Archive for November, 2008

November 16, 2008

November 16th, 2008 by ceocon10

It’s hard to believe that so much time has gone by since I’ve last written. Now that Florence is becoming more and more my own, the difference between September and now for me is uncanny. Every Sunday, when my parents and I have our official phone call to say our true hellos–not a rushed phone call during the week to save our pennies or an e-mail update during the day — I always feel like I should be telling them how much I miss America and how much I can’t wait to come home until Christmas. And although living in Italy has shown me an entirely different culture and made me appreciate so many of the things of America, I can’t ignore the fact that the reason why I came to Italy was to be immersed in a different culture. If I wanted to find America in Italy, I wouldn't be here. However, at the same time, it’s going to be wonderful to go home and see my family for the holidays. In my opinion, I definitely could have stayed in Italy and traveled for the holidays with my friends who are staying here, or with my family, for that matter.

After being in Italy since August, I feel like I can look back on the way that I’ve grown with the language since I’ve been here. This past weekend, I went back to Foligno in Umbria, where my family lives. I was so excited because not only was I going to see my cousin Marta and her parents, Caterina and Vasco, but Marta’s sister, Lisa, and her husband, Stefano, were also planning on journeying down from Rovereto in the North of Italy to spend the weekend with us. We hadn’t all been together since I went to visit the second weekend of September for Foligno’s annual festival that celebrates the different neighborhoods or “rioni.” However, plans changed at the last minute and Lisa and Stefano were not able to come anymore because Lisa had a sudden appointment on Saturday to student teach as part of her teaching courses. I still decided to go, and it probably was the best thing for me to keep up my spirits and my perseverance with Italian. Every now and then, I have to admit that the frustration and fear of not improving my Italian comes over me. But then, there’s always moments or things like this past weekend that keep pushing me along. As soon as I got to their house, I felt so wonderful to be with my family that I just relaxed when I spoke, and by the end of our first “cena” on Friday night, not only were the words flowing from my mouth, but I even was using the Italian gestures. I didn’t even realize it until Vasco commented on how Italian I looked. I can’t even begin to express how pumped I was…and still am, obviously! Later, Marta and I were talking about things to do in Florence because she studied architecture there for three years, and we got on the subject of movies. She suggested we go to a late movie in Italian, and even though I had my doubts, I thought, what the heck? The worst that could happen is that I would only be able to appreciate the picture. We went to see Changeling, the new movie about post-World War II with Angelina Jolie and her lost child. When I got into the movie, at first I could feel myself concentrating, but as the movie went on, I forgot that I was even listening to it in a different language. Walking out of that movie felt more of an accomplishment for me than all the Italian language class I have in a day. Now, trust me, it wasn’t always like this. I’ve had some pretty funny and odd moments in my learning of the language. To this day, I still confuse words and accidentally say another word when I mean something completely different…but for me, it’s all part of the experience. One of my first “moments” was the first time I spoke with Irene on the telephone. In front of all of my cousins, I was trying to explain to her that I loved eating everything that I had just eaten for lunch. But instead saying everything (“tutto”), I said, everyone (“tutti”). I don’t think she knew how to respond to hear that I loved eating people. Another one of my favorites is how I was explaining to my conversation teacher during September how people on the bus always laugh at me like I’m such a foreigner when I try to get off the bus. And my teacher asked me what I was saying to politely make my way to the door. I informed her that I was saying “promesso” (I promise) instead of “permesso” (Excuse me), thinking that obviously they were chuckling to themselves about my American-ness. No wonder people laughed at me. I might as well have had my hand up in the air in traditional girl scout style to complete my mistake! Knowing that I can go from these embarrassing moments to listening to a movie completely in Italian helps me to really see my improvement here. This week will probably be the most relaxing week I've had in a while here in Florence since for the most part, there is nothing too major going on except for my studies and the visit of a couple of the Strasburg girls in France, although there's nothing like being able to show the city off to people!

Tonight, we have one of our cultural events with Laura, our young, hip cultural director for a dinner and a night “spettacolo” or show in the downtown area. As always, I'm excited because whenever we go to these events, they are always phenomenal. We just found out a couple of weeks ago that our university director here, Elisa Camporeale, arranged for our visit to one of the most exclusive museum exhibits in all of Florence, the Vasari Corridor. Every year, there's an official announcement to the Florence community about when this corridor will actually open. During the time of the Medici, it was a passageway for the family that ran from the famous Palazzo Pitti all the way to the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Signoria, one of my favorite piazzas in all of Florence. Needless to say, I'm completely ecstatic! I'll be in touch soon…a presto Holy Cross!

November 12, 2008

November 12th, 2008 by ceocon10

Hey all.

How is it already the middle of November?! I feel like I just landed in Rome yesterday.  Nothing much new to report…A few weekends ago we ventured up to Verona for a day and had a great time.  There's a Roman amphitheater there that is amazing — it's a little smaller than the coliseum in Rome but is much better preserved; you feel like a Roman just being there.  We also saw the House of Juliet  (made famous by Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet).  Although there wasn't really much to see (just a balcony overlooking a courtyard with a bronze statue of Juliet in it), the gateway through which you walk was filled with thousands love letters and wedding photos that people had pinned up on the walls as they passed by.   Classes are going about the same.  Our language skills are definitely improving (slowly but surely), but it's still just as hard to understand what's going on in the lesson. 

That's all for now – I've got to finish packing for my trip to Spain! More to come when I get back…

November 5, 2008

November 5th, 2008 by ceocon10

It’s Election Day in Florence, and believe it or not, I feel like I might as well be back in the States! For weeks now it seems now that the same thing is on everyone’s mind: Who exactly will win the election, and more importantly for the Italians, who do we want to win as Americans abroad in Italy. Over the past couple of weeks, not a conversation goes by with Italians where I don’t hear the inevitable question: “Obama or McCain?” I never realized how much this election means to the rest of the world until I came to Italy. Even back in August when I first arrived, the updates on the news were always covering the election; and, as I soon discovered, Obama is without a doubt, the desired candidate. As the Italian economy has been suffering, as well as the rest of the economies of the world, it is not just the U.S. that Italians are thinking about. Time and time again, I hear the Italians discussing that they need a president to make a change and to get us out of the war, and in their minds, Obama has the power. Because if America goes down, so does the rest of the world. In the words of the Italians, “che grandissimo!” (similar to, “What a big decision!) Being amidst the Italians and seeing how much they are counting on this election and for Obama to win to save their own economy gave me such an appreciation for our country and its impact on the rest of the world.

This year, there’s been a push to encourage American students studying in Florence to remain active supporters of the American government while studying abroad, particularly with the Democratic Party. At our language school, a woman from the Democrats Abroad organization, Jo-Ann White, put all of her efforts into welcoming the foreign students studying in Florence commencing with a welcoming night at the historical Palazzo Vecchio. She arrived at Dante Alighieri a month ago to help us fill out our requests for our ballots, taking care of all the paperwork to ensure that we would receive our ballots and have the opportunity to vote. The Florence Chapter of Democrats Abroad did not exist in the 2004 election, and so, needless to say, it spread like wildfire to all of the American institutions in town, including St. James Church, universities, social groups and the Consulate. Leading up to the election, the Tuscan-American association (TAA), Florence’s rising organization that works to increase the bond between the Tuscan and American governments, has held numerous events ranging from Obama Pizza Parties at local trattorias to the grand Election Night held last night at Saschall Theatre, the city’s popular venue for concerts and celebrations. Because the group was seeking out support from the local American institutions throughout town, last night, I joined the staff of enthusiastic young Italians with my red Election Day “staff” t-shirt, and I helped to sell raffle tickets for their own lotteria provided by some of the American institutions in Florence, including my own directors, Gabriella and Alberto Materassi of the Dante Alighieri school. The event lasted until 4 a.m. to wait and see the final results of the election. But it was not simply a night of waiting — sponsored by various organizations throughout Florence for foreign students, there was live music, big-screen coverage of the election, an opportunity to electronically “vote” upon entering for a little competition fun, speeches from the Tuscan-American association, including the U.S. Consul General of Florence and Honorary President of the TAA, Mary Ellen Countrymen, and free food and drink, including a special Tuscan dessert of bombolone and café during the later hours of the night. Once midnight arrived, they announced the grand prize for the lotteria which I had been selling for a trip for two to New York City and some other great prizes to “live and spend like a Medici.”

Overall, the excitement was incredible, and I could not believe how excited the Italians were for this American election. Decked out with their Obama pins and American flags, it was a night to remember for me as well as for the rest of the American students that ventured out that night. For me, it was an opportunity to appreciate the ties between my life in the States and my life as a student abroad. As a staff member, I was interviewed by one of the local student Italian papers, Corriere Fiorentina, to give my thoughts on the election as a student in Florence during such a crucial election in U.S. history. Even more exciting for me was my opportunity to meet the U.S. Consul and to hear her own personal words of gratitude for continuing the support of their new organization, the TAA. With the big turnout they had last night, I think Florence is on its way to starting a great Italian-American connection, and I hope to remain a part of that experience for the rest of this year abroad.