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By oncptime

I just got off the plane in Newark, NJ a few hours ago. The moment my flight touched the tarmac, everything about my life in the US came rushing back to me in a single instant. My phone began to vibrate madly in my pocket a good five minutes before the light telling us it was ok to turn our connective tech “bing-bong-ed” on with a pleasant chime. E-mails. Texts. Tweets and Facebook messages streamed into my hand and I was struck with the gravity of the situation: I was home.

Beelining for the terminal, I unhinged my metaphorical jaw, let my eyes roll back into my head and began to devour digital information much in the same way great whites seem to inhale schools of terrified fish. Of all the things I’d come to miss in Italy, my constant connectivity was perhaps the most important. More than my life revolving around tech, my hopes and dreams lived within the cloud. I wanted (want) to write about tech journalism more than anything else in the world. I’d scoured the net for internship opportunities at tech blogs but most of the work in D.C. was politically oriented. C’est la vie. ...continue reading "It’s (Not) Over"

By oncptime

Not a lot of people know this about me, but…I kind of, secretly, passionately, desperately dream of being a filmmaker. If you take a look at my resume, you’ll see a fair number of projects that scream “video production.” They’re not there by mistake—I absolutely love video editing. More than editing though, I like telling stories using more than just words. I love creating brief glimpses into make-believe worlds that are occasionally fantastic or sometimes mundane, but are always borne of my imagination.

In short, I like to mess around, write stories, and shoot them out with my camera. You can imagine my excitement when I heard word of Florence’s second annual “Florence Fone Film Festival.” The premise was simple: a competition amongst American and Italian students in Florence challenging them to use the cameras build into their phones to make 2 minute films.

I’m no stranger to making tight little videos in the pursuit of a glamorous prize. This year, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners received an iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano respectively. “I can do this,” I thought.  It’d be easy. I’d sit down, plan out an idea, and execute it—bada-bing, bada-boom. And so I did.

...continue reading "I Was Robbed"

By oncptime

The brochures warned me that something like this might happen.

These people, they’re…different than I am. Their music is foreign to my ears. They use phrases that I’m not entirely familiar with. I can’t make sense of their senses of style and I struggle to understand their jokes. Lost in translation does not describe.

I’ve expressed this to death to anyone willing to listen from back home and to the few Florentines I’ve met around town.

“I know.” My friend Stefano states flatly in exasperated English. “That’s why we’re going out tonight. Now no more Italian please, you need to practice more.”

You see it’s not the Italians I’m having difficulty with. They’re fine. They like olive oil, I like olive oil—it’s all very simpatico. It’s my American roommates that I’m finding myself at odds with.

...continue reading "Culture Shock"

By oncptime

I met Fabio back in August just a few days after I first came to Florence. I didn’t speak much Italian. He told me it didn’t matter and that he spoke English just fine. He’d known Americans before, he said. He liked them. I was impressed He was young—maybe in his early 30s or so, and from Rome.

“I’m a Ph.D. student,” He explained that first afternoon in that hot, stuffy room. “Intercultural communication.”

Something about the way he said the word intercultural set my teeth on edge. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it—his accent, his pronunciation—he was practically playing with the word as he spoke.

I’ve met with him twice a week every week since then. He’s taught me things.  He’s my professor. I ’m having an NSA relationship with my Italian professor, and frankly? I’m over it.

...continue reading "No Strings Attached"

By oncptime

Italy, the land of bistecca, and cozze, gelato and prosciutto has—miraculously—turned me into a vegetarian. Whenever my dietary restrictions come up in conversation I have a soft chuckle to myself before regaling my listeners with the harrowing tale of how I singlehandedly liberated an entire farm’s worth of innocent woodland creatures from a sadistic, blood-worshiping cult/sleeper-cell not two blocks from my home. The sick bastards planned on eating those doe-eyed does. Monsters.

Thing is though, I’m the farthest thing from a vegetarian. Unless barking or meowing, animals aren’t people, they’re food. The sadistic cult gathering I crashed? It was a barbecue festival. They wanted €30 to get in. Monsters.

I get away with telling stories like this primarily because these days I’m running on little more than bread, water, and the occasional bowl of Budget brand corn-flecks. I might splurge on some broccoli every now and then or maybe even—wait for it—a bag of potatoes when they go on sale for a single Euro (like today!), but even that is an extravagance that I must be wary of.

If you haven’t put two and two together yet, let me make my point clear: I’m ridiculously, hopelessly, unequivocally broker than broke. And somehow, I’m making it work.

...continue reading "We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all…we can’t afford meat."

By oncptime

You can learn a lot about a culture of a place from its grocery stores; hints and clues litter the places. The fresh produce, the types of sales, the music blaring from the tinny overhead speakers—each of them tells you a little something more about the personality of that specific place on the planet.

Florence is host to a number of minimarkets, corner stores, and bodegas of varying size, but it also has its fair share of American-styled grocery...boutiques. They’re not quite Whole Foods but they’re certainly not Safeways; they’re somewhere in between. The Conad on Via Nazionale, is my favorite. Fresh baked bread, Spanish imported mussels, and Alaskan salmon all just a few steps away from my apartment.  Uncle Ben’s brand curry jockeys for shelf space with Patak’s and three brands of pita bread conveniently lie in wait just one shelf down. The store is an exercise in internationality, and strolling down its aisles reminds me of similar stores in D.C.

The Conad outshines a number of other grocery stores in the area for a number of reasons: selection, longer hours, a markedly friendlier staff—but honestly, I’m not here to talk to you about a grocery store. Not really. No, this is a story about how I learned how not to wait in line in Italy.

...continue reading "Aspetta, Prego, Avanti"

By oncptime

Hello. My name’s Charles. I’m a 22 year-old journalism student from Washington, D.C., and I am a not-so-recovering political junkie. Like so many other wonks, I got hooked on the stuff after getting a taste of the pure political electricity that was the 2008 election. Just a single week shy of actually being able to vote, I did everything I could to feel connected…which pretty much meant consuming inordinate amounts of news coverage and producing a mini-documentary about the inauguration.

I’ve since become that guy who relishes in political sparring with friends, family, and complete strangers. “What do you mean you aren’t voting? Let me tell you why abstaining is NOT an option.”

...continue reading "The Spectacle of American Elections"

By oncptime

Italian Men Are Always Happy To See You

The stereotypical Italian man is a flirt. He’s swarthy and charming, insistent and forward. His name is Fabrizio or Giuseppe, or Vito, or Angelo, and he is always happy to see you. It isn’t his smile or the matching kisses he greets you with that clue you into his pleasure at seeing you, though. One need only to look…ever so slightly south of the belt buckle to see just how fond of you he really is. ...continue reading "Italian Men Are Always Happy To See You"

By oncptime

I’ll be perfectly honest with you; I’m not much of a team player. I’m the guy who’d rather build his own diorama of the Pantheon. I’m that guy to wander away from the guided group tour. I’m that guy who, against all recommendation, likes to travel completely on his own. Wandering the world alone lost in audiobook, armed with nothing but a map and a canteen full of water, I am at my happiest.

You might call me antisocial. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with you, though I prefer to think of myself as “independent.” There’s something to be said for exploring on one’s own whileabroad. We’ve all seen those groups of students taking “cute” pictures with the Queen’s Guard, or beneath the Eifel Tower. That’s well and good, but I always find myself wondering whether these people are really experiencing their surroundings. There’s nothing quite like frantically navigating your way across a strange and foreign city in an attempt to catch the last train back to your hostel at 2A.M.

...continue reading "Solo Sessions"

By oncptime

I haven’t been blogging diligently these past few weeks. At least not for GWU. You see I have been “dropping the ball,” as the kids say. But hear me out. I’ve got a good reason. It’s not that my classes have been particularly hard—we’ve still only really discussed one topic in each of them. I haven’t been doing too too much traveling. And my brief bout of homesickness cleared up after my first few days here.

“Well Charles,” I’m sure you’re thinking. “What ever could be your excuse for slacking on your blogs?”

Here’s the thing. I have a job. Here in Florence. I didn’t go looking for the job; but rather it found me. It’s sort of taking over my life and to be perfectly honest with you? I absolutely love it. ...continue reading "Opportunities Abroad"