Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bella Giornata

My weather widget is telling me that it's 17 degrees celsius, as of 5:36pm CET. I still think in terms of fahrenheit, but I've gotten better at knowing the mild, cold, and really cold ranges in celsius. Google has informed me that this is 62.6 degrees fahrenheit, which is quite warm in comparison to the days as they've been. On top of that it has been absolutely gorgeous.

Erin and I walked to Il Parco delle Cascine today, to check out the market which is much larger during Quaresima (Lent). It was a long walk, but after getting to the river it wasn't too crowded. The market was like most markets here, from my perspective anyway. It was a bit more festive and at times seemingly cheaper, but still a very Italian market. I saw many different people there, as is common in the markets, and of course almost everywhere else in Florence. Life is different here. People are different here. They tend to be outside more than people in the US. Not necessarily for any reason, and in fact usually for no practical reason at all. People just go outside and stroll along the Arno, through the streets, or hang out in the squares - simply to be in each other's company.

As I was pondering over this at the market I saw lots of children. Italy has one of the lowest birthrates in the western world (second lowest I think), so this was a bit of a surprise. Even more surprising were the 2 fathers I saw without their wives, walking with a total of 4 children probably all under the age of 7! I saw another pair of boys running through the crowds, and then they stopped under a tent just beside us. One of the boys saw a wad of tape and paper on the ground, and exclaimed:

Guarda qui c'e` una pallina!
Look here there's a ball!

Immediately he and his friend began kicking it back and forth through the crowds. I've been in particularly reflective state of mind today, and this became the subject of my pondering for quite a while. I thought about how I was when I was a child. The games I played, where and how I played, with whom and in what times of the day or evening. When you're a child there is nothing outside of your world. You may even know everything by the age of 10, and if you don't then you are at least already aware of everything in some manner. Thinking about when I was a child and then watching those kids today caused me to experience a peculiar kind of retrospective culture shock. When I was 10 I had no idea that there were kids like me in Italy, playing their own games, living in a world and culture similar to mine and at the same time so very different. It caused a twisted torrent of emotions to flow through me - happiness, sadness, romance, excitement... I can't figure out what the feeling is exactly, but it's surely the same one that I've been experiencing and which has been evolving in me since we moved here. It feeds my infatuation with this place, but in a seemingly less fickle way.

The Muse has stopped. Buonasera :-).

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


It's been too long since I've written anything and I want to maintain some degree of diligence with this blog, so here's a quick summary of the last 30 or so days.

Classes have been going very well and very fast, perhaps too fast. We have covered essentially all of the common grammatical sentence structures and forms, verb conjugations and moods, all but 1 or 2 of the tenses, and lots of idiomatic expressions. My head is spinning like you would not believe, but I've been fortunate to have retained most of the information. I find that my general comprehension is much better these days, and I'm able to speak fairly smoothly, although not too descriptively. I'm sure that will continue to improve with time, but there are days where I simply have no patience and feel as if I've learned nothing (overly dramatic, I know). Anyway, school is great and I am sad that we are nearing the end of it.

We've made a small group of regular friends since we've been here, and that is truly a blessing. It all started with a friend we met in school who had been here for almost a year and was dating a Florentine. We've passed several evenings with them (and with others), spent Capodanno (New Year's Eve) in the Tuscan country side, and went to Venice during Carnevale together.
We've also been fortunate enough to have met another group of friends with which we speak only Italian. One of them is Florentine and the other 2 are Sicilians. Sicily, apart from the Mafia, must be one of the greatest places on the planet. I've never been but everyone tells me it is stunningly beautiful. Aside from our friends I've met a few other Sicilians on trains, and they are simply the nicest, most congenial people I've ever come across.
Last of all, I reconnected with a friend whom I'd lost contact with. I've mentioned him before: he used to work in the bar across the street from our building and then he just disappeared several months ago. A week or 2 ago Erin and I were getting a coffee and someone grabbed me by my shoulder. It was him! He started in English but quickly reverted to Italian (which I always take as an honor). We traded numeri cellulari (cell numbers) and planned to meet soon.

I received a job offer from an Italian company over a month ago, which was both a big surprise and an honor. I haven't accepted it because legally, I can't right now. The EU imposes restrictions on member states that prevent the hiring of non-EU citizens, unless certain conditions are present. Furthermore, Italy imposes its own layer with a similar purpose of protecting Italian citizens, unless certain conditions are met. I'd be resting fine if I could have simply received a Yay or Nay by now, but the infamous Italian bureaucracy has excelled its reputation. The company put in a request on my behalf on December 21st last year, and still we are waiting for a response. I've finally come to a peace about it and will simply wait until I hear news (and badger the Questura, of course). In the meantime I've been blessed with a small contract from an English company for which I had worked for in the past, so for the time being, things are good.

More to come, sooner rather than later.