September 7, 2007


I've returned to blogging. An official re-entry from the summer.

The trouble with August is that then September comes around. Soon the newspapers will have articles on "September-itis", the annual bug that attacks as everyone goes back to work, study and daily life with another eleven months ahead before August comes around again.

The symptoms include low grade depression, lack of energy, difficulty in getting up in the morning, difficulty in getting to sleep in the evening. The cure is to rest, eat lightly and get back into your routine slowly while allowing time for a walk in the park, a stroll and an ice cream, a chat with a friend. Diving headfirst into a frenetic rhythm is not recommended.

So September starts out slowly, con calma. It is the provisional month -- everything is provided for the time being, pending permanent arrangements.

Summer is over. Families return from the beach or the mountains and while parents slowly get back to their work routines, children finish summer homework under the watchful eyes of grandparents or nannies. The annual September dance begins as everyone engages in the process of moving all that is provisional to its final rest. When I call the doctor to change an appointment, the secretary assures me, “It’s September, we understand.” Everyone understands that arrangements, calendars, schedules and appointments will be provisorio for the interim month that separates the August holiday break from the rest of the year. Then October arrives, the pieces fall into place and the year takes form.

School starts. Early in the month national newspapers and television announce the official starting dates as dictated by the Ministry of Public Instruction. The Ministry establishes these dates by region, the schools in the north start around September 8 or 10, those in the center around mid-month and Sicilian schools start as late as September 25. With the last reforms, individual schools have some administrative flexibility, called autonomia, and they often exercise this new freedom by adjusting the regional starting date to meet particular needs. These dates are then kept a secret from students and parents. The school website gives only its long and illustrious history, not pragmatic information such as the first day of classes. The office is open only three mornings a week and the staff is so busy with enrolling students that the phone rings unanswered.

But the word gets out anyway, in that particular Italian way so that everyone just "knows" although never through official channels. A few years ago, the school suddenly decided that it would open a few days earlier than anticipated. Within minutes, the news had spread down the beach from lounge chair to lounge chair. Parents re-arranged plans, cancelled last minute weekend trips and liberated grandparents from additional days of babysitting. I found it amazing that no one seemed particularly annoyed by this uncertainty, it is just part of the September game – flexibility is the only rule.

During the first days of school, teachers dictate class schedules that children carefully pencil into their new diari -- the colorful agendas will hold a year’s worth of homework assignments, notes from teachers to parents and most importantly student to student correspondence. Although they may seem quite official, these first class schedules will change a few more times before they can be set in pen – sometime in October.

My agenda is starting to fill up for September, in pencil. My pen will have to wait until October.

a domani,

P.S. I have recently posted an interview on an expat interview site.

I also just saw that my article on the American expat community published in The Roman Forum July 2007 issue is online.

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