This is part one:
Greetings from where getting lost is a welcomed way to spend an afternoon!
It’s been just over a week, but it feels like ages. I’m so happy it’s going slowly, but as school started this week I could feel time accelerating.
The past few days were a combination of boring orientation and happily being lost. Once I get into a routine I plan to blog much more regularly. For now, we will play a little bit of catch-up.
We started the day with cappuccino at Caffé Mario before orientation. Hearing some fellow students’ mishap in a caffé, we stood at the bar instead of sitting at a table — a mistake that evidently earned them some dirty looks. The other rule they learned was cappuccino ordered after 11 a.m. is a surefire way to get some more strange glances. We thought we were set. However, we learned the third rule: if you get a pastry, you sit down at a table to eat. Standing at the bar will get you scolded.
We’re getting there though. Slowly but surely.
Orientation was long and dull, as most tend to be, although Marcello Fantoni, director of Kent State in Florence, held my attention at the beginning. He talked a lot about how much much these four months can completely reshape us. I’ve heard it from everyone who went, but somehow sitting in that freezing cold hall looking outside at the sun on Tuscan rooftops made me realize how much I know I’ll evolve. I can’t wait.
The rest of the day was filled with I suppose useful, but mostly obvious, safety tips. I know it had to be done, but I was sad to watch the day slip by outside. After snacking at the reception, we took our first trip to the grocery store, Metá. We went home and snacked on our cheese and crackers before gearing up with cameras to walk the city at night.
I’m still in disbelief that I live here.
Exhausted from the walk, I fell asleep reading my Kindle. Perfect.
Today started the first day of a three-part orientation. Nicoletta Peluffo, my italian teacher, taught us basic Italian phrases before showing us the post office and English movie theater. Afterwards, Caitlin and I decided to go shopping and walked aimlessly through the city until we found ourselves at the train station. I haggled for the first time. I found a laptop bag listed for €20. Failing to remember the Italian words for 15 and 16, I offered €17. He took it immediately, leaving me a little disappointed I didn’t go lower. But again, I’m learning.
We walked even further away from the Duomo before meandering back to the river. We were beyond the boarders of our study abroad map, but followed the river home and hauled ourselves up our eternal flights of stairs.
After a few more orientation meetings, we walked again. Even with Kate and Jess to add to our navigation team, we were lost. But I don’t think I’ll ever mind being lost here. As long as I’m with someone or it’s daylight.
Unable to maneuver markets comfortably yet, I had more crackers and cheese before going out to Finnegan’s Irish Pub for trivia in English. It was a blast! And our team even won a prize... for last place. Most of the group moved onto another bar, but not being a drinker, I opted to join Amy, Bethany and Caitlin in their hunt for food. We found an Indian restaurant somehow open at 1 a.m. Another day well spent.
Caitlin and I woke up five minutes after orientation started, but rushed around and made into our seats only 15 minutes late. We took another walk around the city led by Nicoletta and found out where a market is. There were a lot of interesting meats — intestines and brains galore. But I’m sure I can find some good veggies to make some meals when I get a chance.
After our tour, I grabbed lunch with a few people. It turns out the pizza shop behind our school is where the Jersey Shore cast worked when they filmed their forth season in Florence. I asked Nicoletta about what locals thought of the gang. I laughed as she said they were loud and rude. Of course. But then she said unfortunately, that’s what a lot of Italians think Americans are like. She even thought we all watch and love that show. It made me a little sick. I hate that they are the image some place on me and other Americans in this city. It’s despicable.
So when someone suggested going there for lunch, I considered it (the pizza is supposed to be phenomenal), but ended up walking down the block to a small sandwich stand. I haven’t walked by there without seeing a line of people waiting for their €2.50 sandwich. There’s a reason. The Vegetarian Mix was amazing; it had artichokes, peppers, eggplant, olive oil and I don’t know what else. I’ll have to take a picture one of these times — I’ve already had it twice and tried another panino.
After another few hours of orientation, I relaxed at home and headed over to the big apartment for snacks and cards. Besides the sandwich, finding people to play cards with was probably my highlight of the day. I love cards and can usually find few people to play with other than my dear friend Aprille back in Michigan. Turns out the several packs of games I brought might be put to use!
I’ve decided to break this “catch-up” post into two. More later tonight!
For now, I’m off to class. Last week I almost forgot I was here for school. Let’s be honest though, I’m here for Firenze.
Here’s part two:
Although knowledge of the quickly approaching first day of school loomed above us, it was a wonderful weekend. Saturday morning was our final session of orientation tours. We walked to the train and bus stations. They were pretty simple. Knot Italian vocabs. Buy ticket. Punch ticket into yellow machine. Board train. But nonetheless, it’s nice to know the fastest way to get there and where we will meet for class trips.
After, I continued my eternal hunt for boots. I have two pairs at home: one with the soles falling off and the other very impractical snow boots. I figured I’d just buy some here. Well to my dismay, I’ve discovered that Italy doesn’t seem to cater to the large feet I was blessed with. I wear a US size 11, which means a 42 here. I’m hard-pressed to even find a 41. The three pairs of 42 I have found were not what I was looking for.
So until I travel outside of Italy, I am stuck with very comfortable — but equally unfashionable — tennis shoes. My feet scream “American!” to all of the fashionable Italians around me, but at least they don’t have blisters.
I headed home and relaxed for a little bit. Tea, cookies and crocheting. A perfect way to relax.
I went back out to go shopping with Caitlin and Bethany. It wasn’t a complete bust this time. I got a simple black purse for €5 to replace my favorite army green one whose strap broke the first day here. Bethany ended up leaving with a new leather messenger bag at a decent price. It just took some haggling and dealing with him hugging and kissing her on the cheek the entire time they discussed the sale.
We came home for dinner. Bethany made vinaigrette dressing for a salad, I made pasta with pesto, and we completed it with fresh bakery bread dipped in olive oil. Simple. Easy. Fantastic.
Then the whole College of Communication and Information group went out to the Red Garter, a karaoke bar right around the corner, which also apparently had whatever sports game the guys were looking to watch. The crowd was a good mix of Italians and Americans, as were the songs for karaoke. I want to find more places like it.
I don’t drink. It’s a simple lifestyle choice I made years ago. Most people accept it but don’t really understand it. Personally, I’d just rather have friends than a substance to help me relax, let loose and have fun. I have absolutely no qualms with people who do drink. I just get to be the sober buddy to fetch water for someone looking a little too far gone and find another when she gets separated from the group. I don’t mind at all, and I still hold that I have just as much fun as anyone else there.
Although I will be trying wine. How can I not in Italy? A contradiction? Perhaps. But it is likely to just be a glass with a couple of dinners.
But I digress. Everyone got home or to a couch, and I got to sleep without setting an alarm for the first time since I’ve been here.
I woke up around noon, spent some time writing, made breakfast/lunch, read my book and took my time getting showered and ready for the day. It was so nice to just relax — a rare luxury for me. Once Caitlin and Jess rolled out of bed after 3 p.m., we went shopping for a little bit. We needed a rug for the bathroom, school supplies and some other basic things. I lost interest pretty quickly and met up with some people to hike the hill I did one of the first days here to Piazzale Michelangelo. It ended up getting dark sooner than we got everyone together to go, so it didn’t happen. I definitely want to this week though.
Instead, Amy and I finally found a 99 cent store, then came home, cooked dinner and played cards. She lives on the other side of Florence, so Jess and I walked her back.
I gathered my things for school and lounged around until going to bed. I hope I have many like this in Italy.
Monday was a bit of a kick to the gut. School just had to creep in there at some point I suppose, but I was still unhappy with it. I like my classes for the most part. They’re small and seem to have a manageable workload. I just wish they weren’t eating away at all of my daylight. I spend most of the time gazing out the window listening, which will probably soon be misinterpreted as not listening.
At least I got to eat at the sandwich place for lunch both days!
Once I get into a routine, I want to start my days off right, meaning:
* eat breakfast - strawberry yogurt and the granola I finally found
* take vitamins and dietary supplements
* sit and just breathe
* stroll, not rush, to school.
Tuesdays will be excluded from this routine as classes start at 9:15 a.m. instead of 10:45 a.m.
Monday was a success on most bullet points. This semester I really want to major in relaxing and finding my center. I need it for my overall well-being.
I will start my habits here. And if I want to continue tomorrow, I need to sleep now.
Editor’s note: Former Grand Haven Tribune intern Lydia Coutre´is spending a semester in Italy. She is a junior at Kent State University, studying journalism. Her blogs during her stay in Italy will be posted here and at http://lydiaislost.blogspot.com. All photos by Lydia Coutre´.