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Sunday, October 31, 2010


When Florence looks like this

and this

and this,

I go to Fiesole.  A 20 minute bus ride away.

and it looks like this

and even this

And I look down at Florence while having a glass of wine at a quiet outdoor cafe.  And if the weather were clear, I could actually see the Duomo rising above the crowds.

And when Florence looks like this as it does today,

I stay in my apartamento and practice trying to get heat out of the thing on the wall.  One day soon, I'll have something more interesting to say here.... maybe.  Just know that I'm enjoying every small success that I have, like actually finding someone who knew that when I said, 'vendi fiammifero? meant 'do you sell matches?'  I was hoping to light my candles and incense.  The kind gentleman who finally understood me said, 'no signora but we do sell lighters.'  Well, I just have to laugh at myself.  At least I try.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Growing on Me

Okay, Florence is growing on me.  I still haven't done any sightseeing which may be a crime in itself but I did get my hair done today, and I must say, Genaio did a fine job.  'Tres Chic' or whatever the Italian equivalent of that would be.  I seemed to have done a better job explaining what I wanted with someone who doesn't speak English.  I'm learning to just be quiet and observe.  At one point I realized his movements while coloring my hair were almost like a dance.  I told him that.  The woman next to me translated it for him.  We did a lot of smiling whenever we'd catch each other's eyes in the mirror.  Anyway, on my way home I asked some  tourists to take my picture because my hair will probably never look like this again.  I'm standing in front of the entrance to my building.

My apartment is on what they call the first floor which is really the second floor and not a floor of the Hotel Aldini which starts on the second floor which is really the third floor.  Actually as you can see here there's a floor between the ground floor and the first floor which is totally discounted in the floor numbering fiasco so my apartment is really on the third floor not the first floor.   The light on upstairs is my living,dining,kitchen and the window to the right is the bedroom.  The light on the ground floor next to the doorway is a fine shoe shop.  I also navigated the mercato today and now have more than just yogurt and bananas to eat.  Baby steps.  Rosetta Stone in no way prepared me to communicate here on my own.  I learned a lot from Dee during our time in Lucca and Rome but being on my own is more challenging.  I'm making my way though and counting every single outing as a success. My next big adventure is to find matches so I can light the candles that are in my apartment.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Florence was a shock for me.  I don't know what I expected but this wasn't it.  I went into withdrawal when I arrived. Like an uneducated fool, I thought tourist season was over.  It's not!  It's worse than Rome.  Spending most of the time inside my apartment.

Have been here about 78 hours and slept for about 50 of them.  The other time has been spent doing my laundry in a washing machine that holds 2 pair of pants and a shirt.  Yes, that's it very conveniently located next to the shower and behind the toilet.  But hey, it's better than the bidet.

Tonight I went out for a walk and found that it's much nicer and more quiet in the evening.  It's also great to be able to feel safe to go out after dark.  The Ponte Vecchio and other bridges crossing the Arno are quite beautiful.  Next time I'll take my camera.   I stopped for dinner in a trattoria a few blocks away from the crowds and chatted with Marie Yvonne and Claude from France.  I was the only single in the restaurant and probably the only single in all of Florence.  Although, on my afternoon walk, I did meet Luca.  I got lost and he pointed me in the right direction.  He invited me for coffee but I declined.  He insisted.  I declined.  He gave me his phone number when I wouldn't give him mine or tell him where I am staying.  Italian men are persistent.  I'm not sure how old he is but his hair is still on his head and fully dark.  I'm guessing the age of my sons.  I wish I could say I was cavalier enough to go with him even just for coffee, but I'm not.  My big adventure is that I made an appointment to get my hair cut and colored tomorrow.  My la dolce vita!!!!


Friday, October 22, 2010

Africa One More Time

This woman is carrying a bucket filled with water on her head. The women walk easily down the street like this carrying all kinds of things on their heads.

Beautiful children with ever-speaking eyes.

And great joy for living despite difficulty and hardship.

Using a Tire for Hula Hoop

The CCS volunteer group and BYAC kids and teachers.

Jane, one of the volunteers, fell in love with Daria's painting hanging on the fence and asked her is she would sell it.  Daria is one of the children.  She was beside herself with joy.  Now she can buy a few supplies to paint again.

This family is amazing. Tashi, Masiga, Asha, and Irham are all wonderful artists. They paint, play drums and guitar and sculpt when they have the supplies and tools to do these things.  Irham loves to sculpt but she doesn't have the tools or the materials and only sometimes do they have enough paints to actually paint.
Tashi, Me, Masiga Asha, Irham
They have nothing themselves and yet they open their hearts and their home to the children of Bagamoyo two to four hours a day, six days a week. They  feed them because some of the children would not eat otherwise.  They teach the children to paint whenever they have enough supplies.  As they learn to speak English, they teach the children to speak English.  Mostly they teach them to dance and to drum and tell them about the dangers of Aids. The house they live in is rented and is in better shape than many homes in Bagamoyo although it's completely empty of furniture.  They sit and sleep on the floor.  The toilet is in a separate room - a pit in the floor.  They bathe and cook outside and wash dishes in a tub.  Asha travels back and forth to Zanzibar (a 4-6 hour trip by bus and ferry) every 2-3 days to try to sell their artwork to tourists.

I have never in my life met people whose hearts are so open and generous and loving.  They smile, they laugh, they welcome you in without a second thought.  They enjoy the simplest things.  I want to assist in some way but honestly I don't know how to help in a way that will be anything more than a temporary band aid.  They are working to find an organization to sponsor the Bagamoyo Young Artist Center so they can continue with it but they do not have skills in grant writing nor do they know the first thing about finding a sponsor.  They just know that sponsors exist.  They have dreams and desires with no way of making them come true but they don't give up even though their efforts are like dropping a coin in a wishing well.  If anyone knows of an organization who is looking to sponsor artists and children in Africa, or knows how to write grants, please let me know.
An experience of love I shall never forget!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ready to Go!

Tomorrow is my last day in Rome. Awesome Rome!  Over-the-top Rome!

I'm ready to leave.  Perhaps coming here on the heels of Bagamoyo makes the opulence seem totally out of proportion to real life.  Also, it may be the hordes of tourists (of which I am one).

Yesterday I went to the Vatican.  All I wanted was to see the works of Michaelangeo - the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta.  Thousands of other people had exactly the same brilliant idea.  It seems October is peak season in Rome

The walk from our apartment to the Vatican took me an hour. Dee wisely decided not to come along.  The line to get into the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel took 90 minutes.  I was one body in the midst of a solid sea of heads craned toward the ceiling.   I squeezed into a half seat along the wall so I could actually lean back and marvel at the ceiling before being herded out of the room so the next throng could enter.

Then I stood in a line that circled around St. Peter's Square to get into the Basilica.  I almost didn't do it, but I'm glad I did.   The Pieta is stunning.  

There's no doubt that Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel and Pieta are works of genius but his bronze of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitoline Museum took my breath away the other day and brought tears to my eyes.  Maybe because there was no line!  No waiting!.

Actually the walk back home along the Tiber was more beautiful to me than all the marble facades.

And a very late lunch with 'un quarto vino rosso'  in Trastevere soothed  my aches and pains.

Saturday I'm off to Firenze.  I'll be in Florence for six weeks so I can stop sightseeing  for a little while.  I need some time to process the Africa experience.

The Goddess of Rome (take your pick)

Monday, October 18, 2010

So different?

Is Africa really so different from Italy?

Here I am doing laundry in Africa,

Here's where I do laundry in Italy.   

I was so excited to have a "lavatrice" (washing machine) in our apartment in Rome.  After two tries, one time taking 4 hours and the next six hours, the laundry still wasn't finished, I resorted to using the bidet.

But then, there's this.
And this.
And this.

And this!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Sensory Overload

The children at Bagamoyo Young Artist Center
Traditional Dance by the children at BYAC
The Zawese Dancer
Irham, Tashi, Asha, Masiga - Lovers of Life and Children
From the beautiful people of Bagamoyo

Baboon Family Traveling
to the beautiful animals of the Rift Valley, 
Flamingos and Zebras
Grandpa Lion
Baby Elephant
Ngorongoro Crater, and Tarangire Park

Mama Giraffe
Selling Goats
Selling Bananas

and the beauty that is Rome
Piazza Navona
Teatro Marcellus

I am so blessed and happy to be having these experiences and I love sharing them with you.