Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Italian Ambulances and ERs

Sorry I haven’t posted in while! It has been a busy few weeks with school and travel. Unfortunately, I am learning that the “study” part of study abroad is quite prominent here.

I experienced a lot of firsts this week: first time to ride in an ambulance, first trip to the ER without my parents, first stitches, first exploding wine bottle… You know. Normal first experiences.

Here is the story:
Tuesday was Vogue Fashion’s Night Out in Firenze. It is a really posh event and my roommates and I got all dolled up and frequented the most famous and luxurious stores in the world. Anyways, we thought a nice glass of sparkling wine before we went out would be a splendid idea. Our apartment came with two poorly functioning bottle openers, and the metal corkscrew got STUCK in the CORK while I was trying to open the bottle. I kid you not, the entire plastic part of the opener came off. We ditched the wine idea and went out to enjoy the fabulous celebration of fashion happening literally on our doorstep. (Did I mention that we live on the same street as Gucci?!)

Fast forward to the next day. I am standing in the kitchen at 3 in the afternoon and notice the corkscrew inconveniently still chilling the wine cork. I decided to try to get the corkscrew out and one thing led to another… I somehow made a small crack in the glass and the carbonation caused the bottle to explode. Literally explode. Glass and wine went flying EVERYWHERE. It is amazing that no glass got into my eyes, I could barely see from all of the wine!

So there I am screaming in the kitchen because my eyes hurt and I can’t see and I am spurting blood from my finger. My roommates Ashtyn and Hannah were already in the room, and Christy ran in shortly after. I am so grateful for these wonderful people, because I COULD NOT have made it through this ordeal without them. Someone got me shoes, someone made we wash the blood off of my hand and cut (which hurt reallllly badly) and someone decided to call the doctor. The doctor told us to call an ambulance, and Ashtyn spoke to them on the phone in all Italian! So proud of her! I was of little use as I had promptly forgotten every word of Italian from shock when I cut myself. Convenient. Meanwhile I am crying and trying to stop the blood flow from my finger without pushing the glass in the cut deeper. I also asked to call my mom, but Ashtyn literally said no. In hindsight this was smart because my mom would have freaked out if I called at this point!

The ambulance arrives and I head to the hospital wearing slippers, a large tank, a Baylor sweatshirt and yoga pants. I clearly fit in with all the posh Italians… A note on Italian ambulances: because of their healthcare, ambulances are free and people call them ALL THE TIME for EVERYTHING. So bizarre. Anyways, I am strapped into the ambulance where they clean my cut a bit (OW) and wrap it in gauze. The people on the ambulance were hilarious! Ashtyn came with me, and we all spoke in mixed Italian and English about really random things. Topics of discussion included the lack of lights in the apartment hallway and how one of the guys was going to prepare Roman pizza for dinner (step by step). I later learned that all of the ambulance workers in Italy are volunteers. I loved them already for helping me not freak out as much, but this made me love them EVEN MORE.

Once at the hospital, I am wheeled into the area with all of the doctors. All I could see was the lights on the ceiling going by. It was just like a movie! I got my bandages changed and I had to answer lots of questions in Italian/English mix. It was pretty overwhelming and I am SO grateful for Ashtyn being with me. Then came the best part… Waiting. And waiting and waiting.

We called my program, Study Abroad Italy, and they sent someone to meet us. Then it got complicated because we told them the wrong hospital and they only had my name and number. In the panic of leaving I forgot to grab my phone so they had no way to contact me! Poor Danielle from SAI went to 3 hospitals before we realized our mistake! We called again and told her the correct location. All of this took place over about an hour and half. My hand was hurting and we were so bored! Finally they called us back and we waited in ANOTHER waiting room. Oh joy! We played hangman, which was hilarious since I was writing with my left hand and it was illegible. Meanwhile, Danielle went to the wrong location of the hospital we were at (what are the odds that there are TWO with the exact same name in Florence!?)

After about 30 minutes, a nurse took me into a room. I laid down on a hospital bed and she set my hand on a metal table with a bunch of scary looking metal equipment. She poured several different liquids on my hand that stung SO badly, but they washed the glass out. Yay! We talked a bit in Italian, which apparently gave her the impression that I spoke the language decently well (important later). My cut looked really freaking gross at this point. It was deep and gaping open and my finger was very swollen. I could see a lot of little white dots in the red blood inside the cut (don’t know what that was, don’t care to know ever). The doctor came in a while after and also spoke to me in mostly Italian. He got right down to business and started sewing me up without ANY medication, numbing or painkiller. Uhm OUCHHHHHHHHHHHHH. That was the sharpest pain I have ever experienced, including when I broke my arm. OW. I remember thinking, ‘if childbirth is only this painful, it might be manageable.’ True story. After what felt like forever, the doctor said “solo una oltra” and I was like, oh good, only one more! LIES. He said that TWO more times before he was actually done. He finished and the nurse told me something in very fast Italian and left before I could say anything. I still have no clue what she said.

I went to find Ashytn and hopefully Danielle to figure out what to do next. I looked in the second, smaller waiting room and then the first waiting room. Not there. I wandered between the two feeling lost and confused for a few minutes. This involved sneaking into a door to the back every time a doctor or patient opened it from the other side--no one bothered to stop me...sketch security measures. I eventually thought to look outside and, allora, Danielle and Ashtyn were both there! YAY! We waited some more and chit chatted, and the doctor gave me the bill and further instructions. The total for an ambulance ride and getting stitches: 40€! So cheap! Then we took a taxi, got food and went home.

It is doing so much better now! It has been about a week and I am surprised at how quickly it is healing.

HUGE SHOUT OUT to Ashtyn Mathews for being the best friend ever!!! She was by my side the ENTIRE time, hung out with me for 5 hours in a gross hospital and basically loved me a whole lot! I can't thank her enough. YOU DA BEST GIRL!!!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Getting Lost

I have learned that getting lost is a beautiful thing. Soon after arriving in Firenze, I discovered that getting lost in this enchanting city is more than probable—and this isn’t a bad thing! I have never had the keenest sense of direction, and navigating this city is about 478439075 times more difficult than back in the US. In the city center where I live, the streets wind and turn and go off in random directions. There is no rhyme or reason to their direction (or so it seems to me)! This part of the city was built centuries ago and is not conducive to traffic or finding directions. There was no grid system at the time and the streets were quite narrow because they didn’t have to accommodate motorized vehicles. Also, the streets change name at each intersection, so it is more difficult to understand directions or where you are.

All of this together—cars flying at you down the street, winding alleys, changing street names and the language barrier—makes getting lost very easy. This explains the how of getting lost, but not the why. Wandering these ancient streets while being lost has shown me many things.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The First of Firenze

FYI- this post is REALLY long.

Hey everyone! Sorry I haven’t given an update since I have been in Florence! First let me say, I am OBSESSED with this city. Everything about it is absolutely wonderful so far. We have probably walked around the entire city like 3 or 4 times—like at least 15 miles. Here is an update:

Wednesday: We flew all night and I didn’t really sleep. The cool French couple I sat by went to the bathroom several times and talked most of the night. I was SO tired when we landed! Going through customs and security I met a bunch of cool students going to Florence as well! I ended up getting Starbucks (for like $9!!) and playing every card game imaginable with some new friends during our four-hour layover. When we landed I was feeling really nervous and overwhelmed, but I was so very grateful to my awesome family and friends that woke up to pray for me when I landed! I got to Florence around 2 pm local time. We got off the plane a small bus took us to the airport baggage claim. Also, it was like 74827895894 degrees out. WHAT?? We got our luggage and were thrust into a sea of people waving signs and calling out names. I found Study Abroad Italy (SAI) after a few minutes. We were driven to our apartments by some really nice Italian guys in their twenties. We chatted a little in Italian and the driver bought us all botled water, which was SO appreciated! It was pretty scary being on the European streets for the first time since high school. I forgot how dangerous they seem! People just fly down the tiny roads and don’t care how close the other cars are. Ahhh! My apartment is up 83 stairs in the high end fashion district (more on my apartment later!), and all of my roommates were already there when I got in! It was awesome!! We walked to get our pre-ordered cell phones and found a super cute little ma and pop panini shop. We each got one, picked up some wine, and had a wonderful first dinner at home! We met with a guy who is a SAI affiliate and he explained a lot of the stuff in our apartment. Super helpful! We were all exhausted so we passed out around 10.

Thursday: Our first full day in the city! We woke up early and went to orientation. SAI talked a lot about what to do and expect in Italy. It was super boring but important information. My roommates and I walked across the Arno Rive to less touristy side of the city. We walked down a few streets and found an area with no other tourists! It was all Italian and all authentic. We ate lunch at a cute restaurant (with only other Italians) and had yummy pasta! We went back and had our second orientation. The jet lag and pasta was too much for Hayley and I—we fell asleep in the middle of the presentation. Whoops! I then went and took my Italian placement test. I CANNOT believe I passed, it was quite difficult! That was the first time I walked by myself in Florence. I walked home a new way and didn’t even get lost! We went to a free dinner put on by SAI that night. They had yummy small appetizers, champagne and tiramisu. We talked with the VP of SAI for about an hour. He is really cool and had so many tips and suggestions for us. He also has many connections to Baylor and Texas. We walked home and relaxed for a while. I discovered the art of people watching from our huge, gorgeous windows. The shutters open all the way with no screens. All of my roommates and I LOVE to rest our elbows on ledge and just walk everyone walk and ride by. It is fascinating. There are people from all age groups and ethnicities going down our street all the time! It really is magical to just observe the life pulsing below us. Our street also echoes like crazy so we can hear people’s conversations below us nearly perfectly. 

Friday: This was our first day to do what we pleased! We woke up to some really heavy rain and a city that had cooled off immensely. It felt so great not be constantly sweating.  I walked a few doors down the street and had a yummy pastry and macchiato for breakfast. My roommates met me there, and four of the five of us had to change a class. We trekked to the school building and filled out the class change paperwork. Next we went to the supermercato to buy things like milk, breakfast bars and nutella. Then we went to the San Lorenzo Market, which was INCREDIBLE! There are probably like 50 different little stalls all selling different pastas, bread, fruits, vegetables, cheeses and wines. We bought fresh fruits and tomatoes from a sweet lady named Maria. She let us try all of the fruit we wanted before we bought it and I got a huge bag of various fresh produce for only 4 euros! I also bought some fresh mozzarella and pesto from a cheese vendor and some bread. After our long morning out and carrying heavy groceries across the city, we all wanted to relax for a while! Hayley and I finally unpacked our room. We went out to a chic Italian outdoor cafĂ©. We each ordered a drink and got to eat from a free appetizer buffet! We came back to the apartment and caught up with friends and family at home. At midnight, we went to the “secret bakery” that sells DELICIOUS hot and fresh pastries out the back door. It is unlabeled and you pay in cash. To order, you knock on the door and someone peaks their head out. You wait several minutes and then they come back with your steaming treats. I had a croissant filled with chocolate. YUMMMM!! We people watched and went to sleep at 3 am.

Saturday: Today! We planned to wake up and pop over to Pisa to eat a quick picnic lunch. We woke up to a downpour and decided against the idea. We made a yummy lunch of fresh bread, pesto, tomato and mozzarella and ate at home instead. This afternoon, Hayley, Ashtyn and I ventured out into Florence by ourselves. We walked SO far—literally a big circle around our whole side of the Arno! We walked through some gorgeous piazzas and gardens, and also some residential areas that aren’t very interesting or accessible to tourists. We bought gelato twice on our 2 hour 45 minute walk. YUMMMMM!!! I forgot how absolutely delicious it is. I guess I will have to get it every day now…. Tonight we made dinner as roomies. We had a yummy vegetable and potato dish and some pesto spaghetti. It was delicious!! Then we had some bread with nutella for dessert and chatted all night.

Pictures of all of this to come!! Look out on Facebook for updates soon :)

I have had the best time in the world so far. Each and every one of my roommates is so fun and sweet. We all get along quite well. I can’t wait to show all of you more of the amazing wonders of this city! Fino alla prossima volta i miei amici. Ciao!!


It's finally time for the  I am writing this on my plane to Brussels where I will connect to Florence. I have been planning this trip for a year and it is HERE!! I am so excited! Packing was CRAZY!! I’m still not sure how I managed to fir so many clothes, accessories and many many more things into a checked bag and a carry on. Holla! I feel qualified to call myself a packing pro at this point. When I checked into my flight, my bag was 5 pounds over the limit. My parents helped me redistribute the weight and I was convinced that my carry on would not fir into the overhead bins on my flights. But the best news I got all day- there was no overhead room left on my first flight and so they had to check to my ridiculously heavy carry on all the way to Florence! Needless to say, I wasn’t too upset ;)

My first flight was rather uneventful. I landed in Philadelphia (which is a rather gross and outdated airport) and grabbed a quick lunch/dinner. On my current flight, I found an adorable Indian family sitting all the way across my row and in my seat. After about 10 minutes of shuffling around and my super heavy backpack killing my shoulders, I was seated next to a cool couple who speaks mostly French. They gave it a shot with English though! They seem very kind. I feel like this will be me for the first few weeks in Italy. Thankfully I have had a year of Italian in college. A lot of people on the trip are going in without knowing ANY Italian!

I am excited about pretty much everything…. I am SO excited for the culinary delights that await me. Pizza and pasta, fresh mozzarella, gelato, Italian coffee and so many more things that I’m sure I still have to discover. I am thrilled to be living with two really sweet girls from Baylor and two I have yet to meet. I am excited to explore the city and see the hidden treasures it has to offer, as well as the rest of Italy! And of course, travelling through the rest of Europe. If only I had more time to go everywhere I would like to! Well if you have read this far you must really love me! I will try to post often. Love you all!!!