The final part of our SU orientation was a question and answer session about adapting to Italian culture. The technology was actually pretty fun. Everybody went to a website on their phones and we “competed” over who got the most answers right. To begin with, the website gave randomly assigned everybody names. My assigned name was Classy Dog.
“That’s not right,” I said, turning to Owen.
“You might be a classy dog,” he returned, with a face like he was seriously thinking about it. “Just not a classy human.”
Seeing as I made us both late (later, we were already late) to Italian class because I stopped and picked three more shirts out of a dumpster, I didn’t feel like I was in much of a position to disagree with him – and, honestly I hadn’t been planning on it.
One of the questions that popped up on this quiz was ‘How do I know when to cross the street?’
There were four responses, most of which I’ve forgotten verbatim, but the general gist was “when the light is green,” “when other people our crossing,” “you should always cross with caution” and “Please don’t ever try to cross the street Italians find it really annoying to find Americans smeared across their windshield.”
The correct answer was the last one. (Okay, it wasn’t quite that intense, but the woman in charge of the quiz did say that a green light didn’t necessarily mean cars would stop for us). Standing at the side of the crosswalk gathering the courage to cross is a lot like trying to prepare yourself to grab onto the bottom of a ski lift as it comes whizzing by. I’ve found the time it takes for me to brace myself to walk in front of a moving vehicle is about how long it takes for two cars to pass in front of me. Of course that’s an average. It depends a lot on the type of music I’m listening to. For my own safety, I’m going to have to restrict the amount of time that I listen to rap.
One thing that I think Americans often have to adjust to are the strikes. On the way to the train station for our trip to Rome, Owen and I ran into someone that he’d gone to high school with (this actually happens quite a lot and is always disconcerting. I’ve run into people that I know from other schools and one guy that I went to high school with and haven’t spoken to in at least 5 years – yes, I know I was in high school less than 5 years ago – and it always takes a mental shake-off after running into one of them because it’s so unexpected).
We asked the boy how he was getting to Rome, exchanging a surprised look when he said “by bus.” All of the bus drivers in Florence were on strike. When we warned the boy that he might have a problem at the station he shrugged it off. “I’ve already bought my ticket, so I think it’ll be fine.” I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how strikes work.
Owen and I have friends! I’m very very happy about this. Not only have we started to mingle with the other students in our classes – the trip to Rome in addition to the fact that a lot of our classes have started meeting in places throughout Florence instead of in the classroom – but we’ve actively made the effort to become friends with two girls in our Italian class. Today we went to our favorite gelato (fun fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve misspelled “gelato” every other time that I’ve written it here) place with them and laughed the whole time. We have very similar senses of humor and I’m very happy to have them as new friends.
Today all of our classes were outside – awesome, because it was raining – but still really fun. Our Italian class went to the San Lorenza market where we went cheese tasting and tried different types of truffle oil (ew). Somehow we also managed to pick up a confused Asian woman who followed our class around for about ten minutes before turning to me and asking “Is this a food tour?”
The two big takeaways from our class was that you should be careful where you’re tasting things from because often the vendors have you try things and then slap you with a huge bill at the end. Also, D.O.P on cheese means that it’s from the Parma province. Similarly, D.O.C.G on wine is supposed to be a guarantee that it’s high quality. I’m not sure who in the class looked like they could even tell the difference between good and bad quality wine, let alone afford it, but there it is.
I know I’ve mentioned the graffiti tunnel that Owen and I walk through every day to get to and from school. Today as we were walking through one of the homeless men locked eyes with Owen and said, (in Italian) “hello pretty,” and then turned to me and said, “hello.” Owen paled, blinked several times, and turned to look back at the man. I laughed, but I think the interaction had us both seriously reconsidering that day’s choice of outfit.