We were waiting for it to happen but we didn’t quite expect it to turn out this way. Every winter we brace for the “Dreaded Month” and when it happens is anybody’s guess. This year it happened this month and the experience has opened my eyes to even more aspects of life in Italy.
It usually starts with one of my nieces getting sick and one by one each family member goes through the rituals. Every year the news warns us about the flu virus going on a rampage and unfortunately this year, it struck viciously and timing-wise it was all wrong (but when is there ever a right time!)
We had all been invited to Amelia that weekend and my sister-in-law who had already turned down several invites due to other commitments was determined to finally make it there. At least that’s what she would have liked but as her daughter and husband had a fever, it was beyond wishful thinking.
Chinese New Year was also around the corner and though I had planned on organizing a family lunch, that too went out the window. There was not much of a celebration here in Rome and the only sense of the festivities was the one event they had in the city the week prior to Chinese New Year.
Italian Public Schools
With my sister-in-law’s husband in bed for over two weeks with a high fever and herself struggling to get over a relentless cold, we found ourselves taking my nieces to school. I’ve picked up the girls from school in the past but have never taken on the challenge of dropping them off in the morning.
We were told that one of my nieces in kindergarten may cry when we drop her off. And that itself can be a handful. Fortunately, Luca was with me and we went with the car.
The morning starts out with the challenge of getting the three kids out of the house on time, then into their car seats and finally when we get to school, finding a legit parking space – a colossal task. Some days we were lucky and other days, like the other people dropping off children, we had to improvise.
From this experience, I have made note of a few interesting observations:
1. Children in elementary school can’t enter the school building until the designated time. They have to wait outside, rain or shine, until the school bell rings.
We were told this was due to insurance purposes as the school isn’t insured if any accidents happen prior to the starting time. However, for kindergarten children, they can be brought in anytime within the allocated hour.
2. There are several kindergarten classes and my twin nieces are fortunate they are together in the same class. I couldn’t understand why then one of the girls would be reluctant to go to school. She never had that problem in nursery and when I took them there, I finally understood her behavior.
When the girls arrive they have to get their grembiule (smocks) from a small wardrobe where they in turn would hang their jackets, scarves and gloves.
After putting on the grembiule, we would encouragingly nudge them to the door of the classroom where the teacher casually sits at her desk doing her own thing and doesn’t even acknowledge them, not even a “buon giorno”. They hesitantly walk towards the teacher to greet her, shakes hands with her and only then does she greet them.
I was shocked but so was Luca. Unnecessarily cold and I too wouldn’t want to spend 8 hours a day with a teacher who didn’t show any passion or interest in their job. Apparently, they have two teachers and the other teacher is slightly better. I was told that teachers in the other kindergarten classes aren’t all like this, some are outstanding and others are even worse (outrageous!)
To be fair, one day when my niece was just bawling away and we found it impossible for us to leave her in that condition, the same teacher did pick her up and tried comforting her. At least that!
After what felt like an extremely long week, we were excited to hit the tennis courts on Saturday. The sun was out and we eagerly made our way there. As we literally got to the gate of the tennis club, we got a call that a family member was unwell. Here we go again!
We rushed over to their house and after a short discussion, the decision was made to call the ambulance. I was glad I wasn’t there alone as I am embarrassed to say I didn’t remember the number to call and it’s not 911.
I hope you never need them but if you do, here are the numbers in case of an emergency.
112 – Carabinieri
113 – Emergency Police Help Number (also ambulance and fire)
115 – Fire Department
118 – Medical Emergencies
The ambulance came after 15 minutes and fortunately the emergency didn’t turn out to be anything serious. That was a nerve-wrecking experience!
While nothing could be quite as dramatic as calling an ambulance, another thing I discovered during the past few weeks is that you can request USI (a private clinic that has an agreement with the region) to do house calls for blood tests. My sister-in-law’s husband was in no shape to get out of bed and as the doctor had requested a blood test, this was the only possible solution.
Series of events this month
While we were dealing with the family crisis, life still went on and there were a series of events that took place in February:
- Pope Benedict XVI announced on Feb 11th that he will be resigning at the end of the month and the last time a pope resigned was 1415! That evening during a thunderstorm, a lightning struck St. Peters’ and this remarkable sight was captured on camera. Stunning and could it be a sign of things to come?
- Carnevale Romano (Roman Carnival) – I was able to catch the last event at Piazza del Popolo on the last day of Carnevale. My eldest niece who love horses and has weekly horse-riding lessons would have loved this but with all that was taking place at home, she missed this ten-day event.
- On February 16th after we had finished watching a movie, we heard on the news that there was a 4.8 earthquake in Lazio. Some in Rome had felt it but we were totally unaware that it happened.
As I write this post today, Italians are heading to the polls and hopefully they will elect a party that can put together a government to pull Italy out of the prolonged economic crisis. Though Italians doubt that there will be any drastic changes, for the sake of my nephew, nieces and the next generation, we can only hope for the best.