Saturday, April 25, 2015


Well, it's almost May and I'm looking forward to the moment in the very near future when a whole pack of my Lagos buddies will start trickling back to the states to entertain me. Of course I  am also witnessing the other side of the transition. Last week I went to a happy hour for folks heading out to Nigeria in the near future. I have to say that they all seem like fun people and have excellent attitudes. I'm sure they'll have a blast together and make their own mark on our 'little consulate that could'.

As for the day job, life is still good in Italian class. I can already feel myself reading the plateau that people talk about after you hit a 2 (ILR language scale). It just feels like treading water some days, though the instructors have assured us that we are making good progress and have nothing to worry about.

I'm still working on my own cultural studies outside of class as well. I've been exploring different pizza recipes (highly recommend this one if you are looking for a thin crust ) and forcing myself to have espresso without any sugar (harder than forcing myself to study most days!) I finished a book about Italian culture called The Italians - not the famous one by Barzini, but the slightly better rated one by John Hooper. I saw a Puccini opera last week and I have a Verdi lined up for this week. Oh yeah, and I bought The Divine Comedy in Italian. This studying business is about to get real

Your basic pizza Margherita, just add tomato sauce, mozzarella slices and basil. Simplicity itself and very delicious. I'm still shopping around for a good sauce recipe that I like. The one pictured above came out really watery (so it soaked through the crust) and was weirdly more orange than red. It tasted fine, but still needs a little bit more tweaking.

So good! Just shred some parmesano-reggiano over the crust, then top with Italian sausage, onion and mushroom (cook all the toppings on the stove in a little olive oil before you add them). Definitely an easy crowd pleaser. And thanks to my good friends for coming over to taste test the finished products!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The most wonderful time of the year

That's right, I'm talking about Cherry Blossom time, the unofficial start of tourist season and one of my favorite events of the year in DC. Sadly this year the weather was a bit disappointing until the very end of the festival. My parents were here over Easter, but even though it was only a week too early there was a whole lot of nothing to see during their visit. (Sorry guys!) But in the end spring couldn't hide forever.

Last weekend, I - and the entire East coast from the look of things - finally made a trip over to the tidal basin to see the blossoms. And finally, they didn't disappoint.

Standing room only along the water's edge! The crowds were actually really unpleasant until I gave up on trying to have a 'nature moment' and just started enjoying people-watching.

As you may have noticed, the Cherry Blossoms weren't all that pink, so I used my handy photo-editing skills to give nature a little help.

Ahh, that's more like it!
Well, that's it for this weekend! Ci vediamo faithful reader!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Video of the Week

Before I post the pictures of my Cherry Blossom Adventure (subtitled - All of the people, all of the time) I thought I'd post another video. Mostly because I find myself a tiny bit behind on the old to-do list and I don't have time for any thoughtful writing today.

So here's another installment of the video of the week. I've been meaning to listen to this song for awhile, but finally got around to it yesterday (right after my progress test) only to find, to my dismay, that I basically didn't understand a word of it. Well, I understood all the easy words, but I have some strong suspicions about the grammar happening down there (lyrics below). And the Italian we learn in class isn't missing quite so many letters.... Oh well. I guess I'll check back in and see if I can get any more at the end of training.

Puorte o' calzone cu 'nu stemma arreto
'na cuppulella cu 'a visiera alzata.
Passe scampanianno pe' Tuleto
camme a 'nu guappo pe' te fa guardà!

Tu vuò fa l' americano!
mmericano! mmericano
siente a me, chi t' ho fa fa?
tu vuoi vivere alla moda
ma se bevi whisky and soda
po' te sente 'e disturbà.

Tu abballe 'o roccorol
tu giochi al basebal '
ma 'e solde pe' Camel
chi te li dà? ...
La borsetta di mammà!

Tu vuò fa l' americano
mmericano! mmericano!
ma si nato in Italy!
siente a mme
non ce sta' niente a ffa
o kay, napolitan!

Tu vuò fa l' american!
Tu vuò fa l' american!

And in English...

You're wearing trousers with a tag on the back
and a cap with the visor turned up,
parading around Tuleto
like a bully trying to show off

You're acting all american,
american, american,
listen here: who's asking you to?

You want to be all trendy,
but if you drink "whisky and soda"
you always end up sick!

You're dancing rock and roll,
and playing baseball,
but where'd you get the money
for the Camel cigarettes?
Mummy's handbag!

You're acting all american,
american, american,
but you're born in Italy, listen here:
there's nothing you can do,
ok napoletano?!
You're acting all american,
american, American,

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The easy way to learn Italian





I thought I'd share this video with you since it fits the theme of learning Italian and is a lot more fun than a detailed list of the many, many grammar drills I do all day.

I have to say, grammar drills or no, I am still really enjoying the whole experience of learning a language as my full-time job. When I left for Nigeria there was zero time for any cultural or language study. I was learning consular tradecraft by day and frantically arranging my move to Africa by night. Somewhere during those six weeks I managed to watch some YouTube documentaries and read a few news articles. And throughout my two years in Nigeria (despite my ongoing attempts to learn more about the culture through travel, literature, and music) I definitely felt the lack of cultural knowledge held me back and made every interaction, particularly the early ones, shallower than I would have liked.

Now I get a head start to dive into another culture and it really has been fascinating. Outside of class I've been reading voraciously about everything Italian, from history to art, music to politics. I've watched some classic Italian films in class and some famous operas at home. And of course there's the  food. I've been studiously sampling Italian wines, learning how to drink tiny, but powerful espressos, and as I mentioned before, working my way through the cookbook to end all cookbooks.

Will I be some sort of expert when I land in Rome this summer? Of course not, but I'd like to think I won't be the 'ignorant American' either. Which, of course, is the point. A good diplomat doesn't just know her own country, she knows her hosts as well. (And even more importantly, a great diplomat can show her friends and family a good time when they come to visit.)

So consider this my status update. I'm almost a quarter of the way through language training and still happy to be here. And I guess if the class doesn't work out I can always get myself a Fiat. ;)