Sunday, February 6, 2011

Learning the lay of the land.

I hope this post doesn't get too long, but I have accomplished quite a lot in the past few days, if I do say so myself!  I figure this feeling will shift as I settle into the routine of classes, but this week the days seemed incredibly long.  Definitely don't have that "flying by" feeling that everyone speaks of yet.  I feel like I've been here several weeks already!

On Thursday I spent about 4 hours at an office in town completing the first step of getting my "Permit of Stay."  This is a new law that they are very strict about for anyone staying more than 90 days, and it's quite a process to get it.  As boring as the wait was, this was my official first trip into the city of Arezzo (the school is actually just outside the city), and I was blown away.  I won't really be able to capture it with these pictures, but basically after about a 20 minute walk down the hill from the Villa, you then walk up the hill into the town (or take the escalators, which I find sort of amusing!)  The city is enclosed in a magnificent medieval wall, and stepping inside feels like you're transported into the past.  There is something amazing to see no matter which way you look. (More on the city later in this post when I talk about Saturday)

Melanie, Olivia, Ben, and Melissa finishing Italian homework with me.

Just wanted to again capture the views that we get to study by.
Friday's classes were really good.  We had voice first for a change of pace, and it was probably the single best vocal class I've ever had.  We started with a lot of massage and breathing techniques then he started playing some notes on the piano for us to sing.  He will often single people out to do things by themselves in front of everyone, which in any class but a voice class I'm usually more than happy to do.  But, in this class, it seems like everyone with the exception of myself is a very talented, trained singer.  It's pretty intimidating.  So, when he pointed at me and had me sing I was pretty terrified.  However, he told me to become a fierce warrior woman with a trident slugging down a big glass of mead after a victorious battle.  It was awesome.  Kevin (the teacher) knows that any one can reach those notes, and that as actors who sing, it becomes easier when we create become the character that would be singing those notes.  Almost immediately after that breakthrough, he started the whole class into a very Swannanoa-esque singing jam on a really nice round; I made sure to record the tune on my computer so I won't forget it and can share it at home.  The whole class was so unified in spirit and different people would jump in the center at different times to riff-  it was really magical.  The only thing I could compare it to was a really solid late-night singing circle at Swannanoa.

On Friday night, we had a school "Cabaret," basically a talent show in which anyone could sign up to participate.  I'm usually pretty skeptical of any sort of talent show or variety show kind of thing, but this was incredible.  Every act was different and each person here is amazingly talented.  I may do something at one in the future, but didn't have anything in mind for this one.  There was singing, dancing, incredible tap dancing, vocal impersonations, miming, Shakespeare, a dramatic reading of "Baby Got Back," and my personal favorite, a hilarious yet technically impeccable dance to "My Humps."  This school has got more talent then I had realized.

After the Cabaret, it was time to hit the town for our first real outing.  I opted to peel off from the big, rowdy, drunken group to just wander with two girls, Sonia and Emily.  We ended up at a few bars, were picked up and dropped by Italian men of all ages, and eventually ended the night at a hole-in-the-wall bar that almost had the feel of a 50s diner.  They were playing American oldies music in Italian.  It was wonderful.  There was a 50 or 60-something man named "Sergio" who spoke no English but was very attached to us and really liked dancing with us.  He wore tight red pants and proudly sported a pair of Elvis sunglasses with attached sideburns.  A great Arezzo figure to run into. 

Sonia, Emily, and I on the town.

Students toasting the end of the week before going out!

Saturday (yesterday) was magical.  I feel like in 24 hours I somehow made about 90% of the transition from frightened student studying abroad to confident lady living in Arezzo.  I woke up pretty early (most everyone else was hungover and sleeping in) and headed into town.  That was my first feeling of accomplishment: knowing the way!  The "10 minute" walk into town we were told about is actually closer to a "25 to 30 minute" walk down and up massive hills.  Still very pleasant; I'm going to be very fit when I come back to the states.

Escalators leading into the city.

View exiting the city.

On the walk into the city.  I like this picture :)

Statue I use as an indicator of where I am in the city.  I like that the lion is acting like a dog.

On the first Saturday of every month (like yesterday) Arezzo has an antique market.  Every street was packed with vendors of all sorts.  I spent a couple hours perusing, resisting the urge to buy.  But I'm telling you now, all of my gift shopping will likely be done at one of these markets.  There were knick-knacks of all kinds, furniture, paintings, books, clothes, music, you name it.  There was also a medieval festival and parade with people carrying colorful flags and wearing traditional medieval garments.  It was awesome!  I made my way to the center of town (again, impressing myself with my vast navigational skills) to the cell phone store, where I was told after purchasing that I needed my passport to activate it.  So... I turned around and made the long trek back to the Villa.

Some furniture at the market.

Pretty dishes.

All these chickens reminded me of Gertie's kitchen in HPU's "Fuddy Meers"

I really liked all these figurines... Plus, there's a panda for Rankin.

Scary dolls and toys at my favorite of the vendor stands.  I'm still on the look out for Italian board games!

Sonia and Emily both bought hats at this awesome stand.

There were adorable children everywhere.
 This time I joined some others for the walk back into town.  I finished the transaction at the phone store, and then hooked up with some of the very cool BU kids for a delicious lunch of caprese paninis at a cafe.  This was followed by my first encounter with gelato... an encounter that will not soon be forgotten.  I selected chocolate and strawberry.  It was unbelievable.  We spent the rest of the day exploring the town and the markets.  We ended the day at the grocery store to purchase stereotypical delicious Italian foods to have for dinner back at the Villa.  (On weekends, we have to fend for ourselves until dinner on Sunday.)  It was a really magical day and I hope these pictures capture it somewhat.



Strawberry and chocolate... mmmmmmmm.....

Standing outside enjoying my gelato.

My current favorite shop in Arrezo.  Meats, cheeses, wine.... heaven.

A beautiful church in town... I can't recall the name at the moment.

We went inside.

Beautiful architecture. (Hudak!)

More of the church.

Fun fact-  "La Vita e Bella" ("Life is Beautiful") was filmed in Arezzo.  There is a tour you can take to see the various locations from the film... and I really want to do it.  For those of you that have never seen that movie-- watch it.  It really is incredible.  Have some tissues handy, I don't care who you are.

Well, it's getting to be lunch time now... I may go grab some more of my delicious cheese, prosciutto, tomatoes, and bread.

Here's a few more photos...

Entrance to the driveway of our villa.  "Accademia dell'Arte"

At the grocery store...

Cool view of the city as the sun was going down.

Leaving the city as the sun was setting.

Miss you and love you all!