September 21st, 2007 – by: mattgee
Where are we?!?!
Living in Castiglion Fiorentino for about a month has taught me the many differences from the United States. Not every difference is necessarily bad per se, but there are quite a few "luxuries" that I think we take for granted at home. The first thing that comes to mind is the availability of any type of consumer goods. Going to a grocery store here compared to a Vons or Albertsons is pretty different. The stores here have a decent amount of groceries, but there's definitely not a whole ailse devoted to chips or sodas or shampoos. Soda choices here, for example, are Coke, Sprite or Fanta. I guess it is true that we are a consumer nation with seemingly unlimited choices of almost anything. Its kind of sickening in a weird way, but I think its made me even more grateful for living in the US.
Trying to learn French
Another thing that amazes me are the driving rules (if you can even call them that). We've been on buses a few times and it just baffles me how close all the vehicles, including buses, cars and mopeds, get to each other. A good number of streets don't even have lanes! Cars zoom past each other and mopeds squeeze in between the cars and tour buses. Its like a huge rat race with no rules and a "dog eat dog" mentality. Another pretty crazy thing about this country are the store hours. In general, stores are closed for a "siesta" sometime between 1-4. This could be a problem if you need something during that time because literally everything is closed! Now even though there is that set time for siesta, sometimes the stores are closed just because.
Hot, stuffy and crowded
There's also a lack of public restrooms here. In the touristy areas, you might find a couple and you'll likely have to pay. In San Gigminano this past week, I found a public restroom and had to pay 50 cents. Turns out it wasn't even a toilet. (see title) So I'm looking forward to the days when every store you're in has a FREE restroom!
Now these differences so far seem negative...they're just cultural differences I guess..but there are a few things about being here that are actually kind of refreshing. I'm glad that there aren't so many choices of what to do in town. It's nice not having to decide because there isn't anything to decide on basically. I'm also glad in a way that we don't really have an active TV-lifestyle here at school.
Our album cover picture...
We can rent movies from the school or watch a few channels (I actually don't even know because I've never watched), but that's about it. It's also fun being in such a small town because everything is family owned which means you are always interactive with the same people at the stores. It creates a familiarity I guess. I'm also enjoying not having to drive anywhere! Its gonna be so weird when I'm back home and driving again...hope I remember how to do it!
Well, so much for my "reflections" on my trip so far. I guess the overall point is that I'm living in a completely different environment that has its own identity...I do love it, but I'm still thinking that there's no place like home...