Thursday, June 16, 2011

More Creativity

Here's another video about creativity . . . the creativity of four-year-old artist Aelita Andre working on some of her pieces that are currently on display in her one-man show (one little girl show?) at New York City's Agora Gallery. You may have heard of her before, she has been something of a celebrity since she was about two.

What do you think . . . child prodigy? Just a typical little girl lucky enough to have been born to two artists who let her get as dirty as she likes while "playing with paint"? Would we all be great painters if our parents had given us this opportunity rather than telling us to sit still, don't touch, don't run, don't sweat (maybe that's just Italian parents!)? I know I have been guilty of this kind of pestering of my kids.

I'm not sure, but I like her paintings and I like watching her paint. I love her concentration and consideration. I love how absorbed she is in what she is doing. That's what I enjoy about a creative endeavour, the way it focuses you so totally on one activity, in one moment.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Celebrate with Creativity

I love this video about how to stay creative. Thought I'd share it with you today, since it's my birthday and on birthdays I tend to get philosophical and think about life . . . and all the things I've been so lucky to do and all the people I've been so lucky to meet. 

I feel particularly lucky to do creative work that I love, both in my teaching at the university and in all the translation and writing work I do as well. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all my work commitments, but I never wish I were doing something else. 

I love to create a lesson to help my students reach a new level of proficiency in writing in a foreign language and to help them see the world from a different cultural perspective. They don't know it, but they are such a pleasure to get to know and work with. How wonderful to have a chance to meet a new group of interesting people each academic year! 

I love the mental gymnastics required to render an Italian text into a meaningful piece of writing in English. The Italian and English languages are so similar and, at the same time, so dissimilar that the job never ceases to be challenging.

I love sharing the beautiful corner of Italy that I live in with people around the world in the articles I write on-line. There is so much to see here and tourism is so underdeveloped. The lack of heavy tourism can make it difficult at times for the visitor (public transport could be better, more signs could be in English, etc.) but that very lack offers the tourist a more authentic experience of the region. 

And that's just work . . . I have so much else to be thankful for in my family life, with my friends, my health! None of it perfect, but all of it really good!

Enjoy the video and add stay creative!

p.s. I hope my students noticed number 3!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Class of 2011

I have quite a few American friends nearby, which is a great thing. Because for all that it's neat and wonderful to live in a foreign country . . . it's also really nice to have people you can talk to in your own language and who share your cultural background.

Some of these good friends are spouses of Boeing employees who are working on a collaborative project with an Italian company in this area. Four of their children have finished high school this year. Two attended an international school and have actually graduated. The other two attended local Italian high schools and will not have confirmation of having earned their diplomas until they have passed a battery of examinations over the next few weeks.

In Italy graduations are conducted completely differently from in the US. There's no formal ceremony, no caps or gowns. So, these families wanted to give their kids a celebration similar to what they would have had, had they been graduating at home in the States. 

The graduates!
Sometimes I really hate being gluten-intolerant!
Sister love!
A friend sandwich . . . the best kind!
One of the fathers made this toast which I thought was quite nice and, although he said he was drawing on his engineering background, it sounded quite spiritual to me . . . 

We are all energy and we never end . . . so let's take over the world!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Father's Day Interview

Today is not Father's Day in Italy either. They celebrate fathers on March 19, which is Saint Joseph's feast day. This is a Catholic country, you know, so Joseph is considered the First Father, if you will. At least the first long-suffering father with paternity issues...but let's leave religion out of this, shall we?

In any case, I hoped to celebrate by interviewing my husband, the resident father here amid the olive trees, about his life and then sharing that with you. Unfortunately, he is busy working on a project over there in the corner on his computer (as usual) and not really that interested in answering my nosy questions. Poor guy, never a moment of peace and quiet!

Here's what I managed to drag out of him . . .

1. What is your full name?
Francesco Gerardo

2. Why did your parents select this name for you?
Francesco was the name of my maternal grandfather. Gerardo comes from Saint Gerardo, who my mother had prayed to during her pregnancy with me.

He's the little guy on the left

3. Did you have a nickname? 
My friends and family called me Ciccio.

4. When and where were you born?
I was born on the kitchen table in my family home in southern Italy. That's the way things were done back then.

5. What is your earliest childhood memory? 
I remember receiving a gold watch from my Uncle Rino at my first communion. I was 8 years old and that watch was a special treasure.

6. What kind of games did you play growing up?
My family had a large farm in the countryside and I played outside all the time with my brothers and sisters and cousins. We had slingshots we used to kill lizards. We set up a stand by the side of the road and sold farm vegetables, peeled almonds and mint flavored ices to passersby.

With his cousins in the countryside (3rd from left)

7. What was your favorite thing to do for fun? 
We had a black and white TV and I loved to lie on my stomach and watch films on summer mornings.

8. Did you have family chores?
Yes, my brothers and sisters and I always helped my mother in the house and with chores on the farm. I remember all of us sitting around a large table shelling almonds. My father would pay us 10 liras for each bag of peeled almonds and we kids always tried to steal each other's almonds to make more money. We were also paid for helping gather the olives and other chores like that.

9. What was school like for you as a child?
In elementary school the classes were divided into either all-boy or all girl sections. I shared a desk with Giovanni, who is still a good friend of mine.

10. What were your best and worst subjects? 
I liked math the best, but the other subjects were okay, too.

11. What was fashion like back then?
I was a very fussy dresser, differently from now! I spent a lot of time and care in choosing my outfit each day and if I got the least little bit dirty I would go home and change my clothes. I wore very large eyeglasses that look rather strange to me now.

That's all I could get out of him for now, but I am persistent, so there may be more installments to the Francesco story!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Puglian Passion

I have written several articles for the site Charming Italy about things to see and do in Puglia over the past few months. Here are a few of my most recent reports (just click on the words highlighted in red to link to the full article):

Fioroni, Fruit of the Gods - If you've never heard of fioroni, you don't know what you are missing!

Figs aren't your thing? Why not try some local Railroad Cherries?

Looking for the perfect summer holiday spot? Why not visit Vieste?

Or combine your love of nature with a day at the beach at the Torre Guaceto Nature Preserve . . .

Puglia is a beautiful region, I'm it's #1 fan!

Friday, June 10, 2011

14 + 1 Day

My firstborn has reached that awkward and uncomfortable age of 14. Do you remember 14? Pimples, strange growth spurts, a voice that's neither a child's nor a man's, torrents of conflicting hormones coursing through your body, intense emotional outbursts, insecurity about your appearance, your behaviour, your lack of innate stuff like that.

He has just finished junior high (or the equivalent of 8th grade in the US) and the unknown mysteries of high school loom ahead for him in the fall. He has chosen the Classical Studies high school - yes, Italian high schools have a theme. An orientation which you have to choose at the tender age of 14 and which can determine the course of your later life. Examples of different types of high schools range from an emphasis in science, technology, industrial arts, languages or business studies to specialization in hotel and restaurant studies, fashion design, maritime studies, graphic arts, social work or drafting.

My son has chosen classical studies, considered by many to be the most difficult type of high school. Less rigorous in math and sciences perhaps, but they do five years of Latin and Italian, three years of ancient Greek, and a whole lot of philosophy. I think he made a good choice, considering his strengths and interests, and it's a choice he made all by himself. He doesn't even have any friends who will be going with him, so he must be convinced...but still, it's a big change ahead.

In the here and now, he has another challenge coming up in the next couple of weeks. Italian kids have to take a battery of both oral and written exams at the conclusion of junior high, plus a nationwide standardised exam that is worth 50% of their grade. So, everything they have done in class all semester, plus two weeks of first written and then oral exams in which they can be asked about anything they have studied in any subject all this past year...equals half of their final grade. The other half depends completely on how well they perform on a standardized multiple-choice test.

So the guys got a few reasons to be stressed out. You can't blame him. To top it all off it was his birthday the other day and he didn't want to do anything to celebrate. No party, no cake, no taking some friends out for a pizza, or inviting the guys over to play basketball...nothing. Last year he said the same thing, but we surprised him with a cake in the changing room after his basketball team had just been eliminated from the provincial semi-finals. This year I was torn, respect his wishes? go ahead and get the cake even if he says he doesn't want it? We couldn't decide, so in the end we took him to McDonald's for lunch (his choice) and he went to the beach with a friend in the afternoon and that was that.

Or maybe it wasn't...that evening he had a total meltdown. First a case of the nasties, then the angries, then the denial of wrongdoing...ending up with total remorse and despair and him hiding under his desk miserable about life in general. So, yes, I spent my evening under the desk with him, and yes, we got it all worked out, kinda sorta, the best that you can do at that crappy age of 14 when your emotions have you on a wild seesaw ride and you yourself don't really know what you want or how to please yourself or anyone else.

Hence, the next day we had a surprise "14 + 1 Day" celebration...and, wouldn't you know it, for all he had protested the cake and party idea...he loved it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Is it Summer Yet?

I have ignored this blog for way too long, but during the academic year, I just do not have the time to keep up with posting...on top of teaching at the university, doing translations, responsibilities related to home and family...but summer vacation is almost here!

In the meantime, I'd like to share this video of one of the students in my second year English course this year. Her name is Irene di Trani, she's 21 and, who knows, one day we may be listening to her on the radio.

She won a national competition with her interpretation of Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love of All."