Saturday, August 29, 2009

A quick update

Yes! I made it to Florence, after many hours of travel on planes, trains, and automobiles. I arrived to find myself the new renter of the best apartment in Florence ever. Of course, the heat is stifling here and I am missing the most amazing boyfriend in the world, but I am happy to be here. My college friend Samantha is traveling with me and will stay for a month. She is keeping my spirits up and that is good. We are working to get the apartment a bit more homey for me so that I will not feel so lonely when she is gone. In either case, I have plenty of room for visitors,! So friends, save your pennies, book your flights and come on over to Florence to see the most beautiful apartment ever!!! I love and miss you all already!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A last hurrah

Unless one is a truly horrible person, everyone deserves some sort of going away celebration. Last night, I had mine. My good friend Sydney organized a little festa as a "Welcome Back to School Italian Department/Goodbye Marina" celebration. Ok, to be honest, when you are the one leaving, the word celebration isn't necessarily the right word, but it my case it is because I realized something very important last night.

During the evening I was struck by how much I truly like the people in my department and how much I will miss them this year. We have not known each other very long and being in graduate school, especially at the PhD level is not like being in college. When you first going away to school, there are so many new experiences that bind you forever to the folks you are with, but when you proceed to graduate school, all that changes. Most people in graduate programs have lives outside of school, they do not live on campus or in some cases even near campus, and most people are pretty serious about going to school and not necessarily getting close to the people in the department. I am so happy to say that this is not true in the Italian Department at UNC. I think the people in our group go out of their way to get to know each other and find a way to bond.

Last year, I may not have spent enough time cultivating these relationships because I was always doing work or spending time with Tim (neither of which I regret), but now, as I am about to leave for a year I realize that the people in my department have actually accepted me and consider me one of their own, regardless of my mistake. To me, last night was not only a goodbye party, but an internal celebration for myself, because I realized just how rich the relationships and how wonderful the people are that I will be leaving behind.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prescriptions, internet service and visas, oh my!

The logistics of setting out to live in a foreign country, especially one as filled with bureaucratic red tape as Italy, can be overwhelming! The irony of it all is that as much as we Americans like to plan and get stuff done in advance, countries such as Italy make it impossible to do so and eventually you find yourself putting everything off until the last minute.

Sure, I'd like to spend the next week relaxing and spending time with my loved ones, but instead I know that I'll be making photocopies, trying to fill prescriptions, making phone calls to the Bel Paese for internet service and negotiating with AT&T so that I can keep my NC phone number while in Italy, without paying a ridiculous fee!

The truth is that when going on a long trip to a foreign country, almost nothing that you need to do can be done until A) you have your visa in hand - which in itself is no easy feat, B) you are very close to flying out of your home country, or C) you are in your new, host country.

It's hard for someone like me to deal with that, because if I could, I would have done all this weeks ago, but weeks ago all involved parties: my doctor, the pharmacy, the Italian consulate, AT&T, my new landlord, the school I am going to work for, my friends living in Italy, etc.; all told me that I needed to wait. I needed to wait for that brief opening in time when everything can be done at once. For Italy, it is no more than 90 days and no less than 30 days before you leave. And no matter what, you won't see your Visa (which allows you to live in the country) until exactly 30 days before you either way you must wait until that point.

But beware of the insurance companies rules as well, because you cannot fill prescriptions at the wrong time. As it is I have found that I will have to fill and pay for (out-of-pocket) a total of 4 prescriptions, so that I will arrive with a year supply in hand, because my insurance here will not pay for anymore prescriptions and my insurance in Italy will not cover them. Of course, then I need several copies of my prescriptions in hand, in case my bags are checked at any border. And these days everyone is going digital so trying to explain to your Dr. who just switched to an electronic medical recording and prescription service that you need PAPER copies of your prescriptions is very fun indeed!

No, I am not complaining, just remarking on the fact that try as I might not to procrastinate, a world full of red tape, ridiculous deadlines, and paperwork does not make it very easy. So, until my plane takes off from Newark airport in less than 2 weeks, my head will swirl with an endless 'to do' list. By the time I set foot in Italy however, those lists will have already faded into distant memories, for nothing quiets the mind like a glass of native Italian wine at an outdoor cafe in a town filled with the works of the great masters!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Fourteen days and counting...

Two weeks from today I will be unpacking and setting up house for a year-long stay in Firenze, Italia (Florence, Italy for those who don't speak Italian). With so little time left to prepare, the reality of the situation has begun to hit me.

As I sit in the Chapel Hill Public Library trying to finish work from the last semester, I can only focus on what is in front of me. My books remain closed on the open table space surrounding my computer and my thoughts turn to the coming year.

When I leave, I will be leaving behind a wonderful boyfriend, great friends, and a very loving family. It will be a bittersweet departure to say the least!

The last time I lived in Florence, I needed to leave the United States to find myself, so to speak. After a year in Italy, I returned home knowing exactly who I was, what I wanted from life and just feeling beautiful.

This time however, I will leave here with no issues to resolve and no soul-searching to do. So I wonder what this next experience will bring.