Sunday was a day of rest. From my experience, people usually don't go out on Sundays, and tend to keep it low-key. I was previously planning with a bunch of friends in class to go to Firenze on the 20th, but Intercultura has a rule that doesn't allow you to travel for the first three months. They were coming to the house in the evening, so I had something to look forward to. I sat in my room and studied some Italian, went for a run, and slept.
When the people from Intercultura arrived, it was around nine o'clock. First, we sat down as a family and talked about general stuff, and they asked the usual questions: "How is everything?", "Is there anything you need from us?", "How is your Italian coming?". It was pretty nice being able to understand what most of what they were saying to Paolo and what he was saying in return. I am glad that I was placed in Northern Italy because they talk much faster and more articulated, so you have to learn to pick up on the sounds really fast, and in turn, anyone who speaks slower than them is really easy to understand.
My liaison, Domi, and one of the other volunteers wanted to talk to me alone in case there were any things that I needed to talk to them about, whether it be school, problems at home, transportation, etc. They walked me through the next few months and gave me a calendar that had the upcoming AFS camps, events, and other things, and walked me through some of the AFS packet that had important rules. I really enjoy AFS in comparison to what I've heard of other programs because it really allows you a lot of freedom, as long as you stay within the rules, which is almost impossible to not. There is really three main rules:
- NO driving
- NO hitch-hiking / autostop
- NO illegal drugs
We eventually came across the rule that AFS has regarding travel: No traveling without your family or Intercultura for the first three months. I was really bummed that this was a thing, because at my age, and in my class, most of us are seventeen, and fairly mature. Also, since I had to travel to Pontedera every single day for school, I didn't have the ability to ever really hang out with my friends, so it was a little bit of a problem. I found out that Paolo and Domi were talking with the higher-ups at AFS and explaining my situation to them. They agreed that I would be given special permission to do traveling at any time, since I have the age, the maturity, and am not a complete idiot. The only condition that they had was that my host family be okay with the trips. The three people from Intercultura left shortly after, and I went straight to sleep.
Coming back to school after a full weekend made me feel refreshed. I was ready to start my second week of school—my first real week—and was prepared to do so. I catch the early train and make it to school with ten minutes to spare, meet up with some of my classmates in front of the school, and we walk in to class together. When I entered the class, I felt really welcome, almost as if I belonged there.
During the classes, there wasn't that much going on, but during break Cosimo, Andrea, Salusti, Filippo, and I decided that we would go to Firenze this coming Sunday since AFS gave me the okay. When I got home, I was feeling really motivated, and I ended up studying Italian verbs for hours on end until dinner. At dinner, we had this really delicious dish. I was a lasagna-esque dish with pasta layers, cheese, and other cheese colored items. It tasted pretty similar to fetticine alfredo, and had the perfect consistency. For the second course, there was a regular salad, but my favorite balsamic vinegar was on the table. I am in love with the balsamic vinegar here, it has the perfect consistency and taste. It stings the tongue just enough, and the punch isn't a killer. I'm definitely bringing a few bottles home.
Tuesday was probably the most significant day so far in terms of getting closer with my classmates. I started the day at six, and caught the earlier train, making it to train right on time. We headed to the gym to change for Educazione Fisica, but I was busy thinking about making the early train, that I didn't grab any clothes to change into. The teacher gave me some shorts to use, and shoes, but I ended up having to wear my white t-shirt that I would have to wear the rest of the day. Looking back, I guess I could have gone shirtless. We proceeded to walk over to the stadium, and I talked to Sofi and Filippo quite a bit on the way over. Sofi has been teaching me many words, both in Tuscan lingo and Italian. I think her favorite question to ask me is, "Sei cario?" Cario is a Tuscan abbreviation of the word carico, meaning full of energy.
Before we departed the class, we watched the 4x100 with Jamaica winning it with Usain Bolt. The teacher really wanted us to try it, so at the track, we began by getting in teams, and then practicing our baton handoffs. When it came down to the actual practice, such as a practice run, the teacher immediately said to go and without any explanation, I ran pretty hard. Everyone else was going slowly, and watched me in confusion up until the moment that I took off. They burst into laughter, and then gave me pats on the back.
Then, it came down to the actual race. There was a competition between two teams, with the most athletic of us being split. On one side, there was Gianmarco, Andrea, Salu and Banti, and the other was I, Amato, Pagni, and Filippo. With the race beginning, I took off. They wanted me to be the first since I had taken part in many relays due to my track and field background in the states. I passed everyone on the curve, and we ended up winning by around 75m. It was really fun because Noemi took a video of the entire race with her iPad in slow motion, so I could see myself launching in front of the rest of my classmates from the start. I think it's safe to say that my classmates weren't expecting me to be athletic, because, well.. I'm american. I look down at my half-sweaty shirt, and pray to god that my shirt will dry before we reach the school, because I will NOT be wearing a sweaty shirt in class.. I'd rather go shirtless. The schoolday was a blur, but I do recall immediately feeling a stronger bond with the guys in class.
I return home a little while after school gets out, and come home to find a friend of Pietro eating lunch. His name was Alexandro, and if I recall anything, it's the hair; it was fantastic. They asked me to look over their math homework, and I remember doing it at least two years ago. I explain to them, and we talk it over a little bit. Eventually, Pietro recalls my "amazing" TI-84 calculator, and asks to borrow it. Instead, I recommended Desmos Online Calculator. It's an amazing resource that I've been using ever since it was showed to me. Eventually I wrapped up the day and retired to my room for a long nap, missing dinner and waking up the next day.
Wednesday was not an especially eventful day, but during English, the class wanted to go through the streets of San Francisco and see where I lived, where I went to school, the Golden Gate, and notable landmarks in the area. They loved seeing the plethora of skyscrapers and tall buildings and a very different scenery than the norm in Italy.
I was able to wake up late on Thursday because I had to go to the Questura di Pisa in order to apply for my permesso di soggiorno, or residency permit. I woke up at around seven o'clock and did my usual morning routine. Paolo and I met up with another AFS volunteer at the Questura in order to have her sign off on my behalf for Intercultura.
I remember vividly the situation that arose where the volunteer from AFS didn't have written permission from AFS that she could sign off on my behalf, and then the people at the Questura apparently did not want to call the Intercultura big-wigs, so I was left there in-between Paolo and the clerk during a heated argument. Since the placement of my location is done by Intercultura, Paolo is not able to sign off on anything, which he didn't take to kindly.
Eventually, the clerks decided to send us to the police station in order for the government to obtain my fingerprints, palm prints, and everything in-between. As I recall, I can just imagine my father in the states bantering about conspiracy theories and illuminati plots. So far, as I look back at my memories in the states, they warm my heart but haven't yet made me homesick, for which I am thankful.
It was extremely embarrassing at the police station because the people who were in charge of taking the pictures told me that it was necessary for me to tuck my hair behind my ears.. and for those of you who don't know, it ain't pretty.
When we returned to the Questura, after going through all of that, we found I still was unable to get my permesso di soggiorno, and they gave us an appointment twenty days later; as if we weren't mad enough. It was near noon at this point-in-time, so Paolo gave me a pass to miss the rest of the school-day. I retired home to find myself weak-at-the-knees and with such a lack of motivation that I laid in bed until called for. I caught on sleep that I had so desperately been needing.
I went through the day like clockwork. I woke up in the morning at a reasonable hour, missed the first train as usual, and made it to school with seconds to spare. I didn't understand the lectures in the classes, and struggled each hour to put the pen to paper. I ate a nice Nutella sandwich during break, and sighed with relief as the bell rang.
Although the beginning of the day was like any other, I had things to do after school if I wanted to go to Firenze this Sunday. I had arranged for Paolo to meet some of my friends that were going along in order for him to be rest-assured that I wouldn't get into any trouble, or do anything stupid. Walking from the class to the lot, I was placed in a chat that apparently another girl in my class had a crush on me. It was different. Responding to "do you like.." and "what do you think of.." questions in Italian was definitely something I've never done before, nor did I expect to.
Jumping on the respective motorcycles, Cosimo, Salu, Amato, and I all took off to meet my host father. I can't say that I wasn't nervous, because Salu and Amato weren't really known as the most responsible peers. This meeting was for my host father to decide if he was able to trust my friends, and frankly, I didn't see this meeting going well.
It turns out that my worry was all for naught, as Cosimo did most of the talking, and in the end, Paolo seemed perfectly content. In my mind, I imagined the meeting like a thirty-minute-long interrogation, rather than a simple five minute chat. All-in-all, it went well, and we got the a-ok for the trip to Firenze and hopefully in the future. With that, I got a ride to the station and came home to a warm home-cooked meal. I went to my Italian lesson and afterward went for a run in order to clear my head of all the pent-up stress that I'd been accumulating.
During school, the teacher for Art History ended up being sick, or something of the like, and wasn't there. Since it wasn't the last two periods, we had to sit around and find something to do until our final class. The first hour was great, as there was nobody to supervise us, and we were doing whatever, but in the second hour, the religion teacher came in to keep us 'on task'.
In the evening, there wasn't anyone in the house, so I went out with Alberto, Pietro (not to be confused with my brother), Lorenzo, and some others. I met one of their friends who was a few grades above them while he was still in school. Alessandro looked about twenty or nearing twenty-one and turned out to be twenty-six. I can't say that I wasn't surprised.
First, we went out to get some Chinese food at Ni Hao in Pisa. It was the first time that I had went out to eat at a restaurant since my arrival in Italy. It was really delicious; I ordered Gnocchi made from Rice and also a steak don. After, we walked around the city and eventually ended up at the lawn of the Leaning Tower and long-story-short, almost got arrested. Once the ordeal was finished, I stumbled home at around midnight or one. I crawled into bed and no later than five seconds after, I was asleep.