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Category Archives: The City

(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 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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(Day 33) Backlogging

Relying on sprint-speak tonight, because I’ve got to get up in the morning to go on that bike tour:

Referring back to that Wednesday night concert: this was an opportunity ACM made available to us, and they paid for the ticket of anyone who wanted to go.  The evening’s entertainment was a selection of music by Gershwin and Bernstein, performed/orchestrated by this guy, Wayne Marshall.

To set the stage a little, the concert was set for 8:30 pm; this followed a work study session in the morning, Italian from 1:30 to 2:45, an on-site Medici class visit from 3:00 to 4:45, figure drawing class from 5:00 to 7:00, and a trek back to the station to meet Kari at 7:30.  So a very long day, especially since I was just starting to come down with that cold I now have.  Achoo.

So Kari and I set out once again, and we finally get to the Teatro Communale around 8:15.  And there’s a moment of perplexity, because the crowd standing around outside looks rather fancified, as in little black dresses every which way.  We ourselves looked respectable, of course, but we hadn’t been told to dress up — but eh, who cares.

We go inside —

— and find that we’re pretty much dead center in the orchestra seats.  Fantastic : D

Clock turns over to 8:30, and the concert-goers (relying on that very Italian idea of being “fashionably late”) wait until the official start time to start coming in — which is actually perfectly alright, because the ‘orchestra’ at the time is composed of one lone woman tuning a harp.

Twenty minutes later we finally get going…and bottom line is that it’s magnificent.  And fast.  Violinists flip their instruments onto their shoulders, horns are darting up and down behind the stands, all we can see of Marshall is the back of his tux knotting up and an occasional hand shooting off down the side of the piano, and the entire bottom section of the stage is just a throbbing sea of bows; aside from the way it sounds, it just looks incredible.  And the whole time I’m sitting there I’m just so very very glad I decided to come — yes, early bedtime would have been nice too, but this was pretty much perfect as a way to end a Wednesday.  Just sit there and listen and no worries at all.

So that’s that, and then we’re on to the intermission, which gets a late start on account of the encore procedure is kind of played out like a mind game.  First he’s gone!  –but now he’s back!  he’s shaking that dude’s hand!  again!  bow!  handshake!  gone!  back!  Too much clapping and I can’t feel my fingers anymore!

*sigh,* performers.  What can you do.

Second half of the concert nixes the piano but adds the choir, and now we’re on to Bernstein (and, as Kari told me several times with great enthusiasm, this means we get to hear “Chichester’s Psalms”).   And while the first half had been wonderful, this was the part that made me *really* wish that they sold CDs of this thing, because it was completely weird and fantastic and I would have been all over that.  iTunes, maybe?

…So yes, concert ends, there’s another round of exasperating encores, we’re out at 10:40, 20 minute walk back to bus stop, half hour wait for the bus, bed by midnight and up at 6:00.  And ultimately here we are.

 

Alrighty, then — my roommate’s on skype and I’m having a hard enough time forming coherent sentences even without distraction, so I think that’s about all we can do for tonight.  Back in tomorrow evening to keep on keeping on.

 

But first, a quick P.S. — While we were reading over the Teatro’s upcoming events [for one thing, it’s where we’ll be attending the opera], Kari and I found a concert on October 29th featuring music by Vivaldi, Mozart and Schubert.  \o/ ❤ etc., but the great thing is that we get guaranteed student rates and should be able to get tickets for about 10 Euro.  Nifty, no? : )

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Culture, Persons & Peoples, Practicalities, The City

 

(Day 25) One Two Skip a Few…

Thursday, 1:36 pm

First off, yaaaay, 40/40 on the final exam!  And we were allowed to leave as soon as we finished, so got out of class an hour early — all in all a most excellent morning : D

Have to hop back on the bus in a few minutes to go to the introduction to our drawing class at Cecil Studios, *hugely* excited for that, and this evening I’m hoping to whip out a couple emails in between prep for Venice tomorrow.  So no blog.  And then no blog tomorrow or the day after or the day after that.  Three days, and nowhere to dump the unconscionable number of photos I’m about to take : (

But, happy to say that there’ll be plenty to talk about (and probably more than plenty/complete overkill) come Sunday night — boring weather talk’s behind us and we’re on to better things.

Until then, I love you (or at least the “you’s” to whom that’s not a completely creepy thing to say), and best wishes for a wonderful weekend ❤

 

P.S. — I had these lying around and realized I’d never posted them, so here’s the Duomo from ground level:

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in Classes, Family, The City

 

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(Day 23) And now a Tuesday

Milestone moment, people: this was the first day that I’ve been able to believe that it will eventually get cold here.

For weeks we’ve been asking around and trying to figure out what a Florentine winter is like, and I think the information we’ve received can be boiled down to this: in autumn (now), the mornings and evenings will get cool but any direct sun will set you straight back to August (i.e., shade = pleasant but sun = blistering heat).  Hot days will keep being a fact of life until one day everything decides to go frigid for kicks and giggles, and there will be lots of rain and bitter wind and that’s winter.

Bit bipolar.

But, like I said, it’s been hot for so long that I was seriously doubting whether ‘winter’ in Italy could be that big a deal.*  So you can imagine my surprise (and also delight, and I sincerely mean that) when I head out to wait at the bus stop this morning and it suddenly feels like mid-October.  Overcast, all the light dim and shifting, with a pretty hefty wind whipping everyone’s hair around — and a jacket very very much a necessity.  It was back into the 80’s by 10:00 AM, of course, but it was quite a nice shock to the system while it lasted.

 

…Only slightly related, but I’ve been daydreaming about Christmas for the last two weeks.  I already miss baking and I’m pre-missing snow (which Tuscany sees about as often as Texas), but the nice thing is that we will get to see the start of Florence’s Christmas preparations.  And, since Italy is dripping with Catholics and Christmas is, as I am told, a day of some importance to the Church, we’ve been promised we’ll get something of a spectacle.  Along with a whole slew of new seasonal foodstuffs, and you can perhaps imagine how I feel about that.**

So yes, very much looking forward to the Christmas season, but we’ll get there when we get there and I’m certainly still set to enjoy myself in the meantime.  Got some tentative October plans in the works with a few other students (which I will tell you about only if and when they become solid), and we’re now just three days out from Venice.  Speaking of which, orientation for that is tomorrow afternoon — so I’ll see you then, when I’ve got some actual new stuff going on?

A domani : )

(Oh, but a quick P.S. — We all took a quiz this morning, and afterwards the other two classes watched movies while our class played charades.  It was a fast-moving game, right up until Umberto tried to get everyone to guess “Paranormal Activity”; watching someone trying to act out ‘normal’ is one of the funniest things I have ever seen [especially since he just kept repeating a bunch of gestures that we weren’t making sense of], and while we did eventually guess the title, amen to the student who said “I don’t understand what just happened.”)

 

 

*Just because I find it funny: we once asked about the most extreme low temperature we could expect here, and they said ‘0.’  Not so bad, we thought — but they meant Celsius.  So there may have been some amused Midwest snorting.

**Just to say it explicitly, a large part of what makes Italian cooking so tremendously good is that they tend to use fresh ingredients and only in season.  We are just now, for example, ending the season for grapes; so, a couple nights ago, Gabriella brought out to the table a dessert called “schiacciata con l’uva”  (a sort of crisp pie/cake with grapes all over it and through it), and told us that this was the last time we’d be seeing it pretty much anywhere in town because everyone’s switching over to fall/winter produce.  Again, the only-in-season mentality makes anything you eat here amazing, but it’s also completely tragic in that it makes most of their dishes impossible to recreate at home.  Even were I armed with recipes (which I currently am not, as Gabriella is resistant to the idea of guests helping in the kitchen), we just don’t have access to the same fresh, flavorful, and very definitely non-GMO ingredients that the Italian style of cooking is meant to accentuate.

But oh well.  We still beat them at breakfast foods ; )

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Classes, Culture, Food, The City

 

(Day 22) Mondays.

Monday, 9:50 pm

Brief updates are as follows:

  • Have a quiz tomorrow that may be about the future tense (as our teacher told us) but is probably about the imperfect tense (as everyone else’s teachers told them).  Study study *sigh.*
  • Trying to come up with a schedule for library work that can please 13 people with varying personal agendas.  Dare we go for the *double sigh.*
  • We’ve been having meetings to introduce us to our classes, and I’m getting very excited for my electives.  BUT, a fit of the “get-it-over-with’s” made me sign up for the first oral presentation in my Medici class…so now I (along with my presentation partner) have pre-class homework due this upcoming Tuesday.  And we’ll be studying for our Italian final Wednesday night and gallivanting off to Venice for the entire weekend, so this may not have been a case of especially excellent forethought.
  • It not only rained today, it hailed.  And then it was dark the whole afternoon.  Storms \o/
  • In October, in a town very close to here, there is a chocolate festival.
  • We are on break during the chocolate festival.
  • Pontifical lizard:

And I’m out : )

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Classes, The City