Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ying and Yang: Why I love and why I hate Florence at the same time.

So, shall I give you the good or bad first? I guess it's best to start with the negative, because after that everything else will be great. Yes sadly, there are negative things about Florence, the worst of which being the Italian bureacracy and in that case, you can't really blame Florence alone.

Yesterday, as some of you may have read on my facebook page, I had to report to the Italian Questura in Florence. This is a place that is equivalent to an immigration office in the United States, although, much much less organized. Three weeks ago, I was given an appointment time and date to have my fingerprints taken, so that I could obtain a valid, one-year permit to stay in Florence, or un permesso di soggiorno. My appointment was at 10:30 am yesterday. Knowing the difficulties which sometimes ensue in these situations, I stopped by school first and told them what was up, because I had to teach at 12:45. I then went to the questura and was in line by 9:36 a.m. Now, I was given a number to wait for and when it was called it was 10:23 a.m. So, I thought I was in good shape. Well it turns out that the first line you wait in, is basically just the sorting line. From there you are given another number to wait in line for. I received that number at 10:27 am. It was called at 3:05pm!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, I get that there are a lot of people who have to get in and out of the immigration of office on a daily basis, but seriously, why the hell give someone an appointment time that is completely unrealistic and cannot be kept, by any stretch of the immagination? So, yesterday I spent a whole day, sitting on my butt, in Florence, waiting for a number to be called. I tried like crazy to make the best of it. I planned lessons, read a book, wrote a letter, made a couple of phone calls, chatted with other folks, but in the end I was completely frustrated by the Italian system of appointment making and keeping. So what I have learned from this is, like the Pirates' Code in the Pirates of the Carribean, Italian appointments, especially with the government, are more like guidelines! Sadly, I must report to the questura one more time to get the final document. That appointment just happens to be scheduled for what will be the fourth day of our fall break, which means I now have to delay any travel plans until after that day, because you don't mess with the questura!

So, bureacracy being the downside of things, spontaneous events in Florence are definitely the upside! Two night ago, on my way home, I was walking through the Piazza del Duomo, when I was pleasantly suprised by an impromptù parade given by an amazingly energenic percussion group, whose name was Bandéo! This was actually the day when I was feeling down and missing all of you a lot!! I saw the group preparing to perform and really did not think much of it. A lot of times things spring up in Florence and they are not that exciting. Usually they have something to do with the reenactment of an event in Renaissance Italy, so folks get all dressed up in old-timey garb and march in somewhat of a melancholy manner through the narrow, old cobbled streets. They are usually accompained by a few drummers and a group of flag throwers. The group that I saw this night was definitely different!

They were men and women of all ages and they were carrying and wearing all different types of percussion instruments. There were tambourines, drums, those jingling scarves that belly dancers wear, triangles, wooden blocks, and yes, even cow bells! (You can never have too much cow bell!) Like all the other real Italians here, I was curious and so I stopped for a bit to see what was going on, but as you can tell from the first part of this blog, timing means little to Italians, so I thought I should just go home, because I was sad and I didn't want to just stand around and wait. I had no sooner turned my back to go home, when the group began to play. And it was incredible. This group was clearly not into the dreary dirges of 500 years ago, but was instead fully emerged in the music of a more Latin influence. The drumming was loud and it was the kind that cut right through to your soul. From the moment they started playing, I could not have been sad if I tried and I could not go home! I could feel nothing except the beat of the music. For lack of a better word, their performance rocked.

What an amazing thing it was to see, hear, and feel just in the shadow of the Duomo. It was a strange juxtaposition, but it worked. Of course, the band did not stand still; they moved, and drummed and danced all the way to the Piazza della Signorina. And, like any good Italian resident/citizen/transplant, I followed them and danced along. After a while, everyone was dancing in the streets and it was so crowded, but so amazing. It was only then that I lamented the Europeans long-standing disregard for deoderant. :( You have to imagine the town you live in, whether it be Fulton, Baldwinsville, Carrboro, Bastrop, or Ithaca...imagine that in one sweeping moment, the streets just fill up with everyone who lives there and everyone who is visiting, because they heard the music.

For about an hour on Tuesday night, everything in the center of Florence came to a standstill, except for the drummers drumming and the dancers dancing. It was as if the city just needed a quick dance break and so this group of brilliant percussionists filled that need!

Florence can be a little stuffy sometimes, a little too cold some people say, but good music can just cut right through that, just as it did my bad mood.

What can I say...sometimes I hate Florence and other times, most of the time, I just love her like she's my own!

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