Archive for October, 2008

Lucca

“My name is Lucca, I live on the second floor…Just don’t ask me what it was.”

Remember that song from sometime in or near the 90’s about a girl that doesn’t like her neighbor asking her about her abusive boyfriend? Well Barbara and I went to the Italian town of the same name on Saturday and couldn’t get it out of my head for the whole in ritardo (running late) train ride. Then we walked out and saw the beautiful scenery and I quickly attached new ideas and memories to the name. It’s a good thing too, that song is one of those listen to once a year types.

Here are some highlights:

Wall around the old city

Wall around the old city

caffe' con Barbara, sempre.

Oh and by the by, I am working on putting more photos on my flickr slowly but surely so that I don’t post quite so many on here because I know it takes ages to load. For now I suggest you click on a current post and view it specifically rather than all of them at once.

When There Are No Words

A few weeks ago I was walking on a back street in Florence when I looked over and saw an older woman sitting on the sidewalk clutching her ankle.  She was in a classic dress suit, with stockings, a hat, and the type of elegantly comfortable older woman heel that is so common here in Italy.  She looked half asleep and very sad.  I walked over to her to offer a hand but she barely acknowledged me. I asked, “posso aiuta?” Can I help? She just slumped a bit more and clutched her ankle.  I noticed some women walking nearby who were coming over to help; they asked her some questions in Italian but she just started to cry out in quick short screams.   A minute later an ambulance was coming around the corner, someone must have called them earlier, and the two women and I got out of the way.  They started talking to her and lifting her up, she was screaming louder now but seemed to be letting them help her up.   The men acted like it was nothing, common, I guess for them it was.

From the moment she didn’t respond I had been at a loss for words, what could I say? And I wanted to ask them if she was ok, if she was crazy, if I could help but I just stood there.  The two Italian women didn’t say anything either and once they realized it was under control they were on their way.  I left too, walking much slower than before, but I heard her screams for the next block.

This past Friday my friend Barbara came to San Giovanni to meet me for dinner, she came early and we decided to go for a walk. It was a gorgeous day, warm enough to go without a jacket, and lots of people were in the park.

We strolled along the Arno chatting then we both noticed this young man that had walked past us had stopped behind a tree and it looked like he was peeing.  Then I realized he was not peeing and told Barbara we should turn around.  He awkwardly ran past us to hide behind another tree in our path.

He was obviously touching himself and once we passed him he again ran ahead of us to find yet another spot.  There were more people but he still found a spot near the passageway under the bridge, so we decided to cross over the busy street rather than pass by him again.  Once we got away from the park he left us alone and we walked back towards the piazza then later to my apartment.

These things happen, usually in cities but; in any case Barbara and I agree that we never felt in danger, just disgusted and a bit shocked.  We just were made to feel uncomfortable cause this guy got off on it.  I’m not writing about this to alarm any of you, please don’t freak out.

I’m writing about it because both these situations are the type of thing I never really thought about without English.  It was really disorienting to have nothing to say and to understand nothing in a situation where communication is essential, especially with the older woman.

Barbara and were talking about the park situation the next day, we both felt guilty about not reporting him.  It wasn’t a huge deal to us but we started to worry about other people he might do this too, had we failed them? We wondered how our friends and family would react.  Neither of us had any idea how someone would be punished in this situation here in Italy; in the US I think they would be arrested or at least taken in and reprimanded, Barbara said she thought the Italian police wouldn’t do much but we both hated the idea that they would do too much.  This guy was a kid, about 18, and yes what he did was wrong but he needs some counseling to learn how to deal with it in a healthy way not to be ostracized from his community which would only lead to him feeling worse and acting out in more unhealthy ways.  We kept coming back to our conversation about it. What do you think?

I don’t want to give the wrong impression of my experience; these are only a few poor moments in the months rich with wonderfulness.  So please no worries friends and Mom!

Radda in Chianti

This week Jennie and I went to see “Burn After Reading” in Florence at my favorite theater, The Odeon.  It was nice to see a movie in English with popcorn and all; although this theater is anything but ordinary (it feels like an Opera Hall).  Here are a few photos:

I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed the movie if it were in Italian, or enjoyed it as much.  It made me think about many subtlties I will probably miss in Italian no matter how well I speak it.  Also, I love the Coen brothers, you should go see it.

Then I had another day trip with the school to Chianti, a little town called Radda and then another vineyard.  This time they were in full grape picking mode and we got to learn a lot about the process, and listen to some grapes in the process of fermenting.  We left a gorgeous sunset and returned home pretty early, all and all another wonderful day trip.

Sono Straniera

I’m a Foreigner

There is a part of me that hopes to wake up one day and fit in effortlessly with Italian culture.  Go have my cappuccino, speak effortlessly to everyone I pass by, and never give a second thought to peoples whispers and glances.  However I would probably not be so intrigued by Italy if it were so easy.

The day I got my second student visa in July 2008

Lately I’m feeling really detached from everything, friends, family, politics, and America in general.  My friend Barbara said she thought I was French until she heard me speak which, I took as a compliment but it’s really more of an observation.  I don’t really flaunt the fact that I’m an American.

Maybe I’ve been alienating myself too much from my country, maybe not openly expressing your from a country is worse than having it be obvious you’re from a place that you’re not especially proud of.
Is it all politics? Have I only become ashamed in the last eight years due to the distaste I have for the president? I wish I could lay all the blame on him but honestly I think he only added to my cause.  Hamburgers, sweat pants, microwaves, and to go cups this is what first comes to mind when I think about America a few seconds later I think of hard work, rolling fields, Chevy trucks, and excellent barbeque.

Now keep in mind, I’m in the first cycle of living in Europe where everything seems better and more efficient.  I know in a few months the pull of life long American habit will come (I have a strange craving for mac and cheese) and then the wishing (if only the showers were a little bigger) and finally full faced admitting it (I love it here but I need a fucking dryer that doesn’t cost me 6 Euro).  By the way hardly anyone owns a dryer here.

Now, I’m just trying to figure out what it really means to me to be an American, certainly I am forever thankful for the amazing opportunities I’ve recieved simply from being born on US land but that doesn’t mean I am not critical of the abuse of power my countries leaders have made.  I’m trying to find a good balance and spread the word to Europeans about the America I love and break some of the stereotypes that make me cringe.  One thing is for sure, I’ll always be American.

Roma!

On Saturday Barbara and I went to Rome for the day.  We decided to get an early start and took the 7:15 train, slept for most of the four hour trip and grabbed some espresso as quick as we could once we got off the train. At University in Boston we sometimes went on day trips to New York to run around and see the sights, going from Florence to Rome was similar for me.  Rome is such a giant city, there’s so much to see and try to see in just one day.  Fortunately Barbara and I had both been there once before so we both felt about the same about how to go about the trip; we decided to see a some of the main attractions (but not over do it on the tourist stuff) and to get lost in the less known areas and by all means stroll though the day rather than runnning from place to place.

Even so, it was a long day and even recalling it all makes me tired so it’ll just be photos and quick captions (anche in Italiano) for this post.

Il sabato scorso io e la mia amica Barbara siamo andate a Roma.  Abbiamo preso il treno alle 7 la mattina molto presto, ma siamo arrivate alle 11.  Va bene.

Primo, siamo andate al Colosseo, certo.

una machina classica di FIAT.

Allora la Piazza Venezia che e’ grandissima! Ho fatto molto foto, troppo.

Hillarious.

Siamo andate alla Fontana di Trevi, e il Pantheon ma non ci e’ piaciuto molto perche’ tanti turisti sono la’.  Abbiamo preferito passegiare nelle strade e piazze piccole, senza molte persone.

musica buona nella piazza Spagna

musica buona nella piazza Spagna

Dopo pranzo abbiamo scoperto una vista bellissima sul castello si chiama Santa Angelo.

After lunch we discovered this castle (which I had never heard of) called Saint Angleo and it had a gorgeous view.

then the clouds came

then the clouds came

Vatican CityVatican City

Allora abbiamo fatto spese e scoperto un negozio di vetri.  E’ stato molto interessante e bello.

This shop was crazy, it looked like a tiny place but when you turned the corner it went down and on forever and every space was filled with glass.

Ancora ho fatto le foto, tutto e’ troppo bello! Barbara e io abbiamo continuato a piedi, abbiamo visto una festa nella piazza Francese, bella, una gruppo di persone diverse ballato insieme per una beneficenza. Felice!

Later we saw a group dancing in the square for charity in the French Piazza.  It made me so happy to see.

Finally after getting lost for a bit we found the Colleseum and stopped for a few fotos of the sunset then hopped back on the metro and took the train back.  We slept most of the way and slept well that evening.

San Gimignano

To lift my spirits I decided to go with school to San Gimangnano on Wednesday, I had been there once before in 2003 and remembered it being a great little hill town.

I walked across the same old streets and marveled at all the towers, 12 in total.

First we had some lunch, then a walk around the town and lots of photos, and some famous gelato.  This particular gelatoria is famous for inventing a flavor called  “Santa Fina,” which is a cream base with roasted pine nuts and saffron.  It was unlike anything I’ve ever had, and very delicious, certo.

Then there were some great views, a group photo, and window-shopping.  There was one shop in particular that I remembered from my last visit, it was still there and looked the same, filled with gorgeous kitchen gadgets carved from olive wood.

Orazio led us through the town and up to a yet another wonderful spot for photos.   On the way out of San Gimagnano we stopped to pet a local dog in the square and do our best to chat with some of the locals.  In every town in Tuscany there is a group of two or more people, usually elderly, who have a spot they sit and chat.  The verb in Italian is one of my favorites: ‘Chiacchierare’ (to gossip, to chat).  This is also one of my favorite pictures yet:


Next we drove to a little town nearby called Monteriggioni, which was also on a hill with a tall old city wall surrounding it.  It was tiny, a few charming restaurants, a shoe/leather factory, and a giant water chestnut tree.  Taka saw me starring at it and was kind enough to grab me one, although I had no idea what to do with it.

Then it was back home to SGV to finish homework and rest up.  That night I had one of those fabulous dinners; when you have all the right ingredients for what your craving and the time and patience to make something great.  I made steak with asparagus tips with big chunks of roasted garlic and enjoyed a glass of chianti and an episode of the Tudors along with it.

Ciao mie amiche! Mi mancete!

After class the next day we all walked Aneja to the train station, it was raining again. The four of us had really become so close that we were pretty choked up in saying goodbye, Aneja kept waving from the train and we stayed on the platform until the train was to far away to see.

That day was kind of quiet; I went to COOP then to school to blog, Anna packed.  That night we all met up at il Pozzo.  Then later we saw the seminaries at Gianni’s sharing a beer on their last night and we all sat together to chat.

They were headed to Rome the next day where they started school to become priests and where they would be studying theology and philosophy for the next seven years.  I badgered them with questions for a while and then went back to Anna to have our last room mate chat before bed.

After Anna left I was pretty sad.  Alex had gone to Cortona with school and I didn’t think Florence would help.  The only thing in Florence was shopping and crowds and I wasn’t interested.  Instead I went to the market and bought a plant for some company.

I busied myself by moving into Anna’s room and sorting my stuff in the process.  It’s nice to have the bigger room but it’s strange to be alone on the top floor of the apartment.

The next day there was less to do; all the shops are closed on Sunday.  The weather wasn’t great and I was feeling pretty low.   I read “Frida’s Bed” and studied for a few hours then took a very long walk.  I decided it was time to make the call to Mom; cause even though it’s expensive talking to family and friends always cheers me up.  After that I called Amanda and chatted with her until my phone ran out of money.  I felt much better.

Adesso Italiano

Aneja va Venerdi alle 14.00 e Anna va Sabato mattina.  Ho una camera nuova ma, sono triste perche mi mancano loro.

Va bene, ho molto tempo a SGV. Conosco questa e solo una momenta triste.  Ciao mie amiche!  Buonviaggi!


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