July 11, 2006

hot, hot, hot

Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

Since I last updated about my daily events last Thursday, I will include the time between then and now. On Friday, Rosie and I did go to a fresh fruit and veg market, where I picked up a few items inexpensively, all of which have since been eaten or have rotted with idleness. I went to my second art class, where there was in fact a female who I began to draw first in pencil and then in pastels. I got as far as her entire upper torso, but her face was still blank. With permission, I took a picture of the model's face to continue on Tuesday (today). Art class is so relaxing. The room itself only has about 6 easels and a bed-like thing for the model. Some people bring in pictures to paint or draw, others sketch the model. In the only other room of this art school, which is right next to my Italian school, others paint or work on other projects. The room is cool and music plays in the background, but mostly, it is me and my media for 2 hours, which pass so quickly.

Later Friday night, Alessia and her mom cooked Rosie and I a special Mexian meal. There were cheese empenadas, beans, salsa and hot sauce, flatbreads and lemonade. All of the ingredients (from the cheese to the beans to the flour to make it all, I swear) were brought from Alessia's family's ranch in Mexico. The meal was excellent. Afterwards, Rosie and I started talking about American, British and World politics and we did not actually go to the watermelon party.

On Saturday, I slept in, then went to the San Lorenzo market. I didn't buy much there but another 5 euro Burberry-esque scarf, a twin of the one I bought there last year, except this one in tan instead of pink. The market is home to thousands of leather bags, wallets, belts, key chains... shoes, trinkets, you name it. But it's mostly catered towards tourists, so the prices are pretty high, there is some bargaining to be made, but the best thing to do there is simply price compare, since nearly every five stalls sells the same exact thing at varying prices. San Lorenzo is perfect for tourists who don't know how much to pay and are in awe of the leather bags, so they pay any price the seller asks. Afterwards, I walked down to the Arno where I thought the marketo etnico was. I couldn't find it and went into a hotel to ask for directions. I found it after that and it was only a few dozen stalls selling bags and clothes, but also a stall from Africa with carved animals, a Native American stall and a Peruvian stall, where I bought a penguin-like thing made of wood for 10 euros. All of the people in this market were natives of the countries they were selling goods from, which made it a bit more interesting, but the market was vacant and the trees made the area dark, so I rushed myself as I looked around the stalls.
Saturday night, Rosie and I (as well as a Japanese friend of Rosie's and her roommate, Christine, who is in my class) went to the concert at San Lorenzo. There was a Swiss chorus and an orchestra and among others, performed "America" from West Side Story. We were hoping for more of a show, but it was just alright.

Sunday was a waste - again I slept, hoping that when I awoke, it would be to the sound of a door clicking open with my new roommates. The entire day passed and I had decided to do nothing, so I simply read and went to the internet. By night, I stopped by at Rosie's flat and that's when the whole decision to go to the World Cup viewing was made.

Yesterday after I posted an entry, I went to lunch with Natasha, the former roommate who I thought was a bit sour. Turns out she is a nice girl and I enjoyed her company over pizza. Then we went back to the bookstore I had been to and I bought another book, The Queen's Fool, which is about a girl who is Queen Mary, then Queen Elizabeth's fool and secretly is a Jew who fled from the Spanish Inquisition to England with her father (so it takes place in the 1520s and beyond). I have completely fallen in love with historical fiction novels set in the middle of the first millenium. Today I began this book after finishing In the Company of the Courtesan, which is by Sarah Dunant (my copy is actually signed by her because she lives in Florence and London and came into the bookstore to sign books once!) - about a high-class whore and her dwarf partner-in-crime in Venice after the second sacking of Rome. I also bought Tuesdays with Morrie during my last visit to the bookstore, but I haven't had any interest to read a novel about something other than history.

Today, I was so eager to go to the market. After an hour of a lesson, we walked to the bus and took it to the market. The bus was so hot and cramped. Natasha, Caterina (a new girl who is also 18, from Croatia) and I went around the market, but were unimpressed by what we saw. It was basically a half-mile yard sale. There were piles of clothes from 1-20 euros each, some on hangers and from good designers like Ralph Lauren (just polo shirts, though), crappy shoes, jewelry, etc. Nothing was worth buying at all. So after an hour of walking around, we finally reached the end and saw a few other classmates. Our teacher said that at 12:00, those who wanted to walk back instead of taking the bus could go with him, but we looked at the way back and saw there was no shade at all (neither was there much at the market and I got a bit sunburnt), so we went to the bus. This was a wise choice, as I was back to my flat by 12:50, not nearly as tired or sunburnt and probably a lot sooner, too.

Another art class with the same model, actually, but I didn't use her, just her face on my camera, which I could zoom in on. I completed her face unskillfully and rushed, but now that the entire body was complete, I spent some time creating a fun background (which turned into a blended rainbow of colors) and got some feedback and much help from the director, who was there today to help our teacher, Sonya. After, I went down to Santa Croce and the streets below it for some gift shopping, then back to the apartment. I've hardly bought much for myself here, though I plan to try to do some shopping on Thursday.

I've lost all my appitite for anything but sweets. And when I say that, don't think I'm stuffing my face with it - 3 rice cakes with nutella on it for breakfast, hours later some yogurt with muesli, a few marshmellows as a snack and some gelato... Today I got some Indian take-out (I know, not Italian) which I hardly ate. But with the heat and the walking, how much I'm eating is nothing and though I'm not complaining, I do have oodles of pasta sitting in the kitchen, which I have no desire to eat at present.

Plans for my final two-ish days... tomorrow I will have my last art class and at night, go out with Natasha and Caterina. Thursday, I plan to do some shopping around the duomo because I have nothing to do after 1pm. At night I will pack. Tomorrow I will talk to the people at school about getting a taxi, because I will need one at 4:30am! Then I will be home by 4pm and already have plans for that evening in New Jersey.

It's hot as hell and it seems as though the rain and coolness in the days before the World Cup was a reward, but now that it's over is a sign for the Italians to get back to work. I've already grown tired of learning Italian (mostly because I am horrible at it and I pine for the complicated grammar and pronunciation of Russian) and am most glad to leave because of that! I know that's what I chose to do, but honestly, I am glad for the two weeks of intro to Italian as all. Ciao!

July 10, 2006


Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

It was a once-in-a-lifetime oppertunity to be in Italy when Italy won the World Cup for the first time in over 40 years. Everyone was crazy - flags hanging out of every window and car, cars began honking randomly at about 5pm, hours before the game began. Rosie, her boyfriend, Jonny, and I, went over the bridge to Piazza Michelangelo where there is a giant TV screen to watch the game. There were thousands of people there and they were all nuts... climbing up trees, standing on garbage cans, wearing flags around their necks, falling off walls (there were many ambulances there) and of course, drinking, drinking, drinking. Beer bottles were smashed on the ground everywhere. So, we got to the piazza at 9:00, 1 hour into the game, at half time. We sat on a wall where we only saw less than half the screen, eventually moving places several times, never getting a good view. Eventually we came back to Ghibellina, which is our street, to an Indian restaurant, where we were the only ones and got a seat right in front of the TV to see the penalty shots, when Italy won the game. Then we went out onto the streets and to Santa Croce to see everyone celebrating - kids ran through the square with flags, everyone was singing, a man was jumping and singing on his balcony. Eventually, cars starting honking and this part lasted for hours, I know because they were still honking when I fell asleep at midnight. I'm happy for the Italians that they won! It was quite a celebration (that I did not participate in because Rosie got sick and we all went home instead.)

Currently, I have no roommates. I might come home to find someone there, but at present, I am alone in an apartment that can host 7! It's not all that bad, only the fact that I feel like at any moment someone could come is just a bit nervewracking and that I hung out all day waiting for no one to come!

After the internet, I am going to go out to eat with Natasha, the former roommate - suprise, suprise. I expect I'll hang out the rest of the day and after dinner, at about 5:30, 6:00, I will go down to the river again to see if I can find the market I was looking for on Saturday. Donato, my teacher, said I shouldn't be able to miss it if its there.

Tomorrow my class is going to the best market in Florence, that's only open on Tuesday mornings. We are taking a bus. I'll have to stop by an ATM to be ready to buy tons of gifts!

Lately I've been eating Nutella and rice cakes every morning and then pasta for lunch and dinner. (So, in response, Brittany, it took me a week to polish off one jar of Nutella, but today I'll buy another jar!) Quite good. I've even lost a few pounds in trying to keep cool and with all the walking around and less of an appitite. However, I still get mosquito bites (though I load on the bug spray every night) and some of the ones I have make me look like I have the measles. Hopefully they will dissapear quickly once I get back to the States.

I've met people from so many places at school: Montenagro, Mexico, England (Cambridge and London), Croatia, Canada (Motreal), Japan, USA (TX, PA, D.C.)... I'm sure the list will keep growing until the last day that I leave.

Anyway, the general idea right now is that I am having a great time in my last week, enjoying every moment. I'm very able to navigate the streets confidently and I know where things are, where I want to go, etc. This continues to be a great experience, one that I would love to do again in another country or city (such as, staying for a few weeks to take an art class, for example). Though, I know I won't continue with Italian and I don't wish to learn another language. But, now that my bad energy from traveling alone has worn off, I am more than ready, eager and able to start dreaming up my next trip (with a group or friends, of course), next time in winter or spring, though. Being abroad, as usual, is eye-opening.

July 06, 2006

la bella vita

Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

Life (vita) under the Tuscan sun has been beautiful (bella) the past few days, well, figuratively, anyway. A typical day consists of me getting up at 7:45 to shower and eat breakfast (yogurt with muesli and juice). I am at the school by 8:50 and class begins at 9:00. Class is usually very boring – learning grammar, taking notes. We have a break from 10:50-11:10. Then class resumes and during this time, we speak more and do worksheets, which are a bit more amusing, but sometimes more tedious, than the first part of class. Class ends at 1:00 and I immediately come here, to La Chat. La Chat is the best internet cafe I’ve ever seen. The walls are painted a pretty green color and the ceiling is blue with stars on it. The computers are all new, the chairs cushiony and leather, and there is air conditioning. The only problem with the cafe is the internet itself, which is usually very slow. However, La Chat is right next to school and so it’s also on my street, they give you a card which you reload for internet minutes (so you don’t have to pay every time you come in, just 5 euros every 3 hours of time) and it’s the cheapest around. From now on, I will write my entries in Word, then paste it into the blog because of how slowly the internet updates the typing. Anyway, after La Chat, it’s usually between 1:30 and 2:00, so I go home and cook lunch. I always make pasta, but whether it is penne or spaghetti or “ears” (I forget the Italian word for it) or gnocchi changes every day depending on my mood! After eating, I lounge around, Rosie and I usually talk about what we want to do later on, I read, snack, and eventually it’s dinner time, so more pasta. After dinner we do a variety of things. The past two nights, Rosie and I have gone to free classical concerts in the Piazza de San Lorenzo. On Tuesday night, there was a 40 piece youth orchestra from Stamford, CT. They weren’t all that good, but the concert was enjoyable anyway. Last night was a 90 piece orchestra from Amsterdam. They played a Stravinsky piece, Firebird, that I absolutely love now. The rest of it was very modern (1972 it said) and not very enjoyable, more suitable for a movie score than to play for an audience. The last piece was an entire ballet and I thought it would never end. By the time we get home, it was 11:00-11:45 each day, so time for bed.

I’ve been eating a lot of gelato! So far, I’ve had mint, chocolate chip (it’s more like chocolate chunk, which is even better), plum, cream, milk, trifle, melon, yogurt flavors. My favorites so far have been the mint, milk and melon flavors. Gelato is amazing and gelaterias keep popping up in America, but they are not authentic. Nothing beats it here.

I went to my first art class on Tuesday. Class is held in a small room with only about 6 easels. As soon as I entered, I saw a naked man sitting. I tried my best not to act suprised and I was relieved that his “parts” were not in my view as I drew him. He was extremely difficult to draw, however, and my drawing was poor. I go again on Friday, but this time I hope it is a woman because I have always wanted to draw a nude female, to be honest. I wish we had a class like this at Sarah Lawrence.

Yesterday I finished The Birth of Venus, so I needed another book to read. I looked up English book stores and today I went to one that was very close and in a great area. I got another book by the same author and one other, but they were so expensive! Anyway, the book store was on a street with some cool clothes stores and many glass stores. I found a store that I loved, but you know how sometimes you go into a place and love everything, but have no purpose for it and buy nothing? Then I walked around Piazza de Santa Croce, which had a few carts and touristy shops.

Also, I had a huge scare today! My iPod locked up and I couldn’t turn it on. I thought I had lost all of my pictures. Luckily, I came on the computer here and went to the Apple website, which helped me restart it and everything is now fine. I’ve only taken a bit over 100 pictures, but I expect to take loads this weekend. Unfortunately for those who might want to see them, there are no pictures of me, since all my sightseeing has been by myself!

As for the rest of the week – tomorrow Rosie and I are going to a market after class and I have art at 3:00. Then, I am dragging Rosie to a Watermelon Festival nearby because I just can’t pass that up. On Saturday, I am sleeping in and then going to the market at San Lorenzo. At night, Rosie and I are going to see another classical concert, except this time there is a choir also. Sunday, I am going across the river to another part of Florence to the Palazzo Pitti, which is very pretty, I’ve heard. Rosie moves out into her own flat on Saturday night (I will miss her sorely as she’s been my only, but best friend here) and on Sunday I get at least one, but hopefully 2 or 3 new roommates. Alessia is leaving early on Sunday with her mom.

I have been at war with the mosquitos of Florence. Currently I have over 43 bites and this is no exaduration, it’s exact. I have 10 on my right forearm alone. They are everywhere. I’m on my second afterbite stick, this one works a lot better than the other, but they keep itching and I keep getting more. Yesterday I bought a plug-in vapor thing, which didn’t appear to work. Today I got a candle, which I will try tonight and finally Rosie convinced me to get repellant. It’s not hell or anything, but it’s extremely unsightly (I look like I have the mumps or chicken pox or something!) and sort of itchy, so in order to not have 86 bites next Thursday, I need to take action!

Turns out I’m leaving next Friday at 7:15am because there were no flights left on either Saturday or Sunday. Bummer!

For those at home, Paris Hilton seems to have really struck a hit with “Stars are Blind,” huh? They play it every day on the radio in La Chat and the video is always on as well. Has she become any better respected over the past few weeks as her single becomes popular? I love to hate her, but I really just love her and that’s a guilty pleasure.

My Italian is coming along well. I walk into a restaurant or bar and ask, like a pro, “Avete bauno?” (Do you have a bathroom?) When I order my gelato, “Una cuppa, due euro! Menta e crema… grazie!” That’s really all I’ve had to say to anyone in public, though, besides a few other things like ordering other foods and talking about mosquitos (zanzara). However, in class, my pronunciation isn’t so swell, as most things I say as though they were Russian. I actually miss the language and I wrote Mr. Weisbrod about it. Wow. Meng, I don’t know about coming back with “beautiful Italian,” but I’m working on it. So… that’s about it. Ciao!

July 04, 2006

decisions, decisions

Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

It will be official tomorrow that I am going to leave on July 15th. I feel so good about my decision as far as leaving goes. I feel that, though I won't get to see what I wanted to see - Cinque Terre, Rome, Pisa, Elba, Corsica - I will be able to make better use of my time here if I only have two weeks. On the other side, I am worried that when I get home, I will be bored quickly, so I want to set up some things to do, but that has nothing to do with my leaving Florence, because that is something I am certain that I want to do.

Anyway, we went to a great supermarket yesterday and bought tons of great food. Today I hope to start art class, where I've heard we paint/draw nudes, but I am not positive about that. If I wrote about it before, I decided not to take cooking, because I really like my time after class at 1 to go to the internet cafe and veg.

Later this week or the weekend I hope to venture into Florence, to San Lorenzo and such, and probably next week to San Spirito. But for right now, I'm getting used to the side streets and how to get around.

The apartment is lovely now that Natasha moved out. We are rid of her negitivity and the room that connects mine to the hallway is now empty. Today Alessia went to Paris to collect her mom, who is coming to visit for the remainder of the week - she'll be back tomorrow.

Today I tried to befriend some Americans, but they were sort of busy, I suppose, so they didn't really want to talk to me. Erg. Some Canadian girls are supposed to be moving into my flat this weekend. Now I speak with an English accent because of Rosie, and I love it.

July 03, 2006


Note: This entry was originally posted to an old blog of mine called Go Out and See the World. It can be seen in its original here, including all comments, which were not imported. The entries are separate from Sunny Day Happy Face, but were imported for posterity! Enjoy!

So much has gone on since I last posted that I don't think I will update about every single thing. I left Prague on Friday, I was driven to the airport by the hostel manager, who was an extremely friendly, great English-speaking guy, who loves to travel and has been everywhere. He drives an old car and lives in an old house so that he can spend his money on traveling (with his family, that is). On my flight to Milan, I sat next to a nice, older Canadian woman who had been living outside of Prague teaching. We got to Bergamo airport fine (Bergamo is 50km outside of Milan and takes an hour to reach by bus, but a lot of the cheap airlines fly into it), but when I arrived at Milan Central Train Station, where the bus lets off, the taxi drivers were "on strike" because of the World Cup game, so I actually had to walk to my hotel in the dark. I was so lucky to have only spoken to people who gave me correct directions, so it didn't take too long, but I arrived sweaty.

The hotel was alright (I had a fan in my room, it got plenty dark, the shower was great), but I didn't like Milan at all. The duomo was under construction and the men were horrid. (I can explain the full story of that in person, at another time.)

So, I took the train down to Florence, which again, was very simple, took 2hr 45min, and the director of the school picked me up. He, too, was very friendly and spoke English well enough.

I live on the same street as the school, on the third floor, in an apartment that can house 7-8 people, but right now only 4 of us. I love my room, though I wasn't given a choice, I quickly made it my own. The only downside is that I have to walk through another girl's room to get to the hallway. We have a washing machine, stove, 2 bathrooms, a fridge, a dining room and table in the kitchen, it's pretty great!

My roommates are Rosie, 19 from Cambridge, England. She has been here for a month already. This week she will still be with us, next week she is moving to a flat nearby with her boyfriend for one week and then she will leave. Alessia is 23 from Mexico City. She has been here for several months (I think about 3) and is leaving this Saturday. Natasha is 19 from London, she is to be here the same time as I am, but we shall see. Her mom and grandmother came down with her and actually stayed in her room (which is the one I have to walk through) last night, but luckily they are leaving today.

As for me... I am going to be honest here, and I don't really care what the comments are about it because I know how I feel and what I've spoken to my mom about. Traveling by myself was very lonely and horrible and already, I am very drained by that. The other side of it is that I learned a lot, especially that from now on I will travel with other people, among other lessons. So, now I am here and it is significantly better, especially since Rosie and I are spending a lot of time together. But I am hesitant because she is leaving in a week, basically, because she'll be with her boyfriend. Anyway, I hope to make other friends. The language class is almost brutal. I find the material very easy, I almost resent it after Russian, but the classroom is very hot and 4 hours is a long time every day. I know I did it for summer school for American History, but this might be a bit harder. I am enrolling also in a cooking class 2 days a week and an art class 2 days a week. Those start tomorrow and I am hoping they will improve the situation.

The point here that I am trying to make is that as of right now, I do not know how long I am going to stay. The minimum would be 2 weeks, but that might be all for me. I might not stay the 4. And honestly, for those of you who are my friends and family reading this, I want you to respect whatever decision I make and not judge me because I couldn't "suck it up" or I am quitting or anything.... I am going to do what I want to do and only what I want to do, and if I decide to stay 4 weeks, then great. If I decide to come home tomorrow, for example, I also hope that you will be supportive of my decision and not ridicule me for it because no offense, many of you would, and that is something I simply do not want to deal with. So, if you are going to leave a comment, please be supportive and not judgemental.

Anyway, there is even so much to do right on the street we live on! There is the internet cafe, which costs 5 euros for 3 hours of access which is on a card, a bar, food, etc. The supermarket is nearby. But, I haven't even ventured into the city yet and I am going to take my time, considering how I felt when I was traveling alone. If I stay the 4 weeks, I might look into renting a bike, because it might be fun and less walking.

Oh, it gets so hot here! 35-38 degrees, but I don't know what that is in Farenheit. That is why everyone takes so many classes because no one dares go out midday, so to stay at school (which isn't air conditioned, but cooler than outside) is better. So the classes I will take would be Italian every day from 9-1, then 2 days a week cooking from 1-3 and the other two days a week art from 4-5, I believe.

Last night, Rosie and I went to the supermarket and bought some stuff, but I atleast need to go again today because that store got out of stock extremely quickly and there wasn't too much to buy. I made myself pasta last night for dinner, it was ok and I am probably going to do that most days because it's quick, fun and great.

Alright, that's it for now. I miss home a lot, you know? But I think, if I was at home, what would I do? I would be bored until the internship starts, so believe me, I am going to try to enjoy my time here as much as possible. However, I will never try to hide or deny my feelings and I will always follow my heart.