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Trip Start Apr 26, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Italy  , Emilia-Romagna,
Sunday, May 25, 2008

The past few weeks have flown by, I can't beleive I've been in Italy for nearly a month now! The last week I've had a nasty cold that's been spreading around Rimini like wildfire so I've been pretty lazy. I lost my voice for a day or two so I croaked my way through those days. Am feeling much better now, but I think being sick made me quite homesick aswell. You know, that creeping nostalgia for home that really doesn't match the reality one iota but makes you feel like you're missing all this stuff at home. Ah well I'm better now and I'm ready to jump back into Italian life!

So what've I been up to? Last weekend three of my cousin's friends came to stay the weekend for the Rimini Wellness Expo, two of them are studying physical education. On the Friday night we had a (relatively) early night and went out for a few drinks. The next day we went to the Expo, my cousin knew someone that worked there so we got in for free. Wow! There were so many fit people there all trialling new gym equipment and excercise classes. It was really interesting seeing how advanced the technology is (especially compared with the gym I went to in Australia). There was even a weights machine covered in crocodile or snakeskin, and another machine that you could plug your USB memory stick into (but I'm not sure what for). That night we had dinner - cooked by one of the boys and absolutely delicious, and then went out to this place called Rock Island which is a night club on the end of a pier, sounds dangerous heh? We had a good night dancing to a mix of Italian and English songs and my cousin's girlfriend met up with us after finishing work at the pub at 4am poor thing! We got home at 6am the next morning and sat around chatting for a bit before going to bed just as the sun was rising.

The next day I got up and prepared for the second lesson with my English Language student who I have been tutoring privately. He is the sixteen year old son of the woman who owns the bar where my cousin's girlfriend works. He is a very good student but can be a bit cheeky sometimes but we have fun. It's hard because I've never really had to think much about the structures of the English language begore and so I prepare the lesson beforehand so that I can stay one step ahead of him. It's not that difficult, the trickiest part is making the lessons interesting and so I find English language games on websites on the internet to use at the end of the lesson after doing some grammar. The end of the lesson is when concentration starts to wane. I'm the same in my Italian language lessons.

My Italian is improving alot and I am learning many new words. It's funny how you learn new words. They tend to be related to what's happening to you, and those around you. For example, I've learnt the word for "cold" in Italian since I've been sick, and I learnt the word for wallet after I "lost" my wallet.

On Thursday I went on a tour with the Italian school after class. We went to a nearby town called Santarcangelo to see the grotto beneath the town. Santarcangelo is a medieval Italian town and they built caves (grottoes) under the town (which is on a hill as usual). The tour was in Italian and I think I got the gist of what the grotto was for. Basically it was the town cellar for storing things like wine, grains, cheese etc because the temperature stays relatively stable. Afterwards we walked through the streets and were shown where they had holes in the ground with the names of what was stored beneath in the grotto. So you'd go to one hole for wine, and one for grain etc and I guess they used a pulley system or something like that to retrieve the food and wine from below. Pretty cool eh! After the tour we visited a button museum. This button museum has a collection of 8,500 buttons dating from the middle ages to today - made from all kinds of materials like coconut, resin, wood, plastic, porcelain, metal etc. The guide was this eccentric little Italian man that was so excited to show us the collection of buttons. Quite extraordinary! You could really see the effects that changes in fashion and the economy have on something as little considered (by me anyway) as buttons. There was a button designed by Picasso, there were buttons when Fiat celebrated some anniversary, there were carved coconut buttons so many different types!

My cousin is very cheeky sometimes and likes to needle everyone but it's all in fun and so I always make sure I have some witty comeback, which isn't easy in Italian so sometimes I resort to English. Life here is fun. Well except for the queue at the police station to get my residence permit. The Wednesday before last I returned to the police station and liked up for 4 hours and when I got to see someone they told me I was missing a speacial document that I had to buy from the post office and I would have to return again the week after. So last Wednesday with my nasty cold and all I lined up outside the police station again, this time with the required form and I was there for 6 and a half hours before I got the the front of the queue!! In the meantime heated arguments broke out because a whole lot of people were pushing in at the front of the queue and those of us who had queued up properly weren't moving anywhere. Finally after an especially heated argument a policeman came out and got rid of the rest of the people who were trying to push in and the queue started to move again. Six and a half hours though!! This time however I had all the required forms and after they filled in my details in the computer and scanned my fingerprints, and all of my hands twice I was told that it was finished. I asked if I have to return and they said no that was it - I nearly fell over with relief! It's not very pleasant waiting in a dingy laneway that is like a wind tunnel with dozens of angry people and nowhere to sit or go to the toilet! Luckily when I couldn't wait any longer to go to the toilet the group behind me said they'd keep my place for me so I didn't have to join the queue at the end again.

So that brings me to today, all sunny and nice after I've got my residence permit, and my colds finally on the wane. Today my cousin and I went to a small town called Gradara that was built in the middle ages. A real life medieval castle! I was pretty excited, I think my cousin thought it was a bit strange but I explained to him that in Australia we only learn about how people lived in the middle ages in books we never got to go on excursions to real castles. The streets are still made of the same cobblestones, the bricks are the same wow what history! Anyway as we were walking up the hill (another town on a hill) towards the castle a wedding car drove past with a bride on her way to get married in a church near the castle. All the people in the town clapped as the drove past and a group of school kids were whistling and catcalling it was quite funny. When we got to the castle we walked over the drawbridge into the central courtyard and into the corridor. The first room was the dungeon - the torture chamber! When we went down there they still had some of the old instruments and chains against the walls - and boy did it smell seriously old and mouldy. Not the kind of place you'd want to stay in at all. Then we went upstairs to the families rooms. This castle has been preserved very well, and they had some of the original furniture there like tables and chairs and fourposter beds. The views out the windows were amazing you could see across the whole countryside, spectacular! In one of the dining rooms there was the enormous table for food and drink and a gigantic fireplace for those cold nights - it was all so warm and cosy. Except for that torture chamber! I don't know how any of those people could have slept well at night knowing there were people below being tortured urrgghhh!

So it's Saturday night and we are going out for a few drinks - will be in touch soon ...

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