will the irony never cease

on our first full day in orvieto (almost a week ago, which seems absolutely impossible both in that it’s already been a week and that it’s only been a week), prof doll explained to us, as one of the dozens of points he touched on that evoked a response and encouraged further contemplation, the philosophy behind the limited internet hours at the convent. aside from the strong desire, deeply rooted in the heart of the program, that students engage not only with each other but with the rich culture and community that we’ve already immersed ourselves in both voluntarily and involuntarily by participating in it as frequently as possible, rather than frittering away free time glued to a screen and frantically fighting to maintain relationships with those we love overseas rather than allowing for the distance to create a natural and healthy separation, limiting internet access also facilitates the pursuit of personal interests left previously unexplored or underdeveloped due to a perceived lack of time. while it’s comforting to know that i can contact home when i need reassurance or want to know how my mom’s new teaching position is panning out, even just a single week of only an hour and a half of wifi a night (a large portion of which i have missed due to assignments or gelato excursions or “extracurricular” activities including dinners at the homes of various italian families around orvieto and a night of live music in a tucked-away piazza) has been unbelievably refreshing. it’s amazing what i don’t even miss because real life is so up-close and vibrant and fairytale-esque. although i have fallen behind the times on quite a lot of fairly important updates, ie multiple engagements and new relationships and pregnancy announcements. people. don’t you know you’re not allowed do those kinda of significant life-changing things while i’m abroad? sheesh.
like instagram. i do not miss instagram. or twitter. or words with friends. while i’m fairly certain i never wondered how i would survive without them, i’m still surprised by how things that held places of value in my summer life have little to absolutely no place here. i’m also astounded by the ease with which i’ve been able to establish new habits, such as waking up two hours before class for devotions and a workout. it helps that we have a colossal courtyard outside our front door, a soccer field across the street from our back door, and a chapel next door, but i think the in-house library and a square of cement would have served my purposes just fine.
speaking of the library, i went down this evening to investigate the offerings in terms of fiction (i knew there were extra course-related materials but hadn’t gotten to look at the other side) and found pretty much all the books i’ve told myself i’ll read one day when i have the time. dubliners. dante’s purgatorio and paradiso. the bell jar. robinson crusoe. tolstoy.
and guess what, now i have time. not loads of it, but enough. enough to use it wisely and invest it well – in people, in travel, in classic literature that contains the stuff of centuries past with a message for today. in expanding my mind and stretching out my mental horizons as the physical skyline unfolds endlessly around me while i watch from the edge of this city on a hill. and so i will. i have been given this opportunity as a gift greater than i could have dreamed and i plan to honor it by engaging on every level even when it contradicts my every natural tendency. i will offer opinions in class. i will draw until i am exhausted and keep going. i will fix prof doll’s insights in my brain and mull them over while i run the rupe in the mornings and journal my conclusions and further questions when i return. i will explore every inch of the city and take risks and have adventures and see sights that will be etched into my memory for the rest of my life. and while i’m not occupied by one or more of those wonderful activities, i will read. because life is short and books are long and i may not always want to sink into flannery o’connor when i could be brainstorming novel ideas on the corso but it will be worth it and i will be thankful and there is more than enough coffee in this country to see me through.
crash course in classics, here i come…right after i finish cold mountain.


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