Monday, September 26, 2011

God, It’s Good to be a Girl in Italy…

… 95% of the time. Today when I went to Piazza Maggiore to utilize the free WIFI, I got a gelato at the Caffe Vittorio Emanuel. After I paid (because you always ask after you pay and have a receipt in your hand), I asked “May I sit outside.” If you haven’t already paid, they will likely charge you 2 Euro to sit at one of the 50 empty tables outside.  Today when I asked, one of the waiters hesitated, and the owner of the bar just said, “Of course you can!” from the back room. The waiter just had this sheepish smile as he said, “We’re not supposed to… but you’re a pretty girl. Go sit.” Feeling brave with my gelato in my hand, I asked, “If I were a boy, would you have said no?” He looked at me very seriously and said, “Si. Certo.”

Yes, certainly.

Oh, it’s SO good to be a girl in Italy. Okay, yeah, so you need to be extra careful at night and sometimes you get rude things yelled at you in the streets… but about 95% of the time, having a “V” instead of a “P” is an advantage.

You see, Italian men love young women and their mothers more than anything else in the world. When you people watch in the street, no Italian boy is afraid to hold his girlfriend’s hand… to hold her purse… to buy her a gelato… to dress in matching colors. When they are not being douches, Italian boys worship at their girlfriends’ feet—and you better bet that if any other Italian guy says something about another guy’s girlfriend, all hell will break loose. The only thing they love more than their girlfriends are their mothers… which is the #1 reason I could never date an Italian boy, #2 being that they wear questionably tight pants., #3 being that they are CRAZY (case in point: Stu, formerly known as Med Student, formally known as Giuliano). Homefry is two cups of crazy… but good crazy most of the time.

My friends finally got to meet Stu… I’m pretty sure most of them doubted his existence. About five or six of us from the program got together for dinner and drinks on Saturday night, and Stu was nice enough to stop by. Thankfully, he did not disappoint.

I met Stu’s girlfriend (at least, I think she’s his girlfriend…) Chiara at the end of the street after she called me to say that they were nearby. When I asked, “Where’s Giuliano.” She just covered her face and looked very embarrassed. Then I saw him: He was weaving his way through the street on a bicycle as if he were seven and going, “Vrrroooom vrooooom.” Here’s how the rest of the conversation went:

Me: Where’d he get the bike?
Chiara: I have no idea.
Me: Hey, Giuliano—where’d you get the bike?
Giuliano: (In English) I don’t know!
Me: How do you not know where you got it?
Giuliano: (In English) I borrowed it from a friend.
Me: You borrowed or you stole it?
Giuliano: I don’t know
Chiara: *Looks embarrassed*

I’m still not entirely sure if he got the bike from a friend or stole it… although I’m assuming it’s from a friend. All I know is that when he rode away from the bar, Chiara was sitting on the back of the bike looking TERRIFIED.

Yesterday Stu invited me to get aperativo (you buy one drink for 7 Euro and get to eat all the finger food you’d like… genius idea, at least if the food is good) with some of his friends. They had all met in Paris as Erasmus students and just happened to all live in Bologna. There was Massimo, Miranda, Sara, Patricia, Stu, and myself. Although it was slightly awkward to begin with, since they were all catching up talking about old times and I was just “lah lah lahhhing” to myself as I tried to listen to what they were saying. Afterwards, however, Stu and I went with Massimo and Miranda to Piazza Maggiore to hang out for a bit. We ended up spending about 2 hours just chit-chatting. When I wasn’t participating in the conversation, I was getting lost in the beauty of Piazza Maggiore at night. It’s so, so beautiful at night—the lights are on, and the buildings seem to glow. There are so many people around, with their dogs or with their children… I could people-watch for hours. When we finally left, Stu tried to get me to get on the back of the bike with him, and I flat-out refused to do it. He just kept saying, “You no trust me? Get on bike!” To which I replied, “I don’t want to die tonight, thanks.” Miranda and Massimo both agreed that it would be more physically and mentally safe to take the bus instead.  Being the stand-up guy that he is, Stu walked me to the bus stop, waited until I got on, and then proceeded to race the bus down the street. The bus won, although he came in a close second.

I’m going to miss Stu—he’s going back to Naples this weekend. It’s going to be so strange without him at the apartment—that, and I’ll be moving into the room he’s vacating, which will be super weird the first night or two… because I just automatically think of that room as his room, not as mine. Thankfully he’ll be coming back in November, and living just a few minutes up the street. You better bet that we’re going to become best friends. I’m determined.

It’s amazing how nice people are in Italy. In the States, if you lived with a random roommate, you would spend most of your time avoiding them, not trying to convince them to eat nutella or grab aperativo with your friends. Here, it seems that most of the program peeps have lucked out with getting roommates that invite us places, help us speak Italian (I didn’t even realize Stu spoke any English until two days ago… and we’ve been living together for 3 weeks!), introduce us to their friends. It’s really extraordinary, and I feel very fortunate to have lucked out.

I am excited for Sara to return from New York, though. Before she left, she even told me that she’s directing a show that will run for a week at the Pinacoteca Nazionale, which is the Renaissance museum in Bologna—one of the top Renaissance museums in Italy. And she needs an assistant for the week of rehearsals. And she asked me to do it. And I would have free access to the museum any time I wanted. SCHWING! I’m so totes excited! Even though I may or may not be going to Sicily that week, I’d cancel it if it meant being the assistant to the crazy talented Sara. Most people doubt her existence, too—she just seems too fabulous—but Dru and Kyle met her, and they can vouch for both her existence and fabulousness. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The best kind of blog post...

RaNdOm PiCtUrE aLeRt

One of the seven "mysteries" of Bologna: If you look at Neptune at the right angle, you get the illusion that he has a huge boner. It's actually his thumb being seen from a weird angle, but its hilarious nonetheless.

This kid was so sweet... he was pretending to fight with an umbrella.

Meet my meat and cheese platter. It says hello.

Oh, this picture never fails to make me smile. I only wish I could have taken it with flash, but i had to be sneaky.

I was OBSESSED with this pug. It had to be at least 45 pounds. It was massive. Like a tiny elephant.

I ordered "ice cream" at the Nutelleria. What I got was pure magic... it was about 10% ice cream, 90 % nutella... 100% delicious. NOM NOM NOM.

The building that has faces as decoration. Creepy and cool all at the same time.

What Kyle, Dru, and I ordered at the Nutelleria... a nutella-filled crepe at the upper left, a nutella-filled croissant at the top right, and my "ice cream" at the bottom--which was more or less pure nutella. Amazinggggg. 

Candles at Santo Stefano.

Oh, hello there Mr. Badass Pug... did i mentioned  I was OBSESSED?!?!?!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I waste so much time...

Have you ever heard of the website Well, now you have. And you will now go there and waste SO MUCH TIME. Then again, is time wasted when you’re smiling and giggling? Hell nah.
(Thank you to Madeline Ramirez for telling me about this gem of a website)

What about Prepare to be amazed, my friends.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Bacon and Borsa

Tuesday night was amazing. Seven of the lovely BCSP girls (Bernadette, Jessica, Sabrina, Madeline, Sarah, Brea, and Kyle) came over to my apartment and cooked a delicious meal. I whipped up some penne all’amatriciana (penne pasta in a semi-spicy tomato sauce with bacon, garlic, and onions), and Kyle made spaghetti alla carbonara (spaghetti in a creamy egg sauce with more bacon). Yay for bacon! To accompany these two dishes, we had salad and super fresh bread. For dessert? Nutella smeared over some cracker/cookie things. There may or may not have been wine involved… and spritzes.

SPRITZES! I cannot tell you how much I’ve fallen in love with “lo spritz” (pronounced “loh spah-reetz-uh,” in the italiano) a popular Italian mixed drink that is BRIGHT ORANGE. It’s a combination of proseco, aperol (or campari, but it’s super bitter and gross), and a touch of club soda. Top it off with an orange slice and you’ve got it going on like 89% of the Italian population.

Lo spritz. Bright orange. Entirely fabulous. I want one RIGHT NOW.

Yesterday we had our first “Wednesday afternoon class,” which refers to the art history class we have on Wednesdays—which doesn’t start until 3:00 pm, so we have the morning to sleep in. Instead of being a bum, I dragged my lazy ass out of the apartment and went to MamBo with several of my BCSP peeps. MamBo refers to Bologna’s museum of modern art, which is conveniently (*cough*) located 45 minutes away from my apartment. While modern/contemporary art isn’t really my thing, the museum was pretty cool—mostly because it’s free on Wednesday for students. There were some highly questionable pieces of “art,” but I got over the artsy-fartsyness… and so should you.

After our museum-visit, we trekked it back to the BCSP office to have class with Professor Benevolo, who is very nice but incredibly boring—and he was talking about art history, which is usually my thannng! But it was so, so boring. The only thing I can remember about the class was that it dealt with Ravenna, which is the destination of Saturday’s mini excursion, which I’m excited for. Even though I’ve been to Ravenna once before, I’m excited to go back—that and the scenery from the 1.5 hour train ride will probably be amazing. I’m hoping my bug bites are gone by then, because right now I look like I have chicken pox… and its gross.

Yesterday night Dru came over to my house and we made dinner for ourselves—the same dish I made for Kelly the other day, but much more delicious this time around. After all, Dru’s cutting abilities are out of this world… when she cuts onions, they taste so much better than when I do! Or maybe it’s because we used fizzy white wine instead of regular white wine… mostly because the fizzy wine was cheap and tastes good… but thankfully it all worked out, although we both had our doubts when the sauce started fizzing… thankfully it turned out relatively well.

Today was back to bisniss as usual—class in the morning, scavenging for lunch in the afternoon, and going to some boring BCSP event in the evening. I was really excited for tonight, though—the BCSP packet made it seem like it was going to be some awesome outing where we would meet the mayor of Bologna and see some ancient ruins located under the Sala di Borsa, which is quickly becoming my favorite building in the entire city… mostly because it has public restrooms, air conditioning, and funny little chairs that make me laugh. Turns out we had to sit in a hot, stuffy room for an hour with 100 other foreign students and watch a slide show presentation about Bologna that repeated things we’ve already known about for weeks. And the whole “meet the mayor” thing? Yeah, we had the priviledge of listening to the assistant mayor talk about something (by that time I was zoned out completely) that was extremely boring. I stuck it out, though, because I was so excited to see the ruins located under the Sala di Borsa… and it was a total flop. We basically got ushered into a basement that had a door that lead to the excavation site… which was comprised of some stone walls and a semi-discernable portion of an old road. I was so sure that the tour guide was going to bring us into another far more impressive room, but no go. Not exactly exciting. The tour guide talked extremely fast (in Italian), and I barely understood a word she said because I was looking at my toes the entire time—admiring the nice new shade of nail polish that I picked up for 1 Euro at COIN.
Note the seafoam green toe nails
Boring 1000-year-old wall of Sala di Borsa ruins.

After the completely underwhelming experience at Sala di Borsa (okay, it wasn’t that bad… but I had expectations, yo!), myself and six other lovely ladies went to eat dinner at Nicola’s—the restaurant with the cheapest liter of house wine in town. The food is good, too. As always, I ate tagliatelle al ragu. I should probably start branching out more… and instead of wine I ordered myself a nice, big beer that was delicious. When did I start liking beer enough to order it at dinner? Weird.

When I got back to the apartment, Med Student and I had a long conversation about the weather in Wisconsin and pizza—which were two totally unrelated topics. I was trying to explain to him that in the United States you can get “stuffed-crust pizza,” which is crust stuffed with cheese. He could not wrap his mind around the concept. I also told him it was 36 degrees in WI this morning… Fahrenheit. He just started to laugh and go, “Che cazzo!” which essentially means, “What the fuck!” He is now in the kitchen, macking on some girl. I wish him luck…

Over and out.

PS - shout out to my best friend Sarah Tamarkin, AKA Shaquisha, who will be visiting me in October.

PSS - another shout out to my Auntie Laurie, Guy, and my goddog, Tank. I miss you both. Whenever I see dog pee streaming down the sidewalk, I think, "I wish Tank were here..."

Come si dice "bromance" in italiano?
EDIT: Hi, mom. These boys are not "Italian." The one in the blue is Nick and the one in the red is Ben. Both have girlfriends, so do not make any hinting-comment about them. The end. Love you, Snoopy Mommy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

I'm not promising that this will be edible...

Today I cooked for the first time in my new apartment! After class this morning, the lovely Kelly and I returned to my apartment and attempted to whip up a gourmet lunch… the key word being attempted, because I was only ½ sure I knew what I was doing. We mostly just freestyled our way through it… and it turned out pretty good! It was rigatoni pasta and chicken with a white wine/cream sauce. We ate on the balcony and talked away the afternoon, and it was a good time!

Here us a brief photo tour of my crib:
Bed. Personal balcony at left (don't be too jealous, it's covered in bird shit), large window at right. Not pictured: Kick ass sofa bed.

Kitchen with balcony.

Balcony/terrace thing off kitchen. Note drying rack in background.

With each passing day, I’m becoming more and more accustomed to the apartment. I can now successfully open the door, turn on the lights in the stairwell, and take trash out. You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Seriously, Lindsay? You had to learn how to open a door? I thought you were a brunette…” Yes, I am a brunette, thank you very much. Italian doors are tricky—so tricky that I have been stuck in hallways several times for over 10 minutes as I tried to figure out how to exit the building. It literally took me 20 minutes to figure out how to unlock the door of my apartment—and that was only because someone passing by took pity on me and showed me how to do it. You have to stick the key in the lock, turn it once around, pull the door super hard, turn they key  around again, and then push—and voila! The door opens! I would like to think that I would have figured it out eventually… but I probably wouldn't have ever figured it out —I would probably end up getting caught sleeping in the apartment stairwell like a hobo.

Then there’s the light for the apartment’s stairwell. I could not for the life of me figure out how to turn that damn light on! The past two nights I’ve had to use my cellphone to light the way up three flights of stairs! I finally asked Med Student (AKA Giuliano) how to do it; he looked at me like I was crazy but entertained my request. Apparently you have to press a button next to the elevator—one that resembles all the BUZZERS next to the doors. Who the heck would assume that you need to push the button (which looks like it would ring the buzzer) next to the elevator, which is tucked in a corner about 20 feet from the stairwell? Who invented that treasure of an idea?

And the trash—oh my goodness is the Italian trash system complicated. For one, in my apartment we have 5 (yes, FIVE) different baskets for various garbage/recycling—one basket for organic matter, one for plastic, one for glass, one for paper, and one for “none of the above” garbage. Each one of these baskets has a corresponding dumpster that’s located a FIVE MINUTE WALK away from the apartment building. Is a five-minute walk a long walk? No, but you usually just assume that dumpsters would be located directly next to the apartment and not down the street, around the corner, and past the stop sign. It’s ridiculous. That and people will throw you dirty, dirty looks if you accidentally throw a newspaper in the plastics dumpster. Based on the intricate garbage/recycling system, you’d assume Italians were crazy eco-friendly. Yeah, no. I have never seen a single recycling bin on the city streets. Every 20 feet there’s a garbage, but you need to find a recycling dumpster (which are few and far inbetween) in order to throw away the plastic bottle you’ve been carrying around for hours. So redonkulus.

It’s amazing how impractical Italians are… at first it’s endearing and quirky, but after two weeks it just gets annoying. Can’t the streets just have one name per street instead of 10? Can’t there be an easier way to get out doors? Why do restaurants close at lunchtime? I don’t know… I don’t even think Italians know why they do the things they do. For the most part, however, people here have been very welcoming and tolerant. Some people can be douches—like waiters who try to pull a fast one and charge you for an extra meal, or newsstands that will try to charge you more for a newspaper when you can see the price directly written on the paper, or grocery workers who snap at you for not weighing your grapes—but I have met some of the nicest people here, too. My favorite Italian so far has to be Nino—or I assume his name is Nino—from Ristorante Nino on Via Volturno. Not only is the restaurant absolutely amazing, but the service is great, and everyone who works there is super friendly. Whenever Nino (again, I’m not sure if this dude is Nino… but he’s my favorite so I just assume that he is…) sees me eating there again, he comes over and says hello and will usually bring us out some sort of free dessert or limoncello. Bless that man.

Tomorrow Med Student is going home to Naples for a day and a half, and instead of hanging out by myself in an apartment that makes a lot of weird noises (banging doors, creaking windows, random rattling noises…), I’m inviting a bunch of BCSP people over to have dinner and drinks. I will be cooking dinner, which may lead to interesting results, but hopefully no one cares too much about my lack of cooking skillz. They’re getting a free meal, and they’ll like it, dang it! In the meantime, I will continue to sit around eating my “Biscotti integrali” that I got from the grocery store for 94 cents. Cheap cookies! I’m definitely a fan!

I saw this graffiti-ed on a wall and laughed. Enjoy!

Don't Let the Bed Bugs Bite...

So our last night at Hotel Holiday was definitely a winner… turns out the hotel DOES have a bed bug infestation. Yeah, I said it: Bed. Bug. Infestation. Two rooms on the first floor (including mine… naturally, given my bad luck), had bed bugs probably the entire time we were there. Dru got bit a few times, but we just thought they were mosquito bites—and apparently I have a delayed reaction to the bites, because no bites showed up on me until the last day in the hotel. Dru and Jessica (who was in the other room with the critters) told Ricci and Danielle about their suspicions, and the hotel ended up fumigating both of our rooms as a “precaution”, which is supposed to kill all live bugs.

To say the least, when I woke up at 2 AM to see a little friend chillin’ on my pillow 2 inches away from my head, I freaked. I saw one more little tiny one scuttling beneath the pillow, and Dru saw one in her bed, too. We immediately stripped down naked and began doing the ohmygodohmygodohmygodthisisdisgusting dance, shaking out our clothes and feeling totally gross. Then we ran down to the reception desk, where the lady explained that they’d had an infestation in room 103 (we were in 102) in July, but that they thought they’d taken care of the problem... yeah that worked perfectly, you idiots apparently not. She proceeded to give us the key to room 101 to sleep the rest of the night. There was no way anyone was going to get Dru and I to climb into another bed in that hotel, so we proceeded to sleep on the tile floor using laundered bathroom towels as blankets and pillows. I also made constant trips to the bathroom, where the entire contents of my stomach ended up in the toilet. I was literally sick to my stomach, and that’s never happened before.

All in all, I’m glad we saw the bugs before we moved into our respective apartments. After all, it’s better to detect them and take care of things instead of unknowingly bringing them with you to your apartment, which I’m still convinced that I’ve done… even though I’ve washed every single piece of clothing at boiling temperature,  used up 2 bottles of bug killing spray on my suitcase and backpack (yes, I realize ½ of a bottle would’ve been good enough, but I’m paranoid, people!), and wiped every other non-clothing item down with pure rubbing alcohol. I’m still so convinced that they’re lurking somewhere, ready to jump into my bed at any moment. Honestly, I think this whole “situation” (and I’m not talking about Mike) has been more mentally traumatizing than physically, although waking up with new bites on your arms and seeing more materialize throughout the day is certainly not fun, especially when they itch. This convinced me even more than I had them, but now I’m 99% sure I had a delayed reaction to the bites, mostly because the bites kept on showing up throughout the day and my little friends only bite at night… and also because the internet said it was common in many people to not show signs until up to 14 days after being bitten. Want to spend a Friday night in? Search “bed bugs” in Google and enjoy what you find… you’ll be convinced you have them, not matter what.

In other less creepy-crawly news, I have officially moved into my apartment… but not my room. My roommate, Sara, is an opera singer from Puglia who travels a lot to sing, and she is scheduled to be in New York for the next month (so talented). So I moved into Sara’s room, while a med student from Naples, whose name is Giuliano, is currently staying in “my” room until the end of September. Both Sara and Giuliano seem very cool. Sara is super glamorous and talented, while Giuliano is smart as heck and likes to put Nutella on everything. While Sara speaks English fluently, Giuliano just speaks the language of “fast.” Most of the time I’m not even sure it’s Italian… sometimes he throws French words in the mix or will bring his Southern dialect out to play. In the end, however, we all understand one another pretty well.  Or at least I think we do… in any case, he shares his nutella with me, and sharing one’s nutella is an interntional sign of friendship (or maybe pity…).

As each passing day goes by, I find myself the victim of culture shock. I never expected that Italy would be so different than the United States—and it’s usually the little things that get you the most. For example, in the produce section of the supermarket, you must wear plastic gloves when selecting any produce and once you’ve selected something, you need to bring it over to the digital scale, select the product’s “ID code” on a touch screen, and then wait for the machine to weigh your stuff before it prints out a sticker with a barcode and the exact price you’ll pay for whatever you’re buying. If you don’t do this, the old lady waiting behind you in line will yell at you for holding things up, realize you are foreign, and then proceed to try and set you up with her grandson (not that this has happened…). You will then make a fool out of yourself by putting the basket on the conveyer belt, where it ABSOLUTELY SHOULD NOT GO. You hold the basket awkwardly, and proceed to unload every single item onto the conveyer belt, walk the basket over to the original pile, then go back and pay for your groceries. Oh, and bags? Yep, they’re 10 cents a piece, AND you have to bag your own groceries. I’m sure that you could get someone to bag them for you, but they’d likely charge you 2 Euro and proceed to take 20 minutes to bag 2 things. Nothing in Italy is free, and no one understands the meaning of “quickly.”

The excitement of being in a new country is beginning to wear off, and the exhaustion and panic of the past week has certainly taken its toll on me. I can barely even sleep anymore, and I love to sleep! Unless I’m sleeping on a perfectly clean tile floor with freshly laundered towels as my pillow, I’m convinced bed bugs are everywhere. .. even after the 1000 precautions I took to NOT bring them with me to my apartment. Ughhhh, so gross! Until these itchy bites stop appearing (again, this is very likely a delayed reaction to those at the hotel and not the result of actually having bed bugs in my apartment) and go away completely, I will remain convinced that Bob the Bed Bug is trying to eat me in my sleep.

I’ll keep you posted, those of you who made it to the end of this blog post. How many times did you shiver during it? How many times did you suddenly feel totally itchy? Oh, the power of words on the mind…


I, Lindsay Rose Elizabeth Sheedy, have done the impossible: I have found an apartment that I ACTUALLY LIKE in Bologna. Absolutely unbelievable!

I’m choosing to live with Sara Gararro (or did she choose me?), an Italian opera singer in her late 20s, who is fabulous. Yes, it wasn’t my first choice, but it was a damn close second. The boys from my first choice apartment never got back to me, even after I emailed them, so I decided I wouldn’t dawdle any longer and make an offer to Sara. Thank God she accepted it, because I don’t know what I’d do otherwise.

The apartment is just outside the historic center of Bologna, just off a main street in a cute little apartment complex with cool door-knockers. It’s got two huge single rooms, one decently sized bathroom, a nice kitchen, and a small terrace. Since Sara is going to be gone for the first month that I’m there (in her place will be a med student who’s studying to be a heart surgeon), and I’m hoping that will give me time to make the apartment my own. For one, I already have plans to clean the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, the apartment is SUPER clean compared to some I saw, but Sara’s been living in New York for the past year or so, so the apartment has just gotten a little out of shape. It’ll be nice to put some of my own personal touches on things, mostly because then I won’t feel like I’m a guest in someone else’s apartment. That won’t fly.

We started our pre-session, for which we are each paying $2,040 to attend (our teacher accidentally showed us the amount when she brought up a spread sheet). Meh, whatevs—it’s not like we can do anything about it. The teacher, Christine Dodd, is super cute. She makes the funniest facial expression and seems really, really nice.  Of the original 26, half of us are with Christine and the other half are with a woman named Clara. My group doesn’t go to the BCSP office but rather to a classroom at Unibo (University of Bologna) in the foreign language building. That building is like a freakin’ maze—you go up stairs only to have to go down stairs, you turn left twice and end up on a different floor than you were two seconds ago, classrooms seem to appear out of nowhere, there are doors within doors… it’s craziness.  I’m excited because tomorrow instead of class we get to go on another tour of Bologna, this time I think it’s more a cultural tour—mostly gastronomical, of course—and whatever I can get for free, I’m taking.

One day later:

So Dru thought that maybe we had bed bugs in our room. Naturally, I started FREAKING OUT. As most people know, I am a compulsive shower-taker and hold personal hygiene in the highest regard. I also don’t do bugs—I hate bugs. Ergo, I start having a minor freak out when Dru shows me that she has some bug bites (they look like mosquito bites), as does Jessica. As I examined my skin, I picked out about four teensy tiny red bumps on my arm and start having a MAJOR FREAK OUT, and was absolutely convinced that we had bed bugs, when it was probably just my hypochondria raging out of control. Of course, we told Danielle and Professor Ricci about our paranoia, and they in turn talked to the hotel… AND THEN OUR ROOM GOT FUMIGATED. Yup. We couldn’t go in our room for 5 hours because they had a machine that kills all bed bugs… BUT IT WAS JUST AS A PRECAUSION, they told us. COMMENCE LINDSAY SERIOUSLY FREAKING OUT TO THE POINT OF HEART ATTACK. While I understand why the hotel would take precautionary steps, it’s also somewhat disturbing that your room is being fumigated and that you’re advised—ONLY OUT OF PRECAUTION—to wash every single item of clothing you’ve brought to Italy and spray your suitcase with hydrogen peroxide.

Maybe I should note here that DRU AND I DO NOT ACTUALLY THINK WE HAVE BED BUGS, WE ARE MERELY PARANOID THAT WE MAY HAVE BED BUGS. Our rooms get cleaned every 2 days, our sheets and mattresses are pristine white, and almost all of Dru’s bites are on her legs, arms, and neck (all the places showing during waking hours, when we’re lah-lah-lahing our way around the piazza where mosquitoes lurk to bite our white asses).  Neither of us are actually convinced that we do.

The gastronomical tour this morning was a good time—and by good time I mean semi-interesting and somewhat delicious. It would have been totally delicious for anyone who loved meat… don’t get me wrong, I love a hamburger as much as the next person, but I can’t eat plain meat just as it is, which greatly limited my enjoying a plate of cold cuts… but seeing the various shops and markets was very interesting. I got some sweet pictures, though. My favorite part of the entire tour was when we stopped in Piazza Maggiore… Lucia, the tour guide, proceeded to talk about the history of the piazza, its historical and cultural significance, and other very thrilling stuff… while I proceeded to watch and snap pictures of a young boy chasing pigeons. In my defense, this kid was precious and very fly. He was wearing yellow shorts, a blue shirt, and a red backpack all whilst rocking a pair of sunglasses and gelled hair. Like Danielle noted, “I bambini si vestino come uomini piccoli” which more or less translates to “Little boys dress like men here.” Which is totes true.
So now I’m just chillin’, waiting for my room to get done fumigatin’.

How cute is this kid!?!?!

In other news, I went to COIN today, which is my new favorite store! It’s like William Sonoma, Gap, and Sephora had a baby… and that baby’s name is COIN. I had to get a bath towel, because there’s no way I’m walking around an apartment naked with some med student around. I mean, I don’t walk around naked to begin with, but you get my drift... I’ve used hand towels as bath towels one too many times, and I’ve learned my lesson. While I was at COIN, I also picked up a face towel, wash cloth (both of which were grayish beige with a very classy leopard print), a bottle of nail polish that was on sale for 1 Euro, a few plastic glasses for my toothbrush and stuff, and a bottle of nail polish remover. All necessities—obvs. 

This little piggy went to the market... and he be dead.
Penis pasta. A staple in one's diet.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Apartment Search Continues: There Will Be Blood...

…that is, if I don’t find an apartment soon. And by soon I mean now, because this whole “hey kids, you gots to go find your own apartment, kthxbye” stuff is way harder than you can possibly imagine. I’ve seen over 10 apartments in the past 3 days, and I have 4 more appointments scheduled to see other apartments in the next 2 days. Here’s a recap of the ones I’ve seen:

Crack House – See previous post. I refuse to recap the events of this visit. Terrifying.

Angela – Cute cottage-esque house, amazing proprietor with 2 adorable cats, but I wouldn’t be able to meet ANY of the roommates (there would be 3 others) until after I moved in. No thanks!

Guys above BCSP office – Meh. Whatevs. Huge room, cluttered and small everything else.  Homeboy looked like a super nerd… and not the good kind.

Crazy Chick who Kidnapped Me – Okay, so Dao didn’t kidnap me. She more or less hijacked me on Via Zamboni and guilted me into visiting the apartment she was renting out. Thankfully someone else was with me… for all I know this chick could be taking me to an opium den. It ended up being a pretty cool place. The apartment was massive, clean, but decorated with questionable taste (most of the walls were “decorated” by dipping a sponge in some paint and dotting it all over the walls… and not in a cute way), and the goth roommate who was there was very nice… except SHE HAD NO EYEBROWS. It freaked Miranda and I out enough to swear we couldn’t live there. I mean, does she draw her eyebrows on? Is she making some kind of political statement by going eyebrowless? DOES SHE THINK IT LOOKS GOOD? Nah, I’ll pass. Thanks, Dao!

Huge Ass Apartment that Jessica Took – Yeah, so I was more like a spectator on this visit. I just went with Jessica just in case one of us hit it off really well with the rooms. Despite being hella expensive, the roommates were incredibly nice and the room was frackin’ huge! I know I’ll be visiting Jessica a LOT…

Via Ben-something Da Carpi – Oh helllllll nah. I was SO EXCITED to see this place, too… and then it turns out that it’s a 30 minute walk outside the walls, meaning it’s nearly 45 minutes away from everywhere I need to be. That and Marco, the guy who showed me the apartment, had hair that went down to his kneecaps and was wearing a Simpsons t-shirt. I’m not even kidding about the hair. The apartment was in a super nice area, and it was huge (but really dirty)… but I don’t do weirdo roommates or dirt. I mean, at least pretend to be normal…

Via Delle Lame—kid with the tats up and down his arms. All the roommates but one had visible face piercings. No thanks.

Silvia at Via Avesella – I’m in like with this apartment… if it were in a different location and had more than one roommate, I’d take it in a heartbeat. Silvia was so cute and super sweet, and her mom was visiting for the day, so I got to meet my first Italian mamma—she was cooking something in the kitchen, so cute—and Silvia has this enormous cat named Moschino or something like that. The cat totes reminded me of a real-life Crookshanks. I want that cat. And the place was HUGE. Like, massive. Then when I talked with Danielle later I learned that it’s an area that might not be the safest at night, at least on one end of the street. Apparently that’s where the tranny prostitutes hang out after 10. Not even kidding, a girl at the BCSP office who lives on that street told me that. Tranny prostitutes. Uhhh… maybe I could deal with that if it meant having that huge room and a cat that looked like it’s face was smushed... in a good way, of course.

The Double off Via San Vitale – Meh, whatevs. The double was small, the kitchen was a little ghetto, and the girl who showed me around wasn’t particularly friendly. Good location, though.

Single on Via San Manzini – Meh, whatevs. The room was big, but it had 3 beds in it, two of which were bunked—which I don’t really get because it’s only supposed to have one bed. Francesca, the girl who I talked to, seemed relatively chill. The other roommates were fine… the apartment was a little dirty but not too bad…but I was pretty underwhelmed by it all.

Apartments I’m seeing today or tomorrow:

Via dell’Independenza 25 – I feel like this place is going to be AWESOME or a complete disaster. Via dell’Independenza is one of the main streets in Bologna, so it would be a nice location for walking home at night or whatever because there’s always people around. The proprietor I talked to, Silvana, seemed slightly whacky on the phone… it was kind of endearing. The single is taken, but according to Silvana the double is huge. For 400 Euro a bed, the double better be frackin’ AMAZING.

International House – This is where there are 4 boys and 4 girls—with four of the total being Italian and the other four being foreign. So, technically, there should be 2 foreign boys and 2 foreign girls in addition to 2 Italian boys and 2 Italian girls. I’m seeing this one because apparently the place is huge, but I would be living in a triple the size of a dorm room… however, if the rest of the house is big enough, I think I could deal with sleeping in a room with 2 other girls. Then again, knowing my prior history with roommates, maybe not.

Via Mazzini 82 – This is some girl who I found on EasyStanza. The apartment looks nice, it has a porter 24/7 which means it must be a tiny bit ritzy, and apparently its own tiny private garden. It has the potential to be amazing. Then again, it could be terrible.

Vittorio’s place – Vittorio sent me a text that was like, “Come check out my apartment.” And I was all, “Okay, see yah tomorrow.” Apparently there’s a cleaning lady who comes once a week, so it would never get too gross, but Vittorio is 32, and that’s a little weird. There’s 2 other people living in that house, but I don’t know any of them.

Paola and her famiglia – Danielle, the awesome girl who works with BCSP and gets. stuff. done. and has the cutest dog EVER, told be to look into a sort of “family stay” with some lady named Paola. I would live in a single with its own private bathroom, I WOULD’NT PAY RENT—YES, NO RENT AT ALL—in exchange for watching her 2 kids for 10-14 hours a week and speaking English with them. The kids are 10 and 14, so old enough where you don’t have to worry about them crawling off and sticking their fingers in light sockets but young enough to still need a nanny. Even though I’m not a huge kid-lover, I find most Italian children endearing. They're so animated, like cartoon children. That, and Danielle said the Paola is “a woman you want to know” in the sense that she goes a lot of places and knows a LOT of important people. Also, the family would bring you on any trips they take—the last girl who lived there got to go to Sicily for 2 weeks—SCORE!

Yeah, and “that’s it.” 10 apartments down, 5+ to go, 5 days left to find a place to live. Easy peasy, man!

The Apartment Search Begins: Is This a Crack House?

Today began with two meetings at the BCSP office, where all of us met Andrea Ricci (the coordinator) for the first time. Homeboy looks like he stepped out of a GQ magazine ad. He was wearing a khaki colored suit that was tailored and very expensive-looking shoes that clicked lightly when he walked—you know that shoes are expensive when they click classily like that. The second meeting was all about housing, which is one aspect of the program that scares the crap out of me.  The meeting was all about how to find an apartment and the logistics of signing a contract/paying rent when you do get one. One kid already has an apartment, which he found the day he arrived. Such an overachiever.
Here is a picture of a random snoozin' pigeon for your enjoyment! 
 After the meeting, several of us when to the Paninoteca nearby to grab lunch before heading to Via Zamboni, where people staple apartment ads everywhere. It’s like a sea of dirty white paper on walls, garbage cans, random posts, the ground… so overwhelming.

I finally mustered up the courage to call the number listed for an apartment that seemed nice enough, but when the guy answered I totes freaked and only managed to stutter something like, “Sto chiamando per l’apartamento,” to which he responded, “Non e’ ancora libera” and hung up. So… that went well. I made 2 more calls, set up 2 appointments, and commenced freaking out in terror. One appointment  was to see a single, and the other a double. While I would love to have my own room (most people know that I’ve had terrible roommate experiences in the past), I think I could live in a double if the roommates were amazing. Also, with a single, I feel like I’d be more tempted to hole myself away in fear of making an ass out of myself—which I manage at least 12 times before breakfast on a good day. We have 10 more days to find something, and there will be many appointments to see many apartments. I’d prefer to find one soon rather than later, but whatever. I probably won’t sleep anyway because, you know, I’m a nervous freak like that.

So I trah-lah-lah-lah-lahed all my way to the first appointment on Via Gugliemo Marconi… and let me tell you, it was a freaking NIGHTMARE.  Honest to God, I would rather go home than live in that first apartment. Here’s how my meeting went: the landlord, who has a glass eye that points in the wrong direction and is missing a tooth, let me in to go up to the apartment. When I got there, this cute Italian girl was waiting for me… and then I entered Hell. The apartment was a complete dump. Without exaggeration, there were at least (AT LEAST) 100 empty bottles scattered throughout the relatively small space—Heinken bottles, hard liquor bottles, vino bottles… lots of bottles. There was also smoke wafting around, and it was about a million degrees in this apartment because they had the windows closed. What Italian in his/her right mind would leave the windows closed in an unairconditioned apartment in the late summer? Much less smoke with them closed. When I asked the girl if they opened, she looked at me like I was stupid and said, “Si, certo.” Yes, of course… they open, but you choose to keep them closed. Weirdos. It also looked like the place hadn’t been cleaned since the Bush presidency… and that’s G. Bush Senior, people. It was disgusting—there were dishes heaped in the sink, dirt caked to the floor, wads of hair in rando corners… it was so, so gross. As if that wasn’t enough, the girl smiled and said to me, “All of the roommates are here right now but they do not want to come out and talk to you.” And that’s when she offered to let me have the apartment if I wanted it… uh, no thanks. I’ll pass and get the HELL OUT OF THIS PLACE. I swear on the Bible, I think they were running some kind of crack house or something. I am not even kidding you. Another kid from our program saw it, and he totes agreed with me. This first apartment is now referred to solely as "The Crack House."

Thankfully, the second place I saw restored my faith in this lovely city: it was a small house with two rooms, one of which had 2 open beds. It reminded me of the cottage in the movie The Holiday: a very sweet little place that’s very old but has a lot of character. It was practically ideal… except for the fact that the double I’d be in was small as shit AND the other two girls living there wouldn’t be back until mid-to-late September, so I wouldn’t get to meet them. It was so sad leaving that place behind… and the landlady, Angela, was so nice. Sad face!

To date (today is September 2nd-ish), I’ve seen 7 or 8 apartments… and would only consider living in 2 of them. I’ve visited a few doozies, but none worse than the aforementioned crack house. This afternoon I saw one on the Via delle Lame, and as soon as the guy opened the door, I was ready to peace-out. He had tribal tattoos up and down both of his arms (he was, of course, shirtless), and you could see his ass crack because his pants were so low. While he and the other roommates were all very nice, only 1 out of the 5 looked relatively normal (piercings and tats galore!). It wasn’t crack-house bad, but more like, “We do crack recreationally but don’t make or sell it” bad. All in all, I was very underwhelmed. Of course, the lovely Jessica—a lovely lady in the program with me—found the ideal apartment, and I hate her for that… because I went with her and am supes jealous I didn’t find the place first.  Bitch (kidding! I love you, the future Mrs. Abu!)

Then there was a pizza party at the BCSP office, which is the first time I’ve seen boxed, pre-sliced pizza since arriving in Italy. It was delicious. After a few (and by a few I mean 20) of us went out for drinks, but ended up splitting up within 10 minutes. I had the good sense to return to the hotel soon thereafter, mostly because I was tired but also because I don’t have the money to be spending on drinks that weigh in at 5 Euro ($7.50 USD). Although the gin and tonics are about 95% gin and 3% tonic and 2% fancy orange slice, I’m not shelling out 20 Euro in one night for things that disappear quickly and give me hangovers. I’m not stupid, you know… although lately I’ve been questioning my own mental capacity, as have many around me. How is it that I can score high on the GRE, but I can’t read a map? Did I miss that day in 7th grade geography class? Apparently I did. Whoops.
The main square, where prospective apartments reside... just waiting to underwhelm me.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Small Victories, Part II: Bologna, Day 1 1/2

 After snoozing for a bit after we arrived in Bologna, Dru and I hit the town. Earlier in the day we’d gone for a walk, and we were actually a little weirded out because nothing was open and the streets seemed relatively barren… then we realized it was Sunday, and on Sunday people apparently hide for most of the day. But it turns out  that the city is a pretty happenin’ place on Sunday night. We meandered around the city, got hit on by some boys who looked about 12, and looked for somewhere reasonable to eat… which in itself took over an hour. We are incredibly indecisive.

We eventually settled on Pizzeria Victoria, a restaurant near our hotel. After eating a delicious meal of tortellini, margherita pizza,  bread, and ½ liter of house proseco, Dru and I sat awkwardly for about 20 minutes before realizing that maybe we should flag someone down to ask about getting a bill. After about 20 more minutes of mustering up the courage to wave down a waiter (they are so quick here! Like the frickin’ Energizer Bunny), to ask “Dove si paga?” (Where does one pay?). If he didn’t know before, he definitely knew we were foreign now. I mean, yeah… Dru’s got blonde hair, that’s a giveaway… but they automatically knew we weren’t just foreign… we were American. The waiter proceeded to tell us, in English, that we need to go “inside the house” to pay. When we got up to leave, he gave us a huge smile and said “Thank you. Bye-bye.” The “bye-bye” was echoed by the man who took our money. We felt like douches and later walked down the other side of the street to avoid the waiters seeing us.

Pizza Magherita, before I polished the entire thing off.

Returning to the hotel, we veged for awhile and finally went to be around midnight. I set my ipod alarm clock to wake us up at 8:30, leaving up plenty of time to get ready and eat the free breakfast the hotel offers until 10.

Imagine my surprise when Dru and I wake up to the sound of some Italian woman screeching something indiscernible and a bunch of bangs coming from the hallway… and see that it’s 9:25. So much for ipod alarms—they can suck it. We merely threw on acceptable clothing and ran down to the breakfast bar, where I proceeded to abuse the espresso machine. Not seeing any other sized cups, I made the brilliant decision to put an espresso-sized cup beneath the machine and press the “cappuccino” button. The machine proceeded to fill the cup with 3 times the liquid it could hold. The hotel lady merely looked at me like I was an idiot and said, “No. Cup espresso… no cappuccino. Qui, cappuccino…” and handed me a larger cup that she whipped out from somewhere below the counter. Whoops. It was obvious that she thought I was mildly retarded. For a second, even I thought I was mildly retarded.

After breakfast we went down to the lobby to have a mini-meeting with Danielle, who works for the BCSP program. She dropped the bomb that we had to get cell phones today—at the very latest tomorrow—so we could begin our apartment search. Commence minor freak-out. Dru and I went to Vodafone first thing, where we met a bunch of other kids from our program. The dude behind the counter was totally overwhelmed. When it was my turn to go up, I merely said, “Siamo studentesse povere. Vorremo il cellulare piu economico.” Which translates into something like, “We are poor students. We would like the cheapest cell phone you have.” Turns out that the cheapest phone was sold out, so Dru and I both got the next cheapest thing: a nugget of a Nokia for 49 euro, plus a SIM card for 10 euro. Homefry set us up, and off we went, feeling very official with our Italian cell phones. It was actually much, much easier than we thought.

We spent the rest of the afternoon window shopping. I ended up buying a few things from Kiko Milano, which is this awesome make up brand that is only sold in Italy. Makeup has always been my weakness… but I was not amused when the Italian sales girl basically grabbed me, spit out a bunch of Italian that I did not understand, and proceeded to put mascara on one of my eyes. I had no choice but to stand there and let her do it. She then tried to get me to buy some of the mascara—and I thought she was going to be one of those crazy people who, like, shoves it in your face until you get so annoyed you buy it even though you don’t want to… but when I said, “No, grazie.” She merely shrugged and rung me up for my few purchases. Don’t worry, mom and dad, I only spent a little.

Dru and I then got some sandwiches and headed back to the hotel. We had to smuggle our food in, since we aren’t supposed to eat in our actual rooms. Oh, well. Oh, yeah, and then Dru opened the windows, which have the window panes that you open and close like you would a door, only to find out that one of our window panes is not connected up at the top. Thank god we figured out how to make it so that it didn’t fall out. The hotel would make us pay for that crap, and we don’t have the funds for broken windows or unintentional defenestration (look it up).  Once the window was back in, we took cat naps to ready ourselves for the night.

We ended up going to dinner at this super delicious restaurant in a seriously sketch area. It was located in an alleyway that was off another alleyway, which connected to a larger street… and it was downstairs, like a cave. But it was really nice and the tagliatelle al ragu was amazing. I just don’t understand how that place stays in bisniss… the five of us who went were the only ones there the entire time, and we stayed for more than 2 hours. Not a single person. Weird.

We then wen tout to get drinks at a bar called “English Empire”—and that’s without translation, it was actually called “English Empire”—and it was VERY English. Most of the patrons were Erasmus students… but the drinks were good and the company was great. On the way back to the hotel, Lindsay 1.0 and Dru hijacked a place selling sandwiches (were they gyros? I’m not sure…) with fries inside of them. The place put fries in a sandwich! Genius!

Dru with her sandwich. She is going to kill me for putting this on the internet.

 When Dru and I got back to the room we had the good sense of logging into, an Italian website that lists apartment vacancies in the area, and sending messages to apartment prospects. Yep, not such a great idea given that it was 2 AM and we had to be up in 5 hours... and considering we were slightly (but responsibly) intoxicated. Small victory! Not.

PS: Please drink responsibly, kids!