While in Egypt, he writes a lot about the people and their customs, has fun with many whores, and is awed by the splendor of the statues and the sphinx. Rather than an acknowleging an outsider’s view on the discourses of power, which may have been overlooked, I believe that Flaubert’s inability to separate race from culture made the reading hard to examine. When he talks about the Sphinx’s lack of having a nose, portraying its “blackness,” I did not know what to think. Granted, I usually took his comments on color with the historical context of the time, but I felt as if he connected each and every black person, potentially in the whole world, with terms such as “negresses.” In a physical denouncement of color, I see a very “Otherized” view of the middle-east, in that he undermines the people by generalizing them from perceptions of their skin tone. Although I agree with Said’s comment that “In all of his novels, Flaubert associates the Orient with the escapism from sexual fantasy,” I think that one could argue that Flaubert’s experience was individualized for himself, in which his travels are “authenticated” in a specific fashion.
There have been two ways I've gathered my bearings around this city, maps and, when I am with D, an iphone. While it's been great to get off the Ubahn subway and have a convenient little map that tells me where I am and which way I should go, I fear the reliance on him and his technology had thrown my sense of place and direction into one of those tiny little German wastebaskets (seriously who shrunk all the trashcans?). Recently, however, as I go out on my own I've begun to rely on other means of orientation.
First, the maps. Like New York City, I find myself constantly staring at subway maps. While the Bahn, the name for the subway, is more efficient, glossy, clean and pleasant than any other subway I've ever been on, the maps inside it are in no way easily readable. Furthermore, the lines do not exactly run north-south, east-west, or in any one direction, but rather zig-zag across the city. The names of the stops are in German, obviously, but please just stop to think about what that means. The names, most which I can barely yet understand, much less pronounce, all sound like an angry goat-alien with a cough. Take Französische Sraße, for example. Try saying that three times fast. For some reason the difficulty of pronunciation makes remembering the names very hard for me, and to be honest, it makes me feel really stupid when I can't figure out where I am or where I am going.
Thankfully, I haven't found myself lost very often. Once or twice I get off at the wrong stop or go the wrong direction on the Bahn, however, they've been in laughable circumstances. I haven't been frustrated or scared in this city, yet! The “middle of nowhere” doesn't seem to exist, compared to the deserted nothingness I sometimes found myself in when I lived in Arizona. That said, I haven't ventured into the neighborhoods the program directors urged us to only explore in the safe light of day. I love finding my way around here, and if it were warmer I'm sure I would take more chances at getting lost more often. As reliant as I tend to be on others for affection, direction, and entertainment, I do love getting a little lost by myself.
All of Berlin is covered in graffitti, and I've been told that it's literally made up of combined villages. This makes me imagine a bunch of angry-talking, punk, minimal architects must have ruled the villages at some point in the past. It's the most beautiful ugly city I've encountered. It's been said by the mayor before, but it fits too-perfectly, "Berlin is poor, but sexy." Like me, this city is in debt, but hey, we're pulling it off.
Asking directions has been nothing but a pleasant experience. Many people are polite and speak English, and also because there are only 90 people in the program, it's easy for me to ask my fellow students for help. They seem happy to tell me, or show me, and the seven or so returning students, those who were here last semester, are some of the most helpful people I have found.
While this is all formal and lovely, I think the most amazing thing I have discovered about myself in this experience is I'm probably more reliable getting back somewhere drunk than any other person I know. As long as I walked there conscious I can get back, even with a few hooligans on tow. I know I'm bragging, but let's be real: this is a good skill to have when the iphone dies at 6 am in Kreuzberg.
Thankfully, I was able to put an Italian SIM card in my American Droid phone, so I have been able to keep my Google Maps on standby if I ever need it, which sometimes I do. I try not to use it as to better orient myself without the help of technology, but sometimes, I must admit, I take the easy way out when I’m not doing daily activities. For this reason, I don’t use a physical map, but I have still formed a mental image of the city in my mind. The big piazzas definitely help with this mental map. To the upper right of my apartment is Piazza della Signorina and to the upper left of my apartment is Piazza della Repubblica. If I keep walking to the right out of my apartment, I will hit the Arno river and the Ponte Vecchio, which if I cross it, I will then hit Palazzo Pitti. The first two to three weeks I was here, I was still lost and confused all the time and just knew how to get home and to school. Only repetition, time, and exploring on my own has helped me to form my image of Florence.
Public transportation in Florence is a whole other subject. This morning, I get to the bus stop to take the number 25 bus from San Marco, and the sign says it will be there in one minute. “Good,” I think, “Right on time.” Ten minutes later, it’s still flashing “1 minute” and you can feel the growing frustration at the bus stop, namely by the NYU students who are going to be late to class. After about 15 minutes with only 5 minutes to spare before class starts, 3 other girls and I took a cab up to campus to our class. I’m all for the Italian way of not being on time anywhere, but when it comes to public transport, it does make me miss the efficiency of New York (however the L train is another story).
That being said, Buenos Aires is definitely the most frustrating city to navigate that I have encountered thus far in my blip of an existence. In my experience, this is mainly due to a lack of street signs, but the fact that I'm only intermediate in Spanish doesn't help either. The combination of confusing directions and a lack of streets signs (or god forbid, a faded and cracked one, which are everywhere) really adds to my stress when walking around the city or actually trying to make it to a specified destination. I've been told (by NYU and porteños - locals - alike) that you should really avoid trying to look lost or pull out a map in Buenos Aires since it might make you more prone to being robbed, and though I don't know have much truth there is to this, I can't get in out of my head and I don't really want to take my chances.
Besides the fear that I might get robbed or any other negative thoughts that cross my mind when navigating, I actually enjoy wandering around quite a bit. This city is full of all sorts of quirks - like all the random chunks of cement missing from the sidewalk - as well as some very interesting street art and political graffiti. It's feels really liberating to just walk and wonder. A continuous stream of images of the people and places that create, that are this wonderful city are all I need to keep my feet moving and my mind ebbing and flowing from small personal relections to moments of silence for the beauty around me.
I have to say though, figuring out this city's streets has been made less difficult for me by the myriad of wonderful people that I ask for directions. Last Sunday, I encountered a wonderful woman when trying to make it home from the San Telmo fair (all sorts of kitschy and artisan stuff!). I had just reached the end of Calle Florida - where police swarm constantly - and emerged next to Plaza San Martin, which was practically deserted. This plaza is notorious for being filled with theives, and though I knew my house was nearby, I didn't want to risk wandering through the plaza to find it, especially since it's quite big. I asked a woman for directions, and she told me she was little unsure of my street's location, but offered to walk with me. The next five minutes were great, as my new friend explained the history of the area to me, places to see, others to avoid, and then some. Though the streets here may never make total sense to me, I know that I can rely on friendly perteños to help me on my way.
Thus far the process of wayfinding has been incredibly slow and always frustrating. Today marks the one-week anniversary of my arrival here in Argentina. I have yet to take the colectivo (bus system) or subte (subway) alone; I’ve always been accompanied by a friend or porteño (local Argentine) who knows their way. Today was the first day of classes, and I have the walk from my homestay to the Academic Center down. It’s incredibly easy, but takes about 30 minutes, therefore I see myself converting to the colectivo as my means of transport once I have more confidence in how the system works (which I hope is soon!). Beyond these two sole locations that I truly know, all other travels must be planned; there is an Argentine version of HopStop that hs been of use, along with the detailed colectivo guidebook NYU gave us, called Guia “T” (which has a setup similar to Battleship when finding a route, which is pretty fun).
In my seven days here, however (and holy cow, does it feel infinitely longer than that) using my own two feet has been my preferred form of navigation. Even walking (no matter how long or short of a trip it is) can be stressful, because if you’re not on a major avenue, there are no street signs (and even when there are, they’re often cracked in half and thus illegible), and due to the pseudo-grid format, there is no way of pointing out major landmarks, because they cannot be easily seen like the Empire State Building, looking down Fifth Avenue.
I’ve never been that great with having any sort of sense of cardinal direction, and I feel I need it now more than ever. I hope that once familiarity with my surroundings increases, using more public transportation and finally discovering an inner-compass will follow. I’ve been lucky to not be totally and completely lost yet, but I don’t doubt future attempts at taking the buses and going to new places will lead to this – I just hope I’m ready!
I don’t want to get mugged so I start walking down the street as if I know where I am, and am completely accustomed to the dog shit everywhere on the ground and the cat calls from the Porteno men. I am now extremely wary of everyone taking advantage of me because they know I have no idea where I am. I am sure every Taxi driver is taking us in circles, and every merchant is ripping us off. But really what can I do?
There are only two locations in this whole city I know and that is 1314 Anchorena, and Billinghurst and Las Heras, my homestay and the academic center. Everything else on the map revolves around these two points. Everyday I piece together a little bit more with random “aha” moments of how one location connects to another. Its like when I first came to New York and would walk around aimlessly with no understanding of where I was, and later it all came together in fragments. Once the connection is made between the drawings of the map and the real world a little piece of my mind is put at rest triumphantly.
I know it would seem as an orientation leader that I know the city incredibly well, but Buenos Aires is a fickle mistress. The streets are obscured with construction scalloping and hoards of people and for much of the week, my mind was foggy from heat and fatigue. I alternate between feeling like I know everything about the city and incredibly confused and answerless. When I fail to know where something is or how to do something, I feel inadequate to the new students. Example: Q- Where do I exchange traveler’s checks. A- I’ve never used them here. Q- Where do I go to get a Brazilian visa? A- Not sure, I’ve never been to Brazil. I think some people don’t fully understand that I’m a fellow student. On the other hand, it’s been incredibly funny to hear some questions of people who clearly did little to no research about Buenos Aires. Example: (While looking at a map of Buenos Aires) Q- Where’s the ocean? A- On the coast of Argentina. At moments like this, I remember that I once was a confused and tired student sitting where they are, albeit I had looked at a map before I left.
Watching the discovery process of the new students makes me so happy to be where I am. It took me about two months in BsAs before I felt fully comfortable and at ease. It is an arduous and oftentimes frustrating process getting to know a new city, but it has to be done. I remind myself constantly that it took time when I moved to New York to learn the best routes, restaurants, etc. and I had been there about ten times before coming to NYU. It’s so funny for me to orient the new students to the city because my process of learning BsAs comes back to me in fond and distinct ways. I look forward to seeing how they take to the city, but more importantly, how I will expand the boundaries of the areas I know in the upcoming semester.
The picture is from a scavenger hunt we do to learn the area where we live. It means "Look for him." I thought it was fitting since we spend so much time searching when we're new to places.
In general, Ghanaians laugh at us when we ask how the tro tro systems work, how we tell where they go and how much to pay. They don’t mean to be cruel, or to strike fear into the hearts of novice travelers; I can only assume that to them, the image of a white person on a tro tro is roughly equivalent to seeing a camel dance the conga; it just isn’t done, and tends to fail miserably when attempted. The fact is, however, that taxis are still a luxury to us, and two or three cedis will buy a few days worth of fruit. Thirty cedi, the cost of a tai from Kokrobite to Accra, the distance we intended to travel, was groceries at the supermarket for a week. When trotros are less than one cedi for the same difference, who could blame us for being interested?
Unlike my friends, I had faith in the system, and our ability to get home eventually. I wasn’t worried that the tro tro would take to the wrong place, or that we would miss our stop. I had faith in the driver’s ability to understand the conversation we had had before boarding. “Will this bus take us to Accra?” “Yes.”
Seemed simple enough to me.
But my friends panicked and fretted over the roads we were taking, what direction we were headed, should we get off here? Each time I pointed out that there was literally nothing at this stop, and plus, we had barely been on the bus a half hour. It took at least a full hour to get from the beach to Accra. At the first sign of city life, my friends rushed off the bus in order to hail a taxi, but as I followed behind them, I knew we had no idea where we were. In a place where you name your price for a taxi and bargain from there, to not know your location put you in a precarious position. So we puttered around and flagged down a taxi, guessing at the price. “Ten cedi to Accra?” The driver refused, which meant, quixotically, that we were on the right track. After bargaining to thirteen, we climbed in the taxi, luxuriating the in the legroom and the fact we were no longer human luggage racks. Luxury of course came at a price, but everyone let out the breath they had been holding since Kokrobite when the recognizable landmarks of Accra came into view. Next time, I’ll trust the tro tro a little bit longer, stay on to go a little bit farther. In theory, when I leave Ghana, I won’t look quite so strange to the everyday riders.
(Photo is my own, from Kokrobite)
I’ve been here for three weeks now, but I could not tell you what part of town I live in. I have no idea which way is North, South, or East. I occasionally figure out which way is West when I see a mosque or someone praying facing Mecca. In general though, there is only one method to the madness of getting around Abu Dhabi – taxi.
In most other places I’ve been in the world, private taxis tend to be very expensive. In New York for example, I only take them if the subway is down and I’m with enough people to make splitting the fare reasonable. However, taxis here in Abu Dhabi are incredibly low-cost. When I go to my internship at the German-Emirati Chamber of Commerce, a 12-minute ride, it costs me 10 dirham, or $2,75. Heading to our favorite nightspot, 10- minutes, 8 dirham.
It is fantastic, and the drivers know almost every location in the city. Even though there are no addresses, and therefore no GPS really possible, we just refer to a big landmark, or a hotel or mall nearby. Getting back to the dorms the phrase is always “Sama Tower, by NMC Hospital- It’s the really tall one.”
Adding further to my lack of Abu Dhabi directional knowledge, NYU- Abu Dhabi shuttles us everywhere. To start, we have a bus that leaves every 10-15 minutes for the classrooms and offices at DTC (Downtown Campus). For weekly activities like squash practices and such we get picked up in cars, and for school-sponsored events or dinners we take a mini-bus. I’ve already been taken to the HSBC Golf Tournament to see Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy and to 2-hours to Dubai for rockclimbing with the 2-time World Champion speed climber. Clearly, having no sense of location has not prevented me from going places. If it isn’t NYU itself, a cab is an easy option.
I guess that my wayfinding is institutionalized.
The snow fell this morning in deep flurries and swirls in Berlin much like it did in my native Minneapolis, trailing dreamily through the cold winter air and bringing back wonderful reminiscing of the things I used to do as a child in the snow in northern Minnesota. I should really say that it was the afternoon at 3 when the beauty of the street was made known to me and my cup of coffee on my way out onto my balcony for a cigarette break. It made the beauty of the neighborhood no less dreamy, however, and it had a particularly calming effect on my frayed mental processes, as “frayed” is the state my mind seems to be in most often since I arrived. The best way I can describe what my inner self feels like currently is a pile of softness over a pile of sharp broken things poking painfully through, almost what I would imagine a fractured bone would feel like, except I’ve never had one before.
It is funny really, in my application to study abroad included an overly exuberant desire to have “a soul stretching experience”. I have a history of putting myself in difficult situations. I don’t know why I do, perhaps its a masochistic desire of mine to feel something other than what I suppose I should be learning at the time. Perhaps those two are one and the same. What I really think it is though, is it being my own internal boredom at the life I lead. I am more excited to be here than you are aware, than I am aware of even. Regardless, as I sipped on my coffee and watched the snow drift beautifully down, coating the street and roof tops of the apartment buildings and subway station, I spiritually reached down and felt the tender parts of my psyche and reminded myself pain was just pain, to be endured. There was opportunities in my future that were worth enduring initial shock for, and in my true style, I welcome them with open arms and a deep breath, knowing it will all be great in the end.
The bars here have been either very classy or very, very strange. My friends and I visited two bars Thursday night, one named Das Klo and the other I don’t remember. I do remember, however, the decorations in both bars. Das Klo in English means The Toilet in German, and the interior was exactly what it would look like if Bigfoot ate a halloween super store and spread the resulting excrement all over the interior of this bar. The tables were on hydraulic pumps that the bartender manipulated with in order to entertain the clients, there were rolls of toilet paper instead of napkins on the walls, and there were toilet brushes embedded into the dirty insulation coated on the walls. There were also multiple tv sets embedded into the insulation showing lewd and disgusting things. I would not recommend coming here though because it is very overpriced and I did not feel comfortable watching people vomit on tv while having my drinks. The second bar was what I thought a stereotypical gay German bar would look like. The walls were carpeted in this hot pink shag material. On top of laser light shows glazing the surfaces in dancing green dots, there was silver tinsel hanging from the ceiling in sheets, floor to ceiling American pop art, and a variety of the Beatles, Sigur Ros, and trance hop narrated the general debauchery and cigarette smoke. We met some guys from another university from a variety of places there, and I have a feeling they were all homosexual, but honestly in this city I cant really tell what everyone’s sexuality is in this city.
In application to the theme, I am of the understanding that one must gather one's wits before comfortably exploring one's surroundings. My ability to establish my sense of home in this new environment has been ultimately necessary to begin to build a reference point to understand how my new world was in relation to my home. Most importantly, my home is my recharge point, my place of peace, to reflect, absorb, and understand everything that has happened as I began to foray into the unknown city that is Berlin. And for this reason I understand my way finding to be centralized around my mental state. I am happy to say that this, and my new found home, has been everything that I wanted to experience while away, and I hope this brief period of adjustment passes as soon as possible.
I’d like to say up front that I have absolutely no sense of direction. I’d also like it to be known that Paris is shaped like an “escargot” meaning that the twenty "arrondisements" are situated in such a way that they spiral out from the center. In other words: Me+Paris = lost all the time. Or so one would think…
On one of my first days in Paris, I was given a detailed map booklet that I immediately knew was going to be too complicated for me to handle. Oh contraire! I was able to figure out where I needed to go using the easy-to-read map of “le métro” in the back of the booklet. Unfortunately, I quickly lost this treasured map. And I lost the one I received after that. And the one after that too! (Lost map count: 3). It seemed that it wasn’t so much that Iwas lost but that my maps, themselves, kept getting finding their way out of my purse. Something in the world didn’t want my map skills to improve so quickly. Rather, Paris knew that I needed time to wander aimlessly before I was allowed to have a long-term map.
And wander I did. The great thing about Paris is that it was there to catch me when I wandered into unknown territories (which are everywhere). There are actually maps of the city posted all over the place and they are high-tech at that! They are illuminated at night, they list the locations of every street in the vicinity, and they even scroll up and down if you need to more closely examine another area of the map. All of the street signs tell you in which arrondisement you are currently wandering, which is helpful both when you do have a map and when you don’t. (Although it is sometimes difficult to locate the street signs, themselves, as they are attached to the sides of buildings).
One of my favorite walks was from the American Express Exchange Bureau to the Georges Pompidou Museum where I was supposed to meet my friends. This was during a time when I lacked a map but had the city’s super curvy streets that constantly change names to…guide me? Well, of course I had the maps along the street that I could stop and look at if need be, but it turned out that once I figured out my route, I could pretty much stay on one road and I would get to where I wanted to be. On the way, I found a flea market piled with clothes, books, DVDs, weird lamps, old postcards, and, of course, French people! It was wonderful to hear the buzzing of a busy market in the tones of my favorite foreign language. (The photo is from the market!) I eventually found the Pompidou and my friends but not before I stood in the completely wrong line to get into the museum. (I only found this out after being asked – in English – if I knew where the front of the museum was).
Weeks later, I’m happy to report, my fourth little booklet and I are going strong. I used it today to get to the University of Paris (even though I’ve been there before)! I pulled it out yesterday to find a métro stop that turned out to be right in front of me! But at least now I have begun folding down corners of areas that I frequent and circling métro stops that I need to remember. My map will be quite personalized once I leave France. My knowledge of the city increases all the time, and today, someone asked me for directions! Unfortunately I had to respond with a “Je ne sais pas, désolée.” However, this cartographical conversation took place completely in French (just like real parisiennes)! I couldn’t have been happier not knowing how to point her in the right direction.
I have a secret to finding my way around any city and it is my IPhone. Google Maps has been my hero in plenty of situations when I am lost or I don’t know where I am going. Fortunately living in New York I was accustomed to the simple grid of Manhattan, and the directions of the subway lines, that I no longer needed to look up directions. As long as I knew Eastside, Westside, or Uptown and Downtown, I would eventually find my destination without trouble.
Before leaving for Florence, I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t have Google Maps or a phone to call or text people. My first few days I spent glued to the Florence map that NYU provided us with at orientation. It was hard for me to figure out what is north, because the city has streets that cross diagonally across the town. For example if I made a left out of my apartment, I would eventually walk to the main part of the city. However, one wrong turn you could end up on another side of town. Florence is smaller than New York but its separated into so many Piazzas and bridges that it seems more complex. Every street has confused me because their names all have a "via" and sound so similar to each other.
It took me a few days and walking with Marcos around the neighborhood to understand that I am outside of the city center and farther from the Arno River than other students. Although it has been 2 weeks and I am still in the processes of figuring out ATAF, the Firenze bus system. I thought I got the main idea of the busses after Marcos showed us how to get take the 6 bus to the 25 bus to get to school. I was happy to learn before it was too late that the busses won’t stop at your stop unless you press the "fermata" button, and won't pick you up unless you hail them like a taxi. However on my way back on the 6 bus, the route was different so I didn’t realize until 10 minutes later that my roommate, Marah and I already passed our house. We began to panic as soon as the bus crossed an unknown bridge to another side of town we've never seen! I saw that the 6 stop in the other direction was up a head so we pressed the "stop" button to hop off and run to the other side of the road chasing the 6 bus. The obnoxious orange bus passed right by us with no hesitation and we were stuck at the stop in the cold for another 15 minutes. We were too scared to walk anywhere because we didn’t see any familiar landmarks like the Duomo, and NYU had warned us of thefts and walking alone at night.
It has been a week since then and I now surmise that NYU exaggerated the danger in Italy. I learned as long as you don’t flaunt that you are American and stay with a friend that there is nothing to fear. The taxis are a waste of money, unless you use them between 10pm and 2am when they provide a 15% discount to females (only if you remember to ask). I learned the hard way that hailing a taxi is more expensive than to call one. I can walk to the city center from my house, but I found a few buses that I can take to visit farther locations. I am now beginning to find my way around Firenze. I don't pull out the map of Firenze as often as the lay of the land is becoming indelibly marked in my mind.
Even something as simple as a smart phone is one thing I’ve noticed I took for granted the most out of all my electronics back home. It actually wasn’t until last night when a group of us tried to go out and watch the super bowl that I realized how cut off and stranded I feel from the world without being able to instantly look up where I was. There are only a handful of street signs that may or may not be correct, no house numbers, no cross streets, sometimes not even paved streets. So how do you find your bearings in a place that is mapped out through billboard signs and restaurant landmarks? I’ve slowly learned that you don’t.
I can get a few choice places; the gym, academic center, Osu, a couple of bars (all which are in walking distance) and that’s about it. Take me off the route I learned and have been taking from day one and I would be so turned around I couldn’t tell you where I was. The streets don’t run parallel, there is no grid system, and the highways that we know of and have seen on a map aren’t labeled, only color coded.
It’s already become a way of life and something that I’ve accepted and stopped trying to fight. We were told at the beginning of the semester that NYU Accra used to give out maps to their students, but nobody was using them and they really were no help. How can you have a map when you have no street signs?
It’s become a daily routine of catching a cab, asking if he knows where Phoenix Insurance is in Osu (the gym is right next door), watching the confused look on his face, knowing that he doesn’t know where this is, but wants our money anyways. He finds it eventually by following the millions of signs with arrows pointing in the direction of which large landmarks are in, and then the process repeats itself when it’s time to come back home.
I realize that it’s hard not to have a humorous attitude towards the situation if even the locals don’t know where they are going. The real difference is that nobody is in a big enough hurry to care. Life in Ghana is so slow compared to life in New York. I find myself having to make a conscious effort to slow down and not get frustrated at the pace of life.
Taxis have been the main way most of us get around in Accra, but my group of friends took a tro tro for the first time this weekend on our way back from a beach trip. Tro tro’s are the public transit system that isn’t like any other you’ve seen. There are old large vans that run on a particular route. However, these routes are not marked and neither are the tro tro stops. I assume it’s just a word of mouth system that people pick up the more you use them. We were lucky enough to have a Ghanaian friend help us get on the right one and home safely.
Overall, finding my bearings in Ghana has been more about getting used to the fact that I probably will never actually “find my bearings.” It’s about going with the flow, slowing down, talking to people, being aware of your surroundings, and being patient with every situation you encounter. I can tell my body will always fight my natural instincts to know where exactly I am on a map, but I’m excited to try and let that go for the next four months.
As the taxi pulled up to Via Ricasoli, my friend Becky eagerly awaited my arrival on the sidewalk. Relieved to see a familiar face, she welcomed me into our new home. As I stepped into the kitchen I was greeted by four unfamiliar faces; “meet our new roommates,” said Becky. After introducing ourselves we decided to get dinner together, “so, do any of you speak Italian?” I asked. At first I was a bit worried, how are we going to communicate with anyone? Dinner at a restaurant seemed like a disaster, but we decided to give it a try. I plugged the address of the restaurant into my Iphone (which has been a lifesaver thus far) and we were on our way. Getting to the restaurant wasn’t an issue, but asking for a table for six was. Becky managed to get us a table, as she combined hand motions with her ability to speak Spanish. We got through dinner by pointing to things on the menu. Getting to school in the morning would definitely be a challenge.
It was nine am and we were headed for the bus stop. We were told to wait for bus twenty-five which would depart at 9:10. How difficult could it be? Twenty minutes later we began to panic. Where is the bus? Did we miss it? We soon learned that absolutely nothing in Florence follows a schedule, ever. And so the bus finally pulled up at 9:50. We thought that the rest of the ride would be smooth, but of course, we were in for another surprise. Apparently the bus drivers switch shifts often, which took another fifteen minutes. We finally got to school at 10:20—thankfully we left ourselves plenty of time for the first day! Finding my way to classes was, of course, complicated as well. I couldn’t wait for the day to end and to get back on the bus and look for the duomo—the landmark that lets me know I’m almost home.