Wednesday, December 8, 2010

It's really ending.


Today is the second to last day of class. Wow.

Rachel and I said goodbye to our Norwegian host sister this morning. That's when it sunk in for me that we're at the end.

One more final tomorrow. Then I have the weekend to say goodbye to Florence.

This is strange.

I don't quite believe it.

If you haven't noticed, I'm a bit short on words right now.

This is an odd feeling.

(Picture: The Arno at night-ish, taken from Ponte Carraia)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Final Countdown


9 days.

My flight leaves Rome on the 13th of December.

I have 4 more days of class.

It feels unreal, but it also feels like it's time. I love Italy, but it's not home.

Jodie opened Linguaviva this morning for people who wanted to come here and study. I came here to check my email actually, but I'm going to get some studying done as well. As I was walking here, as I do every morning, I noticed that everyone had little dogs with them. I think I just walk to school at dog time of morning, and Saturday is no exception. I miss Rusty. He would fit in in Florence. I should have just brought him with me. :)

Oh, and the picture attached is the view from Piazza Michelangelo. I took it several weeks ago, but I think it's one of the best pictures I have of the city.

Monday, November 29, 2010

No more Italian?

Italian class ended last Thursday, and now I have an afternoon full of... nothing planned. Nothing scheduled. Wow. I'll have to find something fun to do this afternoon.

Life got a little better when I was handed back two assignments from Celebrating the City, and I found out that I did better than expected. That's one major sigh of relief right there. I don't know why I stress so much about grades, they usually turn out fine in the end.

I had a quiet weekend. Rachel, my roommate, went to Pompeii, and she seems to have enjoyed it as much as I did when I went a few weeks ago. I tried to go out on Sunday and find something to do, but I ended up getting soaked in the rain and decided to head back home. I was standing at the station waiting for Bus 13 (which, I figured out later, wasn't running because of the marathon... brave people, to run a marathon in that weather), and I probably looked rather pitiful, and so this nice man, probably in his late 20s/early 30s, came over and handed me his umbrella. He wasn't creepy about it either. It was more a gesture of "Here, you look pitiful. Stop looking pitiful."

I stood there awhile longer, and when the bus never came, I decided to try an experiment and get on 22L, even though I had no idea where it was going. Maybe it would bring me closer to where I needed to be, and I wouldn't have to walk as far.

Turns out 22L went in exactly the opposite direction of Via Masaccio, and when it looked as if we were headed in the direction of the Autostrade (the highway), I quickly hopped off and tried to navigate where I was. I walked back in what I was pretty sure was the direction of the station, getting considerably less drenched thanks to Mr. Nice Italian Man and his umbrella. I ran into a main road called "Via Porta Nuova", which I was pretty sure would take me back in the right direction. And it would have, eventually, but just then, I came upon a tram stop.

There is one tram route in Florence, and all trams end up back at the station eventually. I figured I'd hop on one and hope it was going the right direction. The one that pulled up about 2 minutes after I got there was labeled "Stazione," and I hoped that meant it was going to the station, not coming from the station. Either way, I'd find out soon enough.

Sure enough, after standing on the (heated, thank GOD) tram for about 2 minutes, I ended up back at the station. This time I decided just to walk home. I had an umbrella, how bad could it be?

When I was crossing Piazza del Duomo, the wind flipped the umbrella inside out. This seemed to be a final "screw you" from the weather, and I made the 30-or-so-minute trek to Via Massacio bare-headed and drenched.

Gabriella gave me some chamomile tea when she found out about this. Though I'm looking forward to returning to my family in the U.S., I'm going to miss living with her. She and Nino are such nice people.

Moral of the story? Well, I guess there is none... except possibly, don't forget your umbrella. And bring an extra one. Maybe two extra ones.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving week...

All of my college friends are headed home for Thanksgiving.

Not me. I have an Italian final that day.

Our program is doing a dinner on Thursday night though, which will be fun.

Since we have less than three weeks left, Sunday night my host mom asked Rachel and I if we wanted her to repeat any meals before we leave. All of her cooking has been fantastic. Even though she serves a lot at a time, and it took awhile for my stomach to adjust, I'm going to miss her dinners.

Christmas decorations are going up around Florence, which is exciting. I still think it's a bit early for that, but it's still exciting. The holidays are not too far off... I'll have that time to go home and recuperate before moving out again, this time hopefully to an apartment, and then starting my spring semester at Wichita State. So much change.

Three more weeks. And then I finally get to see my dog. :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Piazza Santa Maria Novella


There was good lighting. :)
I need a better camera...

Cold November Rain

Apparently, this is as much winter as we'll get here in Florence. Right now, it's 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and pouring rain. The umbrella vendors must be doing good business.

I'm in the home stretch now. In exactly three weeks, the term will be over. Before then, I have about a gazillion things to get done. That's how semesters work, it seems like... stuff piles up at the end. I made a list the other day of everything I had to get done, and there were eight major items on it. Since then I've crossed off two of them, and I feel a lot better about life.

I had to mentally prepare myself for Florence, and I'm thinking I might have to do the same for my return home. Other students who have studied abroad have said that reverse culture shock does exist, and it takes awhile to adjust. At least I remember how to speak English, so language won't be an issue. However, I will be able to impress people with the fact that I can now speak some Italian. :)

So let's think here. What should I do to mentally prepare myself for my return home? Well here's the kicker: I'm in the middle of transferring schools, so once I land back in the US, I'm stepping into the great unknown yet again. The university I'm transferring to is in my hometown, and I know lots of people who go there, but it will still be a huge adjustment. I'm used to adjustments by now though. I mean, I've lived in Florence for almost three months. So this should be a piece of cake, right?

A good friend of mine always gives me this advice: "Don't think, just be." I think (hah, I think) that, for this transition, this is definitely the best advice. Don't think about it, don't analyze it... just embrace it.

Right now I need to embrace these piles of homework. But when that's finished, it will be time for a new phase of my life.

I'm excited.

:)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ciao.

I've been posting a lot lately, I realize. But it hit me recently that there's less than a month left of this program, and only so much I can document between now and then. AAAAAHHHH time pressure!

I'm talking to a friend who is studying in India right now, and her experience makes mine look extremely tame. While she's over there encountering monkeys and running into dangerous situations, I'm here complaining about cold and rain and subject matter I'm not interested in. Kind of puts things in perspective, really.

Today is as rainy as any other. I think this is winter for Florence. My host mom informed me that they rarely get snow here, and when they do it's a huge deal. Busses get shut down and such. I'm hoping for some snow when I get home, but with Kansas, you never know. Could be a blizzard, could be sunny and 70 degrees.

Number of projects I have to get done before the end of the semester: Five. One is due tomorrow. Two are due next Monday. Then only two more: One paper and one interview.
Looks like I can do this.

I'm starting to think about home.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweater search...

I talked to my mom on Skype last night. I miss her.

Anyway, she caught on that I was congested and sounded sick (it's been cold and wet here, and I don't think they have the heat on yet), and so she told me to go buy myself a sweater. So this morning was devoted to that mission.

Now, I'm not crazy about shopping. And I have problems buying things that aren't used. I'm so used to shopping at thrift stores that now, when thrift stores aren't available to me, I find it extremely difficult to spend money on clothes even if I need them. If they're inexpensive, they're probably cheaply made and won't hold up. It they're good quality, they probably cost more than I want to spend. And crowded cramped stores aren't really my ideal hangout.

Not to mention the fact that every garment sold in Italy seems to be either grey, black, brown, or navy... neutrals + this weather = depressing as all depressing.

But, I overcame this dread of shopping for a sweater, and walked into the center this morning with the hope of finding one. And I did. It's gray, and though I've found neutrals depressing as of late, I told myself it was ok because it would go with everything else I own.

Sadly, I think it was the hood with the fuzzy interior that won me over...

So now I have a sweater. And now I need to work on my midterm for Celebrating the City. I'm almost finished. Why is Orsanmichele a building unique to Florence? Two pages. GO! Actually, I have about a page and a half on that topic already. Go me. I guess my homework situation is in better shape than I thought.

(If you're curious, Orsanmichele is the old grain market of Florence, which is now both a church and a museum. It is unique to Florence because it has statues on the outside made by many different famous Florentine artists... actually, the originals are upstairs in the museum... and each statue represents a different Florentine guild.)

I can make it through this homework... I will prevail. I will win!

:D

Ciao.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some stories :)

Ok, so after I got that last blog off my chest, I feel a lot better. And I've actually been able to pay closer attention to class material since then. Who'da thunk it? :)

This morning was an adventure. I had class at nine, and I thought I had the location down. I google-mapped the address of the museum last night, and figured out that it was somewhat between my homestay and school. So, not bothering to note the actual address, I set off this morning... and ended up one street off from where I was supposed to be.

Well, I panicked a bit... this program has a strict attendance policy... and went to the library, which thankfully happened to be close, and looked up the address again. I found it... I don't think the professor was happy, but... I was just glad I'd found the place, and explained to the ticket lady in Italian that my class was there and I was late. They didn't make me pay either. SCORE!

Then came adventure #2 of the morning. There's a little store in the shopping mall underneath Stazione Santa Maria Novella (that's the train station, for all of you non-Florentines)called Gili Jeans. They sell everything from jeans to sweaters to lingerie. And they happen to have bellydance costumes.

I have a friend back in the States who has been bellydancing for years, and she just started teaching. I took a few of her classes before I left, and I plan on continuing when I return. I've never really been a fan of my body, or of dancing, but I figured taking her classes would be the perfect way to change that. So even though I've only learned a few basic moves and have only had three sessions, I refer to myself as a bellydancer. So I figured, why not purchase one of those costumes? I've never seen them for sale in the States, and they're probably expensive to order. So, I went and withdrew some precious cash after returning from class, and went down to Gili Jeans. Truth be told, I was a little bit nervous. Some people get the wrong idea about bellydancing, thinking it's synonymous with stripping and such. It's not. Anyway, I didn't want anyone in the store to think that I was an exotic dancer or something, and try to stalk me. But that was a silly fear, and I pushed it aside.

Well, I walked into Gili Jeans, and picked up a sweater to try on so I wouldn't be going into the dressing room with just the costume. Then I noticed that they'd gotten a new one since I'd been there last... white with gold coins and fake amber gems... absolutely GORGEOUS. So I grabbed that, along with the gray "sensible" sweater I wasn't planning on buying, and went into the dressing room.

Well, the top fit amazingly. It wasn't too revealing either, which is good because I'm still iffy on showing too much skin. So I decided to buy it.

I walked out and returned the sweater to the rack, then went to the counter to buy the costume. The woman who works there was over by some other rack, and she looked at me from where she was and said something in Italian.

"Mi dispiace, non parlo bene Italiano," (I don't speak good Italian) I answered. A man who had come into the store while I was in the dressing room happened to be behind me, and evidently decided to strike up a conversation with the foreign girl with a coin bra in her hand.

"Parli Franchese?" He said. (Do you speak French?)

"Parlo Inglese," I replied. (I speak English)

"Oh. Ok. You try that on? It fits?"

"Si...?"

"You sure? You want to try it on again?"

Thankfully then, the girl working the store got to the register and charged me "venti cinque" (25) euros. I left then, laughing to myself at the absurdity of the whole experience.

Being here has taught me that little awkward experiences like that are more amusing than scary. I've lived my life in the past as sort of a wallflower, a girl who plays it safe, and I think that's changing rapidly. I've noticed that I'm not afraid to make eye contact with people anymore, and I don't stand with my arms folded in front of me as much. I don't give off the "I'm shy, stay away from me" vibe anymore, I don't think. I feel very happy and whole and independent, and I wouldn't trade this feeling for anything. Though I'm not as into the class material as I could be, I think being on this program has helped me as a person in ways beyond measure.

And that, my friends, was my goal all along.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why?

Ciao.

Ready for a bit of honesty here? I'm not really into Renaissance art. Now before you all stone me for choosing this program anyway, let me try to justify this.

I came here to learn something new. I came here to broaden my horizons and to grow as a person. I came here to gain independence. Those are good enough reasons, right?

Why'd I choose THIS program, though? That seems to be what people wonder when I confess to them that I'm going a bit crazy. It must be frustrating for my classmates: many of these people are majoring in Art History or something similar, meaning that this material is right up their alley, and here I am, the squirmy little kid who can't sit still through a whole lecture on some Madonna and Child altarpiece or a reliquary or tabernacle.

Alright, this stuff is interesting to a point. I liked it at first. It qualified as my "something new" that I wanted to learn. I went to the site visits, I took notes, I tried to care and be interested.

Honestly though? I'm not.

Maybe it's because every single one of my classes, besides Italian, has pretty much the same subject matter: Let's learn about the Medici. Let's learn about Frescos and family chapels and artists and artisans of the time.

It's very interesting looking when written out like that.

But I'm already intimidated because I have no prior knowledge. And though being thrown headfirst into this stuff was exhilarating at first, I'm becoming exhausted. Not even one literature class for me to redeem myself. I'm an English major. Books are my thing. They always will be. I'm starting to wish I'd picked a program whose subject matter was more focused towards studying literature and less towards studying religious art in the Renaissance. I don't feel SMART. I don't feel CAPABLE. I feel like I'm not supposed to be here.

I chose Italy mainly because I wanted to learn the language, and also because I wanted a chance to visit the ruins in Rome, Pompeii, etc. I've studied the Classics, I know about ancient Romans, and so visiting Rome this weekend and touring the Coliseum felt to me the way the Ancient Mariner must have felt when it began to rain (see poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, or song by Iron Maiden. Either will suffice). It was exciting to see where the Gladiators entered and exited the arena through the little passageways. It was amazing to climb to the top and to look out over the city. It was something I KNEW about, and instead of trying to collect all this new knowledge that I can't really connect to anything, I could build on what I already knew.

My point for this blog entry, I guess, is to make the point that it's important to examine the curriculum before you choose a program. If you're like me and want to jump into something totally new, beware that you may end up not caring for it that much. It happens. It's life, and we all have different interests.

I do not regret doing this program. It has helped me expand and mature as a person more than I ever thought I would. However, when the time comes, I will be ready to go home.

Why did I choose this program? Because I had to try in order to find out.

And that's how I live life.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

positive attitude + caffeine!

Ok, so my "Some pictures" entry only allowed for one picture... me on top of the Duomo. That was the second time I'd been up there, and I'd say it's the best view of this lovely city that you can get anywhere. Anyway, on to more updates...

I'm back in Florence and up to my neck in classwork again. Switzerland was a nice relaxing break, and I feel well-rested and ready to take all of this on. I've decided that a positive attitude is at least twice as effective as caffeine, and a positive attitude COMBINED with caffeine... wow, I must be scary to be around right now.

I've found a new hobby: Photographing the graffiti in Florence. Some of it is beautiful, and I see it as true art. Some of it, though, is completely random, such as "F*** Life" scrawled in black spray paint across the side of a building. I saw some more cool graffiti as I was walking down Via Capponi this morning and smiling at people's dogs (not at the people, just the dogs... hahaha), and I need to remember to go back and take some pictures.

Today's an easy class day... Professor Koestner's class is meeting at the Horne Museum, which I only have a vague idea of the location. Mi amica Carolyn has it marked on a map though. :)

If there's one thing I've learned here, it's how to be independent and confident. I really am changing and maturing, and my walls are slowly coming down. It's an amazing feeling. When you take someone out of their natural element and put them in a new environment, they really discover what they are capable of, and I'm no exception.

Ciao for now! I need to look over some things for class.

-K-

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Some pictures

Switzerland- reminds me of home.

FALL BREAK is here!

For our fall break, a classmate and I traveled to Bern, Switzerland for the majority of the week. I am in LOVE with this place!

I grew up in Vermont, and moved to Kansas when I was sixteen. So I'm used to mountains, excessive greenery, and cold weather. Switzerland has all three. And the leaves are just starting to change. I feel like I've come back home in a way, even though this is yet a different country and culture to get used to.

We will head back to Florence on Friday (tomorrow), at which point I will have to acknowledge the existence of the homework that needs to get done before Monday. Classes are still enjoyable, and more rewarding now that I'm getting a bit deeper into the subject matter. I don't know if I will ever study any of what I'm learning now again, but I'm sure the information will benefit me in some way. I really do enjoy learning for the pure sake of learning... I'm such a nerd. Haha. ;)

More updates soon!

-K-

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cararra, Pompeii, and sketchy trains.

I just easily had the best weekend I’ve had since I’ve been here. Friday, Bonnie Koestner’s Professional Artist in Renaissance Florence class went to Carrara to see the marble quarries and studios. Super cool, if I must say so myself. Wasn’t that an eloquent statement? I thought so too. ;)

I’m not allowed to disclose much information about what they were working on in the studio, but I can say that it was, again, super cool. I took an Art and Feminism class my sophomore year at Monmouth, and I remember talking a little bit about Louise Bourgeois. Bourgeois passed away recently, but some of her artwork is still being worked on in the marble studios at Carrara, and yours truly got to see it. I take an interest in gender studies in general, so I found Bourgeois’ focus on sex and sex roles quite fascinating. She designed a sculpture of a house, with female anatomy on the back, commenting on the traditional idea of a domestic sphere. The idea is simple, but it says a lot and makes you think. Artwork like this, that makes a statement and forces you to reflect, is my favorite kind, even though I don’t have much of a trained eye when it comes to art.

We then got to see where the marble actually comes from. It involved driving down a tiny narrow tunnel into the side of a mountain, which opened up into a network of large cube-shaped rooms cut out of the marble. The entire mountain is solid marble, and they cut it out in blocks and sell it to artists.
Then came the hike. Let me tell you, those mountains are GORGEOUS! It felt like we were in Lord of the Rings, actually. People kept asking where Frodo and Sam were. Haha.

We hiked up the side of one of the mountains, circled the peak, and then went down through the meadows on the other side, which could have easily passed for the place where they shot the opening scene to The Sound of Music. The day was just full of movie references, I guess.

And then came Saturday. Saturday was easily, EASILY the highlight of my entire abroad experience so far. I don’t know how I can emphasize my excitement over Pompeii enough. I’ll just say that my high school Latin textbook follows a family that actually lived in Pompeii, and ever since using that textbook, it has been my goal to go to Pompeii and try to find their house. So, this journey to find the home of Caecilius and his family was a sort of pilgrimage for me.

My friend Jenna and I left for Naples at 8am Saturday morning, and our train arrived there by 11:30. From there, we caught another train to Pompeii, and had some delicious pizza when we arrived. Then, it was time… dun dun DUN!
I had a general idea of where Caecilius’ house was located, thanks to the map in the textbook that I happen to have at home. I’d previously asked my mom to look it up and give me a general location. So, with a new map of the actual ruin, we set off in that direction.

On the way, we stopped to pose for pictures in the ruins, often acting out scenes from the textbook and general phrases we had learned. In the front room of one ruined house, there was a block of rock that I sat down in front of, pretending it was my “mensa”, and proceeded to act out the scene “Caecilius in scriptorium scribit.” (Caecilius is writing in the study). Jenna reinacted “Metella in atrio sedet” at another location (Metella is sitting in the atrium), and when we found what appeared to be a kitchen in one house, I couldn’t resist posing for “Grumio in culina coquit” (Grumio is cooking in the kitchen.) And the grand finale: “Caecilius est morto in horto” (Caecilius is dead in the garden). Yes, we did modify the phrase a bit… the correct word is “mortuus,” but “morto” rhymes. So there!  In the story, Caecilius met his end when Vesuvius erupted, and he got trapped under a fallen column in his big fancy garden.

Anyway, after posing for all of these pictures, making friends with the stray dogs that hang out in the ruins, and speaking a strange mixture of English, Italian, and Latin, we finally reached Stabia Street, where the “Domus Caecilius Iucundus” is located. And YES, IT IS THERE!!!!

However, there was a locked gate on the front door, which almost killed the whole mood. Jenna had to take pictures of me posing in attempts to climb over the gate. But you can still see into Metella’s atrium, Caecilius’ scriptorium, the horto in the back, and you can catch glimpses of the triclinio where Quintus would supposedly “vinum bibit” (drink wine).

Pompeii closed at 5, and we were forced to tear ourselves away and go in search of some dinner. We ate ravioli at a little outdoor restaurant on the way to the train station, and then headed back to Naples.

Now here is where I put in another word of advice: Female students thinking of coming to Europe: DO NOT TAKE THE TRAIN AT NIGHT.
Jenna and I had arrived to Naples on a Eurostar train, one that only stops at major cities and is a quicker way to travel. It is also more expensive, so on the way back we decided to just take the regional train and save some money. It meant a longer ride, but it was quite a bit cheaper. However, there were men on the train who kept talking to us and trying to sell us stuff, and we kept moving to different compartments in order to avoid them. Finally, we were joined in our compartment by four other travelers, two men and two women, who said they were traveling to Bologna. They seemed harmless, but also turned out to be a bit… shall we say… affectionate? Towards each other, I mean. It was obvious that the two couples wanted us out so they could, well, express their affections more expressively. So when I got up to go to the bathroom and made Jenna come with me for fear of being accosted by the annoyingly creepy men who stared at me like a piece of meat, one of the women got up also, and closed the compartment door behind us, saying “Ciao, bye bye”, in a sense kicking us out permanently. Hope they had fun, I guess.

We finally just sat in the hallway on the extra seats that fold out from the wall. We arrived in Florence at around 2am, and it just so happened that the train we were on didn’t stop at Santa Maria Novella station downtown, but instead stopped at Campo di Marte, which happens to be two blocks away from where I’m staying. So I hurried home, made sure Jenna got a cab, and FINALLY went to bed. I’m a morning person, not a night person, so I was exhausted and cranky and glad to be acquainted with my bed once again.

I’m not taking that train at night ever again. However, finding Caecilius's house still made everything worth it. :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I'm not a tourist anymore!

Number of times people have asked me for directions since Monday: At least six.

I guess I don't look like a tourist anymore. Yay!

The interesting thing, though, is that everyone who asked me spoke English.

Them: Scusi? Scusi?
Me: Si?
Them: Parli inglese?
Me: Si.
Them: Okay. Where can I get tourist information?

Next time, I'm going to pretend I don't speak English and see how good I am at giving directions in Italian. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Venizia, mi amore.

Ciao mi amici,

Haven’t been able to update in awhile. I’ve been quite busy now that classes have started. I’m enjoying them. My favorite part of studying abroad is that we frequently have on-site classes, where we go to churches, museums, and different parts of the city, and look at what we’re learning about instead of simply reading about it. This is definitely a unique experience, and despite my earlier complaints of homesickness and stress, I highly recommend it to everyone.

This past weekend was spent in Venice, which is by far my favorite place in Italy so far. Being both a Shakespeare fan and a musician, I kind of had to be excited for it. (The Merchant of Venice self-explanatorily takes place there, and the composer Vivaldi taught there). The city was jam-packed with tourists, but so is Florence, so that didn’t bother me so much. The unique thing about Venice is that there is no motor traffic, and so the city is extremely quiet at night. A few of us went out and walked around on Saturday night, and though many people were out, there was a strange peaceful atmosphere that you usually don’t find in an urban setting. A few fellow students and I considered visiting the famous Florian CafĂ© in Piazza di San Marco, but after seeing that they charge 8 euros for a cup of coffee, we decided against it. The Florian always has live musicians playing outside under the awning, and it was fun to sit and listen to them. The accordion player started playing Sinatra, so I had to get up and tap-dance. :)

And St. Mark’s Basilica… breathtaking. That’s the only word I have. We were given the once-in-a-lifetime experience of seeing the basilica at night, after it had closed and the tourists had all left. We entered in the dark, sat down in the first few rows of seats, and, one by one, the lights came on, exposing the breathtaking beauty of the sanctuary. My words cannot even begin to do justice to the extreme overdose of GORGEOUS that this experience gave me. I took pictures, but they pale in comparison. Every wall is covered in gold mosaics, and in dim light, it has an almost otherworldly feel to it. It must have been even more breathtaking back when they used only candles to light the building.

These are just a few of the wonders of Venice. I highly recommend that everyone should visit it at least once, since it is such a unique city. I hope that I’ll get the chance to go back at some point in my life.

This is either week 6 or week 7, I’ve lost count. I’ve just finished writing a fictional contract for a commissioned art piece for my Professional Artist in Renaissance Florence class, and though I have no prior knowledge of Renaissance art or how these contracts worked, I had fun researching it and putting it together. I take the role of the patron, and commission a specific artist to create an art piece for me in a requested location, following my exact instructions. I chose to request a wall fresco in a family chapel. Today, for that class, we have a guest coming in to demonstrate the process of painting a fresco. I’m looking forward to it.

More updates to follow. I’m out. Arrividerci!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Last you heard from me, I was on the verge of a breakdown.

Well, I'm not anymore. I'm enjoying myself immensely, as a matter of fact. :)

I think we're in the sixth week now, which is hard to believe. This past weekend, I went to Assisi with a few classmates and an old friend of mine who is here in Florence on another program. Assisi was GORGEOUS! We visited the San Francesco basilica and looked at the frescos, and then climbed to the top of the hill to explore the fortress. On the way, we found some excellent gelato. :)

From the fortress, you can see for miles in all directions. The views were breathtaking, even though the weather was a bit dreary. That was easily one of the most beautiful parts of the world I've ever seen.

Our full class schedules started this week, and I'm enjoying my classes so far. I've had a lot of reading to do, but I don't mind reading. After all, I'm majoring in English Lit. :)

That's all... I'll update again soon!

Con amare,

Kate

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Phase Two followup.

Being negative never gets you anywhere. I've resolved to be open to new experiences and opportunities. I mean come on, I'm in Italy! There's plenty of time to have a headache when I get home. Right now, I'm going to embrace this experience.

Phase Two

According to the ACM handbook, study abroad students generally go through three phases during the semester. During the first phase, they are overwhelmed and excited by the thrill of being in a new place. During the second phase, they get stressed out and critical. And during the third, they fall into a routine and start to feel at home.

Well, right now I'm in phase two. Every moment of every day takes a certain amount of energy, and I end up feeling exhausted with a headache all the time. I feel like Italian is going too quickly and I can't keep up, and I start panicking in class whenever Luigi starts calling on people. To be honest, right now I'd love to be home in the U.S., curled up in bed with my dog. I know this phase will pass soon and that when I'm done with this semester I'll look back on it as one of the greatest experiences of my life, but I can't deny that feeling stressed and overwhelmed is part of the study abroad experience. Hopefully I'll grow from it.

Yesterday turned out well though. I got home, said hi to my host mom, and she asked if I would like to watch TV with her. We watched "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" in Italian, and it turned out I could understand more of it than I would have expected. Then we ate pasta and "Uovo d'inferno," deviled eggs, for dinner.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In Italiano...

Oggi, studio per exam domani. Exam e su passato, regolare/irregolare, e perfetto e imperfetto.

Tempo e freddo oggi, ma settimana prima temo avuto calda.

Scuola e bene, e Firenze e bella. Sono lieto, e mi piace Italia. Manco America e mia casa, ma vado a America in Decembre. Adesso, sono in Firenze, e mi piace.

Arrividerci!

-KB

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 3: Wardrobe advice and feeling like a Florentine.

Another quick word of advice to future ACM Study Abroad students: BRING ENOUGH CLOTHING. I cannot stress that enough. I realize that packing light is important. However, I made the mistake of packing too light. As of now, I’ve more spent more money than I planned on clothes.T-shirts are a good choice, especially in solid, neutral colors. That way, they are easy to match with a pair of pants or a skirt, can be jazzed up with a necklace or scarf, and can be used with sweaters to layer outfits on colder days. T-shirts are just plain comfortable as well, which is very important. Also, jeans are a basic staple, and though this seems like it would have been obvious to me as I was packing, I’m here with a shortage of them. I have a blue pair, a brown pair, and a black pair, and though this seems like it would give me more choices, in reality it makes matching more difficult. Jeans here are EXPENSI VE, and I’ve resorted to dresses, skirts, and leggings, which seem to be a cheaper choice. Bring enough basic clothing. You and your wallet will both be glad you did.

Also, shoes are incredibly important. I brought two pairs of shoes with me, thinking it would be plenty. However, when both started giving me blisters, I knew I had to drop a few euros on footwear or else there would be blood. Sigh. I hate spending money. I bought a cheap pair of flip-flops from a street vendor in Monterosso, and then invested in a pair of comfy boots (probably Payless equivalent) for when it gets colder. So, my advice to all of you: make sure you consider your footwear carefully before bringing it. Walk in it, make sure it’s comfortable, and make sure you’re comfortable wearing it.

This is the beginning of my third week in Florence, and I’m finally starting to feel like I live here. I ride the buses to and from school, I can (very nearly) get around without a map, I know where to go to get inexpensive lunch (there’s a supermarket right around the corner from Linguaviva, and they sell loaves of bread for under 1 euro), and I know where I can get good gelato. I’ve found a niche in the city, and I think I’m really falling in love with the place. This previous weekend, we took a school trip to Siena, another gorgeous city. I’m not hugely knowledgeable on the topic of medieval art and architecture, but there was one thing I saw while visiting the cathedral in Siena that stuck with me: Professor Solberg mentioned the carvings on the pulpit echoing the style of Roman Sarcophagus carvings, and immediately I perked up. Classics! I know this stuff! Examining the carvings, I was reminded of the sarcophagi in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul. Like the various examples of Roman sarcophagi in the museum, this pulpit had deep, precise carvings, and figures that were very 3-dementional and lifelike. The pulpit was carved by Pisano between 1265 and 1268, and the carvings depict the life of Jesus from the time of his birth until his ascension into heaven.

On the way back from Siena, we stopped at a Tuscan town who's name escapes me, where there was a wine festival going on. We spent about an hour there, tasting some good wine and eating more gelato. I have a feeling I’m going to develop a taste for good wine while I’m here, then go back home and become a wine snob. The only real knowledge of wine I have now is that I generally like whites better than reds, and I generally like dry rather than sweet, but that changes depending on what I’m in the mood for. I wonder if my opinions will become more sophisticated as the trip goes on. So far I haven’t been purchasing alcohol very frequently because I’m so budget-conscious, but I can taste a few more wines while I’m here, right?

My Italian is still broken and beginner-ish, but I’ve begun to be able to understand whole phrases from hearing people speak on the street or in my host family. Generally I can understand more than I can speak, but I’m hoping that will change soon. Being immersed in a group of people that speak a certain language is definitely the best way to learn it. I just need to stop pronouncing everything like Latin. Hopefully this week goes well. I’ll update again when I can and let all of you know!

Arrividerci!

K

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quick update:

Eight minutes left of "caffe" break.

I'd just like to point out quickly that my host mom is amazing. I've been feeling a bit sick for the past few days and when she caught wind of it, she got all concerned, gave me aspirin, and sent me to bed. She promised vegetable soup for me today. Being so far away from home, it's nice to have someone to take care of me when I need it.

I'm still loving Florence. On Wednesday, a few of us went over to the Duomo and climbed the many stairs to the balcony along the facade that they only open once a year. I have pictures that I will try to attach, if I have time. Steph and I got gelato on the way back. Ah, gelato, what a vice you are already...

More later when I have more time!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bring on the second week!

Alright. Eventful past few days. To start off, I'm going to offer some advice to students who want to study abroad, especially in Florence, in the future.

1. Bring MORE THAN ONE power adapter.
2. Bring shoes you feel comfortable wearing and walking a lot in... blisters are no fun.
3. Keep a positive attitude about things, because in the end they're not that bad.
4. Enjoy the food.
5. Interact with your host family. Ask them to teach you things or do things with you.
6. It's okay to be homesick.

Now that those things are out of the way...

Firenze is treating me well. I've solved my electrical issues, so hopefully I won't have any more computer problems. And I went to Cinque Terra this weekend, which was absolutely amazing. A bunch of Linguaviva students went on a bus to Monterosso, and we took a train to Vernazzo. Swimming in the Mediterranean, white wine, pasta and pesto, coffee flavored gelato... perfect day.

I know I keep mentioning the food here... but food is one of my passions. I asked my host mother if she'd teach me to cook Italian food, and her face lit up. "Si, si! You help me!" Considering it kind of felt tense between us for a few days because my Italian isn't that good and her English is limited, I think that was a major ice breaker. I'm glad I suggested it. I want to get to know my host family.

Today begins the second week of my study abroad experience. The first week was difficult, but already I think I've grown from it. So... bring it on!

Arrivederci!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moving Day!

Today, we're moving in with host families.

Honestly, I'm nervous.

What if the woman I'm staying with doesn't speak any English? My Italian is, of course, quite limited...

"Buona sera, mi chiamo Kate. Sono studentessa Americana, e sono di Wichita, Kansas. Piacere!"

Okay, I can pretty much introduce myself. I can ask for things, say thank you, you're welcome, and count to 100. That's a lot for only three days of class, but not nearly enough to start conversing with a native speaker. I hope she knows at least a little bit of English, so we can communicate better.

I have 35 minutes before I have to take all of my bags down to the Linguaviva entrance and find Rachel, who will be my roommate for the next three months. Then we take a taxi to where we will be living.

I've been looking forward to this forever, but honestly right now I'm terribly anxious.

I don't know when I'll be able to get online again, so... arrividerci for now!

-Kate

Monday, August 30, 2010

Arrival, first day, and such.

So here I am, sitting in the fourth floor hallway of the building that houses the Linguaviva school and also the hotel where we are staying the next couple of days before we move in with our host families. I can only access the wireless connection from the hallway, so here I am.

Elizabeth and I left Kansas City on Saturday, and it already seems like a lifetime ago. The flights were pretty uneventful, and I figured the whole trip would be easy. Once we hit the trains though, that kind of changed. The train from the Rome airport to the Termini station in Rome was on time and uneventful, like the flights, but catching the train to Florence from Rome became another story entirely. Either the guy at the ticket booth back at the airport sold us the wrong tickets, or we got on the wrong train, but somehow we ended up on the regular train instead of the Eurostar. This put us behind schedule about two hours, and by the time we reached Florence, it was 7pm and time to meet with the rest of the group with no time to freshen up or anything. Thankfully we got a few minutes for that before dinner....

Dinner was interesting. We ate at a pizza place, and instead of ordering a pizza to split between three or four people, you order an entire pizza for yourself. My first thought was that I would hardly be able to eat any of it, but I actually ended up finishing more than half. The crust is thin and the toppings are a lot more thinly spaced than on American pizza. I'm hoping that the food I eat here will be healthier than the food at home.

We have some kind of orientation soon, so I should wrap this up... so quickly, here were my first thoughts of Florence: At first glance, it looks like Istanbul, which I visited this spring. The streets are narrow, the buildings are close together, and there are pedestrians EVERYWHERE. I've only seen the old part of the city so far (which is what I saw of Istanbul as well), but I think it's gorgeous. I wonder where my host family will live... I hope it's close enough where I can walk to school.

Anyway I'm off now. Will update again soon.

Peace, love, and all that :)

-Kate

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Saying "arrivederci!"

17 days until takeoff... I think this is when I start to freak out a little bit.

I think I have everything I need for the semester: clothes, books, etc. Now all I have to do is enjoy the 2 1/2 weeks I have at home, and mentally gear up for this huge adventure.

It's going to be strange not being able to come home for three months straight. I mean, Monmouth College is about nine hours from where my family lives, and that's further from home than most people I know. Still, I'm able to come home at every major break, thanks to Amtrak. Not this semester though. I've got a feeling that I'll be too busy to be homesick anyway. I will miss my family and friends quite a bit though.

So, my goal for these last 17 days is to enjoy every last one of them.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Phrase books, guide books, text books... and more books!

It's a good thing I love books, right?

I am up to my ears right now in reading material. My book of choice at the moment is the Blue Guide, Tuscany. Close runners-up are Fodor's travel guide to Italy and this nifty little slang phrase book called Dirty Italian that I borrowed from a friend. I figure less, shall we say, conventional terms are also important to know. Even if I never use them, learning them is quite fun.

So now my phrase list consists of:

"Buongiorno, mi chiamo Kate" (Hello, my name is Kate)
"Piacere" (A pleasure)
"Molto lieto!" (Delighted!)

...as well as (some of the cleaner ones from the book)...

"Devo andare in bagno." (I need to use the bathroom.)
"Tu sei un frana!" (You are a loser!)
"Sta zitto!" (Shut up!)

This list will be updated in the next entry.

Arrivederci!

Kate

Friday, July 23, 2010

The preparation

Hello, world! Kate here. This is my first blog entry as I prepare to embark on a semester long adventure in Florence, Italy. I could not be more excited! This is going to be a whole world of newness for me, and I honestly have no idea what to expect. I trust that it will be a good, fulfilling experience though.
I'm a Latin student, but I've never had any classes in Italian. I'm trying to learn at least a few phrases before I get to Italy.

"Vorrei un caffe, per favore?"
"Can I have a coffee, please?"

It's a start. :)