Monday, April 30, 2012

Making the Bridge

Ponte Sant'Angelo in Rome
In Italy today, facciamo il ponte, we’re making the bridge. The first time I heard the expression, during my early days in Rome, a student stopped by my desk as she was leaving class and asked, in English, “Will we make the bridge next week?”

As an English teacher, I’m accustomed to trying to figure out what non-native speakers mean when they get the words wrong. I showed her the next week’s lesson, but she shook her head. Switching to Italian, she said, “Faremo il ponte la prossima settimana?”

I still didn’t get it. We don’t usually construct things in English classes. Finally, she was able to explain that because the following Tuesday was a holiday, would we bridge the time between the weekend and Tuesday by canceling class on Monday.

I assured her that we would not make the bridge. But as it turned out, we did. I arrived at school the following Monday to find the doors locked.

Now, I have this discussion about making the bridge several times during the academic year. It gets dicey in December and April. Thanksgiving at the end of November notwithstanding, I always take a day off for my birthday--December 5. And December 8 is a holiday in Italy; if a bridge is involved with that holiday, it means we miss a lot of class prior to the usual three weeks at Christmas.

Patriotic Fly-Over
In April, we often have Easter, where we take off the Friday before and the Monday after. In addition, April 25 is a national holiday commemorating the liberation of Italy from the Nazis. This year, the 25th fell on Wednesday, and students wanted to make the bridge—two days! That would have been a Ponte Lungo (long bridge), which, ironically, is the name of a Rome metro stop.

And so today we’re making the bridge because tomorrow, May 1, is Labor Day in Italy as it is in many parts of the world.

I just wish the workers who are tearing out a masonry wall in the apartment next door were making the bridge today. Their noise has my head pounding.


geets said...

Hope the workers have gone and taken the headache with them!!! It seems that we Trinis "make the bridge" quite often, most times unofficially, but in the end we build many bridges!!!

Patricia Winton said...

Hi, Geets. The workers did only a half-day yesterday, and they may have finished the job. At any rate, today's a holiday, so it's blissfully silent.

Ramona said...

I love this expression! I may adopt it myself. Nice post, Patricia.

Patricia Winton said...

Thanks, Ramona. It is a nice expression, isn't it.

Beth Green said...

They have the same expression in Spain. I think it's much more exciting to have a "bridge" weekend than just a plain old boring "long weekend." (Though I wouldn't say no to in China we got Tuesday off for May Day, and also had Monday 'free' except most people worked Saturday to make up for the time they took off on Monday. How's that a holiday?)

Patricia Winton said...

That's funny. It's like in America where people work on Veterans' Day (early in November) in order to take of the day after Thanksgiving. In Italy, so far as I can tell, people don't have to make this up. I do because I'm contracted to teach a certain number of sessions per class, so if I skip one, I have to add one at the end.