Music, travel, and plans for the year

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Seisún musicians, Taverna ai Mastri d’Arme, Trieste

In November I went to the Irish music seisún in Trieste. I sang Chì mi na mòrbheanna, and my friend Gowen (playing his drum, above) joined in for the chorus, as he was familiar with the song. I’d been encouraged by my friend Anna to sing there, though it has been years since I sang with a group or in front of other people. I was nervous, and a bit out of breath by the end of it, not having had a lot of practice in all those years. It takes a certain amount of muscle control and stamina to do it proper justice, after all, and not practicing means losing some of that muscle tone. I did mostly okay, though, and was relieved when it was over!

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uilleann piper

December found me in Gorizia, a town that is now divided by the Italian/Slovenian border, with Novo Gorica on the other side. I was visiting with some folks from the Internations website – a woman from England, and two Italians who were born in Gorizia when it was still part of Slovenia. We walked the streets of the town, visited the castle, and had a huge lunch at a local restaurant. The platters were inexpensive but immense. I ended up taking a bucket of sausages home for later; my brother and I ate them for two days. Next time, fewer dishes and more people!

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Christina, Gillian, Alessandro, and Erynn at the border in Gorizia

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Gorizia from the castle

The Internations group met again yesterday in Udine for lunch. This time there were six of us. Gillian from England organized, while a local Udine Italian and his Russian wife recommended the restaurant. They were in attendance with their two kids. There was a Slovenian woman and a man from Scotland as well. The food was fantastic and plentiful, as was the talk. It’s a pretty nice bunch of people I’ve met from the website so far. We talked about getting together again next month in Udine for Chinese food at a new restaurant there and, when I told people about the seisún, they said they wanted to know when the next one was, so we will probably meet at the Taverna for that as well. After lunch, some of us wandered back in the direction of the train station. We stopped at a covered tent arcade that was sheltering a small chocolate festival, where I got to practice a little of my Italian.

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A pirate pub in Udine

Yesterday also saw demonstrations all across Italy in support of legalizing same sex civil unions. There was a small crowd in one of the piazzas; I heard there was a larger demonstration in Trieste, as well. The US State Department had sent out an email advisory to Americans living here about anticipated peaceful protests in many cities around the country. Italy is the last western European country that does not have legal provisions for the protection of same sex partnerships, but things are slowly changing for the better.

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Demonstrators in Udine

My travel plans for the year are coming together. I’m hoping to go down to Naples and Pompeii in February, but got word the other day that a good friend of mine will be presenting a paper at a Celtic Studies conference in Maynooth in late March. I thought I might have to choose one or the other for the beginning of the year, but one of the folks at the American Corner told me about Flixbus, a German bus company that has inexpensive fares, and some really amazing promotional sales, for cities all over Europe. Joe and his girlfriend had just got back from Naples last week, where they’d traveled for one Euro each (yes, you read that correctly) on the bus. Their normal fares are better than Trenitalia or the plane, so it is looking like I will be able to afford Napoli in February and Ireland in March after all. Right now, I’m pulling together my plans and looking at booking my travel next week for both destinations.

September promises a reprise of the Sherlocked convention in London. My friend Jenn from Spokane is planning on attending again, this time accompanied by her husband Nick, and I’m looking forward to seeing them. Sarah, one of my English friends, will also be there, so we are talking about splitting room costs for the con.

In October I will be back in Ireland for a pilgrimage hosted by Vyviane Armstrong and led by Morgan Daimler, to sites associated with the Morrigan. Morgan has been doing some really excellent translation work with early Irish tales, and publishing collections of her work, which I very much recommend. We have been in correspondence off and on for many years, and I’m looking forward to meeting her in person. With any luck, I can also spend a couple of extra days in Dublin book shopping! Be still, my Celtophilic geeky heart.

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It’s time.

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A Visitation, and the Barcola

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A buliding along the Barcola

The last ten days have been both busy and kind of annoying. I’ve been waiting around the house all morning, every morning, waiting for the police to arrive to verify my residence. Needless to say, it hasn’t happened yet. I was told “sometime in the next two weeks” by the woman at the Anagrafe, though that, I think, means sometime between then and this Friday. Regardless, I have things to do, and really wish they’d get here so I don’t have to keep waiting. My brother tells me that they don’t necessarily wait very long after they ring your bell, and if I happen to be in the shower or, gods forbid, out taking my dog for a quick morning walk when they show up, I could miss them entirely.

The other part of the reason it’s frustrating is because I was told I had to go sign up for health care, and the only time that office is open is in the morning, when I have to be here waiting. Italian governmental offices are often open for only a few hours a week, and if you can’t get there, you’re kind of screwed. Fortunately, there’s not a hard time limit on the signing up for health care – I can do that anytime in the next couple of months without being too concerned.

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Faro della Vittoria

I was recently visited by a couple of people I met online – Daniel, a Harvard professor of literature and music, and his partner Marta. They spent a couple of days in Trieste, and are currently in Florence. He’s supposed to do a talk in Turin on June 20th on his most recent book, which sounds really fascinating, and right up my alley. I’ve ordered a copy and will see if I can get to the presentation. While I’m not much of an expert on Trieste, I did show them around to some of my favorite places for walks and food and coffee; they really enjoyed the food and the city. Daniel has done work on James Joyce, so we visited some Joyce sites. He’s also doing a book on Giuseppe Verdi, so we wandered around to Teatro Giuseppe Verdi and saw the Verdi statue near Viale XX Settembre, and they went to see Castello di Duino during the next day when I wasn’t available to hang out and show them around.

We talked a lot about art, literature, film, food, and music as we wandered the streets and got rained on. There was a big thunderstorm the first night they visited, and we walked along the riva in the evening, as the storm was moving in, with lightning flashing over the Adriatic. The lights of Piazza Unità were, I think, even more impressive than usual under the darkening sky. By the time I headed home from the apartment they were renting via Airbnb, the hail and the worst of the rain had passed, but my umbrella still got destroyed by the wind. I’m still not used to dealing with them, after so many years in the Pacific Northwest.

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La Mula de Trieste and Miramare

Earlier this week I was over at the AIA helping out with some cooking for a volunteer appreciation evening. I spent a couple of afternoons in the kitchen and had a lovely time. I enjoy cooking for people, though I wouldn’t want to do it for a living. This evening I’ll be going over for a roundtable discussion on LGBTQ activism in the US from the 1970s to the present, hosted by one of the humanities professors at the University of Trieste.

On Sunday, several of us met a woman from the base at Aviano and her two young kids, to show them around the city. Most of the people stationed at the base never leave Aviano; there’s an unfortunate streak of paranoia that the military encourages in its people and their dependents that can be hard to understand for anyone who hasn’t actually been in the military. When I was in service in the 1980s during the Cold War, it was Russian spies under every rock, even when I was stationed in Hawaii. Now, just substitute “terrorists” for “spies” and you rather have the idea of it. Anyway, she had a great time, and her kids loved the train trip, so perhaps we can encourage people to overcome the propaganda and actually enjoy the gift of being stationed in Italy.

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Statue in Pineta di Barcola

Yesterday I ambled down along the coast to the Barcola, Trieste’s “beach,” which is mostly a paved waterfront walk that stretches for several miles from the north end of the city up to Miramare. (There’s a far better, though still short, Wikipedia entry on the Barcola in Italian here.) What natural waterfront exists is stony, like the majority of the beaches I know from the Salish Sea, and from parts of New England. The walk was probably 8 kilometers out and back, and I was really aching by the time I got home, but the glorious view was absolutely worth the time and the aches. The Barcola is where the Triestini go when the weather is nice, to walk or to swim, or just to lie in the sun. On the weekends when the weather is good, it’s apparently nearly impossible to find a place to put a towel down, and the buses are stuffed to the gills from early in the morning until late evening, with the coastal road pretty much entirely parked in along the sides.

As is, unfortunately, fitting for a popular beachfront, getting a drink was really expensive. It was €3 for a tiny bottle of peach juice and I’m sure it would have been more had I used a glass instead of having the bottle porta via (to take away). Some of the little bars along the beach will let you use their tables for €.50, but it’s always better to get a little something from the place if you’re going to sit. I tried sitting on a bench to scribble in my notebook, but my fountain pen went dry in the middle of a sentence, so I had to put it away. I usually carry a backup pen, but didn’t have one in my bag yesterday. That’ll teach me to be unprepared. What kind of a writer doesn’t carry more than one pen? (This one, obviously.)

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Castello di Miramare

I also had my first conversation entirely in Italian with a random person as I walked back along the beach toward Trieste. I didn’t quite understand everything, and probably gave a couple of kind of odd answers, but we mostly understood each other. Most of my (brief) Italian conversations have either been with people I know, or in places where I’m paying a bill or buying groceries, and they’re very limited. This was one of those “where are you from, what do you do” kinds of conversations you have with random strangers. I struggle with words when I’m not sitting down and writing, with a dictionary close at hand. Even when I know the words, I have to search for them in my head. “Non ho molte parole” is a phrase I’ve taken to using of late – “I don’t have many words.” That, along with “parlo solo un poco italiano” (I only speak a little Italian) tends to be my fallback when I’m struggling. It’s hard, feeling so limited in my ability to talk with people. Combined with my innate introversion, it makes it very difficult for me to actually talk with strangers, but I’m fighting the impulse to say nothing, rather than make mistakes. Sounding like an idiot sometimes is preferable to total isolation, much as I dislike the idea.

Next week at some point, I’m supposed to go with my Italian teacher, Luisella, and her husband Gino, up to the university in Miramare. He teaches in the Physics department and has offered me and my brother a tour of the facility and a chance to see the particle accelerator. Science geekery FTW! We just have to schedule a day when everyone is available and the place is open to the public.

And I shall leave you with a picture of the Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3, from his first day in Italy.

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The Dog of Devastating Cuteness +3