Monday, December 7, 2009


It's been a full day, but a good one, and I only got lost once.

The highlight was having dinner with the director of the Accademia Italiana here in Florence. They also have a branch campus in Rome, where DU has two students, so I had lunch with her last week. Seeing her again tonight felt kind of like seeing an old friend, I've met so many people in the meantime. She is American, married to an Italian, and has lived in Italy for 25 years. She took me to an amazing restaurant where I had the best meal I have yet had on this trip, and that is saying a lot. First, a caprese salad (Jaime, the best I've ever had - I wish I could have sent you a bite. It was heavenly). Main course was pumpkin ravioli, followed up by cheesecake, followed up by coffee, followed up by limoncello, a lemon-ey digestivo. Yum!

Now for some gross generalizations about Italians:

1) They walk slowly. They are in no hurry to make their way down the tiny, narrow sidewalks that line the crooked streets. Their energy is vested in conversation and gesticulations, not walking.

2) Energy is assumed to be off until you turn it on. In other words, lights automatically go off after a certain point unless you turn them on. The hair dryers only work if you hold down a button; otherwise, they turn off. The showers are made so you can easily turn the water off and on so you're not wasting it when you don't need it.

3) Men seem to think that staring and making kissy noises are effective means of getting a girl's attention.

4) They enjoy life, but "la dolce vita" is a myth. They study hard and work hard.

5) They are protective about their food because it is the best. Do not argue with them about this.

I'm looking forward to seeing Milan. Now that I've had a taste of other parts of the country, I am understanding that Milan is not considered by some to be even part of Italy. It is Austrian, for all intents and purposes. The industrial North, the "innovators," the Milanese. Part of me dreads going back to a large city because they are harder to navigate, but I learned tonight that the streets in Milan are straight and laid out in a grid. Yet another reason why it's not Italian.

Earlier, I wrote about comfort. Now I have a new perspective on discomfort. Every day so far on this trip I have experienced discomfort in one way or another. Some days it has been the pressure of finding a new location on time and meeting with people who may or may not be the kind of people that put you at ease. Or it's been hunger and searching for food, not really knowing what to look for or expect, or how to order it properly. Every day, though, I've had unexpected comforts; wonderful moments of connecting with someone I met only a few minutes before and hadn't expected to find anything in common, or the adorable dog I got to pet today when I visited an Italian host family. It's been a good reminder that the risk of being vulnerable is worth it, and the danger to being always comfortable is never experiencing anything new.

(By the way, as a side note, I have a theory that the reason so many more girls study abroad than guys is because women are more accepting of/accustomed to/expected to be vulnerable, making them more open to new experiences.)


  1. I think the majority of my energy is usually invested in conversation and gesticulations.

  2. You are growing so wise! I want some of that food.........!!!

  3. I think that the majority of my energy, now that I'm renting a house with a yard, goes into pushing a lawn mower summer months, then raking leaves in the fall. Sometimes, though, I do take a liesurly stroll around Toledo admiring the neighbor's Christmas lights.
    During my childhood in blue-collar Detroit, however, everyting seemed to move more slowly. Mayby being working class is correllated with spending more time jujst hanging around, not doing too much of anything, compared with the event-packed lives we live now.

  4. You better have taken notes on how to recreate that caprese salad!

  5. I don't know, Jaime - I don't think we can get cheese that good in the U.S. The olive oil was the "new" oil, 2009, which I guess is a good thing too. It was a big salad, but I unapologetically ate every last bite. I've been cleaning my plate regularly, actually. Good thing my goal was to put on holiday weight early this year.

  6. Women study abroad more because they're desperate to find husbands and hope the language barrier masks their insecurities and lulls and unsuspecting foreign man into a lasting relationship.

  7. People with the word "loon" in their names don't get to have an opinion.

  8. I guess there is a loon for every web page. You could probably get a Master's degree in sociology for figuring out the answer to your question of why males are not studying abroad as much as females. It would be interesting to see the results of a scientific investigation. Mayby you could get a double Master's: Communications & Sociology.

  9. I don't know, Tom. I'm thinking I'll be lucky to get through one Masters degree, let alone two!