Saturday, February 20, 2010, 8:09 PM, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

In 1505, Michelangelo’s David was revealed to the city of Florence, Italy. The gigantic statue, filled with the terribilità that characterizes Michelangelo’s greatest masterpieces, awed the Florentines, reminding them of their greatness and inspiring them to action. This statue is known to many as Michelangelo’s greatest creation – surpassing even the majesty of the Sistine Chapel, still able to inspire the masses as it did five hundred years before. David, already a symbol of Florence and the Florentine people prior to this statue’s creation, is depicted. This David, however, unlike the Davids of other artisans, recreates the exact moment prior to the Biblical character’s battle and subsequent triumph over Goliath, the tyrannical giant. Michelangelo’s David is suspended for eternity in deep thought, looking into the distance, contemplating what very well could his demise, and yet, still clutching the sling and stone, ready for the struggle to come.

On my last day in Florence, I stood in front of Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia for at least an hour. While the magic was still there, it seemed as if I was looking at a different character, at a piece art that told a different story than it had a mere four months before, when I first laid eyes upon it. I was struck as silent on my last day as I was on my first, just as I was each visit I paid to Florence’s famed museum, each visit invoking and inspiring new emotions, sometimes soothing in times of homesickness, others leaving me to wonder.

This last time, I gazed into David’s eyes, turned and walked away, refusing to look back even one last time, unwilling to mar the memories I was planning to take home to the United States. “What was it,” I wondered, as I walked away, “that was different?” Surely, it could not have been the statue. Michelangelo is long dead, and no one would dare to mar his work of art. David’s eyes told the same story. His hands clutched the same stone. But the girl that walked away from David that day, and Florence the next, was not the girl that hopped off her first international flight four months before.

As we left the Galleria dell’Accademia, I linked arms with my housemate and friend, needing that small connection as we wandered one last time the streets of Florence, along the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio, past the Duomo and up towards the piazza that overlooks the city. Carlee and I were silent for a long time that day, linked only by our arms and our memories. Both of us had changed. Four months before, I was barely able to master the basic Italian needed to buy my groceries or order a panino – now I could converse with anyone, strangers and friends alike. Four months before, I knew the basics of the Renaissance – now I could wax poetic about the highs and lows of the Italian Renaissance, identifying the major works of art by all of the Italian greats. Four months before, I had never hiked the Alps or seen the water overflow from the canals onto the streets of Venice. I had not visited the Vatican; I had not personally allied myself with the Medici Family. Four months before, I did not have a family of Italians to take care of me, to laugh with me, to love with me. Four months before, I was a different person.

Even now as I write this, I can look down at my wrist to see “Firenze” boldly emblazoned on the purple leather bracelet I have worn every day since before I left my home in Florence. The small, outward change in appearance does not even begin to proclaim or explain the dramatic changes on the person inside. Studying abroad in Florence changed my life. In exchange for the piece of myself I left behind, I took my own little piece back with me to America, unwilling and unable to pretend to be the same person that left. I clutch my imaginary sling and stone, as Michelangelo’s David has done before me, and like Michelangelo intended, I am now inspired and ready for whatever may face me.

"Reverse Culture Shock"

Sunday, January 31, 2010 8:09 PM, Ehringhaus Residence Hall, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

I always thought I would end my blog on the plane ride home, but it seems the journey has yet to end there, so neither should this blog.

I’m back home in Chapel Hill. I love my classes and being back. Christmas in Georgia was wonderful, though I was unable to make it back to Mobile for any extended time. Home is good. America is great.

But I miss Italy. It’s harder than I thought, this “Reverse Culture Shock.” Twenty-first Century technology irritates me. I STILL haven’t fully adjusted to American food. I miss my people and Renaissance art.

I have found that I am so different than the girl that left over five months ago, and some people cannot recognize or accept that. Some people have changed in ways I cannot adjust to, and others have not changed in ways I wish they would.

I sound spoiled and selfish, but I wrote this blog, promising to be more than honest, but to tell the truth. It is what it is, I suppose.

Returning December 19? JUST KIDDING! Back on the 20th.

Sunday, December 20, 2009, In a Plane Somewhere Over the Atlantic, 2:09 PM Eastern Standard Time.

You could call me a tease. Arriving in JFK at 6:05 PM on Saturday, December 19, 2009? JUST KIDDING!!!!!! Italy loved me too much to let me go. Luckily God and a very nice lady name Laura Celini stepped in, and now I’m getting home before Christmas…I probably should start from the beginning.

Friday afternoon, before I even wrote my last blog, my mom had been in contact with me, worried about the snow in JFK, hoping we BOTH could get there. There was also some rumblings going around Florence about a “snow storm” aka two inches of snow covering Florence and delaying all flights. Friday afternoon, I was hardcore doubting this. So was Carlee. We had zero worries about this prospect.

Low and behold, Carlee, Natalie, and I met up with some of our friends after dinner to encounter large snowflakes falling from the sky. Neither Carlee, nor I thought the snow would stick or delay any flights. (Before y’all start hating about a girl from Alabama and a girl from Texas giving less-than-expert commentary on the snow, I would like to point out that Carlee lived in Denver, Colorado for nearly ten years.) Later Friday night, Anna Underwood called Natalie to let us know that her taxi had been cancelled to the airport due to the snow.

All the Orientation training and dealing with registration chaos came in handy as I counseled Natalie. No worries, I figured. Anna was going to the airport at 4:30 AM. We’re going to get out of here. Our 7:30 taxi hadn’t been cancelled.

And the next morning, we got to the airport just fine to discover eventually that all flights were cancelled until 1:00. MASS CHAOS. MASS CHAOS. MASS CHAOS. Seriously. Nearly every student studying in Florence was trying to get home. I saw almost everybody I knew. Everyone had different plans. Anna and Jonny were getting on a bus to Rome to fly to Zurich to Chicago to Orlando and Charlotte, respectively. Ann Mills, Mary Pell, and Claire were taking a train to Rome to fly to Frankfurt and spend the night before flying home the next day. All the Lufthansa flights, however, were cancelled, and nobody would be able to get on a plane from Florence until Tuesday at the absolute earliest. Some people, Lindsay included, decided to stay and stick it out. Natalie, Sam, and Ariana got on a train to Rome, spend the night in a hotel for the weekend, and leave Monday – all paid by themselves.

All of these people were not alone on their flights. I didn’t know ANYBODY on my Alitalia flight to Rome and then to JFK. Makes sense, I guess.  While I met a lot of Yankees, I didn’t make good friends with anybody that lives up North. Alitalia put us on a bus to Rome though at 11:30 AM. And while I suspected that I wasn’t going to make my 2:35 connecting to Rome, I was hoping maybe there would be another flight out that day.

It was during this MASS CHAOS in the airport that I befriended some girls who knew each other and were on my flight. By the grace of God, I sat next to a very nice girl named Meghan on the bus to Rome. When we were nearly to Rome, an Alitalia representative announced that we would, in fact, NOT be making our connecting flight. We were being taken STRAIGHT to the hotel.  We were “guaranteed” a flight leaving the next day at the same time.

Okay, one day delay. It could be worse, right? RIGHT. Meghan and I decided to share a hotel room, even though we both COULD have done singles. We both just wanted to have someone else there. Our hotel was pretty swank, actually, and when we laid down on our beds to relax until dinner, we discovered Gilmore Girls IN ENGLISH on television. Score.

Well, then we get down to dinner – buffet style, lots of options and really good – and sit at a table with two students we do NOT know and two friends of Meghan that were supposed to fly out on Alitalia on the earlier flight that day. When we’re sitting there talking, it’s revealed that those two girls were told they were the last ones on the 2:35 December 20th flight…and they have actual paper tickets. We also start hearing rumors about people who have called Alitalia and our supposed guarantee flight was booked.

So Meghan starts to panic. I start to worry. We call our respective parents. Mama says we should go to the airport and talk to an Alitalia person right away. Calling isn’t going to do anything. So after some discussion with Meghan, we grab our passports and take the next shuttle to the airport. When we get THERE, we see three girls (students from Florence that were on our earlier bus) in tears, telling us they waited in line for an hour and a half only to discover that they were standby for the rest of the week, all flights were booked, hopefully they would leave by Wednesday.

Okay, so this is stressful. In fact, Meghan calls her dad, telling him to book her any flight anywhere in the region of NYC…meaning the whole of New England, Philly included. (She’s from Long Island.) Resident Advisor/Orientation Leader Emily takes over. Lord knows I was stressing, too, but you know, there wasn’t anything we could do. One step at a time. (That Venetian adventure changed me.)

After waiting in line for five minutes (wrong line?) and after talking to a very nice Alitalia representative Laura Celini, Meghan and I were literally, miraculously, given two BUSINESS CLASS SEATS on the 2:35 plane leaving today…the two last seats on the plane. We jumped and screamed and were generally OVER EXCITED.

So finally we get on the shuttle back to the hotel to run into the two girls from dinner and an artist that had been trying to leave Florence. Those two girls were given tickets to leave Tuesday and their hotel is no longer covered. The artist is flying to Istanbuhl to spend the night before flying back to JFK. At this point, I feel bad and don’t want to see ANYONE from Florence. They are going to HATE me. And Meghan starts stressing, thinking something is wrong.

When we got back to the hotel we went up to the room of the two friends of Meghan from dinner: Jackie and Jess. After a discussion, we compromise and go to the airport at 9:30 AM. (Jackie and Meghan were worried about getting on the flight.)

So then fast-forward to breakfast this morning: Meghan, Jackie, Jess and I are all sitting at a table eating and talking with Cecilia, a girl they knew from Florence who had NOT gone to the airport last night, having gone STRAIGHT to her room after the bus dropped us off; she hadn’t heard ANY rumors.  She assumed she was on the flight today, but decided she should go to the airport with us since she had a lot of luggage.

She didn’t make the flight. And neither did anyone else from our bus that assumed they were going to. I feel horrible and hope they get home SOONER than possible.

But I can’t say that I’m glad to be going home. Those “not wanting to leave” thoughts have been erased, and I can’t wait get off this plane and see my family, be protected by the American Constitution, eat a hamburger, etc…although, I must admit, This whole Business Class thing is SWANKY. Down comforter. Four course meal, including DOCG wines and LAMB. I’m kind of out of my element.  I may have studied abroad in Florence for four months and know all the social etiquette and all that, but I’m just a poor student. OOC.

I’d probably ride with the luggage though if that got me home today. I had rationalized and made myself feel better, but I woke up this morning SO glad to be going home today. Still glad. Still can’t wait.

I guess this blog isn’t over until I’m home? Do I have to say good-bye to all y’all, too?

Love, Love, Love, as per usual, per sempre (for always).

Ciao, y’all.

My Last Night in Florence

Venerdi, 18 Decembre 2009 18:35, Stanza di Carlee, Via della Colonna, Firenze, Italia.

In New York City, right where my plane lands tomorrow – Friday, December 18, 2009 12:35 PM.

“Are you ready?” Carlee asked me after more than an hour of sitting in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia this afternoon, staring up into the eye’s of Michelangelo’s masterpiece.

Her voice interrupted my daze, and I stood up from my chair, stared up into the eyes of David, knowing I would never be ready. I walked away, refusing to turn around. Now it’s time to move forward, knowing I’ll be back, if only to see David once more.

A few hours post-Accademia visit, I’m “blogging away” down in Carlee’s room (exactly two floors below mine) partly because it’s warmer and partly because I was down here chilling with Carlee before she had to leave for an apertivo with her school. I actually plan on sleeping down here tonight. It’s WAY warmer than my room, and I’ll be leaving Carlee tomorrow morning. Trying to soak in every minute I can.

Last night all the UNC folks (plus Carlee, of course) went out to Lion’s Fountain to karaoke ONE LAST TIME. And then most of us headed to the Secret Bakery ONE LAST TIME. This morning, Carlee and I got up and got some things done at the San Lorenzo Market ONE LAST TIME. We spent some time in the cathedral ONE LAST TIME. A bunch of UNC people ate together at Ciro and Sons (Italian pizza ONE LAST TIME).

I hugged a lot of people the final goodbye at Ciro and Sons, and I think maybe that was when it was starting to sink in that I really AM leaving tomorrow. Those goodbyes weren’t too bad though, I suppose. They’ll be with me in Chapel Hill in January. After a quick trip to the library to check our email and another quick trip to a flower stand to buy flowers for Anastasia, Carlee and I went to the Accademia one last time. Of course I had to say goodbye to David.

Carlee and I did a final stroll around Florence, stopping by the Ponte Vecchio to watch the “golf tournament” that was going on. (They put little islands in the Arno for people to golf towards. So cool.)

My bags are packed. My USA Verizon phone is charged. I’m basically as ready as I’ll ever be to hop on a plane tomorrow morning.

Ciao, y’all. See you soon.

I Miss Roberto Already

Giovedi, 17 Decembre 2009 17:30, Via della Colonna, Firenze, Italia.

In the good ol’ USA, Thursday, December 17, 2009 11:30 AM.

I just said goodbye to Roberto. I think that was literally one of the hardest things I have ever done in my entire life. I will most likely never see that wonderful man ever again. The last day of class is never a big deal. Paige, Natalie and I all got our grades one at a time (A!!!) and were allowed to leave. None of us left. We didn’t want to.

Eventually we had to, obviously, but it really does make me want to cry. Roberto Bazzouli, you are one of my favorite people in the entire world. I wish I could take you home with me.

But now I’m about to go over to Natalie’s room to paint my nails before dinner. And then after dinner, all of the UNC people (plus Carlee, who’s one of us now, of course) are going out together. Of course, we’ll all go to the Secret Bakery one last time. And then home to bed to wake up to our very last full day in Florence.

I am ready to be home with all of you – my bags are even packed – but I really, really hate this.

Ciao, y’all.

I guess I'm going home soon...but isn't Florence home?

Giovedi, 17 Decembre 2009 1:10, Via della Colonna, Firenze, Italia.

In Atlanta, Georgia, Wednesday, December 16, 2009 7:10 PM.

I hate goodbyes. I loathe them. I put them off as long as possible. (“No worries! We’ll see each other again before the semester is over!”) Most times, I avoid them entirely, usually receiving a phone or text message later: “Emily! We didn’t get to actually say good-bye in person!”

“No worries,” I will always respond. “It isn’t like we won’t see each other again. I love you!”

That’s the problem with studying abroad. I’ve said goodbyes already today..and I’ve said them to people that I will most likely never see again. I have said goodbye for probably the last time to people that have been extremely important figures in my life for the past four months. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, they are gone.  Sure, some of these people have facebooks. But some of them don’t.  And even if they do, that probably won’t make much of a difference.

Gia left while I was still taking my Italian final. She gave me a hug, told me she loved me, and left. I still hadn’t even finished my exam, didn’t get to hug her properly. Amy left after the cooking final. That girl and I clicked. We’ve gone to lunch and talk and discuss our personal lives…this time tomorrow she’ll be back in San Diego, and I’ll still be here, fixing to go home to the complete opposite side of our country.

It’s finally starting to sink in.

When you apply to study abroad, you think about saying goodbye to your friends and family at home, but you don’t expect to make new ones, incorporate them into your circle, and then have to say goodbye for good.

I don’t like it. Non mi piace.

Now it’s past 1:00 AM. I’m finished with my exams, and I’m avoiding going to bed because when I wake up, I have to finish packing before seeing Roberto one last time, before being forced to say another real goodbye, before admitting to myself that I have to walk away yet again.

My problem would be solved if teleportation was an option. Just saying.

Ciao, y’all.

Didn't Insult Any Italians Today

Martedi, 15 Decembre 2009 17:01, Via della Colonna, Firenze, Italia.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where all y’all are taking your own exams, Tuesday. December 15, 2009 11:01 AM.

Reasons I Know My Italian Oral Went Really Well

1.       I did NOT tell Roberto that I think Italians are retarded.

2.       I ended up telling Roberto about boy drama back home.

3.       I taught Roberto how to properly use the phrase “trifiling.”

Good day? Haha. Definitely. My Art Final went better than expected, too. Now I just need to make it through my Italian written exam, Renaissance Culture and Civilization, and the Pairing Food and Wine Practical. And then packing and going home. Crazy. GONNA SEE Y’ALL SOON!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ciao, y’all!

Fun Fact of the Day: My favorite Italian dessert wine, Brachetto d’Acqui, is considered the “wine of joy and seduction.” Julius Caesar and Marcus Antonius sent it to Cleopatra when they were trying to win her heart. Marcus, baby, you can send me some of that ANY day.

P.S. Sorry about going AWOL lately. Thing have been crazy busy. I’ll have to tell you all about San Gimignano and my adventures with Italians (riding in a tank anyone?) when I get home!


"Ricciunti e I Tre Orsi"

Giovedi, 10 Decembre 2009 18:45, Via della Colonna, Firenze, Italia.

In Eastern Standard Time, Thursday, December 10, 2009 2:45 PM.

“Ricciunti e I Tre Orsi” was a resounding success. Roberto was a proud pappa, and I played the part of Papa Bear well, though my “booming, fatherly voice” was slightly questionable.

Carlee, Sam, and Laura, in addition to all the other Italian classes were there to watch and join in the fun in our “Italian Version” of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” We drank wine and ate pasta, but in the end Steve (Ricciunti/Goldilocks) was flushed down the toilet by yours truly.

Too much?

Too bad.

Dinner is soon, so I must be quick. Last night I ate dinner at a LEGIT Renaissance palace. Seriously, be jealous. And tonight there will be male guests joining us for dinner. Knowing Anastasia, they’ll probably be sexy.

Ciao, y’all.

Whose House? E-HAUS!!!!

Mercoledi, 9 Decembre 2009 12:30, Biblioteca alla Scoula di Lorenzo de’ Medici, Via dei Giglio, Firenze, Italia.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Wednesday, December 9, 2009 6:30 AM.


So as some of you may know, I was a Resident Advisor (RA) back home at Carolina before I studied abroad. I lived in the Ehringhaus Community on South Campus. I DID apply to RA again when I returned, but did not even remotely begin to suspect that I would be back in Ehaus.

I’ve excitedly told some people from Carolina here, and they don’t understand. “Really,” most of them say, “You’re excited about going back to EHRINGHAUS?!?!?”

They don’t even know. Ehaus is home. And I’ll be there soon.

Ciao, y’all.

Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Martedi, 8 Decembre 2009, 23:14 - Festa della’ Concezione Immaculata, Via Della Colonna, Firenze, Italia.

In the United States of America – Eastern Standard Time, Monday, December 8, 2009 5:14 PM.

Happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception!!!!!!

Y’all didn’t realize that’s a National Holiday here in Italy? Haha. No, seriously, it is. Welcome to the world of Catholic domination.

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception is a holiday celebrating the conception of the Jesus Christ by God via the angel Michael. It’s a HUGE celebration day in the Catholic church, and I get that, but I still don’t understand why it happens AFTER Advent has already started.

Then again, let’s be real – I’m Lutheran. I don’t understand a large majority of Catholic reasoning.

Either way, it was a National Holiday and a day off classes. Carlee, Natalie, Sam and I started the day with mass at Santissima Annunziata, home to the miraculous image I’ve blogged about earlier. We did coffee and walked around Florence, visiting some of the places we love most until we leave for probably an extended amount of time, getting some of our Christmas shopping done.

I’m pretty worn out after the long day, but I wanted to let all y’all know that I’m thinking about you, as usual.

Ciao, y’all.