Saturday, November 5, 2011

Back to reality (or, Slovakia, at least...)

When we awoke on our last morning in Firenze, thick, dark clouds had moved in over night. Rain appeared to be imminent. We left a cold and rainy Bratislava for sunny warm Firenze, and now we're leaving an about to be drenched Firenze for a relatively warm(ish) and sunny Bratislava.

I'm always amazed at how circuitous the ride to (or from) the Florence airport to the city center is. And Italian traffic never gets boring. I love how they basically invent lanes. Like, a road could have two lanes going in one direction, but Italian drivers will make it so that there are four cars across, and that's not including the buzzing Vespas weaving their way through. Everyone seems to be constantly trying to squeeze ahead of everyone else.

So, Terezia and I both deem this trip a rousing success. Terezia really got to experience Italy for the first time and promptly fell in love with it (especially Florence, Siena, and Vernazza). I got to experience some of my favorite places again, and discover new things (often quirky architectural details that I geek out over). And it was obviously nice to explore some places that neither of us had ever been to (Volterra, Genova, Perugia, Gubbio). Now we're both going to try to figure out a way to someday live there.

Also, the question everyone's probably wanting to ask: how was Jeff's Italian? He'd studied the damn language for three years, so how'd that go? Well, I'd have to say just okay. The problem is that I actually hadn't had class for nearly four months prior to the trip, and despite trying to study and review when I could, I was still rusty. The other issue is that A LOT of Italians speak pretty good English (at least in the areas we visited). Some of them would just take one look at me and automatically speak English. In these situations I would usually stubbornly keep speaking Italian, while they would stubbornly keep speaking English. There were other times when we'd both start off in Italian, but then as soon as I displayed the slightest hint of hesitation, for even a fraction of a second, they'd instantly launch into English, and from there it would be impossible to get them to switch back to Italian.

Hanging out with my friend Serena and her boyfriend in Florence was fun, as she and I kept switching back and forth from English to Italian, since her boyfriend can't speak English, and Terezia can't speak Italian. But overall, it was definitely easier to buy things, order food, ask questions, etc... than the last time I was there, four years ago, when I had barely taken any lessons. I definitely have the foundation on which I could become really good with the language if I were to live there for a while.

At any rate, now it's back to the real world, back to Slovakia, and time to get down to business and find jobs, a place to live, and figure out how to navigate this small, bizarre country that nobody seems to know or care about! This tiny, landlocked country which Americans (and even some Italians) always seem to confuse with Slovenia. This country which will go into debt from having to help bail out Greece, because the amount it will have to pay is apparently something like two years of its overall budget. This country, which, instead of rioting in the streets over the current economic situation, just drinks more and quietly stews. This country which produces mind-blowing sausage and whose inhabitants can drink me under the table in a matter of minutes.

And we're happy to be back in the comfort of Terezia's brother Anton and his girlfriend Janka's cozy home. They have been super nice and generous by letting us stay here while we get settled in Bratislava. We are hugely indebted to them! We are happy that people like Tono and Janka exist!

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