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I'm a 21-year-old journalism student. I spent last semester living in Florence, Italy. These are my adventures.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Siamo Andati al Liceo

Siamo andati al liceo — we went to the high school

Thursday (March 29) Nicoletta took us to an Italian high school so we could practice our speaking skills. We would talk to students in Italian for a little bit and then switch to English so they could practice the language.
We met at the school at 10 a.m. before walking to a bus stop past Piazza della Repubblica. After about half an hour on a bus, we got off to walk the remainder of the way. The area had a very different feel, and it was great to see another part of the city.
There were much more modern buildings with shops lining the streets and apartments stacked on top. The roads were wide and paved as opposed to the narrow cobblestone alleyways in the city center. We walked along the sidewalk out of the busier area and toward greenery. We made our way down a small drive surrounded by tall grass.
When we reached the high school, a teacher met us in the parking lot. As her and Nicoletta talked over their plan for the class, we looked up at the school. It was a plain off-white building with two stories. Italian 17- and 18-year-old boys dangled out of all the open windows, even those that were barred, trying to catch a glimpse of the visitors. Nicoletta had warned us to cover up for these rascals, but it was such a beautiful day none of us really listened. Of the 10 of us, there were only two boys. Most if not all of the girls were in dresses and only half were wearing tights. We got what we asked for — drooling Italian teenage boys. They yelled to us and waved indistinguishable paper signs in our direction.
Nicoletta and the other teacher ushered us inside. As we stood in the hallway, I started to get nervous. I hadn't done anything to prepare for this. Some of my classmates had written some questions down and taken notes. Caitlin and I hadn't done a thing, and we were going to be partners. We stood waiting, and Nicoletta took us two by two into the classroom and sat us with groups of 4-5 Italian students. Caitlin and I were up next. I stood in the doorway scanning the room. It was absolute chaos. People were shuffling around trying to form groups. The scrape of moving chairs and tables barely broke through the loud babel of Italian. Students from other classes were literally trying to climb through the windows into the room. This oughta be fun, I thought to myself.
Caitlin and I got lucky. We were paired with the only three girls in the class and a very nice guy. We started with introductions — names, ages, families. They were all 17 or 18.
We asked them what music they listen to. Marco said he liked Eminem and Linkin Park. We all seemed to agree on our dislike of Justin Bieber. We asked them about their school. It was an agricultural school, which Nicoletta later explained is an alternative high school. They learn all of the basic subjects, but focus on farming skills. We asked them how long they had been studying English. They said since they were 8 or 9. I gulped. They're going to make us look like fools once we switch to English.
The conversation started to drag. We asked them about what kind of pets they had, and we told them the same. Caitlin wanted to say she missed her pets back home. She turned to me and asked how to say "I miss." I incorrectly told her "manche." She kept saying "mi manche," but it didn't seem to be getting across. Marco just stared at us puzzled. He curled on arm under to scratch his armpit and lifted the other to scratch his head. "Monkey?!? Monkey??"
"No! No! Mi manche!"
Everyone was laughing. We called Nicoletta over for help. I was off my a letter. Mi mancha il mio carne. I miss my dog.
We cleared it up with Marco, but the idea of Caitlin having a pet monkey didn't pass quickly. The girls couldn't stop laughing. They leaned over to the next table and got them laughing about it too.
Soon enough it was time to switch to English. Even though we'll feel like idiots for knowing so little, at least this part will be less awkward, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
Their English was very rough. Most Italians who say "My English is terrible," speak it practically fluently. Not the case here. And what made it worse was we had already exhausted all of the simple topics. I'm sure they knew how to ask our names, ages, hobbies and such, but we already covered those topics with our limited Italian. For the most part, they just gave up or were too shy to try.
Claudia put in a lot of effort though. She sat across from me and we talked for a good while. She said she doesn't want to become a farmer but rather a park ranger. She'd like to go to more school after she graduates — provided she can afford it — and eventually move to France. She said she likes Italy, but she doesn't like Italians or Italian law. I'm not sure if something was lost in translation there, but it was really the only thing I got out of it. I wish there wasn't the language barrier so I could have asked her to explain more.
After class was over, the students took us outside to their greenhouses and gardens. We talked to the others as we walked out, and it seemed like Caitlin and I got really lucky. Jess and Kate said their group just kept asking how much they drink and if they smoke. Another group didn't talk at all.
As the rest of the high schoolers just started to goof around and yell obnoxiously, Claudia walked with Caitlin and I. She told us about what they do every day. I asked questions in Italian and she answered in English. It was a good way for us to both practice. She was so nice!
Eventually they had to go back to another class, and it was time for us to head back.
Being such a nice day, we agreed to walk back instead of taking the bus. Nicoletta led us through Cascine Park (an area I had tried unsuccessfully to find earlier in the semester). I wish I had brought my camera. I almost did, but ended up leaving it behind.
The park was beautiful. I definitely have to get there again sometime before I leave. The grass was a rich green color. Full trees shaded many of the long paths. We walked along one in the sun that hugged the Arno. People ran along the paths to our left while others reclined in the sun along the banks of the river to the right. It was absolutely beautiful, and the weather was perfect!
The park seemed to go on forever, but we eventually reached the edge. By that time we were all hot and tired, so we agreed to take the bus the rest of the way back.
It dropped us off near Bethany's place around 1 p.m.
Glenn, Kevin, Bethany, Michelle, Yelena and I set out to grab lunch. We wanted to go to Tijuana's (a mexican restaurant) for lunch, but it was closed. Instead I led the group to the Oil Shoppe, a fantastic sandwich shop on our end of town. After a delicious veggie panino, I said ciao and headed back to the apartment.
I watched some Netflix and finished packing for London! With my backpack nearly bursting at the seams, I walked down the stairs and over to Basilica di Santa Croce to catch a taxi to the airport. The law is that a taxi ride within the city can't cost more than €25. It always costs that much to get to the airport or more if your driver is a bastard who shortchanges you significantly.
I had much better luck with this driver. As soon as I got in, he said it'll be €20 at the end. From what I understood it should always be that much to get from the city center to the airport. He was kind an not at all greedy. One point driver. Then much to my surprise he used his blinkers. Point two! And when we neared the airport where there's a short stretch of road with four lanes, he stayed in his instead of weaving back and forth as if for fun. He even checked blindspots. Point three, point four.
I got out at the airport in complete shock. If I had change, I probably would have even tipped him.
After a good half-hour wait in line, I checked in. I chatted at the terminal with a couple of businessmen from London who had been in Florence just for the day for a quick meeting. Soon enough, I was on my way to London to meet the 'rents!

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