by Courtney Moore
I still struggle with jet lag. 1:52 a.m. and I’m wrapped up in blankets on the couch again. There’s one good thing about this, though—I finally unwind and reflect on what has happened the past four days. Silence fills the apartment except for the low hum of our mini fridge and only a single light bulb flickers in the stairwell. Time for another blog post.
I stay awake for 30 hours with just three total restless hours of sleep on the plane. Florence is seven hours ahead of Kansas, so what is supposed to be Wednesday night blurs into Thursday morning in Italy. I feel insane.
My roommates, Heather and Caroline, and I arrive at our three-level apartment and immediately begin unpacking. The loft hosts one bed and the small basement has the other two. I instantly desire the loft bed, but quickly change my mind when I excitedly gallop up the stairs and feel my head hit the low ceiling. Apparently this is common in Europe. So, Heather, being the shortest, takes the loft.
I realize I only have one photo so far of the apartment. Tomorrow I will take a few more so my dear readers can get a good look at this interesting European setup. For now, here’s the main floor.
We meet our class for dinner at a quaint restaurant in Florence’s center. The waiter serves us all a fine portion of ravioli. After that, he takes our plates and brings out pizza. We all chuckle at having a second dinner of sorts and take a slice. Then he serves us each plates of grilled chicken. We all look at each other, and not wanting to be rude, continue eating even though we were more than full. To conclude the meal, a slice of divine cheesecake. This is dinner in Italy.
I learn to say “grazie” for thanks, “prego” for you’re welcome, “ciao” for hello and goodbye, ”scuzi” for excuse me, and “dove” to ask where something is. These phrases get me by for now. Most Florentines speak at least a little English, but look quite pleased when a foreigner tries to speak their language.
I sleep 14 hours that night. The next morning I hurriedly get ready because Daniela, our housing manger from the organization, plans to come show us how to use our old-fashioned appliances. She’s a very tough, forward Italian woman. I’m a little afraid of her. She bustles in 15 minutes late and asks me accusingly why I’m not dressed yet, because we are having a walking tour of Florence shortly after. I mean, buon giorno.
I enjoy the tour but still feel completely disoriented. We receive maps, so I’ll work on it. Next, we walk to our school for orientation covering how to be safe in the city. One thing I am glad to finally learn is that smiling equals flirting to Italian men. And, if you know me at all, you know I smile at people all the time. This explained some of the awkward approaches I’d already had. I’ve been practicing walking the streets with a poker face and it’s really hard.
Saturday offers us a break. Caroline, Heather and I breathe a collective sigh of relief and relaxation. We discover a 99-cent store and a supermarket called Coop on our search for groceries and toiletries. All the way home, we lug heavy bags filled with pasta, cheese, meat, milk, toilet paper and soap.
That afternoon we explore Florence. (In Italian, it’s Firenze.) We walk all along the city’s narrow, cobbled streets and stroll down the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge across the Arno with shops inside its walls. Looking for adventure, we spot a mysterious arch with a street heading up a hill. We climb up in hopes of capturing an amazing view of Florence. Unfortunately, it starts raining and the wall at the top of the hill stands too tall to see over. The rain comes down harder and harder until we finally squelch our boots through our apartment doorway. We stay inside that night doing our readings for Monday’s class.
Spaghetti and red sauce is the first meal we attempt to cook together. Somehow we create the worst tasting spaghetti I’ve ever had. Perhaps we boiled the pasta too long, or the sauce is too cheap. I’m not sure how we’ll get along for the next several weeks.
Sunday morning we practice and time our walk to school. We eat lunch at Gusta Pizza–the chef tosses pizza dough just like in the movies. Later, the roommates and I venture out again to a different supermarket and purchase more apartment necessities. After finishing up extensive readings for our Western Civilization and European Studies classes, we dutifully Skype our parents and feast on grilled cheese-ham-egg-lettuce sandwiches, because these are the only ingredients we can scrounge together in our kitchenette.
I’ll try to sleep a few hours before I have to get up for class at 7 a.m.