Day 4

Posted by Whit Barringer , Wednesday, May 30, 2007 1:36 PM

5-29-07
CT 3:32
IT 10:32

Today we got up early to meet at the Duomo to go to the Farmer’s Market (Mercato Centrale). There were vendors EVERYWHERE, each having his or her own specialty. Butchers, bakers (no candlestick makers), fruit and vegetable farmers, and even wine, oil, and vinegar venders – it was truly a sight for very-poor-money-wise eyes. One vender came up to us and winked and smiled at me, pinched the cheeks and noses of other girls, and even kissed one of them. But we all got a box of free strawberries out of the deal, so minor sexual harassment wasn’t too horrible. I saw whole rabbits for sale, but I skipped on those.

I got some cheese, bread, and meat for 14 Euro – WAY less than I would have spent going out to eat. To celebrate my good fortune (and begin my savings) I was going to cook myself dinner tonight. That didn’t happen, but read on.

Because some of us had disposable items (like my cheese and meat), we ran back to my apartment – the nearest, I think – put the stuff up, and then ran to meet Dr. Bane at 10. We were actually late, but I gave him one of my new oranges to compensate. We left from there to go to the Duomo and the Baptistery. We got there and began to line up for the Baptistery first, saw it didn’t open until 12, and decided to do the Duomo, which wasn’t open until 10:30. So we waited on Dr. Bane to get Euros to get us our tickets, and we went into that magnificent cathedral.

I didn’t really learn much about it, but I took lots of pictures, including the English mercenary John Hawkwood who came down during the Hundred Years’ War and was important enough to get a fresco in the Duomo. We didn’t get to go to the tombs because it was an extra 3 Euro, but I plan to go back on my own.

Next, we went to the Baptistery. Part of an assignment we have for Dr. Bane is how the ceiling of the Baptistery actually influenced Dante, not the other way around. The building is actually believed to have been a pagan temple that was converted and expanded, and the ceiling is actually in Byzantine style. It shows layers, with the bottommost layer having Satan eating three men. Sound familiar?

I have video of the Baptistery. It’s so beautiful it’s hard to actually believe it was a mosaic, placed tile by tile.

Dr. Bane gave us our tickets to climb the dome, but we decided to go eat first. I grabbed a sandwich and ate some of my tomatoes that I had in the apartment. While we were sitting there, we realized we didn’t have much time to sit around. Kim, Haley, Rachel, and I all headed out (Kim and Haley still leaving their groceries) to the Duomo. We had class at four, and it looked like it was going to turn out to be a crazy time frame. But the line started moving and we were able to climb up…. And up…. And up…. And up.

The dome has 463 steps, I believe. It felt like 4,265. I was already tired when I started, and like an idiot I didn’t bring water. I was so wasted by the time we were only halfway there that I was scared I couldn’t go on. But I finally climbed those last stairs, with the breeze on my face, and I nearly panicked. We were so high up. There wasn’t a building in the city that we couldn’t see, and suddenly it made sense why it was such a crowded city. We understood the why – it was only built for 20,000 people. But to actually see the why was an entirely different story. Florence is actually really small (compared to an American city) and holds nearly 400,000 people. But it is still beautiful.

We took pictures, mine being by a pillar away from the railing, and headed back down. It was crazy steep in some places, as well as crazy tight – there were so many people that had been let in without having been stopped that there was no movement of people in some of the places that we crossed paths. I was behind Haley, and Kim and Rachel were behind me as we went back down and to another section of the dome under the ceiling (btw – the ceiling of the Duomo is almost an exact copy of that in the Baptistery, with only a few differences in subject matter and a huge difference in style). Then we began our real descent and went back down in no time compared to how much time it took us to go up. By the time we got to the bottom, it was after 4:30, I believe. Paulette and Dr. Bane had gone to try and sort luggage out and he had called us to tell us class was cancelled because he was stuck at the airport. However, he decided to ask us all out to dinner, which we all complied. We decided to meet him at six but had nothing to do until then, so we went back to the apartment. We talked a bit and then headed back to the school to meet him. The place he wanted to take us to wasn’t open until 7:30, and it was only 6:30. The others wanted to have wine and I tagged along, not wanting to have any. We all talked to Danielle and Paulette about different stuff, including luggage and future study abroad trips. I told Danielle we had hot water when she had called me earlier on top of the Duomo, so we talked about how some of the apartment assignments had things that need to be fixed.

We then went to this special Italian restaurant (I don’t know the name) and had two courses of the meal. Lasagna, which actually had cinnamon in it (absolutely out of this world), and beef with Chianti sauce. Everyone had wine (even me, but I hated it and gave it away), and the meal was absolutely fantastic. It came out to 19 Euro a person, which was crazy, but Dr. Bane said to pay him whatever we budgeted and he would take care of the rest and take us out for gelato at the number one rated place in Florence. And it really was good. I had rice and strawberry flavors, and they were absolutely wonderful. I talked to Paulette again about how crazy Italy is (she would know – she lived here for a year), and then we all headed our separate ways.

Now’s my time to tell you that it’s actually 8:38 A.M. here (1:38 there). Here’s what happened: I came back to the apartment, started reading, and fell into a deep sleep that I didn’t wake from until 7:50 this morning. So an entry that would have been humongous and annoyingly detailed ended up being a disappointingly short entry. But it serves to highlight every event of the day, even if not in vivid pre-sleep detail.

Ciao, Friends. Off to the Accademia to see David.

Day 3

Posted by Whit Barringer 1:27 PM

5-28-07

CT 3:52
IT 10:52

Piove.*

Today hasn’t been too awfully busy – just rainy. We’ve had two or three stints of downpours – one of which was while we were on our way to go eat dinner. But before I get ahead of myself, let me start at the beginning.

This morning we got up and met at Kent State University (the university who we’re studying through in Florence). We went upstairs and were introduced to two of the people who work for KSU here in Florence. Then we had the most entertaining act of the day: a chief inspector from the police department. “Get use-ta to my funny English-a. It’sa bout as good as it’s gonna get-a.” I’m not exaggerating. He was so fun (and cute!). Here are some of the things he told us:
Don’t leave your windows open at any time, especially at night. Robbers have been known to scale buildings to break in.

  • The gypsies in the piazzas want you to stop so they can pick your pocket. By the time you realize that they have done so, they’ve taken your money and thrown your wallet away. Don’t stop for them.
  • The date rape talk.
  • The number one sport in Italy is not football – it’s “women-a.” He said that men will stop women, especially not Italian ones. Why? “Italian women are not friendly-a. They don’t like you. They won’t tell you their name. They will not call the police-a if you are dying-a. American women? ‘My God, you are so pretty and you have such beautiful hair. What is your name?’ ‘Oh, ha! My name is-.’ You see? Americans are-a friendly-a.”
  • Strong reactions to men. He said, “You will get tired of their advances. You will get bored and you will *stomps foot and flips up his middle finger*. Or you will go, ‘F*** you, man!’ That is when they get off the bike and smash your face.” He went on to say a girl came in and reported that crime last year.
  • Don’t wear a bag on your street-side. Motorcycle riders will come through and steal a bag by jerking it off the shoulder. If it doesn’t come off, they will drag you. “We had four elderly ladies-a die from injuries last year.”
  • He rattled off a bunch of other stuff. He was very blunt and honest, which was good. He said the whole thing about not buying off of the sheets from the Central African men, and that much of the crime and duping of tourists comes from immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria, as well as from Eastern Europe. “They will talk to you, they will try to take your money, they will target you.”
  • Oh, and about the men who sell off the sheets. They know they do it. Everyone knows they do it. But they allow them to because it's better than them selling drugs.


Glad to know I’m wanted.


He talked for over an hour and I didn't get even close to all he said, but he was good to look at, with his decoration (he had his parachutist badge on), muscles, and Italian accent. After that whole deal, we went to the American Express (where you buy train tickets) – rather, I tagged along- as they talked about buying tickets to go see Pompei and the Cinqueterra (lit: Five Lands). I tried to help out. It started pouring, so we grabbed Paninis and went to a friend’s apartment on Aguillara. We ate there, discussed a plan, chatted it up about ourselves, our parents, education, DHS, and various other subjects, and decided to go get my laptop and go to Kent State to use the wireless. First, we hit the Duty-Free shop ($1200 for a watch, $2500 for a ring, etc. You know – chump change) and then went back to the apartment because it was just so cold and rainy. We regrouped, not to be beaten, and half of us headed for the 99 cent store while I got my laptop. We met at the store and headed for the Duomo and Kent State University. The university is a bit lackluster itself, but the actual building is quite interesting. There are fragments of frescos everywhere in it, and those are the bits that haven’t been painted over. Anyway, I took pictures of some of these while we were there and went ahead and tried to get online. I couldn’t. It was protected. Thinking, “this is not good,” I was told to call Dr. Bane and Danielle, who were both like, “Uhh… I can’t help you.” So I went upstairs and talked to the lady who had given us the largest part of our orientation this morning. She said that Danielle hadn’t included wireless in the cost. So we didn’t have it.

We regrouped again and decided to head to an internet “café” (they kept calling it that, but we’re not actually served anything; therefore, it isn’t a “café”). This agreed, we headed down Anguillara again (passing a wooden Harley Davidson in a window) and found the Wi-fi café that we couldn’t find the other day. So we went in, ordered the token cup of coffee, and used the wireless. It was fantastic to be on this computer and online, so I made the most of it, checking stuff out that I had been missing out on. We looked up train fares and tried to look up bus fares. Armed with more information (but not quite enough), the others left for the grocery store while I stayed put. I called a while later and they were still in the grocery store. I decided to take pictures of Santa Croce (some of which are of really high quality, I think), and generally loafed around Piazza di Santa Croce. I finally saw some of our crowd, who said they wanted to go shopping. I waited outside for them until I finally called. They said they were trying to figure out the evening and that I should just come up. It was okay, though. I had the best strawberry gelato while I was waiting, so not a moment was wasted.

We decided to go to the Piazza di Signore, where the statue of David used to be, etc. As we started out, it began pouring down rain. Some of my new friends met a girl at the supermarket who was here on her own until her school got here. As we were talking and walking, it began pouring down even more. After we finally got to the Piazza di Signore, we couldn’t find a cheap enough restaurant. Finally, we settled on one that, coincidentally, had a waiter who spoke good English. We had trained ourselves to say, “Che cosa mi consigli?” (What do you recommend for me?), but only one of us wasn’t too much of a chicken to say it. Then he kept speaking to us in English.

After a good meal (I had Ravioli with truffle sauce), we made a big ordeal out of paying (eight people split a check). I wanted to look at the statues, which didn’t photo well in the dark. We left in a hurry, as it was cold and still rainy, and went back to the apartment on Anguillara. We regrouped again, decided on where to meet to go to the farmer’s market, and went our separate ways. Rachel and I walked Angela (the girl who’s here alone) to her apartment, and then headed back to ours. I took (another) cold shower, and here I am.

I’m just glad I made some friends. I was kind of worried for a minute.

Anyhoo, I’m having a great time, all. Email me, comment, do something. Tomorrow classes begin, so this will be the only short entry for at least another day or two.

Oh, and to answer Dylan's question, I'm seeing a lot. So nothing's off limits at the moment. But I also have four weeks to do it all in.

*It's raining.

Day 2

Posted by Whit Barringer , Monday, May 28, 2007 10:12 AM

Day 2

CT 5:19

IT 12:19

Firenze

Today has been long, but not as long as yesterday by any means. This morning, we went and met Danielle (study abroad) and went on a “walking tour” of Florence. Actually, we found the university who we are studying through and then wandered around to find special places in the vicinity. Though we didn’t cover too much ground, we still covered enough to make us all moan.

I’m pretty good with directions, but because of our random wanderings-around, I really don’t have a clue as to where we actually are supposed to go tomorrow. Granted, it was the first place we went, but it got jumbled around with all the other things we saw, which were many.

Along the way to the university, we saw various statues, usually of religious nature (such as Johannes Baptiste). The most fantastic sight was when we went into a piazza – where, I’m not sure at the moment – and saw the most wonderful congregation of statues that we’ve seen yet. Cosimo de Medici on horseback, a fountain with horses coming out and Poseidon or some other figure standing, with fauns and mermen around the edge (I think there’s something similar, albeit bigger, in Rome). On the other side was a replica of David, where it originally stood (one of many, and actually a shorter one). On one side of the piazza, there were around 10 statues, all depicting various scenes – religious or mythological, I’m not sure. It was surely a sight.

After all of this, we ended up next to a market –again, I’m not sure where. By this time I’m all confused and know that if I see another street sign, I’ll only get further turned around (as I didn’t have a map yet). The market was bustling with tourists, and there was a lot to buy – just nothing that I wanted. They did have a pair of “David” boxers, which I do believe I should get for Josh or Jeremy. We’ll see, though. I don’t want to spend too much on something that I could perhaps haggle with someone on. Ha! Haggle in a foreign language. Stranger things, I guess.

We ate at a place called “Nuti’s.” The waiter didn’t speak much English, but between Danielle and Dr. Bane we were able to get our food. I had a “cuatro formaggi calzone” (4 cheese calzone) with palmodora (tomato) dipping sauce. It was absolutely divine – well, close anyway. The sky opened up while we were inside, and none of us had umbrellas. Little illegal merchandise sellers* popped out of no where – literally no where – with boxes of umbrellas. “Umbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrellaumbrella?” (Dr. Bane had acted out this beforehand; we thought he was joking.) We bought three umbrellas for 15 Euros (about $20). My lunch was 7.50 – 8.50 (around $9-10), and then we left for Dr. Bane’s apartment. We got lost on the way there (one wrong turn, which we corrected – right before we took another wrong turn). His apartment is very nice and makes us all jealous.

After we left there, I decided to find a Wi-Fi bar we had seen earlier (buy a drink and have unlimited wi-fi), but I couldn’t remember where we saw it. After that, I missed the internet shop that was right by where we live that I had used earlier. When I missed that, I realized I was very tired. My feet were still swollen from the plane and the walking we did yesterday. It only seemed like insult to injury that I couldn’t find the shops I wanted. Instead, I went to the 99 cent store, got two 1.5 L bottles of water and a 500 ml Pepsi, went back to the apartment, began to read on the couch, and slept for about 3-4 hours until 7. I barely woke up when my roommates came clattering in.

When I got up, they asked me if I’d like to go eat. We decided to go the opposite way down Pilastri toward the Piazza Sant’Ambrogio,, but we took a left on Via Luigi Carlo Farini. From there, we walked along the street, pausing to take pictures of tiny cars. We found a huge building called the “Sinagogo e Museo Ebraico di Firenze. It had no religious markings except for the Ten Commandments at the top, strangely enough. Even Santa Croce has a Star of David, and it’s a church.

We passed the Piazza Massimo d’Azeglio (a community park) and turned left on Via Giuseppe Giusti. We found some really awesome doorknobs going this way, but not much else. Here, we turned on Via Gino Capponi. Here we stumbled onto this magnificent place. I took pictures of doorknobs and markers (some reading as early as the 1500s), thinking it was all we were going to see. Then we found the Galleria della Spedale degli Innocenti and the Palazzo Griffoni, all around the Piazza d. Santissima Annuziata. Here was another figure riding a horse – not a Medici, surprisingly. Also, some of the most magnificent frescos we’ve seen this far (of which I have pictures).

We then traveled along the Via del Servi. I think this is where the OK Bar was. The waiter couldn’t speak English, but he was cute so we tried anyway. He tried very hard to work with us, and it turned out his English was better than he thought. I met him halfway (that’s what it’s all about anyway, isn’t it?) and ordered in Italian. There was a woman at a neighboring table who ordered dessert in English, so we asked her where she was from. Turns out, she’s from Buffalo, New York studying at the same university we’re studying through (not at - there’s a difference). She gave us tips, like telling us where the farmer’s market was, the flea market beside that (she said to start at half of what they say and work up). She also told us to start shutting our windows before the mosquitoes ate us alive, although she said they don’t itch – just turn to blisters (kind of like flying fire ants, I guess). She was really nice and took our picture with all of our cameras. We told her we might see her again, said Ciao, and went on our merry way.

I found a paper store on the other side of the Duomo when we were walking one of our party back to her apartment. I got to see the Baptistery doors (although I saw the real ones at an exhibit in the Pyramid in Memphis). We then traveled back along Giuseppe Verdi (a friend indeed) to Fiesolana, and decided to get on the internet (I needed to post my journal entry since I didn’t have my computer on Wi-fi yet). While I was doing that, the other three were talking to a man who spoke proficient enough English to tell us about how communism may not be the best option but it was better than capitalism. He was relating this to the guy who worked at the internet shop. It started by them saying something about Mexicans in America and how Americans hate them. It’s interesting what kind of message we send to the outside world.

After that, we came back to the apartment, where I am now typing up my journal. Teri and Katie went to Teri’s daughter’s apartment to shower because we only have cold water. Because I stayed up so late last night, I’m going to go ahead and go to bed (I am ver’ ver’ sleepy) and dream about another wonderful day in Florence tomorrow.

*“Little illegal merchandise sellers…”: Consequently, it’s actually illegal to buy from these men if they’re selling “off the sheets.” They take white sheets and lay them down with imitation designer bags, belts, glasses, and such. If you buy from them, you can be fined up to $10,000 because it’s taking away from the legal venders. These men have scouts and will pick up the sheets and run when they see the police. In fact, some of the other students said this happened after we left the market area today.

Interesting cultural note: The “sheet” sellers are primarily black. When I said primarily, I mean I didn’t see a single one that wasn’t African. African-Italian men who can only resort to selling illegally that the police target? It seems the race finger that was pointed at Americans later on (see next to last paragraph) was at the least an incriminating accusation – at most downright hypocrisy.


Day 1

Posted by Whit Barringer , Sunday, May 27, 2007 3:44 PM


5-26-07
CT 8:45 A.M.
IT 3:45 P.M.
So. I’ve been up intermittently for almost 50 hours at this point. I have come by plane, bus, and taxi to an apartment at Vie de Pilastri No. 63, and it’s wonderfully old and foreign. But my God, the trip here. For those of you who might be traveling this summer (or ever), this little account will be the best gift I could give you.


Little Rock - Domestic Flights and Groups Don’t Mix


If you can avoid going abroad with a group, I’m inclined to encourage it. Here’s why:
At LR National Airport, thirty some-odd students convened between 9:45 and 10:00 A.M. A fiery (and coincidentally red-headed) Australian woman, with a PERTH, AUSTRALIA lanyard around her neck, tackled us head-on while her colleagues moaned at the sight of us. After doing a roll call (in a busy airport – you can guess the complications), they began to scan our passports and decide how many check-ins we had on baggage. I will say this now:


IF YOU TRAVEL, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR BELONGINGS.


We had people with anywhere from 51 lb. baggage to 78 lb. baggage (the limits are 50 lbs. and up to 70 lbs. with a $25 fee – above that it doesn’t get on the plane). Some people (except for those over 70 lb) thought they would take the $25 fee and go on. However, we were transferring to Air France in Houston, and they charge $115 per overweight bag. No one wanted to take that. So we had a mad dash to empty bags. People who had one bag were given another one to check (max checked: 2), stuff was left, choices made, hair pulled. Then they finally printed our tags for our luggage, which read that our destination was Houston (our layover before going international). The Aussie said not to put them on unless they said Paris. There’s a problem with this that will become apparent later. (Hint: We weren’t going to Paris.)


Anyway, after that fiasco, we went through security, which, to be fair, has gotten quicker… Just more annoying. I’ve been through three security checks at this point, but it feels like twenty. Shoes, belt, pocket contents, laptop, carry-on – all on the conveyer belt. Walk through detector. Stuff everything back where it was.


The Little Rock – Houston flight wasn’t so bad. My feet were cramped (feet will be cramped no matter what: get what you need out of your carry-on and store it; you need all the leg room you can get!), but the flight was quick ( 1hr. 45 min.). But here is where our prior problems all combined and became one ugly monster. Here’s my advice again:


MAKE SURE YOUR BAGGAGE IS GOING WHERE YOU ARE.


It was at Houston they figured out the conundrum – we were going to Bologna, Italy. Our baggage was going to vacation in Paris. It was straightened out through various pleadings and an extra security scan to go fix it – until we were told the last few bags didn’t make it because there was too much luggage. Again-


TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR BELONGINGS.


Because people didn’t plan well, four others lost at least one bag – including me (and I weighed in at 31 lbs. – for both of mine!). It was an injustice, sure. But the airline will supposedly deliver my bag to my front door. I hope so. It had my teddybear in it.


Houston to Paris was… uncomfortable (read: excruciating). Cramped, crowded, and completely foreign* (as the service ran in French and English), I began to hurt badly from sitting at upright angles (there wasn’t enough room to lay back). They fed us well for dinner and a light breakfast (I have the wrapper from my first French cheese wedge as a souvenir). Once we finally got there (abt. 9 hrs. later), we had to run during our 1 hr. layover, across concourses by bus, escalator, and conveyer walkway (whatever they’re really called), to get to our Bologna flight.** Dr. Bane almost didn’t make it (he was checking on lost luggage, which required exact addresses that we didn’t have yet). I slept hard during this flight – only waking up for my ears to pop. After this short flight (1hr. 30), we landed*** and took a 2 hr. bus ride to Florence (that I again slept through).


And here we are.


By the way: everything here is NARROW. Shower, stairs, doorways, everything. Don’t carry unwieldy luggage. Also, no air conditioning – but the windows are great.


5-26-07
CT: 6:57
IT: 1:57


A little update.


We went exploring around town. Really a lovely place. Cobblestone streets are not kind to feet, nor are the drivers. I swear to God they try to hit pedestrians and aim specifically for Americans.**** The streets are crowded and mostly one way. It’s absolutely insane.
We ate a place called Caffe Nuovo Poste. Luckily, the man spoke enough English to talk us through ordering. It was really a cool place: for us, we pointed at sandwiches in the case (note: “salad” means lettuce and sometimes tomato), they grilled them Panini style. Wonderful thing about most European countries that I know: tax is included. Six Euros means six Euros, not a penny more or less. In fact, we discovered a neat little store called Nine-t-Nine, the equivalent of a dollar store. I bought one thing and got a cent back.


Anyway, we went to the grocery store, where people brought pets. We were bewildered when we were offered to buy a sack, and we all said no. Drinks come in liters and weirdly shaped bottles. From there, we went and visited another set of student apartments, and set off to find the Duomo, our meeting place for tomorrow. After walking for a while, I said, “Did we miss it?” Someone else said, “How could we miss it? It’s supposed to be huge.” Indeed, it was. And I still saw it on accident. The thing is absolutely beautiful. And so extremely large. I have video to show just how large it is (with people for scale) because pictures just couldn’t describe. And the intricate work!


Otherwise, we shopped around a bit (having our first bites of gelato ice cream – I had melon) and headed back to our room. I got on the internet at a provider shop for one Euro and 50 cents. Not bad. Then we went out to eat dinner (which I had been totally unaware I had skipped) at a place called Eby’s on Via del Corso (I think – it was dark). We walked one friend back to her apartment and then headed back to ours, where we are all exhausted and mostly asleep (except for me).


That’s all for today. It’s two in the morning here, and I’ve got to be at the Duomo at 10 tomorrow for a walking tour. Ciao!


Other Notes:
*“Cramped, crowded, and completely foreign…”: Well, that’s not quite true. As part of our reward for our sins for taking coach on an international flight (it could be a crime – who knows?), we could watch TV on the back of the headrest in front of us. Several options (in French and English) were provided: comics (cartoons for kids), cinema (films, TV, news, and “original” that would never load), global something-or-other (constantly updated flight information – we flew over Dublin!), music (I never chose it, but the first “radio” option was Japanese), and games (solitaire, the British version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” – never brag gain that you’ve never lost on a first tier question).


What I’m wanting to draw attention to is the “cinema” option. The flight is going from Houston to France, but I never expected to see so much American influence. The TV options were such “classics” as Friends, The Simpsons, and Numbers (under action, no less). There were three French movies along with American greats like Music and Lyrics, The Dark Veil (or something like that – Edward Norton and Naomi Watts), and Holiday (or something like it - Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black, Jude Law).


What is really going on here? There are good TV shows that they could show. They could have broadened the spectrum from the comedy that deceptively displays what Europeans must think is American life. Friends, a show about nothing that had nothing on Seinfeld; The Simpsons, a cartoon about a dysfunctional family living in a dystopia that’s supposed to be clever and ends up being an puzzling reminder of American cash-cow-milking, and Numbers, a fledgling drama that is far from the best but better than what else was shown.


But seriously, and I’m being very serious: Friends? Really? In the episodes shown, Ross gets married to Rachel in Vegas and plays a “trick” by telling her he annulled the marriage, Phoebe and Joey get in a fight over his not staying awake to entertain her on a road trip, and Monica and Chandler look for signs for them to get married, instead opting to move-in together for a very anticlimactic ending.


This is what Europeans like to watch from America. They don’t only like to watch it; they enjoy that it’s us. We do stupid things like get married at all-night wedding chapels, are rich and stupid enough to get in petty fights, and value proximity over fidelity (which is a whole other type of entry). It’s European voyeurism, and it’s ecstasy for them to see us, a powerful giant of a country that once fell under its own scalpel of colonialism until they cut too deep, in such relative dysfunction. There’s a good possibility that the U.S. will be the one to destroy itself and take the world with it. I think Europeans realize that and take some pride in seeing us drown in our own pride.


Not that I can talk too much. I’d already seen the episode.


** “…to get to our Bologna flight.”: Along the way, I saw a group of African men in blue cotton clothing with white wraps on their heads sitting close to a security checkpoint, resting. Two or three of them were sleeping, but the rest were keeping watch over the stuff at their feet – including woven hats with feathers around the top and trim. Anyone know what this particular group would be called, out of curiosity?


*** “We landed…”, Wherein I recount a Humorous Happening: Most of us hadn’t been to the bathroom since the Houston-Paris flight (or even before that), when we were told we could finally have time to go to the bathroom. A bunch of us went inside to go and saw the door with the man, woman, and handicap sign above the door. Thank God it wasn’t unisex, but the doors weren’t really marked. We saw women wandering in and followed them. As I was leaving the bathroom, I accidentally bumped into a girl. I saw excuse me, but got no response. I kept going straight ahead when I found myself in another bathroom. A man was washing his hands. Greatly puzzled, I turned around and ran out the door, where the girl I had bumped into was pointing at the exit. I think she meant to do that.


**** “….and specifically aim for Americans.”: But the pedestrians are quite nice. They at least smile and speak. It’s like a crazy juxtaposition of New York taxi drivers (complete with language difference) and Arkansan folk (complete with different polite language). Interestingly, and somewhat oddly, enough, they can be extremely nice: The sidewalks are pretty narrow, like everything else, and a group of older men were blocking the whole thing. Going around them and squeezing past bikes and cars, I said “Scuzzi, scuzzi” (when in doubt, be apologetic: even if they don’t understand why you are, they at least know you’re trying not to offend them), when one of the men smiled at us (or me, I’m not sure – I was the only one speaking, though), and said, “Scuzzi, Cara!”


Well? Look it up. I’m not going to tell you.


Also, shop vendors are nice. Well, of course they are, you say. Well, I say, they don’t have to be. Americans usually don’t try to meet them halfway on the language barrier, so they can be pretty testy if they want. But this one man, a gelato operator (ice cream with fruit in it – mmhmm), smiled at me as I came up to his restaurant stand.


“Buonosera! Ice cream?”
“Yes… Si… Uh… yes.” He picks up the 4 Euro cup (which is nearly $6 USD).
“What kind of ice cream, eh?”
“Hmm… Melon?”
“Melon?”
“Si.”
“Melon! So good! What size?” I point to the 2 Euro size (which holds an ounce or two of ice cream). He groans, playfully I think. “Oh nooo! No good…. Not good enough!” I laugh, pay him with two Euro coins, and thank him.
“Grazzie!”
“Prego! Ciao!” he calls, waving after me.


I’m going to make a point to go back, especially since he was so nice… and I dashed his hopes of getting a big cup. But all in all, those are the two best instances of nice strangers. The Italians are good people, I do believe (even though letsgo.com lists that between 1990 and 2000, 100+ women have been arrested on mafia charges).

The Day Before the End of the World

Posted by Whit Barringer , Thursday, May 24, 2007 11:36 PM

I absolutely hate anticipation.

I've been fighting, trying to find a grad school, trying to scramble and be ready for my journey, and figure out where I want my life to go.

And I'm anticipating it all collapsing while I'm still trying to figure a way to hold it all up.

I am excited. Deep down. But on the surface, and perhaps a bit deeper, I am puzzled by feelings of regret, anxiety, and resentment.

I think it's a combination of all things life and spiritual. But I've been so disheartened lately that I question my own longevity to experience the meat of my life. People say it's gone by; I say it hasn't begun.

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the end of an era. Tomorrow, I begin to understand. Tomorrow, I begin to grow in presence, in strength, in understanding. Tomorrow, I begin to find the answer - if I am woman, if I am man, if I am androgyny personified, if I am human, if I am spirit, if I am goddess, if I am child.

Tomorrow I begin to see the world.

No longer will I be caged. I will taste freedom, and I will covet it, cherish it, and hate it, because it will have ruined my senses for this dimension I have escaped, for this path I have walked, for this air I have cycled. I will hate it and love it and become one with it and part from it - all at once. Once after once after once. Once will turn into a moment, and the moment will last forever. I will be in limbo with my existence, and it will swallow me and spit me, and I will welcome and despise it.

To a land of past, present, and future I travel. Where I find myself I cannot wait to discover.

A Long Forgotten Blog and a Fresh Feeling of Discovery

Posted by Whit Barringer , Monday, May 21, 2007 8:53 PM

My, it's been so long! Look at the date difference between these two posts. Even though my last blog entry doesn't say too much that's important, I can still tell I've grown since that time not so long ago. When I posted that, I was fresh into college, 18-years-old, and expecting something special out of the world. Now, I'm officially a "veteran," I'm 20, and I don't expect much out of the world except for what I put into it.

This coming Friday, I am leaving for Florence, Italy, for four weeks - May 25 - June 25. This will be my center of gravity for a while - where I'll post my reflections and, possibly, pictures. It will be my connection to whomever will read this, as well as to a piece of myself that I can read and understand when I'm in a foreign land of foreign words and babbling tongues.

I'm excited, no doubt. But I'm also so afraid that I'm paralyzed. I'm afraid I'm going to walk onto that plane and have forgotten my suitcase, or get to Italy and realize I have no money - or worse, no underwear. But of course, things will go well, I'll have the time of my life, and I'll look back at all of my apprehension and call myself a fool. At least, I hope so.

This will become my critical thinking blog, my Xanga will become my insignificant day-to-day blog, and my Wordpress will become my extremely specialized blog - cultural criticism.

I'm probably spreading myself too thin again, but I don't think I know how to live without doing that. When I was in high school, I took three jobs during my senior year and two during that summer, working anywhere between 40 and 70 hours a week. During my freshman year at college, I jumped into five different organizations. This past semester I took 20 hours, became the coordinating editor of a magazine, associate editor of a campus-wide magazine, joined a new organization, worked at an internship, and balanced friends, family, and a significant other.

So three blogs, a million RSS feeds, eight blogs bookmarked on my browser, a constantly updated forum, and an six-hour a day job in the capitol (which I live an hour away from) is nothing special, nothing new, nothing extraordinary.

Welcome to another world of mine. Hope you enjoy.