Saturday, May 31, 2008

Drama Festival: A Roman Time Line

Each primary class at Ambrit Rome International School puts on a play during the month of May. The fifth grade classes wrote twelve skits about events from the history of ancient Rome. Each class was responsible for acting in four of the skits. The finished production was an exploration of twelve important scenes along a Roman Time Line.

Here are photos of the actors from my classroom.

Above: A Roman senator stands with cast members of 
450 BC: The Twelve Tables.

Above: Octavian stands with Antony and Cleopatra
and solders from the cast of
31 BC: The Battle of Actium.

Above: Admiral Pliny stands above the cast members of 
79 AD: The Eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Above: Constantine and the cast from
312 AD: Constantine and the Battle at the Ponte Milvio.

Padre Pio

This past month the body of Padre Pio was exhumed and put in a glass coffin in the town of San Giovanni Rotondo in Puglia. We were recently in Puglia and I had hoped that we could visit this town, not necessarily to see Padre Pio, but to see the shrine church designed by Renzo Piano. (Renzo Piano has recently designed two projects in New York City: the Morgan Library atrium, on Madison Ave. at 36th Street, and the New York Times building on 8th Avenue.

We never made it to San Giovanni Rotondo, but during our trip we "encountered" Padre Pio every day. It has been reported that Padre Pio is the most popular saint in Italy, with more people praying to him than even the Virgin Mary.

Here are some pictures of Padre Pio as we saw him in Puglia.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A Library Closing in New York

In the New York Times today I read that the Donnell Library Center, on West 53rd Street near Fifth Avenue, across from the Museum of Modern Art, is closing at the end of this week. It will reopen in about 4 years under an 11 story hotel. I often enjoyed the library's Children's reading room with the Winnie the Pooh and Friends doll collection. Looking at Christopher Robin's actual bear and other stuffed toys that were part of the inspiration for A.A. Milne's classic children's book was always a special surprise treat for visitors I would guide around midtown Manhattan.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Our Giardino on Via della Sette Chiese

There is a wonderful "giardino" outside our condominium complex in Garbatella along Via della Sette Chiese. (It would be called a park in the United States.) The apartment buildings are on one side and the Church of San Filippo Neri and several stores are on the other side. Conveniently, you can find a take-out pizzaria and a gelateria on either side of the church. The Via della Sette Chiese is closed to cars as it goes though this area, allowing the street to be filled with people walking, families pushing strollers, children riding bikes and an occasional motorino. Our "giardino" is also the site for many special events, from birthday parties to wedding anniversaries.
Here are pictures of some of the activity in the "giardino" today.

Men hanging out with a few beers.

Boys playing in the drinking fountain.

In the foreground are two senior citizens (neighbors from our apartment building) who have just finished a slice of pizza and some beer. They are watching people from a younger generation gather around a laptop computer.

These women are walking through the "giardino"
on their way home after the evening Mass.

Today, there was a "festa" commemorating the 30th anniversary of the enactment of laws abolishing the old lunatic asylums in Italy. 

The picture above shows a "manicomio," or mental hospital of the past. Below are drawings of the new style of group homes and activity centers for adults with special needs.
There was music and dancing... 
and fun was had by people of all ages.

Race for the Cure

This morning it was raining in Rome, but that did not stop us (and thousands of others) from participating in the 8th annual Roman "Race for the Cure." Here are some pictures from the race. 
The race began and ended at the Baths of Caracala,
completed in the year 216 AD.
Go Sisters!

From the Baths of Caracala, the race route went along the Circus Maximus, past the Temple of Hercules, through Piazza Vinezia, along the Roman Forum and around the Colosseum before heading back to the Baths of Caracala past the Arch of Constantine.
Here is Vincenzo modeling the race shirt. He ran the 5 km race.
I walked the 5 km. Below is a picture of me at the Colosseum with some of my colleagues from school.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

This is a picture of the Madonna, as a mother,  in the Oratory of St. Francis Xavier del Caravita. I share it here in honor of Joan Litman, the mother of our kids, Emily and Peter. It is also in memory of my own mother, Dorothy Hilda Litman.

Pentecost: Do people wear red to Mass in Rome?

The Ambo icon of Pentecost
at the Oratory of St Francis Xavier del Caravita

Today is Pentecost Sunday. In my New York parish there was a tradition that the congregation wore red clothing to church on Pentecost. This morning I got dressed in a red shirt, wondering... "Do Romans wear red shirts to church on Pentecost?" (Did I look like one of Garibaldi's men during the Risorgimento, the campaign for the unification of Italy?) As I walked to the bus stop, the woman waiting at the traffic signal was wearing a red blouse. At the bus stop there was a man with a bright red shirt. (I don't think either were going to church.) There seemed to be red roses blooming everywhere this morning.

When I got to church there were maybe a half dozen Americans wearing red. A couple of us posed for this picture after Mass. (I apologize that it is out of focus. It was taken by a Dominican from Florida.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Ambrit Dance Festival

This past Thursday Ambrit-Rome International Schoolhad a Dance Festival with each grade performing. The festival featured dances from around the world. Everyone worked hard to prepare the dances and we all had fun on the day of the festival.
The 2nd grade performed a Canoe Dance
from the Haliwa-Saponi Nation of North America.

The 4th grade performed a Virginia Reel.

These are some of my 5th grade students
performing a traditional Tyrolean dance.

The 1st grade performed "Yuyake Koyake," 
a traditional Japanese dance.

The 3rd grade performed a Harlem street dance.

Prep performed a traditional Chinese ribbon dance.

The Kindergarten performed "Draw Me a Bucket of Water,"
a U.S. children's dance.

The 6th grade brought the Scottish "De'il Amang the Tailors."

The 7th grade performed "Les Bouffons,"
a Renaissance sword dance,
using sticks and pan lids for swords and shields.

We enjoyed "Kalamatianos," a traditional Greek dance,
performed by the 8th grade.

The Ambrit After School Dance Clubs performed Hip Hop.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Olives, Poppies, and Trulli

On Sunday we got back from a four day trip to Puglia, a region in southern Italy on the Adriatic coast. We spent three nights in Locorotondo, a beautiful baroque town overlooking the Valley of Itria. Puglia is a land of roads lined with rock walls, fields of poppies and acres and acres of olive trees.

One of our first excursions took us to the Castel del Monte, an interesting octagonal stone prisim built by the Emperor Frederick II in the 13th Century. There are several theories about the construction of the castle. Is the plan mathematical or magical? One can see Romanesque, Gothic, and Arabian influences in its design. All in all, it seems to be more of a monument to the emperor than a structure for defense. It sits atop a hill like a permanent crown for the Holy Roman Emperor who built it.

Locorotondo is a hill top town, surrounded by farm lands, built on a plan of narrow circular streets with white washed houses, staircases and arches. Our bed and breakfast was in the shadow of the bell tower of the 18th Century of San Georgio. We enjoyed quiet evenings walking through the white stone streets to go to dinner or to the bar/gelateria for a dessert.

Close to Locorotondo is the city of Alberobello, which has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of the many Trulli in the city. Trulli (singular=Trullo) are unusual rounded structures made from grey stone with cone-shaped roofs. The hilltop that makes up Alberobello's center is made up of over a hundred Trulli, some 5 centuries old.

Trulli Saints!

The origin of this stone teepee design is unknown. Some theories date the Trulli back 5000 years. One story of their origin claims that they were first constructed during the Middle Ages to avoid paying dwelling taxes. If the occupants heard that the tax man was coming, the Trulli were rapidly dismantled and moved out of sight. After the tax collector's visit was over, the homes were re-erected. Today you see Trulli that are firmly "planted and buttressed" with stucco and connecting walls. Three or four Trulli are often united by walls to form larger homes.

We also visited the towns of Ostuni, San Vito dei Normanni and Martina Franca.
Women of Ostuni.
Cleaning time in Marina Franca
Men of San Vito dei Normanni
Wedding in Martina Franca