First week and Monteriggioni

The first week of classes in Siena was different from classes at WOU.  We spent more hours in class (three to four hours each), and yet, everything was very laid back.  What do I mean by laid back?  Side conversations were allowed as long as you participated in the class and got the information being taught; students were allowed to miss up to three classes if there were areas of Italy you wanted to go see as long as you cleared it with the instructor first;  and late payments were accepted for the program provided you could assure the school you were good for the payments.  All-in-all, laid back.

I participated in three classes: Spoken Italian, Signed Italian (LIS), and Italian Deaf Culture and History.  Spoken Italian is similar in structure to Spanish with much of the vocabulary sounding almost the same.  Deaf History was a bit difficult because much of what was taught is not history yet; it’s happening now.  Events U.S. Deaf culture went through decades ago are only just happening in Italy or have not yet occured.  Signed Italian was my favorite.  I found it easy to pick up and retain.  Although I am home now, I still practice what we were taught.

Here are a few photos to show you  what the streets, building architecture, and views were around Siena.  I was and am still jealous of the view from the classrooms and student lounge in the Siena school…Why can’t we have this in WOU?

View from school Siena  view from classroom siena

When the school day was done, a few of us in the program would wander around the city, exploring.  I have so many pictures of Italian buildings ranging from the entire structure to panels smaller than a silver dollar; but, there is no way I can fit them all here.  Sufice it to say future posts will have excellent examples of Italian architecture.

Our first weekend was occupied with a Deaf social in the school’s courtyard where we met our Italian counterparts.  While we were there to learn Italian Sign (LIS), they were learing American Sign (ASL).  Both parties spent a few hours botching each other’s languages and we had a blast laughing at each other.

Deaf Social

The next day, all the study abroad students went to a medevil festival in Monteriggioni which was a hour or so from Siena by bus.  All I can say is I had a blast!  There were perfromances, music, shops, crafts, weapons, nobles, peasants, clergy, food, wine, and so much more!  The girl in the photo above on the left is named Kristie and, bless her, she wanted to travel around the festival with me that day.  I’m afraid I wore her out.  By nightfall, she was begging that we stop and sit down for a bit.  Haha, hours spent wandering the small town’s streets and we still didn’t manage to see everything.

Currency in Italy is the Euro.  Monteriggioni is a protected town in that everyone who lives there, lives the way people did hundreds of years ago.  They even have their own currency.  When we first arrived at the festival, we had to exchange our euros for grossi.  One small, gold coin is called a grosso and is equal to one euro.  The values are one grosso, two grossi, and five grossi.  They are all coins ranging from the smaller one grosso coin up to the larger five grossi coin.  In the picture, I did not have the smaller coin but there are examples of the the other two values.   Grossi  The copper coins are worth two grossi, the gold are worth five each.  There are no paper bills in Monteriggioni…it was a nice change from the dollar system and felt refreshing.

Streets of Monteriggioni  Kristie and I explored this side street and found a pillory.  A type of medevil stock for the punishment and humiliation of those who were guilty of one crime or another.  Usually something akin to theft.  The criminal would be locked into the pillory and passerby were encouraged to throw rotten fruit, eggs, excrement, and so on at the immobilized person.  One of our school’s representatives happened to walk up behind me when I stuck my head in the pillory, locked it and walked away…har har.  She came back after a few minutes and let me out though so it’s ok.      Pillory

That evening, we bought dinner for about five grossi and it was delicious.  I had a vegetarian dish with a ginger paste that made my mouth water.  Not gonna lie, I drooled a bit.  Ah, something I found really cool there, most tourist traps that we know of serve drinks in plastic or styrofoam cups, right?  Not there.  Drinks were served in handmade, clay cups.  If you bought a drink, you kept the cup with you and could refill it with whatever you wanted later for a cheaper price.

dinner Clay cups and wooden forks were all hand made.

Funny little story, I just wanted the cup and not the wine inside ( I don’t like wine, I know, shame on me) so I purchased a cup of very cheap wine, found some potted plants in an obscure corner and (yep, you guessed it) “watered” the plants.  Kristie was with me and told one of our instructors about it who proceeded to look horrified, then disappointed and, fianlly, called for a moment of silence for the poor wine.  It was the shortest funeral in history.  We had a good time of it.

 Me and Monteriggioni

 

Journey

After flying for eighteen hours and going through security checks in two countries (Germany and Italy), I finally landed in Florence.  I was terrified my luggage would get lost but it arrived on schedule.  Yay!

During the short flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Florence, Italy, I met a woman named Vickie.  She was from Pretoria, Africa and was traveling to Certaldo (Cher-tahl-doh)which is one train stop before Siena.  So, we agreed to travel together since we were both alone, a little unsure, and going the same direction.  However, I have to share my first impression of Italy with you…When I first stepped outside the Florence airport, what did I notice first?  Roadsigns…everywhere!  No joke, they pointed in every direction you could imagine.                                                giveway  And some were just plain confusing.     uturn

Luckily Vickie and I took a bus.  After a quick bus ride that could have been from an amusment park (I thought it was fun), we arrived at the Ferenze Santa Maria Novella Station.  Or, Saint Maria Station in Florence.  I have one word to describe my first trip through it.  Chaos.  There were so many people trying to get tickets using automated ticket machines and rushing about to board trains.  The architecture of the building was beautiful but with everyone pressing from all angles I could not stop to admire it for long.

Ferenze Santa Maria Novella Station  Trains in Italy

When getting my ticket, I did not have the exact amount needed (8.50 Euro) and the machines don’t give change.  With that, I pulled out my credit card.  Only there was one problem no one told me about.  Italian credit cards have pin numbers just like debit cards.  American credit cards do not require pin numbers to use.  Vickie was kind enough to try her credit card for my ticket but she had the same problem.  We tried asking station employees what to do but none of them seemed to know how to help.  One man even said he had no clue.

Eventually, we found a newspaper stand outside the station that sold train tickets.  We purchased them and boogied to our train where we could finally relax a bit.  Two hours later, after Vickie let me read a newspaper she had brought with her from her home (I have to admit, it was a singular and unique experience to be in Italy reading about gazells jumping into moving vehicles to escape cheetahs) we parted ways at the station in Certaldo and I continued on to the Siena station.   Siena Train Station

Once there, I met up with representatives of the Siena School for Liberal Arts along with most of the other students in the program from the U.S.  We were given information packets and divided into small groups to be taken to our different apartments.  (I found out later everyone in the program lived in differently styled apartments all around Siena.)

That night, after everyone had arrived, the whole group went to a ristorante named Due Porte where you could get pizza with almost any kind of topping and many other famous Italian dishes.  I had the plate of Cinghiale (boar, pronounced cheen-ghah-lay) and it was deliscous!                                                                         Due Porte Menu  Jason and frie pizza  Yes, those are fries.                       Boar

Afterwards, everyone was exhausted from traveling so we all went back to our apartments and fell asleep to the sounds of an Italian midsummer night.

Here are a couple of photos I took during the day at the apartment      Apartment bedroom in SienaMe and my roomates

My bedroom on the second floor                              Me and my roomates

Arrival Home: From Macerata, Italy to Hood River, Oregon

It is very strange being in America. I have had a culture shock upon returning home and this is very odd to me. One of the things I was looking forwards to most was being able to watch a movie or TV show and being able to understand what they were saying. On one of the flights home they played the new Iron Man movie. It is funny because while in Italy I watched some of the TV there and I was always like “These shows are ridiculous. They are sooo dramatic.” And yet I couldn’t even watch the Iron Man movie because it was so bad, which is surprising because I love superhero movies. I found it to be really dramatic and the fact that they were blowing things up every second was stupid. Not to mention the guy in the movie was so sarcastic and arrogant in comparison to the passionate Italian men who are in tune with their feelings, that I was used to.

People are friendly here as well but they don’t seem as sincerely concerned or interested in you as a human being as Italians are. Italians are very trusting and don’t doubt anyone’s sincerity.

I miss not really having access to the things that we consider necessities in the states: clothes dryers, air conditioning, and television/internet. I grew accustomed to not having these and without them you find better ways of living your life and entertaining yourself. I would not have bonded with my roommates, or been as willing to venture out into the town had we had more access to these things. Americans are very spoiled.

Travel here isn’t as enjoyable. In Italy to get anywhere you travel by foot. If you are wanting to visit a different town in Italy you hop on a train and it is very easy and convenient. To get anywhere in the states you have to drive a car. I am living with my parents for the remainder of the summer and we live in the woods and a 20 minute drive from town. It is so challenging adjusting to everything and no one here truly understands what I went through. I really miss Italy, but I am sure I will adjust here in time.

And there are things here that I did truly miss while in Italy: free water, my family and boyfriend, being able to easily communicate with someone and having them understand you instantly, steak and other american food (although I am missing Italian food now…), and many other things that this proud country has to offer.

My flight from San Francisco to Portland (home)

My flight from San Francisco to Portland (home)

Gift from Shane upon arriving home :)

Gift from Shane upon arriving home :)

My sister (Traci) got a puppy!!!

My sister (Traci) got a puppy!!!

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to study abroad in such an amazing country with such amazing people. And to return to such an amazing country with such amazing people. Life is good :)

-Jolene Johnson

Preparing to Return Home: Macerata, Italy

I really wish the program was longer because I am just now used to Italian customs, starting to understand the language, and am really enjoying myself here. But there are things about the states that I really do miss. I would say I have mixed feelings about going home. I am at a point where Italy is my home as well. I have friends and a family here that I am going to miss dearly.

Italy is and isn’t what I visualized at the same time. The atmosphere is even more relaxed than I anticipated. Filiberto says that Italians run on “Italian time.” Basically meaning they are usually late because they show up somewhere when they feel like it.

The country is just as gorgeous as I anticipated and it is surprising to me how much of Italy reminds me of my home back in Hood River. One thing I stated in my pre-departure post that wasn’t true was the use of English. The language barrier was a lot bigger than I was expecting it to be, and I wish I had memorized at least a few phrases in Italian before departing.

I did manage to sing in one of the cathedrals we went in and was able to attend an opera which were things that I was really looking forwards to doing while here. Filiberto said that there was a music program going on here shortly after the art one that I just took, and it would have been amazing had I been able to do that as well.

I will miss these ladies. From top left to right: Kris, Sarah. Bottom left to right: Me, Marisa.

I will miss these ladies. From top left to right: Kris, Sarah. Bottom left to right: Me, Marisa.

But I do miss my boyfriend Shane

But I do miss my boyfriend Shane

And I really do miss my sisters. Left to right: Me, Traci, Sierra

And I really do miss my sisters. Left to right: Me, Traci, Sierra

Arrivederci Italia!

-Jolene Johnson

Week Four: Macerata, Italy

We had our last excursion this week and it was by far my favorite. We visited a little village called Loreto where we saw a massive cathedral.

The Church in Loreto

The Church in Loreto

We also went to a town called Sirolo where we saw a gorgeous beach out by a cliff (just like one of the ones I was wanting to see). The edges of the cliff were white and were surrounded by a vibrant blue-green water, and the structures around the beach were just as colorful. I wish we knew of this beach sooner because we may have frequented it more.

The beach at Sirolo

The beach at Sirolo

The last stop on our excursion was Grotte di Frasassi where we visited caves. These caves were amazing and it was about 60 degrees Fahrenheit in them which felt marvelous after all the heat we have been having in Italy. Actually during this last week the weather has been the same as Africa and with the humidity along with the heat it is impossible to have dry clothes (meaning you are constantly sweating).

We had another wine tasting which was fun. We finished up all of our artwork and had to prepare it for an exhibit as well as having our Italian exam.

My final art board at the exhibit

My final art board at the exhibit

We also had our farewell dinner and farewells to everyone slowly day by day. It is so sad because I have become attached to everyone here just in time to leave. We check out of our apartment today and start our journey home.

-Jolene Johnson

Week Three: Macerata, Italy

My homesickness is gone-all I wanted was to hear my loved ones voices and words of encouragement. I am also used to the time schedule here, over my motion/sea sickness, and am really glad to be in a place that finally feels like a home. The group dynamic amongst us girls is great as well, and we all get along. I have become great friends with my tandem partner and I consider all of the adults at the school to be my family.

View of Macerata from the bell tower

View of Macerata from the bell tower

 

Macerata is very hilly

Macerata is very hilly

My tandem partner, Francesco, studied in Spain for a few terms and while there met a girl from England, a girl from Poland, and a guy from Germany. During this week they all came to visit him so we all ended up hanging out, which was loads of fun.

From left to right: Francesco,  Me, and Kris

From left to right: Francesco, Me, and Kris

School is in full swing now and is the main focus that we have. Sometimes being in the studio from 10 am-roughly 6 pm everyday can prove to be challenging but I just take a lot of breaks and venture off to the cafe for a cappuccino or a gelato.

Gelato!!!

Gelato!!!

 

Cappuccino

Cappuccino

This week we went to Urbs Salvia and saw the roman town there. This was really amazing and almost eerie to see these ancient roman ruins. We also were able to walk amongst an archaeological dig and saw the home of some Romans. Another part of the archaeological dig, was part of the roman road. And I learned that the road leads all the way to Rome. At this news I was excited, but Filiberto enlightened me by saying “It takes a lot of money just for one archaeological dig. And history has to be overridden to a certain degree for the present and future to take place.” It was just really interesting to me that underneath the earth I was standing on, were homes and roads where a civilization once existed. We also saw an Abby where we observed several monks pray or chant. It was really interesting seeing that Abby after the ruins because the people that built it re-used marble from the roman structures. I Really wish I had time to see Rome while here but perhaps that will be a good incentive to come back.

Roman Amphiteater

Roman Amphiteater

We also learned how to make traditional Italian pasta this week, went wine tasting, AAAAAAAND saw the Opera: Il Travatore!!!

At the Opera!

At the Opera!

-Jolene Johnson

Week Two: Macerata, Italy

The beach was great this weekend (not exactly the cliff side beach I was imagining, but a beautiful beach nontheless). Civitanova (where the beach is at) is a much larger city than Macerata. There is a lot of shopping and on Saturdays there is a massive market. I have never been to a warm beach or swam in the ocean. The water was sooo warm and salty! It was also odd bobbing along in the waves. Not to mention the amount of scantily clad Italians frolicking on the beach.

Civitanova

Civitanova

Sunday we went to a harvest festival. It was great fun watching traditional Italian dancing from back in history and then the now traditional Italian dancing. We also had an amazing dinner with fresh food from the farm-and I discoverd what REAL lasanga tastes like.

Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival

Monday we began our journey towards Venezia. It was much easier traveling with people who speak Italian. Venice is gorgeous!!! But I get motion sickness really easily though so the first few hours upon arrival were not very enjoyable. Actually most of the time there was not as much fun as I thought it would be. To get anywhere you have to go by ferry (for long distance) or foot. I was seasick a lot of the time there. Venice is also full of tourists which is really obnoxious and because of this things are about doubled in price in comparison to that in Macerata. We spent most of our time in the Biennale which consisted of contemporary art work. I was actually a little bit upset that this is the artwork we saw, because the states is full of contemporary art work and I was really looking forwards to seeing famous works by artists such as Leonardo da Vinci. We brought a sketchbook with us to Venice and were required to fill the entire thing with sketches from the Biennale and things in Venice in general. The weather was also continuously getting warmer but luckily (and this was a rarity) we had air conditioning in our hotel.

Venezia

Venezia

Me on the balcony of Basilica di San Marco

Me on the balcony of Basilica di San Marco

Typical art from the Biennale

Typical art from the Biennale

We got back on Thursday and Macerata finally feels like my home. I was so glad to be back in our apartment and in a place where I recognized things, places, and people.

On Saturday we went to Civitanova again. This was our first free weekend!!! Us girls ended up getting a hotel there and stayed the night. Civitanova really is a fun place. Filled with bountamous amounts of gelato flavors, warm sand and water, and shopping as far as the eye can see. I was also able to reach my family and boyfriend using the phone in the hotel (before departing the states I had purchased phone cards but in order to use them you have to use a land line phone. And the phone cards I bought did not work so I had to purchase one there-nontheless I was able to hear all my loved ones voices and this was such a relief).

-Jolene Johnson

 

Week One:Macerata,Italy

The first time I arrived in Germany (where I was catching my connecting flight to Italy from) was when I noticed that I was the foreigner. Everyone around me was speaking in German and it all just sounded like gibberish. But the real culture shock happened when I landed in Bologna, Italy. At least in the German airport there were a lot of things in English. Here mostly everything was in Italian. The airport was super relaxed and security seemed very slim. I didn’t even have to go through customs-unlike when you land in the US. My first encounter with an Italian was when Sarah (my traveling partner) and I caught a bus to the train station. When we went to pay we didn’t have exact change and the bus driver was very confused. He was also a really crazy driver. Driving down the streets was gorgeous and surreal because it was exactly like the photos I had seen of Italy. Tall and narrow old buildings lined the street we were on. They were colorful with plants and laundry hanging outside different windows.

Getting to Macerata was such a struggle. Our flight from Washington DC to Munich, Germany was delayed 2 hrs which threw our entire journey off. Not only was it challenging figuring out the public transportation system but there was the language barrier. This was such a greater deal than I anticipated.

At the deserted train station...just hoping our train comes

At the deserted train station…just hoping our train comes

We managed to get to our hotel in Macerata at 11:30pm (or should I say 23:30 because they use military time) thanks to the help of many kind people. It thundered in the night and poured rain all the next day…not really what I was anticipating summer in Italy to be. But luckily I packed a few warmer clothes and a rain jacket.

Rainy Italy

Rainy Italy

Once we met up with the two other girls in the program (Marissa and Kris) and our site director (Filiberto) though, things (including the weather) started to turn up. Although I am very homesick and due to this find it hard to eat. Wish my laptop hadn’t broke on the way over as well…but the internet access here is very slim so not like that would change anything. I am also having issues finding a phone so I can just say hello to my loved ones. At least we are in our apartment, have started classes, and are starting to get settled here.We have also been assigned tandem partners to better learn the language so I now have an instant friend. We have been on many tours of the town, but I am tired, jet lagged, home sick, and due to this have a detachment of interest in all the things we are seeing. This weekend we are going to the beach!

My Italian Family

My Italian Family

So far I have learned that I am more independent than I thought, and more dependent than I thought. What I mean by this is that during all of the travelling I was able to figure out a lot of things and not afraid to try talking to people or asking people for help, which is something I have issues with back in the states-perhaps under pressure it forced me to do this? And being more dependent is in reference to how homesick I am feeling-and just within the first day I noticed it! During school in the states there are times when I go months without even talking to my family and yet here I severely miss them. Is it just the greater distance?

-Jolene Johnson

Pre-Departure: Macerata, Italy

In a few short days I will be leaving for Macerata, Italy. I will be there for 5 weeks and will be studying painting, drawing, and a bit of Italian.

I expect Italy to be just the way I see it on TV/Movies and in books-a beautiful country. From rolling hillsides to beautiful beaches. With old buildings and cathedrals. A super relaxed atmosphere. A place that will be very enjoyable in the summertime.

I looked up the place in which I will be staying on the map and saw that it is very close to the Adriatic Sea. But seeing as the places I will be staying are pretty rural, finding images of it is a bit challenging. I anticipate and hope that the place that is only 30 minutes from Macerata will look something like this!

Italy on coast

I expect many people to speak Italian, but the town is near a University so the amount of English should also be highly prominent. I am really excited and almost find it hard to believe that I am going. I am also really nervous-especially the closer the departure date gets. There is a part of me that is stoked to go and a part that doesn’t want to leave at all. I will miss my family and boyfriend sooooooo much!

My dream would be to not only study art there but to also brush up on my opera. I have studied opera for quite a few years now and to get the opportunity to study it in Italy as well as art would be mind blowing-ly awesome.

-Jolene Johnson

Pre-departure post: Just saying hi!

Hello everyone!

My name is Ann and I will be traveling to Siena, Italy in three days!  I am very excited.  In fact, I’ve been excited for months.  The reason I am going to Italy is for the Sign Language program they offer during the summer.  Once there, I will be learning signed and spoken Italian along with their Deaf culture and history.  I can’t wait!  Although, my Nana has been warning me not to fall for any “cute, dark haired, young men” while I’m there.  Her words not mine.  Don’t worry Nana, I’ll focus on the beautiful landscape and real gelato (ice cream) instead. Gelato towers

Piazza del Campo

My expectations for the culture do not really exist.  I have been to Europe in the past and have learned first-hand that there are many “subcultures” within any town or city.  I am simply looking forward to going there and meeting people from a culture different from my own.  I am a bit sad to be missing the Palio di Siena by a few days though.          The Palio di Siena is a large, annual horse race where thousands of people crowd into the Piazza del Campo (town square, shown above) and race three laps around a pre-made, dirt track.  It apparently lasts roughly 90 seconds.  Ah, but the energy generated in the crowd of spectators would have been amazing to witness first-hand.Palio di Siena

Over the past few months, while getting everything ready for the trip, I have gone through stages of excitement, nervousness, a bit of trepidation, and back around to excitement again.  This last week has been all excitement, though!  My family have said they cannot wait for me to go so I will stop bouncing off the walls in my eagerness.  Well, in less than 72 hours, my adventure begins.  Siena, here I come!  :-)