Since we’ve moved here, there has been construction next door to our apartment (in the case of our specific apartment, the construction also cuts directly under our rooms: I’ll get a picture for you guys showing this soon). We’re not particularly sure what the reason for the construction is, since it seems (for the most part) to be a very large, open space, with a few small buildings put in, but nothing big enough to hold anything except people. I talked with Roberta about this, and she thinks it’ll be a società for the Lupa contrada. The società is a place for the people of the various contrade to meet, hold parties, watch sports games, and other bonding experiences between neighbors. The closer it gets to Palio season, Roberta tells me, the more active the place will be. I don’t mind the construction, especially since they seem to be making progress (considering we’re in Italy, I was quite shocked), but they have a terrible schedule of working. Around 8AM, jackhammers, drills, and buzzsaws start not twenty feet from where I sleep. It’s annoying, but at least it makes me wake up at a reasonable hour.
Unfortunately, for the past week or so, the girls’ bathroom in our apartment has been completely broken. The shower works, but the toilet floods the floor every time it is flushed. They determined that much of the problem stems from the fact that they are building something directly next door to (and, in our case, directly under) our apartment, and it’s messed up the plumbing under the building. The plumbers have been coming all day to our apartment (each time it seems to be a different person) and asking us things. I’ve been, for the most part, the only one at the apartment at the time they came – Giorgio was at work and Roberta was at class. I stumbled and tripped through what comparatively little Italian I knew, but after a few minutes of me apologizing and asking what these guys meant in the first place, we managed to communicate effectively and figure out the problem. It is at this time that I’m going to explain the Sienese accent.
The accent here is weird. Quite weird. And, to my buffoonery American ears, it doesn’t make sense. Basically, it changes the ‘k’ sound to the ‘h’ sound. For instance, the normal way to say “My name is Carlo” is “Mi chiamo Carlo”. This accent turns it into “Mi hiamo Harlo.” “Let’s go to the Campo” becomes “Andiamo al Hampo”. It’s another wonderfully exasperating rule about Italians: every city, no matter how close to another city, has their own specific accent. Even if that city only has 1,500 people, an Italian can figure out where they’re from. On one hand, it’s really nice that Italy can have such a diversity, such a plethora, of different aspects that makes every tiny town and city unique. On the other hand, if they’re talking to me, I come across as more of an idiot than I usually do.
And now (finally) some more pictures!
The Piazza Del Campo on one of the warmest afternoons we've had while here. It's a favorite past-time, particularly of students, to just sit on the Piazza in warm times, sit or lie down, and relax.
The statue in the center of the Universita' di Siena (not the foreigners' university, just the regular one).
The MeetLife Cafe, a little hole-in-the-wall place that's really quite nice. The bartender knows our faces by now, and it's a nice place to relax between classes or after a stroll through the city. Plus his TV shows sports games.
The Siena soccer stadium. The soccer team here was established in 1904, and, while they're not going to win the championship this year, they're pretty good.
The Via di Pian d'Ovile, the street on which our apartment is. On the right you can see the Fontenuova, which I took a picture of earlier.
Me with the flag of the Lupa Contrada. I think it's a pretty cool flag, and it's nice and big, so I can hang it up here and when I come back.
I'm also going to stick the text here from my last update of my last post. I just updated it last night, and I want people to read it, since they might not have before this post. Anyway, here it is:
A few days ago, it happened. I thought it'd happen sooner, but I held out. I had my first yearning for American food. We were at a party, and there was a group of guys standing in the corner. Someone said something about 'look at those five guys over there', and it happened. I wanted Five Guys so badly. I still do. I love those little burgers and those exquisitely made fries. I should stop talking about it, come to think of it -- the pain of being without is too much.
Speaking of American food, I've given it up for Lent. I know what you're thinking: "Charlie, geez, you're in Italy, going without hot dogs should be easy." That part is easy -- I love Italian food and I love cooking it. At the same time, I'm also giving up American snack foods, like potato chips, M&M's, Coca-Cola, and other things, which is harder for me to give up. But, hey, I only have 30 more days or so to keep it up -- I can make it. Though I'll probably inhale an entire bag of M&M's on midnight of Easter.
Now that all of us students have settled into the rhythm of things like classes, meals, and the time it takes to get around the city, we've all started planning trips and excursions to other parts of Europe. I should rephrase: I'm starting, everyone else has been planning already. I'm not sure where I'd like to go, but I have a few ideas: France, Germany, London, maybe Prague. I have to start making trips and schedules, and so it's pretty good that I got a three-day weekend here.
I find I'm starting to miss things from home more often -- though not the things I'd expect. I miss my family, yes, but I talk with them fairly regularly, so that's good. I do miss my dogs, though, and seeing all the dogs people have here reminds me of them. I'm also missing Vanderbilt and my buddies a bit, but there's plenty of time for me to get absorbed back into the Vandy culture when I get back.
Finally, for Mike who wanted to know, here are the (rough estimate of the) swim times I had for the swim meet: 1:10.36 for the 100 Freestyle and 41.40 for the 50 Breaststroke. Not the best of my life, but I thought they were respectable.