Newsflash: In the weeks prior to Election Day in the United States, my American friends were all wondering who I planned to vote for and why. My Italian professors also seem interested in who my candidate of choice was. I didn’t really think people in Europe cared about American political issues. But on the contrary, Italians are a lot more interested in American culture, history, and political issues than I expected they would be. What’s more interesting is just how knowledgeable they are of what is going on in our country. I went to this café and got a hot chocolate and my waiter asked me if I liked Obama and what he has done for our country. He started talking about our health care system and education and he knew wayyyyy more about that stuff than I did. He said America just always seems to handle issues better than this country.
I think I knew what he meant by issues; for the past 2 weeks, there have been multiple strikes and protest about the state of the economy in Florence. As a result, many buses, transportation services, trains, etc. have been experiencing issues due to workers going on strike. Apparently these strikes that involve transportation happen very often. I heard that the strikes happen for many reasons other than economic issues too, like workers just simply wanting to take a break.
Additionally, when I visited Rome a couple weeks ago, there was a huge protest going on at the Colosseum, something that involved Muslims protesting the closing of mosques and other places of worship in Italy. Maybe a few hundred or more Muslims were on the floor praying, some holding signs saying ‘peace’ and ‘let us pray.’ It reminded me of the silent demonstration put on back at Fairfield last year in the library in response to the issues of racial inequality. As I thought about this comparison, it made me feel like these countries really aren’t so different. The food, language, and clothing vary from country to country, but there will always be issues, and issues will make people come together.
Uhh newsflash: Another thing that I wasn’t aware of was the state of the weather conditions in Italy. There were two earthquakes this past month that struck central Italy, mainly in the regions of Macerata and Perugia. There was also a tornado that struck Rome yesterday or the day before. And a couple weeks ago while I was on my way to see the Statue of David (since it is free admission on Sundays) there was a terrible storm. I mean, really bad. It did not stop me from getting my free entrance, but besides what I learned about the David statue, I was also informed that it was the 50th anniversary of the flood of the River Arno that did a lot of damage to people’s lives and the city itself. This reminded me of Hurricane Sandy hitting areas of New York back home around this time a few years ago. Definitely a weird coincidence, but it helped me get to know something about the city that I probably would have never known.
Apparently (as told by some random Italians) the city is still in danger of floods, but President Sergio Mattarella wants everyone, Italians and foreigners included, to feel safe. And this risk of flooding doesn’t stop people from visiting to learn about Italy’s rich culture, or studying abroad here like I am. And besides the strikes, it doesn’t stop local Italians from trying to show the outside world just how beautiful and special their country is. These people really value the way Italy is viewed and they try to promote and inform others of their culture and history. It makes me feel accepted when everyone is willing to help bring me in and make me feel comfortable. Even going into restaurants, the staff just seem to enjoy my presence. It’s a joy to be around.
So last newsflash: I’m still having a blast studying abroad here. Living the dream. I only have a few weeks left, and there’s still so much to do!