Sunday, February 24, 2013
First sleepover weekend woo! We traveled to the lovely city of Florence after our final exam on Friday to celebrate! The exam went quite well and during the oral part of my exam, my professor told me that I had improved a lot during this month and that it was apparent that I studied a lot (I didn't tell her that I counted going to the karaoke bar with my Italian friends the night before as studying, but really, it is) and that made me so happy that my progress was so noticeable. Anyway back to Florence. Ten of us crashed in this hostel (first hostel experience) and all things considered, it was totally fine. Comfy beds, little chilly, noisy at night but whatever. Friday night consisted of dinner, joking around with the waiters because unlike lots of other people in Florence we actually speak Italian so you aren't gonna mess around with us, and hitting the bars and a dance club. After ample sleep time, we started our rainy Saturday in Florence because it just seems that whenever we go to an important city it has to rain. But that does not stop us. We climbed to the top of the Duomo (all 463 steps) for this excellent view of the city. We strolled through the pig market, which actually sells lots of leather, one of Florence's most famous industries. I love the smell of leather. We also hit up the David, which although I had already seen him when I went to Florence 7 years ago, was still an incredibly breathtaking sight. We then traveled to the Palazzo Vecchio, which I had never visited, which was the home (I think - I don't pay that much attention to historical things) of the Medici family which is the famous family of Florence. Afterwards we galavanted through some markets and streets and across the Ponte Vecchio (a bridge that was the only bridge to survive a bombing during some war, possibly a world one) to track down a restaurant for dinner. We decided to stay in and chill in the hostel for the evening due to the rainy dampness and exhaustion from the day. We got up at not the crack, but the entire ass, of dawn to head to the Uffizi which is the very famous art gallery. It was nice to visit again though it's definitely easier when you have a tour guide telling you all the important things because after a while the 235 baby Jesuses, 451 Mother Marys, and 627 crucified Jesuses, well they all look the same. Then the best part of the trip occurred. I went to the Boboli Gardens, to which I had never been. My friends didn't want to pay so I went by myself and it was a spectacular experience. 1. The gardens were absolutely gorgeous. 2. The gardens were so expansive that even though it was a tourist attraction there were multiple times when there no other people in sight among the lush green vegetation. 3. It was a mix of rain, clouds, and sun, but I definitely had that epic moment when I crested the top of the stairs of the highest point of the gardens and it stopped raining and the sun came out. After about an hour, I ran into my friends Nick and Marissa and we strolled together some more. It was then time to return to Padova. I had so much fun this weekend, but at the same time it made me appreciate Padova and my home stay so much. It's really annoying when you speak Italian to the business people and they automatically speak in English back to you. I'm proud of the progress that I've made with my Italian, and I know Padova was the right choice for me.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Italy has these most awesome graduation ceremonies. When a person graduates, their friends make them these posters with a either a story or something on it about their life (we think). These posters are then hung up in the street and your family and friends gather round. Basically, your friends and family decide your fate. For example, today one of the girls was wearing metallic purple spandex and had a bottle of wine duct taped to her hand. As she read her poem off the poster, she had to drink every time she said a certain word and her friends were throwing eggs at her the whole time. And I mean there are like middle-aged people standing there laughing along with her college friends. There was thing other guy who had to run shirtless through a tunnel of his friends down the street as they slapped his back. At the end he completely took out the girl who was trying to take a picture of it and knocked her to the ground on the stone sidewalk. It was unreal. My friend told me her boyfriend had to stand naked in December by the river after his friends got him really drunk. So I think we have a new tradition to start in the U.S. Actually it's one of the most embarrassing things I have ever seen.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Beautiful Saturday to hit up Ferrara, a small city about an hour from Padova. We didn't really know what we were in for, but my friend Amanda's host dad has a store there and recommended a bunch of places to us. In the morning we explored the center of the city, which includes a castle with a moat and everything. We stopped by the book table and taking Kayt's advice I found this book called "Ecologia Speigata ai Ragazzi" (Ecology Explained to Kids) so I was like this is perfect, it's my reading level, I can learn ecology vocab. Then Amanda calls my name from across the table and says "Kate I have the perfect book for you!" And was it ever. So I carried my sparkly horse book around with me the rest of the day. But I am so excited to read these two books and expand my vocabulary. I met up with Kayt later in the night and she was very proud of me :) Since it was such a warm sunny day (probably a high of 50 degrees Fahrenheit) we went to these beautiful parks in the city, played on the playground, and took an absolutely gorgeous walk. The city is known for it walls. It has the longest intact wall surrounding the city in of Italy I think. There were also paths through gorgeous countryside within the walls. We all agreed it was nice to take a break from the bustle of all the cities and just spend some good old time in nature. For dinner we went to this restaurant to try this famous dish of Ferrara which is ravoli/tortellini like pasta filled with pumpkin. It was unreal. Unfortunately the portion size was really small, but it all worked out. Had a nice little adrenaline rush speed walking back to the station so we didn't miss our train. Once back in Padova we grabbed a drink and then I met up with Kayt after everyone else left and we frequented a few other bars before going to the discoteca with some guys we met. I was falling asleep by 11:00 without a doubt, so getting in at 3 am was definitely a struggle. It was great hanging out with Kayt because a. she speaks awesome Italian and can help me when I need it and b. she's already been through this so I was able to ask her lots of questions. It was very helpful and I look forward to hanging out again!
Saturday, February 16, 2013
We took a field trip to Verona with the whole program and our professors. I had been to Verona once before, and remembered loving it so I was quite excited to return again. After grabbing breakfast in a cafe, we went to two churches. Now you know me and religion. The churches were beautiful, but I have no idea what they were called and couldn't tell you anything else about them. We had free time for lunch and wandered around looking for cafes and went to the ruins of the Roman Theater. Afterwards, we went to Juliet's house (of Romeo and Juliet). It's good luck to touch her right boob, no idea why so that what everyone does. And they buy a lock and lock on the gate to signify their everlasting love. It was very cool to be in the city of Romeo and Juliet the day after Il Giorno di San Valentino because they were many celebrations and decorations all over the city. Next we went to the Roman Arena, which they still use in the summer for concerts. It's in beautiful condition. It was really funny because these two boys started drawing a heart in the dirt floor of the area that took up the entire floor and we were laughing to ourselves because we thought they were never going to get the two sides even....but then they didn't close the heart and we realized that they were NOT at all drawing a heart, but a lovely penis in the floor of the arena. But I tell this story because I think the most interesting part was we were sitting at the top of the arena with our professors and they were laughing along with us! And making jokes about it which was most humorous of all. So different from the U.S. On our way out we walked through a market and I bought amazing chocolety things: strawberries with hot chocolate dribbled over them, chocolates filled with pistachio cream (amazinggg) and hot chocolate with Bailey's! Delicious way to end the day.
Thursday, February 14, 2013
This morning I walked into the office for class and to my complete surprise I found one of my friends from Bucknell! I sat next to Kayt in my Italian conversation class last spring where I was completely lost most of the time because Kayt and a few others had already studied abroad in Padova and I only had two semesters under my belt, but they have always been my inspiration because they showed me what this program could do for my Italian. And now Kayt is back in Padova! After graduation, she returned and stayed with her family for 3 months, went back to the U.S. for 3 months for Visa reasons, and is now back here again for another 3 months to try to start her own business teaching English. And she actually only lives a 5 minute walk from my house! It's so exciting to have another friend here. And a great inspiration to she what she has done. She gave me some great advice today. She said I should go to the book store and just buy a book related to animals or biology and just start reading it to build vocab so I'm very excited to do that (though I'm having so much fun reading Harry Potter in Italian, it will be a tough decision for which book wins). Today was fairly warm in the afternoon so I went on a long run to explore a new river that my mom said lots of people run along. Turns out, it's a very wide dirt bike/walking path and there were so many people there today! Though I was definitely the ONLY person in shorts and a t-shirt, so I definitely drew some attention to myself, but hey, New Englander over here. We got a few inches of snow earlier in the week so it was all melting and I was so so happy to splash in the mud as I ran.
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
I had the most interesting conversation with my host brother last night. We were watching the news when they started talking about France passing its equality laws, and most notably the right for gay couples to adopt. Tommaso didn't believe that they should be able to adopt because he believes that a child needs a mother and a father. At first I tried arguing that children that grow up in gay households wouldn't be more likely to be gay because gay children grow up all the time in heterosexual households. But he still wasn't convinced because he believed that a dad and a mom offered different things to a child. I was trying to construct my argument around gender roles, by arguing that if society didn't subscribe to strict gender roles, then two moms could provide all the traits and characteristics of a mom and a dad. However, I ran into one HUGE problem. There is no word for gender in the Italian language. It's the same word as sex. Male/masculine are the same as well as female/feminine. So how the heck was I supposed to talk about the difference between biological attributes and social constructions if there was no word to distinguish them!? In the end, I tried to explain that a women could have social attributes that men typically do and vice versa. Tommaso did tell me that I provided a convincing argument, but he would need more studies to show that children weren't affected in they grew up with homosexual parents. Interesting side note: when Italian women get married, it is the norm for them to not change their name. The kids take the husband's last name, but are able to change their name when they are 18 so that they carry both last names. Fascinating things.
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Today we traveled by train 3 hours to the beautiful seaside city of Trieste. It was a good choice. The architecture of the city was completely different from what I had seen thus far (you could definitely see Austrian and whatever other influences) and the seaside views were pristine. It was cold and overcast today, but no reason to stop us from traveling. The buildings were just beautiful. I don't know how to describe to the architecture other than really cool to look at. There were plenty of Carnevale festivities for the little kids around the city. And looking back, we did it all. From exploring the marinas to playing on playgrounds to venturing up to the highest points of the city to see ones of it castles to sipping a cappuccino in Caffe Tommasseo where James Joyce apparently spent a lot of time writing Ulyesses to indulging in some hot chocolate from a fancy chocolate store (by the way Italian hot chocolate is literally melted chocolate, none of that powdery nonsense). Other highlights included petting a horse when two horse drawn carriages randomly came to the piazza and jamming out to this band that was playing the Beatles (no one else was dancing but I think the band appreciated our enthusiasm). It was an incredibly long day with lots of walking. I figure this weekend we easily walked 20-30 miles. We shall see if I can get out of bed tomorrow.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Our homework for class today was to write a composition about how living in a different country and speaking another language is like having another identity. Judith and I were discussing our composition and she told me that she has never felt more American than here in Italy, which contrasted some of our discussion in class. I pondered this idea on my walk home and it is indeed quite interesting. With America themed parties and American flag print clothing all the rage these days and the great ease with which one can start the well known U S A chant, it seems that Americans are bubbling over with pride for their country. But if you cannot know hot if you don't know cold, and cannot know good if you don't know evil, well how can you ever truly know what it means to be American if you have never experience another culture? Many Americans are quick to jump up and aggressively defend what is it to be an American, but how can you ever really be sure you really know what that means?
Monday, February 4, 2013
Today I rode the little carousel in the corner of Pratto delle Valle (Meadow of the Valley) which is one of the parks in town. I, naturally, was the only person on it. I rode the lovely little pink horse named Rosie because the woman told me to, but unfortunately it didn't go up and down. Oh well. Italy can't stop me from being a little kid.
1. I have yet to lay eyes on a microwave or a dryer. 2. Self-serve cigarette machines exist in numerous quantities. 3. Dogs have way more fashion than I ever will. 4. Dogs go to the bathroom on the sidewalks, and it is not always cleaned up. 5. Mannequins have more stylish haircuts than I. 6. Italian women are born with an innate ability to walk on cobblestone streets in high heels. 7. Ugly babies are possibly culled from the gene pool. 8. Chocolate cookies are totally acceptable to eat at breakfast. 9. Sometimes you have to buy a coffee just so you can pee. 10. Even though that door has a handle that looks like you should pull it, you probably have to push it. 11. Approximately 75% of the population thinks fur coats and fur vests are attractive. 12. Men are not afraid of their feminine whether they express it through polka dot umbrellas or tiny dogs with coats.
Today we took a tour of Palazzo Bo, which is one of the academic buildings of the university. However, it contains some really cool stuff. Galileo taught there back when he was a professor of mathematics at the University and the Palazzo contains what is suspected to be Galileo's lectern from which he taught. No one was ever quite sure if it was really his lectern, but they have it roped off and on display because no one ever wanted to throw it out in case it really was his. The Palazzo also contains the first anatomical theater where students would watch as their professor dissected human corpses. The tour guide mentioned that one person had the job of finding corpses to dissect, and often professors would give their bodies to science after they died. I could only imagine having a professor for class and then dissecting his body some time later! And to save the best for last: a statue of Elena something something cause she has four names, but she was the first woman graduate in the entire world! From the University of Padova, I'm so proud. Her degree was in philosophy.
Sunday was an absolutely gorgeousssss day. So warm and beautifully sunny. My friend Cayla and I took a bus to the Euganean Hills, about an hour out of the city. We just wandered around and essentially walked up the road to the top of one of the hills with some little side trips along the way along random paths. The vistas were stunning. The lush green valley with scattered rooftops and brightly colored houses with the snowy Alps looming in the distance. It was picturesque Italia, peaceful and serene. It was nice to take a break from the city, and appreciate a completely different side of Italian life.
Saturday, February 2, 2013
As Judith and I walked to the train station at 7:30 this morning and it was already cold and raining, I told her that today was going to be an adventure. And was it ever. We successfully made it to Bologna without any problems and began our rainy day with the main piazza and the main church. The cool thing about Bologna is that it is a lot more touristy that Padova, so when you speak a full sentence of Italian, the Italians are impressed instead of quickly trying to speak English to you. We stopped into a museum with a really cool old library and an anatomical lecture hall. For lunch, I dined on some fantastic tortellini. I was quite proud of myself for taking charge of the map all day (clearly following in my mother's footsteps) though I will definitely be passing that duty on to someone else for the next trip. Then came one of the highlights of the day - climbing the Torre Asinelli. Although it was foggy, we still got a nice view of the city climbing up those 500 steps. The walls had these little holes in them at the bottom so water on a day like today would flow through and not get trapped on the top of the tower. All of a sudden, we heard a commotion. Turns out Judith dropped her Nalgene water bottle AND IT ROLLED RIGHT THROUGH THE HOLE AND FELL OFF THE TOWER. It the most horribly comical thing ever. We don't think anyone died...and we couldn't find a shattered water bottle anywhere so I don't know what happened. Afterwards, we walked through the University and a park with statues, so I of course mimicked them, my favorite thing to do. I had this FANTASTIC crepe with pistachio-flavored filling. It was so delicious. I bought a happy little scarf in this interesting market and then we returned to the train station. We arrived minutes before the train left so in the commotion, Judith, Marissa and I couldn't purchase our tickets in time before the train left, but we sent our other friends along because Amanda was sick. We decided to take the next train, went for a coffee, and returned and got on the train. We soon realized something was wrong. And that's when the day went downhill. Although we paid for a slow train, we accidentally got on the fast train and had to pay an extra 23 euro!! Ahhh the worst. It was so expensive. So that was a damper. Marissa and Judith discussed saving money on food, but as we all know, I cannot skimp on food in any way. So I will make up that money somehow. At the end of day, we finally returned sopping wet, but it was all definitely worth the adventure.