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(Day 3) Mi dispiace!

Wednesday, 5:34 PM

Ok, so took a break from the blog longer than intended.  The Linguaviva school’s internet has been sputtering off and on for the last couple days, and I could no longer use our hotel’s connection as we have been moved out of the hotel, and my host family doesn’t have wireless, and it takes 24 hours to activate the wireless key I bought…so here we are and this was the fastest I could make things happen.  The joys of being dependent on the internet, I guess.

Short version of the last couple days:

  • Began Italian classes.  There are 3 classes of about 9 people each, meeting 9-10:30 and 11-12:30 every day — which is a breeze, coming from the Cornell block plan.  So far all we can really do is point at a thing and stutter out some vague approximation of the name, but we started learning verbs today, so…yeah, be amazed : )
  • Got a new cell phone.  ACM has a deal with the Wind/Maxsi store, so we all got cheap phones with cheap plans to use for the 3 months we’ll be out of the US.  The new things can only be used Wind to Wind unless you’re willing to pay (or have your parents pay) exorbitant rates to call home, but nobody uses them for much but emergencies anyway.
  • Filled out (somewhat intimidating) paperwork for the permit of stay and our bus passes, both paid for by ACM.  Also got our museum passes and event discount cards; mine are just a little bit covered in drool because I’m a nerd and that’s the kind of stuff I’m here for, but hopefully the non-nerds will be pleasantly surprised as well.
  • Met my new roommate, Anica, and we both moved in with our host parents (grandparents?) Gabriella and Nino.  All three seem like wonderful people, but more on the homestay situation when I’ve got time to go into it.
  • Took my first city bus, to and from class.  So stupidly easy to do that I may have literally lol’d at one point.
  • Bought myself the aforementioned internet key, aka my magic blue stick.  Took WAY longer than it should have to get it up and running, but considering that all the crucial settings were in obscure locations, that the Italian store clerks couldn’t help me, and that the instructions that *could* help me were all in Italian, not too shabby if I do say so myself.

Things should be settling into a routine for awhile, so I should be able to get on here more often (and hopefully with more interesting content).  Tonight I’ve got errands to run, homework to do, and a 3-course dinner to eat,* but either later tonight or tomorrow, amici miei.

*whew* : )

 

*All fresh ingredients (as in bought today, straight from the outdoor market), and prepared by a woman who clearly knows what she’s doing.  You can be jealous, but keep in mind that dinner comes with about an hour of painfully awkward conversation attempted in mostly-Italian.  This is not to say that the food’s not worth the trouble, because it totally is, but…yes, just enjoy your meal from a box/can/store happy in the knowledge that it’s not entirely sunshine and roses here ; )

(P.S. — Have a picture.

This is Piazza Santa Maria Novella, one of the many many piazzas [open squares] around the city, and that’s the S.M.N. cathedral straight ahead on the left.  I pass by here on my way to buy office supplies and to get to the restaurant at which our professors have twice bought us dinner, and aside from ‘pretty,’ all I can really say about the place is ‘birds.’  Or maybe ‘flippant birds which have no fear.’)

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(Almost) Day One

I have now had my first full day in Florence.  Managed to find my way around,* buy food, exercise my smattering of the Italian (“where’s the park,” ‘cuz I’m a badass and that’s the sort of question I ask), and I even avoided setting my laptop on fire,** so overall I’d say it was a pretty big success.  Got to walk all over the place, found the aforementioned park right next to a whopping huge medieval fortress (which is Not Open to the public, the guard was most emphatic about that), and basically just spent all day walking around and window shopping and meeting other ACM students.  In the evening all 30-ish students congregated and met the professors, and we were then taken out for dinner at a wonderful restaurant followed by gelato at an equally wonderful gelateria.  The food was great, the people were (are) great, the nighttime walk through the city was great, and everything so far has just been fantastic.

At this point, it still feels like being on vacation.  Which is fine, but also kind of annoying, because the fun of a semester-long stay is supposedly that you get to stop experiencing the fringes of a culture and get to wade in a little deeper, pushing past the tourist experience and becoming more like a resident.  I know it’s going to take time (and maybe the real irritation is just having to live out of a suitcase), but bottom line is that I can’t wait to get classes going and to meet my roommate and my host family and start doing this up proper.

In the meantime, just going to sit back and appreciate that Florence still feels like such a natural fit.  I was here for one day two years ago and developed an instant crush, so I already knew that I *liked* the place, but there’s a very big difference between passing through a town (“good heavens this is pretty”) and actually setting up to live there for a while (“god almighty why does everything suck”), so I was a little skeptical that the feeling could actually last.  For the moment, though, most delighted to be able to say that this place still feels very much like a second home (maybe a third if we’re counting college), and that I’m pretty much all set to spend the first couple weeks walking around and grinning like an idiot at everything.  So at the very least it is now a two-day fluke.

I feel like I haven’t really said any of the important things yet, but it’s getting late and we have to get up to start our Italian language course in the morning (\o/), so I guess we’ll call it a night there.  Oh, but because there were actually a ton of people asking about comparisons between restaurants before I left, here’s what an Italian McDonald’s looks like:

    

First off, shut up, we went there because we were starving and it was really close and really cheap.  Second, it was so fancy!  You can’t see the lovely little lounge areas (innocent Italians eating deserve better than me and my camera), but that’s the inside of the McCafe in the second picture, and that low display window to the right is full of really excellent-looking pastries; Jessica and I both ended up ordering a plain water (acqua naturale and not acqua fizzante, the distinction is dangerous) and cream-filled croissants, and homg horror but I actually found a McDonald’s product delicious.  Ah well : )

We start establishing schedules this week, so I’ll know pretty soon whether blogging close to every night is going to be an actually practicable thing.  In the meantime, a big “love you” to all the people I wish were here with me, and be back when I can.  Buonanotte ❤

 

* Knopf Map Guide, tell your friends.

**The whole voltage conversion thing between the U.S. and Europe is something I didn’t want to have to deal with, so I just ended up bringing my laptop (which swore itself to be dual voltage) and a cheap little outlet  converter to make it fit the Italian three-prong plug-in.  During the planning stages, this seemed like a solid set-up; iPod and camera should run through my laptop, travel alarm clock runs on batteries, I’ll buy a travel hair dryer if I feel like it, and nothing else needs power at all.  BUT, since it does make me incredibly dependent on my laptop not dying (not that I wouldn’t have been anyway), I got a little twitchy over the idea that I might get everything hooked up only to have that crucial computer explode in my face and fall into agonized death throes; this did not happen, and all stress is now gone from my life.

 

Catching up

When I got accepted to this program and started looking at previous off-campus students’ blogs, I was kind of annoyed at the lack of detail about the lead-up.  What I really wanted to know was how to prepare for a thing like this, and mainly all I was getting was ‘night before, I’m so nervous’ –> ‘I’ve arrived’ –> ‘I’m eating such and such and it’s pretty good/bad’.  Grr.  So, out of a love of lists and an obsessive attention to detail, I’m going to actually talk about preparations as I go about them.  You’re welcome, future students (and I’m sorry to everyone else).

1. We can skip a large chunk of this because, after I decided to apply to the program, everything for months was just ‘follow instructions.’  Followed instructions on the application, followed the instuctions I got by email after I was accepted, followed instructions on the health forms, insurance forms, visa application, course registration, etc.  Just Simon Says everything at this point and you should be fine.

2. Wanted to get a jump on learning the language and familiarizing myself with the city, so preparations in that direction.  As far as the language, I’ll be buying the $40 starter-set Pimsleur method for Italian, plus an Italian-English dictionary — if I need anything else, I’m going to trust that the internet knows everything.  I’ve also already purchased the Italian Survival Guide as a basic overall “do’s and dont’s” sort of handbook, as well as a Knopf mapguide of Florence that looks super handy.  Will be poring over all these things with fascination for the next 3 months.

3. Joined the Facebook group for the class, got a travel buddy who more-or-less lives in my area, and purchased tickets online.  Orbitz was the cheapest at the time, and we’re going with Swiss airlines — I’m told that Swiss (as a European airline) is great, but I’ve been burned by bad airline advice before so we’ll see.

4. Currently, stuck on wardrobe.  Apparently shorts and sneakers will mark you as a tourist in Italy, as may anything that veers far more towards casual than classy.  I’d like to not stand out at all, so…damn.  That’s not to say that I’m not classy — I ooze class, you know — but it’s by sheer force of personality, not wardrobe.  Because I dress like a bum.  Jeans are apparently alright over there (and hallelujah, because that was non-negotiable), but I think I’ll have to invest in more wedge shoes and light dresses/skirts.  Plus a jacket that can act as a raincoat (it gets rainy).  Plus cardigans and more jackets for layering.  And I have to make sure that I can walk for extended periods of time comfortably and keep shoulders covered (cathedrals, you know) and adjust for high and low temperatures.  And I’ll probably need a watch.  *sigh.*

So yeah, that’s where we’re at.  I find out soon what classes I got into, and my parents inform me that my handbook arrived in the mail, so I’ll be getting acquainted with that as soon as I get home.

Have I mentioned that I am incredibly ready to do this?

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2011 in Language, Practicalities