Thursday, January 5, 2012
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Sunday, May 15, 2011
After a final social media class, a delicious panino of prosciutto crudo, mozzerella and sundried tomato on schacchiata from the far winery, meeting up with two language exchanges, taking my Italian final, getting gelato and sitting on a bridge, signing check out paperwork, after all that, I changed dresses and went to a final dinner.
Pino is a man who works at Salamaria Verdi, which is essentially a sandwich shop. It is often confused with "Central Perk" of the television show Friends or "The Diner" of Saved by the Bell. This common watering hole is a place where I have gotten many panini here all of which are fresh and full of flavor. His pesto is to die for. I met up with a friend, Haley, a few of her friends, and my professor to have a nice meal. Its funny because this professor is my History professor of all subjects. She is a riot though. She’s “the pits,” as she says in her British accent. We talked about everything from Italian culture and living here rather than studying here to her travels to American celebrities to the shop itself. Pino even sat down with us and shared a glass of wine while our empty plates sat before us, once filled with sundried tomatoes, artichokes, olives, cheeses, salami, prosciutto crudo, then penne con truffles e poi rigatoni con ragu`. We spoke in Italian and English about short term things and long term things. She encourages me to teach English abroad (I am not sure if I had mentioned I want to do this next summer) in another country, other than Italy. Ho bisogno a tornero` ma, oops, I need to return to Italy, this place I found such happiness, but I think I spending time in a completely foreign country not knowing the language or much about the culture would be a great experience.
After feeling that homey feeling of chatting after a big long meal, my friend said she was going to Bible study. Bible study? I knew she went, and I knew that her father was a pastor, but I was not expecting to go to Bible study on the night before I go home. Her friend and her were going, and I know I could have gone out again, though I did every night last weekend and a bit during finals, I figure why not? What’s stopping by?
I ended up meeting some pretty amazing people there. Some were studying abroad students, one who I am pretty good friends with whom I did not expect to see there and other Florentines, some of whom did not grow up in Florence, or even Italy for that matter. (As a sidenote, this post is taking me forever to write. First, this is because my sunburn from Viareggio stopped hurting but started that itchy phase. When I took off my dress before, a sheet of skin came with it. Gross. Second because I want to make sure I remember this night right. One of my biggest fears about coming here was forgetting things and not documenting things well. Finally, when I am finished with this, I am going to sleep at it is 4:30 in the morning and when I wake up, I only have 12 hours left in this beautiful city, for the time being of course. My travel writing teacher says I need to stay focused when I write, but with blogging, I do more stream of consciousness stuff as you can see, or read. Anyway…) These people were very open and the kind of people I would love to surround myself with. They were not overly religious and did not push ideas on you, but just enjoyed sharing what they thought. One guy quoted from the Bible about how if we are not the ones who share the word, who will? This reminded me of a time when I was in a mixed up high schooler and someone asked, “have you tried praying?” I thought of how things have come full circle and how what someone said to me 4 or 5 years ago is ringing in my head now. I would have never thought I would be repeating what he said in my head while I was in Florence.
We broke out into conversation once it was over and ended up at two of the girls’ apartment. We drank coffee, hot chocolate, and tea, sat on the roof, talked, and looked out onto the Florentine nightscape. There was a moment I will never forget. “This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime things,” a Florentine friend said. I was thinking, for me, that’s quite possible, and with this group of people definitely, but you live here. You can come back tomorrow…
Once we got some solid ground beneath our feet instead of those orange tiles, we talked about the cultural differences between our countries of Finland, America, Brazil, and either Kenya or Tanzania I don’t remember. We talked about how Italians fight using words and objects, their lifestyle, their dialects. These were all topics I have covered living here for almost four months, though each time I talk about these things with different people, I get another perspective and a more true sense of the culture here.
I told them that of all the places I could have ended up tonight, I was happy I was there. I love meeting new people, even if its on my last night in Florence. Every interaction with another person teaches us something about them and something about ourselves. Maybe not always something new, but it can be reinforcing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I have changed over this trip, aside from losing my New Jersey accent and gaining a bit on the hips. I have always heard from my friends who have also studied abroad that when you go home, you will really realize how you are different, just as the friends from home will notice how long my hair got though I do not see it because I saw it a bit different each day. Also, I realized that leaving here is just another step closer to the person I hope to become. Every change is an opportunity to maybe not start completely over again, but to start new. Instead of being upset about leaving, I know I can just realize that I have no regrets, I am so blessed to have so many friends here and around America to miss, and that I exploited my opportunities, one of which was being open to change and be free to truly be myself. I know that when I go home, I will not have any apprehensions about completely being myself, even if the people I am around think differently. This is because I will always know that there are people out there who think like I do and have similar outlooks.
My biggest fears about going home are one, having my memories fade away, two, something awful happening and having memory loss, three, missing the diversity of my friends here, and four, losing my luggage.
Some people I have talked to said that living here scratched the itch of traveling. For a few others and me I know this just made me want to travel more. This winter, I hope to get my certification to teach English as a foreign language then after the spring semester in California, I hope to land a job in Poland for the summer, then of course visit Italy on the way back. This has been such an amazing journey, but saying goodbye to this one just opens the doors to something new and now, I’m even stronger. Building a life for myself, with the help of my program, is very confidence boosting. If I can do that at 19 years old, I wonder how the rest of my life will pan out.
It’s still sad to say goodbye to something that made me so happy. I’ve come to think of it this way: I will miss so many friends, but that means that I was loved here. I will miss the pace of life, but that I can try to take with me home. I will miss the food, but I can cook it. I will miss this gorgeous city and that will be under my skin for the rest of my life.
Florence this isn't goodbye, I’m just moving on for now, a dopo.
This will not be my final blog post. I will be writing through reverse culture shock, because I think it will be an important part of this experience.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Monday, May 2, 2011
Walking through busy winding streets, a mix of veterans and tourists,
Driving through my small town, always finding familiar faces.
Looking up to homey balconies, skinny, tall buildings and deep green shudders,
Looking down tree lined streets filled with traditional two-story homes.
Sleeping to city sounds: music from the club across the street, ambulances blaring,
Sleeping to the soft quick bursts of air from my dog's nose as he sleeps aside my bed.
A two room studio apartment with one framed picture of a sailboat,
The room I grew up in, bright and beached out, my sanctuary.
Stepping outside to a friendly shopkeeper who is always stocked with wine,
Stepping outside to my best friend's house, home to childhood memories.
Living around the Duomo, Santa Croce, and il panino centrale,
Living around the mall, the movies, and familiar restaurants of food from around the world.
Fresh markets, gelato, and real wine from regional grapes,
The comfort of knowing the chef, homecooking.
Traveling the country with views of rolling green hills, discovering,
Driving the state with views of the parkway, visiting.
A fifteen minute stroll to the sparkling Ponte Vecchio,
A fifteen minute drive to crashing waves at Jersey's shores.
How lucky can I be for both of these are homes to me, memories.
Thursday, April 28, 2011
As everyone got their standing room and the pushing and shoving for spots died down, I was looking around, feeling a bit stuck. I could imagine my parents being here: my Mom would be shorter than the crowd and not able to see anything. I could imagine my dad getting claustrophobic with all of the people. Also, Italians have no sense of personal space which doesn't help the situation.
A older couple came up from behind me with a piece of luggage each. Where do they think they are going? They started shoving their way through to the front of the crowd. As they pushed the man next to me, his face grew red. His big dark hand reached in front of him and grabbed the shoulder of the man who was trying to shove his way through. He started yelling in Italian and shaking and hitting the man.
The man trying to get through the crowd got away, only to realize he has nowhere to go. He ended up back tracking, passing by the angry man next to me who mumbled and threw out some hand gestures.
It wouldn't be a holiday without some commotion.
The Saturday before Easter, I was on my way home from Lucca and the flower show and saw a huge fire in front of the Duomo. Don't worry, this fire was on purpose. It was for the candle ceremony for Easter mass. I ended up taking some pictures like the rest of the crowd, then I grabbed a candle and went to the rest of mass. It was an incredible experience, listening to the Latin being sung, seeing the inside of the Duomo all lit up from everyone's candles, and the special lights they put up. This mass was long, ending around midnight, but I'm happy I went.
On Sunday, there were fireworks at the Duomo starting at 11am. I ended up rolling out of bed around 9:30 and thinking that the square is right around the corner, I took my time getting ready. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
I have never seen such a crowd of people before. I ended up getting pretty close to the men dressed in medieval costume who were throwing flags. They were surrounding a 10 foot decorated box, which I thought looked pretty strange. It had a japanese style to it which threw me off. All of a sudden, the box lit up with fireworks! White light showered from the top of the tower, some snapping fireworks shot from the bottom, some were thrown high into the sky. Then, red, purple, and white smoke came out, swirling and circling around the façade of the Duomo. Amazing.
After the show, I was walking around, and a man started motioning to clear a path as if he was Moses parting the sea of tourists. All of a sudden, a man walked a donkey through the crowd. Then another man walked two bulls who had flowers decorating their horns. It took the second set of bulls to walk by for it to hit me that the only thing between these bulls and me is a little old Italian man. Scary.
Finally, I followed the march of drummer boys and men to the commune di firenze. They ended up piling up the stairwell and yelling and pounding the glass. Then, the veteran at the foot of the steps grabbed one of the newbie drummer boys and shoved him up the stairs. Though it looked violent, and sounds violent, everyone seemed to be having a good time. The men in the stairwell would shout and hit the newbies, carrying them up the stairs. The Italians I talked to explained that this was an initiation tradition.
A lot of my friends traveled over easter, but I am really happy I stayed in Florence for the weekend. Some of my friends even said that they wished they had stayed also.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
As I was running from class to class, I grabbed a cappuccino at the library. One man's cup ended up flying off his plate, I'm not sure how. He tried to catch it, but there was no hope. His espresso splattered everywhere including all over the couple next to me. The woman looked a little upset. As she cleaned herself up, the man repeated, "Mi dispiace, mi dispiace." The man she was with looked down to see a bit of sprayed espresso on his light-washed jeans. He shrugged and kept drinking his coffee. He mumbled something in Italian which I can imagine being, "there's nothing I can do about it now." Then, the barista came out with a mop. He asked the light-washed jean man to move a second, and the man joked, "you can mop between my legs." Overall, the situation was laughed off. If this happened in a Starbucks in New York or New Jersey, forget about it. I could imagine a lot of yelling, veins popping, and women and children staring.
After this incident, I went to meet up with my classmates to do a Free Hug Project for our social media class. We were to walk around with two signs, one in English and one in Italian, saying free hugs. We video taped it, then we need to publicize it, getting as many viewers as possible (get ready to watch!).
It was a little strange at first, and we did get some rejection, but it was really a great experience. We made so many people smile. Before we started, I was a bit stressed out, worrying about setting up the summer and fall for classes, and just dealing with things at home. I realized I completely forgot about it while I was participating and then afterward, I figured, "everything will work itself out." Smiling and especially making other people smile, is a great skill we all have and should practice everyday. It really does keep you positive.
Then, I was walking home, with a smile on my face, and I ran into one of my friends. This is the second time I had bumped into her today. The first time, she invited me to lunch with her friend. "Hey, I'm just about to meet up with people for dinner, want to come?" she asked. "I love how every time I've been hungry today, I bump into you restaurant queen," I saw as I had lunch with her at a famous sandwich shop in Florence that I still had never been to (Pino's). We ended up meeting up with some friends and had a delicious meal (I had fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with tomato and cheese over arugula, YUM).
On my way home, happy with the day and the meal I had just had, I saw a family asking for directions. The person they were talking to was Italian and only spoke Italian. "Ti parli inglese?" I ask, thinking I could have just asked that in English. "Yes," what looks like the mother of the family responses. "Where are you looking to go?" "Piazza Repubblica." "I'll take you there," I say as I wave them on. I really was just going to the library and PIazza Repubblica was a bit farther than I needed to go, but I could use the walk after the meal. After talking and finding out that she was the mother, and her family of 5 was here for a week just landing from Mexico, she asked me question after question. Once we got around the Duomo, she said, "We know our way from here, thank you." "Non c'e` problema, buona serrata," I say and turn to go back to the library. "Oh, you weren't even going this way," she says with a smile. "It's okay, I needed the walk, have a great trip," I said to the family.
Hopefully the hugs and polite gestures I witnessed and took part in today will inspire someone else to do some good.
There was a theory by a terminally ill little girl who said that if a person does a good deed, two people will see it, and they will do a good deed. Then this will multiply and multiply until the whole world is full of good. How sweet. If this hasn't convinced you to do a good deed, realize all good deeds are selfish (as Joey tells Phoebe in Friends) because they make you feel good. Plus, a little good karma never hurt anyone.
I had said before that sometimes saying the words and thinking through what you are actually saying are two different things. This applies to me coming to Florence. When I knew I had to decide between Rome and Florence, I thought back to my first trip during high school. Based on high school memories, I didn't like Rome too much, it was too big. All I remembered from Florence was that I was grumpy that day, but the Duomo was the biggest, most beautiful building I had ever been next to. I remember the night before my trip, lying in my bed thinking, I hope everything works out well.
Now, months later, as my weeks disappear, I realize it really did. I can't believe this trip is already almost over. I remember dreaming of what this trip would be like, and now I have memories instead of dreams. I definitely had the time of my life.
Instead, I woke up late and decided in the middle of the day to go to Lucca. This was after my friend realized she couldn't make dinner, so I had nothing holding me back.
It was 3 in the afternoon, and all I could think of was 'get me outta here.'
I was sick of being in a city. I was sick of missing my friends and family, something I don't do often, but it seems like a tidal wave when it does.
I packed my stuff from the library, unpacked it in my apartment, and repacked a travel bag with only the necessities: a notebook and pen, a book for the train, an iPod, money, keys, phone.
I went to the train station and did something I've always dreamed of: going to a station with no destination in mind. I saw the next train to leave, Viareggio, a beach town. Going to a beach town on a gloomy day is depressing, especially by myself. I realized that this train stops in many places, one of which is Lucca.
Lucca is a small town full of tiny little Italian streets and wide open greenery. Perfect. Plus, I knew the streets, and though I wanted to escape, and I always look for places I have never been, I felt lost enough.
This one day ended up an accumulation of reminders of all the things I miss from home and all the things I will miss from Italy.
While I sat on the train, I looked out the window, spotting a cute guy. This guy ended up boarding the train, sitting across from me but a row back, so we could awkwardly look up at each other between lines of our books. I am going to miss having these good looking eyes to look out now and again.
Once I got to Lucca, I saw a bartender carrying over drinks from a bar to a clothing shop. I am going to miss the convenience of Italy, and the 'I don't care what anyone else thinks' attitude.
I saw a small family walking a Border Collie, who reminded me of my Jack.
In the flower shop, which I browsed listening to Italian swirl around the bright colors of beautifully smelling flowers, I found cacti, which reminded me of my southwestern-styled house.
While in Lucca, I was starving for pizza, so I had a couple different slices from a couple different places. I am going to miss all of the fresh ingredients and practicing my Italian to the friendly shop owners.
On the way back, I heard a train, but I did not see a train. This reminded me of my father, who would say "I hear a bus, but I don't see a bus," when he would wait at the bus stop with me before school.
On the train ride back, I made up different stories of what the German couple in front of me could be talking about. I'm going to miss being surrounded by all different languages and cultures.
All of this missing. I'm getting sick of it.
I've realized that I'm over missing, and I've accepted coming home in a few weeks, and I know that I will be missing this place once I go back. I'm not going to waste my last three weeks missing, but doing what I have done the entire trip, exploited every opportunity and embracing every moment.
Friday, April 22, 2011
Don't get me wrong, I love cooking, and sometimes I wish I did it more often, but with so many Trattorias and Osterias (and a mini meal plan), you can eat well without breaking your bank, it is always delicious, and sometimes its just quicker.
But tonight, I got some clams from a fishery down the street, and cooked them with olive oil, wine, and parsley. Then I boiled some baby tomatoes then whipped them with oregano and basil for a sauce and put over whole-wheat spaghetti and sided with fresh whole-wheat scechatta bread (a typical bread that is oiled and salted that I probably spelled wrong).
I will definitely will be cooking more at home, now that I've learned a few things from chefs here and even just eating out. I'm sure my friends and family will like that.
Did I mention that little bakery across the street has pastries too? Yea, I just ran across the street with my change and got dessert.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I'm not sure how I met the girls in the bar, but I ended up befriending two Sicilians.
"Sono americana, ma sto studendo a Firenze. Siete Siciliane?"
"Si, si," one of them answers. Between the noise and the dialect, what she said next was German to me. We drank, danced, sang, and talked about the boys in the club, girl code at its finest. Then the girls wanted to recommend songs. They chose Tranne Te, while I asked for "Americano vecchio," which the DJ decided was Get Low. Hilarious.
The Fruit Stand Man
"Comè mangio questo?" I ask, holding up a coconut. The man rails off in Sicilian, way over my head. Thank goodness for the whole talking-with-their-hands thing. He took a mallet and started cracking open the coconut. My eyes and smile widened as I drank the coconut juice. He mirrored my smile as I thanked him and wished him a happy easter.
In the train station, I realized I never really interviewed anyone, so I tried talking to a police man.
"Ciao, sono una studentessa di giornolismo e ho una domanda..."
He smiles, "no, no, no," he says. From what I got out of the rest of the conversation, he said, "I need to keep walking around, I am a police man, that is my job. Write that."
Again I explain myself to the Sicilian stranger. He asks, "Sono americana o italiano?" I explain myself. Boy, am I getting good at that line. What we talked about was pretty basic: His name is Angelo, and he likes working with trains and traveling, he has been working at that station for 32 years and has two kids. What was interesting is that he was more curious about me than I was of him. He asked me a lot of questions and was very friendly. Seems like the conversation broke up his day a bit, well at least I hope it did.
My final Sicilian conversation was with two men on the ferry. I told them how I ripped open my spring jacket from the railing as I was walking up the steps. Well, I didn't really tell them. I acted it out. My Italian isn't that good. They taught me the words "ago" and "filo" which mean "needle" and "thread." We talked about his work, which I didn't understand, but I was in Sicily, I wasn't about to ask too many questions. I told him about my traveling. He had a friend with him who only spoke in Sicilian dialect, so I would talk Italian to him, then he would translate it to Sicilian. We chatted for a while covering topics such as how beautiful Italy is, how Sicily compares to Florence (and how the food is better in the South). We talked about our parents and what they did for work, joked and laughed, and double cheek kissed goodbye.
Sometimes its intimidating to speak with the locals, especially in another dialect, but its worth the risk to have a nice conversation.