study abroad: lessons learned

Study Abroad Florence Italy

MON. JUNE 15: Day 7

So, I got outrageously lost on my first day of school. I mean, I wasn’t that late… just, ya know, two hours late. *nervous laugh*

Thankfully I found three other girls along the way in my class, so we eventually found it together and made it for the last hour of class. Whew.

I have almost a two hour break in between my photography class and Italian class. I walked across the river to the other academic building and memorized its location. I then wandered a bit around the area, going in and out of shops, listening to the beautiful Italian sounds.

My class is teeny. Four students. I am happy about that because the smaller a language class, the better. My instructor Monica Parigi (Yes, her last name is Paris in Italian) is fantastic. She is funny, engaging, and so Italian in her camo pants.

I love Italian. Every word is a singing sparrow, a blooming flower, a chocolate tarfuto (truffle) just for me. The words make me laugh in delight. Abbastanza! Mozzafiato! Coraggioso! I have started referring to my cell phone as il mio telefonino (my teensy little telephone). I have become one of those people who always says Ciao! Just speaking these words makes me feel sexy, romantic, beautiful, and happy.

Maybe I will move to Italy.

It’s kind of like being in a fairytale of language here. For someone who has always wanted to learn Italian, what better city to be in than Florence? It’s like someone invented a little city just to suit my specifications, where everyone–the children! The taxi drivers! Even the actors on TV!–speak this magical language. They even print their newspapers in Italian while I’m here; they don’t mind! They have bookstores here that only sell books in Italian. 

I found such a bookstore and I touched every book, hoping that anyone watching me would think I was a native speaker. Oh, how I want Italian to open itself up to me!

Remember that German dude from the caffè* who told me to “come back for a drink, yea?” Well, I did. To spoil the ending: he’s awesome.

When I arrived, trying hard to look like I had just been casually strolling by, he smiled when he saw me.

“Ciao! Do you remember me?!”

Smooth Laurie.

“Of course I do.”

He introduced me to Christina, the barista/bartender (all caffès in Italy are bars; all bars are caffès). To spoil the ending, yet again: she becomes my first female Italian friend.

He asked if I’d like anything to eat. In Italy, I’ve noticed that it’s customary to eat or drink something when you enter an establishment regardless of your state of hunger or thirst. I asked him for his dessert recommendation, which was some sort of rice pudding cake.

“Would you like chocolate on it?”   
“Come si dice ‘Of course’ in Italiano?” How do you say “of course” in Italian?
“Certo.”
“Certo!”

I sat down outside, eating very slowly, savoring every rich and delicious bite. The caffè is directly across from The Duomo, the cathedral of Firenze, so my view was quite breathtaking, especially with the indigo, star-filled sky.

“What can I get you to drink?”

Because drinking nothing is weird.

“What do Italians usually drink at this late hour?”
“Wine.”

Of course.

“Get me your favorite. Bianca, per favore.” (White, please)

The wine was charming. I don’t know a better word to describe it. Crisp, juicy, sweet. Charming.

“What are your plans for tonight?”
“Ahh.. I’m going to finish this and probably just walk around the piazza and try to make friends.”
“Why don’t you wait for me to get off work and then we can go grab a drink?”

Almost as smooth as the wine.

I finished every last crumb of the cake and sipped the last drop of wine as Marvin, “Caffè Dude,” closes for the night. He started to put the tables away, so I stood up, and was immediately told to sit back down. “Relaaaax! Take your time! Sit!”

Ahhh… la dolce vita. The sweet life.

Around midnight, we headed over to the bar next door. There were drunk Americans everywhere.

Some highlights he said during our conversation:
“God, I love Americans. They are my entertainment.”

In response to an American boy yelling “Rachel! Rachel!” at the door of the bar: “Why are Americans SO loud? A man should never yell for a woman like that. That is so disrespectful. He should just walk the few feet inside and get her attention.”

“You will rarely, rarely ever see a drunk Italian. We drink one or two glasses of wine or beer and enjoy our company. Drinking is social, so you should still be able to socialize. You Americans.. it looks like you want to kill yourselves. You can’t even socialize because you are too busy falling over. You drink nonstop, make fools out of yourselves, and then wake up the next day regretting what you did. What is the point?”

“Look at that girl. She is naked. I see her entire bra. Laurie, tell me, do you think she looks sexy?”

“Tell me, what is sexy to an Italian man? What is sexy to you?”

“Sexiness isn’t about what you wear or how you look. You can be sexy whether you are fat or you are skinny. Sexy is all about what is in here, *points to his brain* how you act, and how you carry yourself. See that girl with her bra hanging out and her super tight clothing? That is not sexy because now I know exactly what I am going to get. 

Be modest. The less you reveal, the more people can wonder. Like that Italian girl over there. I don’t know whether she has small boobs or big boobs because she isn’t showing them off. That is sexy to me. Don’t go to a table and slouch; be poised, have good posture, be appropriate. A Florentine woman would never fix her makeup or her hair at the table; she would get up and go to the bathroom.”

Oh, part way through, I met his friend Muhammed Ali. Yes, that is his first name. His first name is Muhammed Ali. No, he is not a boxer. Yes, everyone asks to get a photo taken with him.

He even walked me home. Thank you Marvin (Maahh-viin) for a fantastic conversation, for answering all my questions about Italian culture, and for being my friend.

*name removed to protect privacy

Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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Laurie Hamame

Ball of sunshine. Chronic giggler. A lover of all things sweet potato. An overly friendly, world traveling, body positive warrior. Avid bookworm. Self-proclaimed chef and spiritually Italian. Promotor of daily walks, coffee dates and 30-second dance parties.

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