Friday, October 20, 2006 1 comments

Random comments

In other news, the week and a half of unbelievably perfect weather has finally come to an end. For the next week and half, we're supposed to have steady rain to make up for it. My nose is already cold. I am very happy that wearing scarves is very popular here. I love them; they are so fun in all the different fabrics and colors. I need to stay out of the market; they are such a tempation. :) I bought one a couple of weeks ago that has quickly become my favorite. It's a bright olive-green color.

Italy is known for being a major fashion center. It is certainly a serious thing here. Well, for those of you interested, I have good news and bad news from the front lines of fashion (judging from a good amount of window shopping when riding the bus through Florence's version of 5th Avenue)...

The good news is that navy blue (my favorite color) is now very much in fashion again after several years of not being able to find much in this great color. I also consider it good news that it will be fashionable to be warm this winter...corduroy, suede, fur, and velvet are all very in. That's about it for good news.

Now for the bad news. Purple is huge. It is the color of the year here. Everything comes in purple...and it never was really my favorite. Hot pink and leopard print are also disturbingly common. Leggings are back in in a big way. Those don't look so good on just anybody. Especially since the thing is to wear them with obscenely short skirts. My favorite fashion of all times, bell-bottoms, are nowhere to be found. :( Instead, there are tight jeans TUCKED IN to floppy ankle boots. In other words, I hope you kept your stuff from the 80s, because they're back!!! I've even seen leg warmers!!!

Anyhow, I know most of you probably don't care much about what is going on in the world of fashion. I just felt like reminding everyone that if you want bell bottoms or anything in a pastel color, you had better get it now before you find yourself in 1985 again. :)



Well, I'm finally getting my own students. :) I have been waiting to see how this language school program would go (it's a new program none of the others have done before) before taking on students, but the homework isn't bad and I have plenty of time for students. So, I now have two assigned to me, and may get a couple more soon. Lucena does not want to start until November, but today I met briefly with Laura, and we will begin lessons next Thursday. I'm a little nervous to finally start teaching, but I am also glad to be getting started.
Saturday, October 14, 2006 0 comments

Tuesday Night Bible Studies

On Tuesday nights, we have a Bible study here at the Bible school. Several church members come regularly, and it's a good time for fellowship. It's also a good thing to invite any of our students who are interested in the Bible to, as it is less of a major step than going to church. It is a smaller group, and in a familiar place.

Alfredo, one of the church members, is teaching a series on the ten commandments right now. Greg, one of the Avanti workers, is helping out, too. This past Tuesday night, Greg led a discussion on the commandment about keeping the Sabbath. We talked about why God thought a day of rest would be good for his people, and what the Jewish ideas of the Sabbath are. I don't think I posted about it, but a few weeks ago we all went to the Jewish temple on a Saturday morning and attended a service, to see what it is like. We were invited to stay for their Shabat meal afterwards, too. We all learned a lot about the Jewish way of seeing the world, and it gave us a new understanding of what it takes to try to keep the Law of Moses. I'll write a post about that experience soon.

The ten commandments have been an interesting study (well, for the group in general; they are becoming more and more interesting as I begin understanding more and more of the lesson!) because they are probably the most recognizable teaching of the Bible. Even people who know almost nothing about the Bible have heard of the ten commandments. However, most people don't really know what the commandments meant, or what they mean to us now in the Christian era. It is also good to discuss these fundamentals because we have such a diverse group of people and cultures and religions here in Florence. Many people have a Catholic background, but there are also Jews, Muslims, protestant Christians of many types, and a growing number of Buddhists. One woman who comes fairly regularly, who was baptized in the Romanian Orthodox church, found the teachings on graven images interesting. I don't know what point I'm trying to make exactly; I just wanted to share what we are studying here and a little bit of what goes on.

The picture in this post of is Via Armando Spadini, the street we live on. The Bible school is the second building on the right, in between the house with the red roof and the one with the scaffolding.
Thursday, October 12, 2006 0 comments

Taking Pictures

I also wanted to let you all know that I have been taking pictures around Florence, and in the different places I've been. There is a link to "my photos" in the left sidebar if you want to see them. I've just added some of here in Scandicci and a large album of pictures I've taken wandering around the city of Florence. I'll try to mention in my posts when I update my pictures... I would like to post more pictures on here, but it tends to be cranky.

Hey, it worked for once!!! This picture is of a castle ( know when you think of a castle, you think of massive gray stones and high turrets, but this is one of the Italian versions) that is just across the park from the Bible School. It is called Torre Galli, which means the tower of the Galli family.

Language School and exploring the city

Hello everyone! Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. Nothing much of general interest has been going on, and I was sick all last week. I didn't figure anyone wanted to hear me complain. :)

Anyhow, I'm now in week two at the language program at the University of Florence. We aren't going as quickly as we did in the other school, but much more in depth. In the morning from 8:45 to 11:15, we have class. My teacher's name is Irene Zaccone. We have been doing a lot with learning to use prepositions correctly this week, as well as learning vocabulary. From 11:30 to 1:00 everyday, there is a lecture in Italian on various topics--Italin history, art history, Italian literature, Italian food, etc. It's a good chance to listen to the language. Some of the lectures I still can't make much sense of, but in some (the literature one is my favorite, of course! Having studied literature as part of my English major, that topic is easier to understand) I can follow the lecture and get most of the lesson, even if I can't understand every detail.

I'm beginning to see a difference at church in Bible class, too. For the first few weeks, I was just sitting through the lessons, but now I am catching the scripture references and understanding the major points. This past Sunday, Giovanni talked about Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and next week will will study His trial before the Sanhedrin. I have an Italian Bible, and I am learning to follow along. I still have a long way to go, but I am beginning to see progress.

I'm also enjoying meeting the other students in my class, as we will be spending the next two months together...There are a few Americans; I have become friends with a girl from Oregon, Cheryl, and her French husband. We usually sit together in the lectures. There are quite a few Japanese students, too. One, Shihoko, speaks very good English. Her husband is a chef who is working in Italy for a few months, so she is trying to learn some Italian while she is here. The others seem very nice, but they speak no English. It is definitely a good incentive to learn Italian when you are put in a classroom with others from all over the world, and you have to speak Italian as a common language! There is also a woman from Nigeria who sits behind me. Her name is Uduam (or at least that spelling is close...). She said something the other day about how she goes to church every Sunday, so I hope we might find some common ground to talk about.

Anyhow, language school is going pretty well. I only wish I could learn faster!
Tuesday, October 10, 2006 0 comments

A Perfect Ramble in Perfect Weather

I don't know when I've seen a day with more perfect weather.  It's sunny, not a cloud in the sky, but breeze and in the mid-seventies now; it was almost cold this morning, and I wore a sweater and a scarf most of the day. 

After class today, I sat in Piazza Savonarola as usual.   I wrote a few postcards, then started walking along the route of the 13 bus.  I bought pizza and an apple at a bar and ate in a little strip o graass with benches across from the old cemetery.   Sometime, I'd like to explore the old place.  Anyhow, I read my new A. S. Byatt book while I ate: The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye.  I read Possession a few weeks ago, and Elementals over the summer.   She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.   Her characters are usually from within the field of literary scholarship, and she makes many interesting references to mythology and literature.   What she writes is what I wish I were writing, or, at the least, living. 

After I ate, I took the 13 bus.  The guy sitting behind me asked me in broken Italian how far to Piazzale Michelangelo, and some other questions, before we realized that we both spoke English. He turned out the be Mexican, but lived in Switzerland for some time, and is now from Chicago.  He, Rafael, and his fried were traveling through.   We talked the rest of the way to the Piazzale, and for a while while we took pictures.  

It was of course a perfect  day to take pictures, and I took quite a few from up there.   I kept trying to put my camera up, but I had to take it back out again because I kept noticing more good shots as I walked down the trail to the river.   I crossed over at the bridge before Ponte Vecchio from that direction.   I took a few pictures in the Piazza degli Uffizzi, and of the states there--the copies of Michelangelo's David and Donatello's David being two of the most famous. 

About that time, my camera batteries finally died.   I wondered over a few streets, and bought some gelato, half chocolate, half strawberry.   I ate it leaning on a light post in Piazza della Repubblica.   And now, here I am on a bench next to the carousel; a street performer is playing sweet, sad music across the square, which seems so fitting to this angelic, almost too-good-to-be-real sunny day.  The crowds wander through slowly; the horse-drawn carriages are out in full force today--I have caught the faint smell of them all afternoon.  As I've sat here, the piazza has gone from sunny to mostly in shadow as the sun moves lower. The top of the Duomo's bell tower is visible over the Savoy hotel.   It's my favorite time in the city---late afternoons with warm slanted sun rays, with the crowds out but unrushed, relaxing after the day. 
Saturday, October 7, 2006 0 comments

First Week at the University

Today is an amazingly beautiful day--one of those fall days when the sky is such an exuberant blue that the green trees--barely tinged with orange--and the yellow and white buildings stand out sharply against it.   it's the first really "cool" day, when a jacket is actually needed.  After the humid haze of summer, this time of year always seems so clear and bright. 

I have finished the first week of class at the University of Florence.  I think I will like it. We are learning very practical, useful sorts of words in class.  Not being the slowest, like in the last school, is really helping; I think I am speaking better already because I am not so afraid of being wrong. 

It's fun to meet such a wide variety of people, too.  I've spent quite a lot of time talking with Cheryl, who is from Oregon, and her French husband, Matthieu.  Yesterday, Cheryl and I walked around Centro together while we waited for the bookstore to reopen after lunch so we could buy our workbooks for class. 

Today, I talked with a group of Japanese girls and a Nigerian woman during our break from class.  Tomako, one of the Japanese girls, taught me that in Japan, holding up the thumb is a gesture meaning "man", and the pinkie finger means "woman."  I don't really know where that came from, or why she wanted me to know that, but there we are. 

Now, I think I will take a bus back to San Marco or somewhere, and do some picture-taking.  It's the perfect day for it, and I figure I ought to get my looking-like-a-dorky-tourist in before I've been here long enough that I want to try to blend in as a local. 

Wednesday, October 4, 2006 0 comments

Piazza Savonarola

Well, here I am in Piazza Savonarola again.  I just got out of my first full day of class.  The first half-- well, a little more than half--is grammar.  Today, we did present-tense conjugation.  So, it's a little beneath my level, but I don't know how quickly we'll go.  It was nice to be one of the better ones in the class, however, instead of the slowest, as I was in the last school, since I'd come in a week into the course.  I just want to learn as much as I can, and I hope we don't go over what I've already learned for too long.

I spent some time talking with Cheryl, and American, and her French husband, and a Japanese girl named Shiho (that's probably not how it's spelled, but that's how she pronounced it).  There are quite a few Japanese students. 

The second part was a lecture on Etruscan art.  I was surprised at how much of it I could understand, but the professor was doing his best to speak slowly and clearly, and not use too many big words. There are lectures on different cultural topics everyday.  Many of the elementary-level students don't stay, but I think I will.  The only thing I'm not sure I like is that there isn't a part of the schedule specifically for conversation.  It's certainly less stressful without that, but that's where I felt the most behind.  Oh well, I guess I'll get quite a bit of that at church.

I guess I'll head back to Scandicci now; I think I'm getting Lauren's cold, and I just want to take a nap.
Tuesday, October 3, 2006 0 comments

The Last Week of September

So much for being consistent.  For the past week, I have been out of school, so I've mostly stayed around the house.  I did quite a lot of genealogy work.  I don't know what it is; I've only had one or two contacts all summer about genealogy, but in the past week and a half I've gotten emails from five or six people.  Suddenly everyone is noticing the cemetery records I've had online for months.  The aggravating part is that, since my external drive broke, I was never able to put the most updated version of the database on my laptop.  It's too large to be uploaded to the internet or burned on a CD.  I'm trying to figure out a way to have mom break it down and then burn it on cds.  We'll see.

Last weekend (not yesterday, a week ago) was beautiful.  Perfect weather--warm without being too hot, sunny, breeze... That Saturday (the 23rd), Anna and I decided to go out and do something.  We both enjoy photography.  She suggested we find a bus that goes somewhere out of town, and take it all the way to the capolinea [end of the line].  She got online and poked around, and decided on Settignano.  So, we took the 10 bus from the stazione through town and up one of the large hills (small mountains) that surround the city.  On the top of this hill is the little town of Settignano.  It was a pretty little town in itself, but its real draw is the views of the valley and the city of Florence from there.

My favorite views, however, were as we walked out of the village into the countryside towards the Villa Gamberaia.  After walking past sloped groves of olive trees, with the valley rolling out behind them. I understand why there is poetry about olive trees.  The pale leaves seem to catch the light when they are stirred around in the breeze.

The Villa Gamberaia is supposed to have one of the most elaborate and beautiful gardens in the country.  However, there is a 10€ charge to go in, and we arrived only a half hour before closing.  It was a beautiful villa to see from the road as we approached, however.  The hedges were as tall as trees; I've never seen them so massive.

Just past the villa, the road ran through a little tunnel and through a wooded area.  We followed it up a ways, past orchards and olive groves, for a ways further before turning back.  Walking back down the hill towards the tunnel, we saw what appeared to be elaborately painted ruins in the woods.

We went back through the tunnel, and took pictures of each other at the end of it.  We also took pictures up--huge trees grew on the bank above the tunnel; it's not often you can get a picture of a tree from that angle, completely underneath it.  When we got back home, I realized I had taken over two hundred pictures.  They turned out well. Now, I'd like to go to Fiesole, another hill town, sometime.

The next day, Sunday the 24th, we took the van after church to Arezzo, a city about an hour and a half away.  Bernardo and Alfredo rode with us, and Tammy, Christina, and the Albanian lady (I can never remember her name) rode with Gary and Jennifer.  In Arezzo, we met up with church members from Rome and Prato.  Paolo Mirabelli, from Rome, had gotten us all together.  He is organizing people to go to cities in Italy that have no churches of Christ to pray for that city.

We had Bibles, in which we wrote the addresses and phone numbers of our congregations in, before passing them out.  We had a short devotional by the train station.  We sang "I Love You with the Love of the Lord" in Italian, English, Spanish, and Albanian to represent the languages of all of us who were present.  We read scriptures and prayed the same way, using the different languages.  We sang an African song that is apparently common here, as well.

We then walked through the old part of the city, winding our way up the hill the city is built on.  Near the top, we stopped and sat on the steps in one of the oldest piazzas.  There, we had a long devotional, singing together.  A couple from the Prato congregation who were originally from San Salvador shared there song book with me.  That was the best part of the day--meeting Christians from other congregations.

After the devotional, we needed to head back quickly in time for the Pepperdine devo.  Anna, Christina, and I ran through a little park on the top of the hill and had time to take a few picture of the beautiful valley view from there.

The rest of the week was fairly uneventful.  Gary and Jennifer are on vacation, so we were rather informal this week. I made birthday cards to send to church members, and I studied a little, though nothing like I should have.

And now today, I'm sitting in the Piazza Savonarola, which I expect to see a lot of in the next few months.  The University of Firenze owns buildings at the corner of it, and that is where my new language school will be.  I came this morning to take the placement test and pick up my schedule and student id cards.  I think it will be good.  I plan to take the trips with the class, and try to do all I can.  I need to spend more time studying this afternoon.

The view from the park near the main church in Arezzo
One surprising thing about the last few weeks has been that several people have complimented me on my voice.  I've never been anything special as a singer; I don't know why I am here, but I'm enjoying it.  I always wanted to be able to sing well.  It just seem easier all of a sudden.  I can sing louder and stronger than I've ever been able to.  Maybe it's because my allergies are better here (I always said it was Tennessee I was allergic to!), or that there are fewer people who sing at all here.  Anyhow, it makes me happy.