Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Long Absence, But I Return!

Valentine's Day is a pretty big thing here, and there were lots of parties at the local bars celebrating it. Instead, the students of the program decided to have a potluck dinner. We would all cook something and bring it to one of the student apartments. It ended up being really great, and I ran into Alexandra, who was in the weekend on a trip from Florence. It was really cool to see someone I knew before this started.

Some of the people gathered at the dinner. In reality, there was probably twice this number.

All of the food at the Potluck dinner. Everything was fantastic, and we all left full.

Classes have also being going better as of late. I’m not overcome by allergies anymore – in fact, I haven’t sneezed or sniffled in class for a few days, now. I don’t know if they cleaned the room, or maybe I just have so many residual antihistamines flowing through my body that there’s no possibility of an allergy attack. Either way, I like the results, and class is a lot more bearable now.

This weekend was the trip to the Carnevale in Foiano, Italy. Foiano itself is a small town, but we were making a 2-hour stop in Arezzo, a capital of one of Italy’s central provinces, so we were able to walk around and see some sights. Unfortunately, I fear my picture-taking skills need work, but I managed to snap a few photos of the city, which is fairly large but manages to retain its simple, antiquated charm.

One of the wings of the Arezzo Cathedral. It's far too big to get the entirety in one shot, and I was quickly ushered out due to the large crowd. Sorry about the shaky image.

A statue outside the Arezzo Cathedral.

So we get on a bus and get to Foiano. A tiny provincial town, I go into the center with some of the other students, looking at all the large floats and people (mostly children) in costume. I take a few pictures, I’m excited…and the camera’s battery dies. Dies. Done. È morto. I cried out in despair as children sprayed silly string all around me and the smell of hazelnut candy filled the air. Then I realized that I had already gotten some good pictures out of it.

The rest of the day went uneventfully, but smoothly. We bought bags of confetti and proceeded to pelt each other with them. The next seven hours were spent trying to pick them out of our hair and clothes (two days later, I still find bits in my pockets). The candy that I got was also pretty good, if a bit expensive, and it was fun to go somewhere for a day instead of staying in Siena, and being outside.

On the bus ride back from Foiano, I was looking out in the countryside at all the vineyards and olive tree orchards. I remember, before I left, my parents said that they thought it would be good if I worked come vendemmiatore (as a grapepicker) over the summer or something. I didn’t really think it was a great idea when they told me, but looking over the orchards and along the Tuscan countryside, I’d say it wouldn’t be too bad of a fate.

One of the floats at the parade during the Foiano

Swimming every day (or almost every day, weekend practices are lame) has been pretty good. Other than the aforementioned Speedo issue, I’m glad I get to go out and exercise every day. It also helps with my Italian when I talk to other swimmers. At the same time, now is when I add another stereotype-which-is-true to the ever-growing list:

Are many Italian men very hairy? Check. This is especially noticeable when these Italian men are in the pool wearing speedos, and I’m stuck behind them in the swimming order. When I say they're hairy, I mean hairy. They make Brian and the twins look like newborn baby girls. Hopefully it prevents kids from drinking the pool water -- certainly didn't my swim practice any nicer to look at, I'll tell you that much.

While I was changing after practice, Andrea called out to me through the locker room.
“Com’era la tua lezione oggi?” he asked.
“What?” I replied, because he had spoken quickly.
“How was your lesson?” he said in English.
That I understood. “Oh, great, a little long, but it went well,” I answered.
“I signed you up for a swim race.”
“What?” I replied, because he is a crazy, crazy person who says crazy, crazy things.
“I signed you up for a swim race. Now you can compete!” He seemed very excited.

And so, Sunday after my Venice Carnevale trip, I am going to Prato with some of Andrea’s swimming friends (I’ve met them, nice people), and I’m going to swim in two races. I’m pretty excited about it. At first I was anxious – after all, this is just me going with some Italians, what if I get lost or something? But I feel like it could be a really cool experience. Plus I’ll be sure to get some good pictures of both the swim meet and of Prato, so I’ll keep you guys filled in on that.

And now for some comment feedback:

First, I want to thank Dad for the simple yet effective breaded chicken recipe. It’s been a big hit – everyone seems to like it. It also goes really well with soup or pasta. I’ve also started making some Pasta Fagioli, which is really good, and quick to make for late dinners.

Brian – I miss you guys too, but I’m sure you all are having a lot of fun at Vanderbilt. Also, per Corrinne’s request, I have sent a postcard. Tell me when you guys get it!

Guy – The meaning of life in Italy is to walk around, chat with friends, drink some wine and coffee (though not at the same time), eat good food, walk around some more, and be merry. This isn’t an exaggeration; it’s what they do here. I’m pretty sure that if the Italians had the work ethic of the Americans or the Japanese, they’d be on top of the world. But then, they don’t seem to mind their situation as is.

Okay, that’s it for now. Hopefully I will write another blog post before Saturday, and then after the weekend is over I will write one about my combined Venice Carnevale / Prato swim meet weekend. Ciao!


  1. dats ballin' shit yo glad you havin a hella good time
    keep the peace, aight?

  2. I oughtta thank my mom for not being italian - maybe that's what's keeping my hair all up on one half of my chest.

    Good luck swimming! Your hairless resistanceless bod will be on your side!