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Study Abroad

Florence Week 10

The week of the election: a very strange time to be abroad.

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I went to bed Tuesday night knowing I would wake up to the results of one of the most important elections in American history. But it didn't go quite like that. I woke up suddenly at about 5 am, confused, and checked my phone. I receive breaking news notifications, and there were about 15 on my home screen. I scrolled through in fear, with my eyes half shut.

"Trump wins South Carolina" "Trump wins Georgia" "Trump wins..."

I stopped scrolling. I got up. I had no idea if it was over yet.

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I walked out into our common area to find Elna and Michael sitting at the kitchen table. We looked at each other in a panic. I asked if it was done, and to my relief, they said not yet.

We rotated between multiple news sites, depending on which would load. The wifi was so terrible we tried out the tv. We found an Italian network covering the election. Being very tired and stressed, we didn't think to question its accuracy. Luckily, a friend from home was keeping me up to speed, and we soon realized there was no way Italy had the correct results.

I had a long day ahead of me, so I headed back to sleep after about an hour.

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At 7:15, I got up, and by then, it was basically over. It wasn't the final call yet, but we knew the results.

We all felt crushed, and weren't sure what to do about it. We're in Italy, thousands of miles from our home country, a country that was just changed overnight.

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That Wednesday morning was my first day working at the market. I wasn't sure if Rosa, the grandma I was working with, would know, and I wasn't quite sure how to talk about it in Italian. Nonetheless, I headed over to the stand at 8 am.

Upon arrival, I met Marco, a young man who helps with set-up and tear-down every morning. He was very welcoming, and quickly began handing me crates and giving directions. Everything felt so familiar yet entirely new at the same time. I knew the process back in France, but it was possible any part of it could be completely different here. Therefore, I was a bit hesitant, and asked for instructions before doing anything.

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The business was much slower here than in France. Granted, any market is slower in colder weather. Rosa also explained to me that the market has declined a lot over the last 30 years (how long she’s been working here) due to the increase in tourism. When she began, there were so many locals always coming to the market, but over time, those people grew older and the area became more populated with tourists. And for the most part, tourists don’t do any real shopping at markets. Maybe an apple here or there. But unless shopping at a market is part of their own culture, they don’t see the benefits over a commercial grocery store.

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Regardless of the slow business, I had a great first day. I was happy to practice my Italian with Rosa and a number of customers. She was so sweet the entire time, and told me to come back any day. I headed off to class after 4.5 hours and told her I’d be see her Friday.

That night I made myself some pasta carbonara to make up for such a long day.

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Friday I worked the market from 8-2:30 since I didn’t have class. Business was a bit better this time despite scattered rain. There was a different vendor next to us this time selling bread and different jams/oils. She was really sweet and gave me a croissant stuffed with an incredible amount of chocolate. Later, two women from Boston were walking by so I struck up conversation in English to attract them to our stand. They were pleasantly surprised, and didn't understand why I spoke English so well at first. In the end, they said they'll definitely be coming back to Rosa's stand-- my new regulars! 

It down-poured the entire rest of the day, so I spent most of it catching up on some errands and working at a nearby cafe.

Later, I went out with some new friends from school. It was a really great group filled with a variety of cultures.

 3 Egyptians, 3  Scandinavians, and 1 American

3 Egyptians, 3 Scandinavians, and 1 American

On Saturday, I went on a walk and found that a new market was up in Piazza della Repubblica. It’s absolutely incredible. There were too many stands to count, and endless free delicious samples. I’ll be going back as often as possible before it closes. 

Later, Elna and I decided to treat ourselves by going to a spa for the evening. We found a deal online that was too good to turn down. The spa included a warm pool, a steam room, a sauna, a tea/fruit corner, and a rooftop jacuzzi with a view of the city. In addition, we both got hour long massages. We stayed 4-8:30 pm, and it was absolutely perfect.

Afterwards we met up with our other roommates for dinner at a restaurant in Piazza Santo Spirito.

Though the week was tough with all of the stress from the election, I tried to be optimistic, and in turn, had a lot of positive experiences.

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Julia Ainbinder