Archive for the ‘transportation’ Tag

Spoilers for the Secret of NIMH   1 comment

So on Thursday I headed back to the United States. I had asked the building manager/doorman/whatever he is to get a cab for me on Thursday morning at 9:00. At about 8:20 on Thursday, I walked out of the apartment building, intending to get some cash from the bank, for the taxi and the airport bag check-in. He was standing outside talking with some folks. When he saw me, he looked worried.

He asked me (in Italian) if I wanted that taxi for 9:00. I said, “Si, vado a uno banco.” (yes, I am going to the bank)

He looked confused.

I said, “É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank)

He turned to the couple he was talking to and said, “Parlete inglese?” (Do you guys speak English)

“No,” they said.

He turned back to me and said, “Taxi per le nove?” (Taxi for nine o’clock?)

“Si,” I said again. “Taxi per nove. É otto e venti. Vado uno banco.” (Yes, taxi for nine o’clock. It’s 8:20. I’m going to the bank.)

He turned to his friends and said something. Finally the man in the couple (in Italian) told me to be down here in half an hour. I said (in Italian) that I would be.

So I took a taxi to the airport, because it was a lot easier to deal with than hauling two suitcases and a full backpack around on public transportation during rush hour traffic. He dropped me off at Terminal Five. That was where all of the flights to the United States left from. But I had said specifically that I was going to Canada. I can only guess that since almost all of the flights to North America leave from Terminal Five, he thought Air Canada left from Terminal Five as well. But Air Canada was in Terminal Three, with all the European flights, for some reason.

So after some mild panicking and resentment on my part, I got on the airport shuttle and to Terminal Three. Everything else in the airport went without a hitch. In the airport, I sat and started The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time and sobbed several times. I sat in seat 38H in the very back of the plane, where I finished before the plane even took off. It’s not a difficult book to read. Except emotionally. I cried so many times.

Fortunately I was dry-eyed when a woman approached my seat and stared at me.

I looked up at her.

“Is this your seat?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

She narrowed her eyes.

“What’s your seat number?” she asked.

“38H,” I said.

She muttered under her breath and walked away. When I saw her next, she was in seat 37G. I think she was originally supposed to sit in 38K, next to me, but for some reason didn’t want to sit next to me. I don’t know why. Maybe she wanted an aisle seat. Maybe she wanted to have two seats all to herself. When I recounted the story to my family later on, my uncle Steve pointed out that I would make a great seatmate because I’m small.

She wasn’t rude. When I remarked aloud to no one that the plane was a lot less full than I expected, she turned around and explained that the back of the plane on long flights was reserved for flight attendants, so they could have a place to nap on their breaks. So she didn’t hate me, at least.

Whatever the reason, no one ever came to sit in 38K, so I had two seats all to myself for nine hours. I stuck my backpack under 37K, so I was able to stretch my legs out as far as I want (and because I’m small, I had almost as much footroom as a tall person would have in First Class). I could use 38K as a place to set my books and my laptop, or another footrest if I wanted to sit sideways. I could use 38K’s interactive screen to show me the flight’s progress on the map, and my interactive screen to watch movies.

After The Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-time, I needed to lightest movie imaginable to lift my mood. I ended up settling on Hotel Transylvania. It was a fun movie, exactly what I needed, but afterwards, I needed something a bit heavier to chew on. So I watched the 1993 version of Secret Garden. Then I tried to read another book, Green Rider, but I’ve read that book so often that I got bored and started skipping parts I knew already. Like, all of the opening scene, where the bad guy ruminates on history, and the heroine gets her mission from the dying Green Rider. I just skipped all of that premise-building. Then I got skipped the next chapter because I knew that too. I decided that since I had skipped three chapters, I should probably just not bother reading the book. Instead I watched The Secret of NIMH.

Although I grew up watching The Secret of NIMH, I hadn’t seen it in several years. I found myself enthralled in a way I hadn’t been as a child. When I was a little girl, I had loved the comical scenes — Jeremy the Crow being clumsy (‘scuse me, pardon me!), Auntie Shrew shrieking in self-aggrandizement, the children tying up Jeremy. I had hardly noticed the main character, Mrs. Brisby.

But now, as an adult, I was fascinated by her. She is a strong character — truly strong, I think. Not physically. Not in a 1990s I’m-a-woman-in-a-man’s-world type of strong female character. She had strong characterization. She had a true personality. I sat back and watched her, and I realized what this woman is:

This woman is Heart. Everything she does, she does from the heart. She is constantly battling her own fear and uncertainty in order to protect those she loves. She begins the story fearful of even visiting Mr. Ages, but she does it anyway. When the tractor begins the plowing early, she immediately runs to the danger without having any idea what she is going to do (another character, Auntie Shrew, manages to stop the tractor, and finds her frozen in fear, still clinging to the tractor). She just wants to save her family.

There are arc words attached to the amulet Mrs. Brisby is holding. They are “Courage of the Heart is very rare. The stone has a power when it’s there.” The actual words on the amulet are “you can unlock any door if you only have the key,” which is also important to note, but nowhere near as important as the words Nicodemus gives us (the “courage of the heart” quote).

After a long and dramatic scene in which the rats get caught up in internal politics, Mrs. Brisby’s house and children (and Auntie Shrew, never forget Auntie Shrew) begin sinking into the mud. The rats all struggle to get the house out of the mud — setting aside their dispute to focus on the task at hand. Justin and Mrs. Brisby are on the granite block of the house. The other rats are tossing rope to them, and they desperate tie the ropes around the block, so that the rats can pull the block to safety. But all the ropes keep breaking. The granite block sinks beneath the mud. Justin only barely manages to pull out a desperate, grieving Mrs. Brisby from the mud. But she is fighting. Her heart, broken, strong, her strength, her courage — even to the last, Mrs. Brisby is fighting to save her family.

And that is why the stone amulet works. Mrs. Brisby, heart personified, is courageous, selfless, but always courageous. The stone unleashes its power and saves the house and the children (including Timmy and Auntie Shrew).

This had always confused me as a child. Why should the stone amulet work, when Mrs. Brisby had been crying and not being courageous? Because Mrs. Brisby never gave up. No, not even when her children were sinking beneath the mud. She may have been crying. But she hadn’t given up, not really. Not ever.

Making Italian   1 comment



I know these pictures are terrible, but here they are! My first art projects here in Rome. As with the last introductory drawing course I took, we started with blind contour drawing, I guess to build up hand-eye coordination, or to make me hate myself.

My teacher’s biggest issue was that they were too small and too light. Weird.

I bought a bus ticket! It was amazing! Actually it was probably boring for everyone except me. But I was walking along the main avenue after class, thinking about calling my bank, when I saw the tobacco shop. I went inside. You see, they sell bus tickets at tobacco shops. None of the English-speaking websites that I’ve read understand why bus tickets are sold at tobacco shops. One site guessed it’s “a public service.” At the end of the month, they sell the monthly bus tickets, but monthly bus tickets are the best deal, so they sell out fast, so you have to buy them as soon as you can.

Ciao,” said the clerk. (Hi)

Ciao,” I said. “Bigliettocrap, what’s the word for month?per guigno.” (Hi. A ticket…for June.)

Trenticinque,” he said. (Thirty-five [euro])

I was counting money and hadn’t heard him. “Scusa?” (Pardon?)

Trenticinque,” he repeated, pointing at the month-long bus ticket he had already gotten out.

I paid with a 50€. He gave me 15€ back.

Grazie,” I said.

Ciao,” he said.

Ciao,” I called as I left the store.

I was just so low-key. I was so proud of myself.

Then I called my bank, then got the email telling me that my luggage was in, so I trudged back to school, wondering why my ankle was starting to hurt. My ankle got worse and worse as I retrieved the luggage, so I took the bus, then the tram, back to my apartment. It takes longer to take public transportation; it’s a twenty-minute walk, and the busses are really inconsistent about showing up. But my ankle was killing me, so I opted to take public transportation.

Everyone on the Italian public transportation system was super nice. They saw that I was bogged down with luggage. One man helped me get my luggage off the bus. On the tram, an older gentleman offered me his seat because he saw I was struggling. After two stops on the tram, I started to look around, realizing that I might miss my bus.

The little old lady standing next to me tapped my shoulder. “Quali?” (which one?)

I told her what street I live on. It’s right off of the main thoroughfare that the tram was on, so I could use it as a landmark easily, but there’s a lot of apartments on the street, so I didn’t have to worry about someone breaking into my apartment just because they knew what street I live on.

Questi,” she said. (this one)

“Oh!” I said. “Grazie!

Italian people are so nice.

When I got home that evening, my ankle was straight-up murdering me, so I stepped into the kitchen where I had put the painkillers earlier. Nicole was cooking pasta.

“I’m making that kind of pasta,” she gestured at a bag of pasta sitting on the counter, “And alfredo sauce.”

“Are you making the alfredo from scratch?” I asked. I was genuinely curious. I’ve heard of people making alfredo from scratch, but it’s in the realm of mythology.

She laughed. “Nope! I’m a terrible cook. We bought some alfredo sauce at the supermarket.” She nodded towards the fridge and continued to stare at the water, which was refusing to boil. I swallowed the painkillers and investigated the pasta. They appeared to be just flour and water. I approved.

After a moment she complained that the water wasn’t boiling fast enough. I put a top on the pot to contain the energy and get it to boil sooner. I sat with my leg up to rest my ankle. We chatted for a bit about the day’s classes and learning Italian. She, Deanna, and Sarah are all taking an Italian language course.

Once the water was boiling and the pasta in the water, she took out two containers of alfredo sauce. We struggled to open the containers, before we finally resorted to stabbing them. It made her laugh.

“This alfredo sauce is awfully hard,” she said. “Should I cook it? Maybe just on low heat, so it melts a little?”

“Yeah, that sounds like a good idea,” I said, settling back into my chair and putting my foot back up.

After a few minutes of chatting, she said, “It looks weird. Come look.”

I looked. It looked like white rice sitting in canola oil.

“Turn the heat off and whisk it for a bit,” I said. “It should reconfigure again.”

She did. But I got curious, and checked out the containers in the trash. Crema al formaggio. I looked up the translation online.

“That’s cream cheese,” I said. “Not alfredo sauce.”

We looked at each other and laughed.

“We’ll serve it to them anyway,” Nicole said. “They won’t know the difference, right?”

“I guess not,” I said. We laughed a bit more about how obvious it should have been. It was so hard in the container, after all!

Sarah wandered into the kitchen to get some wine. “How’s it going guys?”

“Great,” said Nicole.

Then we laughed histerically. Sarah gave us a look and left.

Then after a moment I looked up cream cheese and alfredo sauce and discovered that cream cheese can actually be a base for really cheap alfredo sauce. All we needed was milk, butter, parmesan, garlic powder, and pepper. I grabbed the garlic powder and pepper that Sarah and I had bought yesterday. Nicole shook some into the cream cheese.

“Do we have milk and butter and parmesan?”

I looked. We were already out of milk. “We have mozzarella,” I said.

“Can we use that?”

“Sure,” I said, although I wasn’t sure. “It’ll just act as a thickening agent.”

I cut a slice of the mozzarella and tossed it in the pot. Nicole and I watched it boil.

The concoction was ultimately thin, but pretty tasty. Deanna made a salad as a side. It was a pretty good dinner overall.