Sunday, February 5, 2012

Starry Eyed

Sitting in our freezing living room now listening to some Ellie Goudling and relaxing after a pretty eventful weekend.  The roomies are out at the Conad grocery store across from the Ponte Vecchio picking up some things for dinner and walking around for a couple hours.  I passed because I’m exhausted from our trip to Perugia yesterday and last night’s events.  Friday night we all agreed we needed to get out of Florence for the day and wanted to see one of the bordering Tuscan towns. We chose Perugia, a two-hour train ride away into the countryside.  In the morning we concluded that we definitely needed to buy a hat for the trip because it was snowing there so we headed over to the new market to check out their selection.  We spotted a stand with about a hundred different berets, fuzzy beanies, and fedora hats.  I picked a white beanie style that I had seen the locals wearing that I thought suited me and Sydney picked up a camel-colored knit beanie, each were about 16 euro so not bad at all to look just like a Florentine!  We have discovered, unfortunately, that is nearly impossible to “blend in” here.  We stick out like sore thumbs and the Italians automatically respond to you in English even if you try to speak to them in Italian!  We were disappointed but I’m still going to try so that I get better at conversation and hopefully by the end I can trick some of them into thinking I really am Italian.  Every day we pick up new phrases and words for things but it is a slow process with only having Italian class twice a week for an hour.  Some of the people in my class are worse at learning new languages than I expected so we have to spend a lot of time on the basics which is kind of frustrating. 
            Anyways, back to Perugia.  After we bought our stylish hats we trekked over to Santa Maria Novella train station to catch our train.  It wasn’t exactly like the trains in Harry Potter but it was clean and we got to sit facing each other in fairly comfortable seats.   As soon as we pulled out of Firenze it started slurrying and we got a great tour of the hills of Tuscany covered in a bed of snow.  It was so beautiful it almost reminded me of WWII and gave me the chills even thinking about it.  We did run into some technical difficulties however….all of a sudden billows of smoke started passing through our windows, the train came to a halt, and everyone started standing up.  This freaked me out because the only thing around us was snowy forest and distant little towns that I thought we might be forced to walk to for help!  It honestly felt like some dementors were about to take over our train and suck the happiness out of us…..
But the train thankfully came back to life fairly quickly and we were on the move again.  Finally we arrived in Perugia and took a little bus up to the top of the town that was placed on a hilltop.  It was colder than any of us expected and after being exposed to the weather for more than thirty minutes our fingers and toes started going painfully numb.  It was obvious that the Italians are not used to this level of winter either because most of the stores and restaurants were closed and there were hardly any people out on the streets.  It was almost like a ghost town.  In passing I spotted a quaint little place to have lunch where we ordered a bottle of red wine to warm us up.  There were no English translations on this menu (definitely not in Florence any more…) so Amy asked the waiter what he recommended.  I chose a creamy tortellini with funghi (mushrooms) and salsiccia (sausage) that was very good and filled me up quickly. 

  Then we decided to bear the cold once more and explore the town.  There were many buildings and structures of stone that hinted at how old they  were.  All of the churches were locked so we couldn’t go into any, but we got to see some great views of Italy there.  After walking around for about two hours we decided that we couldn’t stand the cold anymore and headed back to the train station early.  On our way back a car of two men spit at us, only solidifying that we needed to get home fast.  We also realized this was the very town where Amanda Knox lived, probably the reason why the locals didn’t quite meet us with open arms.  I could see how the town would be vibrant in the summertime, but at that very moment it was eerily quiet.  Back to Firenze!!!  We grabbed a cioccolata calda (hot chocolate) at the train station cafĂ© and then hopped on the train where we were thanking the gods for the heated cabins.  Amy, Kayla, and Katie decided to get a hotel in Perugia and go to Assisi on Sunday (today) for more sightseeing. 

Once we got back we all went to the conad and picked up wine, a baguette, some fizzy sprite-like drink and crackers and brie to munch on.  The cooking warmed us all up and we felt much better after having a warm dinner.  We also had our first power surge because we had the washer, oven, and toaster on all at once.  Oops?  Yeah…So with the light of my computer we eventually figured out how to turn the power back on and started to get ready to go out.  We had a fun night at a place called Red Garter where lots of study abroaders go.  They had a dance floor and karaoke, which I’ve found the Italians absolutely love for some reason.  We stayed there for a while and met all sorts of Italians while practicing my broken Italian on them.  Then we headed back to our favorite spot Naima to meet with Sergio and Giorgio to go to the club Fullup.  We rolled back into the apartment at a mere 6am and plopped onto our beds for the night. 
            Our Api advisors keep telling us that there is an emotional cycle that students go through when studying abroad that starts out with a honeymoon period and then moves into a culture shock period typically from homesickness and sadness.  STILL haven’t hit that point yet and am riding out my Italy high wave as long as I possibly can!  Hmmmm, I’m hungry….going to go make a panini.  Arrivederchi!

It is absolutely frigid here in Florence and none of us were prepared for this level of cold!  The gusts of wind practically burn your skin it's so unpleasant that we have resorted to stay in for the rest of the night instead of bearing the night.  In other good news I received my new debit card today in the mail!  Earlier this week I had a minor tragedy when I tried to withdraw money three times and got rejected.  Soon afterwards Amy pointed out that my card was expired this month and the bank just failed to inform me of that, gotta love wachovia.  So after having a short-lived panic attack and about an hour on the phone with the bank people and missing out of the school-wide dinner I got a new one over-nighted to my parents and then to me.  So I finally have money again and might be more tempted to venture into a couple of the boutiques I've been eyeing on the way to class.  This was also my first week of school, which so far I am really enjoying.  I have a feeling of excitement for all the projects and and lectures that never happens for my classes at Uga.  On thursday I was so overcome with a sense of fulfillment that I could myself smiling way more than normal.  And I know the reason is because I'm taking subjects that interest me and will actually apply to my career instead of slaving over things like accounting and finance.  It's also been great meeting the people in my classes, I met a guy from Washington D.C. in my international marketing class who I partnered up with to do an exercise and a couple of girls from Clemson (Southerner's yay!!!).  My teacher has worked in the fashion industry for 15 years so hopefully I can get to know her better and she can give me some career advice!  After that I had Italian, which by the way, this is the first time I have ever wanted to start a language course so badly!  It will be so much less intimidating to interact with the street vendors and waiters once I learn some key phrases and  can actually hold a conversation.  That night we headed over to our favorite hangout Naima through the snow and had a few beers just to get out of the apartment for a little while.  Wednesday I had a grueling day with class all the way from 9am to 640 was worse than high school!  First I had fashion illustration, which is a very fun class that teaches you the steps to become a fashion designer.  We went on a little field trip to buy art supplies for sketching models and picked up sketchbooks and portfolios.  The people in my class were very diverse, a rowdy group of friends from Mexico City provided me with lots of entertainment.  Especially Mario, a chubby, yet very sassy boy that made me laugh on several occasions when he would say "Chowwwww!" I also made friends with a girl from Sweden who I went to lunch with during our break at the school cafe where we had a panini and warm cappuccino.  She is very sweet and speaks fairly good english, it was just interesting to talk to someone from different a completely different country.  Then we headed back and learned how to start drawing mannequins in different positions which is surprisingly VERY hard.  That's a skill I'm definitely going to have to refine....Next I had design sewing and I learned how to thread a sewing machine and did some basic stitches but I am definitely on the path to making finished pieces of clothing!
I really love my fashion marketing teacher, she waltzed in with a fendi computer bag and a louis vuitton purse and was dressed to the nines in a sweater dress with a fur collar and over-the-knee chanel leather boots.  Very high fashion for a teacher.  We even get to watch "The September Issue," the documentary about the life of Anna Wintour.  So awesome!My walk to class is always enjoyable, the building is located in the high fashion area so I always casually walk past Chanel, Fendi, and Louis Vuitton on the way and ogle at the shiny shoes and luxurious handbags.  It feels like I'm in a dream and I'm just waiting to wake up.  Sometimes I consider moving here to live and do fashion because it's actually more high fashion than I expected.  Being here has opened my eyes to all my options for careers and ways of life and it is so refreshing!  Now I just have to go to a few bookstores and copy shops to pick up all my books (which are way cheaper here btw) and sewing supplies before next Tuesday! On thursday night we all went to an apertivo, which is where you go to a bar and pay for one drink and the have a buffet of food all-you-can eat.  It was really fun and there were so many Italians there enjoying blowing off some steam after a long day of work?  On the way home we picked up some yummy cookies and desserts to munch on.  Loving my new Florentine life! Xoxo