There are many little things to get used to here. We have about 27 light switches in the bathroom and no trash can so I have to apply my camping “pack it in pack it out” mentality for contacts. Dinners are late. Owen and I have figured out that in order to make it to dinner we can’t each lunch before 2, so we’ve been pushing each other to eat later (sort of like workout buddies, but more hungry).
The first day I buckled and had a Lindt chocolate, which at least gave me the illusion of being full. Owen cracked a few minutes later and got a panini. But we’ve been getting better. Yesterday I bought oranges and ate one before dinner and we have a ridiculous amount of saltines between the two of us – though I have the sneaking suspicion neither one of us is going to eat them. The bag advertises 750 for each of us, which is a total of about as many saltines as there are Whitman students.
I think Donatella thinks we’re losers. She keeps trying to get us to go out. We don’t finish our dinner ordeal until around 10 (there are multiple courses and we talk about the news and watch television shows together until Donatella gets up) and we’ve been walking between 12 and 16 miles a day around the city, but we’ve been going out anyway and walking around from 10 to midnight or 1 in the morning before coming back and falling asleep.
We keep getting “duomod”, this is the expression I’ve made up for when we think we’re lost and then the duomo ends up being one street over, or behind us, or – sometimes at night – right in front of us. It’s a rather comical phenomenon because the Duomo is ridiculously large and we’re always a little relieved to find out we’ve been exactly where we were supposed to all along.
For orientation, we were told that we should be extra vigilant because it’s easy to miss cultural or language cues and not know when/if you’re in a bad situation. That happened last night a little. Owen and I were walking (we took an unintentionally scenic route to the Duomo last night) and were followed for several turns by three Italians. One was a woman, so we didn’t panic too much, but we definitely panicked a little. They were talking in Italian and were probably talking about something totally normal but because we couldn’t tell, we were both a little anxious.
On our way home from one of our walks, however, Owen and I stumbled across one of our favorite moments since getting to Italy. There was a group of Italians in one of the piazzas (there are about 60 piazzas in Florence, Owen and I are still trying to remember their names) trying to light a paper lamp – the kind they have in Tangled, that fly into the sky like hot air balloons – and we stopped and watched them try to light it. The best part of it was that the Italians could clearly tell we were American and they were inclusive in their fun. They smiled at us and said things in Italian that we smiled and laughed to (without understanding anything but their expressions, of course). The got the lamp into the air and everybody sang something in Italian, to the tune of Happy Birthday, and then we went on our way.
I asked Donatella for a good running route and she gave me a few quick instructions to what sounded like a park but turned out to be a mountain. For the first 10 minutes I was like “whew” this is a big hill and then I slowly started to realize that each turn only revealed steeper angles. I ran to a beautiful little village on the top of the mountain where people openly ogled me for my shorts and t-shirt. In their defense it was freezing up there! But it was also my favorite place that I’ve been since coming to Italy. There were warnings on the streets for cars about the steepness of the grade and I couldn’t run the whole way so I alternated with sprints and walking until I felt like my heart wouldn’t explode. It took me about 45 minutes going up and only 20 to come back down.
Then I took a quick shower and Owen and I went walking. We wandered through a dozen piazzas whose names I forget before getting paninis at a little place on the other side of the river. I ordered one because I recognized the words for arugula and Parmesan. There was a word I didn’t know at all, which turned out to be thinly sliced meat that tasted a little like a combination between ham and salami. At dinner that night Donatella asked what we’d eaten and when I said the word she informed me that it was horse…
More than I’ve ever had before, I want to be part of the culture around me. When my suitcase finally arrived (about 5 days later) I opened my bag and was disappointed to find that all of my clothes were American. I love their style here and the way they eat meals so spaced out throughout the day.
I have given up on decaf coffee (mostly, I still have some left over from backpacking that I drink when I want to really drink coffee instead of sip on the little espressos here) and now join Donatella and Owen in drinking an espresso every night after dinner, which for us is at 9 or 10 at night.