spur of the moment

Being abroad has definitely led me to make more rash decisions when money is involved. There have been quite a few “yolo” moments. Sometimes, this is quite a problem. For example, I do have a couple regrets about that time I decided to drop a solid 100 euros on a pair of sneakers that yes, I do love, but no, I do not necessarily need. I would rather have taken another weekend trip with just alright sneakers than be somewhat very broke with some smokin’ kicks.

However, sometimes this yolo mentality has led me to really amazing places. For example, precisely 5 hours ago I bought a plane ticket to Barcelona for the weekend with a couple of my good friends that I have not yet gotten to travel with. They have been planning to go together for a while now, and when I mentioned a couple days ago that I didn’t have weekend plans, Kenyon got the idea in her head that I was coming to Barcelona. And it is very difficult to say no to Kenyon.

At first, I really wasn’t going to go. I appeased her with a “maybe”, but in my head I was thinking back to the beautiful weekend weather forecast for Florence and the very, very iffy forecast for Barcelona. Then, this morning, everything changed. And by “everything,” I mean the weather in both cities. The weathermen are now predicting a dismal weekend here in Florence and not much more than a ton of fun in the sun in Barcelona.

So, yes. That decided that. I am going to Barcelona this weekend and I will let you all know how amazing and fun it is. ūüôā

aaand it continues

So. Friday night. St. Patrick’s Day. We finished up dinner, went back to our apartments, put on some green, and met back up at my apartment to finish getting ready. It was quite an interesting night–not necessarily¬†of my top 5–but we finished with pizza slices by the Duomo and I’m happy I went.

Saturday was another work day, and Zoe, Kenyon and I told ourselves that if we got enough done, we would treat ourselves to Beauty and the Beast that night at the English movie theater. Zoe and I spent the entire afternoon on the top floor of the public library, which overlooks the Duomo, met Kenyon for a late lunch, and then we all parted ways, planning to meet up in an hour for some Emma Watson.

An hour later, Kenyon could not make it out of her bed, but my friend Olivia took her place. Liv, Zoe and I stopped for some movie necessities at the supermarket–aka a lot of chocolate–, and then made our way to The Odeon. Zo and I each got some beer and popcorn, and we all sat in the balcony of a movie theater that still has its original, yellow velvet seats from the 1920s. It was incredible. And the movie was even better. I would recommend it to anyone who asks.

Sunday morning, Kenyon, Zoe and I woke up fairly early, and met at the bus stop to head out for a morning hike. The number 7 bus was supposed to take us to a small town outside Florence, but it hit the brakes and turned around about 10 stops before it was supposed to. We must have looked very confused, because a kind man explained to us in broken English that there was an antique car race and the bus could not make it up the hill. “It is only an hour walk, though!” He assured us.

We were not about to give up on a beautiful day of hiking, so we adjusted our backpacks and headed up the winding road. About three quarters of the way there, a policeman ushered us to the side of the road, and explained in Italian that the race was starting. We understood enough to know that we could not continue walking. And so the three of us stood on the corner for about thirty minutes and watched antique car after antique car whizz by. It was pretty unbelievable.

After it ended, we at last continued on and made it to our destination–the top of Monte Ceceri, where Leonardo DaVinci worked on his flying machine. The views were amazing. We quietly sat for about an hour, just doodling and chatting, and taking pictures.

Afterwards, we hiked back down to the little town, and caught the number 7 bus, which was thankfully running again.

Zo headed home, and Ken and I went to our school’s library, where we worked on papers and internship applications and Italian essays, and all that fun stuff. For a little taste of America, Ken and I treated ourselves to some onion rings after the library closed, and then we both headed home.

And that was my weekend.

the past 6 days

Although I did miss the slice of life since last Tuesday (!! oops), I still want to give a small re-cap on my days since then. They have been quite eventful and completely amazing.

Wednesday marked the beginning of my drop-off, and I actually had reason for it. Education. Every Wednesday I have class straight from 9am until 7pm with a 20 minute break for lunch thrown right in the middle. Brutal. And then, when my classes ended at 7, I decided spur of the moment to chop off all my hair, so went to my friend Tori’s apartment and she did just that.

Thursday morning I had an extremely difficult Italian quiz, and the rest was a blur–I had one other class, went for a run, got some fro-yo, and then probably passed out around 9pm.

On Friday, I have my absolute favorite class here, illustration. We’re working on a map of the Bargello Museums here in Florence, and I’m very excited to show you all mine. (When it’s done, of course.) After class was over, I worked with my friend, Kenyon, in the outdoor garden here (the weather was spectacular) and then for our break we went and bought veggie burgers to-go and a three pack of Italian beer and ate and drank on the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio to our left.¬†img_4375.jpg

After we continued to work for a bit on our own respective drawings, we decided to text our other friend, Zoe, and walk up to the Piazza Michelangelo for sunset. Zoe had the incredible idea to get some gelato on the way, which, of course, I am always down for. We made it to the top of the steps right in time for sunset. IMG_4385IMG_4407

We climbed back down and had dinner and drinks right on the river at a very cute restaurant called Zoe’s (Zoe kept a napkin, don’t worry).

This is becoming very long, so I shall finish up in a second post!

a mix of tourist and native

Florence is the most crowded that it’s been so far. And it’s a Tuesday. It took me at least an extra four minutes to walk to class today as I attempted to navigate around the throngs of tourists.

At the beginning of my time here, I must have had a very confused, touristy look on my face because all of the street vendors called out to me in english, beckoning me to come buy their posters, or their knock-off jackets, or their weird spinny light-up things that they shoot into the air. Now, however, they know that I am not one of the confused, wandering tourists. I walk with an air of purpose, the navigation system on my phone far, far away in my back pocket.

I know that I’ve said this before, but I love feeling as though I’m not one of the tourists. It makes me feel as though I belong here. However, I am happy to be somewhere in the middle of the forever-Florentine, and the dazed and confused tourist. One of my friends recently went on a date with an Italian guy. He took her out to dinner and then to the Michelangelo steps. When he asked her what she would be interested in doing for a second date, the only thing she could think of was the Boboli Gardens. She told me that he had looked at her incredulously and gone, “The Boboli Gardens? Perfect! I have never been there before!”

This guy has lived in Florence his entire life, and has never been to the Boboli Gardens. Sure, I haven’t been (yet) either, but it is way way up there on my list of things to do before I leave. It got me to thinking about what a tourist would do in my hometown and about whether or not I had done all those things. After a short little brainstorm, I realized that I had done most of the “touristy” things of my little hometown, but not for a good five to ten years at least–usually I had visited for school field trips back in elementary school or because my parents had dragged me.

It’s sad to think that I’ve missed out on any great opportunities because I think that they’ll just be there waiting for me my entire life.

grateful for great friends

Yes, mom, I know I missed yesterday. I was very busy doing nothing and suddenly the day got away from me and it was 8pm and I hadn’t started doing any of my homework. You win some, you lose some.

Anyway. Once upon a time I had a friend who really wasn’t good for me. We had been friends for a very long time, and I thought that it was my job to maintain our friendship. Whenever anything happened between us, I took full responsibility for the issue and worked and worked to make things better. We’ll call her Shelby.

When I got to college, I was used to being the person in the friendship that worked. The first few friends I made were not true friends. I was used to Shelby, and, as is often the case when you’re thrown into a completely brand new environment, I migrated towards things that felt normal. I would find myself¬†every time asking them to hang out, asking them how their exam went, asking them if anything ever came out of that boy they made out with at that party two weeks ago.¬†And, while I was managing my new “college” friends, I was also the one to text Shelby at least once a week, begging her to keep me updated on her life.

It¬†feels odd to admit this, but it wasn’t until I joined a sorority that I realized how messed up these relationships were. I am not saying that everyone should join a sorority and I think that it’s a super duper messed up system and I hate very many parts about it. But it was how I found (one of) my niche(s) in a large school.

Now I realize that it wasn’t Shelby’s fault or the fault of the “friends” that I made right when I got to Michigan. It was mine. I have the power to find people I love and I have the power to know whether or not I’m happy.

I have made incredible friends here in Florence. Three of us went and got incredible sandwiches tonight together and talked for a little bit about just how incredible we all are. It was pretty incredible.

All incredulousness aside, I would not have these friends if I had settled. I didn’t meet either of the two girls that I was with until around 3 weeks into the program, and they’re two people that¬†get me just as well as my amazing friends from school get me. They have made my experience one hundred times better than it would have been, and for that I’m choosing to not only thank them, but also myself for being patient and finding the people out there that make me feel great.

when the new becomes the norm

When you live in a strange, new place for long enough, you wake up one morning and realize that it isn’t very strange or new anymore.

The cars they drive here are almost completely¬†silent, so often times you can’t hear them when they’re right behind you. To notify pedestrians of their presence, taxis here have this light beeping system that they turn on and off at their choosing. When I arrived in Florence, I used the free earplugs the plane gave me for the entire first week. I couldn’t go to sleep listening to the constant beeping of the taxis. Now it’s just background noise, seamlessly fitting into the city’s sounds.

I used to accidentally greet store owners with an “hola” instead of a “ciao”, and say thank you with a “gracias” instead of a “grazie”. Then when I went to Barcelona last week, I found myself saying “grazie” instead of “gracias” to everything. I don’t think twice about it anymore- someone hands me something, I respond with a grazie.

Last night my friend and I went out. We began our night at a bar close to the Duomo, just having a couple casual drinks and some french fries (the fries we are still not sure if we paid for, but hey, things happen). The second bar we wanted to go to¬†was a good ten minute walk. As we made our way over, we passed a couple American girls clearly struggling with¬†their phones’ navigation. Kenyon (my friend) and I stopped, pointed them in the right direction, and continued on our way. I found myself grinning to myself- I couldn’t remember the last time I had needed to pull out my phone for directions.

Florence is no longer new and strange, but instead has turned into a kind old friend.

the here and now

When cell phones¬†became more than just the clunky, foot long black things that I only remember from movies and old (okay… old-ish) photos, my mother made it very clear very fast that they did not have an open spot at our dinner table. At dinner, and anywhere else for that matter, our main priority was always the people that we were presently with.¬†When I’m with my mom and I’m being rude on my phone– going through social media or whatnot– she likes to ask me who the most important person is to me right then in that moment. The first couple times I would get tripped up and stutter out an, “uh, I don’t know?”, and she would respond, “It should be the person that you’re with right now.” By now I’ve caught on, and as soon as the first couple words of the question are out of her mouth, my phone is safely tucked away somewhere her watchful eye cannot see.

Because of this, I grew up a firm believer in the power of eye contact and active listening. Show¬†the person that you’re with that you actually care about being here with them in the here and now.¬†Sometimes when I go out to eat with my friends of my generation, I often find myself shocked and, quite frankly, annoyed, when a piece of metal and glass and people behind a screen take priority over me.

In Italy, and anywhere abroad, for that matter, it’s slightly different. Wifi is a rare occurrence. And when a restaurant’s windows bear the wifi symbol, you can bet your butt that I’ll be asking for the password right alongside any other student abroad as soon as I’ve been comfortably sat at my table. I’ll check and make sure that no one has died, and then I usually stick my phone right back in my coat pocket. My mama taught me well.

It’s frustrating, however, when the people that you’re with don’t abide by the same phone-away principles. Sitting there, twiddling my thumbs, faking interest in the hem of my napkin, I’ll watch my friends scroll through instagram and keep up their snapchat streaks and I’ll feel¬†unbelievably awkward. I feel as though I’m the odd one out, as if I am not cool unless my phone is in my hand. If I take my phone back out, I’ll resent my friends for¬†making me feel weird unless I’m doing something I don’t believe in. If I sit there staring, doing nothing, I’ll resent my friends for not sharing the same beliefs as me. It’s a lose-lose situation and, no matter which I choose, I end up in an unhappier state of mind than the¬†moment I walked in the door.

Most of the time, I’m pretty good at covering up my crankiness with the cell phones. I go into these situations knowing what will probably happen, and when you can predict, you can also prepare. However, life would sure be a lot easier if everyone had grown up with my mother.

a “me” night

Last night was one of the best nights that I’ve had in a while. Here’s a little play-by-play:

On the way home from my painting class, which ended at 7, I stopped at a store called Tiger where they sell literally everything from little blank canvases to bags of candy for 1 euro a piece. I bought myself a 20 euro yoga mat, tried my very best to not be tempted by the gummies lining the wall, but gave in and bought some peach rings.

I then made my way through an International Women’s Day march (of which I understood almost nothing, but very much appreciated their uterus posters) and back to my apartment. I made myself some pesto pasta with chicken for dinner, laid out my yoga mat, and did some arms and abs for the first time in forever.

After putting in a load of laundry (I like to do my laundry when I, myself, am as dirty as the clothes), I decided to go and treat myself to a frozen yogurt right down the street from my apartment. My normal cup of frozen yogurt only costs 2 euros, and, as I was still in my workout clothes and didn’t really have anywhere to put my¬†wallet, 2 euros was all I brought. However, my cup ended up costing 2 euros 50 cents, I guess because I got chocolate and¬†strawberries, but the girl working gave me a smile, handed me my cup of frozen yogurt AND a free baby cactus, and said¬†in slightly broken but very friendly english, “For you for woman’s day!”.

I ate my frozen yogurt sitting on my new yoga mat, careful to not get my city-dirty shoes on it (is there anything worse than scuff marks on a brand new black yoga mat?). After¬†a nice, long hot shower and putting on my favorite pajamas, I answered a couple of emails and was snoring by 10pm. And I couldn’t have been happier about it.

Maybe tonight I’ll go out.

art and compliments

For my ultra-loyal followers that have come back to read about little old me for the second or third or fourth year in a row now, you know that art is a fairly big part of my life. Big enough, in fact, that I decided to major in it.

Growing up, art was always something that I just dabbled in. It was¬†fun.¬†But then, senior year of high school during the terrible, very horrible college application process, I realized that it could maybe help me get into a couple of the schools that I was interested in. I applied to University of Michigan’s art school and was beyond excited to get accepted. I didn’t realize at the time of my applying that if I got into the art school, then I was in the art school. AKA not the Literature Science and the Arts school, but actually, really the¬†art¬†school. So I suppose you might say that art chose me, but now, looking back with my 20-20 hindsight, I would choose art over and over again.

Throughout high school, painting was what I really loved¬†to do. When I got to Michigan, the department really stretched me outside my comfort zone. I making art out of¬†computer programs¬†and making videos and constructing vases out of foam and doing countless other things that I would have never been exposed to without being thrown headfirst into them. However, I always retreat back to painting when I need a little break from reality. It’s the one type of art that I’ve ever been able to get completely lost in. There’s no other feeling as satisfying as mixing that perfect pinky-orange with your super sharp metal palette knife on your glass mixing board with your thick, wonderful oil paints.

I’m good at painting. I don’t often say that I’m good at things. It makes me uncomfortable; when I’m forced to talk about my own work–whether it’s my writing or my art or my acting or my dancing or whatever–I normally get super flushed and stutter over my words and people are left very confused at whatever nonsense I have just managed to squeeze out over the sound of my pounding heart. So when I say that I’m good at something, it means that I’m actually good at it. Good enough, at least, to be on the receiving end of a professor’s compliments. However, 4¬†college painting classes later, it was today that I received my first ever compliment from a painting professor and, crazily enough, it didn’t feel as good as I expected it to.

My all-time favorite painting teacher at Michigan, Nora, was one of the sweetest women I have ever met. She absolutely fawned over other students’ pieces in my class (paintings that, let me just be blunt here, were not at all good), and then she would come to my easel, nod her head, and point out that the arm was just slightly too long. Or the head too large. Or that I needed more of a purple shadow tone as opposed to the brown I had going on. In the entire 2 semesters of painting classes that I had with Nora, she never once paid me a full compliment. They were all full of “buts” and “howevers”.

Right now, I’m in the advanced painting class at SACI, one of the art schools in Florence. My teacher isn’t exactly traditional, and has pushed me way way out of my painting comfort zone. He has me working with plaster–yes, like the stuff you use for sculptures–to thicken up my paint. I’ve been mixing plaster with water with acrylics and using a palette knife to apply it on the canvas. I don’t love it yet. It’s interesting, and the final product looks cool, but I don’t love¬†doing¬†it. Marco, my professor, loves it. He is all over it. Today, for the first time in my life, a painting professor told me that they really loved the piece I was working on. While I was flattered, I was also more frustrated than ever. The one time I finally get what I want–true appreciation from an instructor–I don’t feel satisfied with what I’m doing.

Compliments are funny. We want them and then we don’t.

The first two pieces are ones that are just your classic oil paintings, done in Nora’s classes. The second two are Marco’s pride and joy, my plaster paintings (the first one of the plaster paintings is NOT done!! …and I’m not completely satisfied with the second either).

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OH. And happy international women’s day from Italy!!! I got a free little cactus with my frozen yogurt today and couldn’t have been a much happier camper.

the magic of florence

After being away from my precious little city for a full 10 days, my reunion with Florence was nothing less than magical.

I stepped off of the train platform Sunday night, and I walked home. Walked. Ah, there is truly no equivalent feeling to that of getting off of a train and not being stressed about finding yet another means of public transportation. This simple fact was one that I was made acutely aware of during my time in Paris and Barcelona. You cannot get anywhere in either city without either a) seriously hauling your booty across town or b) taking the metro or the bus or a car or whatever means of transportation suits you best. But Florence, on the other hand, is a perfect size. It’s dainty and adorable and overall totally manageable, and yet there is still so much that I have not yet done.

Today, I decided to take it upon myself to do a bit more exploring of this city that I am fortunate enough to currently call home. I went for a run at sunrise and the sky was just so beautiful above the Arno that I just had to stop and take a couple pictures (also… I was very, very tired and needed an excuse for a quick little pitstop). This afternoon, in between my two classes today, my friend and I walked further east than I had ventured before and found an adorable sort of stone platform. There were a couple steps leading up to it, on which people were just hanging out, reading books, talking quietly amongst themselves. We plopped ourselves down and soaked up a little¬†sun before heading to our 2:30 class.

I didn’t really think too much before choosing Florence. When I arrived, it was just a place that I had always wanted to go. I never dreamed that I would fall in love with it as much as I have. If I struggled to leave its walls for ten days, I can’t imagine what a shock America will be come May, but, hey, I still have a solid month and a half before I have to worry about such things.