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


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!



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?"


"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



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.