Monthly Archives: January 2010

I miss my travel buddy

I always have it with me. When I have it, no matter where I am, in a tent, a dorm room, in a new room at home or in a random hotel, I sleep as if I was sleeping here:

Without it, I feel like I’m sleeping here:

Which admittedly is really beautiful but completely uncomfortable. What is this magical traveling buddy?

Simply, this:

My real one doesn’t have a bee on it, though now I really want one. My pillow has seriously traveled over 27,000 miles (along with me) over the last year and a half, but it just didn’t fit this time. And now I’m sleeping on a pillow not filled with wonderful feathers squished into just the right shape from years of my head resting gently on it each night, but a pillow quite literally filled with foam chunks. Foam chunks do not equal wonderful feathers. Now, I totally understand that they do things differently in Italy. Maybe they think it’s totally weird and gross that I willingly place my face next to a glorified pile of bird feathers every night, when in actuality I’m totally afraid of live birds (gli uccelli, for those who are interested in what I do day to day in Italy, and not my sleeping patterns), but this shouldn’t be an issue. I’m afraid of fish, too, but they are totally delicious to eat. Hmmm, me and animals apparently don’t get along. But I digress! Why couldn’t they at least have pillows that are filled with regular cotton or stuffing? Foam chunks? I only love one thing that is filled with foam chunks, and that is Snoopy (I figured that out when I tried to give him a bath once and it took him a week to dry, and then a seam split and all of the sudden there were foam chunks everywhere and his head was a little deflated).

I miss my pillow.

Also, I wonder how you say foam chunks in Italian?

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Public Enemy Number One

Sleep.

I cannot describe how good a relationship I have maintained with sleep over the years. During high school and college, it was not uncommon for me to choose an early night and 13 hours of sleep over going out with friends. I. Love. Sleep. It’s so relaxing and wonderful.

However, now it has become a complete nuisance! Not only did my roommate and I basically sleep through the entire weekend by mistake (my wake up time on Sunday was 5:15 in the PM!), I just slept through my super cool art history class, on the day that we go into the city and see museums! Even though the worst part is that now I missed a day of a private tour around the La Pietra museum, I also am a bit worried because NYU in Florence takes attendance VERY seriously. Our semester is only about 13 weeks, so it’s kind of an issue.

I spent about 5 minutes figuring out my alarm last night, too! I’m going to go ask the student center to loan me an alarm clock today (and a pillow, mine is lumpy), because apparently they do that here. I also sent an email to my teacher, begging for mercy.

We’ll see how that goes.

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La mia famiglia (Host Family) e la sua casa

For those of you not in the know, my roommate Lisa and I decided to stay in a homestay while in Italy. It is seriously the best decision I have made by far.

Students not in homestays live either on-campus in one of two villas, Villa Natalia and Villa…um…something, or in off-campus residences. The residences are apartments that house between eight and twenty students in each apartment. Their bedrooms alone can have six or seven people in them. While those apartments are all in Il Centro, and therefore very close to the nightlife and everything historic there is to see in the city, I am glad I don’t have to sleep with five other people breathing next to me every night. On-campus housing is pretty cool, the villas are beautiful, as you saw, and they have much more of a colleg-y feel than any of the other residences, but on campus you are surrounded by English speakers, and it’s very easy to go the whole semester without learning much serious Italian.

My homestay, on the other hand, is completely awesome. Lisa and I are living with the Saracinos (no pictures, I thought it would be creepy to be like, “Hey, can I take your picture and post it on the internet?”). Giuseppe and Annamaria are the mother and father, and they have two kids, Davide, 13, and Olga, 11. They also have a live in housekeeper, Valentina.¬†Giuseppe is very good about helping us with our Italian, and it’s clear that a large part of the reason they host students is to improve their English. I was talking to one of the housing coordinators today, and she said that Giuseppe gets upset if he is assigned a student who already knows Italian, because then how is the family supposed to improve their English?

At dinner we often trade words (Tonight we had tangerines for dessert, which they taught us are called mandarino or mandarini. Now that I think of it, we probably should have said they were mandarin oranges. But to us, mandarin oranges are canned. Huh. We also taught them the words “uphill” and “downhill,” which Giuseppe in particular thought were awesome, and clarified that in English we say we go “by train,” “by plane,” “by car,” “by bike,” but “on foot.” Then we clarified that English is indeed ridiculous.) Giuseppe will often say something, then have the kids work to translate it for us, then have us try to say it in Italian, then help us if we don’t know how. It is completely perfect, since the whole reason I did a homestay is so that I would actually learn the language.

They live on Via Luigi Lanzi in a three story house about a 15 minute walk from both La Pietra in one direction and Il Centro in the other. The floors are a beautiful marble design and each room is comfortable but not huge the way we build in California. The entrance is on the second floor, Lisa and I live on the first floor, halfway underground, and the family lives on the third floor.

Via Luigi Lanzi, the street where we live

The food is absolutely wonderful, though admittedly can be a little strange. Last night was my favorite meal so far, as we started with bruschetta (pronounced, for all you English folk, as brusketta. Giuseppe asked Lisa and me to please, never call it brushetta). For dinner we had an egg frittata and some sort of boiled vegetable. Then fruit for dessert!

For those of you interested, here’s how you prepare actual bruschetta. You don’t need that fancy jar from the store!

Ingredients:
1 slice of toast per person (just normal toast. It tasted like white bread but it might have been sourdough.)
Tomatoes, chopped , enough to pile in a sizable layer on the toast
1 garlic clove, roasted and sliced into about 4 little pieces
Olive oil

Take a slice of garlic and, using your fingers, rub onto the toast. You don’t have to do this very hard, they just kind of slide it over the bread so the oil rubs off. Next, spoon the chopped tomatoes onto the toast. Then,¬†pour a small amount of olive oil over the tomatoes, not enough that it soaks through the bread and is all over the plate (I learned the hard way), just enough to cover the tomatoes. Pick up and enjoy! The toast we had was cut in halves and thirds, so feel free to make the bread as small as is manageable for you.

Simple!

Also, a note for Spanish speakers, “casa” in Italian is pronounced “caza” not “cassa,” which is why the leaning tower of Pisa is pronounced the way it is.

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Filed under Culture Shock, Foodie Call, Italian 101

L’Italia!

I made it to Itlay on Tuesday, 2:30PM Italian time (5:30 AM California, 8:30 AM New York) after a short layover in Frankfurt, Germany. There were about 3 NYU staff at the Florence (Firenze) airport, holding big signs and waving us through from baggage to the bus that took us through the historic center of Italy (Il Centro) up to campus (the estate La Pietra). Italy actually reminds me a lot of Southern California. There are the smallish mountains covered in brush everywhere, with lots of trees and blue sky. Replace any dry brush with greenery and palm trees with the tall spiky cypress trees and you have Firenze. Oh, and replace any buildings with hundreds- and maybe thousands-of-years-old architecture. It took about a half hour from the teeny Firenze airport to the estate and it was mostly all uphill, as Firzenze is half situated on the side of a mountain and half at the bottom of one.

Campus is absolutely beautiful. I’m not sure of the specifics, but it was donated years ago to NYU by a rich, old guy who lived in Firenze. I’m not sure if he was American or Italian, but either way, he gave his 57-acre estate, with 5 villas and olive groves, to NYU for students to come and study. The olive trees are harvested by the 8 gardeners and students during the Fall semester and are made into olive oil, which my host family tells me is some of the best in Firenze. Impressive when the oil is mainly overseen by Americans. Now that I think of it, I’m not sure if the oil is actually made on campus or if they send it somewhere. How is olive oil even made? Any thoughts?

Anyways, since NYU is technically a non-profit organization (or at least, NYU in Florence is non-profit) they can’t sell the oil. They serve it in the cafeteria and somehow my host family has gotten their hands on some. I’m assuming NYU must give it to the host families as a gift.

The rest of this week is all orientation and classes start on Monday. For now we’re just trying to find our way around the city and learn how to say “Grazie” without accidentally saying “Gracias” (which kept happening at dinner for some reason).

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Filed under Culture Shock, Firenze, La Pietra