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.

Not having a set path to follow really opens your eyes. I am so aware of my surroundings when I am not sure where I am or where I am going. My eyes take in every door and sight and street sign. I hear all of the footsteps and birds around me. I smell the bakeries and leather stores. I usually feel my feet aching if I have been walking for a while. Being lost allows you to experience where you are in a completely unique way, and you grow more intimate with the city.

You stumble upon beautiful things. It happens by accident, and it happens quite often. Maybe it’s just because I am in one of the most beautiful and historic cities ever, but every corner I turn holds something absolutely breathtaking. I will be just strolling along and looking at the shop windows when I walk into a huge piazza or end up on the steps a stone church. I usually have no idea what I am seeing, but it is fun to try and figure it out and then research the history at home.

You meet new people. Sometimes you have to ask for directions; part of being lost is eventually finding your way home. My favorite people to meet are elderly Italian couples. They are always so kind and they rarely speak English! It is great practice for my Italian, and peoples’ kindness is always heartwarming. A sweet older lady once walked me down the block right to the door I needed when I got lost going to class! (Note: getting lost when you have somewhere to be and a time limit is less fun.)

You draw closer to Lord. The Bible talks about continuous prayer in 1 Thessalonians. I am the first to admit that I have never been good at this; my thoughts always gravitate towards myself rather than communication with the Lord. I spend at least an hour (if not 2 or more!) walking each day. I am picking up the habit of talking to Jesus as I walk if I am alone. It started at sheer reverence and gratefulness when I was first taking in the city and I just couldn’t believe it all. I had to communicate my awe and give thanks for this opportunity. When I am wandering I just speak to Him and try to listen to what He has to say.

I made up my mind to write about getting lost last weekend after Ashtyn. Hayley and I went for a near 3-hour wander to the corners of the city (absolutely, utterly lost). I got to sense so many different parts of the city and see it in a new light. We passed some gorgeous monuments and randomly stumbled onto an outdoor art exhibit. We saw the highly residential area of Florence that tourists never see. We found a stunning park with a spouting fountain and about a million pigeons. We had gelato two times. It was awesome!

Now, I get lost on purpose.

I had my first photography class on Thursday. My professor told us to get on the first bus we could and take it to the last stop in town. Hayley and I did, and we got to see a new area of Florence, where no one spoke to us in English and the hustle-bustle of the town was far less. It was quiet and quaint and we finally found some real greenery (a big park)! I think my professor had it right when he said the best way to see any place is by getting lost. My favorite quote from the class:

“It doesn’t count where you go, but how you explore.” –Jacopo Santini (my professor)

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