As I near the end of my first month here (time has flown by, in a bittersweet way), I think I’m realizing yet more things about the beautiful city in which I reside. The first is that it is, in Italian terms, a precious, precious city, because it doesn’t have the usual tourism acne that inhabits larger Italian cities. Going to Venice for Carnevale showed me that. Siena doesn’t have people sitting on the street begging for change (well, I’ve seen one guy, but he’s only done it for, like, a week), there were no street vendors pushing cheap knock-off watches onto me, there were no crowded main streets filled with huddled groups of tourists. While there are certainly tourists that come, they’re not filling the streets, and any tour groups are inconspicuous enough that they don’t affect your day in the slightest. It’s really quite a nice diversion, I’d imagine, than from the five or so huge Italian cities that constantly get tourists.
Another thing is how comparatively safe the city is. That’s not saying that big Italian cities are really violent, but I mean that I haven’t heard about any pickpocketing. For instance, take yesterday: As I walked back, alone, from my oral exam in the early afternoon, it was a very crowded street. It’s about a 10-minute walk back to my apartment from the university. When I got back, I realized that I had left my backpack completely unzipped for the entire walk back. In my backpack were my school supplies, my camera, and my iPod. No one had taken anything, and I walked almost the entire length of the city. It helped me realize the actual safe quality of the city. Still, I’m never leaving my backpack open again.
Our exams were Thursday, and everyone in the program was a bit nervous, some moreso than others. For some students, just passing was enough, since their home institutions had a ‘pass/fail’ bit with their study-abroad classes. Note to Vanderbilt students: this is not the case for us! Our courses translate directly, so all of the Vandy kids needed at least a 29 out of 30 to get an A. So, you know, no pressure. Still, the written exams seemed fine, and the oral exams did well, too. All in all, I got a 30 ‘e lode’, which is, loosely translated, an A+. As far as I know, everyone in the program did well at the exams, and we have a three-day weekend to celebrate! Weeee!
A priest came to consecrate our apartment today. It was put up in a notice in advance a few days before, but it still threw us for a loop. Apparently it’s something that happens in Italy a lot, so Andrea and Giorgio weren’t really altered by it. They didn’t understand that a priest showing up at your residence is usually not a routine thing in the US. He showed up with his priest garbs and a Billabong sock hat (hey, it was chilly!), said a Hail Mary, and left. It was an interesting experience, I guess, but you can definitely sense the cultural distance there. But, hey, I got a picture of a Virgin Mary statue out of it, so a net gain, no?
Andrea, my roommate, left last night to study abroad in Germany. It was kind of sad to see him go. He was a cool guy, and it was through him that I met a lot of other Italian people, particularly through swim practice. Hopefully he’ll visit over the semester, but still, it was cool having him as a roommate.
As for the weather, it’s recently been getting warmer. I mean, it’s not exactly t-shirt weather, but it’s getting to the point where coats aren’t always necessary during the day. On Sunday we’re heading to the stadium for a soccer game (I’d have gone to a game two weeks ago, but the tickets are pretty pricey). Siena’s playing Genoa, which is ranked 5th in the Italian league (Siena, on the other hand, is ranked 14th). That’s all for now, but I’ll write soon!