Waking up this morning—the second time, that is—was harder than waking up any other morning. Let me explain: I was literally falling asleep at this time last evening (7pm Bologna time), so I was in bed by 7:45. I woke up at 4 am and was up about 90 minutes before I tried to fall asleep again. When my alarm went off at 6:30, I was not happy. I was tired and just wanted to stay in bed.
I should have signed up for school starting next week, I thought, although I must admit the terms I used were a little stronger than what I wrote. Yet, I forced myself to get up and get ready. I stopped at my usual bar for café and headed to Cultura Italiana, a 10-minute walk from the apartment.
Upon entering the old palazzo, I saw a sign that read: "Cultura Italiana ---- Walk all the Way to the Top of the Stairs." The school occupies the fourth floor of an 11th century palace and is accessible only by walking up 45 stairs. (Note that I don't mind that at all, but anyone with a disability could have a problem.)
"Welcome! Welcome!" A tall, thin, elderly man greeted me as I walked through the school door. "My name is Massimo. What is your name?" (As with yesterday, I'll write in English and italicize what we said Italian.)
"Cristina Cutler. Grazie mille." I'm pretty good with thanking people in Italian.
"Can I get you a coffee?" he asked me as he prodded me through the doors to a classroom and introduced me to "Sister Francita and Kanae." A few minutes later, he returned with espresso and a glass of water. "Good Italian coffee. Espresso. But be careful. It's very hot." It wasn't (good coffee, and it was (VERY HOT). (In all fairness, it was espresso from a machine.)
Let's fast-forward through the speaking and listening comprehension tests, the introductions, and welcome lecture except to say that all of it was in Italian. We are not supposed to speak anything but Italian in classes (of course), during breaks, or during the pre-planned activities. I am in an intermediate conversation class and an advanced grammar class, and while I can understand about 85-90% of what the instructor says, my comprehension of what other students say is a lot less.
You may wonder why I can't understand the other students. Well, as far as I could tell, the only other American in the school is an 19-year old who is from Maine. Everyone else is from France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Portugal, Japan, Turkey, and Singapore. Imagine how many ways we all say the same Italian word. For example, preferisci. The best way I can tell you the correct way to pronounce it is: preh-fair-EE-she. I heard everything from prayer-is-key to pray-FER-izzy to pra-fer-ITS-key to prior-fo-ITsy.
Let me be honest. They have a hard time understanding me, too. I have a habit to substitute Spanish whenever I can't think of an Italian word. For example, in grammar, we were studying reflexive verbs, and the instructor asked us to tell what time we got up this morning.
In all honesty, I had no idea. I was first up. Great. I had never heard of the Italian verb that means to wake oneself up, so I reverted to half-Italian, half-Spanish.
"Mi desperté a las quattro de la mattina." (The underlined is Spanish; the balance is Italian.) Everyone looked at me and then at Marina who informed me that I was half right and what I should have said was, "Mi sono svegliato a las quattro de la mattina." As you can probably tell just by looking at them, svegliarsi sounds nothing like despertarse.
So, my piccolo (little) brain hurts tonight, and I think it will only get worse as I have two hours of written homework to complete. On the other hand, I hope it helps me sleep through the night.