Saturday 17 July 2010

Back To School

Souvenirs from Sicily, part XI
It's been a while since I wrote part X of this series, so let me remind you of where we left off:
At the end of Maria Pia's birthday party, I was invited to go to school with her the next morning to visit a German class, so that the students would have a native speaker to talk to for an hour or two.

So, after the usual Sicilian breakfast consisting of a large bowl of milky coffee and some bisquits (called merendina), we set off to school together.

It is not very far to walk, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, and Maria Pia tells me to look where we are going in order for me to find my way back to the flat on my own, as she will be working all day, whereas I am supposed to stay only for an hour or two.

When we arrive at the school, she takes me straight to the classroom where her colleague, the German teacher, is giving her lesson, and moments later, I am introduced to a class of maybe 30 kids - 15-year-olds, with me being only four years their senior.
The boys and girls are all extremely polite and look extremely well bred and groomed; hardly surprising, if you consider that this is a private school where only those parents who can afford it send their children.

My own school days are not so long ago; in fact, I attend Librarian school every four weeks for a month or so, with yet another year to go before the course is complete. And yet, it feels as if it is a lifetime ago, like something you remember when looking at old photographs of your grandparents when they were young, and even though you remember them well, you have only ever seen them when they were already middle-aged or elderly people, but you still recognize them as being the people in the picture.
That is how being at that school felt for me; like looking at pictures of how school should be like but was not how I remembered it personally.

The last five or six years at school, before starting Librarian school, were a seemingly endless row of days spent either bored out of my mind at class, or skipping school (I was the record holder in my class when I was 15-16) and spending the day in the town center, watching music videos at C&A until the shop assistants booted us out and occupying the benches outside McDonald's, watching the world (namely boys) go by.
At the school I went to and in the years I went there, words like discipline and politeness were not part of our vocabulary. We pretty much dressed like we wanted, did our homework only when we felt like it, and showed no respect towards most of our teachers. This is not something I am proud of; I am merely mentioning it here to show the contrast to what I found at this private school in Catania.

Most of the girls are a bit gigglish (pretty normal for 15-year-olds), and it takes them a while until they dare asking me questions, but one of the boys in the last row, apparently the "star" student of this class, asks permissoin to speak and - unbelievably to me! - actually gets up and stands there, holding himself VERY straight.
Now, more than 20 years later, I can not remember what he said, but I guess it was general stuff like "My name is so-and-so and I have been learning German for x years".
What I do remember though is that his pronounciation was rather mechanic, and although there was not a single mistake in what he said, I somehow felt sorry for him - he seemed to have filled his head with all that knowledge of a language foreign to him , but unable to add colour and life to it.
Some questions and answers ensue, shyly moderated by the kind teacher, and I carefully avoid speaking my dialect (thankfully, I am rather good at speaking "proper" German - good enough for some of my customers at work having asked me how I ended up in Southern Germany; they didn't believe I am a true native Swabian).

One of the girls finally musters up her courage and asks me whether I know any nice German boys whose addresses I can give them to start being penfriends.
(Those were the days! No emails, no mobile phones for everyone back then in 1987!)
With a sudden burst of enthusiasm, the other girls join in: yes, they ALL want to be penfriends with nice German boys!
(Strangely enough, I can not remember any of the boys requesting the address of any nice German girls.)
I explain to them that I do not know any boys their age (which is true - at 19, I am not dealing with any 15-year-olds on a regular base) but through my mother's work at the school's library, I still have access to my former school, and will put their requests for penfriends on the black board.
Immediately, they start writing down their addresses, and I am handed a long list - all in very neat and slightly odd-looking handwriting. Odd only to my eyes; years later, when I am already married to my first husband, I find that those who originally learnt to write in an Italian school, all have a specific way of writing certain letters, like the "r" and the "T", or the "z".
How long the lesson actually went, I do not recall; but after a while, I find myself outside the building again, and walking back towards the flat where Brigitte is waiting to hear about my morning at school.

Some insignificant details I remember very vividly about that morning are the clothes I was wearing (a grey pair of jeans and my "Tutti i colori del mondo" Benetton jumper) and the scent of the rose deodorant I always used at the time and which, sadly, is not available any more (mine was pink, but the brand was the same).

Funny, isn't it, how something like that sticks to our memory, whereas we forget so much other information we once knew?

(I did, by the way, actually pin the address list to my former school's black board, but I never found out whether anyone really became penfriends through it.)

As usual, I found all pictures shown here by google picture search.

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