All right, here it is: my first blog post after landing in Italy. I wish I could think of something deep and grandiose to say at the beginning, but the day I left, I felt almost relaxed, at least when I was in the airport. Perhaps it was because I had been in that airport many times before, so the simple act of moving around in it was nothing new. I did feel a little bit sad when my parents wished me well and said goodbye, but I knew that they were happy and I’d be talking to them again soon.
As I sat down in the airport at my gate, preparing myself for a 15-hour festival of monotony and boredom, I couldn’t help but overhear three other college-age students who were sitting with their parents and giggling loudly. At first I had planned to simply sit there, minding my own business and waiting for the plane. I started, however, to pick up some of the words they were using, like ‘study’ and ‘abroad’. A-ha, I said to myself, perhaps they will be doing the same thing I will be doing. So, taking a page from Jessie Capps’ book and ‘just-doing-it’, I got up and introduced myself to them. It turns out that they are a few students who, while they live in Alabama, go to Harding University in Arkansas and are going to study in Florence for the semester. I think we were all relieved to see each other and talk to someone else. I was incredibly happy that I wouldn’t be doing this trip alone and bored (since they were going to Rome as well from Atlanta), and they seemed happy to know someone else who not only is studying in Italy, but who also knows some Italian (they didn’t know too much, but they seemed really interested).
We chatted for a long time before we got on the plane to Atlanta, and when we got to Atlanta, another surprise waited for me – Atlanta was the meeting group for all their other student friends. There were 40 in all, and so when I went to the airport cafeteria to get some lunch with them I was soon surrounded by dozens of them, all carrying heavy backpacks and chatting happily.
When we got on the plane (which was quicker than expected, since the plane arrived early and I forgot about the time zone difference), it was pretty hilarious that the entire rear section of the plane had to house all of our loud, excited bodies. A few of the people I met were fascinated by three tween Italian girls near us. I must admit, it’s pretty funny to see girls, iPods in hand and braces strapped, discussing things in Italian with their surprisingly-but-not-complaining hot mother.
I couldn’t sleep on the plane. I think I did for about an hour before I woke up with a neckache and a want for landing. We went over the mainland of Europe (specifically Spain) at approximately 3 am local time. We managed to fly directly over Barcelona, and it was a nice reassurance to see the city up in lights as well made our way to Italy.
As we landed in Rome, although we didn’t see the city proper, we managed to see a lot of the adjacent farms as we descended. Looking at the incredibly picturesque scene was incredible, and made me want to stay for more than three and a half months. It must have been even more exciting for the people who’ve never been to Italy before.
In the airport, it took a bit of time to find our luggage station. Ours was at the end of the line, and since no one else understood any Italian, they just followed me. It’s a lot of pressure to have forty students following you, all counting on you to lead them well. Now I know what Moses felt like (because, really, the promised land and the land of our luggage was the same importance at that point). Fortunately we found our station and all got our luggage sooner or later.
The Fiumicino airport in Rome is really, well, jumbled. Unlike American airports, there seem to be absolutely no order, no error-less way of doing things. Everything was cluttered and disconnected, but it was in a very amiable, lovable way. You like the airport, but you really shouldn’t. You should want to yell and shake the nearest airport employee and say “Why don’t you organize this place? I know five-year-olds who are more organized!” But you don’t. You go through with a nervous smile on your face, a sense of both enjoyment and fear.
After we got our luggage, we went through customs (not really – since we had nothing to declare, we just went out and caught our respective trains). I said goodbye to my new friends, but not without taking a picture first:
From left to right: Meredith, Kelsey, me, Robert, and Katherine (I hope I spelled them all right).
Although it was kind of sad to see them go, we were all in a hurry, and I figured I could see them again, since they were going to Florence, only an hour from Siena by bus. Fortunately, we’re now Facebook friends, so it’s all good in the end.
My next blog will be about my first day in Siena – and all the confusion, tiredness, humiliation, and frustration that that carries.
A più tardi…Ciao!