Fiesole for the Win!

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Ciao tutti!

Canada for the win! I am proudly the only Canadian on the trip, and guess who takes home the prize for the ultimate Florence scavenger hunt. ME! Briefly here’s a few of the best things I had to do: drink a “cioccolato caldo” (hot chocolate the Italian way, basically a melted piece if dark chocolate similar to the thickness of pudding) at one of the fanciest places in Florence, and when the man found out I was from Canada he said “where? Toronto? Montreal?” (Typical guesses) “No, you’ve never heard of where I’m from” (my typical response). “Saskatchewan?” He guesses… My jaw dropped, and he spent the next ten minutes hysterically laughing and telling the other customers I was from Saskatchewan, to which they obviously had no idea what he was talking about. Onwards! I had to bite into a Panino con Lampredotto (pictured below). A panini with cow stomach… Apparently a very traditional Florentine dish (throw up in my mouth), and after I did this I was featured in Studentsville Italia as “the intern who actually did it”. For those of you at home in complete disbelief at this, to defend my image a bit, I didn’t eat it, but just bit into the bun :). I also had to climb the very steep hill to Piazzale Michaelangelo to view the entire city at sunset (molto bello!!). I had to find one of the illegal “secret bakeries” in Florence, only open between 2 and 5 am, and purchase a freshly baked pastry (probably the best night of my trip so far…. Totally worth having to walk for 2 hours in the pouring rain at 4 am with 3 amazing people pictured below). My final voyage was to take a bus to the top of Fiesole and take a picture with Florence in the background… Soooo picturesque (pictured at the top)! What is the prize for winning such a contest you may ask? Well bragging rights of course, AND a free Tuscany wine tour to Chianti! Ohhhh mama mia! I cannot wait 🙂

So aside from finally finishing the scavenger hunt, I have spent the last week with a nasty sore throat. It got worse and worse until I finally made the decision to attempt a visit to the hospital (Guardia Medico). As I was assured there would be an English doctor, me and another sick friend ventured into the streets on a very very wet, cold, Florence night. To sum things up, he was not English, but was so nice, speaking slow enough for me to understand and translate for my friend. By the end we discovered that we both had a very bad case of laryngitis and that I was contagious (who wants a free kiss?). After telling us a 15 minute story about his travels to America and Canada, questioning me on my musical talents (obviously I resemble Louis Armstrong), and bonding over the fact that his son has the same birthday as me, we were sent on our way to pick up some crazy Italian drugs. So in my first week of practicum I missed 3 days due to my contagiousness… Great first impression. I am finally starting to feel better now, have a voice, can physically function, and am beginning to eat solid foods again, but am sitting here on a Saturday night doing homework and writing to all my lovely readers instead of going out with my classmates. Being responsible, so difficult sometimes.

I have started my practicum, as mentioned, and so far don’t have much to write about other than there is nothing more adorable than Italian babies. Maybe my suitcase will just be filled with toddlers on my way home instead of souvenirs. Or is that illegal? Anyways….

Though language barriers can be difficult, stressful, and exhausting to try and conquer. They can also be extremely entertaining. Especially in class where we are all on a beginner level and, for many, this is their THIRD language. As I only have one week left with this class, I will finally introduce you to some of my favourite characters:

– La ragazza Cinese: Italian is her second language, And she does not speak English. She is training to be an opera singer of some sort, she meows at me every single day, and communicates with the rest of the class through broken Italian and extreeeeeaaaamly over exaggerated body language and gestures. She eats a McDonalds doughnut or two and a Coke for breakfast every day and offers to share with me every morning. When paired with the Columbian boy for group work the other day, she hugged my arm and in completely clear English yelled at our teacher, NO, Jody is my best friend!! Lui cattivo, cattivo, cattivo. (He is bad, bad, bad). She also once tried to tell our group that she had a picture of her sister… She accidently told us she wants two sons and that she had pictures of what she wants them to look like. Miscommunication at its best. We absolutely died laughing. As over the top and difficult as she is some days, I will miss her entertainment so very much.
– Il ragazzo islandese: this little ball of energy is the highlight of my day and one of my closest friends here. He is silent all class, and then will randomly shout something obscene, or some completely inaccurate English phrase that clearly did not translate well. He once told his host mother that he didn’t want to eat the salad she made because it was “insalata vecchio” .. Old salad. When you don’t know much italian, you just make use of what vocab you have, and it usually ends up offending someone. He is also fifth cousins with Björk (the singer), which is kind of cool. But then again, everyone there is related…. Literally. There’s an App for that…
– Il colombiano bambino: This youngster is my partner in crime, is attached at the hip to Old Salad (see above), and finishes off our wonderful group of four (Roommate Lauren included). “baby face” is our “in” into Italian culture as he speaks the language at a higher level than the other 3 of us combined. His hobbies include imitating our accents in a British voice whilst whipping his head from side to side. Not sure why, but it is always entertaining. He became my official best friend when he called me “Jelissa” last weekend and helped us cross off many things on our scavenger hunt list including leading us to the secret bakery where we enjoyed savoury chocolate croissants together.
– L’insegnante: i dont know how he deals with us every day, but he is one if the greatest humans ever; quote me. He told us about a wonderful little restaurant we must go to in order to remember the sentence “a casa mia” (the name of the restaurant). When we decided to try it out one day I asked him “dove è a casa mia?” His reply… Ohhhh, Jawwwdyyy!… I really had no idea why I had received that reaction until I realized I hadn’t specified I was looking for the restaurant, but instead just basically asked him to go home with me…. Jody’s Italian Fail #84, but who’s counting. He has taught us more than just language, but life skills as well. He even gave me a “whiteboard medallion” for coming to school when I was sick. We share a sense of humour and I want to stay in his class forever. He is like the flamboyantly Italian brother I never had. Mom, whyyy??

In other news, I have mastered “the look”. What is “the look” you may ask? Let me elaborate a bit. Something I have learnt since being here is that I wear my emotions on my face. My classmates find it hilarious to watch me tell a story because even if they can’t understand all of it, they can watch my face and get the gist of things. Even when I am at the other end of the corridor at school, I often hear one of the Brazilian guys laugh and say, Jody! Your face! Because of this, I am such an easy target when in the streets. “Here madam, buy my purses!” “Nice boots, would you like a jacket to match them?”, “Come back please, We can start a family.” Uhh what? And one of my all time favourites so far, “hey there, do you speak italian?”… You literally just said that in English, sooo obviously you’re already aware that I don’t speak it. I have decided I am no longer to hold the “tourist” status, but rather the “temporary resident” status. Because of this, I must no longer look like a tourist, and thus we begin mastering the skill of “the look”. I will describe this to you once and only once, but those of you who are just so curious, feel free to ask me to send you a more descriptive picture (as I have it completely mastered and it’s well worth having a picture of for future reference).

Okay. The look:
– Let your face go blank. Don’t show any emotion.
– Now slightly life your forehead/eyebrows, like you got Botox. Who! Not that high, release a little bit… Remember still emotionless. Too high and you’ll just look surprised. They will pounce on you with that emotion.
– Now stare straight ahead and have a partner, or random stranger I guess, stand on either side of you and wave, dance, yell, or whisper dirty things (like how they havent washed their clothes in a month!) any of the above will work. You’re goal is to act as if they are not there and continue to stare blankly ahead.
– If your partner takes things over the top, you may glance in their direction (without making direct eye contact!!) and give a slow blink as if to say, “you are causing me slight discomfort” and then resume the blank look ahead.

This my friends is “the look”, also sometimes called the stink eye, or stank face. It is most effective when paired with the “I’m a boss” walk, or the “my hair is on fire and I’m trying to put it out” dance move if you are at a club. Both of which are too advanced for beginners like yourselves. Now that I have this mastered, nobody messes with me. Heck, nobody even talks to me anymore. It’s… Great?

Sickness and scavengering have been my focus for the last week, so instead of more updates, here’s just a look at thoughts my brain has had and random information I feel like sharing with you today.
– Canadian fact: we say sorry too much and in too many situations that do not require thou to feel truly apologetic. There isn’t even a word in the Italian language that resembles our “sorry”. Rumour has it that there is also no word that directly translates to mean privacy in Italian either…. Which I can believe.
– Took a “field trip” to a wonderful library that use to be a convent. Got to sit at the rooftop caffe with university students. It was a very nice outing…… Then we went to the children’s section and sat with books labeled 1-3 anni and had story time… Nothing kills your confidence more than reading a number book for two year olds, and not understanding it.
– there is a legitimate law here regarding everyday actions. It is illegal to: speak in the stairwell, wear high heels after 11 in the stairwell, have unregistered guests stay the night in an apartment, drag furniture without picking it up, make noise between 2:30 and 3pm, turn the heat on during the day, and sell pastry at night to name a few. I’m probably going to get deported for sneezing in the hall after 11…

Update on words easily confused:
Colore is colour, Collare is Collar, and Coccolare is to Cuddle…. I give up! Also, want to order penne? You order one penne (uno penne), or two pennes (duo penni). Want to ask for a pen? Ask for one pen (uno penna), two pens (duo penne). Careful what you order or you my be eating ink for supper. In addition, ordering la pasta, or uno pasta are completely different. You might be ordering spaghetti, or you might be ordering a croissant (pasta is the singular for pastry). They distinguish the difference by what time of day it is…. Omg… Who, who came up with this? Lastly (for now) when working on listening, and the people are talking about pomeriggio, they’re not talking about Pomeranians. I win idiot of the year in Italy for sure.

Having a blast, learning a lot (although this post might not make it seem like it), meeting so many wonderful people, and looking forward to the coming weeks.

Ciao, Alla prossima volta,
The Italian Armstrong

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