Sunday, June 11, 2006

Biggest. Update. Ever.

Ok, I'm just going to post the interesting bits from the emails I've sent to Mom, Dad and Dave since I got here. Before these begin though, you should know:

You can see a few pics here:

I'm staying with a host family- mamma Rosella, and her daughters Costanza and Eleonora, whose name I finally figured out after living with them for a week.

I'm going to a school in the center of the city that is really cool.

My suitcase got lost on the flight in, suck, so I had to go to school the first day in the same outfit I'd worn for two days of flying.

ok, enough, here's the email from June 6

Happy birthday to me! I celebrated with a shower and clean clothes.
I'm going home later to enjoy the dr. pepper I brought with me.

I just finished my second day of school. So far it's going very well.
I stayed for the conversation part, which is 2 hours of conversation.
It's really hard right now but I think it will get better over time.
I think I'll be on a roll by the time I leave. That class only has
four people in it. Two are also in my morning class and one is a
level ahead of us. She's studying medieval history at Brigham Young
but is looking for a place to do her PhD so I'm recruiting for Rice.

My morning class has about 13 people in it. Most of the students here
are American, and a lot of them are with big study abroad programs.
We have a bunch of students from U Kansas and U Hawaii. Two of them
surf. I went to lunch with one of the Hawaiians (not a surfer) and we
found this great pasta place, but it was 11 euro so I hope I can find
someplace cheaper. The teacher's name is Claudia and she's very funny
and very animated, which I guess you have to be when communicating in
gestures to a bunch of beginning italian students. Whenever someone
uses a spanish word instead of an Italian one she starts salsa
dancing. One of the girls in the class is Slovakian (the only
non-American) and I found out today that she speaks German, so we
spoke a little German together. She speaks English too but said she
finds our American English really hard to follow sometimes. Claudia
speaks British English in class sometimes, which Maria says is easier
to understand than when we talk.

I told mom, dad and tom this morning, but for Dave's benefit: my
suitcase came in yesterday. Yay, clean clothes! I spent about an
hour wandering, lost, around Florence with it. The paving stones were
obviously not intended for wheelie suitcases. Not as bad as
cobblestones, though I did find some of those, but still pretty
obnoxious. But the contents of the suitcase were all worth it.

I managed to get on one of the school's computers, but it isn't easy.
I'll see how Rosella feels about letting me use their computer. There
are no internet cafes in their neighborhood as far as i can tell, but
there are some here in the city center. I forgot the plug converter
so i'm keeping my phone turned off to save batteries. If i do manage
to get on a computer i'll call you and try to arrange to get on gmail
chat or something.

June 7

When I got here the (very expensive) batteries I got for my camera were dead. Today I tried some new ones, from the same pack, and they were dead too. Grr. Sarah, the girl from the afternoon class, was going to the baptistery (little church where they baptize people) and I tagged along. We found a camera shop with a very nice owner who spoke excellent English. While in the shop i noticed for the first time the word "rechargeable" on the battery (oops) so I bought a charger there. It's for a European plug so I'll need to buy another converter when i get home, but at least I'll be able to take pictures for the next two months.

I bought some postcards today that I'll send home soon. Dave, what is your address? I decided not to get you the one that said "il David" even though it had your name on it and everything. I think it might be better to use the school's address for mail, but I'll ask about that before I mail these.

School was great today. It's amazing how quickly we're going, but I know that there's a lot more to learn. Florence is amazing. I can't wait to get my camera working, because everywhere you turn there's some historic monument or medieval-looking building. I saw the place where Garibaldi died and the place where Dante lived. In the baptistery today there were two german tour groups and I listened to their tour guides and translated what I could for Sarah. My German is still pretty good, maybe better than it was last year.

Yesterday everybody was really cool about my birthday and we learned "Buon Compleanno" and "Auguri" which is like good luck or congrats, used for birthdays, weddings, pregnancy, etc. It was good that I learned Auguri because when I told the family it was my birthday they said it. The Dr Pepper was delicious but I hate thinking I won't be able to have any for so long. Need to start drinking wine to forget taste of Dr. Pepper.

My birthday dinner was bad, though, because I fell asleep and didn't go out to get food until 8:00, still early for Italians to eat BUT in my part of town there are no restaurants or pizzarias, only Bars which are like cafes I guess. They have drinks, pastries and sandwiches. Some of the bars in the city center have pizza. The thing about bars is that they pretty much close at 8:00. Restaurants and pizzarias stay open later, but that didn't help me much last night. I found two that were still open, I guess until they could get rid of the last of the customers and pastries, so I got a croissant at one and a slice of what appeared to be extra cheesy pizza but was actually extra oniony pizza. I shook most of the onions off. I've learned that lesson, so it won't happen again (I hope).

Right now it's 6:00 and I'm still in the city center. My teacher told me where her favorite pizzaria is so I'll head there for dinner. Tomorrow I hope to hit the yarn store after school.

June 8

Today I'm in an internet cafe for American students. When we left CLIDA for lunch a guy was handing out free 30-minute cards to everybody. The place is nice looking and all, but I knew there had to be a catch and there is: the internet here is friggin slow. It hasn't been super speedy anywhere that I've stopped, which is kind of ridiculous, but it's so slow here that on the first computer I tried gmail couldn't log me in. Grr. There rates are also significantly higher than others I've seen, so this will be my last time here as soon as i finish my free internet time. 3 euro is typical for an hour, here it's 4.50. jerks.

I didn't find any pizza yesterday but I did see another of the big monuments- Santa Croce, a big church. In the piazza in front of it they're building a stadium for "historic soccer," which is medieval-style soccer and is only played in Florence. Very violent and brutal. You can use your hands to touch the ball AND to punch the other team. I might have to check it out. Tomorrow the world cup starts-- Germany vs. Costa Rica and Poland vs. somebody. There will be a big screen somewhere in town and I think I'm going to go watch the Germany game. Should be fun.

Today I crossed the ponte vecchio (old bridge) which was VERY full of tourists. The bridge has little shops on it, and most of them sell jewelry. On the other side of the river I walked down this neat little street until I found the YARN STORE! woo hoo. Four euro for a 50 g ball of pure superwash merino. I have found the only cheap thing in this town.

I wandered around a bit more. Turns out that Armani is, like, around the corner from my school. Florence is so amazing because everything is SO old. Right next to each other you'll see medieval and renaissance and 18th century buildings, and on the ground floor the most modern-looking stores.

June 9

Yesterday two girls from Slovenia arrived. They're staying at Rosella's for a week. They invited me to go out to a club with them for some karaoke, and I decided to join them. They're here with their school, which is for people who want to be hotel managers. The school is in Austria and all the students speak German, Slovenian, English and Italian. I tried to speak German with them but they mostly wanted to practice English. We had a great time and got back REALLY late, but I managed to drink enough coke to stay awake in class.

Today is the first day of the world cup, and one of the guys in my class is OBSESSED with soccer and was really excited about it. I had agreed to watch the game with the Slovenian girls, and I thought I'd heard that there would be a big screen for everyone to watch the game in one of the piazzas, so everybody was all excited. In Lingua Practica, there was that guy and three Germans (it's in Germany and Germany played in the first game) and we pretty much talked about soccer the whole time.

After Lingua Practica one of the teachers led a tour of a little church I actually saw yesterday (from the outside, it's next to this very medieval building with a Versace shop on the ground floor). That made me kind of late to get back to Rosella's and the Slovenian girls weren't there (didn't catch if they had been in or not). So I made my way to the Piazza and got there about 10 minutes after the game was supposed to start and there was no. one. there. Well, I mean, there were people there, but none of them were watching soccer on a giant screen.

Oops. I wonder how many people I gave that mistaken information to.

So I wandered around. I saw some INCREDIBLE stuff. This city is amazing. Everything is just so OLD! I took lots of pictures and I'll try to write captions for them. A lot of the stuff I'm not actually sure what it is, so I'll have to look it up. I had pizza in a little place that had the game on. It was 2-1 when I finished my meal and wandered away, but it ended at 4-2 Germany. Go Germany!

I saw the fake David today. It's BIG! Like, 20 feet tall! The real one is in a museum that is apparently REALLY busy, and you need to make a reservation. The fake one is in a piazza where the real one used to be. There are a bunch of other statues around there too, got some pictures of those.

June 11

Yesterday I slept in, then went to town. I walked all the way up this hill that has a big piazza at the top where you can see EVERYTHING. It was sooooo cool. There's a little church and monastery at the top where they sell honey and other stuff produced by the monks. I didn't get any honey, but I did get some postcards. Again, fabulous views. Today I continued the "high places in Florence" theme by climbing to the top of the campanile, the bell tower next to the Duomo. I missed hanging out with the Slovenes and Austrians on Friday but we went out last night. I had a glass of delicious champagne and a shot of citrusy vodka. The rest of them got really, really drunk. The first club we went to was full of those horrible Italian men you hear about all the time. They stared a lot and when I left one of them grabbed me. I would have slapped him if I'd been able to tell which one did it. I have NO idea how any culture could produce men who think that's an ok thing to do. The guys in our group started to worry that there'd be a fight if they had to stand up for any of us, so we went to this techno club that was actually pretty nice except for the crazy, crazy strobe light.

The Slovenes went to the beach today (not sure where) so I'm looking forward to a nice quiet evening of knitting. The project I'm working on is SO cool, I may have to make one for myself.



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