Diavola is a cheese and pepperoni pizza (they call the pepperoni Piccante, but if that is hot for you, then, well, I probably won't invite you to my house for dinner, like ever).

So I'm like "You mean a PEPPERONI PIZZA?" and I google up an image of a DIAVOLA pizza and she's like:


So then I have to come up with a good Equivalent in English. But there isn't one because who the hell likes Bell Peppers on their pizza?! Nobody!! Except for maybe some kook who gets the veggie pizza and they happen to throw some Green Peppers on it (which is the nastiest of the triplets, as sweet-tasting Red and Yellow Bell Peppers are nummy but completely out of place on a pizza).

Then she clarifies. "Yes, I love this pizza because the Peppers are FRIED."

And I think about it, and I want to be empathic and so I say, "Yeah, I guess I can see that, just about EVERYTHING tastes good FRIED."

And I do believe that when I say it. But then the conversation opens up and another guy (orders same pizza for 2-3 months then moves on to the next pizza) says

"If Pepperoni is Pepper, and Salamino piccante is Pepperoni, then how you say Salame?

which opens up a conundrum

Because then I'm like well there's a word called Salami, but I don't know if that is specific or if it's more like Summer Sausage.

Wait, says he. Summer sausage? You mean your cold cuts have seasons?

No, say I. I think Summer Sausage is more like you Friulani slice up and eat with polenta, and I google a picture of Summer Sausage and the class looks at me confused before Margarita girl says:

Let's just say Summer Sausage is meats in general, shall we?

What the hell do I care? I'm a vegetarian. If it's okay with the Italians, it's ok with me.

Welcome to Home Ownership: Frozen Pipes!

So... perfect timing! I go running this morning, come back all proud of myself, then wake up little Sweetie, who, like a good Italian person, has learned how to make coffee with the Moka and is all jazzed about making Breakfast for Mommy and Daddy, and it is she who discovers there is NO WATER.

Yes. Frozen pipes!

So I guess that cover that's missing where those water pipes enter the house had a raison d'etre after all! We'll have to get on that. In the meantime, hair dryer (yes, we actually have one, for guests only usually) plus extension cord and within seven minutes the Moka was on the stove and ready to rock.

The day was saved and I got my coffee. Phyoo!