Home, Now I Call it Home

One month! Hello there my beautiful followers, how have you been? Oh me, I’ve been alright.. Ok I’ve been great! Busy, busy, I can’t believe it’s already been a month. Time really is flying by.

Before I say anything I want to say thank you for the concern from family and friends after the attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad. I am safe. It is scary being so close to something like that, but it is important when travelling, anywhere, to educate yourself on the risks. Safety is a basic human right and the violation of this right is happening all over the world, even at home. Don’t fall into this. Stand together with those everywhere who are hurting as this fight rages on. Keep love in your heart and teach peace wherever you travel. Stay safe friends at home and around the world.   

Since my last blog I have done a lot… So here we go. I moved into my apartment, got to teach my first English class, met some really cool people, travelled to Sienna, got really sick, escaped the Pope, travelled to Milan, accepted my very own class, did some running and here we are. Ok well I’ll talk to you all again soon, ciao. Oh, you wanted some more detail, ohhhhh okay. 

So, I left off last time as I was just about to go for a language exchange with a strange Italian man (the opening scene to any Liam Neeson movie, just kidding mom). Well I’m alive and fine, surprise! It is wonderful to have someone local to chat with. He is also a doctor which, if you know me at all, is the greatest person I could have around me while travelling. Ive been here a month and he has already assisted me in getting the right medication and not poisoning myself. So I now have a really rad language partner who knows some pretty awesome gelaterias and coffee shops, so I’d say it was well worth the risk. At our last meeting I got to try La Dolce Vita chocolate gelato which was voted best in Italy! Chocolate coma. Speaking of chocolate, if you haven’t had Nutella mixed with ricotta cheese you haven’t lived yet. Don’t try this at home though, ricotta cheese in Canada tastes like dying goat… Hope I painted a nice picture for you there. 

I also finally moved into my flat! As I was getting ready to leave my hostel, the workers came to the conclusion that my new place didn’t actually exist and that I was being scammed because my street was unfindable on Google maps. I persisted. A friend helped me take my bags to the bus (which we finally found after what seemed like an hour… Stupid construction) and as we were waiting for it to arrive, standing with all my bags sweating like mad, my purse ripped. It just fell off of me. My first thought was someone had cut the strap and was trying to rob me, but apparently the strap had finally seen its final journey and I had one more bag to carry. I crammed myself and all my bags onto an already full bus, and after 2 hours of struggling and sweating, I finally found my house. And let me tell you, it exists (apparently Google Maps decided to abbreviate and change the spelling of my street name to make it unfindable – cool thanks). It was so beautiful and I was so relieved that when my landlady let me into my room I just laid down on the bed and cried… Then I unpacked, showered, and did laundry. Amen. I have two roommates, German and Italian, both pretty cool guys. I have only met one neighbour, a sweet little old lady who I share a wall with. The walls are incredibly thin and each night when she enjoys her 9 o’clock news I also get to listen to it. She also has the voice of Mrs. Doubtfire.. With an Italian accent of course, so I love her a little bit more. Every morning I wake up thinking I have a rash or breakout of some sort on my hands and face, only to realize that no, I was just the appetizer for the 47 mosquitos living in my room during the night. I finally bought a mosquito killing contraption of sorts, so here’s hoping I finally can sleep at night and stop looking like I have a disease.

Last week I had a some free time and decided to get out of the city. I travelled to Sienna for the day and oh, the bus ride was sensational. I mean not the actual bus ride, that was terrifying of course. (Italian road rage in a giant bus speeding down winding Tuscan highways that haven’t been patched up in, I’m sure, 100 years.) The view, though, was worth It. It was like Canadian fall mixed with everything I love about Italy. The vineyards still had their leaves, but they were all yellow and orange. Fields and hillsides of Tuscan valleys lined with rows of this, amazing. Siena itself was also beautiful, small and quiet, but beautiful. I had a peaceful day of climbing towers and enjoying some people watching in the centre. I wasn’t allowed to take any bags up into the tower, only my camera. Once I got up there I realized I forgot the picture of Grandma, so on my way down I asked the guard if I could get it from my bag and go back up the stairs without buying another ticket. I explained the picture, grandma, and the significance to me, and she thought it was so adorable and let me go back up. She also told me, in broken English, that he sister would totally do something like that and that she would pass my story on to her. Feel good moment of the day.  It also happened to be the “Fat Lady” art show across the city. It was hilarity and brilliance combined. I joined in the fat lady fun before returning to Florence.

   After spending the weekend in Florence with a new friend from France, enjoying the beautiful weather, and attending a baby shower for a colleague, I ended up sick in bed for two days battling a gross fever – typical. The Pope was scheduled to visit Florence on November 10 and I had already purchased tickets to leave the city and go to Milan for two days to avoid all the crazy. So I got my disgusting butt out of bed at 5am and caught the bus to Milan. I have been to Italy 3 times, and each time someone asks me if I went to Milan… I figured I better go this time. So worth it, Milan is beautiful! I spent some time alone taking in the sights, the amazing Disney store and discount chocolate warehouse (was totally tempted to buy the 3kg bucket of Nutella and take it as my carry on). I met a nice guy from Argentina at my hostel and he accompanied me to the top of the duomo, the chapel, the park, and didn’t even complain or make strange when I went crazy over the possy of kittens in the park that we found, when I spent way too long in the Disney store again, when I asked him to take a picture of me doing handstands with a street dance crew, or when I whipped out a picture of grandma. Pretty cool. So Marco if you ever stumble upon this, thanks for agreeing to do whatever I asked of you and for playing along so well. I had to get up at 4:30 to catch the bus home on the 12th, which was gross. A large group of foreign men were making their way to work at this time and we all got on the same night bus together. After asking them for directions in my best Italian, they not only cleared a seat for me on the bus, but also helped me switch busses, check schedules, and get me to the bus station on time. I am always astounded by the helpfulness of strangers. I won’t soon forget our nonverbal goodbye we shared through the window of the bus as we silently gave each other a smile and a nod as we parted ways. The ride back to Florence was amazing. Tips to seeing Toscana by bus: get on a bus in Toscana, sit back, don’t bother taking any pictures because it’s impossible to capture it, and just enjoy. Apparently if you are an engineer interested in bridges, the Tuscan countryside is the place for you. So many amazing bridges and hillside sights, I was in awe. Driving past massive country houses with pools and tennis courts in the backyard thinking, like, who are you, and do you need any more friends? My mouth was actually open, gaping open. Not my most attractive moment I’m sure, but worthy of the reaction. There was also a guy in a team Canada jersey on my bus. I chatted with him for a bit, only to realize he wasn’t from Canada at all…. Portugal actually… So that happened..

   
 In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been able to get some experience at the school here teaching English. My boss had some wonderful compliments for me and they have now offered me my own class… 2 weeks with 4 year olds… Oh boy oh boy this will be interesting. My class will consist of children from Scotland, Switzerland, Japan, and Colombia… Diversity at its finest… Looking forward to the challenge. I’m also doing some lessons for older kids. So I’ve been studying up on my English grammar, you know, adjectives, possessives, past continuous, objective verbs, articles… All the things we chose to forget after school. To all my English teacher friends, or friends that have English as another language, props to you. English is actually the stupidest language ever. If there’s a rule, there’s an exception to it…. And probably an exception to the exception, and an irregular on top of that. I met a guy here who speaks French, Spanish, Italian, and Arabic, but no English. When I asked him why he didn’t learn English, he simply said, it’s too damn hard. And now I get it. 

On that note, I will say arrivederci! 

  “Hey good lookin’, why the frown? You always look better when it’s upside down. You say you’ve got nowhere that you’re going to, can I go nowhere with you?”

Xoxo,

Your Armstrong Abroad

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