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Monthly Archives: October 2011

(Day 63) I Aten’t Dead

Sunday, 5:34 pm

Hokay, so it’s been a week.  Don’t actually have a ton to report yet, but I was starting to feel bad about the lack of updates so here it goes anyway:

  • Visiting professors this past week were uniformly excellent, or at least all the ones whose lectures I attended.  Learned about mythology, Etruscan banquets, art theft in WWII, and 16th/17th century musical hijinx; at that last lecture, got to watch a woman play a spinnet, examine a hurdy-gurdy, and ponder over the great unrealized potential of the piano-guitar.*
  • Extra-lecture-induced business ended Thursday night, and then I immediately had to switch over and start studying for our Medici class midterm.  Still working on that, so art history ahoy.
  • Yesterday night, turned the clocks back for Daylight Savings Time…which means that I will now be attending my 5:00 drawing class in complete darkness.  I think that deserves a *facepalm.*
  • Woke up this morning and realized that we are down to six weeks.  Or, more precisely, 39 days.  Am still not entirely sure how to feel about that.
  • On the other hand, definitely already excited about getting home again, and starting to make plans.  SOOO many plans.  (Also, while I remember, any home-people should let me know if they want anything from here.  Or more specifically if they want a scarf, mask, or tasteful statue of a nude man [David, other David, or angry-classical-youth-with-severed-head], because that’s what I’ve got access to.)
  • Also getting good and pumped for our trip to Rome on the 17th, for reasons mainly inclining to the nerdy.**
  • Have to get back to studying now, but have some random photos taken while walking to classes:
 
 
Catch you soon : )
*Not a keytar, but rather just a guitar with piano keys on it that were apparently responsible for pulling the strings taut.  The experts with us couldn’t tell how it would have been tuned (or played, for that matter), and refer to it as a failed experiment…which of course just means that we were one successful experiment away from well-bred citizens of the 18th century twanging away on keyboards to prove their musical prowess.  For all those pianoforte scenes in Austen…*sigh,* what could have been.
**My secret wish, which will probably not happen, is to get the chance to go see the Galleria Borghese.  It seems just a bit too off-the-beaten-path for a group that’s only going to be there for four days, but I keep hoping I’m wrong and I’ll finally get to see my Bernini.  Lord but I do love Bernini.
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Posted by on October 30, 2011 in Art, Classes, Family, History, The City

 

(Day 56) Heads Up

Sunday, 8:47 pm

Week of freedom over, back to work — now with the knowledge that we are over halfway through our time here and are now counting down instead of up  O.o

I am carefully squeezing the last drops of permitted laziness out of my Sunday (it’s called being ‘pigre’ here, and I’m a big fan), but just wanted to let you know that it’s very likely I won’t get to post again until next weekend.  The last week of October was always going to be one of the busiest times here, because we’ve got those visiting professors here on top of regular classes, and now this insanity is finally upon us.  Over the next four days, currently looking at:

  • Two sessions of Weaving the Tale, one of which takes us to Palazzo Davanzati.  Have to keep doing the readings and start wrapping up our assignment for the “Decameron,” including one 8-page assignment and then an essay that’s 5-6 pages and needs a visual component.
  • Three sessions of Italian, one of which involves another test.
  • Three sessions of drawing, and work on the sketchbook assignment.
  • Two sessions of the Medici class, one of which takes us to the Uffizi and the other to the church of Santa Trinita.  Study for the midterm, and prepare oral report.
  • A definitely scheduled guest lecture on Tuesday at San Marco.
  • A guest lecture Wednesday morning.
  • A guest lecture Thursday at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
  • And at least one shift in the ACM library.
…Just move, don’t think, look up and it’s the weekend.  Fingers crossed : )
BUT, in the meantime, more Italian YouTube, because it is an addiction that cannot be helped.  I am sorry to inform my father that there is no such thing as an Italian Sesame Street, but I hereby offer to screw up your sense of the familiar* with five minutes of the film known here as “La Storia Fantastica.”  This was one of the first things I made sure I knew how to say, so:
Have a good week ^^
*Just a sort of fyi, but anyone who’s going to be studying here may want to pay attention to that feeling of so-close-but-so-wrong, because it’s going to be like that ALL THE TIME.  It’s fun if you let it be, but just make sure you’re not overly attached to your comfort zone ; )
 
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Posted by on October 23, 2011 in Classes, Language, Meta

 

(Day 55) Lazy Days

Saturday, 2:34 pm

Break is winding down (noooooo), and I’m spending the last couple days going nowhere near homework and enjoying the hell out of free time.  Observe:

  • Yesterday, went to Palazzo Pitti (an enormous palace with about 6 mini-museums in it) and the adjoining Boboli Gardens.  This is one of the big historical sites that we haven’t been to yet for class, and as our museum passes get us in for free, figured there was no harm in checking it out.
  • Recommendation: CHECK IT OUT.  The building itself has a great back story,* the art in the Palatine Gallery constitutes (for me) a much better collection than found in the Uffizi, and it’s so weirdly large and twisty that it’s just a ball to wander around in there.

  (<– the back side of one wing : )

  • After a while in the house, out the back door to the Boboli Gardens.  The gardens are essentially a park filled with trees and hedge-lined walkways, and yes, it was very pretty — but far and away the best part of the gardens was just the chance to be way up on a secluded patch of hill at noon.  Florence has a lot of churches and a lot of bells, and getting out into the open where you can actually hear them all ringing together?  Awesome.

  

  • At this point I was done with Palazzo Pitti but still not ready to head back to the apartment, so walked back a ways along the river.  And this was very nice right up until I started realizing that the scarf wasn’t really cutting it anymore and the wind was kind of slapping me in the face repeatedly.

  • Solution = bus hopping, one of my very favorite time-wasters.  Go to random bus stop, board bus, get a little tour through new parts of the city, hop off whenever, board new bus.  Repeat until sick of violent vehicular bouncing.
  • End of Friday was just a lot of reading + internet, and then we get to this morning, where I have to get myself out of the house again because Saturday is cleaning day.  Another windy walk down through the city center, and I end up in Piazza della Signoria, parking it in the open-air sculpture gallery and doing a quick doodle for the sketchbook we have to keep for the drawing class.  Hooray for scribbling in public!
  • When I’ve been sitting on cold stone long enough to make my legs numb, over to Rivoire.  Rivoire is a fancy cafe that looks out over the piazza, and it is rumored to have some of the best hot chocolate in Florence*** — which is great, because for the month and a half remaining to us I have made it my mission to find the best hot chocolate here.  Go in, order at the bar, receive cup and keep standing at the bar (this place in particular is notorious for outrageous price hikes if you sit down), and finally decide that this is probably what it tastes like to drink a molten candy bar.  Wow.
  • Back to the house, more internet.
Over to you guys : )
*You know the famous Medici family?  Well Cosimo de’ Medici (basically the founder of the family’s wealth and position) decided to build a grand new house, a palazzo, in the middle of town.  Brunelleschi, THE architect of the Renaissance and the mind behind the dome of the Cathedral, created a design.  But this design was, in fact, a little too grand for Cosimo; he rejected it, and Brunelleschi supposedly pitched a fit and smashed the model.**  But then the rejected design is picked up by another Florentine banker, Luca Pitti — and generations later, when the Medici have become actual nobility, they buy the place and double its size and fancify it like you wouldn’t believe, ultimately building a private elevated walkway (the Vasari Corridor) all the way from the palace to their offices (now the Uffizi Gallery) on the other side of the river.  Just…wikipedia.
**Architects at the time apparently depended more on models than plans; that is, they actually built little wood mock-ups of their buildings to show what the final project would look like, and this was what got presented to their patrons.  For some reason I find this really fantastic.  In fact, one of my favorite parts of the museums here (and especially the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo) is getting to look at these models…and if I ever get bored and need a new hobby, building replicas of these seems like it might be more fun than ships in a bottle.
***Hot chocolate in Italy is called cioccolata calda, and it is not *actually* hot chocolate in the way we think of it — that is, its richness goes way beyond the taste of a liquid with powder, and it’s so thick that it’s almost like drinking hot pudding.
…But that sounds gross, so just know that I mean it in a good way.
 
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Posted by on October 22, 2011 in Art, Classes, Food, History, The City

 

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(Day 53) Pro-Procrastination

Thursday, 9:56 pm

It only took me most of my break, but I’m finally feeling good and productive; spent most of today tearing back and forth between readings for class and a couple sketches and lots and lots of notes about ideas for my senior art show, and while I have *finished* nothing, I have put an admirable amount of energy into getting things kinda-started.

So that’s good : )

But now, while I still have a bit more I’d like to get done tonight, I would really like to waste some time first.  So quick run-down of the last couple days:

  • Tuesday involved some readings and some skype time and an embarrassing number of naps.  But, woke up in the evening and was rewarded by a very nice dinner out with another student and his parents; Alex is one of the few ACM-ers staying in Florence over break, and he and his family were kind enough to have me join them.  All three incredibly nice people, and English speakers to boot hallelujah* — so once again a very big thank you : )
  • Speaking of that dinner, though, it did have its sinister side; this would be because we had wine and bread and ravioli and gnocchi and salad and legumes and steak and sweet potatoes and meatballs, and the next day I STILL WOKE UP HUNGRY.  Be warned, people, this program does seriously warped things to your stomach.
  • Wednesday morning I finally worked up the fit of energy needed to haul myself over to the Uffizi Gallery, so we can now cross that off the ‘to do’ list.  A wonderful museum and well worth the time (especially when you actually get to skip the wait time because you’ve got a free pass \o/), but the trouble is that so many of the really heartstopping works by Italy’s great artists wound up making their way into France’s Musee du Louvre that I feel spoiled by having seen that museum first.  …And this is probably blasphemy but I still prefer the Venetian Accademia.
  • Some random Italian man is right this minute singing out in the middle of the street.  One presumes drunkenly, but ?
  • Today, woke up to storms, which is always fantastic.  Kept my pedestrian self in out of the rain all day, plowed through a ridiculous amount of academic article material, took internet breaks as necessary,** found a totally demented faux-American-English song recorded by an Italian in 1973 (which, hip thrusts aside, gives a pretty nice idea of what this language sounds like to everyone else), and…well, here we are.
Back to work : )
———————————[For reasons unknown this thing is eating lines between paragraphs.  Sorry]——————-
*Still loving Italian, and I am dead set on getting the hang of it eventually, but by this time I can readily admit that having to attempt it every single day is a bit exhausting.  And frustrating, especially at dinner; between Nino, Gabriella and Alessandra, there’s pretty much always adult-level conversation going on (not to mention the times when Nino and Gabriella’s grown children are over), and I can’t really add to it without immediately dragging the whole exchange back down to grade school and feeling like an idiot.
———
The revelation of the moment being, I think, that I just miss talking.  After all, even as a typically non-talkative person one still gets attacks of loquacity, and I think that what I could really use at the moment is just the opportunity for a good old-fashioned rant delivered at high speed and drawing on a superfluously complicated vocabulary somewhere south of the vernacular.
———
Guess I’m just not a fan of baby steps.
————————————————————————————————————————————
**Not at all related to anything study abroad, but I really enjoyed this, and if it is not the nerdiest thing you have seen all day then I owe you an apology cookie:  The Dance Your PhD Competition
 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Art, Family, Food, Language, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

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(Day 51) BRB

Sorry nothing got in here last night, internet keeled over again.

Not too much to report anyway, though; yesterday was a really nice day, and I was still pretty attached to being lazy, so I just went for a walk through the center of town and then down by the river.

     

And, although I had money on me and would have been inclined to part with it had I met with something pretty, it stayed strictly a walk because yesterday was a Monday.  Monday, in Florence, is the day of the week for the half of the city that didn’t shut down on Sunday to finally do so — so you step out to try to go somewhere or do something, and niente.

But as I said, yesterday was a very pleasant day regardless, and today I think I’m going to attempt to make it into the Uffizi Gallery on my fancy museum pass.  After that…we’ll see what it feels like a day for : )

Also, just a heads up: if blog updates thin out a little over the next couple days, that will be because I am (finally) updating that student resources page.

….

P.S. — This ties in with absolutely nothing, but did you know that being in another country makes your internet automatically present itself in that country’s language?  So that if, for example, you go to look up the trailer for the “Avengers” movie, you will always get the Italian version first?

It is also important to note that Italians prefer dubbing to subtitles.  And that, for someone who is already familiar with the actors‘ Samuel L. Jackson’s voice, this is hilarious.

The Avengers (2012) guarda il primo teaser trailer ufficiale

 
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Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Culture, Language, The City

 

(Day 49) Doing Nothing, but with Great Vigor

Not much to report today, as I was sleeping a bit too much to have time to really start anything.  So instead, random updates related to Italian:

  • After about 7 weeks, I am at a basic (basic basic, and I cannot stress that enough) conversational level.  My Italian class is somehow behind all the other Italian classes, but one of my goals this week is to look through some grammar books on my own and see if I can’t speed up the process a little, because I would really like to improve my speaking confidence.  That’s not to say I can’t already speak (to a certain extent), but the only *real* win right now is how much I’m able to understand.
  • Example: The other day I decided to break out an old Josh Groban album to see if I could make out the meaning of the songs that were in Italian.  And I absolutely could (\o/).
  • On one hand, this is exhilarating; most of the words came easily, and this feels like a huge step forward.  On the other hand, it’s kind of wrecked these songs for me, as the actual lyrics are so incredibly intense and sappy that it’s really hard to listen to them without laughing: “I breathe you in the universe” / “I will live for you” / “Love will win!!” / etc., it’s all rather unfortunate : )
  • The big reason I’m proud of my level of comprehension is that I’ve never studied a romance language before.  Unlike many students here who have taken French or Spanish, and unlike the Brazilian girl who lives with us who speaks both Portuguese and French, I’ve got no familiarity bells whatsoever rung by the words I hear.  Absolutely everything is new, and I think that in light of that I’m taking it all in at a fairly decent rate of absorption.
  • Be that as it may, though, the nice thing about learning a language in the place where it’s spoken is that it is absolutely impossible to get a big head about your progress.  One moment you step out into the world feeling confident and on top of things, and then the cashier uses a word for ‘sack’ that you’ve never heard before.  *sigh,* hello again humility.
Overall, it remains a complicated situation, but I guess the briefest summary is as follows;

The other day, learned a new word in Italian — ‘bruciare,’ and it means to burn.  Immediately after this, learned a new word in English — ‘extradiegetic,’ and it means existing outside the narrative reality.  

I will have to be working on that gap in my vocabularies.

 
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Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Classes, Language

 

(Day 48) BREAK

Apologies due again, apparently, because it is very clearly Saturday and not Friday 😦

SO, crazy week — between all that end-of-class stuff going on, my epic two-weeks-and-counting cold got way worse, and I ended up having to go to the doctor and start the dreaded antibiotics.  But none of that matters now, because we’ve made it; I took my test, I went to the last on-site visit, I did the readings, I (cut it very close but I) finished my paper, and I’ve accidentally gone and gotten about 14 hours of sleep so we’re finally good to go.

Also have I mentioned that I am on ~*BREAK*~.

Think I’ll just go ahead and do a brief run-down of pretty much everything that’s been up lately, but first I’d just like to say that I realize that I have answered basically no emails since around Tuesday or Wednesday.  That would be on account of me running back and forth between homework and passed-out-sleeping, so please know that I was not ignoring you and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

  •  Last Friday: This would be the first real fall day we had, and a day full of drizzles to boot.  Went in to work on the library for a bit, got a haircut (negotiated all in Italian, btw — and everything went just fine, but I am *so* glad it was just hair and not dental work or something), went to the ATM, and walked over to the nearby San Lorenzo market.  This would be the outdoor street market famous for its leather stalls (which are set up in front of actual leather stores), but you can also find notebooks, scarves, random touristy souvenir stuff, etc.  Started to downpour while I was there, and it was pretty fun to watch — shoppers scatter to the sides, stall cover extensions are pulled out and up, shoppers sidle back out, business resumes as usual with a lot more bobbing umbrellas.
  • Also Friday, another bus strike.  Italian unions, I have found, like strikes very much but don’t really seem to get how they work.  For example, they announce in advance that they’re going to have one, but they also announce when the strike (the ‘sciopero’) is going to end and at what points during the strike they will not actually be striking.  It is not terribly efficient, but at least I got to take the bus both ways.

  • Saturday: The trip to Lucca with Alex, Kari, Katie and Willi.  We went to just have a nice relaxing time in a quiet country town, and that’s exactly what we did — on what turned out to be just a really perfect fall day, cool and crisp and colorful.  Mainly we just walked around and looked at churches, because we are creatures of art historical habit and we couldn’t help ourselves.  Saw another saint’s corpse, and the churches themselves were beautiful, but there were two highlights of our visit and they had nothing to do with that: 1) The Caffe Di Simo, a beautiful old-fashioned cafe that was once frequented by the composer Puccini and which we were drawn to on account of its jaw-dropping pastry display, plus  2) The medieval city walls.  The nice thing about these is that they encircle the whole city and have had wide tree-lined paths put in, so you can actually walk up there with the city on one side and fields and mountains on the other.  Bellissima ^_^

  

  • Monday: Italian class and figure drawing.  The very first week of the drawing class, half of us did a drawing from a live (and nude — that seems to surprise some people) model, and then we switched with the other half and went downstairs to work on cast drawings in charcoal, and this last week we were back to figure drawing.  And no pictures to show you yet, but I think I may be improving a bit : )
  • Tuesday: Italian class, a literary discussion in the Weaving the Tale class, and then straight over to an on-site visit to the San Marco religious complex.  Fascinating place — but you will be spared the earful because I am tired.  (However, we *are* going back in a couple weeks to talk about the crazy-intense preacher who was arrested there, so maybe later?)
  • Wednesday: A lot of work on my paper for the Medici class, Italian in the afternoon, figure drawing in the evening.  And this would be the night that got my host mom really concerned, because the mutant cold was Very Not Good at this point.  Early bed times all around!
  • Thursday:  Had to be at the Bargello (a sculpture gallery with a pretty twisted history) by 9:00 am, and almost had a heart attack because my bus stop was ‘temporarily abolished.’  But that turned out to be alright, so just spent an hour and a half walking around the Bargello discussing Donatello, then a walk back to the school for another hour of class, a quick lunch, and our Italian class + quiz at  1:00.  Booked it over to the doctor to get there before the clinic closed, over to the pharmacy, over to the other side of the river for the final drawing class, dinner, and then a very sincere attempt to get my Medici paper done — which failed, because I fell asleep.
  • Friday: Up early in the morning to *finally* finish that paper, caught a bus downtown to turn it in, shared a great deal of confusion with other students over where to turn it in, figured something out, went over to the grocery store for lunch, ate lunch, back to the apartment…and at this point we get the 14-hour nap interrupted only by dinner.  And it was amazing you guys ❤
  • Today, Saturday, is the day Gabriella’s cleaning-assistant-man comes in, so I had to actually get up and shower in order to be able to vacate the house for a couple hours.  And finding a way to waste the time turned out to not be a problem, because a snafu with the buses turned what was supposed to be a quick trip to the store and ATM into a 3-hour sit-and-wait nightmare of hanging around various bus stops cursing #12 and making like a turtle to try to block the extremely bitter wind we had today.*

And I had other stuff I was hoping to say, which I will hopefully still remember tomorrow, but I have just this second gone exhausted again and I think we’re going to have to call it a night.  But I can promise that, for the next week, I’ll be able to get something on the blog each and every day, so hold on to your hats because here comes postage.

Round of emails tomorrow to everyone who’s sent me one lately, and ttys anyway to everyone else : )

 

*Because Florence is in a valley, wind is pretty rare here, because it takes more than a light breeze to make it past the hills and down into the city.  But this apparently means that the winds that *do* make it down are real thugs, so that’s fun.
 

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