September 8, 2011
For the second evening in a row, we have shared a meal with friends from camp. Last night, we saw lifelong Champion Laura Hill (and 3 time Senior Camper division leader). Tonight, it was an equally delightful gathering of new friends. The Troisi-Bonfils family (Amelie and Luca) hosted us with half of the De Angelis crew (campers Elettra and Edoardo, but Edoardo was under the weather) joined us as did Maddalina Ferrari and her 2 children. Maddalina is a woman that helps European children find summer camp programs in the US.
The food was superb and the company even better! Here are the CC kids:
I always marvel at the ease with which kids bond and interact with each other. Within minutes, they were all playing games and laughing (ages 10-19).
The meal was perfectly Italian - from the food to the company to the timing. We ate later than Americans typically eat (9:00-11;30). The meal had a staggeringly good buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, tuna-stuffed pepperoncinis and 3 pastas (including Susie’s favorite - clams). Best of all was the conversation and companionship. We were with 4 accomplished Romans from very different backgrounds. Each had a love of the city, of their children and of each other. Simply lovely.
At this time, I feel a need to share some thoughts about different cultures. Before I begin, let me stress that I am not a fan of massive simplifications nor stereotypes. I do not believe you can understand an individual by knowing his or her nationality, religion or race. Individuals are, well, individuals (as a guy who loves working with children, this is always clear). Groups, however, can show intriguing and prevalent tendencies.
Rarely is this more clear than the contrast between the Germanic cultures (Germany and Austria) and Italy. Let me give you several examples:
Susie is immensely proud of a particular accomplishment. She drove through the center of Rome. During rush hour. She executed a u-turn between 2 busses (Italian busses). We all saw our lives flash before us. She navigated streets that are just 12 inches wider than Kenny the car. While she is not generally a woman subject to pride, she is deservedly giddy about her driving in this craziest of all driving cities. She cut her teeth on the streets of Boston, but Massachusetts is almost more like Marble Falls than Rome.
One final note - our arrival in town was facilitated by an unexpected savior. We have been navigating Europe without GPS using only maps downloaded to my iPad. I am somewhat proud myself that we have managed to get into and out of some oddly designed cities with street signs written in foreign languages. Even after several weeks of this exercise, Rome was a new challenge. Nevertheless, I managed to find the apartment, but not a parking spot. At our moment of maximum confusion/frustration, a figure appeared in the middle of the road. Looking oddly like an early Pope John Paul II, this mystery figure waived us down, led us to a space and introduced himself as Giovanni (Saint Giovanni to us). He is the man we are renting our place form. I was initially shocked that he knew us on sight in a city of cars. I think realized that we are not exactly traveling incognito: large red car full of luggage, determined driver, 5 heads desperately looking at all street signs and landmarks. Yea, I guess we did not look too native. Saint Giovanni then checked us in and gave us his parking spot. A FREE spot within 75 meters of the Roman Forum. I would have guessed that it is easier to see the Loch Ness monster than a free parking place in the center of Rome. We continue to be surprised and delighted at the kindness of strangers on our adventures.