lunedì 22 dicembre 2008

Sono tornata!

Ciao a tutti!

It was a long way home and I was awake for more hours in succession than I care to discuss, but at last I am home with the family - and yes, I miss Italia already.

Thankfully the jet lag has been minimal so far (she says on day one), and I am hoping to have normalized my sleeping routine by Christmas so I'm not a zombie when all the family gathers together!

Thank you again for your prayers, both during the travel of the past two days and my time away these past five months. I can't wait to catch up in person and dish out hugs like it's my job!

Molto amore e tanti baci,


mercoledì 17 dicembre 2008


I'm sad to say this is probably my last post from Italy, for I'm not sure how long. I am such a mess of emotions right now - hating to leave this place that has become home to me and unhappy about the goodbyes that will fill these last days, but also anxious to come home home and see those I've been missing all these months. Be prepared for me to be an emotional wreck for a while ... they say it takes however many months you were away to recover, so maybe I'll be normal again by graduation, when the next emotional crisis hits! Ah!

So this is what the last days have looked like: On Saturday the 13th we had our day of exhibition - basically a day to display all of our work for schoolmates, host families, and friends of the school. It was a great afternoon - lots of food, naturally - and it was wonderful to see, hear, and read all the fruits of our labours!

Then on Sunday, the studying continued. Our exam days were Monday and Tuesday - I was so nervous! I had tests in Italian (two parts: written and oral), History of Siena, and LIS (Italian sign language), final papers for creative writing and my deaf culture class, and general to dos to accomplish in addition. Before my history exam (which was an oral examination where my professor could ask me questions about anything we had covered that semester - oh, and this was all in Italian too), I really almost got sick. The funny thing was, this nervousness, and all of the other nervous moments during those days, was not caused by fear of failure, but because I was so worried I would disappoint my professors by not knowing something! It's a funny thing, loving your professors (something I have had a LOT of experience in, both here and in my years at Meredith). The more you admire them, the more you want to work for them, and the more you care about not letting them down. I love all of mine, so you can imagine how much nervousness was floating around in my system!

Then yesterday afternoon I turned in my deaf studies paper and I was finished! Jamila and I got ready at our friend Tate's apartment (she lives in the city) and then the whole school (with the exception of a few teachers who couldn't make it) went out to dinner together at an amazing restaurant ... where, no exaggeration, I ate more than any of the men. Those who had not experienced my eating capacity before were a bit amazed :) I think my stomach realizes that I'm leaving Italy soon, and so it's doing its best to make room for as much wonderful Italian food as it can!

After dinner a few goodbyes commenced, which was awful. I hate goodbyes. Thankfully I will see most people again today and tomorrow before I leave Siena, but I had to say arrivederci to some of my teachers and that was hard. And then later that night I had to say goodbye to Jamila, which was also sad, but a little less, because we are already planning reunions in NC and New Mexico!

Today is my errands/last minute shopping/packing day. Fun, fun. It's also my last full day in Siena and tonight is my last dinner with Fulvia. Gosh, even typing that makes my chest get all tight.

Tomorrow I leave the house with Fulvia around 11 and she's dropping me and all my luggage off at school. I'll have about an hour there before my bus for Arezzo leaves, to say goodbyes and enjoy the company of comrades one last time.

And then I'm en route to Sansepolcro! I'll spend Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday with Sara, Patrizio and the kids before heading to Pisa Saturday afternoonish. Don't even want to think about those goodbyes.

I'll spend the evening in Pisa, hopefully see the toppling tower (remind me to show you the sign for "Pisa" when I get home - and all the cities for that matter. the one for Pisa is great, love it!). That night I will stay in a hotel all by my lonesome (bah, I'm thinking it's going to be a weepy last night in Italy). I'm going to try to just stay awake, because I have to leave for the airport around 4 am, and it's just not worth it. I'll watch movies, Italian TV for the last time, re-pack my overflowing suitcase ...

And then at 6:30 am my flight leaves for Munich! From there it's Munich to Dulles, and then Dulles to RDU, ahhhh! Can't believe it! I arrive at 6:30 pm (isn't that funny, it's "exactly twelve hours later" - but then no, not at all), where I will fly into the arms of those I love, dropping all my bags for the pickpockets of RDU to pillage as they please. Can't wait.

And so, that is it. And this is it. I'll do a follow up post once I return, but until then, arrivederci.

And thank you for listening, again.

with love and baci,


martedì 9 dicembre 2008

Io vivo! (I live!)

Ciao tutti - what is there to say? I have been more than terribly negligent and I apologize. Life in Siena post-vacation has been anything but a vacation: still wonderful, but fuller than before. Lately I have been putting a lot more time into a few major projects for various classes, and on top of that I've had a couple presentations, tests, etc. to keep me on my toes. But I've made time for this, so how about an update? I will try to cover as much as possible ...

First of all, vacation. Jamila and I couldn't have been happier with our decision to stay in Italia. Not only were the sights breathtaking and food amazing (I mean, this was southern Italy!), but we met some of the nicest people and got to practice our Italian constantly, which was exactly what we wanted.

The trip began the afternoon of Halloween when we hopped on a bus bound for Napoli. We got there just after 11 (five hours, not bad) and then grabbed a taxi to get to our hostel. Our night in Napoli was anything but idyllic: the hostel was situated above a noisy bar so the music was pounding in our heads until about 4 am, and the mosquitoes were terrible. We had to sleep with the sheets over our heads and despite this precaution I woke up with 10 bites on one side of my face (no exaggeration here - there actually were ten, and in a nice semi-circle too) and dead mosquitoes in the bed with me. Those who know me well can guess how I reacted to this discovery upon waking up!

But despite the bad night and our general sense of anxiety regarding Napoli (did I mention it is the home of the mafia?), Jamila and I ended up loving it. We woke up to a beautiful day with sunshine and ocean breezes wafting from the bay, so looking back it was a great choice for us (minus the hostel). We were a bit preoccupied with our backpacks ("Hello, I'm an American tourist. Please rob me!"), but a few days later we paid Napoli a second visit in the form of a day trip (read: backpackless) and had a much more relaxing time.

Anyway, later that afternoon we took off for Piano di Sorrento, which would be our home for the next week. We had found a bed & breakfast off and it ended up being the second best decision we had made thus far this semester (the first being to stay in Italy and travel south in the first place). Piano is a tiny little town just off of the main town of Sorrento that became home in no time. Five minutes from the B&B was the Circumvesuvia, a small train that snakes down the coastline between Sorrento and Napoli which made traveling from town to town a breeze - it was remarkably economical too!

Over the next few days we put the Circumvesuvia to use as the hardcore sightseeing began. We saw Pompei on Sunday, Sorrento, Positano and Amalfi on Monday, took a day off to rest and explore Piano on Tuesday (this was the beginning of my three-week cough), returned to Napoli on Wednesday, returned to see more of Sorrento on Thursday, and then spent Friday on the island of Capri. For a taste of all these beautiful places visit my picasa site - I put up hundreds of pictures!

On Saturday we rode the Circumvesuvia for the last time, regretfully saying goodbye to Piano for the train that waited in Napoli. Jamila slept on the train while I hacked up my lungs (I'm still not sure how she slept with me coughing like that). There was a sweet old man in same box as us and he gave me candies to help with the coughing. He asked me if I was a smoker and was relived to hear I had never so much as touched one - although he confessed that he did smoke and that it was a terrible thing to do.

After arriving in Chiusi we transferred to our Siena-bound train and made for home. We tried to use the rest of the weekend to gear up for the hard first week back (because aren't they always hard?), but it was still exhausting to "perform" again after such a relaxing week of doing both nothing and everything.

The weekend post-vacanza my creative writing class spent the day exploring the little towns and gorgeous views found just outside Siena. We were guided by our teacher, Jeff Shapiro, and his wife, Valeria, and their insider insights made the trip all the more rich. Pictures from the day are also up on Picasa now, but they aren't mine! I was stupid and forgot my camera that day (all I could think about were all the days I had remembered it but hadn't used it ...) so my awesomely nice friends shared theirs - grazie Tate and Sol!

The week after that (November 17-21) was business as usual with classes, papers, and good food at home. On Monday of that week my American housemates left for the last leg of their Italian adventure so Fulvia and I had to say goodbye (there are pictures of these lovely ladies up on picasa now as well). Thankfully I had plenty to keep me busy while I adjusted to the new empty/quietness of the house. It's different - not better, not worse - without them. Fulvia and I talk a lot more - in Italian of course - and I can tell I've improved some since then. We have also enjoyed having movie nights together and just talking about our days over and after dinner. I can tell she loves the company and I have loved getting to know her better - she's told me some great stories and we never fail to make one another laugh!

On Saturday the 22nd Siena School hosted a conference focusing on space and communication. It was held at what was formerly the Tommaso Pendola School for the Deaf, and the group attending was roughly half hearing and half Deaf. The topics were vastly interesting, covering communication on the verbal, non-verbal, and written levels and also spanning art, poetry, literature, history, and culture along the way. There were presenters from as far as Japan, England, and America and also from as near as the Siena School staff (several of our teachers presented). I learned so much and was thrilled to get more exposure to sign, both Italian, American, and British (LIS, ASL, and BSL). I even met a Deaf couple from Arezzo and learned the sign for Sansepolcro!

The week following included a presentation in my History of Siena class and a test in Italian, so I was kept busy until leaving for Sansepolcro Thursday afternoon, which happened to be Thanksgiving (long weekend, hurray!). Yet what had promised to be a fantastic weekend only proved partially so because I got really sick early Saturday morning (lots of throwing up - not pretty). So poor Sara and Patrizio had a sickie on their hands for a good 24 hours. Thankfully it was one of those fast but furious things. Still not sure what caused it, but I was glad when the end came. The rest of the weekend was fine, and I loved spending time with my Sansepolcro family after being away for so long (it had been over a month!). The next time I see them will be the last (for now at least), so I did my best to drink in each moment with them. For now I'm not thinking about the goodbye part - I can't believe it's just around the corner.

Then came December. Bam! Didn't see it coming. Where did November go? The first week of dicembre brought another presentation, this time in my Deaf studies class. I did a study of Martha's Vineyard and the hereditary deafness that made it a bilingual community for several hundred years. Then before I knew it another week was behind me and our long weekend was here! Monday the 8th is a national holiday, so that gave us one more good weekend for travel.

So where did I go you ask? Padova (Padua in English), with my friend Hillary! She has been in Salzburg, Austria this semester studying German, so Padova (which is located in the north about thirty minutes outside Venice) offered us a good semi-halfway point. It was absolutely wonderful to see her again, and we had the added benefit of an inside connection. My Deaf studies instructor, Rita Sala, lives in Padova, so we got the inside scoop on where to eat, what to do, and how to get there. It was just perfect! Hillary got there a bit later than I did on Friday, so I had the pleasure of meeting up with Rita and one of her friends, Giulia, for lunch. I had some amazing pasta with tomato and tuna and we ended the meal with caffe, naturalmente.

After that Rita showed me to my hotel and said she'd catch up with us later. After freshening up and changing out of my soaked clothing (did I mention it was raining gatti and cani?), I returned to the train station to intercept Hillary and Cally, a friend from Siena School that was staying in Venice that weekend. It was Cally's birthday, so I insisted that she join us for the evening - spending your birthday alone, even if it's in Venice, is just wrong!

The three of us had dinner in a delightful restaurant (which we practically had to ourselves) and were joined by Rita for coffee and dessert. I don't think I can say enough just what an enjoyable person Rita is. She's one of those people that you would love to be like, a modern-day superwoman in my opinion. After eating we all parted ways (except Hillary and me of course), and we went back to the hotel and crashed. The rest of our weekend was spent pursuing leisurely activities: walking, eating, shopping. It was beautiful! For a taste of Padova, as always, see Picasa :) I didn't take too many pictures because we were so busy enjoying doing nothing, but if I get more pictures from Hillary I will add those later.

Whew! And now, I must end this update. I will try to post once more before I leave in TWELVE DAYS. Unbelievable ...

Ciao for now! Molto amore e tantissimi baci!


martedì 28 ottobre 2008

Andiamo in vacanza!

Ciao a tutto - hope you all are well and enjoying the beautiful season of autumn.

So far, autumn in Siena has been very similar to the many I've spent in Raleigh: colorful, cool, and chaotic! I had my first real exam in Italian today (as in, the first one that actually counts towards my final grade), and teachers in other classes have begun to talk of final projects. But right now (now that my big Italian exam is behind me!) all I can think about is the wonderful vacation I have ahead of me. Here's what I'll be up to from Oct. 31-Nov. 9:

Oct. 31 ~ Jamila and I leave for Napoli (Naples) in the afternoon and arrive later that evening. We are staying in a central hostel (in the safer part of town), and have been cued in to the various street smarts we need to use while we're there.

Nov. 1 ~ We'll be spending most of the morning and afternoon exploring Napoli, then heading to Sorrento later that day.

Nov. 2-6 ~ These days we'll be based in Sorrento in a lovely little family-owned bed and breakfast we found outside the city (google: Piano di Sorrento and you'll see the exact area - it's GORGEOUS!). During the day we are planning to make day trips to Pompei, the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Salerno, and other local beauties. Our goal is to see as much as we can while still maintaining a laid back approach to this vacation. I know that staying in one place will really be nice too, because then there's that element of feeling like you're returning to a temporary "home away from home." There's a chance we might make our way back up to Perugia on Thursday (a city in Umbria about an hour from Sansepolcro) since neither of us has seen it yet, but for now we're leaving that day/night open in case we want an extra down down south :)

Nov. 7-9 ~ Friday morning we will head via train to Arezzo and then grab a bus to Sansepolcro! Jamila hasn't been there yet, so it will be fun to show her around my favorite little nook in Tuscany and introduce her to Sara, Patrizio and i bambini. We are planning to just take it easy those last few days and enjoy visiting with the Falaschi family. Then on Sunday afternoon we'll head back to Siena and gear up for the second half of the semester that awaits!

In other news - there are many new pictures up on Picasa! Check them out!

That's all I have time for now I'm afraid. I'll update once I get back from vacation. Tanti baci!


martedì 14 ottobre 2008

Firenze due volte e, naturalmente, piu' Siena

Ciao! By now you have probably surmised that I will only be able to post every two weeks instead of every week. It's just not feasible to do more with school during the week and traveling on weekends, but I will try to make up for it by posting lots of pictures on my picasa site piu' frequentamente (more frequently).

But now, to updates! The first week of ottobre was busy with classes and free time (it's surprisingly time consuming this thing called free time, because there is so much to do!). All of my classes are going very well, though Italian history is still incredibly challenging. Monday evenings I am still visiting the Casini family and I have fallen in love with those little boys (Alessio e Niccolo). The mom, Elisa, is Italian but half-American and fluent in English. It's an interesting story: her mother came to study in Siena during her junior year in college, but while she was here, fell in love and ended up marrying an Italian and moving here! She and her husband had molti figli (many kids), of which Elisa is the oldest. So she was raised bilingual and sounds like an American, but it has been difficult to raise her boys bilingual. She says it is really hard for the third generation to continue the language. Elisa's husband is Italian and speaks English fairly well, but what sets Elisa apart is her ability to pronounce certain sounds that Italians generally struggle with, such as the "th" sound. Anyway, I've really enjoyed getting to know them better and it has been fun to teach the boys English. They are jsut adorable - I will try to take pictures next week!

Okay, now for my travel updates: The first weekend of this month I had the pleasure of visiting Firenze with familiar faces. My home college is establishing a semester program in Sansepolcro and so representatives of Meredith attended a conference discussing the ins and outs and practicalities of maintaining abroad programs in Italy. Among those attending: President Maureen Hartford, Dr. Allen Page (VP of Academic Affairs) and his wife, Dr. Betty Webb, head of study abroad and professor of English, and her husband, John Rose, who I had the pleasure of exploring with the two days we were there (while the others were in meetings, etc).

Friday afternoon, John Rose and I just decided to walk around a bit before cena. The weather was lovely though a bit overcast, but we were spared from rain and had a lovely walkabout. We walked into chiese (churches) whenever we could get in for free (which surprisingly, was not very often!) and enjoyed the various markets and festivals we discovered along the way. My favorite church was San Spirito (pictures of which will be available as soon as I can go in and rotate then upload my photos), one of the few free of charge ones available. It was vast and open, and since it was still 6 o'clock or so there was plenty of late rays streaming through the upper windows and filling the entryway with soft sunlight. My second favorite thing was an international festival taking place in la Piazza della Santa Croce. It was mainly comprised of Germans and Austrians, but there were booths of all sorts: sweet food, meaty food, salty food, fatty food, crafty things, silly things, useful things, pretty things - we loved it. Then we joined the others for a fantastic dinner provided by the conference, where we enjoyed a multi-course wonder - in a restaurant that had formerly served as a local prison! My favorite course was the torta cioccolato, but the sad part was, by that time I was too stuffed to finish it. Those who know me well much realize now just how magnificent and massive this meal had to have been for me to have been stayed from eating every last crumb of a chocolate cake!

The next day, John Rose and I were joined by Dr. Page's wife (whose name, I'm ashamed to say, is currently escaping me! I called her Mrs. Page, so I didn't have the repetition needed to seal it in my memory - I'll remember tonight). We discovered una farmacia antica (an antique pharmacy) that serves as both a museum and working farmacia, revisited the international market for lunch (which. for John Rose and me, consisted mainly of the most delicious macaroons I have every tasted), and visited the Museo Bargello as well. Then we met up with President Hartford and Dr. Page at the duomo (they had finished with their meetings for the day), after which John Rose, Dr. Page and I scaled Il Campanile (Torre di Giotto) - the bell tower next to the Duomo. John Rose and I had previously determined that we would climb the Duomo, but one look at the line told us otherwise. So instead we braved all 414 scale (stairs) of the torre (tower) and were rewarded with a breathtaking view of Firenze. Ironically, we also ran into an old friend of Dr. Page's, who was also a Raleigh native! Imagine meeting a Raleighite at the top of the torre! Incredibile!

Ironically, Italy is, at the very least, the third country I've had the pleasure of walking about in the company of Mr. Rose (the other two being Switzerland and England, when I was abroad last summer), and every time he has found a way to lead up off the beaten path of tourists and into the heart of the place. I was so glad we were in Firenze too, because it needed redeeming in my mind (I didn't particularly enjoy it last May), and in his as well. Thankfully, by the end of our stay, we agreed that it had been much nicer this time around - there had been fewer tourists and our treks through the city felt more homey than our previous visits. I attribute this to his knack for finding interesting places and interesting people! I am very thankful to have improved my opinion of Firenze (get this: it was improved enough for me to revisit it with my friend Carly this past Saturday - I wanted to see more!).

Sara and I had a blast on our mini girl's weekend senza bambini (without children)! We stayed in a four-star hotel (compliments of the college) and felt like we were living in the lap of luxury. A fly on our wall would have been rolling in laughter - we were both so excited by all the little but significant accomodations of the room! For example, everytime we opened the doors of our armadio (wardrobe), little lights would come on so we could see our clothes. We also enjoyed the fact that we could sleep in because there was no Lollo to feed, no Leo to need help in the bathroom, and no Gigia to call for rescue from her crib. Granted, we only slept until 7:30, 8 at the latest, but after 6 am wake up calls (sometimes earlier!) lying in bed until well after 8 was heavenly :) In all fairness to the little cherubs back home, we did miss them, and were thrilled to pieces when they came running at us upon our Saturday evening arrival.

I spent the rest of my weekend (through Monday morning) at home in Sansepolcro before heading back to Siena for another week of classes. Then, as I mentioned before, I returned to Firenze this past Saturday and saw more beautiful things, msot notably the Giardino di Boboli (the beautiful gardens behind the Palazzo Pitti owned by the Medici), and, finalmente, Michaelangelo's Davide. We also did a good deal of walking around and admiring - the city, the Arno, and a bit of the outskirts when we got turned around by accident - which was actually really nice. I have found that I really, really enjoy just taking in a city on my own time via walking, instead of jumping from must-see to must-see.

The next day I did exactly that in Siena too. Jamila and I met in the Piazzo del Campo, sat, chatted, and ate gelato for a while, and then went off exploring down a route we have never visited before. Along the way we came across some positively gorgeous countryside - be sure and check out my photos on picasa!

This coming weekend the entire school is spending the weekend in Maremma ( where we will be visiting an olive tree farm and making olive oil! I can't wait :) I will try to take as many pictures as I can, but seeing as making oil involves the hands, I'm not sure about doable this will be. We'll see!

That's all I have time for today. I really do wish I could tell all, but I just can't type quickly enough! I also apologize for the lack of pictures - blogger has been mean to me since coming to Siena and I've given up for now. Thankfully, I can still post via picasa, so check it out when you can:

A dopo a tutto!


lunedì 29 settembre 2008

Classes, colds, and counting my blessings

Please forgive me for not writing sooner. Our first week of regular classes went wonderfully, but was quite long because I was sick for most of it! I picked up some kind of head cold that developed into feeling like the flu for about 24 hours, then changed back into a raffredore and stuck around for three or four miserable days. Ah congestion, how I loathe thee! I cannot count the ways!

By Thursday and Friday I was feeling fine but still sounded really nasally, much to the amusement of others. Then after a Saturday of only having the sniffles (no headache, no sinus tension, no sore throat), I started coughing every now and then in church on Sunday and couldn’t sing a single note – not matter how hard I tried! Later that afternoon and evening la mia golla (my throat) started hurting again and it is still hurting today, so we will see what tomorrow brings. I am really hoping I haven’t picked up a different something from the girls I am living with (who came down with similar but different raffredori at the end of last week). It’s funny, because I am still so thankful for this cold weather (no more zanzare!), but I would be enjoying it so much more if I wasn’t blowing my nose all the time. Hopefully, once my winter clothes get here (any day now!) I will be better equipped to fight off the germs I encounter daily on my bus :)

With classes starting, things have settled into more of a routine now, for which I’m glad. Every weekday morning I wake up at or around 6:30, get ready, eat breakfast with Fulvia at 7 (she usually has to leave pretty early for school), and then spend the remainder of my morning at home studying the Word. I leave the house at 8:15 and walk down to the bus stop where my friend Carly is waiting (she lives with a family in a set of apartments close to ours). The bus arrives quite faithfully at 8:24 and we get to school around 8:40-5 depending on the bus crowd that morning. It’s fun to know the regulars – you start to notice when they get on, when they get off, etc and if you’re like me you make up all these elaborate stories in your head about their lives and where they are going each day. It helps pass the time!

Excepting Mondays, when we start at 1 pm (!) and Fridays, when they start at 8:30 (…), school begins at 9 am when everyone goes to Italian class. After that, we all part ways and the schedules differ from one person to another. The best thing about our new schedule though is the way they arranged our classes to accommodate long weekends: on Fridays the last class ends at 1 pm (although I personally finish around 10) and, as I mentioned before, classes don’t resume until 1 pm on Mondays! It’s perfect for travel, just starting off the week slow if you’ve had a busy weekend. And now that I have an idea of what my academic week will look and feel like for the rest of the semester, I feel more at liberty to explore because I know when my big chunks of free time are (not to mention that these chunks are bigger than before, which is nice).

Classes are going very well. I am very happy with my placement level into the intermediate class because the pace has been perfect for me. There is plenty of review, which I certainly needed, but I am still kept on my toes and learning new things all the time. Creative Writing has been great so far; this weekend I spent hours and hours nit-picking over a one-page piece for today, and it felt so good to write again.

My other non-Italian class is called Education and Linguistics. Now I know you are probably thinking, what on earth is that? Basically, we are learning about the deaf community in Siena and in Italy and in the process with be better equipped for the service-learning project attached to the course. There are three people involved in the teaching of this class: Rita, a sociology professor from a university in Trieste (northern Italy) who has worked with and studied deafness from multiple aspects for years; Luigi, a deaf instructor who is teaching us Italian sign language; and Katie, a Siena School alum who is leading our service-learning project. We will be creating books specifically designed for deaf children learning to read, using what we have learned in Rita’s and Luigi’s classes to produce books that cater to the special needs of these children. It has been an absolutely fascinating experience so far, and I look forward to seeing where the project will take us!

I wish I could have taken all the classes that looked fun and interesting to me, but that would have been a bad idea for my mental and physical health (I would also have probably had to divide myself into three). The upside to my current schedule is that it allows me plenty of time to devote to the perusal of Siena – and of Boccaccio as well! While Dante is clearly the first literary love in Italia, Boccaccio and his Decameron are not far behind. I started studying him a bit last semester in my Chaucer class and am hoping to continue researching and use the Boccaccio/Chaucer connection topic for my senior thesis. When I expressed an interest in Boccaccio, Siena School helped me arrange an independent study with one of the Italian instructors (not mine). Her name is Claudia and I am guessing she is in her mid-twenties; she studied Boccaccio in school, so she is a perfect resource! Our focus is very narrow, which is great because it’s allowing me to delve very deeply into the original text. This week I’m working on translating the 5th tale from the 10th day of the Decameron – where Chaucer shamelessly ripped the plot for the Franklin’s Tale – from Old Italian to modern English. It’s been challenging, but I love it!

My Sienese history class (taught my by Italian teacher, Roberto) is by far the most challenging and, to be honest, frustrating class for me. I think it’s because the vocabulary is so different (history enough to discuss in one’s first language, let alone in another!) and because so far it has been more lecture style instead of interactive like our language class. We have language lunedi, martedi e giovedi, and history mercoledi e venerdi. The idea is that on language days we learn more about the grammatical elements of la lingua, and then on the history days we use the language as a tool, not a subject. So we’re still learning it those days, just in a practical sense. The listening comprehension level of that class goes way up because of the lofty vocabulary, and when we finish it feels like my head has just been through a wrestling match. Thankfully, like in our language classes, Roberto is always very patient! I know it will get better as the weeks go on and my Italian improves, but non vedo l’ora che ha fa (I can’t wait for it to do that)!

I didn’t end up taking Pilates in the community like I wanted because the class time did not mesh well with my academic schedule. That made me sad at first, but there are other things I can do instead. I have taken to wandering around Siena in the hopes of becoming better acquainted with her (and not getting lost as often), but my favorite activity is still sitting in the Piazza del Campo. I love going there on Saturdays and watching all the weddings. It blows my mind how many one can see in just one afternoon!

I have befriended an Italian girl, named Palmina, who works in a nearby art gallery and during the past few weeks I’ve been dropping by the shop to talk (in both English and Italian). On Friday we exchanged numbers and decided to start eating the occasional lunch or go out for coffee after she gets off work. She’s 27 and in the middle of what I think is probably the equivalent of a dissertation. All her friends from college seem to have moved on and I get the feeling that she’s really lonely. I am so glad I met her because 1) she’s been a pleasure to get to know and 2) it’s a great – and fun – way to improve my Italian conversation skills!

The Sansepolcro crew (minus the two littlest ones) came to visit me in Siena this past Saturday! They drove up for the day and so I got to show them around a bit, which was fun. Sara said that as they were walking up from the San Francesco parking lot along the side of the cathedral, Leonardo said that Siena was “una citta’ belissima” (a city most beautiful!). She found it particularly amusing since they hadn’t seen anything yet and were essentially walking up an alleyway :) Later that day Leonardo asked me which I liked better, Siena or Sansepolcro, and was quick to add that Siena was his favorite. I think his absolute favorite part was running around the Campo chasing pigeons. Sara’s favorite was definitely the book stores (we are a very bad influence on each other!) and I think Patrizio’s was the Campo as well (although he just enjoying sitting and watching Leonardo chase the pigeons, not chasing them himself).

It has been nice to have them nearby, and I have enjoyed visiting them every other weekend or so. Next weekend I am meeting Sara in Firenze to explore the city while she attends a conference Friday and Saturday. I am looking forward to seeing a bit of Firenze on my own instead of in a group like I did last summer. I will also get to see Dr. Webb, who is also attending the conference!

On Saturday afternoon we will return to Sansepolcro and then I am planning to stay there through Monday morning and try the train route back. There’s one that makes it back to Siena Monday around noon, but I have to make sure that I can get a bus back to school by 1 so I’m not late for class!

Today I am finally getting to meet the Casini’s, a local family with two little boys that I will be playing with once a week specifically so that they can pick up more English. It took a while for us to connect, and then last Monday, when we were supposed to me, I had to cancel on her because of my sick state. I am very much looking forward to meeting both her and the boys – more on them next week!

I think that’s all for now. For pictures of Siena School (and Siena), check out Picasa over the next couple days. Blogger has been putting up a fuss when I try to post pictures on here, so until I figure that out I will just upload them on the picasa site for you to enjoy there.

Much love … arrivederci!


martedì 16 settembre 2008

Settimana numero due a Siena ...

Ciao! I hope this post finds you warmer than I am! It's now week three in Siena and I'm already needing warm clothes. This past Friday the weather took a drastic plunge, going from the 80s to the 60s and 50s in mere hours. It's amazing what a good hard rain can do!

Week two of our language intensive classes was, appropriately, more difficult than the first, but it was easier in many ways as well. Various skills have been mastered (for instance, my bus route, the tricky lock on the front door, etc) so there is less stress in my non-academic life and thus, more room in my brain to focus on the Italian itself. Throughout the week we attended presentations of all the other classes (which begin this coming Monday) to give us a better idea of what each one will be like. I am still set on my choices of creative writing and an education and linguistics course, but there were plenty of other choices that tempted me to change my mind!

But the highlight of last week was definitely my return to Sansepolcro this weekend. Classes end at 12 on Fridays, so I caught a 12:30 bus from Siena to Arezzo and then another from Arezzo to Sansepolcro. I got most of my homework done in the first 45 minutes of the bus trip and arrived in Arezzo around 1:50. After buying tickets (more than I meant to - I'm set for the next three or four trips!), I ran over to a nearby bar and bought an amazing chocolate ice cream bar (double chocolate to be precise) and then went over to the bus stop to wait for the bus. On the ride over to Sansepolcro I met a small group of Irish ladies traveling together, and get this - they were from Cork (which I had the pleasure of visiting last summer)! We had fun chit-chatting about Ireland and Italy together as the bus careened through the hills around hairpin turns and near many a perilous edge.

Arriving in Sansepolcro again felt like coming home to an old friend. I stepped off the bus, said goodbye to the Irish ladies and then took off for Sara and Patrizio's house with a skip in my step. It only takes five minutes or so to get there, so before long I was walking up to the house, looking for signs of life. I could tell it must be naptime because the whole place had a sense of quiet stillness about it, but as I walked through the gate I heard someone shifting things around in the garage. I called out "Ciao!" and was happily greeted with a "Ciao Bekah!" from Patrizio which was followed by a big hug.

We ran upstairs and found Sara in the living room with Veronica - Sara gave me a big bear hug and Veronica flashed a radiant smile at me. It was so funny ... Sara and I kept giggling like little girls because we were so excited to be together again! That afternoon it poured and poured, bringing in the long awaited cold, but inside we were all glowing - it felt so good to be back with them again!

Leonardo and Ginevra napped a while longer, so that gave me plenty of time to cuddle Veronica and catch Sara and Patrizio up on everything Siena (and them plenty of time to catch me up on the latest developments at home - like Veronica's newest dental additions and Leonardo's first week of school). After another hour or so Ginevra woke up from her nap and there I was. Her immediate reaction was completely uncharacteristic - silence. She just stared at me with those big brown eyes and looked around like she wasn't sure what she was supposed to do. It was so cute! But before long she was in my arms again, then pulling me around the house by my pinkie finger, pointing to things and talking in Ginevra-ese. It was "Battah" this and "Battah" that, and if I ever when out of eyesight, she immediately called out for me to make sure I hadn't disappeared again.

When Leonardo woke up he sneaked out to the living room doors and said, "How are you!" (note the punctuation there - it was not a question!). Then he hid and I had to go tackle him, and then, naturally, give him lots and lots of kisses (which, I am happy to report, were affectionately returned). We had a very sweet afternoon and evening together, and then that night Patrizio made us some killer pasta con pesto. It was magnifico ...

The rest of the weekend was really relaxed. It was fun to play with the kids again, talk with Sara, try to speak Italian with Patrizio, and walk around Sansepolcro again. Saturday I woke up around 6:30 (without an alarm! It's crazy ... my body just naturally wakes up early now) and got to feed Veronica her morning bottle. I love those quiet moments with her. Very sweet.

On Sunday Patrizio participated in a race in Citta di Castello - and came in 3rd! Then as we watched the award ceremony it began to pour again ... and I do mean POUR. We ran back to the car (with Sara, Leonardo and I sharing my very small umbrella) and took off for Sansepolcro and the delicious lunch waiting for us at Sara's parents' house. We arrived wet and hungry but happy to be there. Then after lunch it was time for me to head back to Arezzo to catch my bus back to Siena, so Sara, Patrizio and I all said "ciao for now!" and took off for the station.

I am planning to go back and see them again this weekend, but it was still sad to say goodbye! This week has been a bit long because it's our third week of language intensive classes, but I am still enjoying it very much. Next week will be fun though because all our new classes start - I can't wait, especially for the creative writing class.

Got to run - the school's closing soon and I need to gather my effects :) I tried to post pictures but blogger isn't behaving, but you should be able to view them on my picasa site - and some new videos of a couple of the kids too!

Ciao for now - love and baci.