Category Archives: Story time

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Bologna: Adventures with Cate

I was standing in the bathroom…the sun wasn’t quite awake yet, but I was; I was very awake and almost ready to leave the house–my dreams ended where my alarm began–I opened the window in my bathroom to feel the cool air and see the sleepy moon before he went to sleep for the day. While I stood there enjoying the quiet morning and preparing for the day, right outside my window I heard the ringing theme of all things Potter. I knew any minute now an owl was going to fly through my window with a letter from the headmaster, summoning my geeky genius and skills for some adventure.

Obviously, the death eaters’ interception is the only reasonable explanation for the absent owl.

I left the house and headed for the train station; Hogwarts Express’s Italian cousin was coming to pick up Cate and me for our adventures as first years, in Bologna! We had a cart to ourselves most of the ride, except when two students from Slytherin decided to crash our cart party and only speak sneeringly in parseltongue.

We arrived in excitement for the new knowledge and adventures that lay ahead of us. I pulled out my map to lead us to our hostel and we began walking. It was Saturday and there were lots of people wandering the alleys and shopping the streets full of stores. We walked to what we thought was the right street and found number 4, but our hostel wasn’t there.  Pulling pranks on first years are the best; somebody switched our map with one of Fred and George’s joke shop maps. We finally realized that we were on the wrong street, puzzling over the wrong number 4, so after walking in circles, we used some of our beginner’s magic to point us to the right alley. We read the numbers down the alley: 1…2…3…3/2…3/2a…3/2b…5…5a… As first years, we were a little confused that number 4 wasn’t there, but, of course, it must be hidden from the Muggles. Through the other side of the wall we went, to find number 4 right where it was supposed to be. We had arrived!

We roamed through the porticoes–lining the city–admiring the architecture and history of such a place. We found the great educational hall where many, now and long ago, studied to become great and powerful in the way of knowledge. Believed to be founded in 1088, it is the oldest existing University in Europe. Geniuses, inventors, and masterminds like Luigi Galvani and Guglielmo Marconi studied there and walked the streets where we were now walking.

Is this real life? Yes. Wow.

While we were roaming the city, we kept seeing large groups of police hiding behind buildings with their weapons and shields, ready for battle. We were starting to feel startled after we kept finding them blocking many streets and hiding, like Voldemort was about to apparate right there in the center of Bologna. We couldn’t avoid them for much longer; we crossed through the ready warriors and there they were: protesting deatheaters. They were marked with the sign and seeking change. We got a good look then snuck away, knowing the ministry of magic had this under control; there was no way Voldemort was going to show his ugly face tonight, but just in case, we wandered over to sit under the protection of the Patron Saint of Bologna: Saint Petronius. It was a cool evening and the piazza was full of smiles and giggles. We each bought a butterbeer, without the butter, and sat in contentment, sipping our beers and people watching, right there on Petronius’ steps.

Next morning, we traveled to the Two Towers–I have not confused my Harry Potter story with a Frodo Baggins story, but the world of fantasy is everywhere. The taller tower is called Asinelli and the shorter tower is called Garisenda. Garisenda Tower is leaning towards Asinelli, also causing them to be called the kissing towers. Asinelli Tower is the taller of the two and the tallest tower in the whole of Italy, reaching 97 meters high or about 318 feet high. We paid the tower master and climbed up the 498 steps to the top. It was cloudy so we couldn’t see to the foothills of the Alps in Veneto but we could see plenty of beauty all around. This tower is only one of a few left standing in the city today. There were thought to be around 180 towers standing in Bologna back in the 12th century when this one was built; it sounds towerrific to me!

It was time to go home; already finished a semester at Hogwarts: Bologna?…felt like two days to me.

We loaded up on the train with one last beer, no butter, to celebrate this experience.

Until next time.

*This is a true story based on real events. I have only fictionalized this story by using terms such as: Hogwarts, death-eaters, Slytherin, parseltongue, Muggles, Voldemort, Ministry of Magic, and my reference to Fred and George’s joke shop map, which are all part of a copyrighted story by J.K. Rowling–you go girl!


On the train




University of Bologna




St. Petronius’ Church


Tower of Asinelli


Some of the 498 steps in the Tower of Asinelli


View from the top of the Tower


Ride home: it’s not over until it’s over!


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Italy: Week 1

Hello Family and Friends,

I’ve been in Italy a little over a week now and let me say I have experienced a sea of emotions: from Rome’s incredible, mind-blowing historical sights to Santa Maria Apparente Elementary School’s energetic children who don’t understand me when I tell them to sit down, be quiet, and work on activity 8. Yes, it’s been an amazing yet sometimes difficult ride so far, like I’m riding a roller coaster blindfolded. Sometimes, I toss my hands up and enjoy the thrill while other times I think I might throw up at the unexpected turns, but it’s all part of the experience that I am so thankful to have.

The sights in Italy have been like scenes from an extraordinarily illustrated storybook. I can’t even believe my eyes sometimes. If you’ve seen my pictures on Facebook then you have an idea of the sights I’ve experienced firsthand. The rolling hills topped with villages and hillsides adorned with vineyards are my favorite. It is all very real, not just beautifully painted ideas. I have not time to go into everything I’ve seen, I’ll save my stories for a relaxing night over a big meal and good wine, when we have all night to eat and talk, like the Italians.

Teaching English has been a difficult yet rewarding experience. I’m in the elementary school so these kids don’t understand too much. They know how to pick out words when I (slowly) explain something to them, for example: “Open your books to page 10.” I mimic what I want them to do and then they hear “book”, “page”, and “10” and they can infer what they are supposed to do. Some classes have English speaking teachers to help explain the lessons while other classes I’m left to do it all myself. In those classes with no English speaking teacher, I repeat the instructions a lot, write an example on the board, and try to mimic (while using the English terms) what they need to do for the activity. Sometimes I hear, “Ahhhhh, Si.” and sometimes I hear, “Teacher, non capisco.” Most of the time at least a few students understand and I have them explain to their other classmates in Italian. I love seeing the kids smile so big when they are able to speak in English or when they complete their English activity and know they have learned something new. I also love seeing them smile when they teach me how to say something in Italian; everybody learns something in the classroom.

I want to thank everybody who helped me get here today. I have always loved to learn, and through this experience I am not short of learning. I love and miss you all, especially my husband, thanks for your love and support.

Until next time,


Our lesson today! Write a postcard using our vocabulary and draw a picture of your holiday.


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Relax a little!

Relax a little!

(Although it is nothing new….especially since I’ve graduated) Today I sat down with my hot cup of tea and my nook (not nook software anymore since my husband got a hold of it) to relax in the most perfect way known to man! I am reading the Count of Monte Cristo and yes it is my third time attempting to read this masterpiece simply because I had no idea that there was an abridged and unabridged version of the book. I forget how many deranged readers there are out there to only desire to read half a story.

My short story: Once upon a time there was a (beautiful) girl who loved to read books, especially the classics. Finding on her Android/kindle app that she could download The Count of Monte Cristo for free (money was ALWAYS an affair) she did so with great anxiety of what her next journey would hold for her. She lost no time in beginning her travels in Marseille, France from the small bright screen of her Android. In the midst of her curiosity’s unveiling the faithful urge of needing a hardback to have and to hold was too great to overcome. Travels, secrets, love affairs, ships….her journey was put on hold until further notice. Further notice finally arrived to buy  her the physical book from Barnes and Noble for only approximately $9. Alas, she could continue. When lifting the covers to find her previous Dumas crafted imaginations she noticed slight alterations in the chapters. She rushed to her Android to solve this new found unauthentic Count of Monte Cristo mystery but with disappointing defeat. Must I be crazy, she questioned with much doubt knowing clean consciously of her sanity. Time was sailing past her faster than Le Pharaon and she could put up with the suspense no longer. She opened her hardcopy and started straight from the beginning because of the differences, hoping not to miss anything, then thought of it no more. By the thirtieth chapter she was disturbed that the characters and events did not seem up to par in descriptions and explanations of a classic novel. Once again she was at a loss for an explanation but knew if this problem was two plus two, it was not making four when she added it up in her head. She turned to the front of the book looking for answers though not expecting to find any, when right there the first page read “abridged”. All be came clear as glass! Her Kindle was unabridged and her hardcopy was abridged. Answers at last. She complained to her husband of her dilemma: she doesn’t want to read it on her Android yet her hardcopy is abridged and she could not bring herself to reading anything but the real thing. Kindly he reminded her of the nook he had given her a while back and happily she thanked him. The nook was better than a small phone and could access her unabridged copy on her kindle account. A great fix to her problems in such short a notice, till she can find another hardcopy. For a third time she began her adventures with Dantes this time with sure promise to the end.

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July 24, 2012 · 4:49 am

Another Hour Gone….

She sat there staring sleep in the face waiting for that slap of another breath to fill her lungs.  It was already the 23rd past the 12th hour in the dark morning and here she was at a white screen not asleep.  She could hear the barks of too many dogs outside her single window.  The intruding noises filled her ears second after minute after half an hour.  It was becoming too unbearable for her late mind to block out.  Nevertheless, she sat, still, determined to accomplish the delicate construction of words on a blank page that she promised.  She could not give up now for she was far to close to the end;  if she stopped now all her organized thoughts would be made into scrambled eggs that would serve her for breakfast.  Another breath in and out.  The moment became clear, her thoughts once again focused.  But for how long?  With no time to chance, her small delicate hands forced pressure upon each letter, click after click after click. The countdown had begun….

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