Today the students reporting for the Link were allowed the marvelous grace by our wonderful professor Dr. Jim Miller to wander freely and as long as we finished our required news story of the day, as long as we didn't "bother him with minor details." Since Stephen Goodale and I had already shot our interview footage of the Mayor of Economy of Scandicci, we decided to take a trip with Sarah Kyle into Florence.
After eating a nice, authentic Italian meal, (at the train station food court) we decided to go to the market to see if we could find souvenirs for friends and family back home. However, while taking pictures of the beautiful churches, I had dropped my wallet on a grate of metal and lost a few euro and various cents down the random metal death monster in....not even kidding....the middle of a grass field. Why on earth that grate was placed there- I have no clue! Unfortunately, a few of my euro met their demise. While I was awkwardly chasing the papers that were blowing in the wind, a man with a sparkly hat came over and asked us for some spare change.
Begging is not uncommon here- I've been here for just over 24 hours and I have already had about five or 6 people ask for money. However, he was different. He spoke ENGLISH, which excited me to the ends of the earth. He spoke in an Irish accent, which also thrilled me. When he laughed we were shocked he spoke English, he explained although he was from Ireland, he had lived in America for three months. We started talking about what he thought of the land of the free and also what he thought of Italy and why he left Ireland. I decided to record an interview with him, and he gave me some really good insight! It will be posted on theLink very soon. (Check out thelink.harding.edu every day for new stories about Italy!)
After we exchanged stories about our lives, (he visited New Hampshire while he was in America, where I'm from!) we went across the street to a few vendors to look at what they were selling. I asked Sarah for advice on a few items, and when I turned around one last time, her and Stephen were completely gone. Nowhere to be seen, I walked up and down the street a few times looking for a redhead in a football Saints hat and weirdly enough, another red(ish)head in glasses. No redheads were to be seen; all looked pretty Italian to me- olive skin, dark hair, gibberish coming from their mouths.. yup. All were Italian.
No working phone. No map. No knowledge of Italian besides the (severely) broken Italian I know... not kidding. You probably know as much as I do. Anyway, after freaking out for about two minutes, I had to consciously remind myself that I had a good head on my shoulders and I was going to make it back. Eventually. Somehow. I was confident. I knew to take the number 16 bus back to Scandicci to the college. Or was it 27..? Should I take the tram in instead of the bus..? Okay, so I wasn't too confident on how I was going to get back, but I can honestly say I knew I'd get back before curfew at 12 tonight.
Since I knew this, I figured I was not going to freak out and worry, but instead enjoy my time alone in a foreign country! I was actually really excited. I did a little bit of shopping and the touristy things. I kept a video blog the entire time of my excursions. People stared at me funny when I did that and I can certainly understand why. I stuck out like a sore thumb. (Americans kind of stick out in a place like this, which is evident by all the times we have been hit on and the catcalls to the blondes of the group. They don't have those there.) Aaaanyway, people could tell I was completely out of my element, which was even more so reiterated by the fact I was speaking English to a camera every time something eventful in my life was worth documenting. Oh well, I'm in a foreign country and I really don't care what people have to say about "those Americans" and "the tourists." You can definitely tell when they're talking about you; they can't really hide it- the Italian word for 'American' is 'Americano.' Like I said, not too stealthy.
It only took about six hours, a tram, two different bus lines, about eight extremely (embarrassing I'm sure) broken-Italian conversations with locals, much laughter from spectators, a map from random Americans headed to a soccer (oops! football!) game, kindly police officers, a trip out of Florence, (then back into, then out of again...) a sad attempt at conversing with a bus officer and much relief to find the "ditchees" with their paisley ties (see Stephen Goodale's blog for an explanation of the paisley ties) to get me home.
And I made it! Finally. All in all, my day was amazing. With the situation I was in, it was the perfect way it could have ended up. I had a blast exploring by myself, and I feel so much more confident in my skills of conversing, map reading and awkward pantomiming. I'd say let's do it again, but I'm not sure I can handle the stress.
Click to see my video blog of my adventures in Florence.