karina used to get drunk and buy everyone shots
karina found money on the floor of a bakery in lucca
we got some wicked good anise and raisin bread
we had a bad ass time in greece- specifically corfu
okay okay….athens too…..rachel-johnny depp
karina used to get drunk and buy everyone shots
karina found money on the floor of a bakery in lucca
we got some wicked good anise and raisin bread
we had a bad ass time in greece- specifically corfu
okay okay….athens too…..rachel-johnny depp
because I can’t text my roommates every 5 seconds to tell them what im reminiscing about, and I can’t tweet about all of my experiences abroad because no one will get it (and theyre already annoyed with me) I’ve decided to write all my random memories here.
Remember that one time Karina yelled vaffanculo repeatedly when a random guy on a bike tried to hit on her in front of the Duomo in Woman’s day?
remember when we were at lions fountain and mishu asked us why americans always say “si si si” 3 times?
remember that one time we were walking through the creepy ass streets of greece with those 2 greek dudes (one of them we thought was cute until he stood up) and we passed some homeless greek guy shooting up heroin just like Jamie told us?
Remember when we stayed at the pink palace and I told Reed not to call me “sweetie”
remember when we were at the pink palace and janet peed under the stairs?
remember when were at the pink palace and we changed into our pink togas in the common area and then tried to shove all of our clothes into the window to our bathroom
remember when i wore my combat boots with my pink toga
remember that one time i passed out in shots?
remember when i wore my combat boots in barcelona and it started raining and the rain came through them
remember when I ate that box of crave in like one night
remember when someone was on their period in the apt and left their period blood on the floor
remember when we discovered that the pizza place near our apt on nazionale had wicked good pizza and a gorgeous area in the back
remember when the one euro egg man called me bella?
The first week I’m all:
But by the end of the semester I’m like:
It would be impossible for me to reiterate what I’ve done on each of my days in Italy for you. But there is one day of the week I can tell you was always a good one- Wednesday.
Every Wednesday Elizabeth and I meet up. Same place, same time- Duomo steps (on the left), 1:15. I’m pretty sure about 80% of the true Italian dining I’ve done has been on Wednesday or “il Mercoledi” as we’d say in Italian. Wednesdays with Elizabeth are also a sanity check for me. We hug at the Duomo steps and as soon as we decide where to eat I usually bombard her with my problems from the previous week. She patiently listens as I vent, hardly taking a breath for air. Because we’re both from the same university and state she’s the closest thing to home I have. I’m not sure how successful I would have been without her here in Florence. She’s helped me with everything from showing me my favorite place to get lunch, to sending post cards, to asking for oranges in Italian, to finding a place to get a wax. Clearly the favors don’t end there, but you get the point- IO AMO MERCOLEDI.
This week Elizabeth’s family was in town so I was scheduled for a lonely wednesday. Against my expectations for this particular wednesday, I woke up to a facebook message to join the family for dinner. Different place, different time. Ponte Vecchio, 7:50.
After a few raindrops on the Ponte Vecchio I found Elizabeth and her brother Austin. We shared umbrellas to our restaurant Trattoria Quattro Leoni. We made our way to our table and met Elizabeth’s parents who had spots saved for Elizabeth, Austin, and me. A family dinner with a spot for me. My empty spot was accompanied by two smiling faces that instantly warmed my heart.
“I’m Gioia!” Elizabeth’s mom smiled at me and shook my hand. “Thats my Italian name!” she continued. Her name is actually Joyce. Gioia means joy in Italian, which was a fitting name for the joyful mom.
“I’m Bob, nice to meet you!” Elizabeth’s Dad said as he also shook my hand with a smiling face.
This was going to be a good night.
My subconscious fear of parents instantly disappeared. Whether Elizabeth’s family intended it or not, they made me feel like family. Bob and Joyce had two small cups of prosecco that they were sipping on before we had arrived and they shared with me just like a family member. Soon enough, I was given my own cup and a cup of red wine along with it. I’ve never felt so welcome at a family dinner in my life. Conversation was easy and I spent my evening giggling with the family. And I’m not talking about that fake laughing you do when you’re uncomfortable. I mean genuine giddy happy laughter. They shared family stories with me and showed me pictures from their trip to Cinque Terra earlier in the day. I talked with them about my major and my family. I eventually even got the courage to make a joke or two.
For the first time in 3 months it felt like I had a family. My favorite part about the night was how we’d pass our plates of food around for everyone to try. They shared everything with me like I was one of their own.
The food was incredible. To start we all had bruschetta with olive oil and tomatoes. For my meal I had Fiocchetti di Pera in Salsa di Taleggio e Asparagi aka PEAR RAVIOLI with asparagus and a white cream sauce. Oh yeah. It was as incredible as it sounds. I also tried a bite of someone’s fried mushrooms which were light, fluffy, and delicious. For dessert I had a fruit cheesecake that was so heavenly it was ready to fall apart at the touch of a fork. The slice was covered in a maroon berry sauce with small tart small red berries.
During dessert we did my favorite thing again- plate passing.
“Which way are we going?” Elizabeth asked.
“To the right.” Her dad replied.
And so the sweet dishes made their way around the table. Family style. Lemon gelato, chocolate covered strawberries, a thin dark chocolate brownie like cake, and chocolate covered cheesecake.
As the number of days I’ve been away from home have increased, so has my homesickness. Tonight I felt like I had home and Italy at the same time. The food was incredible but the company was even better.
A few more sips of wine and we walked Elizabeth’s family to their apartment for the night. They showed me around the gorgeous yet eccentric place. It was classic Italian with stone arches and a few modern twists. A massive glass chandelier with colored lights hung from the ceiling of her parents room. The apartment had a large kitchen and a small kitchen, an ancient preserved Roman well, and a downstairs spa room. Her brother’s room was incredible. It was basically split in half- stairs lead to a separate area for his bed and beneath was extra seating and drawers.
We said goodnight to Elizabeth’s family and she walked with me toward my apartment. But first we stopped to do something I’d been dying to do all semester- photo-booth.
I eagerly jumped in the booth and popped in the 2 euro. As we tried to figure out the machine and look for a screen a flash went off. I’m talking about one of those old school incredibly bright flashes from the way early 1900’s. So, we posed….nothing. We looked into a black box in front of us…how does it work? FLASH. We posed with a peace sign…nothing. Pause……nothing……FLASH. How the hell does this machine work?! FLASH.
We stepped outside to wait for our picture….wait for our picture…..wait for our picture……where the hell is our picture? Is this thing broken? Wait…do you hear that? Maybe its making it. Wait, it says it takes 5 minutes. What time is it? Okay in 2 minutes we’re leaving. Where is it?!
THERE IT IS.
This was not a digital photo-booth picture, its a true four block black and white photo. Three pictures looking blankly into the camera, one picture with two peace signs. A true treasure from one of my favorite nights in Italy. I love wednesday.
I shuddered at the realization that I will only be spending 4 more sundays in Florence, Italy. I feel like I will have completed a game show. Something like the Hunger Games. I was thrown in the world’s arena and I’m close to making it out alive.
So much is going to happen in the next 5 weeks. I have to write two 8 page papers, I’ll have 2 group presentations, I have to be a part of a humiliating dance performance, all-nighters for final exams, I will celebrate my 21st birthday, visit the Almafi Coast, pack all of my belongings, attend a goodbye aperitivo, hug my new friends goodbye (some of them forever), move out of my apartment, and spend a week in Italy with my Dad. Then its back on a plane.
I can’t even fathom the feeling of running into my mom’s arms after so many months. We’ve had no webcams to talk to each other while I’m abroad, so I haven’t seen her since I said goodbye at the airport. 3 months ago.
I’m overwhelmed with thoughts. What will life be like for me when I get back to America? No one I know will be able to even remotely relate to the experience I’ve had. Who will I talk to?
When I left the states, I feared I would never want to go back home. However, I’ve surprisingly gained a new respect for my corrupt country. I do miss it. Not to mention no beautiful ocean, delicious food, or gorgeous men can replace my need for my Mom or my best friends.
While being abroad is amazing, I think what people don’t get to see when they stalk my facebook are the challenges I face. Living in Italy means giving up a few of my everyday American privileges. I have a phone, but I don’t really have a phone. I text and call only when there are emergencies or when its completely necessary. When I miss my mom or my best friends, I have to sign on to skype and pray theyre online. Which isnt likely. If they aren’t available I have to suck it up and live with out them. When I’m lost, I have no GPS. I can’t download an app to translate italian menus or things I don’t understand. Italian’s can use the fact that I cannot speak italian against me. They can pretend they don’t understand English to get their way. I’m tired of being in-between a living member of Italy and just an annoying tourist. I have a special member card to the italian grocery store- that means I live here! Right?… I can only wash a small load of clothes, and then they must be hung outside and air-dried. If its raining outside, I lay my wet clothes in my room. At the end of the day, all of my clothes are hard and almost crispy. In retrospect those arent really challenges at all, but its the small things that make me miss home.
Traveling is incredible, but its more incredible to share your greatest experiences with the people you love. People that have the same interests as you. People who appreciate the same things as you. People who enjoy your company. People who who like to talk about the same things you like to talk about. People who know what you’re going to find incredible. People that can be happy for you.
My time away from everyone back home has given me the opportunity to think about the people that I value most. Not only that, but I’ve seen the people who value me as well. My friends who made the effort to skype with me. Corey staying up until 5AM just to see me. Jenn skyping with me for 3 hours. Emily sending me letters in the mail. My 5 year old cousin drawing me pictures and making crafts for me. My incredible father calling me every chance he gets. And of course my wonderful mother who writes me letters, e-mails, takes care of things at home, and sends me Easter decorations.
I know that this experience has had a great effect on me as a person. As I told my roommate earlier today, I think I changed who I was 3 times in the last 3 months. However, I dont think I’m going to see my change until Italian influenced Yasmin is placed back in America. Will I even remember how to drive?
Nothing bothers me more than being just another girl. Its disturbing to think that very soon after I move out of “my” apartment in Italy, another girl will move in. She will sleep in my bed. Fold her clothes in my drawers. Do her homework at my desk. The finger prints I leave on the switch of my night light will be covered over with hers. Her feet will step all over the foot prints that I leave behind. She’ll sit on my balcony, my favorite spot in the house, and never even know that my eyes stared at the same view for countless hours.
What will I be doing? Will I lay in bed dreaming of my ex-Italian balcony just as I dream now of running into my mother’s arms in the airport? Look at the time I’m wasting dreaming of what may or may not be.
Life here does not feel real. Walking through the streets of the small city of Florence feels a lot like being on a movie set. It feels like a made up world. Everything is pretend because everything is temporary. I take nothing seriously.
Being back in Texas I’ll have so many options. Thats exactly the difference between America and Italy. In the states we have options. I wont have to pick from 5 pairs of shoes or 4 necklaces anymore. My clothes will be waiting for me at home. I can shop with out worrying if it will fit in my suitcase. When I walk into a store I can say “Hi! How are you?!” I won’t be self conscious about my language or where I come from. I can smile at people on the street. I can wear sweats to the grocery store. I can text my friends when I miss them. Forget texting them, I CAN SEE THEM. I can hug them. I can actually feel them. I can call and text my mom when ever I feel like it. I can kiss my mom! I can enjoy my dinner with my mom!! I can watch Saturday Night Live! I can search for places to eat on my smart phone. I can get food 24/7 at a drive through. I wont have to put my groceries in my backpack or pay for plastic bags! I CAN USE COUPONS TO GET THINGS CHEAPER. I wont have to take out cash every week. I don’t have to worry about my products running out. I can hang whatever I want on my wall. I can download music illegally. I can say I can do what ever I want because “THIS IS AMERICA.”
After 4 more Sunday’s everything will change.
And the count down begins! Roughly about 5 weeks left until I depart from my new home in Italy. I feel that this last month it is vital for me to rediscover the magic I felt my first weeks in Italy. I’ve had the Italian romance and traveled to surrounding European countries- now more than ever I need to appreciate the little things. Like tonight.
After a way too intense night in Barcelona, I’ve decided to say ciao to alcohol for a while (and I’m saying ciao in the goodbye sense). However, I can’t lock myself in my room refreshing my facebook page while my friends go out. So I’ve just decided to accept and embrace my Sober Sally-ness. Surprisingly tonight, I really enjoyed it.
Europe’s streets are dominated by Indian vendors. When night rolls around the club and bar streets are filled with tons of Indian men attempting to sell, usually half-dead, roses. Most Americans will tell you they’re fed up with the rose vendors who sometimes push personal space attempting to sell their product. My roommate Karina is one of them. “I hate them” she’ll admit openly. And tonight was no different. The rose vendors usually target guys who are in conversation with a girl to sell their roses to. Today Karina was spotted in conversation with one of our guy friends and became an instant rose-vendor target. She put her hand to the rose-man’s face and said NO.
I saw the hurt on the poor vendors face and couldn’t help but step in. I lifted her hand away, touched his shoulder and in broken italian repeatedly apologized and said no thank you. He pulled out a large healthy pink and red rose looked at me and said “gift.”
“No, no, no grazie.”
“Gift, gift, gift” he insisted.
I took the beautiful rose gave him a hug and thanked him.
The night went on with good company and conversation and got even better when we decided to seek out the rumored “Secret Bakery.” Rumor is that at 2 AM certain bakeries make fresh pastries for the next day and sell them for 1 euro- if you can find them.
The rumor is reality.
2 AM rolled around and I met a girl who knew where the Secret Bakery was. As we walked through the cobble stone streets behind the pub we were at, the girl I was with warned us to be quiet or we’d have water thrown at us. A few steps later the back alley was instantly overcome with an overwhelming smell of fresh pastries baking. Karina and I looked at each other and grabbed on to each others arms trying to contain our excitement. That didnt work, as I began to jump with joy along with each whiff of the sweet Italian goodness. We arrived at a frosted door which was closed. The lights inside were dim. We knocked 3 times and waited a few moments. Then a man peeped his head out of a half open door.
“2 croissants with nutella” the girl I was with asked.
The man closed the door. A few moments later he arrived again with a small white bag in hand. The white bag was exchanged for 2 euro. And the Secret Bakery exchange was complete.
The process was repeated for Karina and me. I couldnt keep my eyes off of another girl’s pastry so I asked her what it was, but as soon as Karina retrieved our pastries, she ran over and kicked me in the behind. “HURRY THEYRE HOT.” It was imperative that I didn’t miss the true freshness of the no longer secret pastry.
I took my first bite and closed my eyes. Warmth. The thinnest layer of glaze on the outside. Pure fluffy fresh dough on the inside. Second bite, I hit the chocolate cream. Best Euro I ever spent. So good in fact, I repeated the process.
My Kebab Queen Karina made a stop to get herself a kebab (another florentine, but not so florentine, delicacy) and as soon as we had more change, I headed back to the bakery. I had to get the pastry I was drooling over earlier. But what did the girl say it was called? Bom….Bombo…..Bomborini? Bombo-something.
Again I walked through the warm pastry scented back alley and knocked 3 times at the frosted door. A baker peeped his head out.
“Un Bombo…” I waited for the man to complete my request.
“Cioccolato o …”
“SI! Cioccolato!!!” I interrupted before he could finish.
He grinned and the frosted door closed. A few moments later my white paper bag was delivered to me. I happily handed over my euro coin and opened up my heavy bag. There in the corner of the bag sat my heavenly pasty. Large and round covered with powdered sugar and in the center- chocolate cream.
I gently lifted it out of the bag. The pastry was heavy with the fresh chocolate cream. I closed my eyes and took my first bite. Tonight I fell in love with Florence all over again.
Before studying abroad I went to numerous seminars about the feelings I might experience while I’m away from home in another country. I was often warned about terrifying emotional distress due to the shock of a new culture and helplessness that came with being thousands of miles away. The visual representation of this range of emotions students feel while abroad was often presented in a chart that looked something like this:
Um, is it just me or are those some really intense lows? I can hear the dramatic titles in my head:
THE PLUNGE. CONFRONTING DEEPER ISSUES. JUDGMENTAL PERIOD.
As my bliss continued without interruption the past 6 weeks, I often joked with my roommates about when the bad part of the chart would come around. Well, this chart is kind of stupid for 2 reasons.
1. There’s no timeline
2. The lines are crooked
I basked in the fact that I beat the chart and the stereotype of the over emotional study abroad student for the past month and a half. I laughed in the face of anyone who thought I might meet unhappiness. I thought 6 weeks meant my honeymoon phase would have passed long long ago- but I was wrong.
Today, one day after my blog about achieving genuine happiness, it arrived. The Plunge. Some might call me a hypocrite, I call it life. You know, that funny thing that likes to throw the unexpected at you once in a while.
I laid in bed on the phone with my mom as tears flowed out of my eyes like the recycled water in the Trevi Fountain. Of course, they weren’t as clear as that water because I had mascara on. But where did this come from? Yesterday, I never wanted to go home. Today all I wanted to do was hug my mom, eat a burger with french fries and slurp a huge strawberry milkshake, then shop at Target where food, clothes, and everything else anyone could ever need is all in one place for a good price.
As mentioned before, I had a rough week. However I put all the negatives aside and tried this new concept called “optimism.” I tried to find the positive outcome in all of my unfortunate endeavors, but even my attempt at an optimistic nature couldnt suppress the build up of frustration from the past week.
I purchased an external hard-drive from a small electronics store down the road from my apartment last week. I was skeptical about its ability to work with my mac, but I was reassured it would be fine.
It didn’t work.
This week I took the hard drive back to the store in hopes that I’d get my money back. So much for that. This isn’t Best Buy, honey. The Italian man who works in the store made me go home to get my computer to bring back so I could prove to him that it didn’t work. Upon validating that the hard drive wasn’t compatible with my mac, the man began to yell at me. Karina is my witness. This man legitimately yelled at me in Italian accusing me of dropping the hard drive and breaking it. He closely inspected the external drive and couldn’t find a single scratch, so he moved on to the next accusation. He began to yell some more telling me that I broke it by unplugging it the wrong way. Another worker quietly watched me being grilled. The quiet bystander spoke fluent English, but chose to stay out of the situation.
I’d had it. I stood up pulled out my receipt and credit card and said, “give me my money back.” He refused. This was it- helplessness. I was completely and utterly helpless. Trapped. I stood silently in the small shop without a clue of what to do. Frozen. Anxious. I wanted to cry, but knew it wouldn’t help my cause. I couldn’t speak Italian, so I couldn’t even defend myself. It felt as though I was being discriminated against. No fair services because I was American.
Luckily a quiet and calm technician came around and fixed the external drive. My 99 euros werent completely down the drain, which balanced out the 30 I’d lose to the postal service later that day.
My mom told me that she had sent a package of goodies for me and it should be arriving soon. After my traumatizing experience at the electronics store, I was ecstatic when I got an e-mail explaining that a package had arrived for me in the mail room. I stopped at the mail desk right before ballet class. I happily exchanged proof of my ID for the happiness in a box I was about to recieve. The man at the mail desk walked over to grab my package.
Thats funny, that package looks exactly like the one I sent home to my family last week! I guess thats what the international boxes look like now…
The large yellow box was in my hands now. This is the box I sent home last week.
That was the first time I cried in 6 weeks.
30 Euros to have a package sent right back to me. Not only that, but I found out the post office charged me extra for a service I didn’t ask for. Ripped off again in Italy. I decided the box was a gift to myself. I ripped open the tape that sealed the yellow box and devoured the chocolate inside.
Other tally marks that lead toward the plunge probably have to do with standing next to 90 pound girls in ballet class, being left at the club by my roommate, the rude man I bought stamps from, not being able to shop at a thrift store, re-wearing the same clothes for the past 6 weeks, not having a friend to go with me to a show I was dying to see, knowing 1 euro is around 600 american dollars, being afraid to greet people when I walk into stores because I don’t want them to know I’m American, and watching Karina get called “ugly and rude” because she didn’t want to buy a scarf from a street vendor.
A fresh pot of lentils and a few tears later I’m okay. Tomorrow morning I take off to Venice again. The beautiful thing about Italy is that there is time for everything, there’s even a time to cry. But now, its time to pack.