Thursday, August 25, 2016

Expectations vs. Reality.

(I started writing this in Florence so it's mostly in present tense.  But clearly am just finishing it.... a month later...)

One of the most genius scenes of any film made, in my humble opinion, is a split screen in (500) Days of Summer.  On one side of the screen is what the main character thinks will happen at a party vs. the other side is what really happens.  He thinks he's going to a party and going to flirt with his ex-girlfriend and in the end leave with her.... What really happens ****spoiler alert**** he goes to the party and finds out she is engaged to someone else.  Expectation vs. reality. Best scene ever.

We all have ideas of what we think an experience is going to be like.  Luckily in life, and what makes life so exciting, is sometimes it ends up being better than we expected.  Obviously sometimes it's not.  Kinda like when my cousin moved to Hawaii.  I remember being so unbelievably jealous.  Sunshine.  Beaches.  Tropical fruit.  I mean what more could you ask for out of life than living in paradise?  I remember her kinda complaining about it after she had been there for a while.  I was absolutely shocked.  And then I went to visit her.  Sure there is sunshine but especially on that side of the island there is a ton of rain.  Sure there are beaches but that means never ending sand.  Sure there is tropical fruit but shockingly very little fresh produce.  Anyway point is expectations and reality are often different.

So I thought it would be fun to make a list of my Expectations of living in Florence vs. Reality.

1. I thought all day every day I would be staring at something like this:


In reality, unless I go completely out of my way I could spend every waking moment of the entire month looks at streets that look exactly the same.  Exactly the same.  Always partially in shadow (thank goodness because this Tuscan sun is a beast when it's 100 degrees outside).  The streets look exactly the same.

And we are in the middle of these streets that look exactly the same so unless we walk about a mile everywhere we go it looks like this:

No vegetation.  No unique architecture(Down a typical historic Florence street).  No different streets sizes.  It all looks like this.  All narrow sidewalks.  All 4 story tall buildings.  It's like a concrete jungle.... well more like 14th century cobble stone jungle, but it's all the same.  It makes sense why the Medici's wanted to create a palace outside the city on the other side of the river so they could have a garden and some breathing room.  In comes the Pitti Palace.  But then it was really funny because they needed to get across the river to town.  They didn't want to have to walk with all the commoners so they built a walk way above the streets and bridge from their palace to the Uffizi.
The second story of Ponte Vecchio was Medicis' walkway
 THEN it gets even better.  At the same bridge was the meat market.  It was super convenient for the butchers to be able to throw any animal waste into the river.  But when the Medicis' would walk across their special walk away above the butcher shops they would smell the rotting meat.... so they had the shops changed to jewelry shops on the bridge.  Because the Medicis' seemed to always get their way.... unless they were killed.  Whole point of this story.... historic Florence isn't as picturesque and delightful as I imagined... especially in July.

2. Food.

I think I expected much more variety than what I am eating all the time.  (That being said I have never spent more than 10 euro on a meal so that is probably why....)  But all day every day at home or at a restaurant I eat tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, bread, and olive oil.   OH and gelato and hazelnut flavored sweets.  But seriously, that is it.  All day. Every Day.  The entire time in Italy.  The mozzarella is insanely delicious.  But I don't really like their meats at all so all I eat all day every day are those few things.  Not that I mind.... but I haven't seen much variety.

Some surprises with food. No salad dressing. Only oil and vinegar. No sauces on sandwiches or paninis.  OH and no salt in their breads.  Super weird.

3. Smiles.

This has probably been the craziest thing.  No one smiles at each other around here.  Ever.  Unless it's at the baby.  The tourists.  The locals.  The pushy salesmen trying to get my money.  No one.  This is a completely walking community.  You pass hundreds of people on a walk around town.  No one looks at each other and no one smiles.  I knew NYC was like this but I didn't expect it here.  My dad walks almost a mile every day to his art class.  He says sometimes he goes out of his way to try and make eye contact with people and smile at them.  Just to try and get a reaction.  It's that foreign of an idea to acknowledge or smile at people.  Runners don't acknowledge one another.  It's like this whole town is trying to avoid each other.  (Kinda can't blame them because it's so crowded all day every day with tourists... but still) Even as we were walking into church yesterday!  A couple were walking in so I smiled at them and they just looked away.  Weird.

4. Brad is a celebrity.

 I am shocked at how much attention Brad gets. Babies are a novelty everywhere we go. I also thinks it helps that he totally hams it up with any old lady. But still. I'm surprised at how much attention he gets. (Granted I recognize part of the contrast is due to the fact I live in Utah where babies are anything but novel.)  but it has been so fun having Brad with us so we get to interact with more people.  My favorite is the Asian tourists.  It's been hilarious how many I've caught them sneaking a picture of him.  

5. Tradition trumps Commercialism.

This is one of the most shocking things I found throughout Europe.  There is probably good things about it but it was shocking.  We first experienced it in Rothenburg in Germany but it saw it all the time.  All the shops in Rothenburg (a 98% tourist town) closed at 5 pm.  FIVE.  In a tourist town.  It didn't matter than there were hundreds of tourists walking around with money in their pocket.  The locals pretty much kicked out customers to close their shops.  In Italy, it didn't matter, shops were closed whenever they wanted.  A very very popular pizza place that we visited numerous times, closed from 3-7 every day.  By the time they opened at 7 for dinner there was a line down the street.  Obviously they could make WAY more money if they stayed open all afternoon.  But no they didn't care.  It was break time.  Part of me wants to call it lazy.  Part of me thinks it's awesome.  Part of me thinks it's stupid.  But most important it was completely foreign.  The idea that making money is not always the number one priority of a business.  

6. Getting to know people.

I dreamed of getting to know people. I mean a month is a long time. I thought we'd meet our neighbors in our apartment or the market owner down the street or heck even some of the members at church. But reality is human nature is the same everywhere. And it takes time to actually make friends. So nope.... No Italian pen pal to stay in contact with for me.

I have been trying hard to think of something about Florence that is better than I imagined.  It was very different than I expected but the thing that surprised me the most is how much seeing the Duomo affected me.  Every Day.  Every Time.  It rocked my world.


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