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.