A week or so ago, I made the quick comment on Facebook that “it’s impossible to be upset about being so overwhelmingly busy when all the things competing for my time are so amazingly awesome.” I didn’t go into details at the time—because I was just too busy. But now, as I have hit a rare relaxed weekend, I would like to elaborate.
Here is what the past few weeks looked like for me:
Wednesday, October 17th – Finish up midterms
As I believe I have mentioned before, we actually take classes here. And while I personally adore all the classes—and the fact that there are about 15 students in each one, that the professors are so passionate about what they’re teaching, and that we’re actually learning about things in context of the place where we’re living—midterms are never fun.
Friday, October 19th – Monday, October 29th –Parents Visit!
Yes! My parents got to come visit me in Italy! It was something I never thought would actually happen. My parents, who hardly ever travel, took off work for 11 days to come halfway across the world to see me. I took a 4-hour train to meet them in Venice, and over the course of the 4-day weekend we explored Venice, Riomaggiore, and Pisa. I left them in Florence on Monday night when I had to head back to Arezzo for classes. Our Art History class was in Florence on Wednesday, so I met up with them at the Academia Museum (where our class was learning about Michelangelo’s David). They came back to Arezzo for a tour of the town, our school, my apartment, etc. (and they later declared it their favorite city in Italy), and by Friday, when I was done with classes for the week, we were heading to Rome for the last four days of their trip.
As the middle child in our family, it’s been rare for me to ever have one-on-one time with my parents. Add to this that I truly feel in my element while I’m traveling, and this week was really something special. It would even have been completely stress-free…if life could have stopped in the mean time.
Tuesday, October 23rd
My Tuesday classes run from 9am to 4:30pm.
In a break between classes, a few of us went to a coffee shop to meet some local college students who are about to graduate with “American Studies” majors and need conversation partners to help them with their final film projects. …My academic tracks at OU are International Studies and Broadcasting and Electronic Media, so this was absolutely an opportunity I couldn’t turn down! (not to mention that I’ve been dying to hang out with local students!)
After classes, our Student Advisory Council had “training” for our biggest event of the year—a Halloween “Fright Fest” for local children.
After that, I went all around town with a woman from OU’s College of International Studies who was visiting OUA to work on some amazing publicity materials for the program here. Again, a fantastic combination of International Studies and Broadcasting/Electronic Media that is exactly up my alley. I was fortunate enough to be recommended to work with her, and we spent the evening walking around town getting pictures and videos of Arezzo for an upcoming coffee-table book and iBook.
Then I got home in time to read up on Michaelangelo’s statue of David, which we were to see the next day.
It was one of the most overwhelmingly awesome, custom-made-for-Shelby, miraculous kind of days…could I seriously complain that I was tired as I collapsed into bed? Absolutely not!
Saturday, October 27th
While sitting on the hotel bed after a very long day in Rome (and anyone who has been to Rome knows that any day in the city is a long one—it’s just so overwhelming! Again, in an awesome way. Can you seriously complain that St. Peter’s Basilica is simply too magnificent or the Colosseum too historical?) I remembered that my enrollment time slot had opened up…and I was still somewhat indecisive about what classes to take. I’m looking at trying to do another semester abroad before I graduate, and depending on if I want to go to South Korea or Romania or on an OU Journey summer program etc., everything changes. But seriously, could I complain that there were too many exciting options to choose from? Of course not. But it was still a bit stressful.
Tuesday, October 30th
My parents caught their 6am flight!
After another 9am-4:30pm day of classes (wait, has it seriously been a week since the last crazy Tuesday already?), some of us from the Advisory Council ran over to one of the apartments and began turning it into a haunted house for the next day’s festivities.
At 5:30, a group of us went up the street to the Children’s Library to do a Halloween story time and monster-balloon craft with a handful of local elementary school kids….or we thought we were going to have only a handful. …The library was overrun. We prepared fifty balloons for the craft and didn’t have enough for all the kids until we made some more.
…More than fifty kids to listen to us read “Go Away, Big Green Monster” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” and to sing “the head bone’s connected to the neck bone…” ?! It was OVERWHELMING…and AMAZING. What a cool show of what awesome community support we have here in Arezzo! I suppose we should have taken it as foreshadowing of what was to happen at the Fright Fest the next day…
And from there it was back to OUA for a festive, good old American pumpkin carving!
Wednesday, October 31st
Florence for class again! This was one of the most overwhelmingly awesome “classroom” experiences of my life—as we got our lecture on the architecture of the Florence Cathedral from the special-admission-only balcony on top of it. 400+ stairs to the top of the duomo, a baptistery from the 11th century, and a Medici-commissioned church later, and we were on the 3:00 train home.
As soon as we got off the train, we dashed to our respective apartments to grab costumes and a bite to eat, and then we headed over to OUA for the party.
OU does nothing halfway, so we had plenty of things to occupy the six-and-a-half trillion children (and their parents) who showed up for the duration of the party—thank goodness! Mummy races and face-painting, coloring and cookie decorating and, of course, the haunted house were all smash hits.
And now for the self-analytical part of this blog (you can’t escape it with me!)
I have found myself caught in a dichotomy here.
On the one hand, I want so badly to make the most of this experience, so I have been volunteering myself for any and every opportunity that arises.
On the other hand, I want just as badly to get a chance to live the Italian lifestyle…which with its slower pace and emphasis on “tranquillati” (relax yourself), doesn’t mesh well with day calendars packed and color-coordinated.
Regardless, I have now had five much-needed days of alternating hibernation and study time, and only just found the energy to write this very long, drawn-out blog post. But I re-iterate: I am not complaining about any of the things on this list. How could I? Everything that has happened in the past few weeks has been something so far beyond good. I have been overwhelmed, but overwhelmingly happy.
My solution: discover the cure for the necessity of sleep.
Oh yeah, can’t forget this thing…
One thing I learned about Italy – Until you can no longer physically jam the doors closed, it’s acceptable to squeeze more people onto the bus…at least in Rome, and at least when the Blue Line of the metro is down.
One thing I learned about myself – I’m not incapable of speaking Italian…I’m just a chicken. When placed with people who know no Italian at all, I gladly rose to the occasion and managed to have a ton of conversations in Italian. I’m sure I don’t sounds like a poet, but as far as I could tell I didn’t mortally offend anyone, and we always got where we needed to be.
Best thing I ate – It’s a toss-up. It is either 1. The three-course dinner of pear risotto, roasted potatoes, and lemon chicken that my parents and I had at a local trattoria or 2. The BBQ Burger with caramelized onions and bacon that I had at the Hard Rock in Rome (hey…after 2 months away from the states, I’m allowed to enjoy a nice burger and free drink refills).
Italian Word of the Week: “Spaventoso” – meaning “scary” or “frightening.” I.e. Are you sure it’s a good idea to come in? This haunted house is molto spaventoso.
Travel Quote of the Day
“People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” – Dagobert D. Runes