Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lost and Found

I’ve been slacking on the blogging, but I feel like absolutely nothing happens and then everything happens all at once, so yeah. Here goes. I’ve got 4 days left in Italy, a country that I have absolutely, 100% fallen in love with. It wasn’t love at first sight, but how anyone could not love Italy is beyond me. I don’t want to leave Italy. I don’t want to leave its stunning mountains and rolling hills with tiny colorful houses at the top. I don’t want to leave gelato and fresh vegetables that are miraculously cooked in a way that makes them taste so delicious. I don’t want to leave my Italian mother and her incredibly generous and adorable self. I don’t want to leave a place where good wine can be bought for 3 euro. I don’t want to leave a place where art and history are around every corner. I miss my family and friends like you wouldn’t believe. But I have a simple request. Can’t you all just move to Italy instead? Why not? It’s a pretty sweet place to be. Life is good here. I spent all day staring out at the Grand Canal in Venice reading a book in the sunshine on the steps of a beautiful church. The fact that this has become a relatively commonplace activity in my world is rather ridiculous when I step back and look at it. Oh, yeah, I WENT TO VENICE this weekend! And it was incredible! And sooo cool!

But more on that in a minute. I should back track a bit about my last week of classes in Firenze. Last week was a bit odd on the home front. My Italian mama’s mom (aka nona) had some sort of heart problem (either a heart attack or stroke, we couldn’t discern the Italian completely) and was in the hospital. My host mom immediately took off for Padua and spent a couple of nights there. When she came back she was completely exhausted. She told us that she just wanted to watch some tv and go to bed. She then proceeded to tell us what she was going to watch on tv. She said something akin to “lo e odr.” Eryn and I thought she was speaking in Italian because it sounded like gibberish and therefore had no idea what she was talking about. Finally we got that she was telling us that she was going to watch “Law and Order.” Haha. It was of the moments that made me think critically about the English language. I feel like it’s pretty harsh sounding and awkward by comparison to the fluid Italian language. Anywho, my host mom left the next night to go back to Padua. She’s supposed to be back on Tuesday. Fingers crossed that everything has gone well and that her mom is recovering. Her mom has dementia so the whole thing is additionally traumatic. Prayers for a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, I had some long days of classes and pretty standard fare academics-wise. We did go to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens on Thursday which was pretty sweet. The Pitti Palace is this HUGE palace that different wealthy families have lived in since like the 1400s. The Medici moved in at one point and increased its size to absolutely insane proportions. And while the palace was amazing itself, nothing compares to the ridiculously beautiful Boboli Gardens out back. It’s just this massive, well groomed garden filled with flowers and fountains and greenery. So pretty. Last week was week 2 of complete rain so that put a damper on things. I wrote a paper for class and did a lot of procrastinating of paper writing, so it was a pretty average week.

But this weekend was anything but average. On Saturday, my whole ACM program met at the train station at 9:30 for a two hour ride to Venice. It was POURING both in Venice and in Firenze. It made for a soggy introduction to the city. Umbrellas are extremely difficult to navigate with on tiny cramped streets. But from the minute you step out of the train station, Venice is a sight to behold. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. No cars, all boats, gondolas everything, houses that look like they’re floating (and for all intensive purposes they are in fact floating). We took a waterbus to our hotel. The tide was extremely high due to the rain. We dropped our stuff off and had class in San Marco. It’s this giant church and equally giant piazza. The piazza was so flooded, however, that the entrance to the church was completely surrounded by two feet of water. People were taking off their shoes and wading in the water. The water comes up through the ground here and that’s part of the reason that they think one day Venice will sink completely. Craziness. Eventually we did get in the church a few hours later when the tide had gone down a bit. There were insanely awesome mosaics plastered over every inch of the place. I can’t even imagine the kind of artistic skill and time something like that would take. So that was sweet. We had some free time to walk about and I did some window shopping. They sell Murano glass everywhereee and masks aplenty. I wanted to buy EVERYTHING. I restrained myself for the moment however. We had dinner at the hotel which was decent. The group wanted to go out that night and we went in search of a bar. Venice is sooo dead at night. There is practically zero nightlife, so it was basically our group in a bar. Some good conversation and we called it a relatively early night.

On Sunday we went to a palace for class. There were pretty incredible chandeliers all over. These things are HUGE. So cool and made entirely of glass. Then we had the whole rest of the day off to explore and do whatever we wanted. Awesome. I stopped at a glass store, found myself a ring and tried to pick up some souvenirs. Then I headed to the Guggenheim Museum. Peggy Guggenheim lived in a pretty, large house right on the Grand Canal and was a major patron of modern art. She is even rumored to have had an affair with Jackson Pollack. The deal for the weekend was that we (the ACM kids) were allowed to go to one museum of our choosing and get reimbursed for it later. I’m not really into modern art. I generally stare at it with a quizzical look and then realize that I just don’t get it. But I thought I’d give this museum a chance and it turned out pretty well. The house was beautiful and the pieces interesting. After the museum, I wandered off on my own for some shopping and exploring. I had lost my map and Venice is notorious for having really confusing streets. But I knew some major landmarks so I figured, why not go get lost for a bit? And that’s exactly what I did. I bought some more souvenirs, grabbed a late lunch, and just got myself totally lost in Venice. I loved it. I loved wandering around without direction, not a worry in the world, and no particular time I needed to be somewhere. It was liberating. The night was really chill and I was exhausted from the day. Oh, and the sun came out on Sunday. It was 75-degrees and gorgeous. Venice is much nicer in the sunshine.

Monday (aka today) I had class at another church and then got to see some Tintoretto paintings which were pretty cool. Then I had another 6 hours of free time to fill before meeting back up to take a train home at 4. I wandered some more, got lost some more, and managed to find my way back with ease. I’ve really learned to trust myself with directions and knowing that I’ll be able to figure out how to get home. It makes life a bit easier especially when going off on your own. Today I found this beautiful church with a view of the Grand Canal only about 5 min away from our hotel. I sat outside with a biography on George Eliot (which has me completely engrossed at the moment) and thoroughly enjoyed the view and the moment. The hours whiled away, I ran into some other ACMers, grabbed another late lunch, and had a genuinely lovely afternoon. I can’t remember the last time I had all afternoon to just lay outside and read in the USA. I am a very lucky girl.

I hope it’s coming across that I’m truly valuing and treasuring every moment I have in Europe. I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to make this trip happen. With time running out, I simply can’t believe where the time went. I feel like I was just saying tearful goodbyes with mom at the airport and taking my first Tube ride. Tomorrow I need to write a take-home final for my art history class. Wednesday I have a class and Thursday I have my last final. I fly to London Friday night (volcano allowing) and I’ll be home by Saturday night. So crazy. I’m dreading figuring out how to pack everything. It’s going to be a challenge.

As much as I love Italy, I do look forward to going home. I can’t wait to be reunited with my family and friends. I can’t wait for unlimited texting. I can’t wait for Chipotle (hahaha). I can’t wait to drive my car. But if I’ve learned anything on this trip, it’s to live in the moment and treasure each breath I take. So that’s what I’m going to do this week.

Livin’ in the moment.

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