Sunday, July 13, 2014

I am finally doing the program that my whole year has been leading up to

Saluti d'Italia!  Ora, sono in Firenze… e si, parlerò in italiano quando io voglio!
In case you didn't understand that, I was basically saying that I'm in Florence right now and I relish the power of having another language… Okay, yes, I speak at the level of a three year old, but I LOVE speaking in Italian!  Maybe I'll be bilingual by next year!
It took SO much to get me here.  It made me want to cry, seeing how many people wanted to get me to Italy to study what I wanted.  So, I 'd like to take this opportunity to thank them.  So many people have helped me out… if I listed them all here, it'd probably take half the post!  I wish I could, though, because I owe you guys a HUGE one.  Thank you.
Many things in Italy are so beautiful, fresh, and amazing, it makes the food, culture, food, art, food, attutude, and food of America pale in comparison.  I'm very grateful that veganism is a little more well-known in Florence than in the rest of Italy.  I thought I would have a hard time finding food, but it's just the opposite for me!  The food is so fresh here that it NEVER fails to disappoint, no matter WHAT I order or eat.  If I were in New York, and I had a slice of toasted bread with olive oil, I would be all, "Screw this, I'm getting Indian food instead,".  Normally, eating this much bread would make be feel sick to my stomach, but for some reason, not here.  Maybe it's different/less pesticides?  The placebo effect, even?
I think the food here is my favorite part of being in Italy.  And I'm really happy that I can eat gelato, too.  A lot of gelato places where I am have gelato made of soy milk.
Me and two other girls from Murrica are staying in a beautiful complex that used to be a convent over 700 years ago.  Our hostess is a very Italian, very kind woman named Maria.  She's very motherly, and cooks amazing food, but at the same time, very sassy, and I've also learned Italian profanity from her.  At the dinner table, we ONLY speak in Italian.  That's our rule.
There seem to be a lot of rules here.  I'm not used to so many rules.  For example, we're not allowed to go out on our own, we can only go out at certain hours, we're not allowed to wear such-and-such clothing, this is where we're allowed to go, etc.  Of course, I got away with dressing weird.  I'm extremely glad I brought my harem pants, because I'm rather sick of skirts and dresses.  You can't sit comfortably in them.  Also, we have a three hour class.  In a classroom.  With desks and everything.  And you can only sit in them with your legs straight out.
Being homeschooled, I'm not used to this one bit.  So I find myself needing to take yoga breaks.
Usually, I sit in the back, with my friends Nicolas and Gabrielle, which gives me a bit of leg room, and a bit of coverage to hide that I'm writing in my journal, because I get my best ideas when my mind is relaxed.

But recently, I was instructed to sit in the front because Maestro Klaviter (I call her Jane when she's not there) said that "she wanted me to participate in the class".  I actually do concentrate!  I just find it difficult to hold my attention onto something for so long.  So, I started to doze off… which didn't help as she kept drilling me on acciacchaturas (however you spell it).  I managed by taking a break in the middle of class to sleep in the hallway.
It's kind of uncomfortable to be in a situation like that, where the only feedback we're allowed to give is "when she calls on you", which is, more often than not, having us agree with her if the singer was legato or not.  I haven't sung in performance class for a week.  I get that it's helpful in the long run, but I don't like sitting still for that long.  If I put ALL of my concentration on something, it's hard for me to learn.  In the middle of performance class, she was talking about what you should wear for THE performance.  Suddenly she asked me to stand up.  I wondered if I was in trouble.
"I hope this is not how you plan on doing your hair for the performance, Miss Harris,"
I flushed with embarassment, but channelled my bellydancer friend, Neva, and whipped it around in an attempt to make her laugh.
"Now you just messed it up more.  You need to make your hair look good."
Ugh!  I was never angrier with a teacher like that before!  I sat down and crossed my arms.  Remember your karma.  Remember your karma, I kept thinking.
"Thank you, Maestro Klaviter," I said.  I felt a flame of defiance in me.  I wanted to break the rules.  I wanted to dance around the classroom or play Billy Joel on the piano while she was talking or play improv games in the halls, but I couldn't because then I'd have to go back to America and let my whole family down!  I'm doing this for them.  While Jane's back was turned, several of my classmates made heart shapes with their hands at me, and felt heartened at their sympathy.
Why me?  Was it the way I dressed?  As stated before, clothes and makeup are art to me, so why make them boring?  Dressing "goth-yogini" absolutely was within the dress code. Maybe she didn't like my nose ring?  I wasn't wearing anything skimpy or that would make singing difficult.

While she played a CD of classical music for us to listen to, she stood right next to me and stroked my hair with a sinister leer on her face, as if saying, "Remember, your hair isn't acceptable," or "Someday your hair will be mine,"
I was somehow reminded of Umbridge.
I missed my brother, Quintin, I think, most of all.  I messaged him on facebook saying what happened.  Quintin has a reputation in our circle of friends for being very fabulous and flamboyant with what he wears.  This summer, he got accepted into the prestigious Wooster group for acting.  Apparently, the teacher used him as an example of "how not to dress for acting", because he was wearing skinny jeans. BS.  When we were in Yeast Nation, he did SO much physical acting, probably way more so than in the wooster group, and he wore skinny jeans!  His sympathy made me break down in tears.  I never realized how close I was to him!
I missed my whole family and my friends.  Homeschooling seemed so magical at the moment, almost like it was too good to be real.  It was like forbidden faerie fruit… one taste and everything else seemed like dust.
I found myself fantasizing about being with my friends, while singing "Stasis is the Membrane" while crying on my bed.  (I dearly miss being in musical theatre… while I love classical musical, there's a certain level of outrageousness you can't get away with in opera.)
My mom would be visiting Florence for ONE day before she left for Narni to teach piano in their music program.  Naturally, I wanted to see her, and I asked Maria if I could leave the house at four or five AM to see her before we had to leave for a field trip to Lucca.  I figured that since it was before curfew, it would be cool. Maria said yes, but then we got a call from Maestro Klaviter saying that I wasn't allowed.
Eva and Kira, my wonderful roommates, said that they could leave with me at 6:30 to see her in front of the building, 30 minutes before we had to leave.  I was so happy.  I would be able to hug someone from a situation I wasn't thrown into!  I would be able to tell her about Jane and get Mom sympathy!
We walked there, and guess who was there?  Maestro Klaviter.
I'm glad I'm an actress, because it kind of hurt to address her formally and cheerfully.  Nonetheless, I was extremely happy to see my mom again, and she whispered, "Chin up, Syd.  It'll all be good in the long run!" to me.  This was very true.
Later, I had an epiphany- why not write a comedy sketch about my less-than-pleasant experiences in the Bel Canto institute??  From a different point of view, it could be quite hilarious.
Anyway, I got to see her for five minutes, which was good enough for me.  That day, we went to Puccini's house.  Puccini wrote a great number of operas, including one of my favorite, Tosca.
His house was very beautiful and was built to inspire him and to hold music to the best advantage.  Ironically, he died of throat cancer from smoking 60-70 cigarettes a day!
His house was extremely beautiful, and I loved the gardens especially, which looked like flora from Hawaii.
Fun fact:  Puccini got one of the first speeding tickets in history.

After that, we went to the beach for like, five minutes, and man, I wish I could have brought my bathing suit, because the surf and sand of that Mediterranean were so perfect, soft, warm, and beautiful.
Then after the ridiculously long bus ride back to Firenze, I had a voice lesson with my teacher, Maestro Thayson, a woman who's title I do not use sarcastically at all.
Maestro Thayson is SO kindhearted and sweet and supportive of you, you can't help but want to make her proud.  My voice lesson is probably my favorite lesson of the day, because not only do I get to see her, but I've been getting THE best vocal training I've had, every day of the week!  I learn so much, and she's been working miracles on my voice.  Recently she assigned me this hilarious Neopolitan sailor's song to sing because I've been doing "so many melodramatic, sad songs,"
She lives really close to the Duomo, so I get a really beautiful walk on my way to her house.  The buildings in Italy are ridiculously beautiful.  Also, the streets make it ridiculously easy to get lost; once I ended up at the Ponte Vecchio when I meant to go home.
Fun fact about the Duomo: The constructor was building the decorative strip around the tallest dome when he asked Michelangelo's opinion on it.  He said what literally translates as "it looks like a cricket house" and then that made him really sad and give up on the project.  I'm glad he didn't ask Michelangelo sooner, cos that building is BEAUTIFUL.

My second favorite class is my Italian class; it's rather small, and the teacher is very quick, sassy, and clever; her name is Sara and she somehow reminds me of the Doctor.  Every day she dresses in a different color, with a corresponding fan that she fans herself very dramatically with while perched on the desk.
We learn a different thing about grammar each day, and she never makes you feel bad if you got a question wrong.  Then, at the end, we all talk in Italian.  My SPEAKING Italian isn't that great, but I can understand nearly everything people say if I concentrate.  I really get a lot out of the class, and there's a view of the Duomo!  Also, a cherry tree, which just makes me hungry.
I love doing homework for Italian class.
I really wish I could explore Florence more, because when we do go out, it's for mandatory excursions at night with another teacher that will not leave us alone because she needs to watch us… feels like a dog being walked more than anything, but at least I get gelato!  Or for a tour.  In the tours, it's also with a teacher, and it's rather touristy but I'm glad I learn something in them.  Oh!  I got to see THE David, by that critical maniacIMEANartistic genius Michelangelo… it looked like pure perfection manifest!  Like, not human-made at all.
Next time I'm on my own and have free time between classes, I would REALLY love to explore Florence on my own… apparently there's a GREAT jazz scene in South Florence, and there are also several gardens that have been described as heartstopping.  Maybe I'll go to a service in the Duomo.  Of course, I'd LOVE to visit any old castles, or that then-secret tunnel built by a princess to visit the other side of Italy in the dead of night.  I appreciate the excursions and everything, but the constant feeling of having my every move watched makes me uncomfortable.  I had a really lovely day today, doing nothing at all, and then we all had fresh pizza, fed pigeons, and visited the tea shop.  It was a day of great smells.  Okay, maybe not the pigeons.

Despite my quiet struggle with patience for Maestro Klaviter, and being thrust into a situation with an uncomfortable amount of rules for me, I love being in Italy and experiencing Italy and eating Italy, Juilliard will love to see this on my high school transcript, and dayum, my voice is gonna sound great.
The overall experience is amazing for me; only ⅓ is kind of mreh because it hurts to miss people so much, and also culture shock; not with Italy but with education.
This is an adventure, though, and a lesson in many other ways than one.  I love all of my friends and miss them so much.
Wow, it just hit me.  I'm.  In.  Italy.  Meraviglioso.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog! It is informative, funny, and heartfelt. You are a true travel writer! Thank you for sharing your experience in Italy with those of us who have not yet experienced the magnificence of Florence. I especially like your honesty that includes many of the ups and downs. We missed you too!