21 December 2006

live nativity & italian class party

Just catching up on writing about our Christmas activities last week...On Saturday night we went to "A Bethlehem Visit", a live 8,000 sq ft Nativity village at the Presbyterian Church in Ponte Vedra. Chris and I met several friends and headed up to this very popular event. Parking was about 10min away from the church and a non-stop line of school buses carried people in and out. It was really unbelievable how crowed it was - I almost had a claustrophobic attack and had to literally push my way through the crowd at one point just to breathe! I wish we could have observed and taken more in, because it was really quite elaborate and interesting. There were dozens and dozens of workers and actors in full costume, a real-life market area with real food, crafts, firepits, and lots of animals - a camel, goats, a cow, donkeys, chickens, and sheep. At the end, there was a HUGE bonfire with free hot-chocolate and cookies!

On Sunday night, we met for our last formal Italian class, and to celebrate we met at a classmate's home and had a great Italian meal! We enjoyed salads, pasta, tiramisu, espresso, and much more! Chris and I had to do a short presentation on our future move (in Italian of course). We all decided that we still want to meet regularly, for weekly, informal get-togethers -and maybe have a monthly meal. There is a group in town (that I've been in contact with through my former sculpture professor, Enzo Torcoletti*) that meets weekly to watch Italian movies, play scrabble in Italian, and always try to speak in Italian when they meet. This interested our class, and so this will probably be what we end up forming ourselves! -More on this in the new year!
*Enzo is from Italy and led several students group there through the years. He will be a resource that we hope to use in planning our move - a great professor (who will be retiring this year from over 30 yrs at Flagler College).

oxfam unwrapped

Last year while Chris & I were in England over Christmastime, I was introduced to the "Unwrapped" campaign that Oxfam sponsors each year around this time. The UK division seemed to be more well-known and the ad campaign they do for "I bought you a goat for Christmas" cards caught my attention to learn more. Several girlfriends and I had a fun Christmas dinner together this past Sunday; and pooled the money we would have spent on each other to buy one of these "Funusual" gifts instead.

There is a handful of gifts that help women groups, so we picked one of these! We bought a Soap-Making Business ..."Soap can give a clean start to women who are survivors of domestic violence. Support training programs that give women the basic skills to start soap-making businesses in their communities. This program gives women greater financial independence and a deeper sense of self-worth." - Oxfam website. We all really enjoyed spending our gift $ this way and all agreed to make this an annual tradition!

06 December 2006

after-school program christmas party

Yesterday was the last day of the sememster for the after-school program we help with each Tuesday afternoon. Held in the historic Lincolnville area of downtown St. Augustine at St. Cyprian's, we meet every Tuesday from 2:30-4:30 with about 20 wonderful (and very hyper) elementary school kids! We help them with homework, then have reading/drawing/snack/ and playtime. This week was the finale for the year and we expected it to be a crazy day...which it certainly was! I was there with camera in hand to catch the mayhem. Half of the kids were inside making cookies, then they rotated with the other half who were outside on the playground. It was hilarious to watch them cut out and decorate the sugar cookies...complete with about 1inch-thick icing and a handful of sprinkles per cookie. I even caught one girl licking her fingers and sticking them in the decoration bowl so that more sprinkles would stick to her hands :)

There are about 4-5 leaders per day and each of us have a somewhat steady group of kids we work with. The first pic (top) is Chris with his group (Kenan, Jantae, and Larry -who ducked behind Chris at the last minute). I think he has the cutest group of boys...My group is Shatia, Aviance, and Keijah. The bottom row of pics is a group at the cookie table (Larry is the closest), me pushing Amara on the swing (one of the cutest...), and Aviance's cookie - she is super artistic and smart. She wants to be a fashion designer and made a book with outfit designs a couple months ago to show me!
Even though somedays the kids are absolutely CRAZY and wild...it'll be nice to see them in January!

04 December 2006

christmas sweater party

This past Saturday night we went to a Christmas Sweater Party (the idea all started a couple months ago during the Girls' Weekend trip to Charleston...We raided the Goodwill and found a nice pile of super cheesy sweaters and figured we'd make an event out of this fiasco of yarn and bows!) My whole life I had this nagging sensation that there was something strange about knitting scenes on a large square shirt and proudly wearing this around the holidays - I mean, on normal days, we don't wear crochet scenes of everyday occurrences, such as sitting at a desk, grocery shopping, or eating dinner - no, we reserve these images for more appropriate media. Although I did have my share of this type of holiday gear when I was younger, complete with a bell necklace and porcelain "Jesus is the reason for the season" pin - these days I like to just plan theme parties around this type of behavior and give prizes for the most ridiculous outfit!

It was a fun time watching everyone come in wearing an abundance of red & green and big smiles on their faces and we all had plenty of laughs throughout the night! Some donned Santa sweaters with bows and snowflakes or sweat shirts with ice-skating polar bears, while others completed the "look" with holiday stockings, bell earrings, and reindeer antlers. The tree was decorated throughout the night with poloriods of people as they came in, and somehow a Backstreet Boys doll ended up as the topper. Sometime during the party, our friend's little (adorable) girl, Ava, wanted me to show her how to take pictures with my camera. Here is the result (after many deletions): #1. Ava taking the 1st pic of my face, then in #2 I turned the camera around and took a pic of her...she then took the camera and walked around the room trying to take photos of every attendee, but instead held the camera backwards, flashed her face each time, and tried to look through the zoom lens. In #13-14 her dad shows her to turn the camera around...the rest is the party from a toddler's view!

Awards were given for best sweater (runner-up and 1st place), and I'm happy to announce that Ava won the "Spirit Award" - her prize: a blinking Rudolph nose!

01 December 2006

spoke to the italian consulate

So I spoke with the Consulate General of Italy in Miami yesterday, where we will have to appear personally to turn-in our visa paperwork towards the end of spring 07. In many of forum posts I keep up with about people moving to Italy, I've read many horror stories about dealing with the visa process. Some consulates seem more helpful than others - and some people have been pushed back months because of the difficulty of getting all their info straight. This is why I figured I'd begin gathering info early.

Supposedly it's quite hard to get anyone on the phone at this type of office. The office is only open from 12:30-2pm for phone calls, and if you get through, it's normally to a message that states that they are extremely busy and don't get most of the calls returned, but that you can leave a message at the beep anyway. I have corresponded by email a couple times with some of the general questions I had several months ago. The man I spoke too had a heavy Italian accent, was very friendly, and I didn't feel that he was rushing me through my many questions. I had a laundry list of inquiries about the student visa requirements and now feel more comfortable with the info we'll have to gather:
1) Visa application 2) Extra passport photos 3) Passport with valid dates at least 3mths past the length of stay 4) 30euros/day/person proof of finances for entire length of stay (stamped bank statements) 5) Registered rental agreement for lodging of entire stay 6) Proof of health insurance with coverage in Italy (or we can opt to sign an affidavit that states we'll get Italian insurance while we're over there - it's cheaper, so I think this is what we'll do) 7) School letters including Certificate of Enrollment and statement of at least 25hr/wk of study (which we'll get after we pay our registration fee) 8) Travel itinerary for arrival in Italy

As of now, they told me that there is no fee for this type of visa, and we have to get this within 90 days of departure.
...one step closer to getting through the official paperwork!