This week, our ADALife Bloggers reflect on the unexpected aspects thus far along in their ADA experience. Read below to hear thoughts from Physical Theatre students Sarah, Ben, Erin and Yipei, and see some glamour shots by Seamus from last weekend’s Florence trip with Monica!
What Surprised Us Most About Italy and the ADA Program?
Sarah Mitchler: Physical Theatre, Muhlenberg College PA
What surprised me most about Italy is the willingness the Italians have to listen to your poor attempts at speaking their language and to continue the conversation based solely on vocal inflection and frantic hand gestures. The older men will most certainly tease you for it. For example, you ask in shaky Italian, “Parli inglese?” and they immediately respond with a curt “No” and a turn of the head. This happened to me upon arrival in Arezzo, while desperately trying to figure out how to get a taxi. Never fear, they will almost always flash you their pearly whites, calm you with a soft, “I joke,” and add an expectant “Dimmi.”
On our first day exploring the town, we’d been given tickets to see the joust. I had remembered to bring along my stainless steel refillable water bottle and was feeling pleased with myself as the sun grew stronger. This lasted up until we were in line to enter the arena and I noticed multitudes of bottles lining the streets. With a pit in my stomach, I approached the security guard and sheepishly showed him mine.
I was crushed. “Really? I mean… no?”
He knocked on my bottle a few times and sped through a sentence in Italian, of which I understood one thing: “lasciare al bar.” I wasn’t sure if I had misunderstood him, but a group of students in the same situation started gathering and headed back down the street. We found one on the corner and proceeded inside past a few guys finishing their beers before the start of the joust. I started the only way I knew how, “Ciao! Parli inglese?”
The bartender gave me a once over. “Un po’.”
This was going to be tough. I pointed at my water bottle and then my ticket to the joust. “Posso uh lasciare al bar?” The next five minutes were filled with hopeful smiles, apologies, one terrifying moment when a patron interjected that the bar would be closed after the joust (“No, no. I joke.”), and many breathless expressions of gratitude until all of our bottles were stacked on top of the fridge. And sure enough, we returned after two hours and found the bartender, the patrons, and our precious water bottles exactly as we had left them. After the “contraband” was distributed, I left feeling thoroughly convinced we could not be in better hands when it comes to stumbling through this beautiful yet foreign language in an effort to communicate.
Ben Southerland: Physical Theatre, Coastal Carolina University SC
Italy was the place I most wanted to visit, long before I heard about ADA. I came in to this expecting people to dress well and eat amazing food and treat you like a distant, but welcome member of their extended Italian family.
I did not expect how amazing our living situation would be. It’s like a big family, even with the professors. We all live in the villa, eat in the villa, and have class in the villa. I also underestimated how much walking we would be doing. It’s a long walk down to town and back, but the view from the villa is so worth it. How has this affected my view on living abroad? Before I decided to go to Italy, I was so worried about what I would miss out on at my college. What I should have been thinking was, “What would I miss out on in Italy?” And the answer to that is the experience of a lifetime. The chance to be completely out of your element in order to discover who you really are.
Erin Paxton: Physical Theatre, Coastal Carolina University SC
What surprised me most about Italy should have been the most obvious—the language barrier. When I imagined myself wandering through the streets of Arezzo, sitting at a café sipping wine, buying one-of-a-kind souvenirs for my family, for whatever reason I never thought of the actual contact with locals. I always assumed I would know basic phrases, that the menu would be understandable enough that I could order dinner without sweating bullets and pointing frantically. The first day I was in Italy, in the Florence airport, I stared at the wall menu of a snack counter for thirty minutes silently panicking over which kind of coffee to order. Three weeks in, I can confidently order gelato and the occasional pork sandwich, but I still have a long way to go.
Yipei Shao: Physical Theatre, Emory University GA
Traveling to Florence was definitely the most exciting thing this week. I had been to Florence once, 3 years ago. However, this time I had more time to walk around the city and explore more that I once wanted to see. Especially when I really got a chance to see David, I was astonished by how beautiful he is. He is like a perfect model of the whole human being, standing there without being afraid of being judged by us mortals. He never decays and never will. I just stood there and waited for a while, until I felt compelled to turn my eyes to other art works, since otherwise I wouldn’t have enough time to see them. However, in another room, there were a lot of statues about death. One of them was a little boy, kneeling down beside the bed of his dying mother, and his mother was looking toward paradise and waiting for her death. This was a heartbreaking moment. After enjoying the highest beauty of the human body, I finally realized that death is just waiting for me in another room. People just passed by these little, unknown statues and almost ignored them, because their hearts were already captured by the utmost strength of young David. These statues just crowded in a corner of the gallery. For a moment I was wondering what would happen if this boy took the place of David. Art is always about power, which is determined by the place where we see them. In this gallery, death has been put in a secondary place, and youth wins. However, death will finally come. Just like this moment, we will finally say goodbye to our dearest person. Death is the only one that conquers all, in real life. (Sorry…I just read Nietzsche before going to Florence.)