It started in Salzburg. Last summer, I traveled to Europe for the first time in my then-47 years. The trip included my very supportive dean, the Study Abroad director, and several friends and colleagues from Eastern Kentucky University, where I have taught for fifteen years. Our reason for the visit was to attend the Salzburg Global Seminar, and we sweated our way through an anomalous heat wave in Austria as American academics spoiled to air conditioning. During our week in Salzburg, we focused on transforming EKU students into global citizens, a goal that had to include more study abroad opportunities. I quickly volunteered.
The fantasy, or how the week ended for me. Cheese? Prosecco? A thousand photos on my phone? Nope. A teaching experience somewhere in Europe for part of Summer 2016. I spun the fantasy into a course description and a title, and Jennifer and Katie in Education Abroad @ EKU held my hand for the rest of the work. Nine scholarship recipients, a renewed passport, an AirBnB reservation, and plane tickets later, I am heading to Florence, Italy, to teach Feminism and Beauty in Florentine Art for the month of June.
First things first: I needed good walking shoes, but not just any shoes. They had to be comfortable with a bendable, thick(ish), but not clunky sole, and they had to be at least minimally attractive. I went to my favorite shoe store, Soft Shoe in Richmond, and tried on four or five pairs, holding out hope for a pretty maroon pair by Jambu. However, the maroon ones felt like they were flopping around on my feet, and the Cobb Hill Pippa Mary Janes won my overall approval. A pair of Naot sandals were on clearance, and I went home with two pairs of hopefully comfortable, durable, supportive shoes for my miles of daily Italian walking.
Another necessity: language. One of my early misconceptions about the trip was that my halting Spanish would easily transfer to Italian, and I wouldn’t have to study much at all. Le ultime parole famose (which I had to look up)! I’m slowly learning the basics via the free and fabulous DuoLingo app on my phone, and I sincerely hope I get the chance to say Mangio una mela (I eat an apple) while I’m in Tuscany. At the least, I’ll know how to tell servers that I don’t eat meat.
No curbing my enthusiasm. Italy has always been my number one destination for as long as I can remember, back to tracing the boot on primary school maps and in college diving completely into the works of Dante, the Brownings, Millay, and even Christine de Pizan. If I had my way, I’d be working only on the Italy course 24/7 instead of filling out administrative forms, compiling necessary data, filing committee reports, and grading papers. That’s why I’ve started this blog in addition to the need to start blogging on a regular basis before I pound the cobblestones of Florence. This blog won’t be an Eat, Pray, Love or an Under the Tuscan Sun. It will be my souvenir, my travel narrative, my gratitude.