After Fabrizio picked me up from the train station we went and picked up his Zia (auntie) Natalia from her house and went back to the house in the Alps. Fabrizio's sister and niece had arrived on Sunday but because it was late they were already in bed so I didn't get to meet them until the next day. Zia Natalia doesn't speak any english but that is good for my Italian except she speaks in a dialect from this region sometimes and I don't understand her (even most Italians don't understand the dialect) so that makes talking to her pretty tough, or even understanding her sometimes but it's good because I'm making myself listen more closely. His sister is nice, her name is Lucia and she is very fluent in English, and she speaks english with such a strong Welsh accent if I talked to her on the street I would actually have no idea that Italian is her first language. The niece's name is Eliana (I love that name a lot) she is 12 and speaks quite a bit of english, but she is very different. Most of the kids here get pretty attached to me because I'm foreign and for some reason that is so interesting to them, but Eliana takes it to a whole other level. She constantly kisses me, and hugs me and asks me to sit beside her at meals and she sits on my lap all the time, It's so odd. It makes me a little bit uncomfortable but it's not like I can say anything to anyone about it. On Tuesday the 20th we went to the lake and in the car she sat in the middle in the back right beside me and leaned on me and put her head on my shoulder, I was like pressed against the car door. I - like most other people - enjoy having my own personal space, and in the car both going to and coming from the lake I had no space I thought I was going to scream, I was so uncomfortable. But while we were at the lake and I got super tanned, and finished my book. I didn't even go in the water, it was so nice to lay out and not have to do anything, I just read and relaxed so that slightly made up for all the discomfort in the car.
On Wednesday Irene's two cousins arrived and I had to switch out of the nice big room at the top of the house that I had to myself (that had a lock, double bed, closet, mirror, pretty much my own bathroom, etc) into sharing a room with Irene with two single beds and nothing else, it's so small, like the size of my bathroom in Calgary. There is no key in the lock on the door because the kids aren't allowed them and it seems like every time I am changing someone thinks it's a good time to open the door to our room. I don't have a lot of space to myself anywhere in Italy and it frustrating. I am now living out of a suitcase, sharing a bathroom with 10 other people, and when Irene wakes up 3 times in the night to pee she wakes me up to take her to the bathroom, when she gets up at 7 am she turns on the light, and leaves the door open so I get woken up (and it's pretty common knowledge I like to sleep and I get mad when people interrupt this) so my new sleeping arrangement completely sucks and now I have another week of dealing with it. The cousins that arrived are two brothers who were adopted from Cambodia, their names are Minia and Odom, they're the sweetest kids ever, always smiling. Odom is 10 years old and he is such a dare devil, and he is an amazing artist, Minia is also quite the dare devil and him and Irene get along so well, which makes my job easier because they're inseparable and completely entertain each other. We didn't really do much the rest of the week, we just hung out around the house mainly. Yesterday (Saturday July 24) we took Irene and the boys to the swimming pool, and they both can swim so well, they didn't wear floaties and had no problem jumping off the diving boards and stuff. I didn't really swim with everyone though, I mainly swam laps. I swam like 33 laps in 2 hours (which is the same as about running 4 miles) and I was so tired last night I fell asleep at about 10, but it was such a nice workout.
Yesterday afternoon we had an ultra traditional Italian meal. We had Polenta, it's some weird bread thing mostly made out of cornmeal that they made during the war (which was gross) but I helped Fabrizio make it which was cool, and there was a very specific recipe that we had to follow precisely. Zia Natalia also cooked Rabbit. Since I have been here I have been trying to taste all of the food that they cook and I took a piece of cooked bunny and I ate a bit but I was also fighting back tears. All I could think about was all the bunnies that run around riverbend, and Brittney's bunny that she has, I felt horrible. I gave the rest of my bunny leg to Silvia because i just couldn't do it, but they all understood. Of course everyone knew this was the first time I was eating bunny so it sparked a discussion about weird foods that we have tried, and when Fabrizio's brother Roberto went to Cambodia with his wife to adopt the boys he ate a deep fried spider. He said it didn't taste like anything but the batter, but he was happy to be able to say he had at least tried it. He also told me a sad story about when the boys lived in Cambodia. Odom is 10 years old so he still remembers some things that happened before his parents died. Their family had a dog as a pet and (I'm guessing they were pretty poor) one day their dad came home and said they were going to have to kill the dog and eat it, and they did. So sad. But I was also asked about what we do with Rabbit's in Canada, and I said we keep them as pets and someone said "We don't do that in Italy"and without thinking I so ignorantly said "yeah I kind of guessed that" and everyone burst out laughing. But Zia Natalia was raising a Rabbit one time and it had 3 babies, so Fabrizio, Roberto and Lucia all had one that was their's. One night they went to Zia Natalia's house for dinner and it was Rabbit for dinner and Lucia went downstairs to see if it was her rabbit that was for dinner and it was, she said she couldn't eat that night and she was so mad at everyone. Personally if my bunny was being served for dinner I wouldn't ever eat meat again, nor would I talk to the people who ate it. I don't think I will eat rabbit again in my life, unless for some reason it becomes an absolute necessity.
This morning I woke up and made everyone pancakes for breakfast and Fabrizio had some maple syrup that he bought when he lived in Canada, so this morning I had a pretty Canadian meal and I loved it. Everyone else was pretty happy with the breakfast (or so they said) but even though I put cinnamon in the batter so they would have a bit more taste I wish I made some chocolate chip pancakes or Banana pancakes or something that the kids would have liked just a little bit more. Today we were supposed to head back to Pisa and I was pretty excited to go home, but me and Irene are staying with all of Fabrizio's siblings and their kids so that Irene can spend some time with her cousins. Fabrizio and SIlvia went back to Pisa to work this week and will come and pick us up on the weekend. Fabrizio's siblings are a bit more of home bodies then him and Silvia are so I think that this week will be more relaxing, hopefully no waking up at 5 am to go on a 8 hour hike up mt. Everest!! That statement is obviously an exaggeration but I just really hope we don't have to go hiking all day most days like we did the other week. Everyone made me feel so comfortable without Fabrizio and Silvia here, this afternoon we all went and played mini golf and had Gelato and it was really fun. Roberto's wife, Carla, is very nice and speaks english fluently but yesterday while we were doing the dishes our of the blue she says "you need to learn Italian better so from now on I am not speaking to you in english." I told her that she has to speak slowly and clearly for me to understand and she said she will in the beginning of the week but that I better catch on quickly. This makes her sound like a huge hard ass but she's a sweetheart and she is just trying to help me learn, so it will be interesting to see how this week goes with her!
Things with Silvia went much more smoothly this week, mostly because I'm absolutely on top of everything and have completely, completely, completely stopped being even the slightest bit lazy. This morning we went on a hike and Silvia and I were talking and she said that she is really happy with how everything has gone this last week, which was so nice to hear. I also apologized for not doing my job properly in the last couple weeks (even though I still think I was doing a great job) and she said that I didn't have to apologize she understood that I needed a bit more time to understand what my job is, which was hard because it was constantly changing, 2 weeks in Pisa at the house, 1 week on the boat, 2 weeks in the alps, and because the setting kept changing and my job kept changing with it. I have been a lot happier this week too, I think I needed a couple days away to clear my head and think about everything. My job really isn't that hard, it's just participating in a family like I do at home. A lot of the time I'm just hanging out or doing things like going to the lake or swimming, kicking a soccer ball around, reading books, teaching Irene english, playing with the kids, how many people get paid and their expenses paid for and in exchange they get to travel and do chill things like this? Not a lot. I have seen and done more things in the last month of my life that I have never done before, I love it. I have gone through moments when I have hated this and wanted to go home, which I expected to happen, but I don't regret coming here at all. I have had moments where I have been frustrated with the family but I really don't think I could have done a better job at picking a family to live with. I am treated as a member of the family far before I am treated as an employee and I'm so happy about that because sometimes au pairs are treated the completely opposite way. Before I came to Italy I would refer to Fabrizio and Silvia as my Italian parents, because that was easier then having to explain everything, but they truly are that. Obviously no one will ever come close to replacing my real parents, I love them so much and have a great relationship with both of them, but Fabrizio and Silvia are doing a fantastic job of making sure I am doing okay away from everyone, and they do just as much for me as I do for them. Last weekend Silvia let me use her credit card to book a hostel, which I never, ever would have expected her to do, but she offered and had no problem with it. She keeps telling me to go out and do things and go to different places. It genuinely seems like she wants me to experience everything I possibly can, which is exactly how my parents are. I have written about my frustrating times with Silvia but Silvia is a mum, mum's nag and are bossy (sorry to any mums reading this, especially mine) and in our situation the reason that she nags or asks me to do things is because I'm not doing my job properly and taking initiative like I should be. It can be annoying setting the table, washing the dishes, or getting soaked with water when I'm showering Irene but they're all easy tasks and in exchange for the experience I'm getting it's pretty much nothing. I love it here.