Friday, August 31, 2012

La Vita Nuova: Firenze

Disclaimer: I didn't take this photo. One day I will...

“We do not accept FedEx envelopes for the application, only USPS. Leave!” And with that, the middle aged Italian woman turned on her black high heels and shut the door to the Italian Consulate, leaving me on the doorstep with no time to explain that I only had one day in San Francisco to apply for my student visa. I was fresh off the plane from Costa Rica with two large suitcases, a de-activated cellphone, and no car. The consulate is only open for two hours once a week, and the long line of people outside leaned away from me as I took the walk of shame towards the end of the block.
I’ve never seen an episode of ‘Survivor’, but I’m pretty sure that the way I avoided panic and pared down to life essentials in the middle of this unforeseen crisis would totally qualify me for the next season – I packed my camera and my laptop into my shoulder bag, and parked my two suitcases by the building (mentally saying goodbye in case they weren’t there when I came back). Sprinting up the almost vertical streets of San Francisco made me realize I should have done more cardio in Nosara, and I only paused to ask random people if I was going the right way towards a post office, any post office. I found one about fifteen minutes away, purchased the required envelope for my visa application and sprinted back. After standing in line again, I presented my paperwork at the door for the second time. The inspector said, “You only have the original acceptance letter from your university. You need the original AND a photocopy. Leave!”  Sweat trickled down my spine to the waistband of my skirt as adrenaline carried me back to the post office. When I returned in a pool of sweat with the necessary copy, the office was only open for fifteen more minutes. The girl at the front of the line must have been an angel holding my place and watching my luggage because she motioned me to step in front of her and go inside.  My nemesis at the desk raised an eyebrow as I approached (maybe because my hair still thought we were running), and she begrudgingly stamped and filed my papers for processing.
This was the beginning of my Italian adventure. When my visa came back only a week before I was supposed to leave, I began to feel a little nervous and anxious about how the rest of the story would go – my dreams had Italian women in black high heels at customs saying, “Leave!” Close calls, and unforeseen events make for great stories, but they seemed a little stressful without a traveling companion to help carry them. But everyone that I have encountered here in Florence since my arrival on Tuesday has only been welcoming, and it’s made me realize how passive it is to sit with stress and fear. I want to stay in love with where I am in this moment, and cultivate trust for the rest. Anne Voskamp says that trust is work – intentional and focused. Anxiety and fear keep our lives small, and the combination of trust and love is the remedy. “Trust is everything.”
I feel overwhelmed by how happy and grateful and alive I feel here…and I’m secretly relieved that “Survivor: Florence” never made it off the ground.