It rained today, and I didn’t wear the proper jacket for it, so I ended up walking back a bit wet. At the same time, I didn’t really mind. Seeing Siena in the rain changed it for me: it made it more real. When you see postcards of the Piazza del Campo or of the Palio, you think about it as this wonderful, almost imaginary place, a place where people go to vacation, see the sights, and then come home. But seeing it rain, in a weird sort of way, makes you realize that this, too, is a place where people actually live. People go shopping, they do their laundry, they pay their taxes, all under the shadow of the Torre del Mangia or the Duomo. I knew that this was the case, but only yesterday did it really hit me; that this is still, in essence, a city – it’s just a really old, interesting one.
My new roommate, Andrea, moved in about three days ago, in the evening after I got back from classes. He’s my age, from Lombardia, near Lago di Como (the lake where the famous Star Wars love scene was held, as well as the last few scenes in Casino Royale). He’s very athletic, and I’ll get to that later, but he’s a very nice guy, and very cool. He doesn’t speak much English, and, since I don’t speak that much Italian, that gives us both a lot of chances to practice. He’s also very tidy, and very neat, so I end up feeling that I always seem to get the tidy roommate of the group. It’s a plot to make me look messy, I’m sure of it.
Andrea invited me to go to swimming practice with him two days ago. I wasn’t sure at first – I didn’t know what it would be like, and since I’m still learning the language, I wondered if I would be out of place. He assured me not, and since I did not have any prior obligations, I decided to go. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? I don’t fit in, they don’t like me, I feel embarrassed, and I never see those people again. I packed my things in my large, clunky duffle bag (it gets the job done) and hopped on the train with Andrea. It is here that I will add another stereotype-that-is-true:
Are all Italian things late? Yes. Buses, taxis, even just people meeting each other – everyone and everything is late in Italy. Always. Andrea and I waited for the bus for over half an hour past its expected arrival time before it came to the Piazza. The next day (yesterday) when I had to catch a bus, it was twenty minutes late. Unfortunately, this is the norm in Italy, such that when something arrives on time, everyone’s really excited and talks about it all day (‘Oh, Giovanni, you won’t believe it, the bus was on time today!’)
When we got to the pool, we both changed into our swimsuits and went from the locker room (which wasn’t really cut off – the front desk could look right in if they wanted to) to the actual pool area. What I discovered was a bit awkward for me, even though I should have expected it. Everyone – everyone – was in speedos (here, they call them ‘slips’). Tiny, revealing speedos. No one looked really out of shape, but it was very, well, new to me to see grown men, of all ages, in little speedos, and apparently not embarrassed at all about it. I suddenly felt out of place in swim trunks.
We got in the pool, and he introduced me to the other people, who were very friendly and tried to speak a little English with me (their English is actually pretty good). It was only after we started actually swimming that I realized how out of shape I am. After a straight 400 of freestyle, I found myself very tired. We did a few 50-meter sprints of varying strokes, and after that I had to take a break and cool myself down. Fortunately Andrea understood that I was just starting to swim again, so he was very nice about it, which almost made me feel even more guilty. The next day, the swimming was more relaxed, and I was able to swim the entire time without having to get out of the pool. Still, I feel very sore today, and it is only through good Italian food that I can feel better, I think.
Today, so far, has been very nice. Waking up at 10 am felt so good, and Roberta, another Italian roommate, cooked us all a traditional Sardinian meal (pasta with oil, garlic, and fish eggs). After that, some of the girls in the program and I walked around the city. It was a really nice walk – unlike the past few days, today was warmer, and the sky was sunny during the afternoon. We got a quick gelato near the Piazza Salimbeni, and then got some groceries (and wine!) at the supermercato.
I also have started to get homework from my classes now. It’s unfortunate, but I almost welcome it, because I’d much rather have something to do, or else I will get bored and do something unproductive, like surf the Net, or eat snacks, or even just sleep. Also, the homework is not much, and it’s just some nice, short, easy exercises to improve my language. If it starts getting to be too much, though, I’ll definitely complain about it. But not to the teachers, more like to you guys.
Also, this is directed to my college friends, but, really, where are the phone calls I have been expecting from you guys? I’ve been really looking forward to them, and so far nothing! I’ll be very upset at all of you if my entire semester goes by and no one has called me. Even if it’s John at 4am, I’ll take it.
Now to answer some comments:
Benton and Brian – I didn’t want to wear a scarf when I was back at Vandy because I knew that, no matter how cool my scarf was, or how well I wore it, I would never look as snazzy and smart as you two do. I would be constantly humiliated and diminished; here, however, I can dress like you and I won’t have to compete with both of you in the good looks department.
Dunbar – Having looked up what it means, I’m very upset. Of course, my talking about your comment on my blog post just makes my succeeding blog post longer, making it less and less likely that you’ll read it anyway. It’s so sad – I’d cry, but I don’t want to get tears in my beautiful Italian dinner.
Dad – that sounds like a good idea. We bought some more meat today, including chicken breast and salami, so that will be good. I do have to find some beef consommé, though, because I still want to make the curried rice that I have the recipe for.
That’s all for now. Later tonight I will put up some pictures of my roommates and some more of the city, because today was a good day for picture-taking.
Here's me in the middle, my two American roommates (Chelsea and Edin), and Giorgio, one my Italian roommates (I'll get pictures of Andrea, my actual roommate, and Roberta soon). To his left is Chiara, his girlfriend (and also a CET roommate for the Vanderbilt Florence program).