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(Day 70) An Update?

Sunday, 8:09 pm

I have now been called four times on not having updated recently (even though the last one was Thursday), so okey-doke, here are my great secret doings of late:

  • Still homework.  Followed, usually, by a little *more* homework.  Still don’t know how I did on that Medici midterm from Tuesday, but I’ve just been doing regular class assignments and working on wrapping up the first big project for Weaving the Tale.  After working in the library for a few hours, this was my Friday.
  • Yesterday morning, Saturday, got out of the house for awhile.  This whole weekend has been one of rain and clouds and wind and The Ominous Dark, and I figured that Piazzale Michelangelo would be one of the nicer places to be under those conditions, so that’s where I went.  (In case I haven’t said, Piazzale Michelangelo is that place up on a hillside known entirely for its view, which is up-close-and-personal with Florence from just across the river).

  • It spit out a couple drops and got alarmingly windy, but didn’t rain so no harm done.  And, as a bonus for being there, got the surreal experience of joining a crowd of Italians to listen to a Native American band:

  •  After that, just a walk through the city and a game of count-the-pigeons.*

  • Today, I have literally spent about 90% of my time doing homework and finishing that project.  Which is now done, and manifests itself in 14 glorious pages that will account for 1/3 of my grade.
And…that is it.  I can feel your jealousy from an ocean away, but try to rein it in, okay?
As far as this week, we’re going to three places I haven’t actually been before, so that is automatically something I want to blog about.  And if anything else throws a blip on the Excite-o-Mat, I will happily stroll back in to ramble.  Otherwise you can assume silence to mean that I am either continuing the life of an ascetic academic or have been kidnapped by corsairs.  Maybe both.
Anyway, my brain feels kind of broken right now, so think I’m going to go dink around on the internet for awhile and give it time to recuperate.  Have a great Sunday night/Monday!
*When it becomes boring, you can spice up the pigeon-counting game by adding a second step, called ‘Guess Which Pigeons are Diseased.’  Or, since the answer to that is probably ‘all of them,’ you can also try to ‘Guess Which Pigeon Will Trigger the Next Global Pandemic,’ etc.  So many pigeons, so many questions, hours of fun at your fingertips ; )
 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in Classes, The City

 

(Day 67) Another Thursday

9:22 pm

Been getting caught up in the sudden appearance of more homework than I thought I had, so sorry for the continued absenteeism — and thank you for your continuing patience to those who have sent me emails, I will have replied to all of you by tomorrow.

Still actually have stuff I have to do tonight, so this will be kind of brief, but I had a good day today and happy moods are worth sharing.  So:

  • This morning, everyone had to meet at Linguaviva at 8:00 so that we could all go down to the police station / immigration center and deal with the ongoing visa checks.  This necessitated getting up at an ungodly hour to catch a bus downtown, but it also meant that I got to wander around for a couple of minutes when the sun had just risen and the streets were still more-or-less empty.  The only people around were some nuns, and some vendors in a state of pre-pushiness as they set up their stalls for the day.

 

  • It is also important to note that the street in ^that picture^, with the stalls, smelled like apple fritters.  They have no such things here, so I know I must have been hallucinating, but it was nice.
  • The police station stuff was no big deal (although they got all our fingerprints, so I am now in the system D:), and after that we were all told to go to a cafe near the station, where our professor bought us each a drink and a pastry.  Day instantly better, and also meant I scored a free lunch ; )
  • Came up with an idea for my final paper in the Medici class, got books, getting started.
  • Had another successful exchange with a random Italian, and a fairly long one at that.  A woman came up to me at the bus stop to ask a question (I get this at least once a day, apparently me surrounded by other people at a bus stop = glowing symbol of trustworthiness), and I gave her a one-word answer and then apologized for not speaking Italian.*  She made my day by replying that she thought I spoke very well, with a ‘buon accento,’ and proceeded to pursue conversation for the entire 20 minute ride back to the station — and by God, ~I got it.~  Even though she spoke very quietly, and even though she ultimately insisted on using English so she could practice, talking with locals has been achieved \o/
  • In the evening, went to drawing class, and actually came up with a finished project that I don’t hate (or at least not yet).  Plus, we get to spend the entire time before Rome continuing to work on figures rather than casts, and this makes me one happy camper.
  • Learned over dinner that “mm” may translate into Italian, but “mmhmm” may not.  Requires further investigation, but made for a good talk.
  • I go in tomorrow morning to keep working on the library’s catalog process, and can already officially say that we’re almost done.  Or rather, that we’re ALMOST DONE! 😀
Have to do a project/paper and preparation for an oral report this weekend, but shouldn’t be bad.  Then it’s a week and a half until Rome, three weeks until Thanksgiving, five weeks til home.  Woah.
*Funnily enough, all of my truly successful conversations have started with me explaining that I don’t speak Italian.  God bless low expectations?
 
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Posted by on November 3, 2011 in Classes, Language, Persons & Peoples, The City

 

(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 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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