Instead of offering an Italian word or phrase for this post, I’m going to use a German one. It’s called Schadenfreude. Or, taking pleasure in the pain and misfortune of others. If you need further explanation, check out the Avenue Q song dedicated to the phrase.
Anyway, I’m describing this phrase to you because I’m hoping that by sharing my misfortunes so far in Italy, I can make others laugh or teach them something new about the culture, or me.
This post was originally going to be titled, Nicole vs. the kitchen. I’m not very good in the kitchen, I can eat, but that’s about it. But other things have occurred outside of the kitchen that are worthwhile retelling. But let’s go in chronological order, which, indeed, begins in the kitchen.
In many Italian kitchens, there is a glass stove top that is used as decoration or counter space. I have never seen one before, was not instructed on how to use it, unlike the other students, and did not learn about the purpose until too late.
The first meal I attempted to make was a simple bowl of pasta, which basically only requires a pot of bowling water. I place the pot on the glass and increase the temperature on the gas stove before I walk away into a different room. Ten seconds later, I hear a large crash and see glass pieces flying out of the kitchen. I run back into the kitchen to see glass coating the entire tile floor and counter along with shards around the stove.
I was mortified. None of my roommates knew either that the glass top was removable. We were just glad I had walked out of the room, because otherwise my third day in Florence would have been spent in the ER.
My next incident was also in the kitchen. Nothing as huge as exploding the stove, but more emotionally traumatizing. While putting my jar of Nutella away in the cabinet, I dropped it and pieces of the plastic exploded everywhere. I was devastated, for it’s my go-to snack. Any fan of Nutella would understand.
Another difficulty I have been facing is navigating the streets of Florence, they are much different than the city streets of Manhattan. While walking to my first last week, I got horribly lost. I got so turned around, I had no idea which way was North. As the minutes passed, I became increasingly more panicked. I was going to be late to class and the area I was walking into did not seem as safe as the central part of Florence. I finally asked a friendly Italian woman where I was and she pointed to it on my map- I had walked a half hour in the wrong direction.
By this time, class had already begun and I had no idea how to direct myself back. Looking for taxi numbers in my orientation book, I decided to call the only number I had- the LdM (my school) emergency number. The amazing woman who answered the phone put my adviser on. She stayed attached to the phone while she talked me step by step to my class. I wound up being a half hour late, but I was so grateful of my adviser and that I actually made it.
My fourth event has to do with traveling in Italy, as mentioned in my previous post. In order to get home from Cinque Terre, we had to take the train from La Spezia to Pisa, and then get a connecting train from there to Florence. We had already been through a long day, the three of us had less than an hour sleep the night before and then our train there was at seven in the morning and our train back was supposed to be at 9:30 at night. Usually TrenItalia is very good with their lines, but that night our train was delayed for an hour. By the time we had reached Pisa, our connecting train was gone (along with the workers at the station). We then find out that at least the company will be shuttling us back to Florence. We missed the first cab, and the second one came a half hour later. Just waiting around was brutal though. Hanging out at a train station around midnight is not the safest thing, especially in an unfamiliar town with strangers waiting beside you. It took a great deal of effort not to fall asleep while waiting.
At least I fell asleep on the car ride back (well, I had to at least shut my eyes-I was afraid to watch the Italian driving.)
My friends are curious to see what kind of other shenanigans I’m about to encounter. They’re betting on another kitchen catastrophe.