6 days later…

It’s tradition for me to never qualify for any of the final prizes, so I’m honestly not surprised that I have missed the first six days of the challenge. However, this year is my best excuse yet. I was in Paris and Barcelona. I considered putting that all in caps, but I decided to keep it low key and casual even though I screamed it in my head. Here, I’ll just repeat it for extra emphasis–a compromise. Paris. And. Barcelona.

Long story short, they were both incredible. I had never been to Paris before, and around every street corner I found myself even more awestruck. I didn’t climb the Eiffel Tower (cue gasp), but I didn’t really want to- one of the best views of Paris is the Eiffel Tower, and if you climb it, you’re really not going to see much of the Eiffel Tower. Instead, I chose to spend my precious euros on the enormous Ferris Wheel (ever-so-cleverly called the “Paris Wheel” in my instagram caption, if I do say so myself… also if you would like to check out my instagram, it is mostly abroad pictures and can be found right here), and my friends and I were able to watch the sun set from one of the highest views in Paris, Eiffel Tower in plain view. It was, without a doubt, one of the most incredible moments of my 20 years of existence.

Gah I just spent so much time talking about Paris and the ferris wheel I have to dash through Barcelona. But it was also amazing. I actually studied there for four months my junior year of high school (4 years ago!!), so I was able to visit my host family from then. They were incredible, taking in me and my three friends with generous, open arms. I ate incredible food, ate more incredible food, got incredibly horrible food poisoning from aforementioned incredible food, and then got over it and, you guessed it, ate some more incredible food. In between meals, we visited the Sagrada Familia (it never fails to leave me speechless), Park Guëll (the same can be said for the Park… Gaüdi was a freaking genius), and watched the sun set from theMuseu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. I was able to put my Spanish to use, finally feeling somewhat useful communication-wise after helplessly struggling through Italian for the last couple months.

It was the best spring break of my life.

In case you’re all sitting at your computers feeling as though I am living the perfect life, I’ll share a short funny story so you feel slightly less like I’m over here living the European fairy tale (but, to be honest, I kind of am).

So in one of the many videos that was taken from this past week, I was slightly horrified to see that my face was definitely a lot rounder around the chin than it had been two months ago. Weight is one of those things that you don’t really notice in the mirror or in selfies, but then you see yourself on film and it’s like boom. Hello. You didn’t notice me before, but here I am!! So, as might make sense to anyone who is slightly aghast at the extra pound around there chin, I decided to make a point to get back into my workout routine when I arrived back in Florence. Today, after my six hours of class, I walked home in a gentle drizzle. I thought to myself, this isn’t bad at all! I love running in a gentle drizzle! So I put on my leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt, stuck my phone in my boobs, cranked up the Spotify “cardio” playlist, and headed out.

Low and behold, the “gentle drizzle” gradually turned into a steady downpour. I thought about turning around, but I was already across the river and it honestly looked as though it would be the same distance to get to the bridge in front of me than to return to the bridge I had passed around four minutes ago. Three and a half miles, probably around twenty very confused looks from pedestrians under umbrellas, and about 5 very terrifying lightening-closely-followed-by-thunder-claps later, I was safely back home. Or so I thought.

I’m not sure about any of you, but my face gets very red when I run. Very red. So I usually like to cool down after I get home–especially after three and a half miles. Geez Louise I did not realize how far I had gone until there was no turning back. So I’m sitting there on my floor, back against the door, listening to some music and thanking my lucky stars that my boobs kept my phone somewhat dry, and the lights go out. At first, I think that it’s just my room and everything is okay and the bathroom light will turn on and the shower water will be hot, but then I hear crazy whooping from the streets below and, although I cannot speak Italian, I can definitely tell when people are celebrating. I don’t think that I previously mentioned that I have honestly never been wetter. There is not a single part of me that is remotely dry. My hands are prunes. My sneakers are squelching. When I stand up, I have left a significant wet spot on the floor.

So I’m standing there in my dark room, cursing myself for only having my phone at 25%, but still using its flashlight because what the heck else am I going to use, and the lights go back on. The howling outside slowly dies down, replaced with a few grumbles and a couple chants, and then just undecipherable talking. And I take my warm shower, and I plug in my phone, and now I’m sitting here, clean, and writing this blog post. And that is the end.

If you made it through all this, then wow. I am impressed and I am flattered. Until tomorrow, people. It’s been too long.

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chameleons

I’m starting to feel very guilty about starting all of these posts off with “Oh, wow, it’s been so long since I’ve last posted,” but oh, well. It’s good to be busy. Honestly, this is the first time in over a week that I’ve been able to just sit down and do nothing–I haven’t watched Netflix or anything! This past week has been midterms, this past weekend I did a three day trip to three different places in Austria, and the week before was the week before midterms, so also a crazy-big workload. I love all of my classes, though, and I actually love the work that I’m creating (which is super unusual for me), and I am officially in love with Austria. Seriously. How can one country be SO beautiful?!

So, ya, my life is pretty freaking great, I’m not gonna lie.

Mom, Dad, LC, plug your ears for this. One of my friends went to Amsterdam the past weekend. Amsterdam, as I’m sure most of you are very aware, is a drug haven. So, in the you-only-live-once mentality, my friend did shrooms. Mom, Dad, LC, don’t worry. I am absolutely terrified of drugs. But my friend did have a lot of interesting things to say about the mindset that shrooms put her in. She said that she had never felt more in touch with herself–it was almost as if all of the stuff that she worked to bury deep under the surface came bubbling up right to the top. She said that it was like seeing herself from an outsiders perspective.

I often think about what I look like from one of my friends’ point of view, or a stranger’s point of view, or my mother’s point of view. Do they get frustrated with my quirks or do they find them adorable? Are new friends able to see how much I worry about what I say around them? Do they see me as confident and forward, or do they see me as more of a weak link? Does my voice sound annoying? Do these jeans make me look chunky? People never talk about how much they worry about who they are. I’m not ashamed to have a chameleon personality. I definitely act differently (not drastically, but definitely differently) when I’m around my mom and grandma than when I’m around my 21 year old friends. Or even when I’m around my 21 year old friends that think it’s fine to take a quick cigarette break when they’re stressed and do shrooms in Amsterdam than my friends who have never and will never pick up a single drug besides alcohol in their entire lives. Both types of people are people that I’m completely comfortable hanging out with, but at different times and when I’m feeling different ways.

Is the ability to chameleon a talent or a hindrance? Does being a chameleon make me fake? Am I not true to myself because I like to hang out with so many different people and change the way I behave when I’m among different groups? Most of the time, I don’t think so, but sometimes I second guess who I am. Why can’t I tell everyone I know things that I only tell my closest friends? I did those things! They’re part of who I am! Shouldn’t I only be hanging out with people who love and accept and respect every single thing about me? But I know people who never change themselves based on their audience and, honestly, I think that it brings them more conflict than good. You can’t talk to a professor the same way you talk to your mother. You can’t talk to your 12 year old cousin the same way you talk to your 20 year old girl friend. You have to filter yourself, or chameleon yourself. It isn’t that you’re being fake, or unreal to who you are when no one’s looking, but instead that you’re being mature and aware of your audience/surroundings.

In some cases, it’s actually a good thing to hide (some parts of ) who you are when you’re the completely non-filtered, everything bared, version of you.

another week goes by

The other morning I woke and freaked out a little. I freaked out because it has been a full month since I arrived in Florence. And that means that I have officially been here for one fourth of my total four months here. And I am so, SO not ready to leave.

Like I’ve mentioned before, there of course are times that I miss America. Sunday, as many of you probably know, was the SuperBowl. And as many of you might imagine, as I am from Connecticut, I was raised an avid Patriots fan. It wasn’t easy to receive snapchats and texts from my sisters and my parents as they all got together with their wings and their lemoncello and sat around the television in my family room back home to watch Tom Brady get out there and kick some butt. Not being home for the Patriots game was probably the first time that I actually felt homesick–as in I felt an actual longing to be home, as opposed to just me missing certain utilities that are only provided in the energy-sucking United States. HOWEVER, if my fairy godmother had appeared out of nowhere Sunday afternoon and had said to me “Ok! You can go home now! No more Florence!” I would have laughed in her face. This place is way too amazing to let myself get hung up on American football, no matter how good those wings looked.

Okay. Enough about me and my brief spout of homesickness, instead moving onto the fun stuff. This past weekend was nuts. Three of my friends and I took on Milan and Venice- we took the train into Milan Friday morning, spent the night there, and then left for Venice on an early train Saturday morning, returning to Florence Saturday night. Milan was gorgeous. Huge, but beautiful. Before I left, my painting teacher told me that it was the NYC of Italy, and I would say that that is a pretty accurate description. I liked it a lot, but Florence still has my heart. Florence has a way of feeling friendly. I felt comfortable maneuvering through the streets of Firenze after being here for just a few days–Milan, on the other hand, I don’t think I would ever be completely comfortable with.

Venice was a whole different kind of overwhelming. It was shocking how tiny it was–if you knew where you were going (which we definitely did not), you could probably walk from one side of the island to the other in around 25-30 minutes. However, the four of us, found ourselves constantly checking our iPhone’s compasses, always completely unaware of which direction that tiny little side street had just turned us in. Every street we turned down seemed to either be a dead end or to dump us out into yet another mini piazza that looked just like the last.

When we first got there, we decided to just wander aimlessly and see what we found– it is a tiny town, after all. We found an amazing little piazza with an incredible homemade bakery right next to a stand selling fresh, fried seafood. The four of us were not yet hungry, but swore that we would be back for some calamari and cookies. How hard could this piazza be to find? After a gondola ride (despite our tour guide being sub par, as he didn’t sing to us or wear the cute gondolier hat, it was still 20 euros that I would gladly spend again), being caught in a total downpour, eating unbelievable clam spaghetti, returning outside to the downpour, running through piazzas trying to find a public restroom and stay (somewhat) dry, weaving in and out of countless Murano glass shops, and still not happening upon our original golden piazza, we decided to give up on our fried calamari dreams and to eat our tiramisu at another bakery.

We finally returned to the train station at the end of the day, soaking wet, absolutely freezing, and dreading the two and a half hour soggy train ride that awaited us.

When I got back to my apartment, I had what was probably up there on top five showers of my life. And on Sunday I spent the majority of my day in my warmest pajamas in bed.

what stands out

I was thinking the other day about what specifics I remember from Spain, and what I think I’ll remember from my time here. With Barcelona, I remember the little things. There was an amazing croissant bakery just up the street from the apartment I lived at, and each chocolate filled croissant was just 1 euro. I couldn’t believe that anything could be that good and cheap. I remember the first time that I ventured off by myself, and was able to spend over an hour on my own in the MNAC museum. I remember drinking the rich, red wine at dinner with my host family and not being able to wait until I could wash it down with the long, red chews from the chucceria down the street.

With Florence, I think I’ll remember the cobblestones and how shiny and slippery they get in the rain. I’ll remember the men standing in front of the Duomo at all hours of the day and night, shoving selfie sticks and light-up flying toys in your face, begging you to buy, calling out “Ciao, bella!” to each woman they see. I’ll remember the pizza place across from one of the two SACI schools, and how one day, when I only had a card to pay with and didn’t realize it was cash only, the man working there just handed me a slice and said, “you pay tomorrow, no worry.” I’ll remember standing against the heater in the bathroom after taking a shower, soaking up the hot, steamy room for just another minute before venturing back into the chilly apartment.

I’ll definitely remember the trips, which is one thing that I really skipped out on during my stay in Barcelona. I was only 16, scared to travel alone, and my fellow 16-year-old friends didn’t have any serious urges to leave the city. Now that I’m twenty, and have a lot more freedom, I’ve been taking at least day trips almost every weekend. First it was Lucca and Pisa, then the next weekend a few of my friends and I went to Siena, and then on Sunday we just got back from a weekend in Rome. It’s amazing to be able to just hop on a train and spend the day getting to see a brand new place. This weekend I think that we’re going to go to Venice– wait, I need to pinch myself. I think I just said that this weekend we’re going to go to Venice…

I like to think that I’m old enough and smart enough to remember every single little thing about this trip. Of course I want to. But that just isn’t realistic. We’re humans; we forget. Fortunately, I’ve been taking a lot of pictures and, not quite as religiously as I’d originally intended, but still better than nothing, I’ve been keeping up with this blog.

Fino alla prossima settimana!

a little catch-up

Crap. It’s been longer than I meant since my last post. Oh, well… I suppose that means I’m enjoying myself!

Since last Thursday, I have made spring break plans with my three closest friends here, went out for the first ‘real’ time, made my first amazing dinner, took a day trip to Siena, have had another full day of classes, and had my first meet-up with the Italian exchange person. I’ve been busy here in Florence.

So a quick little summary of each of those items:

Spring Break: Alex, Olivia, Brigid and I are taking the train into Pisa and then flying into Paris. We’re staying there for five days and then catching another flight from Paris to Barcelona, where we’ll be staying for another five days before returning to Florence. AKA I am probably going to have one of the best weeks of my entire young life.

Went out for the first ‘real’ time: It was insane. I checked my health app the next morning and had walked approximately 8,000 steps in the four hours that we were bouncing around from bar to bar. The last text of my night was sent to my sister saying goodnight at 4:16am. Needless to say, I was a bit groggy for my 10am museum appointment the following day.

Made my first amazing dinner: Alex and I took it upon ourselves to make dinner on Saturday night. While Olivia and Brigid were in class (classes tend to end pretty late here-my latest goes until 7pm, but many go until 8 or 9), Alex and I hit the supermarket. With her Italian mother on Facetime, barking orders about how to cook chicken the correct way, we created nothing less than a feast. Chicken parmesan, fried potatoes, spaghetti with tomato sauce, pancetta and brussel sprouts. It was amazing. My own mother was very proud.

Day trip to Siena: Siena was gorgeous. We didn’t really plan out how far the train station was from the actual city–very far–but once we finally entered Siena, we were enthralled. It reminded me a lot of Lucca in how quaint it was; I’m sure there were plenty of tourists, but it really didn’t feel like it. The most amazing part of the day, by far, was the Siena Duomo, or the Siena Cathedral. Not a single picture I took of it could accurately capture how enormous and beautiful it was. We must have spent around an hour in there, just completely mystified a at how the creation of such a building was even possible. Totally worth the two euros.

Another full day of classes: Exactly what it sounds like. In painting, we had our first live model, which has always been my favorite. I was in my element, painting a naked, (oldish) Italian lady for three hours.

First meet-up with the Italian exchange student: Francesco is 22, not 25… a fact I only discovered when he told me he had a 25 year old sister and I asked if he was a twin and he looked at me as though I had just grew three heads. He was much better at English than I am at Italian (obviously), but was very nice and polite about helping me through my stammered sentences. He stopped going to university and is instead training to be a tour guide of the city–he was able to tell me all about the origins of gelato. We met up at 10:30am in a bookstore and chatted until my 12:00pm Italian class, where we were all lectured at by Marta for the full hour on chapter one vocabulary. I am Italian-ed out.

I have lots more to say about lots, but I will save that for another post. Until then!

field trip to pisa and lucca!

As I mentioned in my other post, Daniela had me signed up for the field trip to Pisa and Lucca before I could say arrivaderla. A week of classes flew by, and, as is a pretty normal occurrence after a week has passed, the weekend was upon us. The Pisa and Lucca field trip was scheduled for Saturday, and Helen, the art history teacher who would be leading us through the two towns, had scheduled our day straight from the 7:30AM departure time right up until our 8PM arrival back in Florence. Helen is rumored to be around 70 years old,  wears bright orange lipstick paired with her matching orange cheeks and impossibly long, graying hair, and is known as the art history teacher with the most pep in her step. She stops for nothing and nobody, and if you can’t keep up, oh well. It’s considered a miracle when Helen ends a field trip with the same number of students that she began the day with.

By this point, I had made a few friends and was feeling very grateful that they would also be venturing beyond the Florence walls with Helen. Olivia, a girl I met in class, and I discovered that we only lived about a block away from each other, and chose to meet up at 6:50AM and to walk to the bus stop together. By 7:20, we were seated together on the very nice coach bus, very entertained by the sight of Helen struggling to figure out the bus intercom. The bus took off at 7:30 on the dot, and just as I was beginning to doze off, Helen figured out the loudspeaker. “WE ARE OFF TO PISA!” Olivia groaned next to me as we both jolted awake. “I will now be passing out the itinerary and your headsets, and then you can all nap. We should be at Pisa in about one hour.”

Sure enough, an hour later, Helen was ushering us out of the warm, cozy bus and into the parking lot of Pisa.

Side note- one thing that no one thought to warm me of prior to my arrival in Florence was how freaking cold it would be. I go to school in Michigan, so I thought that I would be fine with whatever came at me. In Ann Arbor, if the temperature gets above 45, people are walking around in t-shirts. So, being the stubborn, “the cold never bothered me anyway” person that I am, I only brought one (fairly thin but very cute) jacket. When I tell you that I have been wearing layers upon layers upon layers, I do not exaggerate in the slightest. I blame the cold here on two main things: the lack of sun (there are buildings everywhere–they are beautiful, but they are also professional sun-blockers) and the wind. The wind sucks.

So, anyway, all forty of us file on out of the bus and patiently stand in the very cold morning air, patiently awaiting any form of direction from our mother goose, Helen. Helen leads us through the streets, past the gates with all the terrifyingly intimidating guards, and there it is. The leaning tower. I was a bit underwhelmed. Yes, it was most definitely leaning. A lot. However, my expectations for this world wonder had been set way too high.

Whenever I thought about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, I had this sort of fantasy-world image in my mind. I saw pictures of it online or from my friends’ instagrams from their own previous European adventures, and thought it was massive. In reality, the tower really wasn’t all that tall. I also always imagined my visit to the Tower to be in the late spring or summer. I would be wearing an adorable, floppy hat, and a super European flowey skirt that would billow out in the light wind accompanying the clear, perfect day. Everyone would be sprawled out across the pristine, green lawn in front of the Tower on red and blue checkered blankets with carefully prepared picnics consisting of wine and cheese and crisp baguettes and round, red grapes, packed in vintage-looking wicker picnic baskets. They would all be smiling and laughing, cheers-ing their wine glasses, and looking up in amazement at this incredibly tall tower, marveling at how crazy it is that we are all able to sit here in the presence of such a remarkable depiction of human history. I would get my own glass of Pinot Grigio from an adorable Italian wine-salesman who just happened to be walking past, and would insist with a wink that a beautiful young girl like myself didn’t have to pay. And just as I took my first sip, my friend would happen to get the perfect picture of me in my floppy hat and flowey skirt, drinking my Pinot Grigio, with the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the background.

So you can see why I was slightly disappointed to be standing there, shivering in my thin (but cute) jacket, trying to pay attention as Helen drawled on about the gargoyle perched on top of the cathedral, and longingly looking out across the pristine, green lawn that no one was allowed to walk on. Despite my unrealistic expectations, I still had a very pleasant morning. The architecture was incredible, the town was cold but quaint, and I had a very decent plate of (not free) gnocchi.

And then we were back on the bus.

The ride to Lucca was only about 30 minutes, but I managed to completely and totally pass out. Olivia actually had to nudge me when we arrived, and I believe that my other friend managed to get a couple pictures that she will surely use as blackmail when the time comes. After Pisa, I made sure that I had no expectations of Lucca. I had never even heard of the place, for crying out loud.

Lucca was amazing.

As soon as we walked through the town borders, it was clear how different Lucca was than Pisa. The first thing the town presents is a slightly dilapidated little bike rental shop, where they advertised renting bikes for the day, taking the nature trail up the hill to get a birds eye view of the little town. Pisa felt almost as if it only existed for the tourist attraction. The town felt forced- every other shop was full of Pisa t-shirts and mugs -, and I didn’t see a single person who actually looked as if they lived there. Lucca felt much more real. One of my friends turned to me and said, “I would live here!” and I couldn’t have agreed more. Lucca was the type of place that you would want to live.

Each cathedral and church that Helen took us in was more beautiful than the last, and by the end of the day my feet were sore and I had heard enough of Helen’s voice to last me a lifetime, but I was absolutely besotted with the little town of Lucca. At the last cathedral that we went to, a few of us decided to take a seat, done with Helen’s never-ending lecture on how they had managed to naturally mummify the body of a peasant girl, Saint Zita, who had died in 1272. As we were sitting there, gazing up at the incredible ceilings and looking down at the incredible floors, and just soaking up all of the incredible-ness, a man began to play the organ. And, let me tell you, it was freaking magical. I felt like I had been transported to a whole new world.

Sorry for the length of this one. I just had so much to say!!! Until (maybe) tomorrow. We shall see. I am a very busy lady, after all.

you get what you ask for

I live in an apartment with two other girls. Until two days ago, it was just me and one other girl. Most of the other people in my program are living in apartments with many more than just two or three people–there are a lot of five and six person SACI apartments scattered throughout Florence.

Before classes started and I actually had the chance to meet other people, I was feeling very, very alone and very, very foreign. I missed my friends and I missed my dishwasher and my oven and my big, cozy blankets piled high on top of my big, cozy bed. I missed my thermostat that I could control and my bathroom that has a light right above the shower so I can see exactly what I’m sudsing (the bathroom here has one light and it is over the sink; my showers are very dark).

A big, important lesson that I have learned thus far in my college years is that when I’m not okay with something, chances are good that it can be changed. But you have to be comfortable with asking for help. So, with this in mind, I ventured out of my (very cold, very dark) apartment, and made my way to the SACI headquarters, phone GPS in hand (very handy little tip: if you are abroad and very stingy about your data usage, like me, google maps has an amazing little feature where you can download your location and see all of the streets within a certain mile radius), to talk to the Housing Director, Daniela.

Daniela was more than happy to hear my concerns. It’s a little dark, it’s a little cold, it’s a little lonely, and the wifi really does not work. Daniela offered an extra lamp for my room, told me she would talk to the landlord about changing the hours that the heat is on and checking up on the wifi, and she had quite a few ideas about how to get me out and about and meeting new people.

With me barely getting a couple words in edgewise, in the next five minutes Daniela had me signed up for a field trip to Pisa, a field trip to Rome, and had made herself a note to email the Italian Language teacher about having me meet up with an Italian student so as I could practice my Italian and they could practice their English. I was able to convince her that I was really okay without the cooking class by promising to show up to the open drawing studio next Wednesday from 8-10.

Classes started the day after my meet with Daniela, and I made some friends. I went to the open drawing studio and the field trip to Pisa (which will be a separate post) and made some more friends. I was feeling like quite the social butterfly already when I got an email from Daniela yesterday morning that an Italian student was very interested in meeting me to practice his english. I decided to ignore her email for the moment, and explain to her in person that my Italian really was not yet at conversation level (I’m pretty fluent in Spanish, so Italian comes much more easily than I originally was expecting, but hello I have been studying the language for one week).

However, this morning, not according to my thoughtfully laid-out plan, Daniela showed up at my apartment to move some furniture for one of my roommates. “Larkin!” she exclaimed when I cautiously ventured out of my room to get a glass of water (un bicchiere di acqua–look at me go), “Have you given any thought to my email?” Daniela is not the type of person to beat around the bush. She put down the desk she was moving to look directly into my eyes, hot pink lips pursed, and I gave her my very best I’m so sorry, puppy-dog look (you know, the one you save for your mom when you can’t make Friday night dinner or your professor when you break the news that you have to miss next class). Ignoring her furrowed brows, I tried to explain that my level of Italian really would not permit me to converse with the natives anytime soon. Daniela was not interested in taking no for an answer. “No worries! He just wants a chance to practice his English! If you’re comfortable, I’ll email Signora back and you can start next week!” I managed a little smile and an, “Of course, grazie,” to which Daniela absolutely beamed.

And that is how I have found myself with a study date with a 25 year old (at least, that’s what Daniela thinks…) Florentine. Grazie, Daniela. Buona fortuna to me.

first thoughts

I really wasn’t nervous. I think that I made my mom even more nervous due to my lack of nerves, but the truth is, I had done this before. I got on a plane and said ‘adios’ to my family for four months four years ago, my junior year of high school, when I went abroad to Barcelona. If I had known how different it would be to venture across the pond four years later, living with strangers in an apartment in Florence, being forced to be completely and totally independent, I probably would have been slightly more nervous.

When I went to Barcelona, I stayed with family friends. When my uncle was in high school, he lived with the same family, but my “host grandma” was his “host mom.” I got off the plane four years ago, and the four of them (the parents and two daughters) were waiting for me at baggage claim with huge smiles and open arms.

When I finally got to Florence, after a forty minute layover during which I had to run from one side of the Dusseldorf airport to the other, and having not had a bite of food for over fourteen hours (the 7-year-old Swedish boy who sat next to me and I both refused the airplane’s “chicken”, much to his mother’s dismay), I found myself very alone and with only one bag at the luggage claim–I had checked two, much to my dad’s wallet’s dismay. Crazily enough, three other students in the same program in Florence as me had also arrived at the terminal only to find it bare of their precious suitcases, and we braved the airport’s lost luggage ladies together. After filling out our complaints, and laughing together about the underpants, shampoo, and conditioner that we would have to go without until our luggage was returned, the four of us walked outside the airport, were greeted by a very cold Florence morning, and loaded up our very few pieces of baggage into the first cab we saw.

The cab made its way through the crowded Florence streets–he explained to us in broken English that weekends (it was a Thursday) were always much more crowded than weekdays–and dropped us off in front of our new school; SACI, Studio Arts College International. I had been trying to keep track of the turns we had taken, what looked cute and what looked a bit sketchy, to absolutely no avail. Each new cobblestone street we sped through seemed to look just like the others.

The four of us walked up the main steps into SACI, and each patiently awaited our turn to talk to the housing director and academic advisor, the typical spiel on the big whats and what nots to do during our four months here in Florence. I went last. Daniela, the housing director, gave me the spiel and my keys, and then broke the news that I was in the one apartment where the heat did not seem to be working properly, so I would not be allowed to move in for the next few hours as they worked to fix it. She apologized profusely for the hassle this might cause me, to which I just smiled and said it would all be alright, biting back my urge to let out a very melodramatic groan. Fortunately, Michelle, one of my fellow luggage-less comrades, offered me her apartment to put my things and her company for the next few hours.

We hailed another cab back to her apartment, where I carried my backpack, oversized purse, and singular 50-pound suitcase up her five flights of stairs (cursing my sister for dragging me to the gym and putting me through “legs and butt-day” just the day before my trip). She checked out her room, I washed my face, and we set out in search of provisions. Michelle turned out to be a very picky eater, and turned up her nose at the the first five places we walked past. Finally, a cafe caught her eye, and I ate the most amazing prosciutto and mozzarella calzone, not coming up for air until every morsel was in my stomach.

It wasn’t a perfect first day in Florence, but I made a few friends, ate an incredible lunch, finally moved into my apartment, and my suitcase did end up arriving–five days later, but still. You’ve gotta take the good with the not-so-good.

introductions

Hi!! I’m Larkin.

When I introduce myself, most people’s first question is “Larkin? That’s your first name?” Assuming that you, my readers, fall under the category of ‘most people,’ the answer is yes! That is my first name. In Patricia MacLachlan’s book Baby (you might better know MacLachlan as the author of Sarah, Plain and Tall), the main character is named Larkin. My mom read it, fell in love with my name, and told my dad that their first girl was going to be named Larkin. As I am the first of four girls, the name Larkin fell into my lap and here we are today.

From my silly little name story, you now know that I am the oldest of four girls, and that I have some pretty cool parents. Other tidbits of information you may find interesting are that I am from Connecticut, that I am a junior at the University of Michigan majoring in Art and Design and minoring in writing, but that right now I am writing to you from my bed in my apartment in Florence, Italy.

I decided to study in Florence because it’s Florence!! I walk down the streets of the city that is, arguably, the art capital of the world everyday wondering if Michelangelo walked down the exact same spot hundreds of years ago. You don’t really get that same sense of awe walking down the streets of Farmington, Connecticut or Ann Arbor, Michigan.

I’m not really positive yet what this blog is going to be. You’ll definitely be seeing lots of pictures of art (mine and Donatello’s), but I really want it to be a site that I can revisit to remember the more mundane, silly stories that you often run the risk of forgetting.

Well, there’s the classic introduction. I suppose it’s time to get into the more “fun” stuff.