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!


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