Monday, June 1, 2009

Expectations vs. Reality: Day 1

I don't know if I have ever been so tired in my life. I have been awake since 5:00 AM Oregon time on May 31st until now...11:00 PM Italy time on June 1st. It has been a busy busy day, and since I can't effectively sleep on planes, or trains, or cars with strangers at the wheel as we traverse through winding Italian hill roads, I am running purely on adrenaline. And carbs. Lots and lots of carbs.

Essentially here's the rundown of what has gone down since I left Portland, OR: Connecting flight in Philadelphia, US Airways is a terrible way to travel (they make you pay for EVERYTHING and don't even give you free peanuts on a 5 hour flight), sitting next to the most adorable Italian girl (maybe my age?) the rest of the 8-9 hours to Rome, and then I finally met up with a few of my classmates outside customs (or severe lack thereof). They make me feel incredibly inferior. Here's a rundown of who I have met in my program so far:

Julia- Sweet mom figure from Washington DC, very liberal and would fit into the Bay Area nicely, restores textiles and travels all over the world (Bhutan, Algeria, Madagascar, etc) teaching new museums how to prevent damage, theft, deterioration, etc of their textiles like tapestries and carpets.

Allen- Honduran who looks strikingly like Billy Zane (bald), has lived just about everywhere ever, used to do a ton of stuff including running a restaurant and being an investigator for the FBI!! How cool is that?? Apparently he has connections with the director of the FBI's art crime department. She was the one who sent him to this program...:-)

Catherine- Woman from Pasadena, taking this course so she can write a series of novels about art crimes.

Emily- Younger and very bubbly, from Indianapolis, and I forget what she does or why she is here because she was only with us briefly at the airport.

So far everyone has been VERY nice and wonderfully helpful. Funny story: after we get off the 2 hour train from Rome to Orte, we had to connect with a driver to drive us the half hourish to Amelia (seriously in the middle of nowhere). So this guy comes up to me as I'm walking in the POURING FREEZING rain in velour pants and flip flops, dragging two giant suitcases, a backpack, and a laptop bag, and he just grabs one of my bags and starts taking it for me. I think hey that's nice, but he starts putting it in his car. And I can't understand a single thing he is saying!!! And the other 2 with me are like wait where are YOU going?? Well turns out he was our driver but we didn't know it and we couldn't understand him, so he had to call our dean and have her talk to us because we thought he was trying to kidnap me! Haha!

Amelia is GORGEOUS!!!! Imagine the most beautiful painting of a tiny GREEN Italian hill town, and it wouldn't even be half as amazing as Amelia is. The streets are paved with big stones that have been there probably since the beginning of time and are barely wide enough for one car to go through. You actually can't walk on the streets if a car is passing. You have to jump into a doorway! These streets wind up and down through the town (parallel and perpendicular mean nothing here...all very curvalinear) and a solid wall of 3-4 story buildings extend up around them in every direction. Like San Francisco, the buildings all fuse together and sort of make one, sometimes with differen colors differentiating them. But mostly, it's just a solid wall and about every steps there are these strange double doors sort of hidden in the wall. Sometimes they have big circular handles in the center, but more often than not, there's absolutely nothing that makes it door-like except for a key hole. These are the entrances to people's houses! But they all sort of blend in. It's crazy.

The family I am living with is incredibly sweet. The mom Isa is a speech therapist for I believe children. They do the whole siesta thing so when I arrived, Isa came home to make everyone gnocchi for lunch...followed by some kind of meat thing....followed by salad....followed by cherries...the food never stops! I haven't quite figured out what her husband Antonio does other than consume an entire bottle of wine every time he sits down at the table to eat...which is frequently. Amelia (yes, she has the same name as the town) is 20 years old and I adore her. We instantly became friends. She is studying anthropology at the university in Perugia. Adriano is her 17 (or maybe 18? I couldn't get that straight) brother who has said 6 words to me in English since I arrived (Antonio counts). He is also very friendly though, and makes a point to say goodbye to me when he leaves, even though I think he actually is saying "hi," which may be like the whole universal "ciao" thing in his mind. Or I am deaf. Either is likely.

Two cats and the goofiest looking dog I have ever seen complete this family. I have no idea what their names are. Amelia told me what they were but I just stared at her and we both agreed she might as well have just said their names were "Cat 1" and "Cat 2." I think the dog's name means "Little Bull" or something like that. If anyone wants to look that up for me, I can let you know. They are also super friendly and have taken a liking to me. Thankfully, I don't appear to be allergic to these cats, which is rare but I'm super happy about!

The house is GORGEOUS, good heavens. Parts of it are original Etruscan walls (pre-Roman), some are from the Middle Ages, and some original archways still exist. I have my own room that looks out onto an open courtyard with the giant kitchen across from me. And the kitchen is just like any you would imagine in an old school Italian house. The bathroom has a HUGE tile bathtub, a shower that is bigger than my bathroom at home, and a toilet next to a bidet that confused me thoroughly and took me a good 10 minutes to figure out how to flush (some big plastic thing on the wall you push. TOTALLY not self explanitory). I was given what I think are table cloths as towels, and found that they have a washing machine...but no drier. Instead, their clothes hang all over this open garden/patio area that extends down a flight of stairs from the courtyard by my room to a big veranda. And my goodness, the VIEW from here is unreal. I will have to take a picture. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Italians eat MUCH more than I anticipated, and they eat it all one after the other. So, they will load your plate FULL of something, then after you eat it all, they'll load it with the next thing, and so on. I've never felt so full in my life. But Isa is a fabulous cook. I'm very lucky to not have to cook my own meals! Every also smokes all the time....oh the joys of that. The rain also took me off guard, and since my heaviest jacket I brought was a hoodie, and only ONE pair of jeans...hopefully the weather will improve shortly.

Tomorrow is orientation in the evening where I will meet all of the students and we will take an official tour of the town. Classes start on Wednesday morning, so wish me luck! I'll be taking pictures tomorrow for sure.


  1. Glad to hear you made it there safe and weren't abducted within minutes of arrival! Watch out for bad vampus!

  2. And I must say I love my present, and you right now hahahah!!! Just what I needed, more Vampu stuff!!

  3. I'm so glad I don't have to annoy the crap out of you for these details when we talk. We can just spend our conversations telling eachother how much we love and miss eachother instead. :-) I love you sweetheart, I miss you more than Wesley misses Princess Butterqua.

  4. Very well written and funny! Put up pix ASAP so we can get a feel for the place. It reminds me of Oseli...small villages in the surrounding area. I, too, was surprised at the GREEN in Italy. Gorgeous, huh?...