Friday, March 30, 2007

Italian class in the City

Io spendo molto quando viaggio perche mi piace comprare molti cose stragneiri. I answered this time with a stern face. In the Beginning Conversational Italian class ITAL10A, I tend to fictionalize some of my answers, which are entirely rehearsed, to make them more interestingly funny, more vibrant. This often creates a cluster of laughter from my classmates which in return feeds my ego. But when I was asked to use perdere in a sentence, I got mixed reviews judging from the faces that were looking at me. Forse io sono stanco? Perhaps I was just tired? Or maybe I’m getting bored of this class for not getting what I think I should be getting out of it?

Two, three, four. I actually lost track how many students have dropped out since the midterm exam. These folks appear to be the serious, studious types but they disappeared from the class one by one. I ran into a couple of them the past weeks so I got the scoop why they stopped coming to class. Somehow the Italian class kept coming up no matter how much I tried to evade the subject.

Maybe folks are getting fed up because of the class schedule? We get a 15 minute break after an hour and a half of lesson and then we do another hour and a half working on our listening comprehension by watching short video clips in Italian. Some of our classmates do what la profesoresa calls ‘italian break’ which means skipping the second half of the class. Like my first teacher in Italian, la profesoresa is from the old country but she’s more Americanized in thinking and in the way she acts - and she sticks to the timetable and prefers the 'american break'. We don’t get out of the building until 10pm, long after the rest of the students from the other evening language classes have long gone. I am extremely thankful I only get to do this one evening a week.

Stories about a black cat, about a city called Lucca or her back problems get recycled almost excessively. This is somehow considered
cultura italiana. Accounts of her childhood, travels, and family stories also get thrown in the mix. I must admit they are great stories to hear the first time but I'd rather have more time in class speaking my modest Italian. This is a conversational italian class after all.

After last night’s class, I may be heading on the same direction as the others who stopped going to the class. The Salvadoran already missed two meetings. Maybe I’ll skip next week’s? This is like SPAN10C all over again.


( One of my favorite cafes in the City, Cafe Trieste. Taken around the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco.)

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Pinoy Folklore in the City

It was the Frenchman’s idea to go to the SF Asian Film Festival. In my years of living here, it is one of the several local events that I haven’t been to. Even though it has been around for 25 years and I’ve heard great things about it from the local media, it never really appealed to me. The Salvadoran kept insisting I should go to these events to keep intouch with my heritage. The closest thing for me to attending a film festival was seeing an Italian movie as a class activity in my Beginning Italian last semester.

Since the Frenchman lives just a block away from the festival’s main venue, he took the liberty to get three tickets for the last screening of Ang Pamana – one for him, one for the Salvadoran and one for me. Unfortunately, my friend E who is the Frenchman’s significant other, couldn’t join us because of deadlines at school.

The Frenchman was already in queue for the movie when the Salvadoran and I got to the AMC theatre at 9:15 p.m. I could hear Ilocano, Visayan and another incomprehensible language while waiting in line - probably Indonesian or another Filipino dialect. People would look our way and then smile whenever my non-Tagalog-speaker friends try to say Ang Pamana with a Spanish or French twist. I give them an 'A+' for trying.

I also ran into a friend from church who’s into anything Filipino and he’s not even Asian. I am sure I’ll hear what he thinks about the movie when I see him in church on Sunday. On the far left of the theater, there were folks seated on chairs with a yellow sign marked ‘reserved’. We assumed they must be one of the organizers. We found out after the movie that one of them is the director who looks fairly young from our angle.

Ang Pamana is a horror film and makes effective use of Filipino age-old folklores that were passed on to me by relatives who live in the province. At first, I thought this would probably make more sense to Philippine-born audience like me. I was worried that the Salvadoran and the Frenchman wouldn’t appreciate the story even if it is told from an expat’s point of view. The film is in English and with English subtitles whenever Tagalog is spoken. The Frenchman would turn to me, with an inquiring look, whenever the actors speak in their thick Filipino-accented English. With years of hearing Tagalog-accented English, the Salvadoran was just fine. There were times I wish I could pause the movie so I can explain better what was happening. Other than a question by the Salvadoran about the kapre – I gathered they were able to follow the story and enjoyed the scenes so I have nothing to worry about.

On our way home, the Salvadoran asked me if I had seen a kapre before. I said not really but I asked him if he remembers the big mango tree on the vacant lot across the street from my mom's house in Quezon City. He said yes. I told him there are tales that a similar creature once lived there. He paused for a deep breath and then responded by telling me that I am so gullible. I looked back at him and smirked.

I think deep inside he's not as feraless as he seems.


(The AMC Van Ness theaters are located on Van Ness and O'Farrel Sts and is the main venue of the 25th San Francisco Asian Film Festival's screenings. The facade and the interior were renovated and the theater reopened in the summer of 1998.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day

My birthday fell on a workday this year, on a Friday. I wanted a low-key birthday so no trips. no fine dinning and no shopping for me but I still took time-off from work that day.

I slept in until 9 in the morning. Gardening and taking pictures were the only agenda in my list. My marjoram, oregano, french tarragon, sage and thyme survived the cold, wet months. Maybe I'll get a strawberry pot so I can add cilantro, mint, chamomile, chives and heirloom tomatoes?

I think the birds are back from their winter migration. Tender foliage is starting to appear on the grape vine. Bees work busily around the lavender blooms and the tiny rosemary flowers. They must like the aromatic oils these herbs produce. I put more potting soil into my planters. There was a moment I couldn't tell which ones I planted the basil seeds into, or the tomatoes, or the peppers. I can't wait to see the seedlings in a couple of weeks.

The sun was up and there was not a lot of breeze that day. I was hoping the weather stays like this for Saturday's barbeque, and of course, for the St. Patrick's Day parade on Market St.

(The photo above was taken from The Waterfront restaurant. The food is equally excellent as the views from it's glass windows.)